Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 9 August 2021

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

1

UK to ‘bounce’ around immunity

Britain is close to achieving herd immunity but likely to “bounce over and below” the required threshold throughout the winter, according to a government adviser. Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, who sits on a Sage modelling sub-group, said: “If we start to behave differently, if transmissions start to pick up again, that the herd immunity threshold bar is raised that bit higher.”

2

‘Stark warning’ on climate

The world’s largest ever report into climate change will be published today, with environmental experts predicting it will be a “massive wake-up call” to governments to cut emissions. The report from the UN’s climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the first worldwide assessment of its kind since 2013. Alok Sharma, the UK’s climate minister, says the report will be the IPCC’s “starkest warning yet”.

3

Afghans on brink as cities fall

Afghanistan’s government is nearing collapse after the Taliban stormed three more cities and murdered a pilot, leading to desertions from the air force. Fighters overran the cities of Kunduz, Sar-e Pol and Taloqan, meaning five provincial capitals have now fallen to the militant group. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the killing of Hamidullah Azimi, who was trained to fly US Black Hawks, in a car bomb attack.

4

‘Too many’ go to university

One of Britain’s leading education philanthropists has warned that too many young people are going to university. Sir Peter Lampl, the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the number of school-leavers seeking university places is now a “massive” problem for the country’s finances. A record number of students applied to university this year, with 44% of all 18-year-olds in England seeking places, a 10% increase on last year.

5

Mecca to accept foreign visitors

Saudi Arabia will accept vaccinated foreign visitors to the holy city of Mecca as part of the Umrah pilgrimage. The kingdom closed its borders 18 months ago because of the Covid pandemic. Saudi Arabia will initially allow 60,000 pilgrims to complete the pilgrimage each month, gradually increasing numbers to two million a month. The country has recorded about 8,300 Covid deaths.

6

Civil servants encouraged back to desks

The government is planning a “big push” to get civil servants to return to the office amid concern about the lack of staff at desks. The Times says an unnamed Whitehall department is expected to order its employees to work from the office at least three days a week by October, after senior officials struggled to persuade civil servants to return to their desks for only one day a week. A source said “the lack of people in the office has raised questions over accountability on work”.

7

Rape victims face ‘postcode lottery’

Rape victims in some counties are half as likely to see justice delivered than in others - and have to wait twice as long for a prosecution. Analysis of Crown Prosecution data found a 94.4% rape conviction rate in Gloucestershire - the highest in England and Wales - while in neighbouring Warwickshire, the rate is 46.7%, the lowest in the country.

8

Public backs jabs for kids

A study for The Times has found that Britons overwhelmingly back Covid vaccines for children as young as 12. Some 67% agreed jabs should be offered to children aged 12 to 15, according to the YouGov poll on Thursday and Friday last week. The survey of 1,730 adults found that just 13% oppose the vaccines being made available for 12 to 15-year-olds and 20% are undecided.

9

Carrie urged to support Geronimo

Carrie Johnson, wide of Boris, has been asked to intervene on behalf of Geronimo the alpaca. The animal has become the focus of attention after it tested positive for bovine tuberculosis twice and the High Court ruled that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs could slaughter him. The PM’s father, Stanley Johnson, has already intervened, calling on the environment secretary to end his “murderous errand” to euthanise the animal.

10

Stars uninvited from Obama bash

David Letterman, Larry David and Conan O’Brien were uninvited from Barack Obama’s 60th birthday celebrations, according to reports. The former president scaled back the 475-strong guest list in response to rising Covid cases in the US. Organisers of the party, which was held this weekend at Obama’s £9m family residence in Martha’s Vineyard, asked guests if they were vaccinated and requested that they take a Covid test before the event.

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