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UK sets out plans to support low paid workers through coronavirus

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Britain will provide measures worth several billions of pounds to support low-paid workers and those on welfare benefits who become ill with coronavirus, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday.

Presenting his first budget, Sunak said people on certain benefits would be entitled to sick pay from day one rather than day eight if they have to self-isolate.

A 500-million-pound ($646-million) hardship fund will also be distributed to local government, while those who normally have to attend a job centre to find a job and still receive benefits can now do so either online or over the phone.

"For businesses with fewer than 250 employees I have decided that the cost of providing Statutory Sick Pay to any employee off work due to coronavirus will, for up to 14 days, be met by the government in full," he said. "That could provide over 2 billion pounds for up to 2 million businesses." ($1 = 0.7740 pounds) (Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Estelle Shirbon)