Super Tuesday For Team GB
Day eleven of the Tokyo Olympics has been hailed ‘Super Tuesday’ for Britain after Team GB added eight medals to its 2020 tally. Sailors Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell kicked off the winning streak early on Tuesday when they took gold in the 49er event. Moments later, Giles Scott secured Team GB’s sixth successive Olympic gold in the men’s Finn class, while John Gimson and Anna Burnet took silver in the mixed Nacra 17.
In the velodrome, husband and wife cycling stars Jason and Laura Kenny both won medals in their first races at Tokyo on Tuesday. Alongside their teammates, Laura took silver in the team pursuit, while Jason secured silver in the team sprint. The award means Jason is now Britain’s most decorated Olympian, having equalled Sir Bradley Wiggins’ total medal haul of eight.
Elsewhere, Keely Hodgkinson claimed Team GB’s first medal in the Tokyo Olympic stadium after winning silver in the women’s 800m, diver Jack Laugher took bronze in the men’s 3m springboard, and boxer Pat McCormack won silver in the men’s welterweight final. Team GB's gold medal tally now stands at 13, with Britain taking sixth place in the overall medal table. In separate news, US gymnast Simone Biles has won a bronze on the beam after withdrawing from four other finals to protect her mental health. She told reporters on Tuesday: “I was proud of myself just to go out there after what I've been through.”
SCOTLAND TO LIFT COVID CURBS NEXT WEEK
Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed Scotland will lift most remaining Covid-19 restrictions next week. In a statement to MSPs on Tuesday, the Scottish first minister said almost all legal limits on physical distancing and social contact would end on 9th August. The changes include the reopening of nightclubs, while sports and concert venues can open at full capacity and schools can scrap the ‘bubble’ isolation system.
Despite the move to lift restrictions, the first minister insisted the virus would continue to pose a threat. “It is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck,” she said. Sturgeon reiterated that face coverings would remain mandatory in all indoor settings such as retail, hospitality and public transport, as well as in secondary school classrooms when the autumn term begins. Government advice to work from home where possible will also remain in Scotland for the time being.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 deaths have jumped in England and Wales. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, 327 virus-related deaths were registered in the week to 23rd July – a rise of 50% on the week before. The increase is thought to reflect the impact of the third wave of Covid infections in the UK. While the wave began in May, its impact on death rates will have taken several weeks to appear due to the length of time between someone contracting the virus, becoming ill and dying.
The chancellor discusses the benefits of young people returning to offices. In an interview with LinkedIn News on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak said building relationships had been crucial early on in his career. “That’s why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable,” he said – adding that the video conferencing widely adopted during the pandemic was no substitute for the real thing.
After official work from home advice was dropped, ministers now “expect and recommend a gradual return” to workplaces over the summer. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, working patterns have changed since the height of the second wave in the UK earlier this year. In February, 37% of employees said they were exclusively working from home, while 34% were travelling to workplaces. By comparison, at the end of July, just 20% of people were working from home and 50% were in the office.
In other news
TALIBAN THREATENS GLOBAL SECURITY, WARNS GENERAL
An Afghan general has warned the Taliban’s advancement in Afghanistan could have “devastating” consequences for global security. Government forces have been battling to hold back the Taliban following the withdrawal of US and Nato troops this year. The militant group has made rapid territorial gains in recent weeks, attacking provincial capitals Kandahar, Lashkar Gah and Herat.
General Sami Sadat, who is leading Afghan forces in Lashkar Gah, said he was confident they could maintain control of the city. However, he has warned the group’s advancement poses a threat beyond Afghanistan’s borders. He told the BBC: “[It] will increase the hope for small extremist groups to mobilise in the cities of Europe and America and will have a devastating effect on global security. This is not a war of Afghanistan, this is a war between liberty and totalitarianism.”
DRUG DEATHS HIT RECORD HIGH
New figures from the Office for National Statistics show 4,561 drug poisoning deaths were registered in England and Wales last year – the highest figure since records began in 1993. Two-thirds of those who died were men, with the highest death rate seen among those aged 45 to 49 years old.
Drug poisoning deaths linked to cocaine and opiates have risen, with about half of recorded deaths involving opiates such as codeine and fentanyl. There were 777 deaths involving cocaine – more than five times as many recorded ten years ago. Eytan Alexander, chief of UK Addiction Treatment Centres, has warned the UK is facing a “parallel pandemic” of drug, alcohol and mental health issues. “Enough is enough… we need to come together as a society and take real action,” he said.
BELARUSIAN ACTIVIST FOUND DEAD IN KYIV
A Belarusian activist living in exile in Ukraine has been found dead. Vitaly Shishov led the Kyiv-based Belarusian House, a non-profit organisation helping Belarusians fleeing persecution. He was reported missing by his partner on Monday after he failed to return from a run. On Tuesday, the 26-year-old was found hanged in a park close to his home in the Ukrainian capital.
Police in Ukraine have launched a murder investigation following the discovery. Officers said inquiries would include the possibility Shishov’s killers had tried to disguise his death as suicide. According to his colleagues, Shishov believed he had been under constant surveillance. The activist fled from Belarus to Kyiv last year after taking part in protests against the Belarusian regime.
TRIAL HOPES TO ALLAY PREGNANCY JAB CONCERNS
A UK trial is underway to study the most effective gap between Covid-19 vaccine doses for pregnant women. The Preg-CoV trial aims to recruit 600 pregnant women, aged between 18 and 44, to receive the jabs. The vaccines’ effectiveness will then be monitored by scientists, along with the child’s development to the age of one.
It is hoped the study will help to reassure expectant mothers about the safety of the jabs. While more than 50,000 pregnant women in England have been vaccinated and no safety issues have been reported, low confidence in the jab remains an issue. Uptake within the group has been slow so far, with less than a third having received at least one dose of the vaccine.
MASS TESTING HELD IN WUHAN
The Chinese city where Covid-19 first emerged is to test all 12m of its residents for the virus. Mass testing in Wuhan comes after three cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant were detected in the city on Monday. On Tuesday, officials announced a rapid response to the outbreak, confirming plans to test the city’s entire population and set up 18 quarantine centres for those isolating.
The news has triggered panic buying in Wuhan amid anticipation of a fresh lockdown. The city endured 76 days under strict lockdown measures following the initial emergence of the virus last year. It comes as China battles one of its biggest outbreaks in months, with 300 cases detected across several provinces in 10 days. Officials say the spread is likely to be down to the Delta variant.
A walrus known as Wally has departed his temporary home in the Isles of Scilly after straying miles from its usual habitat between mainland Norway and the North Pole. After spending the summer in Scilly’s St Mary’s harbour – occasionally sinking boats as he clambered on board to find a resting place – Wally has been spotted in the waters off Ireland. Marine experts hope the walrus is trying to head northwards. “He’s an amazing creature but we hope we don’t see him again,” said Lizzi Larbalestier from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue. “The right thing is for him to be home with other walruses.”