Coronavirus crisis updates: County Council launches Help Hub + all the latest Gloucestershire news
By The Punchline team | 20th March 2020
News about the effect that coronavirus is having, both on Gloucestershire and the wider world is changing by the minute.
While we won't report every single thing that is said, reported or sent to us by a press release, we will look to pass on the information we think you want to know about.
This list will be updated throughout the day between the hours of 8.30am and 5.30pm, to ensure that you are as up-to-date as you can be in this ever-evolving and unique situation.
If you or your business has any news, views or advice to share with the Gloucestershire business community, get in touch with Punchline team at email@example.com.
UPDATES: Friday, March 20
17.50 BREAKING NEWS - Government to pay people's wages for the first time in British history
An economic intervention that is unprecedented in the history of Great Britain has been made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a bid to protect jobs and incomes in the face of coronavirus.
In a generation-defining string of announcements made alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak wrote a new fiscal rule book with a raft of changes.
He said: "The economic intervention is unprecedented in the history of the British state it will be one of the most comprehensive in the world.
"There will be a collective national effort with everyone having a role to play. People, businesses, government, it's on all of us.
"Our plan for people's jobs and incomes will protect jobs, offer more generous support for those without incomes, strengthen the safety net for those who work for themselves and help people stay in their homes."
17.30 Prime Minister tells pubs, clubs, restaurants and leisure centres to close
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered all pubs, clubs, restaurants and leisure centres to close as the government further tightens restrictions as a result of the coronavirus threat.
In his now customary daily press conference Mr Johnson said it was with regret that he made the announcement, but said it was simply necessary to save lives in the longer term.
The only exception to the statement, he added, was those pubs, clubs or restaurants which were going to be used to prepare food for distribution - and they would be allowed to remain open only for that purpose.
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16.10 First confirmed coronavirus death in Gloucestershire
NHS England have confirmed that a patient in Gloucestershire has died from coronavirus.
15.58 Stagecoach West to run reduced timetables
Bus operator Stagecoach West are revising their timetables from Sunday, following government advice to limit non-essential travel.
Some routes across the region, which includes large swathes of Gloucestershire will run on a reduced timetable until further notice.
In a statement, the company said: "We're hoping to return to our normal timetables as soon as possible. We'll be following Government advice over the next few weeks to understand when that may be.
A full list of the service changes can be found here
15.52 Exam grades to be made from mocks and teacher assessment
GCSE and A-Level grades will be graded on mock results and teacher assessments due to the cancellation of all school exams in 2020.
The Department for Education have confirmed that Exam regulator Ofqual and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled.
Representatives from universities have confirmed that they expect to be flexible regarding admissions to ensure students can progress to higher education.
A statement said: "This year's exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled as we fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.
"The Government's priority is now to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.
"This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in."
12.55 Gloucestershire's local councils launch 'Help Hub'
A support hub that will connect people in need to people, groups and businesses who can help them has been established by Gloucestershire's local authorities.
Gloucestershire County Council have released details of the Help Hub and how individuals and businesses can get involved with the fight to stop the spread of Covid-19.
In a statement, the council said: "As further measures are put in place to delay the spread of Covid-19, local people have already started to pull together to arrange help in their area for those who need it, but not everyone has existing connections.
"In response, the council's across the county have come together with the police and health partners to create the hub to connect local people who need help, with individuals, groups and businesses who can provide the support they need."
Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "At times like these our communities really come together to help others and it's clear that there are many people who are keen to offer help where they can.
"Working together with our partners, we want to ensure that everyone is able to access the support they need and I'm confident that the community help hub will make this possible."
The Help Hub has four separate ways to register, either for offering support or for those in need of help:
I can offer help - is for those who are able to support neighbours with tasks such as picking up prescriptions, shopping, dog walking and more
I need help - can be used by individuals to ask for support
My neighbour needs help - may be used by people to request help on behalf of a neighbour, relative or friend who cannot access the internet themselves
My business can help - will allow local businesses who may have skills and resources others could benefit from, to offer their help
The information collected will be shared with the relevant local council who will connect people who can help each other, or if appropriate refer individuals to an existing service.
