Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Freedom off, GB News on and the Queen’s tea with Biden

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

19 June 2021

9:00 AM


The lifting of coronavirus restrictions was delayed from 21 June until 19 July, probably. The motive was to avoid a ‘significant resurgence’ in hospital admissions from the more contagious Delta variant of the virus. Public Health England declared that the Pfizer vaccine was 96 per cent effective in preventing hospitalisation, and the AstraZeneca vaccine was 92 per cent effective. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, appealed to the advantage of administering more vaccinations in the extra four weeks. Vaccinations would be made compulsory for care home staff working with older people in England. From 21 June, guests at a wedding would no longer be limited to 30, but there must be no indoor dancing; similar rules would apply to funeral wakes. Theatres must continue with social distancing. In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 60 people had died, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) to 127,896. By the beginning of the week, 55.9 per cent of the adult population had received two doses of vaccine; 78.4 per cent the first dose. The Prime Minister condemned the ‘hounding’ in the street of Nick Watt of Newsnight by thuggish anti-lockdown protestors, who recognised him by his BBC lanyard. A recreated Iron Age roundhouse by the loch shore at Kenmore in Perthshire was burnt down.

Meeting in Cornwall, the G7 summit of leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada (with two representatives of the EU, but no one from China, India or Brazil) said it would give a billion vaccines to poorer countries in the coming year and undertake a ‘green revolution’. President Emmanuel Macron of France and Boris Johnson bantered about the Northern Ireland Protocol. The summit urged China to ‘respect human rights and fundamental freedoms’, and the Chinese embassy in London replied: ‘Stop slandering China.’ Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, put on a mask to greet Boris and Carrie Johnson by bumping elbows, but President Joe Biden grabbed Mr Johnson’s shoulder and Mr Macron could not keep his hands off the American and British leaders. The Queen had drinks with the leaders outdoors in Cornwall, and at Windsor watched Trooping the Colour at her official birthday parade. The next day she had tea with Mr Biden, the 13th American president she has met.

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours, 1,129 people figured, 15 per cent of them from minority ethnic backgrounds. The world of cake was not forgotten, with Prue Leith being made a dame, while 262 were honoured for services related to Covid-19. Celebrity and fashionable causes featured strongly. Despite misgivings that ‘the word “empire” conjures horrific images of racist exploitation’, Amika George, aged 21, accepted an MBE for her campaign for the government to provide free sanitary products to schoolgirls. On its first evening, GB News attracted more viewers than either BBC News or Sky News, but some advertisers withdrew for political reasons.


The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 3,810,405 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 66,562 from the week before. The United States surpassed 600,000 deaths. India reported fewer new cases and deaths. Chile imposed a lockdown in Santiago as cases rose among the 40 per cent of the country not fully vaccinated. Dozens of African migrants were feared dead after a boat reportedly capsized in the strait between Djibouti and Yemen.

President Biden flew to Geneva to meet President Vladimir Putin of Russia. A referendum in Switzerland rejected plans for a car fuel levy and a tax on air tickets. A Nato summit in Brussels warned of the military threat posed by China. EDF, the French energy company, reviewed reports of a possible radiation leak from its jointly owned nuclear power station at Taishan in Guangdong province, China. Australia signed a trade agreement with Britain.

The Knesset approved a coalition government with Naftali Bennett as Prime Minister of Israel until September, in a pact with his allies. Aung San Suu Kyi, aged 75, the deposed leader of Burma, went on trial there charged with owning unlicensed walkie-talkies. Two Americans, Michael Taylor, 60, and his son Peter, 28, went on trial in Tokyo charged with helping the former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan in 2019. In Mizoram state, India, Ziona Chana died aged 76, leaving 39 wives and 94 children. CSH

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