Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Boosters, Emma Raducanu and the Taliban’s new rules

18 September 2021

9:00 AM

18 September 2021

9:00 AM


The government decided to offer booster vaccinations to those over 50. Children aged 12 to 15 would be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. This followed a declaration by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that it could not recommend vaccination for these children for their own health benefit alone; the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland then recommended it, taking into account the effect on disrupted schooling. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said that plans for vaccine passports in England would not go ahead. But Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, held up a Plan B in terrorem for the winter if people insisted on falling ill with Covid. Vaccine passports, along with compulsory face coverings and advice to work from home, might still be imposed if there was pressure on the NHS. Scotland went ahead with a vaccine certification scheme. Children in Scottish schools would have to wear masks.

In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 983 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 134,144. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 785.) In a week, numbers remaining in hospital rose from 7,648 to 8,256. Only 256 people who were doubly vaccinated died this year, out of 50,000 Covid deaths. Valneva, a French company with a factory in Scotland, said that the British government had cancelled an order for 100 million doses of its vaccine. Charlotte Johnson Wahl, the painter and mother of Boris Johnson, died aged 79.

Emma Raducanu, aged 18, beat the Canadian Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open in a thrilling match. The Queen immediately sent a message of congratulation: ‘It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication.’ After a crash at the Italian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton said that the halo safety bar in his car had saved his life. India’s head cricket coach and other staff were found to have coronavirus, and the team went home, leaving the fifth Test at Old Trafford unplayed. Andrew Neil resigned as chairman and lead presenter of GB News. Annual inflation measured by the Consumer Prices Index jumped from 2 per cent in July to 3.2 per cent in August. The number of job vacancies rose above a million. Climate-change protestors repeatedly blocked the M25. The Speaker and the Lord Speaker prohibited China’s ambassador from visiting the Houses of Parliament while sanctions remained in place against some MPs and peers; the Chinese embassy called the action ‘despicable and cowardly’.


The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 4,641,481 by the beginning of the week. In South Africa, where about 20 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that thanks to a decline in infections, an overnight curfew would be shortened and alcohol restrictions eased. President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo received a Moderna vaccine; in July he had said he didn’t want an AstraZeneca vaccination.

In Afghanistan, wrangles were reported between a Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the fierce Haqqani network. Men and women would be segregated at universities, the Taliban announced, though men might lecture from behind curtains. Abimael Guzmán, who led the Maoist guerrilla movement Sendero Luminoso in Peru, died in prison aged 86. Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister of Israel, held talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt at Sharm el-Sheikh. The FBI released a classified document examining connections between Saudi citizens in the United States and two of the 15 Saudi citizens who hijacked aeroplanes in the attacks of 11 September 2001; involvement of the government of Saudi Arabia did not emerge. A cat that fell from the upper part of the stadium at a football match in Miami Gardens, Florida, was caught by spectators in an American flag.

Shares in the Chinese technology company Alibaba fell sharply after it was reported that regulators wanted to break up Alipay, China’s biggest payments app, operated by Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant. Najib Mikati, the richest man in Lebanon, became its prime minister again as a crisis continued. The opposition Labour party won the general election in Norway. Wildfires raged north of Estepona in the province of Málaga in Spain.CSH

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