Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 5 Aug 2020

1

Lebanese president blames ammonium nitrate for explosion

Lebanon is in shock and mourning after a massive explosion in the capital, Beirut, killed at least 78 people and injured more than 4,000. President Michel Aoun said the blast, which led to a mushroom cloud, was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years. Prime Minister Hassan Diab called the explosion a “big catastrophe”.

2

Heart attack deaths surge during coronavirus lockdown

Fatalities resulting from the most common type of heart attack rose by nearly 40% during lockdown, researchers have found. The study, led by the University of Leeds, has led to claims that the government's “Stay Home” message had a “devastating” impact by deterring thousands of patients in medical danger from seeking help.

3

Children’s Commissioner: prioritise schools over pubs

The Children’s Commissioner has told the government that pubs and shops should be shut in order to reopen schools. Anne Longfield said ministers treated children’s education as an “afterthought” during the first lockdown and argued that they must be put at the heart of planning for a second wave. “That means schools must be the first to reopen and the last to close during any local lockdowns,” she said.

4

BBC faces pensioner rebellion over TV licence changes

The BBC is trying to “quell a growing revolt” over the end of free TV licences for people aged above 75, says The Times. The corporation is sending millions of letters to affected households as pensioner groups co-ordinate resistance, urging all over-60s to cancel their TV licence direct debits in solidarity with over-75s and instead arrange to pay with monthly, post-dated cheques.

5

MPs criticise government’s ‘serious mistake’ on pandemic

A group of MPs say the spread of Covid-19 in the UK could have been slowed with earlier quarantine restrictions on arrivals. The Home Affairs committee said it was a “serious mistake” to not impose border measures earlier in the pandemic. However, a Home Office spokeswoman insisted that the committee members were “incorrect in their assertions”.

6

Supreme court orders arrest of former Colombian president

The Supreme Court in Colombia has said former president Alvaro Uribe should be detained amid an investigation into claims of witness tampering and fraud. The allegations relate to crimes committed during the country’s 52-year civil war. “This is huge, not least because Uribe is considered the most powerful man in the country,” said Sergio Guzman, the director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a consultancy.

7

Virgin Atlantic files for US bankruptcy protection

After Virgin Australia went into administration earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic has filed for bankruptcy in the US. Richard Branson’s UK-based carrier is seeking protection under chapter 15 of the US bankruptcy code, which allows a foreign debtor to shield assets. As the aviation industry struggles, the International Air Transport Association has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will cause losses of more than $84bn (£64bn) this year.

8

Conservatives ‘disregarding violence against girls’

The Conservative Party has been accused of “minimising violence against women and girls” by refusing to suspend an MP arrested on suspicion of rape. After the party made it clear it will take no action against the MP while the allegations are investigated, the TUC, Women’s Aid, the Fawcett Society, the Centenary Action Group and trade unions representing staff in parliament issued a joint statement.

9

Minorities face obstacles with coronavirus protection

People from ethnic minority backgrounds face “greater barriers” when trying to protect themselves from Covid-19 in the UK, according to the Runnymede Trust. The risk factors are said to include front-line jobs, larger households and a dependency on public transport. Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black African groups were found to be the most likely to live in overcrowded housing.

10

Stranded men’s SOS written in sand leads to air rescue

Three men were rescued from a small Pacific island after a giant SOS sign they wrote in the sand was spotted from above. The men had been missing in the Micronesia archipelago for nearly three days when their signal was spotted. An Australian military helicopter landed on the beach and gave the men food and water. All three were said to be in good condition.

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