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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, May 1

With the UK-wide lockdown now in week six, the ongoing coronavirus 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

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Friday, May 1

Update #411 - 17.05 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 739 as testing target reached

In today's press briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

He said that a further 739 people had sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 27,510 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

The Government has also surpassed its testing target of 100,000 a day by the end of April. A total of 122,347 tests were carried out yesterday. 

Update #410 - 16.55 Government pledges £16m to rescue Rugby League 

The Rugby Football League (RFL) will receive a £16 million cash injection to safeguard the immediate future of the sport for the communities it serves, the Government has announced.

The emergency loan will help the sport deal with the extreme financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak while the season remains suspended, due to social distancing measures.

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said: "This is a massive shot in the arm to secure the survival of Rugby League.

"We recognise that many RFL clubs operate on very tight financial margins. Without their ability to stage matches with spectators and despite the Government's extensive economic package, the professional game has come very close to collapsing.

"Sports across the board are facing unprecedented pressures, and we are supporting them through wider Government measures. In this case we are intervening as an exception, not to save an individual business or organisation, but to protect an entire sport, the community it supports, the World Cup held here next year and its legacy for generations to come."

Update #409 - 16.00 Hospital coronavirus deaths in England increase by 352

NHS England have just announced that the death toll of hospitalised patients in England who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 has hit 20,483.

This is a rise of 352 since Thursday.

Of those who had died, the NHS said that they were aged between 30 and 103 years old, and 18 (aged between 43 and 98) had no known underlying health condition.

Update #408 - 15.25 Heathrow boss questions possibility of social distancing 

The chief executive of Heathrow says social distancing is "physically impossible" at the airport.

John Holland-Kaye says Europe's busiest airport will look to introduce health screening with passengers wearing masks, but the GMB union said social distancing must be enforced.

Mr Holland-Kaye told the Press Association: "It's just physically impossible to socially distance with any volume of passengers in an airport.

"The constraint is not about how many people you can fit on a plane, it will be how many people you can get through an airport safely."

Passenger numbers at Heathrow fell by 97 per cent in April and Mr Holland-Kaye admitted widespread redundancies were possible.

Update #407 - 15.10 McDonald's set to reopen stores 

Fast-food chain McDonald's has announced this afternoon that it will start reopening selected UK restaurants on May 13.

The business said that it would reopen 15 restaurants with limited capacity and offering delivery only. 

Restaurants involved are said to be announced next week.

Paul Pomroy, CEO at McDonald's UK and Ireland said: "The last few weeks have been difficult for all of us and I hope you, your friends and your families are staying safe.

"When we return it will be different as we all adjust to this new normal. 

"I want to apologise in advance if our first wave of reopened restaurants does not serve your area. 

"Rest assured, we are working hard to reopen more restaurants, but I am adamant this must be at the right pace with the wellbeing of our employees, suppliers and customers front of mind. Thank you for your patience."

Update #406 - 13.30 Nearly 9,000 fines issued for non-compliance with lockdown

Data released today by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) shows that 8,877 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been recorded by forces in England up to April 27 for breaches of government public health regulations.

Martin Hewitt

Government public health regulations introduced on 27 March 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus enable officers to issue individuals with £60 fines if they failed to comply after officers have engaged with them, explained the risks to public health and encouraged voluntary compliance.

NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt said: "As the latest provisional figures on the number of fines issued show, the vast majority of people continue to do the right thing, staying at home in order to protect the NHS and help save lives.

"The figures also show our use of the enforcement powers remains proportionate with just 0.02 per cent of the population in England being issued with a fine

"I want to thank people for continuing to follow the regulations - I recognise it's not easy and that this is a challenging time for us all.

"Our approach of - engage, explain and encourage, and only as a last resort, enforce -will continue. It is working.

"I urge the public to keep going, keep following the advice: stay home, protect the NHS and save lives."

Update #405 - 12.20 E-commerce and social distancing measures to further impact future industrial and logistics demand 

While the effect of the coronavirus is proving challenging for most businesses, for others it has been a time for growth - according to latest research.

With Office of National Statistics data revealing that retail online sales reached a record high of 22.3 per cent in March 2020, changes in consumer behaviour, driven predominantly by social distancing measures, will continue to stimulate e-commerce related industrial and logistics property requirements.

This is according to latest insights, which were revealed by the commercial property experts Colliers International this week.


Update #404 - 10.33 Crowd fears force Greggs to cancel reopening trial

Greggs has cancelled its proposed limited reopening because of fears it would attract crowds of customers.

The bakery chain closed all 2,050 shops on March 24 despite government coronavirus restrictions allowing takeaway outlets to trade.

It had planned to open 20 shops in the Newcastle area from Monday to test how they would cope with social distancing measures ahead of more branches around the country following suit.

But announcing the U-turn, a Greggs spokeswoman said: "Due to significant interest n our 20-shop trial and the risk that excessive numbers of customers may plan to visit Greggs, we will initially operate these trials behind closed doors."

Greggs had hoped to have all shops open by July 1 when the Government's furlough scheme is schedule to end.

