Premier Inn owner Whitbread has revealed plans to raise £1 billion through a rights issue, as the vast majority of its hotels and all its restaurants remain shut in the face of coronavirus.

The company said it has furloughed around 27,000 staff on full pay during the crisis.

It said its UK hotels are "ready to open when the Government advises" but said its internal plans assume that hotels will be closed, or run at low occupancy, until September.

Whitbread said it has tested new operational protocols at 39 Premier Inn sites which have remained open in the UK to provide accommodation to NHS staff.

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It said the operating model ensures strict social distancing, significantly enhanced hygiene standards and specific staff training which can be rigorously enforced across its hotels.

The group said it has reopened 16 of its hotels in Germany as the country's lockdown starts to unwind.

Whitbread said that around £80 million of cash per month is expected to flow out of the business while closures continue, with an extra £100 million outflow in customer refunds.

However, it said that this would be significantly offset by between £70 million and £85 million of furlough benefits in the first half of the new year.

The update came as it hailed a "resilient" full year to February, despite reporting an 8.2% decline in adjusted pre-tax profits to £358 million.

Whitbread's chief executive officer Alison Brittain said: "Whitbread delivered a resilient financial performance in the full-year 2020 in line with expectations, against a backdrop of low UK business and consumer confidence which particularly impacted the regional hotel market.

"However, the period after the year-end has been dominated by the impact of the rapidly evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

"In response, the business took rapid and decisive action to protect our teams and our guests, and to secure our business to ensure that we will be in the best possible position to rebound strongly."

EasyJet has announced plans to resume flights from some Scottish airports from June 15.

The low-cost carrier announced that its initial schedule will involve mainly domestic flying in the UK and France.

READ MORE: EasyJet to resume flights from Scotland from next month with new safety measures in place

Further routes will be confirmed "over the coming weeks" as demand increases and coronavirus lockdown measures across Europe are relaxed, the airline said.

UK airports to be served by easyJet from June 15 include Gatwick, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Belfast.

The only international route from the UK will be between Gatwick and Nice, France.

As part of new safety and hygiene measures, passengers and crew will be required to wear masks onboard aircraft.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “I am really pleased that we will be returning to flying in the middle of June.

“These are small and carefully planned steps that we are taking to gradually resume operations.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe so that, when more restrictions are lifted, the schedule will continue to build over time to match demand, while also ensuring we are operating efficiently and on routes that our customers want.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers remains our highest priority, which is why we are implementing a number of measures to enhance safety at each part of the journey, from disinfecting the aircraft to requiring customers and crew to wear masks.

“These measures will remain in place for as long as is needed to ensure customers and crew are able to fly safely as the world continues to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Nicola Sturgeon will reveal today how Scotland could begin the "gradual process" of easing coronavirus restrictions.

While other parts of the UK have already started to loosen the lockdown, which was introduced back in March, the Scottish Government has so far taken a more cautious approach.

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The First Minister however will outline to MSPs a four-phase plan for moving out of the current state of lockdown.

Ms Sturgeon has already said restrictions could start to be eased from May 28, when the lockdown is next due for review - but only if measures to suppress Covid-19 continue to be successful.

Figures published on Wednesday showed Scotland's weekly coronavirus death toll had fallen for the third week in a row, with National Records of Scotland revealing there were 332 deaths relating to the disease registered between May 11-17.

Speaking about the future lifting of restrictions, the First Minister stressed: "This will be a very gradual process as we monitor how changing behaviour affects the infection rate and we will only be able to move toward easing more restrictions if we continue to work together to suppress the virus."

She added: "Protecting lives will continue to be our number one priority - and I am confident that people across Scotland will continue to pull together in this national endeavour as we return to some kind of normality."

Progress throughout this route map out of lockdown will be assessed every three weeks - with the Scottish Government clear that the current advice to people is to stay at home, with only essential journeys permitted.

The First Minister will reveal more details of her plan in a statement to Holyrood at lunchtime, before being questioned by opposition leaders and backbench MSPs.
Speaking ahead of that, she praised the "enormous sacrifices made by people and businesses across Scotland" - saying these had had "a real impact on the spread of Covid-19".

Ms Sturgeon said: "I would like to thank everybody who has helped to protect themselves, each other and our health and care services.

"For the time being the advice on staying at home except for essential purposes remains the same, but we hope to shortly be ready to start easing the lockdown restrictions and today's route map will outline how we can do that.

"At all stages in this process, we have listened to the views of people and organisations in Scotland, and have been guided by the latest scientific advice - and that approach will continue going forward."

She said the route map the Scottish Government was publishing was based on guidance set out by the World Health Organisation, as well as the experience of other countries as they have eased their lockdown, combined with "what we have learned about the impact of Covid-19 in Scotland".