Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 23 March 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
PM in EU vaccine talks
Boris Johnson is speaking to European leaders in an effort to prevent the EU imposing a ban on the export of around 10m coronavirus jabs to the UK. The prime minister has so far spoken with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, while Tim Barrow, the UK’s former ambassador to the EU, has been dispatched to Brussels for further negotiations. The EU says it wants pharmaceutical firms to meet their contractual obligations to the bloc first.
10 dead in Colorado
Ten people, including a police officer, have been killed in a shooting at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Police say the suspect was taken into custody and is being treated for injuries. The shooting was live-streamed by witnesses and broadcast on YouTube. Last month, President Joe Biden said he would be recommending tougher legislation to ensure background checks on anyone wishing to purchase a firearm.
UK marks first lockdown
The UK today marks one year since the first coronavirus lockdown was announced. On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson told Brits they “must stay at home” to stop the spread of virus, describing the moment as a “national emergency”. Since then, the UK’s official death toll has reached 126,172. The prime minister said: “The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.”
Sturgeon cleared by inquiry
An independent inquiry has cleared Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code through her involvement in sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond. James Hamilton QC found that although the SNP leader had given an “incomplete narrative of events” to MSPs, this was a “genuine failure of recollection” and not deliberate. Sturgeon said she was “obviously relieved” by Hamilton’s report. A Holyrood inquiry last week concluded that she had “misled parliament”, but also stopped short of saying it was deliberate.
Israelis go to the polls again
Israelis are voting in their fourth national election in two years today. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, is hoping that voters will reward him for a world-beating Covid vaccination campaign that has seen Israel reopen shops, bars and restaurants while lowering infection rates. However, Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that most Israelis “don’t want four more years of Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties leading the country”.
‘Covid decade’ for the UK
Britain faces a decade of social and cultural upheaval marked by growing inequality and deepening economic deprivation, the British Academy has said. The national academy for the humanities and the social sciences is calling for wide-ranging policies to reverse a rise in deprivation and ill health. “With the advent of vaccines and the imminent ending of lockdowns, we might think that the impact of Covid-19 is coming to an end,” it said in a report. “This would be wrong. We are in a Covid decade.”
Holiday ban extended
Holidays will be banned until the end of June with £5,000 fines for those who try to defy the ruling. Lord Bethell of Romford, a government health minister, raised the prospect of banning travel from all EU countries after Boris Johnson warned that a third wave of Covid in Europe would “wash up on our shores”. The Times reports that quarantine-free holidays may not be possible to most destinations “until August or September”.
Abusive vicar ‘was untouchable’
A former evangelical vicar forced dozens of people into ice baths, naked beatings and sex acts after his church created a culture where he was “untouchable”. Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon has issued an unprecedented apology “for our failure to provide effective internal and external accountability” and for allowing Jonathan Fletcher “to be untouchable, which failed his victims”. Fletcher, the son of Lord Fletcher, a cabinet minister under Harold Wilson, is alleged to have been “abusive” to at least 27 people at the church where he was vicar for three decades.
Waitrose bans plastic toys
Waitrose has announced that it will no longer sell children’s magazines with plastic disposable toys following a campaign by a 10-year-old girl. The supermarket chain said the free plastic toys have a short lifespan and cannot easily be recycled. “Thank you to Waitrose for agreeing with us and no longer selling the unwanted plastic tat,” said Skye, a 10-year-old from Gwynedd, Wales who led the campaign to ban the toys.
Tweet sells for $2.9m
The founder of Twitter’s first ever tweet has been sold as a non-fungible token (NFT) for the equivalent of $2.9m (£2.1m). Jack Dorsey’s tweet, which read “just setting up my twttr”, was first published on 21 March 2006 and was auctioned off for charity. “This is not just a tweet!” the Malaysian-based buyer posted on Twitter. “I think years later people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting.” An NFT is a digital certificate that states who owns a photo, video or other form of online media.