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Boris Johnson BBC coronavirus

How the UK government’s latest coronavirus updates affect young people

Today at 5pm, Boris Johnson addressed the nation with coronavirus updates, announcing the closure of bars, clubs, and restaurants

Today, the number of worldwide deaths from coronavirus surpassed 10,000 people, Italy has overtaken China’s coronavirus death toll, and the number of UK fatalities reached 184. UK schools also closed their doors today, and we were told that social distancing could or should last for a year. 

If you were wondering where this leaves you with education, or your job, or your rental situation, at 5pm today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson went live on BBC1 to supposedly offer some answers. 

Until now, he has been pitifully unclear and inactive in issuing adequate responses to the coronavirus situation, suggesting a voluntary lockdown which means that many people still have to go to work on crowded transport, further risking the spread of the virus. Economic plans have also been vague, and there has been totally inadequate provision of testing. This new speech shared between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak revealed nationwide business closures and plans for supporting employers in paying wages but did not go into much detail on how renters would be economically supported. 

As coronavirus spreads and many of us are self-isolating, there’s a lot you can do to help others. You can volunteer to help the disabled, elderly or immunocompromised, or support artists, musicians, and service workers whose incomes are compromised. We’re also keeping you updated with things you can do to try to stave off loneliness, boredom, and worry, from watching short films, listening to podcasts, and going to digital art exhibitions. You can even date from the comfort of your living room. 

In the meantime, below is a rundown of what Boris said in his speech, and what that might mean for you. 


Yesterday, Boris assured us that we can “turn the tide” within three months, although what he meant exactly was unclear. Today, he attempted to clarify further. “By testing, medicine, and digital technology which can see the disease as it is transmitted, we will stamp it out,” said Boris today, reinforcing the necessity of a “huge national effort to slow the spread of the virus by reducing unnecessary social contact.” 

He thanked viewers for following guidance from Monday to stay at home, for 14 days if you have symptoms, and to avoid public spaces, work from home if possible, and wash your hands. “I know it’s been tough and inconvenient but it’s helping to take the stress of the NHS,” said Johnson. “These steps are intended to be temporary, I am confident the UK economy is going to bounce back. But our speed in recovery revolves around our ability to take preventative measures.”


From today, cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants will close across Britain, as will nightclubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres. 

“We need to push down further on that curve of transmission between us,” and so “we are collectively telling cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants to close tonight and not to open tomorrow,” said the prime minister. “We are also telling nightclubs, theatres, gyms, and leisure centres to close.”

The government will review the situation “each month” to see if they can relax any of these measures. “I understand we’re taking away the ancient inalienable freeborn right of people in the United Kingdom to go to the pub,” said Boris. Yet, he urged: “Do not go out tonight, you may think you are invincible but there is no guarantee you won’t get mild symptoms, be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others.”

Exercising outside is still fine. And you can still support cafes and restaurants by ordering takeaways. 


Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, shared economic plans, promising “our plan will be one of the most comprehensive in the world.” He said: “I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, not being able to pay rent or mortgages or not having enough set by for food and bills. I know people have already lost their jobs, so to all those anxious about the days ahead, you will not face this alone.” 

He revealed that the government is going to help to pay peoples wages, setting up a coronavirus retention scheme whereby employers can contact HMRC for assistance paying people that are employed but not able to work remotely and kept on furlough. It will cover 80 per cent of the salary of workers up to £2500 a month, just above the median wage, so that workers in any part of the UK can – supposedly – retain their job even if their employer can’t afford to pay them. 

If you’re eligible, it will cover your wages backdated to March 1 and will be open initially for three months. There’s no future limit to how long this will last, and the government say they expect the first grants to be paid within weeks, by the end of April. Whether that happens remains to be seen.


The prime minister and chancellor said a worryingly small amount about renting, but did vaguely mention that an additional £1 billion (or thereabouts) would be injected to support renters, by increasing universal credit and housing benefits. “A local housing allowance will cover 30 per cent of market rent in your area,” said Sunak, without really explaining further. 

With work drying up, particularly for those who are service workers, freelance, or part of the gig economy, knowing how the hell to pay your rent is currently terrifying. Earlier this week, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that landlords were, for now, banned from evicting tenants for at least three months under emergency coronavirus legislation. But since the impact of imposed self-isolation looks like it will last much longer, we’re wondering what the long term impacts of the pandemic will look like for renters. 


In a final rogue question, a member of the press asked Boris, “won’t young people just have parties in their houses instead of going to the pub?” He urged people to think about becoming vectors of the virus. “That’s why we’ve issued the very strong advice that we have to places that actually invite people to socialise,” he said, “and I hope that they take it.”