Today, the government announced some unprecedented measures that have not yet been seen in Britain in peacetime. Although on Monday Johnson announced that the government would be ‘strongly advising’ or ‘very strongly advising’ (depending on whether you are a vulnerable person or not) against going to clubs, bars and theatres, Prime Minister Johnson has today announced that the government is instructing these venues to close as soon as possible. He was quick, however, to clarify that take-out services would still be allowed to continue as usual.
This is not particularly surprising. The government is keen to ensure that social distancing measures are followed, and with venues designed to encourage social interaction still open, it was clear that the government were going to go further. This is not to say that these venues will remain closed for the rest of the year. Prime Minister Johnson made clear that the government will review the closure request each month to see if it is safe to relax the measures.
Some of those watching the announcement may have questioned exactly how people in those industries would be paid – but they did not have to wait long to get an answer. Chancellor Rishi Sunak followed Johnson’s closure request with a number of huge economic policies specifically designed to help businesses and people struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Firstly, the Chancellor announced that the government is willing to pay 80% of the wages for those who are not currently working due to the coronavirus pandemic (up to £2,500 a month). He claimed that this was the first time in history that the government have agreed to directly pay people’s wages.
The second big announcement was that VAT will be deferred until the end of June and that business loans will be interest free for a year.
In addition, the Chancellor announced that Universal Credit payments will increase by £1,000 for this year. Moreover, the self-employed will receive Universal Credit in line with statutory sick pay.
These announcements would be absolutely ground-breaking outside of a global pandemic – even within one it is hard to downplay the unprecedented nature of them. The government today have shown that they need to play a totally different role during this crisis and that they believe that huge spending initiatives are essential in order to get the nation through this.
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