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Some big changes to furlough rules are coming from this week

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The furlough scheme helped cover the wages of 8.4 million people in the UK, but the rules are set to change this week.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a huge part of the coronavirus pandemic, and most of us will at least know some people currently on furlough.

It’s estimated that furlough has now paid for 8.4 million people’s wages, costing the government £15 billion. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the scheme – set to end on October 31st – will have a series of changes to wind it down.

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From Wednesday, July 1st, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and on any shift pattern, with the retention scheme grant paying for the hours not worked. 

Then from August 1st, companies will be expected to pay employer national insurance and pension contributions and the level of the furlough grant will be reduced each month.

In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough.

Companies will have to pay NIC and pension contributions to top up the wages of those on furlough to ensure they are still receiving 80% of their wage. This will still be capped at £2,500 for the time they are furloughed. 

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In October, the government will pay 60% of wages, capped at £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough.

And again, employers will be expected to make their employees wages up to 80%, to a cap of £2,500, and pay NIC and pension contributions. 

Despite the furlough scheme proving many people with a huge support system, many people have expressed concerns regarding the impending recession and what this means for unemployment.

The Prime Minister has reported that the government will spend on infrastructure to ‘build our way back to health’.

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“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences,” he said.

“We’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need.”

Spending on infrastructure could give some immediate ‘payback’ by increasing the number of people in work and the ‘amount of demand’ in the economy in the short term, according to the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson. 

Johnson warned that the UK could return to ‘levels of unemployment we haven’t actually seen for decades’ if money is spent by the government in the wrong way, or done too quickly, adding it could result in ‘low-quality infrastructure projects which don’t pay for themselves’.

The Labour Party has commissioned an analysis of the potential unemployment levels, which could tip past the highest rate of 3.3 million that was seen under Margaret Thatcher’s government.  

Many economists have warned that the full effects coronavirus will have on employment won’t be felt until the wage support scheme completely ends. 

The Mayor of London has called upon the government to extend ‘the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of lockdown’, he Tweeted. 

Adding: “or else risk unemployment, poverty and homelessness across the capital. This is urgent. The Govt must act.” 

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Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens

The violence spilled out into the street

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A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.

Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.

The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.

Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.

Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.

This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.

Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.

And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.

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Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June

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Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.

In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.

One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.

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Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.

“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”

According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.

Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.

He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.

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Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). 

There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.

The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”



It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.

“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”

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Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters

It follows weeks of allegations against the PM

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No10 / Flickr

According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.

The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.

The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.

No10 / Flickr

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him. 

“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections. 

“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”

No10 / Flickr

The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.

However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.

Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.

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