UK hospitals use blockchain to track COVID-19 vaccines

( via — Tue, 19th Jan 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Two British hospitals are using blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, the companies behind the initiative said on Tuesday, in one of the first such initiatives in the world.

Two hospitals, in central England’s Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines.

The tech will bolster record-keeping and data-sharing across supply chains, said Everyware, which monitors vaccines and other treatments for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), and Texas-based ledger Hedera, owned by firms including Alphabet’s Google and IBM, in a statement.

Logistical hurdles are a significant risk to the speedy distribution of COVID-19 vaccines but have resulted in booming business for companies selling technology for monitoring shipments from factory freezer to shots in the arm.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s shot, for example, must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures or on dry ice, and can only last at standard fridge temperatures for up to five days.

Other vaccines, such as Moderna Inc’s, do not need such cold storage and are therefore easier to deliver.

“We can absolutely verify the data that we’ve collected from every single device,” Everyware’s Tom Screen said in an interview. “We make sure that data is accurate at source, and after that point we can verify that it’s never been changed, it’s never been tampered with.”

Firms from finance to commodities have invested millions of dollars to develop blockchain, a digital ledger that allows the secure and real-time recording of data, in the hope of radical cost cuts and efficiency gains.

Results have been mixed, though, with few projects achieving the revolutionary impact heralded by proponents.

Everyware’s Screen said it while it would be possible to monitor the vaccines without blockchain, manual systems would raise the risk of mistakes.

The system will “allow us to demonstrate our commitment to providing safe patient care,” said Steve Clarke, electro-bio medical engineering manager at South Warwickshire NHS in a statement.

Reporting by Tom Wilson

UK plumbing firm exploring modifying employment contracts to include COVID-19 vaccine

( via — Thur, 14th Jan 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – A firm of London plumbers is looking at changing its employment contracts to include a requirement for workers to have a COVID-19 vaccine, its founder said on Thursday, though he added that no one would get fired for refusing to have the shot.

Pimlico Plumbers, with a workforce of more than 400, has been talking to its lawyers about making the vaccine mandatory for new hires within a few months, founder Charlie Mullins said.

The firm was also exploring how it might modify existing staff contracts, he said, although he insisted no one would be forced to receive a vaccine or be fired over the issue.

“We wouldn’t dream of forcing anybody but I’m pretty much certain that 99% of our staff would jump at the opportunity,” Mullins told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“Who in their right mind would turn down one needle or one jab that could save your life?” he added.

Asked whether there was a contradiction between saying contracts could be modified to require vaccines while also saying no one would be forced out, Mullins presented the issue as one of persuasion rather than coercion.

“It’s not a contradiction because I think you’ll find if you encourage people and advise them … I’m happy to pay for anyone that works for us to have the vaccine,” he said, adding that this could take place during working hours.

As things stand, people in Britain can only receive the vaccine from the state-run National Health Service, which is gradually rolling them out free of charge, following an order of priority with elderly and vulnerable people top of the list.

Mullins said he believed that within a few months it should be possible to pay to obtain vaccines privately, and he also thought it would become the norm for proof of vaccination to be required for things such as air travel or going to the theatre.

In that context, he said, he did not believe many people would find a “no jab, no job” policy controversial.

“Nobody moans now you’ve got to get on a plane with a negative COVID test,” he said, referring to a new requirement for passengers arriving in Britain to provide proof of a negative test taken less than 72 hours before travel. Many other countries have had such requirements for months.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon

Government urged to use pharmacies to give vaccine

( via – – Wed, 30th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

The pharmacy industry is urging the government to use its high street network to accelerate the delivery of the newly approved vaccine.

The head of a leading pharmaceutical chain told the BBC roll out could be doubled if the government used the same supply chain as seasonal flu jabs.

There are over 11,000 local pharmacies around the UK.

The Department of Health told the BBC it was having “very positive discussions” with pharmacists.

A large number of pharmacies have the staff and expertise available to deliver the new vaccine.

So far, the industry has told the BBC the government has not considered them in its initial front line plans, nor counted them towards its delivery target of one million a week.

‘Overcoming hurdles'

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents NHS pharmacies, said his members were ready to help.

The approval of a second vaccine, and one that has less complex handling characteristics when compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is a positive step.'

“The rollout of the vaccination programme will not be without its challenges, but community pharmacists and their teams are used to overcoming hurdles to provide the best care to their patients, so we believe their skills should be used by the NHS to help administer the tens of millions of vaccinations that will be needed to help England escape from the grip of the pandemic.”

