Tuesday evening UK news briefing: Do not cancel Christmas parties, says Boris Johnson in wake of omicron variant

Tuesday evening UK news briefing: Do not cancel Christmas parties, says Boris Johnson in wake of omicron variant
© Provided by The Telegraph Your evening briefing from The Telegraph

Evening briefing: Today’s essential headlines

Ghislaine Maxwell trial | Lawrence Visoski, the long-time pilot of Jeffrey Epstein and first witness in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial, has described the British socialite as the ‘number two’ in the hierarchy of the deceased billionaire’s operations. Read our liveblog from the second day of the trial while Josie Ensor details what she witnessed first-hand at the opening of the proceedings. Also, read her profile of Alison Nathan, the New York judge deciding Ms Maxwell’s fate.

The big story: Do not cut down on socialising, says PM

Workers should not be cancelling their Christmas parties nor schools scrapping their plans to hold nativity plays, the Prime Minister has said, as he insisted the Government was taking a “balanced and proportionate” approach to the omicron variant. 

Boris Johnson also insisted working from home is “not currently necessary” as he set a target of giving booster jabs to everyone eligible by the end of January. 

Calling for “another Great British vaccination effort”, the Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference that vaccination centres will be “popping up like Christmas trees” as he revealed that 400 military personnel will be drafted in. 

He also confirmed he will be receiving his own booster jab on Thursday. 

Mr Johnson also distanced himself from remarks by Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, who had urged people to avoid socialising “unless you need to” in the run up to Christmas. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said getting a booster jab was the best way to get the Christmas we all want.

It comes as GPs have said they do not have time to administer booster vaccines on top of routine health checks. 

Dr Farah Jameel, recently elected chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said that doctors needed to be relieved from other daily obligations, if they were expected to speed up the rollout of booster jabs. 

Of course, face masks once again became mandatory in shops in England from this morning. 

However Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said he will not be asking his staff to enforce the tighter Covid restrictions. 

Read on for a guide to where face masks are now mandatory.

Answer to our prayers

All this comes on a day when markets have again been rocked by the omicron variant.

Today’s slide was mainly promoted by Moderna’s chief executive, who predicted that existing vaccines are likely to be significantly less effective against the mutation.

Stéphane Bancel warned he expects there to be a “material drop” but markets rebounded when this was contradicted by BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin, who said that while the variant could lead to more infections among vaccinated people, they will most likely be protected from serious illness. 

If the disease turns out to have a milder effect, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard analyses how a benign omicron may be the answer to our economic prayers. 

Here is analysis on whether omicron causes severe disease or just a runny nose.

Javid walks reporter to jab

Who said politicians do not care about real people? 

Sajid Javid persuaded a journalist to get his booster and walked him to get his vaccine after being interviewed. 

The Health Secretary was being quizzed on Sky News by the broadcaster’s Chief Political Correspondent Jon Craig near St Thomas’s Hospital in Westminster on Monday night. 

The pair were chatting as they prepared for the interview outside the vaccination centre when Mr Javid asked the journalist if he had been for his booster jab. 

Mr Craig was not expecting the exchange would end with Mr Javid acting as a personal chaperone. Watch the clip of what happened.

Comment and analysis

  • Silkie Carlo | The repeated use of Covid powers makes me fearful
  • Andrew Lilico | ‘Woke code’ for MPs would reject political liberalism
  • John Penrose | The Left has caught millions in its vicious poverty trap
  • Simon Heffer | Persecution of Vaughan by the mob is an outrage
  • Chris Bascombe | Ballon d’Or has become a ghastly Messi tribute

Around the world: Zemmour’s French presidential run

Right-wing firebrand Eric Zemmour put an end to weeks of speculation today when he officially announced his bid to become France’s next president amid a sharp drop in the polls following a series of controversies including giving the finger to a woman over the weekend. Mr Zemmour, who has been likened to Donald Trump for his populist politics and divisive rhetoric, said he will take “destiny in his hands” as “now is not the time to reform France anymore, but to save it,” in a much-anticipated video message released on social media.

Tuesday interview

‘It’s harder than I expected at City but it’s nice being a £100m player’

Tuesday evening UK news briefing: Do not cancel Christmas parties, says Boris Johnson in wake of omicron variant
© Provided by The Telegraph Jack Grealish

In his first newspaper interview since leaving Aston Villa for Man City, Jack Grealish talks through the emotions around leaving his boyhood club with John Percy

Read the full interview

Sport briefing: Sharapova on criticism of Raducanu

On the red carpet at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday, tennis star Maria Sharapova was wearing a particularly noteworthy dress. Her outfit at the Fashion Awards was made from recycled Evian bottles and reclaimed silk by Dutch designer Iris van Herpen. The retired tennis great talks about why Britain’s new superstar Emma Raducanu must enjoy every fashion opportunity that comes her way and addresses criticism of the US Open champion. In another great sporting interview, former England captain Ray Illingworth talks about facing biased Aussie umpires, spending six months away from home and still winning the Ashes.

Editor’s choice

  1. Paradise lost | Inside India’s maritime graveyard, where cruise ships go to die
  2. ‘Of course Epstein was murdered’ | Dasha Nekrasova on Succession and her ‘taboo’ film
  3. Three decades of Demi Moore | What her ‘downageing’ can teach the rest of us

Business briefing: Highest inflation since euro created

Pressure is mounting on Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank chief, to get a grip on soaring prices on the Continent as inflation hit its highest level since the birth of the euro. Figures showed eurozone inflation hit 4.9pc in November, far worse than the 4.5pc expected, as energy costs jumped a record 27pc compared with last year. Ms Lagarde has insisted that the inflation surge is a one-off but that stance is coming under increasing pressure from hawks such as Germany, where prices are rising at the fastest pace for almost 30 years. Read on for details.

Tonight starts now

Amy: Beyond the Stage, Design Museum review | It is hard to process that a decade has passed since the devastating death of Amy Winehouse, at just 27 – her richly expressive and instantly recognisable sound and style now seem suspended in time. The British singer-songwriter’s brief yet tumultuous spell in the spotlight produced two acclaimed studio LPs – 2003 debut Frank, and 2006’s legendary Back To Black. In 2020, her outfits and musical impact formed the focus of a display at LA’s Grammy Museum. Now, the Design Museum’s new multi-media exhibition Amy: Beyond The Stage expands further on her cultural legacy, bringing it home to the city that was her birthplace and playground.

Three things for you

And for this evening’s downtime….

‘It’s a scandal my aunt had to sell up to pay for care’ | Jonathan Pryce, the actor set to play the Duke of Edinburgh in the next series of The Crown, has long supported the Alzheimer’s Society, part of this year’s charity appeal. The Game of Thones star tells Joe Shute why the organisation’s work feels increasingly personal to him.

If you want to receive twice-daily briefings like this by email, sign up to the Front Page newsletter here . For two-minute audio updates, try The Briefing – on podcasts, smart speakers and WhatsApp.

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