The Government is working on an economic rescue package after dire warnings from the leisure sector that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to widespread business failures, the Financial Times reports.

The hospitality trade, as well as the travel and retail sectors, are calling for billions of pounds of assistance, warning the £7bn set aside to help businesses deal with the virus in the Budget was not enough following a near shutdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been given the role of chairing a new ‘business economic response committee’ which will oversee further efforts to help struggling companies.

He is expected to outline some new measures as early as Tuesday.

Boris Johnson said yesterday the government would do “everything we can to give them [companies] the liquidity they need” as he announced stringent new measures to try to slow the spread of the virus.

He called on everyone in the UK to halt non-essential travel and contact, urging people to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants.

The prime minister said support for business could include giving them more time to pay tax.

Ministers will also look at other measures, including further relief on business rates, although they remain cautious about the idea of offering state loans to struggling companies.

Business groups emphasised the existential threat of the impact of the virus in emergency meetings and calls with a range of ministers and officials from government and the Bank of England on Monday, warning that some businesses were only days away from disaster.

UK Hospitality said the industry was four to six weeks away from running out of cash and warned the government was facing “hundreds of thousands of redundancies” without urgent action.

“Trade has dropped off a cliff. There is a need for urgency, it’s gone from manageable to catastrophic in 10 days,” said CEO Kate Nicholls.

She added that turnover across the sector had fallen by 70% because of the crisis.

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