Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Alex Salmond’s party, China’s H&M ban and protests in Bristol and Batley

3 April 2021

9:00 AM

3 April 2021

9:00 AM

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More than 30 million had received their first dose vaccination. The government remained confident of supplying second doses and of vaccinating all the adult population by July, despite a delay in supplies from India and threats from the EU to stop exports. In response to EU hostility, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said: ‘Companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments.’ The Novavax vaccine, more than 50 million doses of which would be available if approved by the MHRA, would be made and packaged entirely in Britain. The Moderna vaccine was also expected to be available from the end of April. Third-dose vaccinations were planned from September for the over-seventies to meet the danger from variants. At dawn on 28 March, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) had stood at 126,573, a rise of 452 in the preceding week. On 28 March no one in London was reported to have died from Covid. Only four people could be found with coronavirus in the Cotswolds district, population 90,000.

Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland, fresh from his tussle with Nicola Sturgeon, the current first minister, launched the new Alba party, seeking what he called a ‘supermajority for independence’ in the Scottish parliament. Two SNP MPs joined his party. China barred from entering its territory, or Hong Kong, five MPs (Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien), Baroness Kennedy, Lord Alton, the lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and an academic, Jo Smith Finley. The government said it would not meet a request for £170 million by Liberty Steel, which employs 5,000 staff at its 12 UK plants and has lost financial help from Greensill Capital, which had gone bust. The government dropped its green homes grant after six unsatisfactory months.


Batley Grammar School closed early for the Easter holidays after Muslim protestors crowded its entrance complaining at the showing of a cartoon of Mohammed to a class by a schoolmaster who was then suspended. The school apologised ‘unequivocally’, but Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said that teachers should be able to ‘appropriately show images of the Prophet’ in class. The teacher, fearing for his life, went into hiding with police protection. Hundreds of people gathered in Bristol and clashed with police on consecutive nights of more ‘kill the bill’ demonstrations. A wall-painting in a Norwich underpass celebrating the television celebrity Bimini Bon Boulash was painted over by night with some other giant graffiti; ‘I’ll never shy away from living an authentically queer experience,’ the drag queen commented.

Abroad

The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,789,076 by the beginning of the week. Mexico revised its Covid deaths total to more than 321,000, the second highest in the world, above Brazil’s. After abandoning plans to make people stay in their homes over Easter, Germany imposed stricter border controls. France began vaccinating people aged between 70 and 75. In Barcelona, 5,000 people who had undergone a Covid test were allowed to crowd into a stadium for a concert by Love of Lesbian.

In Burma, for Armed Forces day, security forces killed at least 100 civilians protesting against the military coup. In Mozambique, dozens of people were killed when hundreds of Islamist militants attacked the town of Palma. Massacres and atrocities were reported from Ethiopia’s war in its northern Tigray region. China made it impossible to buy H&M goods online in China or even book a taxi online to go to its stores; the action against H&M, as well as Nike, Burberry, Adidas and Converse, followed company criticism of China’s persecution of the Uighurs.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, found it hard to form a government after the country’s fourth general election since 2019. Nomura and Credit Suisse sustained big losses after a client, the hedge fund Archegos Capital Management, was involved in selling $20 billion of Chinese and US stocks. The 200,000-ton, 1,300ft Ever Given, loaded with 18,300 containers, was freed by dredgers and tugs from a week wedged across the Suez Canal blocking the way of hundreds of ships; the Panama-registered ship, operated by a Taiwanese company, was towed to the Great Bitter Lake. CSH

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