‘It’s a total disaster’: Omicron lays waste to India’s huge wedding season

Distraught couples face prospect of cutting guest lists from more than 600 people down to just 20 after coronavirus variant took hold

Until 28 December, Heena Vashisht was a happy bride-to-be. The 28-year-old was pleased her family had put in place early all the arrangements for her wedding on 10 February, right down to the last candle. But her plans have been shredded by India’s Omicron surge. The nuptials can go ahead in New Delhi as planned, but only if she cuts her guest list down from 650 to 20.

“My own immediate family is 80. How can I reduce the guests to 20? The tension in my family is unbearable right now. No one knows what to do and my mother’s blood pressure has shot up with all the tension,” says Vashisht.

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Magistrates will get power to give one-year jail sentences to cut backlog

Pandemic has caused huge delays in justice system but barristers claim change in England and Wales is ‘distraction politics’

Magistrates in England and Wales will be given more sentencing powers in an attempt to tackle the backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with by criminal courts.

In the latest effort to reduce both the number of outstanding cases and the pressure faced by crown courts during the coronavirus pandemic, magistrates will be able to hand out jail terms of up to a year – double the current maximum.

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Australia news live update: Novak Djokovic arrives back in Serbia, Tonga suffers ‘significant damage’ after tsunami

World tennis No 1 lands in Belgrade after being deported from Australia as French Open introduces a vaccine rule which could block him from playing. Follow all the day’s news

Tonga’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, has told ABC radio that it could be weeks before communications are fully restored to the island.

Communication is on locally, so people can call one another in Tonga but can’t call internationally.

We still have limited access to Tonga. We still don’t have direct communication with our government.

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All Covid restrictions in England could end in March under No 10 plans

Guidance may replace legal requirements as Boris Johnson indicates UK must now live with the virus

No 10 is drawing up plans to phase out England’s remaining pandemic restrictions from as early as March as a beleaguered Boris Johnson signals to his backbenchers that he is prepared to let the UK live with the virus.

A senior source confirmed the government was looking at ending mandatory self-isolation for positive Covid cases, saying it would be “perverse” to keep the measure for the long term. It could be replaced by guidance.

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Boris Johnson lied about lockdown party, Dominic Cummings claims

Johnson told MPs he did not realise 20 May 2020 event was social gathering but ex-aide says PM was urged not to allow it

Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of lying after No 10 denied the prime minister was warned against allowing a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown.

Johnson admitted to parliament last week that he attended drinks in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 but claimed he had not realised it was a social gathering.

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Unilever’s bid for GSK consumables isn’t quite the shocker it seems | Nils Pratley

This could be a long campaign and, despite all the difficulties, there is a logic to the proposal

Even a Marmite reaction – some loving it, some hating it – would have been better from brand owner Unilever’s point of view. Unfortunately, almost everybody seemed to agree: the big idea of offering £50bn for GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer products division, a proposal rejected by the pharmaceutical firm’s board, was a shocker.

Unilever’s share price plunged 7%, which is a large move when you’re worth (or were) £100bn. “Initial feedback on the deal from investors over the weekend has been almost uniformly negative,” reported Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo. Amid chief executive Alan Jope’s talk about “rotating” Unilever’s product portfolio, one line of thinking says he’s in danger of rotating himself out of a job.

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Moderna aims to launch single Covid and flu booster jab within two years

Combined vaccine should be ready in time for winter infectious season in 2023, says drug firm’s chief executive

Moderna is aiming to launch a single booster vaccination that will protect against both Covid-19 and flu within two years, its chief executive has said.

Stéphane Bancel said that the combined vaccine – which will protect against Covid-19, influenza and RSV, a common respiratory virus – could be available before the winter infectious season in 2023.

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Lords watchdog launches inquiry into Michelle Mone over ‘VIP lane’ contract

Investigation into Tory peer relates to PPE company awarded £203m in government contracts

The House of Lords commissioner for standards has launched an investigation into the Conservative peer Michelle Mone, relating to the PPE company awarded £203m government contracts via the “VIP lane” after she referred it to the Cabinet Office in May 2020.

The investigation follows a complaint by the Labour peer George Foulkes on 6 January, after the Guardian reported that leaked files appear to suggest Lady Mone and her husband, the Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, were secretly involved in the company, PPE Medpro.

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No 10 defends PM’s trips between London and Chequers in March 2020

Boris and Carrie Johnson did not break Covid rules by travelling to Buckinghamshire mansion, says spokesperson

Downing Street has said Boris and Carrie Johnson followed Covid guidance when the prime minister was “commuting” from Chequers to No 10 during the first lockdown in 2020 – but declined to answer further questions, including whether the pair held social events.

It emerged last week that the prime minister and his then-fiancee travelled between No 10 and the spacious Buckinghamshire mansion between 16 and 27 March 2020, around the start of the first lockdown.

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Sky News claims Alan Jones’s misleading commentary balanced by covering daily Covid press conferences

FoI documents reveal that as of late 2021 media watchdog received 19 Covid-related complaints about Alan Jones

Sky News sought to justify misleading Covid commentary then-host Alan Jones put to air, saying it was balanced by coverage of the daily Covid press conferences, according to a letter sent to the broadcasting regulator.

Prior to axing his show at the end of 2020, Sky News had long defended Jones’s Covid commentary, which contributed the removal of several videos from YouTube along with a week-long ban from the platform, and included a series of errors and apologies.

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