Scotch Whisky producer Chivas Brothers will be welcoming visitors into its world-famous brand homes following their temporary closure in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic from next week.

In line with Scottish Government guidelines, whisky fans will be able to safely visit The Glenlivet, Aberlour and Scapa visitor centres from the July 29, and the Strathisla visitor centre - home of Chivas Regal - from the August 7.

Each site has been equipped with extensive health and safety measures to ensure visitors can take part in the adapted tasting experiences, now operating at a reduced capacity.

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Checkpoints have been implemented across each site, including temperature checks at site entrances, hand sanitiser stations in each room, clear social distancing signposts throughout and increased cleaning procedures across the sites.

Face masks will be provided where necessary, however, visitors are encouraged to bring their own.

Those wishing to visit the brand homes and experience a socially distanced guided tasting will be required to pre-book their tickets online in order to effectively manage visitor numbers and ensure strict social distancing measures are adhered to at all times.

Each site is also operating in accordance with the Covid-19 Track and Trace initiative in order to ensure the safety of visitors, staff and the surrounding community. For more information, guests are invited to visit the brand homes website.

In addition to learning about the craftsmanship behind every bottle of Chivas Brothers’ blended and single malt whiskies, Scotch enthusiasts will be able to purchase world-class whiskies from the shops at each site via contactless payment.

Gordon Buist, Chivas Brothers production director, said: “After four challenging months, we’re delighted to be able to reopen the doors to our brand homes to give visitors the chance to safely enjoy our whiskies and the beautiful surroundings in Speyside and Orkney.

“We’ve been privileged to support our local communities in Scotland during the pandemic - including producing and distributing thousands of litres of hand sanitiser as NHS Scotland’s first pro-bono supplier - and so continuing to support them by opening responsibly and safely is our number one priority.

"We have had substantial best-in-class safe system of work processes in place across all of our operational sites over the last few months, and we have been working closely with our local Speyside and Orkney communities to enable us to take significant steps in implementing these strict social distancing and sanitation measures in our visitor centres as well, ensuring we’re able to welcome visitors safely, protect our colleagues and neighbours, and support Scottish tourism.

“Whether a discerning drinker or discovering drams for the first time, the team and I look forward to welcoming visitors safely back to our homes to uncover more about our rich Scotch heritage.”

British retail sales increased by nearly 14% in June compared to the month before, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures are ahead of what many experts had predicted, however were not quite back to normal - sales were still down 1.6% compared to the same month last year.

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It follows big drops earlier in the year as the economy went into lockdown during coronavirus.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: "Retail continued to recover from the sharp falls seen in April, with overall sales now almost back to pre-pandemic levels. But there are some dramatic differences in sales across the retail industry.

"Food sales continue above their pre-pandemic levels due to the closure of cafes, restaurants and pubs. Online sales have risen to record levels, and now count for £3 in every £10 spent. On the other hand, clothing sales remain depressed and across the high street sales in non-food stores are down by around one-third on pre-pandemic levels.

"The latest three months as a whole still saw the weakest quarterly growth on record."

Physical distancing on trains and at rail stations across Scotland will be reduced to a one-metre minimum from Monday.

ScotRail and Network Rail announced the change as part of the continued guidance from the Scottish Government earlier this month.

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Capacity on trains will remain "significantly reduced" to help the distancing efforts of those travelling with people also urged to consider alternative options where possible.

Face coverings became mandatory on Scottish public transport on Monday June 22 with ScotRail handing out more than 20,000 masks at a dozen stations.

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said: "We've worked closely with staff, trade union colleagues, and the Government to satisfy ourselves that we have sufficient safety measures in place to move to a minimum of one metre physical distancing on trains and at stations.

"The provision of face masks and hand sanitisers at our busiest stations are just some of the measures we introduced in recent weeks to keep staff and customers safe.

"But we need everybody to continue taking personal responsibility for their travel choices, because physical distancing can't be guaranteed.

"Customers who do travel with ScotRail should follow our five rules for safer travel, including the wearing of a face covering on trains and at stations."

The owner of British Gas has decided to end a 20-year stint in the US energy supply market as it sells Direct Energy for 3.6 billion dollars (£2.9 billion).

The news, which alongside a new set of results sent Centrica's shares bounding, will allow the business to focus on its business in the UK and Ireland.

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"I believe that the more you can focus the better you can be, and the better your results will be," chief executive Chris O'Shea said on a call with reporters on Friday morning.

It also gets Centrica out of a volatile market, Mr O'Shea said.

The deal with NRG Energy was still being hammered out in the final minutes before the announcement, delaying Centria's half-year results by 20 minutes on Friday morning.

The two parties have been talking exclusively for the last eight weeks, Mr O'Shea said.

Brewin Dolphin investment manager Stuart Lamont said that the sale was a "significant move that will go some way towards simplifying Centrica and offsetting debt".

The cash which NRG hands to Centrica will be used towards a "material contribution" to the UK pension schemes and the rest will be poured into paying down debt.

Direct Energy employs around 4,000 people in North America, and supplies four million customers with gas or electricity. Centrica bought the business in 2000.

Centrica said that it had been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of the year.

If business had continued as normal, Centrica would have taken a £220 million hit to its operating profit, the company said.

However after slashing bonuses it clawed back most of those losses, reducing the hit by around £160 million.

These savings also included furloughing staff and cutting costs, such as reducing travel.

Around 265,000 home energy customers left Centrica in the last year, according to figures released by the business. It is a 5% drop on the year before.

Mr Lamont from Brewin Dolphin said: "After a torrid 2019, it's been a tough start to the year for Centrica - revenues and profits have dropped against a challenging economic and commodity backdrop."

But despite this Centrica, which is trying to turn around its flagging fortunes, revealed that it had more than halved its pre-tax loss to £264 million in the six months to June 30, compared to £569 million over the same period last year.

Shares were up 24% after the news, reaching 50p, their highest point since early March.

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