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Coronavirus: VAT cut, Scotland eases lockdown and smokers quit in droves

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak this Wednesday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 BST.

1. VAT cut kicks in

The reduction from 20% to 5% - designed to help sectors of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic - applies to a host of things including food and non-alcoholic drinks in restaurants and pubs, hotel and campsite accommodation and admission to tourist attractions. Some firms have already promised to reduce prices - Nandos, Starbucks and McDonald's among them - but others are likely to shore up their finances instead. Read more on how VAT works and why things might not look any different for customers.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Theme park ticket prices could fall, but operators might use the windfall in other ways

2. Scotland lockdown easing

In Scotland, the cut in VAT coincides with the reopening of bars, restaurants and tourist attractions. Hairdressers and beauty salons, cinemas, places of worship and childcare settings are also opening up in the most significant relaxation of restrictions yet. Here are the changes in full. Infection reduction measures will be in place in all settings and face masks encouraged.

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Media captionCoronavirus: How to wear a face covering

3. Local spike

People in living in Blackburn with Darwen are waking up to tighter coronavirus restrictions, imposed after the area emerged as an infection hotspot. For the next month, there'll be stricter limits on socialising and a request to wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres and hair and beauty salons. Officials say they hope that by doing so the area can avoid a full Leicester-style local lockdown.

4. Heart attacks

The number of hospital admissions in England for heart attacks fell by a third when the pandemic hit, and by the end of May, 5,000 fewer people than expected had presented with urgent heart symptoms. That's according to a study published today in The Lancet. Researchers say some avoidable deaths may have occurred because fears about catching the virus put patients off seeking help. See the NHS advice on heart attack warning signs.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many NHS procedures and treatments have been delayed or cancelled during the crisis

5. Quitting boom

More than a million people have given up smoking since the pandemic hit, a survey for charity Action on Smoking and Health suggests. Four in 10 said it was in direct response to coronavirus, in part, perhaps, because government advice says smokers may be at risk of more severe symptoms. Limited access to tobacco while isolating and no opportunity to smoke socially are also likely to have contributed.

Image copyright Elliot Nichol Photography
Image caption Terence Craggs is one of those who has quite recently after two spells in hospital

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Plus, what can police do about coronavirus rule breakers? Our home affairs correspondent explains.


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