Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 21 Apr 2020

1

Johnson and cabinet ‘split over lockdown extension’

Boris Johnson is resisting pressure from within his cabinet for an early easing of the UK lockdown because the prime minister’s own Covid-19 scare has “floored him” and left him “tentative”, according to Tory sources quoted by The Times. The claims follow reports that Johnson told senior ministers in a two-hour video call on Friday that his top priority is avoiding a second wave of coronavirus deaths. The PM is recovering at Chequers after being admitted to intensive care for persistent symptoms of the virus earlier this month.

2

Trump to suspend all immigration amid pandemic

Donald Trump has announced that he is to temporarily suspend all immigration to the US in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In a tweet on Monday, he wrote: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy [Covid-19] as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Critics say the president is using the outbreak as an excuse to pursue ideological interests as he vies for re-election later this year.  

3

Public mask advice ‘would risk NHS shortage’

Hospital bosses are warning that advising the UK public to wear face masks when out and about could endanger NHS staff by putting more strain on supplies in hospitals. The World Health Organization does not advise people to wear the masks in public unless they have symptoms, but there are growing calls in the UK for the government to recommend their use.

4

UK government accused of ‘rewriting coronavirus history’

The editor of eminent medical journal The Lancet has accused the UK government of a “disinformation campaign” and “deliberately rewriting history”, after Downing Street issued two lengthy rebuttals of newspaper articles criticising Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Richard Horton was quoted in defence of the government but has now issued his own rebuttal in a scathing tweet. 

5

Jobseekers claim farmers favouring migrants

Unemployed Britons responding to a national appeal for a “land army” to harvest UK crops say farmers are rejecting their applications in favour of cheap migrant labour, The Guardian reports. Following claims that UK nationals are too lazy or picky to do the work, dozens of frustrated would-be workers told the newspaper that they had been turned down for multiple jobs or been advised that they would have to live in shared on-site caravans and would not be allowed to bring their own vehicles. 

6

More vehicles than ever on UK roads last year

The number of vehicles on UK roads hit a record high last year as the popularity of online shopping brought a big increase in journeys by delivery vans, new research shows. A total of almost 40.4 million cars, vans, buses and lorries were registered in 2019, an increase of 1% over 12 months and 48% over the past 25 years. At the same time, traffic-slowing measures caused urban congestion.

7

Astronomers object to Musk’s artificial constellation

Astronomers are reacting with fury as billionaire Elon Musk pushes ahead with a plan to launch a network of 12,000 satellites in a low Earth orbit in order to boost global internet access, The Times reports. The first 300 have been launched already, to the annoyance of stargazers worldwide, who say their ability to clearly observe the night sky will be severely impacted.

8

Wildlife returning to Yorkshire moor a year after fire

Wild animals including short-eared owls, mountain hares and curlews are returning to moorland devastated by fire a year ago, the National Trust has announced. Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire burned for four days in April 2019 after a disposable barbecue was left alight. The conservation charity says staff have worked over the winter to repair the habitat for wildlife and to introduce measures to prevent future fires spreading, helped by £100,000 from a public fundraising appeal.

9

South Korea casts doubt on reports Kim Jong Un seriously ill

South Korea has said there is no evidence to support rumours that the leader of its northern neighbour is gravely ill after heart surgery. Kim Jong Un recently missed the celebration of his late grandfather’s birthday for the first time, prompting speculation that he was seriously ill or even brain dead after an unverified operation.

10

Briefing: what we know about second waves of coronavirus

Boris Johnson has signalled that he favours a continuation of coronavirus lockdown measures over alternative plans to ease restrictions, according to reports.

During a two-hour video call on Friday, the prime minister is understood to have told Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and advisers including Dominic Cummings that his “overriding concern” is avoiding a fresh outbreak of the new coronavirus in the UK.

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