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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, April 24

With the UK-wide lockdown now in week five, 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 news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk.

Friday, April 24

Update #344 - 17.44 Medical chief debunks Trump's disinfectant injection remarks

Medical chief Dr Jenny Harries has quashed Trump's suggestions that injecting disinfectant could combat Covid-19.

Dr Harries clearly stated that no one should inject themselves with anything other than medicines that had been evidenced and properly trialled.

She was invited to comment at the daily press conference on claims by US President Donald Trump that disinfectant might be injected into the body along with a second theory that heat and light taken internally might also eradicate the virus.

Dr Harries reiterated that official tests were currently being carried out on potential vaccines but, until then, she said that she would not support Mr Trump's comments from a medical perspective.

Update #343 - 17.22 More testing slots opening on Government Covid-19 testing website

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied that Covid-19 website had 'crashed'. 

In the daily government briefing he said that appointment slots had been used up for a set period and then confirmed that more slots would be opened today and tomorrow.  

He said 16,000 online tests were booked in the first tranche and that there was still capacity for the target of 100,000 tests per day. 

He emphasised that the test would only tell if you currently have Covid-19, not if you have had it.

He went on to say that drive-thru testing stations were now at 31 with plans to increase to 48 by the end of next week. 

Update #342 - 17.18 Transport infrastructure investment announced in government daily briefing

The Government has revealed a package of financial support and innovations including trials of drone deliveries to sustain the transport infrastructure during the Corona pandemic.

Presenting the Government's daily briefing, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the establishment of a Transport Support Unit that would oversee investment in ferries, trams, rail and air transport.

And he said the government had secured a trilateral agreement with the French and Irish governments to keep freight routes open throughout the crisis.

He committed to ensuring that medicines and other essential goods would reach their destinations and meet the needs of the NHS and other frontline organisations but he also revealed that he would be trialling delivery by drones.

Update #341 - 17.00 Dyson to halt production of ventilators

Local vacuum designers Dyson have halted production on their new design of ventilator which was set to support the needs of the NHS.

Sir James Dyson today confirmed that there was no longer a requirement for their product and told staff that the work would now be applied to needs in other countries.

The company revealed earlier this month that they were working together with the company TPP to develop an entirely new design of ventilator for the clinical needs of Covid-19 patients.

But today Dyson confirmed that following an investment of £20m on the project, the Government had turned down their offer of further help.

Sir James said: "Dyson people welcomed the Government's challenge. Mercifully they are not required, but we don't regret our contribution to the national effort for one moment. I have some hope that our ventilator we may yet help the response in other countries, but that requires further time and investigation. We have spent around £20m on this project to date, but we will not accept any public money. The team have worked 24/7 to design and manufacture a sophisticated ventilator in a short timeframe - I hope they can spend this weekend with their families who will not have seen them for weeks."

Update #340 - 16.18 Ofqual launches consultation into vocational qualification assessments

Exams watchdog Ofqual have revealed their proposed alternative plans for awarding vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs).

Qualifications required for university or further education entry to be assessed by estimated grades while assessments of skills for the workplace may be delayed or restricted to meet public health safe distancing guidelines.

Now Ofqual are inviting input on the proposals from learning providers in consultation which closes 8 May 2020.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, said:

"It is vitally important that learners taking vocational or technical qualifications are not prevented from progressing in their studies or careers because of the unprecedented challenges this summer. We have worked quickly across the sector to develop an approach which gives awarding organisations the flexibility they need to deliver results for as many learners as possible during the current crisis, while ensuring a process which those who rely on these qualifications can trust." Ofqual assessments consultation

Update #339 - 15.43 Government's Corona testing on hold

The Government's new website for key workers to book tests to check for Coronavirus has been close - just hours after it was opened.

Visitors to the booking website are now greeted with a curt message stating: 'You can't currently register for a COVID-19 test. Please check back here later.'

The Department of Health said it was working to increase availability and aim to make more tests available on Saturday, the BBC reports.

Downing Street said 5,000 home testing kits were ordered in the first two minutes of the website going live.

About 15,000 tests were booked to take place on Friday at drive-through sites.

No 10 said the total amount of home testing kits available on Friday were ordered.

Update #338 - 15.19 Latest UK coronavirus figures released

The Government's Department of Heath and Social Care have announced the latest data for cases and deaths of hospitalised patients with coronavirus across the UK.

As of 9am 24 April, 612,031 tests have been carried out, with 28,532 tests on 23 April.

444,222 people have been tested of which 143,464 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 23 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 19,506 have died.

Update #337 - 13.50 5,000 home tests ordered in just two minutes

The government has said that 5,000 home testing kits were ordered in just two minutes after the new online test booking system went live this morning, as reported by the BBC.

A total of 20,000 tests were booked by essential workers and their families before the website closed, just hours after opening.

Testing capacity for the system is expected to increase to 18,000 kits each day from the start of next week.

Update #336 - 13.00 Testing extended to all essential workers in England with symptoms

All essential workers in England, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will now be able to get tested, the government announced yesterday.

The new phase of testing will mean that individuals and people they live with will have the reassurance of knowing whether their symptoms are caused by coronavirus and can decide whether they are well enough to return to work.

It was announced yesterday that employers would instantly be able to register and refer self-isolating staff, and from today employees are able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household who are experiencing symptoms - a high temperature or new continuous cough.

However, hours after it launched the Department of Heath and Social Care has said "there has been significant demand for booking tests" and requests for testing have been closed for today.

They added that "We are continuing to rapidly increase availability. More tests will be available tomorrow."

