Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 December 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Booster rollout ‘stuck in first gear’
England’s booster programme vaccinated fewer people over the weekend than it did before ministers pledged to put it “on steroids”, it has emerged. The number of third jabs delivered was lower last weekend than it was the previous one, prompting accusations that the programme is “stuck in first gear” as the Omicron variant continues to spread. The Telegraph said there is a “blame game” underway on Whitehall, with sources pointing the finger at the UK Health Security Agency, run by Dr Jenny Harries.
Omicron could halt UK’s recovery
Government scientific advisers have suggested that Omicron infections in Britain are doubling every three days. Epidemiologists have warned that the variant of concern is likely to become the dominant strain of the virus in Britain within “weeks rather than months”, The Times said. A further 90 cases were confirmed yesterday, taking the total to 336. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned the variant may spread more quickly than its predecessors, adding that it could “knock us off our road to recovery”.
West discussing Russia sanctions
Western leaders have held talks to agree a package of sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine. Boris Johnson joined the leaders of the US, Germany, France and Italy to decide a joint strategy “to impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy” before Joe Biden’s “high-stakes phone call” with Vladimir Putin today, The Times reported. Possible approaches include cutting off Moscow from the international financial settlement system or restrictions on banks similar to those imposed on Iran.
Cummings warns PM over parties
Dominic Cummings has warned that it is “very unwise for No. 10 to lie” about parties that allegedly took place during lockdown last Christmas. After Downing Street insisted that “there was not a party”, the former aide to Boris Johnson tweeted that some political journalists were at the events and so are “trying to bury” the story. Tony Blair’s former spokesperson, Alastair Campbell, tweeted: “If it is true journalists were at the No. 10 party or parties when the country was in lockdown they should be identified and fired.”
Charles and Harry ‘barely speak’
Prince Charles and Harry have “barely spoken” in months and relations between the pair have reached “an all-time low”, according to the Daily Mail. The Prince of Wales was “deeply shocked and hurt” following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, the paper said. Tensions reportedly soared this weekend when the Duke of Sussex told The Sunday Times that he “severed ties” with “cash for honours” billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz due to “concerns over his motives”.
UK ‘left people to die at hands of Taliban’
A whistleblower has described the Foreign Office’s handling of the Afghan evacuation as “dysfunctional” and “chaotic”. Former diplomat Raphael Marshall said the process of choosing who could get a flight out of Kabul was “arbitrary”, adding that thousands of emails pleading for help were ignored and that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was slow to make decisions. He also said the department’s “short-hours culture” meant people were “left to die at the hands of the Taliban”.
Inflation could exceed 5%
The Bank of England’s monetary policy chief has said inflation is likely to soar “comfortably” above 5% next spring. Ben Broadbent, the central bank’s deputy governor with responsibility for monetary policy, said the figure will be breached when the energy regulator Ofgem raises a price cap affecting millions of households. Investors currently believe there is less than a 50% chance of the bank raising rates from 0.1% to 0.25% in its meeting later this month.
China dismisses US Olympic boycott
Beijing has lashed out at the US government’s diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympic Games, describing it as “posturing and political manipulation”. After more countries said they would consider joining the protest over China’s human rights abuses, officials claimed that US diplomats had not even been invited to Beijing. The White House confirmed it would not send any official or diplomatic representatives to the event in February citing “the on-going genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang”.
Trump firm probed on Wall Street
Donald Trump’s plan to float his social media company on the stock market in a $1.25bn deal is being investigated by Wall Street regulators. The watchdogs are probing Digital World Acquisition Corp — the firm set to merge with Trump Media and Technology Group — and have documents about its investors and trading. Over the weekend, Trump’s firm said it had secured $1bn from “a diverse group of institutional investors”. No individual investors were named.
WhatsApp deletion move criticised
WhatsApp has come under fire after it announced that users will soon be given the option to have their messages disappear after 24 hours. Announcing the change, the messaging company, which has 2bn users, said its mission was to “connect the world privately”. Warning the move would help groomers, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the “poorly thought out design decision” will “enable offenders to rapidly delete evidence of child abuse”.