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Nasa astronauts are back on Earth after first splashdown return in 45 years
Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are back on Earth after the first splashdown return in 45 years.
The pair landed in the ocean, off the coast of Florida, at around 7.48pm UK time on Sunday, after a 19-hour journey from the International Space Station.

The mission control said just after splashdown: “On behalf of the SpaceX and Nasa teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX.”

Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley made history on May 30 when they became the first people to launch into low-Earth orbit on a commercial spacecraft, built by SpaceX.

Their mission, named Demo-2, also marked the first time Nasa had launched astronauts from US soil in nine years.

SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, landed in the water off Pensacola, western Florida.

The last time astronauts made an ocean landing was on July 1975 during an Apollo mission.

Since then, they have always landed on terra firma.

Nasa’s Space Shuttle, which was retired in 2011, landed on runways, like a commercial aeroplane.

The other modern crewed vehicles, including Russia’s Soyuz and China’s Shenzhou, are designed to land on the ground.

The splashdown has ushered in a new era for Nasa, which now has at least one commercial spacecraft ready to launch astronauts into space from US soil.

It was the final step in the mission designed to test SpaceX’s human spaceflight system – including launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The Crew Dragon faced scorching temperatures of around 1,900C as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

Although the space station orbits at around 260 miles above Earth, it took almost a day for the capsule to splash down.

The Crew Dragon performed a series of manoeuvres to lower its orbit and get closer to the splashdown site.

It then deployed parachutes to slow its speed from 17,500mph to around 15mph before splashing down.

The re-entry caused a temporary communications blackout, which was brought on by an envelope of hot air surrounding the capsule.

Spacecraft engineers, recovery experts and medical professionals on the SpaceX recovery ship, called Go Navigator, are helping the astronauts get out of the capsule as they begin readjusting to gravity.

The re-entry marks the end of SpaceX’s human spaceflight demonstration mission.

The aerospace company’s first operational flight is expected to take place in September, where a second Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry four astronauts to the space station.

The capsule that carried Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken into space will be refurbished and launched on SpaceX’s second operational crewed mission, Crew 2, due to take place early next year.

Another aerospace company Boeing is also developing spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station, as part of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program.

Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Greater Manchester declares major incident over rising Covid-19 rates
A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester over rising Covid-19 infections just as the Chancellor’s meal-deal scheme – aimed at encouraging Brits to go out more – gets under way.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, urged residents to stay calm after public service leaders decided to increase their readiness as they grapple with the escalating coronavirus transmission rates in the region.

“People should not be alarmed that a major incident has been declared,” Sir Richard said.

The Labour politician called the move “standard practice for complex situations” and said it would allow a “central command structure” to be created to enable agencies to “draw on extra resources”.

The decision to declare a major incident was taken by the Strategic Coordination Group on the weekend after they met to discuss the increased lockdown restrictions announced last week across parts of the North West.

The new measures forbid people from different households from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens, while also banning separate households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues.

Out of the top 20 worst affected local authority areas for Covid-19 infections in England, Greater Manchester boroughs – home to almost 3 million people – comprise more than a third of the list, with seven entries.

Oldham, the second worst affected borough in the country, recorded a seven-day infection rate rise from 41.6 to 62.8 per 100,000 people, with 148 new cases reported in the past week.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak heralded the start of the Treasury’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme – an offer of half-price meals during August in order to entice people out of their stay-at-home lockdown habits and into restaurants and pubs again after the hospitality sector was badly hit by the pandemic.

Some 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed – the highest of any sector – according to Government data.

The incentive will reduce bills by 50% for all eat-in meals ordered between Monday and Wednesday this month at 72,000 participating establishments, including chains such as McDonalds, Nando’s and Prezzo.

The discount per person will be capped at £10 and does not apply to alcohol.

Mr Sunak said: “Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door.

“The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it’s been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support – we’ll pay half.”

Monday will also mark the first working day of the week from which the Prime Minister’s new guidance applies, advising employees to return to their place of work where it has been made Covid secure and their employer agrees it is necessary.

