Heathrow says airport Covid checks are becoming ‘untenable’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 14th April 2021) London, Uk – –

Heathrow has said that long queues caused by extensive Covid checks at the airport are becoming “untenable”.

Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow, told MPs on the transport committee that some travellers faced waits of up to six hours.

On more than one occasion police had had to intervene because queuing was “not something passengers want to do”, he added.

Foreign travel is only permitted for certain reasons at the moment.

Mr Garton said that all passengers, regardless of nationality, had to be thoroughly vetted before they left or entered the UK to ensure they complied with coronavirus legislation.

However, he said that the queues would become a “much bigger” problem if rules on foreign travel are relaxed on 17 May, as the government is planning.

Currently, he said about 10-15,000 people arrive at the airport each day, and “certainly more than half are having delays in excess of 2-3 hours each day”.

He said the current system is a “tremendous burden on officers at the border” and that the Home Office had not provided enough officers.

“We would like to see more resources at the border,” he told the MPs.

He said maintaining social distancing was hard as the airport was never built to “have so many people held up” in queues.

The BBC has contacted the Home Office for comment.

People in England can start thinking about booking foreign holidays again this summer, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said last week.

But he said the cost of the Covid tests required needed to be driven down, amid criticism from the travel industry.

Mr Shapps has gave more detail on the traffic light system which will see countries graded on their risk.

Passengers will have to take the tests before leaving and on returning – even from low-risk “green” countries.

By Simon Browning

Covid lockdown eases as pubs gardens, shops and hairdressers reopen in England

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 12th April 2021) London, Uk – –

For the first time in months pub gardens, shops and hairdressers are reopening in England, as rules are also eased in the rest of the UK.

Some pubs and salons opened at midnight, with one landlord saying there was a “sense of celebration”, and shoppers queued outside Primark stores.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged everyone to “behave responsibly”.

Northern Ireland's “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are also being relaxed in Scotland and Wales.

The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight pubgoers.

“I'm hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said.

But the British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

Marika Smith, general manager of Hough End Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester, says she “has not slept the last two nights” in anticipation of reopening.

“All of the swimming is fully booked, you can't get on any, and the same for the busy parts of this evening, 6-7 o'clock is fully booked,” she said.

Another business that reopened at midnight in England was Secret Spa, which offers at-home salon and spa treatments in London, Manchester and Brighton.

Co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks said it had “been such a long time coming”, saying: “Everyone has really missed the social contact of the day-to-day job and making clients happy.”

She said they have experienced a “surge of bookings”, including “a lot of 6am haircuts”.

PureGym at Coventry Skydome reported more than 50 members using its gym in the opening 30 minutes on Monday morning.

The rule changes in England from Monday include:

  • All shops can reopen
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
  • Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Non-essential journeys between England and Wales are allowed
  • Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals
  • Children can attend any indoor children's activity
  • Care home visitors will increase to two per resident
  • Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 will return to the classroom. The stay-at-home message is being relaxed and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden.

  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen
  • ‘Everyone's raring to get back to the gym'

In Scotland, pupils at schools in six council areas go back to school today. Not everyone is returning on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays.

After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students will return to face-to-face teaching on Monday.

Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed.

Analysis: By Simon Jack

Shoppers, gym fans, domestic holiday makers, outdoor drinkers and diners, plus those in need of a haircut will share the government's hope that today is an irreversible step towards old and cherished freedoms.

So will the business owners who will be welcoming them back.

But this significant easing of lockdown is also an important test.

Will customers want or be able to return in sufficient numbers for firms to break even and if they don't, what will it take to make the economy work again?

Only two in five hospitality venues have any outdoor space and the rules over future inside opening are still unclear.

The government and the opposition have distanced themselves from requiring Covid certificates for day-to-day life but the government has also hinted individual businesses may require them if they wish.

Hospitality chiefs have told the BBC they fear having to choose between two different ways to lose money – half empty venues without certificates or full ones with extra staff and hassle to check Covid status.