Update #335 - 12.30 National helpline launched to support parents with home learning

A new national helpline for parents and carers has launched today, which will provide personalised support and advice on home learning to support pupils until schools re-open.

The essential closure of schools for the majority of pupils across the country has led to many families educating their children at home. This responsibility, combined with home working and caring for loved ones, has stretched some families to breaking point.

The free telephone helpline offers parents and carers personalised advice and support from a team of qualified teachers, education and parenting experts.

Named StarLine, the sector-led initiative supported by voluntary sector partners and the Department for Education, aims to take some of that burden away by providing families with empathy, reassurance and practical advice to support home learning.

StarLine is available to all parents and carers of school children nationwide, open six days a week and covers all areas of the curriculum across all phases of education. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "StarLine represents another inspiring example of teachers and education experts working together to share their knowledge, resources and expertise with schools and families across the country."

For more information visit www.starline.org.uk 

Update #334 - 12.00 Three month freeze on car repayments

Britain's financial watchdog has confirmed there will be a three-month repayment freeze for customers with auto finance leases, goods bought on high-cost credit, and pawnbroker credit during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it will be introducing the package of measures to support consumer credit customers facing payment difficulties due to COVID-19, as reported by Reuters.

Payday lending firms that offer short-term loans at a high interest rate, will be able to provide a one month interest-free payment freeze with no additional interest.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #333 - 10.30 C​hildminders forced to work for free during coronavirus crisis

A quarter of childminders able to work are working at a reduced rate or offering their services for free during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Childcare platform, Yoopies published the findings in its ​Childcare During COVID-19 Report​, outlining the impact of the virus on 425 childcare providers including Ofsted-registered childminders, nannies (Ofsted and non-Ofsted registered) and self-employed babysitters.

There are over 300 registered childminders in Gloucestershire.

READ MORE 

Update #332 - 10.10 Government closes loophole in rent legislation

Landlords have been blocked from using aggressive methods to collect rent from high street tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government introduced new legislation last month to ban the forfeiture of commercial leases for non-payment of rent until at least June 30, but the Coronavirus Act did not prevent landlords from taking actions to recover money owed.

But new measures announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma will prevent landlords from using statutory demands and winding-up orders to claim rent unpaid during the crisis.

Commercial tenants may also delay full payments unless they owe more than three months rent.

Mr Sharma said: "It is vital we ensure business are kept afloat so they can continue to provide the jobs our economy needs beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

"I would urge commercial landlords to show forbearance to their tenants.

"The temporary emergency measures are designed to acknowledge the pressures landlords are facing while encouraging co-operation in the spirit of fair commercial practise."

Punchline reported last week  that UKActive, the body which represents gyms, was calling on the Government to tighten the rules to prevent its members being evicted while they were closed for business.

Update #331 - 09.30 The show must go on for GWSR's 'Wartime in the Cotswolds'

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is, after all, running its highly popular 'Wartime in the Cotswolds' this weekend (April 25 and 26) - but live on Facebook and YouTube instead.

Several of the entertainers and enactors will be performing LIVE over the weekend including it is hoped, a speech by Sir Winston Churchill.

Performers will include the 'Bluebird Belles', Jayne Darling and 'Gillie' who usually entertains at Gotherington station - all seeking to keep lockdown spirits up.

Graham Radband, the GWSR's volunteer commercial director, said: "With a good weather forecast we would have expected record numbers to have enjoyed the spectacle of wartime re-enactors, events, vehicles, cameo performances and entertainers to say nothing of the trains steaming through the Cotswold countryside between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.

"The team of dedicated volunteers put huge effort into organising what has become one of the most popular annual events on the railway and I'm so glad that their work hasn't all been in vain.

" 'The show must go on' as Churchill might have said, and it will still be a weekend to remember and enjoy from the comfort of your own home!"

You can find out more and watch live here: https://www.facebook.com/wartimeinthecotswolds and watch live on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/c/GloucestershireWarwickshireRailway.

Update #330 - 08.20 Gloucestershire coronavirus deaths reach 152

New information has been released showing that the death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the county has now reached 152 as of yesterday.

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

Of those who have died in Gloucestershire, 133 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 19 were treated for through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Thursday, April 23

Update #329 - 16.15 How will the coronavirus pandemic effect Ramadan?

Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, begins today - but how will lockdown effect the period of fasting, prayer and reflection for Muslims across the county?

Like athletes who train intensively following strict diets to achieve performance goals, the Islamic community see fasting as fulfilling the physical form of worship during Ramadan.

Through the outward act of refraining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, Muslims hope to reap the benefits of this inwardly, through gratitude of the profound blessings in one's life and ultimately, having greater awe and love of God, his prophets and the Qur'an.

Punchline spoke to Gloucester's Imam Hassan of the Masjid E Noor Mosque in Ryecroft Street, to gain a better understanding as to how coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions are impacting the day-to-day lives of Muslims in Gloucester.

READ MORE 

Update #328 - 15.25 Latest UK coronavirus figures released

The Goverment's Department of Heath and Social Care have announced the latest data for cases and deaths of hospitalised patients with coronavirus across the UK.

Latest information shows that the death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus has now reached 18,738 - an increase of 616 on yesterday's figure.

It was also added that 425,821 people have now been tested for the virus, of which 138,078 tested positive. 

Update #327 - 15.17 Call for banks to speed up loan process

Less than half of applications made under the Government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme have been agreed by banks.

Around 36,000 businesses have applied for the loans with latest figures from UK Finance showing 16,624 have been agreed to the tune of £2.8billion.

