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News & Press: International Trade News

Prime Minister tells firms at March 19 briefing: ‘think carefully before you start laying off staff'

19 March 2020  
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downing street briefing

The Prime Minister today gave his first prediction of the timescale for the UK’s efforts in tackling the coronavirus, at the fourth daily conference from Downing Street. He said:

“We can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks… I’m confident that we can send coronavirus packing from this country. We are rapidly getting a better understanding of the genomics of the disease.”

Asked what he meant by ‘turning the tide’, the Prime Minister did not offer scientific detail and commentators afterwards were sceptical of this prediction.

Johnson talked of a “ruthless programme of determined collective action and scientific progress that will turn the tide of this disease”.

For businesses, the Prime Minister’s message was:

“I say to businesses: stand by your employees… because we will stand by you. Think carefully before you start laying off staff.”

He promised “a package of measures for workers” to be unveiled tomorrow, Friday 20 March, in response to businesses asking for a more direct package for employees

There is “no prospect of us wanting to stop public transport in London – if people need to go to work,” he said.

Key headlines from Thursday, March 19:

The Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.1% today, the second cut in the last week and the lowest in the central bank’s 325-year history. The measure is to combat the economic shock of coronavirus, including on companies’ revenues.

The UK government published emergency legislation, the Coronavirus Act 2020, providing power to shut down airports and ports, as well as fine individuals if they refuse to go into self-isolation. 

For up-to-the-minute information on the government’s COVID-19 support for businesses, please visit the site here.