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Manchester over-65s to receive activity packs

More than 600 elderly residents living in Manchester will receive activity packs to keep them engaged while staying at home.

Activity pack letters and drawings
Manchester Cares

Volunteers from community charity Manchester Cares have posted 630 letters of support, drawings and poems to people aged over 65 suffering from loneliness.

The Alone Together packs contain an activity to complete for each day in April.

'How do I get a food parcel?'

BBC Business News

Free food boxes containing essential supplies have been delivered in England to people considered to be at the highest risk from coronavirus.

One-and-a-half million people in England have been identified as being extremely medically vulnerable and the government will distribute free food parcels every week to more than 50,000 who have no family or friends to help them.

Government food parcel
PA Media

The identical parcels contain essential non-perishable supplies like pasta, cereal, fruit, tea bags, potatoes and tinned goods, as well as toilet paper.

A food distribution company will deliver the packs to people's doorsteps, although in some cases local authorities, charities or emergency services may help out.

You can register for support on the government website.

Supermarket sales in March 'busier than Christmas'

BBC Business News

Sales of groceries in the UK in March beat all previous records as shoppers stocked up for a long period at home, according to consumer analysts Kantar.

Supermarket queues

The busiest spell was 16-19 March, when 88% of households visited a food store, adding up to 42 million extra trips across four days.

In the last four weeks, year-on-year supermarket sales grew by 20.6%.

Kantar's Fraser McKevitt said £10.8bn sales in the past four weeks were "even higher than levels seen at Christmas".

Free school meals children to get food vouchers


Families with children eligible for free school meals in England will be able to claim weekly shopping vouchers while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, say ministers.

Children in school dinner queue

The scheme will allow schools to issue vouchers worth £15 a week per child.

Headteachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

But the Department for Education says the rate exceeds that normally paid to schools for free school meals.

Police told to be 'consistent' on lockdown powers


Police officers have been told to take a "consistent" approach when ensuring people comply with emergency measures aimed at curbing coronavirus.


Guidance to officers calls on forces to "coordinate" efforts and emphasises the importance of professionalism.

It comes amid criticism of the way some forces have handled the new measures.

A former Justice of the Supreme Court told the BBC one force's use of drones to film walkers in the Peak District had been "disgraceful".

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said police forces were doing a difficult job and being sensible about enforcing social distancing measures.

Best of Greater Manchester's culture to be streamed online

A new website streaming the best of Greater Manchester's art and culture launches this week with a "diverse blend of entertainment and creativity on one free online platform".

United We Stream GM

Created by the region's Nighttime Economy Adviser Sacha Lord and other partners, United We Stream GM will be free to watch, though anyone tuning in can "buy a ‘virtual ticket’ for whatever price they choose to enjoy the channel", a spokesman said.

All income will go directly to a relief fund to support the region's nighttime economy, he said, adding:

Performances will take place at artists' homes, gardens, or from selected host venues around the region, making sure all performances adhere to government advice around isolating, distancing and infection control.

Sacha Lord tweeted the first week's line-up, which includes gigs from The Lottery Winners and The Slow Readers Club, comedy from Justin Moorhouse, poetry from Tony 'Longfella' Walsh and a cooking class from renowned chef Gary Usher.

View more on twitter

'Toiletry bank' donates essential packs to NHS workers

A "toiletry bank" has provided packs of essentials for NHS workers who have been redeployed across Greater Manchester.

Toiletry donations
Bare Necessities

Wilmslow-based charity Bare Necessities wanted to help staff who have been sent to work in different facilities and will not be staying with friends or family.

Volunteers sent 73 bags of soap, hand cream, shower gel and toothpaste.

The charity is now appealing for more donations.

Spokeswoman Wendy Hobson said:

The Manchester University Foundation Trust has said it will take as many packs as we are able to provide. Please hunt down your hotel minis for us, we will repurpose them and put them to good use.

Scientists and clinicians form Covid-19 research group

Scientists, clinicians and analysts from the University of Manchester have formed a research group in attempts to tackle Covid-19.

