Boris Johnson admitted to attending evening drinks for about 40 staff in the garden of 10 Downing Street on 20 May 2020, when lockdown regulations made social gatherings illegal. ‘We thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden this evening,’ said an email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds. ‘Please join us from 6 p.m. and bring your own booze!’ Mr Johnson said that he had been talking to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about how people could be helped with soaring energy bills. Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, said that she was not going to investigate the financing of works on Boris Johnson’s flat in Downing Street. A 30ft fossilised ichthyosaur was discovered in the mud at Rutland Water.
In the seven days up to the beginning of this week, 1,271 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 150,057. (In the previous week, deaths had numbered 919.) Numbers remaining in hospital rose in a week from about 13,000 to about 18,600. More than 35 million had received a third vaccination. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that there was no need for people to have a fourth vaccination yet, unless they were extremely vulnerable. Brixham in Devon reported £43.6 million worth of fish being landed in 2021, compared with £35.8 million worth in 2020.
Some leaseholders of flats in blocks between 11m and 18m tall with dangerous cladding would no longer face crippling bills according to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities. He threatened developers with taxes if they did not agree to cough up £4 billion by the beginning of March. Aircraft within a 1.25-nautical mile radius of Windsor Castle will require special authorisation after 27 January under restrictions applied for by the Thames Valley and Metropolitan police forces.
An Australian court quashed the visa cancellation of the tennis player Novak Djokovic, who planned to play in the Open from 17 January. Federal authorities had revoked his visa though he had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels. ‘What more could this man have done?’ asked the judge, ordering him to be released within 30 minutes. The minister for immigration was expected to consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelling the visa again. Djokovic is known not to have been vaccinated but to have tested positive for Covid on 16 December. Sidney Poitier, the actor best known for his role as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night, died aged 94.
In France more than 100,000 demonstrated against the exclusion of the unvaccinated from public places such as cafes and bars. In Paris demonstrators held placards reading ‘Nous aussi on t’emmerde,’ a reference to the statement by President Emmanuel Macron, using a scatological phrase, expressing his desire to make the lives of the unvaccinated difficult. The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 5,502,474 by the beginning of the week. Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said that more than half the population of the continent ‘will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks’. The city of Tianjin, 70 miles from Beijing, set about testing its 14 million residents in two days after the discovery of a cluster of Covid cases.
Russia held talks with America, Nato and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe as 100,000 Russian troops were reported still to be massed on the border with Ukraine. North Korea fired into the sea the second missile claimed to be hypersonic in a week. The debt-laden Chinese property giant Evergrande moved out of its headquarters in Shenzhen to cut costs. The UN appealed for £3 billion in aid for Afghanistan, where many were hungry. India, which on Christmas Day banned the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s religious order, from receiving foreign aid, after Hindu activists accused it of converting people to Christianity, restored its licence. Daniel Ortega, aged 76, was sworn in for his fourth consecutive term as President of Nicaragua. Fire killed 17 people in the 19-storey Twin Peaks block in the Bronx, many of them thought to have originated in the Gambia. In Baltimore, David Bennett, age 57, was given a heart transplanted from a genetically modified pig. CSH