Coronavirus UK LIVE: VAT cut sees restaurants slash prices as face masks in offices are ruled out and deaths hit 44,968

VAT cuts for the hospitality and tourism industry start today, with businesses in this sector seeing value added tax reduction from 20 per cent to 5 per cent.

It comes as Environment Secretary George Eustice announced face mask wearing will not be compulsory in bars and restaurants.

His comments came after officials confirmed wearing a face mask in shops and supermarkets will be made mandatory in England this month.

In a statement on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that anyone failing to comply with the order of wearing face masks in shops – which comes into force on July 24 – could face a fine of up to £100.

Mr Hancock said: "The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine."

Meanwhile, the coronavirus death toll in the UK increased by 138 to 44,968 on Tuesday.

Follow the latest news and updates surrounding coronavirus below…

  • MOST NEW INFECTIONS IN BLACKBURN 'AFFECTING SOUTH ASIAN POPULATION'

    A staggering 85 per cent of new Covid-19 infections in Blackburn with Darwen are among its South Asian population, it was revealed today.

    For the next month, only two people from the same family will be allowed to visit another household indoors in the Lancashire authority.

    In addition, everyone must wear face masks in any enclosed public space.

    People are also being urged not to hug anyone from outside their own household.

    ThenBlackburn with Darwen borough, which has an Asian population of about 28 per cent, had 114 cases in the last two weeks.

    Of those, 97 cases are in people from south Asian backgrounds.

    Image: PA

  • PAYDAY LOAN BORROWERS CAN GET MORE HELP

    Borrowers using products such as payday loans, motor finance and buy-now-pay-later schemes will receive further help if they are still facing temporary payment difficulties due to coronavirus.

    The measures, introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority, will also cover customers using rent-to-own and pawnbroking businesses.

    A ban on repossessions will also continue until October 31.

    This ban applies to motor finance and rent-to-own customers still facing temporary payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus.

  • YOUNGSTERS ARE 'MOST LIKELY' TO HAVE POSITIVE TEST

    Young people aren’t immune from the coronavirus and are “most likely to test positive for Covid-19”, new research has warned.

    Researchers tested more than 120,000 volunteers up and down the country over the age of five.

    The study found young adults aged 18 to 24 were more likely to test positive than other age groups.

    Here's the story.

    Image: Getty

  • JET2 HOLS RESUME AFTER FOUR-MONTH SUSPENSION

    Jet2.com has restarted their flights and holidays programme after suspending its operations for nearly four months.

    Almost 50 flights are due to depart today across seven airports in England and Scotland to destinations where travel restrictions have been eased, such as the Canaries, Balearics, mainland Spain, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

    The airports served are Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Glasgow, Newcastle and London Stansted.

    Image: PA

  • THE COMPANIES SLASHING PRICES FOR CUSTOMERS

    McDonald's, Nando's, KFC and Pret A Manger are among food chains planning price cuts for customers as £4.1billion of VAT cuts come into force.

    The Government has slashed VAT on hot meals, accommodation and attractions from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for the next six months.

    • Pret will cut the price of coffee from today, with the price of hot food going down on Friday
    • McDonald's said it is recommending a cut in the price of popular items on its menu and meal deals to its franchisees. It intends to reduce the price of Happy Meals by 30p and breakfast meals by 50p
    • KFC said it will reduce the price of sharing buckets by £1 and slash the cost of certain “fan favourites” by 50p
    • Nando's said it will pass on “100 per cent of the benefits” from the tax break to its customers, helping to reduce the price of a quarter chicken by 55p
    • Pub chain Wetherspoons said it will use the tax cut on hot food and cold drinks to help fund lower prices on some of its most popular beers

    MASKS COULD BE 'NEW NORMAL' UNTIL VACCINE IS DISCOVERED

    Brits could wear face masks in shops until 2021 with coverings becoming the “new normal” unless a Covid-19 vaccine is found.

    New rules mean coverings must be worn in shops from July 24 with those flouting the law in England facing a £100 fine.

    Shopkeepers have even been told to dob in lawbreaking customers to cops.

    Now insiders say it could become normal for Brits to cover up until a coronavirus vaccine is discovered.

    Here's the story.

    Image: PA

    RAT INFESTATIONS 'ROCKET' DURING LOCKDOWN

    The coronavirus lockdown has left many people with unwanted house guests – as reports of rat and mouse infestations have rocketed, according to analysis by an insurer.

    Aviva found there had been a 42 per cent increase in rat infestations during lockdown for one company – JG Pest Control – which provides a pest control service for Aviva Home Emergency customers.

