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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, May 15

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 

Friday, May 15

Update #523 - 17.15 Pennant manufacturing and donating PPE

Staverton-based Pennant has been manufacturing visors for the NHS and care homes in Gloucestershire and beyond.

The company, which provides technical training solutions and software products and services to train the next generation of engineers, has donated safety visors to help protect frontline staff actively fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

That's why Punchline has nominated them as our latest Business and Community Champion - an initiative backed by GFirst LEP, the Growth Hub, Gloucestershire County Council and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.


Update #522 - 17.00 Some park facilities in Cheltenham re-open to the public

Cheltenham Borough Council has re-opened some facilities in its parks and green spaces, in line with the latest government advice.

This includes ball courts (also known as MUGAs), skate and bike ramps. The tennis courts in Pittville and Montpellier are open for household groups to use from tomorrow (May 16). One court in Pittville will remain closed to ensure that the areas do not get too busy and that social distancing can be adhered to.

These facilities can be used with members of your household, or one other person while staying two metres apart. Clear signage will be displayed in all areas reiterating government rules on social distancing.

Councillor Chris Coleman, cabinet member for clean and green environment said: ''The government has now removed the restriction of only one period of exercise per day, as such families will have greater opportunity to spend time across the wide range of parks and open spaces Cheltenham has to offer. 

"In line with the latest government advice, we are pleased to be able to open up some of our facilities such as ball courts and bike ramps, however we urge people to stay alert, socialise with their household or one other person only and respect social distancing measures.

''Children's play areas remain closed and we will only consider re-opening them when advised to do so by central government.''

Update #521 - 16.12 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 384

The department of health and social care has announced the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

He said that a further 384 people had sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 33,998 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

Figures also show that the government performed or posted out 133,784 coronavirus tests on May 14 - the fourth time they have hit the 100,000 target set in March for April 30.

Update #520 - 16.00 Phil Vickery launches restaurant menu for collection

Food from a World Cup winner and MasterChef winner is on the menu for collection from today.

Former England rugby captain Phil Vickery, who won Celebrity MasterChef in 2011, has launched his new enterprise No.3 as a collection service after plans to open a restaurant were delayed.

Named after his former shirt number, the ex-Gloucester star was looking to open No.3 in Cheltenham before the coronavirus crisis forced a rethink.


Update #519 - 15.25 England coronavirus death toll rises by 186

NHS England have released new information indicating that a further 186 people with COVID-19 in hospitals in England have sadly passed away.

This takes the total number of hospital deaths in England to 24,345. 

Update #518 - 15.10 Public urged to act responsibly as restrictions are eased

Gloucestershire Constabulary is asking the public to continue to act responsibly this weekend following the easing of Government regulations this week.

Officers have made it clear that they can only enforce the law and not the Government guidance. This means they cannot enforce social distancing, wearing of masks or avoiding public transport.

However, police still have a role where people are gathering in groups with those not in their household, as this is not legally permitted in the regulations.

This also includes dealing with anyone who has left their house for one of the reasons not designated as a reasonable excuse, such as going on holiday or visiting the homes of friends and family.

As a result of the different restrictions in place across the Welsh border, the public are also being reminded that anyone making a non-essential journey from England into Wales may be fined.

Assistant chief constable Craig Holden said: "I would like to thank all those who have responded to the extraordinary restrictions placed on them as part of the national effort to save lives.

"Our officers are working hard to keep us all safe from the full range of crimes in what remain challenging circumstances, so we would ask everyone to work with us and remember that, if you need our help, we are here for you."

Update #517 -13.30 William Hill plan reopenings

National bookmaker William Hill has announced plans for a staged opening of the UK retail stores in the second half of 2020.

In its most recent trading statement, the business said: "As Government restrictions begin to relax and sporting events gradually recommence, we will continue to monitor developments closely. Our plan to 'power up' the business is designed to be flexible and responsive, with customer and colleague welfare our highest priority."

Ulrik Bengtsson, CEO of William Hill plc, added: "We remain focused on player safety employing ever more customer protection. We are taking care of our teams, securing as many employment opportunities as possible and we are ready to power up the business as soon as COVID-19 restrictions permit." 

Update #516 - 13.10 Mobile coronavirus testing unit to stay open for another week 

Gloucester's drive-through mobile testing unit (MTU) for coronavirus based at Oxstalls Tennis Centre opened on May 7.

