Coronavirus UK news LIVE: Rishi Sunak slashes VAT and confirms stamp duty holiday as death toll hits 44,517

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CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has unveiled a host of new measures to get Britain’s economy moving again.

Among the bumper package of measures announced in today’s mini-Budget was a six-month stamp duty holiday for homes up to £500,000.

And in a move designed to boost the ailing tourism industry, the Chancellor announced there will be an Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme throughout August – meaning restaurant and pub bills will be slashed in half.

VAT for businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry will also be cut from 20 per cent to just five per cent until January next year.

Mr Sunak has also announced a £2billion Kickstart Scheme, which will help find work for 350,000 jobless young people.

The mini-Budget also saw the announcement of the”Green Homes Grant Scheme”, with homeowners eligible for a £5,000 energy voucher when it launches in September.

It comes as the coronavirus death toll in the UK rose to 44,517 after 126 more deaths in were recorded on July 8, 2020.

SERBIAN LEADER BACKTRACKS ON LOCKDOWN AMID VIOLENT PROTESTS

Police fired tear gas at protesters in Serbia’s capital on Wednesday during the second day of demonstrations against the president’s handling of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

President Aleksandar Vucic backtracked on his plans to reinstate a coronavirus lockdown in Belgrade this week, but it didn’t stop people from firing flares and throwing stones while trying to storm the downtown parliament building.

Several people were injured during the chaotic clashes in front of the parliament on Wednesday, including some of the opposition leaders.

SUNAK ANNOUNCES HALF-PRICE MEALS EVERY MONDAY TO WEDNESDAY DURING AUGUST

Half-price meals will be offered to diners eating out every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during August, the Chancellor has announced, in a bid to boost the hospitality sector.

Rishi Sunak said the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme would provide 50% off – up to a maximum of £10 per head – meals at participating businesses across the UK.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs have been severely affected by the coronavirus lockdown, with many staff placed on the Government’s furlough scheme.

But in a bid to encourage customers to return, Mr Sunak told the Commons during his economic update: “I can announce today that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount.

UNITED AIRLINES SENDING ‘GUT PUNCH’ FURLOUGH WARNINGS TO 36,000 WORKERS

United Airlines said on Wednesday it was preparing to send notices of potential furloughs to 36,000 U.S.-based frontline employees, or about 45% of staff, as travel demand hit by the coronavirus pandemic struggles to recover.

United shares lost 3.3% in midday trading.

Not everyone who receives a notification will be furloughed, United said, with the final number depending on how demand evolves and how many employees accept early exit packages and temporary leaves.

The furloughs would begin on Oct. 1, when a government-imposed ban on forced job cuts by airlines that accepted billions of dollars in federal payroll aid expires.

“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said in a statement.

EXTRA HELP SIGNALLED FOR LONGER-TERM UNEMPLOYED

The Government has outlined a plan to provide additional help for longer-term unemployed, with details set to be announced later.

Ministers said that in addition to the policies announced in the Chancellor’s “plan for jobs” on Wednesday, the Government intends to support those who are out of work for a longer period with a new, large-scale employment support offer.

Employment measures announced in the package include expansion of support to young jobseekers, with £895 million to enhance work-search support by doubling the number of work coaches in jobcentres before the end of the financial year across Britain.

The Government said it will also provide up to £95 million this year to expand the scope of the Work and Health Programme, to introduce additional voluntary support in the autumn for those on benefits who have been unemployed for more than three months.

An online service will be introduced to help those who have been unemployed for less than three months.

SPAIN’S CATALONIA MAKES MASKS COMPULSORY IN PUBLIC AT ALL TIMES

Catalonia on Wednesday ordered all residents and visitors to wear face masks in public at all times, becoming the first Spanish region to toughen a national directive mandating their use when in close proximity to others.

The order, which takes effect on Thursday, was announced by regional leader Quim Torra four days after more than 200,000 people in the Segria area were placed under a local lockdown following a series of coronavirus outbreaks there.

“Masks will be mandatory all over Catalonia, not just in the Segria region… I think it’s an important measure,” Torra told the regional parliament.