According to reports, however, the regular outings being espoused by the Treasury and Downing Street could be curtailed in a matter of months under so-called “nuclear deterrent” plans under consideration by the Government to avoid a second national lockdown.

The Daily Telegraph says Boris Johnson is expected to order doctors to offer tailored advice this autumn to anyone over 50 who is obese, overweight or in ill health, warning them they are at increased risk from Covid and advising them to stay at home during the winter in the most serious cases.

Using a grading system, those less at risk could be told to reduce social contact, shop during hours designated for those shielding, or avoid public transport, the paper said.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, asked about whether an extended shielding scheme was in the works, told Times Radio: “This is just speculation.

“That’s not something that is being actively considered.”

In related news, two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu – and promise results in 90 minutes – are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories in a development which could ease the pressure on the NHS during the coming winter.

The swab and DNA tests will enable clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said.

Almost half a million new LamPORE swab tests will be available from next week across adult care settings and laboratories.

In Wales, lockdown rules have been eased further this week, with up to 30 people now able to meet outside while maintaining social distancing, while pubs and restaurants in the country will also be able to open indoors.

Children under 11 no longer need to keep two metres from each other or adults, following scientific evidence that the risk of transmission is lower among that age group.

Those in Wales will also be able to hit the lanes again, unlike their neighbours in England, after bowling alleys were given the green light to reopen, along with auction houses and bingo halls.

Licensed wedding venues will be able to reopen to provide wedding ceremonies – though indoor receptions are still banned.

Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Howe decides to leave Bournemouth
Eddie Howe will enjoy some quality time with his family after his lengthy association with Bournemouth came to an end on Saturday.
The 42-year-old has departed the club by mutual consent a week after relegation from the Premier League was confirmed.

After more than 450 games in charge of the south-coast side across two spells, Howe will no longer be in the post at the Vitality Stadium.

Victory at Everton on the final day could not keep Bournemouth in the top flight and the journey under their former defender, which first started with the Cherries fighting to stay in the Football League in 2008, is over.

In a 1,209-word open letter to the supporters, Howe said: “I now join you as a Bournemouth supporter and will be willing the club on in what I am sure will be a successful future.

“Bournemouth will always be in my heart, but I firmly believe that now is the right time for the club to have a change.

“I have always ensured that every decision I have ever made as manager has been in the best interests of the club and its supporters, and this is no different.

“I’ll now be taking some time away during the summer break to enjoy some quality time with my family and I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”

The decision was stressed to be a joint one and the conclusion of Howe’s second tenure with the Cherries means it is the start of a new era for the club.

When he took over in December 2008, Bournemouth were in the League Two relegation zone but under their rookie manager they survived and achieved promotion the following term.

Howe left to join Burnley in 2011 but returned a year later and more success followed before top flight status was secured for the first time in April 2015.

After making more than 300 appearances for the Cherries during his playing career too, the ex-defender has been synonymous with the club for more than two decades.

“It is difficult to put into words what Bournemouth means to me, both as a town and as a football club,” Howe added.

“Having spent a total of 25 years with the club as both a player and a manager, this decision – made together with the club – is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make.

“However, although the affection and love I have for this football club will always remain, we collectively feel that now is the right time for the club to go in a new direction.”

Defender Steve Cook, who had regular loan spells in non-league before he signed permanently for Bournemouth in 2012, was among the first to pay tribute to his old manager.

He said on Twitter: “Can’t really put the emotions of the last week into words. Now tonight adds to the ‘end of an era’.

“I can’t quite put it into words but I can only thank the manager. He gave me the chance to play in the Premier League which is every boys dream.

“An amazing eight years I had playing under him and something I couldn’t imagine changing. Two promotions, a championship winners medal and five years in the best league in the world. Thanks for the memories.”

Chief executive Neill Blake admitted the decision to part company with Howe had not been taken lightly and was only finalised after days of discussions.

“Eddie Howe is synonymous with this football club, both as a player and a manager, and that will never change,” Blake said.

