Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 October 2021

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

1. Amess’ Qatar links examined

Police investigating the murder of Sir David Amess are examining his ties to the Gulf state of Qatar. The Conservative MP was chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the country. The man being questioned over the stabbing is the son of a former prime ministerial adviser in Somalia, where the current leadership is backed by Qatar. The MP’s family have called on the public to “set aside hatred and work towards togetherness”.

2. Pandemic causes psychosis surge

Cases of psychosis have soared “amid the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic”, The Guardian reported. Between April 2019 and April 2021, there was a 75% increase in the number of people referred to mental health services for their first suspected episode of psychosis. The condition can involve hallucinations and delusional thinking. Brian Dow, the deputy chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “These soaring numbers of suspected first episodes of psychosis are cause for alarm.”

3. Johnsons ‘broke lockdown rules’

Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson have been accused of breaking lockdown rules last Christmas, the Daily Mirror reported. The paper says the prime minister and his wife were joined by political campaigner Nimco Ali for the 2020 festive period, despite the government’s strict social distancing rules at the time. Downing Street and Carrie Johnson’s spokeswoman have denied rules were broken but neither denied that Ali joined the couple last Christmas.

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4. Record rise in house prices

House prices have set new records after rising at the fastest rate since 2015. In the first instance of a “full house” of property inflation across the board since 2007, prices rose for every type of property, from starter homes to family houses and in every region of Britain. Rightmove found that property prices rose by 1.8% month-on-month in October, following the end of the stamp duty holiday in September.

5. Call for end of school Covid tests

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said that Covid testing in schools should be brought to an end for the sake of children’s education. Dr Camilla Kingdon, president of the group, said the current regime in secondary schools – where pupils are told to take two lateral flow tests each week – is causing “unnecessary chaos”. Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said mass testing in schools is “utterly pointless”.

6. Spain moves against prostitution

The prime minister of Spain pledged to outlaw prostitution in the country. Speaking to supporters in Valencia, Pedro Sanchez said that the practice “enslaves” women. His party’s manifesto called prostitution “one of the cruellest aspects of the feminisation of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women”. Prostitution was decriminalised in Spain in 1995 and the UN estimates that the country’s sex industry is worth £3.1bn per year.

7. China linked to English schools

The Times has revealed that top private schools in England are making tens of millions of pounds from close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The board of Harrow International School Hong Kong includes four senior Communist Party members, while the website of one of Dulwich College’s nine associated Chinese campuses lists policies and procedures for turning children into party members. Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said: “Education is one of Britain’s great exports but these reports are concerning.”

8. Deaths in Kerala flooding

At least 25 people have died in landslides and floods caused by torrential rain in south-western India. Residents were cut off in parts of the coastal state of Kerala as the rains, which started to intensify from late on Friday, swelled rivers and flooded roads. Helicopters have been used to fly in supplies and personnel to areas where people have been trapped under debris by the landslides, officials said on Sunday.

9. Rape complaints in army rising

A freedom of information request has found that complaints sexual assault made by girls under 18 in the military have risen tenfold since 2015. Ministry of Defence data showed that girls under 18 in the armed forces have made 41 complaints of rape and sexual assault to the military police since 2015 – the equivalent of one report for every 40 girls. This makes girls in the armed forces more than twice as likely as civilian counterparts to report a rape or sexual assault to police.

10. China’s economic growth slows

China’s economy grew by just 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021, its poorest rate of expansion in 12 months. The rate of growth in the July-to-September period was significantly slower than the 7.9% year-on-year increase China registered in the second quarter. CNN said the country is dealing with a major energy crunch, supply chain disruptions, and deepening debt woes in its outsized property sector.

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