Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 8 Sep 2020

1

Warnings as UK Covid cases continue to surge

Coronavirus cases are soaring in the UK because “people have relaxed too much”, the deputy chief medical officer has warned. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the public should start taking the pandemic “very seriously again” or would face a “bumpy ride over the next few months”. A total of 2,948 cases were recorded yesterday, after 2,988 new cases were announced on Sunday, the most since 22 May.

2

Johnson warned against ‘dangerous’ Brexit approach

Senior Tories have warned Boris Johnson that his plan to row back on Britain’s obligations under the EU withdrawal agreement is a “dangerous step” that could make a no-deal Brexit more likely. Meanwhile, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has demanded “realism” from his Brussels counterparts ahead of the next round of trade talks, beginning in London this week.

3

Trump says military chiefs start wars to boost profits

Donald Trump has launched a public attack on the leadership of the US military, accusing them of waging wars to boost the profits of arms companies. The US president said “the top people in the Pentagon… want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy”.

4

£3.5bn furlough claims ‘fraudulent or paid in error’

Up to £3.5bn of payments made under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme may have been claimed fraudulently or paid out in error, HMRC has said. The tax collector told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee that it estimates between 5% and 10% of furlough cash has been incorrectly awarded. “We will expect employers to check their claims and repay any excess amount,” said HMRC.

5

Prince Harry and Meghan pay off Frogmore debt

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced that they have paid back the money they owed the taxpayer for the £2.4m refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage. The couple have been supported by the Prince Charles since leaving royal duties. However, a source told The Times that they were no longer receiving money from the Prince of Wales after last week signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix.

6

Robots to be used in care homes to reduce loneliness

Robots that can hold simple conversations and memorise people’s interests are to be used in UK care homes, after bosses claimed they enhanced mental health and reduced loneliness. The wheeled droids gesture with robotic arms and are designed to be “culturally competent”. Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said the robots “should not be seen as part of a frightening futuristic vision”.

7

Government buckles under pressure on badger cull

The government’s badger cull is being expanded to 11 new areas, including parts of Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Campaigners claim the expansion, which will see more than 60,000 badgers killed, was launched amid pressure from dairy farmers and is a betrayal of trust. The Badger Trust said “the government is embarking on… ecological vandalism on an unprecedented scale”.

8

Diplomatic tensions rise as journalists dismissed from China

A pair of Australian journalists have been flown home from China amid a major diplomatic stand-off between the two countries. Bill Birtles and Michael Smith left China after reportedly being questioned by China’s Ministry of State Security. Both were told they were persons of interest in an investigation into Chinese-born Australian news anchor Cheng Lei, who was detained in China in August.

9

Beijing claims Indian troops crossed Himalayan border

China also claims that Indian soldiers have crossed their Himalayan border and opened fire, forcing Beijing to take “corresponding countermeasures”. Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have risen since a clash in the Ladakh region in which 20 Indian troops were killed on 15 June. China’s Defence Ministry has accused India of “severe military provocation”, saying soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control.

10

England stars sent home from Iceland after breaking Covid-19 rules

Two England footballers have been sent home after smuggling an Icelandic beauty queen and her cousin into the team hotel in Reykjavik on Sunday night. Officials said Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood and Manchester City attacker Phil Foden had breached coronavirus protocols introduced to allow international football to take place. Both were also fined £1,360 by Reykjavik police.

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