Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Covid pills, Chauvin’s conviction and a red card for the Super League

24 April 2021

9:00 AM

24 April 2021

9:00 AM


Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced the hunt was on for two effective pills to treat Covid, to be ready (after clinical trials) by the autumn. He had cancelled a visit to India, which has seen an increase in Covid deaths, with Delhi put into lockdown. Scarcely was his trip off than India was added to a ‘red list’ of countries from which most travel to Britain is forbidden. Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, visited The Raven public house in Bath only for the landlord to shout at him: ‘Get out of my pub!’ He left. By the beginning of the week 9,416,968 people had received both doses of coronavirus vaccine, 17.9 per cent of the adult population; 60.8 per cent had received one dose. The number with both doses soon rose above ten million. Fewer than 2,000 cases remained in hospital. In the week preceding 18 April, 160 had died, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) to 127,260.

To a general gasp of surprise, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham said they would form a new European Super League with AC Milan, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. Boris Johnson said: ‘I don’t like the look of these proposals.’ It wasn’t long before first Manchester City and Chelsea got cold feet and withdrew, followed by the other British clubs, and the idea was abandoned. José Mourinho was sacked as manager of Tottenham after 17 months. The government said it would cut carbon emissions by 78 per cent from their 1990 level by 2035, instead of 2050 as previously intended. Johnny Mercer was ‘forced’ to resign as a defence minister over his opposition to the prosecution of ex-servicemen who had served in Northern Ireland. Helen McCrory, the actress, died aged 52. Unemployment fell a touch to 4.9 per cent for the three months to February, down from 5 per cent; those under 35 made up 80 per cent of job losses. The Treasury Select Committee invited David Cameron to give evidence about lobbying ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital. The brothers Mohsin Issa and Zuber Issa bought the Leon restaurant chain in a deal said to value it at £100 million.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, with the Queen sitting in a black mask alone in a stall in the Quire. Thirteen million people in the UK watched on television as the coffin was taken through the precincts of the castle on the back of a Land Rover Defender TD5 130, specially adapted under the Duke’s supervision, while a minute gun fired and a bell tolled from the Curfew Tower.


The total in the world recorded to have died with coronavirus exceeded three million by the beginning of the week. The European Union had given 19 per cent of its people at least one dose of vaccine. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organisation, said that further investigation was needed to rule out Covid-19 having emerged from a laboratory in China.

More than 100,000 Russian troops had massed on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, according to the EU. Russia expelled ten American diplomats in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the US over interference in its elections and hostility to Ukraine. The Czech Republic blamed Russia for an explosion at an arms depot in 2014 that killed two people. In connection with the explosion, Czech police identified the same two men accused of involvement in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018. Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician imprisoned in Russia, had been on hunger strike for 18 days when his supporters said he could be near death. Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong pro-democracy tycoon, was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

In Minneapolis, former policeman Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree and third-degree murder as well as the manslaughter of George Floyd in May. President Idriss Déby of Chad died of his injuries after being caught in a clash when observing army action against the Front for Change and Concord in Chad. France urged its citizens to leave Pakistan amid violent protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of a teacher beheaded last October after showing cartoons of Mohammed to pupils. Walter Mondale, vice-president under Jimmy Carter, died aged 93. Nasa flew a small helicopter called Ingenuity on Mars, bearing a fragment of the Wright brothers’ first aeroplane. CSH

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