LONDON (Reuters) -Britain offered a new 4.6 billion pound ($6.2 billion) support package for businesses struggling to cope with a third national lockdown that began this week to stem a new wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping the country.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said retail, hospitality and leisure companies will be able to claim new one-off grants worth up to 9,000 pounds to help them through the first months of 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown late on Monday saying the highly contagious new coronavirus variant first identified in Britain was spreading so fast it risked overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS) within 21 days.
“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen,” Sunak said.
In addition to the grants, worth around 4 billion pounds, the government will provide 594 million pounds of funding to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Sunak said in November that measures taken to that point to help the economy through the pandemic would cost about 280 billion pounds this financial year.
($1 = 0.7372 pounds)
Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Guy Faulconbridge