“We will distribute protective equipment.”

FISCAL SUPPORT WORTH £160BN ANNOUNCED BY GOVERNMENT SINCE MARCH, FIGURES SHOW

Fiscal support worth almost £160 billion has been announced by the Government since March to deal with the coronavirus crisis, according to new Treasury figures.

The sum is almost £30 billion more than the latest estimate from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) of £133 billion.

It includes employment support worth £69 billion, business support worth £30 billion and some £50 billion for public service spending, funding for charities and support for vulnerable people.

The total tax deferrals and approved loans stands at almost £123 billion.

Figures released by the Treasury also set out that the Government has approved £32 billion of support for health services, including £15 billion for PPE procurement for frontline staff.

CANADA HANDLED THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK BETTER THAN THE US SAYS PM TRUDEAU

Canada handled the novel coronavirus outbreak better than many of its allies, including the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday, in a rare public comment on the faltering U.S. effort.

Canada – with a population one-tenth the size of the United States – has so far recorded 8,711 deaths and 106,167 cases and Trudeau said the situation was stabilising, although some hot spots remained.

In contrast, the United States has recorded more than 3 million cases and 131,336 deaths.

Authorities have reported alarming upswings of daily case loads in roughly two dozen states over the past two weeks.

“We were able to control the virus better than many of our allies, particularly including our neighbour,” Trudeau told a briefing, saying Canada’s success would help efforts to restart the economy.

FRANCE REPORTS 32 MORE CORONAVIRUS DEATHS

The number of deaths in France from the new coronavirus has risen by 32 from the previous day to stand at 29,965 the country’s health department said on Wednesday.

That figure is almost twice as high as the daily average of 18 seen over the last seven days.

In June, France counted 34 additional deaths every day on average, in May 143 and in April 695.

France has the sixth-largest death toll in the world.

MILLIONS HEAD BACK INTO LOCKDOWN IN MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA

Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, forcing five million Australians to stay home for all but essential business for the next six weeks to contain a flare-up of coronavirus cases.

State police were patrolling the city and setting up checkpoints on major roads to stop people heading out to regional areas and spreading the virus from what is now Australia’s pandemic epicentre, with 860 active cases.

“The window for police discretion is very small and is closing as the threat to public health and safety created by those breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions is too great,” Victoria police said in a statement.

ITALY CRACKS DOWN ON BANGLADESH AMID VIRUS CONCERNS

More than 100 Bangladeshis who arrived at Romes airport Wednesday were refused entry as Italy tightens restrictions on travel from coronavirus hotspots in a bid to prevent new infection clusters in the onetime European epicentre of the outbreak.

The 112 Bangladeshis were among 205 passengers who landed Wednesday aboard a Qatar Airways flight that originated in Pakistan and stopped in Doha, Qatar.

A spokesman for Romes Leonardo da Vinci airport said the 112 were not allowed to disembark and were sent back.

The other passengers were being tested and quarantined.

Italy on Tuesday had suspended flights from Bangladesh after at least 37 Bangladeshi passengers aboard a charter flight that landed Monday tested positive for the virus upon arrival in Rome.

Italy went on alert about possible infections in the Bangladeshi immigrant community after a cluster of about a dozen cases was traced to a recently returned worker in Rome.

REDUCED CAPACITY MEANS PEOPLE MAY BE UNABLE TO GET DENTIST APPOINTMENTS – EXPERT

Some people seeking dental care may still be unable to get an appointment a month after dentists were allowed to open in England, a leading dental professor has said.

Professor Phil Taylor, dean-elect of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Dental Surgery, said it will take a “long time” for dentists to work through the backlog of patients built up while practices were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after a poll of dentists found that half believe they have patients who have suffered permanent harm as a result of practice closures.

And the survey of 246 dentists across the UK conducted by the faculty found that 87% feel there is a backlog which will cause further long-term deterioration.

Prof Taylor said: “We are now one month on from dental practices in England being allowed to reopen to treat non-emergency patients after the pandemic forced the vast majority of practices to close their doors.