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has insisted that two million a week is needed to get ahead of the spread.

There are other advantages to using local pharmacies. Many vulnerable people already visit their pharmacies on a regular basis and trust the staff there. As one pharmacy chief told the BBC: “People will trust their local chemist more than someone in a military uniform.”

‘Haven't thought of us'

The new vaccine is considered a very different proposition to the Pfizer vaccine – which has to be stored at -70C, comes in batches of 975 doses and must be delivered within a few days of delivery.

The more transport and storage friendly AZ/Oxford vaccine has turned “a medical challenge into a logistics challenge which we can help with” according to the head of a leading chain.

“The government knows we are here, but so far haven't thought of us as a primary point of delivery in the way they do the traditional annual flu jab”.

The Department of Health said it had been talking to pharmacists about how they could support the Covid vaccine delivery plan.

It added: “They have been fantastic through this pandemic.”

By Simon Jack

9 Things To Be Thankful For In 2020

Source: 9 Things To Be Thankful For In 2020

Struggling to find things to be thankful for in 2020?

Let’s face it: It has been a very, VERY rough year.

For all of us, the past year will forever be remembered as the one when most of us were asked to accept a “new normal”… which is a sugar-coated way of saying that life, as we once lived it, will never be quite normal again.

Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, some good has come to light in 2020.

So this holiday season, we should take the time to express gratitude about what's STILL good in life. That's why in this video, you will learn about 9 things to be thankful for in 2020.

Lufthansa airlifts fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK amid lorry chaos

( via – – Wed, 23rd Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Germany's Lufthansa is airlifting fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK on Wednesday as firms seek to beat the lorry chaos at sea ports

The airline said it is carrying 80 tonnes of food from Frankfurt to Doncaster Sheffield Airport for grocers including Tesco and Sainbury's.

Almost 3,000 lorries remain stuck in Kent despite moves to re-start cross-Channel access from Dover.

There are concerns that testing drivers for Covid could delay food supplies.

France shut its border with the UK on Sunday for 48 hours to stop the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus found in the UK.

“Lufthansa Cargo is currently examining whether additional special cargo flights can be offered during the next days. We are also checking if a regular flight might be possible,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

“This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining if we could use passenger aircraft for freight flights only,” she added.

Lufthansa said the delivery, sent by freight firm Venus International Transport, was destined for Tesco, Sainbury's, the Co-op and Aldi.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport told the BBC that in January, the “planned increase” in the number of flights of perishable goods had risen from three a week to eight.

The airport will be handling 700 tonnes a week in food freight, up from 300 tonnes a week. However, the airport said the increase was due to companies wanting to mitigate anticipated Brexit congestion, rather than the current issues at Dover.

“We have seen a general increase in freight traffic in the period since the pandemic began in March by around 40% year-on-year,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of enquiries for flights as a result of border closures and we are handling additional flights, such as today's, where possible. Naturally, this is already a busy period for the air-freight sector as a result of Christmas and Covid.”

Some firms have been chartering private aircraft to move goods such as food, textiles and livestock as the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel closed.

French residents and nationals who can prove they have had a negative coronavirus test will be able to travel from Wednesday, and lorry drivers can do so after a rapid lateral flow Covid test.

The food imports will be flown from Frankfurt, a major food distribution centre in Europe that receives goods from food producers all over the continent including Spain, the Netherlands and France.


Although France has given the go-ahead for travel from the UK to resume, the International Road Transport Union warned that testing truck drivers will cause significant delays.

“We don't think testing will work. The backlog can't be cleared if the tests take 30 minutes per driver,” said Raluca Marian, the union's general delegate to the EU.

Britain imports nearly half of its fresh vegetables and the majority of its fruit, both mainly from the EU.

Tesco and Sainsbury's warned earlier this week that if the port chaos continued, the UK could see shortages of lettuce and some citrus fruits – which are typically imported from Spain and Italy.

Tesco has introduced purchasing limits on some products including eggs, rice, soap and toilet roll. Customers are allowed to buy up to three of each item.

On Wednesday, Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that some shortages could worsen.

“It is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible. Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods,” he said.

In the past, the UK has turned to other means when fresh produce has been under threat.

In 2018, thousands of iceberg lettuces were shipped from Los Angeles to the UK due to a summer heat wave increasing demand for salad, while the hotter weather made it difficult to actually grow lettuces.

Last year, Frankfurt Airport handled 2.09 million tonnes of cargo, according to Airports Council International.

