UK offers business boost to cope with fresh lockdown

LONDON — The U.K. government announced a £4.6 billion cash injection for businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown in England on Monday evening.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the cash would “help businesses to get through the months ahead — and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”

The one-off package includes grants for retail, hospitality and leisure firms worth up to £9,000 per property and a £594 million fund that firms in need can apply for. 

The furlough scheme, under which the government pays a proportion of workers’ wages where employers cannot foot the bill, was already in place until the end of March. 

Johnson imposed a seven-week lockdown in England on Monday night as the new strain of coronavirus ran rampant across the U.K., putting the health service at risk of being overwhelmed. The other three U.K. nations also announced enhanced measures.

Calls to announce more support for businesses had been growing before Sunak made the announcement. “I’m afraid more comprehensive restrictions do require a more comprehensive economic response,” Confederation of British Industry chair Tony Danker told the BBC Today program.

Leader of the opposition Labour party Keir Starmer told the same show: “The general principle needs to be where there are health restrictions there needs to be an economic package to support that.”

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