Coronavirus: ‘Further emergency measures’ needed or millions to face poverty warns charity

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced “further” steps yesterday, as the UK attempts to reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. During a statement yesterday afternoon, he asked people to ensure that if they or anyone in their household has one of two symptoms – a high temperature or a new and continuous cough – to stay at home for 14 days.


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The Prime Minister added that “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel”.

He continued: “We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.

“It goes without saying, we should all only use the NHS when we really need to. And please go online rather than ringing NHS 111.

“Now, this advice about avoiding all unnecessary social contact, is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.”

Ahead of the government publishing emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, Citizens Advice has announced it is calling for measures to ensure that vulnerable people and low-income families are not pushed into financial hardship as a result of the outbreak.

This includes immediate changes to Universal Credit, as well as the extention of the Cold Weather Payment to certain households that are self-isolating.

The charity warned that those particualrly at risk include seven million people in the UK who are without savings to fall back on; five million self-employed people; and those in 1.5 million low-income jobs that don’t qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP).

Citizens Advice also said that many will face higher energy bills and other essential costs, due to having to self-isolate or stay at home in order to care for dependents.

Without action from the government, the charity said it fears the public health response to coronavirus could be undermined by people who feel they are unable to afford to self-isolate.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government has made it clear that it will do everything in its power to support the public health response to this virus, but financial protections are crucial to ensure people can follow guidance to self-isolate.

“Millions of families across the country are already balanced on a financial cliff edge. Their biggest worry right now is that the knock-on effects of the coronavirus could send them tumbling over, with missed bills and rent arrears.

“No one should fear being pushed into poverty if they fall ill or need to self-isolate. Yet without further emergency measures to protect society’s most vulnerable, this will be the reality for millions of people.”


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Citizens Advice has set out temporary emergency measures that could be taken to protect the most vulnerable during the outbreak.

These include:

Sick pay

  • Legislating to provide Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at 80 percent of their wage for people earning less than the Lower Earnings Limit.
  • Temporarily increasing SSP and the level of benefits to support people facing sustained drops in income.

Universal Credit

  • Suspending the Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed people.
  • Making advance payments a grant for those making new claims and advised to self-isolate.
  • Making use of repayment pauses for benefit debt and third party deductions.

Household bills

  • Extending the existing Cold Weather Payment to provide support for self-isolating households in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits.


  • Legislating to suspend section 21 to temporarily stop no-fault evictions for private renters.
  • Amending the grounds under which section 8 can be used to ensure people aren’t being evicted as a consequence of being in arrears due to coronavirus.

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