Greetings from me, Warren Murray, on this first Wednesday of the week.
Between 2,000 and 7,000 people a day could be hospitalised with Covid in England next month unless the government urgently implements a “basket of measures”, government scientific advisers have warned. Boris Johnson has confirmed that Covid passports, the return of mandatory mask-wearing and advice to work from home are only the government’s “plan B” if the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.
Modellers on the Sage committee expect cases to rise in the coming months after almost all restrictions were lifted this summer. Even though 81% of UK adults are double-jabbed, nearly 6 million are unvaccinated and vulnerable to the highly transmissible Delta variant now that most Covid restrictions have been lifted. But if enacted early enough, even light-touch measures could be sufficient to keep infections flat and prevent a damaging fresh wave of hospitalisations, Sage experts say.
The recommendations were published as the health secretary, Sajid Javid, set out the government’s autumn and winter Covid plan. He said “plan A” included pressing ahead with booster jabs for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable people, expanding vaccination to 12- to 15-year-olds, and continuing to advise the public to meet outdoors where possible and wear masks in enclosed spaces.
Newsom safe – California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, appears to have prevailed in a recall election. While the race was called by the Associated Press in the last couple of hours, the vote count is not yet final, and election officials have 30 days to count all the ballots.
Newsom, a Democrat governor in a Democrat-voting state, found himself having to fight to retain office after a Republican-led recall gained steam amid the worst of the pandemic, fuelled by frustrations over school and business closures. His most popular challenger was the rightwing radio host Larry Elder.
Funding threat to rebel Tories – Government whips are accused of threatening to withhold funding from constituencies of rebel Conservative MPs if they don’t back the government in key votes – raising questions over whether town deal funding is being fairly allocated. Some backbenchers have also claimed that would-be rebels affected by an upcoming parliamentary boundary review were warned they might not automatically be selected elsewhere; while others might lose party funding to retain their marginal seats. Caroline Slocock from the Civil Exchange thinktank said it was “shocking if government whips are promising to hand out public money, or deny it, to their MPs to buy votes. Public funds should be allocated following clear criteria based on need, with due process.”
> Boris Johnson has been condemned for suggesting Britain could become “the Saudi Arabia” of penal policy under Priti Patel, the home secretary. Saudi Arabia beheads people, and being homosexual can attract the death penalty.
> Even staunch defenders of traditional whaling in the Faroe Islands have condemned as excessive the killing on Sunday of nearly 1,500 dolphins. The annual hunt known as the “Grind” was already controversial but the Sea Shepherd group has called it “the largest single killing of dolphins or pilot whales in the islands’ history” and proponents of the tradition disowned it.
> The most senior US general took steps to prevent Donald Trump from “going rogue” and launching a nuclear war or an attack on China, according to excerpts of an eagerly awaited new book by the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.
> A fake generational war over the climate crisis has distorted public thinking and political strategy, when in fact older generations are just as worried as younger people, according to new research. But the younger generations are more likely to say there is no point changing their behaviour because “it won’t make a difference anyway”, King’s College London and New Scientist magazine found.
‘I have nothing to lose’ – Afghan women around the world have taken to social media wearing traditional colourful clothes, using the hashtag #DoNotTouchMyClothes. The protest is a response to a “demonstration” staged by the Taliban at Kabul University where about 300 women appeared in all-black garments covering their faces, hands and feet – the sort of dress previously never seen across Afghanistan.
The Taliban have announced women will not be allowed into high-ranking government positions, and schools and universities must be gender-segregated. Despite the Taliban declaring protests are banned without its approval, women in Kabul have pledged to continue their demonstrations. Samira, a Kabul University student, said: “I have nothing to lose … Even if I risk my life, even if they kill me, it’s better than being silenced.” It comes as the Taliban-installed governor in Helmand province asks for the west to come back to Afghanistan, but with aid money instead of guns. He is photographed for our report with an assault rifle lying on his desk.
Intended customers are those struggling to work in cramped homes during the pandemic. In Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, the Tokyu Railway Company has converted old train carriages and ticket kiosks into shared office spaces.
Today in Focus podcast: Who pays for social care repair?
The government’s plan to fix the ailing social care system passed into law this week. Who will benefit most – and who will pick up the bill?
Asian shares have fallen as weak Chinese economic data reinforced worries about slowing growth locally and globally. Data out of China shows businesses grappling with the impact of lockdowns following Covid-19 outbreaks, supply bottlenecks and high raw materials costs. Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.84% while the S&P 500 fell 0.57% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.45%. Barely a tenth of respondents to Bank of America’s monthly fund manager survey expect a stronger global economy in the coming months. The FTSE looks like opening fairly flat while the pound is worth $1.380 and €1.168 at time of writing.
In the Guardian we lead today with “Act urgently to face up to 7,000 a day in hospital, scientists tell PM”. The Mirror says “Plan for the worst” in relation to the government’s “plan B” involving more lockdowns and vaccine passports. “Surprise – it’s back to panic stations!” is the Mail’s assessment but the Express can be depended upon for a booster shot: “Mr Sensible! We reserve the right to tighten rules”.
The i has “PM’s plan B to stop new lockdown”. “A Covid winter warner” – that’s the Metro which, like others, carries a front-page picture of Emma Raducanu making a smash at the Met Gala in New York. “Spectre of winter lockdown” says the Telegraph whose Met Gala picture is of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a statement outfit.