The furlough scheme currently supporting 7.5 million workers through the coronavirus crisis will be extended until the end of October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced as the UK death toll linked to Covid-19 passed 40,000.

The scheme – which pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to a £2,500 monthly cap – will remain unchanged until the end of July and then continue with employers expected to start footing some of the multi-billion pound bill.

Mr Sunak told MPs that from August there will be greater flexibility in order to allow furloughed staff to begin returning to work.

“Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time,” he said.

“And we will ask employers to start sharing with the Government the cost of paying people’s salaries.”

Staff would continue to receive the current level of support through a combination of state and employer contributions.

Mr Sunak’s announcement came as new analysis by the PA news agency puts the death toll at just over 40,000, following new figures on care home deaths released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This includes deaths from Covid-19 and where it has been mentioned on the death certificate as a factor.

The Chancellor’s announcement came as:

– Office for National Statistics data showed care home deaths accounted for some 40% of coronavirus-related fatalities registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 1

– Ministers set out guidance for commuters using public transport, saying they should keep two metres apart from others “wherever possible”, wear a face covering, use contactless payments and avoid rush-hour

– Ryanair announced plans to return to 40% of normal flight schedules from July 1

– But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “unlikely” that foreign holidays would be possible this summer.

As lockdown measures are eased – with unlimited exercise and sunbathing allowed in England from Wednesday as long as the two-metre rule is respected – the Government hopes its new contact tracing app will help keep outbreaks of coronavirus under control.


HEALTH Coronavirus ONS


Mr Hancock said the app being trialled on the Isle of Wight would be rolled out across England in the next week or so.

He told Sky News: “We’re rolling out in mid-May. The Isle of Wight project has gone well so far, we’ve learned a lot about how the app operates.

“We’re pleased with progress, and we’re going to bring it in.”

The Health Secretary continued to face questions about elements of the new rules which will apply in England.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said there was a “common sense” principle as to why children can be looked after by childminders, but not other family members from outside their household.

He said: “For some people’s livelihoods they need a childminder in order to earn an income and so that is important we allow that to happen.

“But at the same time we don’t want to encourage the large scale, we don’t want to encourage people – especially when grandparents are older and we know this virus kills more older people than younger people – we don’t want to encourage kids to stay with their grandparents, but we do want to allow people, where possible to get back to work.”

He also confirmed that when people decided to meet one other person at a distance and outdoors, they should meet in parks and open spaces, not in their gardens.

He said one of the reasons is that gardens can sometimes only be accessed through a house.

Coronavirus – Wed May 6, 2020Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Hancock said an idea being considered by experts could help relieve the “anguish” of people wanting to see their grandparents or partners.

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has been asked to look at the idea of a household “bubble” in the coming weeks, where one household is allowed to join up with and interact with one other household only.

Mr Hancock said it may help relieve anxiety as long as it did not impact on pushing the reproductive rate of the virus – the R – above one.

He said: “I think it will help with this anguish of a lot of people wanting to see family members in another household, whether that’s a grandparent – although there are the risks for older grandparents – or for people who are in a relationship but are in different households, and I understand that yearning as well.”

Mr Hancock admitted patients had been discharged from hospitals to care homes with Covid-19 but said it was before there was “widespread transmission” of the virus.

This is despite the fact the Government only told hospitals they must test patients for coronavirus before discharging them to care homes on April 16.

Mr Hancock said: “At the start of this crisis, before there was widespread coronavirus in the community, then at that point we did take a lot of people who were in hospital but could clinically be in a care home, and put them in care homes.

“But that was before there was widespread coronavirus in the community.

“We then introduced the testing on leaving hospital to make sure people leaving hospital were tested whether they were displaying symptoms or not.”