Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 December 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Pandemic progress ‘squandered’

The Omicron variant shows that the world is “closer to the start of the pandemic than the end” and progress in combatting Covid-19 since its emergence is “being squandered,” one of Britain’s most senior scientific figures has warned. Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, said wealthy nations had been taking “a very blinkered domestic focus, lulled into thinking that the worst of the pandemic was behind us”.

2

Nations unite on Taliban killings

Washington has led protests against the Taliban over the “summary killings” of former members of the Afghan security forces reported by rights groups. A statement by the US, EU, Australia, Britain, Japan and others said: “We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces.” Human Rights Watch has documented the summary execution or enforced disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan national security forces, other military personnel, police and intelligence agents.

3

Prince Charles will speak to detectives

The Prince of Wales said he is willing to meet detectives from Scotland Yard to discuss evidence that his aide fixed an honour for a Saudi billionaire. Prince Charles claims he had no knowledge of the deal in which Michael Fawcett, his right-hand man, secured a CBE for Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who had donated £1.5m to his flagship charity. However, said The Sunday Times, Charles could be a “key witness,” having held private meetings with Mahfouz at several venues.

4

Deaths as Indonesian volcano erupts

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Java has erupted, killing at least 13 people and sending clouds of ash into the air. Mount Semeru in the Lumajang district of East Java spewed giant clouds of ash last night, causing widespread panic. Witnesses said the clouds had blacked out the sun in some places. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines, said Sky News.

5

Covid pill launched by Xmas

The first at-home treatment for Covid is to be offered to patients within weeks, reported The Telegraph. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is preparing a national pilot of Lagevrio – the “game-changing” pill that Britain licensed last month. The NHS is expected to deliver courses to clinically vulnerable and immunosuppressed patients within 48 hours of them testing positive for Covid. The pill works by preventing the virus from multiplying, keeping levels low in the body and reducing the severity of the disease.

6

Trust in MPs collapses under Johnson

Trust in politicians to act in the national interest rather than for themselves has fallen dramatically since Boris Johnson became prime minister, reported The Observer. Polling data from YouGov for the Institute of Public Policy Research showed a particularly sharp fall in trust in the few weeks since the Owen Paterson scandal sparked a rash of Tory sleaze scandals. In 2014, 48% of voters believed politicians were “out merely for themselves”. By last week, this had increased to 63%.

7

Deepfake videos ‘are sex crimes’

People who make deepfake sex videos to embarrass others should be convicted of a sex crime and sign the offenders register, a Tory MP has argued. Former culture secretary Maria Miller told The Telegraph that “when victims talk about the impact it has on them, they liken it to sexual abuse in the offline world and the fact that the law doesn’t treat it that way shows there is a significant problem to be solved”.  Software giant Adobe has launched a website where people can check if online photographs have been manipulated.

8

Dogs could sniff out drugs in Commons

Sniffer dogs could be used in the parliamentary estate under plans for a drugs crackdown by the Commons authorities, reported The Sunday Times. Amid mounting evidence of cocaine and other illegal substances being used in parliament, the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has promised to call in the police. Tory MP Charles Walker said: “It may be that we now need to broaden the range of sniffer dogs . . . to include those which can detect drugs.”

9

PM launches Arthur Labinjo-Hughes inquiry

Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. The probe will involve police, schools, social services and probation watchdogs, in the hope that authorities can “learn lessons” from the six-year-old’s death. Arthur’s stepmother was jailed for 29 years for murder and child cruelty on Friday. His father was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter. It emerged during the trial that at least three warnings from family and teachers about Arthur’s plight had been ignored.

10

Hamilton ‘nothing to do’ with Grenfell link

Sir Lewis Hamilton insisted he had “nothing to do” with the Mercedes F1 team’s partnership deal with Kingspan - an insulation firm linked to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The company’s logo appeared on Sir Lewis’ car for the first time yesterday as the seven-time world champion completed a qualifying session for the Saudi Arabian grand prix. Sir Lewis said: “It is really nothing to do with me and I know Toto (Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff) is sorting it.”

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