Rishi Sunak unveils £30 billion package to protect UK from impact of coronavirus
Rishi Sunak has unveiled a multi-billion pound package to help workers, businesses and benefit claimants cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
The Chancellor turned on the spending taps as he effectively warned that the UK economy will go into recession as a result of the outbreak.
In all, Mr Sunak unveiled £30bn-worth of tax cuts, loans, grants, changes to sick pay and investment in the NHS.
He had earlier warned that the illness will have a "significant impact" on growth, and added: "For a period it's going to be tough, but I'm confident that our economic performance will recover."
Vowing that the Government will do whatever is necessary to get the UK through the epidemic, he declared: "The British people may be worried, but they are not daunted. We will protect our country and our people. We will rise to this challenge."
The Chancellor insisted that "whether it's millions of pounds or billions of pounds", the NHS will get whatever cash it needs to tackle Covid-19 by researching for a vaccine or recruiting those who have previously left the profession.
Boris Johnson had already announced that those eligible for statutory sick pay will get it from day one, rather than day four, if they have to self-isolate as a result of coronavirus.
Mr Sunak said it would now be paid to those who have not yet shown symptoms of the illness, and everyone will be able to get a sick note by phoning 111 rather than seeing a doctor in person.
Employees who are not eligible for sick pay, such as those in the gig economy, will get "quicker and easier" access to benefits, he said, while those on Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit will receive their payments even if they are unable to earn.
In addition, local councils will get £500m to distribute to "vulnerable" people in their areas suffering as a result of the virus.
The Chancellor said £2bn was also being made available to cover the sick pay costs of businesses employing fewer than 250 people, while the Government will also under-write a new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for firms struggling to make ends meet.
Businesses which are expected to be particularly hard hit by the outbreak, such as shops, cinemas, restaurants, and music venues, museums, art galleries, caravan parks and small hotels will not pay any business rates for the next year, the Chancellor announced.
Mr Sunak said: "Taken together, the extraordinary measures I have set out today represent £7bn to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people. To support the NHS and other public services, I am also setting aside a £5bn emergency response fund - and will go further if necessary.
"Those measures are on top of plans that I will set out later in this Budget, which provide an additional fiscal loosening of £18bn to support the economy this year.
"That means I am announcing today, in total, a £30bn fiscal stimulus to support British people, British jobs and British businesses through this moment."