Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 March 2021

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

1

Fears of new Covid wave in UK

A surge in Covid cases across Europe threatens a new wave in Britain, the government fears. An increase in infections is forcing some regions on the continent back into lockdown. Ministers fear there will be a rise in cases here within weeks because rises in cases in France, Italy, Spain and Germany have foreshadowed similar trends in Britain several times during the crisis.

2

Floods hit Australia

A record-breaking downpour in Australia has flooded rivers, caused a major Sydney dam to spill over and sparked evacuations along the New South Wales coast. Authorities say the “potentially life-threatening” conditions mean residents in affected areas should stay home and out of the flood waters. The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, warned the “deep-seated, extreme weather event” could last until the end of next week.

3

UK blocking jabs for poor nations

The UK and other wealthy countries are blocking plans to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities. The BBC has found that although poorer countries have asked the World Health Organization to help them get going, richer nations are resisting provisions in international law that would enable them to achieve this. The US and the European Union are also among the nations involved.

4

Cop avoids jail after assault

A probationary police officer who assaulted a woman has been given a curfew. West Midlands Police PC Oliver Banfield grabbed and manhandled Emma Homer last summer. CCTV played in court showed Banfield grabbing his victim around the neck and trying to pull her to the ground as she walked home. Labour MP Harriet Harman criticised the sentence as showing the “system fails women”.

5

Turkey leaves global accord

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has withdrawn Turkey from an international accord designed to protect women. The Council of Europe accord pledged to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality.  However, despite a rise in murders of women last year, many conservatives in Turkey argue that the pact undermines family structures, encouraging violence. Critics of the withdrawal said it would put Turkey further out of step with the values of the EU.

6

Volcano erupts in Iceland

A volcano has erupted south-west of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. A fissure of between 500m and 750m opened last night, with lava fountains of up to 100m high. The Fagradals Mountain volcano is on the Reykjanes Peninsula, where none of the volcanoes had erupted for almost 800 years. The National Commission of Police’s Civil Protection Department said volcanic gas pollution is expected to extend as far as Thorlakshofn.

7

Dick unlikely to get new term

The home secretary is unlikely to extend the contract of Britain’s most senior police officer, senior government sources have said. The Times reports that Dame Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is expected to stand down when her contract expires in April next year. Priti Patel has been publicly critical of the policing at the vigil in Clapham Common, south London, last weekend.

8

Poll finds mental health impact

Most Britons say their mental health has suffered from the lockdown but most believe the Covid pandemic has made them more resilient and more able to cope with future crises. A wide-ranging poll of 1,500 Britons also found that 60% believe the worst is behind us with only 19% fearing worse to come. Meanwhile, 47% agreed that community spirit had improved in their neighbourhoods.

9

Biden slams Atlanta attack

Joe Biden has condemned the “heinous act of violence” in Atlanta, following this week’s attack that left eight people dead and one injured. “Hate can have no safe harbor in America,” Biden said during a visit. “Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit.” The US president also urged Congress to pass the coronavirus-related hate crimes bill.

10

More scrutiny on Boris flat

Election watchdogs are investigating a secret £60,000 payment for the makeover of Boris Johnson’s flat. The regulators have asked Conservative chairman Ben Elliot to explain whether the party complied with strict laws on political donations. The Daily Mail says the prime minister’s team was “thrown into panic” by revelations that the £60,000 Downing Street bill was paid by the Conservative Party last summer.

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