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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, June 5

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, June 5

Update #700 - 16.55 Bourton points the way forward for social distancing

New signs and pathway stickers are going up in Bourton-on-the-Water to help ensure social distancing as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The signs encouraging people to stay two metres apart and stay left on pathways will be placed around the popular tourist village.

Staying to the left will allow pedestrians to pass with the greatest space while floor markings and stickers will help maintain the right distance.

Highways crew are putting the signs in place tonight (June 5) with Gloucestershire County Council staff on hand until Monday to help make residents and visitors aware of the signs.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #699 - 16.30 Coronavirus death toll in the UK reaches 40,000

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak - showing that the UK has past the grim milestone of 40,000 COVID-19 related deaths.

Latest data shows that a further 357 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 40,261 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total, 283,311 people have tested positive for the virus.

Update #698 - 16.17 Online sales soar - but it's not enough

UK retailers saw record online sales last month, but it wasn't enough to offset the impact of closed high street stores.

New figures from the BDO retail sales tracker for May showed that online sales were up 129.5 per cent on May 2019 - the biggest jump on record - as reported by Retail Gazette.

But retailers still saw their overall like-for-like sales fall by almost a fifth for the month.

The figures showed that total sales fell 18.3 per cent compared to May last year, with the decline in sales slightly slower compared with April.

READ MORE 

Update #697 - 15.37 Hospital coronavirus deaths in England increase by 123

NHS England have just announced that the death toll of hospitalised patients in England who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 has hit 27,282.

This is a rise of 123 on Thursday's figure. 

Of the new deaths, data shows that:

19 occurred on June 4

50 occurred on June 3

23 occurred on June 2

seven occurred on June 1

In addition to this, 19 of the new deaths took place in May, four in April, and the remaining one took place on March 25.

Update #696 - 15.32 RAU plans to welcome students in September

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is preparing to welcome new and returning students to its Cirencester campus for the start of the autumn term.

While the campus has remained open since the COVID-19 outbreak to support a small number of students in residence who have been unable to return home, all teaching and assessments have been delivered online since March 18.

The RAU plans to open its campus fully to new and returning students in time for the start of the new academic year in September. Teaching arrangements are expected to comprise a blend of large group sessions and lectures delivered online, with small group seminars, tutorials and practical sessions delivered face to face in suitably adapted classrooms.

Vice-chancellor professor Joanna Price said: "As we move closer to the start of the new academic year it is very important to give as much clarity as possible to applicants, students and staff about our plans, which take into account advice from the government and a range of external bodies across the higher education sector. However, we are mindful that at any time our plans may need to change in accordance with government guidance." 

Update #695 - 15.25 Zizzi and ASK up for sale as restaurants feel pinch

The owners of Zizzi and ASK Italian have become the latest restaurant business to feel the financial effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

Azzurri Group, which owns the chains, are believed to be on the lookout for prospective buyers as its owners - the private equity firm Bridgepoint - explore options for the restaurants.

The company employs around 6,000 people and Zizzi has outlets at Gloucester Quays and in Cheltenham, while Ask has a restaurant in Montpellier in Cheltenham.

READ MORE 

Update #694 - 13.28 COVID-19 testing centre opens in Gloucester

The first tests have taken place at Gloucester's new regional COVID-19 testing centre.

Based at Hempsted Meadows and run by the Department for Health and Social Care, the site went live this morning.

Land at the nearby clubhouse of Gloucester Rowing Club is also being used by workers at the centre.

Anyone showing potential symptoms can book at test at https://www.nhs.uk .

Sarah Scott, chair of the county's Strategic Coordinating Group and Director of Public Health said: "Being able to test significantly more people each day is a huge step forward in managing future spread of C-19 in the county and beyond."

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #693 - 13.10 BASF tops list as Bank of England pays out £16.2billion

Chemicals company BASF, which has a site in Cinderford, has been handed the maximum possible £1billion in help from the Bank of England.

