Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, made ready for a Russian invasion of Ukraine by cutting short a planned visit to northern England for a Cobra meeting. ‘We are on the edge of a precipice,’ he said. He said Britain was prepared to target Russian banks and companies, and stop them raising money on London’s financial markets. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, condemned an online rally called No War in Ukraine: Stop Nato Expansion, organised by the Stop the War coalition, of which Jeremy Corbyn is the deputy president. Petrol prices reached a new high of 148.02p a litre. Inflation rose to 5.5 per cent, its highest for 30 years. Unemployment fell to 4.1 per cent and job vacancies reached a record of 1.3 million; wages fell by 0.8 per cent of their value a year earlier.
The United Kingdom awaited an announcement on 21 February, after the end of the parliamentary recess, on a hoped-for lifting of coronavirus restrictions, including an end to the legal obligation to self-isolate in the event of catching it. In the seven days up to the beginning of this week, 1,275 people had died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 159,518. (In the previous week, deaths had numbered 2,630.) Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital fell from about 14,000 to about 12,000. The Duchess of Cornwall tested positive for Covid four days after the Prince of Wales found he had caught it for the second time, but the Queen, with whom he had spent time, continued with her engagements, giving an online audience to the Estonian ambassador. The Duke of York settled out of court a civil sexual assault case brought against him in the United States by Virginia Giuffre, to whom he would pay an undisclosed sum, put by some at more than £12 million.
The Met Police Federation, representing 31,000 officers, declared it had ‘no faith’ in Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, after Dame Cressida Dick resigned as commissioner of the force following his withdrawal of confidence in her. The Metropolitan Police, having emailed questionnaires to those at Downing Street events it was investigating over coronavirus regulations, said that it would disclose the number of fixed penalty notices issued at each, and what they were issued for, but not the names of civil servants given penalties. A case led by Norfolk county council against Apple was granted class-action status by a judge in California in pursuit of damages for its pension fund allegedly being misled in 2018 about Apple’s performance in China.
A dozen countries told their citizens to leave Ukraine before it was invaded by Russia. Russia held joint manoeuvres with Belarus, to the north of Ukraine, and naval shooting drills in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to its south. America sent eight more US F-15 fighter jets and 3,000 soldiers to Poland. Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who had already been in prison for a year after surviving a poison attack, was put on trial again. The court of arbitration for sport allowed Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skater, to continue competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics despite having failed a drugs test on Christmas Day, the result of which was announced on 8 February.
The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 5,828,510 by the beginning of the week. The United Kingdom fell to 31st place in the world in the proportion of deaths to population, with 2,331 per million, compared with Peru’s 6,181 and 2,823 in the United States. Ottawa’s police chief resigned after the city centre had been paralysed by 19 days of protests by lorry drivers against obligatory vaccinations. Novak Djokovic, the world’s leading men’s tennis player, said that he should not be associated with the anti-vaxx movement but he would rather miss trophy matches than be forced to have a Covid vaccination. P.J. O’Rourke, the American satirical writer, died aged 74. Astronomers said that part of a rocket section expected to collide with the Moon in March did not come from Elon Musk’s space exploration company as first thought, but was probably a Chinese rocket stage from a lunar mission in 2014.
Israel signed a £370 million deal to provide Morocco with an air defence system. Work continued to widen another 12 miles of the Suez canal, a year after a ship became wedged across it. Turkey told the world to call it Türkiye. CSH