Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 13 December 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1. PM warns of ‘Omicron emergency’

Booster jabs will be offered to everyone over 18 in England from this week, the prime minister announced, as he declared an “Omicron emergency”. The UK’s Covid alert level has been increased from level three to four – meaning transmission of cases is high or rising exponentially. Britain’s top public health officials have advised ministers that “stringent national measures” need to be imposed by 18 December.

What does Omicron mean for 2022?

2. Kentucky deaths could pass 100

The death toll from powerful tornadoes that devastated towns in Kentucky is likely to pass 100, the governor has said. Rescue workers are still searching debris for survivors and many people are without power, water or shelter two days after the whirlwinds struck. Joe Biden has declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky and ordered federal aid to be made available to the worst-hit areas.

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3. French trawlers reject UK offer

French fishermen have described London’s approval of 23 more fishing licences as insufficient. A sea fishing industry association said that the new licences fell far short of the 100 to which French boats were entitled. “Protests should be expected... protests that will target British imports,” the association said. Britain said it required French boats to prove that they had fished in UK waters before Brexit and that there was a lack of evidence in the case of the rejected applications.

The post-Brexit fishing dispute explained

4. Police may admit force is racist

Britain’s most senior police leaders are considering making a public admission that the force is institutionally racist, The Guardian reported. It said “high-level discussions” began as the force’s special adviser on race said the declaration is needed if promises of radical reform are to be believed by black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Last year, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, denied policing was institutionally racist, saying it was “not a label I find helpful”.

Are Dick’s days at the Met numbered?

5. Girl dies after chemicals found in flats

An 11-year-old girl died and several other people fell ill after chemicals intended for pest control were found at a block of flats in London. Paramedics called in police on Saturday after the girl was found unresponsive in a flat in Shadwell, in the east of the city. She was taken to hospital where she died. A Met spokesperson said the chemicals would “be safely removed and an investigation will be carried out to determine how they came to be in the building”.

6. PM to hire No 10 enforcer

Boris Johnson is in talks to appoint a “hard man” ally of election guru Lynton Crosby to be his new Downing Street enforcer, The Telegraph reported. In a bid to see off threats to his leadership, the PM wants to hire David Canzini, a director at Crosby’s firm CTF Partners, to be his new chief adviser. Conservative backbenchers have been calling for a “grown-up” adviser who can help Johnson. One MP said Canzini was “a f***ing hard man” who can “provide advice in a very direct way”.

Do falling poll numbers spell the end for Johnson?

7. Covid causes driving test jam

More than half a million learner drivers are waiting to take their test, according to data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. AA Driving School said that the queue for tests was “too long” and called for a clear plan to address the issue. Driving tests were prohibited during Covid lockdowns, leading to the backlog of candidates. Figures also show a rise in the test pass rate: from 46.4% between 2015 and 2020 to 49.6% between July and September this year.

8. Student uses books to sue landlord

A 19-year-old law student has used his text books to sue his landlord over the allegedly poor state of his student accommodation. Jack Simm, who is studying law at the University of East Anglia, said it was the “best bit of revision I’ve ever done” after a county court told his landlord to pay him £999, covering his rental deposit, his first month’s rent and his legal fees. “It’s given me a massive confidence boost,” he said.

9. Empty seats at Trump roadshow

Donald Trump’s “much-hyped roadshow” with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has failed to fill its venues in a sign that his “influence is starting to wane”, said The Telegraph. Images on social media showed hundreds of empty seats at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida, with the top level of the arena closed. There were also plenty of tickets available for an event in Orlando.

What is Donald Trump up to now?

10. Miss Universe crowned in Israel

Harnaaz Sandhu of India has been crowned Miss Universe 2021. The controversial pageant was held in the Israeli resort city of Eilat, with 80 women from around the world competing for the crown. Sandhu urged young people to “know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful” and to “stop comparing yourself to others”. Some countries had called for boycotts, with the South African government withdrawing its support, citing Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

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