The government is being pressed to act as insurer of last resort for the UK leisure sector as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Accountancy and advisory firm BDO warned that the industry faced “unprecedented difficulty” in the weeks ahead.

The leisure sector employs around 2.6 million people, representing 9% of the UK workforce, but will be the first industry to be hard hit by the pandemic.

The government must consider acting as the insurer of last resort as it prepares to announce more financial measures to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak, amid concerns the latest restrictions could put firms out of business.

Prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday urged people to avoid unnecessary social contacts, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.

BDO corporate finance partner Peter Hemington said: “While the measures announced in the Budget to help businesses through the Covid-19 emergency were welcome, they did not go nearly far enough.

“Very few businesses have cash reserves available to get through a likely two to three month shutdown, so the majority will struggle severely unless drastic action is taken.

“The government has a tried and tested role as an insurer of last resort.

“It must adopt that role now by offering businesses impacted by the coming coronavirus shutdown insurance against their reasonable losses incurred in the coming months.”