A Supreme Court Appointment
In the first story of the Daily Briefing today, we look at the latest developments in the US. As the country is gearing up for the presidential election, President Trump has filled the Supreme Court’s vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. His supporters argue that he is fulfilling his constitutional obligations, while Democrats argue that Trump and Senate Republicans should have waited until after the election – following the example Republican’s set with Merrick Garland in 2016
However, Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett shortly after Ginsburg’s passing and, after an all night debate marathon Sunday night on the nomination, the Senate voted last night 52-48 to confirm Barrett. The vote was largely along party lines, with Maine Republican Susan Collins being the only Republican to vote against Barrett’s confirmation, saying that she wanted to be fair and consistent after Republicans denied then President Obama’s nominee in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Shortly after her confirmation vote, Barrett was sworn in at the White House by the Senior Associate Justice on the court, Clarence Thomas. This morning, Barrett officially became a justice in a private investiture ceremony administered by Chief Justice Roberts.
This leaves the Supreme Court leaning strongly conservative, with 6 out of the 9 justices being Republican picks, which will only heighten demands from the Democrats to adjust how the Supreme Court is operated. We will have to see next week whether this issue ends up shaping the election.
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In UK political news today the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, has today been involved in a road accident involving a cyclist. It has been reported that Sir. Keir was driving his car in Kentish Town in London when he hit a cyclist. An ambulance was called, and Sir. Keir stayed with the cyclist until it arrived.
Despite the seemingly dramatic event, the cyclist was relatively uninjured, sustaining only a minor arm injury. The trip to hospital was only taken as a precaution. The police have additionally confirmed that the driver (meaning Sir. Keir) has not been arrested nor interviewed under caution.
In more news out of the UK today, it appears that COVID immunity is not something we should be hoping for as a way out of the pandemic. Unfortunately, research by Imperial College London has shown that coronavirus immunity may only last a few months. This research, which used 365,000 participants, showed that over the last 3 months, coronavirus immunity had dropped by more than a quarter. Now, every day, more people become infected with the virus, so – if immunity was permanent – we’d expect a gradual increase in those who are immune to the virus. However, the fact that this hasn’t happened and that we’ve seen a decrease, demonstrates that immunity doesn’t last that long.
It should be pointed out that the research was only looking at antibodies. Another form of immunity could be through T-cells. Not as much is known about such cells and whether they can provide a longer-lasting immunity.
It appears that the UK is, as yet, far away from the notion of herd immunity that was being touted by government and scientists at the beginning of the pandemic. No-one knows for sure how many people in the UK have had COVID, but reliable estimates currently sit at between 3 and 5 million people being infected at one point or another. Either way, this is clearly a far lower percentage of the population needed to achieve herd immunity, with the Mayo Clinic claiming we’d need to see around 94% of the population with immunity in order to interrupt the chain of transmission.
Additionally, even if we were to achieve herd immunity through a vaccine, due to immunity to the virus lasting a matter of months, this may need to be administered twice a year.
However, despite this ground-breaking research, a lot is still unknown about the virus – specifically about the path back to normality.
For those of you who think the news is too long, be sure to check out tomorrow’s daily briefing.