Two-thirds of UK businesses have applied for government help paying wage bills for furloughed staff, but less than a fifth have received support so far, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said the government's coronavirus job retention scheme was the most popular support programme, with 66 per cent of firms surveyed having applied.

The data revealed that 19 per cent of firms that have applied have received help since it went live on April 20.

More than half - 56 per cent - of firms have also applied for the VAT deferral scheme, although just 42 per cent have received the support.

The ONS data showed the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on businesses across Britain, as it revealed nearly a quarter of firms - 24 per cent - have said revenues have more than halved.

The ONS surveyed 17,623 businesses in the UK, of which 5,158 responded for the period between April 6 and 19.

It found that of all businesses continuing to trade, 57 per cent reported their turnover had decreased in some way, while 13 per cent expected revenues to fall "substantially" in the next two weeks.

Government figures last week showed businesses had applied for 3.8 million workers to be furloughed since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Applications worth around £4.5 billion had been made as of April 24, with 77,000 new claims on Thursday last week alone.

Under the scheme - due to run until the end of June - the government pays 80 per cent of wages of workers laid off because of the current crisis, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.