By Ricky Browne
The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of March today, according Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said, just as England’s population of 56 million people entered a new lockdown.
The lockdown which will see the closure of many businesses across the country, is scheduled to last until December 2, but could well last longer.
The new furlough scheme, for the whole of the United Kingdom, where many workers will earn up to 80 percent of their wages — up to £2,500 per month — even if not employed.
The scheme is likely to come as a huge relief to many employees and employers alike — even those in Scotland, which does not currently have a full lockdown to the extend of England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said to the Scottish Parliament today that the country’s R number was now “hovering around one” meaning that it was handling the rise in cases well.
As a result Scotland may not be facing a hardening of its lockdown if its current restrictions are followed.
The UK-wide furlough extension is a major intervention in the jobs market, but will be a widely welcome one. The extension will give employees and businesses “huge comfort” Sunak said.
The policy will be reviewed in January. And according to the Bank of England it will cost about £150 billion pounds in terms of quantitative easing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the England-wide shutdown on Saturday, as daily deaths from the coronavirus escalated to their highest levels with the danger of the NHS being overwhelmed. All ‘non-essential” shops and services are now closed, though schools remain open.
Prior to today’s shutdown there was a rush on hairdressers and barbers for a last haircut or treatment, while others rushed to the pubs for a last pint. Many stores were offering last minute discounts, uncertain if they would be able to reopen for what should be their busiest period heading into Christmas.
England was in effect joining much of the rest of western Europe with its lockdown, even while the United States saw its highest daily rate of infection with almost 100,000 people catching the disease.
Meanwhile, people who lost their jobs after the last furlough ended are set to benefit as well. People who were made redundant after the 23rd of September can now be rehired and put on furlough.
Britians total number of deaths is now above 47,700 people, making it the fifth worst hit country in terms of numbers, behind the United States with more than 233,000 deaths, Brazil with 161,000 deaths, India with 123,000 deaths and Mexico with 93,000 deaths. That means that Britian is the worst hit country in Europe, with Italy (39,700 deaths), France (38,600 deaths) and Spain (38,100 deaths) not far behind.
In terms of death rates per million people, Britian has a rate of 716 deaths. This ranks it 10th in the world, with Peru first with 1,082, then Belgium, (1058), Spain (812), Brazil (769), Chile (766), Ecuador (744), Mexico (739), Argentina (731), Bolivia (722).
Surprisingly, given the media coverage of the number of deaths in the United States, the UK’s death rate is ahead of that country, if only just. The US has a death rate of 712 people per million. Next is Italy with 659 deaths per million people.