Coronavirus LIVE: Updates as Boris Johnson warns 'taking liberties' with social distancing could cause 'serious spike' in infections and another Covid-19 death is recorded in Sheffield

We will be bringing you all of the coronavirus news from Sheffield and England as city businesses reveal whether they will reopen next month and 2,500 people are recruited to test home Covid-19 antibody kits.

Friday, 26th June 2020, 3:00 pm

This blog will be updated until 4pm this afternoon.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured earlier this week. Picture: PA

Coronavirus LIVE: Updates as Boris Johnson warns 'taking liberties' with social distancing could cause 'serious spike' and Sheffield businesses reveal whether they will reopen next month

Last updated: Friday, 26 June, 2020, 15:17

  • Another coronavirus death recorded in Sheffield
  • Public transport services set to increase from next month
  • Thousands of volunteers recruited to test home Covid-19 antibody kits
  • Sheffield businesses reveal whether they will be reopening next month
  • Huge change to Government's furlough scheme to be introduced
  • Warning issued after thousands flocked to the beach during yesterday’s hot weather
  • Prime Minister:’Taking liberties’ with social distancing could result in ’serious spike’ in infections

Another coronavirus-related death is recorded in Sheffield

One more person has died with coronavirus at hospital in Sheffield since yesterday, according to the latest NHS figures which were released this afternoon.

Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital

The latest increase means there have now been 285 coronavirus-related deaths in the city’s hospitals.

The toll in Rotherham is now 190 after three more deaths, and in Barnsley one more person died, taking the total to 142. Four more people died in Doncaster, meaning that there have been 220 fatalities there.

Across the country a further 67 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 28,557.

'Serious spike' in coronavirus infections could be on the way if people 'take liberties' with social distancing, warns Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has warned people against ’taking liberties’ with social distancing rules as he said it could lead to the danger of a ’serious spike’ in coronavirus infections.’

The comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government will take action if distancing measures are ignored as thousands flocked to the south coast on the hottest day of the year yesterday.

Speaking during a visit to a restaurant in east London ahead of an easing of lockdown on July 4, the Prime Minister said: "If you look at what's happening elsewhere in the world where people have been coming out of lockdown, I'm afraid what you're also seeing is people taking too many liberties with the guidance, mingling too much, not observing social distancing.

"So in some parts of the world - I won't name them - you have got spikes, really serious spikes, in the instance of the disease, so it is crucial that people understand that on July 4 we get this right, we do this in a balanced way."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA

Despite Mr Hancock's warning of possible beach closures, Downing Street signalled such a move would be a matter for local authorities.

Pressed on whether the Government would close beaches, a Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "It is for local authorities to manage numbers.

"I believe Matt Hancock, when he spoke, was referring to the powers to impose localised lockdowns which we have been clear throughout may need to be the case if we see case numbers rise in a particular area."

Mr Hancock told TalkRadio on Thursday the Government had the power to close public areas such as beaches if people flout safety restrictions.

It comes as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council declared a major incident after services were "completely overstretched" as huge numbers of visitors crowded onto the beaches during the day.

Crows on Bournemouth beach in Bournemouth, southern England, on June 25, 2020 (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty later urged people to follow social distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.

He wrote on Twitter: "Covid-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.

"If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again.

"Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all."

In an interview with TalkRadio, Mr Hancock said he was "reluctant" to go down the route of shutting public spaces as "people have had a pretty tough lockdown".

But he added that if there was a spike in the number of coronavirus cases "then we will take action".

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council said extra police patrols had to be brought in following the "irresponsible" behaviour of crowds who gridlocked roads, dumped rubbish, abused refuse collectors and parked illegally.

'Touch and go' that local Covid-19 outbreaks can be controlled, says health leader

Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation Covid-19 special envoy, said it is "touch and go" that local virus outbreaks can be controlled.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "I'm pretty confident that most European countries are going to do well.

"We've seen for example in Poland, Germany, Spain, a really effective response to these kinds of resurgences but it is touch and go.

"I really think that Chris Whitty's (England's chief medical officer) point that 'the virus is still in general circulation' is important.

Crowds on Bournemouth beach in Bournemouth, southern England, on June 25, 2020

"So let's hope that we are able to prevent these small clusters and little outbreaks from becoming overwhelming as we had earlier this year."

Dr David Nabarro said he was not "really concerned" by images of crowds on beaches, but feared what was going on "out of sight".

He told the Today programme: "I don't personally get really concerned when I see people outside in the open, because as you have just said, transmission is less likely to occur there.

"But it's what happens out of sight that I'm more worried about. People going to the toilet and being in a queue and perhaps there being transmission there.

"Or particularly the person who is cleaning the toilet being exposed to lots of folk with disease, people getting on the public transport and exposing bus drivers and the like.

"That's where I get nervous because I actually feel this vast amount of movement that's going on - that is absolutely essential for people to come out and enjoy themselves again - does come at a risk.

"And I just ask everybody, don't just think of yourself. Think of the other person who you might be exposing to the virus because sometimes they don't have a choice."

This is how Wetherspoons pubs could operate when they reopen next month

Measures brought in to keep pubs safe post-lockdown include special members of staff whose job it is to clean ‘touch points’ throughout the pubs, as well as screens on tables and at tills, hand sanitiser points and tables and seating separated according to the social distances advised. 

The chain, which drew criticism over its treatment of staff at the start of lockdown, boasted that it had spent £11m on making its pubs safe during the pandemic. 

