The Spectator

Portrait of the week: New Covid restrictions, a Supreme Court vacancy and an earthquake in Leighton Buzzard


Pubs and restaurants would have to close at ten o’clock, under new coronavirus restrictions announced by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, in the Commons. Shop staff and passengers in taxis would have to wear face masks and weddings be limited to 15 people. ‘We’ve reached a perilous turning-point,’ he said. The new laws could be in force for six months. Official advice was changed back to: ‘If you can work from home, you should.’ Police would be able to impose £10,000 fixed-penalty notices on people caught outside their house who had been ordered to stay in quarantine. People in Scotland would not be able to visit each other’s homes. Wales and Northern Ireland made up their own laws.

‘Your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell,’ Mr Johnson said in a televised address to the nation. He said that he was ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant’ to infringe anyone’s freedom but ‘if people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further’. The day before, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, had been wheeled before the cameras to soften up the country. They presented a graph that showed if nothing was done, then 200 a day might die by the middle of November. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 13 September, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 41,759, of whom 136 had died in the past week. Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Bolton, parts of Merseyside and parts of the north-east were placed under local restrictions. The Prime Minister was reported by La Repubblica to have visited Perugia for the weekend. This was disproved when it came out that he and his fiancée Carrie Symonds had attended the baptism of their son Wilfred by the acting administrator of Westminster Cathedral in a private Catholic ceremony in London.

The government gave in to backbench pressure to allow MPs to vote before action that contradicted the Brexit withdrawal treaty was taken under the Internal Market Bill.

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