The Bank's Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility has paid out almost £16.2billion to 53 companies during the pandemic by buying commercial paper in exchange for a short-term loan at rates between 0.2 and 0.6 per cent.

In total, the Bank is able to lend £67.7billion if necessary.

BASF, the only business to take the full amount, recycles auto-catalysts in Cinderford alongside its eight manufacturing sites across the country.

READ MORE 

Update #692 - 12.28 Gloucestershire charity reaches 150,000 PPE milestone

Cheltenham-based children's charity WellChild has sourced more than 150,000 items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for families caring at home for seriously ill children, with more than 70,000 already sent to families in need across the UK.

The charity, which support families caring for children and young people with serious health needs, had to quickly adapt its services when the coronavirus outbreak began to take hold.

After setting up the WellChild COVID-19 Direct Response Service in less than ten days, they have received more than 796 individual requests for help sourcing PPE, food, medicines, and supplies.

READ MORE 

Update #691 - 11.25 Light at the end of the tunnel for outdoor learning centre

Outdoor learning beauty spot The Wilderness Centre has announced plans to reopen in July and is set for a record year in 2021 - if it can survive until then.

Simon Dawson, head of the Wilderness Centre

With the coronavirus crisis prompting fresh attitudes to the benefits of outdoor learning, the site perched on Plump Hill near Mitcheldean in the Forest of Dean is set to reap the benefits.

Next year stands to be a record year as schools, businesses, families and even a brass band have booked in advance for the spring and summer of 2021.

However, its owners, who also run Wotton House International School in central Gloucester, face a battle to survive as this year's peak summer season could be decimated by the COVID-19 outbreak.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #690 - 10.53 Premiership Rugby targets return date

Top-class rugby could be returning to Gloucester in August with a confirmed date for the planned resumption of the Gallagher Premiership season.

Clubs have been allowed to return to training this week and the league's board has agreed to target a return to action on August 15.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: "Nothing will happen until it is safe to do so but we will do everything we can to resume the 2019-20 campaign on August 15.

"We won't take risks with people's health and rugby has unique challenges due to levels of proximity and impact, but it is important for us to give players, coaches and clubs clarity on when they can look to return."

Update #689 - 10.49 City has to wait for Debenhams return

Gloucester is not among the list of Debenhams shops which will be among the first to reopen on June 15.

The troubled retailer will reopen three stores in Northern Ireland on Monday with 50 branches following suit in England a week later, including those in Bath and Bristol.

The rest will reopen later in the week with social distancing and hygiene procedures in places.

Managing director Steve Cook said: "We are delighted to be welcoming customers back to our stores in the coming weeks.

"From the installation of perspex screens at till points to the roll-out of social distancing procedures and PPE, we have been working hard to ensure our colleagues and customers can work and shop with confidence."

Update #688 - 08.25 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 Thursday (June 4) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 39,904 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 176 on the previous day's figures.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 225 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England - no increase in six days.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 191 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 34 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 sits at 1,376.

Thursday, June 4

Update #687 - 16.43 A warning from Woodchester Mansion 

Update #686 - 16.20 Gloucester 10k goes ahead - virtually

Like so many other events this year, the Gloucester 10k, due to take place in July, has had to be cancelled. But now organisers are hoping runners will sign up for a virtual race.

Gloucester Quays Rotary has set up the virtual event to raise funds for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, which would have been the main beneficiary from this year's event.

Organisers would like to see as many people as possible taking part on the weekend of 4th and 5th July - whether or not you were signed up for the original event. You can walk or run as fast or slow as you like - you can even complete your 10k in your garden or on a running machine.

FIND OUT MORE 

Update #685 - 15.30 Hospital coronavirus deaths in England increase by 115

NHS England have just announced that the death toll of hospitalised patients in England who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 has hit 27,159.

This is a rise of 115 on Wednesday's figure.

