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March 2020 in United Kingdom politics and government

2 March 
The government holds a COBRA meeting to discuss its preparations and response to the coronavirus, as the number of UK cases jumps to 36.

3 March 
The government publishes its action plan for dealing with coronavirus. This includes scenarios ranging from a milder pandemic to a "severe prolonged pandemic as experienced in 1918" and warns that a fifth of the national workforce could be absent from work during the infection's peak.

6 March 
The Prime Minister announces £46 million in funding for research into a coronavirus vaccine and rapid diagnostic tests. During a visit to a laboratory in Bedfordshire, he says: "It looks like there will be a substantial period of disruption where we have to deal with this outbreak."

11 March 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presents the Johnson Government's first budget, which includes £30 billion in measures to protect the economy from coronavirus.

13 March 
Elections including the English local elections, London mayoral election and police and crime commissioner elections, scheduled for May 2020, are postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.

14 March 
Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, announces the US is to extend its European coronavirus travel ban to include the UK from 16 March.

15 March
The Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel" to the US.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that every UK resident over the age of 70 will be told "within the coming weeks" to self-isolate for "a very long time" to shield them from coronavirus.
The government announces plans to hold daily televised press conferences to update the public on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, starting on Monday 16 March.

16 March

Prime Minister Boris Johnson advises everyone in the UK against "non-essential" travel and contact with others to curb coronavirus, as well as suggesting people should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, and work from home if possible. Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions are urged to consider the advice "particularly important", and will be asked to self-isolate within days.

17 March 
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announces that £330bn will be made available in loan guarantees for businesses affected by the coronavirus. This includes unlimited loans and guarantees to support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period. The Chancellor will make available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.

At last week’s Budget, the Chancellor provided £30 billion of support to the economy to deal with the crisis by investing in public services, increasing support for vulnerable people and providing business with tax reliefs and loans.

He said he would take further action as the situation evolved and today outlines further measures including:
To ensure that businesses have access to the funds they need, we are providing support for liquidity amongst large firms, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England to help them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments including new legal powers in the Covid Bill enabling us to offer whatever further financial support we think necessary to businesses.

Providing £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms manage their cashflow through this period by giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000 providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000

Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim.

Confirmation that government advice to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres etc. is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place.
To support the food industry and help provide meals for people who need to self-isolate, we will relax planning regulations to allow pubs and restaurants to start providing takeaways without a planning application.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:
We will do whatever it takes to protect our people and businesses from the effects of this global economic emergency brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The interventions I am setting out today will help support businesses of all sizes – so they can continue operating during these unprecedented times.

The action announced today means that over £3.5 billion in additional funding will be provided to the devolved administrations for support to businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

18 March
The government announces that all schools in the country will shut from the afternoon of Friday 20 March, except for those looking after the children of keyworkers and vulnerable children. No exams will take place this academic year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirms.

The government announces emergency legislation to bring in a complete ban on new evictions for three months as part of measures to help protect renters in social and private rented accommodation.

20 March
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces that the government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, as part of "unprecedented" measures to protect people's jobs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson orders all cafes, pubs and restaurants to close from the evening of 20 March, except for take-away food, to tackle coronavirus. All the UK's nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres are told to close "as soon as they reasonably can".

21 March
Environment Secretary George Eustice urges shoppers to stop panic buying, as supermarkets around the UK struggle to keep up with demand. Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl are reported to have begun a recruitment drive for up to 30,000 new staff.

22 March 
Boris Johnson warns that "tougher measures" may be introduced if people do not follow government advice on social distancing.

23 March
The government announces emergency measures to safeguard the nation's rail network, with season ticket holders given refunds if working from home, and rail franchise agreements nationalised for at least six months to prevent rail companies from collapsing.

Alex Salmond is cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland's First Minister.

In a televised address, Boris Johnson announces a UK-wide lockdown with immediate effect, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. People can leave their homes only for "very limited purposes" – shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when "absolutely necessary". A number of other restrictions are imposed, with police given powers to enforce the measures, including the use of fines.

24 March 
Health secretary Matt Hancock announces the government will open a temporary hospital, the NHS Nightingale Hospital London at the Excel London, to add extra critical care capacity in response to coronavirus pandemic.

25 March
Parliament shuts down for a month.

26 March 
The government announces that the self-employed will be paid 80% of profits, up to £2,500 a month, to help them cope during the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19.

27 March
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for COVID-19, and will self-isolate in 10 Downing Street.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tests positive for COVID-19 and reports that he is working from home and self-isolating.