Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 30 Dec 2020

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

1

‘Horrendous choices’ for packed hospitals

Doctors say that hospitals could be forced to make “horrendous choices” about which coronavirus patients receive life-saving treatment because the NHS is so dangerously overloaded. Some ICUs in London are now so packed that doctors have asked for some patients to be transferred to Yorkshire to reduce the pressure on their service. A major incident has been declared in Essex amid fears the number of cases could overwhelm the county’s health services.

2

More areas expected to join tier 4

Millions more people in England are expected to be placed under tougher restrictions amid escalating numbers of Covid-19 cases. After infections reached a new record of 53,135, government sources signalled that more areas will move into tier four. Public Health England found that contacts of people with the new variant were 54% more likely to develop it than contacts of people with the original virus.

3

Hero’s welcome in Israel for spy

A former US Navy analyst who served 30 years in prison for spying for Israel has arrived in Tel Aviv after parole restrictions on his travel expired. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther as they arrived. “Welcome home,” Netanyahu said. “We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” Pollard said.

4

MPs to vote on Brexit deal

Boris Johnson will tell MPs to “open a new chapter in our national story” by backing his post-Brexit trade deal. The day before the UK severs ties with the EU, Parliament is being recalled to put the deal into law. Keir Starmer has urged his MPs to vote for the agreement but he is facing a rebellion over concerns that he is “falling into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal”.

5

Deaths as earthquake hits Croatia

At least seven people have been killed and dozens injured after an earthquake in Croatia. The 6.4 magnitude destroyed buildings and saw people flee into rubble-covered streets in a town south-east of the capital Zagreb. Petrinja's mayor said that about half the town had been destroyed and people had been pulled from the rubble.

6

FTSE rallies after Xmas return

Shares in London closed at their highest level in almost 10 months last night. The FTSE 100 rose by 1.5% to close 100.5 points higher at 6,602 – its highest since early March. Analysts say the rise was due to widespread relief among traders that the UK and the EU had secured a trade deal. Shares in multinational companies and those that rely heavily on imports were among the big risers.

7

Sheen surrendered OBE over Welsh history

Michael Sheen gave up his OBE because of the way that Wales has been treated by the British state. The actor, who grew up in Port Talbot, near Swansea, said he made his decision after researching for a lecture on Welsh history. “I remember sitting there going, ‘Well I have a choice — I either don’t give this lecture and hold on to my OBE or I give this lecture and I have to give my OBE back’,” he said.

8

Russia revises Covid death toll

Russia says its Covid-19 death toll is more than three times higher than previously reported. New data show that more than 186,000 Russians have died from the virus, up from the 55,265 initially reported. The announcement means the country has the third-highest number of fatalities, leap-frogging India to land behind the US and Brazil. Sky News says Russia’s original data “had raised eyebrows”.

9

Cricket umpire sues over racism

A former Test umpire is suing the England and Wales Cricket Board for alleged racial discrimination. John Holder umpired in 11 Tests but was dropped from the ECB’s Test match list in 1991, a few weeks after he reported an incident of alleged ball-tampering by an England player in a Test against West Indies at the Oval. He claims he was “discriminated against on the grounds of race”.

10

Impressionist saved PM’s bacon

The comedian Rory Bremner “saved John Major's bacon” when he inadvertently foiled a Tory revolt against him, newly released files show. Documents from the National Archives tell how the impressionist pretended to be the then-PM when he phoned Eurosceptic Tory MPs in 1993, asking for their support. The lead rebel thought it was Major himself phoning and abandoned the revolt.

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