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Cut self-isolation to save NHS, Johnson is urged

“Boris Johnson is facing pressure to stave off an NHS staffing crisis by reducing the coronavirus self-isolation period as infections hit a record high yesterday. Health service chiefs warned that staff absences caused by the requirement to isolate for seven days after a positive test risked causing a bigger problem than the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospitals. Scientists, health professionals, hospitality chiefs and Conservative MPs have urged the government to copy the US, which has cut the self-isolation period to five days. Last week Johnson’s government reduced it from ten to seven days. Up to 800,000 people are estimated to be in isolation, causing widespread disruption to public services from bin collections to rail services and to businesses across the country.” – The Times

  • Health leaders in England warn surge in Covid absences threatens patient care – FT
  • Up to 800,000 thought to be isolating as Omicron wreaks havoc on businesses – Daily Mail
  • Test and Trace ‘wrongly tells people with Covid to self-isolate for 10 days’ – Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Cut house arrest to help UK bounce back – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. By a wafer-thin margin, more respondents believe Johnson is handling Covid badly than well

Javid attacks Parkrun for cancelling Welsh runs amid tougher Covid rules

“Sajid Javid has criticised the tightening of restrictions in Wales which forced Parkrun to cancel its races from New Year’s Day, arguing that the impact is disproportionate. The Health Secretary said that the outdoor running events have helped “so many people improve their health across the UK” amid multiple lockdowns and he could not understand why stopping this was beneficial to the public. He wrote on Twitter: “I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.” His comments echo those of Tom Tugendhat, the Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling, who also criticised Parkrun’s decision to postpone races in Wales. The criticism comes amid a growing discrepancy in Covid-19 restrictions between England and the rest of the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Thousands of Scots prepare to cross border on New Year’s Eve to escape Sturgeon’s clampdown – The Sun
  • ‘Super app’ to help hospitality bounce back from omicron – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Robert Ede in Comment: Four challenges that will confront Javid once January is over

Tom Harris: Rules that prove the Left just love to boss everyone else around

“In England, these Leftist doom-mongers, including Corbynista Labour MPs, party activists and a ragbag of socialists, vent their spleen online and in some cases in the broadcast media. But in Scotland and Wales, Sturgeon and Drakeford’s Left-wing governments (respectively SNP and Labour) actually wield the power to act on their urges. So despite the encouraging data on Omicron, they have once again been trying to make political capital by upending people’s lives more disruptively than Westminster, bringing in draconian new restrictions and decimating livelihoods. In Scotland, large public events have been cancelled, one-metre social distancing has been imposed in pubs, restaurants, gyms, theatres and museums, and table service is now mandated anywhere alcohol is served. Nightclubs are closed and the New Year’s party is effectively cancelled.” – Daily Mail

England’s national parks to be overseen by new body after leadership criticised in review

“England’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are going to be overseen by a new body after a major review criticised the leadership structure. The organisation has been dubbed a “new national landscapes partnership” and will be announced in the New Year in a shake-up of how England’s most beautiful landscapes are run. The body will be able to put in bids for Government funding, lead national media and tourism campaigns, and develop strategies to be applied by those that run the parks. The change in oversight, details of which are revealed for the first time in The Telegraph, will affect England’s 10 national parks and 34 areas of outstanding natural beauty. It could see new top-down initiatives, such as making changes to counter climate change and improving disability access in the areas affected.” – Daily Telegraph

  • National Trust stops selling cigars at Churchill’s home over ‘ethical’ concerns – Daily Telegraph

Cost of living: Households will be hit for £1,200 as taxes and bills rise

“Ministers are under growing pressure to shield struggling households from soaring energy costs, with suggestions including cutting VAT on energy bills and introducing subsidies. Tax rises that were announced in the government’s last budget will also come into effect in April. The combined impact of a freeze on income tax thresholds and 1.25 percentage point rise in personal national insurance contributions will cost the average household £600 a year, the report says. Higher energy bills will disproportionately affect poorer households, which spend a greater part of their income on gas and electricity. The think tank predicted that the share of income spent on energy bills among the poorest households would rise from 8.5 per cent to 12 per cent, three times the share spent by the richest households.” – The Times

  • Council tax could surge by six per cent as costs of social care and levelling up start to kick in – Daily Mail

Energy:

  • Firms plead for £20bn cash help to keep bills down – Daily Mail
  • Cargo ships divert gas from China to Britain – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our Cabinet League Table: Johnson falls to his lowest ever negative rating.