A UK Finance statement said: "Bank staff are working hard to help viable businesses access the support they need to get them through these challenge times.

"Over half the total number of loans provided through the scheme have been approved in the last eight days."

But the Federation for Small Businesses has called on the pace of loan agreements to increase.

Chairman Mike Cherry said: "For those that have made an application, the process is very slow.

"We continued to hear from small firms that made enquiries when this scheme launched but have still been unable to make an application because of unresponsive customer service teams."

Update #326 - 13.40 Which county towns are most at economic risk?

Cheltenham is the best-equipped place in the county to deal with the economic effects to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

But Ross-on-Wye, just over the border in Herefordshire, ranks among the 30 places in England and Wales most at risk.

The research by the Centre for Towns and the University of Southampton shows that coastal and ex-industrial towns are most at risk.

And, according to Sky News, Wales is the worst affected areas while the South East is best equipped.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #325 - 13.10 Women's Euro 2021 moved to July 2022

The UEFA executive committee has confirmed that the postponed UEFA Women's Euro 2021 will be played in England from July 6 to 31 2022. It is planned to use the same venues that were originally proposed to host the event.

Commenting on the rescheduling, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: "When we had to take an urgent decision on the postponement of UEFA Euro 2020, we always had the impact on UEFA Women's Euro 2021 in mind.

"We have carefully considered all options, with our commitment to the growth of women's football at the forefront of our thinking. By moving UEFA Women's Euro to the following year, we are ensuring that our flagship women's competition will be the only major football tournament of the summer, providing it with the spotlight it deserves."

Update #324 - 12.20 Help keep children safe from harm and neglect

The county council is urging people to continue reporting their concerns if they think that a child or young person could be at risk.

With more time being spent at home during lockdown, some of the most common signs of harm and neglect can be more difficult to spot, but just because a child is out of sight, it doesn't mean that they are out of harm's way.

Despite stringent social distancing measures in place, the county council continues to make essential visits to the most vulnerable children in the county, where it has been deemed safe to do so. In addition, schools remain open for vulnerable children and at-risk children who are already known to the council.

READ MORE 

Update #323 - 11.30 The Sober Parrot helps feed the community

Cheltenham community enterprise café The Sober Parrot has joined the Feeding the 5,000 project to help provide homecooked, healthy meals to those in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Following the Government guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic, The Sober Parrot had to close its doors on Friday, March 20 along with every other café and restaurant in Cheltenham.

Unlike other cafes and restaurants in the spa town, The Sober Parrot is an alcohol-free live entertainment venue at the heart of the recovery community.

The Nelson Trust, a Stroud-based charity who runs The Sober Parrot, challenged the team to come up with a way of getting food to the most vulnerable in our community.

READ MORE 

Update #322 - 10.47 Motorists paying too much for petrol says AA

Drivers are being overcharged by more than £5 a tank as the drop in oil prices is not mirrored at the petrol pump, according to the AA.

The motoring group says the wholesale price of oil has fallen to around 16p a litre - compared to an average price for a litre of unleaded of £1.10.

While taxes account for much of the difference, the AA believes prices should be about £1 with retailers taking a margin of 9p a litre.

AA fuel spokesman Luke Bosdet said: "The average pump price is higher because retailers say they need to charge 10p a litre more to offset the lower volumes of fuel they are selling."

But the Petrol Retailers Association says many independent retailers need the larger margin as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic hits home.

Chairman Brian Madderson told the BBC: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime trading situation where independent retailers are seeing volumes down by up to 85 per cent.

"Many are the only option in rural areas which means they are essential in helping to keep key workers on the road."

He said many are selling petrol bought at higher prices earlier in the month.

Update #321 - 10.35 27 per cent of UK workforce has been furloughed 

Results of a survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have been released, which shines a light on the impact of coronavirus and furloughing of workers across UK businesses.

The ONS found that between March 23 and April 5 2020, 27 per cent of the UK workforce had been furloughed across 6,150 businesses that responded to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) and were still trading or had temporarily paused trading.

Findings also show that less than one per cent of the workforce had been made redundant across responding businesses that were still trading or had temporarily paused trading during the period same period.

For the workforce of businesses that were continuing to trade, the highest incidences of furloughing were in the accommodation and food service activities sector (40 per cent) and construction industry (32 per cent).

Across businesses that responded to the ONS survey that were still trading or had temporarily paused trading, over 95 per cent of firms that had furloughed anyone were interested in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Update #320 - 10.04 Government announces £180billion in borrowing

The Government has announced plans to borrow £180billion in the next three months to over the cost of measures to fight the economic impact of coronavirus.

The borrowing will come in the shape of bonds issues by the Debt Management Office from May to July - £32.6billion more than the same period in 2019.

The figure is more than the DMO expected to raise over the entire year and on top of £45billion raised in April to cover initial spending on the crisis.

A statement from the Treasury said sales of gilts (packages of fixed-term government debt) would rise from next month.

It said: "The government has announced an unprecedented package of measures to provide the critical support needed by individuals, families and business through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.

"This support, and the economic impact of COVID-19, will necessarily increase the government's financing requirement compared to that set out at Budget 2020.

"The Chancellor has already outlined this will be fully funded through the Government's normal debt management operations."

Update #319 - 09.45 Animal charity launches appeal amid £1,000 a day losses

Cheltenham Animal Shelter has launched an urgent appeal as it suffers losses of more than £1,000 a day.

