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Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Thursday, April 1

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.

Thursday, April 1

Update #8571 - 11.52 Boots sees profits drop in last quarter

Boots saw sales drop by 17.8 per cent over the last quarter, despite a surge in online sales.

In a trading update, the pharmacy chain's US-based parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance said the company's website saw 105 per cent growth in the three months to the end of February.

A company statement said: "Covid-19 continued to impact footfall, particularly in major high streets, and in train stations and airports."

Chief executive Rosalind Brewer said she remained "optimistic" about the company's prospects but said work remained to stabilise the business.

Update #8570 - 11.50 Liberty Steel owner vows not to close plants

The owner of Liberty Steel has said none of the company's plants will be shut after the collapse of financial backer Greensill.

Sanjeev Gupta told the BBC the company's global operations would support its UK businesses.

He said: "None of my steel plants under my watch will be shut down."

Despite some investors beginning legal action to have parts of his group wound up, Mr Gupta said he was in talks with Greensill's administrators Grant Thornton.

Update #8569 - 10.46 Online sales lift Next despite drop in profits

Next saw sales fall by 17 per cent last year, despite a sharp rise in online purchases.

Sales fell to £3.6billion as the high street retailer saw pre-tax profits fall by 54 per cent to £342million throughout the pandemic.

Online sales rose by 13 per cent and in the second half of the year hit £364million - almost matching the £368million lost in sales at physical premises.

The group reported online sales had continued to grow and were more than 60 per cent up over the last two months compared with two years ago.

Its pre-tax profit prediction for the financial year has risen from £670million to £700million.

Update #8568 - 10.44 Minimum wage rises for two million workers

The National Living Wage has risen by 2.2 per cent from today - meaning around £345 a year extra for full-time employees.

Around two million people will benefit from the rise to £8.91 an hour with the lower age dropping from 25 to 23.

The minimum wage will increase by 16p to £8.36 for workers aged 21-22 and 11p to £6.56 for 18-20 year olds.

For under-18s, the hourly rate rises from £4.55 to £4.62 and by 15p to £4.30 for apprentices.

The voluntary Real Living Wage has risen to £9.50 for those firms who have signed up.

Update #8567 - 08.37 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 126,713 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 43 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 4,052 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,345,788 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 30,905,538 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 30 and 4,108,536 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 22,288, as of Wednesday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 950 - no change for several days.

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

Gloucester - 6,332 cases (increase of seven)

Cheltenham - 3,722 cases (increase of two)

Stroud - 3,726 cases (increase of two)

Tewkesbury - 2,896 cases (increase of two)

Forest of Dean - 3,079 cases (increase of one)

Cotswold - 2,533 cases (increase of three) 

Wednesday, March 31

Update #8566 - 12.32 Victoria Plum reveals sales surge

Online bathroom retailer Victoria Plum has posted a record 46 per cent sales increase for its full year ending February 28.

Sales at the business rose to £103m, whereas full year EBITDA jumped by 115 per cent to £4.5m. Website users increased by 165 per cent to 23.2 million.

Chief executive Paul McClenaghan said: "We have an ambitious growth strategy, highly capable people throughout the company and a collective determination to further accelerate our rate of expansion.

"Elements of our results have benefitted from the speeding up of the structural shift to online retail throughout 2020." 

Update #8565 - 11.18 Deliveroo shares slump 30 per cent on stock market debut

Food delivery plateform Deliveroo has seen its shares drop on its stock market debut, after investors express concerns about its gig economy business model.

Shares in the business had been offered at 390p each, but fell to 275p in early morning trading - equating to a 30 per cent fall.

But shares have since recovered, with the stock now trading 11 per cent down. 

Update #8564 - 11.16 Topps confident of post-lockdown growth

Topps Tiles said it is well positioned for growth when lockdown restrictions are lifted after reporting a drop in revenue for the first half of the year.

In a trading update the retailer, which has outlets in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Cirencester, said revenue had fallen to £103.6million in the last six months compared to the same period a year ago.

Retail sales were down 17.3 per cent during lockdown in the second quarter as opposed to a 19.9 per cent rise in the previous three months.

A company statement said: "Sales in the first half were down 10 per cent year on year, representing a robust performance in a difficult market.

"Forward indicators are positive with firm orders in hand increasing consistently over the trading period, and we expect to make good progress in the second half as the economy continues to unlock."

