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Coronavirus: PM promises to protect private renters

During PMQs in the Commons, Boris Johnson said more would be done to help those renting and on low incomes.

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Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson has promised to protect private renters from eviction due to the spread of coronavirus as he said the Government was overseeing “unprecedented” steps to manage the crisis.

The Prime Minister said further measures would be introduced to protect the vulnerable and those who face job losses, adding: “This is a national emergency and we’re asking the public to do things, to take actions in a way that is really unprecedented for a government in peacetime and perhaps even unprecedented in the last century.”

During PMQs in the Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Yesterday, the Chancellor unfortunately offered nothing to the 20 million people living in rented homes, including three million households with children.

“They’re worried, they’re worried sick that they can’t pay their rent if they get ill, lose pay or feel they need to self-isolate.

“So will the Prime Minister now confirm that the Government’s emergency legislation will protect private renters from eviction?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I can indeed confirm that we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do, but it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem, so we’ll also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy.”

Mr Corbyn also questioned Mr Johnson on the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) issued to NHS staff for when they are treating patients with Covid-19.

There have been reports of regional problems with supply of equipment, with some staff saying there are not enough face masks to go round.

Mr Corbyn also said measures to ramp up testing in the UK were not enough.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

He said: “The World Health Organisation said test, test, test and we should be testing, I believe, on an industrial scale.”

He said 10,000 tests per day is “nowhere near even the number of people working in the NHS and the care sector”, adding: “It is a massive undertaking and I wish there was a greater sense of urgency from the Government in getting this testing available for all staff.”

Mr Johnson said the NHS was now moving to carrying out 25,000 coronavirus tests per day – a new announcement.

He added: “There is a massive effort going on, comparable to the effort to build enough ventilators, to ensure that we have adequate supplies of PPE equipment not just now, but throughout the outbreak.”

Mr Johnson said further decisions on schools are “to be taken imminently” as ministers aim to “square the circle both of making sure we stop the spread of the disease but also making sure we relieve, as much as we can, pressure on our NHS”.

On ventilator numbers, Mr Johnson said: “We already have 8,000, and we’re moving rapidly upwards.”

In other developments:

– Schools in Scotland are to close at the end of this week, Nicola Sturgeon said.

– A third patient in Scotland diagnosed with Covid-19 has died.

– The FTSE 100 continued its downward slump with a more than 5% drop at about 9.30am on Wednesday, wiping around £68 billion off the value of London’s biggest companies.

– MPs have been told that only those with questions listed on the order paper should attend Prime Minister’s Questions due to coronavirus.

– A baby has tested positive for Covid-19 at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston in Norfolk, the second reported UK case among infants.

– The youngest person to die in the UK to date has been named as 45-year-old Craig Ruston, who had motor neurone disease. He died on Monday after his chest infection was diagnosed as Covid-19.

– Filming on EastEnders and BBC Studios dramas including Casualty, Doctors, Holby City, Pobol y Cwm and River City will be postponed until further notice.

– Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, one of the lead authors on a paper which predicted 250,000 people could die if the UK did not switch tactics, said he is self-isolating after developing symptoms of Covid-19.

– The Government announced that emergency coronavirus legislation would give the police powers to arrest and isolate people to protect public health.

– Sainsbury’s became the latest supermarket to announce measures to help the elderly and vulnerable as store shelves became severely depleted.

– Pubs and restaurants were told they will be allowed to be turned into takeaways to help provide food for people in self-isolation.

– Global confirmed cases of coronavirus have topped 200,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

During PMQs, Mr Corbyn thanked MPs for their “responsible approach” in sitting a “suitable distance apart to avoid cross-fertilisation of this horrible disease” but said people could not feed their families on “90-odd quid a week” sick pay.

This meant lives were put at risk as people went out to work to “put food on the table”, he said.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s only right that when we’re asking people to take action to isolate themselves, whether they have the disease or a member of their household has the disease, if we’re asking the public to take steps which jeopardise businesses, causes people to risk losing their jobs, it’s absolutely right that whatever their circumstances we should ensure workers get the support they need.

“So, in addition to the package of business support that the Chancellor outlined yesterday, we will be working with the unions, working with colleagues across the House, we will be bringing forward further measures to support workers of all kinds throughout this crisis.”

It comes after the Government was heavily criticised for failing to support the poorest members of society amid allegations the Chancellor’s £350 billion package did “nothing” to protect home renters and those on low incomes.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK.
(PA Graphics)

Rishi Sunak vowed to do “whatever it takes” to buoy the economy when he set out his “unprecedented” fiscal measures on Tuesday, as the number of people thought to have Covid-19 in the UK rose to around 55,000 and the official death toll stands at 71.

It comes as more events are cancelled across the UK, including the Glastonbury festival in June.

A post on Twitter announced the news, with a message from organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, saying: “We are so sorry to announce this, but we are going to have to cancel Glastonbury 2020. Tickets for this year will roll over to next year.”

PA