Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 8 Feb 2021

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

1. South Africa halts Oxford jab

South Africa has suspended its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after research suggested it offers limited protection against mild and moderate cases of disease caused by the coronavirus variant discovered there. The UK’s vaccines minister insists that the British public can have confidence in Covid vaccines. Nadhim Zahawi said an annual booster jab is likely to be required, with the first to come in the autumn.

The coronavirus vaccines

2. Queen ‘lobbied to hide wealth’

The Queen’s personal lawyers successfully lobbied ministers to change a draft law in order to conceal her “embarrassing” private wealth from the public, according to The Guardian. Government memos from the National Archives show the monarch used a private solicitor to secure exemption from a transparency law. However, Buckingham Palace says the claims are “simply incorrect”.

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3. More heavy snow forecast

Further heavy snowfall is on the way to parts of England as Storm Darcy brings in winter weather. There could be as much as 15cm in parts of the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, particularly over the Lincolnshire Wolds. The Met Office says it has been “bitterly cold” because of strong easterly winds from Ukraine and the Black Sea.

4. Probe into extremist groups

Ministers have ordered an investigation into the extreme fringes on both ends of the political spectrum, The Daily Telegraph reports. The review will be led by Lord Walney - a former Labour MP who was appointed as the government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption. He said that there was “not an equivalence of threat between the far-left and the far-right” in the UK, with the latter a graver threat.

5. Flood kills 14 in India

At least 14 people have died and 170 more are missing after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off, triggering a huge flood in northern India. The floodwaters burst open a dam and a deluge of water poured through a valley in the state of Uttarakhand. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there.”

6. ‘Credible case’ of Uighur genocide

A formal legal opinion has stated that there is a “very credible case” that the Chinese government is carrying out genocide against the Uighur people. It concludes that there has been deliberate infliction of harm on Uighurs in detention, measures to prevent women giving birth and the forcible transfer of Uighur children out of their community. A legal opinion “does not have a legal standing, like a court judgement, but can be used as a basis for legal action”, the BBC reports.

Will other nations join US in accusing China of genocide?

7. Chains call for level playing field

Britain’s biggest retail chains, including Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Waterstones, have teamed up to call for an overhaul of business rates to help them to compete with online giants such as Amazon. The retailers, who pay £8bn a year in business rates, are calling on ministers to “rebalance the tax base to ensure online and bricks-and-mortar retailers pay a similar proportion of tax”.

‘Shameless’ tech giants ‘exploit coronavirus to dodge tax’

8. Elderly rebel on TV licences

Up to 750,000 older people are refusing to pay for a TV licence. The Times says this has created a £117m deficit for the BBC, which abolished free licences for over-75s last summer after the government said the corporation would have to pay for them. Refusing to pay for a licence can lead to a £1,000 fine and a prison sentence, but the director of the campaign group Silver Voices, said: “There are a hard core who are resisting.”

The politics behind free BBC licences

9. Meghan ‘eyes up politics’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have held a private meeting with one of America’s most powerful state governors, prompting renewed speculation that Meghan is considering launching her own political career. Officials for Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, confirmed that he had a virtual meeting with Harry and Meghan in October, weeks before Joe Biden was elected president.

10. Brady stars in Super Bowl

Tom Brady guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a convincing 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs to extend his record for Super Bowl wins to seven. The BBC says the “evergreen” 43-year-old quarterback helped Tampa Bay become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. CNN described Brady’s story as like a “movie script”.

NFL’s underdog story for the goat Tom Brady

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