Update #684 - 15.09 Alok Sharma had meeting with PM on Tuesday

Earlier this morning we reported that business secretary Alok Sharma is self-isolating at home, after appearing unwell in parliament yesterday.

A statement released by Downing Street now reveals that the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, had a 45-minute meeting with Mr Sharma on Tuesday. This is the day before he was seen mopping his brow while speaking in the House of Commons.

The business secretary is now awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test, but the PM's spokesperson said that if Mr Sharma did test positive, he would go through the test and trace process.

Update #683 - 14.50 Charity shops set to reopen from mid-June 

Several leading charities in Gloucestershire have today announced they will begin reopening their high street shops from mid-June.

Gloucestershire-based Emmaus, Longfield and Pied Piper and national charities Oxfam and British Heart Foundation will start a phased reopening of their high street shops from June 15th.

Emmaus says it will begin with its shops in Gloucester and Nailsworth, Oxfam will start with a number of shops in England aiming for as many as possible open for business by the end of July. British Heart Foundation has also announced that a few of its shops will be open for business from the second week in June.

The staggered approach being taken by the charities will ensure they are able to follow government advice on social distancing and ensure staff safety is prioritised.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #682 - 13.12 Thousands of small companies in danger of going bust

As we enter our 11th week of lockdown, thousands of Gloucestershire's smallest companies find themselves at risk of going out of business.

Self-employed people in all sectors find themselves without an income because they were advised by accountants to set themselves up as limited companies. Setting up as a limited company and paying yourself part salary and part dividend has always been seen as a 'safer' option for small business owners.

READ MORE  

Update #681 - 11.53 Free advice for businesses

Gloucestershire Trading Standards are offering free advice to businesses until the end of August 2020.

Small family-run businesses through to international companies will now be able to access information and guidance to help them understand their legislative responsibilities.

All businesses are subject to Consumer Protection Law and in the current economic climate where time is money Gloucestershire Trading Standards are offering to help to make getting it right first time easier.

The support will cover 100 Acts of Parliament including those relating to general business, food, safety, weights and measures, animal health and animal feed.

FIND OUT MORE 

Update #680 - 10.02 Fashion retailer in urgent talks with landlords

Fashion chain New Look has started crunch talks with landlords in response to the coronavirus crisis.

It's thought the talks could lead to a second financial restructuring in little more than a year for the retailer, which has a store in Cheltenham, as reported by Sky.

New Look has appointed property agents CBRE and CWM to negotiate turnover-based rents at the majority of its 500 stores in the UK and Ireland.

READ MORE  

Update #679 - 09.40 A warning from the police

Update #678 - 09.00 Business secretary is self-isolating

Business secretary Alok Sharma is reported to be self-isolating at home, after appearing unwell in parliament yesterday.

Mr Sharma looked uncomfortable while taking part in a debate on Wednesday, and is now said to have been tested for the coronavirus.

Update #677 - 08.20 Latest on cases and deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data yesterday showing that the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county has risen to 1,376 as of 9am on June 3 - an increase of two on the day before.

It was also announced that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Wednesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire still sat at 225 - with no new deaths reported.

Of these deaths, 191 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Wednesday, June 3

Update #676 - 17.09 Scheme ensures no point in crying over spilled beer 

A cross-industry platform has been created to helped brewers and pubs manage the disposal of the beer which is unsellable after spending weeks sat in cellars.

Set up by the British Beer & Pub Association, ReturnYourBeer.co.uk allows licensees to gain permission from the brand owner to destroy the beer and cider in an environmentally friendly manner in compliance with water authorities.

The site will also allow them to record the destruction, enabling duty to be claimed back by brewers and passed back on to the pubs.

By using the platform, pubs, hotels, bars and clubs will be able to safely destroy draught beer and cider which has spoiled during the coronavirus closure, as well as freeing up space for fresh deliveries ahead of reopening.

READ MORE 

Update #675 - 16.27 Coronavirus death toll in the UK increases by 359

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 359 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 39,728 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

In total, 279,856 people have tested positive for the virus.