Demand may vary by sector.

Hairdressers are booked solid, retailers are hopeful of high footfall and are welcoming longer opening hours but some holiday parks are reporting subdued bookings as many of their public amenities remain closed.

It is a test for everyone – but a welcome one for most.

In a statement, the prime minister said the rule relaxations are “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom”.

“I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” he added.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

The rule changes in England marks the third easing since the country's third national lockdown began on 6 January.

There is a gap of at least five weeks between each step on the government's “roadmap” out of lockdown, to allow the impact of changes on infection rates and hospital admissions to be assessed.

  • Pupils begin full time return to secondary schools
  • NI's ‘stay home' order lifted as restrictions ease
  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen

The next significant date is 17 May, when up to six people from different households could be allowed to socialise indoors.

Will cases now rise?

By BBC health correspondent Anna Collinson

As restrictions are eased, infections are expected to rise.

The government argues that the UK is in a strong position – with almost 40 million combined first and second vaccine doses now administered.

It doesn't view the reopening of non-essential shops and beer gardens as particularly risky – as long as people stick to the rules.

However, there are some scientists who fear today's relaxation has come too soon and they are concerned about virus hotspots in the East Midlands and parts of Yorkshire.

There are strict criteria that must be met before moving to the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions, including the continued success of the vaccine rollout and protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed with cases.

The next stage will be the planned return of indoor mixing and foreign travel on 17 May at the earliest – and it's these steps that are expected to pose the greater risk.

More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and of those 7.4m have had their second dose.

A record total of 475,230 second doses were administered on Saturday – along with 111,109 first doses.

Mr Johnson praised the “record-breaking day” on Twitter, writing: “Thanks to everyone involved in this extraordinary effort which has already saved thousands of lives.”

The number of people dying in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test continues to fall steadily, with seven further deaths reported on Sunday.

That is the lowest daily death toll by this measure since 14 September 2020. However, there can be a lag in reporting coronavirus statistics during weekends.

Grant Shapps transport secretary: People can now think about booking foreign holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 9th Apr 2021) London, Uk – –

The change in advice came as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

People can “start to think” about booking foreign summer holidays, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News.

The cabinet minister issued the change in advice, as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

It comes just days after Downing Street published an official document that urged people “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer”.

However, the government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from 17 May – and where Britons will be able to travel without self-isolating on their return.

Mr Shapps also insisted he is trying to make foreign travel as affordable as possible amid criticism that a coronavirus testing requirement will drive up holiday costs

The traffic light “framework” includes making all UK arrivals take pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 tests.

Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.

This has led to a backlash from the travel industry which has warned foreign holidays this year would be “just something for the wealthy”.

The sector wants travellers returning from low-risk countries to be allowed to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

UK budget holiday airline Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays until late June due to uncertainty over government travel plans.

Asked on Sky News if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps said: “I'm not telling people that they shouldn't book summer holidays now, it's the first time that I've been able to say that for many months.”

He added: “For the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad or perhaps a summer holiday but we are doing it very, very cautiously as we don't want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”

Mr Shapps said he was looking to “make it as affordable as possible to travel” and “drive down the costs” of tests.

He said: “Costs are definitely a concern. It is one of the factors this year. We have to accept we are still going through a global pandemic.

“We do have to be cautious and I am afraid that does involve having to have some tests and the like.

“But, I am undertaking today to drive down the costs of those tests and looking at some innovative things we could do.

“For example, whether we can help provide the lateral flow tests people need to take before they depart the country they are in to return to the UK and also drive down the costs of the tests when they get home if it is in the green category.

“We are trying to make it as practical as possible.”

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said the framework “does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers”.

He added: “The insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing – even for low-risk countries – will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people.”Twice-weekly tests now available for free in England

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the plan was “a blow to all travellers” and risked “making flying only for the wealthy”.

