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Coronavirus Crisis Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, March 27

Schools have now closed to all but the children of key workers and many of us - the Punchline team included - are now working from home due to the coronavirus crisis.

The situation is changing by the hour with announcements being made about businesses and services that are being forced to adapt and change.

Punchline is committed to trying to keep you up to date with all the news that matters to you and your business.

Our team will update this story throughout the day, to ensure that the latest important developments can be found in one - clickbait free - place.

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 news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk  

Friday, March 27

13.01 Matt Hancock tests positive for coronavirus

UK heath secretary Matt Hancock has announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

11.20 Prime Minister tests positive for Covid-19 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus, he has confirmed in a tweeted video message.

He says he has "mild symptoms" and will remain at work, while self-isolating.

10.14 Confirmed UK cases rises by more than 2,000 in a day 

There are now 64 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Gloucestershire, according to the latest Public Health England figures.

The number of confirmed cases across the UK has passed through the 10,000 barrier in the last 24 hours, with 2,129 new cases taking the total to 11,658.

So far, there have been 135 patients recorded as fully recovered and 578 deaths.

Thursday, March 26

18.09 UK coronavirus death toll jumps by more than 100

The Department of Heath has announced that the UK death toll has risen to 578 in the last 24 hours. 

This is an increase of more than 100 in a day - the largest rise since the epidemic began.

17.15 'No self-employed worker will be left behind' says Chancellor as he unveils support package

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised that self-employed workers will not be left behind as he announced a range of cornavirus support measures that he called the "most generous of any government in the world."

Announcing what he called the "next step in the economic fight against the coronavirus pandemic" Mr Sunak said self-employed workers would receive similar support to the measures announced for employed workers last week.

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme will see anyone who earns the majority of their earnings through self-employment receive a grant for 80 per cent of their average earnings.

The Chancellor did concede that the scheme would be unlikely to be put into motion by HMRC until June, but payments would be backdated to March.

READ MORE 

16.30 Changes to bus services around Gloucestershire from Monday

Gloucestershire County Council have announced a number of changes to bus services across the county, to take effect from Monday, March 30.

FULL STORY HERE  

12.37 Bank of England maintains Interest Rates at record low

The Bank's Monetary Policy Commitee have decided to keep the base rate at it's record low of 0.1 per cent.

The rate was cut from 0.75 per cent to the record low last week and that will now be maintained.

The nature of the economic shock from Covid-19 is very different from those to which the MPC has previously had to respond," the Bank said in a statement. 

"The scale and duration of the shock to economic activity, while highly uncertain, will be large and sharp but should ultimately prove temporary, particularly if job losses and business failures can be minimised. 

"In the current circumstances, and consistent with the MPC's remit, monetary policy is aimed at guarding against an unwarranted tightening in financial conditions and, more broadly, supporting businesses and households through the crisis and limiting any lasting damage to the economy."

12.25 Cotswold District Council suspends garden waste collections 

The council have released an 'Important Notice' on twitter to say that collections will cease from today.

The tweet said: "Garden waste collections in the District have been suspended today (26/03/2020) due to a number of waste collection staff being required to self-isolate. 

"Please do not attempt to take any garden waste to any of the County Council's Household Recycling Centres, as these are currently closed due to Covid-19.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will provide updates on when the service starts again as soon as we can."

12.01 Government issue instructions for tradespeople working in domestic properties 

The Cabinet office have re-released their instructions on which business premises are exempt from closure.

Further clarification has been released on the rules for tradespeople currently working in people's homes.

The original announcement, made on Monday saw some sectors and industries, particularly the construction sector confused. The latest release, made this morning seeks to clarify.

Full story here 

10.44 Major Gloucestershire plc feels the pinch of coronavirus

It may seem trivial in the grand economic scheme of things currently, but the decision and statement by one of Gloucestershire's biggest firms shows the all-encompassing impact of the crisis.

Renishaw plc has announced it has cancelled its 14 pence interim dividend, declaring its board's priority currently is to manage the company in a "prudent manner" and conserve cash.

Read more: Renishaw acts swiftly to halt spread of coronavirus 

10.24 Funerals at Cheltenham Crematorium limited to five people 

Cheltenham Borough Council have announced new restrictions on cremations and services at the town's crematorium.

