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People who refuse AstraZeneca vaccine will go to back of queue, says Varadkar

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People who refuse the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will go to the back of the queue for inoculation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the State is on track to ease restrictions as planned from May 4th and that he expects more than 80 per cent of people to have received their first vaccine dose by the end of June.

The Government’s chances of meeting that target had been undermined this week by the announcement that Johnson and Johnson was pausing the distribution of its vaccine. Ireland had been due to receive 604,800 doses of it by the end of June.

On Wednesday, however, it was revealed that the EU is to receive an additional 50 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine with Ireland’s share amounting to 545,000 doses. The extra supply would make up most of the previous shortfall and so puts the Government back in a position to broadly stand over its earlier projections.

In the hours after the news regarding the Pfizer supply was received, the Irish Medical Organisation, which represents GPs, informed its members that the schedule for adminstering vaccinations to peope classified as “highly vulnerable,” or “vulnerable” had been recalibrated.

It said that Pfizer will be used in General Practice for vulnerable people aged 18 to 59. Deliveries of vaccines for those considered “highly vulnerable” will be spread across three weeks, commencing on April 26th. Second doses for these people and first doses for those considered “vulnerable” will begin to be administered on May 17th with second doses for for the “vulnerable” starting to be rolled out on June 14th .

The document suggests those over 60 will be invited to register on the online HSE portal to receive an invitation for a vaccine appointment. GPs were told that the vaccinations booked on the portal will commence next week.

It is thought these will be done using AstraZeneca and the Tánaiste’s comments suggest that those unwilling to receive this vaccine would face a significant wait to be offered an alternative.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said: “We are on track, the kids are back to school, the 5km rule is gone, we’re building houses again – we are on track both to ease restrictions as planned from May 4th and to have over 80 per cent of people receiving their first vaccine by the end of June.”

Mr Varadkar said the estimate regarding the vaccination rollout programme timeframe was “as solid as it can be” even if it has been changed 25 times, but it was necessary to be agile and respond as changes occurred.

He also said the possibility of extending the length of time between first and second doses was being examined but it was not going to happen to those who already had their first dose. However, it could be an option for younger people later.

Mr Varadkar added that at the end of April the Government would sit down and develop the plan for May. “What we’re planning is to allow more outdoor activities, a phased reopening of retail and personal services.”

When asked if this would include hairdressers, he said yes, but not on May 4th. “That’s unlikely, but over the course of the month of May there will be a phased reopening of personal services.”

When asked if he was being overly optimistic, the Tánaiste replied: “I’m forever being accused of optimism, but in a country full of pessimists and despondency it’s nice to have someone who thinks the other way, maybe.”

There were four things that would determine the pace of the reopening, he added; these were availability of vaccines, the variants, case numbers and “the state of hospitals.”

Mr Varadkar also defended the mandatory hotel quarantine system after it was suspended over a lack of availability. He said it was not as simple as the number of hotel beds available.

He warned that there was going to be an issue of people coming into the country illegally through Northern Ireland. At present, people travelling through Northern Ireland who have been in a “designated state,” within the previous 14 days are required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine.

The Government was also examining the possibility of fully vaccinated people not having to quarantine, but they were awaiting public health advice. He acknowledged that he did have reservations and questions about hotel quarantine, but said there was no question that he was “in the pocket of businesses or the airlines” as had been alleged.

In response to the suggestion by businessman Patrick Coveney that there would be an economic cost to the country because of the system, he said of course there would be an economic cost to be paid.

“If we are cut off for too long there will be economic consequences. That’s why the policy should not be a long term one. Any exit strategy will be based on the vaccination programme,” he said.


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Madison International Realty invests in London Salesforce Tower (GB)

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Madison International Realty has acquired a minority stake in the Salesforce Tower, London EC2, through a Jersey Property Unit Trust (JPUT), joining other investors including Heron International.

 

The 230-metre tower, completed in 2011 at 110 Bishopsgate, is an island site in the City of London and provides 441,000ft² of office space over 37 floors. The property is over 93% let to a range of tenants, the largest of which is Salesforce. The Salesforce Tower also has an outstanding food and beverage offering with Duck and Waffle and Sushi Samba at the very top and the Drift on the ground floor. The building has a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for design.

 

The asset’s central location in the core of the City of London means it benefits from excellent transport connectivity, with Liverpool Street and Bank within a short walking distance. Similarly, there are a large number of new world-class food, drink and entertainment options nearby including the new Pan Pacific hotel adjacent at Heron Plaza and Eataly in Broadgate. In January 2021, an ING-led syndicate of lenders completed a €465.2m (£400m), five-year refinancing of the Tower.

 

Alex Lukesch, Managing Director at Madison International Realty commented on the investment: “This acquisition has allowed us to secure a stake in a prominent London office building, which we believe delivers space that meets the demands of modern occupiers looking for world-class offices in one of the world’s leading financial centres. The investment reflects our conviction in the ongoing resilience of the office sector and the role we believe it will play post-pandemic. We have observed that demand for quality, well-located space remains robust, while companies are increasingly looking for properties that also have strong ESG credentials to help meet their own sustainability targets. In Heron, we believe we have an experienced and highly regarded partner and we look forward to working with them on this venture.”

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Britain’s blossoming love for Japanese design in the home

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The design has a red lid and a narrow neck which widens to form a base of sturdy hips. When poured, the contents flow in a singular, uninterrupted stream.

The Kikkoman bottle hasn’t changed since it was designed in 1961 by Kenji Ekuan for the world’s largest soy sauce producer.

Simplicity has made it ubiquitous. And crucially, it works — think of wrestling with glass Heinz ketchup bottles or constantly wiping lids on plastic iterations. Likely, Kikkoman’s bottle is the reason we’re so familiar with soy sauce.

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country's influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country’s influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

In the introduction to her book Japanese Design Since 1945 (£35, Thames & Hudson), Naomi Pollock writes: ‘In Japan, good design is everywhere. But most of all, it’s in the home.’

The trend for Japanese-inspired, UK-based brands, such as Wagamama, Superdry and Yo! Sushi, is well worn, but the country’s influence is likely seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes.

Inspired idea 

The Japanese approach to design is summed up well by a single product – Muji’s right angle sock (from £3.50, muji.eu). 

As the foot is perpendicular to the leg, the sock should follow the shape of the body: design centres on the user rather than the designer.

The word ‘Muji’ translates as ‘without brand’ and the company invites (often renowned) designers to create reasonably priced products anonymously. 

Design guru Naoto Fukasawa is an adviser to Muji, and his wall-mounted CD player for the company (£149) is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Naoto Fukasawa's butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

Naoto Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

In the UK, Chaplins stocks a large selection of products from Japan, including some from the designer.

‘The idea is to create designs that appear to have been sculpted by the elements,’ says Ludovic Aublanc, creative director at Chaplins. ‘It’s the kind of minimalism that brims with emotion, that makes you grateful and happy to come home.’

The company stocks Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Papilio range – chairs and sofas sporting headset ‘wings’ to protect the user’s head (Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair, £2,869, chaplins.co.uk).

Simple seating

Japanese designers have described the chair as the centre of design and an extension of the human form. It follows that these things should be easy on both the body and the eye.

Habitat’s Mori charcoal two-seater sofa (£716, habitat.co.uk) certainly fits the bill. It is compact, unfussy and elegant with its plush curved armrests and contrasting thin, wooden legs.

Simple unfinished woodwork is a key part of design in Japan, like the solid oak dining chairs from Oak Furnitureland (£140, oakfurnitureland.com) which would pair well with the Japanese oak Castor Table by Karimoku New Standard (£1,169, nest.co.uk).

Clutter free

Last year, decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her hit Netflix show. The programme has been talked of plenty, but we’re perhaps unaware of how key these principles are to Japanese design.

A large part of the focus on user-friendly products comes down to space. As ever, it’s important for Muji, with its storage bed (from £299) which has spacious drawers to banish clutter. Loaf has the Woody storage bed (from £995, loaf.com).

Simple boxy shelving units such as the Ikea Kallax range (from £15, ikea.com) are practical, but can also be used for displaying plants, books and records.

Or, for a modern twist, try the John Lewis Dice shelving unit bookcase (£450, johnlewis.com). The company also stocks Japanese brand Like-it’s clear storage products (from £8).

Crockery that rocks 

Japanese pottery has long been a feature of our homes, and a collection by John Lewis is a nod to this. Inspired by woodblock prints, the range includes glassware, plates, mugs and even Christmas decorations. 

It’s all delicate, bright patterns and the infuser mugs by Tokyo Design Studio (from £25) are a highlight.

But elegant motifs are only part of the story. The earthy charcoals, whites and beiges of Hasami Porcelain (hasami-porcelain.com) are a calming, elegant addition to any kitchen.

Hasami teapots start from £65 and mugs from £22 (la-gent.com) – also pick up a copy of Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book Of Tea, written in 1906, an insight into the Japanese ritual of tea-making. Elsewhere, an Oriental Hobnail tea set costs from £22.98 (wayfair.co.uk).

For eating, Denby Pottery has Japanese-inspired bowls from £58 for four in grey and white (denbypottery.com).

Finally, being able to serve Japan’s other favourite drink – the highball – is a must. Try LSA’s Mia Highball glasses (£27 for four, lsa-international.com) or, for something cheaper, a set of six Duralex Prisme highballs is £11.99 at rinkit.com.

Then grab a bottle of Akashi whisky (£28.50, waitrosecellar.com), add ice, stir clockwise 13 times, add soda water, stir again and appreciate another example of elegance and simplicity in Japanese design.

What your home really needs is… a Christmas throw

At this time of year, people fall into two groups: those who believe more is more, with bright lights and decorations aplenty; and others who keep things simple, with a few holly sprigs and a carefully adorned tree.

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

But whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist, your home will need a Christmas throw because someone in your festive bubble is bound to complain about being cold.

If glitter is your thing, you’ll like the fleece star throw from Marks & Spencer (£25, marksand spencer.com). 

Or snuggle up under Dunelm’s red cable-knit design with a fleecey inside (£60, dunelm.com).

For something more fun, Redbubble has one that reads: ‘This is my Hallmark Christmas movie watching blanket’ (£34.73, redbubble.com).

Going low-key? How about a white and grey reindeer pattern with red pompoms (£40, barkerand stonehouse.com)? 

Or this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw , £99.50, notonthe highstreet.com), which you could use all year round.

Anne Ashworth 

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Extending grace period on checks in North would be ‘problematic’ – Taoiseach

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said it will be “very problematic” if the UK again extends unilaterally the grace period for Northern Ireland Protocol checks.

But speaking on the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News, Mr Martin also insisted a breakthrough between the EU and UK was still possible “if there’s a will there on both sides”.

His comments came after Boris Johnson escalated his dispute with the European Union by warning he will do whatever it takes to keep goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Following talks with the EU’s key figures on Saturday, the British prime minister said he would not hesitate to take unilateral action to protect the position of Northern Ireland in the increasingly bitter row over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The row – dubbed the “sausage war” – could mean chilled meats will not be shipped across the Irish Sea because of EU rules after the end of the month.

The UK is considering extending the current grace period without the consent of Brussels to ensure that sausages and mince can continue to reach Northern Ireland’s shops.

But Mr Martin told Sky News that the “channels do exist to get this resolved”.

He added: “In particular, the Sefcovic/Frost process should be fully explored and optimised to get an agreement and I think the prospects, in my view, if there’s a will there on both sides, and there is a will there from the European Union side I know that, I detect from the British prime minister Boris Johnson that the British government is anxious to get a resolution of this, so I think we should work at it.”

Mr Martin said he believed an SPS agreement (on plant and animal health measures) could remove 80 per cent of protocol checks.

When asked about the possibility of the UK unilaterally extending the grace period for checks, Mr Martin said: “I think it will be very problematic because it’s not about sausages per se, it really is about the fact that an agreement had been entered into, not too long ago, signed off by the British government with the European Union.

“If there’s consistent, unilateral deviation from that agreement, that clearly undermines the broader relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is in nobody’s interest and therefore that’s why the UK with the EU have to work very hard now in the coming weeks.

“I know the European Union are anxious to resolve this and want to resolve it but they need to see a similar reciprocity from the UK side.”

When asked if the protocol is undermining Northern Ireland’s place within the UK, Mr Martin said: “We’ve never seen the Protocol as a constitutional issue, it doesn’t in any way interfere with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as defined and articulated in the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement.

“We’re very clear from the Irish Government perspective on that, but we do believe in seamless trade on the island of Ireland, it makes sense. We believe in seamless trade insofar as we possibly can between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.”

‘A bit of respect’

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab accused EU leaders of trying to undermine the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

After talks at the G7 summit in Cornwall between Boris Johnson and key EU figures failed to achieve a breakthrough in the dispute over the implementation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Northern Ireland, Mr Raab said the EU was showing a lack of respect.

“What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively try to change the status of Northern Ireland, contrary to the consent and wishes of the people, which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol but also to the Belfast Agreement,” he told Mr Phillips on Sky News.

“We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was some kind of different country to the UK. It is not only offensive, it has real-world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.

“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the lander in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France as different countries. We need a bit of respect here.– PA

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