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Don’t attack firms that stay open – they have every right to, says business minister

Criticism of companies who have chosen to stay open during the coronavirus lockdown is being fuelled by people who ‘hate the private sector’, claims business minister.

Conservative minister Nadhim Zahawi showed his support for firms who continue to trade, calling for damage to the UK economy to be ‘minimised’ and dismissing ‘unfair criticism’ of bosses.

He wrote in The Daily Telegraph today: ‘These are difficult times for businesses, as they are for all of us.

Conservative minister Nadhim Zahawi  (pictured centre) showed his support for firms who continue to trade

‘We cannot allow those who hate the private sector to use this crisis as an excuse to pile unfair criticism on them.’ 

Ocado buys 100,000 covid-19 tests for staff

While it continues to offer an essential food delivery service Ocado has said it wants to ‘protect staff and the public’ by testing all its staff for Covid-19 regularly. 

The firm has paid £1.5m for the tests, reports The Guardian. They are waiting for 60,000 of the 100,000 ordered to arrive.

Ocado would not reveal who it had bought the tests from. Meanwhile many doctors and nurses on the front line have gone without tests. 

The food delivery service is currently experiencing ten times the usual demand with its chairman Stuart Rose telling the public ‘nobody will starve’, reports The Guardian.

Adding: ‘No matter how hard we work, we do not have enough capacity to serve these unprecedented levels of demand.’

Adding: ‘We still need houses built and deliveries made’. 

Zahawi emphasised that businesses which do not fall under the categories Boris Johnson has chosen to shut, have every right to stay open.

Many takeaway firms have chosen to close their doors due to public pressure despite the government guidelines allowing them to remain open.

Firms who have closed include McDonalds, Greggs, Starbucks and Costa. 

Zahawi advocates the continuation of construction work during the coronavirus lockdown.

While others, including Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, believe construction workers should be sent home – a discussion that reportedly caused a row in No.10 this week. 

Zahawi stated that government social distancing rules tell people to go to work if they cannot work from home. 

Workers at building site on Hanover Square in Central London as construction sites remain in operation

Zahawi stated that government social distancing rules tell people to go to work if they cannot work from home. Construction continues in Barking, London, March 25

Britain’s economy will shrink by 15 per cent between April and June – the steepest contraction on record, experts warn

  • The UK will enter deepest recession since the financial crisis, experts warn  
  • Rescue measures could cause Government borrowing to shoot up to £180billion
  • Michael Gove hinted yesterday that a new era of austerity is on the horizon 

By Lucy White For The Daily Mail 

Britain’s economy will shrink by 15 per cent between April and June in the steepest contraction on record, experts have predicted.

As business closures take their toll, the UK will enter the deepest recession since the financial crisis, they warn today.

The predictions from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) come after Michael Gove hinted yesterday that a new era of austerity is on the horizon because the Government will have to repair the enormous hole that the virus crisis has left in its finances.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Gove stressed that the UK’s coronavirus response package was ‘among the most generous in the world’ but hinted at austerity to come

The Treasury has announced a series of unprecedented rescue packages to limit the damage to the economy, including paying 80 per cent of wages for employees who cannot work and guaranteeing loans made by banks to small businesses.

Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said it was right to enforce the financially-damaging lockdown on British society as it is not possible to ‘put a price on lives’.

But experts think the rescue measures could cause Government borrowing to shoot up to £180billion, or 7 per cent of the UK’s economic output, in the current financial year. 

Even after the helping hand for businesses from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the CEBR expects the UK’s unemployment rate to jump to 7 per cent in July to August 

When added to the existing national debt, this would leave the UK with a debt pile equal to the size of its economy by next year. Even after the helping hand for businesses from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the CEBR expects the UK’s unemployment rate to jump to 7 per cent in July to August, from 3.9 per cent in the three months to January, as workers are laid off and firms cut costs. A 15 per cent contraction in the economy between March and June would be the largest quarterly slowdown since current records began in 1997.

The previous quarterly record was set in the last three months of 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis, when the economy shrank by 2.2 per cent.

The CEBR also thinks house prices will fall by an average of 13 per cent in the year to next March. Boris Johnson has urged housebuyers and sellers to suspend completion dates until the lockdown is over.

Boris Johnson is self-isolating after revealing he had contracted covid-19 as the virus continues to spread

However, most economists expect the UK to rebound rapidly after the lockdown.

The Bank of England said the Covid-19 pandemic would catalyse an ‘economic shock that could prove sharp and large, but should be temporary’.

And the CEBR thinks that measures taken by the Chancellor, including VAT cuts and incentives to encourage businesses to invest, ‘will lead to a sharp bounce back in the third and fourth quarter of the year’. Overall, the economy will shrink by 4 per cent over the whole of 2020, it estimates.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Gove stressed that the UK’s coronavirus response package was ‘among the most generous in the world’.

‘That will increase the amount that we borrow but the Chancellor and the economic team at the Treasury are confident we can pay that off in due course,’ he said. ‘But ultimately, how do you put a price on life?’

■Latest coronavirus video news, views and expert advice at mailplus.co.uk/coronavirus

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