Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 11 August 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Herd immunity ‘mythical’ says professor
Achieving Covid herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current Delta variant, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said. Speaking to MPs, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said the fact that vaccines did not stop the spread of Covid meant reaching the threshold for overall immunity in the population was “mythical”. He said it was inevitable that “anyone who’s still unvaccinated at some point will meet the virus”.
Biden: no regrets on Afghanistan
Joe Biden has said he does not regret his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, even as violence escalates and the Taliban continues to make advances. The US president urged Afghanistan’s leaders to unite and “fight for their nation”. The Taliban have taken at least eight of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, and are threatening more. Biden said the US was keeping the commitments it had made to Afghanistan, such as air support, military salaries and supplies.
Post-Brexit lorry powers extended
Emergency powers to handle queues of lorries heading for France are being made permanent, indicating that the government expects further cross-Channel disruption. The Guardian reports that ministers are planning to make the provisions indefinite by removing “sunset clauses” from the legislation that set out when the powers would expire. Labour says the move is “an admission that they’ve failed to plan for the outcome of their Brexit negotiations”.
A-level grade gap grows
The gap between private and state school A-level grades “has grown to its widest in the modern era”, The Guardian reports. Nearly 45% of A-level entries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland were awarded top grades of A or A*, up from 38% in 2020 and 25% in 2019. The teacher-assessed grades system disproportionately benefited independent schools, where the proportion of top grades rose nine percentage points to 70%, compared with six percentage points elsewhere.
New York governor resigns
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, has resigned after an inquiry found that he sexually harassed several women. “The best way I can help now is if I step aside,” he said, though he continued to deny the claims. CNN says the episode “appears to be an expression of his own ego and hubris”. Lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul will now become the first woman to run the state.
Cameron faces new lobby claims
David Cameron’s employer landed a £123m genetic-sequencing contract after the former PM lobbied Matt Hancock to attend a genomics conference. The Times reports that Cameron is a paid adviser to the US biotech company Illumina. His letter to Hancock was written from his taxpayer-funded post-prime ministerial office. Last month it was revealed that Cameron met the vaccines minister shortly before award of contracts to company he advises.
Climate minister drives diesel car
The government’s climate tsar, Alok Sharma, has admitted he drives a diesel car. The COP26 president said he did not yet have an electric car despite the government’s push for drivers to swap over to one to save the planet. The news comes after Cop spokesperson Allegra Stratton revealed that she too drives a diesel and “doesn’t fancy” switching to an electric car.
Andrew warned by US lawyer
Prince Andrew “cannot hide behind wealth and palace walls” and must respond to sexual abuse allegations filed in a US court, his accuser’s lawyer has told the BBC. David Boies, who represents Virginia Giuffre, said the Duke of York should allow a jury to decide what happened. Meanwhile, The Times reports that Andrew was at Balmoral with the Queen when the lawsuit accused him of “rape in the first degree”.
Winchester leapfrogs Oxford
Winchester is the least affordable city in which to buy a home, according to a new survey. Data from Halifax found that a home in the Hampshire commuter city will cost 14 times the average earnings, higher than Greater London at 11 times earnings. This means Winchester has leapfrogged Oxford to become the least affordable city in the annual survey, while Derry is the most affordable for the third year in a row.
Messi signs for PSG
Lionel Messi has signed a two-year contract with Paris St-Germain after leaving Barcelona earlier this week because they were unable to afford a new deal under La Liga’s financial fair play rules. “I am impatient to start a new chapter of my career in Paris,” he said. “The club and its vision are in perfect harmony with my ambitions.” The 34-year-old Argentinian scored a record 672 goals in 778 games for Barcelona.