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FirstFT: Johnson insists no new Covid restrictions needed in England

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Boris Johnson said yesterday that he believed England could ride out the Omicron wave of coronavirus infections without the need to “shut down our country once again”, offering a new year boost for business.

The prime minister’s bullish mood reassured Conservative MPs, scores of whom oppose any further restrictions to tackle the variant.

Johnson confirmed a record of almost 219,000 Covid-19 cases across the UK in the latest 24-hour period, although the figures reflected a delay in collating data over the Christmas period.

He also announced that about 100,000 critical workers, including those in food processing, transport and border control, would be given daily Covid tests to curb the spread of infections to colleagues.

Industries have faced widespread staff absences owing to the latest wave of Covid-19, with school leaders warning of further disruption to teaching.

However, scientific advisers and health officials have welcomed tentative signs that the surge of infections in London has begun to abate.

Do you think England should tighten Covid restrictions? Share your thoughts with us at firstft@ft.com. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa — Jennifer

1. Chinese banks cut back on traditional lending Lenders rushed to meet annual state-imposed lending quotas last month by buying up low-risk financial instruments rather than issuing loans, a surge that bankers and analysts said reflected institutions’ wariness about China’s slowing economy.

2. South Africa inquiry: Zuma presided over rampant corruption Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, presided over “a scarcely believable picture of rampant corruption” at the most critical state companies, according to the first conclusions of an inquiry into graft.

3. Rishi Sunak warns of limit to energy price assistance The UK chancellor warned there was a limit to how much help the government could offer to offset prices and that support should be targeted at households that need it most. Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, will meet industry leaders today to discuss options to contend with price rises.

4. TPG targets $9.3bn valuation in IPO The US buyout firm plans to raise as much as $877m in an initial public offering that could value it at more than $9bn, tapping into a wave of investor interest in private equity.

5. Ford doubles production target for electric truck Ford has almost doubled the production target for the F-150 Lightning, the electric version of its bestselling pick-up truck, to 150,000 a year, an announcement that sent its share price sharply higher yesterday.

Coronavirus digest

  • Existing vaccines are effective against severe Omicron, a Harvard medical school study has suggested. A fourth dose increases antibodies fivefold after one week, Israel’s prime minister said, citing a preliminary study.

  • The US recorded more than 1m cases in a single day, but some experts say focus should shift to hospitalisations, which are more stable. (FT, AP)

  • A record 4.5m Americans quit their jobs in November, as employers struggled to keep workforces intact. The FT View is that the pandemic has shifted workers’ mindset and the balance of power.

  • Opinion: To live with Covid, governments should adopt rehearsed emergency regimes that the public and business understand, writes Martin Sandbu.

The day ahead

England’s Covid restrictions UK cabinet ministers are expected to endorse Boris Johnson’s proposal to maintain England’s Plan B restrictions, including work from home guidance, mask-wearing in public places and Covid passes for mass events. Travel rules such as expensive testing before and after flights will also be reviewed.

What else we’re reading

Elizabeth Holmes’s conviction splits Silicon Valley After a jury found the Theranos founder guilty of conspiring to defraud her investors, industry watchers were divided on the significance of the verdict. The decision represented a landmark in Silicon Valley, where few start-up founders have faced public reckonings.

US military battles ‘Costco drones’ For all the hype about hypersonic missiles, cheap, small, low-tech enemy drones are fast becoming one of the most significant threats facing US forces since the Korean war in the 1950s, according to a top general for the Middle East.

Hello, universe. Is there anyone out there? In the future, we may look back at our times and ask the question: was it really such a good idea to contact aliens? John Thornhill argues that astronomers should first consider whether they have the right to contact extraterrestrial life forms. Who should decide what message to send to aliens? Vote in our poll.

Brexit casts shadow over N Ireland elections Polls show unionist parties are on course to lose their majority for the first time, a seismic political shift in a region that was created for them a century ago. Among the most pivotal issues is not housing or jobs, but post-Brexit trading arrangements.

EU demands seat at Ukraine talks A divided EU has demanded a role in next week’s negotiations with Russia over the Ukraine crisis and broader issues of European defence after Vladimir Putin succeeded in sidelining the bloc in favour of talks with the US and Nato.

Architecture

3D-printing technology is being used to build homes faster and more cheaply than is possible with traditional methods. Here’s how it works.

Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers are tenants of a 3D-printed 1,000 sq ft bungalow in Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers are tenants of a 3D-printed 1,000 sq ft bungalow in Eindhoven, the Netherlands © Bart van Overbeeke

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