Scientist with test tubes
Getty Images

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group will join scientists to try to understand more about the coronavirus disease and identify anti-viral treatments.

Researchers will also use data science to monitor patient's symptoms, and look to prioritise those whose condition is deteriorating.

Leading the initiative, Prof Ian Bruce said the group hopes to "relieve pressure on the NHS and social care systems".

Prof Bruce added:

The speed at which our scientific community has stepped up to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak is outstanding and a testament to Greater Manchester’s strong clinical-academic leadership and research assets.

Carluccio's collapses putting 2,000 jobs at risk

BBC Business News

Italian restaurant chain Carluccio's, which has five restaurants in Greater Manchester and Cheshire, has gone into administration, "blaming challenging trading conditions" exacerbated by the coronavirus.

Carluccio's, Spinningfields, Manchester

Administrator FRP is "urgently looking at options" for the future of the firm.

These include mothballing the business using government support, as well as trying to sell all or parts of it.

Most of the company's 2,000 employees will be paid through the government's job retention scheme while these options are explored.

This allows for staff to be paid up to 80% of their salary.

Lancashire CCC chairman dies after contracting coronavirus

BBC Sport

Lancashire chairman David Hodgkiss has died at the age of 71 after contracting coronavirus.

James Anderson and David Hodgkiss
Getty Images

Hodgkiss, who had underlying health issues, took on the role in 2017 after almost two decades on the club's board.

He also had spells as treasurer and vice-chairman during his time working with the county.

"He was much loved by everyone at Lancashire and respected throughout the cricketing world," a statement on the club website said.

"Our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Union 'appalled' at JD Sports workers' safety concerns

Union bosses say they are "appalled" at claims by JD Sports staff that the company is ignoring safety concerns over coronavirus.

JD Sports shop front
Getty Images

Workers have complained to the shopworkers' union Usdaw about dirty toilets and a lack of hand sanitiser at the firm's warehouse in Rochdale.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham called for "a stronger policy on workplaces"after 1,000 complaints.

JD Sports said the "health, safety and wellbeing" of its staff was a priority.

Warning over text message scam

Crimestoppers has warned people about a fake text message which is circulating, threatening fines for people who leave their homes too many times during the coronavirus lockdown.

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Manchester Misses You archive offers virtual visit to the city

Tourism body Visit Manchester has gathered together their "favourite ideas, inspirations and resources so that you can continue to enjoy Greater Manchester and stay fit and healthy during social distancing measures".

View more on twitter

Titled Manchester Misses You, the archive includes virtual tours of the area's cultural attractions, educational resources, podcasts, blogs and even Manchester-themed colouring pages.

University admissions could face emergency controls

BBC News Education

Universities in England could face fixed limits on how many students they each recruit, in a bid to create more stability and reduce financial threats.


There are concerns that the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus could leave some universities with too few applicants to stay financially viable.

It is understood that emergency controls are being considered to stop a free-for-all in student recruitment.

But Universities UK said any "stability measures" had not yet been decided.

EasyJet grounds entire fleet of planes due to coronavirus

BBC Business News

EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of planes and said it cannot give a date for when they will restart.

EasyJet plane

The budget airline, which flies from both Liverpool John Lennon and Manchester airports, said it had made the move due to the "unprecedented travel restrictions" imposed by governments globally due to the virus pandemic.

It had already cancelled most flights but had been running rescue flights to repatriate Britons stranded abroad.

The move came as regional airline Loganair, which serves the North West and the Isle of Man, said airlines were unlikely to survive without a government bailout.

PM says 20,000 former NHS staff return to fight virus


Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online.

Boris Johnson
PA Media

The prime minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, said the country would get through the crisis "together".

It comes after England's deputy chief medical officer said it could be six months before life returns to "normal".

The number of people who have died with the virus in the UK has reached 1,228.