Update #403 - 10.30 Ryanair set to cut 3,000 jobs

Ryanair has become the latest airline to plan job cuts as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the industry hard.

The budget airline is set to cut 3,000 jobs (15 per cent of its workforce) with pilots and cabin crew hardest hit, while remaining staff are likely to face a 20 per cent pay cut.

The news follows British Airways' announcement that it is looking to cut 12,000 jobs and potentially shut its Gatwick airport operation.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who has extended his own 50 per cent pay cut until March, told the BBC the cuts were "the minimum that we need to survive the next 12 months."

He pledged that passengers who have had flights cancelled will receive a refund but it may take up to six months for all requests to be processed.

The future of Norwegian Air, which operates low-cost flights from the UK to the USA, is also unclear after an overnight deadline passed for a bondholders' vote on a proposed rescue package.

Update #402 -10.14 Thousands paid to community groups providing COVID-19 support

Tewkesbury Borough Council has paid more than £17,000 in grants to local community groups who are providing voluntary help and support to vulnerable people during the current pandemic.

So far, 28 groups have benefited from the grants - worth up to £1,000. They will now be able to use the funding to cover costs incurred during efforts to help people in their local areas.

Councillor Clare Softley, lead member for community, said: "I am incredibly grateful to community groups and volunteers across the borough who are stepping up to help local residents through these difficult and unprecedented times. We've always known how great these groups are, but during the current crisis, they are continuing to do amazing things in challenging conditions.

"I want to ensure that both new and established groups get the funding they need to cover any costs incurred as a result of their efforts to support their communities. It's great that funding has reached many groups already, but I would urge others who could benefit from this aid to get in touch. It's easy to apply online, so give it a go!"

Churchdown ABC is one of the groups to have already benefited from a grant. A spokeperson for the group said: "On behalf of our group, we are thankful for this grant. I have been in touch with potential recipients and know this will make a significant difference to their quality of life."

Eligible groups are urged by the council to apply via the following link: 

Update #401 - 8.30 Update on coronavirus cases in Gloucestershire

Public Health England have released new data showing that the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county has reached 1,181, as of 9am on Thursday 30 April.

This is an increase of 29 on the previous day.

It was also announced yesterday that there had been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

New information released on Thursday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire has reached 182 - an increase of one from Wednesday's figure.

Of these deaths, it has been reported that 157 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 25 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Thursday, April 30

Update #400 - 17.15 Further 674 coronavirus deaths in the UK

In tonight's daily press briefing, PM Boris Johnson has revealed the latest department of heath and social care coronavirus testing and death figures for the UK.

Mr Johnson said that an additional 674 people with coronavirus in the UK has sadly passed away, including those outside of hospital in care homes and the community.

This brings the total number of deaths to 26,711.

In his first daily press briefing appearance in the last five weeks, the PM said that "we are past the peak of this disease" and that we are "on the downward slope".

He added that both hospital admissions and the number of patients in intensive care are falling.

The Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance reiterated that the total number of coronavirus cases across the UK is on the way down.

Update #399 - 17.05 Don't forget tonight's #ClapForCarers 

It has become one of the high points of the week as we all pay tribute to the workers on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

Don't forget to join in tonight, as we briefly emerge from lockdown and clap for frontline workers at 8pm tonight.

Update #398 - 16.20 Printwaste launches home collection service

Cheltenham-based Printwaste has introduced a home collection service to help the local community while recycling centres and tips are closed and council garden waste collections suspended or limited.

Printwaste will be collecting garden waste, confidential documents for shredding and recycling in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury.

And 10 per cent of all sales from the service will be donated to the Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity.


Update #397 - 15.59 391 further hospital deaths reported in England

NHS England have reported that a total of 20,131 hospitalised patients with coronavirus have now died across the country.

This is an increase of 391 on yesterday's England figure of 19,740.

Update #396 - 14.47 British Airways considers leaving Gatwick

British Airways could end its operations at Gatwick airport and cut a quarter of its 4,300 pilots

The BBC is reporting a memo written by the head of BA's Gatwick hub outlined the possible closure, just a day after the airline's owner International Airline Group announced up to 12,000 redundancies.

In a separate letter to pilots, the airline said it is not ruling out suspending the rest of its Heathrow operation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Heathrow is BA's main base and it is still running a limited operation while Gatwick, which handles roughly a fifth as much of the airline's flights, is suspended.

EasyJet, Ryanair and Virgin have ceased passenger operations during the coronavirus crisis which has had a huge impact on the travel and aviation industries.

Update #395 - 13.32 1,800 jobs go as deal does not include shops

More than 1,800 jobs are due to go with the closure of all Oasis and Warehouse shops.

The Oasis and Warehouse Group entered administration earlier this month and while a deal has been struck for the brands and their stock, it does not include the fashion retailer's shops.

The group were owned by Icelandic lender Kaupthing and traded from more than 90 UK stories and 437 department store concessions.

The new owners are Hilco Capital, former owners of HMV.

Update #394 - 13.30 Fall in number of loans approved 

More than half of firms which applied for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans are still waiting for them to be approved.

And fewer loans were approved in the seven days up to Tuesday (8,638) than the same period a week earlier when more than 9,000 were granted.

Of 52,807 applications, almost 28,000 had still to be approved at the end of Tuesday.

More than £1.33billion of loans was approved from April 21-28, down from £1.45billion in the previous seven days.

Update #393 - 13.05 Profits fall 95 per cent at Lloyds Bank

Banking giant Lloyds has blamed a 95 per cent drop in profits on the unfolding coronavirus economic situation.

Profits at Lloyds - who have one of their UK main offices in Barnwood - fell to £74million for the January-March period, down from £1.6billion in the same period last year.

Net income of £3.952billion was 11 per cent lower than in the first three months of 2019.

The bank is also reported to have put aside £1.43billion in preparation for a big downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive at Lloyds, said: " The economic outlook is clearly challenging and uncertain with the longer-term outcome dependent on the severity and length of the coronavirus pandemic and the mitigating impact of government and other measures in the UK and across the world.

"Throughout this period of uncertainty, we will continue to work closely with our customers, colleagues, regulators and the Government to ensure that we continue to support our customers. We remain committed to being part of the national solution and putting the group's strength to work in support of the wider economy."

Update #392 - 12.30 UK car production falls as COVID-19 halts automotive manufacturing

Car manufacturing in the UK fell -37.6 per cent in March as the coronavirus shut factories, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT data shows that just 78,767 vehicles left factory gates in the month - some 47,428 fewer than the previous year, resulting in more than 140 days-worth, in total, of lost production.

The analysis suggests that the crisis could result in a loss of some 257,000 units this year across all UK plants if factories stay closed to the middle of May. This amounts to an estimated cost to industry of some £8.2 billion, equivalent to around 20 per cent of UK car makers' combined annual turnover.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "UK Automotive is fundamentally strong but, as these figures show, it is being tested like never before, with each week of shutdown costing the sector and economy billions.

"Government's emergency measures are helping keep many companies afloat and thousands of people in jobs, but liquidity remains a major concern and will become even more stretched as the industry begins to restart."

Update #391 - 12.05 Shell cuts dividend for first time since 1945

The FTSE 100 firm has cut dividends by two-thirds amid the oil price collapse and ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, told shareholders in a statement released yesterday that payouts for the first quarter of 2020 would fall by two thirds, to 16 cents a share.

This is the lowest dividend payout since the second world war.

The business said that the decision had been made to provide financial resilience and further flexibility to manage the uncertainty and impact of COVID-19.

Chair of the Board of Royal Dutch Shell Chad Holliday said: "Shareholder returns are a fundamental part of Shell's financial framework. However, given the risk of a prolonged period of economic uncertainty, weaker commodity prices, higher volatility and uncertain demand outlook, the board believes that maintaining the current level of shareholder distributions is not prudent.

"Following the announcement not to continue with the next tranche of the share buyback programme, the Board has also decided to reduce the first quarter 2020 dividend and reset to 16 US cents per share.

"As conditions allow, the board will continue to evaluate our capital allocation priorities between ongoing investment in our business, maintaining a strong balance sheet and increasing returns to shareholders which remains our ambition."

Update #390 - 11.40 Gloucester Goes Retro 2020 cancelled

Gloucester Goes Retro 2020, the city's vintage car, fashion and music festival due to take place on Saturday 29 August, has been cancelled.

The decision was made by the event organisers, the Right Worshipful Mayor of Gloucester Cllr Colin Organ and Gloucester City Council, due to the continuing impact of COVID-19.

With some social distancing measures likely to be needed once lockdown has been lifted, Cllr Organ says that the decision was made to "protect" those who attend.

"It is sad that we have decided to cancel one of Gloucester's most popular and busiest events of the year. It's likely that social distancing restrictions will be in place for some time to come, so our priority is the health and wellbeing of residents, visitors, exhibitors and staff.

"However, we will take this opportunity to make Gloucester Goes Retro a really special event for everyone to enjoy in August 2021, and look forward to welcoming everyone back next year."

Update #389 - 10.52 Minister warns against rush to reopen pubs

Justice minister Robert Buckland has urged pubs and restaurants not to ignore coronavirus restrictions by rushing to reopen.

He was speaking after the pub chain JD Wetherspoon revealed it was in talks to reopen hundreds of branches "in or around June".

Mr Buckland told LBC Radio: "I think it would be a mistake for different businesses or individuals to just go off at a tangent and do their own thing.

"It blunts the effectiveness of any measures we're taking."

Update #388 - 10.49 Gloucestershire councils handed £34million from Government fund

Councils in Gloucestershire are to receive more than £34million for frontline services as part of a government support package during the coronavirus crisis.

Gloucestershire County Council, which runs adult social care, will be handed £27,751,803 as part of the £1.6billion fund for councils across the country.

Gloucester City Council will receive £1,354,755, Stroud District Council £1,235,889, Cheltenham Borough Council £1,210,110, Tewkesbury Borough Council £983,747, Cotswold District Council £941,887 and Forest of Dean District Council £915,164.

