Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 Dec 2020

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

1

‘Eye of the storm’ as infections soar

The head of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens said: “We are back in the eye of the storm” as a record daily high of 41,385 new Covid-19 cases was recorded on Monday. Some patients have been treated in ambulances as no hospital beds were available. Health chiefs are urging the public not to party on New Year’s Eve, with fears that any gatherings could lead to another surge in infections.

2

Starmer faces Brexit rebellion

Keir Starmer is facing a “high-profile rebellion” against Labour’s Brexit position on the eve of the vote in parliament, says The Guardian. A string of prominent MPs, including John McDonnell, have accused the party of leader of “falling into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal,” which they say is “designed to open the door to rampant economic deregulation” and “a loss of rights and protections for workers”.

3

EU and China close to deal

The EU and China are on the brink of agreeing a major business investment deal, according to media reports. The agreement will give EU firms better access to the Chinese market and improve competition conditions. Talks on the deal, which have been on-going since 2014, are believed to have been helped along by rising trade tensions between the US and China.

4

Ghislaine Maxwell denied bail

A New York judge has turned down a $28.5m (£21.4m) bail package by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell who is awaiting trial on sex crime charges. The ruling said the suspect, who is accused of helping Jeffrey Epstein groom young girls, poses a flight risk. The 59-year-old has been in jail in Brooklyn, New York City since she was arrested in July at her mansion in the state of New Hampshire.

5

Biden complains of Trump ‘damage’

Joe Biden says that agencies critical to US security have suffered “enormous damage” at the hands of the Trump administration”. The US president-elect said his team was not getting the information it needed, including from the Department of Defense, during the transition. However, a military spokesman insisted that the Pentagon had been “completely transparent” with the Biden team.

6

South Africa bans alcohol sales

South Africa has reimposed a ban on alcohol sales and ordered the closure of all bars as the country battles a surge in Covid-19, including the new variant. The president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said: “Reckless behaviour due to alcohol intoxication has contributed to increased transmission.” He also announced the closure of all beaches and public swimming pools in the country’s infection hotspots, which include Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

7

SAGE says schools must stay shut

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has told the Boris Johnson that Covid infections could spiral out of control unless secondary schools are closed in January. The advisers said that the R rate might be kept below 1 if schools stay closed in January. Meanwhile, members of the armed forces will help roll out mass testing to secondary schools and colleges from next month.

8

Hunt says UK must support citizens

Britain “is beginning to look weak” over a failure to protect its citizens imprisoned by Iran, says the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. “We must show the world that if you imprison a British citizen on trumped-up charges you will pay a very heavy price,” he wrote in The Times. Yesterday, the government said it was under no legal obligation to provide assistance to citizens falsely accused of a crime while travelling with a British passport.

9

Cold snap could lead to -10C temperatures

Temperatures could plunge as low as -10C in parts of the country as a cold snap continues to spread across Britain. The Met Office has issued a yellow warning of snow and ice for much of England and Wales and parts of Scotland after a day of heavy snowfall in some regions. Snowfall in Gloucestershire was so heavy that local police warned members of the public to “only go out if it is essential to do so”.

10

Speedy house price growth in Islington

Islington has shown the fastest house price growth over 2020, with the average property rising 13.4% to £727,922. However, Hackney, which borders Islington in north-east London, recorded a 1.5% decline to £636,000, says the estate agent Halifax. Overall the London average house price was up 6%. The price of an average home in Paisley, west of Glasgow, fell by 1.7% to £138,036.

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