Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 Jan 2021

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

1

UK may donate vaccines

Britain has more than enough Covid vaccines for this year and could end up “donating jabs to other countries”, The Times reports. Senior industry sources told the paper that the UK has secured enough doses to meet its ambitious vaccination targets and is confident that its agreements with manufacturers will be honoured. A total of 367m doses have been ordered, enough for 5.5 per person.

2

‘Shallow decline’ in infections

A leading infectious disease expert has said England is “going in the right direction but not fast enough” after a study tracking Covid cases found evidence of a “shallow decline” in infection rates. Some 1.57% of people had had the virus between 6 and 22 January, slightly down from 1.58% in early January. The estimate is based on swab tests of 168,000 people. Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said infections were declining, but “by no means as fast as in lockdown one”.

3

Abortion ban in Poland

A ruling that enforces a near total-ban on abortion in Poland will come into effect imminently, the government has announced. The ruling, handed down by the country’s constitutional tribunal, states that terminating pregnancies due to severe foetal abnormalities is “unconstitutional”. Abortion will now only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. The Law and Justice Party, which leads the government, has a strong political alliance with elements of the Roman Catholic Church, which strongly opposes allowing any abortions.

4

Sunak planning tax rises

Rishi Sunak has said that implementing tax rises soon would allow the government to slash them ahead of the next election in 2024. In a pre-budget appearance in front of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives MPs, the chancellor “laid the groundwork” for potential tax rises in the coming budget and the next one, The Telegraph says. MPs are now awaiting a “detailed roadmap on his strategy for spending, tax rises, the deficit and other economic levers at the budget”, the paper adds.

5

EU and AstraZeneca make peace

The EU and AstraZeneca have vowed to work together to resolve a row over vaccine supply shortages to the 27-member bloc. Anger broke out among member states when the drug maker said it could deliver only a fraction of the doses it had originally promised, blaming production issues at European plants. However, following crisis talks described by both sides as “constructive”, the two have pledged to move forward together. EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “We will work with the company to find solutions and deliver vaccines rapidly for EU citizens.”

6

Sturgeon questions Johnson visit

Boris Johnson is due to visit Scotland today after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the trip fit the description of “essential” laid out in the government’s lockdown rules. The prime minister is expected to call for the two nations to continue working together in the fight against Covid-19. Asked at her daily coronavirus briefing how she felt about the visit, Sturgeon told reporters that she was “not ecstatic” at the prospect of Johnson heading north of the border.

7

Biden on Japanese charm offensive

Joe Biden has said he will strengthen Washington’s alliance with Japan to counter growing Chinese military activity in the Asia-Pacific region. The US president and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed during a phone call that their countries’ security alliance was “the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific”, according to a read-out. Donald Trump repeatedly considered withdrawing support from Japan, publicly voicing his annoyance that Tokyo was not paying enough towards its own security and calling on the government to buy more US-made defence equipment.

8

Blair calls for vaccine passports

Tony Blair has said the government must establish a single global vaccine passport scheme through the G7, or risk others dictating the rules. The former prime minister said current border restrictions are “disjointed” and the UK must “place the creation of a global Covid-19 travel pass as a key item on the G7 agenda”.

9

Proud Boys head was FBI informant

The leader of the far-right Proud Boys has been unmasked as a “prolific” former FBI informant. Court documents show that Enrique Tarrio worked undercover exposing a human trafficking ring and helped the agency with drug and gambling cases. Formed in 2016 by a founder and former executive of Vice Media, the Proud Boys is widely considered to be an extremist group. At least half a dozen of its members have been arrested over their involvement in the riots at Capitol Hill.

10

Fish could reduce asthma risk

Eating oily fish could halve the risk of asthma in children, a new study has revealed. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London found that thousands of children with a particular genetic make-up could halve their risk of developing the condition by eating at least two portions of fish a week. However, the diet only works if the children carried a certain type of the fatty acid desaturase gene. The gene is known to be associated with lower levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.

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