Boris calls for “unity”
The PM has agreed to publish the data used to determine the UK’s tier system later, as he appeals to his own MPs to show some “unity and resolve”. National lockdown is set to end on Wednesday but for 99% of the country, post-lockdown won’t look hugely different to the measures of the last four weeks. When the tiers were announced last week, many questioned the logic behind the allocations, pointing out that some areas in the North/Midlands were placed in Tier 3 that had a noticeably lower R rate and rate of cases than London and some other cities in the South, most of which are in Tier 2.
Johnson faces a tricky week: the vote on the new tier rules is set to take place tomorrow, and around 70 of his own backbenchers remain sceptical until they see the “hard” evidence that inspired the decision. Alongside the new restrictions, the govt has also proposed to introduce testing for those who have had a close contact test positive rather than the current 10 day isolation, publish the results of compliance surveys to reveal why people break the rules and speed up testing to identify asymptomatic carriers.
Test time for students
Mass testing of students around the UK has begun in the preparation for the return home for Christmas. Many universities announced that their plans for helping their students get home for the holidays would include opening up temporary testing centres and introducing a “travel window” starting from 3 December to spread out the rush of returns. Testing is voluntary, but a lot of students will be returning to vulnerable family members or multi-generational households, so England’s Universities Minister Michelle Donelan has urged them all to take the test before they head back in order to protect their loved ones.
Not quite the exam season they had in mind…
The girls have got it
President-elect Joe Biden has announced an all-female senior press team, delivering on his promises to provide the most diverse cabinet in the country’s history to date. His press team is a first for the US, with his former deputy communications director Kate Bedingfield leading the charge. Obama’s White House communications director, Jen Psaki, will also be on the team as press secretary.
Biden expressed confidence in his new team, saying they would keep the country “safe and secure” and that they would bring “diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”
Closing up (Top)Shop
Phillip Green (you know, the guy from the BHS £1 debacle)’s Arcadia Group, which owns brands like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, could be facing imminent collapse as soon as the end of today. The group say they have been increasingly struggling to plug the gaps left by losses incurred during the pandemic and aren’t expecting a last-minute rescue deal to arrive. Around 13,000 jobs and some household high street names are at risk, plus around £350m in the company’s pension fund. The chair of the Work and Pensions committee has called on Green to, at the very least, plug the deficit in that pension fund for the employees whose jobs are now at stake – we had the same issues when BHS was sold off, and after a lot of criticism he agreed to plug the gap back in 2017.
Green has often been called the “unacceptable face of capitalism”, the epitome of what happens when greed takes over. While the thousands of employees of the Arcadia group are at risk of losing their livelihoods as a result of the missing money, their owner’s wealth is infamously derived from a £1.2 billion dividend that he sent to his wife, who was a resident of Monaco and so didn’t pay any tax on the cash. Yep, all sounds very morally sound to me…
Save the Tree
Campaigners are trying to save a tree on a road in Bristol from being cut down by a private developer. The “last tree standing” has been adorned with murals, artwork and photos to try and protect it from the fate of four others that have already been felled to make space for student flats and offices. Though the M32 Maples group are sure that this fifth tree actually lies outside the boundaries of developer John Garlick’s land, the city council has said that the “relevant planning permission” has already been accepted and there’s nothing more they can do. Want to help in the fight to preserve this final tree? Sign the petition here.
A Thanksgiving hero
A mystery man and his volunteer team in the UK donated around $22,000 to feed families in need this Thanksgiving. The altruistic gesture began in 2008 when the group decided to substitute their holiday work gifts and feed 30 families in Pennsylvania instead. This year, they quadrupled the number of families to 150, dedicated to spreading the Thanksgiving cheer. In these trying times, we are thankful for kind people who do nice things for no benefit to themselves <3