Gloucestershire County Council have released a statement to say that the site will now remain open until May 21 and not close on May 12 as originally planned.

People with symptoms including key workers, people living with them or over-65s can attend the site, which is run by the Department for Health and Social Care, to be tested.

Gloucestershire County Council have released a statement that reads: "The MTU has been extended to run until the end of Thursday 21 May. A high number of tests are being carried out at the site, with 242 carried out on Thursday 14 May. People are reminded to please attend at the time you have booked."

The MTU is currently being put up and disassembled daily by the military. Gloucestershire County Council and Police are said to have worked together to ensure that signage, entrance and exits and traffic flow are managed and there will be a team on site to ensure it runs smoothly.

To book an appointment and see the full list of who is eligible to attend visit: 

Update #515 - 12.05 70 million pints of spoilt beer to be thrown away

The British Beer & Pub Association have revealed as many as 70 million pints of British beer from UK pubs will have to be destroyed after they were forced to shut due to COVID-19.

And they are calling on more support from Government to make up for sector losses and help with recovery.

Although the Government has said that the duty paid on the wasted beer can be claimed back by brewers and pubs, it is still an enormous task for the industry and heart-breaking to see so much British beer, brewed with supreme skill and care, poured away rather than enjoyed in pubs across the UK.

Born and raised in Stroud, British Beer & Pub Association CEO Emma McClarkin said: "It's a great shame that so much great British beer that should have been enjoyed in community pubs up and down the country has gone to waste. People won't have a chance to drink it as it will go off before pubs can re-open.

"The need to destroy so much beer really shows how much our brewing and pub sectors have been affected by this crisis. We believe that pubs should only open when safe to do so, but without additional support now - particularly for those who won't be able to re-open sooner - many more of our nation's pubs and the brewers that supply them with beer will struggle to survive closure and beyond. The Government needs to give our sector much more support."

Update #514 - 11.40 Cotswold Household Recycling Centre to re-open

The Household Recycling Centre (HRC) at Fosse Cross, near Cirencester will re-open next week for pre-booked visits only.

This week the two largest sites in the county at Hempsted in Gloucester and Wingmoor Farm at Stoke Orchard re-opened for essential visits only with all trips needing to be booked in advance.

Next week, from May 18, the HRC at Fosse Cross near Cirencester will re-open.

Social distancing measures will be in place to help keep visitors and staff safe and crucially anyone with covid-19 symptoms and those in self-isolating households MUST NOT visit.


Update #513 - 10.53 Confidence falls in manufacturing recovery

Pessimism is growing among UK manufacturers with more than a third believing it will take more than a year for normal trading to return.

The 36 per cent is more than double the 17 per cent just a fortnight ago according to a survey by trade body Make UK.

Around one in five firms (21.9 per cent) have furloughed up to half their staff with a similar number planning to place more workers on the Government's Job Retention Scheme in the next two weeks.

Update #512 - 10.51 Royal Mail boss leaves job

Royal Mail chief executive Rico Back has stepped down after less than two years in the job.

Former British Airways boss Keith Williams will take over as interim executive chairman with Stuart Simpson as acting chief executive.

Royal Mail has reported a £22million slump in revenue with a sharp drop in the number of letters being sent.

Update #511 - 10.15 Cheltenham communities to benefit from increased COVID-19 funding

Additional support for Cheltenham's community, voluntary groups and parish councils is being made available to bolster local communities, shield the vulnerable and support businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to parish councils, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, Cllr Steve Jordan said: ''Parish councils along with many other community and voluntary groups have an important role to play in supporting local communities during this national emergency, which is why the council has decided to increase its Community Resilience Fund from £80,000 to £100,000."


Update #510 - 8.20 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 1,334, as of 9am on May 14.

This is an increase of four on the previous day.

It was also announced yesterday that there had not 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 sits at 214.

Of these deaths, it has been reported that 184 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 30 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Thursday, May 14

Update #509 - 15.50 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 428

The department of health and social care has announced the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

He said that a further 428 people had sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

This brings the total death toll in the UK to 33,614 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

The government also said that they had carried out 126,064 tests yesterday (May 13) - the third time it has passed the 100,000 per day milestone.

