WORLD UK launches new £4.6 bn plan to help virus-hit firms

WORLD

UK launches new £4.6 bn plan to help virus-hit firms

AFP

19:51, January 05, 2021

Vehicles move freely along the M4 artery road at Langley, with cars left heading toward London, about 20 miles (32 Km) outside the capital on what would normally be a busy commute location, the morning after new coronavirus restrictions were imposed, early Tuesday Jan. 5, 2021. (Photo: AP)

The UK on Tuesday launched an extra £4.6-billion package for virus-battered businesses as it entered a fresh national lockdown set to last weeks.

The financial support, equivalent to $6.3 billion or 5.1 billion euros, "will help businesses to get through the months ahead -- and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen", finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

Sunak announced grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through the next several months.

Other impacted businesses would share £594 million, added the chancellor of the exchequer.

The UK government has already pumped out billions of pounds in support since early 2020 when the nation went into a first lockdown over the coronavirus, sending national debt soaring.

At the heart of the support is the state's furlough scheme paying the bulk of wages for millions of private sector workers.

The Bank of England is also pumping out vast sums of cash to prop up the devastated economy.

"Throughout the pandemic we've taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we're announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring," Sunak said Tuesday.

He added that more than 600,000 business properties would benefit from the new support.

The new lockdown is aimed at containing a severe wave of infections with a new coronavirus strain believed to spread faster.

Similar to a first March-June lockdown last year, schools are shut and there is a ban on leaving home for all but exercise and essential shopping.

It comes despite the UK rolling out vaccines against Covid-19 and as the nation adjusts to finally exiting the EU single market and customs union.

"The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge -- and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further," said Sunak.

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