A Heartbreaking Milestone
In the first story of the Daily Briefing today, we discuss the deeply saddening news that there has now been more than 100,000 deaths officially recorded in the UK within 30 days of testing positive for coronavirus. This is something that we should all take some time to reflect on. This is an extraordinary loss of life, and this reflects a huge portion of the population who have had to go through the deeply traumatic experience of being told they will soon lose someone they love.
Whatsmore, it represents a huge amount of people unable to say goodbye, unable to hold their mother or father’s hand one last time, unable to say “I love you” to their partner once more. The awful thing about this virus is not just that it kills people – but that it requires people to stay apart, even in circumstances where holding someone’s hand would mean the most.
This milestone represents a hundred thousand families up and down the UK who have had to respect the social distancing rules even in hospital, even when someone they love is in pain, and even at funerals. It represents a hundred thousand people who had plans, who had goals, who had friends, who had a family, who had a job, who were depended on, who brought something to their local community and who both loved and were loved.
It’s important at times like this that we remember these things. That this isn’t simply a number in a league, to measure our success at containing the virus. It isn’t just a news bulletin. It’s also a representation of the pain and suffering felt throughout the country – and on days like today, it’s important that we all reflect on this.
This is especially true when you consider that the number of people in hospital in the UK as a result of COVID is still on the rise. While cases are beginning to drop, this is only after weeks of harsh lockdown. So, while there is some good news, things aren’t going back to normal yet. We all just need to hang in there.
For the second story today, we move on to another story based in the UK – about child spies. Specifically, we’re going to discuss the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, which allows a person to commit crimes in order to help with an investigation. This can be used to aid the investigations of around 20 agencies – and, more importantly, has no minimum age requirement.
It is this stipulation that has some MPs, such as Stella Creasy, up in arms. She has stated that children are being told to stay in dangerous situations (such as being a member of a gang or remaining in an abusive relationship) in order to collect evidence. She has stated that the law is consistent in the belief that children should be actively taken out of dangerous situations – and that this bill aims to do the opposite in the name of an investigation.
Currently, 16 and 17 year olds can spy on their parents without having a consultation with an adult about whether this is in their best interests. An amendment was added to the bill a couple of weeks ago in the House of Lords – changing this, meaning that an adult had to be there when 16 and 17 year olds decided on whether or not to break laws to aid with investigations. However, the House of Commons is today voting on whether to remove this clause.
The government claims that the amendment could backfire and make it more difficult to remove children from drug gangs.
Despite this defence from the government, a large rebellion is looming – and it is possible that the government could lose the vote later today.
A Vaccine Dispute
In the last story today, we move to the EU to discuss a dispute about vaccines. It’s fair to say that on the vaccine front, the UK is currently doing particularly well. The government is currently aiming to offer the first dose of the vaccine to all 15 million people in the top 4 most vulnerable groups. As of today, more than 6.9 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.
The Chief Executive of AstraZeneca, Pascal Sorot, has said about this deadline: “”By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 or 30 million people. The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million. So they will get there”.
But, not everyone is thrilled about this. The EU are currently struggling to get their hands on similar quantities of the vaccine. Part of the reason is because manufacturing problems have delayed around 15 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine reaching the EU. This caused EU politicians to berate the company, claiming that they are giving the UK “preferential treatment”, and accusing them of holding back on delivering their “fare share” of doses.
Mr. Sorot hit back at these claims, saying:
“The UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal. So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced. As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches. Look, the sites that have the lowest productivity in the network are the sites that are supplying Europe. One of the plants with the highest yield is in the UK because it started earlier.”
We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think AstraZeneca are acting fairly.
For those of you who think the news is too long, be sure to check out tomorrow’s Daily Briefing.