Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 Jan 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Trump delivers farewell address
Donald Trump has made his final speech before leaving office, saying: “We did what we came to do - and so much more.” The president, who leaves office today, said he took on “the tough battles, the hardest fights... because that's what you elected me to do”. He has also issued 73 more pardons in his final hours in office, including one for his former adviser Steve Bannon, who has been charged with fraud.
Anxiety over vaccine supplies
The government is increasingly concerned about supplies of vaccines after the rate of daily jabs fell by 120,000 since Friday. Pfizer said supplies of vaccine would be lower this month and next as it was upgrading its factory in Belgium. A government source said that supply had become “very constrained” and meeting its vaccination targets is “going to be very, very tight”.
May criticises Johnson on aid
Theresa May has accused Boris Johnson of “abandoning” the UK’s moral leadership on the world stage with his decision to cut the overseas aid budget. The former prime minister criticised Johnson for choosing not to meet the longstanding UN target of spending 0.7% of income on helping the poorest people on the planet. She said the UK had to “live up to its values”.
Italian PM survives key vote
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has clung on to power after winning a confidence vote in Italy’s senate by a slim margin. Conte was supported by 156 senators on Tuesday, while 140 voted against him and 16 abstained. He accused former coalition partner Italia Viva of having created chaos by constantly making demands that were “clearly divisive”.
Musicians say government ‘failed them’
Sir Elton John, Sting and Sir Simon Rattle are among a group of leading music stars that have accused the government of “shamefully failing” the country’s performers with its Brexit deal. Liam Gallagher and Nicola Benedetti also joined the 110 artists who signed the open letter protesting against the government’s decision to turn down an EU offer that would have reportedly enabled frictionless touring. The UK government says the proposal was inadequate and its own offer was turned down by European negotiators.
Genocide trade ban defeated
The government has defeated a move that would have required ministers to reconsider any trade deal with a nation found to be committing genocide. The measure, backed by religious groups, a powerful cross-party alliance of MPs and many Lords, was defeated by 319 to 308. Greg Hands, the trade minister, opposed the amendment as a denial of parliamentary supremacy.
Record daily coronavirus deaths
The UK’s daily Covid-19 death toll reached a record 1,610 yesterday, while the number of new cases dropped by 4,180 to 33,355. The seven-day average for new cases is down by 22% in a week but the weekly average for deaths is up by 20%. Ministers fear a “day before Armistice” wave of infections and deaths as people relax social distancing too quickly after being vaccinated.
School Covid tests abandoned
Ministers will put the brakes on plans for daily Covid tests in England’s secondary schools after teachers complained that the flagship policy had not been approved by regulators. Just weeks after the £78m programme was unveiled as a “milestone moment” in the fight against Covid-19, the Department for Education will announce it is pausing the daily testing of pupils and teachers in response to new health advice.
Brexit ‘drives ‘£150bn to France’
Brexit has pushed almost 2,500 jobs and “at least €170bn (£150bn) in assets” across the Channel, according the Bank of France’s governor. As European capitals scramble to attract businesses that want to remain active in the 19-nation eurozone, Francois Villeroy de Galhau said that “almost 2,500 jobs have already been transferred” and “around 50 British entities have authorised the relocation of at least €170bn in assets to France at the end of 2020”.
Public ‘backs cautious re-opening’
Ministers believe the public does not back a rapid easing of lockdown measures, the Daily Telegraph reports. A poll conducted at the beginning of the month showing that almost 80% of the public backed lockdown has led ministers to plan a cautious timetable for the lifting of restrictions. The beginning of March has been earmarked for moving the first areas out of lockdown - but only into the strictest tiers.