German companies imported €11.1bn (£10bn) of fresh fruit and vegetables – equivalent to 19% of the combined imports of all European countries, latest data from the Netherlands' Center for the Promotion of Imports (CBI) shows.

The airport's cargo terminal has 12,000 sq m of temperature-controlled warehouses, including 2,000 sq m (21,530 sq ft) of cold storage.


Toyota to stop production at British and French plants early due to Covid border chaos

( via – – Tue, 22nd Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Japanese carmaker says it is expecting shortages of parts as a result of transport delays

The Japanese carmaker said it was expecting shortages of parts as a result of transport delays, after France’s 48-hour ban on accompanied freight or cargo from Britain led to queues of lorries miles long stuck near Dover.

Toyota said it had decided to bring forward the “planned seasonal stop” at its engine plant in Deeside in north Wales and its factory at Burnaston in Derbyshire, where it makes the Corolla. About 3,000 people are employed at the two plants.

Its French site will also stop production two days earlier than planned.

The European factories would ordinarily have closed for an annual shutdown on Christmas Eve and remained shut until 4 January.

Toyota said it wanted to “help ensure the safety and security of our employees and all our stakeholders, particularly our logistics partners and in consideration of society’s wider needs”.

The car manufacturer said it had taken the decision “in light of the traffic bans that a growing number of countries have issued for travel from the UK and due to the uncertain nature of how long the borders will be closed for logistics activities”.

The extended shutdown caps a tumultuous year for the automotive industry, which halted production in the spring as the first wave of the pandemic took hold.

The French government is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday about reopening transport links with the UK.

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Paris failed to lift its 48-hour ban on freight and passengers from Britain over fears about the new coronavirus strain, despite a phone call on Monday evening between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron.

France is one of more than 40 countries that have suspended flights and trains from the UK, including Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Turkey and Canada.

Center Parcs shuts five UK sites due to concerns over new variant of coronavirus

( via – – Mon, 21st Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Center Parcs has temporarily closed its five UK sites due to concerns over the new variant of coronavirus.

The holiday firm said continuing to accept visitors would go against the government's “strong advice” to stay local and minimise social contact.

It said it regretted disappointing customers, and those who had booked stays could reschedule with a discount or get a full refund.

The five sites will remain shut until at least 7 January, it confirmed.

In a statement the company said: “It is clear that the threat of the virus with the new variant is now at an extremely delicate stage and [the government's] strong advice is to stay local, minimise social contacts and take care to protect ourselves and others.

“It is therefore with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to close all our UK villages”.

Those with bookings for immediately after 7 January have been told to regularly check both government advice and news directly from Center Parcs.

In March, all the company's sites were closed in line with government guidance.

Subsequently, the resorts have faced several changes depending on national restrictions, with most having only recently reopened at the beginning of December.



How Instant Pot multicooker Became An Amazon Best Seller

Source: CNBC

Millions of fervent foodies have purchased an Instant Pot multicooker, making it one of the top-selling products sold in Amazon's Prime Day sales events in July 2016, with 215,000 Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cookers sold, in 2017, and in 2018, when Instant Pot broke its own Prime Day record with 300,000 units sold over 36 hours. The company expects to be among the best-selling products on Amazon during the already busy holiday sales season too.

Non-essential retail and gyms to reopen in lead-up to Christmas

( via– Mon, 23rd Nov 2020) London, Uk – –

The prime minister is publishing a COVID Winter Plan, with new restrictions in England in December but a break for Christmas.

Boris Johnson is hoping to lace his latest COVID crackdown with more good cheer, with ministers working on plans to allow families to meet up in a festive bubble.

He is unveiling a new blueprint to fight the pandemic that he hopes will not only save lives during the winter but also prevent a Commons revolt by rebel Tory MPs.

The prime minister is publishing a COVID Winter Plan, which will include tough new restrictions in England in December but a break of up to five days for Christmas.

But despite the restrictions, due to replace England's national lockdown when it ends on 2 December, Mr Johnson will announce:

Non-essential retail will be allowed to open, in a boost for Christmas shoppers – and the high street

Gyms will be allowed to open too, so the nation doesn't pile on the pounds in the run-up to Christmas

The 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, which critics claim did more harm than good, will be scrapped

And a mass testing programme is to be launched in Tier 3 areas, using the Army, like the recent pilot programme in Liverpool

In a Commons statement, Mr Johnson is not expected to confirm how many households will be able to bubble together at Christmas, or how long the break in restrictions will last. That is planned for the following day.

