Our news diary is taking a break for a few weeks, but Foresight News has rounded up the key events that will be making news this summer…
Scotland lifts its remaining major legal COVID-19 restrictions on 9 August, including the legal requirement for physical distancing. Despite the welcome news of the relaxation, the Scottish Government has been accused of “mixed messaging” by the Scottish Conservatives as to whether nightclubs can reopen without face coverings being required and if people will be allowed to “vertically drink” at the bar.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) holds a press conference on 9 August to launch a working group report on the physical science basis for climate change, following a two-week meeting to sign it off. The summary for policymakers is due to update the established science around climate change and projections for future warming, and is likely to play an important role in policy-making ahead of the COP26 summit.
After a heavily disrupted year, pupils in England and Wales receive their A-level and GCSE results on 10 August and 12 August respectively. As with 2020, this year marks are awarded based on teacher-assessed grades. Amid reports that privately-educated students will widen the attainment gap with a higher share of top A-level grades this year, the government has already hinted at changes to next year’s exams to ensure consistency and fairness for those worst affected by the pandemic disruption.
The new Premier League season begins on 13 August. Defending champions Manchester City, despite the will-they-won’t-they transfer saga surrounding England captain Harry Kane, are the current bookies’ favourites to retain their title ahead of Champions League winners Chelsea. Manchester United are also likely to be in the mix after splashing the cash on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, while Liverpool will be boosted by the return of captain Virgil van Dijk following a lengthy injury.
From 16 August, fully-vaccinated people and unvaccinated under-18s in England no longer have to self-isolate if they are “pinged” by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced backlash from Labour and businesses for waiting four weeks from “Freedom Day” to ease the restrictions, which have already been lifted in Scotland and Wales.
The streets of Notting Hill will be quiet for a second August bank holiday after the Carnival board opted not to stage a physical event again this year, citing the “ongoing uncertainty and risk” posed by Covid. Instead, a series of free events at Carnival headquarters The Tabernacle take place throughout August, while three ticketed park concerts (19-21 August) will raise funds for what organisers are promising will be the greatest-ever Carnival in 2022.
The Edinburgh Television Festival takes place from 23-26 August. This year’s high-profile speakers include climate activist Greta Thunberg, actors Steve Coogan and Whoopi Goldberg and Channel 4 director of programmes Ian Katz. The festival typically focuses on policy and production issues within the industry and could well discuss future of Channel 4 amid reports that US broadcaster Discovery is among organisations potentially interested in making a takeover bid.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hosts the Crimean Platform Summit on 23 August, the day before the country celebrates the 30th anniversary of independence with a large military parade. The major international gathering is aimed at increasing international pressure on Russia to de-occupy Crimea following its annexation in 2014. Russia has reportedly been working behind the scenes to apply pressure to dissuade foreign leaders from attending the event, though Ukraine insists that at least 30 countries have confirmed their participation.
After an unorthodox but successful Olympics, 24 August marks the start of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Team GB recorded their best performance at a Paralympics since 1988 in Rio four years ago, finishing second in the medal table with a haul of 64 gold medals. Keep an eye on Brazilian legend Daniel Dias, already the most decorated male Paralympic swimmer of all time, who could set a new record for the most gold medals in the pool in his final Games.
US intelligence agencies are due to produce a report by 24 August on the origins of COVID-19. The two most likely outcomes of the report are that the virus originated from animal to human transmission or an accidental laboratory leak. The renewed investigation, ordered by President Joe Biden, indicates a significant shift in the long-held position of US health officials that the Wuhan laboratory theory was “extremely unlikely”.
Unite reveals the result of the election to replace leader Len McCluskey on 26 August, with three candidates in the running to become the influential union’s next general secretary. McCluskey’s preferred candidate is Steve Turner, the organiser of his past election campaigns, while Gerard Coyne came close to defeating the incumbent in the last leadership election in 2017. The pair face Sharon Graham, a left-wing candidate with strong grassroots support who would become the union’s first female general secretary.
History beckons for Novak Djokovic in the US Open from 30 August, as he bids to become the greatest men’s tennis player of all time by securing his 21st Grand Slam title. Djokovic currently shares the GOAT moniker with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with all three players tied on 20 titles a piece. Despite a recent injury scare, victory at Flushing Meadows would also make Djokovic the third men’s player in history to win all 4 grand slam tournaments in the same year, following in the footsteps of Rod Laver (1962 & 1969) and Don Budge (1938).
The US military operation in Afghanistan formally ends on 31 August, under the accelerated timetable announced by President Joe Biden on 8 July. News from the country has been dominated in recent weeks by Taliban gains across the country, as calls for the Taliban and the Afghan government to negotiate an agreement have failed to produce results.
The OECD releases its annual analysis of trends in migration flows and policies across member nations on 1 September. Last year’s Migration Outlook showed that China was the largest sources of migrants to OECD countries, with India overtaking Romania in second place. Then-Secretary General Angel Gurría said in 2020 that the pandemic had “redrawn the international migration map”, particularly affecting integration, and this year’s report is likely to further reflect the disruption caused by Covid after widespread national travel bans and border closures.
England continue their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign with matches against Hungary (2 September), Andorra (5 September) and Poland (8 September). Gareth Southgate’s men are currently top of Group I, having won all three of their previous qualifiers, and fans will be keen to see the team back in action judging by the outpouring of support that followed their loss to Italy in the Euros final.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes an update to its Red List of Threatened Species around 4 September. Highlighting threatened and extinct species, the list continues to expand year on year as a result of human activity and climate change. This year’s update follows the announcement of a new green list, measuring the impact of conservation and tracking species’ recovery as well as decline.
Rome plays host to a two-day gathering health ministers from G20 countries on 5-6 September, where the pandemic is likely to yet again dominate headlines. The gathering comes amid continued inequality in vaccine distribution: some countries – including the UK, France and Germany – are preparing to rollout booster jabs as soon as this month, despite calls from the WHO to delay the process until lower-income countries have had a chance to vaccinate their populations for the first time.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Reuters/Thomas Peter