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Sunak races to rescue UK economy



British chancellor Rishi Sunak. Photo: Reuters

British chancellor Rishi Sunak. Photo: Reuters


British chancellor Rishi Sunak. Photo: Reuters

The UK has announced an unprecedented stimulus plan to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus, including paying a portion of citizens' wages for the first time in the nation's history.

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled on Friday what was in effect his third emergency package in 10 days as the virus threatens to cause more damage to the economy than the financial crisis of 2008.

Businesses will get a £30bn (€32.6bn) tax holiday, with the government deferring value-added tax payments for a quarter. Workers whose jobs are at risk will see up to 80pc of their wages paid by the government at an unknown cost. Renters and self-employed workers will also get help.

"The chancellor's announcement is a major and extraordinary intervention," said Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "He has clearly taken on board the scale of the crisis."

The UK government has come under heavy criticism for its slow response to the crisis.

As schools across the country closed on Friday, prime minister Boris Johnson also announced pubs, restaurants and cafes would be ordered to shut.