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Morning mail: ‘unfair’ rapid test costs, Boris Johnson under pressure, Triple J hottest 100 favourites

Good morning. Australia’s Covid response turns “from purposeful to parody”, a leading epidemiologist calls for blood testing to assess full spread of the Omicron strain, and conservative British MPs urge their own PM to go.

A Sydney woman suffering spinal muscular atrophy has spent $1,300 on rapid antigen tests in order to ensure that her carers won’t represent a risk to her contracting Covid-19. Carolyn Campbell-McLean says the NDIS won’t cover the cost of RATs for people who live in their own homes. The 47-year-old is unable to get out bed, shower or go to the toilet without carer support. She hasn’t left the home she shares with her husband since 15 December due to the surge of Omicron cases.

A leading epidemiologist has called for widespread blood testing to help understand the full extent of Omicron’s spread across Australia, as case numbers continue to spiral, with nearly 80,000 new infections and 67 deaths recorded on Wednesday. Seroprevalence surveys were conducted in 2020 and 2021, and a fresh round could help more accurately determine rates of immunity within the broader community. Meanwhile, the sharp rise in infections has sparked a surging demand for pulse oximeters – devices used to measure the rate of oxygen in the bloodstream – which can help alert as to the potential severity of a coronavirus infection. And as the hospital system continues to strain under the Covid demand, Peter Hannam writes the prioritising of economics over medical advice represents “the moment Australia’s response to Covid turned from purposeful to a parody”.

Boris Johnson is facing intense pressure to resign as UK prime minister, with a senior leader from within his own party echoing advice given to Neville Chamberlain, urging Johnson: “in the name of God, go”. Former Brexit secretary David Davis told media “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday [Johnson] did the opposite of that”. Johnson has been dogged by a series of missteps in recent months, but his attempts to explain away revelations that he attended a party at 10 Downing St during lockdown have seen his standing plummet, with one Tory MP defecting to the opposition Labour party.

Australia

Planet Labs' Pelican satellite in orbit
Australia currently relies on Japanese geostationary satellites for weather information, as well as data from US and European Space Agency satellites. Photograph: Planet Labs Inc./AFP/Getty Images

Australia’s reliance on foreign satellites could have dire consequences for domestic security, scientists from the Australian Academy of Science have warned, with defence planning and food production currently heavily reliant on data from foreign-owned satellites.

Christian Porter and his barrister have been ordered to pay $430,000 in damages to a high-profile advocate of the woman who filed a historical rape allegation against the former attorney general.

The world

US secretary of state Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken gives a press conference following his meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images

Russia could pursue “further aggressive action” against Ukraine “at any moment”, the US secretary of state has warned, after a meeting with Ukraine’s president in Kyiv. Russia is expected to conduct major exercises in neighbouring Belarus next month.

Novak Djokovic is the controlling shareholder in a Danish biotech firm aiming to develop a treatment for Covid-19 that does not involve vaccination, it has emerged. The men’s tennis world No 1, who was deported from Australia on Monday, has an 80% stake in QuantBioRes.

The French actor Gaspard Ulliel has died at the age of 37 after a skiing accident. A Cesar-winner for his performance in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement, Ulliel reportedly collided with a fellow skier.

The son of a prominent Czech folk singer has railed against the leaders of a local anti-vaxx movement, after his mother died after deliberately contracting Covid to avoid having to be vaccinated.

Recommended reads

Several potential Triple J Hottest 100 winners
In with a chance in the 2022 Triple J Hottest 100: Genesis Owusu, Justin Bieber, The Kid Laroi, and Amyl and the Sniffers. Composite: REX/Shutterstock, Getty Images, AFP, Alamy

With songs by Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo tipped to feature prominently in the Triple J Hottest 100, concerns are rising again over the mainstreaming of music presented on the once distinctly “alternative” youth radio broadcaster, Shaad D’Souza details. But with a collaboration between Kamilaroi rapper the Kid Laroi and Bieber a favourite, this year’s poll could also see the first time an Indigenous Australian secures the coveted top spot – provided they can fight off the Wiggles.

Relative to the start of the Covid pandemic the job market is looking quite rosy for many young Australians. But a significant factor in this is the absence of hundreds of thousands of overseas backpackers which is why the prime minister is on a push to entice them back to Australia, Greg Jericho explains. “While the labour force figures and other economic data are yet to return to normal, what must not return is the plethora of wage theft and abuse directed to those here on short-term visas, all done in the name of curing labour shortages.”

Yoga, a cup of hot milk, mindfulness – there are a plethora of theories about how to help yourself prepare for a good night’s sleep. But as Maddie Thomas writes, a simpler, and more effective solution may have been staring at us, all along: the humble book. “In 2009 the University of Sussex conducted research that found reading a book reduced stress levels by 68%, outperforming other activities like going for a walk or having a cup of tea.” You only need to do so for six minutes, the research argues, but if you happen to read longer you might also work through that bedside pile.

Listen

It was a nerve-jangling mass exodus. For 28 female former MPs of the Afghan government – now assembled in exile in Greece – fleeing involved many hazards. On this episode of Full Story, journalist Amie Ferris-Rotman details their ongoing quest to lead policy for the women of Afghanistan.

Full Story

Afghan female MPs fight for their country in exile

00:00:00
00:33:32

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

An Indian woman walks past a Women's Asian Cup mural
The Asian Cup in India has become something of a must-win tournament for Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

After a hugely disappointing set of results in 2021, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson hopes his side is ready to flick from “preparation mode” to “performance mode”. And as Joey Lynch writes, the upcoming Asian Cup tournament is almost a “must win” for a team with aspirations of reaching a World Cup final.

Home town hero John Millman has failed in his quest to dump No 3 seed Alexander Zverev from the Australian Open, going down 6-4, 6-4, 6-0. On quietening the vocal home support the German quipped: ““I could really feel that you guys have been locked down for two years.”

Media roundup

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan has continued his war of words with his New South Wales counterpart Dominic Perrottet, laughing off a “ridiculous” $5m bill issued to the state for the cost of housing Western Australians in quarantine hotels, the West Australian reports. According to the ABC, NSW education department administration staff are poised to fill teacher vacancies. And the chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has warned retail investors they face major losses through risky crypto assets, the Financial Review writes.

Coming up

National cabinet meets to finalise a Covid safety plan for schools.

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