Britain can no longer put normal life on hold, Rishi Sunak warned yesterday.
As he unveiled his latest rescue package to save jobs, the Chancellor called on the nation to learn to live with coronavirus ‘without fear’.
He added that the country could not carry on ignoring the economic impact of the pandemic.
Striking a different tone to the Prime Minister’s cautious, health-focused address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said the ‘wider’ costs of Covid had to be taken account of in the coming weeks.
He added: ‘Our lives can no longer be put on hold. We have so often spoken about this virus in terms of lives lost.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds a copy of his Winter Economy Plan outside No 11 Downing Street before heading for the House of Commons to give MPs details of his Winter Economy Plan
‘But the price our country is paying is wider than that.
‘As we think about the next few weeks and months, we need to bear all of those costs in mind.’ In his statement to the Commons yesterday, Mr Sunak confirmed the furlough scheme will not be continued past October 31 – despite warnings that at least two million jobs could be lost by January.
In its place will come a more modest wage subsidy scheme, which could still cost taxpayers an extra £9billion over the next six months. There will also be a package to help businesses.
Boris Johnson raised eyebrows in the Commons by skipping his Chancellor’s flagship statement to pay a visit to police recruits in Northampton.
Downing Street strenuously denied suggestions of a rift between the two men. And for his part, Mr Sunak stressed he backed the Prime Minister’s latest Covid crackdown.
But in his statement yesterday, the Chancellor called for Britain to learn to live with the virus. ‘What was true at the beginning of this crisis remains true now,’ he said. ‘It’s on all of us. And we must learn to live with it and live without fear.’
Commuters cross London Bridge on September 24 in London, England. Beginning in November when the current furlough scheme ends, the government will subsidise the pay of employees who are working fewer hours due to lower demand
Mr Sunak said it was right to ‘throw everything we’ve got’ at saving ‘viable jobs’. And, with Mr Johnson warning new restrictions are set to last for at least six months, he said it was time to face up to the ‘awful’ trade-offs and hard choices involving health, education and employment.
The Chancellor admitted the economy was now ‘likely to undergo a more permanent adjustment’, with some jobs disappearing for good.
On another day of crisis:Mr Sunak extended the 15 per cent VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors until the end of March; Cheap business loans were extended, with firms told they can now repay over ten years and take payment holidays; The Chancellor hinted at future tax rises, warning he would have to make ‘very difficult decisions’ in future; Cases of the virus jumped again, with 6,634 recorded in a single day; The cost of the troubled test-and-trace system was revealed to have risen to £12billion; Nicola Sturgeon banned Scottish students from going to the pub following a string of outbreaks in universities.
Mr Sunak said there had been ‘no harder choice’ than the decision to axe the furlough scheme, which has helped prop up 9.5 million jobs.
But he said it was ‘fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that exist only inside the furlough’.
He said the Government needed to create ‘new opportunities’ for