“He is quite simply an AFC Bournemouth legend, having helped transform the identity and history of the club.

“Myself, our owner Maxim Demin and the board’s gratitude and appreciation for Eddie’s achievements cannot and will never be underestimated.

“A decision like this cannot be taken lightly, which is why this has been discussed together at length over the past few days. It is even harder given our close personal friendship.

“We wish Eddie well for whatever the future holds and hope he enjoys some much-deserved and well-earned time with his family.”

Bournemouth full-back Charlie Daniels, like Cook, joined the club at the start of Howe’s second spell in charge.

“The man who believed in me and pushed me to be better every day,” Daniels wrote on Twitter.

“The man who gave me my dream of playing in the Premier League. We achieved what many thought was impossible. What a journey! Thank you for everything.”

Published: 02/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Arteta hopes FA Cup win convinces Aubameyang to stay
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should stay at Arsenal to learn how to lift trophies, according to head coach Mikel Arteta.
It's after Saturday’s FA Cup final win over 10-man Chelsea.

The Gunners captain scored twice as Arsenal came from behind to seal a 2-1 victory and an unmatched 14th FA Cup success.

Christian Pulisic had given the Blues an early lead at an empty Wembley but Arsenal rallied, Aubameyang tucking home a penalty to level before scoring a sumptuous second-half goal to win it for Arteta’s side.

Aubameyang, who has less than a year to run on his contract and whose future has been in the headlines for months, then dropped the FA Cup trophy in front of his team-mates before eventually raising it above his head.

“He needs more experience with trophies, we can get him more used to that,” Arteta joked when asked about Aubameyang’s trophy gaffe.

“He knows what I think about him. I want to build the squad around him. I think he wants to stay and it is just about getting the deal done.

“But I think these moments will help him to realise and believe that we are in the right path and he is a big part of that. He is loved by everybody at the club. Hopefully he can continue with us.”

For Arteta, this was a first piece of silverware just eight months into his managerial career.

He was only appointed as Arsenal head coach in December and has had to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, including contracting COVID-19 himself, and constant talk about losing his biggest players.

But he has now won the FA Cup as a player with Arsenal, an assistant at Manchester City and continued his love affair with the world’s oldest cup competition with Saturday’s success as Gunners boss.

“I think so,” he replied when asked if this was the greatest moment of his whole career.

“I am really proud of what we have achieved because I know the difficulties and everything we have been through.

“For me personally it has so tough the last six months with a lot of things that have happened in our lives but I had just one mission when I came here and that was to make the players and staff believe we could do it.

“We had to change that energy and that mentality and just by seeing them in the dressing room all together, and the way they enjoy their profession and their time together, it makes me more proud and as a consequence of that after we can achieve things and win titles together.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was also full of praise for match-winner Aubameyang.

“He scores two goals, one being a penalty which he earned. We were very clear with the players that Arsenal play long balls in behind you, they play football as well,” he said.

“We allowed him in easily, he is a top-class player and the second goal is the sort of speed and quality from a player of his level – moments like that from Aubameyang obviously finish you off.”

Lampard was visibly unhappy with the decision to dismiss Mateo Kovacic for a second yellow card midway through the second half, saying he thought it was a penalty but that “it wasn’t a sending off, I think that was pretty clear.”

Although he seems certain to end his first season back at Chelsea without a trophy – they trail Bayern Munich 3-0 ahead of next weekend’s Champions League last-16 second leg in Germany – Lampard insisted he has been pleased with his maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge.

“I can’t criticise the players in their approach or desire to win the game,” he added.

“We didn’t play well enough and we know that in our dressing room.

“We shouldn’t become too stuck on today. We need to look at the season as a whole, what we managed to do, where we came in the league.

“It was a good season for us and today would have been the icing on the cake.”

Published: 02/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

PM working on plan to avoid a second lockdown
Boris Johnson has ordered officials to work-up a plan for avoiding a second national lockdown, according to reports.
The Prime Minister is considering asking the elderly to shield once again and is mulling lockdown-like conditions for London should there be a second wave of coronavirus infections, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times said.

