Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 30 Jan 2020

1

Coronavirus: WHO considers declaring global emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting today to decide whether to designate the coronavirus outbreak in China a global emergency. The death toll from the epidemic is now more than 170, with cases confirmed in every region of mainland China and in at least 16 other countries. Hundreds of British citizens are being flown back to the UK today from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, but will be put in quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

2

Javid to back HS2 as decision time approaches

Chancellor Sajid Javid has decided to support the controversial HS2 rail project, according to the Financial Times. Javid is expected to tell Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps at a key meeting today that the high-speed link between London, the Midlands and the North will boost regional development and rail capacity. The Government has said a decision will be delivered soon on the project, which could cost almost double the £56bn originally expected in 2015, according to a leaked report.

3

EU ratifies Brexit withdrawal agreement

The European Parliament yesterday voted to ratify the UK’s withdrawal from the EU after 47 years of membership. MEPs stood to sing Auld Lang Syne after the result was read. The parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said it was sad to see the departure from the bloc of a nation that had “twice given its blood to liberate Europe”.

4

‘Most children’ sleep with phone by bed

More than half of the UK’s children aged between five and 16 sleep with their mobile phones by their beds, a new survey has found. The poll of more than 2,150 young people by research firm Childwise also found that children now get their first phone at a younger age – seven, on average – and that they spend an average of three hours and 20 minutes each day messaging, playing games and being online.

5

UK car production falls to lowest level in almost a decade

The number of cars produced in the UK fell by 14.2% last year to 1.3 million - the lowest level since 2010, new figures show. Mike Hawes, boss of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the slump in production was a “grave concern”. The trade association blames structural changes in the industry, weak confidence in the UK, slower demand overseas, and Brexit-related issues.

6

Trump’s border wall blown down by high winds

A newly erected initial section of Donald Trump’s promised border wall between the US and Mexico has blown over in high winds, US border patrol officers have reported. The foundations of the 30ft steel panels, near the Californian town of Calexico, were still wet when strong gusts toppled the structure onto the Mexican side of the border on Wednesday.

7

Newsreader Stewart quits over Shakespeare tweet

ITN newsreader Alastair Stewart quit yesterday following 40 years on television after being criticised over a tweet in which he referred to a black man as an “ape” while quoting Shakespeare. Stewart quoted the line “His glassy essence - like an angry ape...” from the play Measure for Measure during an online row with former Lib Dem council candidate Martin Shapland.

8

Last ‘fighter ace’ of WWII dies at 101

The last surviving Second World War pilot to have shot down five or more enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain – earning the unofficial title of “ace” – has died at the age of 101. Wing Commander Paul Farnes passed away peacefully at his home in Hampshire, his family said. There are now only two WWII fighter pilots still alive.

9

Satellites in near miss over Pittsburgh

Two inactive satellites hurtling across the skies over the US city of Pittsburgh at speeds of almost 33,000mph yesterday passed within as little as 40ft of each other. Experts at US Space Command said a collision could have scattered debris through space above the Earth’s atmosphere, posing a risk to other man-made objects in orbit. The last time a major satellite collision occurred was in 2009.

10

Briefing: how Sars started - and ended

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has already overtaken the total of Sars infections recorded during the 2003 outbreak in China, official figures show.

During the Sars epidemic 17 years ago, 5,327 people on the Chinese mainland were confirmed to have been infected. Here is how it began.

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