NEWS DIGEST 30.12.2020: UK’s Labour gets to grips with Brexit deal, while South Africa gets to grips with new COVID mutation

Good morning. Our news today comes from Google News. The UK’s opposition Labour Party has said it will not seek major changes to the post-Brexit relationship of the UK with its EU neighbours, the party’s leader Keir Starmer told The Guardian newspaper. Starmer added that his main focus for next year will be the national economy and health services. He further said that he wanted to focus on the future, and create a vision for the ‘Britain of the 2030s’. In particular he was concerned about the country’s national state-owned healthcare provider, the National Health Service, and the impact of the coronavirus on it for the next few months. There are fears that there may be a new lockdown in January – Labour will not seek major changes to UK’s relationship with EU – Keir Starmer (The Guardian UK politics)

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Despite his reassurances however, Labour leader Keir Starmer could face a headache in the next few weeks as several ministers in his party plan to revolt against him for backing the government’s Brexit deal. Starmer will be asking his MPs to vote in favour of the deal in a special Commons gathering of parliamentarians, saying that although the deal is not ideal, it is still better than no deal at all. However critics, led by ex-shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, have called the deal ‘rotten’ and have urged their leader not to throw his support behind it. Several other parties, including the SNP, Plaid Cymru and all parties representing Northern Ireland have said they will oppose the Brexit deal – Brexit vote: Starmer faces Labour revolt over backing for deal (BBC News Politics)

In other news, South Africa has banned the sale of alcohol for the second time and has also made the wearing of face masks compulsory as it battles a resurgence of coronavirus, including a new local variant that has begun spreading beyond the country’s borders. Beaches in the country have been closed off to the public. The country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa brought in a raft of new restrictions this Monday, as South Africa became the first country on the African continent to record one million cases. He blamed ‘super-spreader’ social events and an ‘extreme lack of vigilance over the holiday period’ for the surge in new cases – South Africa bans alcohol sales, makes masks compulsory and closes many of the country’s beaches as coronavirus cases soar again after virulent new mutant strain was found there (Mail Online News)

Australia has already reported its first confirmed case of a person exposed to the South African mutation, in a female traveller who arrived in Queensland from an undisclosed country. She was placed in quarantine at the time of diagnosis and is now receiving treatment in hospital. Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath announced the discovery in a live COVID-19 update. She said: “We can report also today that it has been identified one overseas individual who arrived in Queensland on 22 December has tested positive for the new South African variant. This will be the first positive case of the South African variant in Australia” – Australia reports its first case of South Africa coronavirus variant (Sky News World)

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