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Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, July 17

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, July 17

Update #1038 -12.30 Government changes advice on return to the office

Employers in England will be given more discretion on whether to bring staff back into the office.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the switch in government advice from August 1 as he outlined the relaxation of further coronavirus restrictions.

He said: "It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest - possibly in time for Christmas.

"Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.

He said this could mean "continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees".

Full story 

Update #1037 - 11.19 Financing helps Gardiners put best foot forward

A Gloucester footwear specialist has secured a £6million finance facility from HSBC UK to support the business throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Gardiners, the UK's leading distributor of footwear and workwear brands to the retail trade, has used the funding to retain its workforce on full pay during the pandemic.

The furlough scheme was only used to support employees who were required to shield.

The funding has also enabled Gardiners to recruit new staff during lockdown to support its growing digital presence.

Group chief executive James Gardiner said: "This latest round of funding has enabled us to offer security to those who are at the core of our business and ensure we have a successful future ahead."

Full story 

Update #1036 - 10.50 Early retirement for British Airways' 747s

British Airways is retiring its fleet of Boeing 747s earlier than planned due to the downturn in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline has 31 747s - around 10 per cent of its total fleet - which were due to be retired in 2024.

A spokesman said: "It is unlikely our magnificent queen of the skies will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic."

More modern, fuel-efficient planes such as the Airbus 350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner have taken over as the main models in use around the world.

Update #1035 - 10.48 Mobile testing units in Stroud and Stow

Mobile coronavirus testing units will continue in two locations in Gloucestershire over the weekend.

Free tests are available to anyone with symptoms at Stow-on-the-Wold Rugby Club and Stratford Park Leisure Centre in Stroud on Saturday and Sunday, from 10.30am-3.30pm.

You can book a test via the NHS website with the mobile testings at a new destination each week.

Update #1034 - 10.45 Cirencester pool reopens for swimmers

Swimmers in the Cotswolds can take the plunge once more as Cirencester Open Air Pool reopens from Monday.

Bookings for an hour on site - which includes a 20-minute slot in the pool and time to change - can be made online with sessions for individual swimmers and families, together with a Sunday morning inclusive session and twice-weekly aqua aerobics.

A statement from the pool said: "We are looking forward to welcoming our visitors back to our pool.

"To comply with government guidelines, we will be operating on the basis that there will be no more than 30 people (excluding lifeguards and support staff) on the pool premises at any one time."

Update #1033 - 10.11 Twenty years of research bears fruit for Ribena

Harvest time has begun for blackcurrant farmers of a groundbreaking crop bred to cope with Britain's changing climates - with many destined for Ribena.

The Ben Lawers variety is the fruit of a long-standing partnership between Coleford producers Lucozade Ribena Suntory, which uses 90 per cent of the country's blackcurrants, and the James Hutton Institute research centre.

Around 75,000 bushes are bearing fruit across the UK for the first time after 20 years of research and a £10million investment from Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

Blackcurrants, which require a winter chill to bear fruit, are a £10million crop but are at risk from the UK's changing climate where winters have been getting warmer and need to adapt to shorter, milder chilling.

Full story 

Update #1032 - 08.40 Coronavirus death toll increases by 66

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

It has been said that a further 66 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, as of 3.56pm yesterday (Thursday 16).

The latest total death toll for the UK now sits at 45,119 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 292,552 people have tested positive for the virus, with 642 confirmed cases in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning.

Thursday, July 16

Update #1031 - 16.12 Pizza Express facing restaurant closures

Pizza Express has become the latest restaurant chain facing potential closures as part of a financial restructuring.

According to Sky News, around 75 of the company's 470 outlets across the UK could face closure as part of a proposed company voluntary arrangement.

It is believed the final numbers of closures will depend on talks with landlords.

Pizza Express employs around 8,000 people with branches in Gloucester Quays and Cheltenham.

