Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 4 Feb 2021

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

1

Sunak says experts ‘moving goalposts’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told allies that he fears scientific advisers are “moving the goalposts” on when to end the lockdown. Sunak believes that Britain is approaching a “fat lady sings moment” when lockdown must be lifted for good, The Telegraph says. However, he is concerned that scientists have replaced the target of protecting the NHS and saving lives with a focus on driving case numbers down. An ally told the paper: “Rishi remains where he has been throughout the pandemic – he is pro opening as quickly and as safely as possible.”

2

UK trials mixing vaccines

The UK is launching a study to see if giving people different Covid vaccines for their first and second doses works as well - or better than - the current approach of using the same jab twice. Scientists have pointed out that Ebola immunisation programmes involve mixing different jabs to enhance protection. The Com-Cov study, run by the National Immunisation Schedule Evaluation Consortium, will involve more than 800 volunteers over the age of 50 in England. Those not involved in the trial will continue to receive the same vaccine at both appointments.

3

US ‘disturbed’ by Uighur report

The US government has said it is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual torture of women in China’s Uighur detention camps. Several former detainees told the BBC “they experienced or saw evidence of an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture”. A US state department spokesperson said: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.” China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, moved to strongly deny the “false report”.

4

World’s first double transplant

Doctors in New York have completed the world’s first successful face and double hand transplant. Joe DiMeo, 22, from New Jersey, underwent a 23-hour surgery after suffering third-degree burns over 80% of his body in a car accident. A medical team of more than 140 experts transplanted a full face, as well as amputating both of DiMeo’s hands and replacing them mid-forearm. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime gift, and I hope the family can take some comfort knowing that part of the donor lives on with me”, DiMeo said.

5

UN calls on leaders to act against coup

The UN secretary general has pledged to rally enough international pressure on Myanmar’s military “to make sure that this coup fails”. António Guterres described the reversal of elections as “unacceptable”, adding that he would call on “key actors and [the] international community” to stop the snatching of power. The UN Security Council is discussing a possible statement, however, China is expected to block any wording that condemns the coup. The country’s most senior civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been remanded in custody until 15 February and is facing charges including breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices.

6

Johnson to tax meat and cheese

Consumers could face paying higher prices for meat, cheese and gas heating under plans being drawn up for new carbon taxes and charges. Boris Johnson has ordered every Whitehall department to produce a “price” for carbon emissions across all areas of the economy. The carbon reduction blueprint is expected to be announced in the run-up to Cop26, the UN climate change conference being hosted in Glasgow in November.

7

Coughing Covid a ‘greater risk than thought’

Covid patients’ coughing puts NHS frontline staff in more danger than previously thought, a study has found. The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that coughing generated at least 10 times more infectious “aerosol” particles than speaking or breathing. The news has led to fresh demands that those caring for Covid patients should be provided with PPE that stops even the smallest virus-carrying droplets. The study also suggests that hospital ventilation should be improved.

8

Beckham-backed cannabis venture floats

A company that uses compounds found in cannabis to make skincare and athletic products plans to float on the London Stock Exchange. Cellular Goods is part of a growing market for products that use chemicals found in cannabis for skin regimes and has sold a minority stake to DB Ventures, David Beckham’s investment firm. The former Manchester United and England star “is understood to believe that the use of CBD in consumer goods is an attractive growth prospect for his investment portfolio”, Sky News says.

9

‘Pathetic’ Whitty heckler condemned

A young man who berated Chris Whitty in the street has been condemned by the chief medical officer. In a video of the incident, the man can be heard telling Whitty: “You’re lying about the Covid-19 cases man. C’mon man, stop lying to the TV man.” Health Secretary Matt Hancock branded the heckler “pathetic”, while Whitty told the daily press briefing: “I’m sure he’ll become a model citizen in due course and hopefully more like Captain Tom, who is the kind of person who I think much more exemplifies the spirit of the UK.”

10

Olympics chief said women talk too much

The head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee has conceded that he may have to resign after making sexist remarks about “talkative” female sports officials. Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister with a history of colourful remarks, told a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee that meetings attended by too many women tended to “drag on” because they talked too much.

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