Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 December 2021

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

1. ‘Cost of living catastrophe’ imminent

UK households face a hit of £1,200 next year as rising tax and energy bills cause a “cost of living catastrophe” in the spring, the Resolution Foundation said. The thinktank said government measures, including the new social care levy on national insurance and the freezing of the personal income tax allowance, will combine with high inflation to make 2022 the “year of the squeeze”. Labour has criticised Boris Johnson for failing to step in.

2. PM told to cut isolation again

The government is under pressure to reduce the Covid self-isolation period to five days in order to stave off an NHS staffing crisis. Health bosses 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 patients being admitted to hospitals. Last week, the government reduced the isolation period from 10 to seven days.

3. Cop took selfies at murder scene

A police officer took selfies at a murder scene and sent “appalling” racist, homophobic and offensive images via WhatsApp, revealed The Guardian. PC Ryan Connolly from the Merseyside force also took photos on his mobile phone of people in mental health crisis who had been sectioned under police powers. A tribunal found Connolly guilty of gross misconduct. He had resigned before the hearing.

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4. Covid cases hit record high

Covid infections in England have reached another record high, with a further 117,093 cases reported on Tuesday. Although 9,546 people are in hospital with Covid this is well below the peak of 34,000 in January. Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said yesterday that the mass fatalities and packed intensive care units marking the pandemic’s first year are unlikely to be repeated in the UK.

5. Arrests at Hong Kong news website

Police in Hong Kong have arrested six people from the independent news website Stand News for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”. More than 200 police officers were also sent to raid the publication’s office, with a spokesman saying the officers were authorised to “search and seize relevant journalistic materials”. The pop star turned democracy icon Denise Ho, who was a former board member of Stand News, was among those arrested.

6. Expert warning on illegal schools

Hundreds of unregistered and illegal schools known to inspectors are only the “tip of the iceberg”, according to the deputy director of unregistered and independent schools at Ofsted. Despite pledges from the government to tackle unregistered schools, many of which are religious, more are being discovered each year. Unregistered schools can avoid inspections, which campaigners say makes them a haven for physical and sexual abuse.

7. ‘Menopause champion’ needed for workplaces

An expert has suggested that every workplace should have a “menopause champion” to support female employees as they juggle work commitments and the physical challenge of the menopause. Around one in four women with serious symptoms cut short their careers because of the menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Dr Heather Currie, the founder of Menopause Matters magazine, said it was in employers’ interest to do more to help.

8. Pandemic warning of 1997 uncovered

Health chiefs warned a pandemic was “imminent” in 1997 in the form of a flu pandemic from the far east, reported The Guardian. Newly declassified documents revealed that the health officials drew up a contingency plan that included a mass vaccination programme and closing borders. The declassified documents were made available to the public by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and can be viewed at the National Archives.

9. Alaska reaches ‘absurd’ temperatures

Alaska has set a record high December temperature of 19.4C. An unusual winter warm spell has sent daytime temperatures soaring at a time of year normally associated with extreme cold and snow. Rick Thoman of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy told The Guardian the temperatures were “absurd.” Describing the development as a sign of climate change, Thoman added: “This is exactly what we expect in a warming world.”

10. Adele and Abba push vinyl sales

Adele, Abba and Ed Sheeran helped boost vinyl sales in the UK this year. Almost a quarter of the albums bought this year (23%) were on vinyl, noted the BBC, with Abba’s Voyage the biggest-seller. Sales of CDs continued to fall - just 14m discs were bought - the lowest figure since 1984. But cassette sales, which represent a tiny fraction of the music market, increased for a ninth consecutive year.

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