Opie is one of the dogs at Cheltenham Animal Shelter

The charity has seen vital income vanish as fundraising events such as a spring dog walk, Easter animal days for children, a pet show at Tewkesbury Big Weekend and its annual open day have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And with the closure of its grooming and boarding business, together with the shop at its Garners Lane base, the charity has called for public support with the launch of an urgent care appeal.

General manager Peter Newcombe said: "We have been doing everything we can to date to ensure the animals in our care continue to receive the best possible care and lots of love and attention.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #318 - 08.30 Public encouraged to seek mental health support 

Health experts are encouraging people across Gloucestershire to look after their mental health and wellbeing during the current COVID-19 'lockdown'.

The physical health impacts of coronavirus are well recognised, but anxiety about health, job security and finances, social isolation and changes in routines and family relationships can have an impact.

Mental health lead for NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Lawrence Fielder said: "Together, it's important we do all we can to support people through these unprecedented times and recognise the impact this can have on the mind. Many of the routines we are used to have had to change and a great many people are having to juggle and manage family, financial and work related pressures.

"Our message is that advice and support remains available and if you are struggling to cope, we want people to know that asking for help and reaching out is the right step to take. You are not alone and there is someone to listen."

Click here for tips on maintaining health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as agencies and websites you can turn to for help. 

Wednesday, April 22

Update #317 - 17.20 Duke and Duchess of Gloucester send message of support to city

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester have sent a letter of thanks and support to key workers and residents in the city during the coronavirus crisis.

The Duke of Gloucester at Gloucester Cathedral in 2019

The message read: "The coronavirus outbreak is testing the resilience of every community. We send our thanks to the key workers of the city of Gloucester who are doing their utmost to support those in need. It is also heartening to see that the volunteer network has been able to expand as necessary to help and care for the vulnerable and the isolated.

"Gloucester has flourished for many centuries and will continue to do so for many to come. Today, when its historic centre lies near deserted, we look forward to the time when it will be busy again, bringing pleasure to both residents and visitors alike. 

"The restrictions that have been put in place will encourage us to strive to revive the life and livelihood of the city as soon as possible, with businesses both great and small getting back to doing what they do best to keep the city working.

"The Duchess and I send our warmest good wishes to the city of Gloucester whose name we so proudly share."

Update #316 - 15.01 B&Q stores reopen

Nationwide DIY retailer B&Q have announced that have started to reopen selected stores.

B&Q at St Oswalds Retail Park, Gloucester

The update from B&Q CEO Graham Bell said: "On the March 23, we made the decision to close our stores for browsing as we work through the safest way of helping customers look after their home at this difficult time.

"Having watched other essential retailers support social distancing in their stores, we are now in a position to follow best practice and re-open some stores, while keeping our colleagues and customers safe.

"Our aim us to provide the best possible service and help customers look after their homes and gardens, as well as their wellbeing, at this difficult time.

"At these stores we are accepting card and contact-less payments only, and similar to shopping at your local supermarket, they have social distancing controls and we're strictly limiting the number of customers in store at any one time, and so you may find you need to queue when you visit the store."

The only store in Gloucestershire to reopen is the branch at Gloucester's St Oswalds Retail Park.

Update #315 - 16.55 Four more people die with coronavirus in Gloucestershire

NHS England have confirmed that a further four hospitalised patients within the county with COVID-19 had sadly passed away - bringing the death toll to 147.

The NHS added that of those who died, 129 had been cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 18 were treated through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Gloucestershire has now also reached 972. 

Update #314 - 16.37 Help hub answers more than 3,000 requests for help in first month

Since its launch on 20 March, Gloucestershire's community help hub has supported vulnerable people with 3,279 requests for help, successfully connecting them with individuals and groups in their local area who could give them the help they needed.

As social distancing measures were put in place to delay the spread of COVID-19, council's across the county came together with police and health partners to create the hub to connect local people who need help, with individuals, groups and businesses who can provide them with the support they need.

The majority of requests for help have come from people who wanted to make sure they had enough food and other general supplies, but who didn't have local connections to turn to.

READ THE FULL STORY  

Update #313 - 15.30 UK coronavirus deaths pass 18,000

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest coronavirus figures for the UK.

Information shows that a further 763 people have died with coronavirus in UK hospitals, taking the total death toll to 18,100 as of 5pm yesterday (Tuesday).

The total number of people tested for the virus has also risen to 411,192 and of these, 133,495 were positive.

Update #312 - 13.25 Little Mix and Westlife Kingsholm concerts cancelled 

Organisers of this summer's Kingsholm Stadium concerts have announced their cancellations due to the ongoing coronavirus situation.

As part of their 21-date Summer 2020 tour, pop superstars Little Mix were planning to make a stop at Kingsholm stadium on Thursday, July 9.

Likewise, Irish popsters Westlife were expected to perform at the home of the cherry and whites on Saturday, July 12 as part of the group's Stadiums in the Summer Tour.

But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will mean that neither of these concerts will go ahead in 2020.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #311 - 13.01 Graduates return to campus to produce PPE equipment for NHS

Fashion Design graduates from the University of Gloucestershire have returned to Park Campus to support their old lectures in the production of NHS scrubs.

Emilie Watts and Kate Smedley graduated last year and have now joined the team which includes Margaret McDonough, senior lecturer in fashion design and Julia Davies and Dan Adlam, both part time lecturers at the university.

Together they have so far created 40 sets of scrubs for local NHS services in just three days.

Emilie said: "I loved being back in the studio and seeing Kate and our lecturers again, I am so grateful to have been taught different modules of the course by them - all of them have amazing industry experience.

