Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 Feb 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
‘Sprint’ to stop Covid variant
Up to 80,000 people will be tested in a door-to-door “two-week sprint” to halt the spread of the South African Covid variant. Cases of the new strain have now been discovered in parts of London, the West Midlands, the East of England, the South East and North West. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wanted to “come down hard” on the strain, which is more transmissible than the original virus and appears to show a slightly “diminished” response to vaccines.
Biden threatens Myanmar
Joe Biden has threatened to re-impose sanctions on Myanmar after the country’s military seized power in a coup early on Monday morning. The US president accused the military of a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law” after troops seized power, detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with other senior elected officials and declared a one-year national state of emergency.
Drop in Israel Covid infections
Israel’s vaccination programme is showing signs of reducing Covid infections and symptoms in over-60s. Data from the Israeli Ministry of Health shows 531 over-60s, out of almost 750,000 who have been fully vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus after receiving their jab. Only 38 of these were hospitalised with a moderate, severe or critical bout of the disease - a “tiny proportion”, according to the BBC. Israel is currently leading the world with its rollout and has so far delivered five million doses of the vaccine.
PM to ramp up school plans
Boris Johnson has told ministers to accelerate preparations for reopening schools after being told the UK is now past the peak of the second Covid-19 wave. The prime minister is also “expected to announce further measures to help children catch up after almost a year of disruption”, The Telegraph says. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has told Johnson that the peak of infections passed last week, while his optimism about reopening classrooms is also founded on the success of the rapid vaccine rollout.
Tories criticise government on cladding
Conservative MPs have accused ministers of incompetence in their handling of the flammable cladding crisis that has left millions of leaseholders trapped in unsafe homes. Some 35 Tory backbenchers supported an amendment to the fire safety bill now being passed between the Commons and Lords that would exempt leaseholders from the costs of removing unsafe cladding from flats. Ministers have promised to bring forward a solution “very shortly”, after Labour also forced a non-biding opposition day motion on the issue yesterday.
Heading limited in football
England is set to become the first country to formally limit heading in football training as part of a plan to tackle the game’s growing dementia crisis. Charlotte Cowie, the Football Association’s head of medicine, told The Telegraph that guidelines would deal with coaches who hold “inappropriate” heading sessions. She added that heading was among “the most likely risk factors” for disproportionate dementia diagnoses among former players. Last year, World Cup winner Geoff Hurst said there was a “strong, inarguable link” between heading and dementia after team-mates Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton both lost their battles with the brain disease.
Osborne to become full-time banker
George Osborne is dropping his portfolio career to become a full-time banker. Former chancellor Osborne has announced that he is giving up nearly all his current jobs to become a partner at boutique London investment bank Robey Warshaw. David Cameron’s former right-hand man will be leaving his position as editor-in-chief of the London Evening Standard in March. BBC media editor Amol Rajan says he leaves the paper “at a time when its business model, depending on heavy commuter footfall in London, is broken”.
Actress accuses Manson of abuse
The actress Evan Rachel Wood has alleged that she was “horrifically abused” by rock star Marilyn Manson. In an Instagram post yesterday, she said she was naming him to protect others from “this dangerous man”. Four other women who said they were in relationships with Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, have also alleged abuse. Manson said the claims are “horrible distortions of reality”. Wood has previously spoken about the alleged abuse she was subjected to by an unnamed ex, but this is the first time she has named Manson.
Fashion figures plead with PM
Hundreds of famous faces from the UK fashion industry have signed an open letter to Boris Johnson warning that post-Brexit red tape and travel restrictions threaten their survival. The signatories, including model Twiggy and designer Katharine Hamnett, say that the sector, which is worth £35bn to the economy and employs one million people, has been “disregarded in this [Brexit] deal and our concerns overlooked”.
Jolie sells unique Churchill painting
Angelina Jolie is to sell Winston Churchill’s only wartime painting after dividing up the art collection she shared with her ex-husband Brad Pitt. The Moroccan landscape, painted after the 1943 Casablanca Conference for US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the only work that Churchill completed during the Second World War. It is expected to fetch £2.5m at auction, a record for a painting by the wartime prime minister.