In a statement, the council said:  "To make sure that the council can keep offering cremations as safely as possible during this time, it will be offering shorter services, with some limited options, including webcasting and music. 

"A maximum of five mourners can be in attendance. 

"These measures, which will be kept under regular review, are being taken to help protect the community, funeral staff and key workers at our crematorium from the spread of COVID-19.

Cllr Chris Coleman, cabinet member for clean and green environment said: ''We continue to undertake cremations and burials, whilst taking the difficult decision to scale back our service offer, in line with government advice. 

"We appreciate that this is an unsettling time, but Cheltenham has one of the largest crematoriums in Gloucestershire and it is essential that we can deliver this vital service effectively during a time of national emergency. 

"We will continue to do all we can to support bereaved families, having due regard to the wider interests of our local communities.''

9.30 Gloucestershire confirmed cases pass 50 

There are now 57 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Gloucestershire, according to the official Public Health England figures.

That is an increase by eight on the figure revealed on Wednesday, but a lower increase than the 17 recorded in the previous 24 hours.

Nationally, the number of cases rose by 1,452 to reach 9,529.  There have been 463 deaths so far. 

Wednesday, March 25

17.05 Cheltenham Open Door now closes its doors during the Covid-19 pandemic

Cheltenham Open Door , which exists to support vunerable, disadvantaged and lonely people and works to relieve poverty, hardship and social or emotional distress, has released the following statement:  "It is with great sadness that Cheltenham Open Door have had to close their doors this week to their guests.

They open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for a hot meal in the morning/lunchtime and give out food parcels. The Guests also have access to showers, toiletries, towels, laundry facilities and are signposted to services involving housing and addiction help.

"It is based at no.39 Grosvenor street in Cheltenham and following the social distancing request from the government they served the food from the door rather than allowing the guests in to sit and relax.

"The chairman of Cheltenham Open Door, Julie kent said "Since the lockdown we now need to keep the staff, volunteers and guests safe and gathering together outside is not really an option for anyone.

"We will still be delivering food parcels to the vulnerable and will be taking calls from the street homeless on our number. Those in supported accommodation such as Quilter, YMCA and Anchor will have support workers to help them in self isolation."

16.52 Free parking for NHS and care workers in all car-parks

Local councils across the country will offer free car parking to NHS and social care workers, according to Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government,

In a tweet, he said:  "These heroes will be able to park in on street parking bays and council owned carparks without having to worry about cost or time restrictions.

"It's a small gesture of our gratitude to those working round the clock to save lives."

15.55 Stroud District Council scraps parking charges

In a statement, the council said: "Enforcement of parking charges is being temporarily suspended in Stroud District Council-owned car parks. This is to help drivers needing to make essential trips.

"This measure is being implemented so that the council can reallocate parking enforcement staff to critical services which are supporting residents, businesses and communities through the Coronavirus pandemic, and to help residents and the small number of essential businesses which the Government is allowing to stay open.

"The Council supports the Government's view that health workers, social care workers and NHS volunteers should not have to pay for car parking as they go about their critical work.

"It means motorists will be able to park free-of-charge in Parliament Street, Church Street, Cheapside, Rowcroft, London Road and Brunel Mall car parks in Stroud town - people can only make essential trips however."

10.43 Prince of Wales confirmed as having coronavirus

Prince Charles has been confirmed as having a mild case of Covid-19, according to Clarence House.

The 71-year-old heir to the throne "otherwise remains in good health," according to a statement. 

10.20 MOT  test extensions of up to six months

An announcement from the Department for Transport said:  "Due to the unfolding COVID-19 situation, cars and vans and motorcycles due their MOT from 30 March 2020 will have their MOT extended by six months.

"This will continue until confirmed otherwise.

"This will allow vehicle owners to continue to be able to get to work where this absolutely cannot be done from home or do essential shopping.

"Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition and drivers can be prosecuted if they drive an unsafe vehicle."

You can view two guides for the public here:

9.15 Largest rise in confirmed cases in Gloucestershire

The largest rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country - and in Gloucestershire - has been recorded.

The latest updates to the Public Health England Covid-19 Dashboard show that there are now 49 cases in Gloucestershire - a rise of 17 from the previous day.

That equates to more than a 50 per cent rise on the previous figure of 32.

Nationally, the number of confirmed new cases grew by a four-figure amount on Tuesday with 1,427 new cases, taking the total number to 8,077.

Of those, 135 have recovered, but 422 have died.

Cases are broken down by senior local authority level, so either by county council or metropolitan borough.

The largest number of cases in the country is in Hampshire, where there have been 207 confirmed cases.

The largest concentration of cases is in London with many of the boroughs of the capital reporting cases in excess of 100.

Tuesday, March 24

17.10 Health secretary issues plea for 250,000 volunteers and says new measures are 'rules, not advice'

Health secretary Matt Hancock has used today's coronavirus briefing at 10 Downing Street to issue a call to arms to the public of Great Britain as the government seeks 250,000 volunteer responders.

The new NHS Volunteer Responders scheme will help the health service and vital local services carry out vital tasks while the current virtual lockdown is in place.

He also confirmed that the ExCel centre in London's Docklands is to be turned into a 4,000 bed special hospital - named the NHS Nightingale Hospital - to cope with the anticipated rise in hospital admissions.

"The hospital will be ready to take its first patients at the start of next week. We can already see the additional cases coming towards the NHS," Professor Stephen Powis, thenational medical director for England who flanked the health secretary at the conference.

READ MORE  

16.29 UK coronavirus death toll rises to 422

NHS England has said that 87 further deaths due to coronavirus have been recorded in the last 24 hours in the UK.

This brings the total to 422 deaths throughout the UK since the start of the epidemic.

16.14 National Express to reduce and limit coach services 

Coach operator National Express have announced they will be running a reduced and limited timetable from the end of today.

Chris Hardy, managing director of National Express UK Coach: "Latest Government advice is that people should avoid travelling unless it is essential.

"We are still operating to be able to help those individuals with essential travel needs and ask all others to follow guidance and not travel unnecessarily.

The operator have taken additional steps to keep anyone travelling safe, including enhanced cleaning and limiting capacity to 50 per cent to maintain social distancing.

15.58 Changes to funeral services in Gloucester  

Following the announcement by Government on Monday, March 23, only five immediate family mourners will be allowed to attend a funeral service.

After the announcement made by the Prime Minister Gloucester City Council has reviewed the position regarding attendance at services, and can now only allow a maximum of five immediate family mourners to attend a funeral service.

The council asks mourners to follow the government guidelines when entering the chapel, and social distancing is essential. The chapel will be cleaned between services.

For any mourners that can't attend the funeral, a webcast will be available.

Cllr Richard Cook, leader of the council said: "We are in unprecedented times and whilst we understand this is a difficult time for mourners, we have had to take drastic measures due to the threats to people's lives and the strict government advice.

"All funeral services will continue to go ahead but only a maximum of five immediate family mourners will be able to attend. We will be offering a webcast facility to families and will share details with those affected."

13.01 Gloucestershire household recycling centres closed

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on the evening of Monday 23 March that everyone should stay at home to save lives, Gloucestershire County Council have closed all household waste recycling centres with immediate effect.

Recycling centres will not open from Tuesday 24 March onwards, for an indefinite period. Visiting recycling centres is not included in the reasons for leaving home.

All households should make full use of their kerbside waste collection service, which your local council is making every effort to keep operational for your recycling, green and food waste and general waste.

12.35 2020 Olympics will be postponed 

The Prime Minister of Japan has reportedly announced that the Tokyo Olympics, which were due to start in July will be postponed by a year.

Shinzo Abe is reported to have asked the International Olympic Committee to delay the games by a year, saying a postponement would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete manner.

Previously, the IOC had dragged their feet, to widespread criticism, saying that they would wait four weeks before making a decision.

They are expected, now, to confirm the postponement on Tuesday.

Canada has already confirmed that it will not send athletes to Tokyo this year.

12.14 Golf courses close

There will be no way of seeking solace on the golf course for the foreseeable future after Golf England confirmed that all courses will close.

In a statement, Golf England said: "Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated policy of government which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency.

"The health and wellbeing of the nation is the only consideration that matters at this moment in our history."

Courses in Wales have followed suit, while Scottish Gold has asked all players to refrain from golfing until further notice."

11.57 Gloucestershire confirmed cases move beyond 30

There are now 32 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Gloucestershire, according to official figures released by Public Health England on Monday.

