The Indian variant of Covid-19 is unsettling many in Whitehall. Just as Boris Johnson was announcing the relaxation of Covid rules across England, others, primarily SAGE scientists, were raising their concerns over the new variant. The new, highly transmissible, mutation is most prevalent in Bolton, where local authorities have broken with government advice and proceeded with surge vaccinations.
At present we appear to be in a race between the virus and the vaccine. If conditions worsen, we are likely to see the return of localised lockdowns and the tier system. There are also ongoing discussions of pushing back the 21 June re-opening. Only time will tell.
Israel/Palestine conflict continues
The fighting between Hamas and Israel continues into its second week. US President Joe Biden has joined calls for a ceasefire, but critics claim he has fallen far short of what he should be doing. Obama previously sent John Kerry to ease tensions; Joe Biden is hesitating. The calls for a ceasefire include the voices of Palestinian leaders and until now Israel has been reluctant to heed these calls.
There has been widespread condemnation of the Israeli aggression, with multiple protests taking place around the world – in support of Palestine. There have also been reports of racist attacks against Jews – in the UK there is an increased police presence at many synagogues after anti-Semitic abuse was shouted from cars bearing the Palestinian flag.
Late last night Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, bringing an end to the 11 days of conflict. The ceasefire comes as Joe Biden finally called on the fighting to stop. There remains the question, what took him so long?
More than 200 people have died in Gaza and 12 in Israel.
The return of Dominic Cummings
Dominic Cummings has returned to Westminster with claims that government “secrecy” “contributed greatly to the [Covid] catastrophe”. The former aide accused the government of a disastrously slow response to the unfurling disaster.
Mr. Cummings will appear before both the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee next week. After a series of vicious tweets directed at his former colleagues Mr. Cummings is expected to hold nothing back in the hearings.
Great British Railways
A new state-owned body, to be launched from 2023 onwards, will replace Network Rail as the manager of rail infrastructure and will set timetables and prices across England. Great British Railways (GBR) will still have private operators running under one brand, but under new ‘passenger contracts’, they will have specific targets that they will have to meet. One of the key takeaways is the implementation of ‘Flexi season tickets, reflecting the changing nature of the workplace and the increase to home working.
Charlie Souster Account Executive
Benedict Croft Researcher