Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 6 August 2021

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

1

Signs of ‘catastrophic’ Gulf Stream collapse spotted

Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, a development they say would have devastating global impacts. A study found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation currents, which may be nearing shutdown. The Guardian says this could have “catastrophic consequences around the world”, including severe disruption of rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa. 

2

Young told they’ll miss out without jab

Young people will be told they will miss out on fun if they don’t get a Covid vaccine. A billboard and social media campaign will tell under-30s to have a jab or “miss out on the good times” as ministers plan to introduce vaccination passports in the autumn. The Times says Boris Johnson is “raging” about relatively low youth uptake. Yesterday, 33,334 people were vaccinated and the seven-day average is down to 32,550 daily doses, a fall of 85% since June.

3

Bank of England hints at rate rise

The Bank of England has hinted there might be a modest increase in interest rates next year to tackle inflation. In its latest update, the Bank forecast that inflation will hit 4% this year as Britain’s recovery from the pandemic continues. Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, has lashed out at peers for describing his institution’s approach to monetary policy as an “addiction”.

4

Indonesia to cease ‘virginity tests’

The Indonesian army has signalled an end to its controversial “virginity testing” of female recruits. Army chief of staff, Gen Andika Perkasa, has signalled the end of the decades-long practice, during which a doctor would insert two fingers inside the woman’s vagina to check whether the hymen is still intact or not. Those declared not to be a virgin would not be recruited. “We can’t do that kind of examination any more,” said Perkasa.

5

Live events cover ‘too late’

Music festivals and other live events will be protected by a government-backed insurance scheme if they have to cancel because of the Covid pandemic. The scheme will begin next month with a £750m budget to cover cancellation costs if events are legally unable to go ahead due to government restrictions. However, industry figures say the move is “too late”. Asked for his reaction, Chris Smith, the Womad festival director, said: “What can you say that’s not offensive?”

6

Climate minister took 30 flights

Alok Sharma, the government minister responsible for this year’s UN climate change conference in Glasgow, has flown to 30 countries in the past seven months. The Daily Mail says that Sharma has visited countries including Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya, with most of his journeys during the winter and spring months at the start of the year when international travel from Britain was mostly banned. Green Party peer Jenny Jones called Sharma “hypocritical”.

7

Pfizer used loophole for drug price rise

Pfizer has been accused of exploiting a loophole to charge the NHS “unfairly high” prices for an epilepsy drug that soared overnight from £2.83 to £67.50 per pack. The competition watchdog said that price rises of up to 2,600% for phenytoin sodium capsules, which are used by around 50,000 British patients to control seizures, cost the NHS an extra £50m a year. The pharmaceutical giant said it “continues to co-operate fully with the ongoing investigation”.

8

PM praises Thatcher’s pit closures

Boris Johnson is under fire after claiming that Margaret Thatcher’s coal mine closures had boosted Britain’s climate change ambitions. During a visit to Scotland, the prime minister suggested that pit closures had given the UK a head start in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether,” he said.

9

Government bankrolls extra medical places

Ministers have funded hundreds of extra places on medical and dental courses at universities in England, as rampant grade inflation led to unexpectedly high numbers of students qualifying for places. An admissions officer told The Guardian: “We are seeing roughly one grade of grade inflation compared to last year.” The grade inflation was caused when exams for A-levels and GCSEs were scrapped this year, with teachers assessing individual marks.

10

Messi set to leave Barcelona

Lionel Messi will not be staying at Barcelona “because of financial and structural obstacles”, the Spanish club has announced. The 34-year-old has been a free agent since 1 July when his contract expired. Although he subsequently agreed a new deal on reduced wages with the club, it was dependent on Barcelona selling players to afford his salary. He has been linked with a move to French giants PSG.

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