Top story: ‘Early action can be less drastic action’
Hello, Warren Murray helping you start Wednesday bright, early and a step ahead.
Ministers must urgently implement sweeping plan B winter measures or derail efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients, the head of the NHS Confederation has warned. Infections have been rising sharply but the government is resisting introducing extra restrictions such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home. Boris Johnson has said that if the government’s plan A – encouraging take-up of Covid booster and flu jabs – is not enough, it will roll out plan B. But Matthew Taylor, the confederation’s chief executive, said immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis”.
As well as implementing plan B, ministers should encourage the public to use the NHS responsibly, look out for neighbours, and volunteer or re-enter the healthcare workforce, Taylor said. Scientists are joining the call to introduce plan B: Prof Mark Woolhouse, a member of the SPI-M advisory committee, speaking in a personal capacity, said he was in favour of taking some action now “because early action can be less drastic action”. The NHS will today launch an appeal for 100,000 new blood donors as figures reveal the number of active donors shrank last year to its lowest level since 1996. There is a particular need to recruit more black donors to treat patients with sickle cell disease.
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‘Comply or face consequences’ – The House committee investigating the US Capitol attack has voted unanimously to recommend the criminal prosecution of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, for defying a subpoena to give testimony. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to authorise the panel to take the matter to court. “Mr Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will face the consequences,” said Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the committee. Lawmakers have subpoenaed three other Trump advisers, who have opened negotiations over the extent of their possible cooperation. Bannon was in constant contact with Trump and his team in the days before 6 January as the voted-out president strategised how to stay in office.
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> The suspect in the killing of the MP David Amess received extensive support under the government’s Channel counter-terrorism programme before his case was closed, the Guardian has learned.
> North Korea has confirmed it tested a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missile.
> Activision Blizzard – the maker of Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft video games – has fired 20 employees over claims of harassment, the Financial Times has reported, citing a letter sent to staff.
> Human rights lawyers will today file a lawsuit in the UK accusing leadership in Saudi Arabia and the UAE of involvement in war crimes relating to the war in Yemen. Such charges can be brought to court in the UK regardless of jurisdiction.
> Individual cigarettes could have “smoking kills” printed on them under a raft of tough measures proposed by MPs to encourage more people to quit.
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Sunak running silent on emissions – Ministers have revealed a plan to create jobs and “unlock” £90bn of mostly private sector investment in the next decade. As well as all of us getting to know and love heat pumps, the plan involves more electric vehicles and charging points, more offshore wind, hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel and at least one new nuclear power station. The Treasury warned that as £30bn a year in fossil fuel duties peters out, other taxes might rise. Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, made no comment on the Treasury review, amid concerns of a rift within the government over green spending. With the Cop26 summit in Glasgow almost upon us, the scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate has passed 99.9%, according to a sweeping review of peer-reviewed literature published from 2012 to November 2020. This means there is practically no doubt among experts that burning fossil fuels is heating the planet and causing more extreme weather.
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Needle spike suspect arrested – A man has been arrested as Nottinghamshire police investigate reports of women being injected with needles in nightclubs. Suspected victims reported feeling a scratch or pinch and losing memory – one was taken to hospital after blacking out. Police said they arrested a 20-year-old man on suspicion of possession of class A and class B drugs, and administering a poison or noxious thing with ill intent. Incidents of spiking by needle have been reported across the country in the past few months as student nightlife has returned after lockdowns. There have been calls by women’s safety campaigners for a boycott of nightclubs.
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Hailfruit – A hailstone the size of a grapefruit was among the alarmingly sized specimens that fell during a storm in the Australian state of Queensland. See and read more in the article.
Today in Focus podcast: Climate, the increasingly hot topic
The world is heating up at an alarming rate and world leaders are running out of chances to keep temperature rises below 1.5C, says Jonathan Watts.