He added: “As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News' Ian King Live programme: “The main concern is about the cost of all of this testing, particularly for people who are looking to go on a family holiday or for small businesses, who are on a very tight budget.

“The cost of all these PCR tests could be enormous.

“The government risks shooting itself in the foot here. I think the prime minister needs to deliver on his commitment to make testing cheap and easy.”

Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation ABTA, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.

It has also been revealed the Civil Aviation Authority will be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that breach consumer rights, after many passengers struggled to obtain refunds when flights were grounded.

Goldman Sachs prepares staff to return to London office after Easter break

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 6th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Investment bank could see 200 of its 6,000 London workers back in the office after Easter break

Goldman Sachs is preparing for hundreds more staff to go back to its London office this week as it eyes a return to pre-pandemic working conditions.

As many as 200 of the US investment bank’s workers could return to the main London office from Tuesday, joining several hundred staff who have been at their desks throughout several lockdowns. Goldman Sachs employs about 6,000 workers in London overall.

Bankers were classed as key workers if their jobs support the functioning of the economy and financial stability, meaning some have been allowed to work in the office throughout the pandemic.

At Goldman’s London office, between 200 and 300 workers such as financial traders have been travelling into work during the lockdowns because of their need to use specialised computer equipment.

Other banks are looking at similar plans. A small number of staff are expected to start returning to Credit Suisse from Monday 12 April, for example, although the return will be staggered.

The rapid pace of the UK’s vaccination programme and the easing of rules on travel have meant that some companies have considered plans to bring workers back to offices that have been vacated for a large part of the last year.

The government eased some lockdown restrictions on 29 March, although its official guidance remains that people should work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys made.

Views on the future of work after pandemic restrictions ease appear to differ even within the banking sector. HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, has said it will cut its property footprint by as much as 40% in the long term, and Lloyds Banking Group, the bank with the biggest UK high street presence, has said it will bring in working from home as a permanent lifestyle change, allowing it to cut 20% of its office space.

However, Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, has described working from home as an “aberration” that must be rectified “as soon as possible”.

Goldman’s working conditions have come under scrutiny during the pandemic after junior US analysts compiled a report in which they claimed they were subjected to 100-hour working weeks. After the report was leaked Goldman acknowledged that some people might be quite “stretched” by working from home, in part because the bank has enjoyed record trading volumes during the pandemic.

Based on the experience of England’s previous easing of lockdown rules it is thought that Goldman could accommodate about 1,000 workers in its London office while still observing social distancing rules, which are expected to remain in place in some form until at least 21 June.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

By Jasper Jolly

Wetherspoons Tim Martin demand end to “mayhem” of lockdowns and tier restrictions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 19th March 2021) London, Uk – –

Mr Martin said “sensible policies” were needed to help the devastated hospitality sector recover from restrictions.

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has demanded an end to the “mayhem” of lockdowns and tier restrictions as the pub chain slumped to a £68m half-year loss.

The company reported a 54% fall in revenues to £431m for the six months to 24 January as COVID measures left pubs closed for much of the period.

Mr Martin, the pub group's chairman and an outspoken critic of the government's COVID-19 measures, called for “sensible policies” to help the hospitality sector recover.

He said companies had “made strenuous efforts” to comply with capacity, social distancing and hygiene regulations and that there had been “very few outbreaks of the virus in pubs”.

Wetherspoons' results included “exceptional” one-off cash charges of £7.5m to cover items such as placing pub screens between tables as well as topping up wages for furloughed workers – whose pay is being 80% subsidised by the government.

Mr Martin said it “remains to be seen” if ministers would stick to the roadmap for reopening, under which pubs and restaurants may serve customers outside from 12 April and indoors from 17 May.

He claimed that “knee-jerk reaction to the latest news… seems to have been the main generator of policy and regulations” thus far.

“The future of the industry, and of the UK economy, depends on a consistent set of sensible policies, and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems, which have created economic and social mayhem and colossal debts, with no apparent health benefits,” he said.