Residents are encouraged to share details of the community help hub on social media using the hashtag #GlosCommunity
The hub will be accessible from every district council website, and from the county council's website at https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/helphub
12.30 Air Tattoo cancelled by coronavirus crisis
The Royal International Air Tattoo, due to take place at RAF Fairford in the Cotswolds this summer, has been cancelled.
A statement from the Tattoo organisers today said: "It is with enormous regret and disappointment that we have to announce the cancellation of this year's Royal International Air Tattoo, due to take place from 17 to 19 July, as a result of the challenging and unprecedented environment presented by COVID-19.
"This decision has not been taken lightly and a significant amount of work sits behind this course of action. The crisis, which is worsening by the day, and the implications of which are becoming more profound, has led us to conclude that the most prudent course of action is to cease any further planning to deliver this significant event."
11.09 NHS release new coronavirus TV advert
NHS England have released a new television advertisement to publicise the latest advice to the general public. It also encourages people to stay at home during the crisis.
The advert is fronted by chief medial officer Chris Whitty, advisor to the UK Government, who was born and bred in Gloucester.
See the full video below, provided by the BBC.
10.01 Government confirms list of key workers ahead of school closures
The full list of key workers whose children can still attend school during the coronavirus crisis has been published by the Cabinet Office and Department for Education.
After the final bell this afternoon, all schools across England will shut their gates to 90 per cent of their pupils due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The move, which was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday is designed to "further limit the spread of Covid-19."
Children whose parents are key workers will still be able to attend school to ensure that vital services are maintained during the current crisis.
9.35 Gloucestershire Covid-19 cases rise
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Covid-19 in Gloucestershire has risen by three in the past 24 hours.
The Public Health England Covid-19 dashboard confirms that there are now 15 cases of the virus in Gloucestershire.
Overall, as of 9am, there are 3,269 cases in the UK. A rise of 643 in the last 24 hours. The number of deaths has risen to 144.
9.30 Concessionary bus pass restrictions lifted
Gloucestershire County Council have announced that people in receipt of a free bus pass may use public transport before 9,30am across the county.
The move will allow the elderly to get to and from supermarkets for their so-called 'silver hour' when many are opening up their doors to over-70s only for the first hour of trading.
A County Council statement said: "Time restrictions applying to the English national concessionary bus pass scheme in Gloucestershire will be removed from Monday 23 March. Anyone holding a pass will be able to travel for free on all public bus services until further notice.
8.30 GWR train services to be reduced
Following discussions with Government and the wider rail industry, GWR has released a statement to notify its customers of changes to its timetables due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The statement said: "Great Western Railway is reducing services to reflect national advice against non-essential travel, while maintaining services critical to keeping key workers moving during the current situation.
"The new timetable will operate from Monday 23 March, with some changes expected to advertised services over this weekend, and will operate until further notice.
"The changes prioritise key routes essential for those people continuing to deliver vital services as the UK responds to the current situation."
All services between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, and between London Paddington and South Wales, will run hourly.
Services between London Paddington and Plymouth will continue to operate every hour, and customers will be able to connect for services to/from Cornwall.
Services on regional lines and branch lines will operate to a revised timetable.
For more information, and to check your journey visit https://www.gwr.com/travel-updates/check-your-journey.
UPDATES: Thursday, March 19
17.40 Boris Johnson's daily coronavirus press conference
The Chancellor will reveal further measures to help business beat coronavirus tomorrow with Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging British companies to "stand by your employees as we will stand by you."
Today's coronavirus briefing at 10 Downing Street saw the PM take a tubthumping tone as he sought to thank the British people for the difficult moves they have made in recent days.
17.20 Statement after unconfirmed reports of Cheltenham racegoers developing coronavirus symptoms
The Jockey Club have released a statement after several media outlets reported that staff and visitors to The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse are now showing symptoms of the virus.
