More than 140,000 firms have applied for the UK’s job retention scheme, the UK government announced at the daily coronavirus briefing.
The grants those firms receive will help pay the wages of more than one million people, finance minister Rishi Sunak said.
The scheme allows employers to claim a grant of up to 80% of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 a month.
The government announced last week that the country’s lockdown would carry on into May and that although “there is light at the end of the tunnel”, it is too soon to lift the social distancing restrictions.
Sunak announced at the briefing, meanwhile, that were another 449 deaths in the UK in 24 hours bringing the total to 16,509.
Sunak also responded to criticism over delays in getting protective equipment to frontline health workers. He insisted that the government was “working hard” on the issue.
The head of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector in the UK, slammed the UK’s alleged failure to provide staff with adequate protective clothing.
British medical personnel have complained for weeks about a lack of necessary equipment, forcing them to put their own health at risk while treating COVID-19 patients.
A shipment that was supposed to come from Turkey was delayed over the weekend.
At the briefing, Sunak also announced two funds to protect firms.
“As we look ahead and plan for our recovery it is critical we don’t just maintain companies and jobs that already exist, but that we also encourage the businesses, jobs and technologies of the future,” Sunak said.
The funds are worth 1.5 billion pounds to invest in high-growth and innovative firms.
Watch the briefing in the video player, above.