Wednesday briefing: Less mixing says science, party on says PM

·9 min read

Johnson contradicts experts over Christmas socialising … first accuser in Ghislaine Maxwell trial testifies … and the challenges to Roe v Wade


Top story: Severe Covid doubles risk of death in next year

Hello, Warren Murray with a little bit about a lot of things, a sort of omni-chronicle.

Boris Johnson has contradicted leading scientists and a senior health official who advised people to cut back socialising in response to Omicron, as he urged people not to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays. Every eligible adult in the UK is to be offered a Covid booster by the end of January, and the PM said getting the third jab was the best protection. But Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, suggested people should also reduce their social contact – “being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to, and particularly going and getting those booster jabs”. Prof Andrew Hayward from the UCL epidemiology institute said: “My personal view is that it is reasonable for people to reduce indoor mixing but on current evidence I would not want this to be enforced.”

Patients who survive severe Covid are more than twice as likely to die over the following year than those who remain uninfected or experience milder virus symptoms, says a study led from the University of Florida. The increased risk of dying was greater for patients under 65, and only 20% of the severe Covid-19 patients who died did so because of Covid complications such as respiratory failure. The other 80% were from a wide variety of reasons not typically associated with the virus. The research suggests that serious coronavirus infections may significantly damage long-term health, showing the importance of vaccination.

Eight more Omicron cases have been detected in England, according to officials – one each in Haringey, Sutton, Camden, and Westminster, two in Barnet, one in Liverpool, and one in north Norfolk. The total number in England is 13, while there are nine in Scotland: five in the Lanarkshire area and four in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The individuals involved and their contacts were isolating, health officials said, with any links to travel to southern Africa being traced. The World Health Organization has said those not fully vaccinated who are vulnerable to Covid-19, including over-60s, should delay travel to areas with community transmission – more developments at our live blog.

* * *

School shooting kills 3 – A 15-year-old student opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing three students and wounding eight other people, authorities say. The suspect was arrested without resistance after the attack at Oxford high school, police said. According to police, the incident unfolded in about five minutes and about 15 to 20 shots were fired. More than 100 police including the FBI as well as 60 ambulances responded. Officers seized a semi-automatic handgun. Oxford Township is home to about 22,000 people located roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.

* * *

Midweek catch-up

> The first accuser in Ghislaine Maxwell’s child sex trafficking trial has testified she was 14 when the Briton lured her into being sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein. The accuser, called “Jane” in court, alleged Maxwell sometimes took part in the abuse. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

> CNN has suspended indefinitely its presenter Chris Cuomo after details emerged about how he helped his brother, the former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who faced accusations of sexual harassment.

> The author Alice Sebold has apologised to a man exonerated last week of her 1981 rape, which was the basis for her memoir Lucky. Anthony Broadwater was convicted in 1982 and served 16 years in prison after being convicted of raping Sebold who was an 18-year-old student at Syracuse University. His conviction was overturned on 22 November because of serious flaws in his arrest and trial.

Alice Sebold
Alice Sebold. Photograph: Andrea Sabbadini/Alamy

Sebold said: “I will forever be sorry for what was done to him … I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr Broadwater did.”

> Saudi Arabia used “incentives and threats” to shut down a UN human rights investigation of the Yemen conflict, sources with close knowledge of the matter have told the Guardian. In one case, Indonesia was allegedly told its people would face obstacles travelling to Mecca if it did not side with the Saudis.

> The former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will testify before the Capitol attack investigation, while reserving his disputed claim of executive privilege. The panel’s chairman, Bennie Thompson, said: “The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.”

* * *

Chechnya ‘ordered Sweden hit’ – A secret European intelligence report has concluded Chechnya’s security services most likely stand behind the attempted bludgeoning to death in Sweden of the dissident Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov. The victim – an exiled critic of Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov – overpowered a man who attacked him with a hammer, then managed to livestream his interrogation of the assailant. The intelligence report, obtained by the Swedish broadcaster SVT, joins growing evidence that Russia has ordered assassinations in Europe targeting dissident and other perceived enemies of the leadership of Russia, and of Kadyrov. They include the poisonings of Sergei Skripal in the Salisbury attack, and of Alexei Navalny in Russia. In the Swedish case, two people were arrested and sentenced to prison.

