Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Tiers, Scotch eggs and a devastated high street

5 December 2020

9:00 AM

5 December 2020

9:00 AM


The Commons voted by 291 votes to 78 for new coronavirus regulations putting 55 million people in England into the restrictive Tier 3 or the little less restrictive Tier 2, apart from the 700,000 or so folk of Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles. There were 55 Tory rebels, whom the government had attempted to placate by publishing a 48-page dossier, generally regarded as thin stuff. There would, they were also assured, be a review on 16 December of the areas put into tiers. ‘We do want to be as granular as possible,’ Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told the Commons encouragingly. Labour let the regulations go through by abstaining, though 15 Labour MPs voted against. Wales prohibited pubs from selling strong drink and made them close at 6 p.m. In England, pubs in Tier 2 could sell drink if it was with a ‘substantial meal’. George Eustice, the agriculture minister, said: ‘I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service.’

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for use from the coming week. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 29 November, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 58,243, including 3,617 in the past week, compared with 2,860 the week before. The elusive R number, estimated as the number each infected person infected, fell below 1. The number of people thought to have Covid-19 had fallen by 30 per cent in the last week of November, during which the numbers with the disease also declined in England’s hospitals. Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as a new health minister to oversee Covid vaccination in England. He spoke of evidence of vaccination being required to enter public places. The Moderna coronavirus vaccine (of which Britain has bought enough for 3.5 million people) was said in tests to be 100 per cent effective against severe Covid-19. Rita Ora, the singer, apologised for entertaining 30 or so people at a birthday party on the ‘spur of the moment’.

Debenhams got ready to close its 124 stores, where 12,000 were employed, after Arcadia (the owners of Topshop) went into administration. Arcadia, employing 13,000, had been Debenhams’s biggest concession operator. First-class stamps will go up by 9p to 85p on 1 January, and second-class stamps by 1p to 66p. The High Court ruled that children under 16 presenting with ‘gender dysphoria’ were unlikely to be able to give informed consent to treatment with puberty-blocking drugs; Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust suspended such referrals for under-16s. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are to spend a quiet Christmas at Windsor.


The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 1,465,256 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 79,478 from the week before. Belgium had suffered 1,434 deaths per million; Peru 1,085, Spain 964 and Italy 933, compared with 868 for the United Kingdom and 828 for the United States. William Barr, the US attorney general, an ally of President Donald Trump, said the Justice Department has found no evidence of any fraud to speak of in the recent election. President-elect Joe Biden made Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, his nominee as treasury secretary. Mr Biden suffered a hairline fracture to his foot while playing with his dog Major. Diego Maradona, the outstanding footballer, died aged 60.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s leading nuclear expert, was killed outside Tehran, by Israel, the Iranians said. Armed men stormed the southern Brazilian city of Criciúma by night, attacking a police station and robbing the Banco do Brasil. A bushfire continued to rage after six weeks on Fraser Island off Queensland. Romain Grosjean walked from the wreckage when his Formula 1 car pierced the barrier, split in two and burst into flames at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

China landed a spaceship in the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) on the Moon, to collect two kilograms of surface deposits. The Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, aged 24, was sentenced to ten months in jail over charges of unauthorised assembly. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman tweeted a faked image of an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed 78 farmers near Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria. The shape that proteins take, based on the sequence of their amino acids, was successfully determined by an artificial intelligence program run by Deep Mind, the international research company owned by Google with headquarters in London. The 900-ton instrument platform at the Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico fell 450ft into its 1,000ft-wide dish. CSH

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