But ministers are working on plans for three households and a five-day break, from Christmas Eve to 28 December, subject to agreement from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments.

The mass coronavirus testing programme will be launched in areas facing the toughest restrictions, in Tier 3, using the Liverpool, model, which the government claims has been a success.

Announcing the testing programme, the prime minister is expected to tell MPs: “The selflessness of people in following the rules is making a difference.

“The virus is not spreading nearly as quickly as it would if we were not washing our hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and so on.

“And in England, where nationwide measures came into effect at the start of this month, the increase in new cases is flattening off.

“But we are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still present in communities across the country, and remains both far more infectious and far more deadly than seasonal flu.

“But with expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there.”

Plans for a Christmas break from restrictions were announced after weekend talks with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster.

The government is proposing “some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”. But the public is being urged to remain cautious and avoid travelling wherever possible.

But just hours after the announcement of the festive break was announced by the Cabinet Office, the Scottish government claimed: “No agreement has been reached and discussions are continuing.”

This was echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who told Sky News a final decision “hasn't been made”.

Speaking to Kay Burley, he said: “We'll confirm it when we have that agreement across the four nations.”

Mr Hancock added: “We've agreed in principle that there should be a set of rules that applies across the board that is balanced, that allows a little bit more freedom, but is still safe.”

The dispute may be over the dates of the break. Last week Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said for some families in Scotland Hogmanay would be more important than Christmas.

“For many, bringing in new year is very important,” she said.

“For some families in Scotland that may be the time they get together, even more so than Christmas, so we do have to take that into account in our planning and we need to think across the whole festive period.”

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News: “We understand that people will want to come together, but this still remains a very serious, horrific and deadly virus, so please be cautious.”

And he added that the PM needs to “be honest with the British people” about the tough new restrictions.

“If areas are continuing in these localised lockdowns, we hope there is a proper package of support for the small businesses impacted,” Mr Ashworth said.

In the Commons, Mr Johnson will also face fierce criticism from a growing number of Conservative MPs of his plans to re-impose the three-tier restrictions in England which were in force from 14 October until 5 November.How lockdown leak created surge of social activity

Although the PM will reaffirm his pledge to end England's national lockdown, many Tory MPs are furious at the government's plans to make the restrictions tougher and place more areas in Tiers 2 and 3.

The Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, led by ex-ministers Mark Harper and Steve Baker, has written to the prime minister threatening to vote against the three-tier system when it is voted on in the Commons.

Mr Baker told Kay Burley: “We're determined to do our duty and help the government to come up with the right solutions.”

He added: “Each measure needs to be shown to actually reduce the transmission of COVID and some of the measures can't be shown to do that, not in a material way. Things like closing non-essential retail that's COVID safe.

“We also want to see a cost benefit analysis for each measure, so that we can see that the measures will save more lives than they harm.”

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent, and Alan McGuinness, political reporter

McDonald’s to offer plant-based meat alternative burgers from 2021

( via– Tue, 10th Nov 2020) London, Uk – –

The “McPlant” line could offer burgers, chicken substitutes and sandwich breakfasts, says McDonald's.

By Sabah Choudhry, news reporter

McDonald's will debut its line of plant-based meat alternatives – the McPlant – in 2021.

The burger chain has teamed up with Beyond Meat to create a patty, the Los Angeles-based company has said.

“Beyond Meat and McDonald's co-created the plant-based patty which will be available as part of their McPlant platform,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson said in an email.

Their shares dropped by 8% once McDonald's announced its latest venture – but picked up again by 4% after the plant-based meat company announced its role in co-creating the patty.

McDonald's – which earlier reported market-beating profit and revenue for the third quarter – has declined to comment on which supplier it is using for its faux meat products.

Nor did it provide further details.

Beyond Meat was the frontrunner for a veggie product contract as it had conducted tests for the “P.L.T.” burger at 100 restaurants in Ontario, Canada.

“Plant-based products are an ongoing consumer trend. It's not a matter of if McDonald's will get into plant-based, it's a matter of when,” McDonald's chief executive officer Chris Kempczinski said.

McDonald's competition – other brands including Burger King, White Castle and Dunkin' Brands Group Inc – also offer vegan alternatives.

This move from McDonald's is expected to place the plant-based meat movement at the forefront in mainstream American society.

The chain says under its new line it could offer burgers, chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches – which it expects to test in some stores from 2021.

