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Coronavirus: UK workers to get two-thirds of wages if firms told to shut

Employees who work for UK firms forced to shut by law because of coronavirus restrictions are to get two-thirds of their wages paid for by the government.

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Rishi Sunak has attempted to head off mounting anger over plans for imminent new Covid restrictions by announcing a new furlough scheme that will pay two-thirds of workers’ wages in hospitality firms ordered to close their doors.

The hastily arranged announcement was made in a video message from the Treasury, as Downing Street briefed local leaders in the north-east and north-west of England about tough curbs set to be introduced next week.

On Monday, Boris Johnson will make a Commons statement outlining a widely-trailed new “three-tiered” approach to how local Covid situations will be treated which is designed to simplify the current patchwork of restrictions.

The Guardian understands that under the new regime pubs and bars in Merseyside and other parts of northern England will be ordered to close but restaurants will be allowed to remain open until 10pm.

Similar restrictions are expected to be announced in Nottinghamshire as well as Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Newcastle. The rules will be reviewed after a month, sources said.

‘Losing out’
One pub manager in Otley, West Yorkshire, said the scheme “doesn’t even touch the sides” in terms of its impact on pubs.

“Two-thirds of somebody’s wage isn’t going to cut it,” said Mel Green, 41, of The Black Bull.

“We’re in a trade where everyone’s on national minimum wage pretty much. They’re the ones that are losing out. A lot of them are living hand to mouth already and they’ve already had hours reduced.”

The chancellor said the latest measures for companies forced to shut would provide “reassurance and a safety net for people and businesses in advance of what may be a difficult winter”.

In addition, for businesses forced to close in England, Mr Sunak announced an increase in business grants – with up to £3,000 a month paid every fortnight.

The Treasury says the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive increased funding allowing them to bring in similar measures if they choose to.

Source: BBC, The Guardian

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