Do something Boris! British businesses ‘need help fast’ over coronavirus, CBI chief warns

Carolyn Fairbairn called on Mr Johnson’s government to dole out “immediate packages of financial support” for sectors suffering badly from the effects of the epidemic. Britons are steering clear of crowded shopping centres, high streets and huge gatherings as they opt for “social distancing” in a bid to protect themselves from catching Covid-19. 

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Ms Fairbairn warned the current climate would lead to many companies “going bust” in the weeks to come if the Prime Minister didn’t step in to offer support. 

“The action that the government took earlier, last week in the budget, was very welcome,” she said. 

“It was a coordinated major package at scale fiscal and monetary, but the world has moved on. 

“And I think the severity of that demand slump is now affecting businesses as we speak.” 

The CBI director general said what businesses wanted to see from Mr Johnson’s government was “action at scale, coordinated and very, very fast”. 

She said if the right moves were not made at crucial times the UK would end up in a regretful situation. 

“We do not want to look back and say we acted too late,” she said. 

Germany has promised to inject unlimited cash into businesses suffering under the epidemic. 

And the US House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislative package in response to the spread of the disease. 

Donald Trump said he has directed his secretaries to “issue regulations that will provide flexibility so than in no way will small businesses be hurt”. 

Ms Fairbairn said while the majority of businesses are taking a rational approach they are nevertheless worried about what may lie ahead. 

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She said the Conservative government needs to intervene to cushion companies during the time of confusion and uncertainty. 

“Most of our members are calm, they’re measured, they’re taking action, but yes, they are increasingly concerned, particularly about the fall off in demand because consumers, people are social distancing, so airlines, restaurants, hotels,”she said. 

“And this is going to need very major intervention by the government.” 

She said the crisis demanded “immediate packages of financial support” for sectors suffering the most. 

Ms Fairbairn explained how the coronavirus outbreak posed a different set of challenges to Britain than the financial crisis did. 

This is because the businesses affected are viable and solvent, meaning they will be able to emerge on the other side. 

However, she strongly stressed the need for help from Mr Johnson, who has faced criticism for his handling of the situation. 

Her tough words come hours before the Prime Minister is set to hold his first daily televised briefing on coronavirus. 

Critics have accused him of being aloof and “dithering” on how to respond to the challenge. 

There are 1,391 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and 35 people have died. 

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