FRONTLINE health and social care staff, people involved in food production and delivery, and utility workers are among a list of workers deemed "essential" to the Covid-19 response.

The Government published a list of "key workers" in the early hours of Friday whose children will continue to be cared for at school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The "key workers" list was expected to be published on Thursday, with those included anticipated to be NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers.

Marks & Spencer has put all pay rises on hold and cancelled all discretionary spending as it warned that its clothing and home businesses will take a severe hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer, which said that it was still on track to reach its full-year forecasts until this week, warned that profit before tax is likely to be at the lower end of its predicted £440 million to £460 million due to the "probable very depressed trading in clothing and home".

The business said that its food arm had performed better as customers stock up, however its focus on fresh and chilled food means customers are turning elsewhere for some of their key, long-lasting, products.

The board also said it does not expect to pay a dividend this year. It will cut planned capital spending to £80 million from a budget of £400 million and will work to grow online.

M&S said in a statement: "Whilst we remain confident that the post-crisis future of the business and our transformation programme remains as strong as ever, trading over the next nine to 12 months in our clothing and home and international businesses is likely to be severely impacted.

"As a result, it is not possible to provide meaningful guidance on future earnings, although we are taking every step to secure future value for shareholders, colleagues and suppliers."

The chairman of Wetherspoon has said that a decline in sales was accelerated when prime minister Boris Johnson told people to stay away from pubs.

After rising in previous weeks, sales fell by 4.5 per cent in the week to March 15 and the slowdown has picked up further since the Prime Minister's statement, Tim Martin said.

It came as the business reported profit before tax rose 15 per cent to £57.9 million in the half-year to January 26 on revenue of £933 million.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that coronavirus will keep spreading as long as people continue to socialise.

Speaking on talkRadio, Mr Hancock said: "If you stay at home you are saving lives.

"I know, of course, this is a more dangerous disease for older people but not exclusively, some young people get it too.

"But, more importantly, the more that people continue to go out and continue to socialise, the more it will spread and the longer we're going to have to keep these measures in place.

"So, we're urging people to follow the public health advice.

In the emergency Bill that's in front of Parliament right now, we are taking the powers to be able to enforce these measures, so we can make it happen by law if we need to.

"I'd rather not do that and the evidence so far is that the vast majority of people are following the advice, are doing what is sensible and right."

The company said it was cancelling its interim dividend, which had been 4p a year earlier.

Mr Martin said: "It is obviously very difficult to predict, in these circumstances, how events will unfold in future weeks and months, but we now anticipate profits being below market expectations, so long as the current health scare continues.

"As a result of this uncertainty, it is impossible to provide realistic guidance on our performance in the remainder of the financial year.

"The company has decided to delay most capital projects and to reduce expenditure, where possible, including the cancellation of the interim dividend.

"As a result of these actions, combined with the Government's proposals on business rates relief and credit guarantee facilities, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a substantially lower level of sales."

Nicola Sturgeon has urged anyone who left the medical profession in the past three years to consider returning to help the fight against coronavirus.

Sharing a plea from Scotland's chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen, the First minister tweeted: "Scotland's NHS needs our help to meet the #coronavirus challenge."

Mr Hancock said some retired medics who return to work in the NHS to fight the coronavirus will be able to come "straight back in".

Asked on the BBC's Breakfast programme when workers could return to the NHS, he said: "Well, over the next couple of weeks because for some they'll have very recently left and they can come straight back in, their annual training's been up-to-date and they can just restart.

"Imagine if you've left at Christmas, for instance, you can restart straight away. For others who have been out for a little bit longer, they may need more of a refresher because, of course, it's vital that we keep people safe, that's the whole point of the NHS.

"So the letter will go out today, we'll then be engaging individually with all those who respond and I very much hope that many, many thousands will respond.

"From those I've talked to, I think people can see just how important this is. The training will happen for those who need it over the next couple of weeks, at the same time we'll allocate people to a hospital near them because there's a logistical exercise here as well."

Mr Hancock suggested that tougher measures could have to be brought in if people do not follow the Government's advice.

He told the BBC's Breakfast programme: "What I can say is that if people follow the advice, stay home which saves lives and if they keep apart from others, more than two metres, more than six foot, then we can tackle this and we can turn the tide.

"The scientists advise that we can turn the tide in 12 weeks if people follow the advice.

"If people don't follow the advice, then it'll be longer and we might have to bring more and tougher measures."

He added: "We have brought these measures in earlier than Italy did in terms of where they're up to with the number of cases.

"But we're absolutely clear that if we need to, we have the powers, in fact we've got a Bill in front of Parliament now to strengthen those powers further.

"But I think it's far better if people follow the advice."

The FTSE 100 has risen by more than five per cent in early trading as travel companies jump out ahead after a bruising few weeks for the sector sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Intercontinental Hotels jumped by about a fifth despite revealing that demand for rooms was the worst it had ever seen, as markets opened on Friday.

