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India declares new ‘Delta plus’ Covid variant to be of concern

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India on Tuesday declared a new coronavirus variant to be of concern, and said nearly two dozen cases had been detected in three states.

The variant, identified locally as ‘Delta plus’, was found in 16 cases in the state of Maharashtra, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference. The ministry said Delta plus showed increased transmissibility and advised states to increase testing.

On Monday, India vaccinated a record 8.6 million people as it began offering free shots to all adults, but experts doubted it could maintain that pace.

“This is clearly not sustainable,” Chandrakant Lahariya, an expert in public policy and health systems, told Reuters.

“With such one-day drives, many states have consumed most of their current vaccine stocks, which will affect the vaccination in days to follow.”

With the currently projected vaccine supply for the next few months, the maximum daily achievable rate is 4 to 5 million doses, Mr Lahariya added.

The effort has so far covered about 5.5 per cent of the 950 million people eligible, even though India is the world’s largest vaccine producer.

A devastating second wave during April and May overwhelmed health services, killing hundreds of thousands. Images of funeral pyres blazing in car parks raised questions over the chaotic vaccine rollout.

Since May, vaccinations have averaged fewer than 3 million doses a day, far less than the 10 million health officials say are crucial to protect the millions vulnerable to new surges.

Vaccine drive faltering

Particularly in the countryside, where two-thirds of a population of 1.4 billion lives and the healthcare system is often overstretched, the drive has faltered, experts say.

Maintaining the pace will prove challenging when it comes to injecting younger people in such areas, Delhi-based epidemiologist Rajib Dasgupta said.

The capital is also facing difficulties. Authorities in New Delhi said more than 8 million residents had yet to receive a first dose and inoculating all adults there would take more than a year at the current pace.

India has been administering AstraZeneca’s vaccine, made locally by the Serum Institute of India, and a homegrown shot named Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech.

Last week, Serum Institute had said it planned to increase monthly production to around 100 million doses from July. Bharat now estimates it will make 23 million doses a month.

On Tuesday, television channel CNBC-TV18 reported that phase-3 data for Covaxin showed an efficacy of 77.8 per cent.

India may also soon have a mass rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and the government expects to import vaccines this year from major makers such as Pfizer.

Although new infections in India have dropped to their lowest in more than three months, experts say vaccinations should be stepped up because of the transmissibility of new variants.

Over the past 24 hours India reported 42,640 new infections, the lowest since March 23, and 1,167 deaths.

Infections now stand at 29.98 million, with a death toll of 389,302, health ministry data showed.–Reuters

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Homes near Elizabeth Line see asking prices double in a decade

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Asking prices for properties for sale near stations on London‘s new Elizabeth Line have more than doubled in a decade, new research has revealed.

Many areas near stations on the capital’s new high-speed line were previously less well connected to key commuter hubs, such as Liverpool Street or Paddington stations.

But they have seen a surge in property asking prices amid new interest from homebuyers and tenants due to the better transport links that the Elizabeth Line provides.

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London's Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London’s Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

The new figures from Rightmove revealed the extent to which asking prices have risen in local areas around Maryland, Abbey Wood and Stratford stations.

Maryland Station in Newham, which provides an additional option for those commuting near well-connected Stratford, has seen the biggest jump in asking prices.

They have more than doubled compared to ten years ago, rising 108 per cent from £233,480 to £486,235.

This compares to the London average increase over the past ten years of 55 per cent.

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Meanwhile, Rightmove revealed that total buyer demand has risen the most in western areas, while prices and competition has risen most in eastern areas.

Twyford, at the end of the western section of the line and the next stop along from Reading, has seen the biggest jump in the number of buyers contracting estate agents.

Numbers have more than tripled compared to 10 years ago, up 245 per cent.

Those looking to buy near Abbey Wood station, at the end of the South East section of the line, face the stiffest competition from other buyers.

Competition in that area has soared more than nine times and is up 869 per cent.

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

It is a similar story along the Elizabeth line for tenants as many look to balance their commute into London with where they can afford to rent.

Average rents in London have reached a new record of £2,195 a month, up 14 per cent compared to this time last year.

Southall has seen the biggest increase in the number of tenants contacting letting agents compared to ten years ago, more than quadrupling, up 372 per cent.

However, asking rents near Southall station are lower than nearby Hanwell or Ealing.

Asking rents have increased the most in western stations Slough, up 44 per cent, and Burnham, up 43 per cent, while those looking to rent near Custom House station face the most competition from other tenants.

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line - Custom House - has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line – Custom House – has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

Custom House, one of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line and benefitting from significantly lower travel times into Central London, has seen competition increase by a staggering 33 times, up 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘As the Elizabeth Line opens, it does so with a backdrop of record rents in London, a rising cost of living and a shortage of available homes.

‘Areas further out from central London that have lower asking prices or rents, but are now more easily commutable will be attractive to new buyers and tenants in search of somewhere affordable to live near the capital.

‘Not only this, but new working from home patterns since the pandemic started two years ago will have many people weighing up whether they are prepared to commute from further away if they need to do so less often.’

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National Maternity Hospital decision is a welcome sign of the Government’s backbone

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The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of the new National Maternity Hospital is a welcome sign that the Taoiseach and his Ministers are willing to face up to the Opposition, the social media mob and assorted objectors on an issue of major national importance.

One of the weaknesses of the Coalition since it took office in June 2020 has been a tendency to run scared in the face of contrived outrage, usually fomented by a combination of Opposition politicians and vested interests, often mistakenly portrayed as representing public opinion.

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URW rolls out Westfield brand to three new destinations

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Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) unveiled plans to rebrand three flagship centres, rolling out the Westfield brand to Parquesur in Madrid, Taby Centrum in Stockholm, and Galeria Mokotow in Warsaw this fall. The rebranding continues the expansion of the Westfield brand in Europe as the company drives new revenues through media advertising and brand experiences, turning its huge footfall of 550 million visits across its European assets into a qualified audience, while also leveraging the Westfield brand’s significant value to retailers, who see over 20%2 higher sales at URW’s centres even when compared to other A-category malls.

 

The flagship destinations share a number of characteristics in addition to being among the most important retail centres in their respective markets: they are set in excellent locations with unrivalled transport options, have distinctive architectural and design features and a best-in-class approach in terms of customer experience, community engagement, and sustainability practices. To celebrate the launch of the Westfield brand at these assets, each destination will host festive consumer events which will be announced later this year.

 

Caroline Puechoultres, Chief Customer Officer of URW, said: “The rebranding of these centres continues our strategy to expand Westfield to Flagship European destinations in the wealthiest cities and catchment areas. The significant opportunity afforded to both retailers and brands by this increasingly digitally linked network of destinations is unparalleled – through Westfield our partners can reach tens of millions of European consumers, driving new possibilities in advertising, brand marketing and retail.”

 

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