Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 Jan 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Biden reverses Trump policies
Joe Biden has kicked off his presidency by signing a raft of executive orders, undoing many of Donald Trump’s key policies. Biden signed 15 executive orders, firstly to boost the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. Other orders halted the travel ban from Muslim-majority countries, ended funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border and saw the US rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Taking his place behind the Resolute desk, Biden said: “There’s no time to start like today.”
‘No evidence’ infections falling
Imperial College London (ICL) researchers have said there is “no strong evidence” that high Covid infection rates fell during the first 10 days of the latest lockdown. Although there has been a slowdown in the number of lab-confirmed cases reported by the government, ICL says its own data is more accurate because it tests people routinely, as opposed to picking up infections after people have developed symptoms and gone through the process of getting a test.
Storm Christoph forces evacuations
Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes overnight as widespread flooding hit communities across England and Wales. As Storm Christoph continued to deliver torrential rain across the UK, police and firefighters worked with Manchester City Council to evacuate homes in East Didsbury, West Didsbury and Northenden. Downing Street says Covid-secure facilities will be available for any people forced to evacuate as a result of the bad weather.
Johnson criticises Trump
The prime minister has described the inauguration of President Biden as a “step forward” for the US following a “bumpy period”. Boris Johnson added that Biden’s arrival in the White House is a “big moment” for the UK-US “joint common agenda”. Johnsons’s reference to a “bumpy period” is being read as a “coded criticism of Donald Trump’s administration”, The Guardian says.
Shop staff face anger over masks
Supermarket workers are facing “abuse, threats and violence” from customers angry over a new crackdown on face coverings and social distancing rules, the boss of Co-op Food has said. Following a 140% surge in criminal activity at the Co-op over the past year, Jo Whitfield said: “Shop workers… have been spat at and threatened just because they’ve asked customers to respect social distancing.”
Three dead in Madrid blast
At least three people have died and six were injured after an “extremely loud” explosion destroyed a residential building in central Madrid. The city’s mayor said early information indicated that the blast was caused by a gas leak and that someone was also working on a boiler in the building at the time of the blast. The building provided residential training for Catholic priests and also gave meals to homeless people.
China sanctions Trump team
China has announced sanctions on dozens of people close to Trump, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In a move taken minutes after President Biden was sworn into office on the steps of the Capitol, Beijing ushered in the measures to prevent the individuals and their families from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, or doing any business with China. It comes just a day after the US State Department accused China of committing genocide against its minority Uighur population.
Zimbabwe minister dies of Covid
Zimbabwe’s foreign minister has died in hospital after catching Covid-19, a government spokesperson has confirmed. Sibusiso Moyo was the army officer who famously appeared on state television in November 2017 to announce the military’s takeover of power from the late ex-president Robert Mugabe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “I have lost a friend. He fought his entire life so that Zimbabwe could be free.”
Bungled PPE adviser hides earnings
A former government adviser who brokered a “bungled” £250m PPE contract has used an “obscure change” in his company’s status to avoid having to disclose details of his earnings, The Times reports. Andrew Mills, who secured a deal between the government and the investment company Ayanda Capital for millions of face masks, has converted his company from a standard limited company into a much rarer “unlimited company”, the paper adds. Mills was formerly an unpaid adviser to the Board of Trade, chaired by Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss.
New Zealand scraps cannabis flights
Police in New Zealand have ditched their annual helicopter hunt for cannabis dens. The tradition, dating back to the 1970s, will be stopped this year due to a shift in policing priorities. Officers feel their resources could be better deployed, particularly in the fight against methamphetamine. The annual flights, which cost at least one million dollars a year, were controversial in New Zealand and seen by some as a waste of police funds.