The government has put the hospitality industry into limbo, and limbo is a terrible place to be.

Yesterday, the PM warned the British public against visiting pubs, restaurants, theatres and bars across the country. For an industry already taking a battering by the coronavirus this was a staggering blow. Effectively the UK has been warned off visiting the likes of Costa, Greggs, McDonald’s, Wetherspoons and more.

Warned off but not banned, a difference which instantly sparked the misconception that if the government had actually banned people from eating and drinking out, or ordered operators to close, their insurance policies would kick in to save the day. But this is not the case. The vast majority wouldn’t be able to claim anything, and even if they did receive something eventually, with a total ban in place they’d be out of business by the time it arrived.

What is required is urgent financial assistance from the government to support operators through what is likely to be weeks, if not months, of a severe and sustained downturn in trade. Cashflow is all-important, and if the public do avoid socialising and eating and drinking out en-masse that’s going to disappear, which will be fatal.

Having urged the public to avoid it, the government cannot leave the hospitality industry to flounder. Business rates need to be suspended immediately, but that should have happened already. A week ago that would have been fabulous news, today it’s nowhere near enough.

Yesterday’s developments mean the scale of the bailout needs to reflect the scale of the looming disaster waiting to happen. In France, president Macron has vowed unlimited support for businesses and their employees, pledging a €300bn “guarantee” that will ensure no French firm will go under as a result of the lockdown in France. The Danish government has announced similar. The UK must do the same and do it quickly.

Around 4pm today, chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the government’s latest plan to support business, and it’s thought hospitality will feature heavily. Some would argue the PM should have had these plans already in place when he dropped his bombshell yesterday, but if the subsequent financial support is swiftly announced and comprehensive enough, all might be forgiven.

Sunak needs to really open up on the fine opening gambit he made in his first budget and announce a super-sized rescue package that will reassure and ultimately save an industry that is taking a hammering. Mass closures and job losses will inevitably follow if he doesn’t. These are extraordinary and unprecedented times, and the size of the support offered by the government needs to reflect that. Roll on 4pm.