Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 December 2021

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

1. Omicron infections hit 200,000

Daily Omicron infections have hit 200,000 a day, the health secretary has warned after the variant claimed its first life in the UK. Warning of “difficult weeks ahead”, Sajid Javid said around 20% of confirmed Covid-19 cases in England had been identified as the Omicron variant. After Boris Johnson announced his target of offering all adults a booster jab by the end of the year, waits of up to five hours were reported at some vaccination centres. The central booking website also crashed as it struggled to keep up with demand.

Which Covid-19 vaccine works best as a booster?

2. PM facing Tory rebellion

Boris Johnson is facing his biggest challenge to his leadership so far as MPs today vote on new Covid-19 rules for England. The Times said 78 Tories are expected to rebel against the prime minister’s plans, which he has described as a “proportionate” response to the Omicron variant. On vaccine certificates, Marcus Fysh, a Conservative rebel, told the BBC: “We are not a ‘papers please’ society. This is not Nazi Germany.” The PM’s plans are still expected to pass the Commons, as Labour has said it will support them.

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Inside Plan B: new measures and Tory anger

3. UK boat in fatal collision

A crew member has died after a British cargo ship collided with a Danish cargo vessel in the Baltic Sea, capsizing it and throwing two crew members into the icy waters. Eight rescue vessels and a search helicopter combed the straits between the Danish island of Bornholm and the Swedish city of Ystad looking for the two missing seamen. However, the Swedish Maritime Administration said it had “ended its search operation at sea for the two missing persons in the water”.

4. Trump Jr called to stop riot

Donald Trump Jr sent text messages to his father’s chief of staff Mark Meadows insisting that Donald Trump “condemn” the Capitol riot as it unfolded, according to CNN. “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Trump Jr wrote in one message. He added: “We need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.” The messages were revealed in the ongoing House committee inquiry into the deadly 6 January protest.

What is Donald Trump up to now?

5. Raab to reform human rights law

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab is to announce a major overhaul of human rights law that he claims will counter “wokery and political correctness” to expedite the deportation of foreign criminals. The Ministry of Justice said the plan would allow judges to override rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, rather than following them “blindly”. Opponents say the “dangerous” reforms are a “blatant, unashamed power grab”, The Guardian said.

Why is the UK accused of ‘abandoning’ human rights?

6. Rowling mocks police trans policy

JK Rowling has compared a new police policy for transgender suspects to George Orwell’s 1984. After Police Scotland confirmed that it would record rapes by offenders with a penis as having being carried out by a woman if the suspect identified as female, Rowling tweeted: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.” The author’s tweet was an allusion to the “doublethink” in Orwell’s novel, in which citizens are indoctrinated to believe contradictory ideas to prevent them from challenging the state.

The trans debate: a fiercely-fought battleground in the nation’s culture wars

7. Musk ‘worst choice ever’ for Time

Time magazine’s decision to make Tesla billionaire Elon Musk its person of the year has been described as the “worst choice ever” by critics, The Guardian reported. The magazine described its choice as a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist and showman”, listing his achievements in space travel, alternative energy and electric cars. Opponents, however, pointed to his attitude to taxes on the wealthy, opposition to unions and dismissal of the dangers of the pandemic.

Elon Musk: the real-life Iron Man

8. Sunak warned against tax hike

Rishi Sunak has been urged to pause his £12bn tax raid after the Bank of England warned that the new Covid variant poses a risk to the British economy. Karan Bilimoria, head of the Confederation of British Industry and chair of Cobra beer, said it is “absolutely the wrong time” to raise taxes given the threat facing businesses. The chancellor plans to increase National Insurance contributions in 2022, before increasing corporation tax in 2023.

Is Rishi Sunak’s long political honeymoon coming to an end?

9. Former chef sues Fat Duck

A former pastry chef has claimed she was left suffering from repetitive strain injury after being forced to make 550 whisky wine gums a day at Heston Blumenthal’s flagship restaurant. Sarah Anderson, 30, who worked at the Michelin star Fat Duck restaurant between 2014 and 2015, is suing for £200,000 over claims she can no longer properly cook, drive or lift heavy objects. Fat Duck Ltd. said the work she did was routine for a chef in a “fine dining restaurant”.

10. Man Utd match postponed

Manchester United’s Premier League match against Brentford has been postponed after a Covid-19 outbreak at the Old Trafford club. The league said the decision was made “following guidance from medical advisers due to the exceptional circumstances” of the spike in infections. In the past week, 42 Premier League players and staff have tested positive, the highest number in a seven-day period since testing began in May 2020. Brighton, Tottenham, Leicester, Aston Villa and Norwich have all confirmed outbreaks.

What does Omicron mean for 2022?

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