Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 26 Feb 2020
UK schools facing closures under coronavirus action plan
Schools across the UK may be closed and nationwide travel restrictions imposed under new contingency plans designed to help curb the spread of coronavirus across Europe. Cases of the Covid-19 disease have now been identified in Austria, Croatia and Switzerland, while Italy has reported more than 300 cases and 11 deaths. Public Health England has announced a “mass surveillance” system that will see thousands of patients being tested for the virus by GPs and at hospitals.
Stock markets hit by Covid-19 fears
Stock markets worldwide have dipped for a third consecutive day as the implications of the coronavirus outbreak bed in for investors. A total of £100bn has been knocked off the value of FTSE 100 companies in the UK since Monday. US markets have also stumbled after public health officials warned that future outbreaks there are almost inevitable.
Worcestershire residents evacuated as river rises
Homes and businesses in Worcestershire have been evacuated as flood waters creep above defensive barriers, and two severe flood warnings remain in place in Shropshire. Flood defences were breached in the town of Bewdley last night and the River Severn is at risk of overtopping defences in Ironbridge as the effects of the UK’s recent storms continue to be felt.
Sanders unifies rivals in fractious Democrat debate
The final TV debate by wannabe US Democrat presidential candidates before crucial primaries saw front-runner Bernie Sanders universally attacked by his rivals last night. Candidate Pete Buttigieg warned that a Sanders candidacy would give Donald Trump ammunition to raise voters’ fears of socialism. The debate, in Charleston, was the last verbal bout before the candidates head into South Carolina’s primary on Saturday and the Super Tuesday nominating contests of 14 states on 3 March.
IFS: Sunak must raise taxes to meet spending plans
New Chancellor Rishi Sunak must raise taxes in his first budget if he is to increase spending on the NHS, social care and schools while still meeting targets for balancing spending set by his predecessor Sajid Javid, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is warning. The Tory election manifesto last year promised no rises on major taxes.
Prince Harry returns to UK for last round of royal duties
Prince Harry returned to the UK from Canada this morning for his final public engagements as a senior member of the Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due to step back from their royal roles and spend part of each year in North America, but are said to be unhappy about being ordered by the Queen to drop the word “royal” from their brand.
Singer Duffy was ‘drugged, raped and held captive’
Welsh singer-songwriter Duffy has claimed that she was drugged, raped and held captive for “some days”. The star, full name Aimee Duffy, retreated from the limelight following the release of her hugely successful first album Rockferry in 2008. In an Instagram post on Tuesday, the 35-year-old implied that the alleged kidnapping was the reason she had kept a low profile.
Economy-class air passengers to be offered lie-flat beds
Air New Zealand has announced plans to start offering pod-style beds in its economy class on some long-haul flights from next year. The national carrier has filed a patent application for “Economy Skynest” beds, which would come with pillows and a privacy curtain. Passengers would pay extra on top of their standards ticket price to use the Skynests.
Secret Westminster passage reveals ‘ould ale’ graffiti
Historians working on the renovations of the Houses of Parliament have discovered a secret passageway featuring graffiti left by the masons employed to block it up 169 years ago - who left messages including: “This room was enclosed by Tom Porter who was very fond of Ould Ale.” The hidden walkway was forgotten after a doorway used for Charles II’s coronation was closed off in 1851, before being briefly rediscovered in 1950 but then sealed again.
Briefing: what is in the Arctic doomsday vault?
An Arctic bunker full of seeds dubbed the “doomsday vault” is set to receive thousands of additional samples this week, pushing the total number of seeds it holds to over one million.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), buried deep in a mountainside on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, is designed to hold a huge variety of plant seed samples as back-up stock in case of a global catastrophe.