Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 30 November 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
England face mask rules return over Omicron fears
Masks have become mandatory again on public transport and shops in England in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. As the new rules announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday kick in, people arriving in the UK from abroad will now also have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Meanwhile, ministers are targeting a return to half a million jabs a day as the waiting time for boosters was cut to three months.
Maxwell ‘served up girls’ for Epstein
Ghislaine Maxwell was a “dangerous predator” who “served up” girls for sexual abuse, a packed court in New York was told yesterday. As the much-awaited trial got underway, the prosecution said the British socialite was billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s “second in command” who lured vulnerable teenagers for him to assault. The Daily Mail said that Maxwell, who denies wrongdoing, “listened intently, occasionally scribbling in a notebook and turning to look at her sister”.
Iranian nuclear bomb ‘admission’
A former Iranian nuclear boss has made the “clearest admission to date” that the country’s atomic programme was geared towards creating a bomb, said The Times. Tehran has always insisted that its nuclear programme was intended for peaceful purposes but, in an interview with state media, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, a former head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation said Israel killed a former colleague because when Iran’s “all-encompassing growth began involving satellites, missiles and nuclear weapons,” things became “more serious”.
Charles says slavery ‘stains history’
The Prince of Wales has officially acknowledged “the appalling atrocity of slavery” in the Caribbean, saying “it forever stains our history”. Charles was speaking at an event to mark Barbados becoming a republic after it decided to remove the Queen as its head of state. A 21-gun salute was fired just after midnight when the nation officially became a republic. The Prince watched as the Queen’s standard was lowered for the final time.
Starmer reshuffle ‘speeds move to centre’
Yvette Cooper has been appointed as shadow home secretary in a major reshuffle of Labour’s top team by Keir Starmer. David Lammy has been promoted to shadow foreign secretary, replacing Lisa Nandy, who takes a new role scrutinising Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. The Guardian said Starmer’s “ruthless shakeup” is “widely viewed at Westminster as accelerating Labour’s shift to the centre”.
WHO renews call for jab sharing
The World Health Organization has warned that the Omicron variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe and could lead to severe consequences in some regions. The WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Covid-19 is “not done with us” yet and renewed his call for a global push to get vaccines to poorer nations. Cases have been reported in a number of countries including the UK, Portugal, Belgium and Canada.
Papers link Beijing to Uighur ‘genocide’
Leaked documents directly link Beijing’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province to speeches by the Chinese leadership in 2014, reported The Guardian. In the documents, the highest levels of the Chinese Communist party leadership called for Uighur reeducation and relocation to rectify an imbalance in the Uighur and Han population in Xinjiang. German academic Adrian Zenz, who received the leaked documents, said they show the leadership’s long-term intent to commit cultural genocide.
Head says MI6 will need to reach out
MI6 must become more open in order to do its secret work effectively, its chief, Richard Moore, will say today. In his first major public speech since taking on the role in October 2020, Moore will admit that mastering human intelligence in this era of accelerating technology is not something his service can do in its own. He is expected to add that “unlike Q in the Bond movies,” the intelligence service cannot develop the tools it needs in-house to counter hybrid physical and virtual threats.
School cuts hit poorest areas hardest
Cuts to education spending in England over the last decade have hit the most deprived schools hardest, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Its report found that the most disadvantaged fifth of secondary schools have faced the biggest cuts, with a 14% real-terms fall in spending per pupil between 2009 and 2019, compared with 9% for the least deprived schools. The IFS said: “The cuts to education spending over the last decade are effectively without precedent in postwar UK history.”
Street referendums proposed
Homeowners will be able to team up with their neighbours to hold a referendum on adding extensions to their properties, reported The Times. The housing secretary, Michael Gove, said he backed the “cracking” idea of Street Votes, which could see 20% of residents apply to their local council to hold a referendum on a design code for their street. The code, which would need the support of 60% of residents, would determine the scale and style of new properties and allow residents to add extensions to their existing homes.