Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 13 Feb 2020

1

Coronavirus: deadliest day yet takes death toll to 1,355

Wednesday was the deadliest day so far in the outbreak of coronavirus strain Covid-19, with 242 fatalities recorded in mainland China - pushing the death toll across the country to at least 1,355. More than 14,800 new infections were reported in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. Although the spikes have been attributed in part to a change in how infections are identified, the World Health Organization has warned that previous reports of a slowdown in the spread of the virus should be treated with “extreme caution”.

2

Johnson drops big changes in modest reshuffle

Boris Johnson is expected to eschew a major reshuffle in favour of a few modest changes when he announces his new cabinet today. Plans to abolish entire departments in Whitehall have reportedly been abandoned, although some cabinet ministers are expected to lose their jobs in what is the prime minister’s first significant rejig since the Conservatives’ general election victory in December.

3

Five-day warning as Storm Dennis approaches

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for parts of the UK for the next five days as the Atlantic weather front Storm Dennis approaches. Saturday is expected to be the worst day, with forecasts of strong winds and rain for much of the UK. Snowmelt is expected across southern Scotland on Friday, along with frost and fog, especially in the north. 

4

Government to ‘water down’ plans to curb tech firms

Boris Johnson is set to soften plans to hit social media giants with fines, criminal prosecutions or operating bans in the UK for failing to protect users, according to The Times. Ministers yesterday postponed a decision on the measures until later this year amid fears that tech companies might move their operations from the UK in response to a crackdown, the newspaper says.

5

Cost of repairing Big Ben tower rises to £80m

The projected cost of repairing Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, has risen by a further £18.6m to a total of £80m after asbestos was discovered inside and damage inflicted by a German bomb in 1941 proved more serious than thought. The total cost of renovating Parliament is expected to be at least £3.5bn.

6

‘Pariah’ cruise ship finally allowed to dock

A cruise ship left stranded in southeast Asia has finally found somewhere to dock after being turned away by five countries amid fears that passengers on board might be infected with the new coronavirus. The MS Westerdam has been given permission to dock in Cambodia after facing refusals from authorities in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines. None of the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on the Holland America Line ship have been diagnosed with the virus.

7

Organised gangs blamed for large rise in fly-tipping

A steep rise in the amount of illegal dumping of builder’s waste and other rubbish in the UK is down to scams by organised gangs, experts say. London and Manchester in particular have seen an increase in fake firms charging clients to dispose of waste responsibly but instead dumping it. The Countryside Alliance is calling for tougher sentences to tackle the crisis, which has cost local authorities almost £60m in clean-up costs since 2012.

8

Traces of ‘ghost hominid’ found in modern DNA

Scientists have discovered evidence in modern DNA of a previously unknown early human ancestor that lived in Africa about half a million years ago. The “ghost population” of hominids is believed to have interbred with our early human ancestors. Researchers say that analysis of genomes from west African populations found that up to a fifth of their DNA appeared to have come from the missing relatives.

9

Rapper slowthai clashes with audience member at NME Awards

British rapper slowthai has been criticised for a confrontation with an audience member during the NME Awards in London last night. The row erupted after the 25-year-old - real name Tyron Kaymone Frampton - made sexual comments to host Katherine Ryan while picking up the hero of the year award. An audience member then heckled him, resulting in a confrontation that reportedly saw slowthai hurling a champagne flute and jumping off the stage to confront the man.

10

Briefing: why everyone’s talking about the Butcher of Darfur

The ousted Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir will be handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Nicknamed the “Butcher of Darfur”, Bashir is being delivered to the Netherlands by Sudan’s joint civilian and military government, which is running the country during a three-year transition to elections in 2022.

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