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In this week’s commercial news round-up, we look at some recent updates from the ongoing situation in Gaza for Palestinians trying to leave the area. Plus, Storm Ciarán has caused disruption across the UK, the covid inquiry has raised more questions and concerns, and plans to remove rail ticket offices from train stations have been cancelled. Find out more in the round-up below.
- In war-stricken Gaza, the death toll now exceeds 9,000, which includes 3,760 children. An updated list of those who’ll be able to leave the country has been published, including 600 people with foreign passports and those with dual nationalities. More civilians are expected to be able to leave Gaza via the newly opened Rafah crossing which is the southernmost exit bordering Egypt. This is a critical area as it’s currently the only entry point for humanitarian aid and exit point for civilians. On 1 November 500 people were able to cross into Egypt and more than 400 people are set to be able to leave today.
- Storm Ciarán has badly affected areas of the UK as amber weather warnings in the South West and yellow weather warnings in the south have been issued. The Met Office predicted that the storm would bring winds of 75 to 85mph. Transport has been severely affected, with many trains cancelled. All sailings from Dover have also been cancelled, causing long queues of lorries at the port, and police in the area are urging people to stay away from the beaches.
The storm isn’t just affecting southern areas − in Tyneside, Northumberland, “most of the sand” has been washed from the beach. Hundreds of schools have been closed because of the bad weather in Southampton, Devon, Jersey, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.
- The ongoing covid-19 inquiry has proved concerning, as it’s revealed a broad range of problems with the government’s handling of the pandemic. Some of the recent revelations include:
- Former Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen MacNamara commented that the covid rules were rarely followed in No 10 and that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a "breezy confidence" in the early days of the pandemic.
- Dominic Cummings released a written statement which noted that Johnson was “extremely distracted” during the covid pandemic, which began to affect the UK in February 2020.
- Ministers avoided attending Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) meetings early in the pandemic, instead delegating to junior ministers, according to Lord Simon Stevens.
In another element to the scandal, the investigation revealed misogynistic messages discovered on WhatsApp chats from Cummings, with MacNamara stating she was disappointed that Johnson didn’t pick up on Cummings’ “violent and disappointing” language, noting that the masculine environment and “lack of female perspective led to significant negative consequences”. MacNarma also made comments about former health secretary Matt Hancock’s behaviour, claiming that he would regularly tell the cabinet things “that they later discovered weren’t true”.
- In other news, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has announced that plans to remove hundreds of rail ticket offices have been cancelled. The proposal stemmed from pressure from the government for stations to cut costs. Removing rail ticket offices was a suggested solution as only 12% of tickets are bought at station kiosks. However, unions and disability groups argued that plans weren’t accessible. Watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travel Watch received 750,000 complaints about the plan. Following the announcement, Harper said the government had made it "clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers".
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