Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Europe’s lockdowns ease, England stays alert and Broadway stays shut

16 May 2020

9:00 AM

16 May 2020

9:00 AM


The government changed its slogan from ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ to ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’. Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland refused to adopt it. The day after a 13-minute televised speech to the nation by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, the government published a 50-page Recovery Strategy. A 14-day quarantine would bind anyone entering the country (with exceptions, such as people from France). Everyone should continue to work from home if possible, but workplaces ‘should be open’, apart from those required to be closed. People returning to workplaces were to walk, cycle, drive or use electric scooters, because the capacity of public transport would be reduced by about 90 per cent by distancing measures. Pavements would be widened.

People could go fishing or play singles tennis with strangers, but not doubles. They might drive infinite distances to open spaces, but not to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. They must avoid ‘meeting up with any more than one person from outside your household’. Two people might meet one person, but one person could not meet two. The government would impose higher fines for breaking the rules. More shops and schools could reopen in June. The government advised the wearing of a facial covering ‘in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible’. If all went well there might be small weddings in June, and hairdressers and churches might open on 4 July.

The United Kingdom had begun the week on Sunday morning with a total of 31,587 people who had died after being found to have Covid-19. A week earlier it had been 28,131. Of the dead, 53 per cent were over 80; 284 were under 40. Excess deaths above the average had amounted to 50,745 by 1 May. The government missed its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day for seven days in a row. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, extended the furlough scheme, which had covered 7.5 million workers, until the end of October. Royal Mail stopped delivering post on Saturdays. Dave Greenfield, the keyboard player with the Stranglers, died aged 71 after contracting Covid-19 in hospital. Millie Small, who had a hit in 1964 with ‘My Boy Lollipop’, died aged 73.

‘Never give up, never despair, that was the message of VE Day,’ the Queen said in a televised message for its 75th anniversary. Today, she said, ‘our streets are not empty, they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other’. More than 280 people crossed the Channel in small craft over the weekend, and a further 44 were stopped by French officials.


The world had seen 278,516 coronavirus deaths by 9 May; a week earlier the total had been 244,663. Cases of Covid-19 rose in Russia. A fire at a St Petersburg hospital killed five coronavirus patients in an intensive care unit. Authorities in Wuhan planned to test its entire population of 11 million for the disease. US unemployment rose to 14.7 per cent after 20.5 million jobs were lost in April. Tesla reopened its electric car plant in Fremont, California, despite orders by Alameda County against manufacturing. Broadway theatres would remain closed until at least September. In Germany, as restrictions were lifted, the public health agency estimated that the reproductive rate of the virus was 1.1, meaning that numbers infected would rise. In Spain, restaurants and bars were allowed to serve people outdoors. Maria Branyas, aged 113, from Olot in Catalonia, recovered from Covid-19. France tested its own contact-tracing app. Jersey returned to Nigeria $300 million stolen by its former dictator Sani Abacha in the 1990s.

Between 800 and 1,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group are operating in Libya in support of General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, according to a leaked report for the UN’s Libya sanctions committee. Sheikh Omar Khorasani, the leader of Isis in South Asia and the Far East, was arrested in Kabul. Two babies and 11 mothers and nurses were killed in an attack on a hospital in Kabul blamed on Isis.

Seven Chinese and four Indian troops were injured when zones of troops came to blows at the border in Sikkim. Sixteen migrant workers walking to Aurangabad in Maharashtra went to sleep on a railway track and were run over by a train. Little Richard, the rock and roll singer, died aged 87. Florian Schneider, a founder of the electronic band Kraftwerk in 1979, died 73. CSH

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