Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, among other venues, to close tonight (Friday, March 20) in a strengthening of measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
He told the daily Covid-19 Downing Street press conference: “The speed of our eventual recovery depends entirely on our collective ability to get on top of the virus now and that means we have to take the next steps on scientific advice.
“And following our plan we are strengthening the measures announced on Monday.
“We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us.
“And so following agreement with all the ... devolved administrations, we are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow.
“Though, to be clear, they can continue to provide take out services
“We’re also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale.”
The Prime Minister added: “I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary - we’re taking away the ancient inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.
“And I can understand how people feel about that.
“But I say to people who do go against the advice that we’re getting, the very clear advice that we’re getting from our medical and scientific experts, you know you’re not only putting your own life, the lives of your family, at risk - you’re endangering the community.
“And you’re making it more difficult for us to get on and protect the NHS and save lives.
“And if you comply, if people comply as I say, then we will not only save lives, thousands of lives, but we’ll come out of this thing all the faster.”
At the same press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged more financial measures including the Government paying ‘most of’ the wages of workers.
He said: “I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people’s jobs and incomes.
“Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the Government is going to step in and help pay people’s wages.
“We’re setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme.
“Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off.
“Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month - that’s just above the median income.”
Plus, businesses won’t have to pay vat for three months the business rates freeze is now at 12 months.