UK closes bars and restaurants with financial aid for businesses and workers
London Mar 20 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom on Friday ordered the closure of restaurants, bars and sports centres in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the measures in a televised press conference, saying the country needed a “huge national effort to slow the spread by reducing unnecessary social contact”.
The government ordered the closure of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants from Friday evening as well as clubs, theatres, gyms, cinemas and sports centres.
Johnson said: “I know it has been tough and I know it’s been inconvenient but these actions that we’re taking together are helping to take the strain off our NHS.”
The British leader stressed that the more closely the advice is followed the faster the health service and economy can recover.
“If we don’t get this right, we will see thousands of lives lost needlessly,” Johnson added.
He said that companies and the economy have been put under “huge strain” and promised that the government will “stand by you”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an “unprecedented” financial package, including a grant for employers to cover wages as part of a job retention scheme.
The government will pay 80 per cent of wages, up to £2,500 a month, to employees unable to work with statutory sick pay also made available to self-employed people.
Businesses will be given a partial tax deferment until the end of June, which Sunak said represents a £30bn injection into the economy.
The government has also sent out an appeal for 65,000 retired doctors and nurses to return to the National Health Service as the number of coronavirus cases continued to climb.
Officials said the re-incorporation of former NHS staff was necessary to counter the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has killed almost 150 people and infected more than 3,250.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “NHS and social care staff are doing an incredible job in the fight against coronavirus, and we want to ensure they are fully supported.
“To further boost the ranks of our NHS, we are now turning to people who have recently left the healthcare professions who can bring their experience and expertise to our health system.
“They can play a crucial role in maximising our capacity to fight this outbreak – and wherever they can help, they will be hugely welcomed.”
Hancock has warned that the virus would continue to spread across the country if people ignored advice to stay at home and avoid public spaces like bars, restaurants and clubs.
“If you stay at home, you’re saving lives,” he told TalkRadio Friday morning.
The Telegraph, a conservative newspaper, on Friday reported that the rate of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK showed a steeper curve than what had been reported in Italy, which has registered over 3,400 deaths, more than anywhere in the world.
Classrooms across the UK will be empty starting next week, although pupils whose parents work in healthcare, education, food distribution, emergency services or transport, among others, will continue to go to school, the government said.
Earlier, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon made an appeal on Twitter for all those who had retired from the NHS in the last three years to consider coming back.