The district councils run services such as waste collection and housing the homeless.

Announcing the scheme, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Councils are playing a central role in our national fight against coronavirus and the Government continues to back them at this challenging time.

"The £1.6billion will be allocated to councils in the fairest way possible, recognising the latest and best assessment of the pressures they face."

Update #387 - 09.30 DIY retailer to reopen all stores following trial

Homebase will reopen all of its stores this weekend (Saturday 2nd May), after a successful trial.

The retailer, which has stores in Gloucester and Stroud, initially opened 20 stores as a trial last weekend and opened another 50 yesterday, as reported by Retail Gazette.


Update #386 - 08.25 Latest Gloucestershire coronavirus figures

NHS England released the latest figures for coronavirus-related deaths and confirmed cases of the virus yesterday afternoon.

New information shows that within the county, there have been a total of 181 deaths of hospitalised patients who had tested positive for coronavirus.

It was added that of those who died, 156 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals, while the other 25 were being treated through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

The number of confirmed cases of the virus in Gloucestershire has also reached 1,152, according to data published yesterday by Public Health England.

Wednesday, April 29

Update #385 - 17.05 UK coronavirus deaths rise

Public Health England have released new data showing that deaths of hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the UK has risen to 26,097.

The sharp increase is partly as a result of deaths in care homes and the community (as well as hospital figures) being included in today's total for the first time.

In today's press briefing, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that today's figures showed an additional 765 deaths compared to yesterday.

Update #384 - 15.10 445 more coronavirus deaths in England 

NHS England have released new data showing that an additional 445 people hospitalised patients who tested positive for the coronavirus have sadly passed away in England.

This brings the total number of confirmed deaths in the country to 19,740.

NHS England said that the deaths included a patient aged 14 with no underlying health conditions.

Full UK figures are due to be released later today, with data including deaths in care homes and the community for the first time.

Update #383 - 14.48 Phased return on the cards for schools

Schools will not all return at the same time after the coronavirus lockdown with some unlikely to be back until September.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the phased return to a committee of MPs and admitted he could not give a date for the school gates to reopen.

Promising headteachers would be given notice of opening plans, he said: "The decision to return schools in a phased manner will be made right across government in the best interests of the schools and the teachers, making sure all considerations are taken on board.

"We are looking at many countries across the globe which are some weeks ahead of us - such as Germany and Denmark."

A scheme to provide 200,000 free laptops and WiFi connections to some pupils will not start to deliver until late May with most sent out in June, Mr Williamson said, suggesting many pupils will still be at home during the summer term.

Update #382 - 13.40 Excellent news for Gloucestershire

Update #381 - 13.35 It isn't the time for a holiday 

Update #380 - 13.15 2000trees postponed until 2021

The current coronavirus situation means that another Gloucestershire festival will not take place in 2020.

2000trees Music Festival was due to take place this July just outside of Cheltenham, with headliners including Jimmy Eat World, AFI and Thrice - however the pandemic has seen the event cancelled for this year.

In a statement, the organisers said: "The decision to postpone wasn't taken lightly and is sincerely the last thing we wanted to do. 

"We were still hopeful of going ahead until a few days ago; however, it has become increasingly clear that the current situation isn't going away anytime soon and the health & safety of our guests, staff & the wider community at large has to come first.

"Even after 13 years we are still a proudly independent business. We as a core organiser team do not pay ourselves a salary unless the festival goes ahead and makes a profit. We are still just six music-loving chaps who want to put on an amazing festival and party with 10,000 likeminded individuals.

"But never fear, we will come out the other side of this nightmare absolutely gagging for a part at Upcote Farm next year. We promise to deliver you the most amazing edition of 2000trees ever in 2021!"

Update #379 - 12.53 Nando's opening for cheeky delivery 

Nando's has become the latest restaurant chain to reopen a limited number of its sites.

And Wagamama has also announced a gradual return with a delivery operation.

Six Nando's restaurants have opened for delivery in six outlets in London and Manchester while Wagamama will open four delivery sites tomorrow (April 30).

Both Nando's and Wagamama have restaurants at Gloucester Quays but neither are among the initial wave of reopenings.

Burger King has reopened a handful of restaurants with a limited menu and contactless delivery, as well as one trial of a drive-through in Hampshire as it targets opening in every city by May 31.

KFC has opened 11 restaurants for delivery only while McDonald's is carrying out tests behind closed doors ahead of limited reopening.

Update #378 - 12.51 Non-food items see large drop in price

Prices of non-food items in the UK have seen the largest fall since at least 2006 as retailers look to shift stock during the coronavirus crisis.

According to data from the British Retail Consortium, non-food items fell by 3.7 per cent compared to a year ago.

Clothing, footwear and furniture saw the biggest discounts.

Food prices rose by 1.8 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent last month and the highest since June 2019, largely due to supermarkets scrapping sales promotions.

Shop prices fell by 1.7 per cent, the largest decline since January 2017, with the Bank of England expecting a drop in inflation as the crisis hits demand.

Update #377 - 12.00 Firm to gift holiday of a lifetime to frontline worker

Staff at Cirencester based Steppes Travel embarked on an ambitious 24-hour cycling relay.

The objective of the exercise was to raise money for their own COVID-19 Heroes & Heroines Holiday Fund, with the ultimate goal of gifting the holiday of a lifetime to someone putting their lives at risk amid the coronavirus crisis.

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed - with Punchline selecting the company as its latest Business and Community Champion.

Steppes' non-stop cycle challenge was a virtual relay with the baton passing from one socially-distanced team member to the next from midday to midday.


Update #376 - 11.05 Royal Mail suspends Saturday letter deliveries

Royal Mail says staff requests to ease workloads are behind a decision to suspend deliveries of letters on Saturdays.

A normal service will continue throughout the week and it has said collections will continue from businesses, post offices and post boxes.

Shane O'Riordain, managing director of marketing, regulation and corporate affairs at Royal Mail, said: "Our postmen and postwomen are working very hard across the UK in challenging conditions.

"We have listened to our hard-working colleagues who have asked us to ease the additional burden on them if possible."

Royal Mail said the decision had been made after consultation with the Government and regulator Ofcom, but the Communication Workers' Union has called for urgent discussions with the government on the issue.

A statement for the union, which has called for deliveries to be on alternating days, said: "The last thing we want to do is call strike action at this point but we will not sit back and see our members' jobs put at threat and the service to the public worsened."

Update #375 - 11.03 Next sales fall by more than half

Next has announced a drop in sales of 52 per cent as announces plans for reopening shops for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were introduced.

The drop in sales in stores covered the 13 weeks up to April 25 with a huge fall of 86 per cent in the three days before doors were closed on March 23.

Next's annual update to investors revealed online sales, which were reintroduced last week, were down 32 per cent and warned total sales could drop by up to 40 per cent.

It said around 70 per cent of its range is now available online.

The firm says it will concentrate on reopening shops in retails parks which offer more space outside for customers to queue as they adhere to social distancing measures.

Update #374 - 10.14 Barclays expects £2.1billion coronavirus loss

Barclays is setting aside £2.1billion to cover estimated losses due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The bank says the predicted loss will come largely from customers being unable to pay loans.

And it has led to a 38 per cent drop in profits over the first quarter of 2020 to £913m.

Chief executive Jes Staley said: "Given the uncertainty around the developing economic downturn and low interest rate environment, 2020 is expected to be challenging."

He confirmed Barclays has paid out 3,760 government-backed business loans during the crisis, totalling £737million.

Rival bank HSBC reported a 50 per cent fall in profits earlier this week.

Update #373 - 10.11 Prime Minister and fiancee welcome 'healthy baby boy'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds have announced the birth of a son at a London hospital.

A spokesman said: "The Prime Minister and Ms Symonds are thrilled to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy at a London hospital earlier this morning. Both mother and baby are doing very well.

"The PM and Ms Symonds would like to thank the fantastic NHS maternity team."

The news comes just three days after the Prime Minister returned to work following treatment for the coronavirus which saw him treated in intensive care.

Update #372 - 08.20 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released on Tuesday (April 28) show that the UK death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus rose to 21,678 - an increase of 586 on Monday's total.

It was also announced that 599,339 people had been tested for the virus in the UK, of which 161,145 tested positive.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 176 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England yesterday.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 153 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 23 were being treated through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sit at 1,112 as of yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 28

Update #371 - 16.45 Rise in bonfire and noise complaints

Stroud District Council's environmental health officers have reportedly seen a huge increase in complaints about noise and smoke since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The council has said that between March 22 and April 20 this year, 57 noise complaints were received compared to 14 in the same period last year, and 73 complaints about smoke compared to just 12 last year.

Dave Jackson, Stroud District Council's environmental protection manager said: "Clearly, a lot of people are spending more time at home and so increasing the chances of either creating or suffering from a noise or smoke problem.

"Some people have more time on their hands than usual and have responded by tidying the garden and household, which has undoubtedly led to a significant increase in bonfires.

"Others also have the opportunity to play their music, perhaps moving equipment outside in the sunny weather we've been experiencing. Maybe they're keeping later hours as they don't need to rise early at the moment.

"Finally, many people are simply worried and fearful which is perhaps leading to actions that wouldn't normally arise, whether that be to create noise or smoke problems or to complain about things that wouldn't normally annoy them."

Legal powers exist to tackle these issues and, where necessary, the council will use them, however thinking of the effect your actions could have on your neighbours should lead to more pleasant neighbourhoods for everyone.

Update #370 - 15.07 England coronavirus death toll rises by 546

NHS England have released new information indicating that a further 546 people with COVID-19 in hospitals in England have sadly passed away. It has been reported that the patients were aged between 31 and 99.

This takes the total number of hospital deaths in England to 19,295.

Update #369 - 14.58 McDonald's looks at tests for reopening

McDonald's is preparing to run tests on reopening one of its UK branches.

But it does not mean a fast food fans will be able to get their regular fix just yet - the tests will be behind closed doors.

