UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who had pledged to do “whatever it takes” to save people’s jobs and livelihoods through the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday unveiled an “unprecedented” wage boost to his COVID-19 rescue package.

Britain’s Indian-origin finance minister announced that the UK government would pay 80 per cent of wages for employees not working, up to 2,500 pounds a month.

Addressing to the Drowning Street, Sunak said, “Today I can announce for the first time in our history the government is going to step in and pay people’s wages”.

“We said we would stand together with the British people and we meant it,” he said.

Earlier this week, PM Johnson government unveiled a huge package of support for businesses to help them survive the introduction of tough new social measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Sunak described the government’s planned economic response as the most “comprehensive” in the world.

He said, “I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, about not being able to pay the rent or mortgage, about not having enough set by for food and bills. I know that some people in the last few days have already lost their jobs. You will not face this alone. But getting through this will require a collective national effort.”

On Thursday, he held further round-tables to work out an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs.

Business groups and union leaders held late night discussions with the Chancellor to push for help to pay wages and prevent businesses from collapsing and wiping out thousands of jobs.

“We are working round the clock to deliver further support to individuals and families whose jobs and incomes will be affected by COVID-19 – and to do so urgently,” said Mr Sunak, in reference to his latest set of meetings.

Addressing the nation on Monday, Johnson advised Britons to avoid pubs and clubs in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

Ferguson said the government had “no other option” but to implement new measures because modelling from new Italian data indicated 81 percent of Britons and Americans would be infected.

Some 510,000 would die in the UK and 2.2 million in the US, peaking after three months, he warned.

The country has closed all public and private educational institutions, marriage halls, cultural centres, cinemas, and cancelled all sports activities and official events and also blocked its western border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan.

(With inputs from agency)