Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 23 July 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Food workers given exemption
Critical food workers are now allowed to opt for daily Covid testing instead of having to self-isolate, as pressure grows on the government over the so-called “pingdemic”. Testing will be implemented at key sites, including 500 supermarket depots and food manufacturers, which employ around 10,000 staff. More than 600,000 people in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts last week.
Greensill access criticised
An official review examining the actions of David Cameron has found that Lex Greensill enjoyed “extraordinarily privileged” access to ministers, who provided him with a “marketing platform” for his company. In his report, Nigel Boardman, a lawyer, said that employees of Greensill Capital contacted nine different departments in an effort to sell the firm’s supply chain finance products to government before the company collapsed this year.
Taliban surrounds Kandahar
The Taliban is preparing to re-capture Kandahar - the city that was once the movement’s capital and spiritual home. Militants have massed in the suburbs of Afghanistan’s second city, with heavy fighting reported in some neighbourhoods. “Fighting has intensified, the Taliban are so close and the situation is so bad,” Abduljalil Amin, head of the local peace and development committee, told The Times from inside the city.
UK could face winter blackouts
Britain faces a high risk of blackouts this winter as coal plants and nuclear reactors shut down and demand for energy rises. National Grid’s electricity system operator said the country’s demand for electricity is expected to return to normal levels this winter, as the economy emerges from lockdown, and said it would be braced for “some tight periods”. During the winter of 2015-2016, it was forced to ask businesses to reduce their electricity use.
Moscow blamed for ‘Havana syndrome’
There is a “very strong possibility” that Havana syndrome, which includes symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, migraines and memory lapses, is the result of an intentional attack, the CIA has said - and Russia could be responsible. About 100 CIA officers and their family members have been afflicted by the condition, which was first reported by US officials based in the US embassy in Cuba in 2016. Moscow denies involvement.
‘Bankrupt’ Robinson loses libel case
Tommy Robinson has lost a High Court libel case brought by a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked at his school. The English Defence League founder was sued by Jamal Hijazi, who was assaulted in the playground at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in 2018. Robinson falsely claimed that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls”. Robinson said he was “gobsmacked” by the verdict, and added: “I've not got any money. I'm bankrupt.”
NHS asked to shoulder pay rise cost
Health service chiefs say there could be cuts in patient care because the government is forcing the NHS to cover part of the cost of its 3% staff pay rise. Although the Treasury normally meets the cost of annual pay rises for NHS personnel, Boris Johnson has decided that the service will have to cover at least part of the bill for the 3% uplift.
Hospitalisations after pub crash
Six people have been taken to hospital after a car ploughed into a crowd outside a pub in south Wales. A pedestrian suffered serious injuries after the collision outside The Windsor Hotel in Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taf, on Thursday evening. South Wales Police said a 79-year-old local man was believed to have suffered a “medical episode” before his silver Ford Puma hit the pedestrians.
Police have ‘no confidence’ in Patel
Police officers have overwhelmingly supported a vote of no confidence in the home secretary. The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents 130,000 officers, said Priti Patel and the government “could not be trusted” and warned that “warm words are no longer enough”. The announcement came following confirmation that officers paid £24,000 or more would have their pay frozen in 2021-22.
Typhoon hits Japanese islands
A typhoon is lashing Japan’s southern islands and could reach eastern China by next week. There are fears that the storm - named Typhoon In-fa - could bring extremely heavy rainfall to China and Taiwan. A tropical is also threatening northern and central parts of Japan, which may disrupt the Olympic Games. “Rainfall up to ten inches will be widespread with higher amounts up to 20+ inches in isolated locations,” said an expert.