Pubs and restaurants must close from tonight (Friday 20th March), except for take-away food, to tackle coronavirus, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
In his latest address he said, “we need to keep people apart” – but that the situation will be reviewed each month.
All the UK’s nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been asked to close.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced that the government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, and that the government is setting up a job retention scheme.
He said that the closure of pubs and restaurants would have a “significant impact” on businesses and the Chancellor made an appeal to employers to stand by their workers during the coronavirus crisis.
The Chancellor announced that he is also deferring VAT for all businesses until the end of June 2020.
Reacting to the announcements, Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said, “The UK has been the only major country in Europe not to have announced a subsidy of employees’ wages this week and this is the news we have waited for every day. The gravity of the crisis for tourism businesses and the subsequent impact on individuals and communities is now being understood. Businesses in our industry have been closing with the losses of thousands of jobs every day.
“This is a catastrophic situation which requires drastic measures and we are pleased to see the government responding to this. For many businesses, it may sadly be too late. There will be some businesses that will not survive beyond the next few days and therefore it is critical that clear and concise information follows quickly after today’s announcement and that businesses and employees are able to access the measures of fiscal support outlined today in a seamless way as soon as possible. The end of April will be too late for many.
“The fact that there will be a level of support for self-employed should offer a degree of comfort; we have a significant proportion of self-employed workers within our industry. It has also been good to see that charitable organisations have been acknowledged in the same way.”