A human resources consultant says she has been inundated with calls from employers who are "past themselves" with worry at having to lay workers off because of the economic effects of coronavirus.

Debbie Tollitt, who formed Davidson HR Associates in Carlisle in 2000, said she did not believe people truly understood the scale of the effect the virus could have on jobs.

She said of her 200 clients - who are employers with a varying number of staff - virtually all of them had called her in a state of extreme worry in the last five days.

"And I am only one HR consultant among many others," she said.

People were already having to reduce their hours or were losing their jobs altogether, she said.

"It's not going to happen, it is happening," she said.

"People are wondering where they are going to get money to pay their staff and what support they will get from Government.

"Those messages from Government just aren't clear enough and they're not coming quickly enough."

She said the affected sectors she had been speaking to included restaurants and bars, hairdressers, retail, nurseries and construction.

"The business owners and directors are absolutely past themselves," she said.

"They have a close relationship with their employees and it's distressing for them. They don't know how to support them and make sure their business comes out of the other side of this."

The Government has announced a new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will enable businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the Government covering up to 80 per cent of any losses with no fees.

Businesses can access the first six months of that finance interest free with the Government covering the first six months of interest payments.

This scheme is expected to be available from the beginning of next week.

The Government says the smallest businesses, that are eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief, will be provided with a £10,000 grant via their local authorities at the beginning of April.

A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises which have a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

However, Debbie said their needed to be more clarity about what support was available to people left jobless due to coronavirus.

"It's going to touch every type of employment and it's starting to already," she said.

"All we can do is refer back to the Government and ask them to be more clear and get those details out more quickly."