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Snippets from UK: A Quiet Republic Day at London's India House as Omicron Lurks

The Republic Day celebration came just a day before the lifting of most remaining Covid restrictions in the UK from Thursday, January 27. (Representational photo)

The Republic Day celebration came just a day before the lifting of most remaining Covid restrictions in the UK from Thursday, January 27. (Representational photo)

From the Covid curbs being lifted in Britain to the issue of whether Boris Johnson partook in parties or gatherings, a roundup of what's making news at this time.

Playing safe: Republic Day was celebrated a bit quietly at India House this time. That celebration came just a day before the lifting of most remaining restrictions from Thursday, January 27. The advisories in place would still have allowed a gathering, but Indian officials have decided, perhaps rightly, to be careful in the face of a significantly large Covid wave still around.

Lifting curbs: Anecdotal information would suggest that Britain is on the verge of achieving ‘herd immunity’, to use a less than scientific, and politically thorny expression. Just about everybody seems to be getting it, which is to say really a light cough, a cold of sorts, and perhaps a sore throat for a few days. Not all the jabs and boosters so far seem able to prevent that. The government could well be right to have lifted remaining restrictions because those, in any case, will not now be able to prevent the spread.

Some refuse to drop masks: As of Thursday, January 27, masks and social distancing are no longer required by law. But many companies are still enforcing them, as the government said they have an option to. So London transport services are still asking for masks to be worn on trains and buses, and several supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are still insisting on masks, though the Morrisons chain has dropped the requirement. Each business can choose its own course, but selective restrictions will do nothing to halt Omicron.

Gray matter: The nation is on a knife-edge waiting for answers to questions that could incredibly make or break Boris Johnson. Is a gathering, where a cake is cut and a birthday song is sung, with nibbles on the side, a party or not? Is a gathering in a garden around wine and cheese where people sit around chatting in groups a party or not? The PM has said these were gatherings where people were talking about work. Nobody was listening in on these conversations, and so who can declare that to claim that these were work meetings? A lady called Sue Gray will take a call on that, any day now.

Police on the job: The police have been known to reopen several old cases of crime, going back years and even decades. But the police inquiry to determine whether gatherings, or events, to put it neutrally, at 10 Downing Street were parties or not is unusual, to say the least. Particularly because no prosecution is expected, only the issuance of penalty notices on those found to have breached the law. But it would be serious enough for punishments to be handed out in Downing Street for breaking the law, even if the punishments are as minor as small fines. In all this, how innocent, or complicit, Boris Johnson is…that’s the biggest question of all.​

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first published:January 27, 2022, 21:00 IST