Coronavirus: Government promises to pay ‘whatever it costs’ for treatment and testing


Pic: BBC

Dubbed both the “Biggest Giveaway since 1992” and the “Coronavirus Budget”, one thing that the UK government plainly did not deliver yesterday (March 11) was a post-Brexit budget.

Presented by Rishi Sunak as chancellor of the exchequer, equivalent to the USA’s Treasury Secretary or Finance Minister in some countries, the UK budget lays out the government’s financial plan.

There will be a second budget in the autumn (fall) – by which time the terms of future trade deals with the European Union and the USA will, hopefully, be better known.

The government’s lavish spending plans were still there yesterday, but somewhat overshadowed by steps being taken to fight threats posed by the corona virus. The chancellor has pledged £30bn of extra spending designed to protect the economy against the disease.

Its rapid spread, and its risks, are a real concern for people with multiple sclerosis, like myself, and members of other vulnerable groups, including those of us with  disabilities. Incidentally, the World Health Organization has just uprated the spread of the disease from epidemic to pandemic. Just what we wanted!

Sunak said he would intervene to protect public services and the economy over the coming months adding that the virus outbreak would be temporary but costly for businesses and the economy.


Prime minister Boris Johnson with chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak. (Pic: The Guardian).

He said: “Let me say this: we will get through this together … We will rise to this challenge. The British people may be worried, but they are not daunted.”

He went on to promise that the government will boost NHS (National Health Service) spending to cover “whatever it costs” to treat patients and increase the level of testing. I wonder if other countries will follow a similar journey plan. Only time will tell.

Temporary coronavirus measures include removing the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor to help self-employed workers who would otherwise lose income if they had to self-isolate. Removing it will also take the pressure of those who feel they have no choice but to work through the sickness in order to be able to pay the bills.

Welfare benefits and pensions

Secondly, all Jobcentre visits have been suspended while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing. This means that those affected will be able to manage their benefits over the phone, of via their work journal, without running the risk of being sanctioned for missing a visit.

Some big changes to family finances in April had been announced previously. These included:

  • Those working-age benefits which had been frozen for four years. including Jobseeker’s Allowance, ESA (Employment and Support Allowance-),2 Housing Benefit, and Child Benefit, will now rise in line with the cost of living, going up by 1.7%.
  • Those aged 25 and over will get the National Living Wage of £8.72 an hour, a rise of 6.2%, with younger workers also getting more. While this figure is set by the government, it is paid by employers.
  • The full state pension will go up by 3.9% from £168.60 a week to about £175.20 in April. However, most pensioners get the older basic state pension, which is also going up by 3.9%, from £129.20 to £134.25 per week.

Reactions to Sunak’s budget have included:

  • Boris Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, warned him mnot to abandon ‘restraint and caution’ in public spending.
  • Former chancellor Sajid Javid urged Sunak not to abandon fiscal rules in Tory manifesto.
  • Why did Sunak fail to address the climate emergency?
  • Why are wealthier families to gain more than poorer families from tax measures?
  • The UK national debt is going to reach £2trillion. Is that sensible or desirable
  • Brexit has made economy 2% smaller than it would have been, says OBR1 (Office for Budget Responsibility). Does Sunak believe he has done enough to address this?

1 The Office for Budget Responsibility is a non-departmental public body funded by the UK Treasury, that the government established to provide economic forecasts and independent and authoritative analysis of the public finances.

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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.

For example:

Centre                             not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control)                  Colour                              not color                                                                                                                      Diarrhoea                       not diarrhea                                                                                                  Haematology                not hematology                                                                                Haematopoietic          not hematopoietic

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.


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