Pubs, eateries and gyms across UK told to close amid outbreak, but workers' wages covered

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

All pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms across the UK have been ordered to close in the fight against coronavirus.

It comes as the Government announced unprecedented measures to cover the wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the outbreak.

Boris Johnson said a number of venues, including nightclubs, theatres, and leisure centres should close their doors from Friday night to slow the spread of Covid-19 and prevent the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure.

He was followed by the Chancellor who said the Government would for "the first time of our history [...] step in and help pay people's wages."

Rishi Sunak announced Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of "retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month".

Mr Sunak added: "Our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world.

"To all those at home, right now anxious about the days ahead, I say you will not face this alone."

Announcing the closure of a number of services across the UK, Boris Johnson said the measures were needed to reduce "unnecessary" social gatherings by 75 per cent in order to have an impact on the infection rate.

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It comes as the death toll from coronavirus in the UK rose to 177 - the biggest day-on-day increase since the outbreak began.

The Prime Minister 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 need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us."

The announcement came after scientists advising the Government warned that restrictions to control the spread of the virus will need to be in place for most of a year - at least.

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The measures stopped short, however, of limiting transport and the movement of people around the country.

Mr Johnson said that the Government does not want to immobilise major transport networks: "Transport is fundamental to our ability to deliver vital public services.

"I was pretty clear that we don’t want, for instance, to immobilise the Tube or our major transport networks."

"It’s just too important for the delivery of crucial public services."

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Announcing the latest measures, Mr Johnson said the Government would be continually assessing the situation around the requested closures "to see if we can relax any of these measures".

Following Mr Johnson, the Chancellor announced further measures to ease the impact of the virus on the economy and business.

Mr Sunak said the Government was deferring the next quarter of VAT payments for businesses until the end of June.

He said the move represented a direct cash injection of more than £30 billion.

The Universal Credit standard allowance will also be increased for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year, the Chancellor announced.

The Westminster Arms pub in London closes its doors to customers. Credit: PA

Following the press conference, JD Wetherspoon - which had said earlier this week that it wanted to keep its pubs open - confirmed it would comply with the Prime Minister's request.

The chain said it would close all its pubs on Friday night.

While the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) welcomed the move. Chairman Nik Antona said:

"Whilst the pubs industry will be devastated by the decision to force closure, it is exactly the type of decisive leadership that has been called for this week as many pubs hung in limbo."

The group added, however, that it was "concerned" by the lack of guidance for "the British independent brewing industry".

Camra said the industry "needs to be protected and supported if they are to continue to contribute so much to their local and the national economies."

Customers in a pub in Westminster in London watch the television as Boris Johnson orders pubs and restaurants across the country to close tonight Credit: PA

The Prime Minister also reminded the public they are "not invincible" and asked individuals to resist the temptation "to go out tonight".

He added: "You can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on."

It comes after the Government's top scientific advisors warned young people not to be complacent over the outbreak - urging the public to keep up social distancing measures to protect themselves.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries added 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".

London's underground transport network is running a reduced service amid the outbreak. Credit: PA

The new measures were welcomed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who said he agreed with the decision to shut pubs, restaurants and other public spaces.

He tweeted: "I want to make a direct appeal to everyone: Act immediately on the expert advice. If you ignore this, people will die as a result."

The capital is ahead of the rest of the UK in transmission curve for the virus.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know