The UK’s parliamentary spending watchdog has found the government failed to account properly for all of the $24 billion it has spent on Covid-19 supplies and services, with political connections helping contractors win multi-million dollar deals without adequate scrutiny or transparency.
David Pegg, Felicity Lawrence and David Conn report:
PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a “high-priority” channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful, according to a report by the parliamentary spending watchdog.
Almost 500 suppliers with links to politicians or senior officials were referred to the channel, where their pitches for contracts were automatically treated as credible by government officials charged with procuring PPE.
More from the United States, where the number of deaths is approaching a quarter of a million (currently 248,424 according to Johns Hopkins University).
Experts say the federal government, led by the lame duck president Donald Trump, has “checked out”, weeks away from what would be early vaccine approvals.
On Tuesday, a coronavirus taskforce update from the office of Mike Pence made no mention of transition efforts involving the president-elect, Joe Biden, as Trump has refused to concede defeat. Last weekend, leading public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci said Trump had not attended a taskforce meeting in five months.
The Fijian rugby team’s European tour is in disarray with almost the entire playing squad testing positive to Covid-19.
29 players and support staff – out of 32 – have now tested positive to the novel coronavirus, leading to the cancellation of their Test against Italy.
A preliminary match against Portugal was called off earlier this month after three members of the Flying Fijian squad tested positive, while the Nations Cup clash against France was abandoned when five players tested positive.
France was awarded a 28-0 victory, and a bonus point, after Fiji was unable to safely field a side for the Test in Vannes.
In a statement, tournament organisers Six Nations Rugby said they remain in constant contact with the Fijian squad to address the situation.
Ben Morel, chief executive of Six Nations Rugby, the organiser of the Nations Cup tournament, said the decision to cancel the French test was “a difficult and disappointing decision, but it was the only possible outcome”.
“The welfare of our players and their support teams remain our number one priority.”
Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator, announced Tuesday he had tested positive for coronavirus.
Grassley, 87, the senior senator from Iowa, said earlier in day that he was quarantining after being exposed to the virus and would work virtually as he waits for results of a test. He did not say how he was exposed.
Then later in the afternoon he confirmed that he had been infected.
Good morning/afternoon/evening whenever and wherever this missive finds you. Ben Doherty here in Sydney helming our coronavirus live coverage for the next few hours. My thanks to my indefatigable colleagues all around the world who’ve been keeping us all up to date.
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A summary of the latest developments:
- Republican senator Chuck Grassley, 87, of Iowa has tested positive for Covid-19.
- In the UK, 598 more people on Tuesday died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid 19, bringing the UK total to 52,745. This represents the highest daily increase since 12 May.
- British Airways is to launch a voluntary coronavirus test for passengers travelling to the UK from three American airports. The airline said it will trial a testing regime, which will involve hundreds of travellers on particular routes from the US to Heathrow.
- A Brazilian politician has died of Covid-19 just hours after being elected the mayor of his town. Edilson Filgueira won the race to become the next mayor of Itaguaru, a small town in the midwestern state of Goiás, during Brazil’s municipal elections on Sunday. But less than 24 hours later the 60-year-old politician was dead.
- Spain recorded 435 new Covid deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily toll seen so far in the country’s second wave of the coronavirus. Its total number of cases has now passed the 1.5 million mark and stands at 1,510,023.
- German officials have cited security concerns in their decision to ban a series of protests planned Wednesday outside the federal parliament by people opposed to coronavirus lockdown measures. The unusual move comes amid fears that extremist groups could try to use a rally initially planned for Wednesday to attack the Bundestag, echoing an unsuccessful attempt to storm the parliament building during a similar demonstration in August.
- Italy has registered 32,191 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday, up from 27,354 the day before. The ministry also reported 731 Covid 19-related deaths, up from 504 the previous day and the highest daily toll since 3 April, when the country was in full national lockdown.
- Top US virus scientist Anthony Fauci hails a Moderna vaccine found to be nearly 95% effective in a trial as “stunningly impressive”, saying it validates experimental mRNA technology that some had doubted.
- Iran’s daily new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours hit 13,352 on Tuesday, a new record, the government announced. The number of deaths in the previous 24 hours reached 482. The total death toll has now reached 42,461, the highest in the middle east.