Wednesday briefing: 'Super-spreading event' closed A&E ward

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: Call for shielding ‘bubbles’ in large care homes

Hello – Warren Murray putting you that little bit ahead this morning.

A nurse who was carrying coronavirus unwittingly infected 16 others during a training session in what was described as a “super-spreading event” that led to Hillingdon hospital closing its A&E unit, an inquiry has found. Nurses did not wear face masks or stay two metres apart. Staff at the London hospital say they are baffled as to why the training session was allowed to go ahead, given that most medical training in the NHS is now done online to avoid people gathering.

Coronavirus outbreaks are up to 20 times more likely in large care homes, according to a major study seen by the Guardian, prompting calls to divide them into “bubbles” before any second wave hits. And a new points-based checklist being made available from the British Medical Association website [PDF] could help keep healthcare workers safe by offering a way to calculate their risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19, researchers have said, stressing its usefulness for workers of black, Asian and ethnic minority heritage.

Wealthy households could be in line for tax rises to claw back the cost of extra spending during the pandemic, after the government called for a wide-ranging review of capital gains tax. Find the latest on the coronavirus pandemic at our global live blog.

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‘An amazing moment’ – The hated statue of slave trader Edward Colston was stunningly replaced in Bristol this morning with a sculpture of Jen Reid, one of the protesters whose anger brought him down. It was erected at dawn by a team directed by the artist Marc Quinn. Reid said she had been secretly working with Quinn on the idea for weeks – “Being up there, with my fist raised – it was an amazing moment, and this captures it. It gives me goose pimples.”

The installation will come as a complete surprise to city authorities, who are yet to announce their plans for the location where Colston’s statue was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters last month. Quinn called the removal of the Colston statue “an amazing act of poetic justice … Bristol will eventually work out something to put on, or to do with, the plinth. But in the meantime it is this charged space … it seemed to us it was time for direct action.”

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Huawei shown the highway – Patrick Wintour explains that the government removing Huawei from UK networks and barring it from the 5G rollout is part of a wider struggle encompassing the coronavirus pandemic, trade, the national security law imposed on Hong Kong, human rights in China and maritime security in the South China Sea. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, announced a U-turn on the role of Huawei, earning criticism from China – but praise from the US, where the Trump administration says the company poses a spying threat. There are concerns the decision will mean delays to 5G access for small towns and rural areas, with service providers prioritising more lucrative urban areas. The Global Times, mouthpiece of China’s Communist party government, said there would have to be “painful retaliation” over the ban.

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Midweek catch-up

> Ghislaine Maxwell has entered not-guilty pleas in a Manhattan court over her alleged involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls. Maxwell, 58, has been denied bail with her trial scheduled for 12 July 2021.

> Donald Trump has ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special economic status under US law to punish China for “aggressive actions” curbing freedoms. Trump also signed a bill penalising banks that deal with Chinese officials implementing new security laws. China said it would retaliate. The New York Times has pulled some of its journalists out of Hong Kong over concerns that reporting freely could get them arrested.

> The chancellor’s £3.8bn stamp duty giveaway has sparked a mini property boom in the southern England commuter belt, according to the property website Rightmove. Inquiries from buyers about Milton Keynes, Watford and north-west London have risen by more than 100% since the announcement last Wednesday.

> Russian agents may have deliberately left a bottle of the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury after they tried to kill the former spy Sergei Skripal, the high court has been told. The family of Dawn Sturgess, who was killed by the poison, are seeking to have a coronial inquest examine what role the Russian state had in her death.

> Scotland Yard is investigating a former undercover officer over allegations he incited an animal rights activist to commit illegal acts including buying a shotgun that led to his jailing for four years. A judge-led inquiry into misconduct by undercover police is due to start hearing evidence in public in November.

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Green bank comeback – The government is poised to reveal plans for a new state-backed green bank to help finance Britain’s climate ambitions, three years after ministers agreed to sell the UK’s Green Investment Bank in a controversial deal dubbed “deeply regrettable” and “politically dubious” by critics. Meanwhile the government’s plans to make Britain’s draughty homes more energy-efficient will make only a fraction of the progress needed towards the UK’s legally binding climate targets, according to a study by the IPPR thinktank. And a service called Loop is to launch in the UK that delivers food, drink and household essentials from leading brands in reusable packaging. It uses durable, refillable containers that can be collected from the doorstep and cleaned for reuse up to 100 times.

Today in Focus: Benjamin Zephaniah and George the Poet

Two of Britain’s most successful contemporary poets discuss why, despite being born a generation apart, their work is still exposing racial injustice.

Lunchtime read: The power of touch

“Lockdown has been cruel on everyone I know, in all kinds of ways,” writes Tim Jonze. “I’ve been shielding because it’s still unclear whether the blood clotting cancer I have interacts badly with Covid-19. That has meant embarking on a perma-childcare shift, one that normally begins at about 5am and stretches ahead like a road in the desert, with no places to refuel along the way.

“But lack of human touch is not a trauma I can share. In a world starved of physical contact, I’m a guilty glutton, squirrelled away with my plentiful supply, entangled in a cornucopia of limbs; feet in my ribs; fingers in my nostrils. My kids slip soapily down my body when I shower them, murmur gently when I hug them close, spray hay fever sneezes across my face like the super-spreaders of love that they are. I can’t get enough.”


Forever in the shadow of West Indies teams who came before them, Jason Holder’s side know how much a first Test series victory in England since 1988 would mean. If the task was simply to show they are capable of communicating on the pitch, then Chelsea players passed the test in their 1-0 win over Norwich in the Premier League. José Mourinho and Jürgen Klopp have strongly criticised the court of arbitration for sport’s ruling over the Manchester City case, the former describing the outcome as “disgraceful”. Mikel Arteta has warned Arsenal a return to the Champions League will become possible only if the club decides to “go for it” and invest significantly. Newcastle United’s takeover saga has been cast into further uncertainty after the Saudi Arabian government permanently barred beIN Sports from operating in the kingdom. And in rugby, Manu Tuilagi believes Sale will get the best out of him after years of injury problems at Leicester.


Shares have been mostly higher in Asia, though the Shanghai composite index has slipped. The Bank of Japan is due to issue a policy statement but not expected to make any significant changes in its ultra-easy monetary stance. Investors are awaiting April-June economic growth data for China due later in the week. The pound is worth £1.257 and €1.103 at time of writing, while the FTSE is flagged to open around 60 points higher.

The papers

The Mail puts itself on first-name terms with Jeffery Epstein’s friend: “Ghislaine’s tears as she’s told: you must stay in jail”. Other papers have the Maxwell story but not as their splash: “U-turn on Huawei puts UK’s 5G rollout plan in jeopardy” says our Guardian front page. “We’ll go our own Huawei”, says the Metro.

The FT spins it out to “Huawei’s ban from rollout of 5G network provokes fury in Beijing”. The i says “China crisis looms as UK pulls the plug on Huawei”.

The Telegraph leads with “Next stop, masks in offices”, saying the idea is part of a “road map to avoid second wave”. Michael Gove is shown coming out of a Pret with no mask – thought it’s not the law just yet – while Liz Truss emerges from the same shop wearing one. The Mirror tells us to be ready to “shop in masks till next year”. The Times has “Threat of homes tax to pay for pandemic” as the government carries out a review of capital gains tax. And in the Express, a former No 10 adviser says the government should cap social care costs at £45k a year.

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