This is what Business Secretary Alok Sharma said in response to the Sunderland Echo's questions at today’s briefing

We asked the Business Secretary what support areas like Sunderland could expect from the Government as it moves toward economic recovery. Here’s what he said.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma led the daily briefing from Downing Street on Tuesday, June 9 where he confirmed that all non-essential shops will be able to reopen from Monday, June 15.

But other businesses, including pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, will remain shut until July 4 at the earliest.

The Sunderland Echo asked Mr Sharma about local R rates and about what support the city and other areas with high deprivation and a high coronavirus infection rate could expect to see from the Government as steps are taken to restart the economy.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma responds to questions from the Sunderland Echo at the Government briefing on coronavirus.

Here is the Business Secretary’s responses to our questions in full.

Sunderland Echo: Will a local town-by-town, city-by-city R rates being calculated? Will these be used to determine local lockdowns and will these be published?

Mr Sharma said: "We have test and trace up and running and we've got the Joint Biosecurity Centre which will help us identify any areas where there are local flare ups, you will have seen the actions we have taken in Weston-Super-Mare.

“But right now, given where the R rate is we are taking a country wide approach, a national approach and will continue to do that until much more detailed information becomes available."

Sunderland Echo: As businesses and local governments look toward economic recovery, with areas like Sunderland which has high levels of deprivation, has experienced a high number of deaths, a high infection rate and a big leap in unemployment what sort of support packages can we expect to see?

Mr Sharma commented: "In terms of support packages, in Sunderland as elsewhere we have provided support in terms of bounce-back loans, over £21 million has now been approved on that and over nine million people across the country will have been supported by the furlough scheme and the self employment scheme and a range of other measures that we have put in place, and we will continue to do this.

“I am starting very detailed conversations with businesses and academics and business groups to see how we can actually have an innovative economy across the country.

“You will know that one of the key themes from the election and something that the prime minister is keen to make sure we do is level up, level up across out country and level up in regions and communities. And that is what we will do in the coming years.”

Sunderland Echo: As part of this levelling up will that mean there will be additional support for those areas which have been harder hit?

He added: “What I don't want to do is preempt anything that may come from the Chancellor or the Prime Minister in the future.

“What I will say to you is that we are absolutely committed in terms of the levelling up agenda, that is absolutely what we want to make sure happens and as part of the conversations I will have in the coming days and weeks clearly levelling up is going to be one of the key themes.”

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