Manchester launches website to stream live music

Rumeana Jahangir

BBC North West News

Following the closure of bars and music venues, the Greater Manchester local authority is launching a website showing live performances every night.

Singer Phoebe Green performing for BBC Introducing at the Manchester International Festival in 2019.

The region’s night-time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, has helped set up the free United We Stream website, where from Monday users can watch free performances and donate to help affected businesses and local charities.

Manchester Central to open as temporary hospital

The Manchester Central Conference Centre (formerly the GMEX Centre) will be set up as a temporary hospital able to deal with a thousand patients during the coronoavirus pandemic.

It will be run by the armed forces and will open in mid April.

Manchester Central

Supermarket shoppers 'keep calm' and queue

The supermarket shop suddenly looks a little different. So how are people managing under the new restrictions?

Shoppers at Heaton Park in Manchester
Shoppers at Heaton Park in Manchester showing how it's done

Social media has been full of people sharing their experience of shopping while keeping 2m (6ft 6in) apart.

People queuing outside Tesco in Stretford, Manchester
The scene at Tesco in Stretford, Manchester, on Friday as shoppers prepare for the weekend

Adrian Barrowdale said he had felt nervous before a shopping trip in Manchester but was relieved by how well the supermarket managed shoppers.

He said:

I've just been to Aldi in Sharston and have to say I was really impressed.

It was queuing out the door, which gave me the fear, but it turns out they are just doing one in, one out, and keeping no more than approx 30 people in the store at any one time.

It was very quiet, very peaceful and well-stocked.

Parklife festival cancelled

Manchester's Parklife festival has been cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The two-day event was due to take place in June in Heaton Park.

Organisers said they were "really disappointed" but had to make the "unavoidable decision".

Parklife announcement

In a tweet, organiser Sacha Lord said: "The safety of our customers, staff and artists come first."

People who have already bought tickets will be contacted about a refund or the option of keeping their tickets for the 2021 festival.

Region's coronavirus deaths rise by 21

A further 21 people have died from the virus in the North West in the last seven days, bringing the total number of deaths in the region to 68, including Cumbria.

Coronavirus graphic

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region currently stands at 930.

The region's NHS trusts released the following lists of deaths at their hospitals:

  • Countess of Chester of Chester: 1
  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals: 2
  • Manchester University Hospitals Trust: 2
  • Pennine Acute Hospitals: 1
  • Salford Royal: 3
  • Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care: 4
  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay: 7
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital: 1

Children's hospital appeals for donations to help staff

Royal Manchester Children's Hospital is appealing for businesses to donate food, drink and toiletries to support their staff.

But the hospital is asking that donations are not taken directly to the hospital.

Here is a full list of items the hospital needs.

Royal Manchester Children's Hospital

To enable deliveries to be made safely and in line with current social distancing rules, businesses are asked to contact the charity team on 0161 276 4522 or email charity.office@mft.nhs.uk

Fire boss 'astonished' at moorland barbecues

A fire service boss said he is "astonished" by large groups gathering for barbecues on the moors amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Saddleworth fire
Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said people were meeting to cook food despite a ban on moorland barbecues after huge fires in 2018.

It also flouts the government's instructions on social distancing.

Fire station manager Dave Swallow said their actions were "dangerous" and urged people to stick to the rules, adding:

It's just amazing how many people don't seem to be getting the importance of the social distancing guidelines.

It's astonishing when you to throw in the fact that people are taking disposable barbecues out there and cooking.

Police get new powers to enforce protection


Anyone continuing to break coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and faces arrest.


People ignoring tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially and another for £120 for a second offence.

New powers given to police mean no-one will be allowed to leave their home "without reasonable excuse".

The measures come into force on Thursday and will last six months, with a review every three weeks.

To ensure people stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, police will be able to order people to go home, leave an area or disperse.

The new powers mean officers can:

  • ensure parents are doing all they can to stop their children breaking the rules
  • issue a £60 fixed penalty, lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days
  • issue a £120 fixed penalty for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence

Coping with coronavirus anxiety

BBC News Health

Anxiety UK have experienced a big rise in callers since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Here are some tips on how to cope.