Lunchtime read: ‘People have to change from within’
The climate emergency has been a wakeup call to everyone, and the primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall is working as hard as ever to defeat it. She discusses horror, hope and heroism in her late 80s.
A leaky defence tempered Liverpool’s joy and Jürgen Klopp said his team had “completely mismanaged” a two-goal lead secured inside 13 minutes before Mo Salah scored a late penalty to clinch a dramatic 3-2 Champions League win at Atlético Madrid. In Belgium, Manchester City were a delight to watch in an exhibition of attacking football as Pep Guardiola’s side thrashed Club Brugge 5-1. RB Leipzig went 2-1 up against Paris Saint-Germain but Lionel Messi replied in the second half with two quick goals, including a Panenka penalty, in a 3-2 victory for the French team. In the Europa League, Kyogo Furuhashi scored the opener for Celtic in their 2-0 home win over Ferencvaros to keep their hopes of progress alive. Andy Murray came through an epic first-round battle with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open, winning 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (10-8) in Antwerp after almost four hours.
Novak Djokovic and other tennis stars will be given no special exemptions to enter Australia if they are unvaccinated or won’t reveal their vaccination status, the federal immigration minister has said. Eoin Morgan has backed himself to rediscover his form with the bat and pledged to drop himself if he fails, rather than hobble England’s chances of success at the Twenty20 World Cup. A World Anti-Doping Agency report has uncovered “potential wrongdoing” by “individuals” involved in the drug testing of British cyclists. Eddie Jones’s best-laid plans have already been disrupted following the news that two of his likely starters will miss England’s entire autumn series. And the director of sport at the BBC has called for new rules on TV’s “crown jewels” after criticism directed at the broadcaster during the Olympic Games this summer.
Social media hype and gambling-like thrills are driving younger investors towards cryptocurrencies and other high-risk products, according to the FCA, which has launched an £11m campaign targeting inexperienced investors. The FCA found two-thirds of those 18 to 40 who invest in bitcoin, contracts for difference (CFDs), foreign exchange (forex), crowdfunding and the like felt like they were gambling and many were driven by “competition with friends, family and acquaintances”.
In China the rescue of Evergrande appears to have stalled, leaving the developer on the brink of default and threatening to unleash contagion through China’s real estate sector. The $305bn debt crisis has hung over global markets and helped curb China’s post-pandemic recovery – it could deepen further if Evergrande fails to meet a deadline of Saturday night to stump up a $83.5m bond interest payment, triggering an official default. On the markets, Asian shares have advanced and US long-dated bond yields edged up to a five-month high while the yen fell to a four-year low against the greenback. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.8% while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3%, led by 0.9% gains in Australia. The FTSE will open higher by the look of things, while the pound is worth $1.380 and €1.185 at time of writing.
“UK’s net zero plans fall short on ambition and funds, say experts” – our Guardian front-page lead this morning. The long-awaited strategy has been criticised as incomplete and inadequately funded. “Britons face higher taxes to pay for eco pledges” – that’s the Times’ take, while its front-page picture is the Queen, who has declined to accept an “Oldie award”. The Mail says Boris Johnson is embarking on a “trillion pound green gamble”. The optimistic Metro announces a “Countdown to net zero”.
Others sound the alert over rising daily Covid case numbers and urge people to top up their immunity. “Booster jabs plea to keep Britain safe” – that’s the Express. “Crisis over top-up jabs – our country needs a booster” – the Mirror says vaccination rates are stalling. The Sun says it’s “Time for lift-off” and illustrates its front with a syringe done up as a rocket. “Care home booster jab rollout falling short”, the Telegraph warns.
The i chastises that “UK’s Covid-19 scientists are meeting once a month … as infections rise”. The Financial Times has “Sunak plans cut in banks’ profit surcharge to keep City competitive” – it reports that the chancellor fears they will be taxed out of Britain if he doesn’t limit their tax burden to 28% instead of it rising to 33% by 2023.
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