Almost four million workers have been furloughed during coronavirus crisis

Businesses have applied for 3.8 million workers to be furloughed since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Downing Street has said.

Applications worth around £4.5 billion have now been made to the government’s job retention scheme since it opened earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing on Friday.

On Thursday there were 77,000 new claims from businesses to furlough workers – bringing the total to 512,000, Downing Street said.

Under the scheme, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, up to £2,500 a month.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on Thursday revealed more than a quarter of affected firms’ workforces have been furloughed.

Primark furloughed 68,000 staff across Europe as the firm revealed it had been left with £248 million of unsold stock. Credit: PA

The ONS said 27% of workers have been furloughed across 6,150 businesses.

It also revealed less than 1% of the workforce had been made redundant in these firms, but as many as 78% were furloughed in firms that had temporarily closed or put trading on hold between March 23 and April 5.

Transport for London will place 7,000 staff on furlough from Monday to save an estimated £15.8 million every four weeks, as a result of a huge reduction in passenger numbers because of Covid-19.

Since London entered lockdown on March 23, Tube journeys have fallen by 95% and bus journeys by 85%, meaning the organisation’s main source of income has almost disappeared, TfL said.