Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: A royal baby, Boohoo buyouts and France legalises lunch al desko

13 February 2021

9:00 AM

13 February 2021

9:00 AM


On Sunday 7 February, as the week began, 11,465,210 people in the United Kingdom had received a first vaccination against Covid-19 and 510,057 a second. Those aged 70 or over were invited to book a vaccination online or by telephone if they had not received one. Illegal immigrants were advised to register with a GP without risking deportation. South Africa, possessing a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, decided to suspend its use after a trial of 2,000 people (42 of whom developed Covid) seemed to indicate that it offered ‘minimal protection’ against mild and moderate cases; no one in the trial was old. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said that the Kent variant was dominant in Britain and that ‘there is no reason to think the South African variant will catch up or overtake our current virus in the next few months’. Travellers to England who lie about coming from countries such as South Africa or Portugal would face up to ten years in jail under new laws from 15 February that require them to stay for ten days in hotels mandated by the government, for which they would have to pay £1,750, which included meals and tea or coffee but not alcoholic drinks.

At dawn on 7 February, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 112,092, including 6,521 in the past week. In the week before, 8,242 had died. Numbers in hospital fell. Naim Attallah, the eccentric Palestinian-born publisher and businessman, died aged 89. Princess Eugenie gave birth to a baby boy, 11th in line to the throne. England beat India in the first Test, in Chennai.

Cumbria County Council suspended the permission it had granted for a new coal mine near Whitehaven, planned to operate until 2049, in light of recommendations from the government’s advisory Climate Change Committee that the use of coking coal should be curbed by 2035. Boohoo, the online clothes suppliers, bought Dorothy Perkins, Burtons and Wallis for £25.2 million, but did not want the shops or the 2,450 staff that went with them. Some businessmen in Northern Ireland complained that it was very hard to import goods from Great Britain under the protocol agreed in December. In an effort to promote sales in Britain, the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation is renaming spider crab as Cornish king crab.


The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,319,004 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 96,750 from the week before. After a visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the World Health Organisation mission investigating the origins of Covid-19, said that it was ‘extremely unlikely’ that the virus leaked from a lab in the city. Under pressure from Covid, France planned to legalise workers eating lunch at their desks, until now theoretically prohibited by labour laws. After a vote declaring it constitutional, Donald Trump went on trial before the Senate on an article of impeachment claiming ‘incitement of insurrection’. George Shultz, the US Secretary of State 1982-89 under President Ronald Reagan, died aged 100. Christopher Plummer, the Canadian Shakespearian actor best known for his role in the film of The Sound of Music, died aged 91. Elon Musk’s car company Tesla said it had spent $1.5 billion buying bitcoins, the cryptocurrency.

Russia expelled three EU diplomats accused of taking part in protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The expulsions were announced during the visit to Moscow of Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs chief, who was humiliated at a press conference. At the same time, Mr Navalny faced new charges of slandering a second world war veteran. Germany, Poland and Sweden each expelled a Russian diplomat. In the Indian state of Uttarakhand perhaps 150 died after a piece of a Himalayan glacier fell into a river setting off floods that burst a dam. At least 24 died when rain suddenly flooded an illegal basement textile factory in Tangiers.

In Burma, tens of thousands gathered to protest against the coup and in support of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was in detention; on the fourth day, police in the capital Nay Pyi Taw fired rubber bullets. Colombia is to give protected status for ten years to almost a million undocumented Venezuelan resident migrants. The Pope appointed a woman, Sister Nathalie Becquart, a French nun, as an undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops. CSH

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