Northern closes waiting rooms and opens station barriers

Rail operator Northern has closed all waiting rooms at its stations, opened all gates and barriers and suspended issuing penalty fares until further notice.

Manchester Victoria

The firm, which manages dozens of stations across the north of England, said the closure of waiting rooms was in line with government advice, adding that in the event of bad weather, it would "review the situation and may look to re-open areas if appropriate".

A spokesman added that the opening of gates would mean "passengers do not have to pass paper or season tickets through the barriers or present them to staff", though customers still required a ticket to travel.

Commercial and customer director Mark Powles said:

Our trains and stations remain open for business to help key workers get where they need to be across the north of England.

For those who have to make essential journeys – and for our staff who continue to work across the network – we want to make the railway as safe as possible [and] the measure we have introduced today further limit person-to-person contact.

Our ticket offices remain open to provide help and advice to passengers [but] we will only accept payment via card. Customers who want to pay by cash will be asked to use ticket machines if they are available.

The firm is currently running an amended timetable for key workers and essential travel across all its services.

Greater Manchester '10 days to two weeks behind London'

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Greater Manchester is between 10 days and two weeks behind London in its trajectory of coronavirus cases, the region's mayor has said.

Andy Burnham

The total number of people who have died in Greater Manchester after testing positive for COVID-19 now stands at 27 and Andy Burnham said there had been an increase in cases in the region "over the last couple of days", adding that the area's hospital capacity had also "dropped" in the same period.

However, he said he was "very confident in colleagues working to plan the capacity across the system".

We have to keep a very close eye on this day by day, but I’m confident that the NHS system is as prepared as it could be.

We are looking at every possible contingency. It’s not just a question of beds and buildings. This is a question of people.

It’s hard to say at this moment in time that everything is sorted because it’s a fast-moving situation. But what I can say is we are doing everything we possibly can.

He said "no decisions have been made yet" about the use of any non-medical buildings as temporary hospitals, as is being done in London.

He also said he expected "in the next 24 hours... [for] every police officer to be issued with a kit which will include a mask, gloves and wipes".

However, he added that for most officers, "a surgical mask is not required as standard".

'Is losing sense of taste and smell a coronavirus symptom?'


BBC News has been trying to answer some of the questions that have been sent in about coronavirus and the new rules set out by the government to try and stop it spreading.

Liz Clarke in Manchester asked:

I lost my sense of taste and smell over seven days ago. Is this a symptom?

Ear, nose and throat specialists in the UK have also noticed rising reports of anosmia - the term for loss of smell.

And increasing numbers of people on social media have been reporting a lost sense of smell and taste. Some have tested positive for coronavirus.

However, the evidence so far is only anecdotal and viruses behind the common cold often lead to lost senses of smell and/or taste.

Mr Motivator to offer fitness advice on new BBC One show

Manchester-based fitness expert Mr Motivator is joining the team for a new daily BBC One show, HealthCheck UK Live, which will start on Monday at 10:00.

He says that "now more than ever it is important to keep our bodies and minds healthy", adding: "Everybody say yeah, let’s get happy and be wicked at home.”

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The worry of working in supermarkets and pharmacies

BBC Newsbeat

There are many people around the country who have been following the government's advice around social distancing - that's avoiding going out for non-essential reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For quite a few of us, that means having to work from home, but that's not an option everyone can take.

Mehfuz Dasu Patel

Mehfuz Dasu Patel helps run a group of community pharmacies in north west England, which serve 250 care homes and deliver medicines to around 20,000 patients.

And those patients are the reason he's still going to work.

If Mehfuz decides to stop working, "vulnerable people will go without medicines", he says, adding:

It's not the sort of business that can just disappear or you can work from home. We have to keep delivering to them, despite what's happening in the world.

Read more about the workers who have go out to work here.

The firms hiring thousands of new staff

BBC Business News

Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis as restaurants, bars, hotels and gyms have been forced to close.

