We’re all a bit stuck in Covidland here, so we’ve picked a selection of the biggest news from around the UK and the world for today’s roundup.
Nurses Prepare to Strike
A nurses’ union has set up a £35m fund to prepare for possible strike action over a proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers in England.
The Royal College of Nursing called this ‘pitiful’, arguing that its members should get 12.5% instead. It would have to hold a ballot before strikes could go ahead.
Labour said NHS ‘heroes’ deserve more money, but the government insisted 1% was ‘what’s affordable’ at a difficult time for the public finances.
Meanwhile the union UNISON is urging the public to stand on doorsteps and balconies at 8pm next Thursday to display their feelings to the government’s pay offer.
Francis in Iraq
Pope Francis is in Iraq this week in what is the first ever papal visit to Iraq. The pontiff is making his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid and security fears have made this his riskiest visit yet, but the 84-year-old insisted he was ‘duty bound’. He also said Iraq’s dwindling Christian community should have a more prominent role as citizens with full rights, freedoms and responsibilities.
He is hoping to foster inter-religious dialogue – meeting Iraq’s most revered Shia Muslim cleric – and will celebrate Mass at a stadium in Irbil in the north.
Iraq’s PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi greeted him at the airport, with a red carpet, Iraqis in national dress and songs from a largely unmasked choir.
Summer in Cyprus
Cyprus and Portugal say they hope to welcome vaccinated British tourists from May.
The Cypriot government said those who had two Covid jabs could travel, while Portugal said those who tested negative or were ‘immune’ could also visit. It is not known how vaccine status would be proved. The earliest date for those in England could go abroad for holidays is 17 May, following a review on travel rules.
China Extends Power over HK
Beijing has declared that only “patriots” should rule Hong Kong – and unveiled plans to change the city’s electoral system to ensure just that. Candidates for election to the Legislative Council – Hong Kong’s parliament – will be vetted, according to the proposed changes. And elections scheduled for 2020, already postponed for a year, will be pushed back to 2022.
President Jair Bolsonaro has told Brazilians to stop “whining” about coronavirus and move on from the disease. Brazil currently has the second highest Covid-19 death toll in the world after the US, with more than 261,000 fatalities.
Duke Moved Again
The Duke of Edinburgh has been moved back to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London after his ‘successful’ heart procedure, Buckingham Palace has said.
He is expected to remain in that hospital for continuing treatment for a number of days, the palace said. Prince Philip, 99, underwent a procedure on a pre-existing condition at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Wednesday.