UK extends virus wage payment scheme

Larissa Schwedes, Madeleine Wedesweiler and Isobel Frodsham
·2-min read

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced that the scheme that pays most of the wages of British workers forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until March 2021.

The scheme, which pays up to 80 per cent of people's salaries up to 2500 pounds ($A4515) a month, was originally due to end in December after a month-long lockdown for England was announced on October 31.

A grant for self-employed people has also been increased: the government will now give them up to 80 per cent of their average profits up to 7500 pounds.

It was originally going to be 55 per cent of their profits.

All of the new measures will be reviewed again in January, Sunak added.

The announcement comes after the Bank of England said on Thursday it would pump 150 billion pounds into the economy.

England's new lockdown measures, which started on Thursday and are similar but not as comprehensive as those in place in the first lockdown earlier in the year, are to last until December 2.

Restaurants, cultural facilities, sports centres and leisure facilities have to close but schools and universities remain open.

Retailers will also stay closed for a month - apart from supermarkets and other stores considered necessary.

People may only leave their homes for good reason - for work, sports, recreation or to care for relatives.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are making their own rules to combat the virus.

England's National Health Service was placed on its highest alert level on Wednesday as bosses said they were seriously concerned about the added pressure on health systems in particular overcrowded hospitals.

The number of daily deaths in connection with the virus rose to 492 on Wednesday, the highest toll since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had introduced a three-tier system of restrictions for England in mid-October but the move was criticised as insufficient.

Parliament approved the current lockdown on Wednesday.