Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Masks to be dropped, John Lewis builds houses and Russia lays claim to champagne

10 July 2021

9:00 AM

10 July 2021

9:00 AM

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Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said that if a review of coronavirus restrictions on 12 July allowed, then on 19 July he expected an end in England to compulsory masks (except in hospitals), working from home, the ban on ordering drinks at the bar, on nightclubs and on singing in church. ‘If we don’t go ahead now,’ he said, ‘then the question is, when would we go ahead?’ Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, told the Commons: ‘If you’re on public transport, let’s say a very crowded Tube, I think it would be sensible to wear a mask — not least for respect for others.’ In separate provisions, the system of sending home all members of a school bubble if one tested positive would be discontinued. Anyone fully vaccinated who came into contact with someone who tested positive would from 16 August no longer have to self-isolate; in the meantime employers feared large numbers would be sent home. Scotland plodded on till 9 August with its restrictions and kept its masks on.

In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 118 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 128,207. By the beginning of the week, 63.4 per cent of the adult population had received two doses of vaccine; 85.7 per cent a first dose. Although the daily number of cases detected by tests rose from 18,270 to 24,885 in a week, the number remaining in hospital only rose from 1,507 to 1,905. The NHS was awarded the George Cross and received a handwritten message from the Queen for its 73rd anniversary, marked by a service at St Paul’s, which the Duchess of Cambridge could not attend because she was self-isolating. Sir Keir Starmer felt a little less under pressure after the Labour candidate won the Batley and Spen by-election by 323 votes. Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, and Sarah Vine, a journalist, who have been married since 2001, said they were finalising their divorce.


A Chinese-owned company, Nexperia, gained control of Newport Wafer Fab’s microchip factory, Britain’s biggest. The board of Morrisons, the supermarket chain, accepted a £6.3 billion takeover bid by an American investment group led by Fortress, owner of Majestic Wine, but then another American investment company, Apollo Global Management, prepared a rival offer. John Lewis said it planned to build 10,000 homes for rent. British authorities picked up 212 migrants from six boats in the Channel on Sunday and the French intercepted seven boats, preventing 238 people from reaching England. A peak television audience of 20.9 million watched England beat Ukraine 4-0 in the Euro 2020 game in Rome, sending the team through to the semi-final at Wembley against Denmark.

Abroad

The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 3,987,180 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 54,034 from the week before. The 250 villagers of Lytton in British Columbia, which had recorded a temperature of 49.6°C, fled as fire destroyed it; western Canada saw 170 wildfires. In Winnipeg, a statue of Queen Victoria and one of the present Queen of Canada were pulled down by small crowds protesting in favour of indigenous people.

The Taleban moved in as the United States, with Britain in its wake, withdrew from Afghanistan. Bagram airbase was relinquished by dead of night; 5,000 Taleban prisoners remained in its jail. More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers fled to neighbouring Tajikistan after clashing with Taleban. To avoid a further sudden collapse, workmen demolished the remains of a 12-storey block of flats near Miami that had partly collapsed leaving 24 dead and 121 missing. Donald Rumsfeld, who as US defence secretary in 2001 took America to war in Afghanistan, died aged 88. The Pope had an operation on his colon.

After reaching a compensation deal with the vessel’s owners and insurers, Egypt agreed to release the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March. Forty-three migrants, from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Bangladesh, drowned when their boat, from the Libyan port of Zuwara seeking to cross the Mediterranean, sank off Tunisia; the Tunisian navy saved another 84. The Namibian runners Christine Mboma, 18, and Beatrice Masilinigi, also 18, were barred from the Olympics when they were found to have naturally occurring testosterone above the level allowed by the World Athletics body. President Vladimir Putin signed a law stipulating that sparkling wine sold as champagne, shampanskoye, must be produced in Russia. CSH

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