The Spectator

Portrait of the week: MPs return, dentists reopen and racing resumes

Portrait of the week: MPs return, dentists reopen and racing resumes
Text settings
Comments

Home

Primary schools were allowed to reopen but many did not want to. MPs voted to return to their physical presence in parliament. The government told people they were allowed to meet in gardens or on rooftops, up to the number of six, as long as those from different households remained two metres apart. About 2.5 million vulnerable people in England and Wales, who had been advised to stay at home, were now advised that those living alone might meet another single person out of doors. Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, resigned as a whip after she was found to have gone for a walk with her current partner at a time that he was still living with his wife. Racing resumed. The Queen rode a fell pony at Windsor Castle.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, extended the furlough scheme, under which 8.4 million workers receive 80 per cent of their pay, to the end of October. From August, employers would have to pay National Insurance and pension contributions, then 10 per cent of pay from September, rising to 20 per cent in October. About 2.3 million self-employed people would be eligible in August for 70 per cent of their average profits for another three months, up to £6,570.

At the beginning of the week, Sunday 31 May, total deaths from confirmed Covid-19 in the UK stood at 38,376; a week earlier the total had been 36,675. Dentists were allowed to reopen from 8 June. The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government urged councils to reopen public lavatories; they remained closed. Despite plans to release 4,000 prisoners early, only 80 had been let out. The Service Prosecution Authority said that, of the thousands of allegations against the British military after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (more than 1,000 cases being brought by Phil Shiner, a solicitor now struck off), only one was still being examined. May was the sunniest month on record. Water companies urged customers not to use paddling pools.

Abroad

China’s National People’s Congress passed a ‘draft decision’, by 2,878 votes to one, in favour of a new security law for Hong Kong ostensibly against secession, subversion and terrorism. Freedom of the press and of association had been guaranteed under the basic law in force since China resumed rule in 1997. Britain, America, Australia and Canada said the law would ‘raise the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes’. Britain said it was prepared to offer British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong a path to citizenship. Seven former foreign secretaries (Jeremy Hunt, David Miliband, Jack Straw, William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and Margaret Beckett) urged Boris Johnson to form an ‘international contact group’ to respond to China. Austria unveiled plans to turn the house where Hitler was born into a police station.

The world had seen 367,437 coronavirus deaths by the beginning of 31 May; a week earlier the number had been 343,608. Total deaths in the United States numbered 105,557. Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque reopened, as did the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Greece was to open its borders from 15 June to tourists from 29 countries, though not to those travelling from Britain; Spain took the same attitude. Prince Joachim of Belgium, aged 28, contracted Covid-19 after going to a party in Cordoba, Spain, where he was working. President Donald Trump announced that the United States, its largest financial contributor, was cutting links with the World Health Organisation, which he called ‘China-centric’. Christo (Christo Javacheff), the Bulgarian-American artist best known for wrapping buildings such as the Reichstag, died aged 84.

The United States saw nights of rioting in several cities, with dozens of police cars burnt and shops looted, after a black man, George Floyd, was seen on video to die after a policeman in Minneapolis knelt on his neck, though he said: ‘I can’t breathe.’ The policeman was charged with murder. Mr Trump tweeted: ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Twitter veiled his tweet with a warning: ‘This tweet violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence.’ Earlier, Twitter had attached a ‘fact checking’ label to one of Mr Trump’s tweets predicting postal vote fraud. The President reacted by signing an executive order aimed at removing some legal protections given to social media platforms. Two American astronauts joined the International Space Station from a capsule launched from Cape Canaveral by SpaceX, a private company run by Elon Musk. CSH