In response to the unconfirmed reports, a spokesperson said: "The festival went ahead under Government guidance to do so, like other sports events at Twickenham, Murrayfield, 10 Premier League matches and the UEFA Champions League, all with full houses that same week.
"We promoted the latest public health advice and introduced a range of additional hygiene measures at the event including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra washbasins, which worked well."
More than 250,000 race-goers attended four days of jump-racing last week - watching 28 races involving more than 500 horses.
16.45 A statement from Her Majesty, the Queen
As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.
We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patters of life for the greater good of the communities we live im, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.
At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.
We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practicioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals - today and in the coming days, weeks and months.
Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe.
I am certain we are up to that challenge.
You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.
- Elizabeth R.
15.59 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases to 137
NHS England have recently announced that the number of people who have died from Covid-19 in England has increased by 29 in the last 24 hours, raising the UK total to 137.
In a statement, they said that the 29 to have died were aged between 47 and 96 years old and all had underlying health conditions.
Figures on the number of confirmed cases will be published later this afternoon.
14.50 Bank of England cuts interest rates again
The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has decided to cut interest rates for the second time in a week.
Interest rates were cut to 0.25 per cent last week, and now they have been decreased to 0.1 per cent.
LUNCHTIME UPDATE: Punchline Daily
Our Punchline Daily e-mail update and the live feed below will endeavour to keep you up-to-date with the latest news of the coronavirus crisis.
Here are a few of the stories that we're featuring this lunchtime:
And for a bit of light relief...
13.07 All professional football fixtures cancelled until April 30.
All football fixtures in the Premier League and English Football League - including those of Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers - have been further postponed.
They had been postponed until April 3, but following a meeting this mornig that date has been put back to April 30.
A joint statement said: "The FA, Premier League, EFL and women's professional game, together with the PFA and LMA, understand we are in unprecedented times and our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19.
"We are united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019/20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.
"We have collectively supported UEFA in postponing EURO 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.
"The FA's Rules and Regulations state that "the season shall terminate not later than the 1 June" and "each competition shall, within the limit laid down by The FA, determine the length of its own playing season".
"However, The FA's Board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019/20 season in relation to Professional Football.
"Additionally, we have collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than 30 April.
"The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear and we can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority. We will continue to follow Government advice and work collaboratively to keep the situation under review and explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow.
"We would all like to re-emphasise that our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19"
12.30 Government introduces Coronavirus Bill to Parliament
Emergency legislation called the Coronavirus Bill has been introduced to the House of Commons.
In an announcement the Department for Health said the Bill "will mean the Government can take the right action at the right time to protect the public, NHS and social care staff.
"Measures will only be used when strictly necessary.
"The bill enables action in 5 key areas:
- "Increasing the available health and social care workforce - for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)
- "Easing the burden on frontline staff - by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations
- "Containing and slowing the virus - by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers
- "Managing the deceased with respect and dignity - by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
- "Supporting people - by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies.
"The proposals set out in the bill will significantly enhance the ability of public bodies across the UK to provide an effective response to tackle this epidemic. We are therefore aiming for it to reach the statute book and begin to take effect from the end of this month.
"However, the provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay are intended to have retrospective effect to 13 March."
11.59 Adam Henson 'devastated' to close Cotswold Farm Park
The Cotswold Farm Park is set to close its gates tomorrow afternoon (Friday) for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus.
Adam Henson said in a statement this morning: "Following our recent updates regarding the outbreak of Covid-19, Duncan and I have made the heartbreaking decision to close the Farm Park for the foreseeable future, from 5pm on Friday 20th March.
"As you can imagine, this is devastating for us all. Please bear with us during these very uncertain times - we will keep you all updated in the coming weeks and months.
"To all our Farm Park family - team, members, visitors and supporters from afar - take care of yourselves and your families, and we very much look forward to welcoming you all back to the Farm Park once this is behind us all."