Update #1030 - 12.47 Pilots given chance to get career off the ground

Many commercial flights may be grounded, but graduates of a Gloucestershire flying school are been offered the chance of a fresh career as a drone pilot.

Skyborne Airline Academy, based at Gloucestershire Airport at Staverton, has teamed up with drone training and operation experts Flyby Technology.

Newly qualified pilots from Skyborne's programmes will be selected to join Flyby as commercial drone pilots, completing the company's Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) training course.

Skyborne chief executive Lee Woodward said: "This is a first for UK pilot training.

"Working with Flyby Technology provides a fantastic opportunity for our graduates to build a career flying unmanned aircraft, while enhancing their pilot skills, expanding their knowledge and further developing their professionalism.

Full story 

Update #1029 - 12.20 "Tough choices ahead," admits Chancellor

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to be drawn on whether he plans to cut spending or raise taxes to fund the Government's coronavirus support packages.

But he told the Treasury select committee: "There are tough choices ahead. That is clear.

"We've been through this once-in-a-lifetime episode and it's had an enormous impact on the economy and public finances.

"That means there are some tough choices to come."

The Chancellor dismissed calls from Labour MPs for fresh furlough support to help sectors of the economy which have been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Update #1028 - 11.53 Lido dives in to reopening plan

Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham will welcome its first swimmers of a shortened season on Monday as part of a phased reopening.

Existing season ticket holders will be able to swim from July 20-26 with one-hours sessions - limited to 50 swimmers - bookable online from tomorrow.

From July 27-August 2, the general public will also be able to book sessions (from July 24).

And from August 3-9, the Lido will be open to all but with limited numbers.

No new season tickets will be sold for this year with existing holders able to collect their cards on on their first visit.

Update #1027 - 11.50 Learner drivers put to the test again

Driving tests for cars will restart in England on July 22 as coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased.

Driving lessons and motorcycle training resumed on July 4 along with theory tests with social distancing guidelines.

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: "Tests for critical workers have continued during the lockdown and I would like to thank all those instructors and examiners who have continued to work to help deliver tests for those who have done so much to help us during this terrible pandemic."

Update #1026 - 11.00 Forest removing distancing barriers

Barriers placed across towns to help with social distancing in the Forest of Dean are to be removed - because people did not feel they helped with safety.

Forest of Dean District Council and four town councils across the area have made the decision after only 10 per cent of people said the water-filled barriers made them feel safer.

Work on removing the barriers will begin tomorrow and be completed early next week.

Full story 

Update #1025 - 10.56 Larger firms expect to make job cuts

Nearly a third of businesses expect to announce job losses over the next three months - as figures show 2.6 million people are claiming work-related benefits.

Research by the British Chambers of Commerce said 29 per cent of businesses in the UK were planning cuts over the next three months.

It is the highest figure since the lobby group started the survey, which encompassed 7,400 firms, in 1989.

The survey - carried out before Chancellor Rishi Sunak's summer statement - said firms with more than 250 employees were the most likely to make cuts.

The research come as the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed there were 649,000 fewer people on the payroll in June than the start of the lockdown in March.

Full story 

Update #1024 - 09.25 Coronavirus death toll increases by 85 in the UK

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

It has been said that a further 85 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, as of 3.55pm yesterday (Wednesday 15).

The latest total death toll for the UK now sits at 45,053 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 291,911 people have tested positive for the virus, with 538 confirmed cases in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning.

Wednesday, July 15

Update #1023 - 13.10 VAT poses big question for businesses

Hospitality and tourism businesses are facing the decision of what to do with a cut in VAT which comes into effect from today.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the six-month cut in VAT from 20 per cent to five per cent in last week's summer statement.

The new rate will cover food and non-alcoholic drinks in restaurants, pubs and cafes, together with hotel accommodation and entrance to tourist attractions until January 12.

It is designed to help the sectors, which have been hard hit after being closed throughout lockdown, but businesses face the choice of leaving prices the same to help revenue or pass on the savings to customers in a bid to increase footfall.