Measures that could be brought in at Wetherspoons’ 11 Sheffield pubs, which include The Rawson Spring; Benjamin Huntsman and Francis Newton, include: 

- Encouraging people to use the app to order and contactless payments for those who don’t 

- Screens at tills to protect staff and customers 

- Hand sanitiser stations

- Screens around tables 

For more on the measures that could be brought in at Wetherspoons pubs, please click here

Public transport to be ramped up from next month, confirms Department of Transport

Public transport services in England will be ramped up in early July, the Department for Transport has announced.

Bus and train timetables will be at about 85% of pre-pandemic levels from July 4 and July 6 respectively.

Despite the increase in frequencies, people will continue to be urged to avoid public transport where possible.

Public transport is to be ramped up in England from early next month. Picture: Chris Etchells

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "As more businesses across the country prepare to reopen, we are increasing rail and bus services to boost capacity and meet additional demand for travel, helping people to travel safely.

"Our guidance remains that people should avoid public transport if possible and to walk or cycle instead."

Large parts of England's hospitality industry will reopen on July 4, including pubs, restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions.

Indoor gatherings involving two separate households will be permitted from the same date.

Warnings issued after thousands flock to the beach

Revellers at Bournemouth beach during the UK's spring bank holiday on May 25.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the Government will take action if social distancing measures are ignored after thousands flocked to the south coast on the hottest day of the year.

Mr Hancock told TalkRadio on Thursday the Government had the power to close public areas such as beaches if people flout safety restrictions.

It comes as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council declared a major incident after services were "completely overstretched" as huge numbers of visitors crowded onto the beaches during the day.

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty later urged people to follow social distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.

He wrote on Twitter: "Covid-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.

"If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again.

"Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all."

In an interview with TalkRadio, Mr Hancock said he was "reluctant" to go down the route of shutting public spaces as "people have had a pretty tough lockdown".

But he added that if there was a spike in the number of coronavirus cases "then we will take action".

Huge change to Government's furlough scheme to be introduced

A final self-employment coronavirus grant is to be made available and businesses must start paying towards the worker furlough scheme from August, the Government has announced.

Freelancers will be able to claim up to £6,570 from that date, giving those workers access to a total coronavirus grant of up to £14,070 each.

Businesses will also have to start paying National Insurance and tax contributions for staff in August, ramping up to 10 per cent of furloughed wages in September and 20 per cent in October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously announced the plan to get businesses to contribute to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), but has now laid out further details.

He also revealed that workers can return part-time without losing any furlough payments from July - a month earlier than previously planned, following lobbying from businesses.

But businesses must start bearing the costs and from August all companies using the furlough scheme must start paying National Insurance and employer pension contributions.

In September and October contributions will rise to 10 per cent and 20 per cent respectively, the Chancellor added, but workers still furloughed will keep getting 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month.

The Government will cover 70 per cent of wages up to £2,190 in September, with employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions and 10 per cent of wages, representing 14 per cent of the gross employment costs. 

The following month, the Treasury will pick up 60 per cent of wages up to a cap of £1,875, with employers paying tax contributions and 20% of wages, representing 23 per cent of the gross employment costs, the Government said. 

It added that only 40 per cent of businesses had claimed the pension contributions since the scheme was launched. 

Officials added that companies can be flexible with their definition of "part-time" as long as a full-time employee has not returned to normal hours.

The Treasury said: "Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them - and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work."

Since it was launched, the CJRS has been used by one million businesses to support 8.5 million jobs, at a cost of £15 billion so far.

The scheme is expected to cost a total of around £80 billion, or £10 billion a month, although the Office for Budget Responsibility is set to publish detailed costs next week.

Business groups had asked the Government to ensure that those industries suffering hardest were most protected.

But the Treasury said it was not always clear which sector a business was in, insisting it would not rule out future support if required.

Mr Sunak said: "Now, as we begin to reopen our country and kick-start our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most generous in the world."

Popular Sheffield pub confirms it will not be reopening on July 4

Pubs and restaurants have been given the green light to welcome back customers from next Saturday, July 4.

But they must have measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, set out in a 43-page Government document, which include providing table service indoors, ensuring people stay at least one metre apart and keeping visitors’ contact details in case of a coronavirus outbreak.

The Sheaf View in Heeley said: “We are sorry but the guidelines put in place by the Government to enable us to open safely during the coronavirus pandemic have made it virtually impossible for any of our pubs to open and to remain viable.

The Sheaf View pub in Heeley, Sheffield, has said it will not reopen on July 4 (pic: Google)

“To be able to provide table service, register customers, monitor entrances and queuing, control social distancing inside and out, serve beer, sanitise effectively and regularly and generally keep our customers and staff Covid-safe would take more staff per shift than our reduced takings could pay for.

For more on this story click here. 

Thousands of volunteers recruited to test home Covid-19 antibody kits

At least 2,500 volunteers are being recruited to test the reliability of Covid-19 home-based antibody testing kits, the Government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are recruiting people from the NHS and other key workers to test a finger-prick blood test.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We are working with Public Health England and the MHRA to recruit volunteers from the NHS and wider public service for a study exploring the potential of home-based antibody tests.

Home Covid-19 antibody kits could soon be available

"No reliable home test has yet been found, and we do not know whether antibodies indicate immunity from reinfection or transmission.

"This research is part of our ongoing surveillance work to increase our understanding of how to tackle this virus."

Volunteers will be recruited who have tested positive for the virus previously, alongside those who have tested negative.

The Government said it was "essential that we understand exactly how effective these home kits are when used by the public, and how easy they are to use".

A number of the rapid response kits are to be studied.

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