Twenty fixed-penalty fines were issued after the police inquiry into Downing Street parties that broke Covid rules, but the Metropolitan Police refused to say who was fined for which events. Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive of P&O Ferries, admitted to a parliamentary committee that the company had broken the law by sacking 800 workers without consulting unions. He said that foreign replacements would earn an average of £5.50 per hour, which is below the British minimum wage. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said he’d change the law to stop that. Lord Grade of Yarmouth, a former BBC chairman, was announced as the preferred candidate to be chairman of the media regulator Ofcom.
Roman Abramovich, the sanctioned owner of Chelsea football club, suffered skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes consistent with poisoning, at peace talks in Ukraine on 3 March, a crime said by the Wall Street Journal to have been committed by Russian hardliners. The cabinet couldn’t agree on an energy independence policy. The government planned to take a 20 per cent stake in the £20 billion nuclear plant Sizewell C in Suffolk, equal to the stake by the French company EDF. The schools White Paper proposed raising the 65 per cent of children leaving primary school in 2019 with the expected standards in English and maths to 90 per cent by 2030. The Queen attended a memorial service at Westminster Abbey for the Duke of Edinburgh.
In the seven days up to 28 March, 992 people had died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 164,671. In the previous week 806 had died. Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital in the UK rose from about 15,000 to about 18,000. Only 62.6 per cent of people over 12 in Westminster had been vaccinated at all. An inquiry found that 201 babies in Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust might have survived had better treatment been given to them. Dame Cressida Dick’s time as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police would end this month. Cadbury shrank its 200g Dairy Milk bars to 180g.
The Russian defence ministry said of its destructive but bogged-down war against Ukraine: ‘The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been carried out.’ This, a spokesman said, would allow efforts to be concentrated on ‘the main goal: the liberation of Donbas’ (in eastern Ukraine). But within a day, Russian cruise missiles destroyed a fuel depot and factory in Lviv, in western Ukraine, on the day that President Joe Biden of the United States made a speech in Warsaw beginning with a quotation, ‘Be not afraid’, words used by Pope John Paul II on the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union, and ending with the words: ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.’ The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, later said that Mr Biden wasn’t calling for regime change in Russia. Russia then said that it would ‘drastically reduce’ military combat operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv, but shelling continued.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in an interview with Russian reporters, said of peace negotiations: ‘Security guarantees and neutrality, the non-nuclear status of our state – we’re ready to do that.’ Russia’s media censor ordered the four reporters not to publish the interview. An estimate was finally given for casualties in the Russian airstrike on 16 March on the Mariupol theatre: 300 were reported dead. Russia held an estimated 5,000 refugees from Mariupol at a temporary camp in Bezimenne, east of the city, seen in satellite images. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said 40,000 had been moved from Ukraine to Russian-held territory. Another 170,000 were trapped in the city under relentless Russian shelling. The United States agreed to supply the EU with extra natural gas equivalent to 10 per cent of the gas it buys from Russia, which provides 40 per cent of its needs.
The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 6,147,947 by the beginning of the week. All 26 million in Shanghai were to be tested during two consecutive four-day lockdowns in each half of the city. Five people were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman in Bnei Brak, Israel. Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, died aged 84. At the Oscars, the actor Will Smith hit the comedian Chris Rock after he made a joke about his wife. CSH
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