Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Christmas is on, Trump is off and Piglet stars on a 50p piece

28 November 2020

9:00 AM

28 November 2020

9:00 AM

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The AstraZeneca vaccine developed by the University of Oxford was found to be 70 per cent effective — 90 per cent among those given a half-sized first dose and a full-sized second dose. It does not require supercooling. The United Kingdom had ordered 100 million doses. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 22 November, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 54,626 including 2,860 in the past week, compared with 2,878 the week before. The proportion of secondary school pupils absent for reasons connected to Covid-19 rose to 22 per cent. Travellers from abroad would from 15 December be allowed to pay for a coronavirus test after five days’ quarantine and be let out if it proved negative. Thousands of tons of peat slid into the Mourne Beg and Derg rivers on the border between Tyrone and Donegal where 19 wind turbines were being built.

The four nations of the United Kingdom agreed that three households could meet indoors during a five-day Christmas period of 23-27 December. There was no relaxation for Hogmanay. ‘’Tis the season to be jolly careful,’ joked Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister. In England, a system of three tiers would come in after 2 December, harsher than the law before the latest lockdown, and would last until March, or until Easter on 4 April. In Tier 2, pubs would have to act as restaurants; publicans complained that they would go out of business. People could go to church, with limitations. A maximum of 4,000 fans would be allowed at outdoor events in Tier 1, the lowest-risk areas. A hairdresser in Oakenshaw, Bradford, had £27,000 in penalties imposed for repeatedly opening in breach of restrictions; the owner said: ‘I don’t consent to any fines.’


In his Spending Review, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, earmarked £4.6 billion to help hundreds of thousands of jobless back to work. He allotted an extra £3 billion to the NHS in England. The government had borrowed £22.3 billion in October. Some £1.6 billion was allocated to mending potholes and £4 billion to building more prisons. Foreign aid was a tempting area for savings. After Boris Johnson threw his support behind Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, Sir Alex Allan, the man who had drawn up a report on her behaviour, resigned as independent adviser on ministerial standards. He had said: ‘Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals. To that extent her behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally.’ Fifty-pence coins were minted showing Piglet and marked ‘Copyright Disney’.

Abroad

The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 1,385,778 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 69,382 from the week before. Malaysia’s Top Glove, the world’s largest maker of latex gloves, was to shut 28 of its 41 factories after 2,453 employees tested positive for coronavirus out of 5,800 tested. Coronavirus was found among mink in Poland. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was reported to have 95 per cent efficacy, though its phase III clinical trials have not been completed. Russian police raided the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose organisation has been illegal there since 2017.

President Donald Trump finally agreed that the transition to a new presidency should start. In Pennsylvania, Judge Matthew Brann had dismissed a lawsuit from the Trump electoral campaign that sought to invalidate millions of postal votes; the judge said that the claim was ‘like Frankenstein’s Monster’, having been ‘haphazardly stitched together’. Joe Biden, the President-elect, selected Antony Blinken as his secretary of state; John Kerry will be his climate envoy, Avril Haines his director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas his secretary of homeland security. In Hong Kong, Joshua Wong and two fellow democracy campaigners pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly during last year’s mass protests. China sent a spacecraft to retrieve rocks from the Moon.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister denied that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, flew to the kingdom for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; the meeting was reported to have taken place at Neom, 44 miles from the southern tip of Israel. Fighting continued between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray region. At Lalish in Iraq, Yazidis chose Ali Alyas as their new Baba Sheikh or chief religious guide. CSH

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