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The UK government has claimed that the new coronavirus job retention scheme will pay the wages of more than one million people.
Speaking during today's daily coronavirus briefing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said that 140,000 firms had already applied for the scheme to cover the costs of their furloughed employees.
It's understood that some 67,000 claims were made in the first 30 minutes of the scheme opening.
Over the past few weeks, HMRC has been putting in place a system to deal with the number of requests, with around 5,000 staff manning phone lines and web chat services.
The mechanism, which was announced last month, allows employers to claim a cash grant worth 80 percent of an employee's wage - up to the amount of £2,500 a month.
Mr Sunak told the briefing: "Times like this demand the sate turns to its most immediate purpose - the protection and support of its people."
The Chancellor also addressed the issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), for which the government has been criticised over the past few weeks.
Mr Sunak assured the country that the UK had 'unloaded 140,000 gowns from Myanmar' and the problems over the shipment of gowns from Turkey was being dealt with.
It was also announced that another 449 people had died from Covid-19, which represents the lowest number of fatalities in the past two weeks.
Sadly, however, this means that 16,509 have now died in the UK as a result of the disease.
And while 501,379 coronavirus tests have been carried so far, with 19,316 tests yesterday (19 April), Mr Sunak reaffirmed the government's promise of 100,000 a day by the end of the month.
The deputy chief scientific adviser Angela Maclean went on to confirm that there had also been 4,676 new infections, which also represents the lowest for four days.
As of 9am 20 April, 501,379 tests have concluded, with 19,316 tests on 19 April.
386,044 people have been tested of which 124,743 tested positive.
As of 5pm on 19 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 16,509 have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/c5suKHMEIS
- Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) April 20, 2020
And though the public has been calling for more news on when the lockdown will eventually end, Mr Sunak did not entertain offering a predicted date.
When asked about relaxing the social distancing measures, the Chancellor said the government had been 'crystal clear' that the date was not close.
This comes a day after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he could not give parents a date when schools will reopen.
Speaking at the Government's daily briefing, he said he 'wants nothing more than to see schools back' but said it would not be happening soon.
He said: "People are anxious to know when we're going to relax restrictions, when schools are likely to be fully back and open again.
"Of course, I want nothing more than to see schools back, get them back to normal, make sure the children are sat around, learning, and experiencing the joy of being at school.
"But I can't give you a date."
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