Top story: Jobless benefit claims rise 112%
Hello, I’m Warren Murray and here’s the top line for this morning.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits per job vacancy in Britain has increased fivefold since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an employment thinktank. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) says approximately eight people are claiming benefits support for every job opening, an increase from 1.5 people per job before the crisis began in March. Paid employment in Britain has fallen almost 650,000 employees since March – here are examples of businesses and recruitment agencies inundated with applications.
Thousands more holidays are set to be cancelled after the UK government’s recommendation against all but essential travel to mainland Spain was extended to include the Canary and Balearic islands. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) neglected British citizens stranded abroad during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak, failing to organise charter flights swiftly or communicate meaningfully with those marooned, a damning report by MPs has said. More coronavirus developments at our global live blog – in our latest wrap, the World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that the pandemic continues to accelerate, with the number of cases worldwide doubling in the past six weeks, nearly six months after it declared a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Judgment falls on Najib – The Malaysian former prime minister Najib Razak has been found guilty on seven charges in his first trial linked to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal – a case seen as a test of the country’s fight against corruption. Najib denied any wrongdoing in relation to what is one of the world’s biggest financial frauds, in which billions of dollars were allegedly looted from a state fund set up to promote development. The huge financial web led to investigations around the world. Najib has vowed to appeal.
‘Cycling revolution’ – Residents will be able to banish through-traffic from local streets and councils will be prevented from building substandard cycle lanes under what Downing Street has billed as a revolution for cycling and walking in England. A watchdog will ensure new cycle and walking routes are up to standard – Active Travel England, with its own commissioner for walking and cycling, will refuse to fund paint-only bike lanes without physical protection from cars, or routes where cyclists and pedestrians have to share space. It could cut budgets in other areas for highways departments that fail to deliver on active transport. Boris Johnson will formally launch the initiative today. Peter Walker, who has been known to turn a pedal, says the scheme will be welcomed but transforming our transport habits is likely to take decades.
Lower paid lose out in work stakes – The gender divide between paid and unpaid weekly work hours has decreased since the mid-1970s, according to a thinktank, but remains significant. The Resolution Foundation says women have increased their paid work by five hours and 18 minutes to 22 hours, while reducing unpaid hours – such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children – by two hours and 44 minutes to 29 hours. Men have reduced paid hours by eight hours and 10 minutes to 34 hours, while increasing unpaid hours by five hours and 35 minutes to 16 hours. The report highlights a “new divide” between households, with women in high-income households having the biggest increase in paid work. But the fall in paid work among men has mostly been in low-income households where one in seven workers want an increase in their hours. George Bangham, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “A worrying new ‘working time inequality’ has emerged, with low-income households working far fewer hours per week than high-income ones.”
Bushfires’ huge wildlife toll – Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s bushfire season of 2019 and 2020, according to scientists. An estimated 143 million mammals, 180 million birds, 51 million frogs and a staggering 2.5 billion reptiles were either killed or died subsequently of starvation, dehydration and predation by feral animals – mostly cats. An interim report based on work by 10 scientists from five institutions, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), suggests the toll from the fires goes much further than an earlier estimate of more than a billion animals killed.
Iran prison ordeal worsens – The British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was given a 10-year-prison sentence in Iran for alleged espionage, has been moved to a remote prison called Qarchak that is notorious for violence and reportedly stricken with coronavirus.
The Cambridge-educated Middle East scholar had been held in Tehran’s Evin prison for nearly two years before her sudden move three days ago. No evidence has ever been publicly presented of Moore-Gilbert’s alleged crimes. She was arrested and tried in secret after being invited to Iran to speak at an academic conference.
Fresh primed – Amazon is to press ahead with the wider UK rollout of its online grocery service by the end of the year. It is understood that Amazon Prime members in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh will be among the first to benefit. Amazon Fresh is currently available in just 300 postcodes in and around London – many Prime members are to be offered free grocery delivery from today. In the US, California is investigating Amazon’s treatment of workers who, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, were allegedly made to share equipment and not allowed to slow down to observe social distancing.
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There’s gold in the Sperrin mountains of Northern Ireland – £3bn, to be precise – but local residents fiercely oppose developers’ plans.
Japan and Fiji will join the Six Nations in an autumn tournament which has been hastily arranged to compensate for the European tour schedule being scratched. Constant rain meant that there was no play in the third Test between England and West Indies at Old Trafford, but the weather might be good enough to facilitate a fifth-day finish today. Lewis Hamilton has been forced to clarify that he is “not against a vaccine” for Covid-19, after inadvertently sharing an anti-vaxxer post on his Instagram account. McLaren driver Lando Norris has reasserted his commitment to fighting racism in the runup to the British Grand Prix this weekend. Jürgen Klopp has allowed Liverpool’s players to go on holiday on condition that their destinations are cleared by the club and they make immediate arrangements to leave any country affected by a spike in Covid-19. Johanna Konta endured her toughest defeat in five years when the world No 289 Jodie Burrage, a British novice still learning the game, shocked the three-times grand slam semi-finalist, 6-4, 6-3. And excellent individual goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano gave Fulham a 2-0 advantage over Cardiff to take back to Craven Cottage in their quest to reach the Championship play-off final.
Shares have advanced in Asia after US stocks resumed their upward march on Wall Street, while the price of gold pushed to nearly $1,970 per ounce. Benchmarks climbed in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai after the S&P 500 rose 0.7% overnight. Much attention will be focused on a two-day meeting for the Federal Reserve that begins today, while hopes for more help for the American economy are rising as Congress debates another stimulus package. Sterling is worth $1.285 and €1.095 at time of writing while the FTSE is tracking a quarter of a per cent higher.
“Millions of summer holidays ruined” – the front page of the Express struggles to spin this one into something positive for the government. But the Telegraph has a go: “Quarantine to be cut to ten days” (for Britons arriving home from Spain). The Guardian print edition has “Virus outbreaks raise fears of second wave in Europe”.
The Mirror doubles down with a strapline saying “Quarantine shambles” over its headline of “Holiday chaos”. “Summer holidays hang in balance” – the Mail builds the suspense.
“Risk to all foreign travel this summer, says No 10” – that’s the i while the Times similarly says “All travel is now a risk, holidaymakers are told”. The Metro moves the story on to “Quarantine homes left unchecked”, about people arriving from abroad getting away with breaches of their mandatory self-isolation. And thanks to the FT for reminding us what matters: “Dollar falls to 2-year low as gold rises on fears over virus-hit US”.
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