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Face masks could be made compulsory in shops, Matt Hancock says

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Matt Hancock has dubbed face masks as ‘important part of our armoury’ and says they could become compulsory in shops. 

The Health Secretary said he will be reviewing the wearing of face coverings in crowded places indoors to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

He said: “The use of face coverings that are not formal face masks is valuable especially in some circumstances and therefore it’s mandated on public transport and it has been long recommended in some shops.”

According to a source from the Department of Health, the issue regarding face masks is set to be kept under constant review and any guidelines are not expected to be released immediately.

The news comes as the president of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, slammed the government for a confusing message on the use of face masks and coverings in the UK throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

At present, it is only compulsory to wear a face mask or covering on public transport, and it has been advised to wear masks in supermarkets or other areas where social distancing cannot be practiced successfully. 

Other countries have implemented the use of face masks into their daily lives, while the UK has not implemented a stringent policy. 

Ramakrishnan said: “Perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them. Whatever the reasons, we need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public.

“It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts.

“Today, both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way.”

The comments follow new research that detail the effectiveness of the use of face masks and coverings.

Studies show that masks can reduce the risk of transmission rate to just 3.1% with a mask, down from 17.4% without a mask. 

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A explains that if the entire public wear a mask, it will be twice as effective at reducing the R rate than if those showing symptoms wore a mask.

In April, the uptake for wearing a mask in the UK was 25%, compared to 83.4% in Italy, 65.8% in the US and 63.8%  in Spain. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this week, Ramakrishnan added: “I think what we would like for the Government is to be a bit stronger and clearer about the messaging and require it whenever you are in crowded public spaces where you cannot get more than two metres away from the next person.

“If you’re in a crowded setting, you ought to wear a mask.”

Ramakrishnan did note that being outdoors poses less of a problem for transmission and mask-wearing is largely required in indoor settings. 

Downing Street has stressed that people need to ensure they are wearing face masks properly, covering both the nose and the mouth.

The government states: “We have been very clear about the benefits of people wearing face coverings.”

Disposable face masks are also expected to cause a huge environmental problem, and the problems of this are already being seen across the world. 

Download easy sewing patterns and find tutorials for creating masks here

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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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Number 10/Flickr

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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