Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 9 January 2022

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

1

Free tests face axe under new Covid plan

Free lateral flow tests will be scrapped under new plans to live with Covid, reported The Sunday Times. After more than £6bn of public money has been spent on mass testing using the devices, a new system could mean free tests being provided only in high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools. Meanwhile, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce called for a major rethink of the UK’s Covid strategy, returning to a “new normality”.

2

UK passes 150,000 deaths milestone

More than 150,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since the pandemic began. The UK is the first country in Europe to pass the milestone and the seventh in the world, after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru. The prime minister said every death “is a profound loss” but Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said: “I think we could have done better.”

3

HSBC has shares in Uighur oppressor

HSBC is holding millions of pounds of shares in a subsidiary of a sanctioned paramilitary organisation responsible for atrocities against Uighur Muslims, reported The Sunday Times. The UK bank bought £2.2m of shares in Xinjiang Tianye, a chemicals and plastics company, for an anonymous client and continues to act as custodian, meaning it profits from the shares. It is a subsidiary of a corps that has helped to oversee the surveillance, mass detention and forced labour of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

4

Djokovic attended event after positive test

Novak Djokovic was photographed at an awards ceremony for young tennis players the day after receiving a positive Covid-19 test result. In the latest development in the global row over the tennis star, who was detained when he landed in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title, court documents have revealed that Djokovic had a positive result on December 16 but on December 17 he was snapped at an event for the Belgrade tennis federation, where he handed out awards to the best young players of 2021.

5

Finland and Sweden nearer Nato

Finland and Sweden are closer than ever to joining Nato after Moscow’s threats backfired, said The Telegraph. Fear of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine has given fresh impetus to the push to join Nato for Finland and Sweden, which are militarily unaligned and tried to avoid taking sides in the Cold War. One Finnish MP told the paper that the country was now “closer than it has ever been” to applying for Nato membership.

6

Truss warning on Article 16

Liz Truss has warned that London will overhaul the post-Brexit agreement over Northern Ireland unilaterally if she cannot reach a “negotiated solution” with Brussels. Writing in The Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary stated that the Article 16 “safeguard clause” in the Northern Ireland Protocol was “explicitly designed ... to ease acute problems because of the sensitivity of the issues at play” on the island of Ireland. The news could surprise senior EU officials who had believed that the UK had “shelved” a back-up plan to trigger Article 16.

7

Deaths in Pakistan snowfall

At least 21 people have died after heavy snow trapped them in their vehicles in Pakistan. Up to 1,000 vehicles became stranded as people rushed to view the winter snowfall in the northern hilltop town of Murree. A policeman, his wife and their six children, as well as another family-of-five, are among the dead, according to emergency services. The authorities say they have rescued more than 300 people stranded by the snow.

8

Labour plans tax on North Sea firms

Labour is proposing a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers to fund measures to ease the cost of living squeeze. The Observer said the £6.6bn plan would also include removing VAT on domestic energy bills for a whole year, as well as expanding and increasing the warm homes discount for those most at risk. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the government has responded to soaring wholesale energy costs with “dither and delay”.

9

Saudis release outspoken princess

Saudi authorities have released a princess and her daughter who had been detained without charge for nearly three years. Princess Basma bint Saud was detained in March 2019 as she prepared to fly to Switzerland for medical treatment. Although there has never been an official explanation for her detention, her family told the UN in 2020 that it was likely due in large part to her “record as an outspoken critic of abuses”, news agency AFP reports.

10

O’Connor’s son dies at 17

Sinéad O’Connor's 17-year-old son has died, the singer’s management has confirmed. After a Garda spokesman told the Irish Mirror that a body had been recovered, the singer took to Twitter to say her son “decided to end his earthly struggle”. She described her son as “the light of my life” and “the lamp of my soul,” adding: “You will always be my light. We will always be together. No boundary can separate us.”

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