PMQs: Johnson suggests fresh furlough-style help for workers is coming amid new coronavirus rules

Boris Johnson has suggested more financial support will be provided to businesses amid new coronavirus rules which are expected to have a huge impact on people's finances.

At PMQs the prime minister said the government will introduce "further creative and imaginative schemes to keep our economy moving" after Sir Keir Starmer asked why financial support had not been offered to businesses affected by the latest restrictions.

The furlough scheme, which has paid the wages of millions forced out of work during the pandemic, is due to end next month despite the PM saying the latest restrictions are likely to be in place for six months.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has repeatedly insisted that the scheme cannot run forever and must eventually end.

Asked about the end of furlough, Mr Johnson said: "What I can tell the House is that in addition to the package that I set out yesterday, as I've said earlier on, there will be creative and imaginative measures from the Chancellor to help people through this crisis."

He added: "Let's be in absolutely no doubt that the work that this government has done to protect the economy of this country, to support the jobs of 12 million people through the furlough scheme, enabled expenditure of about £160 billion has been unexampled anywhere else in the world. "

Mr Johnson said Sir Keir should "pay tribute to the chancellor and his work and we will go forward with further creative and imaginative schemes to keep our economy moving".

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His comments come as new rules are set to be implemented which will force all hospitality venues across the UK, such as pubs and restaurants, to close their doors from 10pm to 5am.

The new rule will have a huge impact on hospitality businesses who, if they want to keep staff on the books, will have to continue paying wages after the furlough scheme finishes, despite dents in their profits, unless the government provides more support.

Also during PMQs Mr Johnson made an impassioned defence of the UK's coronavirus testing regime in the face of a stinging attack from the leader of the Labour Party.

Pointing to widespread issues with testing availability, Sir Keir asked the prime minister "how on earth did we get into this mess?".

He referenced figures from the National Education Union which showed more than double the number of children are currently out of school compared to a normal year and suggested a better testing system would allow more pupils to return to the classroom.

He said there is "no effective system" in place for schools to deal with students who have coronavirus symptoms, meaning thousands have been forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.

"Many can't get tests quickly, schools are allocated only 10 tests, many wait days for the results, the outcome is obvious."

He added: "The government's own department shows that one in eight children are off school this week. That disrupts their education. Whether it's Covid symptoms or other symptoms is nothing to the point. "

Responding, the PM said: "We are doing our level best to get every child a test who has symptoms and further to that, thanks to the efforts of teachers in this country, of parents, pupils, 99.9% of our schools are now back."

The House of Commons debate follows a national address from Mr Johnson who told Britons they can avoid a new national lockdown if they follow the latest rules, which include a curfew on pubs and a tightening of the rule of six.

After PMQs Sir Keir will make a coronavirus statement of his own in a televised speech which will respond to Mr Johnson's.

A Labour source said: "He will support what the government's announced but also state that another national lockdown isn't inevitable and what we need to do is follow the rule of law and fix issues such as testing."