Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 15 Oct 2020

1

Rules could be tightened in London and Manchester

London could be on the verge of a local lockdown after Sadiq Khan briefed the capital’s health chiefs about a move into the tier two Covid category. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he is also meeting Boris Johnson’s top team to discuss an expansion of tier three restrictions in the city. The prime minister is working on plans to adopt a version of a “circuit-breaker” to coincide with half term.

2

Xi Jinping tells China's troops to prepare for war

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told troops to “put all their minds and energy on preparing for war”. During a visit to a military base in the southern province of Guangdong, Xi told the soldiers to “maintain a state of high alert” and be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure and absolutely reliable”. Tensions between China and the US remain high, while it has also seen skirmshes on its Himalayan border with India.

3

Boris Johnson demands round-the-clock Brexit talks

Boris Johnson will postpone a decision on whether to quit the Brexit trade negotiations until after the European Council summit ends on Friday. After it became clear that his no-deal deadline will be missed on Thursday, Johnson told Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, the European Council president, that the EU must agree to round-the-clock talks.

4

MI5 boss says empty streets make spies’ work harder

The boss of the MI5 says spies have found it more difficult to trail suspects during the pandemic due to the empty streets caused by lockdown. Director-general Ken McCallum said that his officers spent significant amounts of time on the near-empty streets, adding that “covert surveillance is not straightforward”. He said the agency’s enemies knew that Covid-19 had “turned the world upside down”.

5

University students face two-week Christmas lockdown

Ministers are planning to put universities into lockdown for two weeks in the run-up to Christmas, with students told to remain on campus, The Guardian reports. Universities would go into lockdown from 8 December until 22 December, when all students would be allowed to return home. However, lecturers have voiced concerns about the impact of the plan on timetables and teaching arrangements.

6

Melania Trump says Barron contracted Covid-19

Donald Trump’s 14-year-old son Barron contracted coronavirus but has since tested negative, Melania Trump has revealed. The first lady said that though her “fear came true” when Barron tested positive for Covid-19, “he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms". Asked about his son's health, Donald Trump said: “He had it for such a short period of time.”

7

Thai government unveils emergency protest powers

Thailand has announced an emergency decree to curtail largely peaceful protests in Bangkok. The government’s announcement, which was read out on television by police, said urgent measures were needed to “maintain peace and order”. The pro-democracy movement has called for the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to resign and is demanding restrictions on the king’s powers.

8

Supermarkets cut Xmas glitter to avoid plastic waste

Waitrose, Morrisons and John Lewis say they won’t be using glitter in their own-brand Christmas products this year as the tiny pieces of plastic can wash into oceans, harm wildlife and enter the food chain. Boots, meanwhile, said it would be cutting out all single-use plastic packaging from Christmas gifts. Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans every year.

9

Cocaine and heroin deaths soaring among women

Class-A drug use has risen dramatically among women, with the number of female deaths related to cocaine increasing sevenfold over the past 10 years, it has been revealed. 2019 also saw a record number of women killed by heroin, with many of the dead falling in to the so-called “Trainspotting generation” who became addicted to heroin in the 1990s when prices were cheap.

10

Study reveals the world’s most walkable city

Hong Kong has been ranked as the world’s most walkable city. London, Paris and Bogota also feature in the top five of the study, which judged cities on citizens’ proximity to car-free spaces, schools and healthcare and the overall shortness of journeys. The report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy ranked US cities particularly low for walkability due to urban sprawl.

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