Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 December 2021

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

1

England could avoid more restrictions

England may yet avoid fresh restrictions after Christmas if hospital admissions in London stay below 400 a day this week, according to The i. Ministers and scientific advisers are closely watching the capital’s admissions data, which they believe provides a good guide of whether the huge scale of Omicron cases, above 80,000 in England for the past week, will translate into hospital admissions and put severe pressure on the NHS throughout January.

2

Dozens missing in Myanmar landslide

At least 70 people are missing after a landslide at a mining site in northern Myanmar. Most of the victims are believed to be illegal jade miners. Myanmar is the world’s biggest source of jade but its mines have seen numerous accidents over the years. In July 2020, a landslide at the Wai Khar jade mining site killed between 175 and 200 miners.

3

Sunak’s bailout ‘a dud cracker’

Rishi Sunak is handing pubs and restaurants a £1bn taxpayer bailout to cover growing losses after government scientists urged the public to scale back their Christmas plans due to the Omicron variant. The Guardian said the chancellor has been accused of failing to do enough for the sector after refusing to bring back furlough for the hardest-hit firms. One boss said compared the plan to a “dud cracker on Christmas Day”.

4

Israel to offer fourth jab

Israel says it will become the first country to roll out a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Its pandemic experts have recommended a fourth jab for the over-60s and health workers as the country prepares for a wave of infections driven by the new Omicron variant. The prime minister’s office told the Jerusalem Post that the fourth vaccine campaign will kick off immediately. He has called on the Home Front Command, senior health officials and all of the health funds to prepare for it.

5

PM allies mock ‘pathetic’ rivals

Allies of Boris Johnson have described his leadership rivals as “pathetic” and accused them of exploiting the debate on Covid restrictions to position themselves to succeed him. After Liz Truss let it be known that she opposed tightening rules, the PM’s allies accused her of “desperate” self-promotion. Others say that Rishi Sunak and others will “look like morons” if deteriorating data forces new restrictions.

6

Harassment ‘endemic’ in universities

A survey of nearly 4,000 staff members by the University and College Union found that one in 10 staff members said they have experienced sexual violence in the past five years. Women were nearly two-and-a-half times as likely to experience sexual violence as men, while staff on insecure contracts, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+, or black, Asian or minority ethnic were also at greater risk.

7

Hungary defies EU over immigration

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban says his government will defy an EU ruling and maintain its controversial immigration laws. The bloc’s top court has ruled that Hungary’s law, which criminalises lawyers and activists who help asylum seekers, was in breach of European legislation. Orban said the EU’s rules were “obsolete” in the face of “massive migration” since 2015. The row means Hungary could miss out on billions of euros in EU cash.

8

Historic divorce payout for Dubai ruler

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been ordered to pay around £550m to his former wife and their two children in what is believed to be the largest award of its kind ordered by an English court. The Telegraph said court documents show Princess Haya was “blackmailed” out of £7m by four members of her security team whom she paid to keep quiet about an affair she had with her British bodyguard.

9

Whitty defendant appears in dressing gown

A man accused of assaulting Chris Whitty attended a court appearance via video link from his bedroom yesterday, while wearing a dressing gown. Jonathan Chew, 24, and Lewis Hughes, 23, filmed themselves harassing England’s chief medical officer as he walked through St James’ Park in London on 27 June. Chew, who denies common assault, appeared at Westminster magistrates court via video link in a dressing gown which slipped down to reveal his bare chest. His lawyer told the court Chew had tested positive for Covid-19.

10

Film ratings upgraded for modern age

Age ratings have been increased for some of the most popular films of the past 50 years to reflect modern attitudes to sex, drugs and violence. The British Board of Film Classification said it had reclassified movies such as Jaws, Raiders of The Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to “keep in step with the direction in which society is moving”. A spokesman added that public opinion about sex, drugs and violence in film had “fluctuated” over the years.

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