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Setback to easing

Fans told ‘stay away’ as virus halts pilot events

Goodwood was among those venues hoping to hold a pilot event

Hopes that sports venues and other leisure events would welcome back spectators and customers were dashed today when Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England for “higher risk” settings.

These include sports venues, casinos, leisure centres and weddings, and follow a sharp spike in coronavirus cases.

It was another blow to thousands of companies large and small that had been planning to reopen.

The FTSE 100 extended its decline, dropping 60 points (1.02%) by mid-afternoon to 5,929 as his comments dashed hopes for a V-shaped recovery for the UK economy.

The Federation of Small Businesses immediately called for a revision of the business support schemes to allow greater flexibility in helping those affected by “stop-start” decisions.

Fans will not be allowed to attend pilot sports events scheduled for this weekend in England after a spike in coronavirus cases, Mr Johnson said.

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Spectators were due to watch the first two days of two county cricket matches, while 250 fans were at the World Snooker Championship when it started on Friday.

It was also hoped to permit 4,000 racegoers at the Glorious Goodwood festival on Saturday.

Young people were targeted as being potential spreaders north and south of the border for what Scottish National Clinical director Jason Leitch said was a case of “taking their foot off too quickly”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said about half of the new cases over the past week were people in the 20 to 29 age group.

She said the rise in cases among this age group had been seen in many places around the world since pubs and restaurants reopened and warned people against being complacent.

Following a four-nation discussion this morning Scotland’s Ms Sturgeon threw her full support behind Mr Johnson’s decision.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon: backing Boris

She called an unscheduled media briefing at 2.30pm at which she urged people not to make non-essential trips to the north of England, the location of new outbreaks. She said the virus “is under control in Scotland, but the need for caution is more obvious.”

Mr Johnson said that plans to allow limited crowds at events will now be pushed back until at least 15 August.

Socially-distanced theatres and music venues will also remain closed.

“As we see rises around the world, we can’t fool ourselves that we are exempt. We must be willing to react to the first signs of trouble,” he said.

People in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were last night banned from meeting other households indoors, in a move described by health secretary Matt Hancock as “absolutely necessary”.

The UK’s four chief medical officers increased the self-isolation period from seven days to 10 days in England, citing the “real possibility” people may continue to be infectious with coronavirus for longer than seven days.

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A statement from Goodwood racecourse said: “We are very disappointed for those who were hoping to attend tomorrow’s event and for all those who have worked so hard to make it possible for spectators to be present.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden posted on social media that it was “very disappointing news”.

“I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker and horseracing have made to welcome fans back. We’ll keep working together on their safe return ASAP,” he added.

Business support needs to flexible – Cherry

Mike Cherry

Mike Cherry: ‘wrong to wind down support’

Responding to a reversal of plans to allow more small firms in England to re-open from tomorrow, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said:  “Today’s announcement will come as a massive blow to thousands of small firms, soon-to-be newlyweds, artists and sportspeople.

“However, we were warned that restrictions will need to be responsive to any resurgence in transmissions. 

“If the rules for businesses are going to be stop-start – which is understandable – then business support from government needs to reflect that fact. The job retention scheme, bounce back loan scheme and tax breaks have had a big impact to date, and it would be wrong to wind down support while restrictions are increased.

“What we absolutely have to avoid is a scenario where whole swathes of the small business community – not least those in the creative industries, tourism and leisure sectors – are wiped out entirely.

“And of course we still have thousands of company directors and newly self-employed who have been left with no help at all for more than 130 days.”

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