U.K.’s Sunak to Set Out More Aid for Lockdown-Hit Businesses

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U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce extra financial help for businesses on Tuesday, after England entered a third national lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The economy has already suffered the deepest recession in more than 300 years and is facing the prospect of another downturn as a result of the latest restrictions.

“It’s a specific package to help businesses through a very difficult time,” Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on LBC radio. “The Chancellor will be saying more today about additional support.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England into a fresh lockdown late Monday, amid warnings that the National Health Service is at risk of being overwhelmed by soaring coronavirus infection rates.

The restrictions risk devastating retail and hospitality businesses, and industry groups have pressed for more help to avert company failures. The government could also close the border to non-essential international travel in a further blow to the aviation industry.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the British Retail Consortium, said 178,000 jobs have been lost in the retail sector and more could go without extra help. Businesses are losing 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) per week in lost sales, Dickinson said in an emailed statement on Monday.

MakeUK, which represents Britain’s manufacturing sector, and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have also called for more government intervention.

“There must now be a step change in support to equal the compensation offered during the first lockdown,” said Mike Cherry, national chair of the FSB. “The level of government grants is off the mark by an order of magnitude and has not kept the pace with events.”

The U.K. Treasury announced a series of support packages through 2020 as the coronavirus crisis deepened, with the latest action being to extend the furlough program -- where the government pays 80% of the wages of workers who are unable to work -- through April.

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