UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken out against extending the country’s furlough scheme beyond the end of October, saying that people must get back to work instead.

The furlough, officially referred to as the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, was introduced in the UK to support the people who couldn’t do their jobs due to Covid-19 restrictions. Around 11 million employees who were put on leave due to the pandemic have been able to receive monthly payments of up to £2,500 from the government.

The program expires on October 31, and the opposition are pressuring Johnson to prolong it, but the PM remains reluctant to give in.

“We are getting people back to work,” the prime minister insisted during a heated debate in Parliament with Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Johnson argued that the furlough has already cost the UK some £40 billion, while the government’s “kickstarter scheme,” which would see the population returning to their workplaces in a “Covid-secure way,” would only require £2 billion to help people get the jobs they need.

He [Starmer] wants to keep people out of work in suspended animation, we want to move this country forward.

Starmer responded by saying that a decision on prolonging the furlough should be made immediately, as delays mean the “jobs of millions of people are at risk.”

Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford also warned the PM that a refusal to continue the program may cause “levels of unemployment last seen under [Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher in the early 1980s.” 

On Tuesday, the UK recorded 1,295 new confirmed coronavirus cases, 100 less than the day before. Three more people have succumbed to the disease, bringing the overall death toll in the country to 41,504.

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