Boris Johnson braces nation for 'many job losses' as impact of pandemic emerge

4 June 2020, 05:54

The Prime Minister made the warning in a Downing Street press conference
The Prime Minister made the warning in a Downing Street press conference. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Prime Minister has warned the nation to prepare for "many job losses" ahead of the unveiling of details of the economic impact of Covid-19 are set to emerge.

With the coronavirus death toll growing higher, Boris Johnson told the nation he was "proud" of his Government's record of dealing with the pandemic.

But, the PM warned that large scale redundancies were "inevitable" but the Government would take an "interventionist" approach to support the economy as it emerges from the lockdown.

Later today MPs will hear how the pandemic has impacted on workers and businesses at the Commons business committee and the Bank of England is set to layout which companies which receive funding through its Covid Corporate Financing Facility lending scheme.

The Office for National Statistics will also set to detail its latest assessment of the financial and societal damage from the disease.

Large sectors of the economy are being kept on life support by taxpayer funding, with businesses borrowing more than £30 billion from three Government-backed coronavirus loan schemes and 8.7 million jobs furloughed.

Mr Johnson was also facing questions over the test and trace programme to slow the disease's spread, with England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty saying it remained "in the early stages of its development".

Meanwhile, ministers are likely to face further questions over their decision to end virtual voting in the Commons after Business Secretary Alok Sharma, who appeared visibly ill while in the chamber on Wednesday, was tested for Covid-19.

After Commons authorities undertook a deep-clean, a spokeswoman for the MP said he would self-isolate after he "began feeling unwell" while delivering the second reading of the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill.

Opposition MPs renewed calls for the virtual voting to be reinstated, with Labour's shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy saying "reckless doesn't even begin to describe" the scrapping of the system a day earlier.

Also on Thursday, Mr Johnson will urge world leaders to "unite humanity in the fight against disease" as he hosts an online global vaccine summit aiming to raise £6 billion to immunise millions of children in the world's poorest nations.

Though not directly involving coronavirus, for which the world is scrambling to find a vaccine, officials said the summit could help lower the likelihood of resurgences arriving in the UK from abroad by alleviating pressure on developing nations' healthcare systems so they can tackle Covid-19.

A second spike would cause further devastation for the economy, and the PM acknowledged the scale that the UK is already facing during the latest Downing Street press conference.

"I am afraid tragically there will be many, many job losses. That is just inevitable," he said.

The Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said there could be 8,000 new cases of coronavirus a day in the UK and there was "relatively little room for manoeuvre" in easing the lockdown.

While the latest figures showed more than 1,800 a day had tested positive, data from the Office for National Statistics suggested the true figure was significantly higher.

At the same time he said the R - the rate of transmission - was still close to 1 which meant the numbers were not coming down quickly.

He said the number of deaths was also coming down "but it is not coming down as fast as we would like".