Update #674 - 16.10 Council facing £2.5m coronavirus shortfall 

Cotswold District Council says it is facing a shortfall of £2.5 million, due to additional costs and loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic - unless it can secure further government funding.

In a report to Cabinet, the council said it has already lost £235,000 in parking income alone, a figure it expects to rise to £1.765 million for the full year 20/21.

Overall losses for the year are predicted to be £2.823 million. Figures across the board - from leisure income to garden waste - show a significant loss in the year to date and assume a gradual recovery between June and December 2020.

Council spending is also up - in accommodation and support for homeless people, waste and recycling, and leisure and cultural services. Additional expenditure as a result of COVID-19 is predicted to total £548,000 for the year.

READ MORE  

Update #673 - 15.59 Millions of households facing lockdown energy bill shock

Almost 14 million households are heading for a £288 million energy bill shock, as months of increased power use during lockdown is belatedly added to bills.

That's according to new research from Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service. Lockdown has prevented official meter readers from visiting properties, meaning that current bills don't accurately reflect increased household power use - estimated to have risen by £16 a month as we spend more time at home.

More than two million households with traditional meters never take their own readings and rely on their provider visiting their home. With meter readers prevented from visiting properties for the last three months, it could be more than six months before these households see their bill change, meaning direct debits rising by as much as £25 a month in September.

This increase will hit vulnerable households harder, with a fifth (21 per cent) of those who rely on meter readers being over pensionable age, or having a disability or long-term medical condition.

READ MORE 

Update #672 - 14.43 Expert advice to get on the right track

The words of American actor and cowboy Will Rogers were summoned as an unusual business mantra in an online session giving advice on planning for recovery.

Richard Neale, director of Staverton-based business support company Ops-Box Group, used Rogers' advice to illustrate the importance of planning and taking action ahead of the gradual return to more normal trading.

He was speaking as one of a panel of experts at the session hosted by Jonathan Rathbone, director at Cheltenham solicitors Hughes Paddison .

The panel also included fellow Ops-Box director Hayley Parker, James Harper from chartered accountants Harper Sheldon and employment lawyer Kimberley Whalen-Blake of Hughes Paddison.

READ MORE 

Update #671 - 13.10 Changes to services at Cheltenham cemetery and crematorium

From Monday, June 8, in light of changes to government guidance on the lockdown, Cheltenham Borough Council is revising current funeral arrangements.

Cheltenham crematorium

New rules will allow up to 20 mourners to be present, whilst continuing to work with funeral directors to minimise COVID-19 risks and provide dignified and safe funerals.

Cllr Chris Coleman, cabinet member for clean and green, said: ''We understand how difficult these restrictions are for the family and friends of the deceased. 

"Our risk assessments are under regular review and we take a number of factors into account, including the availability of staff, the ability to safely maintain and enforce the two-metre social distancing requirements, compassion for the bereaved and the impact increased attendance is likely to have on the continued health, safety and welfare of all those attending, managing and officiating at funerals.

"Understandably, given this change in the service offer, some families may wish to change their booked arrangement and as far as is possible, we will work with families and funeral directors to accommodate their wishes, whilst appreciating that this may not be practical, or possible for everyone." 

Update #670 - 12.50 F.Hinds to reopen all stores in England

Family jewellers F.Hinds plan to reopen all of their stores in England from June 16 following the COVID-19 outbreak, following the Government's advice.

The business is expected to limit numbers of customers in store, serve from behind screens and any items that are tried on will be thoroughly cleaned afterwards using specialist cleaning materials and there will be a 72-hour quarantine facility for returned items.

Jeremy Hinds, director at F.Hinds said: "The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority. We have worked hard to put comprehensive measures in place to protect everyone while still being able to welcome back our customers to our award-winning service. 

"We will be training all of our staff on the new procedures prior to stores reopening and implementing a strict cleaning regime."

