Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Boris’s son is born, Commons sits apart and Belgians told to eat more potatoes

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

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Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, returned to work at Downing Street after recovering from his Covid-19 sickness. Speaking outside No. 10, he said that there were ‘real signs now that we are passing through the peak’. By the beginning of Sunday 26 April, there had been 20,319 deaths, mostly in hospital, of people who had the disease; a week earlier the cumulative total had been 15,464. There were additionally 2,000 coronavirus deaths in care homes in the week ending 17 April, according to the Office for National Statistics, twice the number of the week before. In the week ending 10 April, of the 7,996 excess deaths above the average, 1,783 were not attributed to coronavirus. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said that from 28 April the government would ‘begin the restoration of other NHS services starting with the most urgent, like cancer care’. He had said that there would be 100,000 tests a day by 30 April to see if people were suffering from Covid-19. He also announced a £60,000 payment to families of front line NHS and social care staff who died of Covid-19.

Plans were afoot to impose a fortnight’s quarantine on anyone entering Britain. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the House of Commons that the government would offer 100 per cent loans of up to £50,000 to small companies. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, told the Commons that police had ‘issued 3,203 fines between 27 March and 13 April to those who have flouted social distancing rules’. The Commons sat with a maximum of 50 MPs in the chamber and speeches made mostly by video link. Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister’s fiancée, gave birth to a son.


British Airways planned to cut 12,000 of its 42,000 workforce. Tesco began laying off 45,000 temporary staff engaged during the crisis. Marks & Spencer launched the curious motto: ‘Never the same again.’ Greggs, the bakery chain, which has 2,050 shops, said it would reopen 20 in Newcastle from Monday in a trial. The stockmarket rose. Sir Eric Anderson, head master of Eton from 1980 to 1994, who in the course of his career taught the Prince of Wales, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson, died aged 83.

Abroad

By the beginning of Sunday 26 April, the number of people in the world with Covid-19 who had died totalled 203,164, a week earlier it had been 158,884. In the United States 54,256 had died; behind it came Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom, each with deaths in the 20,000s. In Europe there were general moves to relax legal restrictions. In Spain, after six weeks kept indoors, children were allowed out for an hour a day. Italy was to allow takeaway food from next week and funerals with no more than 15 mourners. All 16 German states announced plans to make face masks compulsory, at least on public transport, and so did France. Switzerland reopened hairdressers. New Zealand said it had stopped community transmission of Covid-19, and began lifting its lockdown, while maintaining a ban on foreigners entering. India cancelled orders for about half a million coronavirus rapid testing kits from China after they were said to have only 5 per cent accuracy.

President Donald Trump of the United States made a remark that was widely mocked. After William Bryan, the undersecretary for science and technology, had presented a study that found exposure to the sun had an adverse effect on the virus, as did cleaning agents such as bleach, Mr Trump said: ‘And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?’ The state of Missouri filed a civil lawsuit in a US court, accusing China of deception. America announced a $12 million package for Greenland, which was welcomed by the Danish territory’s government ten months after a proposal by Mr Trump to buy the island had been dismissed as ‘absurd’. A Syrian living in Lebanon was arrested after a complaint about an advertisement offering a Nigerian maid for sale at $1,000.

Some 50.8 million people were refugees in their own countries, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Airbus said that it was ‘bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed’ and that its 135,000 staff should be braced for job cuts. Belgapom, Belgium’s potato growers’ union, urged Belgians to eat more chips, as 750,000 tonnes of potatoes were piled up in warehouses.CSH

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