Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 21 Jul 2020

1. Public sector workers to be given above-inflation pay rise

Almost 900,000 public sector workers will be given an above-inflation pay rise, Rishi Sunak has announced. Teachers and doctors will enjoy increases of 3.1% and 2.8% respectively, while police, prison officers and National Crime Agency staff will get a 2.5% rise in pay. The chancellor praised the “vital contribution” of the workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2. Hopes rise for vaccine after Oxford breakthrough

Researchers at Oxford University say a coronavirus vaccine could be available this year after a “milestone” clinical trial produced encouraging results. The vaccine stimulated “robust immune responses” in a phase-one trial. However, they cautioned that they are yet to determine whether the responses were sufficient to protect against Covid-19. Meanwhile, the UK government has signed deals for 90 million doses of promising vaccines being developed elsewhere.

3. Much-awaited Russia report due for release this morning

The long-awaited Russia report is expected to be published this morning, nine months after its publication was blocked by Boris Johnson. The document is expected to explain the threat Moscow poses to the UK and what has been done to counter it. The release, due at 10:30am, comes after allegations of Russian interference in last year's election, which the Kremlin has said are false.

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4. V-shaped recovery is on says Bank of England chief

The Bank of England’s chief economist says Britain is enjoying a V-shaped recovery, despite concerns over job losses. Andy Haldane told MPs: “Roughly half of the roughly 25% fall in activity during March and April has been clawed back over the period since. We have seen a bounce-back. So far, it has been a V. That, of course, doesn’t tell us about where we might go next.”

5. China warns the UK of ‘consequences’ for its actions

China has warned that the UK will “bear the consequences” if it continues to go “down the wrong road”. After London suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong over a new security law for the ex-colony, the Chinese ambassador in London said the UK had “blatantly interfered” in Beijing’s affairs. He added that Britain had “contravened international law and the basic norms governing international relations”.

6. Amber Heard says Johnny Depp threatened to kill her

Amber Heard claims Johnny Depp told her the only way out of their marriage “was death”. The actress told the High Court in London that Depp threatened to kill her multiple times, adding that she was “terrified of the monster”. Depp is suing The Sun for libel after it referred to him as a “wife beater” in a 2018 article written by Dan Wootton.

7. River Thames has record levels of microplastics

Scientists say the River Thames has some of the highest recorded levels of microplastics for any river in the world. A study concluded that 94,000 microplastics per second flow down the river in places, exceeding the rate measured in other European rivers, such as the Danube and Rhine. The authors said disposal of masks and gloves during the coronavirus pandemic “may well exacerbate this problem”.

8. M&S announces 950 job cuts as retail suffers

Marks & Spencer is cutting 950 roles, in the latest round of job cuts in the retail sector. The latest cuts – to store management posts as well as property and operational roles in head office – follow job losses relating to the closure of 54 stores in the past year or so. Retail experts told the BBC that the chain’s problems date back much further than the coronavirus pandemic.

9. Tower of London’s Beefeaters are facing redundancy

The Beefeaters of the Tower of London are facing job losses for the first time in their 500-year history. Historic Royal Palaces says some of the 37 serving Beefeaters are set to lose their jobs as part of cost-saving measures in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. “Clearly it’s an absolutely unprecedented situation - they are valued staff and we have been forced into this position,” said the HRP.

10. Greta Thunberg to donate €1m cash prize to environmental groups

Greta Thunberg has pledged she will pass a €1m prize she won to groups working to protect the environment and halt climate change. “That is more money than I can begin to imagine, but all the prize money will be donated, through my foundation, to different organisations and projects who are working to help people on the front line, affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis,” said the Swedish teen.

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