Starbucks has said it will pass on the VAT cut with Nando's and Pret A Manger following suit, while McDonalds has recommended its franchisees follow suit, but some experts believe it may be better to leave prices alone.

Full story 

Update #1022 - 13.05 Ecclesiastical managing risk to head back on the road

Insurer Ecclesiastical has undertaken a thorough risk assessment ahead of the return of its risk management team to field-based work.

While many staff at the Gloucester business have been able to continue working remotely throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the 45-strong risk management team has been unable to visit customer sites.

But with safety measures in place, they have headed back out on the road for the first time.

Risk management director Jo Whyman said: "Our commitment to providing our customers with excellent service is something we have maintained since 1887 and are proud to continue this tradition.

"Site-based risk management support is a fundamental part of what we offer as an insurer, and so it was a priority to get up and running as soon as we could while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our customers and our colleagues.

Full story 

Update #1021 - 12.59 Buzz Bingo announces closures of empty houses

Buzz Bingo, the UK's largest operator by club numbers, has announced plans to lose 570 jobs as part of a rescue deal.

But its Gloucester centre, which is due to reopen at the Peel Centre on August 6, is not among a list of 26 clubs on a list of planned closures.

The closures form part of a restructuring deal as part of a CVA but Buzz said its 91 other clubs would continue to trade.

Chief executive Chris Matthews told staff: "The ongoing pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for the entire leisure and hospitality sector and an immediate and significant impact on our business.

"The proposed CVA will restructure our retail portfolio to ensure we are well-positioned for a return to growth."

Update #1020 - 11.25 Shop staff fear for safety due to abuse

Three in four retail workers across the UK say they have feared for their physical safety after being confronted by customers.

Research by Censuswide said 89 per cent regularly feel concerned for their own or colleagues' safety at work with 29 per cent saying it happens most days.

And it is not just staff being abused - 55 per cent saying they have witnessed verbal altercations during the coronavirus pandemic with 49 per cent saying they have seen physical confrontations.

Update #1019 - 11.00 DFS warns of job losses as revenues plunge

DFS has become the latest retailer to plan job cuts after seeing a fall in sales lead to loss in end-of-year results.

The furniture retailer said it would take "necessary actions" after revenues fell by £271million to £725million in the year ending June 28.

It said it expects to record a pre-tax loss of £56-58milion, largely down to the closure of shops and suspension of deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company did not confirm how many jobs were threatened by the restructuring.

A company statement said: "Reflecting the challenging outlook for our market, we are taking necessary actions to preserve our future competitiveness."

Update #1018 - 10.33 Take-off agreed for Virgin Atlantic rescue deal

Thousands of jobs could be saved by a £1.2billion rescue deal for the troubled airline Virgin Atlantic.

The deal includes funding from US hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management and the postponement of around £450million in payments to creditors, as well as £200million from Virging Group and additional funds from investors and creditors.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group owns 51 per cent of the airline with Delta Air Lines owning the remaining stake.

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to cut 3,500 staff, but said the remaining 6,500 should be saved after the deal.

Chief executive Shai Weiss said: "The last six months have been the toughest we have faced in our 36-year history. We have taken painful measures, but we have accomplished what many thought impossible."

Update #1017 - 10.30 Inflation edges up as shops reopen

Inflation in the UK rose to 0.6 per cent in June as the high street began to reopen following coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Latest figures from the the Office for National Statistics put the Consumer Prices Index revealed the slight rise from May's four-year low of 0.5 per cent but still well below the Bank of England's target of two per cent.

According to the ONS, the cost of clothing and games rose during June as food and alcohol prices fell.

Update #1016 - 10.15 Norville Group bought out of administration

The Norville Group has been saved after being bought out of administration by Bath-based Inspec sin a deal believed to be worth around £2.4million

Norville Group entered administration last week with 120 jobs at risk in the county and smaller sites in Bolton, Seaham and Livingston.

