News diary 15-21 June: Zoos reopen, Premier League returns and PC Andrew Harper murder trial begins

Foresight News rounds-up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

Monday

The easing of lockdown restrictions in England ramps up with the re-opening of non-essential shops as well as zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas, the return of Year 10 and 11 pupils to schools, and the resumption of funerals and private prayer at places of worship.

The biggest set of changes to lockdown life to date are introduced as the row over the government’s early approach to lockdown continues in both scientific and political circles, though with an encouraging downward trend in recorded deaths after the initial easing of some measures last week.

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The return of shoppers to the high street is a welcome first step on the road to normality, though last week’s GDP figures may encourage ministers to heed the calls from Tory MPs to reduce the 2m distance limit in order to open up more sectors of a struggling economy.

In a major step for the global community scrambling to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, researchers from Imperial College London begin testing their RNA vaccine on humans for the first time. Early animal testing indicates that the vaccine may help the immune system produce neutralising antibodies. The vaccine has received UK government funding alongside a vaccine developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has begun to manufacture despite not yet knowing if it works.

Three teenagers go on trial at the Old Bailey accused of the murder of PC Andrew Harper in Berkshire last August. Henry Long, Albert Bower and Jessie Cole are charged with killing the Thames Valley Police officer as he responded to reports of a burglary, with fatal injuries being inflicted as he was dragged along a country lane.  Their trial earlier this year was abandoned as the coronavirus pandemic worsened in the UK.

Tuesday

The ONS publishes employment figures for May, coinciding with the release of monthly Universal Credit statistics. May was the first full month of the  government’s Job Retention Scheme, enabling companies to furlough millions of employees and preventing or deferring large-scale redundancies. Even with the scheme, the Bank of England predicts that the UK will see unemployment rise to 10% this year as a result of the economic devastation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on police use of force and community relations. The death of George Floyd, marking just the latest incident in a long history of similar confrontations, has sparked nationwide demands for police reform and calls to defund the police. The hearing comes amid repeated examples of officers using excessive force on protestors calling for an end to police brutality.

Wednesday

The Premier League makes its long-awaited return (albeit behind closed doors) following a three-month suspension sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The highlight of the day’s fixtures sees second place Manchester City hosting Arsenal, victory essential to keeping their championship hopes alive.

Liverpool sit 25 points clear with nine games remaining, meaning any slip ups would all but guarantee the reds their first English league title in 30 years. The Championship is also set to resume on Saturday, with some 11 teams still firmly in the Premier League promotion picture.

European lawmakers gather for a plenary session to debate, among other issues, Brexit negotiations, Black Lives Matter protests across Europe, and the EU leaders’ virtual meeting on Friday focused on economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The session continues Thursday, when China’s approach to Hong Kong and Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank are up for debate.

Thursday

The family of Harry Dunn, the teenager killed in a traffic collision with US national Anne Sacoolas in August of last year, bring legal action against the Foreign Office before the High Court. The family argues that the FCO’s advice to police regarding Sacoolas’ supposed diplomatic immunity was unlawful and seek a wider judicial review to have the decision quashed.

Dunn’s family also intends to bring a private prosecution against Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whose handling of the case has been thrown back under the microscope in recent days.

Restrictive measures in Wales and Scotland are due to be reviewed at the end of both countries’ latest three-week lockdown period. Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have remained adamant that a more cautious approach to relaxation than that adopted by the Westminster government was necessary, though both voiced optimism last week at the prospect of moving into the next phase of restrictions.

Changes could bring both nations in line with England in some areas, after encouraging falls in recorded death numbers.

Friday

The US marks Juneteenth, commemorating the abolition of slavery, amid continuing protests over police and institutional discrimination against Black Americans. President Donald Trump had been scheduled to hold his first in-person rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a Republican stronghold and the site of an infamous 1921 race massacre.

The timing and venue for the rally had been criticised as a “welcome home party” for white supremacists, lending further support to criticism that the president has misread the mood of the nation on the current reckoning with systemic racism. In a rare climbdown, Trump moved the rally to Saturday.

EU leaders hold a virtual summit to discuss the proposed €750bn Covid-19 recovery fund and the bloc’s new long-term budget, amid divisions between the “frugal four” countries preaching restraint (Finland, Netherlands, Denmark and Austria) and those countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

But Brexit is likely to make its way onto the agenda following high-level talks on Monday between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson aimed at breaking the stalemate that has slowed negotiations.

Protesters in Hong Kong plan to hold a mass demonstration against China’s national security law and the Hong Kong executive. The protest was originally scheduled for 12 June to mark the anniversary of last year’s march against the now-dead extradition law, but was postponed after the government extended a coronavirus-induced ban on gatherings of more than eight people. The ban, which has unsurprisingly been used to arrest pro-democracy activists, is due to lift on Thursday.

Saturday

A three-day meeting of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s top parliamentary body, concludes. The meeting follows the recent NPC session where broad proposals to reform national security laws regarding Hong Kong were overwhelmingly approved, prompting widespread condemnation from Western capitals.

But the exact phrasing of the new laws, which will ban acts of “separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference”, were left to the Standing Committee to legislate, with details likely unveiled today. Given the febrile atmosphere in Hong Kong, expect a fresh round of unrest over what critics say is the gradual erosion of freedoms in the Special Administrative Territory.

The state of emergency in Hungary is due to be lifted today, pending lawmakers’ approval of a government bill on 16 June. The emergency laws were introduced in March, ostensibly to slow the spread of coronavirus, but allowed Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree for an indefinite period. Opponents  have accused Orban’s administration of using the powers to jail critics on the pretence of spreading “misinformation”.

Sunday

Spain’s long-running state of emergency, in place since 14 March, is finally set to expire. The country’s coronavirus restrictions were among the strictest measures on the continent, with residents banned from going outside even for exercise, keeping millions of children inside up until the end of April. Provinces have been gradually reopening since early May, and the government is now set to focus on managing regional outbreaks while trying to get its all-important tourism sector back up and running from 1 July.

Yet another royal birthday is celebrated in lockdown as the Duke of Cambridge turns 38. As public advocates of mental health awareness, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been counselling people during the crisis, but no timetable has been set for when the royals will return to official public duties.

A “Ring of Fire” will be visible in the sky across the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Pakistan, India, China and Taiwan. The annual solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the Sun at its farthest distance from the Earth, making only the outer edges of the Sun visible. Due to the pandemic, eclipse fans from North America and Europe who might have travelled to see the spectacle will have to wait until 2021 for their turn.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

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