FTSE 100 soars on Covid-19 vaccine potential breakthrough

( via – – Mon, 9th Nov 2020) London, Uk – –

Stock markets have jumped on hopes of a potential breakthrough in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19.

Drugs firm Pfizer said that preliminary analysis indicated that its coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective.

In response, the UK's FTSE 100 share index jumped more than 5%, with similar gains seen on other European indexes.

Travel firms – which have been hit hardest by the pandemic – saw the biggest gains, with British Airways owner IAG soaring 26%.

Elsewhere in the sector, EasyJet shares rose 26% while aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce surged 45%.

Another sector of the economy that has been hit hard by coronavirus is hospitality, and catering firm Compass Group saw its shares rise more than 40%.

However, some of the companies that have been in demand during the crisis lost some of their allure for investors.

The trend towards online shopping accelerated during the pandemic. But with hopes of a successful vaccine, shares in grocery delivery firm Ocado dropped more than 9% while takeaway ordering firm Just Eat fell more than 7%.

Drugmakers have been racing to be the first to develop a successful coronavirus vaccine.

If authorised, the number of doses will be limited initially. Many questions also remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce one-year spending plan on November 25

( via — Wed, 28th Oct, 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he would announce a one-year plan for government spending on Nov. 25, which would focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and delivering on his plans to protect jobs.

“In the current environment its essential that we provide certainty,” Sunak said in a statement.

“So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling COVID and delivering our Plan for Jobs.”

Earlier this month Sunak was forced to abandon plans to set out a three-year spending plan, saying the uncertainties about the coronavirus and its impact on the economy were too great to plan that far ahead.

Instead, the Nov. 25 statement will cover three priorities: ensuring government departments have enough money to tackle the pandemic and support jobs, funding for public services involved in fight the pandemic, and infrastructure investment.

Key programmes such as planned investment in hospital building and high speed rail, are seen as exceptions to the one-year rule and will be given multi-year capital allocations.

Sunak has already ramped up public spending massively to counter the COVID-19 impact on the economy. Britain is set to run a budget deficit of nearly 17% of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility will publish its latest outlook for the economy and the public finances also on Nov. 25.

Reporting by William James

Drug companies GSK and Sanofi to supply 200 million doses of Covid vaccine

( via – – Wed, 28th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Drug companies GSK and Sanofi will supply 200 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate to a global inoculation scheme.

The two companies' vaccine is going through the first stages of testing.

There is no internationally-approved treatment for Covid-19, which has killed more than 1.16 million people.

Meanwhile, GSK said it expects 2020 earnings to be at the lower end of a forecast due to Covid disruption to vaccinations for other diseases.

180 nations

GSK and Sanofi will supply their vaccine candidate to the Covax scheme, which is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Covax, which aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses around the world by the end of 2021, has already signed agreements this year with AstraZeneca and Novavax.

It aims to discourage national governments from hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and to focus on vaccinating high-risk people first in every country.

More than 180 nations including China have joined the plan, but some, including the US, have opted to stick with their own supply deals.

Sanofi and GSK signed a $2.1bn deal with Washington during the summer to supply it with more than 100 million doses of the same vaccine, which they hope to present for regulatory approval next year.

The companies also have similar agreements with the European Union, the UK and Canada.

They hope to have the first results of the trial by December and if it is successful they will move on to further trials by the end of the year.

Vaccine race

There are around 20 pharmaceutical companies holding clinical trials in the race to find a vaccine.

The partnership between the UK's GSK and France's Sanofi uses the same protein as one of Sanofi's seasonal influenza vaccines.

It will be coupled with a substance that acts as a booster to the vaccine made by GSK.

Sanofi is also working on another vaccine project with US company Translate Bio that will use messenger RNA molecules to instruct cells in the body to make coronavirus proteins that then produce an immune response.

Earlier this week, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said the vaccine it is developing with Oxford University produces an immune response in both young and old adults.

Inoculation prospects

On Wednesday, the woman in charge of procuring possible Covid-19 vaccines for the UK said that rollout of the earliest shots could start this year, though their effectiveness was likely to be limited.

The UK has agreed supply deals for six candidates. The UK government has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is one of the frontrunners along with Pfizer.

“If the first two vaccines, or either of them, show that they are both safe and effective, I think there is a possibility that vaccine rollout will start this side of Christmas,” Kate Bingham, the chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, told the BBC. “Otherwise I think it's more realistic to expect it to be early next year.”

It is not yet known which of these experimental vaccines will work.