The claims come after Mr Johnson was forced to announce a slow down of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases was recorded, with prevalence in the community thought to be rising for the first time since May.

The Times reported the Conservative Party leader held a “war game” session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery.

Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.

It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given “personalised risk ratings”, said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak.

The advice was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and remains in place until August 16 for those shielding in Wales.

Other ideas mooted should the R-rate escalate in the capital include restricting travel beyond the M25 and putting a stop to staying at other people’s houses – similar to policies implemented in local lockdowns imposed in Leicester and parts of the north-west of England in recent days.

But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them “speculative”.

Meanwhile, former England midfielder Paul Scholes has been accused of holding a party at his Oldham home to celebrate his son’s 21st on the same day lockdown measures were reimposed across parts of England’s north-west.

The Sun cited phone footage as showing revellers ignoring social distancing “as they drank and danced” at the seven-hour party, with the paper citing Tory MP Andrew Bridgen criticising Mr Scholes for “reckless behaviour”. Greater Manchester Police have been approached for comment over the alleged incident.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said people in his area “on the whole” had been brilliant “and I reject efforts to blame some for breaking lockdown rules”.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Burnham called on the Government to ensure people in low-paid, insecure jobs are financially supported if they have to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

He wrote: “We shouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on subsidising meals out but not support the low-paid to take time off work to protect their health.”

While the new regulations for Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford were published on Friday, those for Greater Manchester are not expected to be published until this week.

Mr Burnham has said restrictions will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

On top of the alleged lockdown avoidance preparations, experts have speculated that ministers might have to order the closure of pubs, which were permitted to start serving again on July 4, if schools are to reopen fully in September.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said earlier a “trade off” could be required if the Prime Minister’s pledge is to be met.

His comments followed chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty’s remarks that the country was “near the limit” for opening up society following the coronavirus lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was forced to deny that it had abandoned its pledge to regularly test care home residents through the summer following a leaked memo from Professor Jane Cummings, the Government’s adult social care testing director.

The Tory administration has come in for criticism for failing to do more to prevent Covid-19 infections from reaching care homes, where some of the country’s most vulnerable population reside, during the initial spring peak.

According to the Times, Prof Cummings wrote to local authority leaders to inform them that “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being altered because of “unexpected delays”.

Regular testing of residents and staff was meant to have started on July 6 but will now be pushed back until September 7 for older people and those with dementia, PA news agency understands.

A department spokeswoman confirmed there were issues with “asymptomatic re-testing”.

The problems relate to a combination of factors, including a restraint on the ability to build testing kits, already announced issues with Randox swab kits, overall lab capacity, and greater than anticipated return rate of care home test kits.

The DHSC spokeswoman said: “It is completely wrong to suggest care homes were deliberately deprived of testing resources and any care home resident or member of staff with symptoms can immediately access a free test.

“We continue to issue at least 50,000 tests a day to care homes across the country and prioritise tests for higher-risk outbreak areas.

“A combination of factors have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, predominantly used in care homes, are currently available for asymptomatic re-testing and we are working round the clock with providers to restore capacity.”

DHSC said it would not comment on leaked documents when asked about Prof Cummings’ memo.

Published: 02/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Conservative former minister arrested over rape accusation
A Conservative MP has been arrested after a former parliamentary aide reportedly accused him of rape, sexual assault and coercive control.
The ex-minister, who has not been named, is alleged to have assaulted a woman and forced her to have sex, the Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday reported.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place during a relationship, the reports said.

Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he did not know the name of the MP involved.

“I’ve read the accusations in the newspapers this morning but I don’t know more than you do in that respect,” Mr Jenrick said.

“These are very serious allegations and they should be investigated.

“They’re in the hands of the police, so I don’t think I can comment any more than that.”

The Metropolitan Police said they received allegations on Friday of sexual offences and assault relating to four separate incidents at addresses in London, including in Westminster, between July last year and January this year.