Refusing to put a date on a potential return to trading, McDonald's UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: "For now we remain close and will only reopen when we are absolutely confident we can have the right measures in place to ensure everyone's well-being."

Bakery chain Greggs is opening 20 stories in the Newcastle area from Monday as part of a trial while earlier this month, Burger King, KFC and Pret A Manger reopened a limited number of branches, mainly for delivery only.

Greggs said it hoped to open around a third of its 2,050 shops on June 8.

Update #368 - 14.56 M&S cancel second year of dividends

Marks & Spencer will not pay a dividend next year as it prepares to introduce a range of cost-cutting measures.

The suspension of the shareholder payout will save the retailer £210million on top of £130m save by axing its final dividend for 2019-20 last month.

Ahead of the publication of its annual results on May 20, M&S had already warned profits for the past financial year will fall short of the £440million forecasted ahead of the coronavirus.

The firm is preparing to launch a media campaign to champion the efforts of British farmers and encourage more support for them during the pandemic.

Update #367 - 13.50 Silent businesses missing out on free money 

Small businesses are being urged to come forward if they have not yet applied for coronavirus support grants with latest figures showing how difficult it is being to give away free funding.

The latest figures released by the Government show how many companies are yet to claim the grants of £10,000 or £25,000 which were announced among the first package of support during the crisis.

Ian Sloan of chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan said: "Many councils who already hold databases of those businesses claiming Small Business Rates Relief have struggled to hand out even 50 per cent of the funding since being given the money by Central Government on April 1."


Update #366 - 13.30 One in seven mortgages are now covered by payment holidays

UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry, has said that lenders have given more than 1.6 million mortgage payment holidays as of April 24.

One in seven mortgages are now covered by payment holidays following steps taken by lenders to help households whose finances have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. For the average mortgage holder, the payment holiday amounts to £755 per month of suspended payments.

The organisation says that more than 1.2 million mortgage payment holidays were approved in the first three weeks of the scheme, and hundreds of thousands more customers have been granted payment holidays in the last fortnight by lenders helping mortgage holders affected by the coronavirus.

Stephen Jones, UK Finance CEO, said: "Lenders understand that many households are seeing their finances squeezed due to the coronavirus pandemic and we are working hard to help customers get through these tough times.

"The industry has acted quickly to support homeowners through this crisis and has taken decisive steps to ensure that eligible customers on payment holidays due to COVID-19 can opt for the security of fixing their monthly mortgage payments going forward."

Update #365 - 12.30 Site manager turns ambulance driver to battle COVID-19

A new-build site manager from Tewkesbury is helping to free-up ambulance workers so that they can focus on life-critical calls, during his volunteer work as an on-call firefighter.

Tim McVicker, a site manager at Bovis Homes (part of the newly-formed Vistry Group) is set to drive ambulances around the county to co-respond and transfer patients to support South Western Ambulance Service staff.

And this willingness to help others in a time of need has earned Mr McVicker a nomination as one of Punchline's Business and Community Champions.

The Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) crew manager, who has been based at Tewkesbury Community Fire and Rescue Station for 14 years, is also delivering PPE and food as he works 120 hours a week.


Update #364 - 10.50 New free online learning platform to boost workplace skills 

A new online learning platform to help boost the nation's skills while people are staying at home, has been launched today by the Government's Education Secretary.

Free courses are available through a new online platform hosted on the website, called The Skills Toolkit. The new platform gives people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.

The Government has said that these are the skills which are highly valued by employers and sought after in a wide range of jobs. 

The platform also offers employees who have been furloughed an opportunity to keep up their skills development while they are at home.

Courses on offer cover a range of levels, from everyday maths and tools for using email and social media more effectively at work to more advanced training.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I know how difficult the recent months have been and the huge changes the coronavirus has brought on the daily lives of us all.

"The high-quality and free to access courses on offer on our new online learning platform, The Skills Toolkit, will help those whose jobs have been affected by the outbreak, and people looking to boost their skills while they are staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives."

Update #363 - 10.11 Falling demand hits BP profits

BP has seen its profits fall by 66 per cent as the global demand for oil plummets during the coronavirus crisis.

The company said its net income for the first three months of 2020 was $800million (£645m), down from $2.4billion the previous year.

Chief executive Bernard Looney said: "Our industry has been hit by supply and demand shocks on a scale never seen before, but that is no excuse to turn inward.

"We are focusing our efforts on protecting our people, supporting our communities and strengthening our finances."

The fall in demand has seen oil prices plummet with US oil prices turning negative for the first time last week.

After a slight recovery, US oils is trading at $11 a barrel with the international price for a barrel of Brent crude around $19 - down from about $70 at the start of the year.

Update #362 - 10.08 HSBC delays cuts despite huge fall in profits

HSBC has put plans to cut 35,000 jobs on hold, despite a 50 per cent fall in profits.

The bank announced the planned cuts in February as part of a bid to cut costs by £3.6billion over the next three years.

But chief executive Noel Quinn said most of the redundancies would be paused during the coronavirus pandemic with other job opportunities hard to find.

Pre-tax earnings for the first quarter were $3.2billion (£2.6billion), down from $6.2billion for the same period in 2019.

And the bank forecasts a rise in bad loans to $3billion with customers unable to repay them during the crisis.

Update #361 - 09.47 Minute's silence in honour of key workers

Key workers who have died with coronavirus will be remembered by a minute's silence across the nation at 11am (April 28).

More than 100 NHS and care staff have died after suffering from the virus, along with many other key workers.

The tribute coincides with International Workers Memorial Day.

Update #360 - 09.40 More than £9.5m in rates relief for Tewkesbury Borough businesses

Tewkesbury Borough Council have reported that eligible businesses in the area are receiving 'nil' business rates bills this week as a result of an expanded package of business support from the government.

The Expanded Retail Discount has been awarded to 444 eligible businesses across the borough, with a total discount applied so far of more than £9.5 million. This support means they will not be required to pay business rates throughout 2020/21.

The expanded package has ensured that nursery premises are also included, with 13 currently being identified in the borough receiving discounts to the sum of £100,246.

Councillor Rob Bird, leader of Tewkesbury Borough Council said: "Whilst the current figures are most encouraging, it is vital that our all of our local businesses are made aware of the discounts available to them. We want to ensure that all businesses can access the help they are entitled to as soon as possible, to give them some stability during this uncertain time.

"Additionally, the Tewkesbury Growth Hub team are on hand to help, giving free advice and information on the latest business support packages available. They are also running webinars and other sessions that will provide practical and valuable guidance advice."

The council is encouraging business owners to get in touch to find out if they are eligible for help. 

Update #359 - 09.15 Gloucester Cathedral launches Art for Wellbeing Week

Yesterday (April 27), Gloucester Cathedral launched a new, free digital resource pack providing seven days of Art for Wellbeing activities.

Between April 27 and May 3, a new art-based activity will be available to download every day from the Cathedral website.

While the building is closed in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, these resources are another way for the Cathedral to support its community.

The Cathedral team wants to ensure that the wide-ranging benefits that art activities can offer to support physical and mental wellbeing - from alleviating anxiety and building confidence, to creating a space for shared learning and connection - are made available and accessible to everyone.

The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester said: "Our vision is to seek to be 'in tune with heaven and in touch with daily life'. This is an inclusive aspiration that sets the glory of a particular place in God's vision for human flourishing. At this unprecedented time when the Cathedral is closed, we must now, more than ever, find ways to continue enabling everyone to find wholeness and refreshment."

The Art for Wellbeing Week (and other resources) can be downloaded here. 

Update #358 - 08.10 Gloucestershire coronavirus deaths reach 171

New information has been released showing that the death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the county has now reached 171 as of yesterday.

This is an increase of four on the previous day's figure.

Of those who have died in Gloucestershire, 148 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 23 were treated for through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county currently sits at 1,098.

Monday, April 27

Update #357 - 17.10 UK coronavirus death toll reaches 21,092 

Health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the latest UK coronavirus death figures in today's daily press briefing.

He has said that a total of 24,092 hospitalised people in the UK with the coronavirus have sadly passed away.

Update #356 - 17.05 Bakery chain to reopen some outlets 

Greggs has announced that it plans to reopen some of its outlets in the Newcastle area, as reported by the BBC.

The baker plans to open selected stores from May 4, as part of what it calls a "controlled trial" during the current lockdown.

Update #355 - 16.15 Chancellor announces fully guaranteed loans for small firms 

Small firms are to be eligible for new Bounce Back loans backed 100 per cent by the Government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the latest addition to the coronavirus help package for businesses to the House of Commons.

The scheme will start next week with firms offered loans of up to £50,000.

Mr Sunak said: "We've been in close talks with the banks in recent days and these loans will be available from 9am next Monday.


Update #354 - 15.15 Gambling firms to cut advertising during lockdown

The UK's largest betting and gaming operators are set to voluntarily remove all TV and radio advertising during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the industry standards body which represents betting shops, online betting and gaming, bingo and casinos, has agreed the voluntary removal of all gaming product advertising for a minimum of the next six weeks.

Existing TV and radio advertising slots will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast where contracts permit.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the council, said: "We have been working closely with our member companies since this crisis began to monitor the impact of betting and gaming. There hasn't been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted - in fact, the opposite is true with total revenue down by up to 60 per cent. 

"Overall gambling levels have also fallen significantly as a result of betting shops and casinos closing and the suspension of live sport. And whilst advertising levels on sports and casino are also down, again contrary to some assertions, we recognise that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during COVID-19."

Update #353 - 15.00 Coronavirus deaths in England rise by 329 

NHS England have released new data showing that an additional 329 people hospitalised patients who tested positive for the coronavirus have sadly passed away in England.

This brings the total number of confirmed deaths in the country to 18,749.

NHS England added that those who had died were aged between 29 and 100-years-old.

Update #352 - 13.33 Cotswold DC asks residents to support their neighbours by not lighting bonfires

Cotswold District Council has seen a large increase in the number of burning complaints in the last few weeks and is calling on residents to be more considerate of those with respiratory conditions and people in self-isolation.

Cllr Andrew Doherty, cabinet member for environment, said: "We understand these are difficult and challenging times for us all. Whether you are adjusting to life and work at home, isolating yourself or looking after loved ones who are isolating.

"Most of us are spending more time at home and while having bonfires can be tempting, it carries risks to vulnerable members of our communities.

"Bonfires cause issues for your neighbours, especially those with respiratory problems, people who are shielding themselves from COVID-19 or anyone who may have contracted the virus.

"COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system so I would like to ask all of our residents here in the Cotswolds to please refrain from lighting fires which may affect vulnerable people while lockdowns continue."

Burning doesn't just affect the vulnerable. Bonfires and drifting smoke is a nuisance for neighbours wanting to spend time in their gardens or keep windows open.

Update #351 - 13.10 French Grand Prix axed for 2020

Organisers of the French Grand Prix have confirmed the event will not go ahead in 2020, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

It becomes the 10th race of the 2020 season to have been cancelled or postponed due to the current health crisis.

A statement read: "Due to the declarations of the President of the French Republic to ban major events until at least the middle of July and to maintain the closure of the Schengen area until further notice, and the recent decisions announced by the French Government to fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the GIP Grand Prix de France - Le Castellet takes note of the impossibility to maintain the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France on June 28th.

"The health and safety of its spectators, its partners and all those involved in Formula 1 is a priority. The GIP Grand Prix de France - Le Castellet supports the decisions taken by the French Government.

"The Formula 1 Grand Prix de France would like to thank its clients, all the administrators of its GIP, the Circuit Paul Ricard, all its partners and the companies accompanying it in the organisation of this event."

Eric Boullier, managing director of the GIP Grand Prix de France - Le Castellet said: "Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French State making it impossible to maintain our event.

"The eyes of the GIP Grand Prix de France - Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021 in order to offer our spectators an even more original event in the heart of the Southern Region."

Update #350 - 12.45 Poeton donates thousands of PPE items to NHS

Gloucester-based Poeton Industries has donated a large quantity of PPE to a local hospital, to help in the fight against coronavirus.

And it has earned Poeton a nomination as a Punchline Business and Community Champion - an initiative backed by GFirst LEP and the Growth Hub.


Update #349 - 11.30 Standalone Argos stores closed

Argos has closed its standalone stores during the coronavirus lockdown, but its stores in Sainsbury's remain open.

In Gloucestershire, Argos stores in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cirencester are temporarily closed, while stores in Sainsbury's in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Dursley and Ross are still trading.

In a statement on its website, Argos said: "The Argos website is open as usual and still offering fast delivery, so we can continue to serve you while our shops are shut.


Update #348 - 10.39 Public transport use set to fall after lockdown

Public transport use in British cities could drop by 20 per cent when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

That is the finding a poll by transport consultants SYSTRA on the changes people feel they may continue once the lockdown is ended.

Rail use is predicted to drop by 27 per cent as the poll paints bad news for government's environment plans to cut fuel emissions by attracting more people to use public transport.

That is offset slightly with 24 per cent of those who said they plan to reduced bus and train use saying they plan to work from home more.

And 67 per cent of the 1,500 respondents to the survey said virtual meetings are like to replace at least some of their previous meetings or business trips.

Update #347 - 10.37 Coronavirus insurance bill placed at £1.2billion

The insurance industry is facing a bill as high as £1.2billion in payouts to UK firms over coronavirus losses.

But the Association of British Insurers said the payments will only be made to businesses which took out specialist insurance.

Most of the estimated £1.2billion will be paid out as part of business interruption insurance payments with close to £900million to a small number of firms protected against infectious diseases.

ABI chief executive Huw Evans said: "Most business interruption insurance policies are very much designed to protect businesses from fire and every day risks.

"In the small number of cases, it is designed to cover illnesses that come on your premises for a short duration. They are not intended and not priced to cover a global pandemic."

The estimated payout does not include claims made through Lloyd's of London.

Update #346 - 10.00 PM not rushing to ease lockdown restrictions

Boris Johnson says he cannot give details of when or how the Government's coronavirus restrictions policy will be eased.

The Prime Minister was speaking in Downing Street as he returned to work following his recovery from the virus which saw him treated in intensive care.

He said: "I know it is tough. I want to get the economy moving as fast as I can.

"But I refuse to throw away the sacrifice of the British people and risk a second peak.

"We simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow, or even when, these changes will be made."

The Government has come under pressure to set out a timetable for the easing of some of the restrictions to help the economy.

But he continued: "These decisions will be taken with the maximum possible transparency. Clearly the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.

"It is true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war. It is also true we are making progress."


Update #345 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released on Sunday (April 26) show that the UK death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus rose to 20,732 - an increase of 413 on Saturday's total.

It was also announced that 543,413 people had been tested for the virus in the UK, of which 152,840 tested positive.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 167 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England yesterday.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 145 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 22 were being treated through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county hit the 1000 milestone this weekend, with confirmed cases currently sitting at 1,098 as of yesterday afternoon.

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