Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 December 2021

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

1

PM delays Omicron restrictions

Boris Johnson is unlikely to impose further coronavirus restrictions before Christmas after delaying a decision yesterday. Following a two hour cabinet meeting, the prime minister said he would wait until the data on Omicron was clearer before taking further action, warning: “We will not exclude going further if we have to to protect the public.” Options on the table include plans for a circuit breaker after Christmas. This would mean an end to people from different households mixing indoors and restrictions on hospitality.

2

Jury out in Maxwell trial

Jeffrey Epstein could not have sexually abused girls without a “posh, smiling” Ghislaine Maxwell grooming them first, a US court heard last night as the jury prepared to deliberate over her fate. As prosecutors delivered their closing statement, they appealed to the jury to convict the “sophisticated [and] dangerous predator” who caused “deep and lasting” harm to her alleged victims. Jurors will be encouraged by Judge Alison Nathan to try to reach a verdict before the court adjourns for Christmas on Wednesday evening.

3

Queen cancels Sandringham Xmas

The Queen has cancelled her traditional Christmas at Sandringham due to concerns over rising Omicron infections. She will instead stay in Windsor, where she will be joined by members of the Royal Family over the festive period. Buckingham Palace aides said the Queen’s personal decision “reflects a precautionary approach” to the new variant. The Daily Mail added that the Queen will be “bitterly sorry” to deviate from tradition.

4

Trump booed over booster

Donald Trump has been booed by supporters after revealing that he has received a Covid-19 booster shot. During the final night of the former president’s four-stop “History Tour”, a live interview roadshow chaired by ex-Fox News presenter Bill O’Reilly, the broadcaster told a Dallas audience that “both the president and I are vaxxed”, drawing jeers from the audience. When Trump confirmed that he had taken a booster, there were further boos from the crowd of supporters.

5

EU casts doubt on migration deal

A senior EU official has warned that she does not expect the bloc to agree a migration deal with the UK. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said member states had “limited” appetite for an agreement with the UK due to disagreements over the post-Brexit trade deal and the Northern Ireland Protocol. She instead suggested greater “practical cooperation” to curb efforts by migrants to make the dangerous sea crossing from France.

6

Mother and son guilty of machete killing

A mother and her teenage son have been found guilty of killing a 17-year-old boy in a machete attack in London. Jurors at the Old Bailey were told that on the evening of 10 April, Nichola Leighton drove Tyreese Ulysses, 19, to the scene of the attack after becoming “furious” with the victim, Levi Ernest-Morrison. Leighton was said to have been angered by Ernest-Morrison repeatedly knocking on her door looking for her son. The defendants were remanded into custody to be sentenced on 28 January 2022.

7

Hospitality calls for clarity

Hospitality bosses are calling for a clear decision from the government on whether to expect further Covid-19 restrictions in England in the coming days. Although Boris Johnson did not announce any new measures yesterday, he said this could change and that the data was being reviewed “hour by hour”. A further 91,743 Covid-19 cases were reported across the UK on Monday, the second highest daily total on record.

8

WHO calls for Xmas cancellations

The World Health Organization has urged people to cancel some holiday plans as the Omicron variant spreads around the world. Arguing that “difficult decisions” must be made, Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that “an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled”. His comments came as health experts declared Omicron the dominant variant in the US and a number of European countries, including France and Germany.

9

GPs told to stop prescribing antidepressants

Doctors have been warned to stop handing out antidepressants after a study found no strong evidence that the drugs were effective. Trial data failed to show a “clinically relevant” difference between the drugs and a placebo, with researchers from University College London and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust also finding that many patients had “severe” side effects and withdrawal symptoms. An estimated 7.8m people in England — roughly one adult in six — were given at least one prescription for antidepressants in 2019-20.

10

Teacher sacked over horse video

A school teacher has been sacked after footage of her kicking and slapping a horse sparked fury on social media. Sarah Moulds, 37, was initially suspended from her position after the video was shared online by the anti-hunt group Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs. A spokesperson for the Mowbray Education Trust said in a statement: “I can confirm that Sarah Moulds’ employment with the trust has been terminated.” Moulds’ uncle said she was a “fantastic person who absolutely loves her horses”.

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