Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 February 2022

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

1

Eunice kills three and cuts power

Three people died in one of the worst storms to hit the UK in decades. Powerful gusts from Storm Eunice toppled trees and sent debris flying, causing the deaths of a woman in her thirties in London, a man in his twenties in Hampshire, and a man in his fifties in Merseyside. Meanwhile, energy companies are working to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes, and several train operators extended warnings not to travel into Saturday.

2

Biden insists Putin will invade

Joe Biden has said he is convinced Vladimir Putin has decided to launch an invasion of Ukraine and that an assault could happen in the “coming days”. The US president said the assessment was based on intelligence, which suggested the capital Kyiv would be targeted. However, Moscow denies it plans to invade. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is to call on allies to “speak with one voice” on the Ukraine crisis.

3

Cover-up claim over Gray probe

There have been fresh claims of a cover-up after it was revealed that Downing Street staff being questioned by police about alleged lockdown breaches will be allowed to view notes on the evidence they gave to the Sue Gray inquiry. Gray admitted that it was not “standard practice in internal investigations” to share notes with interviewees. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Boris Johnson has returned his questionnaire about allegations of Downing Street lockdown breaches to the police.

4

Hospital continue to limit visitors

All hospital trusts in England are limiting visitors despite move towards “living with Covid,” reported the Daily Telegraph. More than 25% of NHS trusts have suspended routine hospital visits completely, and in some cases relatives are being prevented from seeing non-Covid patients for weeks at a time. NHS chiefs have said they do not back Boris Johnson’s “gung-ho” plans to lift remaining Covid restrictions, with Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, calling for a “cautious and evidence-led approach”.

5

Clashes at Canada protests

Police have clashed with demonstrators in Canada as they attempted to end a three-week anti-vaccine mandate protest, with 100 arrests made. The operation in the capital of Ottawa started early on Friday, with some officers on horseback, after the government invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on the protest. Officers “continue to push forward to take control of our streets,” said the city’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, adding: “We will work day and night until this is completed.”

6

MI5 ‘has one hand tied behind back’

The head of MI5 has told the Daily Mail “we need to stand up for our values, for our system, for the benefits of the democratic way of life that we, and our allies, hold dear”. Ken McCallum warned that Moscow and Beijing are waging an all-encompassing “contest” for international supremacy. He complained that outdated laws make it impossible to prosecute foreign spies. “We are in effect operating with one hand behind our back on state threats,” he said.

7

Civilian deaths in Mali

A group linked to Islamic State has killed around 40 civilians amid rivalry between warring jihadist groups in Mali. A civilian official in the area told AFP there were “at least 40 civilian deaths in three different sites” during a week of bloodshed in the Tessit area near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger. Earlier this week, France and its European allies announced they would start withdrawing their forces after more than nine years fighting a jihadist insurgency.

8

NY to remove homeless from subway

New York leaders have announced an “aggressive” plan to remove homeless people from the city’s subway system. New York police department officers will be given a “clear mandate” to enforce the transport system’s conduct rules, which include prohibitions against lying down, creating an unsanitary environment and smoking or openly using drugs. “Swipe your MetroCard, ride the system and get off at your destination,” said the New York City mayor, Eric Adams. “That’s what this administration is saying.”

9

Optimism falls from age of nine

A study has concluded that childhood “hyper-optimism” begins to fade from the age of nine, said the Daily Telegraph. Academics from University College London found that constant exposure to bad outcomes causes optimism to diminish as a child grows up and that having high expectations, only to consistently fall short, takes its toll. The ground-breaking study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

10

Clergy ‘jumpy’ as communion wine returns

Churches are beginning to offer communion wine again after it was banned for safety reasons during the Covid pandemic. Sales of communion wine have recovered to 50% of pre-pandemic levels, according to data from Grace Supplies, a leading provider of church supplies. A priest from a London church told The Times there were concerns among the clergy who must finish off any wine left in the cup after everyone has drunk. They said: “My clergy colleagues are mostly old. That’s a huge risk for them and they’re really quite jumpy about it.”

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