Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: The Queen turns 94, Captain Tom raises £27m and Harry and Meghan block newspapers

25 April 2020

9:00 AM

25 April 2020

9:00 AM


The number of people with the coronavirus disease Covid-19 who had died in hospitals by the beginning of the week, Sunday 19 April, was 15,464, compared with a total of 9,875 a week earlier. Two days later it was 16,509. But the number of people in London in hospital with Covid-19 fell for seven consecutive days and there were plenty of empty beds. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, was reported by colleagues to be worried that relaxing lockdown measures too soon might lead to a second spike in the outbreak. Supplies of personal protective equipment were reported to be falling short; a delivery of 84 tons, including 400,000 gowns, from Turkey was delayed. As work continued to develop a vaccine, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: ‘The truth is we don’t have another vaccine for any other human coronavirus.’

On the first day that they could, 144,000 companies applied for grants under the government job-retention or furlough scheme, estimated to cost £50 billion. Asked if the government was slow to act in preparing for the crisis, Michael Gove said: ‘All governments make mistakes… I’m sure, at some point in the future, that there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.’

For the first time in her reign, the Queen asked for no gun salute to mark her birthday, her 94th, on 21 April. The Duke of Edinburgh, 98, issued a statement thanking medics and scientists, volunteers, postmen and dustmen. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote to four newspapers, the Mail, Mirror, Sun and Express, to end any co-operation with them because of ‘distorted, false or invasive’ articles. Captain Tom Moore caught the public’s imagination by undertaking to walk a 25-metre loop in his garden in Bedfordshire 100 times before his 100th birthday on 30 April; he did so and raised £27 million for NHS charities. Joe Brown, the climber, died aged 89. Seventy-three migrants were intercepted in the Channel in one day, bringing to 470 those caught since 23 March, when coronavirus restrictions were imposed in Britain.


By Sunday 19 April, 158,884 people with Covid-19 had died worldwide (a week earlier the total had been 104,913); 591,107 had recovered. More than 4.5 billion people were living under containment measures. The United States had recorded the most deaths with 38,244; Italy (23,227), Spain (20,043) and France (19,323) came next among reliable figures. The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated last year, raised its official Covid-19 fatalities by 50 per cent, adding 1,290. Asked about China’s authoritarian response in bringing its outbreak under control, President Emmanuel Macron of France said: ‘Let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this… There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.’ China’s economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year, according to official figures. Fifteen of Hong Kong’s best known pro-democracy activists were arrested, including Jimmy Lai, the 71-year-old media tycoon, accused of taking part in last year’s mass protests.

Germany allowed small shops to reopen, and Iran bazaars. Denmark reopened hairdressers. France and Spain kept the lid on. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil sacked his health minister for insisting on social distancing. In Ecuador, which officially reported 456 Covid-19 deaths, 6,700 people died in Guayas province, where the capital lies, in the first two weeks of April, instead of the normal level of 1,000 deaths. Saudi clerics urged Muslims not to congregate during Ramadan and Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Shia-ruled Iran, said Muslims were not required to fast during Ramadan if it posed a threat to their health. Tunisia arrested a man whom it accused of encouraging jihadists to cough at policemen.

The price of US oil became negative at one point, with producers paying buyers to take it off their hands. President Donald Trump of the United States suspended immigration. A gunman disguised as a policeman killed at least 18 people in Nova Scotia. Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz agreed to form an emergency unity government, alternating the leadership of the country, with Mr Netanyahu going first as Prime Minister. In Chad, 44 prisoners suspected of supporting Boko Haram died of poisoning, according to the public prosecutor. Smoke from wildfires blanketed Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The United States was said to have been suffering a drought since 2000 more serious than any since the period 1575-1603. CSH

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