Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 4 June 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
R rate threat to unlocking
The R rate is back above one across the UK, with daily cases at their highest since March 22, the latest data shows. The NHS recorded 5,274 new cases yesterday and tracking by the King’s College London app suggests the virus is advancing in all but three parts of the country. Although hospital admissions have been relatively flat over the past seven days, Public Health England says the India variant of the virus is more than twice as likely as the Kent variant to lead to hospitalisation within two weeks of a positive test. The figures increased pressure on the PM to delay the 21 June end date for Covid restrictions.
Portugal disputes travel list ‘logic’
Portugal has protested against Britain’s decision to remove it from the travel green list. When it moves to amber on Tuesday, anyone arriving in the UK from Portugal will have to isolate for ten days - and people are advised not to travel to the country on holiday. Portugal said it does not understand the “logic” of the move. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the “difficult decision” was a response to concerns about Covid variants.
Tensions on massacre date
Hong Kong police have arrested a leading barrister for allegedly promoting an unauthorised assembly on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the group that organises annual vigils for the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, was arrested as thousands of officers were deployed to enforce a ban on protests and gatherings across the city.
White House defends Fauci
The White House has dismissed criticism of its top coronavirus adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, and denied that recently released emails suggest he covered up claims that Covid-19 had escaped from a Chinese laboratory. Peter Daszak, head of a medical non-profit organisation that helped fund research at a diseases institute in Wuhan, emailed Fauci in April 2020, praising him as “brave” for seeking to debunk the lab leak theory.
Climate tipping-point warning
A study published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has found that ice sheets and ocean currents could destabilise each other as the world heats up, leading to a domino effect with severe consequences for the world’s population. The findings “might mean we have less time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and still prevent tipping processes”, one of the researchers said.
Qatar ‘funnelling money to jihad’
Qatar has been accused of involvement in a secret money-laundering operation to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to jihadists in Syria. The Times reports that a claim issued at the High Court in London alleges that a private office of the Gulf state’s monarch was at the heart of clandestine routes by which money was transferred to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Discount for first-time buyers
First-time buyers will be allowed to apply for a discount of up to 50% on a new-build home under government proposals. Ministers says the scheme is aimed at helping people on to the property ladder by offering homes at a discount of at least 30% compared with the market price. However, critics say that with demand for these cut-price homes likely to exceed supply, the scheme could add more fuel to the house price boom.
Questions over donor peerage
A Conservative donor gave £500,000 to the party three days after he took his seat in the House of Lords, The Times reports. Boris Johnson rejected the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission and gave Lord Cruddas a peerage in December. In 2012, Cruddas quit as the party’s co-treasurer after he offered undercover reporters access to David Cameron, who was then prime minister, in exchange for a £250,000 donation.
Pence speaks out on Capitol siege
Mike Pence says he isn’t sure that he and Donald Trump are still at odds over the storming of the US Capitol in January. Speaking at a Republican dinner in New Hampshire, the former vice-president said: “You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day.”
Stonewall accused of language ban
Stonewall has advised organisations to replace the term mother with “parent who has given birth” to boost their ranking on an equality leaderboard, according to The Daily Telegraph. Campaigners are demanding a public inquiry into how the charity achieved such influence after it was revealed that it told employers to remove all gendered language, and allow those who self-identify as a woman to use female toilets.