CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: All pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as Chancellor announces ‘unprecedented’ support for firms

March 20, 2020

Pubs, cafes and restaurants must close down this evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a massive package of measures to support businesses and their workers.

The government is to pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, Mr Sunak said. 

Companies and organisations will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover the wages of people who are not working due to coronavirus-linked shutdowns, but who have not been laid off.

The Chancellor made an appeal to employers to stand by their workers during the coronavirus crisis. But the move – although not unexpected – will deliver a huge bow to Swindon’s hospitality and leisure industries.

As well as bars, cafes and restaurants, all gyms and leisure centres must also close until further notice.

The Chancellor said at the daily press conference: “Let me speak directly to businesses: I know it’s incredibly difficult out there – we in government are doing everything we can to support you.

“The government is doing its best to stand behind you and I’m asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers.”

He said the economic intervention was “unprecedented” in the history of the British state, and would be one of the most comprehensive in the world. “For the first time in our history, the British government is going to step in and help pay people’s wages,” he said.

People must realise “they will not face this alone, but it will take a collective national effort”.

The Chancellor also said that he was deferring the next quarter of VAT payments due from businesses.

That means no business will pay VAT from now to June, and they will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. That should help companies struggling with cashflow.

The Chancellor said this would injection £30bn into the economy.

The government is also extending its coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, to be interest free for 12 months – up from six months. 

The wages scheme is open to any employer and will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1. It will be open before the end of April for at least three months, the Chancellor said.

There was no limit on the funding available for the scheme – the government would pay to support as many jobs as needed, he said. 

The interest-free Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be extended from six months to 12. The loans will now be available on Monday.

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Swindon & Wiltshire for just £70 a month. Email for more information.