Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 Feb 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
More added to shielding list
About 1.7 million people will be added to the shielding list in England, after an algorithm identified more adults at serious risk from Covid-19. Letters from the NHS will arrive imminently telling people they should be staying at home. The National Institute of Health Research found factors such as age, ethnicity and body mass index, when combined with certain medical conditions and treatments, heightened a person’s risk of severe Covid-19.
Severe winter sweeps the US
Millions have been left without power and 21 have died as brutal weather sets in across the US. The worst power outages were in Texas, where more than 4m homes and businesses were left without electricity in freezing conditions. Harris county judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Houston, told The Guardian: “History is going to remember who did their part and who didn’t.”
Trump attacks ‘dour’ McConnell
Donald Trump has launched a scathing personal attack on fellow Republican Mitch McConnell. In his longest statement since leaving office, the former US president said McConnell is a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack” and told Republican Senators that if the “are going to stay with him, they will not win again”. Last week, McConnell attacked Trump as “morally responsible” for the US Capitol riot because of his election fraud “lies”.
Ministers prepare for mass testing
The government is planning a testing blitz of millions of people in England as the Covid-19 lockdown is eased. NHS Test and Trace will run nationwide “surge” testing under which more than 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests will be sent by post to homes and workplaces every day, says The Times. Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph says lockdown is unlikely to be eased significantly until daily Covid cases fall below 1,000.
Dutch curfew overturned
A court has told the Dutch government that an overnight curfew to reduce the spread of Covid-19 should be lifted, ruling that it breaches the right to free movement. The court in the Hague said the curfew, which led to rioting in several Dutch cities, was imposed by an emergency law when there was no “acute emergency”. A higher court has since ruled that the curfew could stay in place pending an appeal.
Dubai princess in ‘hostage’ videos
The daughter of the billionaire ruler of Dubai has accused him of keeping her hostage. In a series of secretly recorded videos, Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum says she has been threatened with being shot unless she co-operates with official statements issued by her father. A UK court ruled last year that the leader abducted Latifa and her sister Princess Shamsa.
NHS waiting times surge
Waiting lists for hospital treatment could more than double by April, reaching ten million in England, a think tank is warning. Reform said “the cessation of so much non-Covid care means patients are facing more serious health conditions or disabilities, and some will die prematurely”. Health leaders have warned that the NHS is likely to be “at full stretch” for at least another six weeks.
Children ‘should be centre of plans’
The children’s commissioner is to say vulnerable children must be at the heart of government plans to “build back better” after the pandemic. In a speech, Anne Longfield will say “many” government decision-makers “seem to view children as remote concepts or data points on an annual return”. She will call on Boris Johnson to put children at the “centre stage” of plans to “level up” the nation.
BBC suspends licence threat
The BBC has withdrawn its threat to prosecute over-75s who have failed to buy a new television licence, writing to tell them that they are “still legally covered” and will not be prosecuted. Vulnerable old people had complained that they felt hounded by TV Licensing when they were told they had two months to respond to a letter requesting payment after a Covid amnesty.
Bannon ‘thought Trump had dementia’
Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, believed Donald Trump was suffering from early-stage dementia and campaigned covertly to remove him from office, a TV producer has claimed. In a new book, Ira Rosen wrote that Bannon had “great frustrations with Trump” and believed “there was a real possibility he would be removed from office by the 25th amendment”.