Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 16 July 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Climate change blamed for deadly floods
Angela Merkel has expressed deep sympathy for victims of the flooding “catastrophe” in Germany, which killed at least 80 people. More than a thousand are still missing. The German chancellor said it was a day “characterised by fear, by despair, by suffering” and told the German people that the government “will not leave you alone in this difficult, terrible hour”. Belgium has reported at least 11 dead after extreme weather, which politicians have blamed on climate change.
Covid app ‘pings through walls’
Neighbours are being told to self-isolate because the NHS Test and Trace app is “pinging” people through walls, according to The Daily Telegraph. Sources close to the Test and Trace team say the Bluetooth signal used by the app is strong enough to penetrate walls. There are fears that a “pingdemic” will bring businesses, transport and schools to standstill, after more than half a million alerts were sent by the app last week alone.
Saka criticises social media firms
England footballer Bukayo Saka, who was subjected to racist abuse online after missing a penalty in the final of Euro 2020, has criticised social media giants for failing to do enough to stop it. The 19-year-old said he “knew instantly” that he would be targeted after he missed England’s final spot-kick, which handed victory to Italy. He told social media giants that it is a “sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages”.
Lebanon’s PM-designate quits
The prime minister-designate of Lebanon has stepped down nearly nine months after he was tasked with forming the nation’s next government. Saad Hariri told reporters that President Michel Aoun had not accepted his latest cabinet. “For that reason I have stepped down from forming the government,“ he said, adding: “God help this country.”
Whitty calls for caution
People should act with care as Covid restrictions in England end on Monday because the UK is “not out of the woods yet”, Professor Chris Whitty has said. Warning that hospital admissions were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” if the trend continues, Whitty said the pandemic still had a “long way to run in the UK”. He said that even after 19 July, it will be important “to take things incredibly slowly”.
Warning ahead of weekend heatwave
A health warning has been issued for England, where temperatures set to reach 31C (88F) on Sunday and Monday. Public Health England urged people to take steps to stay cool and help those who may be at risk in hot weather. The Met Office said: “Across most parts of the UK we’re expecting to see temperatures building, reaching heatwave thresholds across the majority of England over the weekend.”
Outdoor dining to become permanent
Outdoor cafe culture will become a permanent fixture in Britain as bars, restaurants and coffee shops are given the right to offer al-fresco service. Last year, rules were relaxed to make it easier for businesses to serve outside during Covid restrictions. “You’ve always had an outdoor cafe culture on the continent but much less so in this country,” a source told The Times. “It seems sensible that the changes we made as a necessity during Covid should be made permanent.”
GB News figures hit zero
GB News attracted no viewers during some shows this week, according to official television audience figures. The news comes amid a viewer boycott in response to one of its presenters taking the knee in solidarity with the England football team. The channel says the decision of Guto Harri to make the on-air gesture in solidarity against racial abuse suffered by English players was “an unacceptable breach of our standards”.
Lords warns Bank of England over QE
A House of Lords committee says the Bank of England risks becoming addicted to creating money and needs to explain how it will unwind its £895bn bond-buying programme. The Lords economic affairs committee said the Bank had become too dependent on the use of QE, which it said was worsening inequality by boosting asset prices. The Bank said its measures during the pandemic have “lowered borrowing costs across the economy, providing much needed support”.
Earth’s ‘pulse’ taken from ocean floor
Dozens of measuring devices are to be dropped on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in a bid to measure the Earth’s “pulse”. The seismometers, which will be positioned across an area that includes the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores, will detect vibrations caused by seismic waves and continuously record motions hundreds of miles deep within the planet. “This is a first-of-a-kind seismic experiment,” said Professor Ana Ferreira of UCL Earth Sciences.