Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 December 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Lord Frost quits the government

Brexit minister Lord Frost has resigned from the government, saying he had “concerns about the current direction of travel”. In a letter, he spoke of his desire to see a “low-tax” economy and said he hoped the government would “not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere”. The Observer said the “shock departure” represents “another dangerous moment” for Boris Johnson and is “another sign of the major fissures opening up within the Tory party”.

2

Scientists warn of two million daily infections

Government scientists said there could be two million daily infections by the end of the month if new restrictions are not brought in immediately. The government’s SPI-M-O group of scientists, which reports to Sage, also warned that, based on their modelling, hospitalisations could peak between 3,000 and 10,000 a day and deaths at between 600 and 6,000 a day. A major incident was declared in London as a further 90,418 daily Covid cases were reported across the UK on Saturday.

 

3

Man beaten to death at Sikh shrine

Police in the Indian city of Amritsar say a man suspected of trying to commit a sacrilegious act at Sikhism’s holiest site has been beaten to death. During a prayer service at the Golden Temple on Saturday a man allegedly barged into the inner sanctum, where Sikhism’s holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is kept. Earlier this week, another man was apprehended for allegedly throwing another holy book, the Gutka Sahib, into a man-made pool surrounding the temple.

4

Maxwell will appeal if convicted

Ghislaine Maxwell is expected to launch an appeal if she is convicted of charges linked to child sex trafficking. The Sunday Times said her team would argue that her “torturous” remand conditions have made it impossible for her to properly defend herself. Jurors at her trial in New York could reach a verdict before Christmas Day, when the British socialite turns 60. If she is found guilty, Maxwell could be jailed for almost 80 years.

5

Clashes at anti-lockdown rally

Thousands of people marched through London yesterday to voice their anger over the latest Covid restrictions. Demonstrators shouted “shame on you” as they clashed with police - with some officers suffering minor injuries while escorting a police motorcyclist through the area. A group also attacked a shop in Regent Street, abusing customers and throwing eggs at the building, before police intervened. The “Freedom Rally” was held in opposition to vaccine passports and other virus rules.

6

Dutch impose Europe’s strictest lockdown

The Netherlands has entered a tight lockdown over Christmas. As concerns grow over the Omicron variant, non-essential shops, bars, gyms, hairdressers and other public venues are closed until at least 14 January. Meanwhile, two guests per household will be allowed - four over the holidays. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the restrictions were “unavoidable”. Although several European countries have been tightening restrictions, the new rules in the Netherlands are the strictest to have been announced in the latest wave.

7

Children face ‘most dangerous Xmas’

The NSPCC has warned that many children are facing their “most dangerous Christmas yet” as on-going effects of the pandemic heighten internal family tensions.  The charity said a “toxic cocktail” of accumulating financial pressures, disrupted festive plans and strained relationships threatened to create unsafe environments for some children and young people. A spokesman urged people to contact the authorities if they are concerned about a child’s safety. “We are saying please speak up or speak out – don’t wait,” they said.

8

Warning over Christian safety in Holy Land

Church leaders in Jerusalem have raised an “unprecedented and urgent alarm call” over Christian’s safety in the Holy Land, said Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Hosam Naoum, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem. Christians throughout the Holy Land had become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups, said the two archbishops. The growth of Israeli settler communities and travel restrictions brought about by the separation wall have deepened the isolation of Christian villages, they said, writing in The Sunday Times.

9

Covid patients to be treated at home

Thousands of Covid patients will be treated in their own homes in an expansion of “virtual wards,” reported The Sunday Times. Plans have been passed to treat 15% of Covid patients at home, with remote monitoring of their oxygen levels, as professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said the health service was on a “war footing”. It is hoped the move would mean the NHS has more beds free for patients otherwise waiting in ambulances and on trolleys in A&E.

10

Arrest after woman thumps Andrew’s car

A woman was arrested after banging on the Duke of York’s car window and shouting at him. On Friday, Prince Andrew was taking his regular short route from his Royal Lodge home on the Windsor estate to Windsor Castle, where he goes riding. As he paused at a crossroads, the woman started thumping on the window of his Range Rover and repeatedly shouting his name. Police said a 50-year-old woman was arrested and remains in custody.

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