"As a team I feel we all worked really well together to create a mini factory production line that gave everyone specific roles, allowing us all to get stuck in. I think we can all do our bit to help the NHS staff and make their jobs a little easier and safer."

Kate said: "Being back on campus felt like we had never left. It was so much fun to be back with Emilie and our lectures and it has made me feel a lot more positive. We were great as a team and I used all the skills that I learnt during my time at university to support the NHS."

Update #310 - 12.30 Big name retailers fail to pay rent 

Value retailers Matalan and Poundstretcher are said to be under pressure from landlords to pay rent during lockdown.

Fashion retailer Matalan, which has stores in Gloucester and Cheltenham, was issued with a writ from landlord Sheet Anchor Evolve, but has now settled the debt, as reported by Retail Gazette.

The company, run by a billionaire businessman, was last week seeking £60 million to help it get through the coronavirus pandemic, after closing 232 stores.

READ MORE 

Update #309 - 10.40 Nissan offers more than 100 free-to-use cars to NHS workers 

Vehicle manufacturer Nissan has united its UK dealer network to provide more than 100 cars for free-of-charge use by NHS workers.

More than 30 dealer sites, those still able to operate, are taking part in the initiative that has been coordinated by Nissan GB to support frontline health workers with personal mobility should their normal mode of transport currently be compromised during the COVID-19 crisis.

The vehicles allocated for the initiative include Micra, Juke, Qashqai and all-electric LEAF. They are typically used for dealer demonstrators or courtesy cars and will include complimentary insurance and roadside assistance. Only fuel or charging costs will need to be covered by the recipient.

Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd, said: "At a time when our healthcare workers are under immense pressure, Nissan wanted to offer its support in enabling their journeys to be trouble-free and more convenient.

"For the NHS worker who might rely on public transport and would prefer a car to drive instead; or for those whose car has experienced a breakdown and don't have the time to arrange its repair; or there's any other impact on your personal mobility, then please get in touch with Nissan and we will try to help you access one of our vehicles for free."

Update #308 - 09.10 Changes to cemetery opening times in the Cotswolds

Cotswold District Council have announced that, following the request by Secretary of State that councils reopen cemeteries to the public, cemeteries in the area will now open daily for visitors.

The council have said in a statement that Chesterton and Stratton cemeteries in Cirencester will be open to the public between 4 pm and 8 pm each weekday and open between 9 am and 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday for visiting of graves.

Council leader Cllr Joe Harris, said: "I am delighted to be able to reopen our cemeteries to the public. 

"We have taken the decision to open them to the public between 4 pm and 8 pm to ensure that the visiting of graves does not clash with funeral services and work on-site. I have relatives in both cemeteries and know how upsetting it has been not being able to access the sites.

"The alternative would be to close the cemeteries while services were carried out which could have meant people planning to visit a loved one's grave may have to wait outside the cemetery for an hour or more. I don't think that is acceptable so I hope people find the new hours much clearer.

"As ever, I must stress the importance of people observing the government's social distancing guidelines. Please don't put yourself or someone else at risk of contracting coronavirus."

Update #307 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for Gloucestershire

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 143 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England yesterday.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 125 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 18 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 now sits at 972, as of yesterday afternoon.

Update #306 - 08.15 Gloucester Cathedral joins global network to mark Earth Day 2020

Gloucester Cathedral will join millions across the world in celebrating Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22.

Marking 50 years of Earth Day, the Cathedral will share a special online musical performance by Stroud Fringe Choir, recorded at the Cathedral during Museum of the Moon in October 2019.

Responding to the current climate emergency, the Cathedral worked with Stroud Fringe Choir to produce four songs that are inspired by and respond to it.

Originally due to be performed in the Cathedral on Earth Day, the online recording provides a snapshot of the work which has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

SEE MORE  

Tuesday, April 21

Update #305 - 17.00 Details released on PM's call with President Trump

A spokesperson for No 10 has said that Boris Johnson had spoken to President Trump this afternoon, and thanked him for his good wishes while he was unwell.

The statement added that: "The leaders agreed on the importance of a coordinated international response to coronavirus, including through the G7 - which the US currently chairs.

"They also discussed continued UK-US cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

"The leaders committed to continue working together to strengthen our bilateral relationship, including by signing a free trade agreement as soon as possible."

Update #304 - 16.40 Aldi joins free school meal voucher scheme

Aldi has confirmed today that it has signed up to the national voucher scheme, which is supporting children on free school meals during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Schools can continue to provide meals and food parcels for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible, the scheme allows schools to provide vouchers to families electronically, or as a gift card in the post for those without internet access.

Aldi joins a range of supermarkets including Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S where these vouchers can be redeemed.

Vicky Ford, minister for children and families, said: "We are focused on making sure that the 1.3 million disadvantaged children who would normally have a free school meal do not go hungry as a result of staying home to protect the NHS and save lives.

"We encourage schools to work with their suppliers to arrange food parcels or collections.

"So far, Edenred report that £15 million worth of vouchers have been converted into supermarket gift cards by schools and families."

Update #303 - 16.15 Latest UK coronavirus figures released

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care have published the latest figures for coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK.

Data shows that a further 823 hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the UK have sadly passed away - this takes the death toll to 17,337 as of 5pm yesterday (Monday).

It was added that as of 9am this morning, 397,670 people have been tested for the virus. A total of 129,044 of these tested positive.

Update #302 - 16.00 Virtual parliament to begin tomorrow

MPs have unanimously approved a motion that will see a semi-virtual parliament set up from tomorrow, as reported by Sky News.

