Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Monday 24 Feb 2020

1

World nearing coronavirus tipping point, experts warn

The world is fast approaching a tipping point in the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, with the infection outpacing efforts to contain it, experts are warning. Almost 78,000 cases of the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19, have been confirmed worldwide, with spikes in South Korea and Italy, and eight deaths in Iran.

2

New HR director to ‘ease Whitehall tensions’

A new HR director position at the Cabinet Office has been created in response to concerns within the civil service about the way staff are being treated by 10 Downing Street, Buzzfeed reports. The move comes weeks after Boris Johnson’s right-hand man Dominic Cummings called for an “upgrade” of special advisers’ skills.

3

Sandstorm strands UK tourists in Canary Islands

British tourists were left stranded at airports in the Canary Islands yesterday after a huge Saharan sandstorm and winds of 75mph forced the cancellation or diversion of 822 flights. Most airports have now resumed operations and the storm is expected to ease today. The winds also affected ferry services and have hampered efforts to fight a wildfire on Gran Canaria island.

4

Labour members start voting for new leader

Voting by Labour Party members to choose a new leader opens today, with three candidates on the ballot paper: Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer. The voters will include 114,000 party members who have joined since Labour’s disastrous 2019 election defeat under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

5

British cruise ship passengers have coronavirus

Four of 30 British passengers evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and flown home to the UK over the weekend have now tested positive for coronavirus. A further two UK passengers were diagnosed on board the quarantined ship and are being treated in hospital in Japan.

6

Government denies Priti Patel is ‘distrusted’

The Government has dismissed newspaper reports that Home Secretary Priti Patel is not fully trusted by the security services and has been trying to fire Philip Rutnam, her most senior civil servant. Former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said she was “sick of spiteful briefings against women in high public office”, while MI5 rejected reports that the spy agency has been withholding intelligence from Patel. 

7

The Sun newspaper hit by £68m loss as sales fall

The Sun lost £68m in 2019 as the newspaper’s circulation fell by 8% in the year to July, new figures show. As well as being affected by declining sales, profits were hit by a £26.7m legal bill from the phone-hacking scandal.  However, the News Group Newspapers-owned tabloid remains the UK’s best-selling paper, with 1.38 million copies sold every day. 

8

Daily portion of fruit and veg ‘cuts stroke risk’

Eating 200g of fruit and vegetables every day may reduce the risk of suffering the most common type of stroke by 13%, according to a new study by an international team. Conversely, a daily portion of 50g of red meat - equivalent to two slices of roast beef - was associated with a 14% increase in the risk of an ischaemic stroke, while consuming 20g of eggs per day raised the risk by 25%.

9

English sheepdog sells for record £18,900

A new world record has been set for the sale of a sheepdog. Megan, a two-and-a-half-year-old collie reared in Northumberland, fetched £18,900 at an auction in North Yorkshire. Megan has trained on sheep but will now herd Wagyu beef cattle in Oklahoma, and fetched the huge sum because she comes from a family of champions.

10

Briefing: the world’s most secretive financial systems

The UK has climbed the world ranking of tax havens and is nearing the top 10 most secretive financial systems.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) said the UK had become a more desirable place for businesses and super-rich individuals to hide their finances from the law, raising serious concerns about Britain’s post-Brexit strategy.

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