Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 Dec 2020

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

1

Lockdown fears as NHS beds fill up

Boris Johnson said he is “hoping to avoid” another national lockdown in England after ministers met to discuss how to contain the rising number of coronavirus infections in England. Health bosses have warned that nearly 90% of hospital beds in England are full as the R number - which represents how many people each infected person passes the virus onto - rose above 1 in the UK.

2

‘Moment of truth’ for Brexit trade talks

The EU’s negotiator says the “moment of truth” has arrived as talks on a post-Brexit trade deal enter another critical 48-hour period. Talks in Brussels are understood to be focused on how many years it will take to phase in new fisheries arrangements. Michel Barnier has reportedly put forward a new proposal on EU fishing access in British waters.

3

‘Nightmare’ as postal service stretched

Fears are growing that presents will not arrive in time for Christmas Day as last-minute shoppers rush online, adding strain to an overstretched delivery service. The deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union told the BBC that the rising spread of Covid-19 is complicating what is already a “strategical nightmare”. Small retailers said their parcels have been delayed by as much as four weeks.

4

Forecasters say 2021 will be cooler

Met Office experts are forecasting that 2021 will be a little cooler around the world, but will still be one of the top six warmest years. They predict that the Earth’s temperatures for 2021 will be between 0.91C and 1.15C above what they were in the years from 1850-1900 with a central estimate of 1.03C. It will be the seventh year in a row close to or above this mark.

5

US approves Moderna vaccine

Moderna has been approved by the US as the country’s second Covid-19 vaccine. The US has agreed to purchase 200 million doses of Moderna, and six million may be ready to ship immediately, after the Food and Drug Administration authorised the US-made jab. The country has recorded more than 313,500 deaths and about 17.5 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

6

Family speak up for jailed Saudi woman

The relatives of a Saudi women’s rights campaigner have condemned the state prosecutor office’s decision to seek the maximum possible jail sentence of 20 years for the jailed activist. Loujain al-Hathloul, who successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive, has gone on hunger strike after claiming she has been tortured in prison. Her sister said: “She has endured beatings, sexual assault, hunger strikes and solitary confinement.”

7

Mexican governor shot dead in restaurant

The former governor of Mexico’s western state of Jalisco has been shot dead in a restaurant toilet in Puerto Vallarta. The state attorney general, Gerardo Octavio Solís, says Aristóteles Sandoval was dining with four others on Friday when he got up from the table and went to the toilet, where the killer shot him in the back. Although Sandoval had been assigned 15 police bodyguards only two were with him.

8

‘Covid immunity boosters’ offer no protection

Products claiming to be “Covid-19 immunity boosters” are being sold over the counter in London shops. Coronil, a herbal remedy from India, was found on sale in shops in predominantly Asian areas across the capital. Its manufacturers claim the pills protect against “respiratory tract infections” but tests carried out for the BBC show they offer no protection from coronavirus.

9

Employers want openness on ethnic data

Three quarters of bosses believe large firms should be forced to release data on the pay gap between staff of different ethnicities. A leaked report, seen by the BBC, came from a consultation exercise on ethnicity pay gap reporting launched by Theresa May in October 2018. Some 73% of those consulted supported compulsory ethnicity pay gap reporting for organisations with more than 250 staff.

10

Judge says parents owe son over porn

A US judge has ruled that a 42-year-old man can seek compensation from his parents for destroying his pornography collection. David Werking, who was living with his parents following a divorce, sued them over the items, which he claims were worth over $25,000 (£18,500). He says his extensive collection of magazines and films was “irreplaceable”.

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