Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 November 2021

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

1. New measures fall short of ‘Plan B’

The Health Secretary is due to explain when new Covid measures will come into force as the UK responds to the new Omicron variant. Yesterday, Boris Johnson announced mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport in England. PCR tests will also be required for all overseas arrivals. The BBC noted that the measures do not go as far as the government’s Plan B, which ministers have long said is their contingency plan if intervention on Covid is needed to protect the NHS.

2. Israel calls in Shin Bet for Covid

Israel will ban foreigners from entering the country for 14 days, reported the BBC. The ban is expected to come into effect at midnight on Sunday, following cabinet approval. The cabinet has also authorised surveillance of confirmed Covid patients by the Israel’s controversial Shin Bet security agency. Prime Minister prime Naftali Bennett said phone-tracking technology would be used.

3. Aung San Suu Kyi awaits verdict

The former leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, is preparing to hear the verdict in her trial for incitement against the country’s military rulers. The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals ousted her democratically elected government in February. The verdict will be the first in a catalogue of cases that could see her jailed for the rest of her life. Commentators say the various charges against her are aimed at removing her from the political arena for good.

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4. Home births hit by NHS crisis

An acute shortage of midwives has led to home birth services being closed or reduced by a number of hospital trusts across the UK, leaving pregnant women unsure where they will be able to give birth. More than 20 trusts have had disrupted home birth services in the past three months, noted The Observer, with eight confirming their services remain suspended due to staff shortages. Maria Booker, from the charity Birthrights, said: “Staffing pressures in maternity services are very real right now.”

5. Australia to force social media’s hand

The Australian government is to introduce legislation to crack down on abuse and bullying on social media. Going forward, online platforms will be forced to expose the identity of individuals who post defamatory or damaging material anonymously. Social media “provides many great opportunities,” said prime minister Scott Morrison, “but it comes with some real risks and we must address these, or it will continue to have a very harmful and corrosive impact on our society”.

6. Maxwell prepares for ‘gruelling’ trial

The much-anticipated trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, who is facing six sex-trafficking charges, is due to start in New York tomorrow. The charges involve four alleged underage victims and multiple locations over a 10-year period between 1994 and 2004. Maxwell, who also faces two counts of perjury, denies any wrongdoing. The Observer said the opening days will “set the stage” for a trial in which the British socialite’s alleged involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes will be “aired in grueling detail”.

7. Un-jabbed filling NHS beds

A leading NHS official said that hundreds of intensive care beds that could be used for life-saving surgery were occupied by unvaccinated Covid patients. Some 825 out of 3,480 patients in intensive care beds across England on Friday had Covid, around three quarters of them unvaccinated. Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said: “These are beds that would have historically been used to provide life-saving surgeries for the most seriously ill patients.”

8. Japan bolsters record arms budget

Japan plans to add $6.75bn to its annual military spending to boost air and maritime defences. CNN said the nation is adding to its “already record” military budget because it has become “more concerned about threats posed by China and North Korea”. Analysts say China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan is causing particular concern in Japan because Beijing’s control of the island would bring Chinese forces within around 60 miles of its territory.

9. Third death in Storm Arwen

A third person died after Storm Arwen struck parts of the UK with high winds, rain and snow. The 35-year-old man died after his pick-up truck was struck by a falling tree in Aberdeenshire on Friday. The death followed that of a head teacher, who perished after a tree fell onto his car in Antrim, and another man who died after he was hit by a falling tree in Cumbria. Wind reached speeds of 98mph in Northumberland.

10. Concern over ‘shocking’ rise of candy stores

The Sunday Times reported that US-style “candy” superstores opening across the UK are selling “single servings” of sweets that contain two and a half times the maximum amount of sugar a child should consume daily. Analysts say the outlets are benefiting from the “lipstick effect”, whereby consumers spend money on small indulgences during difficult economic times, but the campaign group Action on Sugar described the trend as “shocking”

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