That is a rise by three on Sunday's figures.

Nationally, the total number of UK confirmed cases is 6,650, a rise of 967 from Sunday. 

Of those, 135 have recovered and 335 have died.

11.05 Full list of business premises that must close, and the 'limited' exceptions

Following-on from the measures announced on both Friday evening and Monday, a full list of business premises that must close has been published.

FULL STORY HERE  

9.54 Full statement from the Cabinet Office regarding virtual lockdown measures

The Cabinet Office - the government department responsible for administering official guidelines from the Prime Minister and Cabinet has released new information in follow up to last night's announcement.

FULL STORY HERE  

8.30 Prime Minister's Monday night statement

The full statement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson made on Monday night can be read here  

Monday, March 23

17.19 KFC to close all stores by Wednesday at the latest 

KFC have announced that they will be KFC-ing us later - see what they did there?

The colonel and his company of workers across the UK will be frying their last birds and cooking their last cobs of corn of the coming days.

In a pun-filled announcement - heck we all need a bit of light relief in these trying times - KFC announced that all of their outlets will close from Wednesday at the latest.

Plans are in place to distribute any leftover food to Food Donation Scheme partners to ensure none of it goes to waste.

Signing off they said "we're looking forward to winging our way back to you soon!"

This comes on the back of McDonalds, Nando's, Subway and Costa Coffee announcing closures earlier today.  

17:01 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises to 335

A total of 46 further people have died in England in the last 24 hours, after testing positive for Covid-19.

Four new deaths were also recorded in Scotland and an additional four in Wales.

NHS England have said that those who had died were aged between 47 and 105 years old - all with underlying health conditions.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 335.

16.09 Renishaw acts swiftly to halt spread of coronavirus

Engineering giant Renishaw is currently deep cleaning one of its buildings in Gloucestershire after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Renishaw's chief executive sent the the company's very best wishes to the staff member, and all affected, as the Wotton-under-Edge headquartered firm continued its work to clean the building at its New Mils base.

It is understood the employee tested positive at the weekend and as soon as the business was made aware it sprang into action.

Anyone who had been in contact with the staff member over the last seven days has now entered self-isolation. It is understood the staff member is now recovering at home.

READ MORE 

15.04 Advice for the safe disposal of household waste if self-isolating

Residents who are self-isolating due to suspected or confirmed Coronavirus (Covid-19) are being asked to double bag their used tissues and cleaning cloths and keep them for at least 72 hours before putting in their external bins for collection.

Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have issued the advice to councils to help reduce the spread Covid-19.

Self-isolating households should securely double bag used personal waste (e.g. tissues) and used cleaning cloths and keep the bag separately to all other rubbish for three days. 

These bags should not be opened or tampered with, for example by children or pets. After the 72 hours, residents can place the bags in their external bins for collection.

All other household waste can be disposed of as normal.

This advice, along with other guidance on how to manage self-isolation is available from the Government website 

12.54 Letters to 'most vulnerable' to arrive tomorrow

Over the weekend, the government announced that a specific list of 'most vulnerable' people will be asked to completely isolate for 12 weeks.

At a morning briefing in 10 Downing Street with the Lobby - the group of reporters who report on the inner-workings of the government - the Prime Minister's official spokesperson confirmed that anyone on that list will receive a letter tomorrow.

It was also confirmed that should Prime Minister Boris Johnson fall ill due to coronavirus - he is current;y fine - foreign secretary Dominic Raab would stand in as his deputy.

Further government announcements will be made at the daily 5pm briefing and reported as soon as they can by the Punchline team.

12.40 Huge restaurant chains close their doors completely

If Britons had struggled to realise the severity of the current crisis - as evidenced by the lack of social distancing over the sunny weekend - then perhaps two announcements today will drill it home.

Shops, restaurants and leisure facilities were all told to close down on Friday, albeit with some option left open to provide a takeaway service.

But, today two of the biggest chains in the country have announced that all of their outlets are closing with immediate effect.

Both are staples of our high streets and retail parks and both are visited, normally, without a second thought.

But both McDonald's and Costa Coffee will have the closed signs up and be shut for further notice, due to the coronavirus crisis.

FULL STORY

11.05 Hospitals closed to visitors

The NHS in Gloucestershire has announced that it is stopping visiting* to its hospitals effective from Monday 23rd March 2020.