Wetherspoons, which runs 870 pubs in the UK, has previously announced that it will open patios, beer gardens and rooftop gardens at 394 pubs in England from 12 April.

Last autumn it reported its first annual loss in 36 years as the pandemic took its toll.

Mr Martin last month told Sky News that he aimed to bring back all 37,000 employees currently on furlough leave when his pubs reopen.

The British Beer and Pub Association has said that, for the industry as a whole, sales of beer in pubs fell by 56%, or £7.8bn, last year.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Oatly announced plans to open world’s biggest alt-milk factory in East Anglia

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 9th Mar 2021) London, Uk – –

Vegan brand will open plant in 2023, creating at least 200 jobs, as demand soars

Swedish alt-milk brand Oatly, which is gearing up for a US stock market listing, has announced plans to open one of the world’s biggest plant-based dairy factories in the UK.

The plant, in Peterborough, East Anglia, which will open in 2023, will have the ultimate capacity to produce up to 450m litres of oat milk a year. The plan will create at least 200 jobs, the company said.Can Oatly milk it? Oatmilk brand gears up for US stock marketRead more

Ishen Paran, the general manager of Oatly UK, said the UK market had become a “really important driver of the global plant-based movement” with the company seeing growing demand across the country. “We’re excited to supply this increased demand,” he said.

Oatly has enjoyed massive growth thanks to a combination of guerrilla marketing and good timing, as more people embrace a vegan or vegetarian diet. Its sales nearly doubled to $200m (£144m) in 2019 and were predicted to do the same in 2020.

UK sales of plant milks have jumped 16% to £278m in the past year, according to the data firm Nielsen. Within that, oat milk sales more than doubled to £73m. Oatly, the world’s biggest oat milk brand, has expanded its range to include yoghurts, spreads and ice-cream.

Last month Malmö-based Oatly confirmed plans for initial public offering that could value the business at as much as $10bn. The flotation follows last summer’s sale of a minority stake to a group of investors that included US private equity firm Blackstone, Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z. That deal valued the company at $2bn.

On opening, the Peterborough site, which will source oats locally, will produce 300m litres of oat milk, but there would be scope to increase production to 450m litres. The decision to open a UK factory “means plant-based dairy will be more accessible for people to switch to, helping them to reduce their climate impact”, Oatly said.

The Fitness Entrepreneur Who Created A $300 Million Mirror Phenomenon

Source: Forbes

On March 13, as New York prepared to move indoors to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Mirror founder Brynn Putnam closed the offices of her high-tech fitness startup and sent her nearly 100 employees home. The former ballerina now hunkers down in her Greenwich Village apartment with her husband, Lowell, also an entrepreneur. The couple alternates who gets to be on Zoom from the bedroom and who watches their 3-year-old son, George, in the living room. The only thing that’s easy: working out. Putnam brought home two of her fitness company’s eponymous interactive Mirrors. One is in the bedroom, the other in the guest bedroom. “If [Lowell] wants to box and I want to do yoga, we can,” says Putnam, 36. With a market capitalization above $13 billion and a product and marketing campaign that have become a meme, Peloton has emerged as the buzziest fitness company of the coronavirus era. But privately owned Mirror is hot on its heels, with a single advantage Peloton can’t match: compactness. At 22 inches wide, 52 inches high and 1.4 inches deep, Putnam’s product looks and acts like a regular mirror. Turn it on, though, and users see an instructor teaching the class (as well as their own reflection so they can work on form); software provides personalized modifications in the corner of the screen and helps track fitness goals. Members pay $1,495 for the Mirror and an additional $39 a month for access to an array of livestreamed classes including cardio, barre, strength training and yoga in 15-, 30- and 60-minute increments. “No one had thought about putting a screen into a mirror and having it be a workout platform,” says Kevin Thau, general partner at Spark Capital, one of Putnam’s early investors. “It seems obvious in hindsight, but it wasn’t before.” Brick-and-mortar gyms and fitness studios are an almost $100 billion business, according to the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association. When Putnam launched the product in September 2018, five years after Peloton first started connecting bikes, she was betting on a gradual, continuing shift toward home fitness. Now with millions of people stuck in their homes and desperate for exercise, she’s riding high, with sales surpassing her already aggressive projections—and a spot on our Next Billion-Dollar Startups list, one of 25 private companies Forbes bets will become unicorns. “We’re seeing Christmas in April,” Putnam says, noting that Mirror’s tens of thousands of members are now working out an average of 15 times a month, up from 10.

