UK Chancellor Sunak promises 330 bn pounds of loans, guarantees (Ld)

London, March 17 (IANS) UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Tuesday termed coronavirus as an “economic emergency” as well as “a public health emergency” as he laid out a financial plan to safeguard the country’s businesses.

Promising government intervention “on a scale unimaginable only a few weeks ago”, he said: “The government will stand behind businesses, small and large,” and announced government backed loans “to get businesses through this”.

Addressing a press conference with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Indian-origin Sunak, who is the son-in-law of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, says this will amount to 330 billion pounds of guarantees.

Addressing concerns about the impact on pubs, clubs and theatres — whose closure has been urged but not ordered leading to concern from them over insurance coverage — he said: “For those venues which do have a policy that covers pandemics — the government action is sufficient to allow them to make claims.”

For the smaller businesses in that sector which don’t have insurance, Sunak said that he will provide cash grants of 25,000 pounds per business “to help bridge through this period”.

Businesses in the sector will get a “business rates holiday”, he said.

Sunak also announced a three-month “mortgage holiday” for those who need it, besides pomising all health to the National Health Service.

In his remarks, Johnson said the UK “must stop the disease spreading to a point where it overwhelms our NHS”.

He termed coronavirus as “so dangerous and so infectious that without drastic measures to check its progress, it would overwhelm any health system in the world.”

Noting that while the steps announced earlier would “have an effect on the spread of the disease”, he apprehended that “although the measures are extreme we may well have to go further and faster”.

“And we must act like any war-time government and do anything it takes to support our economy.”



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