Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 April 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
India passes 200,000 deaths
India’s Covid death toll has passed the 200,000 mark in another grim milestone for a nation facing what the BBC describes as a “ferocious” second wave. Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said countries have failed to unite to prevent the “tragic” outbreak from overwhelming India. With only 1.6% of the population fully vaccinated, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the G7 must act to end “vaccine apartheid”.
Nearly 40m in ‘Covid-free’ areas
More than 38 million people in England live in areas that are virtually Covid-free, The Times reports. Analysis by the paper found that seven in 10 people live in areas where a maximum of two infections were reported during the most recent week for which data is available. Alastair Grant, a professor of ecology at the University of East Anglia, said “the virus is retreating to small areas”. However, he added that many of the remaining hotspots are “deprived inner-city areas”.
Foster facing DUP rebellion
Arlene Foster is facing a revolt from Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) members that could topple her as party leader and first minister of Northern Ireland. Several DUP assembly members have signed a letter calling for an “unprecedented leadership contest”, the BBC reports. The Guardian says a leadership challenge would “add further turmoil to a region already rattled by street disturbances linked to the post-Brexit Irish Sea border”.
Self-driving cars allowed this year
Motorists could legally allow their cars to “self-drive” on British motorways later this year, the government has announced. The Department for Transport said the first vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping Systems could be permitted to steer themselves in slow moving traffic before the end of 2021. Use of the system, which takes over control of the vehicle at low speeds, for example keeping it in lane on motorways, will be capped at 37mph (60 kph).
Dyson slams ‘grotesque’ reports
James Dyson has accused the BBC of a “grotesque mischaracterisation” of his links with the Conservative Party. Writing in The Telegraph, the British inventor and billionaire denied trying to “extract favours from the prime minister”. Dyson hit the headlines last week when the BBC published messages showing that he sought clarification from Boris Johnson on UK tax matters related to building ventilators during the pandemic.
Conservatives tell Johnson to own up
Tory MPs are demanding that Boris Johnson comes clean about the funding of his flat refurbishment. The prime minister has faced “growing disquiet” from within his own party following claims that he was loaned £58,000 from Conservative party funds, The Guardian says. It comes after the paper revealed that former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling refused to join a trust overseeing Downing Street upkeep citing “the potential for donors to expect political favours”.
‘Terrific’ data on vaccine efficacy
A single dose of a Covid vaccine can reduce household transmission of the virus by up to half, a new study has revealed. Public Health England found that those given a first dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines - and who became infected three weeks later - were between 38% and 49% less likely to pass the virus on than unvaccinated people. Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the data, describing it as “terrific news”.
Idaho joins anti-abortion ‘flurry’
Idaho has signed into law a ban on most abortions at the onset of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. “We should never relent in our efforts to protect the lives of the preborn”, said Republican governor Brad Little as he announced the bill had been signed. CNN reports that there has been a “flurry” of anti-abortion bills in the early months of the Biden administration, including the introduction of similar measures in Oklahoma and Montana.
Johnson ‘failed’ Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Boris Johnson has been described as a “dismal failure” after Iran sentenced Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to a further year in jail. Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, questioned the effort the prime minister had put into releasing her constituent, telling the House of Commons: “From where I’m standing, I’ve seen no evidence on the part of the prime minister so far.” In 2016, while serving as foreign secretary, Johnson wrongly told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that the British-Iranian mother had been “simply teaching people journalism” when she was detained in Tehran.
Bieber accused of cultural appropriation
Justin Bieber has been accused of cultural appropriation after changing his hairstyle. After the Canadian singer revealed his new dreadlock-style hair on Instagram, he was described by critics of being being a “dilettante... dipping his toe in the culture”. Stephanie Cohen, co-founder at the Halo Collective, a natural hair organisation, told The Guardian: “When I see a white person in mainstream media sporting a black hairstyle, it makes me angry.”