Government-backed loans worth £330 billion are to be made available to support businesses in hospitality, retail and leisure sectors through the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor has announced.
The measures come after the Government’s chief scientific advisor said around 55,000 people in the UK now have coronavirus, with Rishi SUnak vowing to do “whatever it takes” to help the economy.
An “unprecedented package”
Described by the Chancellor as an “unprecedented package”, the loans are equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP and could be extended further depending on demand.
Speaking at a press conference inside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday 17 March, Mr Sunak said he was extending the business rates holiday to all businesses in the hospitality sector and funding grants of up to £25,000 for smaller businesses.
For those currently in financial difficulty due to coronavirus, mortgage lenders will also offer a three-month mortgage holiday.
Support for business large and small
The Chancellor assured that the government would “stand behind businesses small and large", announcing an "unprecedented package of government backed and guaranteed loans to support business to get through this".
Mr Sunak said: "Today I am making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees, equivalent to 15 per cent of our GDP.
"That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a Government backed loan or credit on attractive terms.
"And if demand is greater than the initial £330 billion I'm making available today, I will go further and provide as much capacity as required. I said whatever it takes, and I meant it."
Boris Johnson added that the government "must and will act with a profound sense of urgency" and would be like a "wartime government".
“A time for courage”
The announcement comes just as the NHS moved to cancel all non-emergency surgery and 71 people are now known to have died as a result of the virus, officially known as Covid-19.
The Prime Minister warned that coronavirus is so "dangerous" that without drastic action it will "overwhelm the NHS", and stressed that more “extreme measures" may be needed in future to help protect lives.
NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, told MPs ahead of the press conference that the NHS would be "flat out" helping coronavirus patients for the next four to six months.
Hospitals have been warned to prepare for an influx of patients requiring ventilation and Stevens has ordered moves to cancel non-emergency surgery by 15 April at the latest, alongside the discharge of medically fit people to free up beds.
Aiming to reassure the public, Chancellor Sunak added: "This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage.
"I want to reassure every British citizen this Government will give you all the tools you need to get through this."