EasyJet also rose by around 10 per cent and cruise operator Carnival jumped by around 12.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil joined the rally, rising five per cent to 29.90 dollars (£25.29) after a massive fall earlier in the week.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned about the prospect of a recession if people do not receive their wages.

Labour has urged the Government to ensure the salaries of workers are protected as businesses lose trade during the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the BBC's Breakfast programme: "We need the Government now to act to protect people to keep them in their jobs.

"In that way, what we'll be able to do is ensure people have an income coming in, their job will be protected, but we prevent the second wave of a recession hitting us if we're not careful.

"Because if people lose their jobs, they don't have their wages, demand collapses in the economy and then you really do have a recession.

"The lesson from past crises like these is act fast and act big, so that's why we're saying the Government should step in and say to employers, 'we'll cover 90 per cent of your wages, you keep people in work'."

Demand for a room at Intercontinental Hotels has reached its lowest point in history, the group said, as the travel industry continues to be battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The business revealed that it would be cutting costs, eliminating its dividend and reducing salaries in a bid to save cash.

However, shares in the group, which have been badly hit in recent months, jumped by around 15 per cent on market open in London as investors reacted positively to the company's proposals.

Chief executive Keith Barr said: "Demand for hotels is currently at the lowest levels we've ever seen.

Intercontinental Hotel Group has a robust business model and the measures we are announcing today to reduce costs and preserve cash give us the capacity to manage the business through this unique environment and to support our owners during this incredibly difficult time.

"These were not easy choices and we are mindful of the impact these decisions will have on our colleagues and shareholders.

"However, we believe that these are essential to ensuring that we come out of this as strong as we possibly can and ready to capitalise on what remains an industry with excellent long-term growth potential."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the list of key workers to whom schools will remain open is "perhaps more extensive than we might have expected".

He said: "Realistically, they (school leaders) will need to identify these children by lunchtime."

Mr Barton added: "We already know from the trajectory of this that we're not going to have many staff.

"We have to be careful that the message to parents is not 'business as usual'."

Matt Hancock said that a communication will be sent to around 1.4 million people who are classed as vulnerable to set out specific action for them to take.

The Health secretary told Sky News: "The first thing we're going to do is set out exactly what conditions that applies to.

"We expect about 1.4 million people to then get a communication from the NHS to say that they are part of this and what they need to do.

"Many of these people have pre-existing health conditions and so will be very worried right now, and I understand that, and they'll need very specific sets of action - for instance, how do you go about still getting your chemo if you have cancer whilst also social-distancing?

"If you have cancer it's particularly important to stay away from other people, but you also of course have got to keep going with your chemotherapy."

He added: "These are some of the most difficult and challenging cases so we'll be getting in contact with them, but if people think that they are on this list and don't receive a communication from the NHS, then they also need to get in contact.

"So that is under way, the money was announced for it yesterday.

"A combination of money to the NHS and money to councils because they've got a very big part to play in keeping people safe."

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said schools will have first worked to identify vulnerable children, as they will know who they are, and will then be looking at the "key worker" category.

He said the ASCL is telling members: "You have to do your best to negotiate the key workers list. You're doing this to a tight timescale, and what you offer children on Monday may be different to what you offer next Wednesday."

Mr Barton said that initially, schools will be doing all they can so that pupils who need to can still turn up to their own school after the weekend.

In the longer term, there will be more strategic planning of school provision, he added.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The Government has made clear that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. And their advice makes clear too that this applies to children of key workers.

"For the vast majority of children and young people, school buildings will close tonight and not reopen for the foreseeable future.

"Taking up a place at school during this time of wider closure is the offer of last resort, for the minority of key workers, who have no alternative.

"School leaders have many questions that remain unanswered about how this will work in practice. We will continue to work with the Government throughout the day to provide greater clarity to schools to enable this reduced offer to be up and running as soon as possible."

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, added her voice to calls from school leaders urging parents to only send their children in as a last resort.

She said: "This is a very long list and could result in some schools having the majority of pupils attending. This will not achieve the goal of slowing the spread of the virus.

"So it is vitally important that parents follow government advice to keep their children at home, wherever possible. Schools can only accommodate a limited number of children and the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread."

The competition watchdog has launched a taskforce to tackle businesses looking to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to take advantage of customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the outbreak has prompted concerns that people could be exploited by companies "charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about their products".

It said it has already contacted traders and platforms over excessive pricing of hand sanitiser as part of its efforts.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive, said: "This is obviously a time when we all have to behave responsibly to protect our fellow citizens, and particularly those who are most vulnerable.

"We urge retailers to behave responsibly in the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak.

"But if they do not, our taskforce is monitoring market developments to enable us to intervene as quickly as possible.

"We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers."

The ceremonial of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace and Windsor Castle is being postponed until further notice "in line with Government advice to avoid mass gatherings", Buckingham Palace has announced.

The palace said in a statement that the situation would be "reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to restarting when appropriate".