Update #508 - 15.19 Almost a year for house prices to recover

House prices could take 11 months to return to pre-lockdown levels according to a report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The property market has been on hold but yesterday's easing of lockdown restrictions has allowed for a return to viewings, removals and conveyancing.

RICS chief economist Simon Robinson said: "Not surprisingly, the latest survey shows that housing activity indicators collapsed in April, reflecting the impact of the lockdown.

"Looking further out, there is a little more optimism but the numbers still suggest that it will be a struggle to get confidence back to where it was as recently as February."

A poll by the institution said three quarters of surveyors expected prices to fall with 40 per cent predicting a drop of more than four per cent.

Update #507 - 15.16 Cost of Government support rises to £123billion

Support for workers and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic will cost the Government £123.2billion according to the latest figures.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has upped its estimate from £103.7billion, largely down to the increased cost of the extended furlough scheme.

Predictions put annual borrowing at 15.2 per cent of the UK economy - the highest since the end of World War Two when the figure stood at 22.1 per cent.

Borrowing for the year is calculated at £298billion - up £26billion on a month ago - although that could rise by an additional £20billion when details of the Job Retention Scheme until October are confirmed.

Despite the furlough support, the Office for National Statistics says 44 per cent of UK firms believe their cash reserves will last for less than six months.

Update #506 - 11.50 Stay in and work out - council launches free home exercise classes

Stroud District Council is supporting the Sport England #StayInWorkOut campaign by launching a series of free online fitness classes next week.

SDC's Healthy Lifestyles scheme incorporates a variety of exercise classes, including Better Balance classes which aim to help prevent falls, and Cancer Rehab classes for people who are living with, or recovering from cancer.

When the classes were suspended as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, all participants were given a 30-day exercise programme so they could continue exercising at home.

Healthy Lifestyle classes will restart from Monday (18th May) as live online classes.


Update #505 - 10.53 Early rush for self-employed grants

More than 110,000 self-employed workers filed claims for the Government's new grant scheme within four hours of it going live.

HMRC confirmed the early rush for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which opened yesterday and is designed to help about 3.5 million people by paying 80 per cent of average salaries.

Only those who had submitted a tax return for 2019 are able to apply with payments due to reach bank accounts within three working days.

Update #504 - 10.51 Task forces help businesses waiting for return

The Government has announced five task forces designed to help specific sectors of the economy reopen after the coronavirus lockdown.

Each task force - covering pubs and restaurants, non-essential shops, recreation and leisure, places of worship and international air travel - covers areas still waiting to return to work, most of them until at least July 4.

Ministers will head the task forces and work with unions and other relevant bodies to develop safe ways for them to return to work.

Update #503 - 10.48 Online book sales soar as WH Smith revenue slumps

WH Smith has become the latest high street chain to report a major hit during the coronavirus pandemic with revenues falling 85 per cent last month.

Sales in railway stations, airports and motorway services slumped by 91 per cent with high street sales down by 74 per cent.

But online performance has been healthy with book sales up by 400 per cent.

While most outs 575 high street shops have closed, WH Smith has kept open 130 outlets in hospitals to serve NHS stuff with extended grocery ranges, as well as 203 stores which contain post offices.

Update #502 - 10.46 Three Choirs Festival pushed back a year

This year's Three Choirs Festival, due to held in Worcester from July 25 to August 1, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual festival, which dates back to 1715, is staged on a rotating basis at the Cathedrals of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester.

Worcester will now host the event in 2021 with Gloucester's next staging pushed back a year to 2023.

Update #501 - 09.50 'Hold your nerve' says PCC Martin Surl

In response to the reduction of COVID-19 restrictions across the country yesterday, Gloucestershire's police and crime commissioner has released a statement to urge the public to remain cautious and responsible.

Martin Surl said that although lockdown has eased, it does not mean we should be complacent about the virus which has taken the lives of so many.

The statement added: "This pandemic is far from over and we all still have a part to play in helping to slow the spread of the virus. I understand that staying at home where possible and limiting contact with family and friends can be difficult and painful, but I urge you to hold your nerve.

"The rules and guidelines set by Government only work when combined with the responsible actions of the public. While many will be elated at the prospect of more time spent outdoors, I would like people in Gloucestershire to consider vulnerable people who are still shielding; and older or lonely family members who may still need additional support.

"We must ensure that no one is overlooked.

"Today's new guidance means that those breaching lockdown rules can now be fined £100, instead of £60 and these will rapidly increase each time a person breaks these laws. However, I am in regular contact with the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary to ensure that the Force's policing style remains as it was in the early stages of lockdown, following the four-E's: engage, explain, encourage, and as a last resort, enforce."

Update #500 - 08.20 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 1,330, as of 9am May 13.

This is an increase of two on the previous day.

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

New information said that the death toll in Gloucestershire now sits at 214 - an increase of six on the previous day's figure.

Of these deaths, it has been reported that 184 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 30 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Wednesday, May 13

Update #499 - 17.10 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 494

The department of health and social care has announced the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

Data shows that a further 494 people had sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 33,186 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

Update #498 - 15.50 Council approves funding to essential local charity 

Cotswold District Council has approved £15,000 in grant funding to a Cirencester charity supporting vulnerable older people, families and unemployed people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding will ensure The Churn Neighbourhood Project can continue to deliver frontline support services for the South Cotswolds.

The council approved the grant as part of its Community Resilience Fund to support the voluntary sector in helping local communities through the coronavirus crisis.


Update #497 - 15.00 Gloucestershire accountants offer free coaching to help your business through the crisis

Randall & Payne is offering peer-to-peer workshops for business leaders and free online courses for anyone wishing to improve their skills during the coronavirus pandemic.

Partner Will Abbott, an award-winning business coach and experienced Mindshop facilitator, is inviting county business people to join his Survive - Pivot/Adapt - Thrive webinar titled Leading Successfully Through the Crisis" for an hour at 10am on Friday, May 15.

Mr Abbott said: "In the first weeks of the crisis we helped clients who were in survival mode - accessing as much government support as possible, reducing costs, managing supply lines and people and supporting other businesses where we can. Now is the time to move into adapt mode and see where to pivot."


Update #496 - 13.03 Record fall in consumer spending

Consumer spending hit record lows in April as the coronavirus lockdown kept most shops closed for the entire month.

The British Retail Consortium reported a 19.1 per cent drop in sales compared with the same month last year, the steepest drop in a single month since it started recording sales in 1995.

Online sales, excluding food, increased by 57.9 per cent in April.

Barclaycard said transactions fell by 36.5 per cent in the month compared to 12 months previously although those on food at supermarkets climbed by 14.3 per cent.

Update #495 - 13.01 Moss Bros suit up for online sales

Moss Boss says it is reopening its online operations after it had been shut for eight weeks.

The menswear retailer says it is also developing plans to reopen stores from June 1 in line with the Government's phased reopening guidelines.

It will operate a reduced workforce when shops do reopen.

Update #494 - 13.00 Police have no powers to enforce social distancing

New guidance published by the National Police Chiefs' Council and the College of Policing explains the most significant changes in the law, including the ability for police to enforce new regulations.

Amendments in the law published and enforceable from today will allow for greater movement in public spaces.

The guidelines say that in England: "Officers should only enforce the Health Protection Regulations - government guidance is not enforceable, for example two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces."

It adds that officers should be aware of differences in legislation in Wales and Scotland, particularly when engaging with people travelling to outdoor spaces around the borders.

Update #493 - 12.05 'Significant recession' on the cards warns Chancellor

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned a "significant recession" in the UK is likely after the economy shrank by the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show the economy shrank to two per cent in the first three months of the year, largely down to a record fall in March output as the coronavirus crisis took hold.

That follows a slowdown in the economy in the final quarter of 2019.

Mr Sunak told the BBC: "It is now very likely that the UK economy will face a significant recession this year and we're already in the middle of that as we speak."

Update #492 - 12.03 Union warns it will stop trains over crowding fears

The RMT transport union has warned it may stop rail services after crowded trains on the first morning of England's relaxed coronavirus restriction rules.

General secretary Mick Cash told Sky News they would take the step if necessary to protect workers and passengers.

He said staff should "refuse to work" if they don't feel safe.

"If that's what needs to be to keep people safe, then we will stop trains," he said.

Update #491 - 11.10 Retail landlords say coronavirus will cause permanent changes

Nearly one in eight retail property owners (79 per cent), who own more than 120 million sq ft of UK retail space, believe Covid-19 will bring permanent changes to how retail property is leased.

