The Prime Minister has announced that pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants are to close tonight (March 20) as soon as they reasonably can and not to re-open. They can still operate as takeaways.
Leisure centres, gyms and theatres must also shut in the bid to contain the coronavirus, Leisure venues can stay open to offer takeaways only.
The PM said: “We are telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not reopen tomorrow.”
The measures will be reviewed on a monthly basis, and are being implemented across the whole of the UK.
This will not affect supermarkets or retailers that supply fuel, medicines and other vital goods, which will continue to be open as normal for the public.
The following businesses and venues have been asked to close:
- Food and drink venues for consumption on-site, such as restaurants and cafes.
- Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars, nightclubs.
- Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and bingo halls.
- Museums and galleries.
- Spas, wellness centres and massage parlours.
- Casinos and betting shops.
- All indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms.
Government grants will be issued to cover 80% of employees salaries so that employers can retain them. A job retention scheme will be created. VAT for all businesses will be deferred until the end of June.
New measures include an interest-free loan scheme for businesses for 12 months, the basic rate of Universal Credit and working tax credit to rise and suspending the minimum income floor for the self-employed plus £1 billion support for those renting their homes.
The PM said: “We are collectively telling, telling cafes, pubs, bars, 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.
“Now, these are places where people come together, and indeed the whole purpose of these businesses is to bring people together. But the sad things is that today for now, at least physically, we need to keep people apart.
“And I want to stress that we will review the situation each month, to see if we can relax any of these measures.
And listening to what I have just said, some people may of course be tempted to go out tonight. But please don’t.
You may think you are invincible, but there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others
So that’s why, as far as possible, we want you to stay at home, that’s how we can protect our NHS and save lives.
To repeat, I know how difficult this is, how it seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people. And I also know much, right now, workers and business deserve the financial reassurance we are giving them.
But we will get through this. We will get through it together, and we will beat this virus.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1 and will be open initially for at least three months – and I will extend the scheme for longer if necessary.
“I can announce today that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will not be interest free, as previously planned, for 6 months – it will now be interest free for twelve months.
“To help businesses pay people and keep them in work, I am deferring the next quarter of VAT payments.
That means no business will pay any from now until the end of June; and you will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
Thanks to the enormous efforts of our critical financial services sector, those loans will now be available starting on Monday.
“We’re paying people’s wages up to 80% so someone can be furloughed rather than laid off to protect their jobs.
“We’re deferring £30bn of taxes until the end of the financial year.nWe’re lending unlimited sums of money interest free for 12 months. We’re abolishing business rates altogether this year if you are in hospitality, retail and leisure.
” We’re providing cash grants of £25,000 for small business properties. I’m increasing today the Universal Credit standard allowance, for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year.
“For the next twelve months, I’m increasing the Working Tax Credit basic element by the same amount as well.
“I’m strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too, by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.
“That means every self-employed person can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
“And to support the self-employed through the tax system, I’m announcing today that the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.
“As well as keeping people in work and supporting those who lose their jobs or work for themselves, our Plan for Jobs and Incomes will help keep a roof over your head.
“We’ve acted already to make sure homeowners can get a three-month mortgage holiday if they need it.
“I’m announcing today nearly £1bn of support for renters, by increasing the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in your area.”
A new advertising campaign to explain all support available is due to be launched.
The government has also urged the public to take further steps to protect themselves and the wider population from the coronavirus, including:
- Everyone to stay at home unless they need to get essential supplies such as food and medicines.
- All those able to work from home to do so, unless their work is essential.
- Only travelling if absolutely necessary - while public transport won’t stop, this should only be used for essential travel – for example by key workers to travel to and from work.
As of 9am today (March 20), 66,976 people have been tested in the UK, of which 62,993 were confirmed negative and 3,983 were confirmed positive.
As of 1pm, 177 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died including a 64-year-old man from Medway.
In Kent 32 people have now been confirmed as positive for the virus with a further 11 in Medway.