CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak unveiled an “unprecedented package” of support as he vowed to do “whatever it takes” to help the country survive the coronavirus crisis.

The measures include offering government-backed loan guarantees worth £330 billion to support businesses and a three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners.

Sunak also promised to extend a year-long business rates holiday to all firms in the hospitality sector and offered funding grants of up to £25,000 for smaller businesses.

The smallest businesses in the country will be able to seek grants worth £10,000.

Speaking at the UK Government’s daily coronavirus press conference, Sunak said: “We have never in peacetime faced an emergency like this.

“This struggle will not be overcome by a single package of measures or isolated interventions. It will be won through a collective national effort, every one of us doing all we can to protect family, neighbours, friends, jobs.

“This national effort will be underpinned by government interventions in the economy on a scale unimaginable only a few weeks ago. We have never faced an economic fight like this one. But we are prepared, we will get through this, and we will do whatever it takes.”

Asked why he was offering loans rather than grants to companies, Sunak said: “We’ve worked on a very particular financing scheme with the Bank of England, again showing that the two arms of economic policy can work together to provide support.

“And you can benchmark what we’re doing with other countries around the world.

“Loan schemes are important because ultimately businesses need to have liquidity to get through what is a difficult bridge, but we have unveiled what I think would benchmark as a very comprehensive and sizeable package of direct fiscal support for business through tax reliefs and cash grants.”

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Sunak also insisted that the Government would “go further with regard to employment support and supporting people’s jobs and incomes” and he promised that would involve working “business and the unions”.

Meanwhile, former Scottish secretary David Mundell was left red-faced when he used the Chancellor’s statement to try to embarrass the Scottish Government.

The Tory MP tweeted: “We need urgent confirmation from @NicolaSturgeon and @scotgov that they will match the support for businesses in Scotland announced by the Chancellor this evening for businesses elsewhere in UK. He made clear they will have the Barnett consequential funding to do so.”

Sturgeon pointed out that she had “already made clear that @scotgov will pass every penny of consequential funding for business support on to businesses in Scotland”.

The National:

Responding to Sunak’s statement, Scotland’s Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said she had hoped to see “substantial grant support and tax breaks to keep companies in business and people in jobs where possible, and a greater emphasis on supporting individuals and households.”

Standing alongside the Chancellor, Boris Johnson told reporters: “We must act like any wartime government and do whatever it takes to support our economy.

“We must support millions of businesses and tens of millions of families and individuals through the coming months. And to do that the government machine must and will respond with a profound sense of urgency. Thousands of brilliant officials are already working round the clock but we must do more and faster.”

The Prime Minister also warned that Covid-19 is so “dangerous” that without drastic action it will “overwhelm the NHS”, as he warned that more “extreme measures” may be needed to protect lives in the future.

Shortly before the press conference, NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, told MPs that hospitals were preparing for a big influx of patients requiring ventilation.

Meanwhile, British nationals have been advised to avoid all non-essential foreign travel for the next 30 days at least.

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons that the changes to guidance were necessary to try to slow the spread of coronavirus but also partly over fears that people might not be able to return home if the country they are in closes borders.

Raab said: “UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lockdowns in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.

“So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.”

The Foreign Office said Britons who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so – including the possibility of being stranded overseas if restrictions are put in place.

The announcement came as No 10 created a new committee devoted to the virus. Johnson is to chair the daily C-19 meeting.