Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 30 March 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
PM says roadmap on course
Boris Johnson has said England is on course for the reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants in a fortnight. The prime minister said he had not seen anything in the latest coronavirus data “that would cause us to deviate from the roadmap”. However, he also warned the while the public should go out and “have fun” as lockdown restrictions are eased, they should still abide by the rules and “remain humble in the face of nature”.
Suez open as vessel freed
Traffic has resumed in the Suez Canal after the container ship blocking it was freed by salvage crews. Tug boats honked their horns in celebration as the 400m-long (1,300ft) Ever Given was dislodged with the help of dredgers. The Guardian says insurers, the shipping industry and the thousands of businesses reliant on container goods are “still counting the cost of the accident”.
Floyd murder trial begins
A witness has said that George Floyd was “slowly fading away” during the nine minutes that Derek Chauvin kneeled on his back and neck in May last year. In their opening statement, Chauvin’s lawyer argued his use of force was “unattractive but necessary”, adding that the evidence “is far greater than nine minutes and 29 seconds” of video footage. The BBC reports that the trial is being seen by many as a “pivotal moment in US race relations”.
Bezos orders fightback
Jeff Bezos has complained that company officials are not aggressive enough in how they react to criticisms of the internet giant, Vox reports. The Amazon CEO’s call to be more active in refuting allegations comes as the Amazon News Twitter account and executive Dave Clark recently began lashing out at critics online. The Guardian describes Bezos’ new confrontational stance as a “Trumpian move”. The web giant is currently facing the largest union election in its history at a warehouse in Alabama.
WHO reports on Covid origin
A World Health Organization (WHO) draft report has found that Covid-19 probably emerged through human contact with an animal, and likely started spreading no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December 2019. Other WHO theories over its origin include transmission from frozen or chilled food, or, in a less likely scenario, an accidental laboratory release. The WHO identified tracking the origins of Covid-19 as a “priority research area” back in February 2020, but “has been quick to temper expectations” about how quickly the project will be concluded, The Telegraph says.
New charges for Maxwell
Court papers show that Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of aiding in her former partner Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse, faces two additional charges. An indictment identified a new accuser, referred to as “minor victim-4” in court papers, and expanded the timeframe of Maxwell’s alleged participation in Epstein’s abuse by seven years – from 1994 to 2004. Maxwell now faces a total of eight counts, including four related to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls. The other two are allegations of perjury in 2016.
Brits in France lose licences
British citizens living in France have been left without a valid driving licence, or face losing theirs within months, because of the failure of the two nations’ governments to sign a post-Brexit agreement. “Commuters risk losing their jobs, tradespeople can’t work [and] elderly people have missed medical appointments”, Kim Cranstoun, who moved permanently to France three years ago, told The Guardian. Government sources insist a UK-France reciprocity agreement is “close to being sealed”.
Brazilian minister stands down
An ultraconservative foreign minister in Brazil has resigned after diplomats and lawmakers accused him of damaging the nation’s reputation and putting lives at risk by wrecking relations with China. Ernesto Araújo, a 53-year-old career diplomat and close ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, became notorious for his criticism of Xi Jinping’s China, while pouring praise on former US president Donald Trump. “One thing’s for sure, he’s the worst foreign minister Brazil has ever had,” said Celso Amorim, a predecessor of Araújo.
PM calls for global pandemic plan
Boris Johnson has joined more than 20 world leaders to call for a new global settlement to help the world prepare for future pandemics. Global leaders, including Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel, said another pandemic or health crisis is a matter of “not if, but when”, adding that the current crisis has shown that “nobody is safe until everyone is safe”.
Angry gardener ‘drowned cat’
A court has heard that a gardener drowned his neighbour’s cat because it kept digging up his vegetable plot. Richard Giles, 69, drowned the tabby cat, named Ruby, after becoming angry with her for “ruining” his patch of carrots and leeks. Weymouth Magistrates’ Court was told he drowned the cat in a water butt. Giles has admitted the offence, which carries a maximum sentence of up to six months in prison.