The motion will allow up to 120 members of parliament to contribute to various proceedings via Zoom, with a maximum of 50 others physically present in the Commons chamber under strict social distancing measures.

Update #301 - 15.40 Cheltenham mayor launches Food Bank Fund

The Mayor of Cheltenham Councillor Roger Whyborn has launched the 'Mayor's Food Bank Fund'.

Cllr Whyborn said: ''As some residents' financial situation has become extremely difficult we've seen demand at local food banks going up by more than three times during the Coronavirus lockdown.

''Many people have also found it difficult to donate to food banks in the Coronavirus crisis, sometimes because they cannot leave home themselves. So the Mayor's food bank fund aims to raise vital funds to ensure these services can continue to help individuals and families across Cheltenham.''

Anyone who would like to donate can do so by making an online donation and choosing 'Mayor's Food Bank Fund' or buying Cheltenham Lottery tickets and searching for 'Foodbank' 

Alternatively a cheque can be written payable to Cheltenham Borough Council and send it to The Mayor's Parlour, PO Box 12, Promenade, GL50 1PP. Please write 'Mayor's Food Bank Fund' on the back and your address.

Update #300 - 14.49 More than 900 jobs go as Cath Kidston closes UK shops

Cath Kidston is to close all 60 of its UK shops at the cost of 908 jobs.

The retro fashion label went into administration last week and has announced it was closing the stores as part of a rescue deal with its Hong Kong-based owner Baring Private Equity Asia.

It will continue to trade online and via wholesale and franchise businesses, but all of its shops in the UK - including one at Gloucester Quays - will not reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescue deal will see the company emerge from administration as a smaller business with 32 jobs saved.

Chief executive Melinda Paraie said: "While we are pleased that the future of Cath Kidston has been secured, this is obviously an extremely difficult day as we say goodbye to many colleagues.

"Despite our best efforts, against the backdrop of COVID-19, we were unable to secure a solvent sale of the business which would have allowed us to avoid administration and carry on trading in our current form."

The company opened its first shop in 1993 but closed its Cheltenham store last summer.

Update #299 - 14.45 England coronavirus death toll rises by 778

NHS England have released new information indicating that a further 778 people with COVID-19 in hospitals in England have sadly passed away.

This takes the total number of hospital deaths in England to 15,607.

Update #298 - 14.30 Great lockdown bake-off helping sales 

Alcohol and baking supplies are among the items filling the nation's shopping baskets during the coronavirus lockdown.

But research by market analysts IRI suggests large chunks of the nation are going without make-up while working from home.

Supermarket and grocery sales were up by 1.9 per cent in the week up to April 5 compared with the same period in 2019 - down from the rise of up to 50 per cent as panic buying took hold ahead of the government restrictions.

But while the stockpiling has calmed down, certain goods are still flying off the shelves.

READ MORE 

Update #297 - 13.30 Telecoms firm comes to aid of NHS surgery with mobile phones

Doctors' surgeries are being helped to keep in touch and carry out consultations with patients during the coronavirus pandemic after receiving a donation of mobile phones.

Winchcombe Medical Centre

The Cheltenham Peripheral Primary Care Network received 30 phones from Lister Unified Communications after the Stonehouse firm issued an appeal for businesses to donated unwanted mobiles.

The phones will help ease the strain on the surgeries' phone system, as well as allowing staff to work from home.

Nick House, business manager of the network which has five surgeries covering Cheltenham, Bishop's Cleeve and Winchcombe, contacted Punchline to express thanks to Lister for the donation.

READ MORE 

Update #296 - 13.10 Cheltenham Science Festival goes virtual

A statement has been released by Cheltenham Festival's to announce that this year's Cheltenham Science Festival will still be going ahead as a virtual festival.

Cheltenham Science Festival 2019

To be streamed for free between June 2 and 7, the festival will be called Cheltenham Science Festival @ Home and the organisers invite you to join them on your smart phone, smart TV or laptop for six days of science events.

The festival will mix live online events, pre-recorded events with live Q and As with speakers, participatory workshops and other novel online formats. The daily programme will start at 10am and run through until 8pm.

The Festival is fronted by the world's first A.I. Festival Curator AIDA. Since her first appearance at the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2019, she has gone on to win awards for her unique approach to curation.

Ian George, director of festivals said: "Cheltenham Science Festival @ Home is an unprecedented opportunity for Cheltenham Science Festival to grow into an emerging digital events and festivals space.  

"It presents us with new freedom to experiment with different event formats, as well as to expand our digital and worldwide audiences."

Update #295 - 12.30 Millions of jobs at risk after record employment 

Employment in the UK hit a record high at the start of the year - but researchers are predicting millions of jobs could be lost due to the coronavirus crisis.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics put the employment rate for people aged 16-64 at 76.6 per cent in the three months to February.

The unemployment rate showed a slight rise to four per cent.

READ MORE 

Update #294 - 11.15 Gloucester Quays Food Festival cancelled for 2020

A mainstay in the region's calendar, Gloucester Quays have made the decision to postpone their annual food festival for 2020.

The annual foodie event which welcomes over 100,000 people featuring culinary demonstrations from celebrity chefs, live entertainment and the very best artisan produce from across the region has been moved to July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jason Pullen, Lifestyle Outlets managing director, said: "clearly under the current circumstances people's safety is of paramount concern to us, therefore with a heavy heart we have taken the decision to postpone this year's food festival until 2021.

