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Snippets from UK: 'Unmasked' Britain Tries to Put Its Best Face Forward in Staredown with Covid

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of coronavirus walks past a health campaign poster in London, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Most coronavirus restrictions including mandatory face masks were lifted in England on Thursday. (AP Photo)

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of coronavirus walks past a health campaign poster in London, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Most coronavirus restrictions including mandatory face masks were lifted in England on Thursday. (AP Photo)

From the pending conclusion to the partygate row to Boris Johnson's apparent concern for animals, a roundup of what's making news at this time.

No strings attached: The masks have come off in England. The guidance to work from home was withdrawn last week. About the only measure still in place is a requirement for isolation if testing positive. That too is under review. The reported cases are still high, with 96,871 cases reported Thursday, but showing a decrease of 14,397 over the previous week. And now more than half of hospitalisations registering Covid are with Covid and not because of it. So now except on transport and some selected shops, people can look at one another, and not their masks.

Partygate payoff still awaited: Britain is really waiting for the mask to come off all those parties at No. 10. The media screamed with confident anticipation that the report would be out on Wednesday. It wasn’t, and not on Thursday either. Media sources were perhaps right in reporting that the civil servant conducting the inquiry, Sue Gray, has completed her report. She was earlier thought to have sent it to lawyers and HR managers for scrutiny before submitting it. But now it turns out that the police want to limit what she says.

Pros and cons: The public jury is out on whether a new investigation launched by the police is a good or a bad thing for Boris Johnson. A police inquiry sounds fearful, and if notices are served on staff at Downing Street, this would be of course embarrassing to the government. But no one is in doubt that the staff partied. The police fines on staff may fix the blame finally on them and not on the PM, putting him in the clear with some authority. And above all, a parallel inquiry is one reason for delay in publishing the Sue Gray report, and limiting the publication of its findings. The more time Boris Johnson gains, the better for him.

Boris’s animal instinct: A fresh controversy over whether Boris Johnson authorised the removal of animals from Afghanistan during the evacuation has divided Britain along new lines. The question here is whether the removal of animals was prioritised over the rescue of Afghan people who had worked for the British and who were left behind. Johnson has denied ordering such a thing. But if he did, he would only gain popularity among Britain’s vast population of animal lovers.

All charged up: After launching a taxi service to take on Uber, the Indian company Ola is now investing to develop an electric car. It has announced plans to invest £100 million in a research and development facility in Coventry in the Midlands. This follows the launch of its electric scooter. Some reports suggest that the company is planning a stock market float to raise 2 billion dollars for its new ventures.

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first published:January 29, 2022, 05:52 IST