Battle plan to tackle coronavirus impact on economy

Coronavirus is the “key challenge facing our country”, the Chancellor said, as he announced a package of measures to help tackle the fall-out from the virus.

Rishi Sunak said the outbreak would have a “significant impact” on the UK economy.

But he said the Government was doing everything it can to “keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure”.

“We will protect our country and our people. We will rise to this challenge,” Mr Sunak said.

“Yes, this virus is the key challenge facing our country today, but it is not the only challenge.”

He acknowledged that “there is likely to be a temporary disruption” to the economy, due to a significant proportion of the workforce being off sick, business supply chains being disrupted, and a reduction in consumer spending.

“The combination of those effects will have a significant impact on the UK economy, but it will be temporary,” he said.

“People will return to work, supply chains will return to normal, life will return to normal.

“For a period it is going to be tough, but I’m confident that our economic performance will recover.”

Mr Sunak announced a series of “temporary, timely and targeted” measures to help in the country’s battle against the virus, including:

– A £5 billion Covid-19 Response Fund, to help the NHS, local authorities and other public services.

– A research fund of £40 million for rapid research.

– Statutory Sick Pay will be available to all those asked to self-isolate, from the first day, with part of the sick pay bill for small and medium-sized businesses footed by the Government.

– People will not have to get a sick note from their GP, they will soon be able to get it from NHS 111.

– Measures to make claiming Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance easier for people who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

– A £500 million hardship fund for local authorities to help support vulnerable people in their areas.

– A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme, to support small and medium businesses.

– The Government will increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year, and expand it to the leisure and hospitality sector.

– Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs, through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.