Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 March 2021

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

1

Millions live in ‘Covid free’ areas

More than seven million people in the UK are living in areas where cases of Covid-19 have become negligible, according to The Telegraph. Analysis of official data has found that hundreds of neighbourhoods across the country recorded close to zero cases last week. The areas include large parts of Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire. Others in London include Notting Hill West, while Trafford in Manchester also recorded almost no new infections.

2

Sunak to boost culture and sport

Rishi Sunak is expected to announce more than £400m of additional support for the badly-hit culture sector in tomorrow’s Spring Budget. The chancellor will hand out £408m to help museums, theatres and galleries in England reopen once Covid restrictions start to ease. Sunak is also planning a £300m sports recovery package, with a “significant chunk” allocated to cricket.

3

Genocide warning in Ethiopia

The ousted leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region has accused the federal government and its Eritrean allies of genocide. Speaking to CNN, the President of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front Debretsion Gebremichael called for an independent probe into the alleged killings, rape and violence. He said US President Joe Biden must ramp up the pressure against “invader forces”.

4

Johnson accused of secret fund

Boris Johnson has been accused of secretly trying to set up a charity to pay for a makeover of his Downing Street flat by his fiancée, Carrie Symonds. The Daily Mail reports that the scheme is based on the presidential charity used by the White House to raise millions of dollars for interior design, antiques and art. The US version is bankrolled by private donors and Johnson’s proposed version would be funded by wealthy Tory backers. A No. 10 spokesperson said: “Matters concerning works on the Downing Street estate, including the residences, are covered in the Cabinet Office annual report and accounts.”

5

Nigerian girls released

A group of girls who were abducted from a boarding school in Nigeria have been released and are “safe”, according to reports. Armed men shouting slogans including “Allahu akbar” and “God is great” abducted 317 students from the Girls Science Secondary School in Zamfara state on Friday. Sky News says that several large groups of armed men operate in the region and are known to kidnap for money and for the release of their members from jail. The government has repeatedly denied paying ransoms for the return of the girls.

6

US warned of fourth Covid wave

The spread of coronavirus variants could cause a “fourth surge of cases” in the US, a health official has warned. Around 70,000 new cases a day were recorded last week, with nearly 2,000 deaths a day in the same period. “Please hear me clearly: at this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

7

Prince Philip moves hospital

The Duke of Edinburgh was yesterday transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital for continued treatment. Prince Philip, 99, had already spent 13 nights at another London hospital and is being treated for an infection. Doctors will also carry out testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition. Buckingham Palace said Prince Philip is responding to treatment and “remains comfortable”.

8

Sarkozy to appeal sentence

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, has been sentenced to three years in jail, two of them suspended, after a high-profile corruption investigation. Sarkozy was convicted of trying to bribe a judge in 2014 by suggesting he could secure a plush job for him in return for information about a separate case. The 66-year-old’s lawyer says he will appeal the sentence and Sarkozy will remain free during that process.

9

Jabs cut hospital risk by 80%

A single shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech jab reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80%, the BBC reports. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily press briefing yesterday that the latest vaccine results were “very strong”, adding that data on falling infections is “seriously encouraging”. Government scientists hailed the results, but added that two doses were still needed for the best protection.

10

Phone addiction impacts sleep

Almost 40% of university students are so addicted to their smartphones that they suffer from bad sleep, according to new research. A study of 1,043 students aged 18 to 30 at King’s College London found that 406 had symptoms of smartphone addiction and more than two-thirds of the addicts had trouble sleeping, compared with 57.1% of those who were not addicted to their device. The youngest participants in the study were the most likely to show signs of addiction.

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