Hancock care home advice leak
Leaked messages suggest that Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance to test for Covid all residents going into English care homes. The messages, published in The Telegraph, show Chris Whitty told the then health secretary in April 2020 that there should be testing for “all going into care homes”. However, Hancock did not follow the advice, telling his advisers that it “muddies the waters”. Between April 17 and August 13, 2020, 17,678 people died of Covid in care homes in England. A spokesperson for Hancock said the leaks gave a “distorted account” and that ”The Telegraph have been informed that their headline is wrong”, while “Matt is considering all options available to him.“
Putin ally visits China
A key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China, fuelling fears in the west that Beijing may be considering aiding the Moscow war effort in Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss a range of issues from trade and investment to “acute international challenges”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Washington would target Chinese firms or citizens involved in any effort to send military aid to Russia, reported CNN.
Sunak deal should be ‘end of Boris’
Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal for Northern Ireland should be the “end of Boris Johnson”, said Tory MPs. The members have urged the former prime minister to leave politics and let the Conservative Party “move on” from his reign, said the i news site. A senior Tory MP meanwhile told The Independent that Johnson should “put up or shut up”, adding he should be suspended if he opposes the Windsor deal. “Support the deal or lose the whip,” the Sunak supporter said.
Dozens die in Greece train crash
Emergency services in Greece said at least 32 people have died and dozens more were injured after a train carrying around 350 passengers hit a freight train travelling in the opposite direction near the city of Larissa. Survivors said some passengers were thrown through the windows of the carriages due to the impact. Rescue crews “illuminated the scene with floodlights” as they “searched frantically through the twisted, smoking wreckage for survivors”, said Greek news site Ekathimerini. The cause of the crash is not known.
US belief in lab leak theory grows
The director of the FBI has said that the bureau believes Covid-19 “most likely” originated in a “Chinese government-controlled lab”. The FBI has “for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident,” Christopher Wray told Fox News. Republicans are enjoying a “told-you-so” moment after a US government “also endorsed the lab leak theory” this week, said The Telegraph.
Energy firms ‘must pass on benefits’
The government is to tell energy firms that they must pass on the benefits of lower wholesale prices to consumers. In a speech later, energy secretary Grant Shapps will tell energy suppliers that reduced wholesale prices must be seen in consumer prices, “no ifs, buts or maybes”. On Monday, the energy regulator, Ofgem, said its energy cap would fall by 23%. However, noted The Guardian, the reduction in government help at the same time, means that the actual price paid by an average household will rise from £2,100 a year in April to £3,000.
Beeb lifts licence for coronation
The BBC will suspend the licence fee as a one-off for the King’s Coronation weekend. The broadcaster said the event was of “national importance”, so due to the “exceptional circumstances”, a temporary dispensation is granted. The same move was taken for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June last year. It allow venues to screen the live coronation ceremony coverage on May 6, as well as the coronation concert at Windsor Castle the following day, without having to purchase the broadcaster’s TV licence, which costs £159.
Food inflation rises
Grocery prices inflation reached a high of 17.1% last month, noted The Times. The increase in food costs in the four weeks to February 19 would add a potential £811 to annual shopping bills. In a “double blow”, non-food inflation rose to a record of 5.3% in February, a separate study by the British Retail Consortium and NielsenIQ showed. Although “some central bankers may take comfort in measures of inflation that strip out volatile elements such as food,” said the paper, this “provides little comfort to households”.
Nigerian parties say election was ‘sham’
Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election after polling 36% of the vote. His main rival Atiku Abubakar drew 29%, and Labour’s Peter Obi 25%. However, the two main opposition parties have called for the annulment of what they have described as a “sham” election, said Africa News, denouncing the “massive manipulation” of the results. Tinubu is one of Nigeria’s richest politicians, and based his campaign on his record as Lagos governor.
King ‘wants to evict Harry and Meghan’
King Charles is to evict Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from their royal residence at Frogmore Cottage in favour of Prince Andrew, according to The Sun. The tabloid claimed that Buckingham Palace issued an eviction notice to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex days after Harry’s memoir Spare was published in January. The cottage is the couple’s only remaining UK home, added the Daily Mail. There is growing speculation that Prince Harry may not receive an invitation to King Charles’ coronation in May.