"We appreciate this might be disappointing as it has become a mainstay in the calendar for visitors from the South West and beyond who enjoy great food and entertainment. We are already looking forward to 2021 when we will be able to host this event again in true festival style."

The three-day event will now take place next year between July 23 and 25.

Update #293 - 11.05 Stroud man jailed for spitting in the face of a key worker

A 29-year-old Stroud man has been jailed for 20 weeks for spitting in the face of a security guard and telling him "I hope you die a horrible death."

At Cheltenham Magistrates Court yesterday prosecutor Charlotte Hunt said that Ricky Baker, 29, spat in the face of a security guard helping Gloucester City Council at the Central hotel in the city's Clarence Street during the current Covid-19 pandemic on April 9.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #292 - 10.50 Three in 10 deaths in England and Wales are linked to the coronavirus 

Latest information from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that in the week ending April 10 (week 15), COVID-19 was mentioned on 6,213 death certificates. 

Picture: ONS

This equates to 33.6 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales - a rise from 21.2 per cent in the previous week.

ONS also added that: "Total deaths registered by place of occurrence between week 11 (when first COVID-19 deaths were registered) and week 15, the number of deaths in care homes has doubled by 2,456 deaths (99.4 percent increase); whilst we have seen a 72.4 per cent increase (3,603 deaths) in hospitals, and 51.1 per cent increase in private homes (1,392 deaths).

"Of deaths involving COVID-19 registered up to week 15, 83.9 per cent (8,673 deaths) occurred in hospital with the remainder occurring in care homes, private homes and hospices."

Update #291 - 10.30 Barn on the Farm Festival postponed

Organisers of Barn on The Farm have released a statement this morning announcing the cancellation of this year's festival.

A cornerstone of Gloucestershire's festival scene, last year's sell out 10th Birthday edition saw surprise sets from none other than George Ezra and The Vaccines, as well as headline slots from Maggie Rogers, Dermot Kennedy and Lewis Capaldi.

George Ezra at Barn on the Farm 2019

The statement said: "It is with great sadness and regret that we have made the decision to postpone this year's Barn on the Farm festival until July (1-4) 2021 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

"We were very much hoping to be one of the first events back on in the summer, providing both an opportunity to showcase some of the best up-and-coming talent, but also, and most importantly to us, bringing together all of you, the Barn on the Farm family, who make the event what it has become.

"Although we are still a couple of months away, the current restrictions coupled with the uncertainty of how the next few months will map out, have meant that building and planning for it to go ahead has become almost impossible.

"We are enormously grateful to everybody who has bought a ticket and had put their faith in us to have delivered the best year of Barn on the Farm to date. The postponement of this year has only made us more passionate that in 2021 the festival will come back with all guns blazing.

"Next year we will be back better and stronger than ever, and we really hope to have you all involved."

Update #290 - 09.30 Germany cancels Oktoberfest

The German state of Bavaria has confirmed that one of the world's most popular beer festivals will not be taking place this year due to the coronavirus. 

The event, which usually takes place in Munich between September 19 and October 4, is attended by around six million people and is thought to generate more than €1bn for the city each year (as reported by Reuters).

Update #289 - 08.15 Charity personal safety app relaunched

Personal safety app, Hollie Guard has been updated to include improved functionality and operational efficiency including in app registration and a new report facility.

Nick and Mandy Gazzard with their HollieGuard App

Launched in 2015 by the Hollie Gazzard Trust, Hollie Guard is a free app developed to enhance individual personal safety.

With over 115,000 downloads "there is evidence that it is helping people, and in many cases saving lives," said Nick Gazzard, Hollie Gazzard Trust founder.

"The app is not just for victims of domestic abuse and stalking, although now more than ever we feel it can help those who find themselves in situations that are totally unacceptable and often dangerous."

READ MORE  

Monday, April 20

Update #288 - 16.40 Latest UK coronavirus figures released

The Government's department of health and social care have published the latest figures for coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK.

Data shows that a further 449 hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the UK have sadly passed away - this takes the death toll to 16,509 as of 5pm yesterday (Sunday). 

It was added that as of 9am this morning, 386,044 people have been tested for the virus. A total of 124,743 of these tested positive. 

Update #287 - 16.30 Your NHS needs you - urgent appeal for PPE

Gloucestershire County Council has offered an urgent appeal for donations of personal protective equipment to help frontline NHS and social care workers in the fight against COVID-19.

The appeal from the council reads: "Can you help NHS and social care colleagues in the county by offering up your stocks of PPE?

"The items are urgently needed to support NHS and social care staff delivering care to some of the most vulnerable in our county.

"In this time of great need, please consider how you might be able to help."

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION 

Update #286 - 15.45 Gloucestershire coronavirus deaths reach 136

New information has been released showing that the death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus in the county has now reached 136. 

This is an increase of six on yesterday's figure.

Of those who have died in Gloucestershire, 119 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 17 were treated for through Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Update #285 - 15.20 Changes to cemetery opening times in the Cotswolds

Cotswold District Council have released a statement on the reopening of cemeteries in the area amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Stratton Cemetery, Cirencester

The statement read: "On Saturday 18 April, Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, asked Councils to reopen or keep open parks and cemeteries.

"Cotswold District Council has made the decision to open sites at Chesterton and Stratton in Cirencester from 4 to 8 pm this evening with further clarification on opening times to be published tomorrow.

"Please remember not to congregate in the burial grounds and to abide by all government advice on social distancing so as to stay safe."

