Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 10 February 2022

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

1

PM calls time on Covid rules

Boris Johnson has announced that all Covid regulations, including the requirement to isolate for at least five days after testing positive, are due to be abolished in England in two weeks. Moving the plan forward by a month, the PM said the change “shows that the hard work of the British people is paying off”. Scientists have warned that Johnson risks sending a signal that the pandemic is “all over”, while unions have accused him of “going too far, way too soon”. “Everybody wants to get back to normal but Covid risks haven’t disappeared,” said Unison’s chief. 

2

Russia starts ten days of joint drills

Russia and Belarus are to commence ten days of joint military drills, with tensions growing over the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders. The White House called the drills an “escalatory” action, while Nato said the joint drills marked Russia’s biggest deployment to ex-Soviet Belarus since the Cold War, the BBC reported. Eugene Chausovsky, a geopolitical analyst, told Al Jazeera that “Russia wants to signal that it’s very serious about the potential for war”.

3

PM ‘to be quizzed’ by police

The prime minister is expected to be among 50 people in Downing Street who will be questioned by police over 12 alleged lockdown-breaking parties. Policing sources told The Times that Boris Johnson, who attended six of the events, was likely to be questioned via a formal questionnaire over his involvement in the social gatherings. The Met is facing calls to review its decision not to investigate a party held on 15 December 2020 after the Daily Mirror obtained a photo showing the PM at the event standing behind an open bottle of champagne.

4

RSPCA seizes Zouma’s cats

The RSPCA has taken West Ham defender Kurt Zouma’s cats away after videos of him kicking and slapping one of his pets were shared on social media. West Ham said it has fined Zouma “the maximum amount possible” – understood to be £250,000 – and the club will donate the fee to animal welfare charities. Insurance and investment company Vitality has suspended its deal with West Ham, while Adidas has terminated its agreement with Zouma, who is paid £125,000 a week.

5

Energy giants back surge pricing

“Surge pricing” will be offered to millions of UK households after Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy backed radical new tariffs which charge customers more for using energy during peak periods and less in quieter ones. The move by the three companies means families could pay higher electricity rates for watching television or using the washing machine in the morning and evenings, as prices fluctuate throughout the day, said the Daily Telegraph. Ofgem, the regulator, said that surge pricing will ultimately lead to savings for customers.

6

Biden condemns ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Joe Biden has described a Florida bill banning the discussion of sexual orientation in primary schools as “hateful”. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has backed the measure, which is expected to pass through the state’s Republican-dominated legislature. Campaigners have dubbed the measure the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and warned it will stigmatise LGBTQ+ students, while supporters insist the legislation is about protecting parental rights. “Instead of making growing up harder for young people, [Biden] is focused on keeping schools open and supporting students' mental health,” said the White House.

7

UK reactor breaks nuclear record

An Oxfordshire reactor has broken the world record for the amount of energy made in a sustained nuclear fusion reaction, said The Times. Over the course of five seconds, the reactor recreated the processes used in the Sun to make 59 megajoules of energy – roughly the amount of energy required to run a kettle for two months. Scientists described the result as a “landmark” moment in the quest for clean and reliable power.

8

Pupils ‘should not criticise PM’

The education secretary has said that pupils should not be criticising Boris Johnson after it emerged that schoolchildren in Nottingham had been writing letters critical of the PM as part of a project. Welbeck Primary School said pupils were shown a news show covering the lockdown parties scandal and then asked to present their opinion in letter form. Nadhim Zahawi told the Daily Mail that “no school should be encouraging young people to pin their colours to a political mast”. The school’s head said the children had been “encouraged to express their thoughts”.

9

Teen ‘beheaded by husband in Iran’

The beheading of a 17-year-old girl​ in Iran has reignited concerns over ​the country’s laws around murder and gender-based violence. A video seen by CNN showed the girl’s husband, Sajjad Heydari, smiling as he walked around carrying his wife’s severed head. ​Reports suggest the girl was 12 years old at the time of her marriage to Heydari. The New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran said “the beheaded child bride… might be alive today if Iran’s government had enacted laws against the cruel practice of child marriage”.

10

Breast cancer drug could save thousands

A “promising” immunotherapy drug can cut the risk of an aggressive form of breast cancer returning by more than a third, a long-term global study has found, The Guardian reported. Keytruda treatment uses the patient’s own immunity to battle cancer by helping the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells. More than 8,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with this form of breast cancer every year and it is hoped that the new treatment will save thousands of lives.

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