Retail giant Next has upped its full-year earnings outlook following a better-than-feared first half, despite tumbling to a loss after sales plunged 33%.
The fashion chain reported pre-tax losses of £16.5 million for the six months to the end of July against profits of £327.4 million a year earlier.
On an underlying basis, it posted profits of £9 million, having expected to be loss-making.
Next said it now expects full-year underlying pre-tax profits of £300 million – up from the £195 million previously predicted – thanks to recent rebound in sales, up 4% since the first half.
Health Minister Edward Argar has played down reports that the Government is considering a two-week national lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
“It is not something I have seen within the department,” he told Sky News.
“The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.”
With further lockdowns expected to be announced in North East England, Mr Argar said the region was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.
“In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action,” he said.
Mr Argar said that in the North West, the rise had been driven in part by people not adhering to the social distancing requirements.
“Obviously a nighttime economy will fuel that with people having been out late into the evening.”
The Co-operative Group has said that half-year sales surged higher on the back of “exceptional” food and wholesale trading after the pandemic drove grocery demand.
The business said total revenues increased by 7.6% to £5.8 billion for the 26 weeks to July 4.
It said food revenues increased by 5.2% to £3.9 billion for the period, with 9.9% like-for-like growth in the second quarter, after customers shopped closer to home and ate out less frequently during the lockdown.
Mr Argar said that if children have symptoms they should go home and have a test.
Mr Argar said that the average distance that people have to travel is 5.4 miles.
He said: “It is really important to emphasises that only people who have symptoms should go for tests.”
Mr Argar said he thinks the rule of six “will work” to prevent a second national lockdown.
Health minister Edward Argar says that he is not aware of plans for a two week national lockdown.
“It’s not something I’ve had a conversation about,” he said.
Local lockdown restrictions are set to come into force across the North East following a spike in coronavirus cases.
The measures are expected to include a 10pm curfew on licensed premises including pubs and restaurants, according to reports.
People are also to be banned from meeting anyone outside their household under the new rules due to come into force on Thursday evening.
Good morning! Here’s the latest from Boris Johnson:
People should not snitch on their neighbours for breaching the ‘rule of six’ unless they are having large parties, Boris Johnson has said.
Any social gathering of more than six people in England is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure.
However, the Prime Minister has now urged that people to speak with rule-breakers before notifying the authorities. “I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself,” Mr Johnson said.
UK’s first socially distanced immersive concert launches in London Bridge
The UK’s first socially distanced immersive concert will offer a template for how the creative industries can return from “the brink of bankruptcy and ruin”, organisers have said.
Lockdown Town, created by One Night Records, spans five tunnels in London Bridge and will feature 300 different musicians across its 60-day run.
The show, which opens on October 2, will see audience members guided through a series of 15-minute performances from 1918 ragtime to 1950s rock and roll.
Camden Town singer-songwriter Simeon Hammond Dallas, Belfast’s Winnie Ama and soul artist Miss Baby Sol will all feature.
Designed by a team which builds stages at Glastonbury, some of the vaults will feature a giant train or hark back to the Second World War.
Speaking during a launch event on Wednesday, Tim Wilson, managing director of One Night Records, described the event as a “carousel of music”.
More on lockdown restrictions in the North East:
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told ITV’s Peston on Wednesday: “The number of cases has been rising rapidly in many parts of the country, but in particular in the North East, and so a decision has been made to impose further restrictions there.
“And a full announcement will be made tomorrow and so people living in that part of the country should watch out for that.
“And the measures will come into play at midnight on Thursday evening.
“So, over the course of the day a full briefing will be made available to everybody including the councils and business community.”
Department of Health responds to reports a local lockdown will be introduced in the North East
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We constantly monitor infection rates across the country and keep all measures under review in consultation with local leaders.
“Any changes to local restrictions will be announced in the usual way.”
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said “additional, temporary” measures are being planned to prevent another full lockdown
End of furlough will bring ‘big challenge’ for childcare providers
Crippling financial pressures on childcare providers are “by no way over” – and the big challenge will be when the furlough scheme ends, MPs have been told.
Some early years and childcare providers have already been forced to close after reopening over summer, said Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association of Childminders and Early Years (Pace).
Others are having to temporarily shut their doors and turn children away for a week at a time as they wait for Covid-19 tests and results, the Women and Equalities Committee heard.
The big challenge will come when the Government’s job retention scheme ends in October, Ms Bayram said, warning of a further loss of income from parent-paid fees.
She told the Committee: “I think the evidence of how many settings have closed is hard to see yet.
“We are firmly of the belief that the big challenge will come in October and November, where furlough ends and families that are currently able to pay for their childcare are facing redundancy and are having to make choices about what they do or don’t do in terms of childcare.”
State of coronavirus pandemic in Ireland has “deteriorated nationally”, warns chief medical officer
As well as a surge in cases in Dublin, Dr Ronan Glynn also warned of “particularly concerning trends” in counties Louth, Waterford and Donegal.
The latest figures included three further deaths and 254 new cases of the virus confirmed in the last 24-hour reporting period – 136 of which were in Dublin.
With the reproduction number at between 1.3-1.7 nationally, Dr Glynn urged the public to follow public health messages.
Professor Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said he is “more concerned than at any point since late April”.
He said if the the R-number remains at 1.4, by October 14 there is likely to be 500-600 cases a day, and if it is 1.8 there would likely be 1,300 cases a day by October 14.
“If the reproduction number does not come back below one, we will not be able to control this disease and case numbers will continue to rise over the coming weeks,” he said, and urged the changing of behaviour among the public, reducing contacts and “radically reducing” contacts between households.
Local lockdown will be enforced in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales following a “rapid rise” in Covid-19 cases, the Welsh Government has confirmed
Under the new restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Thursday, people must not enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse.
Meetings with other people indoors will not be allowed, including for extended households. All licensed pubs, bars and restaurants in the area, which has a population of around 240,000, will have to close at 11pm.
Health minister Vaughan Gething said the lockdown followed two “significant” clusters of Covid-19 cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.
One is associated with a rugby club and a pub, while the other was linked to a group of people aged in their 40s and 50s who took a coach trip to Doncaster races, Mr Gething said.
Public health officials investigate coronavirus cluster at Scottish university student accommodation
NHS Lothian said a number of people have tested positive at Edinburgh Napier University’s Bainfield student accommodation.
The health board’s health protection team is tracing contacts and advising them to self-isolate for two weeks but has stressed the university remains open.
NHS Lothian said in a statement: “NHS Lothian’s health protection team are investigating a cluster of cases who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Edinburgh Napier University’s Bainfield student accommodation.
“To respect and maintain patient confidentiality, no further details will be released. The health protection team are contacting individuals and any close contacts living in university accommodation.
“Appropriate advice and guidance to self-isolate is being provided. Enhanced cleaning and safety measures are already in place in the university in line with national guidance.”
Government announces it is extending a ban on business evictions until the end of 2020
Measures were put in place at the start of the pandemic to protect struggling firms, such as retailers and restaurants, from being evicted from premises, but were due to expire at the end of September.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed the eviction ban will now continue until the end of the year in a move the Government hopes will stave off potential job losses.
Earlier this week, restaurant bosses urged the Government to extend the ban or risk further widespread closures and redundancies.
The extended support will benefit many firms who have received other subsidies, such as the business rates holiday for the current financial year for retail and hospitality businesses.
The Government said it will also extend the ban on landlords using bailiffs to enforce unpaid rent on these commercial leases until the end of the year.
It called on landlords and tenants to work together to agree rent payment options for the rest of the year if tenants are struggling.