Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 July 2021

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

1. Cummings ‘considered ousting PM’

Former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings says he discussed removing Boris Johnson from office within days of the Conservatives winning the December 2019 election. He told the BBC that by mid-January 2020 Johnson did not “have a plan”. Following the interview, the Daily Mail’s Sarah Vine, who describes herself as “an old friend” of Cummings, said he was “brutal, disloyal and obsessive”.

Cummings vs. Johnson: a ‘doomed’ relationship

2. Border staff ‘abandon Covid checks’

Leaked instructions suggest that border officials are no longer required to make basic Covid checks on people arriving in England from green and amber list countries. Anonymous sources in the Border Force told The Guardian that officers no longer have to verify whether new arrivals have received a negative test, have booked a test within coming days, or have a passenger locator form showing an address where they will isolate if necessary.

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3. Major floods hit China

Heavy rain has caused spectacular flooding in parts of central China, forcing people from their homes and leaving roads submerged. More than 10,000 people in Henan province have been evacuated to shelters following the torrential downpours and at least 12 people have died in the city of Zhengzhou. Henan province, home to 94 million people, has issued its highest level of weather warning. The BBC says a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.

4. Crossings pile pressure on Patel

The number of illegal migrants crossing the Channel into Britain passed the annual record yesterday as the home secretary faced criticism for failing to stem a rise in people making the journey. The Home Office said 287 migrants reached the UK in 12 boats, taking this year’s total to 8,474 - more than the 8,420 who made the crossing in the whole of 2020. Conservative MPs say Priti Patel is “throwing good money after bad solutions”.

Why record numbers of migrants are crossing the English Channel

5. PM under pressure over ‘pingdemic’

Boris Johnson is being urged to exempt more people from having to isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid app after cabinet ministers warned the country is facing a wave of supermarket, Post Office and restaurant closures. The PM has allowed an exemption that permits “critical” workers to avoid self-isolation after contact with someone with Covid-19 but there is pressure for him to go further. More than half a million people were told to self-isolate last week and business leaders believe that figure could reach five million.

Inside the plan to end the track-and-trace epidemic

6. Bitcoin falls over Delta wobbles

Bitcoin has fallen below $30,000 again as investors worldwide fret about the Delta variant and its potential impact on the course of the pandemic. The cryptocurrency fell by roughly 6% yesterday, according to Coindesk. Bitcoin is “the ultimate risky asset right now” and “could see intense selling pressure if Wall Street enters into panic selling mode,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas at Oanda.

7. Think tank predicts £17bn cuts

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says Rishi Sunak will usher in cuts to public services of up to £17bn compared with the government’s pre-pandemic plans unless he chooses to increase taxes instead. The think tank said the government was on track to spend between £14bn and £17bn less than planned each year on a range of public services. The Treasury said departmental budgets had not yet been confirmed.

8. Macron’s number in leaked database

The mobile phone numbers of Emmanuel Macron and 13 other heads of state or government have been found in a treasure trove of data apparently collected using sophisticated spyware. Other leaders include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Pakistani PM Imran Khan. The Guardian says the scandal has “turned the spotlight” on spyware firm NSO’s ties to Israeli state. NSO has denied responsibility for the database.

9. Nigerian hostages released

The authorities in Nigeria say they have freed 100 women and children who were seized by bandits. The group - mainly mothers nursing babies - will now be given medical checks and debriefed before they return to their homes. They were abducted last month in Zamfara state in an incident in which four people died. Since December 2020, more than 1,000 people have been abducted in the region. Most have later been freed, after ransoms were paid, but some have been killed.

The Week Unwrapped: Nigerian ransoms, missiles and awe

10. Tokyo boss says Olympics could be cancelled

The head of Tokyo 2020 has not ruled out the cancellation of the Olympic Games after more than 70 people associated with the Games tested positive ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony. Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and hold “discussions” if necessary. However, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said cancellation was “never an option”. The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics have already been postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

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