Sainsbury’s rewards frontline staff with 3% bonus

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com–Fri, 26th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The chain bolsters store pay and announces a third bonus for its frontline colleagues but says the annual award is a “one-off”.

Sainsbury's is to reward frontline staff with a 3% bonus for their efforts to serve customers during the coronavirus crisis.

The UK's second-largest supermarket chain said the payout – worth £530 to a full-time worker – was a “one-off” in recognition of outstanding service.

The sector witnessed a stampede for goods from March last year as the UK prepared to enter its first COVID-19 lockdown, leading to widespread shortages of products such as toilet roll and flour as supply chains caught up with demand.

Sainsbury's, which is only the second chain after Lidl to award a bonus, said staff at its supermarkets and Argos stores would also get a pay rise to £9.50 per hour from next month.

Staff at central London stores will see their hourly pay rise to £10.10.

The awards meant staff were taking home more than £100m more, Sainsbury's explained, because workers had already received two other smaller bonus payouts.

The sector has been among the big winners of the pandemic as supermarkets have benefited from essential retail status while the major chains have also ramped up their online operations to meet unprecedented grocery delivery orders.

That delivery shift has come at a price for some workers though as Sainsbury's warned last November that 3,500 jobs could be lost at its supermarket counters and Argos stores. COVID jobs crisis: Retail is worst hit sector

Major chains moved to deflect criticism around higher dividends to shareholders from bumper sales by pledging to repay more than £2bn in business rates relief.

Sainsbury's retail and digital director Clodagh Moriarty, said: “In the last 12 months our frontline colleagues have shown outstanding commitment to our customers.

“In recognition of everything they have achieved, we are giving them a pay rise, plus an additional one-off payment.”

By James Sillars

NHS facing legal challenge with controversial Silicon Valley firm Palantir over data deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com–Wed, 24th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Palantir secured its first ever deal to handle NHS data in March last year for the nominal sum of £1.

The NHS is facing a legal challenge over its data deal with controversial Silicon Valley firm Palantir, Sky News can reveal.

Palantir, which has become notorious for its close ties to security services and immigration agencies in the United States, secured its first ever deal to handle NHS data in March last year for the nominal sum of £1.

Legal group Foxglove announced today that it was bringing a court case against the health service to force it to reconsider the contract, which was extended in December 2020 and is now worth £23.5m. Government's failure to publish COVID contracts details was unlawful, High Court rules.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge over procurement during the pandemic, which has become a highly contentious topic in recent months, with critics accusing the government of favouring its own contacts.

It comes as a batch of internal government emails uncovered by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and seen by Sky News reveal that high-level meetings took place between Palantir and the most senior officials in government and the NHS before the pandemic, raising questions about the role of personal relationships in the award of the contract.

The lawsuit claims that NHS England failed to consider the impact of the renewed deal on patients and the public by performing a fresh Data Protection Impact Assessment – a claim the health service denies.

“This is a giant tech company seeking to establish what will be a permanent beachhead in the NHS and we think that people have the right to know about that and debate it before it's too late,” said Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, which is bringing the case on behalf of news site openDemocracy.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The company is an accredited supplier to the UK public sector, the NHS completed a Data Protection Impact Assessment in April 2020, and an update will be published in due course.”

