Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 16 April 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

US hits Russia with sanctions

The US has announced sanctions against Moscow in response to alleged cyber-attacks. The White House says Russian intelligence was behind last year’s “SolarWinds” hack and accuses Moscow of interference in the 2020 election. It says the sanctions, which target dozens of organisations and officials, aim to deter “Russia’s harmful foreign activities”. Moscow denies all the allegations and says it will respond in kind.

2

Hancock firm won NHS contract

A company in which Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales. The health service handed the company, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year. Labour said it amounted to “cronyism at the heart of this government” but a  government spokesman insisted that the health secretary had acted “entirely properly” and there was no conflict of interest.

3

Covid soars in Chile despite jabs

Covid cases in Chile are soaring despite the country’s successful vaccine rollout. The number of daily cases reached a new record high on 9 April, passing 9,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. Intensive care units are again overwhelmed, says the BBC, and most of its 18m population is back in lockdown. Critics say the government loosened restrictions too fast, and some trials suggest the Chinese vaccine used in Chile is only 3% effective after one dose, rising to 56.5% effective two weeks after the second.

4

Princes ‘kept apart’ at funeral

Prince William and Prince Harry will be 12ft apart as they walk behind their father’s coffin on Saturday, according to reports. The Sun says the brothers will be separated by Princess Anne’s son Peter Phillips during the procession as the Queen says farewell to her husband of 73 years at Windsor Castle. The Daily Mail says the Queen has ordered the “feuding brothers” to be kept apart.

5

US police release shooting video

Chicago police have released a video of an officer shooting dead a 13-year-old boy in a dark alley. The bodycam footage suggests the officer shouted “drop it” before shooting Adam Toledo once in the chest on 29 March. Although police video shows a handgun near the spot where he fell, the boy does not appear to be holding a weapon when he was shot.

6

Ethical concerns over embryo test

Scientists in the US have grown human cells in monkey embryos. The embryos are known as chimeras, organisms whose cells come from two or more species, in this case a long-tailed macaque and a human. Ethicists in the UK say the work “poses significant ethical and legal challenges” and “opens Pandora's box to human-nonhuman chimeras”. But The Economist says the benefits, which include new treatments for congenital diseases, “could outweigh the risks”.

7

Uighur workers advertised online

Batches of 50 to 100 Uighur workers are being advertised on the Chinese internet, Sky News reports. The listings suggest tight political and social controls, with one stating that the “security of workers will be guaranteed by the government”. Human rights groups say this could amount to forced labour, but the Chinese government has previously described such claims as “the lie of the century”.

8

Chinese economy bounces back

China’s economy has expanded at its fastest pace on record in the first quarter, thanks to a remarkable expansion in industrial output and retail. In total, the world’s second largest economy grew by 18.3% between January and March. However, the national bureau of statistics warned that the international landscape still contained “high uncertainties”.

9

False positives worry hits testing

Government officials have expressed “urgent” concerns over false positives in rapid coronavirus testing, calculating that as few as 2% to 10% of positive results may be accurate in places with low Covid rates, such as London. Leaked emails published in The Guardian show that senior officials are now considering scaling back the widespread testing of people without symptoms.

10

Part-time season tickets proposed

Rail bosses are working on a new system of flexible rail season tickets to attract commuters back to city centres as they divide their time between home and the office. The discounts on offer will be much less generous than for a traditional season ticket, says the Daily Telegraph, because mandarins want to spare the taxpayer from further expense after handing over £10bn in subsidies to keep services running.

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