Britons and UK businesses are feeling the impact of unprecedented coronavirus measures, as the chancellor prepares to unveil plans to help the economy.
Retailer Laura Ashley filed for administration as venues across the UK closed their doors, and airports warned they could shut down “within weeks”.
It comes after the government outlined new advice to avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others.
And watchdog the OBR told MPs some businesses will ‘inevitably’ fail.
The head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, Robert Chote said Britain was facing something akin to a wartime situation for its public finances and a temporary spike in borrowing would be sensible.
On Monday, the Prime Minister said people should work from home where possible, and stay away from pubs and restaurants. People in at-risk groups will be asked within days to stay home for 12 weeks.
The number of people who have died with the virus in the UK has reached 55.
More than 1,500 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK – but the actual number of cases is estimated to be between 35,000 and 50,000.
The UK’s shift in strategy comes as Europe plans to ban all non-essential travelthroughout the Schengen free-travel zone, as more countries close their borders.
In Boris Johnson’s first daily update on Monday he acknowledged the economy was facing “a severe blow” because of the virus.
The key new measures he announced included:
- Everyone should avoid gatherings with friends and family, as well as large gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres
- People should avoid non-essential travel and work from home if they can
- All “unnecessary” visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease
- People should only use the NHS “where we really need to” – and can reduce the burden on workers by getting advice on the NHS website where possible
- By the weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be “largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks”
- If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days
- Those people should, if possible, avoid leaving the house “even to buy food or essentials” – but they may leave the house “for exercise and, in that case, at a safe distance from others”
- Schools will not be closed for the moment
Under the guidance, people who should be “particularly stringent” in minimising their social contact are:
- People over the age of 70
- Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases)
- Pregnant women