Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 8 March 2021

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

1. Meghan alleges royal racism

The Duchess of Sussex has claimed that members of the royal family had openly expressed concerns about the colour of her son Archie’s skin. During the hotly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan said Harry was asked by one member of his family “how dark” their son’s skin might be. She also said she found life within the Royal Family so difficult that at times she “didn't want to be alive anymore”.

What does the future hold for Archie Mountbatten-Windsor?

2. Schools return after two months

Millions of children in England will return to school this week after more than two months of studying at home during the latest lockdown. Secondary pupils will take Covid tests and wear masks as their schools have a phased return during the week. Primary school children are not being asked to take tests nor wear masks on their return. It is first step of the roadmap out of the national lockdown.

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Everything we know about whether schools will be ready to reopen

3. PM hints at nurse pay U-turn

Boris Johnson has hinted he may rethink his 1% pay rise for NHS workers by noting it will not be finalised until an independent review body reports back. “What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time,” he said. “The independent pay review body will obviously look at what we've proposed and come back.”

Tory minister hits back at criticism of 1% pay rise for NHS staff

4. Swiss vote for burqa ban

Switzerland is to follow France, Belgium and Austria and ban women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public spaces. In a referendum, just over 51% of Swiss voters supported the proposal to ban people from covering their face completely on the street, in shops and restaurants. “This is clearly an attack against the Muslim community in Switzerland,” said Ines Al Shikh, a member of Les Foulards Violets, a Muslim feminist collective.

5. Yemen aid cut criticised by UN

The UK government has moved to “balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen”, says the head of the UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs. Mark Lowcock said the UK decision was “an act of medium and longer term self-harm, and all for saving what is actually - in the great scheme of things at the moment - a relatively small amount of money”. He said the cuts could cost tens of thousands of lives.

Government cuts aid to ‘poverty superpower’ Yemen

6. Blasts in Guinea kill 15

At least 15 people have died and around 500 have been injured in a string of explosions in Equatorial Guinea. The blasts, which happened near a military barracks in the main city of Bata on Sunday, were caused by “negligence” relating to the storage of dynamite at the barracks, said the president. The health ministry said it feared people are missing under the rubble.

7. PM calls for Zaghari-Ratcliffe release

Boris Johnson has called for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released “permanently” so she can be reunited with her family in the UK. The British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran on spying charges has had her ankle tag removed at the end of her five-year sentence but a new court case against her is scheduled for next Sunday. As foreign secretary, Johnson was accused of putting Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk with remarks about her presence in Iran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘eligible for early release’

8. Taliban could surge, says US

The Taliban could make rapid military gains when American and Nato troops pull out of Afghanistan, the US Secretary of State has forecast. In a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Anthony Blinken has warned of a possible new “spring offensive”. Under a deal agreed under Donald Trump, the remaining 10,000 US-led Nato forces in the country are due to pull out by 1 May but Joe Biden says he will review the terms.

9. Helicopter crash kills French politician

Olivier Dassault, a member of the French National Assembly, has died in an air crash in Normandy. The helicopter carrying him crashed shortly after taking off from the coastal resort of Deauville on Sunday. President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the 69-year-old, tweeting that he “loved France”. A billionaire, he was the grandson of Marcel Dassault, who founded the aircraft manufacturing company Dassault Aviation.

10. Canada sends free postcards

The government postal service in Canada is sending a free prepaid postcard to every household in the country to help citizens stay connected during the Covid-19 pandemic. Canada Post is planning to send about 13.5 million postcards across the county, after its president and chief executive said: “Meaningful connection is vital for our emotional health, sense of community and overall well-being.”

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