Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 Dec 2020

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

1

Mutant Covid strain is ‘everywhere’

The UK’s chief scientific adviser has said that the new Covid-19 variant is “everywhere” and that cases will rise after “inevitable mixing” over the Christmas period. Patrick Vallance said the toughest coronavirus restrictions must be extended to “get ahead” of infections driven by the new variant, adding that softer measures had proved ineffective and further Tier 4 measures were likely.

2

UK and France reach border agreement

The UK and France may today set out a plan to restart the transport of freight after the latter shut its border for 48 hours on Sunday. Measures agreed between Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron will come into effect from Wednesday. The border closure came amid fears over the new Covid-19 variant and left at least 945 lorries stacked-up near Dover.

3

Britain offers compromise on fisheries

Britain and the EU moved closer to agreement on post-Brexit fishing rights last night, with MPs told to prepare to vote on a potential trade deal on Wednesday next week, The Telegraph reports. The government proposed that the bloc cuts the value of its fishing catch in UK waters by roughly a third over a transition period of five years.

4

Child poverty ‘could be easily solved’

Campaigners say 150,000 children in the UK could be lifted out of severe poverty for less than the cost of the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme if the government scrapped or suspended the benefit cap. The Child Poverty Action Group said that 35,000 jobless households will be capped this month, dramatically restricting the amount of social security benefits they can receive.

5

Wuhan scientist would ‘welcome’ probe

The Chinese scientist at the centre of claims that Covid-19 leaked from her laboratory in Wuhan says she is open to “any kind of visit” to rule it out. Professor Shi Zhengli said: “I would personally welcome any form of visit, based on an open, transparent, trusting, reliable and reasonable dialogue. But the specific plan is not decided by me.” The surprise statement came as a World Health Organization team prepares to travel to the city next month to begin an investigation into the origins of the virus.

6

Millane killer abused two other women

The man convicted of killing British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand has been found guilty of abusing two other women before her murder. Jesse Kempson, 28, was sentenced to life imprisonment in February after being found guilty of murdering Millane on the eve of her 22nd birthday. The convicted killer has been named after he lost an appeal for his name to be suppressed.

7

IRA bomb survivor Tebbit dies at 86

Lady Margaret Tebbit, who survived the IRA Brighton bomb attack in 1984, has died aged 86. Relatives said she passed away at her Suffolk home after suffering from Lewy Body Dementia. She and her husband Norman Tebbit, a Tory minister, were badly injured when a bomb exploded in their hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party conference. Though paralysed below the neck, “Tebbit fought back... to lead a reasonably full life within the constraints of her need for 24-hour care,” The Telegraph says.

8

Mutant Covid wipes £30bn off shares

Panic over the new mutant strain of Covid-19 caused £30bn to be wiped off the value of the UK’s biggest companies yesterday. The FTSE 100 finished 1.7% or 112 points lower at 6,416, while the pound dropped sharply. Brent crude oil fell by 4% to $50 a barrel, denting the share prices of Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

9

Brazilian slave freed after 40 years

A Brazilian woman who was forced into domestic slavery and marriage has been freed after 40 years. In what The Guardian describes as a “rare crackdown on domestic slavery” in Brazil, the 46-year-old was discovered living in a small room in an apartment in the south eastern state of Minas Gerais. Her captor “gave her food when she was hungry, but all other rights were taken from her,” said an inspector.

10

Steakhouse uses white fish for lobster

A steakhouse chain has been caught using a cheaper white fish mix in its lobster dishes. Trading standards officers say Miller & Carter was using a product containing only about a third of real lobster in dishes such as its prawn and lobster cocktail starter, lobster thermidor and grilled half lobster. In January, the Ask Italian restaurant chain was also found to be selling white fish labelled as lobster in its most expensive dish.

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