Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: A Covid Budget, a Cotswold meteor and Angelina Jolie sells Churchill’s painting

6 March 2021

9:00 AM

6 March 2021

9:00 AM


First-dose coronavirus vaccinations totalled more than 20 million. A study suggested that in the over-eighties, a single dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was more than 80 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation. Hospital admissions of 8,452 in the week ending 27 February were 22 per cent down on the week before that. At dawn on 28 February, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) had stood at 122,705, including 2,340 in the past week, down by 32.3 per cent on the week before that. Six people with the Brazilian variant of coronavirus were detected in Britain, but one could not be traced.

In the Budget, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said borrowing would rise to a peak of 93 per cent of GDP. He said he wanted to be ‘honest’ about rebuilding the economy. Tax thresholds would be frozen; corporation tax would go up to 25 per cent. He wanted the focus to be on jobs. The furlough scheme was extended until September, as was the £20 Universal Credit bonus. A traineeship scheme would get £126 million, with £3,000 for employers for each new hire. A £5 billion scheme for shops and hospitality outlets would provide grants of up to £18,000 each. Arts and sport would get £700 million, and he backed a UK-Ireland bid for the World Cup in 2030. There was £150 million to help communities take over pubs in danger of closing. The government would shoulder some risk to make available 95 per cent mortgages. The limit on a single payment using contactless card technology would rise to £100. Angelina Jolie sold a painting by Churchill for £7 million at auction in London.

The Duke of Edinburgh was transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital for heart monitoring, after 13 nights at King Edward VII’s. The Scottish National party writhed in agony as it examined its own entrails when Alex Salmond, its former leader, and then Nicola Sturgeon, its current leader, gave evidence to a committee of MSPs about Mr Salmond’s treatment before the criminal trial that acquitted him of charges of sexual assault. Travellers complained of queues of up to seven hours at Heathrow Airport border control. Border Force detained 87 people, including children, who had crossed the Channel on a single day, bringing the total for the week to 159. French authorities prevented 51 people crossing. Chris Barber, the trad jazz band leader, died aged 90. BBC3 is to return to televisions from January 2022. A great fiery meteor flashed through the night in Gloucestershire before falling apart near Stow-on-the-Wold.


The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,534,398 by the beginning of the week. In Germany some 1.4 million doses of vaccine were reported to be mostly in storage because of reluctance to be vaccinated. Asked if she should lead by example, Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to the national vaccination committee policy, said: ‘I am 66, I do not belong to the recommended group for AstraZeneca.’ The African Union will pay $9.75 for each dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, compared with $3 for an Oxford-AstraZeneca dose. Japan asked China to stop carrying out anal swab tests on Japanese citizens entering the country.

As street protests continued against the coup in Myanmar on 1 February, 18 demonstrators were shot dead. The deposed Aung San Suu Kyi, aged 75, who had not been seen since the coup, appeared before a court on charges of using illegal communication equipment and causing ‘fear and alarm’. In Armenia the army said that the Prime Minister must resign. The former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to three years in jail, two of them suspended, for corruption; he remained free while he appeals, which could take years. Bunny Wailer, the reggae singer who formed a group with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, died aged 73.

A US intelligence report found that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia approved the murder of the exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. America announced sanctions against Russian entities and officials over the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, now in jail. America carried out an air strike against Iran-backed militias in Syria. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, blamed Iran for an explosion that damaged an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. Britain cut its aid to Yemen to £87 million from £214 million last year. The Dominican Republic planned a fence along its 236-mile border with Haiti. CSH

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