UK bolsters salary support for those hit by local lockdowns

LONDON (AP) – The British government said on Friday it will pay two thirds of the salaries of workers in companies that have to close as a result of new coronavirus restrictions widely expected to come into effect next week.

In a change of policy, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak has responded to calls from businesses, local leaders and unions to provide a financial package to prevent mass job losses in sectors that are expected to be subject to tighter restrictions, such as pubs and restaurants in parts of northern England.

“I have always said that we will do whatever is necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods as the situation evolves,” Sunak said. “The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the UK who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.”

Sunak would not be drawn on what businesses would be forced to close but said the rise in cases and hospital admissions in certain parts of the country is a “concern” that requires a change in approach.

People outside a restaurant in Edinburgh. PHOTO: AP