Boris Johnson has ordered pubs and restaurants across the country to close as the Government announced unprecedented measures to cover the wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Prime Minister said that nightclubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres should close their doors from Friday night to slow the spread of Covid-19 and prevent the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure.
2/ For the first time in our history, the British government is going to step in and help pay people's wages.
Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month, that's above UK median earnings level.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) March 20, 2020
At his daily Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said the measures were needed to reduce "unnecessary" social gatherings by 75% in order to have an impact on the infection rate.
"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," he said.
"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."
He was followed by Chancellor Rushi Sunak who said he was establishing a coronavirus job protection scheme to help employers hit by the outbreak.
He said that they would be able to apply to HM Revenue and Customs to cover 80% of the wages of staff they keep on up to £2,500 a month.
Mr Sunak said "our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world".
He added: "To all those at home, right now anxious about the days ahead, I say you will not face this alone."
It followed criticism that his £350 billion emergency support package for the economy earlier this week concentrated on businesses but did little for their staff.
The announcement came after scientists advising the Government warned that restrictions to control the spread of the virus will need to be in place for most of a year – at least.
The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling said while the severity of measures could fluctuate, "stricter" measures would need to be enforced for at least half of the year in order to keep cases at a level the NHS can cope with.
These could include school closures and social distancing for everyone, while less restrictive measures include isolating cases and households.
It comes as a further 39 people in England were confirmed to have died after testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK death toll to 177.