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Some of the UK’s biggest banks have announced measures to help businesses and customers to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Britain’s largest high-street lender Lloyds said it would offer £2bn of loans without fees to small firms hit by the virus, and said some of the worst-affected businesses would be offered payment holidays.

In a similar vein, Barclays has informed business customers affected by the virus that they can have a 12-month repayment holiday – a period when loan repayments are waived – on existing loans over £25,000.

State-backed RBS has said borrows who have been affected by the virus can defer mortgage and loan repayments by up to three months, and will also waive various other fees.

None of the banks laid out how badly its customers would have to be affected to qualify for the lending support, however.

An RBS spokesperson said: “We will look to understand each customer’s situation on a case-by-case basis and can offer a number of options to help them manage their finances.”

The measures from lenders come as coronavirus spreads quickly throughout Europe and the UK, having broken out in China in December. The virus has killed five people in Britain, from 319 confirmed cases.

Businesses across the country have told staff to work from home, while restaurants and other businesses have reported lower footfall as people stay at home.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil spending measures to support the economy during the outbreak when he gives his Budget tomorrow.

Incoming Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has said that some kind of “supply-chain finance” for businesses from the government and Threadneedle Street is likely.

David Oldfield, group director of commercial banking at Lloyds, said firm-owners are “worried what the outbreak might mean for their business and with no knowledge of how or when they might be affected”.

He said Lloyds was making extra lending available to help firms manage “temporary interruptions to their business and to their cashflow”.

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM

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