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COVID-19: UK Finance Minister Says Public Health Is More Important Than Economy

As the UK is scrambling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said that the public’s health is more important than the economy.

UK

As the United Kingdom is scrambling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said that the public’s health is more important than the economy. While addressing the daily' COVID-19 briefing, Sunak said that the best thing the authorities can do to protect the health of the economy is to protect the health of the people. Sunak’s statement comes after the UK reported more than 93,000 infected cases. 

Sunak said, “It's not a case of choosing between the economy and public health. Common sense tells us that doing so would be self defeating. We can't protect every business and every household”. 

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He went on to say that the country was in a strong financial position before the pandemic and the at the UK will ‘bounce back’. He said that he believes that the country will recover ‘quickly and strongly’. He even stressed the importance of staying safe and well and said that the most important thing to protect the economy is to stay healthy. 

The Officer for Budget Responsibility (OBR) also reportedly released a statement which suggested that the UK economy could shrink by as much as 35 per cent due to the pandemic. However, Sunak said that the situation would have been ‘much worse’ had it not been for the action the government has taken so far. He also called for a ‘collective national effort’ to prioritise on all the resources to beat the pandemic. 

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Tax norms eased for foreign workers

Earlier this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also announced that the authorities will be temporarily easing the tax criteria for highly skilled foreign workers, including those from India, in a bid to fight back the virus outbreak during a fixed three-month period. He announced that so-called Statutory Residence Test (SRT) will be waived between March 1 and June 1. The latest announcement by Sunak means that there would be no chance in the tax status of international workers coming in response to the British government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sunak said, “"We will amend the Statutory Residence Test (SRT) to ensure that any period(s) between March 1 and June 1, 2020 spent in the UK by individuals working on COVID-19 related activities will not count towards the residence tests. It is right that these changes are time-limited and only support those people whose skill sets are currently required”. 

"The qualifying criteria will therefore be designed so that the relaxation of the rules is tightly targeted, minimising the risk of abuse. We will also keep the duration of this measure under review as the situation develops, in line with the other support already provided," he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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