The much-anticipated decriminalisation of two consenting people meeting over coffee on a park bench was declared for 8 March under a loosening of coronavirus restrictions announced by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister. On that day all schools in England will open. No earlier than 29 March, groups of six would be able to meet outdoors, including in private gardens, and tennis courts would reopen. No earlier than 12 April, all shops, hairdressers and libraries would open, and pubs and restaurants could serve customers outdoors. No earlier than 17 May, groups of six could meet indoors and foreign travel would be allowed. No earlier than the summer solstice, social meetings would be legalised, even wedding receptions. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, was to review the idea of certificates of vaccination allowing people into venues or workplaces, though the Prime Minister said: ‘We can’t be discriminatory against people who can’t have the vaccine.’ More than a third of the adult population had been vaccinated. The government said it aimed to vaccinate all adults by 31 July. At dawn on 21 February, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) had stood at 120,365, including 3,457 in the past week. With about 18,000 people with Covid in hospital by 18 February, numbers were half those at the peak in mid-January.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, spent more than a week in hospital with an infection not related to Covid. The Prince of Wales visited him. Buckingham Palace said that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would not return as working members of the royal family; the Queen had written confirming it was not possible for them ‘to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service’. The Duke had to relinquish being Captain General of the Royal Marines; the Duchess being patron of the Royal National Theatre. In response the Duke and Duchess rapidly issued a statement saying: ‘We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’ Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, a tequila brand ambassador, called their newborn son, 11th in line to the throne, August.
Lord Frost, Britain’s former Brexit negotiator, is to join the cabinet with responsibility for relations with the European Union. Oliver Lewis resigned as Boris Johnson’s main adviser on the Union of the United Kingdom, a fortnight after replacing Luke Graham. More than 170 migrants attempted to cross the Channel on one day, 49 reaching Dover. Two tons of cocaine, with a value of £184 million, was found in banana boxes in Portsmouth, in transit from Colombia. Unemployment in the last quarter of 2020 rose to 1.74 million, or 5.1 per cent. The Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than self-employed.
The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,471,484 by the beginning of the week. In the United States it passed 500,000. Everyone on Ascension Island was vaccinated after a visit by the RAF. Russia reported that seven workers at a poultry plant had caught a strain of avian influenza, H5N8. Daft Punk, formed in Paris in 1993, retired.
Despite Iran passing a law restricting inspection of its nuclear sites unless US sanctions were lifted, it agreed temporary measures with the International Atomic Energy Agency. America’s Perseverance rover sent back colour pictures from the surface of Mars. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Texas, where freezing weather receded but many were left without running water; some whose electricity remained connected found themselves paying 50 times the normal tariff. In Alaska, a woman using an outdoor lavatory at Chilkat Lake was bitten on the bottom by a black bear. Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kanye West. Tiger Woods, the golfer, suffered multiple injuries to his legs in a car crash. Elon Musk was said to be no longer the world’s richest man after shares in his company Tesla fell 20 per cent from their January high.
As street protests continued in Burma against the coup, hundreds of thousands joined a general strike. Thousands attended the funeral of Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who died after being shot in the head by police; at least two more people were killed in Mandalay by police fire. In Kinshasa crowds stoned a 12ft metal prism set up on a roundabout for fear it was connected with illuminati and freemasons. In Kenya, three rare Rothschild’s giraffes were killed by low power lines. CSH
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