Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 10 March 2021

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

1. Whitty warning: Covid isn’t over

The UK’s chief medical adviser has warned that reopening society too quickly could lead to a significant surge in Covid infections. Speaking to MPs, Prof Chris Whitty said: “A lot of people may think this is all over. It is very easy to forget how quickly things can turn bad.” His statement came as Conservative backbench MPs are pushing the prime minister to end lockdown sooner than planned.

The reason Boris Johnson won’t end lockdown sooner

2. Palace responds to Meghan claims

The allegation of racism raised by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey is “concerning” and will be “taken very seriously”, Buckingham Palace has said. In a statement, the Palace added that although “recollections may vary”, the matters will be addressed privately. Meghan had told Winfrey that Harry had been asked by an unnamed family member “how dark” their son Archie’s skin might be.

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What next for Royal Family after ‘racism’ allegations?

3. Arkansas bans abortions

The US state of Arkansas has passed legislation banning nearly all abortions. The Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, said he was signing the law because of its “overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions”. Republican senator Jason Rapert, the bill’s sponsor, said: “We must abolish abortion in this nation just as we abolished slavery in the 19th century – all lives matter.”

4. Officer held over disappearance

A Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old woman who went missing after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham, southwest London at about 9pm on 3 March. Police said they had arrested a man in Kent in connection with her disappearance. That he was a serving officer was “shocking and deeply disturbing”, they added. A woman was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

5. MPs question Test and Trace

The impact of NHS Test and Trace is still unclear, according to MPs – despite the government having set aside £37bn for it over two years. Describing the spending on the scheme as “unimaginable,” the Public Accounts Committee warned that the taxpayer could not be treated like an “ATM machine”. Chairwoman Meg Hillier said it was hard to point to a “measurable difference” the test-and-trace system had made.

6. Piers Morgan quits

Piers Morgan has left ITV’s Good Morning Britain after saying that he “didn't believe a word” the Duchess of Sussex had told Oprah Winfrey about her mental health. ITV announced the decision after Ofcom said it had received 41,000 complaints and was investigating his comments. He had been a presenter on the programme for six years.

7. Right to repair law planned

The government has announced that from the summer consumers will have a right to repair goods they buy, meaning manufacturers will be obliged to sell spare parts. The BBC says appliances such as fridges and washing machines should last longer and be cheaper to run under new rules, which aim to extend the lifespan of products by up to ten years.

8. Greece to welcome Brits from May

Greece has announced that it will open its borders to British holidaymakers on 14 May. British arrivals who have had both doses of the Covid vaccine will not face any restrictions, and others will be permitted entry provided that they can produce a negative test. The Times says the news will “further fuel the surge in British bookings”. UK tourists are the second most lucrative visitors to Greece after those from Germany.

9. Arafat nephew plans new party

Yasser Arafat’s nephew has called for a crackdown on corruption and the enforcement of strict term limits ahead of the Palestinian territories’ first elections in 15 years. Nasser al-Qudwa told the Daily Telegraph he is planning a new political movement that hopes to contest the elections alongside Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Palestinian leader. It would pose a rare challenge to Mahmoud Abbas, the 85-year-old Palestinian president.

10. Neanderthals ‘mated with humans’

Remains of the Neanderthal species in Europe are thousands of years older than once thought, according to new research. The remains had been thought to be 24,000 years old but new tests show they are as much as 44,200 years old. The new dating by Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator suggests that early humans and Neanderthals “overlapped” in Europe, interbreeding with each other.

Neanderthal genes linked to severe Covid-19 symptoms

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