Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 August 2021

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

1. Blair: Afghanistan exit ‘imbecilic’

Tony Blair has described the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as “imbecilic”. In his first public statement since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the former PM says the abandonment of Afghanistan and its people was “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary”. Blair, who was in charge when the UK invaded the country alongside the US in 2001, said the exit of allied troops would have Jihadist groups “cheering”.

2. Prisoners may help food shortage

Shops, farms and restaurants are “scrambling to recruit prisoners” to help ease the “desperate” shortage of workers caused by Covid and Brexit, reports The Sunday Times. After a lack of HGV drivers, fruit pickers and factory workers left supermarkets struggling to keep shelves filled, some companies are trying to hire prisoners to fill the vacancies through a scheme which allows inmates to undertake paid work on day release.

3. Haiti death toll surpasses 2,000

The death toll from Haiti’s earthquake has now passed 2,000 and tension is building over the slow place of aid in remote regions. The official death toll is now 2,189 and an estimated 332 people are still missing. Thousands of homes and livelihoods were lost after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck last Saturday. Experts say the poorest country in the Americas is in urgent need of medical, food and sanitation assistance.

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4. Antibody tests to be offered in UK

Antibody tests are to be widely offered to the UK public for the first time, reported the BBC. The government programme will offer tests to thousands of adults each day in an attempt to find out more about how much natural protection people have after getting coronavirus. From Tuesday, of those who test positive for Covid, up to 8,000 will be sent two home antibody tests, which consist of a finger prick.

5. Starmer to paint vision ‘in primary colours’

Keir Starmer has told Labour that it has to modernise and become “the party of the next 10 or 20 years” if it is to stand a chance of winning the next election. Speaking to The Observer, the Labour leader said he would use the forthcoming annual conference to paint “in primary colours” the kind of nation a new Labour government would fashion if it won the next election. “In order to win that election, we have to win the future,” he added.

6. Nightclub passport plan ‘in disarray’

The government has been accused of letting its vaccine passports plan descend into disarray. According to a leaked letter from government lawyers, “no final policy decision” has been taken on requiring the passes in nightclubs, adding that: “any further announcements will be made in due course”. The letter contradicts Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier this year that those attending nightclubs and “other venues where large crowds gather” in England will need to be fully vaccinated from that date.

7. Ocado drivers ‘paid under £5 an hour’

Drivers delivering groceries for Ocado are earning less than the minimum wage, reported The Observer. Drivers carrying orders for the online retailer’s rapid delivery service, Ocado Zoom, were promised an hourly wage of £14 but they are not employed directly by Ocado and they say their income fell after the company brought in a new delivery partner, Ryde, in June. “Ocado is treating us like dirt,” said one.

8. Israel attacks Gaza Strip

Israel bombed struck Hamas sites in Gaza last night after earlier cross-border gunfire seriously injured an Israeli soldier and wounded 41 Palestinians, including two critically. Hundreds of Palestinians had gathered near the strip’s heavily fortified border, where some tried to scale the border fence and others threw explosives towards Israeli troops, the Israeli military claimed. Fearing further hostilities, the military said it had sent additional forces to the Gaza border area.

9. Prince Andrew memorabilia ignored

Auctioneers are turning down memorabilia relating to Prince Andrew because “nobody would want to be seen buying it” due to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. An auctioneer and senior valuer at Dominic Winter, said that he had been recently offered a piece of wedding cake from Prince Andrew’s 1986 wedding to Sarah Ferguson for auction. But he said he turned it down, believing it “unsellable at any price.”

10. Pop singer doubles down on jab

Right Said Fred singer, Richard Fairbrass, was hospitalised with Covid after previously refusing to get vaccinated. The 67-year-old former pop star was taken to hospital by ambulance last weekend after struggling to breathe. He spent four nights under observation before his condition improved. However Fairbrass, who has previously called the vaccine a “scam”, has since told the MailOnline: “This vaccine is only for experimental use. I’m absolutely not going to have one now.”

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