NHS insiders say that Palantir's tool has proved immensely useful at marshalling the health service's disparate streams of data, but Ms Crider said that the NHS was “naive” to think its relationship with the much-criticised firm would not damage fragile trust among minority ethnic communities.

“The government's vaccine campaigns teach us that there is no public health without public trust,” Ms Crider told Sky News, citing criticism of Palantir by human rights groups for its work with US police forces and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as potential sources of unease.

The lawsuit comes as a trove of internal UK government documents released to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism under the Freedom of Information Act shows how Palantir wooed senior NHS and government figures long before it was awarded a contract with the health service.

The emails reveal that in July 2019 Louis Mosley, Palantir's UK head, hosted a dinner discussion chaired by Conservative peer David Prior, the chair of NHS England.

They drank watermelon cocktails, which Lord Prior later valued at £60.

The next evening, Mr Mosley emailed Lord Prior, thanking him for “a fascinating and thought provoking discussion”. He added: “I'm more convinced than ever that the UK is uniquely placed to pioneer the next generation of medical discoveries and treatments.”

Hours later Lord Prior replied, encouraging Mr Mosley to get in touch “if you can see ways where you could help us structure and curate our data”.

Despite this non-committal response, Mr Mosley continued to stay in touch with Lord Prior. In early October, the Palantir boss met with Matthew Gould, the former diplomat who had been appointed head of NHSX. “A very positive meeting,” he told Lord Prior over email, inviting him to a demonstration in San Francisco in January.

Lord Prior took up the offer. On 14 January 2020, he took a team of five NHS officials to Palantir's San Francisco headquarters, where they met with the company's “Healthcare Life Sciences brain trust”, a group of around 10 of the tech company's engineers and health science specialists.

According to “quick rough notes” compiled by an official the day after the meeting, aides came away believing that Palantir's all-purpose data software product was “focused exclusively on the Heath Care Market in the UK”.

Palantir and NHS England declined to comment on the contents of the emails, but spokespeople for both organisations insisted that the meetings had nothing to do with the award of any contracts.

Ms Crider reacted to this with scepticism, saying: “What's the watermelon cocktail for if not to curry favour and influence?”

She said the emails raised questions about the contract first granted to Palantir in March 2020, which was portrayed as an immediate response to an “unprecedented challenge”, rather than a long-term arrangement.

The emails reveal the extensive contacts between Palantir and the UK government. The week after his meeting with Lord Prior, Mr Moseley met with the UK's top trade official, Antonia Romeo, who he hosted at Palantir's pavilion in Davos at the World Economic Forum.

According to briefing notes prepared for Ms Romeo, who was then permanent secretary at the Department for International Trade (DIT), the “objectives” of the meeting included stressing that the UK was “a great location for Palantir to expand their software business”.Details of NHS deals with tech giants released by government after legal threat

DIT officials also said they wanted to “understand how we can support their [Palantir's] growth in the UK”, saying they would like to know “how we help with recruitment, identifying real estate for expansion, planning for visas”.

A DIT spokesperson denied there was anything unusual about these exchanges, saying: “DIT officials engage with a wide range of businesses as part of their responsibility to support UK trade and investment.”

But critics point out that encouraging investment from Palantir is different, because its primary client is often the government itself.

“The sense from these exchanges is that senior officials are bending over backwards to accommodate Palantir, and not asking critical questions about the way their technologies will reshape the delivery of services,” said technology researcher Rachel Coldicutt.

Since the NHS's contract with Palantir was first announced, its terms have been extended to cover a far greater range of subjects, including Brexit, flu vaccinations and the ability to “drill down and view changes to workforce data over time”.

Defenders of Palantir said that showed how effective the software had been, but data policy experts warned that the government needed to be more transparent about the changes if it was going to secure public trust.

“The government will squander any opportunities that might exist to better serve the public through the use of data and new technology if it doesn't have the conversation about what's acceptable in public and with the public,” said technology researcher Gavin Freeguard.

