140,000 companies apply for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in a day - Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says over 140,000 companies have applied for the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on its launch day.

Mr Sunak says that already around a million jobs will be saved by the policy and firms will receive funds in six days.

Mr Sunak said: “HMRC opened the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at eight o’clock this morning. As of four o’clock this afternoon, over 140,000 firms have applied and the grants they will receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people.

“A million people who if they hadn’t been furloughed would have been at risk of losing their job.

“Firms applying today should receive their cash in six working days. HMRC will continue to provide updates on the number of people furloughed.”

Medical staff in PPE. Credit: PA

Additionally, Mr Sunak said the Government is chasing a shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey which has failed to take-off but that 140,000 gowns have arrived from Myanmar.Mr Sunak said the Government would “pursue every possible option” to secure PPE for the UK.

With the Government under fire over a lack of crucial items of PPE, Mr Sunak said: “This is an international challenge that many other countries are experiencing.

“Alongside the efforts of British businesses, and our embassies around the world, we are working hard to get the PPE our frontline NHS and social care staff need.”

He insisted there were regular shipments despite the “unexpected delays” to the consignment from Turkey.

An RAF flight has left for Turkey to collect the consignment of 400,000 protective gowns for healthcare workers, the Ministry of Defence later confirmed.

“Today we unloaded a shipment of 140,000 gowns from Myanmar,” he said.

“We are, of course, continuing to pursue every possible option for PPE procurement.”

The Chancellor insisted the Government is making improvements to ensure key workers get personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mr Sunak said: “Absolutely everybody working incredibly hard on the front line deserves to have the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and we’re working round the clock to make sure we can deliver on that.

“We’re improving our sourcing internationally and domestically to make sure we can get the PPE we need in what is a very challenging international context.

“But people on the front line can rest assured that we’re doing absolutely everything we can and straining everything we can to get the equipment they need.”

  • ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston analyses the economic impact

Mr Sunak hinted that easing of lockdown restrictions remained some time away, saying “we are not there yet”.

The Chancellor said: “At this stage of the crisis we are absolutely focused on sticking to the guidance.”

Referring to the Government’s five tests for lifting the lockdown, he said: “We are not there yet and it is very clear that, for now, what we should focus on is following the guidance, staying home to protect the NHS.

“Anything else that people might be speculating on is wrong, we are crystal clear on that message.”

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know