There’s a mixed reaction to yesterday’s announcement that the chancellor will extend his job retention scheme by four months.
The Daily Mirror thinks Rishi Sunak deserves credit for the move, describing it as a “rare success” in the government’s response to coronavirus, while “Sigh of relief for millions” is how the Daily Express describes the move.
But the Daily Mail is more wary. “At such a critical time”, it says in its editorial, “this is a humane and understandable policy, but it comes at an eye-watering price”.
The Financial Times says Mr Sunak has been grappling with “extremely difficult” scenarios and faced triggering a “huge wave” of redundancies if he tried to wean companies off the scheme at the end of next month.
“But having decided to extend it”, the paper argues, “this could simply postpone the demise of zombie businesses”.
As the Daily Telegraph points out, Whitehall officials are frantically trying to work out how he will pay for it.
The paper has seen a confidential assessment which estimates that the coronavirus crisis could cost the Treasury almost £300bn this year.
The document sets out how the Exchequer could recoup some of the money through income tax rises, the end of the triple-lock on state pension increases and a two-year pay freeze for public sector workers.
A Treasury source tells the paper that the assessment merely lays out the possible options, rather than recommending a particular course of action.
A study in the Guardian recommends that eight million people with underlying health problems should be exempt from plans to restart the economy.
According to researchers at University College London, around 20% of the population are living with common conditions such as diabetes and obesity, but because many of them are not classified as “clinically extremely vulnerable”, they haven’t been told to shield for 12 weeks at home.
Surprise at housing market reopening
There’s surprise from estate agents following the decision to re-open the housing market in England.
The head of the industry trade body, Mark Hayward, tells the Times he expected it to happen next month at the earliest, despite pressure from customers eager to move home.
The Financial Times says it’s also unclear how many viewings can be held in a single day if agents are supposed to meet only one person from outside their household.
“It is really confusing”, says the boss of the lettings regulator, David Cox. “Is it one other person at 9am, one other person at 10am or one person ever?”
And several papers feature a retired GP from Glasgow, who narrowly missed out on becoming the first person in 14 years to win the top prize on ITV’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?”
The Daily Mirror says fans of the quiz were left “gutted” last night when Andrew Townsley decided not to play the £1m question on iconic motor races, even though he knew the right answer.
Mr Townsley, who has progressive multiple sclerosis and appeared on the show in a wheelchair, tells the Sun he was “quite happy” to walk away with £500,000, and is glad to have a “bit of a financial cushion in this unsettled world”.