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Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, March 19

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 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, March 19

Update #8532 - 11.53 British Airways staff cleared to work from home 

British Airways will allow staff its Heathrow head office to continue to work from home.

More than 2,000 people worked at the company's head office before the pandemic, but staff have been told they will be able to mix where they work when restrictions allow.

BA is in early discussions over the sale of its Heathrow headquarters.

It has shed more than 10,000 jobs as the pandemic grounded the majority of global air traffic.

Update #8531 - 11.52 February borrowing hits new high

Government borrowing levels reached a fresh high in February as the cost of the pandemic continued to rise.

The Government borrowed £19.1billion during the month, the highest February figure since records began in 1993.

The figure took borrowing for the financial year from April to a record £278.8billion, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Update #8530 - 11.17 Lamborghini reveals record 2020

Supercar maker Lamborghini has said 2020 was its most profitable year ever, despite its Italian factory being closed for two-months due to the pandemic.

Although sales dropped when compared to the previous year, the business sold more expensive and customised vehicles which improved profits.

It added that demand for its cars in China increased and would likely overtake Germany as its second-biggest market in 2021.

Chief executive Stephan Winkelmann said: "We have already covered with customer orders nine months of the year for 2021. So we are looking at the year 2021 in quite a positive bent." 

Update #8529 - 08.35 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 125,926 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 95 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 6,303 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,280,882 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 25,735,472 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 17 and 1,879,054 have received their second dose.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county since the start of the pandemic sits at 22,094, as of Thursday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test has risen to 949 - no change on the previous day.

New cases for the latest 24 hour period are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,297 cases (increase of two)

Cheltenham - 3,678 cases (increase of four)

Stroud - 3,685 cases (increase of seven)

Tewkesbury - 2,877 cases (increase of five)

Forest of Dean - 3,039 cases (increase of one)

Cotswold - 2,518 cases (no change)

Thursday, March 18

Update #8528 - 15.40 Outlook "unusually uncertain" as interest rates unchanged

The outlook for the UK economy remains uncertain ahead of the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, according to the Bank of England.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted to hold interest rates at 0.1 per cent.

And while it forecast an economic revival with the vaccination programme and easing of lockdown, it said predictions for the recovery were difficult.

A statement from the committee said: "The outlook for the UK economy and particularly the relative movement in demand and supply during the recovery from the pandemic remains unusually uncertain.

"It continues to depend on the evolution of the pandemic, measures taken to protect public health and how households, businesses and financial markets respond to these developments."

Update #8527 - 12.59 Government to cut electric car grants

The government has announced plans to cut grants aimed at encouraging people to buy electric cars.

Grants will be reduced from £3,000 to £2,500 and restricted to cars under £35,000, the Department for Transport has said.

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: "The increasing choice of new vehicles, growing demand from customers, and rapidly rising number of chargepoints means that while the level of funding remains as high as ever, given soaring demand, we are re-focusing our vehicle grants on the more affordable zero emission vehicles."

But industry body SMMT said: "The decision to slash the Plug-in Car Grant and Van & Truck Grant is the wrong move at the wrong time.

"New battery electric technology is more expensive than conventional engines and incentives are essential in making these vehicles affordable to the customer."

Update #8526 - 10.41 National Express driven to major loss in pandemic

An 80 per cent drop in passenger numbers during the pandemic drove National Express to a £445million loss in 2020.

The coach and bus operator, which made a pre-tax profit of £187million the previous year, saw revenues fall by 29 per cent to just under £2billion.

But chief executive Jose Ignacio Garat remained optimistic about the recovery after seeing improvements in recent months as vaccinations have been rolled out.

He said: "We have a strong and diverse international transport platform that has demonstrated its resilience in recent months.

"We have a clear set of priorities to ensure we will return to growth in a prudent and safe manner. We will be competing to win."

Update #8525 - 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 125,831 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 141 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 5,758 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,274,579 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 25,273,226 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 16 and 1,759,445 have received their second dose.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county since the start of the pandemic sits at 22,075, as of Wednesday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test has risen to 949 - an increase of one on the previous day.

New cases for the latest 24 hour period are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,295 cases (increase of seven)

Cheltenham - 3,674 cases (increase of seven)

Stroud - 3,678 cases (increase of four)

Tewkesbury - 2,872 cases (increase of two)

Forest of Dean - 3,038 cases (increase of one)

Cotswold - 2,518 cases (increase of one)

Wednesday, March 17

Update #8524 - 13.11 UK retail footfall up seven per cent

Data analyst firm Springboard had said that footfall around the UK's retail sales was up by seven per cent last week, the seventh week in a row of growth.

Data shows that footfall has grown the most in shopping centres, where it rose by 9.8 per cent on the week before.

But footfall as a whole is down almost 53 per cent year-on-year, which includes shopping centres, high streets and retail parks.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said: "As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown we can see the significant degree to which consumer activity has changed since the same week in 2020." 

Update #8523 - 12.44 Vaccinated passengers only for P&O Cruises

Cruise line P&O has announced that only travellers that have received both Covid-19 jab, and waited a further week, will be allowed to board its ships when it restarts its fleet.

A statement sent to customers read: "Given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination programme and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests for this limited series of UK coastal cruises, these sailings on Britannia and Iona will be for UK resident, Covid-19 vaccinated guests only.

"For these cruises the definition of 'vaccinated' is a minimum of seven days following the second dose of the currently approved Covid-19 vaccines being administered."

