Coronavirus: Economic impact 'as bad as' 2008 financial crash

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Many businesses have gone into hibernation during the outbreak

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Welsh economy will be as bad as the 2008 crash, Wales' economy minister has said.

Ken Skates said: "It's going to be difficult and many business are on the line in their ability to retain staff."

The Welsh and UK governments have announced several measures to help business "weather the storm".

Mr Skates also called for access to universal credit to be "fast-tracked" as new claims soar.

He added: "With the wage subsidy scheme and various grants it will be possible for most businesses to enter a period of hibernation during coronavirus, so once we're through this we'll be able to resume business.

"People are suffering from anxiety and worry, but if you had a good business in 2019, you'll have a good business in 2021," he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers.

A £1.1bn support package for the economy and public services in Wales was announced on Monday.

That included a £500m economic resilience fund.

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Nearly a million people have applied for universal credit in the last two weeks across the UK - ten times the normal amount - as the outbreak worsens.

However Mr Skates admitted he was concerned about "gaps", including the lack of support for people self-employed for less than a year.

"The best way to make sure there's money in the pockets of people who can least afford to make ends meet is to ensure universal credit can be access immediately and without delay," he said.

"The key element of the packages we have announced means people and businesses can apply for help without having to go through arduous process or huge bureaucracy.

"We wish to avoid fraud but we also want to get money out of the door quickly."

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Some construction work is still regarded as "vital" to combatting the outbreak

The Welsh Government is looking at how to enforce social distancing in work environments and would halt any financial support to businesses found flouting guidelines.

Mr Skates admitted enforcement would be "exhausting" with more than 260,000 businesses in Wales, but he urged employers to consider whether work was essential and whether staff could follow social distancing guidelines or work from home.

"The one field we keep hearing of concerns is construction," he said.

"Whilst we want people to be as safe as possible at work, we don't want to put at risk some major social infrastructure projects that are absolutely vital in overcoming coronavirus, such as the completion of the Grange Hospital [near Cwmbran] in south Wales. That work must be concluded."