Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Shopping bans in Wales, soft drinks in Scotland and stowaways at sea

31 October 2020

9:00 AM

31 October 2020

9:00 AM


Wales, entering a 17-day ‘firebreak’, closed most shops by law but then tried to stop supermarkets selling ‘non-essential’ items such as bedding, kettles and smoke alarms. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 25 October, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 44,745, including 1,166 reported in the past week, compared with 819 the week before. In England, Nottingham entered the most severe restrictions,Tier 3, taking the number of people so restricted to 7.9 million (in Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Warrington). About 54 Conservative MPs from the north of England wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to ‘show us the way out’ of restrictive measures; 14 signatories kept their names secret. Scotland was to introduce five tiers on 2 November, from Zero (nearly normal) to Level 4 (strict lockdown). The Scottish government considered placing North and South Lanarkshire in Level 4 and making pubs in the central belt serve soft drinks only and close at 6 p.m.

Sixteen members of the Special Boat Service descended from helicopters under cover of darkness to regain control of a 748ft oil tanker, Nave Andromeda, three miles off the Isle of Wight, ten hours after seven Nigerian stowaways were reported to have shown violence. Hampshire police arrested them on suspicion of ‘seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force’. The 22 crew had locked themselves in the ship’s citadel. France and Spain had earlier refused a request by the master for the stowaways to disembark. A man, a woman and two children, aged five and eight, drowned when a boat carrying migrants sank off Dunkirk; 15 others were taken to hospital. More than 7,400 migrants have reached England in small boats this year.

Some Conservative MPs supported a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford for children entitled to free school meals also to benefit from food vouchers over half-term and in the Christmas holidays. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said: ‘I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger. The debate is how do you deal with it.’ The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, the painter, died aged 79. Frank Bough, the sports commentator also celebrated for having unusually taken a fourth-class degree from Oxford, died aged 87. The publishers Bloomsbury said profits had risen by 60 per cent between February and August. Royal Mail set about hiring 33,000 extra workers for Christmas because of a surge in online shopping.


The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 1,154,517 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 40,249 from the week before. Doctors said that Covid-19 was rampant in refugee camps in Idlib, north-west Syria. The World Health Organisation said that deaths in Europe had risen by 40 per cent in a week. Hospital doctors in Liège were asked to continue working if they had no symptoms even if a test had shown they had contracted Covid-19. Belgium, with 931 deaths per million, came second to Peru with 1,031. Protests against renewed coronavirus restrictions took place in more than a dozen Italian cities, with petrol bombs thrown in Turin. Ireland joined Wales as the two countries in Europe that criminalised churchgoing.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called for a boycott of French goods: ‘Never give credit to French-labelled goods, don’t buy them.’ Tens of thousands marched through Dhaka, in Bangladesh, demanding the same thing. This followed remarks by President Emmanuel Macron of France defending of laicité in response to the Islamist beheading of a teacher. Lahore opened a 17-mile metro, built with Chinese financial backing. The Chinese technology enterprise Ant, backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, was to sell shares worth about $34 billion on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets, the biggest share launch ever.

A week before the presidential election, the US Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court, a nomination by President Donald Trump. Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled that abortion was illegal except in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the mother’s life. More than 70,000 fled their homes in Orange County, California, in the path of the Silverado wildfire, which had burnt 8,000 acres. Nasa announced evidence of water on the Moon ‘roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water in a cubic metre of lunar soil’. CSH

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