Published:

No further restrictions before Christmas confirmed as studies suggest that Omicron is less severe than Delta

“The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is less likely to cause severe disease than the Delta variant, according to two studies published yesterday that offer early support for Boris Johnson’s decision to pause further restrictions. The risk of requiring an overnight stay in hospital was reduced by at least 40 per cent for people with Omicron compared with Delta. Johnson, who has been briefed on the latest data, has decided to hold off announcing further restrictions in England, in contrast to Wales and Northern Ireland, which followed Scotland by tightening rules yesterday. Senior government sources said that the decision would be reviewed after Boxing Day.” – The Times

News:

  • Record 106,000 Covid cases: “one senior Whitehall official said the government was more likely to issue fresh guidance rather than legally enforceable restrictions if it was deemed necessary, noting the logistical complications of recalling parliament before the new year” – Financial Times
  • Parliament could be recalled next week to debate new restrictions – The Sun
  • Parliament unlikely to be recalled next week to debate new restrictions – Daily Telegraph
  • Cautious optimism – The Times
  • Pub and event restrictions in Scotland for three weeks – Scotsman
  • Rule of Six returns in Wales – Wales Online
  • Light-touch restrictions in Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph
  • Fourth booster possible – Daily Telegraph
  • Hospitality bosses plead for clarity – Daily Mail
  • NHS staff sicknesses soar – i
  • Johnson issues booster call to arms – The Sun
  • One in ten doctors now off sick – Daily Mail
  • Doctors issue plea to the unvaccinated – The Guardian
  • Vulnerable children to be offered jabs – The Guardian
  • Millions more antiviral drugs purchased – The Times
  • Staffing crisis in Europe’s hospitals – Financial Times
  • Labour confusion: Slaughter backed new restrictions, Starmer opposes them, Streeting breathes “sigh of relief” they aren’t happening – Daily Telegraph
  • Blair rows back from calling anti-vaxers “idiots – Daily Mail

Comment:

> Yesterday: Andrew Haldenby on Comment – If the Government truly wants to level up Britain, it must improve national health outcomes

DUP “preparing to heap pressure on Truss over Northern Ireland Protocol”

“The Democratic Unionist Party will heap pressure on Liz Truss to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the new year, The Telegraph can reveal. The move would risk a trade war with Brussels and the Government has recently dialled down its rhetoric over the so-called “nuclear option” of unilaterally overriding parts of the protocol. DUP sources said the move was necessary ahead of Stormont elections next year, which are likely to be dominated by the dispute over the protocol and the Irish Sea border. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, has repeatedly threatened to collapse the Stormont Assembly unless the protocol is significantly overhauled in ongoing talks.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • What the Tories need in their next leader – Iain Martin, The Times
  • Conservatives seeking Johnson’s downfall should be careful what they wish for – Bernard Ingham, Daily Express
  • Vacuum of leadership – Financial Times Editorial

> Yesterday:

UK-EU fishing deal agreed

“The UK-EU catch limits have agreed to around 140,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities for the UK fleet, estimated to be worth around £313 million, based on historic landing prices. Environment Secretary George Eustice said the agreement makes a “strong foundation”  and secures “certainty” for the incoming year.  The agreement also commits the UK and the EU to rapidly develop multi-year strategies for non-quota species to ensure sustainable management of these stocks.” – Daily Express

  • Sefcovic tells meeting that Scotland can’t join Erasmus – Daily Express
  • Why isn’t Johnson making more of Brexit? – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail

Caulfield launches new plan to boost women’s health

“Ministers have pledged to “reset the dial” on women’s health to tackle decades of gender inequality in England, with plans to appoint a women’s health tsar, eradicate medical taboos, boost menopause support and ban harmful “virginity repair” operations. The Department of Health and Social Care will publish its Vision for Women’s Health strategy today after 100,000 women came forward to share their healthcare concerns. Maria Caulfield, the minister for women’s health, described some of their experiences as “shocking”. The vision document will set out initial government commitments on women’s health, recognising that “systemwide changes” are needed to tackle “decades of gender health inequality”.” – The Guardian

  • The strategy: details – The Guardian
  • The strategy: analysis – The Guardian
  • Almost a third of all children on free school meals in England benefited from government-sponsored activities and free meals over the summer holidays – The Guardian

Police watchdog spurns complaint over the Met’s decision not to investigate Downing Street parties

“The police watchdog will not investigate a complaint that officers failed to properly look into an alleged party at Downing Street during lockdown in December last year, it has said. Jenny Jones, a Green party peer, asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to investigate after reports that a gathering took place on 18 December 2020 that involved food, party games and drinking late into the night. On Wednesday the IOPC said that, having assessed the referral, it had returned it to the Metropolitan police. “Having fully assessed the referral we have decided it is invalid and we have returned it to the MPS to handle as it determines would be appropriate.” – The Guardian

Other political news:

  • Knight warns public appointments a “shambles” – The Times
  • Channel migrants “could be tagged” – The Sun
  • Rees-Mogg cleared of wrongdoing over £6m in cheap loans –  The Guardian
  • Carrie Johnson wooed to make nature documentary – Daily Mail
  • Laurence Fox urged to settle libel case after ‘paedophiles’ Twitter row – Daily Telegraph

> Today: ToryDiary – Patel should follow the Crime Bill with a proper overhaul of the Metropolitan Police

News in Brief

  • The feminist case against abortion – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • I wonder how noisy backbenchers would cope in the hot seat – Salma Shah, Independent
  • Sturgeonomics would have crashed an independent Scotland – John Ferry, Spectator
  • The NHS needs another huge tax rise – Tim Ross, New Statesman
  • What is the real date of Christmas? – Gerald Warner, Reaction