Coronavirus updates: Government to pay 80 per cent of wages for employees not working

All the latest coronavirus updates and industry news – as it happens…

Friday 20 March

  • Government to pay 80 per cent of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month

Chancellor Rishi Sunak hailed his plan was one of the most comprehensive the world had seen and “unprecedented in British history”.

He said: “We are starting a great national effort to protect jobs.”

Sunak said there would be no limit on the funding available to pay people’s wages. He also announced emergency measures to enable the self-employed to claim universal credit at £94.25 – well below the protection offered to employees.

The government is also deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, the equivalent of a cash injection of £30bn into the economy, to help companies stay solvent.

Lex Butler, chair of HBAA, said: “With his financial support initiatives today (Friday),  the Chancellor has thrown welcome life belts to  every business in the hospitality and events industry to keep them afloat. But with so many on the verge of sinking, especially now that bars and restaurants are all ordered to close, it is vital that these funds reach the businesses urgently. It may be too late for some.”

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia), said: “The mia welcomes this comprehensive package as a result of the industry’s ongoing collective request for financial support for the business meetings and events sector.

“We continue to seek recognition for the struggles this sector is facing so, it was reassuring that this announcement covers all businesses.

“Despite the promises made, it remains unclear whether properties such as hotels and attractions are expected to continue without disruption to guests, staff and business.

“It is good news that the financial measures will include our sector for the next three months and safeguard the continued employment of our talented workforce.”

  • UK restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs closed on Friday


  • The Meetings Industry Association (mia) has written to prime minister Boris Johnson demanding businesses get immediate access to funds to avoid a staffing and economic crisis across the sector.

Despite the Government announcement that it will extend its support to all businesses through short-term rate relief and loans, not just those with rateable values of less than £51,000, the mia says the help offered simply isn’t enough.

A survey of representatives of the mia’s 800+ members and the wider meetings and events industry showed that 85 per cent don’t believe the Government’s current support package will enable them to survive.

  • Train services across Britain will be reduced down to a minimum from Monday (23 March). Passenger numbers have dropped 70 per cent during the outbreak.
  • The forthcoming G7 meeting at Camp David has been cancelled and will now be carried out by teleconference.
  • The number of deaths in Italy has now surpassed the total in China to make it the worst-affected country in the world with more than 3,405 deaths.

Thursday 19 March

  • PM Boris Johnson asks businesses to “stand by employees, stand by workers” and to “think very carefully” before they lay off their staff.

On support for business, chancellor Rishi Sunak will make an announcement on Friday.

At today’s Downing Street press conference, rumours of a lockdown were dispelled, although the Government may consider stricter measures and “have to consider going further”, but there is “no prospect of us wanting to stop public transport in London”, Johnson said.

  • Promise to “massively” increase testing

UK is in negotiations to buy an antibody test that is “as simple as a pregnancy test” to tell people if they have the disease.

“It is early days but if it works we will buy hundreds and thousands as soon as practicable,” the PM adds.

  • The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) is calling for unity as it looks to highlight the industry’s importance to the economy.

It is calling on the industry to agree to use the word “events” when talking about the industry and encouraging event professionals to use the figure of £70 billion per year as the event industry’s value to the UK, as it attempts to shape the narrative.

  • HBAA has said it is fighting for agencies as the government plans the distribution of its support for the leisure and hospitality sector.

“We’re fighting for the many agencies whose businesses have recently been obliterated to be included as the Government plans the distribution of financial support for the leisure and hospitality sector,” said HBAA chair Lex Butler.

“We’re also going to be announcing a series of highly practical initiatives to provide straightforward assistance for all our members to help them through the cash flow nightmare and the mental health pressures that they are all facing.”

  • Up to 40 tube stations are to be shut in London, where the virus is spreading faster than in other parts of the UK.

There have been more than 900 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the capital.

Transport for London (TfL) has announced a partial shutdown of the network from Thursday morning, as well as no night Tube and reduced bus services.

The stations on the closure list are:
Bakerloo Line: Lambeth North, Regents Park, Warwick Avenue, Kilburn Park, Charing Cross
Central Line: Holland Park, Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Chancery Lane, Redbridge
Circle Line: Bayswater, Great Portland Street, Barbican
District Line: Bow Road, Stepney Green, Mansion House, Temple, St James’s Park, Gloucester Road
Jubilee Line: Swiss Cottage, St John’s Wood, Bermondsey, Southwark
Northern Line: Tufnell Park, Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent, Goodge Street, Borough, Clapham South, Tooting Bec, South Wimbledon, Hampstead
Piccadilly Line: Caledonian Road, Arsenal, Covent Garden, Hyde Park Corner, Bounds Green, Manor House
Victoria Line: Pimlico, Blackhorse Road

  • China, the country where the outbreak started, says it didn’t have a single domestic new infection yesterday – a major milestone.