Norville Opticians was bought last month by The Hakim Group, the largest group of independent opticians in the UK, with nine shops across the county continuing to operate under the Norville name.

The deal includes the £1.2million freehold property for the Gloucester laboratory, stock, plant, intellectual property and contracts.

Inspecs said it intends to retain part of the existing management team and employees.

Full story 

Update #1015 - 09.45 Coronavirus death toll increases by 138 in the UK

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

It has been said that a further 138 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, as of 4.47pm yesterday (Tuesday 14).

The latest total death toll for the UK now sits at 44,968 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 291,373 people have tested positive for the virus, with 398 confirmed cases in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning.

Tuesday, July 14

Update #1014 - 13.22 Government blocks Huawei from 5G network

Mobile providers in the UK will be banned from buying new 5G equipment from Chinese firm Huawei after the end of the year due to security concerns.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said the move, which also means all Huawei kit must be removed from networks by 2027, would delay the country's 5G rollout by a year.

Announcing the decision in the House of Commons, Mr Dowden said "This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and in the long run.

"Today's decision to ban procurement of new Huawei equipment from the end of this year will delay rollout by a further year and will add up to half a billion pounds in costs."

Full story 

Update #1013 - 10.27 Cost of coronavirus support put at £192.3billion

The predicted cost of the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis has risen by almost £60billion over the past month.

The Office for Budget Responsibility's latest predictions puts the cost of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's economic support programmes at £192.3billion.

That follows his summer statement last week and compares with the £132.5billion forecast last month.

The independent OBR said the worst case scenario saw UK output contract by 14.3 per cent with no return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2024.

Its most optimistic scenario says GDP will fall by 10.6 per cent this year, the worst for 300 years.

Update #1012 - 10.20 Report warns of 120,000 deaths in second wave

A report commissioned by the Government's chief scientific adviser has warned of a second spike in coronavirus leading to 120,00 deaths.

The Academy of Medical Sciences report for Sir Patrick Vallance warned the figure for deaths in hospital before next June was for a "reasonable worst-case scenario".

The report says a second wave of infection could be more serious than the initial crisis with the R rate of transmission - currently between 0.7 and 0.9 in the UK - rising to 1.7 from September.

Compiled by a team of scientists and academics, the report predicted a peak in hospital admissions and deaths could come in January and February.

Update #1011 - 10.02 Retail sales on the up as doors reopen

Retail sales in the UK rose by 3.4 per cent in June - the largest monthly jump in more than two years.

The rise, as online sales increased and non-essential shops began to reopen, compares to a 1.6 per cent fall the previous June and was the sharpest rise since May 2018.

The figures from the British Retail Consortium follow an average decline of 6.4 per cent over the previous three months with lockdown restrictions in place.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Despite footfall still being well below pre-coronavirus levels, average spend was up as consumers made the most of their occasional shopping trips."

But she warned government action to help consumer demand and ease the rent burden on shops was necessary to prevent "thousands of avoidable job losses".

Update #1010 - 09.30 Economy edges up slower than predicted

The UK's economy made a slower than expected recovery as coronavirus restrictions began to be lifted in May.

The Office for National Statistics said the economy remained "in the doldrums" as it published the 1.8 per cent rise from the previous month, much smaller than the five per cent or higher predicted by many economists.

It follows a 6.9 per cent fall in March and record 20.4 per cent slump the following month as the economy contracted by 19.1 per cent in the three months to May.

The latest figures mean the UK economy is now 24.5 per cent smaller than it was in February, the final month before the introduction of coronavirus restrictions.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: "You've got one month of firm data and some indicators suggesting June might be stronger, but there's a long road to go here and we're still trying to figure out what the best data is to understand the overall picture."

Update #1009 - 08.30 Coronavirus death toll increases by 11

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

It has been said that a further 11 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, as of 3.56pm yesterday (Monday 13).

The latest total death toll for the UK now sits at 44,830 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 290,133 people have tested positive for the virus, with 530 confirmed cases in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning.

