Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 19 Nov 2020
Ministers considering plans for Christmas gatherings
Plans being considered by the government could mean families are able to meet two other households to celebrate Christmas. Ministers are discussing easing restrictions over the festive period, giving families five days of “freedom”. But health officials have warned that every day of relaxed rules could cost five in tighter restrictions, raising the possibility of 25 days of strict measures in January 2021.
Trump calls for recount as aides reach out to Biden
Donald Trump is to request a partial recount in Wisconsin, a state Joe Biden is projected to win by 20,000 votes. Meanwhile, CNN reports that some Trump administration officials and political appointees who left in recent months have “quietly started to reach out” to members of president-elect Joe Biden’s team to aid the transition of power.
Pfizer vaccine could be rolled out within weeks
The first Covid-19 vaccine could be ready for use within weeks after Pfizer said that its version was even more effective than it initially thought. The pharmaceutical giant is ready to submit its findings to regulators after new data suggested it stops 95% of symptomatic infections. Britain has placed an order for 40 million doses, despite some small “statistical uncertainty” over the vaccine, The Times reports.
Boris Johnson set to announce huge military investment
The prime minister is to reveal the largest military investment since the Cold War, with an extra £4bn a year over the next four years devoted to defence. The UK will end an “era of retreat” with a new space command, cyber force and artificial intelligence agency, Boris Johnson said. “I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first,” he added.
Prince William welcomes BBC inquiry into Diana interview
Prince William has said he welcomes a new investigation into the BBC’s 1995 Panorama interview with his mother, Princess Diana. In a statement issued by Kensington Palace, the Duke of Cambridge said: “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction.” The probe will be led by Lord Dyson, a former Master of the Rolls and head of civil justice, and is to begin straight away.
Windrush investigation teams faced racism allegations
Home Office teams set up to address the Windrush scandal faced racism allegations, prompting the launch of an internal investigation and the resignation of a senior official, The Guardian says. The most senior black Home Office employee in the team stepped down, describing the plan as systemically racist. Ex-Home Office official Alexandra Ankrah said some colleagues showed “a complete lack of humanity”.
EU leaders demand transparency over no-deal plans
Europe’s leaders are demanding that the European Commission publishes its plans for a no-deal Brexit. With talks failing to reach a definitive breakthrough, several EU governments are growing frustrated that deadlines for agreements on trade, security and fishing rights are passing. “We must now come up with contingency measures. January 1, 2021 is getting close; we need a safety net,” an EU diplomat said.
Australian troops murdered 39 civilians in Afghanistan
Australian special forces murdered 39 Afghan civilians, a long-awaited report has found. Major General Justice Paul Brereton spent four years probing allegations that a small group within the elite Special Air Services and commandos regiments killed Afghan civilians, in some cases slitting throats and planting weapons. 19 current or former soldiers should be investigated over the killings, the report adds.
Queen and Prince Charles embroiled in Markle case
The Queen and Prince of Wales have become wrapped up in Meghan Markle’s privacy case after she claimed to have consulted senior members of the Royal family before writing to her father. Markle said she wanted to follow protocol to prevent her father causing further “embarrassment to the institution”. She is suing Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail on Sunday, for misuse of private information.
Berlin police turn water cannon on Covid-sceptics
Police in Berlin have used a water cannon to break up a Covid-sceptics rally. Thousands assembled at the city’s Brandenburg Gate to protest against new lockdown measures. Police ordered demonstrators to disperse as many were ignoring social distancing rules and refusing to wear facemasks. Frequent anti-lockdown protests in Germany have united conspiracy theorists and far-right groups.