Research by Colliers International looked into how owners have adapted to the coronavirus lockdown and how their strategy had changed in response to the Covid-19 impact on the businesses occupying their property, as reported by Retail Gazette.

The research found that the relationship between landlords and occupiers of retail property is changing and that the challenge going forward is to find a way for the relationship to stay viable. Colliers found that changes are likely to be driven by advanced data on things like footfall and turnover, to help set the level of rents.

But here in Gloucestershire, one commercial property expert says the change has been coming for a long time - and that coronavirus will just speed up the process.

Kurt Wyman of Kurt Wyman Surveyors in Gloucester said: "When you look back before coronavirus, the high street retail market was already in a pretty bad way. The high street was already undergoing a change - what Covid-19 will do is hasten the change."


Update #490 - 11.00 Safety warning as country heads back to work 

England is starting to head back to work today with updated government coronavirus guidelines urging people who cannot work from home to return.

But employers have been warned they face prosecution if their premises, mainly in the construction and manufacturing industries, are not made COVID-19 secure.

Among further measures designed to get the economy moving again, the Government has lifted the ban on property viewings for house buyers and renters.

And after Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the Job Retention Scheme - which places workers on furlough on 80 per cent of their pay - by four months until the end of October, the self-employed can can start applying for grants of up to £7,500 under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. 


Update #489 - 10.23 Burger King takes whopping step back to normality

Burger King is reopening its restaurant at Gloucester's Peel Centre today for deliveries and drive-through collections only.

The chain is aiming to have 350 of its restaurants across the country open by June 30.

Fast food rivals McDonald's is going a step further as it hopes to have all of its drive-through outlets in the UK and Ireland reopened by early June.

It is offering delivery only from 15 restaurants from today with 30 drive-throughs due to reopen next week with a £25 cap on orders.

KFC, Nandos and Pret a Manger are reopening stores in phases with Five Guys burger chain opening 47 of its 104 restaurants.

Greggs is trialling a handful of its bakeries in the north east with plans for more outlets to open to walk-in customers.

Garden centres have begun opening from today with Dobbies, which has a branch in Haresfield, returning to operations at its 54 branches in England.

Update #488 - 10.20 Tui cuts 8,000 jobs to make itself leaner

Travel company Tui is to cut 8,000 jobs worldwide as it battles the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the industry.

The Anglo-German group has posted losses of £747million in the first half of the year and has been propped up by a £1.6billion loan from the German government which must be paid back in 2022.

Chief executive Friedrich Joussen said: "We must change Tui - make it leaner, faster and less capital intensive.

"People want to travel. Europe must now gradually open up. Summer holidays are possible responsibly and with clear rules."

Tui has cancelled all holidays from the UK up to June 14.

Update #487 - 10.04 Greek on the Docks reopens for takeaways

The Gloucester Docks restaurant has now reopened after a temporary closure in March and April.

In a statement on Facebook, the restaurant said they had received an overwhelming amount of requests to reopen.

They said: "We are very excited to announce we will be open for collection orders from Friday, May 15 at 12pm.

"Delivery coming soon... Call us on 01452 524574 to order."

The restaurant will be open 12pm - 8pm Monday to Friday, until 9pm on Saturdays and 7pm on Sundays.

For more information and a menu, visit 

Update #486 - 08.15 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 (May 12) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 32,692 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 627 on the previous day's figures.

It was also announced that 1,460,517 people had been tested for the virus in the UK, of which 226,463 tested positive.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 209 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England on Tuesday.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county hit 1,330 as of yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 12 

Update #485 - 15.35 Job cuts as cruises kept in dock

British cruise lines P&O Cruises and Cunard are making hundreds of staff redundant and asking those who remain to take temporary pay cuts.

Owners Carnival confirmed it was consulting staff at its UK headquarters in Southampton with 450 of the 1,600 workers expected to.

Staff who keep their jobs are being asked to take a 20 per cent pay cut until November.

The cruise industry has been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic with no P&O or Cunard cruises taking place until at least July 31.

P&O Ferries, who have different owners, also announced job losses today.

Update #484 - 13.09 Chancellor extends furlough scheme

The Government has extended its furloughing scheme for workers until the end of October.