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES RAISING RECORD 2020 BUDGET GAP FOR THIRD TIME

The Czech lower house of parliament approved a government plan to run a record 500 billion crown central state budget deficit in 2020, more than 12 times the original target set before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The gap would be equal to around 9% of the country’s expected 2020 gross domestic product. That is before a potential additional impact of local budgets, the health system and other parts of the public sector is factored into overall public finances.

The deficit increase from a previous plan of 300 billion crowns is the third time the government has raised the gap since the novel coronavirus hit Europe hard in March, leading to the shutdown of much of daily life and business.

While most restrictions have gone, the central bank has forecast an 8% fall in GDP this year, before a 4% rebound in 2021.

RYDER CUP CAPTAINS SUPPORT DECISION TO POSTPONE 2020 EVENT

Ryder Cup captains Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker have welcomed the event’s postponement for 12 months.

The biennial contest between the United States and Europe will now be held at Whistling Straits in September 2021 and every two years thereafter.

Continuing concerns over coronavirus meant the Wisconsin venue was unable to host fans this year – a scenario both captains, plus organisers and the majority of players likely to be involved, were not in favour of.

However, the PGA of America has warned if the 2021 Ryder Cup cannot proceed as they would envisage it would most likely be cancelled next year.

“Rescheduling the Ryder Cup was never going to be an easy decision but I believe it is the right assessment given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing at this time,” said Harrington.

LONDON SHARES FALL FOR SECOND DAY AS VIRUS CONCERNS DULL REBOUND HOPES

London shares slid for the second straight session on Wednesday as another jump in global COVID-19 cases overshadowed hopes of an economic rebound, even as stimulus poured in to help steer the economy away from an unemployment crisis.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 slipped 0.6% and the mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 0.9%, with banks and transport indexes leading declines.

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak promised an additional 30 billion pounds ($38 billion) on Wednesday, funnelling money to employers, homebuyers and hospitality firms to drive a recovery.

The move was initially well-received by investors but concerns over surging coronavirus cases governed sentiment to the day’s close.

However, housebuilders rose 0.5%, from the announcement of stamp duty cuts.

TEN POSITIVE RESULTS IN FIRST ROUND OF PREMIERSHIP RUGBY CORONAVIRUS TESTS

Premiership Rugby has announced 10 people have tested positive for coronavirus following the first round of testing.

The positive results consisted of six players and four non-playing staff from a total of 804 tests and those individuals will now isolate and be assessed in line with the Public Health England-agreed guidelines.

Premiership Rugby has set a target of August 15 for resuming the 2019-20 campaign, which was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement said: “Premiership Rugby can today confirm that on Monday 6 July, 804 players and club staff were tested as part of the PCR Covid-19 screening programme.

“Of these, 10 people have tested positive. Of those 10, six were players and four non-playing staff.

“Players or club staff who have tested positive and their close contacts will now isolate and be assessed in line with the PHE-agreed guidelines.

“Premiership Rugby and the RFU are providing this aggregated information for competition integrity and transparency.”

FACE MASKS ‘NOT A MAGIC BULLET’, SAYS FIRST MINISTER

Wearing a face mask is not a “magic bullet” in preventing the spread of coronavirus, the First Minister of Wales has said.

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government would keep the guidance on the wearing of face masks in public under review.

He was responding to a call from a Brexit Party Senedd member for face masks to be made mandatory in public in Wales.

They are are not mandatory in Wales but are recommended in places like public transport, but must be worn on public transport in England and Scotland, and in shops in Scotland.

Mr Drakeford told the plenary: “What I commit to is to keeping the issue continuously under review and to take the advice of those who are best placed to provide that advice to us.

“If the advice changes, then our position in Wales will change as well.

“Wearing a face covering is not by itself a magic bullet that prevents people from contracting or spreading coronavirus.”

US – SCHOOLS WILL REOPEN IN FALL WITH HYBRID LEARNING SAYS NYC MAYOR

Most New York City students will return to their physical schools two or three days a week and learn online the rest of the time under a plan announced Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said schools cant accommodate all their students at any one time and maintain safe social distancing.