    Sarah Applegate, head of general insurance insights at Aviva, said: “Reduced bin collections may have led to new food sources for pests at people's homes.

    “Similarly, rats and mice who were used to finding food near to pubs and restaurants may have had to look elsewhere while commercial outlets were closed.”

    ASOS, PRIMARK AND JOHN LEWIS WON'T APPLY FOR FURLOUGH BONUS

    Online fashion retailer ASOS today joined Primark and John Lewis in saying it would not take advantage of a British government scheme to pay employers for bringing back staff from furlough.

    Finance minister Rishi Sunak said last week the government would introduce a new jobs retention bonus of £1,000 per employee to encourage businesses to bring back staff furloughed because of the coronavirus crisis.

    ASOS furloughed about 1,000 staff.

    “We will not be applying for the furlough bonus as announced by the chancellor,” CEO Nick Beighton said.

    GOVERNMENT'S LIST OF THE MOST 'AT RISK'

    Last weekend, the government drew up a list of 20 councils facing the worst outbreaks in England.

    The list included Blackburn, where extra measures are now in force, and a local lockdown seems likely.

    Here's the full list.

    HERO CAPTAIN TOM WILL BE KNIGHTED THIS WEEK

    Fundraising hero Captain Sir Tom Moore is to be knighted by the Queen in his own personal ceremony at Windsor Castle on Friday.

    The 100-year-old Second World War veteran will travel to the royal residence with members of his family for the rare, special investiture with the monarch.

    Captain Sir Tom raised almost £33million for health service charities by walking laps of his Bedfordshire garden.

    He won the hearts of the nation for his determination after originally setting out to raise just £1,000.

    JAMBURGER

    McDonald's fans queued outside a Gillingham drive-thru from 6am today after prices were slashed in the VAT cut.

    People were pictured lining around the corner as they waited bright and early for their breakfast feast.

    Here's the full story.

    Image: Gary Stone, The Sun

    ECONOMY 'MIGHT NOT RECOVER FOR FOUR YEARS'

    The UK economy might not recover from the coronavirus crisis until 2024, a watchdog warned yesterday.

    The Office for Budget Responsibility said the “UK is on track to record the largest decline in annual GDP for 300 years”, warning that the economy could shrink by as much as 14.3 per cent in 2020.

    In its latest set of financial forecasts, it said a worst-case scenario would also not see GDP recover to pre-crisis levels until the third quarter of 2024.

    Government measures to address the impact of the virus will also result in an “unprecedented peacetime rise in borrowing” this year, it said.

    R-RATE DROPPED TO 0.57 IN MAY

    The coronavirus R-rate plummeted to 0.57 in the month before lockdown restrictions were eased, a new study has found.

    Scientists say the rate of Covid-19 infection throughout the country was halving every eight to nine days during May.

    New research from Imperial College London shows there were on average 13 positive cases for every 10,000 people, with an overall reproduction number of 0.57 – lower than previously reported.

    The R value – or reproduction rate – is the average number of people an infected person spreads the virus to.

    Here's the full story.

    STRICTER CHECKS AT GREEK BORDER

    Stricter health checks have gone into effect at Greece's border with Bulgaria following an increase in tourism-related Covid-19 cases.

    Starting from today, all incoming travellers crossing the border are required to carry negative test results, issued in the previous 72 hours and translated into English.

    The new rules have already seen a drop in visitors.

    Plans to lift a ban on direct flights from the UK officially went into effect today too, with services due to resume tomorrow.

    Image: AFP

    CAMILLA MEETS YOUNG CARERS IN LOCKDOWN VISIT

    The Duchess of Cornwall has thanked young carers after meeting four teenagers at the Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

    The centre, which is run by the Community First charity, offers support to vulnerable young carers through a range of outdoor activities.

    The youngsters chatted to Camilla about their experiences of the lockdown during her visit.

    “I would just like to say a huge thank you to young carers because you all do the most brilliant job,” the duchess said.

    Image: PA

    HANCOCK SAYS HE'S 'NOT INTERESTED' AFTER GOVE SEEN WITHOUT MASK

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is “not frankly interested” in his Cabinet colleague Michael Gove being pictured in a shop without a mask.

    The senior Cabinet Office minister was photographed uncovered in Pret yesterday.

    Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “Those photographs were taken before I announced the change in policy to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon.”

    The pictures of Mr Gove were taken on Tuesday morning, after the policy was announced in a press release to journalists.

    Pressed on whether Mr Gove does not know what the rules are, or whether he wants to send a signal that he does not agree, Mr Hancock said: “I'm not frankly interested.”