A spokesman for the Met said: “The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations.”

A man was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of rape and was taken into custody at an east London police station, the force added.

He has been released on bail to a date in mid-August.

Mr Jenrick said Parliament “needs to be” a safe environment for young women to work in.

He told Times Radio: “There has clearly been some very difficult allegations and cases in recent years.

“We need to make sure, like any other workplace, it is one that’s fit for everybody, where everybody feels safe and comfortable working, and when allegations are raised they are treated with the seriousness they deserve.”

Asked whether he personally wanted to see the Tory whip removed from the MP under police investigation, Mr Jenrick said: “We need to take allegations of this nature very seriously and I’m confident that the party is, and will do. “

The papers said the allegations were raised with Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer, and the complainant also spoke to him, but no action was taken.

The PA news agency understands Mr Spencer advised her to make a formal complaint to the authorities, who would be able to investigate the claims.

A spokesman for Mr Spencer said: “The Chief Whip takes all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which can formally carry out independent and confidential investigations.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously. As this matter is now in the hands of the police it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The investigation comes days after former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in a separate case of sexually assaulting two women, one of whom was a parliamentary worker.

Published: 02/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Trump: US to ban Chinese app TikTok
US President Donald Trump said he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.
He told reporters on Air Force One as he returned from Florida: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.

The president said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority” before adding: “It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

There have been reports of US tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app.

The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

TikTok issued a statement Friday saying that, “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok’s fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and US tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat.

But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.

Published: 01/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Chernobyl and End Of The World win big at TV Baftas
Chernobyl and Channel 4 comedies Stath Lets Flats and The End Of The World were the big winners at the Bafta TV Awards, securing two gongs each.
Jared Harris earned the best leading actor prize for playing Valery Legasov in Sky Atlantic drama Chernobyl while the show also came out top in the best mini-series category.

Stath Lets Flats, starring Jamie Demetriou as an incompetent Greek-Cypriot lettings agent, took home the awards for best male performance in a comedy programme and best scripted comedy.

Dark comedy The End Of The F***ing World secured gongs for best drama series and best supporting actress for Naomi Ackie.

The ceremony broadcast as live on BBC One from behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, with nominees accepting their awards virtually.

Richard Ayoade hosted for the first time while actor Idris Elba received the special award, praising his upbringing in east London.

BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing won the gong for entertainment programme – the second time the show has won the award.

Strictly judge Shirley Ballas thanked the celebrities, who she said “throw themselves into the world of Strictly”.

Her fellow judge Bruno Tonioli added: “The biggest thank you goes to all of you, our viewers, without you we would not be here and we hope to keep you entertained and happy for many years to come.”

Glenda Jackson won the gong for best actress for Elizabeth Is Missing, which comes 48 years after her first Bafta win.

Sian Clifford was named the winner of the female performance in a comedy programme, for her role in BBC Three hit Fleabag.

A tearful Clifford said “Oh my god!” as she reacted to her win.

She was nominated in the category alongside Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Ackie accepted the best supporting actress prize over video call.

She dedicated the win to her father and late mother, saying: “I love my dad and he has been so supportive… and I know my mum up in the clouds would be so happy.”

She added: “This makes lockdown so much better.”

Will Sharpe won the award for best supporting actor for his role in BBC Two crime drama Giri/Haji.

Speaking in a pre-recorded clip, he said: “It was enough for me to have had the opportunity to play the role, and so whether this clip sees the light of day or not, I have been and will remain incredibly grateful for all of it.”

The must-see moment award went to Gavin And Stacey for the scene in which Nessa proposes to Smithy from the BBC show’s recent Christmas special.

Co-creator Ruth Jones said: “Thank you to everybody who was involved in making the show. It was really joyous experience for us all. Winning this Bafta is immense.”

Fellow co-creator James Corden added: “Thank you very much to everybody who voted and the cast and crew that made the show.

“This is the lovely icing on an already really lovely cake. ”

Other winners on the night included Mo Gilligan with best entertainment performance for The Lateish Show With Mo Gilligan, while Race Across The World was named winner of the reality and constructed factual.

