Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 July 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
PM’s unlock plan divides scientists
A member of the government’s behavioural science committee has said that Boris Johnson’s plan to lift most remaining Covid restrictions on 19 July will create new “variant factories”. Despite new cases rising to their highest level since January, the PM is expected to press ahead with the final stage of unlocking in two weeks. “Other scientists said the relaxation of many of the restrictions, while not risk-free, made sense,” The Guardian reports. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the UEA, said we would “eventually come into an equilibrium with this virus as we have with all the other endemic respiratory infections”.
Queen gives NHS George Cross
The Queen has marked the 73rd anniversary of the NHS by awarding it the George Cross. She said NHS staff had worked “with courage, compassion and dedication” for more than 70 years. The George Cross, launched in 1940, is awarded for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”. This is only the third time it has been given to a collective body, country or organisation, rather than an individual.
Trump condemns criminal charges
Donald Trump has seemingly acknowledged the facts of New York prosecutors’ case against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer. Speaking to a crowd in Florida, the former US president said that “every company” does “fringe benefits,” but he condemned prosecutors for pursuing the charges, saying it is “reminiscent of a communist dictatorship targeting your political opponents”. An indictment has charged the company with 10 counts and Allen Weisselberg with 15 felony counts.
Pope ‘reacts well’ to surgery
The Vatican says Pope Francis is recovering after undergoing surgery for diverticulitis yesterday. “The Holy Father reacted well to the surgery carried out under general anesthesia,” said spokesperson Matteo Bruni. The 84-year-old pontiff went into surgery in Rome's Gemelli hospital just hours after conducting the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square. Diverticulitis is an inflammation caused when people develop small sacs in the walls of the colon.
Miami building demolished before storm
The remaining section of a partially collapsed apartment block near Miami has been demolished as a tropical storm approaches the city. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that once the area has been deemed secure following the building’s demolition, search and rescue teams will resume their efforts on the debris pile. Part of the 12-storey block collapsed on 24 June. Twenty-four people are known to have died and 121 are missing.
Special Forces ‘to stay in Afghanistan’
British Special Forces will remain in Afghanistan after soldiers withdraw, according to the Daily Telegraph. Although no announcement has been made, a former SAS soldier who was recently in Afghanistan said that the decision was effectively made and a small number of troops will remain in the country as an “advisory group”. In the US, the Pentagon said it will continue to give funding and advice to the Afghan forces once US troops leave.
Labour criticises ‘voter suppression’ plan
Labour says millions of voters could be disenfranchised under “discriminatory” plans that will force people to carry identification to cast a ballot. The shadow democracy minister, Cat Smith, said the changes, to be announced today, were equivalent to US Republican-style “voter suppression”. The government says the overhaul will make elections more secure by deterring in-person voter fraud. Critics of the new measures say that in 2019 there was just one conviction and one police caution for impersonating another voter.
Amazon withdraws ‘Prime’ threat
Amazon has abandoned a legal threat to a fishmonger who used the phrase “prime day” to advertise his fish. Robin Moxon received an email from lawyers acting on behalf of the online behemoth asking for references to “prime day boat” fish to be removed from his website to avoid shoppers mistaking it for an Amazon offer. The fishmonger phoned solicitors at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and explained that the term has been used by fish sellers for “hundreds of years”.
Sunak urged to extend benefit
Six former Conservative welfare secretaries have joined forces to tell Rishi Sunak he must extend the “vital” weekly £20 increase in universal credit. In a letter to the chancellor, Amber Rudd, Esther McVey, Damian Green, Stephen Crabb, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and David Gauke said that the increase had been “vital for protecting the incomes of many families and providing support to the economy”. Treasury estimates show that the £20-a-week increase costs about £6 billion a year.
‘Woke’ to become most divisive issue
Culture wars are set to become the biggest dividing line in British politics, according to a leading American pollster. Frank Luntz, who advised presidents including George W Bush on political language, said: “The problem with woke and with cancel culture is that it is never done. The conflict and divisions never end.” He said the Labour Party is in touch with its own voter base but “disconnected with everyone else”.