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Government announces more support for care workers and businesses as SME loans receive 100% guarantee

27 April 2020

By Simon Gentry, Managing Partner

Matt Hancock MP, the Health Secretary, led today’s Government press briefing.  He announced that there have now been a total of 21,092 fatalities, 360 in the last 24 hours.  This included 82 NHS workers and 16 care workers.  He paid tribute to their sacrifice.

He then announced that the Government is setting up a life assurance scheme for NHS and social care frontline workers.  If they die in the battle against the virus, their families will get a £60,000 payment to support them through what is a very difficult time.  The added that the Government is also considering similar support for other frontline workers. 

Mr Hancock was pleased to say that the NHS has a lot of spare capacity and that 42% of oxygen supported beds are currently empty.

He noted that there has been a 50% fall in A&E attendance since the lockdown was introduced. He reminded people that the NHS is open and said that people must not feel afraid of using the service if necessary.  The NHS will start restoring services tomorrow starting with urgent care, such as cancer treatment.  This will be done on a regional basis depending on local circumstances.

Mr Hancock ended his formal comments by saying that we must not risk a second peak, people must stick to the advice.

Answering a question from Hugh Pym from the BBC, Mr Hancock said that the government is making progress towards its goal of 100,000 tests a day.  In the longer term testing will help keep the spread of the disease down.  

A minute’s silence is to be held across the UK at 11am tomorrow to remember key workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus.  Government workers will take part and No.10 said it hopes others will join in too.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his first speech outside No 10 since recovering from the virus and urged the British people not to lose patience with the lockdown. The PM announced that “we are now beginning to turn the tide" on the disease, but said we could not throw away the public's "effort and sacrifice" and relax the lockdown too soon. He further warned that the UK is now at the moment of maximum risk in the coronavirus outbreak and ending the lockdown too soon could lead to a second spike in cases with restrictions being reintroduced, which would result in "economic disaster". Mr Johnson stressed that the government was unable to spell out how and when the restrictions would be lifted at this stage, but said the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days. He added that the government would make decisions with "maximum transparency" pledging to include business, devolved administrations and opposition parties as much as possible in the debate over what comes next.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, also delivered a statement in the House of Commons today, announcing a new ‘Bounce Back Loans’ scheme, whereby the government would provide 100% guarantee on loans up to £50,000 (or 25% of turnover) to businesses, with no interest to pay on them for the first 12 months. This new scheme has been announced after many businesses have been raising concerns about the slow access to existing coronavirus rescue schemes.  The Chancellor said this new scheme would require no complex eligibility criteria and funds would be made available from next Monday.