Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday morning.
Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday morning. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow.
1. Ex-No 10 communications chief apologises for party
The prime minister’s former director of communications has apologised for holding a leaving party in Downing Street last April, while lockdown rules were in place. James Slack, who left No 10 last year to become deputy editor-in-chief at The Sun, said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused. This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.” Another party was reportedly held on the same night, before they merged in the Downing Street garden. The Telegraph said staff were sent to a shop with a suitcase which was brought back “filled with bottles of wine”. Boris Johnson was at his country estate, Chequers, at the time. But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said “the buck stops with the PM”.
2. Australia revokes Djokovic’s visa – again
Australia has revoked tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, in a row over his right to remain in the country unvaccinated. The decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke means Djokovic now faces being deported. However, the Serbian could still launch another legal challenge. Djokovic is due to play in the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. Although he won his first appeal against deportation, he has since been accused of lying on his travel form – which stated that he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, when in fact he had been to Spain. He also admitted meeting a journalist and having a photoshoot after testing positive for Covid-19 last month.
3. UK economy bigger than before Covid
The UK economy surpassed pre-Covid levels for the first time in November after recording stronger-than-expected growth. The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.9% between October and November. That was higher than economists’ expectations and meant the economy was 0.7% larger than in February 2020. But there is concern growth slowed again after the spread of Omicron and the introduction of Plan B measures.
4. Welsh government to relax Covid rules
Welsh Covid restrictions on large events and businesses – brought in to tackle the Omicron variant – will be scrapped in two weeks under new plans. It follows mounting pressure from opposition parties, and falling case numbers. Rules limiting outdoor activities will be lifted first. Under the rules introduced last month, sports fixtures were forced behind closed doors, nightclubs were closed, and pubs went back to table service and the rule of six. First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce details at a news conference at lunchtime.
5. People fined in lockdown angry at No 10 parties
Like so many living alone, Kieron McArdle found lockdown particularly tough. With his birthday approaching and the weather unseasonably warm, his friends decided to cheer him up with a surprise visit to his home in Coleshill, Warwickshire, on 19 March last year. The four of them set out socially-distanced chairs in the garden, and started chatting. Within an hour, two police officers were at the door. The four friends were cautioned and ended up each paying a £100 fine. “I feel Boris Johnson and the government are taking the country for fools – treating us with contempt,” he says. “It’s one rule for us and one rule for them.”
And there’s more…
Reported Covid cases in the UK remain high, but are falling sharply. See all the latest data here – or there’s a snapshot below.
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