RISHI Sunak is today set to unveil a multi-billion pound “people’s bail-out” to keep as many people in work as possible and stave off a recession in the face of the economic threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chancellor has been under pressure from Labour, the SNP, trade unions and even senior Tory MPs to do more to help workers and minimise damage to Britain's economic health.

He is due to announce new measures at the daily Downing St press conference this afternoon, where he is expected to be joined by Boris Johnson.

These are likely to include wage subsidies. The Opposition has called on Mr Sunak to emulate measures taken by some EU countries, where the governments have guaranteed 80 per cent or more of workers’ wages. Cuts to employers’ National Insurance Contributions and the basic rate of income tax could also be included.

Labour’s John McDonnell has warned about the prospect of a recession if people do not receive their wages and urged the Government to ensure the salaries of workers are protected as businesses lose trade.

"We need the Government now to act to protect people to keep them in their jobs. In that way, what we'll be able to do is ensure people have an income coming in, their job will be protected, but we prevent the second wave of a recession hitting us if we're not careful.”

The Shadow Chancellor told BBC Breakfast: "Because if people lose their jobs, they don't have their wages, demand collapses in the economy and then you really do have a recession.

"The lesson from past crises like these is act fast and act big, so that's why we're saying the Government should step in and say to employers: 'We'll cover 90 per cent of your wages; you keep people in work.'"

The SNP also called for Mr Sunak to guarantee everyone’s income. It unveiled a five-point plan that includes raising the statutory sick pay to the EU average, covering at least 75 per cent of workers’ pay for three months but 100 per cent of the salaries of people employed in the hospitality sector and increasing immediately Universal Credit to £100 a week.

“There is now a very real risk that the UK is heading for a devastating economic crisis, which could see unemployment go through the roof and levels of poverty soar,” declared Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster.

"It is absolutely imperative that the UK Government takes immediate action by introducing a wide-ranging multi-billion financial package for people today - to save jobs and protect incomes,” he added.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said he expected the tide to be turned in the fight against coronavirus within 12 weeks as he urged the public to follow social distancing advice and for businesses to "stand by your employees".

The Chancellor’s latest intervention comes as the Department for Education in London published a list of workers it deems "essential" whose children will still be able to attend school when they largely close on Friday afternoon.

These include include health and social care staff, people involved in food production and delivery, and utility workers.

Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, last night on BBC’s Question Time programme admitted he could not live on the statutory sick pay of £94.25 per week but suggested an improvement could come in the Chancellor’s announcement today on fresh measures to help workers through the pandemic.

Mr Sunak's £350 billion support package earlier this week was focused on businesses with little help for staff facing the prospect of being laid off and unable to pay the bills.

Greg Clark, the former Business Secretary, and Jack Dromey, the former Shadow Local Government Minister, jointly wrote a newspaper column in which they said "lending alone will not keep many businesses trading and paying staff".

They went on: "Economic measures that do not rise to the immense challenge risk a contagion ripping through the British economy as vicious and as infecting as a virus.

"In the global financial crisis, governments fulfilled their role as a lender of last resort to the banking system - and that proved decisive. This time, it is different.

"It will involve the state providing a vast sum. For businesses, support should replicate what business continuity insurance would provide. It should allow workers to continue to be employed. It should offer cash for paying the demonstrated wage bill."

The Government’s fresh measures could also aid in the fight to stymie the spread of the disease itself with fears workers may not self-isolate with Covid-19 symptoms over fears of a financial blow.

The PM yesterday told the nation he was "absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country" and the tide could be turned within the next 12 weeks.

But he made clear this was only if the public heeded the social distancing guidance, saying: "I know it's tough, I know it's difficult...but please, please follow the advice."

The coronavirus crisis prompted Donald Trump, the US President, to call off the June meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David with leaders instead due to talk by videoconferencing.

Meanwhile, the Queen issued a message to the nation which said the UK was "entering a period of great concern and uncertainty", adding that "our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one".

The death-toll in Italy has risen to 3,405, overtaking the total number of deaths so far registered in China.

In the UK, the toll reached 144 as of 1pm on Thursday, with around four in 10 of all deaths so far in London.

A glimmer of good news came from Mr Johnson, who said British experts expected to start trials for a vaccine against the virus within a month, although expectations are that a vaccine will take at least a year.

He also said a "game-changer" antibody test was "coming down the track," which could identify whether somebody had become immune to the disease so they could return to their daily life.

The PM also pledged to massively increase testing to up to 250,000 a day, which, combined with collective action and scientific progress, would save "many, many thousands of lives," he said.

Unions welcomed confirmation from the Government that transport workers - including rail passenger and freight workers - would be classified as key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "This is a sensible approach to ensure all key workers can get to work and to keep vital supply chains operating.

"We have lobbied hard to ensure that those transport workers needed to keep Britain moving are considered key workers and we're pleased the Government has listened.”

He said now what was needed were details about what protections would be provided for transport staff; both those at work and those who were not.

"Across the rail unions we are unified in our support for keeping the rail network operating during this war effort situation. But we also need guarantees from government and employers about how our members interest will be protected during this period.

"That's why we have called for the suspension of various processes including reorganisation and redundancy programmes during the duration of the pandemic in return for a period of calm and co-operation such as was in place during the London Olympics," added Mr Cortes.

On the markets, shares and the pound rebounded this morning led by travel firms as action taken by the Bank of England to reduce interest rates to a record 0.1 per cent low finally seemed to stabilise a market which had been volatile for weeks.

The FTSE 100 jumped by as much as 5.2 per cent as markets opened, although it later gave back some of those gains, with trading up around 3.5 per cent by around 9.20am.

The index, which contains the biggest 100 companies on the London stock exchange, has faced a rough month, losing more than 28 per cent of its value since February 21.

The pound bought 1.1869 dollars on Friday morning, a 3.4 per cent rise against Thursday's close, as the Bank of England announced its new package to help the economy.

Its Monetary Policy Committee decided to slash interest rates to 0.1 per cent from 0.25. It also unveiled plans to increase the Government and corporate bonds it holds by £200 billion in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the markets, the travel sector, which has been one of the biggest sufferers in recent weeks, rebounded.

Intercontinental, which announced swingeing cuts in the face of the worst demand in its history, gained around 13 per cent, EasyJet was up 15 per cent while BA owner IAG rose by 12 and Tui gained nine points.

Neil Wilson, an analyst at Markets.com, said that the FTSE should aim to beat its close from last week. “We're looking for anything around last Friday's close at 5366.11. There would something very symbolic about closing above here, so this may prove a substantial point of resistance," he said.

The index was trading at 5334.83 at 9.20am.