Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 13 Feb 2021

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

1

Pubs ‘to re-open by Easter’

Boris Johnson has a three-stage plan for easing lockdown that could allow pubs across England to serve customers again by Easter weekend, according to The i. The road map out of lockdown will begin with the reopening of schools on 8 March, with non-essential shops reopening weeks later. Johnson will allow hospitality businesses, including hotels, restaurants and pubs, to open their doors again from the Easter weekend.

2

Trump lawyers slam ‘witch-hunt’

Lawyers for Donald Trump accused the prosecution of waging a “politically motivated witch-hunt” against the former president. Speaking at the impeachment trial, the legal team strongly denied that Trump’s words and actions incited the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. They said the case against their client is as an “unconstitutional act of political vengeance” fuelled by Democrats’ longstanding “hatred” of their client.

3

Covid patients ‘to half’

Internal government projections predict that the number of Covid patients in hospitals in England will more than halve over the next month. Estimates presented to No 10 by its scientific advisers and seen by The Times state that hospital admissions and deaths are predicted to fall to October levels. There were 758 deaths yesterday, with the seven-day total down by 27.1 per cent.

4

US to appeal Assange ruling

The US government has appealed a UK court’s ruling against the extradition of Julian Assange. The appeal stated that Joe Biden intends to force the WikiLeaks co-founder to stand trial on espionage and hacking-related charges over his publication of US military and diplomatic documents. A UK judge ruled last month that Assange suffered mental health problems that would increase the risk of suicide were he extradited to the US for trial.

5

Covid ‘will become like flu’

Vaccines and treatments could mean that Covid-19 becomes an illness we can live with “like we do flu” by the end of the year, says the health secretary. Matt Hancock told the Daily Telegraph he hoped new drugs arriving by the end of 2021 could make Covid a “treatable disease”. Medication and the vaccine will combine to become “our way out to freedom,” he added.

6

Fraud charges over Mandela funeral

Fifteen people are facing fraud charges relating to the funeral of the former president, Nelson Mandela, in 2013. Prosecutors accuse those charged of corruption and money-laundering amounting to nearly $700,000 (£500,000). They say the accused made fraudulent claims for the transportation of mourners and venues used in the South African city of East London for memorial services.

7

Sunak may extend stamp duty break

Rishi Sunak is considering extending the stamp duty holiday by six weeks, reports the Daily Telegraph. The chancellor may allow a limited extension through to mid-May, to prevent tens of thousands of homebuyers being caught in a “completion trap,” with sales falling through after the March 31 deadline expires. Tory MPs and campaigners have been calling on Sunak to consider abolishing stamp duty altogether.

8

Biden aide suspended over threat

A White House spokesman has been suspended for a week without pay after he allegedly threatened to “destroy” a female journalist who was asking questions about his private life. Vanity Fair alleged that White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo had made threats to a Politico correspondent who was reporting on his recently disclosed relationship with an Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond.

9

Crocodile hunt after remains found

A hunt for a killer crocodile is continuing after human remains were found during a search for a missing fisherman on a tropical Queensland island. Police have been searching for the 69-year-old man since he disappeared on Thursday. Damage to his boat indicated it was “highly likely” a crocodile was involved, the Department of Environment and Science said.

10

Timberlake apologises to Britney

Justin Timberlake has apologised to Britney Spears following fresh criticisms of how he treated her during and after their relationship. A new documentary, Framing Britney Spears, features archive footage of Timberlake discussing his sexual relationship with the singer. In one scene, he made light of having sex with the star. In a statement on Instagram, Timberlake said he was “deeply sorry” and wanted to “take accountability” for his actions.

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