LONDON (Reuters) – Nearly half a million people in Britain have filed welfare benefit claims in the past nine days, a sign of how the government’s shutdown of much of the economy to slow the spread of coronavirus is hitting incomes.

Peter Schofield, the top civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions, told members of parliament that 477,000 claims for Universal Credit benefits had been registered since Monday of last week.

Therese Coffey, Britain’s work and pensions minister, said it was not clear how many of the people filing claims were self-employed, for whom the government has yet to announce wage support measures similar to those for employed people.

“I want to assure people that help, even if it is not currently the level of help that they would like, is there to help them, through the safety net of the welfare state,” Coffey said.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions was not immediately able to provide further details on the figures.

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