Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Vaccination, inauguration and a food box denunciation

23 January 2021

9:00 AM

23 January 2021

9:00 AM


The government undertook to offer a first dose of vaccine to the adult population of the UK by September. More than four million had now been vaccinated. The campaign was on target to vaccinate 15 million by mid-February. A ten-day trial would see some hospitals open for vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Racecourses, sports arenas and even cathedrals such as Salisbury, Lichfield and Blackburn became vaccination centres. St Paul’s Cathedral in London suspended public worship because of the danger of coronavirus, as did more than half of Church of England churches.

At the beginning of the week, Sunday 17 January, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 88,590, including 7,722 in the past week. Hospitals came under great pressure, with more than 37,000 in-patients with Covid. One of the Brazilian variants was found in Britain and another was suspected. All visitors from abroad would have to show a negative test and keep to a ten-day quarantine on arrival, unless a second test after five days showed negative. In December about one in ten people had been found to have Covid-19 antibodies. By the beginning of December, 4.46 million people in England were waiting for hospital treatment other than for Covid. Some 1.3 million immigrants had left Britain by the third quarter of 2020, according to an estimate by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, 700,000 of them from London, reducing the population of the capital by 8 per cent. Philip Tartaglia, the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, died aged 70 after contracting Covid-19. A Labour member of the Welsh parliament or Senedd was suspended from the Labour group after it was reported that he and some Tory members had drunk alcohol there last month, when pubs could not serve drink.

The accidental loss of 400,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records from the Police National Computer was ‘unacceptable’, Kit Malthouse, the Policing Minister, told the Commons; but accepted it was. After photographs were posted on Twitter of miserable-looking potatoes and sliced bread given to families in place of free school meals or vouchers, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said in the Commons: ‘I don’t think anybody in this House is happy with the disgraceful images that we’ve seen of the food parcels that have been offered. They’re appalling. They’re an insult to the families that have received them.’ HSBC announced it was to close 82 of its 593 branches in the UK by September. The Ineos chemical company donated £100 million for a new institute at Oxford University to research microbial resistance to antibiotics. Carbis Bay, near St Ives, Cornwall, was chosen for the G7 summit in June.


The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,038,845 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 110,314 from the week before. The United States has seen most deaths, at 405,266, though with 1,220 deaths per million it was doing less badly than the UK (1,301) or the worst case of Belgium, with 1,756. Lebanon, after a steep rise in cases, imposed a 24-hour curfew for 11 days, closing even supermarkets, making many reliant on deliveries.

Washington, D.C., was filled with 25,000 members of the National Guard for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. He pledged to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing US Secretary of State, said that China had committed genocide in its repression of the Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim peoples; Antony Blinken, Mr Biden’s choice as secretary of state, agreed. In China 11 miners trapped 1,700ft below ground after an explosion at a goldmine were sent food through a narrow shaft, but water was rising. Phil Spector the record producer, died aged 81, while serving a prison sentence for the murder in 2003 of the actress Lana Clarkson.

In Italy, the government of Giuseppe Conte lost its majority after former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his party from the coalition. More than 130 cars and lorries piled up in an accident on the Tohoku Expressway in Miyagi prefecture, Japan, during a snowstorm. Saudi Arabia managed to execute only 27 people in 2020, down from 184 in 2019. In Thailand, a 63-year-old former civil servant called Anchan was sentenced to 43 years in jail for posting audio clips critical of the monarchy on social media; she was spared another 43 years for having pleaded guilty. CSH

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