Cafes, bars, restaurants, clubs, theatres, gyms, cinemas all ordered to shut tonight and not to reopen because of coronavirus Covid-19

Eateries and nightclubs, gyms and theatres were ordered to shut down tonight and not reopen.

Friday, 20th March 2020, 6:23 pm
A screen-grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). PA Photo. (Picture: PA Video/PA Wire)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the moves was necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.

Mr Johnson said he is aware advice to avoid such venues issued earlier this week had been "inconvenient" but said it is "helping to take the strain off the NHS".

He said: "Your restraint and your sacrifice puts this country in a better and strong position," and said it will save the lives of thousands of people of all ages.

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A screen-grab of Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). (Picture: PA Video/PA Wire)

But in a further bombshell, he said: "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.

"We are strengthening the measures announced on Monday. We need know to push down further on that curve of transmission between us.

"Following an agreement between all four nations of the UK, we are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonable can, and not to open tomorrow.

"They can continue to serve takeout.

We're also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale."

"We will review the situation each month to see if we can relax any of these measures."

And he warned those "tempted to go tonight" that they may think they are "invincible" but said they can still get seriously ill, while spreading the virus to others.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Government will pick up "most of" the wages of workers.

He said: "I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people's jobs and incomes.

"Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the Government is going to step in and help pay people's wages.

"We're setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme.

"Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off.

"Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month - that's just above the median income."

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."

Mr Sunak said the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme will now be interest free for 12 months rather than the six months previously announced.

"And thanks to the enormous efforts of our critical financial services sector those loans will now be available starting from Monday," he said.

"Any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme."

Mr Sunak promised further measures next week to ensure larger and medium sized businesses will be able to access the credit they need.

He said: "We want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us.

"We want to look back on this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency.

"We want to look back on this time and remember how in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort and we stood together. It's on all of us."

The Chancellor said the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred until the end of June in a cash injection of £30 billion.

Mr Sunak said: "To help businesses pay people and keep them in work I'm deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, that means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June.

"And you'll have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. That's a direct injection of over £30 billion of cash to businesses equivalent to 1.5% of GDP."

The Chancellor made an appeal to bosses to stand by their workers during the coronavirus crisis.

"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," he said.

"The Government is doing its best to stand behind you and I'm asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers."

"Please look very carefully at that support before making any decisions to lay people off," Mr Sunak continued.

"It's on all of us."

Mr Sunak said: "There are various ways you can design job support schemes and there are various ways that we can get extra money into our welfare system to strengthen the safety net.

"We have particularly focused on scheme design and particular policies that we know will be easy to operationalise quickly."

He added: "Similarly with the welfare interventions that we've made we've deliberately picked those that are absolutely the easiest and most straightforward and require the least manual intervention."

The Chancellor also pledged £1 billion of support for renters by increasing housing benefit and Universal Credit.

He said the welfare payments' "generosity" would be increased to allow the local housing allowance to cover at least 30% of market rents.

He said his commitments were "unprecedented measures for unprecedented times" as he appealed to members of the public to support each other.

Mr Sunak said: "The actions I've taken today represent an unprecedented economic intervention to support the jobs and incomes of the British people.

"Unprecedented measures for unprecedented times.

"Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. Our ability to come through this won't just be down to what Government or businesses do but the individual acts of kindness that we show each other."

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said the Government was not saying "don't go outside".

"We are saying, if you are going to go outside, go in a way that reduces your social contact," she said.

She recommended taking walks while keeping a distance of two metres apart or bike rides together.

"Make sure you hang on to your own bike and your own equipment and wash your hands regularly", she added.

Dr Harries urged people to make sure children were taken outside but "not in groups".

She advised against team games, saying: "The most important part of (team games) is the social element around it, so if everybody piles up in shared cars that's not a good thing to do.

"And if everyone tried to go to a cafe or restaurant afterwards that would also not be a good thing to do."

She said: "Exercising fine, but cut right down on the social connections."