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Furlough extended as non-essential retail and hospitality forced to close again

Lauretta Roberts
31 October 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government's furlough scheme will be extended until December as he announced tough new national measures across England, including the forced closure of non-essential retail, to combat spiralling coronavirus cases.

Johnson called a press conference this evening as information about the plans were leaked to certain media outlets last night.

In his speech the Prime Minister said: "I’m afraid non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed, though click and collect services will continue and essential shops will remain open.

"Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services."

The measures come into force as 12.01am on Thursday and will remain in place for four weeks, after which certain areas of the country may be exited into the previous three-tier system of restrictions.

It is understood that essential retailers, such as supermarkets, will not be obliged to remove non-essential items from sale, which they were forced to do at short notice in Wales for the country's current two-week national lockdown.

Johnson was keen to stress that the new measures were not the same as the tough lockdown of March to June. Schools will remain open and people will be encouraged to go outside for exercise, though they should work from home if possible.

"We’re not going back to the full scale lockdown of March and April, the measures that I’ve outlined are far less primitive and less restrictive. Though, I’m afraid, from Thursday, the basic message is the same: Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives," he said.

The furlough scheme was due to end tonight, prompting fears of mass lay-offs but the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the scheme, which pays 80% of staff wages (up to £2,500 per month) will now run until 2 December, when the new restrictions are due to end. For some workers the news will have come too late as redundancies have already been confirmed. In the previous Tier 3 state, the government agreed to pay just 67% of staff wages.

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