Let me confirm that, for those businesses which do have a policy that covers pandemics, the government’s action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy.

So spoke the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, at the Government’s Covid-19 briefing on 17 March, when referring to Boris Johnson’s statement the previous day that people “should” avoid pubs, clubs and similar social venues.

Mr Sunak was advising as to the legal effect of the PM’s statement on insurance policies designed to protect business income. More Lord Chancellor than Chancellor of the Exchequer? Perhaps, but let’s back up a bit for some context.

Most business interruption policies are only triggered by physical damage, usually fire or flood damaging the business premises.

Some policies, though, cover losses arising from contagious diseases or from the Government’s list of “notifiable” diseases, which includes rabies, smallpox and SARS. Covid-19 was added to this list on 6 March.

A further type of cover, which is the kind the Chancellor was referring to, makes good losses arising from the loss of use of business premises caused by order of a public authority. Things have moved so fast, but if you cast your mind back, the language used by Boris Johnson on 16 March was that of advice and recommendation, not that of order and command. Is that enough to get home on the insurance? As ever, the answer will lie in the precise wording of the relevant insurance policy documents. The lockdown (albeit one that dared not speak its name) announced by the PM on 23 March may avail some policyholders of further arguments: an order preventing or hindering access to business premises is what is likely to be required.

Despite the prevailing view that insurance payouts for Covid-19 business interruption will be rare, any business significantly affected will want to check the position.

For information and guidance on issues including business continuity, contractual considerations and employer/employee relations visit our Covid-19 hub.