NATIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP: Dominic Raab defends Kabul airlifts after whistleblower’s damning claims AND
Here’s your latest national headline news including Dominic Raab defends Afghanistan evacuation efforts, MPs hear emotional tribute to murdered boy of six, and COVID-19 deaths drop for the second week in a row.
Dominic Raab has launched a defence of his handling of the evacuation of Afghanistan after a whistleblower alleged he led a “dysfunctional” and “chaotic” operation while foreign secretary.
Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office during the effort, claimed that just 5% of Afghan nationals who applied to flee under one UK scheme received help.
Some were murdered after being left behind in Kabul after the Taliban swept to power in August, he alleged in devastating written evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
He alleged that Mr Raab “did not fully understand the situation”, was slow to rule on cases and requested they were reformatted “in a well-presented table” before making a decision.
Mr Raab, who was moved to become Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister after his handling of the crisis, sought to defend his record, having already been heavily criticised for holidaying in Crete as the Taliban were storming back to power in Afghanistan.
“It’s inaccurate in certain respects, the suggestion that junior desk officers were making decisions is just not correct,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There’s a difference between processing and deciding, so I’m afraid I don’t accept that characterisation.
“On the charge it took several hours to make decisions, we’re not talking about days, it’s not been suggested weeks, but several hours to make sure we had the facts, and that, as between myself, the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary, decisions were made and actually I would suggest that’s a reasonably swift turnaround.”
The number of deaths involving Covid-19 registered in England and Wales has fallen for the second week in a row, with deaths among over-80s at their lowest level for nearly two months.
A total of 817 deaths registered in the week ending November 26 mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is down 14% on the previous week, and follows a 7% fall a week earlier.
Some 348 deaths were of people aged 80 and over – the lowest number for this age group since the week to October 8.
Deaths have fallen steadily among over-80s in recent weeks, and this trend coincides with the rollout of booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine, which began among the oldest groups at the end of September.
Boosters have been estimated to give more than 90% protection against symptomatic Covid-19 among adults aged 50 and over two weeks after the jab has been given.
Protection was found to be 93.1% for over-50s who had first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 94.0% for those who had Pfizer-BioNTech, according to findings published by the UK Health Security Agency.
Deaths involving Covid-19 continue to be well below levels seen during last winter.
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