Monday, July 13

Update #1008 - 13.14 Labour leader warns Gloucester facing £3m shortfall

Gloucester City Council's budget faces a shortfall in excess of £3million without Government help to cover its funding of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the leader of the Labour group.

Councillor Kevin Stephens called a motion at full council for pressure to be put on the Government by Gloucester MP Richard Graham and the leader of the council, Councillor Richard Cook.

He said: "What has become clear is that the Government appears to be backtracking and there is widespread concern local authorities will be reimbursed for some things, but not everything.

"This will leave us with a shortfall in excess of £3million."

Full story 

Update #1007 - 13.12 Angry Tom Kerridge hits out at 'no shows'

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge has launched an attack on people who failed to show up for bookings at one of his restaurants, saying they are putting jobs at risk.

The Michelin-starred chef, who grew up in Gloucester, posted an angry message on his Instagram after 27 people did not turn up after making reservations at his Corinthia Hotel restaurant in London.

He wrote: "Your behaviour is disgraceful, short-sighted and downright unhelpful. All of you "no shows in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced.

"YOU are putting people's jobs more at risk."

Full story 

Update #1006 - 13.00 Peel boss steps down from Intu board

The chairman of the Peel Group - owners of Gloucester Quays - has stepped down from the board of troubled property giant Intu.

John Whittaker had been serving as deputy chairman and non-executive director of Intu which owns several large shopping centres, including part of Cribbs Causeway, and went into administration last month.

Mr Whittaker has had a seat on the board of Intu since the company bought the Trafford Centre in Manchester, which he created, from Peel in 2011.

Full story 

Update #1005 - 12.45 Bakers Quay plans adapted after coronavirus

New images have been released for the proposed next phase of the Bakers Quay development in Gloucester.

Developer Rokeby Merchant has released the images for the proposed residential, which would fill the site of the recently demolished concrete silo within the Downings element of the site, between the Provender section of the site and Gloucester Quays.

And director Adrian Goodall said the plans have been adapted to reflect a changing commercial environment.

He said: "Market conditions have changed and we are responding by introducing more residential accommodation and reducing the restaurant content."

Full Story 

Update #1004 - 11.47 Testing allowing 'targeting action' across country

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said "targeted action" is being taken against more than 100 localised outbreaks of coronavirus each week.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock said improved testing was allowing action concentrating on specific areas.

He said: "The results is we can lift more of the lockdown and take targeted action.

"Each week there are more than 100 local actions taken across the country - some of these will make the news but many more are swiftly and silently dealt with.

"Where we find a cluster or outbreak, we send in extra testing, including mobile testing units that can be deployed anywhere in the country."

Update #1003 - 11.15 More businesses open doors as restrictions ease

Beauty salons, nail bars, tattoo parlours and spas have today become the latest businesses to reopen in England as coronavirus restrictions are eased further.

But some beauty treatments including eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments and facials remain banned due to the greater risk of transmission.

Wales has also seen further restrictions lifted with pubs, bars and restaurants able to start serving outdoors with hairdressers able to open for the first time.

In Scotland, indoor shopping centres are allowed to reopen.

Update #1002 - 10.42 Advanced talks to buy restaurant chains

Former TGI Friday's backers Epiris are believed to be in advanced talks to buy the owners of restaurant chains Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge.

According to Sky News, Epiris working on the deal to buy Casual Dining Group - which also includes Las Iguanas - out of administration.

CDG fell into administration earlier this month as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continued to be felt across the hospitality industry.

Other investors have also expressed an interest in CDG and individual brands within the group.

Bella Italia has branches at Gloucester Quays and Cheltenham's Promenade which also houses a Cafe Rouge outlet.

Update #1001 - 08.30 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 21

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

It has been said that a further 21 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, as of 5pm yesterday.

The latest total death toll for the UK now sits at 44,819 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total 289,603 people have tested positive for the virus, with 650 confirmed cases in the 24 hours prior to 9am this morning.

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