Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 6 Jan 2020

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

1

Democrat wins Senate seat

The Democrats have won one of the two Senate run-offs in the US state of Georgia, meaning that whichever party wins the other will secure a majority in the upper house. Democrat Raphael Warnock has beaten Kelly Loeffler, but the race between the Republican David Perdue and his Democratic rival Jon Ossoff remains too close to call. CNN describes the count as a “nail-biter”.

2

One in 50 now have Covid

The Office for National Statistics says one in every 50 people in England are infected with Covid-19. The figure rises to one in 30 in London and one in 45 for the southeast, east and northwest of England. Meanwhile, England’s third national lockdown now has legal force, with MPs set to vote on it retrospectively later today.

3

Activists arrested in Hong Kong

More than 50 people, including pro-democracy politicians and campaigners, have been arrested in early morning raids in Hong Kong. The activists were reportedly held under the national security law, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for those who break it. Among those detained are thought to be high-profile opposition figures including James To, Lam Cheuk Ting, Lester Shum and Benny Tai.

4

Pharmacies ‘snubbed’

High street pharmacies say they are “desperate” to roll out more than one million doses of the Oxford vaccine every week but have had their offers snubbed by the government. Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, said around 11,400 pharmacies across the country already administer millions of flu jabs every year.

5

UK ‘set for double-dip recession’

The UK could suffer its first double-dip recession since 1975, with output in the first quarter of this year set to be £24.6bn lower than would have been the case without the new lockdown, according to the EY Item Club. The economic forecasting group says the economy will have a “challenging start to 2021”, leading to a second period of contraction. The British Chambers of Commerce has also predicted a double-dip recession.

6

Brexit blocks boy’s medicine

The mother of a nine-year-old boy with a severe form of epilepsy fears her son could die after the government announced that his supply of a life-changing cannabis medicine from the Netherlands would stop because of Brexit. Hannah Deacon was given just two weeks’ notice that following the end of the transition period, “prescriptions issued in the UK can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU member state”.

7

Pay milestone highlights inequality

Bosses at the UK’s biggest companies will earn more in the first three days of this week than the average worker’s annual wage, according to the High Pay Centre. By the end of today, the pay of FTSE 100 chiefs will have overtaken the £31,461 annual median wage for full-time workers. A spokesman said the data should “prompt debate about the effects of high levels of inequality”.

8

Outcry over China death sentence

Human rights activists have criticised the death penalty handed to a former Chinese finance chief found guilty of corruption. Lai Xiaomin was convicted of taking bribes during his time as chair of Huarong Asset Management. Human Rights Watch said China is “clearly taking a major step backwards”.

9

Kim admits policies failed

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has admitted that his economic policies have failed in “almost all areas to a great extent”. The leader also vowed to avoid a repeat of the “painful lessons” of the past. His country’s trade with China sank by almost 80% in the first 11 months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, and North Korea’s GDP is estimated to have contracted by 9.3% in 2020.

10

Capitol Hill terror threat issued

The FBI is investigating after air traffic controllers in New York heard a message threatening to fly a plane into the US Capitol as Congress meets to confirm Joe Biden as the next president, CBS News reports. Referring to Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US drone attack last year, the warning said: “Soleimani will be avenged.” The threat is not thought to be credible, however.

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