Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 December 2021

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

1. UK agrees deals for 114m more Covid vaccines

Ministers in the UK have rushed through a deal for 114 million extra doses of a Covid vaccine that can be tailored against variants, bringing a fourth coronavirus jab for British adults a step closer. Sajid Javid said the deal with Moderna and Pfizer, which is likely to cost more than £2bn, will help to “future proof” the NHS vaccination drive. However, the World Health Organisation said the focus should be on ensuring the global population receives a first dose.

When can I book my Covid-19 booster vaccine?

2. Sinking boat ‘called UK authorities’

The Home Office has admitted that the occupants of a boat that sank last week in the Channel, causing the deaths of at least 27 people, may have tried to contact the UK authorities. The clandestine Channel threat commander told the parliament’s human rights committee that he could not say with any certainty if those onboard had rung the UK for help. Two survivors claim those onboard made calls to British authorities as their dinghy sank but the British responded by telling them to get in touch with the French.

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Why have Channel migrant drownings reached a record new high?

3. Macron ‘called Johnson a clown’

Emmanuel Macron has privately described Boris Johnson as a “clown” and a “knucklehead”, according to reports in France. The president made the remarks to a small group of advisers last week as the UK and France were at loggerheads over the Channel migrant crisis. Sylvie Bermann, a former French ambassador to the UK, told Times Radio that relations between France and Britain had “never been as bad since Waterloo”.

‘France and UK must refrain from making mountains out of minnows’

4. Maxwell accuser ‘met Trump at 14’

A woman who said she was sexually abused by Ghislaine Maxwell and the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than two decades ago has told a court that she met Donald Trump when Epstein took her to Mar-a-Lago when she was just 14 years old. The woman also testified that she flew on Epstein’s private plane along with Prince Andrew. Her testimony came during Maxwell’s trial on six federal charges, including sex trafficking of minors.

Ghislaine Maxwell: the allegations examined

5. GPs may stop monitoring vulnerable

Ministers may allow GPs to pause regular monitoring of millions of patients with underlying health problems to focus on delivering Covid booster jabs. The Guardian reported that Sajid Javid and NHS bosses are “locked in talks” with GP representatives at the British Medical Association about relaxing rules which require family doctors to undertake checks on people with diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions that mean they are at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Record 5.45m people on NHS England waiting lists

6. Baldwin denies pulling trigger

Alec Baldwin claimed he didn’t pull the trigger of the gun that fatally wounded cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of his film, Rust. In a tearful interview, the actor said he had “no idea” how a live bullet got into a gun he was using and that he “didn't pull the trigger”. Speaking to ABC News, he said: “No, no, no, I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never.” The interview is the first time Baldwin has spoken in depth about the incident on camera.

Will Alec Baldwin be prosecuted for fatal film-set shooting?

7. US court may accept abortion ban

The US Supreme Court looks set to accept a Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. In a hearing yesterday, justices hinted that a majority backed upholding the law. Anti-abortion campaigners are asking the court to “protect unborn children”, but experts warn of an increase in maternal mortality if abortion is restricted. The BBC noted that the US Supreme Court is “now dominated by conservatives, three of whom were appointed by Donald Trump”.

8. Military tattoo for exiting Merkel

A ceremony will see Angela Merkel bow out of office with a military tattoo held in her honour this evening. The Guardian said the event will feature torch-carrying soldiers in full military regalia, precision choreography and three songs of the outgoing chancellor’s own choosing played by a marching band, “marking the high point of Merkel’s leaving tour after 16 years of holding office”. She is expected to formally hand over her seat of power to Olaf Scholz next week.

Can Olaf Scholz fill Angela Merkel’s shoes?

9. BT aims for 25% non-white workforce

BT has announced it is aiming to more than double the share of its workforce from non-white backgrounds to 25% by 2030. Philip Jansen, the chief executive of BT, said the target was “very ambitious”, but added that “BT should reflect the society in which we operate in and our customers”. However, noted The Telegraph, the target includes international workers, including BT’s operations in India and Africa.

10. Belfast collective wins Turner Prize

A group of Belfast-based artists whose work reflects issues affecting Northern Ireland have been named the winners of the Turner Prize 2021. Array Collective, which is comprised of 11 artists, was the first Northern Irish winner of the prize. Its members have been working together “more actively” since 2016 and say they “create collaborative actions in response to socio-political issues” affecting the region. Their victory was announced at a ceremony in Coventry Cathedral where they were presented with the £25,000 prize money.

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