The Bafta TV award for comedy entertainment programme went to Taskmaster, which airs on Dave.

Some winners recorded their acceptance speeches in advance not knowing whether they had won or not, while others appeared via video call.

The show featured guest presenters including actors Himesh Patel and Adrian Lester, presenter Stacey Dooley and comedian Aisling Bea.

They were joined virtually by Billy Porter, Chris O’Dowd, David Tennant, Jeff Goldblum, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Michael Sheen and Ruth Madeley, all guest presenting via video-link.

Australian comedian and musician Tim Minchin also performed a satirical song written for the ceremony via video link, about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the film, TV and theatre industries.

The Bafta TV awards were due to take place on May 17, while the craft awards, which celebrate technical achievements, were to be held on April 26, but were postponed because of the coronavirus crisis.

The craft awards were streamed online on July 17, hosted by Stephen Mangan.

The event comes after Boris Johnson pushed back the date on which theatres and music venue would be able to host indoor performances.

Published: 01/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Jobs ‘crisis’ warning as furlough wind-down begins and businesses remain closed
Businesses expecting to reopen in England have been told to keep their doors shut by Boris Johnson on the day the furlough scheme preventing job losses begins winding down.
Beauty salons, bowling alleys and other leisure venues were scheduled to welcome customers on Saturday for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown, while small wedding receptions and indoor performances were set to resume.

But the Prime Minister delayed the measures for at least a fortnight just as employers start paying National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff, before having to contribute to their salaries next month.

Labour is warning that bosses are now left with the “stark choice” of laying off staff or pay “a hefty financial burden” of keeping them in employment – unless the Government adopts a more flexible approach.

Mr Johnson had told a Downing Street press conference that he must “squeeze the brake pedal” on easing restrictions amid signs Covid-19’s prevalence in the community was rising for the first time since May.

He also stalled pilots of gatherings in sports venues, forcing the snooker World Championships in Sheffield and the horseracing at Glorious Goodwood in West Sussex to go ahead this weekend without fans.

Millions of workers are still being supported by the furlough scheme, with much of the night-time economy also still closed and local lockdown measures imposing restrictions on businesses.

The furlough scheme begins tapering off with National Insurance payments before firms start contributing 10% of furloughed employees’ salaries from September, rising to 20% in October.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said ministers will be culpable for thousands of workers losing their livelihoods if they do not abandon the blanket withdrawal and recognise the scale of the “jobs crisis”.

“Many businesses still have little or no cash coming in, but are trying to do the right thing and save their employees’ jobs,” he said.

“They now face the stark choice of letting go of their staff or facing a hefty financial burden to keep them on.

“Businesses in vastly different sectors and circumstances should not be treated in this uniform way, and it is clearly unfair and illogical for those employers still locked down and unable to trade.”

The Treasury said the “unprecedented” scheme will have run for a total of eight months, supporting a total of 9.5 million jobs at a cost of £31.7 billion.

“We continue to support closed sectors through our targeted package of support that includes tax deferrals and VAT cuts, business rates relief, rent moratoriums and loans. And we will continue to work closely with them during this difficult time,” a spokeswoman said.

The move to allow more discretion for employers with regard to staff returning to work will continue to go ahead on Saturday, as will the lifting of the shielding advice for the most vulnerable people in England.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, warned the nation has “probably reached near the limit or the limits” of what can be done to reopen society, meaning trade-offs may be needed in order to reopen all schools next month as planned.

Friday’s news came after local lockdown measures were announced in parts of the North West of England and areas of West Yorkshire, banning people from different households meeting indoors or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.

The new rules also banned members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Published: 01/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

On today’s Sports Chat from Radio News Hub, Today it’s a Spanish Football Special. Richie Prior is joined by former Northern Ireland international, and Spanish football expert, Gerry Armstrong to look back at the end of the La Liga season, preview the Champions League action and they bring us the latest transfer and manager news. […]

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