Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 Dec 2020

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

1

Hospitals run out of beds as cases soar

The NHS in England is diverting patients and cancelling operations as hospitals run short of beds, The Guardian reports. Figures show that hospitals had to tell ambulance crews to send patients elsewhere 44 times last week – the highest number for four years. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “It already feels like we’re in the grips of a really bad winter, and there’s a very long way to go.”

2

Hancock moves millions more into Tier 3

Millions of people in the south and east of England will be under tougher Covid restrictions from Saturday as Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire move up a tier, along with parts of Surrey, East Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire. Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to take “personal responsibility” for their actions to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

3

‘Challenging’ Brexit talks to resume

UK and EU negotiators have warned that major obstacles remain as they prepare to continue their talks on a post-Brexit trade deal. After speaking to EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, Boris Johnson said discussions are in a “serious situation” and a no-deal scenario was “very likely” unless the EU position changed “substantially”. Von der Leyen said bridging “big differences” would be “very challenging”.

4

Kidnapped Nigerian boys rescued

More than 300 schoolboys kidnapped in northern Nigeria have reportedly been rescued. “At the moment, 344 of the students have been handed over to security agents,” said the Katsina state governor. “I think we have recovered most of the boys if not all of them.” Their abduction was claimed by claimed by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

5

Biden set to appoint Native American

Joe Biden is expected to nominate a Native American to serve as his interior secretary, leading the agency governing public lands. If the appointment is confirmed, Congresswoman Deb Haaland will be the first indigenous person to lead the department and the first Native American in a cabinet secretary role. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress.

6

Sunak extends furlough to April 30

Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme until the end of April. Concern is mounting about the economic implications of the furlough scheme, which subsidises 80% of people’s wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. The chancellor wrote in The Spectator earlier this week that current levels of borrowing are unsustainable.

7

Lager sales up but make-up crashes

Supermarket sales figures show that beer sales have risen during the pandemic while make-up sales fell by £180m. “Lager-fuelled barbecues and home-cooked roasts” replaced evenings at restaurants, says The Guardian, while lower sales of makeup, deodorant and even toothbrushes “pointed to people letting themselves go a bit”. San Miguel lager enjoyed a 60% rise in sales.

8

Bailey apologises after FCA’s roasting

Andrew Bailey has apologised after an “excoriating” report into the Financial Conduct Authority heavily criticised the work of the regulator under his leadership, says The Times. Bailey, now the governor of the Bank of England, was criticised for the regulator’s handling of the £237m London Capital & Finance scandal. The government said it will consider compensation for some of the 11,625 savers who lost money in the scandal.

9

Rees-Mogg attacks Unicef ‘stunt’

Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused Unicef of a “political stunt” after the UN agency stepped in to help feed deprived children in the UK. The minister described Unicef’s intervention as “playing politics” and claimed it should be “ashamed of itself”. The agency is set to distribute more than £700,000 to help fund projects for UK children and their families.

10

Snowstorm breaks records in the US

The first major snowstorm of the season has set new records in parts of the US. Reporting 24.7 inches (62.7cm) of snow in Pennsylvania, the National Weather Service in State College said: “Williamsport regional airport made history.” Forecasters said the previous record was 24.1in (61.2cm) in 1964. 

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