But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed it will be altered to allow part-time returns to work from the end of July.

He said: "We believe in the dignity of work and we are doing everything we can to protect people currently unable to work.

"We stood behind workers and businesses as we came into this crisis and we will stand behind them as we come out of it."

While workers will continue to be paid 80 per cent of their wages until the end of July, the Chancellor said changes will then be introduced with the burden of paying salaries shared between the Government and employers.


Update #483 - 11.36 Testing site sees 800 patients in five days

A temporary COVID-10 testing site in Gloucester saw almost 800 people in five days.

The mobile unit was open at Oxstalls Tennis Centre from Thursday, offering tests for eligible people who has booked a slot online.

Gloucestershire County Council's director of public health Sarah Scott told BBC Radio Gloucestershire: "We're working quite hard with the Department for Health and Social Care to get a permanent fixed testing facility in Gloucestershire.

"We recognise that one of the ways out of this is to have really robust testing and that's why we're working hard to try to secure a testing site."

The nearest alternative sites are at Bristol Airport and Worcester Rugby Club while frontline health and social care staff can use the NHS testing centre in Brockworth with appointments booked through employers.

Update #482 - 11.30 Kingfisher sales dive over first quarter

Home improvement group Kingfisher saw a 24 per cent drop in sales in the first quarter - but has reported a positive start to May after reopening more of its stores.

Sales in the UK dropped by 14.7 per cent to £1.09billion with B&Q sales plummeting 22.1 per cent to £663million.

Screwfix performed better with just a 0.1 per cent fall to £432million across the first three months of the year.

Kingfisher said like-for-like sales grew by 2.7 per cent in the first week of may with 631 of its 1,370 stores across Europe open and more available for a click and collect service.

Update #481 - 11.13 Burger King and Starbucks to reopen first branches 

Branches of Burger King and Starbucks will reopen this week, as the UK starts to slowly ease out of lockdown.

The two brands, which have branches across the county, are offering only takeaway and drive-through options, as reported by the Guardian. It's not yet clear whether any of the reopened branches will be in Gloucestershire.

These are the first tentative steps by large chains towards a full reopening of restaurants and cafes. Government guidelines published on Monday said full reopening could be allowed from July, but only if the virus appears to be under control.


Update #480 - 10.38 Government's guidance on safe return to work

The Government has issued guidance designed to make workplaces as safe as possible.

The guidelines, which have been drawn up in consultation with businesses, unions and industry leaders, are to help UK employed get up and running safely with an extra £14million made available for the Health and Safety Executive.

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

Individual guidance documents are available for each sector, but the Government has set out five practical steps it says should be implemented as soon as possible.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone.

"These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them."


Update #479 - 10.34 Ryanair plans return to the air

Ryanair is planning to restart 40 per cent of its flights in July as it anticipates further easing of travel restrictions.

The budget airline is looking to run 1,000 flights a day - compared with 2,400 before the coronavirus pandemic - with new rules in place to help safety.

Among proposals are for passengers to check their temperature before leaving home, check in online and download their boarding pass to their smartphone with further checks at the airport, mandatory fee masks and hand washing in terminals.

Payment on board will be cashless only with queuing for toilets banned as the facilities are made available "upon request".

Update #478 - 10.31 P&O announces plans for 1,100 job losses

P&O Ferries has become the latest big name to announce job losses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The form said a reduced number of sailings and passengers during the crisis had forced its decision to make 1,100 people redundant.

The company, which is owned by the Sovereign State of Dubai, is looking to make 614 staff on its Dover to Calais route redundant with a further 122 on the Hull to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam routes with officers and shore staff making up the rest of the losses.

A P&O spokesman said: P&O Ferries has been working with its stakeholders to address the impact of the loss of the passenger business.

"It is now clear that right-sizing the business is necessary to create a viable and sustainable P&O Ferries to get through COVID-19."

Update #478 - 10.00 Bikes stolen from NHS workers in Gloucester

Last Thursday and Friday, three bikes belonging to NHS workers were stolen from hospital grounds at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

At around 3pm last Thursday (May 7) a white Giant women's road bike, with black taped handles and worth around £500 was stolen from the bike shed (incident 386 of May 7).

A second bike worth around £1,200, a Cube Agree GTC which was black with blue tape on the handles, was also stolen (incident 409 of 7 May).

