Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A handout photograph released by the U.K. Parliament shows Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his 2020 spring budget statement in the House of Commons, in London, on March 11, 2020.

JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP/Getty Images

The British government has announced a $21-billion package to help the country cope with the spread of the new coronavirus, which threatens to weaken Britain’s already stagnant economy.

The government plans to spend £12-billion, or $21.2-billion, on a range of measures that include extending sick-pay benefits, cutting some taxes for small businesses, increasing funding for the National Health Service, and providing loans and grants to companies and local authorities.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced the moves on Wednesday as he unveiled the government’s annual budget, which was loaded with other spending initiatives. Overall, the government is increasing spending by £175-billion over five years, the biggest fiscal expansion since 1992.

Story continues below advertisement

I think I may have the new coronavirus. What should I do?

Coronavirus guide: The latest news on COVID-19 and the toll it’s taking around the world

"I know how worried people are,” Mr. Sunak told the House of Commons. “Worried about their health, the health of their loved ones, their jobs, their income, their businesses, their financial security. … Let me say this: We will get through this together.”

The budget came hours after the Bank of England announced an emergency cut to interest rates. The bank lowered its key rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent from 0.75 per cent, matching cuts made by several other central banks recently. The BoE also eased some lending restrictions to help businesses access capital.

“Activity is likely to weaken materially in the coming months” because of the virus, said the bank’s governor Mark Carney, who is stepping down from his role this week. "The reduction in bank rate will help bolster confidence at this difficult time,” he said.

Britain has 460 cases of coronavirus and six people have died, all elderly patients who had underlying health conditions. The impact of the virus is expected to slow the economy at least in the short term. Figures released on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics showed that the economy had crawled to a halt in the three months to the end of January, and that was before the virus spread into Britain.

“Any forecast of the U.K. economy at the moment is challenging as it’s not yet known how bad the coronavirus outbreak will be in the U.K. and how long it will last for,” said Howard Archer, an economist at London-based EY Item Club, an economic forecasting group. Nonetheless, Mr. Archer cut his outlook for growth this year to 0.5 per cent from a previous estimate of 1.2 per cent.

There’s growing concern that the virus could have spread throughout the government after junior health minister Nadine Dorries announced late Monday that she had tested positive and that a member of her staff is ill. Ms. Dorries said she was self-isolating at home and she appealed to all the members of Parliament she has met in recent days to take precautions. "It’s been pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now,” she said on Twitter.

Ms. Dorries, 62, first noticed symptoms last Thursday after she attended an event at 10 Downing St. with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to mark International Women’s Day. She had also been in the House of Commons for several votes and speeches, raising concerns that a number of MPs came in contact with her. On the weekend, she also held several meetings with constituents in her riding. On Wednesday, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said there were “no plans to suspend Parliament or to close any areas of the buildings at this time.”

Story continues below advertisement

The virus could also hamper Britain’s trade negotiations with the European Union, which were already on a tight timetable. While the country formally left the EU on Jan. 31, little has changed because Britain remains part of the bloc’s single market and customs union until the end of the year. Both sides are supposed to use the transition period to negotiate agreements covering trade, security and other issues by Dec. 31. However, talks haven’t started and, on Wednesday, Michael Gove, the cabinet minister leading the negotiations, said the process could be held up because of the virus.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, an independent government agency, said in a report released on Wednesday that even with a trade deal, leaving the EU will mean a potential 4-per-cent loss of economic growth over the next 15 years. Much of that impact is due to lower migration from EU countries and weak productivity as businesses adjust to new trade barriers, the OBR said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies