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Irish plans to send Covid-19 support to India at ‘advanced stage’

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said plans to send aid to India, which is grappling with a massive second wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, are at an “advanced stage”, with Irish officials working throughout the weekend on efforts to deliver support to the subcontinent.

A DFA spokesman said on Sunday afternoon that “given the urgency of the pandemic situation in India”, department staff were working with the health department, the HSE and the EU Civilian Protection Mechanism to figure out how best to send India support.

“These efforts are at an advanced stage and we will soon provide a formal announcement,” he told The Irish Times, adding that the department was in contact with the relevant Indian authorities.

Earlier on Sunday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s This Week programme that the Government was “assessing” what it could share with India with a particular focus on oxygen and ventilators. Mr Coveney said it was likely India would be added to the State’s mandatory hotel quarantine list very shortly.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tweeted on Sunday that India was “facing a terrible second wave causing suffering beyond our comprehension”. He paid tribute to Indian healthcare workers in Ireland before writing that the Government was assessing plans to send oxygen and ventilators to the country.

This commitment comes as the European Commission announced it was also planning to send oxygen and medicine to the country following a request from Delhi. India has set a new global record for the most number of coronavirus infections in a day while the United States says it is racing to send help to the country.

India’s number of cases surged by 349,691 in the past 24 hours, the fourth straight day of record peaks, and hospitals in Delhi and across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Sunday that she was “alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India” and that the EU was ready to offer support. “The EU is pooling resources to respond rapidly to India’s request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism,” she wrote. “We stand in full solidarity with the Indian people,” she added.

Speaking in a radio address on Saturday, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to be vaccinated and exercise caution, saying a “storm” of infections had “shaken the nation.”

Varghese Joy, a HSE nurse and national convenor of the Migrant Nurses Ireland organisation, said he had found it “distressing” and “disheartening” to watch the videos and news reports emerging from his home country and called on the EU and Irish Government to support the Indian healthcare system in “any way they can”.

“The whole world needs to act,” he said. “India’s situation can impact nearby countries, that double mutant variant can travel. This virus has no borders, you cannot contain it. Everyone is in danger so everyone should help.”

Mr Joy, who has lived in Ireland since 2007, recalled watching one video of a man in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat driving his young wife from hospital to hospital, begging for help. “Doctors came out of the hospitals and tried to help but they couldn’t admit her, there were no beds or oxygen. Finally she died, I was very tearful watching those images.”

He has also read the reports of hundreds of bodies being burned being cremated in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the worst affected part of the country. “It’s absolutely shocking. You can feel the healthcare workers’ pain. If you have a patient in from of you and can’t offer them a bed you feel worthless. I’ve seen lots of videos of doctors from Mumbai and Delhi crying and appealing to the central government for oxygen. It’s like watching those videos last year of American healthcare workers asking for PPE but much, much worse.”

Mr Joy is from Kerala, the southern Indian state which is one of the only parts of the country, along with neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which has been spared this second Covid-19 wave. The Times of India reported this weekend that both states had “learnt important lessons from the last surge and stand out for their public health approach in tackling the pandemic”. Mr Joy says Kerala has spent decades building its public health infrastructure which is far more developed than most other hospitals around the country. “Kerala has always invested in public health and vaccination programmes like the polio vaccine. That has made a huge difference.

“Kerala is doing well and is now helping nearby states with their oxygen supply.”

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EU will retaliate to any unilateral action on NI protocol, Coveney warns

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British prime minister Boris Johnson has been warned of the consequences of unilateral action on the Northern Ireland protocol, including the prospect of “retaliatory” action from Europe.

On the eve of Mr Johnson’s visit to Belfast, the Government and Sinn Féin said moves to disapply parts of the protocol risked damaging east-west relations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke of a “landing zone” for negotiations and indicated that the European Union was willing to make adjustments through “partnership and dialogue” due to what he said were “legitimate concerns” within unionism about the operation of the protocol.

However, he also said that if London moved unilaterally it would make matters “significantly worse” and that “then the EU will be forced to respond to that with some form of retaliatory action”.

Mr Coveney said it was not “helpful” to expand on what form that might take, but that a response “would be very negative”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “there is a real and urgent obligation now” for Britain to engage with the European Commission “in a real and professional way to resolve issues that have been raised”.


Ahead of talks between Mr Johnson and Northern Irish political leaders aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont, Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill said unilateral action would “represent an appalling attack on the international rule of law”.

“Only through joint agreement with the EU can solutions to problems or concerns be resolved,” she said.

“I will be telling Boris Johnson that unilateral action deepens political instability and economic uncertainty and must not happen.”

Ms O’Neill is to meet Mr Martin in at Government Buildings Dublin on Monday morning ahead of her meeting with Mr Johnson.

Mr Coveney travels today to Brussels for a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council and will later speak with EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic and British foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is expected to announce legislation on Tuesday that will unilaterally override central elements of the protocol.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said Mr Sefcovic is open to making “significant progress” on the protocol.

“I believe there are solutions we could pursue and we can agree relatively quickly if there was an attitude to do so on both sides,” he said. “But we need a partner in London to do that, not a partner that is making threats of unilateral action.”


The Minister also said he believes it is “likely” that US president Joe Biden will appoint an envoy to the North, saying the US administration is “extremely interested” in marking 25 years since the Belfast Agreement next year with “its institutions intact and functioning as they need to be”.

Mr Johnson is expected to affirm his commitment to the agreement and assert that he is not seeking to scrap the protocol. But Downing Street said ahead of his meetings with the North’s party leaders that he will not drop his government’s threat to unilaterally disapply parts of the protocol, which Mr Johnson agreed with the EU in 2019.

Downing Street said in a statement that Mr Johnson will tell party leaders that the door will always be open to “genuine dialogue” but that “there will be a necessity to act” and protect the Belfast Agreement if the EU does not change its position.

Writing in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson outlined that the protocol “has not been adapted to reflect the realities of the [Trade and Co-operation Agreement]”. He will signal that there is “without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone’s interests are protected”. However, he said that if the EU’s position does not change, “there will be a necessity to act”.

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CPEG acquires Geneva office property for €99m (CH)

Voice Of EU



Propreal Capital Partners has completed the disposal of a prime office property in the heart of Geneva for €99m after successfully negotiating a new long-term lease with government-backed Geneva University Hospitals. The buyer is Caisse de Prévoyance de l’Etat de Genève (CPEG), the State of Geneva’s Pension Fund. The proceeds of the deal raise Propreal’s war chest to €300m of available capital to place in pan-European assets.


The 7,070m² office space was previously occupied by financial group BNP Paribas which terminated its contract prior to the lease break in November 2026. Located on Boulevard de la Tour 8, the building forms part of a larger condominium (propriété par étages, or PPE), which also includes apartments from the sixth to the ninth floors and was wholly owned by CPEG.


Yves de Kerdanet, Founder and CEO Propreal Capital Partners said: “Our successful restructuring of the existing lease with BNP Paribas brought a government-backed tenant on board for a 20-year term in an office market that is still feeling the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This paved the way for a deal with CPEG to acquire the property and terminate the co-ownership structure. Altogether this transaction has helped to unlock substantial investment value.”


The office property also comprises 252m² of storage area and 48 parking spaces. The new tenant will relocate parts of its administrative facilities to the building following refurbishment works due to be completed in the course of 2022.


Marcus Siggelow, Head of Asset Management at Propreal Capital Partners said: We had an opportunity to restructure the existing lease and negotiate a new government-backed lease for a 20-year term with the Geneva University Hospitals. This value-enhancing leasing agreement illustrates the quality of the location and the building and we’re now on the lookout for further opportunities to expand our portfolio across pan-European markets. The funds generated from this disposal will enable us to place more capital in other prime pan-European assets.”


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Mortgage rates: Average two-year fix breaches 3%

Voice Of EU



The average two-year fixed rate mortgage has breached 3 per cent for the first time in seven years, new data shows.

A typical two-year fix is now 3.03 per cent, having risen 0.69 percentage points since December 2021 and roughly 1 percentage point from two years ago, Moneyfacts says.

The last time average two-year fixed deals were higher was in March 2015 and it could mean a remortgage sting for thousands of homeowners. 

Some borrowers coming to the end of a five year deal will see little difference between their previous rate and the rates available now. Some may even find they can secure a better deal.

Some borrowers coming to the end of a five year deal will see little difference between their previous rate and the rates available now. Some may even find they can secure a better deal.

The cheapest two-year fixed rate deal exactly two years ago was 1.19 per cent, according to mortgage broker, Private Finance. Now the cheapest two-year fix sits at 2.18 per cent.

Five-year fixed deals have also been rising. The average five-year fix has increased for the seventh consecutive month and now stands at 3.17 per cent – the highest level since May 2016.

This time last year, the average five-year fix was 2.79 per cent, while the previous year, the average deal was 2.35 per cent.

However, while the rates have been lower in recent years, someone who took out a mortgage five years ago may not experience such a financial shock were they to remortgage today.

The average five-year fixed rate was 2.89 per cent in May 2017 – only 0.28 percentage points cheaper.  

Someone who took out the cheapest five-year mortgage on the market in 2017 could have secured a rate of 1.69 per cent, according to mortgage broker, L&C Mortgages. 

As of today, the cheapest five-year fixed rate deal costs 2.29 per cent.

It means that someone repaying a £200,000 mortgage over a 25 year term could expect to pay £876 a month instead of £818. 

Uphill battle: Thanks to four successive quick fire base rate rises from 0.1 per cent to 1 per cent, mortgage lenders have been responding in kind and upping the interest they charge

Uphill battle: Thanks to four successive quick fire base rate rises from 0.1 per cent to 1 per cent, mortgage lenders have been responding in kind and upping the interest they charge

David Hollingworth, associate director at L&C Mortgages said: ‘Rates have been so low for so long now that those coming to an end of their deal may not feel that the rates on offer are markedly different, despite the fact that fixed rates have been rising rapidly since they hit an historic low last October. 

‘That’s good news in terms of mitigating the potential for rate shock but rates are not hanging around for long and with another base rate rise last week there’s no sign of that changing in the near term. 

‘As a result it makes sense to think well in advance and get ahead of rate changes by starting the process early to lock in a rate now.

‘That will help them maintain some consistency in mortgage rate as well as protect against any more base rate rises to come.’ 

What does it mean for those needing to remortgage?

Rising mortgage rates alongside the Bank of England’s four quickfire base rate rises over recent months will have left many homeowners worried about monthly repayments soaring when they remortgage.

For someone coming to the end of a two-year fixed rate mortgage, they will almost certainly be facing a higher rate of interest.

However, it is likely they have benefited from considerable house price growth in that time. 

If on a standard repayment mortgage, they will have also paid off some of the mortgage over the past two years. 

These two factors could combine to limit the damage.

As mortgage holders repay the loan, they build up greater equity within the property while the percentage effectively owned by their mortgage lender reduces.

For example, once moving from having 10 per cent equity in the home to 15 per cent could open up cheaper mortgage deals.

Mortgage deals are offered in tiers that are based on the mortgage as a proportion of the property – otherwise known as the loan-to-value ratio. 

The most expensive deals are aimed at mortgages covering 95 per cent of a property’s value and the cheapest being for those requiring mortgages covering 60 per cent of the property’s value or less.

For example, the average five-year fixed rate for a mortgage covering 90 per cent of a property’s value is 3.11 per cent, while the average five year fixed rate for a mortgage covering 60 per cent of a property’s value is 2.61 per cent.

Although the interest rate gap between these tiers has narrowed, it makes a meaningful difference to the rate that can be secured.

On top of building equity by repaying the mortgage, house price growth is also a factor.

Equally, if house prices fall, the amount of equity you have in your home will diminish. 

In the past two years, a typical £200,000 property will have risen to roughly £240,000, according to Nationwide’s house price index.

Boom: The average home has risen in price by £29,000 in the last year alone to a new record of £267,620

Boom: The average home has risen in price by £29,000 in the last year alone to a new record of £267,620

For example, if a £200,000 property had been purchased with a mortgage of £180,000, it could mean an LTV of 25 per cent, up from 10 per cent.

If the original mortgage agreement had been to pay off £180,000 over a 25-year period, a homeowner would have reduced the mortgage amount to £168,675 after two years.

Together, it would mean in the space of two years, an ownership stake in the property would have increased from 10 per cent (£20,000) to 29.7 per cent (£71,325).

This means potentially unlocking a cheaper mortgage deal. The average rate for someone in this scenario would be 2.9 per cent, according to Moneyfacts. 

In this example, remortgaging with 90 per cent equity in the property means a 3.11 per cent rate on average.

However, someone coming to the end of a two-year deal will likely still find they are worse off. 

The average two-year deal for a 90 per cent mortgage on a property purchased two years ago was 2.4 per cent.

On a £180,000 mortgage being repaid over 25 years this would equate to £799 a month.

If this person now remortgages, onto a deal taking into account increased equity, the rate would likely be 2.9 per cent.

On a £168,675 mortgage being repaid over what is now 23 years this would equate to £895 a month.   

Chris Sykes, technical director at mortgage broker, Private Finance said: ‘Those that bought at higher loan to values two years ago will be facing higher interest rates now even though they will have paid down part of their loan and benefited from changes in property prices over that time.

Those that bought at higher LTV two years ago will be facing higher interest rates now even though they will have paid down part of their loan and benefited from changes in property prices over that time.

Chris Sykes – Private Finance 

‘This mixed with higher costs of living and wages not increasing at the same rate as inflation will be a bitter pill to swallow for some, especially if they stretched themselves to get on the property ladder two years ago.’

However, those coming to an end of a five-year fixed rate will likely see less of a difference, according to Moneyfacts data. 

Based on Nationwide’s house price index, a home costing £200,000 five years ago will typically be worth around £250,000 today.

If someone purchased a typical £200,000 home in May 2017, using a £180,000 mortgage, they could have expected to have secured an average rate of 3.34 per cent.

Now, with them coming to remortgage, they will have a remaining mortgage of £155,000 – representing 62 per cent of a property’s value (if based on average house price growth).

Today they could on average secure a cheaper rate of 2.98 per cent.

 If you purchased with a 80% mortgage two years ago & repaying over 25 years
Purchase price Mortgage amount Avg rate in May 2020  Monthly cost  Current value (after avg growth) Mortgage remaining Avg rate now  Monthly cost with 23 years remaining  
£200,000 £160,000  2.26% £698  £240,000 £150,252  2.61%  £725   
£300,000  £240,000  2.26%  £1,047 £360,000  £225,378  2.61%  £1,087   
£400,000  £320,000  2.26%  £1,397  £479,000  £300,504  2.61% £1,449   
£500,000  £400,000  2.26%  £1,746 £598,000 £375,630  2.61%  £1,811   
If you purchased with a 90% mortgage two years ago & repaying over 25 years
Purchase price Mortgage amount Avg rate in May 2020  Monthly cost  Current value (after 20% growth) Mortgage remaining Avg rate today Monthly cost with 23 year term  
£200,000 £180,000  2.4% £799  £240,000 £169,235  2.9%  £895   
£300,000  £270,000  2.4%  £1,198 £360,000  £253,853 2.9%  £1,342   
£400,000  £360,000  2.4%  £1,598  £480,000  £338,471  2.9%  £1,789   
£500,000  £450,000  2.4%  £1,997  £600,000  £423,089  2.9%  £2,236  
 If you purchased with a 80% mortgage five years ago & repaying over 25 years
Purchase price Mortgage amount Avg 5-year fix rate in May 2017  Monthly cost then Current value (after avg growth) Mortgage remaining Avg rate now  Monthly cost now with 20 years left  
£200,000 £160,000  2.72% £735  £239,000 £136,046 2.79%  £741  
£300,000  £240,000  2.72%  £1,103 £359,000  £204,069 2.79%  £1,111  
£400,000  £320,000  2.72%  £1,471  £505,000  £272,093  2.79% £1,481  
£500,000  £400,000  2.72%  £1,838 £631,000 £340,116  2.79%  £1,851   

