Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 Feb 2021

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

1

Data shows jabs cut transmission

The first “real-world data” suggests that vaccines appear to cut Covid transmissions and infections by two-thirds. The Daily Telegraph says the statistics are part of a dossier handed to Boris Johnson as he finalises a roadmap out of lockdown. The news appears to vindicate Britain’s strategy of vaccinating by age order, the paper says, as cases among those over the age of 80 have fallen by 38% in seven days.

2

Universal credit claimants struggle

Many people claiming universal credit for the first time during the pandemic were unable to eat healthily or regularly, or pay bills, a landmark new study has found. One in six claimants were forced to skip meals, according to the survey of the experiences of thousands of people who signed on after losing their job during the Covid-19 lockdown.

3

Nasa rover lands on Mars

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has sent back its first images from the surface of the Mars after touching down safely in a deep crater near the planet's equator. “The good news is the spacecraft, I think, is in great shape,” said Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager. The landing was the culmination of a seven-month journey in space.

4

Care children kept in tents

At least 10,000 children in care have been placed in unsafe accommodation including caravans, tents and barges, Sky News reports. Local councils using unregulated accommodation to house vulnerable children sent at least 20 to live in tents or caravans, 17 to hostels and seven to barges on canals. The government says a ban on the use of unregulated homes for under-16s will come into force in September.

5

US to hold talks with Iran

Washington has agreed to take part in talks involving Iran, the UK, France and Germany, with the aim of reviving a landmark nuclear deal. Donald Trump took the US out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Tehran pledged to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. Joe Biden has expressed an intent to rejoin the deal.

6

UK ‘will share jabs with world’

Boris Johnson is expected to announce that surplus stock of Britain’s Covid vaccine will be shared with the developing world. The prime minister will make the announcement when he hosts a summit of international leaders of the G7 states in London, says The Independent. Emmanuel Macron has also announced that France will share jabs, with 5% of its stock being sent to poorer countries, especially in Africa.

7

Sunak set to extend furlough

Rishi Sunak is set to extend the furlough scheme and prolong the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in next month’s Budget. The Daily Telegraph says that although the extensions will be cheered by businesses struggling with the impact of the lockdown, they complicate Treasury attempts to balance the public finances.

8

Cruz flew to Mexico during crisis

Texas Senator Ted Cruz flew to Mexico with his family for a holiday as a winter weather crisis left millions in his state without power. Anger was sparked when photographs of him at an airport emerged on Twitter. In a statement on Thursday, the Republican politician, who is tipped for a future presidential bid, said he planned the trip for his daughters, “wanting to be a good dad”.

9

Health workers in inadequate PPE

More than 20 health organisations have warned that frontline NHS staff are being put at risk because they’re forced to work with inadequate protection against Covid. The coalition of bodies has written to Boris Johnson urging him to order a review of UK rules on infection prevention. More than 35,000 patients were thought likely to have been infected with coronavirus while already in hospital between August and January.

10

Rihanna’s Ganesha pendant offends

Rihanna has upset Hindus with a “disrespectful” Instagram picture in which she wears a diamond-studded pendant featuring the god Ganesha. The pop singer has been accused of cultural appropriation after she posed topless with a necklace of the elephant-headed god. “You’re wearing a deity necklace and a Murthi [image of a deity] of my culture that’s already been culturally appropriated enough,” wrote one commenter.

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