Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 3 December 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Booster study ‘gives hope’
Booster jabs “massively” strengthen the body’s defences against Covid, according to new studies. A third dose not only increased antibody levels thirty-fold but roughly tripled levels of T-cells, raising hopes of strong protection from the Omicron variant. “This T-cell response gives us hope,” said Professor Saul Faust, chief investigator of the trial, which is published in The Lancet. Researchers found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines give the best overall boost response.
Conservatives hold safe seat
The Tories have held on to their safe south-east London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup. Conservative councillor Louie French won with more than half the vote, but the party’s majority was much reduced. French paid tribute to his friend James Brokenshire, the man he will replace, who died of cancer in October – and said the contest had been tough but “fought with dignity”.
Paris rejects joint patrols
France has rejected the idea of a joint British-French patrol in the English Channel to deal with the rising number of migrant crossings. Writing to Boris Johnson, the French prime minister said he “cannot accept” either “British police or military patrol at our coast” as “a matter of our sovereignty”. However, Paris officials said they are “ready to pursue our operational cooperation” with the UK.
Unite threatens Labour funding
Labour’s biggest funder is planning to cut political donations to the party and spend the money instead on union campaigns, its new general secretary has warned. In a development that could “blow a hole in Keir Starmer’s general election war chest”, The Guardian reports, Sharon Graham said that while Unite would still pay £1m in affiliation fees to Labour, “there’s a lot of other money that we use from our political fund where, actually, I’m not sure we’re getting the best value for it”.
RAC criticises ‘shocking’ petrol prices
Retailers are continuing to inflate fuel prices when they should reduce them in line with savings in wholesale oil prices, the RAC has said. In response to concerns about the Omicron variant, oil prices fell by around $10 a barrel last week, but this has not been reflected at the pumps. The motoring organisation said the failure to cut prices was “completely unjustified” and accused larger retailers of making a “shocking” profit.
Germany restricts lives of un-jabbed
Germany’s national and regional leaders have agreed new measures that bar unvaccinated people from much of public life. Only those who have been vaccinated or who have recently recovered from Covid will be allowed in restaurants, cinemas, leisure facilities and many shops. In addition, parliament will consider making Covid jabs mandatory from February. Germany’s fourth wave of Covid is its most severe so far and hospitals in the south and east of the country have transferred patients to other regions because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Peer accused over racist messages
A Conservative peer has been accused of telling a man of Indian heritage he was “a waste of a man’s white skin”. According to an official complaint, Baroness Michelle Mone used the phrase in a WhatsApp discussion in June 2019, in which she also described the man’s partner as a “mental loony” and “nut case bird”. A representative for the former lingerie tycoon said: “Baroness Mone is 100% not a racist.”
Amnesty warns of Paraguay abuse
Amnesty International said an epidemic of childhood pregnancy in Paraguay is being fuelled by widespread sexual abuse and restrictive abortion laws. At least 1,000 girls aged 14 or younger gave birth in the country between 2019 and 2020, said the group, as well as more than 12,000 girls between the age of 15 and 19 in 2019 alone. Children who have faced sexual violence are forced to carry the resulting pregnancies to term under Paraguayan law.
Biden faces asylum backlash
Joe Biden has been criticised for restoring a Trump-era policy that holds asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims are processed. The US president had suspended the practice, calling it “inhumane”, but was ordered by courts to restore it. According to charity Human Rights First, more than 1,500 cases of kidnapping, rape, torture and other abuses have been reported among migrants returned to Mexico.
‘Grim’ life of Epstein worker revealed
The former house manager of Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach home told a court that Ghislaine Maxwell warned him that he should “never look” his boss in the eyes. The Guardian said that Juan Alessi, who worked at Epstein’s Florida residence from about 1990 to 2002, painted a portrait of “extreme privilege, as well as strict control”, as he described a work environment where he faced the “grim task of cleaning up their sex toys”.