Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Indian variant goes up, Santander goes down and pubs reopen

22 May 2021

9:00 AM

22 May 2021

9:00 AM


The government made noises about having to delay the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on 21 June in some parts on account of the Indian variant, which appeared more transmissible. ‘The race between our vaccine programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter,’ Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said on television. The gap between first and second coronavirus vaccinations would be cut from 12 weeks to eight for over-fifties and the clinically vulnerable. The army was sent to help with testing in Bolton and Blackburn. By the beginning of the week, 37 per cent of the adult population had received both doses of coronavirus vaccination; 60 per cent the first dose. In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 70 people had died, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) to 127,675. More than a million people were admitted to hospital for obesity-related treatment in England in the year before the pandemic, the NHS said. Indoor restaurants and pubs were reopened.

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce sought £300 million to develop small modular reactors, each big enough to supply a million homes. Unemployment fell a little to 4.8 per cent. The businesses of Sanjeev Gupta, the owner of Liberty Steel, came under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. He had relied upon funding from Greensill Capital, which collapsed in March. David Cameron, the former prime minister, had earlier told the Commons Treasury committee about his energetic lobbying on behalf of Greensill in 2020. He had signed some texts to Sir Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary of the Treasury, ‘Love DC’. Santander online and telephone banking stopped working for a day.

Edwin Poots was elected by the DUP as its leader. An online video appeared to show obscene anti-Semitic abuse shouted from a car with Palestinian flags in St John’s Wood, London; police arrested four men. Five policemen were injured as crowds of Rangers fans in Glasgow celebrated their Scottish Premiership victory. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell foundation went into partnership with Procter & Gamble ‘in support of building a better online environment that unlocks positive, compassionate and creative spaces’. The Duke then made a broadcast laying his sufferings at the door of his father and late grandfather. The Queen’s dorgi puppy Fergus died.


During daily Israeli air strikes on Gaza, a tower-block housing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera was destroyed, having been evacuated after a warning from Israel. A rocket among hundreds fired from Gaza hit a street in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, killing a man in his flat. Ten Israelis were killed in the first week of the conflict. About 200 Palestinians were killed, including eight children in an Israeli air strike on the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Thousands of people in Gaza City were displaced from their homes. In Lod, a mixed city of Jews and Israeli Arabs, there was civil violence, with shops and five synagogues burnt and people attacked in the street.

The total in the world recorded to have died with coronavirus reached 3,376,589 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 80,000 from the week before. India saw 28,000 deaths in a week. Hungary had suffered more than 3,000 deaths per million population. A cyberattack on Irish health service computer systems shut them down, but the Taoiseach said the state would not pay a ransom, and vaccination resumed. Eurostar secured £250 million in financing from shareholders and lenders, including SNCF. Sibley, Iowa, population 2,798, was evacuated after 47 carriages of a train were derailed and caught fire; no one was hurt.

More than 8,000 people, 1,500 of them children, swam from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in north Africa over two days. The Spanish army was called in. A Spanish air force crew found three people left alive in a boat that had drifted for 22 days between Mauritania and the Canary Islands with 59 migrants abroad. Karpowership, a Turkish company that supplies a quarter of Lebanon’s electricity, turned off its generators over unpaid bills. People in the city of Cali in Colombia found difficulty buying fuel and food as 42 people died in three weeks of protests against the government. China landed a spaceship on Mars. Hundreds ran away as the 980ft SEG Plaza building in Shenzhen began to wobble. CSH

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments