Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Dec 2020
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Oxford vaccine to be approved next week
The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca is expected to win approval within days. Senior government officials expect the drugs watchdog to give the green light by Thursday. The head of the drugs giant said it “should be” effective against the highly transmissible new strain of the virus. It can be stored in a fridge and costs as little as £2 a shot.
Trump refuses to sign Covid relief bill
Millions of Americans have temporarily lost their unemployment benefits after Donald Trump failed to sign a coronavirus relief bill into law. President-elect Joe Biden had warned of “devastating consequences” if Trump continued to delay signing the package, which was approved by Congress after months of difficult negotiations and compromises. CNN says Trump's “dark mood is worsening” and “the country is suffering his wrath”.
Storm Bella brings 80mph winds
Gusts of more than 80mph have been recorded as Storm Bella brings heavy rain and high winds to the UK. The Met Office has issued an amber warning and areas from Cornwall to Kent have been warned to expect building damage and the possibility of flying debris. Yellow warnings for rain are in place across much of the UK, as well as two “threat to life” flood alerts.
Is Blair a ‘gong-blocker’ for Palace?
Buckingham Palace is planning to hand top honours to Labour politicians amid concerns that the Queen’s dislike of Tony Blair led to the “bedblocking” of other senior figures. Among the four most coveted honours Tory politicians outnumber their Labour counterparts by more than five to one. The Sunday Times says Blair angered senior royals with his handling of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Suicide bombing theory for Nashville blast
Officers have raided an address near Nashville and a person of interest has reportedly been identified in the investigation of an apparent bomb blast on Christmas morning. Investigators now believe the blast was the result of a suicide bombing. The explosion injured three people and disrupted communications systems in Tennessee and four other states.
‘Disaster’ as sales footfall plunges
Footfall at the Boxing Day sales was down by more than half on last year as retail experts warned of a “disaster” in the sector. Springboard said Boxing Day footfall was down 57% compared with last year. Analysts say takings are expected to fall far short of forecasts. The New West End Company, which represents retail and leisure businesses in London, described the scenes in the capital as “heartbreaking”.
Thatcher denounced ‘rush of blood’ euro
Margaret Thatcher described the European commission’s plans for a single currency as a “rush of blood to the head”, according to newly released 30-year-old documents. The then prime minister hit out at the “politburo” in Brussels and vowed not to be dictated to during talks with her then Irish counterpart. The Observer says her words are “an echo of the divisive political debate that ultimately led to Brexit”.
Covid variant found in several countries
Cases of the more contagious variant of Covid-19 first identified in the UK have been confirmed in a growing number of countries. Infections linked to people who arrived from the UK were reported in Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and France. However, a couple infected in Ontario, Canada, had no known travel history or high-risk contacts. Lebanon has also reported a case of the variant.
Johnson promises to ‘spread opportunity’
The prime minister says he will concentrate on “levelling up the country” and “spreading opportunity” after agreeing a trade deal with the EU. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Boris Johnson claimed the deal would provide new legislative and regulatory freedoms to “deliver for people who felt left behind”. However, fishing chiefs say the PM “caved in” to land the treaty.
Ancient snack bar found in Pompeii
Researchers say they have discovered a surprisingly well-preserved frescoed thermopolium in Pompeii. The snack bar was decorated with polychrome patterns and frozen by volcanic ash. The excavation team found duck bone fragments and the remains of pigs, goats, fish and snails in earthenware pots. Crushed fava beans were also found. “The counter seems to have been closed in a hurry and abandoned by its owners,” said one of the team.