Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Jan 2021

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

1

PM faces questions over Covid toll

The UK’s official Covid death toll passed 100,000 yesterday, stoking pressure on Boris Johnson to explain the loss of life. Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund, said it is “almost impossible to believe that a wealthy island nation with a universal healthcare system” would have “one of the highest death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic”. The PM said he was “deeply sorry” that so many had died, adding: “it’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic”.

2

Republicans vote against impeachment

Donald Trump’s chances of avoiding conviction by the US Senate have grown after all but five Republicans tried to dismiss his impeachment trial before it even began. Although the procedural vote was not enough to prevent the trial going ahead, it did suggest that Democrats face an uphill battle to secure the two-thirds majority needed to convict the former president. That would require at least 17 Republican votes.

3

Public supports climate action

Two-thirds of people agreed that climate change is a “global emergency,” the biggest ever opinion poll on the issue has found. The UN Development Programme questioned 1.2 million people in 50 countries and found broad support for action to reduce climate change. Younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69% of those aged 14 to 18 describing the situation was an emergency, but as many as 58% of those over 60 also agreed.

4

AstraZeneca hits back at EU

AstraZeneca has defended its rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the EU after protests from member states over delays in supply. Chief executive Pascal Soriot told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the EU's late decision to sign contracts had given limited time to sort out supply issues. He said his team is working “24/7 to fix the very many issues of production of the vaccine”.

5

Cut jury size, says Labour

Labour is calling for “wartime juries” to help clear a Crown Court backlog of 54,000 cases. The party wants juries to be cut from 12 members to seven, to address the “gravest crisis” in the justice system since the Second World War. All four justice chief inspectors recently expressed their “grave concern” about the impact of the backlog on the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

6

HS2 activists dig tunnels

Campaigners opposed to a new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham say they will occupy a 100ft tunnel network they have dug under a small central London park. Euston Square Gardens, a green space outside Euston station, will be turned into a temporary taxi rank during construction work. HS2 Rebellion, which argues that the land will subsequently be sold off to developers, says its “tree protectors” are prepared to occupy the tunnels.

7

Covid ‘could become treatable’

Covid-19 could become a “much more treatable disease” over the next 18 months, according to a health service chief. Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told MPs that in the “second half of the year and beyond we will…see more therapeutics” and “more treatments for coronavirus” which will help us have a “much more normal future”.

8

Biden warns Putin on elections

Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin against electoral interference during the pair’s first presidential call, the White House says. The two leaders’ conversation also included a discussion about opposition protests in Russia and an extension of the last remaining US-Russia nuclear arms pact. Putin congratulated the new US president on winning the election, according to a statement from Moscow.

9

Girls’ mental health alert

The mental health of girls deteriorates sharply at 14 and worsens through adolescence, a new study has found. The research from the Education Policy Institute and the Prince’s Trust concluded that regular social media use and a lack of exercise made teenagers’ wellbeing and self-esteem worse. Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, called for quick action to “prevent scarring this generation’s future”.

10

Prince Charles to deliver Holocaust speech

The Prince of Wales will speak of the importance of collective memory on Holocaust Memorial Day. In a message to mark today’s commemoration the prince, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Prince Charles will say: “As I speak, the last generation of living witnesses is tragically passing from this world, so the task of bearing witness falls to us.”

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