And Ms Bingham wrote an opinion piece in the Lancet medical journal, published overnight, saying that in theory all of the candidate vaccines could fail.

JD Wetherspoon reports first annual pre-tax loss since 1984

( via – – Fri, 16th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

JD Wetherspoon has reported its first annual pre-tax loss since 1984 as it laid bare the impact of coronavirus restrictions on the pubs industry.

It revealed a £105.4m loss on sharply lower sales in the year to 26 July.

Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin railed against changes in rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which he said were “confusing”.

From Saturday, households in London will not be allowed to mix indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

London and Essex will come under Tier 2 restrictions while Liverpool has already been placed under tougher Tier 3 rules.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Martin said: “There's massive confusion in the UK now because you've got the ‘rule of six', Tier 2, Tier 3 – everyone's confused.

“I think you should concentrate on the basics which is social distancing. If you don't get too close to someone you won't get infected, that works better.”

The loss after exceptional items is a sharp reversal from the £95.4m pre-tax profit reported in the previous year.

Wetherspoon's full-year results – which cover the first weeks after pubs were allowed to reopen on 4 July – also revealed that sales dropped by 30.6% to £1.2bn.

The company said that since reopening, like-for-like sales at its pubs were 15% lower compared to last year: “With strong sales in the first few weeks, followed by a marked slowdown since the introduction of a curfew and other regulations.”

During that time, 66 Wetherspoon's staff across 50 pubs tested positive for coronavirus. The company employs 41,000 staff and had reopened 861 of its pubs.

Mr Martin said that although the safety measures introduced to allow reopening were tough on pubs “because it reduced capacity dramatically”, the industry was “gradually getting used to it”.

“Trade was improving and social distancing was working and infections were low,” he said. “But what's happened under emergency powers, the government is making a lot of changes which we think in the industry are arbitrary [and] don't work, like the curfew and that's making life almost impossible.”

UK Hospitality, which represents the industry, has warned that the new Tier 2 restrictions due to come into force in London and Essex could lead to 250,000 people losing their jobs unless firms are given additional financial support.

The hospitality industry has been one of the worst hit sectors during the pandemic. Earlier this week, Marston's, the pubs and brewery group, said up to 2,150 furloughed staff were at risk of losing their jobs.

Wetherspoon said recently that up to 450 of its staff who work at pubs in airports were facing cuts as “sales are generally much lower and where a high percentage is closed”.

The company confirmed on Friday that 108 head office staff have been made redundant.

US shares set to drop after president Trump tests positive for coronavirus

( via – – Fri, 2nd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

US stock markets have indicated that shares will open sharply lower after Donald Trump said he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Stock market futures showed that all three of America's main indexes – the Dow Jones, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq – are set to drop by at least 1.5% each when trading begins on Friday.

The US President tweeted he and his wife Melania had contracted Covid-19.

It comes as the US heads into the final weeks before the Presidential election.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Tonight FLOTUS [First Lady of the US] I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”

Hours earlier, Mr Trump had declared that the end of the coronavirus pandemic “is in sight”.

In London, the FTSE 100 index opened 0.7% lower at 5,840.58. In France, the Cac-40 is trading down 0.8% while Germany's DAX index is also down 0.8%.

“This election already had a cloud of uncertainty hanging over it as Trump has refused to say whether he will accept the final vote and has also said that the final result may not be known for months,” said Fiona Cincotta, market analyst at City Index UK.

“The markets are already fretting about an uncertain election and this just adds another layer of uncertainty, favouring the risk off trade.”

Futures trading indicates that the Dow Jones could drop by nearly 500 points when it opens later. The technology-heavy Nasdaq is set to tumble by 2% while the S&P 500 is on course to fall 1.7%.

“It is prime time now for (the) US election,” said Jingyi Pan, a senior market strategist at IG Group. “Should the President be absent during this period, that could mean even more complications with the election.”

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei share index fell 0.7% to 23,029.90 when Mr Trump's diagnosis emerged, though Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed nearly 0.8% higher.

Mr Trump and his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, are scheduled to hold two more debates ahead of polling day on 3 November.

Earlier this week, the two faced each other for the first time in a combative encounter.

The rules for the remaining debates has now been changed to ensure the two remaining meetings will be more orderly.

Lockdown fears cause shares to fall sharply in travel, hotel and pubs

( via – – Mon, 21st Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Leading shares across Europe have fallen sharply in morning trading amid fears that a renewed rise in coronavirus cases will blight economic prospects.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 share index was down more than 3%, with airlines, travel firms, hotel groups and pubs leading the rout.

