Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Duke of Edinburgh dies, Covid retreats and questions for Cameron

17 April 2021

9:00 AM

17 April 2021

9:00 AM


The Duke of Edinburgh, who was married to the Queen for 73 years, died at Windsor Castle, aged 99. The Queen was said to feel ‘a huge void’. Union flags flew at half mast; gun salutes were fired. For a day the BBC cancelled television schedules and broadcast the same programmes on all its channels. Parliament was recalled a day early. No laws would be passed until after the funeral on 17 April at Windsor, to be attended by no more than 30, in compliance with coronavirus legislation. As a mark of respect, the Prime Minister thought better of being photographed drinking beer in a newly liberated pub garden, though he did have his hair cut. The nation learnt from endless newspaper pages and broadcast media what a difficult and dutiful life the Duke had led. The Prince of Wales said that his ‘dear papa’ would have been ‘amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him’. The dukedom would devolve upon the Earl of Wessex once Prince Charles became king.

The number of deaths and hospitalisations in the United Kingdom from Covid-19 fell dramatically. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said puzzlingly that the reduction had ‘not been achieved by the vaccination programme’, but by lockdown. In the week preceding 11 April, 254 had died, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) to 127,080. Healthy people under 30 would not be offered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency decided. This was because of a possible causal relation with a kind of thrombosis detected in 79 of the 20 million vaccinated people: about one in 250,000. When their turn came, the under-thirties would be offered a different vaccine. More than 32 million people had received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and everyone over 50 offered it; those 45 and over became eligible. By the beginning of the week 6,991,310 had received two doses. Surge testing began in Wandsworth and Lambeth after more than 70 cases of the South African variant were identified.

The government announced a Cabinet Office review that would examine David Cameron’s efforts to lobby ministers on behalf of the finance company Greensill Capital. After a slump of 46.6 per cent in January, exports to the EU went up by 42 per cent. Baroness Williams, Shirley Williams, the Labour MP who was one of the four founders of the Social Democratic party in 1981, died aged 90. Canon Michael Bourdeaux, who established Keston College for the study of religion in communist countries, died aged 87.


Ukraine said that Russia had massed about 40,000 troops on its eastern border and about 40,000 in Crimea. Taiwan said 25 Chinese military jets, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, had flown into its air defence zone. In Iran, thousands of centrifuges for refining nuclear material were destroyed or damaged in an attack, blamed on Israel, against a plant 150 feet underground. At least 34 people drowned after a boat carrying 60 migrants escaping war in Yemen capsized off Djibouti. Nights of unrest followed the police shooting of a black man in Minneapolis when an officer said she had mistaken her gun for a Taser.

The total in the world who had died with coronavirus reached 2,934,774 by the beginning of the week. Recorded fatalities per million were high in eastern Europe: more than 2,000 in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria and North Macedonia, with Slovenian and Slovakia not far behind. Brazil’s 1,633 deaths per million brought its total to more than 349,000. After six cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, the United States paused its use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, of which 6.8 million doses had been given; South Africa followed suit.

The People’s Bank of China imposed a ‘comprehensive and feasible restructuring plan’ on the Ant group founded by Jack Ma. Millions of Hindus bathed in the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar. Hans Küng, debarred from teaching as a Catholic theologian in 1979, died aged 93. La Soufrière volcano on St Vincent in the Lesser Antilles erupted, forcing more than 16,000 from their homes and blanketing the island in ash. The French town of Bitche had its Facebook page reinstated after suspension in March on account of its name. CSH

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