Matt Hancock's new plan for health and social care reform, which he unveiled earlier this month, outlines extensive proposals for greater use of health data. It describes the NHS's work with Palantir as one of its “achievements”.

Last week, the health secretary was found to have broken the law by failing to publish the details of coronavirus-related contracts worth billions within the required time period.

Mr Hancock defended the decision, saying he prioritised fighting the virus over transparency, but Labour called on him to commit to greater transparency to win back public trust.

By Rowland Manthorpe

PM Boris Johnson promised to review vaccine passports as eager Britons book holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 23rd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The government's roadmap out of England's lockdown gives Britons confidence that there might be summer holidays after all.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a review of so-called vaccine passports as eager Britons book holidays, excited by Monday's roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Johnson said: “There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating all people to have something or indeed banning people from doing such a thing.”

He said senior minister Michael Gove would lead a review into the issue, although he added that some form of vaccine passport is “going to come on the international stage whatever” for foreign travel, as some other countries would insist on it.

“We need to thrash all this out, and we've got time,” he added.

It has been suggested that vaccine certificates or passports could be a way of opening up travel as the roadmap, which sets a path out of England's coronavirus lockdown, says foreign holidays could be allowed as early as 17 May. Currently non-essential travel is banned.Advertisement

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that there would be a review published on 12 April into international travel before holidays could resume.He said: “That review will be informed by the evidence that we're currently collecting on the impact of the vaccine on these, the so-called South Africa and Brazil new variants.

“If the vaccine works well against them, then we can be much more relaxed about international travel.

“If the vaccine doesn't work against them, then that will be much, much more difficult.”

EasyJet said flight bookings jumped by more than 300% and holiday bookings surged by more than 600% week-on-week after the roadmap was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night.

Beach destinations such as Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, the Algarve in Portugal, and Crete in Greece were the most popular as the country sought something to look forward to after a winter stuck at home.

Most bookings were made for August, but July and September were also popular.Travel industry calls for vaccine passports

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the government's exit plans had “provided a much-needed boost in confidence for so many of our customers in the UK”.

He said: “We have consistently seen that there is pent-up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for.

“While the summer may be a little while off, we will be working around the clock to ensure we will be ready to ramp up our flights to reconnect friends and family or take them on a long-awaited holiday to remember.”

Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Ireland, said they had seen a 500% jump in bookings overnight, with particular demand for Greece, Spain and Turkey from July onward.

He added: “The announcement from the prime minister on 22 February was positive and shows that by working with the travel industry on a risk-based framework our customers will have the opportunity to travel abroad this summer.

“We will continue to work closely with the government so people can look forward to a well-deserved break away, after what has been a very difficult year for many.”

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said they had seen similar numbers, adding that it was “easily our best day of sales for a long time and triple Sunday's”.

The popular destinations for their customers were Turkey, Cyprus and Greece but people are also booking well into 2022, he said, adding: “Clearly the pent-up demand is starting to be released and confidence is returning”.

Shares in airlines were on the rise in early Tuesday trading – IAG the owner of British Airways rose by 5.9%, TUI was up by 6.4%, easyJet was up by 8.3% and Ryanair rose by 4.1%.

The success of Britain's vaccination programme has also given the travel sector confidence that coronavirus restrictions can soon be lifted.

The industry has been one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic, with border closures, travel bans and other measures, such as pre-travel testing and quarantine, all diminishing the willingness of people to travel.

But even after 17 May, foreign governments will need to agree that Britons can visit.

France and Spain are not allowing visitors from Britain due to new variants of coronavirus and countries such as Australia and New Zealand have not been open to tourists for almost a year.

EasyJet and TUI both said they were offering flexibility for travellers in terms of changes that might need to be made to bookings.

But for those who are not ready to travel internationally, Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain, said there are still treasures to be enjoyed in our own backyard.

