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FirstFT: UK reports record 106,000 coronavirus cases


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The UK reported a record 106,000 coronavirus cases yesterday, as Boris Johnson came under growing pressure to spell out whether he would introduce new Covid-19 restrictions in England after Christmas.

Some business leaders called for clarity from the prime minister after the devolved governments in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh outlined measures to take effect after Christmas Day.

The developments came as new research in England and Scotland indicated that people infected with the Omicron variant were less likely to require hospital treatment than those with the Delta strain.

Coronavirus-related staff absences would continue to disrupt businesses and public services, employers have warned, despite the government move to shorten the self-isolation period for infected people by three days.

Have your Christmas plans been derailed by Omicron? How so? Let us know at Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Turkey’s tumbling foreign assets hint at ‘aggressive’ lira intervention Turkey’s foreign currency reserves have tumbled by billions of dollars since the start of the week, suggesting that aggressive interventions have aided the lira’s bounce back from record lows. Turks were reluctant about two new state-backed financial products aimed at bolstering their currency.

Line chart of Net foreign assets ($bn) showing Turkey's foreign currency war chest

2. UK gas price rises creating ‘national crisis’ “Stratospheric” wholesale gas and power prices threaten a “national crisis” in Britain, energy companies are warnings, as they increase pressure on ministers to protect customers and suppliers from volatility in commodity markets.

3. Mario Draghi: Europe lacks means to deter Russia Italy’s prime minister has admitted that the bloc has few tools to deter Russia from a military confrontation with Ukraine. “Do we have missiles, ships, cannons, armies? At the moment we don’t,” he said.

4. UK-EU deal on access to fish stocks in 2022 The two sides have struck a deal on sharing total catch levels of around 100 fish stocks next year in waters such as the North Sea and the Irish Sea, while a separate dispute with France over access for its boats to British waters continues.

5. Credit Suisse fires two managers overseeing Greensill funds Lukas Haas, a portfolio manager, and Luc Mathys, who was head of fixed income at Credit Suisse Asset Management, have been suspended from their roles in the aftermath of the funds’ suspension. More departures are expected.

Coronavirus digest

  • Under-investment in European hospitals has led to workforce shortages that are constraining intensive care provisions.

  • A lower share of people infected with the Omicron variant is likely to require hospital treatment compared with the Delta strain, data show.

  • US financial conditions are near the most accommodative on record, even as the Federal Reserve has begun to exit from coronavirus-era stimulus measures.

  • The Food and Drug Administration has authorised Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill, but the White House has warned it might not be available for months.

  • Novavax’s vaccine appears to generate an effective immune response against Omicron, according to preliminary data released yesterday.

  • Manufacturers are betting that new messenger RNA technology will eventually allow flu jabs to be developed more quickly to match new strains.

  • Fast-food group McDonald’s said that because of delivery delays, it would only be able to offer the smallest serving of french fries at its 2,900 outlets in Japan.

  • The FT View: Omicron has shown that there are still serious failings of international co-ordination and co-operation.

Thank you to readers who took our poll. Eighty-three per cent of respondents said they had received a Covid-19 booster jab. Of the 17 per cent who had not received a booster, 5 per cent said it was because additional doses were not available where they live.

Line chart of Goldman Sachs US Financial Conditions index showing US financial conditions remain near their loosest on record

The day ahead

Vladimir Putin to hold annual press conference The Russian president will hold his end-of-year briefing with domestic media, two days after he warned Nato of a military response to an expansion of its alliance.

Economic data Portugal is set to release budget deficit data for the third quarter, while the UK is due its GfK consumer confidence survey and CBI monthly growth indicator report.

  • Across the Atlantic: US jobless claims are forecast to remain extremely low, while consumer spending and new home sales likely increased in November. Economists expect that core inflation rose at the fastest annual pace in nearly four decades. (FT, WSJ)

What else we’re reading

Jair Bolsonaro turns to the establishment For an outsider who won Brazil’s presidency promising to reject traditional corrupt politicians, it was a remarkable volte-face, with the far-right leader telling an audience of legislators, “I feel at home here.” What lies behind his U-turn?

Don’t write off London’s IPO market The UK capital’s equity markets got what they wanted this year: large tech listings in growth sectors. It was a pity they included Alphawave IP and Deliveroo. But it was not the first time that London has embraced bad business models, writes Cat Rutter Pooley.

Business complacence about US democratic stability Typically fearful of the political spotlight, executives called for a peaceful transfer of power in their home market as Donald Trump contested his election loss to Joe Biden. A year on, though, business has gone quiet over voting rights.

Brands, be more Ryanair The budget airline has been quite the sasspot on Twitter of late, and it seems everyone is loving it, writes Jemima Kelly. Yes, that Ryanair has taken swipes at the flailing British prime minister and his government. And you have to hand it to them: these jokes are funny.

Pret A Manger’s mispriced smoothie deal Small print can be a big issue. The UK sandwich chain’s subscription offer — up to five drinks a day for £20 a month — has led to a deluge of complaints from overworked staff and customers frustrated that the offer is subject to availability.


Considering how many of his triumphs have come under a hot summer sun, you might expect Mark Cavendish to enjoy cycling in the summertime most of all. But no. “There’s something special about a frosty morning,” he says.

Mark Cavendish: ‘You wrap up, you go out and it’s a beautiful feeling’
Mark Cavendish: ‘You wrap up, you go out and it’s a beautiful feeling’ © Getty Images

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