Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 July 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Changes for EU and US quarantine
The government may allow fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and US to avoid quarantine when they arrive in England. Presently, only those who have been jabbed by the NHS are eligible for a “Covid pass” that would allow them to skip the self-isolation period of up to ten days if coming from an amber list country. However, senior ministers are expected to gather today for a meeting to sign off the plans to relax the rules.
Covid ‘over bar the shouting’
Covid’s grip on the UK is “all over bar the shouting”, according to a senior minister. After positive cases plunged for a seventh straight day to barely half the level seen just a week ago, the unnamed minister told the Daily Mail that the vaccination programme, combined with more than 5.7m infections, meant the virus was struggling to find new hosts. However, Boris Johnson has warned it was “premature” to assume that Covid was beaten.
RNLI rejects ‘taxi service’ jibe
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has rejected accusations it is operating a “migrant taxi service” by rescuing people at risk of dying in the water as they cross the Channel in small boats. The volunteer lifeboat charity said it was “very proud” of its humanitarian work and vowed that it would continue to respond to coastguard callouts. Some volunteers have faced abuse, including having beer cans thrown at them and people shouting “f*** off back to France”.
Ecuador cuts ties with Assange
Ecuador has rescinded the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The nation’s justice system claimed that the Australian’s naturalisation letter had multiple inconsistencies and different signatures, and also cited unpaid fees and the possible alteration of documents, among other issues. The 50-year-old has been in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London since he was arrested in 2019 for skipping bail seven years earlier during a separate legal battle.
Study finds health issues among middle-aged
A major British study has suggested that about one in three middle-aged people has multiple chronic health issues. The 1970 British Cohort Study has been tracking the lives of about 17,000 people born in a single week. It found that 34% had two or more long-term health problems, such as high blood pressure and mental ill health, at age 46 to 48. The most commonly recorded health problems were high-risk drinking, recurrent back problems and poor mental health.
£1k incentive for Tesco drivers
Tesco is offering a £1,000 signing-on fee for lorry drivers who join the company before the end of September, as it tries to address a chronic shortage of workers. The Guardian says the offer to HGV drivers comes amid “frenzied competition” for those with a specialist licence after a perfect storm of Brexit, the Covid pandemic and tax changes prompted some drivers to leave the trade.
Sturgeon accused of Trumpian outburst
The Scottish Conservatives have accused Nicola Sturgeon of having a “Donald Trump-style meltdown” after she attacked people who accused her of missing a vaccination target. The first minister said she had been assuming “common sense” and a “certain level of intelligence” when she told the Holyrood chamber last month that she planned to fully vaccinate everyone in their 40s by this week. She added that it was a “fact” that she had met the target as all of the group had been offered a jab - even though a quarter are yet to be vaccinated.
Ivory Coast rivals embrace
The president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, and his fierce rival Laurent Gbagbo have held their first meeting since the country’s civil war ended ten years ago. Ouattara welcomed Gbagbo into the presidential palace in the capital Abidjan and told him: “I am happy to see you.” About 3,000 people were killed in the conflict, which was sparked by Gbagbo’s refusal to admit defeat in an election. The BBC says both men have been pushing for peace and reconciliation.
Swastika carved in State Department
A swastika has been found carved into a lift at the US State Department. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the graffiti was a reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive. “As this painfully reminds us, anti-Semitism isn't a relic of the past,” Blinken wrote in a memo to all State Department employees. The carving has been removed from the lift and the incident will be investigated.
Biles praised for pulling out
US gymnast Simone Biles has been praised for prioritising “mental wellness over all else” after she withdrew from the Olympic women’s team final. The 24-year-old puled out after her vault, saying: “I have to focus on my mental health.” Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, told her: “You've made us so proud.” A string of athletes have also praised Biles but contrarian broadcaster Piers Morgan described her decision as “nonsense”.