Published:

Millions set for early fourth Covid vaccination

“Millions of Britons face having an earlier fourth Covid jab next year after data suggested that protection against Omicron from booster shots starts to wane within three months. An official analysis of real-world cases confirmed that people infected with the new variant were up to 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital — a similar finding to other studies this week. However, the data also showed that booster protection was beginning to fade more rapidly against Omicron than for the Delta strain. Among those who received an initial two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, protection was about 60 per cent two to four weeks after a Pfizer or Moderna booster. It then dropped to 35 per cent with a Pfizer booster and 45 per cent with Moderna ten weeks after the jab.” – The Times

  • Booster protection wanes after ten weeks – Daily Mail
  • UK overtakes Israel in race to become world’s most boosted nation against Covid – Daily Telegraph
  •  Johnson says getting booster jab will be a ‘wonderful gift’ to families – Daily Mail

Omicron ‘still a serious threat’, warns Health Secretary

“Said Javid has welcomed evidence that Omicron is less severe than previous variants, but warned the disease still posed a serious threat. The Health Secretary spoke out as Boris Johnson and his ministers discuss whether extra restrictions that could curtail New Year’s Eve celebrations are needed. No announcements will be made until after tomorrow. Mr Javid gave a guarded welcome to reports from Imperial College in London and Edinburgh University suggesting Omicron symptoms were milder than those of the Delta variant… But Tory backbenchers against more Covid curbs seized on the reports. Andrew Bridgen urged ministers not to impose any New Year’s Eve restrictions and to consider lifting the Plan B contingency measures, including face masks indoors.” – Daily Express

  • Javid hails good news as studies build evidence of milder Omicron variant – The Times

New Year’s Eve ‘likely to escape new Covid curbs’

“New Year’s Eve restrictions are increasingly unlikely, Government sources have said – after an official report confirmed omicron is likely to be a far milder variant of Covid. A new analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that the risk of admission to accident and emergency was 31 to 45 per cent lower when a person develops omicron rather than delta, while the risk of hospitalisation was 50 to 70 per cent lower. The Prime Minister will use his Christmas message on Friday to urge Britons to get the Covid jab, declaring it a “wonderful” festive gift that people can give to their family and the nation. Boris Johnson will also compare the spirit of neighbourliness intrinsic to getting the vaccine to the “teaching of Jesus Christ”, which is “love our neighbours as we love ourselves”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hopes Johnson could scrap ‘circuit breaker’ plan – The Sun
  • Time is running out to recall Parliament in order to impose new restrictions – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • On omicron, Drakeford is a nationalist ideologue – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The odds against further Omicron restrictions lengthen

Police watchdog dismisses complaint against No 10 officers over alleged party

“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. In a letter to the IOPC this month, Jones said officers were on duty at Downing Street to protect the building and that part of their job involved controlling access. “If there was an unlawful gathering taking place at No 10 Downing Street, then the police must have known, and were highly likely to have played an active part in organising or facilitating the illegal gathering,” she wrote.” – The Guardian

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

Former TSB chair brought in to oversee shake-up of NHS England

“Richard Meddings, the former chair of TSB who overhauled the bank’s IT systems and improved its customer relations, has been picked to oversee a similar shake-up of the NHS. Sajid Javid, UK health secretary, has turned to Meddings to be the new chair of NHS England, with a brief to drive reforms and to ensure “accountability” for the way taxpayers’ money is being used. “We think that bringing in this outsider’s eye will help deliver the accountability that’s needed as we drive through reforms,” said one close colleague of Javid on Thursday. Meddings’ nomination will be welcomed in the Treasury, which is determined that an extra £12bn investment into NHS and social care — funded by a rise in national insurance — will produce results.” – FT

  • Government anxious to identify a ‘heavyweight’ from the private sector – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Ministers pledge to ‘reset the dial’ on women’s health in England – The Guardian

Councils told to offer ‘safe and appropriate’ home to anyone sleeping rough

“Local authorities will be expected to offer “safe and appropriate” accommodation to thousands of people sleeping rough in England this winter, even where they have restricted eligibility because of immigration status, the government has confirmed. A ministerial letter sent this week instructs councils to offer accommodation and a Covid vaccination to people currently sleeping rough – and makes it clear this includes those living on the streets who have no recourse to public funds. The move was welcomed by homeless charity Shelter, which said a number of asylum seekers were refused help by some authorities during lockdown last year because they were supposedly ineligible for homelessness assistance.” – The Guardian

