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Curfew could be put in place across the country as ‘second peak’ threatens Christmas

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MattHancock/twitter & nqmanchester/Instagram

Boris Johnson will be making an announcement today confirming the new law effective Monday that makes gatherings of more than six people illegal, and a national curfew could be put in place. 

This comes following a significant spike in Covid-19 cases, with almost 8,5000 positive tests being recording in England in the past three days. 

Ministers are also considering a national curfew, according to the Telegraph, similar to those rules recently imposed in Bolton.

The new rules in Bolton, unveiled by Matt Hancock, bars people from socialising outside of their household. It comes due to the Greater Manchester borough’s high Covid infection rate, 120 cases per 100,000.

Speaking of the new measures which were imposed with immediate effect, Hancock said: “We will restrict all hospitality to takeaway only, and will introduce a late-night restriction of operating hours which will mean all venues will be required to close from 10pm to 5am.

“We’ll introduce urgently further measures that put the current guidance that people cannot socialise outside their household into law.”

The Conservative leader of Bolton Council, councillor David Greenhalgh, said the measures were: “…not something we want to do but it is clear the virus is currently moving round the borough uncontrolled and so we need to halt the transmission rate”.

Greater Manchester now has the highest rate of infections in the country, reportedly due to young adults mixing in pubs and restaurants and ignoring social distancing rules, according to The Telegraph’s reports on Government data. 

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Government, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser have jointly agreed that urgent action is necessary after seeing the number of daily positive cases rise to almost 3,000 recently.”

Additionally, police chiefs urged ministers to simplify the rules to make them easier to implement. 

It is expected the Prime Minister will say: “We are strengthening the rules on social contact, making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.”

“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others and getting a test if you have symptoms.”

The new national rules will see £100 fines for those who break them and meet in groups greater than six people, indoors or outdoors. The fine will double for each repeat offence to a maximum of £3,200.

Repeated refusal to pay any fine is a criminal offence and can result in a court appearance, and ultimately could lead to a prison sentence. 

The coronavirus case totals exceeded 350,000 and has been the highest since May, with Covid-related deaths hitting 32, the highest the UK has seen in weeks. 

Matt Hancock has warned ministers that the UK is on the brink of a ‘second peak’. Adding: “Each and every citizen has a responsibility to follow social distancing and help stop a second peak.”

Scientists have warned that restrictions will need to be in place until the end of the year, which could potentially threaten Christmas celebrations. 

A member of the Government’s SAGE advisory boar, John Edmunds, said: “The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas.

“And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well it’s meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that.

“It’s all high risk. And it’s all indoors.”

Prof Whitty said: “We have, through the extraordinary efforts of the whole population, got Covid rates right down.

“They are now rising again, especially in those aged 17 to 29. If we stop social distancing, Covid comes back.”

Earlier this week, Mr Hancock blasted young people, warning them not to ‘kill your gran’.

In parallel with the press conference later today, the government is expected to launch a new public information campaign starting Wednesday to reiterate ‘handwashing and mask use’. 

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Fred Perry is opening a huge new flagship store in Afflecks

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Afflecks / Jody Hartley 

In some good news for our city centre, Fred Perry has announced that it will be opening a huge new store in the Northern Quarter.

The new flagship store will be located at the bottom of the Afflecks building, and is welcome news following the recent closure of high street stalwarts like Debenhams and Topshop.

Fred Perry will be moving from its current location on Police Street to open the new, bigger flagship store on the corner of Oldham Street and Church Street.

The site will see the iconic British brand move into the 2,820 sq ft unit this summer, joining Manchester’s legendary Afflecks which is owned by Bruntwood Works.

Afflecks / Jody Hartley 

Fred Perry was co-founded by the Stockport-born tennis champion of the same name back in the late 1940s, and has gained worldwide fame for its laurel wreath logo and polo shirts.

Richard Gilmore, managing director at Fred Perry, said: “We’re delighted to be moving to the Northern Quarter. The area has no shortage of strong associations to ground-breaking music and subcultural style – something we continue to champion.

“Our retail spaces aren’t just shops, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we do with the Manchester community as part of an exciting continuation of Fred Perry and Afflecks’ mutual commitment to heritage and innovation.

“We now have a space we can be truly proud of in Manchester.”

Charles Roffey / Flickr

Chris Middleton, senior retail manager at Bruntwood Works, added: “Fred Perry is a true icon, and we’re delighted to be welcoming them to the ground floor of our famous Afflecks building.

“The addition of this much-loved brand will bolster the retail community in the Northern Quarter neighbourhood, building on Oldham Street’s offering as a lifestyle-led shopping destination.

“It feels particularly exciting to be announcing the news after what has been a challenging twelve months for retail, as we look forward to a bright future for Manchester city centre.”

The new Fred Perry store will open this summer, although an exact date has yet to be released. 

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People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms

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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget. 

Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.

The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly. 

Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.

Number 10 / Flickr

Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown

“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.

“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”

The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically. 

Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment. 

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year. 

The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.

Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September. 

You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here

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What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester

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alvariummcr & flokmcr/Instagram

Rishi Sunak has said he wants to be honest about the government’s plans for fixing the public finances.

The chancellor says there has been ‘acute damage’ to the economy, with more than 700,000 people losing jobs and the economy shrinking by 10% – the largest fall in 300 years.

Borrowing has also been as high as during wartime.

He said: “It’s going to take this country, and the whole world, a long time to recover from this extraordinary situation.”

Here are the key points from his 2021 budget announcement….

The Bay Horse Tavern/Facebook

Furlough

  • Sunak explains that 1.8 million fewer people are expected to be out of work than previously thought, with the peak at 6.5% down from the forecasted peak of 11.9%.
  • Furlough is set to be extended until the end of September this year, however, firms will be asked to contribute 10% of employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September as the scheme is gradually phased out.
  • A fourth grant worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500 covering February to April that will help self-employed people.
  • The £20 increase in universal credit will extend for six months

Business Support

  • Total cash support to businesses has reached £25bn. A further £5bn restart grant has now been confirmed to help companies get going after lockdown.
  • Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds.
  • The 5% VAT cut will be extended to the end of September and gradually increased at 12.5% for six months before returning to the normal rate in April 2022.

David Dixon/Geograph

Housing

  • The stamp duty holiday will be extended on properties up to £500,000 to the end of June. It will return to normal levels from October 1st.
  • Mortgage guarantees were also confirmed to help first-time buyers access 95% mortgages, with just 5% deposits.

Public Finances

  • The government will take a ‘fair’ approach to ‘fixing the public finances’ the chancellor confirms.
  • There will be no increase in national insurance, income tax or VAT.
  • The personal allowance will remain at £12,750 until 2026 and the higher rate will increase to £50,270 next year.
  • Inheritance tax threshold, pensions lifetime allowance, annual exempt allowance from capital gains tax and VAT exemption thresholds will all be frozen.
  • New minimum wage rates come into force in England on April 1st. Basic rate workers will see a 2.2% increase, with the National Living Wage rising to £8.91 an hour.

David Dixon/Geograph

Borrowing

  • The budget deficit will reach £355billion this year (17% of GDP) – the highest level in peacetime.
  • Sunak said: “It’s going to be the work of many governments over many decades to pay it back, just as it would be irresponsible to withdraw support too soon, it would also be irresponsible to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.”

Growth

  • The chancellor explains that the economy will recover more quickly than previously thought.
  • GDP will grow by 4% this year and 7.3% next year according to official forecasts.

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