Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 May 2021

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

1

True Covid death toll ‘as high as 8m’

The true death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic is probably two or three times higher than the official figures that record 3.4m victims, according to the World Health Organization. In its annual World Health Statistics report, it estimated that up to eight million have died globally with a “significant undercount” due to a lack of testing and poor record keeping. The Times says some countries have been accused of “massaging” official figures.

2

PM signals June reopening will go ahead

Boris Johnson has vowed to give the public an update “by the end of the month” on the results of the review into relaxing social distancing rules. The prime minister hinted that the fourth and final step in his roadmap out of restrictions will go ahead as planned on June 21. “I am still seeing nothing in the data that leads me to think that we’re going to have to deviate from the roadmap,” he said.

3

Harry took drugs to mask feelings

Prince Harry says he used drink and drugs to escape the pain he felt over his mother’s death. In a fresh interview with the American broadcaster Oprah Winfrey, the Duke of Sussex said: “I was willing to drink. I was willing to take drugs. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.” He also accused the royal family of “total neglect”.

4

Cummings to ‘napalm’ Johnson

Dominic Cummings is determined to use his forthcoming appearance before a joint committee of MPs to “destroy” Boris Johnson, reports The Times. The former adviser is “basically going to try and napalm” the prime minister, according to an aide. Sources say Cummings is motivated by two things: a desire to put his version of events during the Covid pandemic, and “revenge”.

5

Aid arrives in Gaza amid devastation

Convoys of humanitarian aid have started to arrive in Gaza, hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants started. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians have returned home to scenes of devastation. More than 100,000 people had to flee their homes in the territory. At least 250 people were killed in the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, most of them in Gaza.

6

Jabs offered to 32 and 33 year olds

The vaccine rollout is expanding to people aged 32 and 33 as a further one million people are allowed to book for a Covid jab. The NHS said booking will open to that age group - around one million people - at 7am on Saturday. Text message invitations will be sent out to 33-year-olds on Saturday and to 32-year-olds on Monday. A total of 50m jabs are expected to have been administered by the end of Saturday.

7

BBC fears ‘feeding frenzy’ after report

A former chair of the BBC Trust says he fears a “feeding frenzy” against the corporation as ministers said they would examine how it is governed in the wake of findings about its 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. However, a source has said the government will give the BBC a chance to make its own changes following the report into the controversial interview.

8

Activists blockade McDonald’s hubs

Animal rights activists have set up blockades at four McDonald’s distribution centres across Britain which will impact around 1,300 restaurants. Animal Rebellion is using trucks and bamboo structures to blockade distribution sites at Hemel Hempstead, Basingstoke, Coventry and Heywood. A spokesman said: “The meat and dairy industry is causing huge amounts of rainforest deforestation, emitting immense quantities of greenhouse gases and killing billions of animals each year.”

9

Weather ‘to improve next week’

Weather experts say conditions will finally change next week. Meteorologists say a new front could leave us in temperatures in the mid-to-high teens, with occasional sunny spells. The Met Office says the UK as a whole has already exceeded its total expected rainfall for the month. England has had 28% more rain, while Wales has had 61% more. 

10

Paxman has Parkinson’s disease

Jeremy Paxman says he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The 71-year-old broadcaster said he had been receiving “excellent treatment” and that his symptoms were “currently mild”. The host of BBC Two’s University Challenge added: “I can confirm I have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I am receiving excellent treatment and my symptoms are currently mild.”

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