Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 August 2021

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

1

Biden warns of terror attack today

Joe Biden has warned that another attack on Kabul airport is highly likely. The US president added that commanders have told him an attack could come as early as Sunday. The news came after Downing Street confirmed that the final UK troops, diplomats and officials have left Kabul. The departure of the final RAF flight brings to an end the UK’s 20-year military involvement in Afghanistan.

2

Covid 26 times higher than last August

Covid infections in England are now 26 times higher than this time last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. Experts say the reopening of schools, universities and colleges is likely to trigger a further rise in cases and that a fresh wave of infections could lead to new social restrictions being imposed as winter approaches. The news is increasing pressure on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to approve the deployment of booster jabs for vulnerable people.

3

Schools cannot afford repairs

Headteachers have warned that England’s schools are in urgent need of repairs. Staff have complained of leaking ceilings, broken heating systems and ventilation too poor to deal with the threat of Covid but headteachers say they lack the funds to repair their buildings. A spokesperson for the Department for Education said the government has “invested £11.3bn since 2015, to enable schools to refurbish their buildings, including £1.8bn in 2021-22 alone.”

4

Football standing ban ‘to be lifted’

The government is set to announce plans to lift the ban on standing in the English Premier League and Championship. The BBC says a handful of grounds will be able to use designated safe standing areas before the end of the season -  the first time in over 25 years that fans at top flight football clubs would be legally allowed to stand and watch their team play. Standing was banned after  the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

5

Migrants rescued near Italian island

Italian coastguards have rescued 539 migrants from a boat drifting off the island of Lampedusa. The BBC says that some of the migrants - who had been travelling across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya – “displayed signs of violence”. Lampedusa is one of the main arrival ports for people wanting to reach Europe. The island’s Mayor, Toto Martello, described the rescue as “one of the biggest landings in recent times”.

6

Staff call motorway signs ‘Die Now’

Computer systems controlling signs on smart motorways have been nicknamed “Die Now” by staff after they became “unusable” three times in just four days. The Telegraph say signals across hundreds of miles of the M1, M4, M5 and M62 could not be changed, prompting a “horrified” whistleblower to warn “someone is going to get killed”. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has vowed to make smart motorways safer with more technology.

7

London restaurants still in trouble

London restaurants are struggling to bounce back as the number of people dining out in the capital remains below pre-pandemic levels, even months after restrictions were lifted. During the week to Aug 25, dining numbers in London were 8% below 2019 levels. By comparison, they were 40% higher across the country, and 38% higher in Manchester, the other UK city for which data is available.

8

Palestinian boy dies after shooting

A 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot last week by Israeli soldiers has died of his injuries. Omar Hassan Abu al-Nile was hit last Saturday on the sidelines of a demonstration near the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel. Gaza’s health ministry said he “succumbed to his injuries”. The Israeli army said it had used live fire and other measures to deal with Palestinian “rioters” who were hurling explosives over the border fence and attempting to scale it.

9

Suits disappearing from M&S aisles

Only 110 out of 254 M&S clothing stores are still stocking suits, despite the chain once being one of the nation’s main suppliers of men’s suits. The Sunday Times says the change “suggests there has been a permanent shift away from formal wear that will outlive the coronavirus pandemic,” as “rails of matching trousers and jackets have been replaced by the ‘broken suit’ — chinos and a shirt — as well as more casualwear”.

10

Coffee can reduce risk of stroke

Drinking a cup of coffee a day can reduce the risk of a stroke by a fifth, according to a new study. Researchers at Semmelweis University in Budapest said data from almost half a million Britons showed people who drank a moderate amount of coffee – anything from half a cup to three cups a day – were 21% less likely to have a stroke than people who eschewed coffee completely.

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