Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 13 March 2021

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

1. Met officer charged with murder

A serving Metropolitan Police officer will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning after being charged with kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard, who went missing in south London last week. Yesterday, Wayne Couzens was taken to hospital for a second time in 48 hours for treatment on a fresh head injury sustained in custody. A woman who was previously arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender has been released on bail.

2. ‘Bumper boost’ in vaccine stocks

Everyone over 40 should be offered their first Covid vaccine by Easter thanks to a “bumper boost,” claims the Daily Telegraph. With stocks expected to more than double, the NHS will be able to administer up to a million doses a day in coming weeks. Backbench Tory MPs said the vaccination programme’s progress, combined with continued falls in cases and hospitalisations, means pubs and restaurants should be allowed to open from Easter.

3. UK nuke numbers set to rise

The UK’s Trident nuclear warhead numbers are expected to rise for first time since cold war. Whitehall sources told The Guardian that a cap on total warhead numbers – currently set at 180 – is expected to be raised, in a move described bvy analysts as diplomatically provocative. Each warhead has an explosive power of 100 kilotons. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about 15 kilotons.

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4. Zulu king dies at 72

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, the monarch of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, has died. The 72-year-old passed away after being hospitalised for an ailment for several weeks, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a condolence message on social media. There are calls for the nation’s coronavirus restrictions to be relaxed so the king can be given a major public funeral.

5. RAF troops ‘assault’ young man

A video has surfaced in which RAF troops appear to sexually assault a young airman in an initiation rite. The video, published by the Daily Mail, shows a naked airman being held down by drunken troops before they allegedly assault him. A criminal investigation is under way. Tobias Ellwood, Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: “This incident, however isolated, will temporarily damage the fine reputation of the RAF.”

6. More kidnappings in Nigeria

Armed men have stormed a college in north-west Nigeria and kidnapped 39 students. Reports say the gunmen raided the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna state, shooting indiscriminately before taking students. The Guardian reminds us that heavily armed gangs in north-west and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.

7. New lockdown in Italy

Italy will close shops, restaurants and schools on Monday, as Prime Minister Mario Draghi warns of a “new wave” of the Covid outbreak. There will be a total shutdown over Easter. Italy’s vaccination campaign has been hit by delays and country has reported more than 100,000 Covid-related deaths, Europe’s second highest tally after the UK.

8. PM to end ‘abhorrent’ conversion

Boris Johnson says he will end “repulsive” gay conversion therapy. The prime minister said he will ban the “abhorrent” practice and added he was sorry that three of the government’s LGBT advisers had resigned over a lack of progress on the issue. The Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, insisted that despite recent criticism, the government was “committed to LGBT equality”.

9. Search for Virgin Islands woman

A search and rescue operation has been launched for a British woman who vanished from a yacht moored off the US Virgin Islands. The boyfriend of Sarm Heslop raised the alarm after waking in the early hours of Monday to discover she was nowhere to be seen on his 47ft catamaran. A close friend of Heslop has described the situation as “desperate”.

10. Sussexes lose popularity in UK

Harry and Meghan have fallen out of favour for the public, according to a new poll. YouGov found that 45% of Britons have a positive opinion of Harry, while 48% regard him negatively - the first time that attitudes towards the duke have been negative overall. Only 31% of people have a positive opinion of Meghan, while 58% have a negative opinion, a fall in her net rating to minus 27, from minus 14.

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