Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 February 2022

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

1. Russia ‘to invade Ukraine next week’

Washington has warned that Russia could invade Ukraine “at any time” and American citizens should leave immediately. The White House said such an invasion could start with aerial bombing that would make departures difficult. Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office has updated its advice to tell UK nationals to “leave now while commercial means are still available,” amid reports the invasion could begin on Wednesday. Moscow has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite massing more than 100,000 troops near the border.

2. Police send questions to PM

Boris Johnson could be fined for breaking Covid laws after the Metropolitan Police formally approached him with questions about lockdown parties he allegedly attended. Downing Street has confirmed that the Prime Minister had been handed a questionnaire as part of the Met’s inquiry. However, Johnson is reportedly preparing to argue he did not break Covid laws and insist he was working in the Downing Street flat on the night of the alleged “Abba party”.

3. Sunak wants to scale back testing

The Guardian reported that Rishi Sunak wants most free Covid testing to end as soon as next month, despite warnings from public health experts and scientists. The Treasury wants to end most PCR testing for people with Covid symptoms, to be replaced by free lateral flow tests or no testing at all. However, the UK Health and Security Agency has warned against the move and wants to government to keep existing testing arrangements in place until at least 1 April.

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4. ‘Deltacron’ variant spotted in UK

Health bosses are now monitoring a Covid variant that is a hybrid of the Omicron and Delta strains. Deltacron is thought to have originated in a patient who caught both variants at the same time. It has been spotted in the UK but health officials said they do not know how infectious or severe it is, nor whether vaccines will be able to stop it. A source at the UKHSA told the Daily Mail that officials were “not concerned” by the variant yet because case numbers are “low”.

5. Dick and Khan row over payoff

Dame Cressida Dick and Sadiq Khan are at odds over the size of her payoff, amid reports that she could receive more than £400,000 after he forced her to resign. The Times reported that the mayor is trying to avoid having to hand Dick a payoff that could exceed £400,000. Experts said Dick will also have a pension pot in excess of £100,000 a year. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is keen to distance himself from the appointment of her successor, according to reports.

6. Macron ‘refused to give Moscow his DNA’

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, refused a Russian Covid test ahead of his meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has claimed. The BBC said test required a health protocol that was unacceptable and did not fit with the Frenchman’s schedule. According to previous reports, Macron refused the PCR test over fears the Russians would store his DNA. “We could not accept that they get their hands on the president’s DNA,” a French diplomatic source told Reuters.

7. Tory mocked over eagles tweet

A Tory MP has been condemned after he suggested police were wasting resources by investigating the killing of an eagle. Taking to Twitter, Chris Loder urged police to focus on county lines drug trafficking “rather than spend time and resources” investigating the death of a white-tailed eagle in the county. Animal welfare campaigner Chris Packham called the MP’s remarks “not just undemocratic but sinister”. Constituents attacked Loder’s tweet, describing it as “ignorant” and “idiotic”.

8. British citizens held by Taliban

At least eight Westerners have been arrested by the Taliban during different incidents in the last two months. The detainees include seven British citizens including one who is an American legal resident and one US citizen, according to sources. No formal charges appear to have been lodged against the detained men but CNN said the arrests marked a sharp escalation of Taliban actions against Westerners living in the country.

9. Canada presses UK on hormone beef

Canada is encouraging the UK to abandon a ban on hormone-treated beef. Despite strong opposition to the foodstuff from farmers and environmental campaigners, the country’s trade minister, Mary Ng, told the Daily Telegraph: “We stand behind our product,” insisting that the country’s agricultural processes are safe and “ultimately based on science”. Canadian farmers treat their cattle with hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to produce leaner meat.

10. Heat pumps dwarf gas boilers

The cost of running a heat pump in the average home will reach £1,251 this year – 27% more than a traditional boiler. The rising energy price cap will mean gas boilers will cost £400 more to run than previously but they are still “hundreds of pounds cheaper” than using a heat pump, said the Daily Telegraph. The cost of a heat pump running at the minimum level of efficiency will rise from £919 to £1,251. Boris Johnson said he wants 600,000 heat pumps to be installed each year by 2028.

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