Coronavirus - 4 December


• UK R value down to 0.8-1.0
• California announces stricter measures
• Pets at Home to pay back business rates relief
• Seoul to reintroduce 9pm curfew

Company news 


 Associated British Foods – “Across our markets 34 stores remain temporarily closed, including all stores in Northern Ireland and Austria, and the government-announced periods of closure vary by market. This represents 7% of our total retail selling space compared to 62% when the highest number of stores were closed in November.

Our estimate for the loss of sales for the announced periods of closure this Autumn is now some £430m. The operating costs of the stores which were closed were reduced by some 25% during this period of closure. All orders placed with our suppliers have been honoured. In a small number of markets trading hours and store occupancy levels continue to be restricted and uncertainty about further temporary store closures in the short-term remains.

Since the start of this financial year we have opened new stores in the US: American Dream, New Jersey and Sawgrass Mills, Florida. The success of these store openings in the US and our like-for-like performance in our reopened stores is very encouraging, reinforcing our confidence in the acceleration of our US store opening programme. We had a very strong customer response to the opening of our first store in Rome, Italy last week. We have opened our fifth store in Barcelona, Spain and this morning we have opened our 50th store in Spain, in León. These store openings bring our total estate to 389 stores and 16.5m square feet of retail selling space.

Notwithstanding the currently announced periods of restriction, we continue to expect Primark sales and profit to be higher this financial year compared to last. We will continue to expand retail selling space.”

 Pets at Home – “Pets at Home Group Plc, the UK’s leading pet care business, announces today its decision to repay in full the £28.9m of business rates relief received across the business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This decision reflects the company’s guiding principle of treating all stakeholders fairly and is supported by the continuing strong performance of the business.

We remain extremely grateful for the financial support provided in March as we rapidly adapted our operations to be able to continue, as an “essential” retailer, meeting the needs of the nation’s pets while keeping colleagues, customers, suppliers and, of course, pets as safe as possible in unprecedented circumstances. Our priority then, and ever since, has been the safety and wellbeing of all of our stakeholders.

The aggregate result of Covid-specific costs and restrictions means that the financial impact of the pandemic on our business this year, currently estimated at over £35m, will no longer be offset by the rates relief received.

Nevertheless, ten months into this unprecedented and challenging environment, our adaptability and recent sustained performance across the business means that we are now, more than ever, confident in the strength and longevity of our pet care platform and proud to be repaying the business rates relief in full from this position of strength.”


• The R value of coronavirus transmission across the UK is now between 0.8 and 1.0, the latest government figures show. Last week, the R number was between 0.9 and 1.0.

• England’s first ODI against South Africa in Cape Town on Friday has been postponed after one of the hosts’ players tested positive for coronavirus. Cricket South Africa said a player tested positive on Thursday after the final Twenty20.

• Authorities in South Korea have urged people to call off any parties for Christmas or New Year, between 7 December and 3 January.

• In Wales licensed pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol. Those with an off-licence can sell alcoholic drinks to take away. They will have to close at 6pm every day until further notice, but can operate a takeaway service for food and drink after 6pm.

• California has announced its strictest virus measures since the spring. The new round of regional stay-at-home orders take effect if the available intensive care capacity in an area dips below 15%. Outdoor dining, playgrounds and hair salons will close. The new restrictions will last for at least three weeks, and will also strictly limit store capacity, and allow restaurants to serve only takeout or delivery. The governor also said people should temporarily call off all nonessential travel.

• Moderna said on Thursday it expects to have 100-125 million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine available globally in the first quarter of 2021. The company said 85-100 million of those doses would be available in the US, with 15-25 million available outside the country.

• In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the government intends to vaccinate 15-20 million people by May or June next year, under half the country’s population.

• Norway has said it plans to vaccinate nearly a quarter of its population by Easter next year. In the first three months of 2021 it expects to receive 2.5 million doses developed by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech.

• Meanwhile in neighbouring Sweden, the government said it would prioritise vaccines for around 600,000 nursing home residents, as well as their staff and relatives. The Scandinavian nation will receive five variants of the vaccine through the EU’s procurement system – the first, by Pfizer and BioNTech, could be approved this month.

• Bulgaria has t said it will prioritise vaccines for doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists. The government said it intends to make all inoculations free of charge once they are acquired.

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