11.45 Measures put in place to protect electricity supplies to households on pre-pay meters
The government has put in place emergency measures to protect the domestic energy supply during coronavirus crisis.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has passed the measures to keep supply to those who need it most.
A statement said: "With immediate effect, customers with pre-payment meters can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied.
"This will benefit over 4 million customers."
11.25 Gloucestershire Archives and Heritage Hub to close
Gloucestershire County Council have announced that the Gloucestershire Archives at the Heritage Hub from Monday, until further notice.
Gloucestershire Family History Society at the Heritage Hub has also closed their service until further notice.
A statement said: "Every effort will be made to continue offering essential services such as access to records for legal reasons. Similarly, the Registration Service will continue to run a copy certificates service from the site."
09.24 Exam information to be released tomorrow
One of the effects of the school closures is that youngsters due to sit their GCSE and A-Level exams in 2020 will not be able to do so, affecting their onward education.
Speaking to the BBC this morning, education secretary Gavin Williamson said more information on how qualifications and grades will be calculated in the absence of exams will be released tomorrow.
Today, an announcement is expected on the list of 'key workers' whose children will still be able to attend schools.
Mr Williamson has already confirmed that list includes all NHS staff.
09.15 Another confirmed case of Covid-19 in Gloucestershire
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Gloucestershire has risen to 12, according to the latest government figures.
The Covid-19 dashboard is being updated regularly by Public Health England and their 9am update on Thursday morning showed 12 cases in the county.
There have been 676 new confirmed cases over the past 24hours, taking the total UK cases to 2,626.
The dashboard shows that 65 patients have recovered, while there have been 103 deaths to date from the outbreak.
08.30 Gloucester City Council cancels planned outdoor events and festivals
In light of government advice to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Gloucester City Council has taken the decision to cancel its outdoor events until the end of May, in line with other city events organisers.
Events until end of May that the city council has been planning which will no longer go ahead are:
- Gloucester Residents Weekend, 27 to 29 March - although the council would like to stress that many Gloucester retailers and businesses are still open for business.
- VE Day Celebrations, 8 May
The statement released on Wednesday said: "The health and wellbeing of residents, visitors and staff is our highest priority.
"We will make further announcements when we can and will resume a programme of events and festivals once it's considered safe to do so.
"In the meantime, we will be exploring alternative options with the cultural and creative community in Gloucester in order to maintain a vibrant cultural programme for residents."
Wednesday, March 18
17.32 BREAKING NEWS ~ Schools across the UK to close on Friday 'until further notice'
Schools across the country will close on Friday and remain closed until further notice.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson made an announcement in the House of Commons at the same time as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was conducting his daily briefing in 10 Downing Street.
Bot confirmed that schools will close for the majority , although they will make provision for the children of key workers.
17.15 Ocado closes down its website
Online supermarket Ocado have closed down until the weekend for 'essential work' that will allow them to operate under the unprecedented demand for online shopping.
An announcement stating the move appears as a holding page on the company's website.
16.49 UK Coronavirus deaths reach 104
There has been a significant leap in the Coronavirus death toll to 104 - rising from 71 in the last 24 hours.
NHS England have said that a further 32 people had died in England after testing positive and one more death was recorded in Scotland.
As of 9am on 18 March, 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative and 2,626 were confirmed positive.
The risk to the UK has been increased to high.
It has also been announced that officials are working to increase the number of tests that can be conducted by Public Health England and the NHS to 25,000 a day.
This increased capacity is expected to be ready within four weeks, with highest-priority cases being tested first. This could mean testing levels in the UK could soon exceed that in China.
Last week, the NHS and PHE increased testing to 5,000 a day and that number continues to increase. By next week it is hoped that testing will increase to 10,000 per day.
15.39 Gloucestershire libraries to close from Monday
Gloucestershire County Council are closing all council run libraries and Community Access points from Monday 23 March until further notice, due to the current issues relating to Covid-19.
In addition, request services such as inter library loans and music sets will be suspended.