How can homeowners manage higher costs?

With many fearing rates will continue to rise this year and into next year, fixing for longer is one way to avoid being stung in two years time.

The average five-year deal is just 0.14 per cent higher than the average two-year deal, and according to Moneyfacts, the differential between the two and five year fixed rates is the smallest recorded in more than nine years.

Sykes says: ‘Two and five year fixed rates are indeed at parity in many examples at the moment so we are seeing more and more people fix for five years, afraid of what interest rates could be in two years time and having to pay higher rates at that stage.’ 

How many more? The Bank of England has upped the base rate for the fourth time in less than five month with more expected over the coming months.

How many more? The Bank of England has upped the base rate for the fourth time in less than five month with more expected over the coming months.

Another option is to lengthen the mortgage term to reduce monthly costs.

By lengthening a mortgage term, a borrower spreads repayments over a longer period of time and reduces monthly costs. 

However, while taking out a longer mortgage term will reduce the monthly costs, it will ultimately mean paying interest for a longer period of time and therefore paying more in the long run.

For example, someone with a £200,000 mortgage paying 2.5 per cent interest over 20 years would face monthly repayments of £1,060, paying a total of £254,379 over the lifespan of the mortgage.

Someone with a £200,000 mortgage paying the same interest rate over a 40-year term would face monthly repayments of £660. However, they would pay £316,647 over the lifespan of the mortgage: £62,268 more than on a 20 year term.

While their interest rate would likely change during this time if they remortgaged or fell on to their lender’s standard variable rate, the principle remains the same.

Some borrowers are opting to take mortgages on an interest-only basis, according to Sykes.

With an interest-only mortgage, you will only pay the interest each month, with the loan amount remaining the same.

This differs from a typical repayment mortgage where you will pay back a part of the loan, as well as the interest, each month until you eventually pay off the mortgage.

With interest-only, your monthly payments will be lower – but at the end of the mortgage term, the full amount you borrowed will need to be repaid in one lump sum.

The challenge for borrowers seeking an interest-only mortgage for their own home is that they are subject to much stricter lending criteria.

Sykes says: ‘Not everyone can do this as you need an adequate repayment plan to pay back the mortgage at the end of the term.

‘The debt won’t be reducing so provisions need to be made to clear the debt over time anyway.’

Sykes adds: ‘I’ve also seen some couples move in with each other earlier than they might have, with one letting out their home and splitting the rent with the other.

‘People do tend to panic with headlines only selling bad news often, so I urge any clients to seek advice where they can and to make considered and educated decisions for the long term, as that’s what mortgages are a long term commitment.’

Best mortgage rates and how to find them

Finding a mortgage can seem confusing due to the huge range of deals on offer.

This is Money has partnered with independent fee-free mortgage broker L&C, to help you find the right home loan.

Our mortgage calculator can let you filter deals to see which ones suit your home’s value and level of deposit.

You can also compare different mortgage fixed rate lengths, from two-year fixes, to five-year fixes and even ten-year fixes, with monthly and total costs shown.

Use the tool at the link below to compare the best deals, factoring in both fees and rates. 

> Compare the best mortgage deals available now  

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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