Worst hit was British Airways owner IAG, which slumped more than 12%.

Similar falls were seen on markets in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Banking shares were affected by an extra set of concerns as allegations of money-laundering surfaced in leaked secret files.

HSBC, the bank at the centre of the scandal, saw its share price fall more than 5% in London, but the revelations dragged down the entire sector, with Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all dropping about the same amount.

The downward trend affected all but a handful of stocks on the UK's 100-share index. Only online delivery service Just Eat, supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons and miner Fresnillo made it into positive territory.

The FTSE 250 index, seen as a better reflection of the health of the UK economy, was down 4% by lunchtime.

One of its biggest fallers was pub and restaurant owner Mitchells & Butlers, which dropped more than 15% as concerns grow that the hospitality industry would have most to lose from a fresh lockdown.

The pound also lost ground against the dollar, falling 0.47% to $1.2863 by lunchtime. It fell marginally against the euro to €1.0910.

Why does all this matter to me?

Many people are more affected by stock market falls than they might think.

There are millions of people with a pension – either private or through work – who will see their savings (in what is known as a defined contribution pension) invested by pension schemes. The value of their savings pot is influenced by the performance of these investments.

Pension savers mostly let experts choose where to invest this money to help it grow and a proportion will be in shares.

Widespread falls in share prices are likely to be bad news for these investments, although pension investors stress these are long-term investments and are designed to ride out bouts of weakness.

Analysis: By Theo Leggett

There has certainly been an element of European unity on the markets today, with the FTSE 100 index in London, the Cac 40 in Paris, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Ibex in Madrid all suffering similar falls.

The reason behind the gloom seems pretty clear. With the number of Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly here and in many European countries, there's a real prospect of new restrictions on daily life. In some regions – such as Madrid, for example – they're already in place.

The fear is that although these measures are unlikely to be as severe as the lockdowns in spring, they will nonetheless weigh on economic activity and could stifle the post-lockdown recovery.

Shares are down across the board, but inevitably, the companies which rely on people being able to get out and about and mingle are among the worst affected.

Airlines, tourism firms and hospitality businesses have already had a dreadful year – and investors know they can ill afford further setbacks.

‘Bitter pill'

Coronavirus cases have been surging in many European countries, as governments strive to avoid another round of national lockdowns.

In the UK, top scientists are warning that the country is at a “critical point” in the pandemic and “heading in the wrong direction”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be considering a two-week mini-lockdown in England – being referred to as a “circuit-breaker” – in an effort to stem widespread growth of the virus.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ”The FTSE 100 is worst hit among its European peers with a storm of pessimistic news swirling, affecting sectors across the board.”

She added that concerns for the travel industry had had a “domino effect”, with aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce hit, as investors saw no end to the falling demand for new planes.

At the same time, the prospect of evening coronavirus curfews, after a summer of recovering sales, was “a bitter pill to swallow” for the hospitality industry,

If you add the prospect of a no-deal Brexit into the murky mix, there is little surprise so many investors seem to have caught a severe case of the jitters today.”

Oxford vaccine trial volunteer suffers suspected serious adverse reaction

( via– Wed, 9th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Researchers are investigating whether the unexplained illness is linked to the vaccine.

The Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial is facing a “challenge”, the health secretary has admitted, after it was put on hold due to a suspected serious adverse reaction in one of its volunteers.

Researchers have paused the trial while they investigate the reaction in one of the participants in the UK, it was announced on Tuesday night.

“As part of the ongoing randomised, controlled global trials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee,” a spokesperson for AstraZeneca – the drugmaker working with Oxford University – said.

They explained it was a “routine action” and that it is speeding up the investigation to minimise any potential impact on the trial's timeline.

“We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials,” they added.Advertisement

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News' Kay Burley programme the pause is not necessarily cause for concern and that it has already overcome one such delay.

“It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine,” he says.

“It's not actually the first time it has happened to the Oxford vaccine and it's a standard process in clinical trials.”

Asked if it is a setback, Mr Hancock replied: “Not necessarily, it depends on what they find when they do the investigation.

“There was a pause earlier in the summer and that was resolved without a problem.”

The nature of the adverse reaction and when it happened are not currently known.

Clinical holds usually mean there is a pause in recruiting new participants and dosing current ones.

It is not uncommon for trials to be put on hold, but scientists are under pressure to develop a vaccine to help curb the pandemic.

