Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 Jan 2021

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

1

Hospitals buckling under Covid pressure

Hospitals across the country are struggling with rising numbers of severely ill patients, after new Covid-19 cases topped 50,000 for the fourth day in a row, with nearly 24,000 people in hospital and 613 deaths recorded. The Nightingale hospital built in London’s ExCeL centre is expected to take Covid patients next week and hospitals in east London are under severe pressure.

2

Ministers u-turn on schools

Primary schools in London will remain closed for the start of the new term after protests and legal pressure from the capital’s local authorities. The government has been accused of causing “chaos” with the last-minute decision. However, a union leader has called on ministers to “do their duty” and close all primary and secondary schools to contain the coronavirus.

3

Congress overturns Trump veto

The US Congress has overturned Donald Trump’s veto of a defence spending bill. This is the first time this has happened in his presidency. The Senate pushed through the bill against the US president’s strong objections – just 20 days before he leaves office. The $740bn (£549bn) bill will fund defence policy for the year to come. It determines military programs and construction projects.

4

Charles warning on cancer

Prince Charles has warned that cancer is in danger of becoming the “forgotten C” as operations and treatment are cancelled during the Covid pandemic. The Prince of Wales said the pandemic had taken “a devastating toll” on cancer services, creating “despair” among sufferers. According to Macmillan, up to 50,000 people could be living with undiagnosed cancer because of delays.

5

Police attacked at French rave

Police were attacked as they tried to shut down an underground, curfew-busting New Year’s Eve party that drew at least 2,500 people in western France. Revellers torched a police vehicle and injured officers with volleys of bottles and stones. A statement from local authorities said police had tried to “prevent this event but faced fierce hostility from many partygoers”.

6

Plane crash deaths rise

The number of people killed in commercial airplane crashes rose in 2020 despite a sharp decline in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year there were 40 accidents resulting in 299 fatalities. In 2019, there were 86 accidents, resulting in 257 fatalities, according to a Dutch aviation consulting firm. The number of commercial flights in 2020 fell 42%, to 24.4m.

7

Afghan journalist shot

An Afghan journalist and human rights activist has been shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in western Afghanistan. Bismillah Adil Aimaq was returning home when gunmen opened fire at his vehicle. He was the fifth journalist to be killed in the war-ravaged country in the past two months. Violence has increased amid stalled Taliban peace talks.

8

Assange’s father sounds warning

Julian Assange’s father says he believes the US wants to extradite his son and “break him” in revenge for his exposure of alleged war crimes. “The persecution of Julian is to destroy the capacity of Julian to speak the truth about what's happened over the last 20 years or so, and the destruction of the Middle East,” said John Shipton.

9

Birds die in fireworks ‘massacre’

Hundreds of birds died after fireworks were set off in Rome on New Year’s Eve, in what animal rights groups have called a “massacre”. After video footage of roads near the main train station in the Italian capital showed scores of birds - mostly starlings - dead on the ground, the International Organisation for the Protection of Animals said: “It can be that they died from fear.”

10

US court reinstates execution

An appeals court in the US has lifted a stay of execution on the only woman awaiting a federal death penalty. Lisa Montgomery strangled a pregnant woman in Missouri before cutting out and kidnapping the baby in 2004. She would be the first female federal inmate to be put to death in almost seven decades. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to abolish the federal death penalty.

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