Trust leaders say that the action is a responsible and proactive measure to take as part of coronavirus (COVID-19) preparedness.

The policy will apply to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH), Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH) and seven community hospitals in the county:

Cirencester

The Dilke (Cinderford)

Lydney

North Cotswolds (Moreton-in-Marsh)

Stroud

Tewkesbury

The Vale (Dursley).

It will also apply to the county's mental health and learning disability inpatient units:

Wotton Lawn (Gloucester)

Charlton Lane (Cheltenham)

Berkeley House (Stroud)

Laurel House (Cheltenham)

Honeybourne (Cheltenham)

Professor Steve Hams, director of quality and chief nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which manages GRH and CGH, said: "From Monday 23 March we will not allow any visitors unless they have been pre-arranged with the nurse in charge*.

"The number one priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients and staff. We would encourage relatives and friends to please think of other ways of staying in touch with your loved ones such as video calls.

"We understand that these restrictions will be difficult for some patients and their loved ones but at the same time, I think there will be real understanding of why we are taking this precautionary and responsible step."

John Trevains, director of nursing, Therapies and quality at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the county's community hospitals as well as the mental health and learning disability units, added: "We appreciate that our patients and their families may find this decision difficult but I hope that everyone will appreciate we are not taking this step lightly. We are only doing this because we want what's best for our patients, families, friends and staff as well as our wider communities.

"Please contact our wards for further advice and guidance."

* There will be special allowances made for birthing partners, parents or guardians of patients under the age of 18, patients with a learning disability or autism who require a carer, relatives collecting patients on discharge and those at the end of life. These will be restricted and visiting must be pre-arranged with the nurse or midwife in charge.

Maternity wards and units

Maternity wards at GRH and CGH have implemented the following restrictions:

Only 1 birthing partner can accompany a woman in labour

Only a birthing can visit the maternity ward, the delivery suite and our birth units

No children or young people under the age of 18 should visit.

Children's ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

The children's ward at GRH has implemented the following restrictions:

Only parents or guardians can visit the ward

No siblings or young people under the age of 18 should visit.

Everyone should remain vigilant and carry on washing hands often with soap and follow related hygiene advice.

For general advice on coronavirus, check www.nhs.uk/coronavirus 

If you have a new, persistent cough or a high temperature (37.8 degrees or higher), you and anyone you live with are advised to self isolate to protect others and stop the spread. Check www.nhs.uk/coronavirus  for details.

If your symptoms worsen during home isolation, use NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

Do not visit your Pharmacy, GP surgery or hospital.

10.30 Slimbridge closes to all visitors until further notice

Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire has taken the 'difficult decision' to close to all visitors until further notice.

In a change to a previous announcement, WWT members will not be able to get special access to the Wetland Centre, even the outdoor areas.

READ MORE 

9.58 Play parks to close across Cheltenham

Cheltenham Borough Council have announced that the children's play areas in parks across Cheltenham will be closed from this morning.

The play areas in Pittville Park, Montpellier Gardens and Sandford Park are all closed.

In a statement, the council said: As we all work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect our community, we ask everyone who is visiting Cheltenham parks and open spaces to maintain social distancing, keeping at least 2m from each other.

"Where cafes in the park are open this will only be as a takeaway service and we would ask you not to socially gather whilst enjoying your coffees and ice creams.

"We have taken the decision to close all play areas to protect our community, especially those who are vulnerable."

9.00 Confirmed cases rise in Gloucestershire 

There are now 29 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Gloucestershire.

Public Health England figures have revealed that by Sunday evening the number of cases nationwide had reached 5,683, a rise in 665 from the previous day.

There have been 281 deaths across the country and 135 patients who have recovered from the virus.

8.30 John Lewis to close all stores

John Lewis Partnership have announced that all 50 of its John Lewis shops will temporarily close at the end of Monday due to the "impact of the coronavirus."

That includes the flagship store on Cheltenham's High Street.

Standalone Waitrose stores will be open as normal and online orders will still operate.

It is the first time in the 155-year history of John Lewis that it will close stores.

Chairman Sharon White said: "The welfare of our customers, communities and Partners is always our absolute priority.

"While it is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops, our Partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting their fellow Partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through johnlewis.com, which is seeing extremely strong demand."

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