Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 24 June 2021

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

1

Millions may have long Covid

A new study has found that around two million people may be suffering from long Covid in the UK. Imperial College London researchers working on the React survey found that about a third of people who report coronavirus symptoms have one or more symptoms that persist for at least 12 weeks. The team said long Covid could present a “major challenge” and may “ultimately affect millions of people in the UK alone”. The government has provided £50m for research into persistent Covid symptoms.

2

UK denies Russia fired shots

More than 20 Russian aircraft and two coastguard ships yesterday shadowed a British warship as it sailed in international waters near Crimea. Moscow’s defence ministry claims its aircraft fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender. But the UK government has rejected Russia’s account of the incident, denying that any warning shots had been fired. A defence source told The Sun: “It’s basically pretty much as the Russians had it. We’re just not giving them the attention they crave.”

3

Merkel to quarantine Brits

Angela Merkel has put hopes of foreign holidays in Europe in doubt after demanding that EU countries introduce quarantine for travelling Britons. “In our country, if you come from Great Britain you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see”, the chancellor told the Bundestag yesterday. Merkel’s call came as Boris Johnson prepares to relax rules for double-vaccinated holidaymakers returning from amber-list countries.

4

Britney attacks conservatorship

Britney Spears has spoken out against her conservatorship at a court hearing in Los Angeles. The pop star said her father controlled her “100,000%” and that she wanted the arrangement to end. “I am traumatised”, she said, addressing the court remotely. “I just want my life back.” Spears said other people have exploited her throughout her life and that it is her “wish and dream for all of this to end”, adding that the conservatorship is “abusive”.

5

Students say degrees poor value

Almost half of all students thought their degree offered poor value for money this year, according to a survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute. Twice as many students thought their courses offered poor value (44%) than in 2019-20, despite pandemic disruption that year. Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of the Office for Students, the university regulator, has urged institutions to be more open with students about the likelihood of face-to-face teaching so that they have “realistic expectations”.

6

Queen speaks of ‘poor’ Hancock

The Queen has described Health Secretary Matt Hancock as a “poor man” during her first face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson in 15 months. “I’ve just been talking to your secretary of state for health, poor man. He came for Privy Council”, she told the prime minister. “He’s full of…” she began to say, before Johnson suggested: “Full of beans?” The Queen then told the prime minister that Hancock “thinks things are getting better”.

7

Priest accused of bishop acid attack

A priest has been arrested in Athens after he threw acid on seven bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church. Police say the attack took place during a disciplinary hearing against the 36-year-old priest on Wednesday afternoon. Three bishops are being treated in hospital for burns, while a police officer, who ran to help the bishops, was also admitted. The suspect was a priest who had been accused of being involved in drug trafficking, according to the Greek ANA-MPA news agency.

8

Palace to ‘do more’ on diversity

Buckingham Palace has said it “must do more” in terms of diversity and is “not where we would like to be” as data showed people from ethnic minority backgrounds make up just 8.5% of its staff. This compares with around 13% of the UK population, according to the latest 2011 census. The Palace wants to reach a target of 10% of its staff being from ethnic minority backgrounds by 2022.

9

Loophole in junk food ad ban

Junk food adverts will be subject to a 9pm television watershed by the end of next year, ministers are to announce today. In addition, fast food and confectionery giants will be banned from advertising products high in fat and sugar online. However, in a loophole that is set to anger health campaigners, companies will be able to advertise on television before the watershed if they do not explicitly show banned foods.

10

Buffett resigns from Gates Foundation

Warren Buffett is standing down as a trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation weeks after the couple announced their divorce. The billionaire investor said his goals remained “100% in sync” with the charity as he resigned from the foundation set up by the Microsoft founder and his wife. He did not give a specific reason for his departure, instead describing himself as an “inactive trustee”.

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