Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 19 May 2020

1

Trump taking unproven drug to repel coronavirus

Donald Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off the Covid-19 coronavirus, despite warnings from doctors that the controversial anti-malaria drug may be unsafe. The US president told White House reporters: “I’m taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here, I’m still here.” There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine can fight off coronavirus, and regulators say it may cause heart problems.

2

Top scientist tells ministers to stop passing the buck

The incoming president of the Royal Society has accused the UK government of passing the buck by claiming “we are simply doing what scientists tell us” to justify their handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Adrian Smith, a statistician, told The Times that “politicians ultimately must make the decisions”. The new head of the scientific academy spoke out as Britain’s Covid-19 death toll rose by 160 to a total of 34,796.

3

Holiday hopes rise as minister announces ‘air bridges’ plan

The government has announced plans for “air bridges” between countries with low coronavirus infection rates, reviving hopes that Britons may be able to go abroad for summer holidays this year. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that a blanket quarantine on arrivals into Britain could be relaxed in favour of a more targeted focus on people from high-risk countries.

4

Temporary staff ‘spread Covid-19 between care homes’

Temporary care workers spread the coronavirus between care homes as cases surged, according to an unpublished government study. Public Health England’s finding casts further doubt over ministers’ claims to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes”. At least 22,000 people are estimated to have died in care homes in England and Wales directly or indirectly from the virus.

5

Trump threatens to pull all funding from WHO

Donald Trump has threatened to permanently withdraw US funding from the World Health Organization if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days”. Blaming the UN health agency for “repeated missteps” in its response to Covid-19, the US president told WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

6

First results from human vaccine tests offer ray of hope

Initial results from human trials of a coronavirus vaccine have produced positive results in a group of eight volunteers. Each of the participants produced an antibody response comparable to that seen in people who have had the disease, according to Moderna, the US manufacturer of the potential vaccine. A second phase of trials involving around 600 people is due to begin soon, while a third involving thousands of people planned for July. 

7

Study finds climate change making storms stronger

Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are growing stronger because of climate change, according to a new study. “The temperature high in the atmosphere sets a kind of a speed limit on what a hurricane can achieve,” explained lead researcher James Kossin, of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. “Climate change has been changing the environment and increasing that speed limit.”

8

Disabled people threatened with sack unless they return to work

Disabled people in the UK and their carers are being threatened with the sack unless they return to work, says The Guardian. After they were missed off the government’s vulnerable list, some disabled people and carers are being denied paid leave to remain at home if they cannot provide a letter showing proof of vulnerability. A government spokesperson said: “We expect employers to be understanding.”

9

M&S under fire for selling hand sanitiser for £11.50

Marks & Spencer is under attack for selling bottles of hand sanitiser for twice as much as other stores. The supermarket chain has been accused of exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic after advertising 500ml bottles in stores for £11.50. James Daley, of consumer campaign group Fairer Finance, said: “You wouldn’t expect a reputable retailer like M&S to be indulging these kinds of low-level tactics.”

10

UK youngsters among biggest drinkers and worst sleepers in Europe

British children have some of the highest rates of drunkenness and stress in the developed world but are good at brushing their teeth, according to a new international study for the World Health Organization. Confidential surveys of youngsters in 45 countries across Europe and Canada also found that British children are in the top third for time spent chatting online, and have sleep problems.

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