Britain will welcome 20,000 Afghans fleeing the Taliban from next year

“Britain will welcome 20,000 Afghans fleeing the Taliban from next year. Operation Warm Welcome will open in January, six months after Afghanistan was seized by the extremists. The Government will open a safe and legal route to the UK, focusing on women, children, ethnic minorities and freedom fighters. They will still be subject to strict security checks like others resettled through schemes. Minister for Resettlement Victoria Atkins said: “We are committed to supporting everyone we have evacuated from Afghanistan to make a success of their new life.” All those resettled in the scheme will be granted indefinite leave to remain here, and be allowed to work or study. The UK helped bring 15,000 people to safety after the fall of Afghanistan last summer – including womens’ rights activists, journalists and prosecutors.” – The Sun

Brexiteers turn on Prime Minister over ‘interim’ deal plot ‘No better than May’

“Boris Johnson’s admission that he would be willing to accept an “interim” agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol has triggered an angry reaction among Express.co.uk readers, with one suggesting it is time to “pack his bags”. The Prime Minister confirmed he would be willing to accept a temporary deal on the issue – centred on the dispute over the mechanism for preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland – in a letter to constituent Dr Timothy Bradshaw, which was subsequently shared with Express.co.uk. Mr Johnson’s letter followed similar remarks by Lord David Frost last week – but it arrived after the Brexit Minister quit his cabinet role, with his brief passing to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.” – Daily Express

  • France threatens Britain with customs levies in fishing row – The Times
  • Hopes that EU ‘hangover’ will be cured with pints of sparkling wine – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: What has reduced Sturgeon to snarling at the Scottish press?

Truss slams Putin after he blames UK for Ukraine crisis

“Liz Truss lashed out at Vladimir Putin after he blamed Britain for the Ukraine crisis. The Foreign Secretary condemned the Kremlin’s “aggressive and inflammatory rhetoric”. It comes after President Putin accused the UK and America of parking troops and attack systems on his doorstep. Ms Truss said: “Russia’s military build-ups on the border of Ukraine and in illegally-annexed Crimea are unacceptable. “Any Russian incursion would be a massive strategic mistake and would be met with strength, including coordinated sanctions with our allies to impose a severe cost on Russia’s interests and economy. “The Russian Government needs to de-escalate its activities and engage in serious discussions.” Up to 175,000 Russian troops are massing close to Ukraine’s border and will be ready to invade in January, US officials fear.” – The Sun

  • We shouldn’t hanker for giants to lead us – Max Hastings, The Times

John Penrose: Why not give the Falklands a seat in the UK Parliament?

“Are they just a faintly embarrassing piece of post-imperial afterglow, to be remembered with a twinge of guilt every time there’s a hurricane, or a diplomatic spat with a passing warship? Or are they just as much part of the UK as all the other 36 bids for city status, and a huge asset for Global Britain’s international future too? The answer is pretty obvious. They’re part of us, and we should be looking for ways to strengthen our ties instead of weakening them. Levelling-up could and should include them, just as much as any other part of the UK outside London and the South East. We’ve always been a global nation and we shouldn’t stop now. But why limit it to city status? Why not offer the Overseas Territories the chance to become full UK nations if they want, like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?” – Daily Telegraph

Starmer hints that Labour will step back in Lib Dem target seats

“Sir Keir Starmer has suggested that his party will hold back in constituencies targeted by the Liberal Democrats to deny the Conservatives a majority at the next election. The Labour leader said that while he would not enter any formal electoral pact, his “utter determination” to win power meant he was willing to be strategic about his party’s resources. It comes as a YouGov poll for The Times suggests that support for the Conservatives is at its lowest point since the last general election, and Liberal Democrat support is at its highest. Asked why he wouldn’t agree to an electoral pact with the Lib Dems, Starmer said: “I do think we should have a Labour candidate that people can vote for wherever they live, and depriving them of that is not the right thing to do.”” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Drakeford’s nonsensical Covid rules are back – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The EU is forcing Poland to choose between money or the constitution – Andrew Tettenborn, The Spectator
  • Imaginary country – Lewis Baston, The Critic