* * *

‘Green homes’ a sinkhole – The government’s green homes grant scheme underperformed badly and risks damaging future efforts to deliver net zero, the public accounts committee (PAC) said. The grants only upgraded about 47,500 homes out of the 600,000 originally planned, and delivered a small fraction of the expected jobs. MPs on the public accounts committee said more than £1,000 per home upgraded was spent just on administration; a total of £50m or 16% of the total spend of £314m. This was a fraction of the £1.5bn budget promised to upgrade 600,000 homes. Cutting carbon emissions from homes – which emit 20% of the UK’s CO2 – is seen as crucial if the country is to reach net zero by 2050.

Today in Focus podcast: Roe v Wade v the south

As the supreme court hears new challenges to Roe v Wade, American abortion rights hang in the balance.

Lunchtime read: Bikers, rappers and rude boys

Janette Beckman has spent four decades documenting underground movements from London’s punks and the birth of hip-hop to LA gangs and illegal girls’ fight clubs. How does she win her subjects’ trust?

Sport

The National Hunt jockey Robbie Dunne targeted his fellow rider Bryony Frost in a campaign of bullying and harassment which included “foul, sexually abusive and misogynistic language”, threats to “cause her serious physical harm … by injuring her at the races” and riding with undue aggression during races in 2020, the BHA’s independent disciplinary panel has heard. Ellen White broke the England women’s goalscoring record, reaching 48 with a hat-trick as the Lionesses demolished Latvia 20-0 in a World Cup qualifier at the Keepmoat Stadium. Concerns are growing for the wellbeing of Cardiff players and officials stuck in South Africa amid reports some squad members are experiencing panic attacks. Raphinha scored a stoppage-time penalty that was enough to secure a 1-0 win and all three points for Leeds against Crystal Palace at Elland Road, while Newcastle took the lead against Norwich despite Ciaran Clark’s early red card but Teemu Pukki made it 1-1 to earn the Canaries a point.

Tiger Woods has said he feels “lucky to be alive” after a high-speed car crash in February left him fearing leg amputation, but he could make a part-time return to golf in 2022. Britain are out of the Davis Cup as Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski were beaten by Kevin Krawietz and Tim Pütz after a defeat for Cameron Norrie and a win for Dan Evans. Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi played to a fourth draw in as many games in the latest instalment of their €2m world championship showdown in Dubai. Adam Peaty, the British Olympic gold medal swimmer, has said he believes there is “not enough funding, not at all, and not in any sport” and called on the government to do more to support grassroots activity in the UK. And glowing tributes from across the game of football have been paid to Ray Kennedy – one of the finest players to grace Highbury and Anfield – after his death, aged 70.

Business

Inflation and supply chain problems in the global economy have combined to help make Tel Aviv the most expensive city in the world in which to live. The Israeli city has seen a big increase in the cost of food and transport this year, taking it surging past last year’s joint winners Paris, Zurich and Hong Kong, according to an annual survey. London was 17th, while Edinburgh went straight in at number 27 on its first year in the charts. If you’ve been watching the TV drama Succession, then the decision by Zara parent company Inditex to make Marta Ortega, daughter of the founder, Amancio Ortega, the new chair makes for fascinating reading. The FTSE100 suffered yesterday but is poised to open up 0.65% today, while the pound is buying $1.331 and €1.175.

The papers

The lead story in the Guardian print edition today is “PM clashes with health officials over new curbs”. Also on the front: “No new winter funding for crisis-hit care firms”. The care minister, Gillian Keegan, is expected to unveil a social care white paper to parliament on Wednesday, a long-term plan costing billions. But sources said there appeared to be nothing to boost care worker pay in the short term amid crippling staff shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. Separately this morning we report on a warning from the National Audit Office that England’s huge backlog for NHS care could hit anywhere between 7 million and 12 million by early 2025.

The i’s splash this morning is “NHS booster jab for every adult by end of January” and the Times says there will be “booster jabs for 23m” by that time. The Telegraph looks further ahead, though the headline could be from late 2020: “New Covid restrictions to last until March next year”. The Daily Mail has “PM: Don’t cancel your Christmas” – that’s Boris Johnson speaking to us, not the paper speaking to him.

The Mirror claims “Boris party broke Covid rules”. It questions “crowded parties” including a leaving do and an unofficial “festive bash” that were held at the end of last year. The Express says Rishi Sunak is touting “his budget tax cut for two million people” as it arrives today: “My actions prove I’m a low tax Tory”. The Financial Times says “Powell’s signal on more rapid taper for Fed bond buying spurs market sell-off” – of which more you may read here.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting