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Wuhan Shut Down As Deadly Virus Spreads

The UK government announced yesterday that Heathrow airport would begin screening passengers arriving in the UK from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of a new virus outbreak. Passengers onboard the three direct flights from Wuhan to Heathrow each week were set to face screening by doctors for the flu-like symptoms of coronavirus. However, within hours of the announcement, it became clear this would not be necessary, as Chinese officials had shut down all outbound transport from the city – including its airport. Those living in Wuhan have been advised not to leave as Chinese authorities attempt to quarantine the deadly virus. 

News of the transport shutdown came as officials confirmed at least 571 people have been infected with coronavirus. While many cases of the virus are mild, at least 17 people have died and a further 95 patients remain in a critical condition. A number of cases have also been confirmed outside of China, in the US, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as earlier diagnoses confirmed in Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Some international airports have begun screening passengers for high temperatures in an attempt to identify infected travellers. Nick Phin of PHE said the risk to the British public remained low but advised anyone who had developed respiratory symptoms within two weeks of visiting Wuhan to contact their health service.

HACKING CLAIMS ‘ABSURD’, SAYS SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia has denied hacking the phone of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, describing the allegations as “absurd”. According to reports, a WhatsApp message was sent to Bezos from a personal phone number used by the Saudi crown prince. Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving the message, with an investigation into the data breach allegedly revealing that the WhatsApp message had prompted his phone to start secretly sharing large amounts of data. The allegations against the crown prince are based on a report from FTI Consulting, a private security firm that was hired by Bezos to investigate the data breach.

The Twitter account of Saudi Arabia’s US embassy has issued an outright denial of the claims. Some reports have pointed to worsening relations between the kingdom and Bezos following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was an employee of the Washington Post – which Bezos owns – and was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, five months after the alleged data breach. UN experts have demanded an inquiry into the breach. Special rapporteurs Agnès Callamard and David Kaye said they were "gravely concerned" by the evidence they had seen and suggested the hacking of Bezos' phone may have been an effort "to influence, if not silence, the Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia".

#QOTD
QuoteOfTheDay
Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames.

Greta Thunberg criticises Donald Trump after he made a speech in Davos dismissing climate campaigners as “perennial prophets of doom”. The teenage activist and the US president have clashed after both attended the World Economic Forum this week. Thunberg said Trump’s plans to plant more trees was “nowhere near enough” action to tackle the climate crisis. Trump hit back yesterday, accusing climate activists of calling for an “unrealistic” level of change and suggesting Thunberg focus her attention not on the US, but on countries where pollution levels are rising.

Meanwhile, in the UK the citizens’ climate assembly is preparing to meet for the first time. The assembly, which will gather on Saturday, includes 110 ordinary people from across the UK. They have been selected as a representative sample of the British population and reflect a 2019 survey on the public’s climate concerns – meaning both those unconcerned by climate change and those who are very concerned are represented. The assembly’s views will be collated in a report published this spring, although there is no guarantee its suggestions will be adopted by the government.

In other news

MINISTER DELAYS HS2 DECISION

The transport secretary has confirmed that the decision over whether to go ahead with the high-speed rail 2 (HS2) project will be delayed until February. Grant Shapps said it was vital to get the facts right before making a decision on whether to proceed with “maybe the biggest infrastructure project… this country’s ever taken”. HS2 has been under review since last summer when Boris Johnson commissioned a report to examine the project’s future. The report was completed last year and reportedly recommends going ahead with HS2, as well as proposing cost-cutting measures. However, Shapps has requested more data before he makes a decision. The delay came as more than 30 MPs signed a joint letter calling on the government to deliver the “long overdue” rail line in full.

DUCHESS LAUNCHES CHILDHOOD SURVEY

The Duchess of Cambridge has launched a UK-wide survey aimed at sparking “a national conversation” about early childhood. The online survey, called Five Big Questions, will be conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Foundation. It focuses on five key questions on childhood, such what period of childhood is most important for happiness and the nature versus nurture debate. The Duchess of Cambridge marked its launch with a tour of the UK this week, visiting London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Surrey. A statement on the Royal Foundation website said the duchess believed many of society’s greatest “social and health challenges” could be avoided if children are given “the right support” in their early years. The NSPCC has welcomed news of the survey as “a vital source of information for the sector”.

SAINSBURY'S BOSS STEPS DOWN

Sainsbury’s has announced its chief executive Mike Coupe will be stepping down from his role at the supermarket group at the end of May. Coupe has been at the helm of Sainsbury’s for almost six years and said his departure had been a “very difficult decision”. He will be replaced by the supermarket group’s current head of retail and operations, Simon Roberts. Coupe said he was “confident” Roberts was the right choice for the customers and investors. His departure was announced a day after Sainsbury’s revealed plans to cut “hundreds” of management roles as part of cost-cutting measures. The retailer has blamed the cuts on its continued integration of Argos, which was purchased by the group in 2016.

MAN HELD IN DENMARK OVER LONDON KILLING

A man has been arrested in Denmark in connection with the murder of a suspected gangster in London. The 22-year-old was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant at Copenhagen Airport after arriving on a flight from Thailand. He is being held on suspicion of murdering 36-year-old Flamur Beqiri, who was shot multiple times outside his home in Battersea on Christmas Eve. The lone suspect allegedly fled the scene on foot. Police believe Beqiri, who reportedly ran a London record company, may have had links to organised crime. Detectives suspect the Swedish national was the victim of a targeted attack. The man remains in custody in Denmark pending his extradition back to the UK.

GRAMMYS 'RIPE WITH CORRUPTION'

The chief executive of the Recording Academy, which organises the Grammy awards, has hit the company with a 44-page legal complaint alleging sexual harassment and voting corruption within its ranks. Deborah Dugan’s allegations follow the company’s decision to suspend her from her role last week after a misconduct allegation was levelled against her. In the legal complaint published yesterday, Dugan claims her predecessor Neil Portnow raped an unnamed female recording artist and accuses the firm of continuing to employ him as a consultant despite knowledge of the alleged assault. The Recording Academy has dismissed Dugan’s claims and said it was “curious” she had not “raised these grave allegations” until a week after legal claims were made against her personally.

In Numbers:
73,000,000

The number of households worldwide that have watched royal drama The Crown. According to new figures released by Netflix, millions of viewers have tuned in to watch the show since it began in 2016. "73m households around the world have made The Crown part of the global cultural zeitgeist," Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said. The Crown’s third season stars Olivia Colman as the Queen and was watched in 21m households in its first four weeks on the streaming platform – a 40% increase on viewing figures from the second season.   

Picture Of The Day
Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler arrive at the Senate, Washington (Source: Reuters)
House Democrats Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler walk to the Senate Floor for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Tuesday. The first day of the trial saw proceedings continue for 12 hours, prompting Schiff – the lead impeachment ‘manager’ – to say: “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late. We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”