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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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Could equity release be used to help more younger homebuyers?

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Younger first-time buyers could be given more financial help from the Bank of Grandma and Grandad, through the use of improved equity release products, a new report suggests.

The document written by Tom McPhail, of consultancy The Lang Cat, claimed that younger buyers are missing out because older members of their family are unable to satisfactorily tap into their property wealth.

Mr McPhail said: ‘Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations.

‘An equity release by grandparents of say £20,000 now, could be transformational for a 20 something struggling to raise a deposit and get on the housing ladder but would make only a very modest dent to the value of the grandparent’s house.’

Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations, says new report

Releasing some of the equity in a property means older homeowners can choose when and how they share their wealth with younger generations, says new report

The report acknowledged that equity release has endured a poor reputation in the past after customers suffered ‘severe’ financial knocks.

The sector has been criticised for encouraging people to take on debt, particularly later on in life.

There has also been other concerns about equity release, such as customers falling into negative equity where the value of a property is less than the loan taken out against it when house prices fall.

The report suggested that while the equity release sector has since begun to put ‘its house in order’, it is ‘still not perfect’ and some regulatory safeguards need to be strengthened.

It called for several issues to be looked at, including early redemption charges on equity release products.

It said that most providers apply a simple sliding scale of charges, for example 10 per cent in year on to 1 per cent in year 10.

However, it claimed that some providers apply an early redemption charge based on prevailing gilt rates at that time, putting customers at an ‘unfair disadvantage’.

This is because the fees are not transparent as there is no way a customer can know in advance whether they’d be liable for a charge and if so, how much. 

In the past, customers have also fallen foul of the small print on their equity release loans when it comes to early-redemption penalties – such as couples who must pay an exit fee unless both of them need to go into care.

The report also raised questions about interest rates on equity release products. It said providers should be consistent with their lending criteria and not move the goalposts after customers have taken out a loan, as this can make it harder for them to access a top-up loan in the future, potentially forcing them to remortgage. 

Equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder

Equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder

The report argued that equity release products could help people access their property wealth to help younger members of their family onto the property ladder.

Mr McPhail added: ‘Raising a deposit has become an increasingly significant barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations.

‘Releasing some of the equity in a property allows older homeowners to choose when and how they share their wealth with the younger generation.

‘This more targeted approach gives them greater control to use their assets to the maximum benefit at the point of need.’

Raising a deposit is a barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations, says the report's author Tom McPhail

Raising a deposit is a barrier to getting on the housing ladder, with increasing numbers of first-time buyers having to rely on financial help from older generations, says the report’s author Tom McPhail

Equity release: How it works and advice

To help readers considering equity release, This is Money has partnered with Age Partnership+, independent advisers who specialise in retirement mortgages and equity release. 

Age Partnership+ compares deals across the whole of the market and their advisers can help you work out whether equity release is right for you – or whether there are better options, such as downsizing. 

Age Partnership+ advisers can also see if those with existing equity release deals can save money by switching. 

You can compare equity release rates and work out how much you could potentially borrow with This is Money’s new calculator powered by broker Age Partnership+.* 

 * Partner link

Jonathan Harris, of mortgage broker Forensic Property Finance, said: ‘Equity release has historically been viewed as a ‘murky’, high-risk sector, fuelled by minimal regulation, poorly-qualified advisers, only a handful of lenders and extortionately high interest rates.

‘Fast forward to today and we see a dramatically transformed sector, benefiting from strict regulation, highly-qualified advisers, multiple lenders and access to very competitive interest rates. 

‘Not surprisingly, equity release is now a viable and growing market for older borrowers looking to utilise the gains seen on property prices to bolster lifestyles, as well as pass on wealth to children when they need it.

‘Those considering equity release should make sure they understand the implications and involve family in any decision-making. It is always important to seek advice from suitably-qualified advisers.’

It comes as a separate report by Legal & General suggested that one in every £90 spent by retired Britons is funded by equity release.

It said that equity release funded an estimated £3billion in retirement spending last year, although it didn’t mentioned the money going to younger generations towards buying a property.

Instead, the report’s survey of 2,000 homeowners found that those with equity release have most frequently used the product to finance home improvements, at 26 per cent.

It said equity release is also being used to support costs such as medical expenses at 17 per cent, maintaining living standards in retirement at 16 per cent, and paying off personal debt at 16 per cent, for example paying off interest-only mortgages. 

It suggested that equity release is likely to play an increasingly important role in financing care-related expenses, with 19 per cent of prospective homeowners citing it as a consideration.

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Allianz Real Estate buys prime office building in Rome (IT)

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Allianz Real Estate, advised by Dils, has acquired an office property in the centre of Rome. The transaction, worth circa €175m, is one of the most important to have been carried out on the real estate market in Rome in recent years.

 

The building, consisting of eleven storeys, comprising nine above-ground and two underground, has a gross lettable area of circa 22,000m² and has undergone a major refurbishment, offering the highest environmental sustainability and energy efficiency standards (LEED Gold Certification). The strategic location, between the CBD and Termini Station, is enjoying great success, especially among corporate occupiers. 

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NCC sells Valby office scheme (DK)

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NCC is selling Kontorværket 1 office project in Valby, Copenhagen to Industriens Pension. The building will become biotech company Genmab’s new headquarters and will meet high environmental standards for both the building and the area. The transaction will be conducted as a company divestment, based on an underlying property value of approximately €81.9m (SEK875m). Transfer of the project and payment of the purchase consideration is expected to result in a positive earnings effect in the NCC Property Development business area in the first quarter of 2023.

 

“We are now selling Kontorværket 1, the first phase of our development project in Valby in the central parts of Copenhagen. Here we have developed property with an optimal infrastructure and appealing architecture, and I am pleased that Industriens Pension is now taking over,” said Joachim Holmberg, Business Area Manager, NCC Property Development.

 

Kontorværket 1 encompasses 16,000m² of lettable area and also includes a basement featuring a parking garage next to the building, with space for 280 vehicles and facilities for parking bicycles.

 

“This is an attractive and future-proof office property, located in an area with very good infrastructure, a motorway, a nearby metro and S-train station. The 15-year lease with Genmab fits well with our strategy as a long-term owner, and we expect the property to contribute a stable return for our members for many years to come. We look forward to welcoming Genmab’s experts in biotechnology,” said Soren Tang Kristensen, Head of Real Estate Investments, Industriens Pension.

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