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Coronavirus: Sunday trading laws 'could be suspended for a year'
6 June 2020, 08:27
Sunday trading laws could be suspended for a year under Government plans to stimulate the economy amid the coronavirus crisis.
Downing Street is said to be drawing up legislation to enable larger supermarkets to open for more than six hours on Sundays, according to The Times.
Cafes and pubs would be given fast-track approval to serve food and drink outside, doing away with the need for the 28-day minimum statutory consultation period.
The news comes amid fears over the coronavirus reproduction rate in parts of England, as new data suggested the R value is now around one in the North West.
The value used by the Government remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole, though the figure has a two to three-week lag, meaning it does not account for the latest easing of the lockdown.
But a separate report from Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University, which estimates what the value is currently, put the North West on 1.01 and the South West on 1.00.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street press conference that new figures on the R confirm "there is a challenge in the North West of England to address and, to a lesser degree, in the South West of England".
He said the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) believes the R is below one across the UK but the Government wants to "increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up".
Labour-led Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council in Greater Manchester has advised schools to delay their wider reopening until at least June 22 because of the infection rate.
The council's director of public health, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, wrote to headteachers strongly advising them against admitting more pupils until there is further assurance that the "rate of infection is reducing and R is firmly below 1".
Mr Hancock used the daily briefing to announce that all hospital visitors and outpatients in England will be required to wear face coverings from June 15, while all hospital staff will need to wear surgical masks.
He said the Government wanted to ensure that "even as the virus comes under control" hospitals are a place of "care and of safety".
Face coverings will also be compulsory on public transport in England from June 15.
In other developments:
- Newly updated World Health Organisation advice said governments should encourage the public to wear face coverings where social distancing is difficult, such as on public transport and shops.
- The Health Secretary urged people not to take part in mass demonstrations this weekend following anti-racism protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
- Age UK said care home residents are being asked to pay a "coronavirus bill" of more than £100 a week on top of existing fees to help social care providers stay afloat.
- PA analysis indicated that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff accounted for 60% of frontline health workers whose deaths have been linked to Covid-19.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE's medical director, said the latest estimates show that while regional R numbers have increased, they remain below one for most of England, adding "this is to be expected as we gradually move out of lockdown".
"It is vital that everyone continues with social distancing, practising good hand hygiene and must remain at home and order a test if they have symptoms," she said.
If R is one or higher, the virus will spread exponentially through the population. An R number of less than one indicates the virus is in decline.
PHE estimated there are 17,000 new infections each day in England, with a range being at between 11,000 and 25,000.
But Office for National Statistics data put the new cases at 5,600 daily, down from around 8,000 a week ago.
The PHE research warned that there is some evidence the value has risen in all regions, saying it was probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and work settings.