Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Tory sleaze, NHS jabs and Elon Musk’s shares

13 November 2021

9:00 AM

13 November 2021

9:00 AM


NHS staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid by the spring. Britain had ordered 250,000 courses of a Pfizer antiviral pill available from early 2022 shown to cut the risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid by 89 per cent. Britain approved another antiviral pill, developed by Merck, and ordered 480,000 courses. In the seven days up to the beginning of this week, 1,185 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 141,743. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 1,097.) Numbers remaining in hospital stayed at about 9,000. Rolls-Royce gained the backing of private investors and the government to develop small modular reactors to produce nuclear energy. Lionel Blair, the dancer and television performer, died aged 92.

Stephen Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister, expressed regret in parliament that the government had the week before supported a proposal to block, until a review of the standards system had been carried out, the suspension of Owen Paterson after a finding by the parliamentary standards commissioner that he had exercised ‘paid advocacy’. It ended up with Tory MPs whipped into voting for the wheeze only to find humiliatingly the next morning that the government had reversed its policy because it looked so bad and Mr Paterson had applied for the position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. A by-election will be on 16 December. The opposition said the government was corrupt. It pressed a doctrine that being an MP was a job and MPs should have no other.

On one day 853 migrants crossed the Channel, bringing the total for the year to about 21,000; French authorities reported saving 400 from drowning, but one died and one was missing. Lord Patel of Bradford, the new chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, apologised on behalf of the club to its former player Azeem Rafiq, who had complained of racism and bullying. Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, said a prediction by Climate Action Tracker of a rise of 2.4˚C above pre-industrial temperatures showed that ‘not enough’ progress had been made at the talks. An independent inquiry was initiated by the Health Secretary into the sexual abuse of bodies in hospital mortuaries by David Fuller, who has admitted murdering two women in 1987. Ofcom said it would stop BT from closing 5,000 phone boxes in areas with poor mobile signals or high accident rates.


Poland, the European Union and Nato said Belarus was orchestrating attempts by hundreds of migrants, largely from the Middle East and Asia, caught in freezing weather, to cross the border. Lithuania declared a state of emergency. The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 5,059,865 by the beginning of the week. Deaths in Russia ran at more than 1,000 a day. The United States, with 775,000 deaths, lay in 16th place by deaths per million with 2,324; the United Kingdom was 26th with 2,074 deaths per million.

In Afghanistan, 23 million people were ‘marching towards starvation’ in the ‘worst humanitarian crisis on Earth’, according to the World Food Programme. The UN warned that Ethiopia is at a risk of descending into a widening civil war. The Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, escaped with his life in a drone attack on his home in Baghdad blamed on Iran-backed Shia Muslim militias. In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega won elections by a landslide, having arrested many opponents. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, 115 died after a petrol tanker was involved in a collision and people scooped up spilt fuel before an explosion engulfed the jammed traffic.

Full-scale models of US warships for target practice were seen in satellite images in a desert in Xinjiang, China. The debt-burdened Chinese property giant Evergrande raised £107 million by selling assets just before a deadline for an interest payment. The Duke of Sussex said that he warned Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, that ‘his platform was allowing a coup to be staged’ a day before the occupation of the Capitol on 6 January. Eight people were killed in a crush at the rapper Travis Scott’s festival Astroworld at Houston, Texas. The American Trucking Associations said the United States was short of 80,000 lorry drivers. Tesla shares fell by 5 per cent after Twitter users voted in favour of its boss Elon Musk’s proposal to sell 10 per cent of his stake in the carmaker in order to pay tax. CSH

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