Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 January 2022

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

1

Fuel bills ‘to rocket to £1,900’

Energy bills are set to rise by nearly half to £1,900, reported The Telegraph. The predicted increase is because the energy price cap is set to rise, based on wholesale prices over a six-month period that ends on Monday. The news will place fresh pressure on ministers to agree on measures to help families. Scrapping VAT from energy bills is considered the leading proposal. However, the move would cost the Exchequer about £2.5bn.

2

Gray ‘infuriated’ by the Met

The senior civil servant investigating parties in Downing Street was “infuriated” when Scotland Yard told her not to publish key aspects of her findings, reported The Times. Yesterday the Metropolitan Police said that it had asked Sue Gray to make “minimal references” to the events it is investigating. She is expected to submit an abbreviated version of her report to Boris Johnson in the coming days. Legal experts said the Met’s move has “let Boris off the hook”.

3

US warns of ‘horrific’ Ukraine invasion

A top US General has said that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrific”  and would lead to a significant number of casualties. Mark Milley described the build-up of 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s border as the largest since the Cold War. Moscow denies plans to invade and says US support for Ukraine is a threat. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson will telephone Russian President Vladimir Putin and visit Eastern Europe in the coming days.

4

New variant ‘more transmissible’

The omicron BA.2 variant is slightly more transmissible but vaccines are more effective against it, the UK Health Security Agency has declared. Genetic screening has found 1,072 cases of the variant as of January 24 and say case numbers are still low compared to the main omicron strain. There is still no data on the severity of BA.2 but experts say “so far there is nothing in these early analyses to worry us unduly”.

5

US braces for ‘historic’ snow

The US East Coast is bracing for a major blizzard that is forecast to stretch from the Carolinas to Maine, packing hurricane-force winds in coastal parts.  Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston said the storm could be “historic”. More than two feet of snow could fall in New England and officials have warned of flooding near the coast. By midday Friday, airlines had cancelled more than 1,000 flights in the US and scrapped about 2,500 scheduled for Saturday.

6

Long Covid breakthrough

The Guardian reported that abnormalities identified in the lungs of long Covid patients could offer an explanation for why some people experience breathlessness long after their initial infection. The findings of the study, which involved 36 patients, raise the possibility that Covid may cause microscopic damage to the lungs that is not detected using routine tests. A separate study this week pointed to an “antibody signature” that could help identify those most at risk.

7

No 10 confirms tax rise

Boris Johnson has insisted that tax rises will go ahead in April, “no ifs, no buts”. Amid growing speculation that the national insurance rise of 1.25 percentage points for employers and employees would not be imposed, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister and chancellor are fully committed to introducing the health and social care levy in April.” Senior Tory backbenchers had been calling for its abandonment.

8

Oil bosses banned from leaving Peru

Four oil executives in Peru have been barred from leaving the country while authorities investigate a massive oil spill. The travel ban, which will last for 18 months, applies to four employees of the Spanish energy and oil company Repsol. Last week, the nation’s president, Pedro Castillo, declared a state of environmental emergency for coastal areas affected by the spill, describing it as an “ecological disaster”.

9

Neil ‘to sign for Channel 4’

Andrew Neil says he will cross a political divide that will take him, in his own words, from “Ukip TV” to the “broadcast arm of The Guardian”. The veteran broadcaster, who walked out on GB News last summer, is expected to ink a deal to host a weekly Channel 4 politics show to be launched later this year. Neil is in advanced talks to host a Sunday evening show, on which he will reflect on the day’s news, interview heavyweight guests and look ahead to the coming week.

10

France shocked by Paris death

France has been shaken by news of the death of an 85-year-old man who reportedly succumbed to hypothermia after falling and spent nine hours ignored on a bitterly cold street in central Paris. René Robert, a Swiss photographer, died last week after slipping while on one of his nightly walks around the busy Paris neighbourhood where he lived. A friend said he “lay rooted” to the pavement and over the course of nine hours “no passerby stopped to check why this man was lying on the pavement”.

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