Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 7 Aug 2020

1. Second wave NHS shutdown risks thousands of deaths

Tens of thousands of patients will suffer pain and the risk of death if the NHS again shuts down normal care during a second wave of Covid-19 this winter, medics are warning. “The NHS must never again be a Covid-only service,” said Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Could more people die from lockdown than from coronavirus?

2. Clashes during anti-government protests in Beirut

Police fired tear gas near Lebanon’s parliament during clashes at anti-government protests in Beirut last night. The demonstrations followed Tuesday's explosions, which officials say was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which had been stored unsafely since 2013. The explosion killed at least 137 people and injured about 5,000 others. Dozens of people are still unaccounted for.

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What is ammonium nitrate - the chemical that exploded in Beirut?

3. Number 10 facing new questions on Cummings trip

Downing Street has been asked to prove that Dominic Cummings did not make a second trip to Durham during lockdown. Two of four people who claim to have seen the Downing Street adviser on what would have been a second visit to the north-east of England have told the police watchdog that officers in Durham have not fully examined their claims.

Dominic Cummings: five unanswered questions about the Durham lockdown breach

4. Trump says Biden is ‘against God and guns’

Donald Trump has stepped up his campaign for the presidency with a personal attack on the Democratic candidate Joe Biden. “He's against God. He's against guns,” the US president said during a trip to Ohio. Biden’s campaign spokesman said: “Joe Biden's faith is at the core of who he is. He's lived it with dignity his entire life, and it's been a source of strength and comfort in times of extreme hardship.”

2020 US election: what kind of president would Joe Biden make?

5. Victory for Rajapaksa brothers in Sri Lankan elections

Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa brothers have secured a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Party won 145 seats and also has at least five allies in the 225-member legislature. He and his brother Gotabaya, who was elected president last year, now plan to carry out centralising constitutional changes.

6. National Audit Office to act after masks revelation

Yesterday’s revelation that the government ordered more than 40 million unusable masks at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak will be investigated by the National Audit Office. The masks, which did not meet NHS standards, were ordered without tender from Ayanda Capital, a London-based investment company which has no experience of government procurement. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has called for an inquiry into how the £252m contract was awarded.

Coronavirus: ministers blew £150m on unusable masks from British banker

7. Refugees held at gunpoint as smuggler brutality grows

Refugees crossing the Channel to get to the UK have been forced into boats at gunpoint as people-smugglers turn to increasingly brutal tactics. The Guardian has published the testimony of refugees who describe being threatened with having their fingernails ripped out if they do not follow the orders of smugglers. The home secretary, Priti Patel, has said the Royal Navy should be used to stop migrant crossings.

8. A-level appeals allowed in exam board U-turn

Schools will be able to challenge A-level and GCSE grades after all, following a change of heart by the exam regulator under pressure from headteachers. In the absence of exams, grades are based on a combination of teacher estimates and statistical modelling. If schools believe students are incorrectly marked down by the model, they will be given the chance to make their case. In Scotland, nearly 125,000 predicted grades were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

9. Charges for activists in Hong Kong following vigil

A group of 25 Hong Kong democracy activists have been charged with taking part in a banned candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of China’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. They include the prominent activist Joshua Wong and the media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Wong, 23, wrote on Facebook: “Clearly the regime plans to stage another crackdown on the city’s activists.”

Reaction: how China’s new security law ‘crushes Hong Kong dissent’

10. Actress apologises for playing Nina Simone in cinema biopic

Zoe Saldana, who darkened her skin and wore a prosthetic nose to play Nina Simone in a biopic, has apologised for taking the role. Saldana, who was facing criticism for portraying the blues and jazz singer and civil rights activist, said: “I should have done everything in my power to cast a black woman to play an exceptionally perfect black woman.”

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