Most serious adverse reactions that occur after vaccination are not related to the injection and are coincidental health problems, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

When a vaccine is given to a large number of people, it is likely that a few people will experience a medical problem around the time of vaccination – but this does not prove any cause and effect.

Even so, researchers will need to investigate if there is any link.

In July, early results from the trial showed the vaccine was safe and produced strong immune responses in volunteers.

No unexpected adverse reactions were recorded at the time, although more than half of 1,000 participants reported mild or moderate side effects including fever, headaches, muscle pain and soreness at the injection site.

Phase three trials of the Oxford vaccine had recently expanded to the US, recruiting up to 30,000 adults.

Trials were also underway in South Africa and Brazil.

Experts believe finding a vaccine is the only way for the world to return to normal in the future and there are currently nine vaccine candidates in larger phase three trials.

But it is not known how well a vaccine will work, and the top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci recently warned the chances of it being almost 100% effective are “not great”.

“We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. We don't know if it will be 50% or 60%. I'd like it to be 75% or more,” he said.

By Emily Mee

KFC halting its “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan amid coronavirus

( via – – Tue, 25th Aug 2020) London, Uk – –

Global fast food giant KFC says it is halting its “Finger Lickin' Good” slogan given the current hygiene advice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We find ourselves in a unique situation – having an iconic slogan that doesn't quite fit in the current environment,” the company said.

It has altered its packaging with the phrase obscured but KFC said the phrase would return when the time was right.

KFC outlets closed temporarily in March, but most have now reopened.

The company revealed its new look through a YouTube video, showing the slogan pixelated on posters and its food “buckets”, saying: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.”

Some people commented on social media the slogan was not a health hazard as you were already eating with your own hands.

But the finger-lickin' message has caused concern since the pandemic began. In March, the Advertising Standards Authority received 163 complaints about a KFC TV advert which featured people licking their fingers.

The complainants considered the advert was irresponsible because they thought it encouraged behaviour that might increase the chances of Covid-19 spreading. The advert was withdrawn by KFC.

KFC, which was founded in the 1930s by Harland Saunders, opened its first franchise in the 1950s and has used the Finger Lickin' Good slogan since then.

It dropped the slogan in the late 1990s but brought it back in 2008.

KFC has 22,500 outlets around the world – 900 in the UK and Ireland. It is owned by Yum! brands, which also owns Pizza Hut.


Gymshark former delivery boy sportswear firm now worth over £1bn

( via – – Fri, 14th Aug 2020) London, Uk – –

A 28-year-old former pizza delivery boy has done a deal which values his sportswear company at more than £1bn.

Ben Francis started Gymshark from his parents' garage in 2012 when he was 19 years old, studying by day and working for Pizza Hut by night.

Mr Francis told the BBC he is now worth a “frightening” amount though he declined to provide details of the deal.

But based on a £1bn value, Mr Francis' stake in Gymshark is worth £700m.

US private equity firm General Atlantic is taking a 21% share in the clothing business, which is based in Solihull. It will allow Gymshark to expand internationally, especially in the US, where it has most of its customers.

Mr Francis started the firm because he couldn't find sportswear that appealed to him.

Enlisting the help of his brother, and a group of friends, he bought a sewing machine and screen printer, and started to make gym vests and t-shirts.

Embracing social media

His brother and most of those friends are still a part of the business today, which has 499 staff and offices in the UK, Hong Kong and Denver, Colorado. It manufactures all over the world.

A large part of the sportswear firm's success is due to its significant social media following. It has 4.6 million followers on Instagram.

“We were one of the first businesses in the world to sponsor influencers,” Mr Francis said. “Equally, we were one of the first businesses to really double down and invest in social media.”

But the coronavirus crisis has also helped.

“Commercially, it's been quite good in the sense that people are shopping more online and people are running, cycling and doing home workouts more than ever before,” he said.

But he acknowledged that it has been hard on his staff.

He is yet to decide what he will do with his newly-realised wealth but he does think he's earned a short break.

“I will have this weekend off,” he said.

“I cannot remember the last time I was up any later than 05:30 or 06:00 so tomorrow morning, I will have a lie in, for one, and I will walk my dog and just chill out.”

However, he remains focused on worldwide expansion.

“This is my one true passion and the thing that I've truly dedicated my life to,” he said.

“So all of my mindset right now is about continuing to develop this brand into a truly, truly global phenomenon.”

By Philippa Goodrich and Dan Ascher