UK government extends lockdown, announces plans to expand large business loan scheme
The UK government has announced plans to extend its coronavirus lockdown for another three weeks after recording 861 more deaths, bringing the total to 13,729, with 103,093 people having now tested positive for the virus, official figures show.
Restrictions aimed at preventing people from leaving their homes, with four exceptions, will continue until early May, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said during the government’s daily coronavirus briefing.
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Raab, who replaces Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “There are indications that the measures we have put in place have slowed the virus. Overall, the infection rate still hasn’t come down as much as we would like.
“Any changes to our social distancing measures would now threaten a second peak in the virus and require an even longer period of social distancing measures.
“The advice is to relax any measure that could harm public health and our economy. Based on this advice, the government decided that the current measures should remain in place for at least the next three weeks. Now is not the time to give the coronavirus a second chance. “
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The general restriction on movement will remain in place and the police will have the power to impose fines or disperse people who venture onto the streets for any reason other than to buy food, meet any medical need, surrender. in a workplace for essential work or daily exercise.
All stores selling non-essential items will remain closed and gatherings of more than two people in public who do not live in the same household will continue to be banned.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, chief executive of corporate lobby group CBI, said: “The government is right to extend the lockdown and has the full support of the businesses. Public health remains the number one priority for businesses.
“At the same time, the extension of restrictions will pose serious challenges for many companies. When scientific evidence shows that it is safe to do so, eyes will turn to how the lock can be lifted. ”
Separately, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his intention to expand a program of loans to large companies on Thursday evening.
The government-backed loan program for large businesses affected by the coronavirus has been extended to cover all viable businesses, the Chancellor said.
All companies with turnover over £ 45million will now be able to apply for up to £ 25million in funding and up to £ 50million for companies with higher turnover to £ 250million. Companies with a turnover of over £ 500million were not originally eligible for the scheme.
Sunak said, “I want to make sure that no viable business slips through our backstop of support as we help protect jobs and the economy. That is why we are extending this generous program to large companies.