Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 October 2021

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

1. Covid-19 cases near 50,000

Downing Street has warned of “challenging” months ahead as the country’s daily Covid-19 cases near 50,000. The reported number of Covid cases reached 49,156 on Monday, the highest number of daily infections since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week. Hospitalisations and deaths are also increasing, according to government data. The number of people dying within 28 days of testing positive reached 869 over the past seven days, up 11.4% on the week before. A No. 10 spokesperson said “we always knew the coming months would be challenging”, adding that the government would keep a “close watch” on the statistics.

Why does the UK have highest Covid case rate in western Europe?

2. North Korea test fires missile

North Korea has fired at least one ballistic missile into waters off the coast of Japan, according to South Korea and Japan. In recent weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has tested a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon and a missile described as a “hypersonic warhead”. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that it was “regrettable” that North Korea had conducted the string of missile tests.

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North Korea and the limits of missile diplomacy

3. Adverts to back boosters

An advert campaign is being launched to urge older people to get a Covid booster jab as experts warn that the rollout has yet to reach millions who need a top-up. Radio and television slots will urge people to go for both their booster and flu vaccines to avoid overwhelming hospitals in the months ahead. People over 50 can get boosters six months after their second dose. According to NHS England, 3.7m of the 6.4m eligible have so far been vaccinated.

Which Covid-19 vaccine works best as a booster jab?

4. Suspended MPs to face by-election

MPs would face by-elections if they are suspended for sexual harassment or bullying under a government plan to be debated in the Commons today. It follows a controversy over Rob Roberts, a former Tory MP who was suspended from parliament for six weeks in May for sexual misconduct. Labour said the planned measures should also apply retrospectively, however, the government is expected to vote against the opposition amendment.

Conservatives to investigate MP who ‘invited 21-year-old intern to fool around’

5. Pump grants for homeowners

Homeowners are to be offered subsidies of £5,000 to help them replace old gas boilers with low carbon heat pumps. The BBC said the grants, due to be rolled out in April, are part of the government’s £3.9bn plan to reduce carbon emissions from heating homes and other buildings. The investment also aims to make social housing and public buildings more energy efficient. Campaigners and experts said the budget is too low and the strategy not ambitious enough in scope.

Does Boris Johnson’s green agenda go far enough?

6. Trump sues to keep presidency secret

Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit in a DC District Court in a bid to keep records from his presidency secret by claiming executive privilege. The lawsuit from the former US president is an attempt to block the work of a select committee as it investigates his actions before and during the siege of the Capitol. The document claims that the House’s requests for documents from the executive branch “are unprecedented in their breadth and scope and are untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose”.

Have the Republicans ‘handed the party’ to Donald Trump ahead of 2024?

7. Gates sent ‘flirty’ email to employee

Bill Gates was asked by Microsoft executives to stop sending “flirtatious” and “inappropriate” emails to a female employee before he left the software giant a decade ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. A Microsoft spokesperson said the “flirtatious” emails were “not overtly sexual”, adding that they were, however, deemed to be “inappropriate”. Bridgitt Arnold, chief communications officer at Gates Ventures, described the claims as “false, recycled rumours”.

Explained: the links between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein

8. Gang behind Haiti kidnapping

A gang is behind the kidnapping of a group of North American missionaries near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, according to authorities. Five men, seven women and five children were returning from a visit to an orphanage when they were abducted on Saturday. Officials say they are being held by the 400 Mawozo gang, which was previously blamed for the kidnapping of Catholic clergy in April.

400 Mawozo: the Haitian gang behind kidnapping of 17 American missionaries

9. One-third of music workers lost jobs

More than a third of music industry workers in the UK lost their jobs last year as venues shut, festivals were cancelled, tours were scrapped and the pandemic wiped billions off the value of the sector. UK Music, the umbrella organisation representing the commercial music industry, said the value of the sector almost halved last year due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Around 69,000 people lost their jobs, The Guardian said.

Brexit and festival insurance issues threaten live music industry’s return

10. Tributes to ‘remarkable’ Powell

Tributes have been paid to Colin Powell, the first black US secretary of state who made the case for the Iraq War at the UN, who has died from complications from Covid at the age of 84. The Republican’s family said “we have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American”. Joe Biden said Powell embodied the “highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat”. George W. Bush described him as “a great public servant”. Powell “helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st”, CNN said.

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