Update #669 - 11.35 Bank of England warns of no-deal Brexit

Britain's biggest lenders have been told to step up preparations for a "no trade deal" Brexit.

According to Sky News, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey told bank chief executives to accelerate planning for the UK to reach the transition period at the end of the year without an agreement.

The news comes as talks between the UK and EU show little signs of reaching a deal.

The Government has ruled out any extension to the transition period due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with any such request needing to be lodged by the end of June.

The latest round of talks are due to end on Friday.

Update #668 - 11.32 Furloughed workers rise to 8.7 million

The number of workers on furlough in the UK has reached 8.7 million - more than a quarter of the workforce.

That is a rise of 300,000 in the past week with £17.5billion paid out by the Government to cover 0 per cent of workers' pay under the Job Retention Scheme.

Another 200,000 self-employed workers have claimed grants under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, taking the total to 2.5 million.

The Government has paid out £7.2billion on the scheme which has been extended until October to cover a second period of three months.

Update #667 - 10.47 Cheltenham hospital becomes minor injury unit in virus changes

Temporary changes to services at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals will help ensure better and safer care for patients during the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic, according to clinicians.

Cheltenham General Hospital

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's board backed proposals by its clinical teams which include changes to the way emergency care and other specialist services will be delivered.

From Tuesday, June 9, all 999 ambulances and patients referred by their GP for likely admission will be directed to Gloucester where rapid testing will be available alongside separate COVID and non-COVID assessment and admission areas.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #666 - 09.50 Mayor of Cheltenham to continue for another year

Mayor of Cheltenham Cllr Roger Whyborn and deputy mayor Cllr Sandra Holliday will continue in their roles for another year.

To provide continuity for the Council and in line with Government regulations allowing local authorities greater flexibility in decision making in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council's Annual Council meeting and Annual Mayor Making ceremony, scheduled to take place in May, has been postponed until May 2021.

READ MORE  

Update #665 - 09.44 McDonald's opens Gloucestershire drive-throughs

All seven of Gloucestershire's drive-through McDonald's are reopening from today.

While high street restaurants remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the fast food giant is offering a limited menu with breakfasts unavailable for now.

Gloucester has four drive-through outlets at St Oswalds Retail Park, Northbrook Road (off Eastern Avenue), Bristol Road and Hardwicke Roundabout which will open from 11am to 10pm.

The branches at Kingsditch Retail Park in Cheltenham, Kingsmeadow Services, Cirencester, and Merrywalks in Stroud will open the same hours.

Orders are limited to under £25 with customers asked to use contactless payment or pre-pay through the My McDonald's app.

Update #664 - 09.42 Frankie & Benny's takes some restaurants off menu

Restaurant Group, which owns the Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's chains, says some of its sites will not reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.

The company has declined to comment but it is believed staff will be informed today about which restaurants will not reopen.

Frankie & Benny's has more than 200 outlets across the UK, including restaurants at St Oswalds Retail Park in Gloucester and The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham.

The Restaurant Group also owns Wagamama but it is not believed any of its restaurants are included in the planned closures.

Update #663 - 08.20 No new coronavirus cases or deaths in Gloucestershire

Public Health England has released new data showing that the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in the county sits at 1,374 as of 9am on June 2 - no change on yesterday.

It was also announced that there had not been a rise in deaths of hospitalised patients in Gloucestershire who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Information released on Tuesday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire remains at 225 - with no new deaths reported in the last 72 hours.

Of these deaths, 191 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Tuesday, June 2

Update #662 - 17.00 Coronavirus death toll in the UK rises by 324

The Government's Department of Health and Social Care has released the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak in the UK as of Tuesday, June 2.

It has been said that a further 324 people have sadly passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The total death toll in the UK now sits at 39,369 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

Update #661 - 16.22 Humphreys stepping down at Gloucester Rugby

David Humphreys is leaving as director of rugby at Gloucester after six seasons.

