This time last year the Kent variant - now known as 'Alpha' - was really beginning to circulate, leading many to worry about their Christmas plans. Fast forward a year, and it feels the very same over Omicron.
There is understandable fatigue, and palpable concern.
COVID CATCH UPS
As you probably know by now, the pandemic is very much back in the spotlight.
- The UK recorded its highest ever number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic - 78,610. To put that into context, the previous record was nearly 10,000 less, in January of last year.
- A Hong Kong study suggests the Omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in the airways. However, the same study suggests the variant replicates less well in the lungs than the original strain of the virus - possibly indicating that it is less severe.
- Overall 11% of the UK has yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, but this rises to 32 per cent in London.
- In Ireland, the opening hours of vaccine centres have been extended to ramp up the rollout. Also, the 15-minute post-jab wait has been shelved. The Irish Times reported this move could double the number of booster jabs that could be administered.
- Also in Ireland, NPHET will meet this evening to discuss possible restrictions on socialising and large events to curb the spread of infections. No decisions have been made at this point.
- Tourism stats: According to CNN, Bali went from receiving millions of tourists, to just 45 in 2021.
- A Dutch MP has been ordered to delete social media posts comparing those unvaccinated to Jews during the Holocaust. According to BBC News, he is now facing legal action from Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups, and will be fined €25,000 if the posts are not deleted.
Remember: Keep an eye on our Instagram page for regular summaries on the latest Coronavirus headlines.
The UK government's refusal to issue gender-neutral passports was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The challenge was brought by a campaigner who argued the lack of an "X" option was a breach of human rights. They also said the case would be brought to the European Court of Human Rights.
TRAGEDY IN TASMANIA
At least four young children in northern Australia have been killed, and a further five hospitalised, after a gust of wind flew their bouncy castle into the air.
Of those hospitalised, four are said to be in critical condition, with a fifth in a serious condition. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrisson described the tragedy as "unthinkably heartbreaking".
A reporter at the scene, Monte Bovill, published the photo below of devastated police at the scene.
David Fuller - the man convicted of murdering two women in the 1980s, and abusing the corpses of 102 dead women - received two whole-life sentences for the murders.
Background: Fuller worked night shifts as an electrician in hospitals, where his own video footage found by police showed him sexually abusing the corpses of women and children in the hospital morgue. Back in November, the Crown Prosecution Service described the offences as "of a kind no British court has seen before".
Remember: A whole-life sentence means Fuller will never leave prison. Earlier this year, Wayne Couzens received a whole-life sentence for the murder of Sarah Everard.
Criticism: While Fuller received two whole-life sentences for the two murders, his other crimes amounted to a 12-year sentence. As Sky News pointed out, "for raping the body of Azra Kemal three times, he was given just three months".
Here is an article with more details, but it can make for quite a distressing read.
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
The suspect in the murder of Sabina Nessa is expected to enter a plea at a court hearing later today.
Remember: 28-year-old teacher Sabina Nessa was murdered in September. She was walking through a busy park on the way to meet a friend. Koci Selamaj is accused of travelling there for the "premeditated and predatory" attack. There is no suggestion Selemaj knew Nessa personally.
Also today, a critical by-election is taking place in North Shropshire.
The Financial Times described it as "a knife edge". Remember: This is the seat previously held by Owen Paterson, who resigned earlier this year following controversy around his use of his role as an MP to benefit other paid jobs.
Anyway, the race is said to be "neck and neck" between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates, but the seat has always been considered a safe bet for the Tories.
- As expected, Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to violating George Floyd's civil rights
- Katie Price avoided jail by receiving a suspended 16-week sentence for drink driving back in September, but was blasted by the judge for the "incredibly selfish" offence
- The UK's Supreme Court ruled the PSNI was wrong to discontinue investigations into allegations of torture by the British Army against the so-called "Hooded Men"
- BBC News: Schools prepared to move online next term
- The Guardian: Omicron found to grow 70 times faster than Delta in bronchial tissue
- The Financial Times: Elon Musk: Interview with FT's Person of the Year
- Al Jazeera: Mass evacuations as Typhoon Rai bears down on the Philippines
- The Irish Times: NPHET to discuss restrictions on large sporting events and social gatherings
Italy's birth rate is at its lowest since 1861. The warnings suggest this could mean a fifth of the population could be lost in the next 50 years.
"Decades of stagnant economic growth, difficulties for women in combining work and maternity, and poor childcare facilities are being blamed." - Context from The Times
Why? A video of a judge in the US reacting to a video of an attempted robbery on her home has gone viral, due to the repeated racial slurs used when referring to the suspect. The judge is now on unpaid leave, but faces widespread calls to resign.
Odinet twice refers to the suspect using the n word, also referring to him as a "roach".
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
If you watch one thing today, let it be this amazing re-cap on 2021, another extraordinary year in news!