Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 December 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
New Year’s Eve restrictions ruled out
The hospitality sector has hailed the decision not to impose further Covid restrictions in England as a “lifeline” for pubs, bars and clubs. On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that the government would not re-evaluate the situation until January. He added that people should “remain cautious”. Covid cases in England reached a new high of 113,628 on Christmas Day and 1,281 people were admitted to hospital – the highest daily figure since February.
PM ‘drag on Tory fortunes’
Boris Johnson is “a significant drag on Tory fortunes” and Rishi Sunak has a much better chance of challenging Keir Starmer’s Labour at the next election, according to a poll in The Guardian. The research found the party would be 60 seats worse off under Johnson, compared with Sunak. Overall, the pollster found 39% of people intended to vote Labour at the next election, seven points ahead of the Conservatives on 32%.
Maxwell jury continues deliberations
The jury in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial has signalled it might be deliberating for some time, reported The Times. In court yesterday, Judge Alison Nathan read a note from the jury, requesting various materials including a “white paper board”, Post-it notes, highlighter pens, and the transcript of a witness testimony. Maxwell, 60, is being tried on six counts for alleged involvement in her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls, some as young as 14. She has pleaded not guilty.
House price growth ‘to slow next year’
Property experts have predicted that Britain’s housing price growth will slow dramatically in 2022. After 12 months of rising prices powered by stamp duty holidays across the UK and changes in the types of properties being bought and sold, forecasters typically suggest house price growth of between 3 and 5% next year, in contrast with the most recent figures from Nationwide building society, which showed annual price growth running at 10%.
Families could face £2,000 energy bills
The government is under increasing growing pressure to protect families from soaring energy costs as households face the threat of their bills doubling in a year. Ofgem, the energy regulator, had previously told ministers that the price cap was set to rise by 40% in April, leading to average bills reaching more than £1,800. However, analysts now predict that the rise could be more than 50%, with households facing bills of above £2,000.
France tightens Covid rules
France has announced tighter Covid restrictions in response to the spread of the Omicron variant. From 3 January, remote working will be compulsory for those who can and public gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people for indoor events. France recorded more than 100,000 new infections on Saturday - the highest number reported in the country since the pandemic began. Additional restrictions have also been announced in Germany and Greece.
Sachs says UK economy will outpace G7
Economists have predicted that Britain’s economy will outpace every other nation in the G7 in 2022 for the second consecutive year. The analysts at Goldman Sachs predicted the UK will grow by 4.8% in the coming 12 months, above the 3.5% predicted for the US, 4% for Germany and 4.4% for both France and Italy. The Telegraph said the UK’s relatively fast booster vaccine programme is one factor behind the strong growth forecast.
Moscow and US to discuss Ukraine
US and Russian officials will hold talks next month as the countries confront rising tensions over Ukraine. Russia is also expected to hold talks with Nato while a broader regional meeting including Moscow, Washington and several European countries is also planned. Ukraine security officials say more than 100,000 Russian troops have been sent close to its borders, and the US has threatened Putin with sanctions “like none he's ever seen” if Ukraine comes under attack.
‘Meek’ England lose the Ashes
England “meekly surrendered” the Ashes as Australia “crushed them” by an innings and 14 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 series lead, reported the BBC. The result means Australia have retained the Ashes after just 12 days of cricket. England’s 68 all out is their lowest total in Australia since March 1904 and their ninth lowest score against them in Tests. Sky News noted that, with just 1084 balls bowled in total, it was the shortest completed test match in Australia for 70 years.
US teacher home from Libya
An American teacher detained in Libya for more than six weeks has returned to the United States after the Libyan foreign minister intervened to secure his release. Fernando Espinoza was met at JFK International Airport by a welcoming party that included his mother and figures from the non-profit group that negotiated his return. His mother said she had been given very little information about where and why her son, a former US Navy submariner, was being held.