The Spectator

Portrait of the week: Face masks in, Huawei out and Amazon’s TikTok trouble

Portrait of the week: Face masks in, Huawei out and Amazon’s TikTok trouble
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New regulations would compel people to wear a face covering in shops in England from 24 July on pain of a £100 fine. Similar regulations had been imposed in Scotland. A report requested by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said that, without lockdowns, treatments or vaccines, in a reasonable worst-case scenario, a second wave of infection could see coronavirus deaths in hospital alone range between 24,500 and 251,000, peaking in January and February. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 12 July, total deaths from Covid-19 stood at 44,798, with a seven-day average of 85 deaths a day; but in the following two days the number of deaths was 21 and 11. About 200 legal migrant fruit-pickers on a farm in Herefordshire were quarantined after 73 of them were found to have Covid-19; but three workers left the farm and were hunted by police. Care workers were excluded from a government points system planned to govern immigration from the end of the year. About 180 migrants crossed the Channel to England last Sunday in 15 boats; another 200 were intercepted by the French authorities and prevented from crossing. Gérald Darmanin, the new French Interior Minister, had dismantled several makeshift camps near Calais. The next day 32 migrants crossed the Channel, bringing the year’s total to 2,660.

The government banned phone providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December; they must also remove it all from their networks by 2027. Oliver Dowden, the Digital Secretary, told the Commons that this would delay provision of 5G capability by a year and cost Britain £2 billion. Customers of the online Smile Bank were unable to get into their accounts for five days running. Jack Charlton, the footballer who played in the England team that won the World Cup in 1966, died aged 85.

The GDP of the United Kingdom increased in May by 1.8 per cent above its level in April, during which it had seen a 20.4 per cent fall. Boots said it was to cut 4,000 jobs and John Lewis was to close down eight stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk. Direct spending on the coronavirus crisis rose to £188.7 billion, including the £30 billion outlined by Rishi Sunak in his Summer Statement. New payments to employers of £1,000, for every furloughed employee retained to the end of January 2021, would cost up to £9.4 billion. The threshold for stamp duty on residential property in England and Northern Ireland would rise from £125,000 to £500,000. VAT was to be reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent on restaurant food and on hot takeaway food. A 50 per cent discount would be offered to every diner, up to £10 a head, from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

Abroad

The total number in the world who had died with coronavirus was 567,035 by the beginning of the week; a week earlier it had been 532,873. In Spain, the 160,000 people of Lérida (Lleida in Catalan) were confined to their homes for a fortnight. Tehran reimposed restrictions on gatherings in public places, including mosques. A murderer, Daniel Lewis Lee, was executed by legal injection at Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal execution for 17 years, after a Supreme Court judgment.

In Hong Kong, 600,000 people voted in primaries to determine opposition candidates in the elections for the legislative council in September; China called the vote ‘illegal’ and ‘a provocation’. Amazon sent an email to employees asking them to remove the video-sharing app TikTok from any mobile device that had access to their company email ‘due to security risk’; but the next day Amazon said the emails had been sent in error. President Andrzej Duda of Poland, backed by the Law and Justice party, was re-elected for five years with 51 per cent of the vote. A basalt floor belonging to the palace of the Aztec ruler Axayácatl was found beneath the Nacional Monte de Piedad charitable pawnshop in Mexico City.

Turkey decided to turn Hagia Sophia in Istanbul back into a mosque from the status of a museum it had held since 1934. Azerbaijan said 11 of its soldiers had died in a border clash with Armenia, which said that four of its men had died. The Supreme Court of India ruled that the family of the last Maharajah of Travancore should continue to have custody of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram where a vault was found to contain treasure worth an estimated £16 billion. CSH