Omicron is the dominant variant in the US, as the pandemic is firmly back dominating the headlines.
- In terms of the UK, The Times was on Monday reporting plans for a circuit breaker from December 28 as the most likely scenario. The unlikelihood of seeing restrictions this side of Christmas stems from a government desire to see more data, and the logistics of having parliament vote in measures in the days before Christmas.
- The cost of Covid: In Ireland, unsurprisingly the hospitality industry has been hit quite hard this year - to the tune of around €6.5 billion. Meanwhile, the latest statistics also recorded a €0.5 billion increase in the amount of alcohol purchased for at home consumption. According to RTÉ News, the Cabinet will meet today to discuss increased financial support to businesses affected by the latest round of restrictions.
- In terms of vaccines, more than a million vaccine jabs were administered in the UK on Saturday, a new record - where 940,000 were booster jabs. Meanwhile, Ireland has the second highest booster vaccine rates in the EU (39.8%), behind Austria.
- The US has recorded its first Omicron-related death. According to Bloomberg, Omicron is now also the dominant strain in the US - rising from 3% of cases last week, to 73% now.
- The Queen has cancelled her yearly Christmas in Sandringham, and is instead going to stay in Windsor.
- New Zealand has delayed the reopening of its border to February over concerns about the Omicron variant.
POWER STRUGGLES IN A PANDEMIC
Last week, Boris Johnson suffered his biggest back-bench rebellion in the House of Commons. His coronavirus measures passed, but only with the help of the Labour Party.
In Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett faces a similar predicament - trying to keep together a fragile coalition of eight parties from across the political spectrum.
Here is a really interesting read: Why Naftali Bennett is struggling to make his mark in Israel.
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
Jury deliberations briefly began Monday in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, and will continue today, after a trial that lasted three weeks rather than the anticipated six.
All eyes are now on whether or not a verdict will be reached before Maxwell's 60th birthday on Christmas Day. While BBC News reports Maxwell - Jeffrey Epstein's former confidante - faces up 80 years in jail if convicted, CNN says it is a maximum sentence of 70 years.
"Judge Alison Nathan had said... that jurors would be instructed that they may choose to convict Ms Maxwell if they conclude she either ignored or "consciously avoided" knowledge of Epstein's underage sexual encounters...her lawyers criticised the judge's move as a "backup option" in case the jury does not find Ms Maxwell was an active participant." - BBC context
CHRIS NOTH ALLEGATIONS
Days after Sex and the City actor Chris Noth - aka 'Mr Big' - was accused of sexual assault by two women, the three lead actors in the show's reboot have addressed the situation.
In a joint statement, the three women say they "support" and "commend" the alleged victims for coming forward, adding they were "deeply saddened" by the allegations.
Meanwhile, Noth has been dropped - with immediate effect - from another show called 'The Equalizer'. He has vehemently denied the allegations against him.
Not aware of what happened? Click on our post below to see a full explainer.
Laura Kuenssberg is to step down as the BBC’s political editor, after more than seven years in the role. She described it as “an honour and an amazing ride”. According to the BBC, Kuenssberg will remain as political editor until Easter and then take on "a range of news and current affairs projects”.
- BBC News: Firms urge PM for clarity on Christmas Covid curbs
- The Guardian: Crowd boos Trump after he reveals he took Covid booster
- The Financial Times: Deutsche bank fired senior manager over explicit messages and photos
- Al Jazeera: Tigrayan forces announce retreat to Ethiopia's Tigray region
- The Irish Times: 'Landlords are terrified': property owners' perspective on the rental crisis
#BorisJohnson: The clip below - of darts fans chanting 'stand up if you hate Boris' - has gone viral overnight.
#Trump: President Trump and conservative host Bill O'Reilly were both briefly booed on Monday, after revealing to a crowd they had received their booster jabs.
WATCHING OUT FOR
The trailer for the Harry Potter HBO special - which airs on January 1 - has been released, and watch more than four million times in 15 hours.
In terms of our Instagram followers, 91% of you are looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, we mentioned yesterday that real-life Quidditch teams in the US are considering a name change to the sport, in part to distance themselves from JK Rowling and the ongoing fallout from accusations of transphobia. We asked you about the controversy yesterday, and 71% of you do not believe the author is transphobic.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
Just for fun ✌🏽