Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 November 2021

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

1. Gove dragged into sleaze row

A Conservative party donor who supported Michael Gove’s leadership bid won £164m in Covid contracts after the minister referred his firm to a “VIP lane”, The Guardian reported. Meller Designs, based in Bedford, was awarded six PPE supply contracts worth £164m from the Department of Health and Social Care during the Covid crisis. The firm’s co-owner, David Meller, has donated nearly £60,000 to the Tory party since 2009.

A timeline of the Tory sleaze allegations

2. Testimony puts cricket in crisis

English cricket is “institutionally” racist, according to former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq. The 30-year-old told a parliamentary select committee that racist language was “constantly” used during his spell at Yorkshire. In emotional testimony, he said he had lost his career to racism but hoped that by speaking out there would be “massive change in five years’ time”. The Telegraph said cricket has been plunged into “one of the worst scandals to have engulfed the game”.

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Yorkshire’s shame and the sport’s diversity problem

3. Antibiotics could cause new crisis

Health chiefs are warning of a “hidden pandemic” of antibiotic-resistant infections after Covid. The UK Health Security Agency said that although cold symptoms will be more common this winter, taking antibiotics is not the answer because it could encourage harmful bacteria to evade treatment and endanger everyone’s health. One in five people with an infection in 2020 had an antibiotic-resistant one. Chief medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said it was important “we do not come out of Covid-19 and enter into another crisis”.

The rise of the superbugs

4. Deadly storm his Canada

A brutal storm described by officials as a once-in-a-century weather event has severed road and rail links around Vancouver. At least one person has been killed and several more are feared dead after the storm hit the north-west USA and Canada, destroying highways and leaving tens of thousands of people without power. “We’re hopeful to find people alive but obviously that diminishes with time,” said David MacKenzie, a search and rescue manager in British Columbia.

The most extreme weather events of 2021

5. Tory donor linked to Andrew loan

Prince Andrew took out a £1.5m personal loan that was paid off by companies connected to a multimillionaire Conservative donor and financier, according to reports. Bloomberg News said the Duke of York took out the loan with the Luxembourg-based private bank Banque Havilland in 2017, and it was paid off within days by companies associated with David Rowland, the bank’s founder. The loan was allowed on the basis that it could open up “further business potential with the royal family,” the report claimed.

Why Scotland Yard dropped its Prince Andrew probe

6. Preventable deaths ‘rose during pandemic’

Nearly 10,000 more people than usual have died in the past four months from non-Covid reasons. England and Wales registered 20,823 more deaths than the five-year average in the past 18 weeks, of which only 11,531 involved Covid. This means that 9,292 deaths were not directly linked to the pandemic. The Telegraph said that experts are demanding an urgent government inquiry into whether the deaths were preventable.

When will the UK be back to normal?

7. Ceasefire for Armenia and Azerbaijan

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a ceasefire at their border after Moscow urged them to step back from confrontation following deadly clashes. The agreement follows the worst fighting since a 44-day war last year between ethnic Armenian forces and the Azeri army over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that killed at least 6,500 people. “Fire ceased on the eastern section of the Armenian-Azeri border, and the situation is relatively stable,” Armenia’s Defence Ministry said.

Nagorno-Karabakh: disputed territory ‘laced with mines’

8. Pfizer drug deal for poorer nations

Pfizer has announced an agreement to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in the world’s poorest nations. The pharmaceutical giant has announced that it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its Paxlovid pill to 95 low-and middle-income nations, covering about 53% of the world’s population. Trials of the pill showed an 89% reduction in the risk of Covid-19-related hospitalisation or death compared to a placebo.

Paxlovid: have we turned a Covid-19 corner?

9. New business headache for Cameron

The multi-millionaire founder of a company advised by David Cameron has been accused of physical abuse and sexual harassment against a female employee. The Telegraph claimed that Zia Chishti, 50, beat a 23-year-old employee while having sex with her on a work trip to Brazil and told her that “he should have had sex with me when I was thirteen years old”. Chishti strongly denies the allegations.

What is Cameron doing now?

10. Spain scraps musician rules

The music industry has welcomed the decision by Spain to scrap post-Brexit visa requirements for UK artists on short-term tours. The announcement from Madrid means British musicians and their crew will no longer need visas for engagements of less than 90 days. The concession came after months of lobbying from trade groups on both sides but campaigners warned significant issues still remain that will make many tours “impossible”.

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