Patel’s ‘alarming’ asylum seeker plans will harm modern slavery victims claim watchdogs

“Police efforts to root out modern slavery will be undermined by “alarming” plans by Priti Patel to put a time limit on victims’ asylum claims, say two senior independent watchdogs. In a joint article for The Daily Telegraph, the commissioners Dame Vera Baird and former chief constable Dame Sarah Thornton say the plans in the Home Secretary’s Nationality and Borders Bill will deter victims who may have been repeatedly raped or abused by criminals. They say that setting a time limit when victims have to have presented everything supporting their asylum claim will deny law enforcement agencies access to evidence of exploitation as it can take months for traumatised victims to reveal their ordeal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Policing Insulate Britain stunts used up 7,000 officers and £4.3m – Daily Mail

Hoyle backs lettings MPs bring babies into parliament chamber

“MPs should be able to bring their babies to parliamentary debates as long as they do not cause disruption, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said. The Commons Speaker said that he was in favour of changing the rules to allow the chair of the proceedings to make the decision. He has already requested a review of the regulations after Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, was barred from entering the chamber with her three-month-old baby last month. Under the rules at present, MPs are allowed to bring their babies with them when voting but not when participating in debates. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Hoyle, 64, revealed his view was that the “chair on the day has got to make a decision”.” – The Times

  • Creasy criticises ‘absurdity’ of parliament’s approach to new mothers – The Guardian

Brussels warns that triggering Article 16 will rip ‘heart’ from relations

“Brexit tensions have skyrocketed once more after the European Union warned the UK triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol could rip out the “heart” of the relationship between the two sides. The UK has been at loggerheads with Brussels over post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, claiming the mechanism currently in place simply does not work… The EU has so far stood strong on its position, warning any move to trigger Article 16 with be met with fierce retaliation, sparking fears of a possible and potentially destructive trade war between the two parties. Speaking to German news outlet Spiegel, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic warned the threats from the UK Government to pull the trigger on Article 16 “are an enormously disruptive element in negotiations”.” – Daily Express

  • EU ‘admits relations with Switzerland could collapse’ – Daily Mail

Afghan exit will backfire on West, warns Brown

“Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan risks creating a new generation of terrorist insurgents and fostering extremist sentiments against the West, Gordon Brown has said. The former Labour prime minister described the situation in Afghanistan as harrowing and said that the West was “sleepwalking into the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis of our times”. In an article for Times Red Box, Brown said he feared that abandoning the world’s poorest people would feed “anti-western resentments that may come back to haunt us”. Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said in a speech last week that by the middle of next year 97 per cent of the Afghan population could be deemed too poor to fend for themselves. He said that 23 million people were already facing hunger.” – The Times

  • More Afghan women would have been rescued if Cabinet had a greater female presence, MP says – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • The West can act but we’re sleepwalking into the world’s worst humanitarian disaster – Gordon Brown, Times Red Box

Lammy says he made a mistake nominating Corbyn for Labour leader

“Shadow Cabinet minister David Lammy has apologised for nominating Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader six years ago, saying it was “a mistake and I am sorry for that”. Mr Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said he “never believed” Mr Corbyn would become leader and said he regretted being one of the 35 Labour MPs who helped propel Mr Corbyn from the political wilderness to the top of the party in 2015. Mr Lammy is not the first senior Labour figure to express regret about nominating the left-winger to be leader. Before the contest had even finished in 2015, party grandee Dame Margaret Beckett admitted she had been a “moron” to help put Mr Corbyn on the ballot paper. Mr Corbyn – who was leader from Sep 2015 to April 2020 – has been widely blamed for making Labour unelectable as a party of government by adopting unpopular left-wing policies and failing to tackle anti-Semitism within the party.” – Daily Telegraph

Fears for thousands of children stuck in unregistered illegal schools

“Hundreds of unregistered and illegal schools known to inspectors are only the “tip of the iceberg”, according to the Ofsted director charged with clamping down on the problem. Unregistered schools operate within a legal loophole that prevents them from being inspected like other schools, which campaigners say makes them a haven for physical and sexual abuse. Victor Shafiee, deputy director of unregistered and independent schools at Ofsted, said the watchdog did not have the resources to handle the problem, nor the legislative backing. In spite of pledges from the government to tackle unregistered schools, many of which are religious, more are being discovered each year. The Department for Education began a consultation in 2019 but there has been no change to the law.” – The Times