The following morning (May 8) police received a report that a black electric bike worth around £1,000 had been stolen between 5pm on Thursday and 6.10am on Friday.


Update #477 - 8.15 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 1,328, as of 9am May 11.

This is an increase of one on the previous day.

It was also reported yesterday that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus - for the second day in a row.

New information said that the death toll in Gloucestershire remains at 208.

Of these deaths, it has been reported that 179 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 29 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Monday, May 11

Update #476 - 15.10 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 210

The department of health and social care has announced the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

He said that a further 210 people had sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 32,065 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

Update #475 -15.59 PM promises to monitor progress daily

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government will only continue its plan to ease lockdown restrictions if cases of coronavirus pandemic continue to fall.

Describing the task of restricting the spread and reopening the economy as "as supremely difficult balance to strike", he told the House of Commons: "Every day we shall monitor our progress.

"If we stay on the downward slope, then and only then will it become safe to go further and move to the second step."

He social distancing requirements will limit capacity on public transport, but said new advice to wear face coverings while using it and in enclosed spaces does not include the wearing of medical face masks.

And he said people will be allowed to drive "as far as you like" to reach outdoor spaces.

The standard fine for breaking lockdown rules will increase from £60 to £100 and will double with each repeat offence to a maximum of £3,600.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the country needs "clarity and reassurance" but these have been in "pretty short supply".

He said: "There are lots of questions but so far precious few answers. People need reassurance and clarity.

"Above all else they need it in the next 48 hours."

Update #474 - 15.49 Councillor to lead economic recovery from coronavirus

Gloucester City Council has created a new cabinet role for leading economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Councillor Dawn Melvin has been named cabinet member for economic recovery and will play a significant part not only in the city's recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, but also in guiding the economy when restrictions are fully lifted.


Update #473 - 15.27 Government outlines road map for lockdown changes

The Government has published its blueprint for a three-phase relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions.

The 50-page document follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson's address to the nation last night.

Among the key announcements are:

Phase One - From Wednesday

  • Food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and research in laboratories should return to work.
  • Children of key workers and vulnerable people should return to school.
  • Paid childcare can restart work.
  • Face masks should be worn in enclosed spaces or when in contact with people from outside a household.
  • Exercise outside can be taken as many times a day as possible, including sports such as golf and tennis. Playgrounds, gyms or leisure venues with a higher risk of close contact are not to be used.
  • The Prime Minister has called on Parliament to "set a national example" by holding more meetings in the chamber.
  • Do not travel to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where different rules are in place.

Phase Two - No sooner than June 1

  • Cultural and sporting events may be able to take place behind closed doors.
  • Delayed introduction of household bubbles to connect to more people.

Phase Three - No sooner than July 4

  • Hairdressers, churches and some cinemas could open.
  • Pubs and restaurants could also resume trading.

The Prime Minister will face questions from the press and public at 7pm tonight.

Update #472 - 15.23 Virgin looking to space for financial help

Sir Richard Branson is selling part of his space exploration business to support his other businesses, including Virgin Atlantic.

He aims to raise $500million from selling a stake in Virgin Atlantic with Virgin Group saying the money would support its "leisure, holiday and travel businesses" which have taken huge blows during the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic last week announced more than 3,000 jobs would go and it was ending its operation at Gatwick airport.

Update #471 -13.10 Boris Johnson to hold press conference at 7pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a special news conference at 7pm.

The PM will take questions from the media and public, in response of his 'conditional plan' for lifting England's lockdown that he announced yesterday.

A 50-page guidance document is expected to be published this afternoon.

Update #470 - 12.55 New Covid support group comes to aid of struggling charities

It hasn't taken long for the eight county organisations who came together to help keep charities afloat during the pandemic to make their mark.

The Gloucestershire Funders Group (GFG), a new collaboration of eight charitable foundations and organisations which was set-up to provide funding for charities, groups, people and activities in Gloucestershire, was launched less than three weeks ago.

Already, 35 out of 50 charities who applied have received grants, totalling more than £300,000, that will enable them to continue to function - and other applications are still being considered.


Update #469 - 12.15 County insurance company treats dedicated nurses to afternoon tea 

A county insurance company wanted to show its appreciation for the hard work of district nurses, so arranged for delivery of an afternoon tea.