Most schools will not be able to have all their kids in school at the same time, de Blasio said.

De Blasio said parents will have the option of online-only instruction for their children, but he said 75% of parents who answered a survey want their children in school in September.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has clashed with de Blasio repeatedly over control of the city’s schools and other issues, said all school districts statewide must submit plans for reopening by July 31 and state officials will decide in the first week of August whether to accept the plans and whether schools will reopen at all.

CONFLICTS CONTINUE AROUND GLOBE DESPITE COVID-19, RESEARCH FINDS

The Covid-19 pandemic has not paused conflict around the world – despite calls for a global ceasefire, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have developed a publicly-available digital tracking tool to examine the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on peace processes and armed conflict.

They assessed the progress of agreements following the United Nations’ call for a global ceasefire to support the fight against coronavirus in March.

More than 170 states supported the UN’s appeal, as did other peace-building and religious organisations.

Researchers found that although there was an initial surge in ceasefire announcements in nearly all regions, in some cases this has not resulted in a longstanding end to hostilities.

SAND SCULPTURE PROMOTES SOCIAL DISTANCING

A giant piece of sand art has been created to help drive home the importance of social distancing for those visiting the seaside and other popular places.

Artists from West Yorkshire-based Sand In Your Eye created the massive drawing on the beach at Whitby, North Yorkshire, to encourage responsible behaviour from visitors to the popular seaside town.

The piece, which only lasts until the next high tide, depicts a person wearing a face covering made up of lines that are 2m apart and contained within a coronavirus cell.

It is accompanied by the text: “2m. Together we protect each other.”

FREELANCERS AND SELF-EMPLOYED FEEL ‘FORGOTTEN’

The Government was accused of letting down millions of “forgotten” freelance and self-employed workers.

Many workers now face a “cliff edge” next month because of lack of support, the Chancellor was warned.

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu – which represents workers in the broadcasting industry, said: “There were millions of forgotten freelancers and others across the country hanging on the Chancellor’s every word today, but once again the Government has let them down and failed to recognise the plight of those who have fallen through the gaps.

“The Government have announced a welcome £1.5 billion to support creative institutions, but there needs to be extra support to help freelancers who are the backbone of the creative industries.

“If they do not then the future of the £100 billion sector is at risk as highly skilled freelance and self-employed workers are forced to seek work elsewhere.

“Creative workers need action from the Government and they need it now.”

UK DEATH TOLL HITS 44, 517

The Department of Health said 44,517 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Tuesday – up by 126 from 44,391 the previous day.

The Government figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which are thought to have passed 55,000.

The DHSC also said that in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Wednesday, there were 630 positive test results. Overall, a total of 286,979 cases have been confirmed.

RISHI’S MINI BUDGET – IN BRIEF

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT URGED TO MATCH STAMP DUTY CUTS

The Scottish Government has been warned of “dire consequences” if SNP ministers fail to match Rishi Sunak’s cut on stamp duty south of the border.

The move was part of the series of announcements from the Chancellor which will see the Scottish Government receive an additional £800 million in funding – taking the total of extra cash they have received from Westminster since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to £4.6 billion.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes complained the figures for Scotland from Mr Sunak’s summer update were “disappointing, underwhelming and fall short of the scale required to reboot the economy”.

ONE IN FIVE PEOPLE FEEL ‘HOPELESS’ DUE TO PANDEMIC

More must be done to prevent mental distress from “escalating into tragic long-term consequences”, an academic has said.

The comments come after a poll revealed high levels of “hopelessness” among the British public.

A survey of more than 4,000 British adults found that almost one in five feel hopeless because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This rises to 27% among the unemployed and 31% of those who have pre-existing mental health problems.

42 MORE COVID DEATHS IN ENGLAND

A further 42 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 28,969, NHS England said.

Patients were aged between 22 and 100 years old and six people aged between 60 and 94 had no known underlying health conditions.

NHS England also confirmed it had reduced the total number of confirmed deaths in English hospitals by 12 to remove deaths previously reported twice in error.

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