Published:

Omicron cases reach another high as the new year begins

“Britain’s ever-growing wave of Omicron soared to yet another pandemic high today as Boris Johnson warned of ‘challenges’ in the weeks ahead. Department of Health bosses logged another 189,846 positive tests, eclipsing yesterday’s single-day record by a fraction and marking a 55 per cent surge on last Friday.  Hospitalisations have soared by 65 per cent over the same time-frame, with NHS wards in England now as busy as during the devastating second wave last January. Another 203 deaths were registered but the figures are inflated and include fatalities that weren’t posted over the festive period.” – Daily Mail

News:

  • Johnson “will not announce new Covid measures this week” – The Sun
  • Yesterday, booster jabs were estimated to offer 88 per cent protection against hospital admission – The Times
  • Staff absences double in a fortnight – Daily Mail
  • Half of tests positive – i
  • Supply of test kits remained “patchy” on Friday, according to pharmacists – Daily Telegraph
  • A third of Covid patients in NHS beds are not primarily being treated for the virus – Daily Telegraph
  • Experts say the daily case figures do not include reinfections and not everyone who is infected has symptoms and takes a test – The Guardian
  • UK regulator approves Paxlovid – The Guardian
  • Zahawi says schools can safely re-open – Daily Express
  • Rail delays will last for weeks – The Times
  • NHS in Northern Ireland under strain – Belfast Telegraph
  • Welsh Government denies Drakeford was in England on New Year’s Eve – Wales Online
  • Calmac cuts sailings on ten routes – Scotsman
  • Sheffield hospitals trust bans visitors – Yorkshire Post
  • New Year celebrations are muted – i

Comment

The Prime Minister’s New Year message: he says that our position is “incomparably better than last year”

“In his New Year’s message, Johnson said: “Whatever the anxieties we may have about the weeks and months ahead, particularly about Omicron and the growing numbers in hospitals . . . our position this December 31 is incomparably better than last year.” He added that the government had met its target of offering every eligible adult in England a booster shot by year-end.” – Financial Times

  • He praises Brexit – The Guardian
  • The challenges ahead for Johnson: Covid, cost of living, Number Ten parties, small boats, Net Zero, Brexit – The Times
  • Truss new year message – Daily Express

> Yesterday:

Sebastian Payne: Can Johnson recover in 2022?

“Johnson’s ability to regain his standing is well versed. His supporters point to how his London mayoralty was rebooted after a string of scandals in 2008, when a team of experienced apparatchiks were hired to bring discipline and drive to City Hall. Will he attempt the same tricks? Yet even for a prime minister his cabinet colleagues call a “lucky general”, this would be an extreme run of good fortune. One Tory party insider sums up the stark situation: either “the greased piglet may slip through again. Or everything falls apart incredibly rapidly”. If 2021 was a hectic year, brace yourselves for the uncertain months ahead.” – Financial Times

New Year’s Honours 1) Blair is knighted 14 years after leaving office

“Tony Blair has been knighted 14 years after leaving Downing Street, following claims that the delay was preventing other former prime ministers from being honoured. Sir Tony has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter by Her Majesty, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry. It is the first honour Sir Tony has ever received from the Queen.  All but one of the Queen’s nine prime ministers before Mr Blair were made Knights of the Garter, an honour created by Edward III in 1348.Sir Tony’s 14 year wait to be made a Knight Garter since leaving No 10 is the second longest for any former prime minister, topped only by Edward Heath who was not made a Garter Knight until 1992, 18 years after standing down as PM.” – Daily Telegraph

News Year’s Honours 2) Buckland, Goodwill and Wiggin knighted, Dinenage made a dame

“Other political honours include a knighthood for Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary sacked by Johnson to make room in the cabinet, and Robert Goodwill, the former minister whose attempt to oust Sir Graham Brady as head of 1922 Committee of backbench Tories was backed by the government. Caroline Dinenage, who was also sacked in September’s reshuffle, is made a dame. Bill Wiggin, 55, the Conservative backbencher, is also knighted…A hedge fund manager and philanthropist who has donated more than £1 million to the Conservative Party over the years has been given a knighthood…” – The Times

  • Whitty and Van Tam knighted – Daily Mail
  • Field made a Companion of Honour – Guardian

Truss pledges green help to Ukraine

“Liz Truss has promised to help Ukraine reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas by boosting its access to renewable energy technology.  The Foreign Secretary said access to Britain’s ‘leading green innovative technologies’ like wind power and hydrogen will enable Ukraine to ‘cut down its dependence’ on Russia for energy.  The pledge comes amid heightened tensions between NATO allies and Moscow over the build up of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.  Ms Truss has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that an invasion would have ‘massive consequences’ “ – Daily Mail

  • We may be sleepwalking towards a global war – Robert Tombs, Daily Telegraph

Trevelyan is “ready to relax migration from India to get a trade deal. Truss supports the move but Patel will resist it.”

“Ministers want to relax immigration rules to make it easier for thousands of Indians to live and work in the UK as part of trade talks that are due to begin within weeks. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, is expected to travel to Delhi this month to start negotiations on a potential deal. The Times understands that she will use the visit to open the prospect of relaxing immigration rules for Indian citizens — a key demand from Delhi. She is backed by Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who has put securing closer ties with India at the top of the government’s agenda to counter the influence of China. The move sets up a cabinet clash with Priti Patel, the home secretary.” – The Times

  • More than 2,000 child refugees who arrived in the UK in the past four years were victims of human trafficking –The Times
  • Braverman refers Arthur Labinjo-Hughes killers’ sentence to Court of Appeal – Daily Mail
  • Next year is Brexit Britain’s year – Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Daily Express

Liberal Democrats target Hunt

“While not describing the seats as a target list, the party has pinpointed 30 constituencies where the Lib Dems would need just a 12% swing to topple the sitting Tory. This is around a third of the historic 34% swing to the Lib Dems that saw them win the North Shropshire byelection. The list includes the Lewes seat of health minister Maria Caulfield, the Sutton and Cheam seat of business minister Paul Scully, the South West Surrey seat of former cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt. The first two are former Lib Dem seats but the Surrey constituency is a Tory heartland.” – Guardian

  • Labour moves to embarrass Johnson over Brexit pledge by calling for VAT on heating bills to be scrapped – The Sun
  • Starmer is making progress – Times Editorial

News and Comment in Brief

  • Brexit will damage Johnson but not in the way you might expect – John Rentoul, The Independent
  • How China and Russia found Christmas a good time to bury bad news – Kate Maltby, i
  • Biden’s disastrous negotiations with Iran – Jake Wallis Simons, Spectator