Steve Barker, from Coversure Insurance in Tewkesbury, wanted to both thank the NHS and support local business. His fiancée, Kate Masters, is a district nurse based in Upton-upon-Severn.

To show his appreciation of Kate and her colleagues' hard work, nursing on the front line, as well as support local business, Steve turned to Tewkesbury tearooms, Tilly's, to arrange for afternoon tea to be delivered to the hard-working NHS staff.


Update #468 - 12.00 Strong relationships behind food parcel effort

A conversation between a Gloucester councillor and business owners ended with a bar being turned into a food storage depot and much-needed parcels being distributed across the city.

And it was all put in place inside 48 hours thanks to a partnership between local government and both the private and voluntary sectors.

The Food Consortium has sent out more than 1,000 food parcels and rising since Councillor Jennie Watkins got together with Justin Hudson, owner of Butlers Bar, and Nick Brookes from The Knobbly Cob sandwich stop.


Update #467 - 10.57 What we know about lockdown restriction changes

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined the next phase in the Government's plans to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

A 50-page guidance document will be published later when the Prime Minister is also due to speak to the House of Commons.

Among the measures included in the document not covered in the Prime Minister's address yesterday is being able to "meet up with other people" outside their household as long as they are outside and stay two metres apart.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said people should "use some common sense" and cannot visit others at their home.

Among the key announcements are:

  • People who "can't work from home" will be "actively encouraged" to return to work from Wednesday.
  • Anyone returning to work is urged to avoid public transport wherever possible.
  • The Government says it will issue guidance for employers on making their workplaces safe for people to work in.
  • Primary schools may reopen from June 1 at the earliest for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils.
  • The Government hopes to enable secondary school pupils facing exams next year to have some time with teachers before the summer holiday.
  • People can "take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise" rather than only exercising once a day" from Wednesday.
  • Going out could include sitting in parks and playing sports with people in the same household, as long as social distancing rules are observed.
  • Golf, basketball, tennis and fishing are among sports which will be possible for people in the same household, according to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
  • Phased reopening of shops may begin from June 1.
  • Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality and entertainment venues will not be opened until July at the earliest.

These guidelines refer only to England - Scotland and Wales have opted to make fewer alterations to the original advice to stay at home.

Update #466 - 10.30 Golf courses and tennis courts can open from this week

Following Boris Johnson's lockdown speech yesterday, golf courses and tennis courts in England will be able to open again from Wednesday (May 13).

Mr Johnson said: "You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports, but only with members of your own household."

For the last seven weeks, we have only been able to walk, cycle or run alone or with our own families, just once a day. From Wednesday, outdoor exercise will be unlimited. Families will also be able to sit on benches and have picnics. Other sports which will be allowed include water sports and fishing.


Update #465 - 09.49 Recycling centre opens to the public

Following updated advice from the government, Cheltenham Borough Council's household recycling centre (HRC) in Swindon Road will reopen from 9am today, Monday 11 May 2020 for essential visits only with social distancing measures in place and access restrictions- long delays are likely.

The latest government guidance makes it clear that residents should only take waste to a HRC if it cannot be stored safely at home and no alternative disposal options are available.

Social distancing measures at 2m will be strictly enforced to help keep visitors and staff safe and crucially anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and those in self-isolating households MUST NOT visit.

Visitors may be asked to show a proof of address (print or online) such as a most recent council tax bill or utility bill - gas, electric or landline telephone relating to the property where the waste is from.

Councillor Chris Coleman, cabinet member, clean green environment said: "I am really pleased that we are now in a position to reopen the Household Recycling Centre in Swindon Road.

"I would urge people to be patient as long delays are likely, not to queue on Swindon Road to block access for emergency vehicles, and maintain social distancing so we can make sure that this is safe for our staff and for visitors.

"It would be really good if residents could avoid after 6pm and weekends to allow all our key workers who are working so hard to keep services going for us, have a chance to get to the HRC too."

Update #464 - 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 (May 10) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 31,855 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 269 on the previous day's figures.

It was also announced that 1,334,770 people had been tested for the virus in the UK, of which 219,183 tested positive.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 208 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England on Sunday.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 179 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 29 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 1,327 as of yesterday afternoon.

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