Top story: Care home admissions fall
Good morning and welcome to this Thursday briefing with me, Alison Rourke.
Some 10,000 more deaths than normal have happened at homes across the UK in the past three months, which experts say may suggest people have been avoiding hospitals or sending loved ones to care homes. “Deconditioning”, which is caused by decreased physical activity among older people shielding at home, for example not walking around a supermarket or garden centre as they might normally, is also thought to be a factor. David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, says lower infection figures during the period means much of the excess can be excluded as being related to Covid. “So what we see is probably more to do with decisions that are being taken by families, by individuals, their GPs and also hospitals’ willingness to admit.”
Meanwhile, a new study has shown that fears over contacting GPs during Covid could be fuelling a rise in missed or delayed diagnoses. It comes as government sources warned that take-up of the NHS contact tracing app could be as low as 10%. On Thursday the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will announce fresh measures to halt job losses and business failures amid government fears that a second wave could lead to a double-dip recession. He will use his statement to MPs to announce an extension of business loan schemes and a package of employment support to replace the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end next month. A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research found ethnic minorities are at greater risk of financial hardship during the pandemic, as well as experiencing disproportionate health impacts.
Abroad, and our correspondent in Rome, Angela Giuffrida, writes about how the devastating first wave has led to the widespread adoption of Covid rules in Italy, and an excellent tracking and tracing system has left the country faring better than some of its European neighbours. You can stay up to date on all the global news on our live blog.
Sir Harold Evans dies – The trailblazing newspaper editor, whose 70-year career as a hard-driving investigative journalist, magazine founder, book publisher and author made him one of the most influential media figures of his generation, has died at the age of 92 from congestive heart failure. A former editor of the Sunday Times and the Times, Evans championed causes either overlooked or denied. He and his team uncovered human rights abuses and political scandals, and advocated for clean air policies. One of his most famous investigations exposed the plight of hundreds of British thalidomide children who had never received any compensation for their birth defects.
Xinjiang – China has built nearly 400 internment camps, with construction on dozens continuing over the past two years, even as Beijing claimed their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian thinktank has found. The information has been made public, including the coordinates for individual camps, in a database that can be accessed online, the Xinjiang Data Project. “Camps are also often co-located with factory complexes, which can suggest the nature of a facility and highlight the direct pipeline between arbitrary detention in Xinjiang and forced labour,” the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said.
Breonna Taylor killing – Protests erupted in more than a dozen US cities on Wednesday in response to the announcement that three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor would not be charged over her death. One officer was charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into another home with people inside, but jurors didn’t indict any of the officers on charges directly related to Taylor’s killing. The protests came as Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he wins in November. “We’re going to have to see what happens, you know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.” The reporter pressed the president: “I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to make sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” Still Trump refused to commit: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
Labour – The party has sacked three junior shadow ministers who joined with Jeremy Corbyn and 14 other Socialist Campaign group MPs in breaking the party’s whip by voting against the second reading of a controversial armed forces bill, that aims to introduce a presumption against prosecution for British soldiers serving abroad. Sources close to the party’s leadership said that the three MPs, Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake, were warned in advance that they could not remain in their posts as parliamentary private secretaries if they voted against the bill.
DrFrostMaths –A London maths teacher has been shortlisted for a $1m (£780,000) international teaching prize after his tuition website went global during lockdown. Dr Jamie Frost, who is maths lead at Tiffin school, an all-boys grammar in Kingston-upon-Thames, is a top-10 finalist for the 2020 Global Teacher Prize. His website, DrFrostMaths, became a lifeline for pupils – and teachers – during lockdown, offering teaching resources, videos and a vast bank of exam questions free of charge as schools around the world were forced to close and move lessons online.
Today in Focus podcast: Is the UK ready for a Covid second wave?
From hospitals to care homes to community testing, the first wave of Covid-19 infections was met with unprecedented national efforts but also with panic, errors and delays. As infections begin to rise again, is the country better prepared?
Lunchtime read: BLM co-founder: ‘I do this because we deserve to live’
Seven years ago Opal Tometi helped to create what is possibly the biggest protest movement in US history. She tells the Guardian’s Ellen Jones what the critics of BLM get wrong, how her family’s story made her an activist and why she is certain the movement will succeed.
Arsenal won 2-0 at Leicester to set up a Carabao Cup fourth-round tie against Liverpool or Lincoln while there were big wins for Chelsea against Barnsley and Newcastle against Morecambe. Stephen Vaughan has warned Premiership rugby clubs will have to make drastic cuts in a struggle for survival unless the government agrees to a compensation proposal. The EFL is expecting to receive funding from government to help avert immediate catastrophe in English football. West Indies unsuccessfully attempted to inject some fire into their Twenty20 series against England, but ultimately fell short in a 47-run defeat. A Los Angeles Chargers doctor punctured the lung of the team’s starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, while attempting to give him a pain-killing injection. And New Zealand Rugby has voiced its disappointment over date changes for an upcoming match against bitter rivals Australia that means All Blacks players are set to spend Christmas in quarantine.
Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s announcement today on measures to shore up businesses and job losses, we ask what cancelling the budget means for the government, how Whitehall will cope, and what kinds of precedents there are. Larry Elliot also looks at whether Sunak could do worse than follow Germany furlough scheme, called Kurzarbeit (“short work”), where Berlin tops up wages of those put on reduced working hours. Meanwhile, a quarter of British pubs and restaurants fear collapse before Christmas without further government support, according to a wide-ranging survey that warns the pandemic could cost 675,000 jobs in the hospitality sector by February.
The pound is buying €1.09 and $1.27.
Several papers splash on the chancellor dumping the budget. “Sunak axes budget in scramble for urgent measures to save jobs” is the Guardian’s headline. The Telegraph has “Wage subsidies to replace furlough”. The FT says “Sunak scraps Budget to focus on emergency jobs package” and the Times leads with “Sunak puts billions into new Covid rescue plan”. The Express describes the chancellor’s plan as a “Jobs lifeline to save economy”. The Mail says the bailout will be a “Price we can’t afford to pay”. The Mirror carries a large photo of the PM with the headline: “The blame lies here …”, and the i says “Students get Christmas lockdown warning”.
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