But many companies still in business are urgently seeking more staff to meet orders, help with deliveries and just to keep things moving.

Man puts hiring sign in a window
Getty Images

The major supermarkets are searching for 35,000 additional workers, but many other firms supplying essential goods or services are also looking for extra help so they can cope with the increased demand.

Home care company Cera has just created 10,000 new jobs for people to work as part of the home carer community.

Meanwhile, chemist chain Lloyds Pharmacy is seeking 1,500 workers across the country in the next few days. And Virgin Media says it needs 500 new people at Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Teesside.

'Hotels for homeless' plan unveiled by Greater Manchester mayor

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Up to 1,000 homeless people across Greater Manchester will be put up in hotels to try and stop more people getting coronavirus, the region's mayor has said.

Andy Burnham
PA Media

Andy Burnham said a £5m fund will help those most at risk of developing and spreading the disease – rough sleepers and people in shared accommodation.

Currently, 625 rooms have already been allocated in hotels across the region, with the combined authority hoping to secure a further 375 by Friday.

Food, sanitary products and dental supplies will also be provided, with mobile phones allowing those staying to contact support workers and access "extra emotional support".

Mr Burnham said:

We have identified 720 people in shared accommodation and 280 people sleeping rough on the streets who will need our support.

They have been identified as the highest risk group with regard to coronavirus infection, but also contributing to wider spread.

It’s absolutely crucial from a humanitarian point of view that urgent action was taken to put in place proper support for them.

However, the mayor criticised Britannia Hotels for removing people housed under the scheme from one of their hotels yesterday, leaving them with "nowhere to go".

He added:

While it’s right for me to praise those organisations stepping forward and doing the right, I think it’s equally important to say that we don’t accept that kind of response once an agreement has been reached to accommodate people.

[It was] a pretty major incident where people were put out with nowhere to go.

That was unfair on them and it was unfair on council staff who had to deal with a very challenging situation.

We’ve considered that to be an extremely disappointing approach from that particular organisation, and it’s only right that it’s brought to the public’s attention because we don’t think it is the way that things should be done.

Britannia Hotels has been contacted for comment.

Greater Manchester special constables 'doing a brilliant job'

Jobless struggle to claim benefits


Significant problems are being reported after an "incredible" number of benefit claims in recent days due to the economic fall-out of the coronavirus.

People queue at job centre

At one point on Tuesday, more than 100,000 people were trying to verify online applications and others spent hours trying to phone welfare staff.

Many gave up after long phone queues and then being rejected by the system.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was redeploying existing staff and hiring others to cope with demand.

Lancashire coach gives tips on social distancing cricket practice

One of Lancashire Cricket Foundation's coaches has been giving some ideas about how fielding skills can be sharpened while observing social distancing.

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Police thank those staying at home as pictures show deserted streets in Manchester

Greater Manchester mayor says non-essential construction work 'must stop'

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for all non-essential construction work to stop to halt spread of coronavius.

Andy Burnham

Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight, he said the decision to allow non-essential work appeared to have been made for "economic reasons".

"When you're in the middle of a global pandemic, health reasons alone really should be guiding all decision-making," he said.

A growing number of construction companies said they will stop all essential work to help fight the coronavirus, but others continue to operate amid confusion over the government's advice.

There is concern the virus will spread easily on busy construction sites.

The government has said work can continue so long as people are 2m (6.5ft) apart, but critics say this is impossible to enforce, and that public health should come first.

Read more: Construction firms split as shutdown calls grow

Thousands sign up to help NHS with vulnerable


More than 250,000 people volunteer in a single day, exceeding the government's target.

Man leaving pharmacy with bag
Getty Images

The helpers are needed for delivering food and medicines, driving patients to appointments and phoning the isolated.

The scheme is one of a number aimed at relieving pressure on the NHS.

About 11,000 former medics have also agreed to return to the health service and more than 24,000 final year student nurses and medics will join them.