    OFFICERS 'CAN'T BE WANDERING THE SUPERMARKET AISLES'

    Police yesterday spoke of their concerns about enforcing the new rule that face masks must be worn in shops.

    John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Policing the wearing of face coverings in shops can't be a priority because we simply don't have the resources.

    “Only as this last resort should the police get involved.

    “To expect my colleagues to be policing the supermarket aisles, looking for those shoppers not wearing a face covering, is unrealistic and unfair.”

    Image: Getty

    WOODS BACKS POSTPONEMENT OF RYDER CUP

    Tiger Woods said the Ryder Cup was not the same without fans as he backed the decision to postpone the Whistling Straits showpiece until next year.

    The biennial clash between the United States and Europe had been due to take place in September, but continuing concerns over coronavirus meant event organisers were unable to guarantee the Wisconsin venue could safely host spectators this year and opted to push it back until 2021.

    Woods said: “Quite frankly, a Ryder Cup without fans is not the Ryder Cup.”

    Image: PA

    RASHES ARE A SIGN OF VIRUS – AND 'MUST BE ADDED TO SYMPTOMS'

    Skin rashes are a sign of coronavirus – and should be added to the NHS official list, scientists claim.

    The three most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, persistent cough and a loss of taste or smell.

    But researchers from King's College London suggest that skin rashes could be a valuable predictor of the virus.

    Here's the story.

    'NO PLAN TO PIN COVID BORROWING ON THE WEALTHY'

    The Treasury has commissioned a review of capital gains tax as Chancellor Rishi Sunak looks to find a way of paying back the billions of pounds borrowed to support the economy through the Covid-19 crisis.

    The review comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility said Government measures to address the impact of the virus would result in an “unprecedented peacetime rise in borrowing” this year, reaching up to £322billion.

    The fiscal watchdog also warned that the UK economy might not recover from the pandemic until 2024.

    But Treasury sources suggested there was no truth the review would be used to raise taxes and pin the borrowing bill on the wealthy.

    A Treasury spokeswoman said: “It is standard practice to keep taxes under review.”

    CORONA SPIKE SEES MORE MEASURES IN BLACKBURN

    It looks like lockdown measures could be tightened in Blackburn.

    Officials have already enforced a limit on the number of people allowed to visit a household.

    The restrictions include a limit of two people from the same household allowed to visit another home.

    And as part of the new rules, residents are being told to wear cloth face coverings in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres and hair and beauty salons.

    Here's the full story.

    Image: PA

    LOCKDOWN COULD BE REVERSED IN BLACKBURN

    Blackburn is facing a “rising tide” of coronavirus cases centred around its Asian community – and it has just two weeks to get the numbers down before lockdown measures are reversed.

    The Lancashire town brought in extra restrictions this week and Professor Dominic Harrison, the local authority's director of public health, said the borough of 148,000 people was facing a “rising tide” of cases.

    Prof Harrison, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said: “We've got a number of cases rising in specific areas across a significant community.”

    He said a “single case” will become infected before “going back to a household and all that household becoming infected”.

    FEELING STRESSED OUT? ICELAND HAS AN UNUSUAL SOLUTION

    People feeling stressed by lockdown are being invited to let off steam by having their screams played over loudspeaker in a remote part of Iceland.

    The offer comes from the Scandinavian nation's tourist board, which has set up a website allowing people to record themselves venting their frustration.

    The results will then be played from one of seven speakers set up around the country.

    The website reads: “You've been through a lot this year and it looks like you need the perfect place to let your frustrations out. Somewhere big, vast and untouched.

    “It looks like you need Iceland.”

    Image: PA

    MORE THAN A MILLION STUB OUT FOR GOOD DURING LOCKDOWN

    More than a million British smokers have kicked the habit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a charity has estimated.

    Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has calculated that 1,036,000 smokers and recent ex-smokers had quit or continued their abstinence since coronavirus cases started circulating in the UK.

    It found that younger smokers were more likely to have stopped than older smokers – 17 per cent of smokers and recent ex-smokers aged between 16 and 29 said they had quit, compared to 7 per cent of those older than 50.

    SUMMER TO FINALLY ARRIVE IN STYLE NEXT WEEK

    Brits are set to sizzle during a heatwave next week.

    Warm temperatures are forecast for the remainder of July.

    A large plume of air is set to sweep across the continent towards the UK, bringing hot weather between Wednesday, July 22 and Sunday, July 26.

    Here's the full story.

    Image: Graham Hunt

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