The former Ireland outside-half will leave Kingsholm at the end of June, following head coach Johan Ackermann who left the club to take up a position in Japan last month.

Humphreys said: "It has been a huge honour to have played a small part in the history of this great club.

"I have loved every minute of my time here and have been very fortunate to work with great coaches and support staff, and with great players.

"Over that time, we have built the foundations for a successful club, both on and off the pitch, and last season's third place finish in the Premiership was a reflection of the progress that has been made."

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #660 - 15.50 Government's weekend televised briefings to stop

The broadcast of Government coronavirus press briefings on weekends will cease from this week, Downing Street has said.

A spokesperson for No 10 added that the prime minister was however committed to taking part in at least one briefing a week.

The schedule for weekday briefings will not change. 

Update #659 - 15.47 Hospital coronavirus deaths in England increase by 143

NHS England have just announced that the death toll of hospitalised patients in England who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 has hit 26,865.

This is a rise of 143 since Monday.

Update #658 - 15.36 New coronavirus testing centre opens on Friday

The centre will be at Hempsted Meadows, on the site of the former car boot sale, from Friday, June 5.

Sarah Scott, chair of the county's Strategic Coordinating Group and Director of Public Health said: "This is fantastic news. Being able to test significantly more people each day is a huge step forward in managing future spread of C-19 in the county and beyond.

"From the start of this outbreak we have worked closely with partners across the county, regional and nationally.

"It's these strong working relationships that helped secure this centre for the county. Thank you to all involved."

Organiser of the car boot Bob Newby said the decision not to renew the licence came as a surprise but a Gloucester City Council spokesman said it wrote to him in April to say it would not be renewed.

READ MORE  

Update #657 - 15.00 Consumers asked to support farmers as industry launches online event

British consumers are being invited to throw their support behind the country's farmers in the biggest online agricultural event.

Now in its fourth year 24 Hours in Farming will take place on August 6 at 5am to 5am August 7, and is presented by Farmers Guardian and Morrisons to champion UK agriculture and share the precious work undertaken 24/7 to keep the nation fed.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have relied heavily on UK farmers to do what they do best and dig deep to meet the colossal demand for every day food products as shoppers drastically changed their retail habits.

Consumers are being asked to pledge their support in a host of different ways by simply visiting 24HoursInFarming.co.uk and accessing free resources as to how they can get involved.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #656 - 13.10 Westonbirt Arboretum to reopen

Forestry England have announced the reopening of Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury, after the Government announced that outdoor ticketed attractions could open their doors to visitors this week.

Home to 2500 different tree species from the far corners of the globe, the site will reopen at 1pm on Wednesday, June 3.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "We are delighted to announce that, following a recent update from the government, Westonbirt Arboretum will be able to reopen.

"In order to keep visitors, staff and our local community safe during this time, we are limiting the number of people who can visit the arboretum at any one time and introducing a new booking system.

"To visit the arboretum, you'll need to pre-book your tickets and car parking spaces (this also applies to Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum members).

"Our toilets will be open, but we will be limiting the number of people in them at any one time.

"The shop, Welcome Building and Interpretation Centre, play areas (including the Gruffalo sculptures), and mobility scooter hire and shuttle service will be closed.

"For the moment we will be unable to welcome children's bikes and scooters onto site."

Update #655 - 12.50 Retail sees 31 per cent jump as restrictions ease

The latest relaxation of the Government's coronavirus restrictions sparked a large increase in shoppers across the country.

According to analysts Springboard, all retail sites saw a 31 per cent increase in visitors yesterday compared with the bank holiday seven days earlier, although that was still 68 per cent down on the equivalent Monday a year ago.

While only outdoor markets and car showrooms were allowed to open for the first time, shoppers took to the high streets which are set to open more fully when the next round of changes is introduced on June 15.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #654 - 12.00 Housing prices hit by biggest fall since 2009

House prices fell by the largest amount since the financial crisis in 2009 during May.

