Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Boris does press-ups, pubs reopen and Leicester locks down

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

4 July 2020

9:00 AM


Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he was ‘as fit as a butcher’s dog’ and did press-ups to prove it, as he announced infrastructure initiatives to counter the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. With a slogan ‘Build, build, build’, he made a speech in Dudley promising £1.5 billion for hospital improvements and planning changes to make loft extensions easier. Pubs were allowed to open from 4 July, after a fashion, with table service, as were restaurants. Churches could hold services without singing and newlyweds were told to wash their hands after exchanging rings. The government was poised to announce that from 6 July British travellers to France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Greece would not have to be quarantined on their return; but Greece refused to allow direct flights from Britain until at least 15 July.

After Leicester saw a rise in cases of Covid-19, schools and non-essential shops there were closed by order of the Secretary of State for Health, and pubs and restaurants prohibited from reopening. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 28 June, total deaths from Covid-19 stood at 43,514; a week earlier the total had been 42,589. Police dispersed hundreds at parties on Clapham Common and Tooting Bec Common. Earlier, 15 had been arrested as crowds celebrated for a second night the victory of Liverpool in the Premier League; part of the Liver Building was set on fire. Mary Catterall, aged 102, recovered from Covid-19 at a care home in Warrington.

Sir Mark Sedwill agreed to relinquish in September his posts as cabinet secretary, head of the civil service and national security adviser. The general secretary of the senior civil servants’ union, the FDA, said: ‘No. 10, or those around it, has sought to undermine Sir Mark and the leadership of the civil service, with a series of anonymous briefings.’ Sir Mark would be made a peer. David Frost, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, was appointed national security adviser, also with a seat in the Lords, acting as a special adviser not as a civil servant. The changes followed remarks a week earlier by Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, that, for the civil service, ‘a hard rain is coming’. Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet after she tweeted a link to an interview with Maxine Peake (Twinkle in Dinnerladies); the actress had said: ‘The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.’ American sanctions were ‘likely to have an impact on the viability of Huawei as a provider for the 5G network’, Oliver Dowden the Digital Secretary said. Rental e-scooters became legal on roads in Great Britain.


Six months after the illness Covid-19 was reported from Wuhan, in China, more than 500,000 people had died from it. In the United States, which had seen 127,425 deaths, Texas and Florida were worried about a resurgence of cases. New York imposed a quarantine on anyone coming from 16 other US states. Dr Anthony Fauci told the US Senate that he would not be surprised if the current 40,000 new cases a day rose to 100,000. The EU named 15 countries whose citizens were deemed safe to be let in, excluding the United States, Brazil and Russia. A new flu virus, G4 EA H1N1, found in pigs but transmissible to human beings, was reported in China.

China passed a security law that will curtail protests and freedom of speech in Hong Kong through prohibition of secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces, which will attract prison sentences of at least three years. India banned more than 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok, on the grounds of ‘security of state and public order’. François Fillon, the former prime minister of France, was sentenced to two years in jail and his Welsh wife Penelope to a suspended term for arranging parliamentary payment to her that was ‘disproportionate to the work done’; they appealed.

Micheál Martin, the leader of the Fianna Fáil, became Taoiseach of Ireland until December 2022, after which it would be the turn again of Leo Varadkar, the leader of Fine Gael; the coalition, which also takes in the Greens, was approved by a vote of the Dáil. Mr Martin appointed to the Seanad (senate) Eileen Flynn, a Traveller, recognised as a ‘distinct ethnic group’ in Ireland in 2017. The government of the Gambia introduced a bill to repeal a 24-year-old law banning skin-bleaching creams. CSH

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