READ MORE 

Update #8522 - 12.39 Energy customers set for refunds

Regulator Ofgem has said that customers who pay too much to their energy supplier through their direct debit payment should receive automatic annual refunds.

Historically customers have complained that energy companies take thousands of pounds of overpayments and would only return funds when requested.

But now the regulator has said balances must be cleared and refunded once a year.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem said: "These new proposals would ensure that suppliers are not holding onto more of customers' money than absolutely necessary, potentially returning millions of pounds of customers' money." 

Update #8521 - 08.35 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 125,690 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 110 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 5,294 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,268,821 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 24,839,906 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 15 and 1,663,646 have received their second dose.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county since the start of the pandemic sits at 22,053, as of Tuesday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test has risen to 948 - an increase of two on the previous day.

New cases for the latest 24 hour period are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,288 cases (increase of two)

Cheltenham - 3,667 cases (increase of one)

Stroud - 3,674 cases (increase of five)

Tewkesbury - 2,870 cases (increase of three)

Forest of Dean - 3,037 cases (increase of two)

Cotswold - 2,517 cases (increase of four)

Tuesday, March 16

Update #8520 - 12.24 Iceland looks for Swift new creation

Iceland is poised to open a new convenience store format called Swift.

The first of the shops is due to open later this week in Newcastle.

Iceland, which also operates the Food Warehouse chain as well as its own frozen food outlets, registered the Swift trademark last year but has released few other details.

Head of space and format development Matt Downes said: "This is a really exciting trial of a completely new concept that we think will be ideally suited to this high-traffic location.

"We believe the much wider range on offer, Swift's commitment to faster and easier shopping, and the leveraging of group buying power to ensure great value, will all make this a convenience store with outstanding customer appeal."

Update #8519 - 12.17 Year of pandemic forces 2,000 pubs to shut

A year of coronavirus restrictions and closures have cost UK pubs £8.2billion in beer sales alone - more than two billion pints.

And the British Beer and Pub Association said the losses have forced an estimated 2,000 pubs have been forced to close.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: "Our sector has been devastated by Covid-19 and the lockdowns. It has been a year to forget for the Great British Pub.

"Sadly, we still haven't seen the full extent of the damage yet and won't do for some time until things really do back to what life was like pre-Covid."

SEE MORE 

Update #8518 - 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 125,580 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 64 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 5,089 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,263,527 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 24,453,221 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 14 and 1,610,280 have received their second dose.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county since the start of the pandemic sits at 22,038, as of Monday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test has risen to 946 - no change on the previous day.

New cases for the latest 24 hour period are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,286 cases (increase of two)

Cheltenham - 3,666 cases (increase of four)

Stroud - 3,669 cases (increase of three)

Tewkesbury - 2,867 cases (increase of two)

Forest of Dean - 3,035 cases (no change)

Cotswold - 2,513 cases (increase of two)

Monday, March 15

Update #8517 - 16.42 Thorntons shutting the door on shops

More than 600 jobs are at risk after Thorntons announced plans to shut all 61 of its shops.

The chocolate retailer, which has a shop in Cheltenham and outlets in other stores in Stroud and Tewkesbury, said the changing high street, the shift to online shopping and lockdown restrictions had made trading "challenging".

A statement from the company said: "Unfortunately, like many others, the obstacles we have faced and will continue to face on the high street are too severe and despite our best efforts, we have taken the difficult decision to permanently close our retail store estate."

The statement said its website would remain a "key focus" and would invest in building the brand in grocery channels.

The company has entered consultation with staff.

Update #8516 - 12.42 Businesses warned to act now and prevent deadly Legionella before re-opening

Stroud District Council's Environmental Health team is contacting businesses that have been shut during the pandemic with advice on how to identify the risk of Legionella so they can safely re-open when Government guidance allows.

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs via small droplets of water that are suspended in the air.

The bacteria forms when water has been allowed to stagnate and could affect hundreds of businesses across the Stroud district that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE  

Update #8515 - 11.52 Bank of England predicts return for economy

The UK economy will return to pre-pandemic levels in the next 12 months, according to Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey.

He told the BBC the Bank was exploring "new tools" to deal with the economic damage of coronavirus.

He said: "The economy will actually get back at the end of the year to where it was at the end of 2019.

"We are not out of tools, we are not out of firepower."

He predicted inflation would rise towards the Bank's two per cent target in the next few months said there was no evidence to suggests it would hit four or five per cent in the economy.

Update #8514 - 11.49 Manufacturers count cost of difficult year

UK manufacturers lost 10 per cent of sales in the past year, according to new research.

The survey of almost 1,500 small and medium-sized manufacturers' accounts by Insider Pro said the impact of Brexit would cost £21.5billion.

Additional research by Accenture/IHS Market revealed 68 per cent of firms expect an increase in business activity in the year ahead.

Helped by the growing confidence from the coronavirus pandemic, the optimism is at the highest level for almost six years.

Update #8513 - 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 UK figures show the total number of deaths within 28 days of positive test rose to 125,516 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 52 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 4,618 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 24,196,211 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 22,213,112 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 13 and 1,584,909 have received their second dose.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county since the start of the pandemic sits at 22,025 as of Sunday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 946.

New cases for the latest 24 hour period are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,284 cases

Cheltenham - 3,662 cases

Stroud - 3,666 cases

Tewkesbury - 2,865 cases

Forest of Dean - 3,035 cases

Cotswold - 2,513 cases

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