Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Case takes over civil service, Zoom profits rocket and Ocado adopts M&S

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

5 September 2020

9:00 AM


Simon Case, aged 41, the private secretary to the Duke of Cambridge 2018-20, was appointed Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, in succession to Sir Mark Sedwill. A civil servant since 2006, Case had been Permanent Secretary at Downing Street since May. Six days earlier, Jonathan Slater was dismissed as Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education. Piers Corbyn, the elder brother of Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour party, was given a penalty without trial of £10,000 for his part in organising a rally in Trafalgar Square calling for the repeal of the Coronavirus Act, passed in March, which gave the government sweeping powers. The penalty was imposed under a statutory instrument, not passed by parliament, but brought into force on 28 August by the Health Secretary. Two organisers of a rave in West Glamorgan, attended by about 3,000 people, were also given fixed penalty notices for £10,000.

At the beginning of the week, Sunday 30 August, total deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus stood at 41,498; a week earlier the total had been 41,423. Travellers from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland were obliged to observe quarantine; Portugal was in line to join them again. Scotland chose travellers from Greece to quarantine. Of the 193 people on board a Tui flight from Zante in Greece to Cardiff, 16 were found to have coronavirus. At Banham Poultry slaughterhouse in Norfolk, 96 workers out of 800 were found to have coronavirus, and the rest had to isolate themselves and their families. Restrictions on visiting other households were reintroduced in the Glasgow area. In Scotland, where children went back to school on 11 August, attendance was 95.8 per cent on 17 August, but only 84.5 per cent on 28 August.

Police closed Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol for five days after Extinction Rebellion said it would hold a demonstration there. The movement then said it wanted to ‘peacefully disrupt the UK parliament’. Ocado began to deliver food from Marks and Spencer instead of from Waitrose; demand left some orders unfulfilled. Zoom, the video-conferencing app, saw its second quarter profits more than double. Tim Davie took over as director-general of the BBC from Lord Hall of Birkenhead. Capita, a company with 45,000 employees who do things like managing London’s congestion charge, is to close over a third of its offices permanently.


The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 845,996 by the beginning of the week; a week earlier it had been 807,954. Peru, with more than 28,000 deaths, reached first place in deaths per million, with 876, a little ahead of Belgium. The United States, though world-beating in absolute numbers of deaths at 186,855, saw a rate of only 567 per million. Brazil, India and Russia experienced high numbers of cases, though figures were hard to compare. The European Commission formally objected to the closure of Hungary’s borders to all foreigners; Hungary had seen only 616 deaths from Covid-19. Hong Kong began a free universal Covid-19 testing programme, but there were fears that China could use it to build up an identity and DNA database.

The Democratic candidate for the US presidency, Joseph Biden, blamed Donald Trump for ‘stoking violence in our cities’; in reply, President Trump accused him of losing control of radical left elements and of blaming the police during riots. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, a supporter of ‘Blue Lives Matter’, was charged with shooting two people dead during recurrent burning and looting. Mr Trump visited Kenosha to view the damage and praise the police. In Portland, Oregon, Aaron Danielson, of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, was shot dead. Tens of thousands in Belarus demonstrated on Sunday against President Lukashenko for falsifying the results of the election on 9 August. Hurricane Laura left more than 400,000 in Louisiana without electricity and 200,000 without water.

Lebanon acquired a new prime minister, Mustapha Adib, its former ambassador to Germany. The first official flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates was made, crossing Saudi Arabian airspace. Zimbabwe said that foreigners whose land had been seized (mostly in 2000-1) could apply to get it back. A man returned to his house at Laceys Creek, Queensland, after a night out to find that a pair of 25lb, 9ft carpet pythons had crashed through the ceiling.CSH

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