In a statement released this afternoon, the council said that library users can continue with normal borrowing until the closure on Monday and in order to mitigate the impact this may have during the closure period the following will be applied:
- No fines for overdue materials and overdue notifications will be suspended.
- Expiry dates for library cards will be extended so that users can continue to access online materials.
In addition a reminder that e-stock is available online - this covers e-books, e-audio and e-magazines. These materials can be accessed from www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/libraries.
13.42 All schools across Scotland and Wales to close from Friday
All schools in Wales and Scotland will be closed from Friday, the Welsh and Scottish governments have announced.
The Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said in a statement: "Today, I can announce we are bringing forward the Easter break for schools in Wales. Schools across Wales will close for statutory provision of education at the latest on 20 March 2020.
"I have been clear up to now that the continuity of education and the wellbeing of our learners has been at the heart of my decision making. This will always be the case."
Scottish first minister voiced a similar message in her recent press conference, announcing the closure of schools in the country by the end of this week.
She added that people should not assume that schools will reopen after the Easter break.
She concluded with: "It will not be easy but together we will get through this".
12.23 Gloucester City Council suspends all meetings
All Gloucester City Council meetings suspended until further notice, the authority have confirmed in a statement.
The statement said: "In light of new Government guidance to stop non essential contact with others, all committee and council meetings are postponed until further notice.
"We are continuing to look for solutions for holding these meetings remotely online and will communicate details when we have them. We apologise for any inconvenience."
11.45 Confirmed number of Gloucestershire cases rises
Government data now shows that there are 11 cases of Covid-19 within Gloucestershire, one higher than the last official communication from Gloucestershire County Council.
So far, there have been three cases in both the Cotswold district and Cheltenham, two in Tewkesbury and one each in both Stroud and Gloucester.
There have been no details released regarding the 11th case.
By 11.45am on Wednesday, there had been 1,950 confirmed cases across the UK and 60 deaths.
Full information about the number of cases, and breakdown by local authority can be found here
11.00 Glastonbury Festival cancelled
Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Diana Ross were all due to appear at the world-famous Somerset farm in June - but the event has been cancelled.
In a statement released to social media, festival organisers Michael and Emily Eavis said: "We are so sorry to announce this, but Glastonbury 2020 will have to be cancelled.
"Clearly this was not a course of action we hoped to take for our 50th anniversary event, but following the new government measures announced this week - and in times of such unprecedented uncertainty - this is now our only viable option."
The Eavis family apologised to the 135,000 ticket holders and have offered them the chance to roll their ticket to next year.
09.00 National Trust closes pay-for-entry sites, but working to keep gardens open
All of the houses, cafes and shops owned by the National Trust will close by Friday, March 20 to protect the safety and wellbeing of staff, volunteers and visitors.
However, the Trust have committed to trying, where possible, to keep all gardens, parklands and coast and countryside areas open.
Trust director general, Hilary McGrady said: "The National Trust was founded 125 years ago for the benefit of the entire nation.
"We want to honour our mission - to enable people and nature to thrive.
"Over the coming weeks we will do all that we can to keep on providing public benefit through caring for places and giving people access wherever possible.
"While we will close our indoor areas to help fight the spread of coronavirus, we recognise that people are likely to need access to open spaces.
08.00 Gloucester's cultural venues close
Due to government advice Gloucester City Council has taken the decision to close its art and cultural venues for the foreseeable future to stop non-essential contact.
The closures effect the Guildhall, Museum and Blackfriars. Staff will be diverted to other activities to support the city council to continue to provide essential services.A spokesperson for Gloucester City Council said "The health of our visitors is paramount and due to current government advice we feel it best to close these venues with immediate effect."We're extremely sorry to those who have bookings or planned visits, but staff will now be diverted to keeping essential services running."The changes don't impact the Gateway, the city councils customer service centre, which will remain open offering advice and support to residents."However, residents who can use the website, email or phone as an alternative to limit face to face contact as much as they possibly can.
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