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Chancellor unveils ‘unprecedented’ plan to rescue businesses devastated by coronavirus

NEWS JUST IN…

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the government will step in to help businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus. 

Rishi Sunak addressed the nation at today’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister began the briefing by saying that the new measures he announced yesterday will reduce suffering, adding: “I stress that although the measures are extreme, we may have to go further and faster in the coming days to protect the NHS.”

Rishi Sunak then took over, saying he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the economy, saying the UK needs a ‘collective national effort’ to protect people and businesses devastated by coronavirus. 

He added: “This government will give you all the tools you need to get through this – we will support people, support jobs, we will do whatever it takes.”

The Chancellor  went on to unveil an ‘unprecedented package’, giving businesses access to £330bn of government backed loans.

Small businesses can access a loan of up to £5 million, with no interest due in first six months.

For the retail and hospitality sector, he announced a package of no business rates, alongside a £25,000 cash grant available to everyone.

On top of that, the Chancellor addressed people’s concerns about whether insurers would pay out to pubs, clubs and cafes, saying that the Government will make sure insured businesses receive payouts, and non-insured companies get payouts of £25,000.

Mortgage lenders are also set to offer a three month ‘mortgage holiday’ to help protect anyone who cannot afford to pay, according to the Chancellor, added that they will go ‘much further’ over the coming days. 

It comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him to do more to help businesses affected by the pandemic.

As of today, Tuesday March 17th, 1,950 in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus, with 14 more dying from the virus, bringing the total number to 69.

Yesterday Boris Johnson told the nation that people need to start working from home, saying: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others, we need people to start working from home.”

The Prime Minister also said the government no longer supports mass gatherings, as everyone should stop all non-essential contact with others, including avoiding pubs, clubs and other venues, with people taking only essential travel.

He also had some new isolation advice: “Last week we asked everyone to stay at home with a high temperature or a new and continuous cough.

“Today we need to go further, it looks like we are approaching the fast part of the upward curve and cases could double every 5 or 6 days.

“If you or anyone in your household has one of those two symptoms, you should stay at home for 14 days – only going out for exercise at a safe distance.”

During the same address, chief medical officer Chris Whitty stressed that most people will only have a mild or moderate disease, before adding: “This is going to go on for some time – it will be a prolonged period. But a significant minority will need hospital care, a small amount of those will need intensive care and sadly some will die.”

Whittey also said that anyone over 70, people under 70 with significant health issues and pregnant women should take additional care to minimise their social contact.

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New Covid-19 Rules: Everything you need to know as masks become compulsory in shops and on transport

The new rules will come into place tomorrow at 4

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Mika Baumeister / Unsplash & Nickolay Romensky / Flickr

From tomorrow, November 30th, the use of face masks and coverings will once again be compulsory in shops and on public transport.

The government made the decision as part of its response to the new Omicron variant, which is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

The change in rules was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after cases of the new variant were detected at several locations across the UK. The Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave more detail yesterday, November 28th, saying the masks rule would apply from 4am on Tuesday

Here’s everything you need to know:

Where will face masks be compulsory after November 30th? 

Face masks and coverings will be mandatory in all shops and on all forms of public transport.

A statement from the Government says: “From 4am Tuesday November 30th, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

However, all hospitality will be exempt from the rule change, with the Prime Minister saying further details would be outlined by the Health Secretary ‘in the course of the next day or so’. 

Will face masks be compulsory in schools?

While staff and secondary school students are being ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in communal areas from Monday, the rule won’t be mandatory in schools

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi recommends that staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 and above should wear masks in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities such as corridors, canteens and halls.

@arturorey / Unsplash

What other measures are being brought in?

Passengers arriving into the UK from Tuesday will have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. PCR tests must be purchased from private providers as free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must also self-isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty also said during Saturday’s press conference that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will consider extending boosters from the over-40s to the over-18s.

Will more restrictions be brought in?

The Health Secretary said during Saturday’s press conference that it was ‘nowhere near’ the time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance, and was hopeful the mask mandate would be removed ‘within weeks’.

Also speaking on Saturday, Boris Johnson added that the measures are simply a ‘precaution’ and are in place to ‘buy time for scientists’ while more is learned about the Omicron variant.

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Iceland boss says shoppers won’t be forced to wear face masks

‘We need to continue to encourage people to shop in stores if they feel comfortable’

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Iceland supermarkets across the country won’t be forcing shoppers to wear face masks, despite new Covid rules being introduced this week.

The supermarket chain’s managing director Richard Walker has announced that he won’t be asking staff to enforce the new restrictions as they focus on the ‘long-term recovery of the high street.’

Walker told The Daily Mail: “We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it.

Adcro / Wikimedia Commons

“Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it’s crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.

“We need to continue to encourage people to shop in stores if they feel comfortable, and I’m hopeful that the latest guidelines won’t discourage customers from doing so.”

Supermarket giant Co-op has also said that they would not be enforcing face coverings in their stores – nor would they refuse to serve a customer without one.

The British Retail Consortium has said it’s down to the police to enforce the measure, saying, as per The Sun: “Customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff.”

@arturorey / Unsplash

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the return of face masks and self-isolation in a bid to tackle the new Omicron variant. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday that face masks will be once again made compulsory in shops and on public transport from tomorrow, Tuesday November 30th

While appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, Javid confirmed that people who refuse to wear masks will be hit with new sanctions, saying: “Yes, it will be a legal requirement by government regulations to wear masks in shops and public transport.”

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The key symptoms of the new Omicron Covid variant have been revealed

Here’s what we know so far…

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Annie Spratt / Unsplash & Nickolay Romensky / Flickr

As new measures are put in place to combat the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, speculation surrounding its symptoms are rife.

While little is still known about the latest variant of Covid-19, it is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity,’ and has already been detected in a handful of locations across the UK. 

Measures have been introduced to combat the new strain, which is believed to have originated in South Africa, such as making face masks compulsory once again in shops and on public transport. 

But what exactly are the Omicron symptoms, and how do they differ from regular Coronavirus?

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who spotted the variant when patients arrived at her practice in Pretoria, South Africa, says the new variant has presented some young people with intense fatigue and a six-year-old child with a high pulse rate.

Dr. Coetzee said symptoms didn’t include a sore throat, but more of a ‘scratchy’ throat, and a mild headache. She added there was also no cough.

The thirty-three-year-old GP also pointed out that none of the patients had the loss of sense of taste or smell which has become a common indicator of Covid-19.

Nickolay Romensky / Flickr

Dr Coetzee, who also chairs South Africa’s Medical Association, said: “Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before.”

She added that most of the patients she has seen so far are healthy men who are ‘feeling so tired’. 

As of 4am tomorrow, November 30th, face masks will be compulsory in all shops and on public transport. A statement from the Government says: “From 4am Tuesday November 30th, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

Find out more here.

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