China is now concentrating its efforts on overseas travellers who might be carrying the virus back.

  • Australia and New Zealand are shutting their borders to all non-residents.

Additionally, New Zealand has banned indoor gatherings of more than 100 people

    • US president Donald Trump has signed a $100bn package to cover testing and some paid sick leave.
  • Globally, more than 800,000 people have been infected – although many have already recovered. The death toll is now more than 8,000 worldwide.

Wednesday 18 March

  • Schools, colleges and nurseries in England are to close on Friday “until further notice”

In a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus, education secretary, Gavin Williamson announced that educational establishments will close, with exceptions made for children of key workers and for vulnerable children.

  • The EU is set to introduce its strictest ever travel ban.

All travel into the passport-free Schengen zone by non-EU nationals is set to be suspended for at least 30 days.

  • Euro 2020 has been suspended until 2021.

The international football tournament, due to be held across Europe in the summer, has become the latest high profile event to be postponed.

Meanwhile, many cultural buildings across the UK have closed their doors temporarily. These include the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the Royal Academy.

  • The UK’s three largest airports demand help.

In a letter to the prime minister, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports said they may have to close down operations unless the government intervenes, warning that thousands of jobs were “instantly at real risk”.

  • HMRC sets up phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay tax due to coronavirus.

The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax to get help and advice. The number is 0800 0159 559.

  • The death toll in the UK has increased by 18 to 71 people.

Global deaths from the virus have hit 7,500.

Tuesday 17 March

  • UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a number of measures to help business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It is “an economic emergency. People are deeply worried,” he said.  The fight against the coronavirus crisis would be “underpinned by government interventions in the economy on a scale unimaginable only a few weeks ago.

“Any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a Government backed loan or credit on attractive terms.”

    • The measures include initial £330bn of guarantees – equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP
    • Potential support package specifically for airlines and airports
    • For small and medium businesses, loans of up to £5m, with no interest due for first six months which will be available by the start of next week.
  • The government is advising British people against all non-essential travel abroad.

In a statement to MPs, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the government is advising against any non-essential travel globally for the next 30 days. This is partly because of the risk of people not being able to return, as so many countries are closing borders.

  • ICC Belfast has closed until 17 April in response to coronavirus.

Belfast City Council members made the decision, which will be reviewed in light of emerging information on 6 April. Events will be rescheduled to future dates where possible.

  • MP Tracy Brabin is compiling a dossier on how COVID-19 is affecting the self-employed.

The dossier is across all industries, not just events. If you’ve lost work due to being ill or have had work cancelled due to the virus, let her know your story by emailing

  • EVENTIT postponed until 25 September 2020 due to coronavrius

Scotland’s annual showcase for business events professionals will be postponed until 25 September 2020, due to the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus across the UK.

Judith Wilson, events director of EVENTIT said: “We know this will come as a huge disappointment, not only to our sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and visitors who were due to attend the show but also to the events industry community who have shown us great support.”

  • EventWell to host a free webinar to share advice on self-care during self-isolation

Helen Moon, founder of EventWell said: “It’s a hugely challenging time for the event industry, the UK and the world as a whole.

“The speed that Coronavirus is moving is now impacting how we will go about our day to day, how we work, our lifestyle, and our culture for weeks, possibly months to come, as we protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

She added that the government’s advice to social distance will come as “a big change” one that could seriously impact on our mental and emotional health, and our overall wellbeing.

The complimentary webinar, with a panel of event professionals trained in mental health first aid and wellbeing, will aim to share self-care tips and advice, including sleep and rest, diet and nutrition, movement and exercise, staying connected and keeping a check on your mental and emotional health.

Register for the event here.

  • The Yorkshire Agricultural Society has announced that Springtime Live has been cancelled due to Coronavirus

Organisers continue to follow Government advice which has led to the decision to cancel the event, due to be held on Saturday, March 28.

All ticket holders will be contacted, and they will be automatically refunded.

Nigel Pulling chief executive said: “We would like to reassure our visitors that every step is being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The safety of our staff and visitors is paramount and with the latest Government advice regarding Coronavirus, we have taken the decision to cancel Springtime Live. Everyone who bought tickets will be refunded – please can I ask you to bear with us as we process this.”

