Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 Jan 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Vaccines could see Covid spike
Government scientists have warned that people could become less aware of sticking to Covid-19 rules as more of the population is vaccinated, leading to spike in cases that outweighs the gains being made by the jab rollout. Minutes from a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meeting say “there is a risk that changes in behaviour could offset the benefits of vaccination, particularly in the early months of vaccine rollout”.
Biden to keep UK travel ban
Joe Biden’s spokesperson has said the US will maintain travel bans on the UK, much of the EU and Brazil despite an order from outgoing President Donald Trump to lift them. Although the White House said yesterday that the ban on entry would end on 26 January, six days after Biden takes office, Jen Psaki said on Twitter that “with the pandemic worsening... this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel”.
Hints at benefits extension
Boris Johnson has hinted the government could extend emergency universal credit payments beyond March as he pledged to “make sure people don’t suffer” while lockdown restrictions continue. Pressure has been growing on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the temporary £20-a-week payments, which are benefiting more than six million families. A non-binding Labour motion pushing the government to maintain the increase was approved by 278 votes to zero yesterday, after Johnson told his MPs to abstain on the “stunt”.
EasyJet sees booking surge
EasyJet says bookings for summer holidays are up 250% on last year. Chief executive Johan Lundgren said the surge in bookings brings confidence for the travel market post-coronavirus and fulfils the industry’s hopes of pent up demand for holidays once restrictions ease. “We know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can”, he said, adding that the vaccination programme in the UK and Europe was “undoubtedly the key to unlocking travel again”.
Storm Christoph approaches UK
The Environment Agency has put 10 flood warnings in place ahead of the arrival of Storm Christoph today, describing the situation as “volatile”. The Met Office has issued an amber warning for heavy rain and flooding that could pose a “danger to life” in parts of the North and East of England. It said fast-flowing or deep floodwater could “cut off” some communities, with up to 70mm of rain forecast to fall within 48 hours in the worst-hit areas.
Corbyn attacks Starmer
Jeremy Corbyn’s lawyers have accused Keir Starmer of making “inflammatory and disingenuous” attacks on his predecessor following a row over allegations of anti-Semitism. Corbyn’s lawyers told the High Court that documents would prove there was a deal with Starmer’s office to readmit him to the party and Corbyn’s suspension “went behind an agreement to reinstate” him to Labour “at all levels”. The Labour party’s barrister rejected the request for the documents, arguing the “purpose of obtaining early disclosure from the party is to advance a political, rather than a legal, position”.
UK could avoid tax hikes
A Treasury minister says Britain could be spared a huge tax raid if the economy bounces back strongly as vaccines are rolled out. Conservative MP Jesse Norman told the Commons Treasury committee “we may end up with a somewhat delayed but nevertheless very pronounced bounce”, adding that “some taxation could impede growth, could damage our recovery [and] could obstruct the transition… back to something approaching normality”. Weekend newspaper reports said Rishi Sunak is preparing to raise taxes in the 3 March budget to bring down record levels of government borrowing.
Calls for BAME vaccinations
Public health experts and MPs have said people in high-risk ethnic minority groups must be prioritised for Covid vaccinations. Campaigners say BAME communities should be better protected after they were hit with a disproportionate number of deaths during the pandemic. The calls come after research by SAGE showed up to 72% of black people in the UK were “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to have the jab.
‘Biggest’ dinosaur bones found
The remains of a huge dinosaur, which could rival the largest known species, have been unearthed in Argentina. After a collection of bones found in Neuquén Province in northwest Patagonia were identified as those from the sauropod family of dinosaurs, experts said the new specimen is “considered one of the largest sauropods ever found, probably exceeding Patagotitan in size”. The team have been unable to confirm it as a new species as of yet, however, the fossils do not appear to match with other known sauropod dinosaur remains.
Johnson ‘glad Trump is going’
The former head of the civil service says Boris Johnson will be glad Donald Trump has not been re-elected for a second term as US president. Lord Sedwill said those who believed Johnson would have preferred Trump to win again were “mistaken”. In 2015, while serving as mayor of London, Johnson accused Trump of “stupefying ignorance” over his comments about violence in the city. However, the pair became unlikely allies during Trump’s term in the White House.