Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Vaccine passports, Northern Ireland riots and a cocaine-smuggling kayaker

10 April 2021

9:00 AM

10 April 2021

9:00 AM


The government sketched a scheme for a coronavirus passport, or ‘Covid status certification’, to be tried out at the FA Cup Final on 15 May. It would record vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity after recovering from Covid and might admit the bearer to public places, such as pubs or soup kitchens. Dozens of MPs opposed the passport, including Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, who sits as an independent, and Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader. In the meantime everyone could have two lateral flow tests a week at pharmacies or at home, and would have to self-isolate if the result was positive. For travel to foreign countries and back, a traffic-light system would be applied, but no one would be told far in advance which countries would be red, amber or green, or when the lights might change.

In Scotland, haircuts were decriminalised and Nicola Sturgeon was photographed in a hairdresser’s, but people were still forbidden from crossing the border into England without lawful excuse. More than 60 per cent of the adult population had received their first-dose vaccination and more than 10 per cent both doses. At dawn on 4 April, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) had stood at 126,826, a rise of 253 in the preceding week. Doreen Lofthouse, who took Fisherman’s Friend cough lozenges from Fleetwood to a worldwide market, died aged 91. Unionist crowds rioted night after night in Northern Ireland, injuring 32 police. Two focuses for resentment were the decision to charge no one after 2,000 people attended the funeral of a republican, Bobby Storey, in defiance of Covid laws, and the selling of Northern Ireland down the river after Brexit.

In London, more than 100 people were arrested at a demonstration where protestors chanted ‘Kill the bill’ and carried banners with the same slogan, which ambiguously urges the killing of police and the defeat of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Keir Starmer deleted a video of himself meeting some black people on Good Friday at Jesus House, a Pentecostal church, after it was pointed out that its adherents believed homosexual intercourse was immoral; ‘It was a mistake,’ he said. Cambridge won the 166th Boat Race, and the 75th women’s Boat Race too, both rowed on the river Great Ouse at Ely to deter crowds.


The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,859,030 by the beginning of the week. Britain was slipping down in the ranks of countries that had suffered the most deaths per million, with 1,861, compared with 2,523 for the Czech Republic. But India, with only 119 recorded deaths per million, saw a sharp rise in cases in Maharashtra state; new restrictions were put on its capital Mumbai. Sachin Tendulkar, the great India cricketer, aged 47, was in hospital with Covid. China set about vaccinating all 300,000 people in the city of Ruili near the Burmese border after 15 cases of Covid were found. Germany saw a rise in cases while 40,000 Germans flew off to Mallorca for holidays. France imposed another national lockdown. Police investigated secret restaurants operating in Paris. Tattooists resumed work in Denmark.

Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, 41, the Crown Prince of Jordan until 2004, was put under house arrest, accused of plotting with ‘foreign entities’ to destabilise the kingdom; ‘I think it’s a bit unacceptable,’ he said on Twitter. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, appeared in court on three charges of fraud in furtherance of his career. But President Reuven Rivlin of Israel asked him if he could form a government, following the fourth inconclusive election in two years. Ten retired admirals were detained after criticising a scheme of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to build a canal through Istanbul to link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara as an alternative to the Bosphorus. Eleven Ukrainian women were charged with public debauchery after a nude photoshoot on a Dubai balcony.

Mozambique said it had regained control of the town of Palma, from which thousands had fled after an incursion by Islamist militants on 24 March. Nigeria appointed a new police inspector-general after 1,844 prisoners escaped in Imo state. In Minneapolis the trial continued of the former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd in May last year. An Australian Olympic kayaker was convicted of trying to smuggle £109 million worth of cocaine. CSH

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