The government will pay at least 80% of wages for people who are not able to work, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.
Mr Sunak described the measure, which is designed to prevent businesses from firing staff, as "unprecedented". It will cover up to £2,500 per month per employee.
It comes as thousands of businesses warned they have no choice but to cut jobs unless further, immediate support from the government is provided. There were plenty of complaints that the £330 billion worth of government-backed loans announced on Tuesday simply wouldn't arrive soon enough.
Speaking at the daily press briefing, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced that pubs, cafes and restaurants must now close on Friday night and not re-open on Saturday, aside from businesses offering takeaway services. Other leisure businesses such as cinemas, nightclubs and gyms have been asked to close "as soon as they reasonably can".
"For now, at least physically, we need to keep people apart," Mr Johnson said.
The prime minister added: "The more effectively we follow the advice we are given, the faster this country will stage both a medical and an economic recovery in full."
Detailing the measures for businesses, Rishi Sunak said: "Today I can announce that for the first time in our history the government is going to step in and pay people's wages.
"Let me speak directly to businesses: I know it's incredibly difficult out there - we in government are doing everything we can to support you," he said.
"The government is doing its best to stand behind you and I'm asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers."
The Chancellor ended his speech with these words: "When this is over - and it will be over - we want to look back on this moment and remember the small acts of kindness done by us and to us. We want to remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency... it's on all of us."