Update #8563 - 10.39 Campaigner denies charges over Covid hospital video

A woman who allegedly claimed Covid-19 was a hoax as she streamed video from her phone inside Gloucestershire Royal Hospital has denied behaviour that caused alarm or distress to others.

Debbie Hicks, 46, of Stratford Road, Stroud, pleaded not guilty to the charges at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court.

READ MORE 

Update #8562 - 10.06 Asda confirms it will not sell George

Supermarket chain Asda has confirmed that it will not sell its clothing brand George, but is in talks to stock third-party fashion labels.

Drapers reported that George is in talks with other fashion brands and plans to stock 16 to 20 new labels by the end of the year.

Asda chief executive and president Roger Burnley said: "George has been a crucial part of the Asda family and continues to be a key part of our strategy.

"Our new owners, and investors, clearly recognise the value and strategic importance of the George brand to our total business and we will continue to invest in its success." 

Update #8561 - 08.23 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 126,670 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 56 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 4,040 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,341,736 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 30,680,948 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 29 and 3,838,010 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 22,271, as of Tuesday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 950 - no change for several days.

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

Gloucester - 6,325 cases (increase of two)

Cheltenham - 3,720 cases (increase of four)

Stroud - 3,724 cases (increase of one)

Tewkesbury - 2,894 cases (increase of two)

Forest of Dean - 3,078 cases (increase of four)

Cotswold - 2,530 cases (no change)

Tuesday, March 30

Update #8560 - 12.47 Royal Mail offers free parcel pick up service

Postal service Royal Mail is offering free parcel pick-ups from home until the end of May, as it aims for a bigger slice of the parcel delivery market.

The business usually charges 72p for the service, on top of the normal postage fee. But this will be waived until May 31, in a bid to attract more customers.

Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, said: "The introduction of Parcel Collect has been incredibly successful. This promotion is an opportunity for all consumers across the UK to try out this fantastic service free of charge.

"Parcel Collect is part of our commitment to continuously make our services more convenient as we re-invent the way we deliver to and from our customers."

Update #8559 - 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 126,615 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 23 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 4,654 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hour period and 4,337,696 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 30,444,829 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 28 and 3,674,266 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 22,258, as of Monday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 950 - no change for several days.

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

Gloucester - 6,323 cases (increase of four)

Cheltenham - 3,716 cases (increase of two)

Stroud - 3,723 cases (increase of six)

Tewkesbury - 2,892 cases (no change)

Forest of Dean - 3,074 cases (increase of three)

Cotswold - 2,530 cases (increase of two)

Monday, March 29

Update #8558 - 12.46 CBI report shows 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Private sector activity fell at the slowest pace in a year over the last three months, according to the latest CBI Growth Indicator.

And the CBI survey found expectations for growth over the next quarter are the most positive for three years.

The research, carried out from February 24-March 16, showed a slower pace of decline in business and professional services (-5% from -21%), consumer services (-38% from -76%) and distribution firms (-23% from -26%).

READ MORE  

Update #8557 - 10.53 Green grant scrapped

A government grant scheme to help householders in England insulate their homes is to be axed.

The government's Green Homes Grant was proposed to make homes more energy efficient through insulation improvements, to help the UK achieve its climate change targets

But since its launch in September 2020, just 10 per cent of the 600,000 homes promised have received the work.

The scheme is therefore set to close on Wednesday and funds will instead be allocated to an insulation fund run by councils to target lower income households. 

Update #8556 - 10.46 Open all hours for retail return

Shops will be able to open for longer hours when coronavirus restrictions are lifted from next month.

Non-essential retailers are due to reopen from April 12 according to the Government's roadmap to end lockdown restrictions.

And Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed shops will be able to open until 10pm from Monday to Saturday to provide greater flexibility for avoiding peak times and easing transport pressures.

He said: "This will provide a much-needed boost for many businesses - protecting jobs, reducing pressure on public transport and supporting people and communities to continue to visit their high streets safely and shop locally."

Flexible working hours are also extended for construction sites and food deliveries at supermarkets.

Update #8555 - 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 126,592 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 19 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 3,862 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 4,333,042 since the outbreak began.

But on a more positive note, 30,151,287 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of March 27 and 3,527,481 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 22,241 as of Sunday afternoon.

The total number of deaths in Gloucestershire within 28 days of a positive test sits at 950.

Cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 6,319 cases

Cheltenham - 3,714 cases

Stroud - 3,717 cases

Tewkesbury - 2,892 cases

Forest of Dean - 3,071 cases

Cotswold - 2,528 cases

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