Arlene Foster: More progress needed to help self-employed with COVID-19.

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By Michael McHugh, PA

More progress is needed to help self-employed people affected by Covid-19, Stormont's First Minister has said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a scheme to subsidise the payroll costs of businesses.

Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said many workers, including sole traders, the self-employed, people on zero-hours contracts and agency workers, fall outside the scheme.

On Monday Mrs Foster said the ministerial executive is lobbying Westminster for more financial help.

She said businesses like building sites that stay open must observe social distancing of two metres between individuals.

Stormont ministers also urged non-essential companies to close.

If this is not possible firms must shut or send employees home, the DUP leader added.

She said the uptake on key workers using schools for child care has been "quite low".

Ms O'Neill said: "We need everyone to put their shoulder to the wheel. Only essential services should be in operation, only essential services.

"Some employers are telling staff they are an essential service when they are not.

"We will take emergency powers and that will be in place soon and that will make sure that we are able to act where people are not acting.

"We will have the ability to move and be more stringent where that is necessary."

Mr Sunak said the Government will pay 80% of salaries for staff who are kept on by their employers while their businesses close due to the Covid-19 threat.

That will cover wages of up to £2,500 a month.

The "unprecedented" measures will stop workers being laid off as a result of the crisis, the Chancellor said.

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