  • Government advice that people should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues has been described as “catastrophic” by UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls for leaving hospitality workers in limbo with no recourse to insurance.

Meanwhile, Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, called the measures a “crippling blow”, saying: “As the social distancing measures announced this afternoon are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of COVID-19.”

  • The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) has announced re-scheduled dates for Incentive Summit Europe (ISE) and Incentive Summit Americas (ISA) following the postponement of both events due to Covid-19.

Incentive Summit Europe will now take place at the InterContinental, Davos, Switzerland December 10-13, 2020, while Incentive Summit Americas will happen later in 2020, with final dates still to be confirmed.

  • The Meetings Industry Association (mia) has launched guidance to the sector to assist contract negotiations and to help mitigate the impact of coronavirus on trade.

Entitled ‘Extraordinary matters: Contract Guidance’, the best practice provides information on reducing the impact of cancellations and managing postponements and is designed to help keep everyone in business while making health and wellness a top priority.

  • Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) has announced the postponement of MEETINGS, the New Zealand business events industry trade show due to take place in Auckland next month.

“Our role is now to advocate for the power of business events to aid economic recovery,” said CINZ chief executive, Lisa Hopkins.

Monday 16 March

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson advises UK to avoid non-essential travel and contact with others. 

In the first of daily briefings, the PM has advised the UK population to work from home where possible, avoid non-essential travel and avoid social interaction at pubs, clubs and theatres in new measures to fight coronavirus.

Mr Johnson also said the government would not provide emergency services at large gatherings and events.

  • Industry body Meetings Mean Business responds to US guidance on large events and mass gatherings.

“In these unprecedented times – and to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that ‘for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S.’

As industry leaders who are driven by a responsibility to our clients, customers and employees, this is certainly not a directive we were hoping to see. However, it is one we intend to follow.

We applaud the industry professionals who are managing as best they can through this difficult and unanticipated situation – including those who are going above and beyond to promote lenience, provide solutions and contribute in significant ways to their communities.

We understand the months – even years – of work that precede major meetings and we recognize the incredible benefits that these gatherings bring to people, businesses and the economy. Yet even as meetings are being cancelled and postponed, employees at every level are continuing to donate food, time and free public services. There is perhaps no greater testament to the industry’s value and collective strength.

That’s why in lockstep with our partners from across the globe, the Meetings Mean Business Coalition will lead the industry’s efforts to promote fact-based decision-making and broaden awareness of the industry’s commitment to serving the public during this period of crisis and uncertainty.

We are here to help, and in addition to providing updates and coordinating with experts from the health and safety community, we will help lead the way with new resources; communications assistance for meeting professionals; a steady drumbeat of impact stories; and a plan for recovery.”

Meetings Mean Business is an industry-wide coalition, comprised of more than 60 members. It showcases the undeniable value that business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences and conventions bring to people, businesses and communities. By rallying industry advocates, working with stakeholders, conducting original research, engaging with outside voices and more, the coalition brings the industry together to emphasize its importance.

After consulting with the government, partners and stakeholders, the organisers have taken the decision to postpone the Forum until the situation surrounding COVID-19 becomes clearer.

  • A petition calling on the UK government to provide economic assistance to businesses and staff employed in the events industry affected by the coronavirus outbreak passed more than 100,000 signatures in three days.

Passing the 100,000 signature milestone means that the petition will be considered for discussion in parliament. The government is yet to respond to the petition, which was launched by event photographer Matt Rakowski.

  • Delegates at the ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter Annual Conference 2020 demonstrated resilience in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, sharing knowledge and experience and focusing on long-term success.

The event, which took place at ICC Wales against a backdrop of increased challenges due to the outbreak, provided an opportunity and outlet for positive discussion and forward-looking debate among the attendees.

Coronavirus live updates

  • Mass events are set to be banned across the UK from next weekend, the government has announced.

Downing Street has signalled it is getting ready to stop large public gatherings in a bid to alleviate pressure on the emergency services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The size of event affected and the timing of the ban has yet to be decided. It is expected to come into force from next weekend.

The government is also expected to include compensation for organisations forced to cancel events in emergency legislation due to be passed next week.

The move is a significant turnaround from the government’s previously announced approach to the outbreak. Prime minister Boris Johnson stopped short of banning large events on Thursday when the UK moved to the delay stage of its action plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday the director general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed the need for a range of measures to limit the spread of the virus: “Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all.”

Hours later the government signalled it would move to ban large events.

Read the archive on coronavirus live updates here.