Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Monday 3 Aug 2020

1

Top scientist says secrecy hampered UK’s Covid-19 response

Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel laureate and director of the Francis Crick Institute, has accused the government of operating behind a “shroud of secrecy” during its response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said a “black box” of scientists, civil servants and politicians had taken poor decisions and damaged public trust. “We need greater transparency,” he added.

2

Pressure grows for rape inquiry Tory MP to be suspended

A former Conservative minister arrested on suspicion of rape will not be suspended while his alleged crime is investigated, the party has said. The man, who has not been named, was released on bail after being taken into custody on Saturday. Shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips said the MP should lose the party whip immediately.

3

90-minute coronavirus test to be launched next week

New tests that can detect Covid-19 and flu, and give results in 90 minutes, will be rolled out in care homes and laboratories from next week. Ministers claim the “on-the-spot” swab and DNA tests will help distinguish between the coronavirus and other seasonal illnesses. Meanwhile, diners across the UK will be able to enjoy half-price meals from today as the “eat out to help out” scheme begins.

4

Spain lobbies the US for Gibraltar sovereignty

Spain has pursued a secret lobbying campaign to push US congressmen into supporting a plan to strip Britain of sole sovereignty over Gibraltar, The Daily Telegraph reports. Seven current and former members of the House of Representatives say the Spanish Embassy in the US protested after Washington signed a resolution backing Gibraltar's British status. One congressman said: “The Spaniards went nuts.”

5

Over-50s may be targeted to avoid a national lockdown

Millions of people over 50 could be asked to stay at home under Boris Johnson’s plan to avoid the “nuclear” option of a second full lockdown. They would be given personalised risk ratings and asked to shield themselves in the event of another widespread outbreak. The Times says the idea arose during a “war game” session between the prime minister and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor.

6

Inequality between London and rest of England grows

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says inequality in health, wealth and education is rising. The thinktank said earnings in London are 1.3 times the UK average and 1.5 times higher than in the north-east of England. Higher house prices have also made Londoners richer: their average financial and property wealth soared  by150% in the ten years to 2018, compared to a rise of just 3% for the north-east.

7

Nasa and SpaceX astronauts splash down in Florida

Two astronauts have returned to Earth from the International Space Station in the first ocean landing in 45 years. Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, 40 miles off Florida, after a mission run jointly by Nasa and SpaceX. Behnken said their trip had been “quite an odyssey”. The landing was complicated by the presence of private boats, including one flying a Trump campaign flag.

8

Pompeo says Trump will act against Chinese-owned software

Chinese software companies that pose a threat to US national security will face presidential action “in the coming days”, according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Last week, Donald Trump said he would ban TikTok, a popular video app that Pompeo said was “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party”.

9

Rugby league star Israel Folau refuses to take the knee

The Australian rugby star Israel Folau, who plays for the Catalans Dragons, refused to take a knee before their Super League game against St Helens on Sunday. As players from both teams marked the return of rugby league at Headingley with a symbolic gesture of support for anti-racist campaigners, Folau continued to stand. Last year the player said he believed that gay people would go to hell.

10

‘African heat flare’ will bring UK ten days of heat

A 700-mile wide “African heat flare” will bring a “ten-day heatwave” to the UK, according to reports this morning. The Sun says temperatures could reach 35C next weekend. The Met Office predicts “deja vu” days of heat next week and further “very warm spells” later in August. The highest ever UK temperature, 38.7C, was recorded in Cambridge University Botanic Garden last July.

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