News diary 17-23 January: Australian Open begins and Sue Gray finalises parties investigation - Press Gazette

News diary 17-23 January: Australian Open begins and Sue Gray finalises parties investigation

Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

MONDAY

The self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people in England is reduced from seven days to five. The move by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to follow US health guidelines is a bid to tackle staff absences in the NHS and ease pressure on businesses. The decision has not been universally welcomed however, with Royal College of Nurses General Secretary Pat Cullen urging members to stick to the current seven-day isolation period over fears the new rule changes could put patients at risk.

A sigh of relief for sports fans north of the border as Scotland begins its lifting of coronavirus restrictions. The scrapping of the 500-person attendance limit means Glasgow’s Old Firm Derby between Celtic and Rangers can go ahead at full capacity on 2 February, as can Scotland’s opening Six Nations rugby international against England on 5 February at Murrayfield. Limits on indoor events and hospitality venues are expected to remain in place until at least 24 January.

The Australian Open finally begins, with the 2022 edition already established as one of the most controversial in history. All focus in the lead-up to the tournament has been on the will-he-won’t-he participation of world number one Novak Djokovic, whose medical exemption double fault has resulted in a well-publicised visa battle with Australian authorities. Despite successfully challenging his entry ban in court, his visa was once again revoked on 14 January, setting the stage for a weekend hearing that could yet lead to the Serb’s deportation. Djokovic was included in the men’s singles draw and is due to play today, but whether he takes part is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

TUESDAY

The Scottish government reviews more of the measures introduced on 26 and 27 December to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant, including limits on attendees at indoor events and social distancing in hospitality and leisure settings. Despite experts warning that Scotland may see an increase in the admissions of older people to hospital in coming weeks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is hopeful that the review will allow these restrictions to be lifted next week.

Senior figures from social media firms including TikTok, Twitter and Meta appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee for a double-header on influencer culture and online safety. The two inquiries, which have been taking place at the same time as the government’s Online Harms bill progresses through Parliament, have already heard evidence of widespread abuse and potentially harmful practices.

WEDNESDAY

The IMF publishes its latest update to the World Economic Outlook. The last edition, released in October 2021, described a global economy recovering slowly amid supply chain disruptions, divergence in high- and low-income countries’ pandemic responses and the threat of new Covid variants. The picture is likely to be largely similar, though the addition of rampant inflation and the Omicron variant to the mix could see the Fund follow the  World Bank and World Economic Forum with a dire forecast to kick off 2022.

MPs on the Treasury Committee question Andrew Bailey on the Bank of England’s latest Financial Stability Report, though they may also be keen to hear the Governor’s response to the Parliamentary report on central bank digital currencies released last week. December’s FSR warned of the potential risks associated with the growth of cryptocurrency markets, but the Lords Economic Affairs Committee went further in suggesting that a digital currency could undermine the UK’s financial stability.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers an address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg laying out France’s priorities during its presidency of the Council of the European Union over the next six months. On balance, the timing of France’s presidency is thought to favour Macron’s chances of being re-elected in April, though criticism over his decision to hang the EU flag at the Arc de Triomphe shows it also leaves him vulnerable to accusations that he is ignoring domestic concerns at the expense of international ambitions.

THURSDAY

First Minister Mark Drakeford is expected to green light the return of crowds to all sporting events in Wales as he leads the latest weekly review of coronavirus restrictions. Speaking on 14 January, Drakeford confirmed cases in Wales had begun dropping sharply, meaning the country can transition to alert level zero before the end of January. The move also heads off a looming clash with the Welsh Rugby Union, which had threatened to switch all home matches to London for the upcoming Six Nations tournament.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reveals how close we are to a man-made apocalypse. The Doomsday Clock currently stands at 100 seconds to midnight, marking the closest point to catastrophe in its 75-year history. This year’s prognosis could improve amid revived talks with Iran and commitment among the P5 to tackle the risk of nuclear conflict. On the other hand, continued threats from Russia and China, North Korean missile tests, and the ongoing danger of inaction on climate and cyber warfare mean the outlook is unlikely to be particularly rosy.

FRIDAY

A batch of domestic economic indicators are released this week to complement the WEO, with 2022’s first unemployment (Tuesday) and inflation stats (Wednesday) coming ahead of today’s retail sales figures for December. Strong Christmas trading announcements from the likes of Tesco and M&S last week contrasted with the warning in the BRC’s latest snapshot that the sector as a whole remains vulnerable to the vagaries of Omicron and tight household budgets over the coming months.

Adele begins her Las Vegas residency, marking her first series of live performances since 2017. The “Hello” hitmaker broke her own records with her latest album 30, which became the highest selling album of 2021 in the UK and the US, despite only being released in November. With audiences of just 4,000, tickets for “Weekends with Adele” were in such high demand that they never went on general sale.

WEEKEND

If Sue Gray’s investigation into lockdown parties reports at the end of this week as many political journalists have speculated, we can look forward to a weekend of back-and-forth over whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson should resign or we should collectively move on after the findings are in. Gray’s investigation may yet need more time, however, if the list of “work events” she needs to investigate keeps growing at the same rate as last week.

England’s white ball cricketers will be looking to restore some national pride in the first two T20 fixtures in their tour of the West Indies (Saturday and Sunday) after a disappointing Ashes series for the test side capped a dismal 2021 for the sport. The Windies’ preparations for the five-match series, meanwhile, have been slightly disrupted by Covid-enforced postponements to two ODI fixtures against Ireland.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Peter Nicholls / Pool / AFP via Getty Images

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