The number of mortgage approvals also fell to a record low during April as the deadline to apply for a payment holiday was extended.

According to figures from the Nationwide Building Society, the average price of a house in the UK dropped to £218,902 - a fall of 1.7 per cent in May, the biggest since February 2009.

Over course of the last year, prices rose by 1.8 per cent - down from 3.7 per cent the previous month.

The housing market reopened midway through the month after being virtually frozen for seven weeks, HMRC figures showing property transactions had fallen by 53 per cent in April compared to 12 months previously.

READ MORE  

Update #653 - 11.35 Cheltenham Science Festival looks to the stars 

Brian Cox, left, and Jeff Forshaw

Professor Brian Cox is among the big names appearing on the opening day of the Cheltenham Science Festival which starts today.

The Festival @ Home runs until Sunday from 10am-8pm on YouTube with AI curator AIDA.

Professor Cox will be appearing in a live-only event at 7pm tonight with physicist Jeff Forshaw in a series which explains what we know about the cosmos and also features Brian Greene from the World Science Festival, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and Jim Al-Khalili.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #652 - 10.38 Mayor of Gloucester elected online

Councillor Kate Haigh made history as she became the first Mayor of Gloucester to be elected at a virtual meeting.

The Labour councillor for Matson and Robinswood was confirmed in the role at a meeting of Gloucester City Councillor, replacing Councillor Colin Organ.

Councillor Janet Lugg, who also represents Labour in the same ward, was elected sheriff.

Both councillors had intended to step down at the local elections in May before they were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Haigh said: "I hope to use my time as mayor to support recovery and give the city's gratitude to everyone who contributes to that.

"I hope the with caution and with care for each other we can begin to recover, but I am also aware there are those for who the restrictions will continue or who will find themselves having to isolate."

Update #651 - 10.35 Court to clear up insurance questions

A test case in court will attempt to clarify if some insurance policies provide cover for losses to businesses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ecclesiastical and Zurich are among the eight insurers taking part in the case surrounding business interruption policies selected b the Financial Conduct Authority.

The case is expected to start late next month and last for 10 days.

The FCA said: "We expect the test case to provide guidance for the interpretation of many other business insurance policies that are not in the representative sample."

Insurers can continue with voluntary settlement of cases.

Update #650 - 10.21 Card retailer sees sales soar in lockdown

Online sales have more than tripled since the coronavirus lockdown forced Card Factory to close its doors.

The greetings card chain, which has stores in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester and Tewkesbury, said online like-for-like sales have increased by 302 per cent since lockdown started and are 153 per cent up for the financial year so far.

Card Factory said it will reopen 10 per cent of stores from around June 15, as reported by Retail Gazette.

The retailer has furloughed more than 90 per cent of its staff and has cancelled its 2019-20 final shareholder dividend payout, in an attempt to preserve liquidity due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It also said it doesn't expect to pay one for the current year.

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #649 - 10.17 Severn Trent urges the public to save water - or risk losing it

New figures revealed by the water company show that Gloucestershire received an average of just 5.6mm of rain in May.

Severn Trent has said that this led to a large amount of people using sprinklers to keep their lawns green and plants blooming, with the higher than average temperatures also seeing people using pressure washers to clean their cars, and getting the paddling pools out to keep their kids happy.

Add in to that the fact that loads of people are at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the extended period of hot weather, has led to the highest ever demand for treated water seen in Severn Trent's history.

READ MORE 

Update #648 - 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 sits at 1,374 as of 9am on June 1 - no increase on the day before.

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 Monday said that the death toll in Gloucestershire sits at 225 - with no new deaths reported in the last 72 hours.

Of these deaths, it has been reported that 191 were in the care of Gloucestershire Hospitals and 34 were patients at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust. 

Monday, June 1 

Update #647 - 20.40 New coronavirus testing centre in Gloucester

Gloucester will have a new regional COVID-19 testing centre at Hempsted Meadow from June 5.