She told Sky News that “coast and countryside” are expected to be popular but city centres might be less so this year, with many people still cautious about public transport and attractions indoors.

“I think it's going to be a good summer,” she said, adding: “If you've got school-aged children and you need to go away for the peak summer, you're not going to see much discounting going on – I'd go for certainty and book.”

PureGym franchise burning through £500,000 a day

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 22nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Lockdown has been costing budget gym franchise PureGym hundreds of thousands of pounds a day, the company's boss has said.

“We are burning about £500,000 a day and that's the average over eight months of closure,” Humphrey Cobbold told the BBC's Today programme.

It has meant about £120m of costs with no revenue for his 275 gyms, he says.

He is among business leaders who will carefully study Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to re-open the economy.

Mr Johnson will share his finalised roadmap with ministers later, before unveiling it to MPs and then leading a news conference at 19:00 GMT.

It is speculated that businesses branded as non-essential may not open until as late as May.

“It's been brutally tough,” said Mr Cobbold of the period under lockdown.

While the government furlough scheme has been paying a portion of staff salaries, he said his business has still been paying some staff costs such as pension contributions and has amassed sizeable rent arrears.

Mr Cobbold says he has been able to raise funds from investors, which has helped the business survive, and he insists that his business is ready to re-open safely.

“The sooner the better within safe operating procedures for us,” he said. “We can make a massive contribution to the health of the nation”

However, he says his and other firms have learned the hard way that government plans can come late and can be changed.

“I've learned over the last year not to make too many assumptions,” he said.

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of pub chain Marston's, says he would also like to see a route out of the restrictions, since for pubs like his, they mean operating at a loss.

“For many businesses, operating with restrictions is very difficult,” he told the Today programme. “We did open last year – it's not as if we haven't done this before.”

The severity of lockdown for pubs means “sadly its inevitable” that some pubs will not be able to reopen, he said.

“As a sector we have had no income for nine months and we are still incurring costs,” he said.

There are economic reasons to open pubs as well as social ones, he said. The industry employs millions of people, and Marston's generates about £500m a year for the government including direct and indirect taxes, he added.

GW cannabis therapy firm agrees £5.3bn takeover deal by Jazz Pharmaceuticals

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 3rd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The deal will see Jazz grow its portfolio of neuroscience therapies at a time when the medical cannabis industry is taking off.

A UK-based pharmaceutical firm that specialises in a cannabis-derived treatment for epilepsy has agreed to be bought in a $7.2bn (£5.3bn) takeover.

GW Pharmaceuticals said the cash and stock deal with Jazz Pharmaceuticals – best known for its portfolio of sleep medicines – would create a neuroscience therapy powerhouse.

The deal will allow Jazz, which is based in Ireland, to move beyond treatments for sleep disorders and cancer by adding GWs' Epidolex, which brought in sales of $132m (£97m) in the latest reported quarter.

The cannabis-based drug was approved in the US in 2018 for use in patients aged two years and older with rare childhood-onset forms of epilepsy.

GW, which is listed in New York, has been the subject of bid speculation for many years.

Jazz said the offer price represented a 50% premium to GW's closing share price on Tuesday.

The terms of the deal, expected to close within months subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, will see Jazz pay $220 per share, with $200 of that in cash and the rest in shares.

The tie-up is attractive for the company because the US medical cannabis industry is estimated to grow at pace – beyond $16bn (£11.7bn) in annual sales by 2025, according to New Frontier Data reported by the Reuters news agency.

Bruce Cozadd, chairman and CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, said: “Jazz is proud of our leadership position in sleep medicines and rapidly growing oncology business.

“We are excited to add GW's industry-leading cannabinoid platform, innovative pipeline and products, which will strengthen and broaden our neuroscience portfolio, further diversify our revenue and drive sustainable, long-term value creation opportunities.”

By James Sillars

UK hospitals use blockchain to track COVID-19 vaccines

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – 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.

Backlog

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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – 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.