Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 27 May 2020

1

Tories slump in polls following Cummings controversy

The government’s popularity has slumped in the face of the Dominic Cummings scandal, with the Conservatives’ polling lead over Labour falling by nine points in a week. A new YouGov survey for The Times found that support for the Conservatives is down by four points to 44%, while Labour has jumped by five points to 38%. Boris Johnson’s approval rating has plunged by 20 points in four days.

2

Local lockdowns to be used to tackle coronavirus ‘flare-ups’

Local lockdowns will be deployed to tackle regional outbreaks of coronavirus in England in the future, the government has announced. Speaking at yesterday’s daily briefing, Matt Hancock suggested restrictions will be introduced in areas with “flare-ups”, as part of the “track and trace” system. Government data shows that the UK’s coronavirus death toll rose by 134 yesterday to a total of 37,048.

3

Donald Trump lashes out after being fact-checked by Twitter

A tweet by Donald Trump has been slapped with a fact-check label by Twitter for the first time. The warning was added under a post by the US president that said: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.” Criticising the move, Trump accused the social media website of “completely stifling free speech” and of interfering in the 2020 presidential election.

4

Latin America ‘is new epicentre of Covid-19 outbreak’

Latin America has overtaken Europe and the US in the daily number of reported Covid-19 infections, the director of the Pan American Health Organization said yesterday. Dr Carissa Etienne told a press briefing that the region “has become the epicentre of the Covid pandemic”, with more than 2.4 million cases and more than 143,000 deaths in all of the Americas.

5

Children’s mental health damaged by pandemic, NHS boss warns

A growing number of children are suffering poor mental health as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior NHS England boss has warned. Professor Tim Kendall, the national clinical director for mental health, told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar that “there’s no doubt” children are being harmed by the lockdown. He urged NHS trusts to “be more assertive and go out and find children” in difficulty.

6

Bank of England says recession may be less severe than feared

Britain’s economy is on course for a milder recession than previous forecasts have suggested, according to the Bank of England’s chief economist. Andy Haldane said recent data was turning out to be “a shade better” than a scenario for the economy published by the Bank earlier this month. He also played down the prospect of an emergency cut in interest rates to below zero.

7

FBI investigates after black man dies during arrest

Four Minnesota police officers have been fired following the death of a black man who pleaded that he could not breathe as a white cop kneeled on his neck during an arrest. The sackings follow the circulation online of video filmed by a bystander that shows George Floyd being pinned to the ground in Minnesota. The FBI has launched an investigation into Floyd’s death.

8

NHS coronavirus patients to be offered antiviral drug

NHS patients with severe coronavirus symptoms are to be treated with a drug hailed as the “biggest step forward” in tackling Covid-19. Remdesivir, an antiviral originally designed to fight Ebola, will soon be available to some of those in greatest need, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday. “This is probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began,” he said.

9

Facebook encryption plans ‘could help child abusers’

Facebook’s plans for stronger encryption will help child abusers to hide, a former counterterrorism chief has warned. Mark Rowley, previously assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said the social network is “blinding itself to serious crime” with its end-to-end encryption that “will make it easier for criminals to flourish”. The warning came ahead of an annual meeting today at which Facebook shareholders are expected to endorse Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to use the encryption.

10

Chimpanzees’ lip-smacking may be their language

Chimpanzees smack their lips in a rhythm similar to human speech, a new study has found. Scientists who noted the correlation after tracking the great apes’ mouth signals say the finding may help solve the mystery of how spoken language evolved in humans. Dr Adriano Lameira, from the University of Warwick, said: “Our results prove that spoken language was pulled together within our ancestral lineage using ‘ingredients’ that were already available and in use by other primates and hominids.”

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