3 August: Your round-up of the issues leading today's agenda
- One of the UK’s most senior scientists has criticised the government for the “shroud of secrecy” drawn over major decisions in the coronavirus crisis and urged ministers to be more open about the reasons behind their policies, The Guardian reports. Sir Paul Nurse, the nobel laureate and director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, said important decisions throughout the pandemic had been made in what appeared to be a “black box” of scientists, civil servants and politicians, and called for more transparency and scrutiny. The failure to be more open about pivotal decisions, and the basis on which they were reached, meant it had been impossible to challenge emerging policy, he said, a situation that fuelled poor decisions and put public trust at risk.
- Societe Generale swung to a surprise 1.26 billion-euro ($1.5 billion) loss because of charges at its trading unit, extending a losing streak that’s set to increase pressure on chief executive officer Frederic Oudea, Bloomberg says. The French lender posted almost 1.33 billion euros in one-off costs following a review of the global markets and investor services business, including a 684 million-euro writedown. That capped a tough period for the bank, which saw equities-trading revenue decline 80% after structured products were hit for a second straight quarter.
- The euro zone’s economy recorded its deepest contraction on record in the second quarter, preliminary estimates showed on Friday, while the bloc’s inflation unexpectedly ticked up in July, Reuters says. In the months from April to June, gross domestic product in the 19-country currency bloc shrank by 12.1% from the previous quarter, the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said in its flash estimates. Inflation continued instead its upward trend, defying expectations of a slowdown, supporting the European Central Bank’s expectation that a negative headline reading may be avoided. Eurostat said consumer prices in the bloc rose 0.4% on an annual basis in July from 0.3% in June and 0.1% in May. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2% increase in July.
- Russian health authorities are preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against coronavirus in October, the health minister has said, the BBC reports. Russian media quoted Mikhail Murashko as saying that doctors and teachers would be the first to receive the vaccine. However, some experts are concerned at Russia's fast-track approach. On Friday, the leading infectious disease expert in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he hoped that Russia - and China - were "actually testing the vaccine" before administering them to anyone.