Wednesday briefing: Experts 'expect more Leicesters'

Martin Farrer

Top story: New cases raise concern ahead of pub reopenings

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this Wednesday morning.

A rise in coronavirus infections has been detected in areas of England, Scotland and Wales, raising fears of renewed Leicester-style lockdowns as the countries prepare to ease restrictions. The Medway in Kent, the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing in London, and Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland saw a rise in infections in the week to 25 June, according to official data. Other areas seeing higher rates included Bedford, Barnsley and Flintshire. The much-awaited reopening of pubs is set for Saturday throughout England, and from 15 July in Scotland. “I am expecting there to be a number of Leicesters,” said Prof Deenan Pillay, a virologist at UCL. Some clothing factories in Leicester remained open during the national lockdown and ordered workers to work even when they were sick, labour campaigners have claimed, amid concerns that the city’s garment industry has played a key role in the resurgence of cases. The government has been criticised for “sowing confusion” about the city’s new lockdown, while residents and businesses said they were baffled by the messaging.

The Trump administration has bought up the world’s entire supply of remdesivir for the next three months, denying any other countries access to a drug which can help coronavirus victims recover more quickly. It sparked alarm that the US could use similar leverage to corner the market in any future Covid-19 vaccine. The US’s top infectious diseases expert says the virus curve was going in the “wrong direction” and that daily cases could reach 100,000. They rose by 47,000 yesterday, the biggest ever daily increase. Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has placed 36 suburbs into lockdown after a spike in cases, while South Korea has seen a surge of “mask rage” as summer heats up. Follow all the overnight developments in the pandemic around the world at our live blog.

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Black inequality – Black and minority ethnic (BAME) households in the UK are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white families, meaning they are more exposed to economic pain from the coronavirus pandemic. An independent study found that nearly half of Black African Caribbean households were in poverty, compared with just under one in five white families. BAME families were between two and three times as likely to be in persistent poverty.

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China threat – China says Hong Kong’s new security laws will make it easier to extradite people for trial on the mainland. Chinese official Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs office, said the laws were a “sword of Damocles hanging over a tiny group of criminals who want to interfere in Hong Kong affairs”. Pro-democracy activists have nevertheless urged residents to defy a ban on protests and take to the streets to mark the territory’s handover to China 23 years ago.

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NHS inquiry – West Mercia police have launched an investigation into allegations of poor maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust where dozens of babies may have died unnecessarily. The trust is already subject to an independent inquiry which has identified 1,170 cases over a 40-year period that warrant investigation in what could grow into one of the NHS’s worst ever scandals.

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‘Build, build, build’ – Boris Johnson refused to rule out tax increases to pay for the costs of helping the economy out of the Covid-19-induced slump, as he pledged infrastructure projects and planning reforms to “build, build, build” Britain back to recovery. The prime minister called the proposals a “new deal” in an apparent reference to the US president Franklin D Roosevelt whose policies of the same name helped America out of the Great Depression. Labour leader Keir Starmer dismissed that idea, saying: “There’s not much that’s new and it’s not much of a deal.” Other critics said the plan risked raising emissions and eroding building standards.

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Weinstein settlement – New York’s attorney general has reached an agreement to settle two sexual misconduct lawsuits against imprisoned former film producer Harvey Weinstein for nearly $19m. The settlement would resolve a lawsuit filed against Weinstein, his production company and his brother in 2018 by the attorney general’s office on behalf of multiple women. But lawyers representing six of the women called the proposed deal a “sellout” that did not require Weinstein, 68, to accept responsibility or personally pay out any money.

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And the winners are – The new group of invitees to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences include Eva Longoria, Zendaya and Awkwafina as the Oscars voting body continues its push to diversify after criticism that it was “too white”. The 819 new members also include Cynthia Erivo, John David Washington and Constance Wu and will have voting privileges at this year’s Oscars.

Zendaya is one of the invitees to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Today in Focus podcast

A report by MPs into alleged Russian interference in UK politics was supposed to be published before December’s election, but Boris Johnson withheld its release. Six months later it still hasn’t seen the light of day. Luke Harding investigates what could be in it and says witness testimony from an ex-MI6 agent makes uncomfortable reading for the government.

Lunchtime read: Pierce Brosnan on life, loss and Bond

Pierce Brosnan, who stars with Will Ferrell in a new Netflix Eurovision spoof, talks about how he got his big break after auditioning for Tennessee Williams, the loss of his first wife and daughter to cancer, and his success (and later rejection) as James Bond.

Sport

Maro Itoje has revealed the England rugby anthem Swing Low, Sweet Chariot makes him feel “uncomfortable” but he does not believe supporters should be banned from singing it at Twickenham. Bruno Fernandes insisted Manchester United can achieve Champions League football this season after his two goals at Brighton helped his side to stretch their unbeaten run to 15 games. The Premier League will donate £1m to help the Women’s Super League restart next season but continues to stand its ground on providing financial support for the men’s football pyramid. At the Ageas Bowl, where England begin their summer of Test cricket on 8 July, Ben Stokes will be in charge and Jos Buttler will be keeping wicket. And Premiership clubs will resume full training on Monday before the season’s restart next month and the play-off final will be held on 24 October, a date when some postponed Six Nations fixtures not involving England are likely to be played.

Business

Shareholders in Tesla are being urged to oust the company’s founder, Elon Musk, because of his huge £40bn pay award. The activist advisory group, Pirc, recommended to shareholders that they should vote against the pay agreement and reject him as chief executive because the electric vehicle maker risked “reputational damage” if he remained in post. The FTSE100 is heading up a fraction this morning, but the pound is down at $1.236 and €1.102.

The papers

The Guardian leads with “More local lockdowns on the way, experts warn”, while others prefer the government’s new economic package. “Boris deal is not enough to save jobs”, says the Mirror, the Times has “Bank predicts V-shaped recovery from pandemic” and the i claims “Biggest change to planning laws since war”. The Telegraph says there’s pressure on officials over the UK’s poor handling of Covid-19: “Heat on PHE as PM admits response sluggish”.

The Express says its campaign on cystic fibrosis treatment has succeeded with “Wonder drug will save thousands of lives”, while the Mail also leads on a favourite story: “Police to probe UK’s worst baby wards scandal”. The FT splashes on “US and Europe condemn Beijing for tightening grip on Hong Kong” and the Scotsman plumps for “Schools braced for ‘tidal wave’ of exam appeals”.

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