Update #284 - 15.00 England coronavirus death toll increases by 429

NHS England have just published new figures which show that a further 429 hospitalised patients in the country have sadly died with COVID-19.

The statement added that 348 of these hospital deaths had taken place over the weekend, while the others took place at earlier dates.

These new figures take the total number of confirmed deaths in England to 14,829. 

Update #283 - 14.55 The Duke of Edinburgh's message to those helping to tackle the pandemic

Prince Philip released a statement earlier today to praise both key and frontline workers who are helping to fight the coronavirus.

The Duke of Edinburgh said: "As we approach World Immunisation Week, I wanted to recognise the vital and urgent work being done by so many to tackle the pandemic; by those in the medical and scientific professions, at universities and research institutions, all united in working to protect us from Covid-19.

"On behalf of those of us who remain safe and at home, I also wanted to thank all key workers who ensure the infrastructure of our life continues; the staff and volunteers working on food production and distribution, those keeping postal and delivery services going, and those ensuring the rubbish continues to be collected."

Update #282 - 14.35 Delay in today's UK coronavirus figures

Update #281 - 13.10 Branson calls for help to save Virgin

Virgin Atlantic needs financial survive to survive the coronavirus crisis, Sir Richard Branson has told staff.

In an open letter to 70,000 staff, he said he was doing all he could to save Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

He wrote: "Over the five decades I have been in business, this is the most challenging time we have ever faced.

"From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown.

"We will do everything we can to keep the airline going - but we will need government support to achieve that in the face of the severe uncertainty surrounding travel."

He continued: "This would be in the form of a commercial loan - it wouldn't be free money and the airline would pay it back."

Update #280 - 12.25 Builders donate defibrillators to appeal 

A leading housebuilder has donated defibrillators from sites across Gloucestershire to help in the fight against coronavirus.

And the gesture by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes has earned them a nomination as one of Punchline's Business and Community Champions.

The defibrillators, worth more than £900 each, are being donated from sites across the county -including in Gloucester and Stonehouse - as part of a nationwide initiative by Barratt Developments.

The company is donating hundreds of defibrillators from its construction sites to St John Ambulance, who have set up a Take the Strain appeal as it bids to ease the pressure on the NHS during the crisis.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #279 - 11.30 Furlough application system open for business 

The application system for furlough payments under the government's Job Retention Scheme has opened with business leaders calling for money to be made available as soon as possible.

An online portal created by HMRC went live at 7am today (April 20), enabling company's to claim a grant to cover up to 80 per cent of staff's wages - capped at £2,500 a month.

The Treasury says funds will reach company bank accounts within six working days with business leaders warning any delay could be hugely damaging to many businesses.

FIND OUT MORE 

Update #278 - 10.53 Gloucester avoids Debenhams closure list

Debenhams could yet remain in Gloucester city centre after the troubled firm struck a deal with landlords.

The department store chain entered administration last week but has agreed terms to keep 120 of its 142 branches open.

Seven stores in Truro, Stratford-upon-Avon, Salisbury, Westfield in West London, Warrington, Leamington Spa and South Shields will not reopen after the coronavirus restrictions and negotiations are continuing in the remaining stores.

The company admitted a handful of further stores could close.

Chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said: "I'm delighted with the progress we are making with our landlord discussions which reflects the pragmatic view the vast majority of them are taking of the current market conditions."

All Debenhams stores are closed during the coronavirus crisis but online sales remain open.

Update #277 - 10.50 More than 100 Arcadia stores will not reopen

Fashion group Arcadia is set to close more than 100 of its high street stores.

Arcadia, owned by Sir Philip Green, has served notice on landlords they will be leaving later this year.

All 550 UK branches of brands such as Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, including several across Gloucestershire, are shut to coronavirus restrictions.

Most of its 16,000 staff are being paid through the government's furlough scheme and bosses have taken a pay cut.

Arcadia has been closing stores in recent years when leases expired and made a deal with landlords to introduce break clauses and cut rents last year when it closed 23 stores. Twelve more have already shut his year.

Update #276 - 09.50 New police team to help protect those at risk of abuse

A new police team has been created in Gloucestershire, to help protect those at risk of abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Vulnerability Safeguarding Team (VST) will provide an enhanced response to those crimes which happen behind closed doors.

So far there has not been a notable increase in reported cases of domestic or child abuse in Gloucestershire since lockdown began, but police say this may be due to limited opportunities for victims to report abuse.

This situation is a significant concern for all police forces and agencies working in this area of vulnerability, and Gloucestershire is adopting a proactive and preventative approach.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #275 - 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 19) show that the UK death toll of hospitalised patients with coronavirus rose to 16,060 - an increase of 596 on Saturday's total.

It was also announced that 372,967 people had been tested for the virus in the UK, of which 120,067 tested positive.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 130 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England yesterday.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 115 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 15 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 900 milestone this weekend, with confirmed cases currently sitting at 904 as of yesterday afternoon.

Update #274 - 08.15 Council launches £80,000 community resilience fund

A new 'Cheltenham community resilience fund' has been set up to support local voluntary sector agencies and community groups that are helping vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis.

The scheme, which brings together £30,000 funding from Cheltenham Borough Council and £50,000 from Gloucestershire County Council is to help cover additional costs these groups may incur because of increased activity or functions they have insufficient resources to meet.

Cllr Steve Jordan, leader of the council, said: "The council is pleased to be able to offer support to community based groups who are stepping up to tackle the Covid-19 crisis head on.

"These groups, which are active across the town, are critical to ensuring our communities remain resilient and supported in these unprecedented times." 

READ MORE 

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