Coronavirus: Five million self-employed workers face up to a month wait for payment
Around five million self-employed people could have to wait another month before they see any payments to help them through the coronavirus crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to give an outline of how the government scheme for freelancers and self-employed will operate.
But the complicated system of measuring payments against self-assessment tax returns could take weeks for claimants and administrators to sort.
Meanwhile nurses and doctors will have to wait another week for testing kits that will determine whether they are clear to return to work having had symptoms of the virus.
Boris Johnson today defended his handling of the coranavirus crisis amid growing criticism of the lack of testing and the lack of cash for the self-employed.
In a televised press conference Johnson said that “never in our history has the Government put its arms around people in the way we are doing now to help them get through this time”.
He added that a tailored package of support would be announced on Thursday to help self-employed people.
The Prime Minister said: “I do think when you look at the sheer scale of what the Government is doing to get this country through, we will cope and are coping very well indeed under the most challenging possible circumstances.”
Earlier in the Commons SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said that in Scotland 320,000 self-employed people “are deeply concerned about the jobs and the families they support.”
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He asked: “Can the Prime Minister now explain why a package for the support for the self-employed wasn’t put in place before we announced the lockdown?”
The lack of support for the self-employed has been cited as one reason many contracted workers in the building industry are still turning up for work, particularly in London where the rush hour tube system is still packed.
London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan again criticised the government for not ordering a halt to construction work.
He said: “One of my biggest concerns is that he government is still refusing to ban non-emergency construction work during, as the Scottish Government has done. Too many of the people using the transport network in London during the busiest times are clearly construction workers.”
Johnson also found himself under fire over the lack of testing for frontline workers.
A claim by Prof Sharon Peacock, of Public Health England, that thousands of 15-minute home tests for coronavirus will be delivered by Amazon to people self-isolating with symptoms or will go on sale on the high street within days was shot-down at the daily press conference.
The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was a “global bottleneck” on buying more testing kits.
Prof Whitty said members of the public would not be buying these tests via the internet next week.
He stressed that frontline NHS workers would need the tests first so they could get back to work if they have had already had the virus.
Speaking at the press conference, he said it was the Government’s aim to be able to buy test kits that would allow NHS workers to go back to work if they test negative for coronavirus.
He said: “This is a global problem, every country wants this new test for a disease that wasn’t being tested for anywhere three months ago.“
“Everybody wants it so there is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us.
“The next priority is to get critical workers back to work or to say to them, ‘You have got it’. We definitely would like that.”
Prof Whitty insisted the NHS will “probably” cope with the expected surge in coronavirus cases as long as people stick to the social distancing rules brought in by the Government.
He said there is currently “not enormous pressures” on intensive care units, but he expected that to change over the next two weeks.
Whitty said: “This is going to be a close run thing. We all know that. And anybody who looks around the world can see this is going to be difficult for every health system.
“We do think if everybody sticks to staying in your household unless absolutely essential, this gap will be probably be manageable by the NHS.”