Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 31 Dec 2020
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Boris promises freedom by Easter
Boris Johnson has said that Britain will open up by Easter thanks to the approval of the Oxford vaccine. The NHS aims to vaccinate at least two million people per week and the prime minister said that by Easter “we really are confident that things will be very, very much better”. However, June Raine, head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said that such a goal was “very ambitious”.
Avoid NYE parties, says NHS
People should avoid New Year's Eve celebrations because “Covid loves a crowd," says NHS England’s Prof Stephen Powis. Some 20m more people in England have been told to “stay at home” after tier four was expanded at midnight. A further 50,023 cases were reported yesterday, with 283,337 in the past seven days. There were 981 deaths, the highest since April.
Lewis Hamilton honoured
Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been knighted in a New Year Honours list. Ex-footballer Jimmy Greaves and musician Craig David become MBEs and the actress Sheila Hancock has become a Dame. Meanwhile, hundreds of key workers and community champions who battled the Covid-19 pandemic have also been recognised in the list.
Argentina legalises abortion
Lawmakers in Argentina voted resoundingly in favour of allowing abortion in early pregnancy, in a move that The Times says “cements some of the most liberal laws to terminate a pregnancy in Latin America”. Hundreds of thousands of pro-choice activists celebrated, with many wearing green, which has become a symbol of the fight for women’s rights.
Tesco and Pizza Hut shamed on pay
Tesco, Superdrug and Pizza Hut are among more than a hundred firms “named and shamed” by the government for not paying workers the minimum wage. Almost 140 companies investigated between 2016 and 2018 failed to pay £6.7m to more than 95,000 workers. Home Grown Hotels, controlled by the multi-billionaire tax exile Sir James Ratcliffe is also among those fined by the government.
Dozens die in Yemen blasts
At least 26 people have been killed and more than 60 injured after an attack on the airport in Yemen. There were explosions after plane carrying the Yemen prime minister and cabinet politicians landed at the airport in the city of Aden. A civil war has raged in Yemen for six years, with the Iran-backed Houthis against a coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
‘Worst US serial killer’ dies
The man described by the FBI as the most prolific serial killer in US history has died aged 80. Samuel Little died in a California hospital on Wednesday, where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of three women. However, by the time of his death, the former competitive boxer had confessed to killing 93 women between 1970 and 2005.
Assam bans Islamic schools
An Indian state has passed a law abolishing all Islamic schools, saying they provided sub-standard education. Opposition politicians criticised the move in Assam, which is ruled by Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but a statement from a party figure said: “We need more doctors, police officers, bureaucrats, and teachers, from the minority Muslim community rather than imams for mosques.”
US flies bombers to Middle East
The US has flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East “to underscore the US military’s commitment to regional security and demonstrate a unique ability to rapidly deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice,” says US Central Command. There are fears that Iran may seek to retaliate against American interests to mark the one-year anniversary of the drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.
Premier League denies pause plan
The Premier League has denied any discussions have taken place to pause the season. Speculation grew after the match between Tottenham and Fulham was postponed, following the postponement of Everton’s tie with Manchester City on Tuesday. Although the Premier League recorded 18 positive Covid-19 tests last week, the most since the pandemic began, it said it “has not discussed pausing the season and has no plans to do so”.