Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 Jan 2021

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

1

Vaccinations for over-70s

People in England aged 70 and over will begin receiving offers of a coronavirus vaccine this week. Those listed as clinically extremely vulnerable will also reach the front of the queue. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK was making “good progress” in ensuring every adult was offered a vaccine by September and “if it can be done more swiftly, that's a bonus”.

2

UK ‘Singapore of Europe’

Boris Johnson plans to turn Britain into the “Singapore of Europe” now that it has left the EU, says The Times. The prime minister will speak to 30 senior business leaders today about cutting red tape with topics such as “regulatory freedoms” and reforming EU rules on the agenda. The Financial Times reported last week that workers’ protections, including the 48-hour working week, could be scrapped.

3

Kremlin critic detained

Leaders in the US and Europe have demanded the release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny from Russian custody. The 44-year-old was detained by police after his flight from Germany landed in Moscow, five months after he was almost killed in a nerve-agent attack he blamed on the Russian authorities. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, called for Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release”.

4

NHS in worst ever position

The second wave of Covid-19 has left the NHS in the most precarious position in its 72-year history, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has warned. “The facts are very clear and I’m not going to sugar coat them,” he said yesterday. “Hospitals are under extreme pressure and staff are under extreme pressure.” Another 4,179 people were admitted to hospitals with Covid on Sunday.

5

Biden ‘to reverse Trump travel ban’

Joe Biden will issue decrees to reverse Donald Trump's travel bans and re-join the Paris climate accord on his first day in the White House, according to reports in the US. The president-elect, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, is also expected to begin reuniting families separated at the US-Mexico border and to issue directives on Covid-19 and mask-wearing.

6

Lockdown campaigner under fire

Former Supreme Court judge and anti-lockdown campaigner Lord Sumption said his remark to a bowel cancer sufferer that her life was “less valuable” than others has been “taken out of context”. He made the comment to podcaster Deborah James, 39 while appearing on a BBC debate. Angry viewers have described his comment as “inhuman” and “morally bankrupt”.

7

PM under pressure on universal credit

Boris Johnson cannot claim to be “levelling up” the UK if he follows through on a planned cut in universal credit for six million families, according to the Resolution Foundation. Pressure is growing on the prime minister from opposition parties, anti-poverty campaigners and many Conservative MPs to extend the £20-a-week uplift introduced during the first wave of the pandemic. “No decision has been made,” said the Treasury.

8

Monsoon hampers quake search

Monsoon rains have hindered the search for survivors of Friday’s earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. As the death toll rose to at least 81, it is unclear how many people could still be trapped in the debris in the aftermath of the 6.2-magnitude quake, which has left thousands homeless. “All the victims we’ve found so far were dead,” said one rescuer.

9

Travel corridors close

Quarantine-free travel to the UK came to an end this morning with the closure of all travel corridors until at least 15 February. All arrivals now need to present a negative Covid-19 test taken less than 72 hours before landing and must then self-isolate for ten days - or half that if they test negative again after five days.

10

Phil Spector dies in jail

The music producer Phil Spector has died at the age of 81, while serving a prison sentence for murder. In 2009, Spector was convicted of the 2003 murder of Hollywood actress Lana Clarkson. He was renowned for his “wall of sound” recordings and produced 20 top 40 hits between 1961 and 1965. He worked with The Beatles, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.

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