Sarah Scott, chair of the county's Strategic Coordinating Group and Director of Public Health said: "This is fantastic news.

"Being able to test significantly more people each day is a huge step forward in managing future spread of COVID-19 in the county and beyond."

More details here 

Update #646 - 16.01 Two further Gloucestershire Burger King's reopen 

Home of the Whooper Burger King has announced that two additional restaurants in reopened today in Gloucestershire.

As part of its phased reopening program, the fast food giant has opened the doors on its Michaelwood Services sites on the M5 - both northbound and southbound.

Katie Evans, Burger King UK marketing director said: "We are so pleased to be able to open more restaurants this week and slowly but surely get back to 'normal', ensuring all safety measures are in place."

Update #645 - 15.48 More needed despite greater certainty over furloughs

The Chancellor has provided certainty with his changes to the furlough scheme, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

But the organisation's national chairman Mike Cherry has called on Rishi Sunak to provide support for those who continue to miss out.

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Update #644 - 12.30 One in eight renters struggling to pay 

More people renting their homes are finding it difficult to make payments than mortgage holders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Research by the Resolution Foundation think tank, based on a YouGov survey of 6,000 adults, revealed one in eight have fallen behind with payments.

That compares to one in 12 of mortgage holders who have been granted payment holidays throughout the crisis if required.

The Government has banned eviction for until June 25 and increased the Local Housing Allowance, but housing charity Shelter said it has seen a rise in calls from renters who have lost their jobs.

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Update #643 - 11.53 Outdoor markets reopen

Markets are being allowed to reopen today after the PM announced last week that it was safe to remove restrictions that meant they were forced to close on March 23.

However, in order for businesses to reopen they must have proved that they are "COVID secure", meaning that they are able to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards set out by the Government.

As retail premises reopen, they are being asked to introduce measures such as storing items for 72 hours after being touched by customers before putting them back on the shop floor, placing protective coverings on large items, as well as frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces.

Councils are said to have enforcement powers if the public and employees are not protected, including the ability to dish out fines and prison sentences.

Alok Sharma, business secretary, said: "The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country. Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK."

Update #642 - 11.25 Mayor asks town to come together and support Food Bank Fund 

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Mayor of Cheltenham Cllr Roger Whyborn has asked residents of the town to donate to the Mayor's Food Bank Fund and to help buy food and other essential items to replenish stocks.

Cllr Roger Whyborn said: "We've got a fantastic history of helping one another and we need to reach out and come together for a sustained period of time as this Covid-19 crisis continues. 

"Food banks really are essential, as many families are finding it extraordinarily difficult to make ends meet. A food parcel for one family is £25 and while we ask people to give generously, whatever can be given would be gratefully received. 

"As the saying goes - every little helps."

READ THE FULL STORY 

Update #641 - 10.09 Car showrooms to reopen today

The continued easing of lockdown restrictions from the government means that car showrooms have been allowed to open from today, June 1.

Back in May, calculations from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed the £61 million daily cost to the Treasury of keeping dealerships closed and called for a prompt reopening.

Calls were answered as in PM Boris Johnson's daily briefing on May 28, it was announced that car showrooms could reopen and down the country from June 1 - based on the progress made to control the spread of COVID-19.

Car dealers are some of the first non-essential businesses to reopen after they were forced to close on March 23.

Detailed guidance for these businesses has been drawn up by the Government, including implementing regular cleaning and hand washing as well as ensuring staff and customers can maintain a two-metre distance wherever possible.

Update #640 - 08.25 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 31) show that the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 38,489 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 131 on the previous day's figures.

In Gloucestershire, there have now been a total of 225 confirmed deaths according to figures released by NHS England on Sunday. No increase on the day before.

It has been reported that of those who have died, 191 were being cared for at Gloucestershire Hospitals while 34 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 1,374 as of yesterday afternoon.

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