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Rotunda to extend visiting hours for partners of pregnant women

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The Rotunda maternity hospital is to extend its visiting hours for partners of pregnant women to “close to pre-pandemic levels” following a “significant uptake” in Covid-19 vaccination rates among patients.

From Monday, those visiting hours will be 8am to 8pm each day.

The Master of the Rotunda, Prof Fergal Malone, last month said 60 per cent of patients and partners “walking around” the hospital were not vaccinated, meaning Covid-19 restrictions on attending partners could not be lifted.

He said the hospital carried out surveys of the vaccination status of patients and their partners every week, and that at the time just 39 per cent of expectant mothers were vaccinated, as well as 41 per cent of their partners.

However, in a statement on Saturday, the hospital said it was “delighted to be able to announce a significant uptake in Covid-19 vaccination rates amongst its patient population”.

It said its most recent survey reported that 57 per cent of patients and 74 per cent of their partners were fully vaccinated. This reflects current data from its most recent inpatient survey, which had a 95 per cent response rate.

“It also reflects the strong effort and lead being taken by the Rotunda in better informing patients on the very significant health benefits of Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy,” the hospital said.





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“The Irish Medicines in Pregnancy Service, which is funded and based at the Rotunda, together with the Rotunda’s various other information forums and platforms, will continue to do whatever it can to encourage this vaccination rate to grow even higher.

“In response to this significant improvement in vaccination rates, effective Monday September 13th, 2021, the Rotunda will now be able to extend visiting hours for partners to 8am to 8pm each day,” the Rotunda said.

The hospital said all other existing access controls “to keep all patients safe” continue to apply.

“This brings the Rotunda’s visiting arrangements close to pre-pandemic levels and remains vastly more accessible to arrangements that remain at almost all acute general hospitals in the State,” the hospital added.

“The Rotunda’s management team will continue to keep these arrangements under regular review, taking all necessary precautions to keep all our patients safe, while making decisions that are evidenced and based on current infection prevention and control guidance.”

The Rotunda was already allowing partners to attend early pregnancy scanning up to 12 weeks and anomaly scans, but previously the hospital said it could not accommodate unrestricted visiting at other times.

Saturday’s development comes weeks after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced several updates to the State’s vaccination programme, including that mRNA vaccines can be given to pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy.

The previous advice was that pregnant women be offered mRNA shots at between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation.

Last month, former master of the Rotunda Dr Peter Boylan said the distress caused to couples when a partner was not allowed to attend in particular circumstances was absolutely understandable.

However, he said of the Rotunda: “I think they’re clearly doing their best, but they do have a problem with the infrastructure in the Rotunda, and with the low vaccination rates among people attending.”

Dr Boylan pointed out that parts of the hospital date back to 1757 and that there is no ventilation or air conditioning in the old building. Included in that section are the main waiting rooms for the emergency department and ultrasound department.

Prof Malone said each of the hospital’s eight delivery suites are private and once a patient is admitted to the delivery room the patient’s partner will be with them “for every minute of that journey”.

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Britain’s biggest homes for sale: Devon country house vs London mansion

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The biggest properties for sale on the open market in Britain – both in and outside of London – have been exclusively revealed by Zoopla.

The largest home on the property website is in Devon, in the town of Ottery Saint Mary, and at 22,211 sq ft it’s almost double the size of the 12,451 sq ft mansion in the capital.

Yet the price tag of the country house in Devon – said to be where Oliver Cromwell declared civil war –  is significantly less at £5.95million, costing just over a third of the £15.95million one in North London’s Highgate.

For £5.95m, you could get more than 22,000 square feet of country house with 21 acres of grounds in Devon's Ottery Saint Mary

For £5.95m, you could get more than 22,000 square feet of country house with 21 acres of grounds in Devon’s Ottery Saint Mary

By contrast, £16.95million buys a 12,500 square feet seven-bedroom mansion on London's affluent Courtenay Avenue

By contrast, £16.95million buys a 12,500 square feet seven-bedroom mansion on London’s affluent Courtenay Avenue

The seven-bedroom London pile is on Courtenay Avenue, which was recently named the second most expensive street in Britain and is close to Hampstead Heath. It comes with half an acre gardens – a sizeable chunk of land for a home in the capital.

But the Devon property boasts 21 acres, 10 bedrooms, parkland and woodland, and comes with what the estate agent describes as ‘the fascinating Cromwell Fairfax Room where it is believed Civil War was declared in the 17th Century’.

The average price of a home in Ottery, where it is situated, is £433,981, which is up £28,052 on a year ago, according to Zoopla.

By contrast, the average price of a home in Courtenay Avenue is £20,510,200, but that is down £108,741 compared to a year earlier, as buyers’ pandemic desire for the countryside tops demand for the capital.

We take a look inside both properties… 

1. Seven-bed house, Courtenay Avenue, London, £16.95million

The property is on a private gated road and boasts a luxurious interior with a large dining room for entertaining

The property is on a private gated road and boasts a luxurious interior with a large dining room for entertaining

The house for sale in London with the biggest square footage is in the north of the capital, on Courtenay Avenue.

Running parallel with the more famous Billionaire’s Row of The Bishops Avenue, Courtenay Avenue is an even more exclusive no-through road on the borders of Highgate and Hampstead, which was recently named as the second most expensive street in Britain by Zoopla. The £20million average house price there was only topped by Kensington Palace Gardens at £30million.

The Courtenay Avenue house extends across 12,451 sq ft, the equivalent of 1,156.7 square metres, and sits in just over half an acre of land. 

It has seven bedrooms, including a main bedroom suite that overlooks the landscaped gardens.

Inside, there is a swimming pool, gym, steam room and sauna, as well as staff accommodation.

The property has a price tag of £16.95million and is on the market via estate agents Bargets. 

The Courtenay Avenue home boasts a swimming pool, gym, steam room and sauna, as well as staff accommodation

The Courtenay Avenue home boasts a swimming pool, gym, steam room and sauna, as well as staff accommodation

Deep pockets required: The property has a price tag of £16.95million and is on the market via estate agents Bargets

Deep pockets required: The property has a price tag of £16.95million and is on the market via estate agents Bargets

The house extends across 12,451 sq ft, the equivalent of 1,156.7 square metres, and sits in just over half an acre of land

The house extends across 12,451 sq ft, the equivalent of 1,156.7 square metres, and sits in just over half an acre of land

The house has plenty of space with seven bedrooms, including a main bedroom suite that overlooks the landscaped gardens

The house has plenty of space with seven bedrooms, including a main bedroom suite that overlooks the landscaped gardens

Daniel Copley, of Zoopla, said: ‘Located on Courtenay Avenue, which was recently crowned the UK’s second most expensive street, this palatial property has an enviable location a stone’s throw away from Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath, as well as 24hr security.

‘The property itself is brimming with luxurious touches including a spacious walk in wardrobe, while the fitness suites offer the perfect place to unwind.’

2. Ten-bed house, Devon, £5.95m

This £16.95million house in Devon's Ottery St Mary has the biggest square footage of any home currently for sale on Zoopla

This £16.95million house in Devon’s Ottery St Mary has the biggest square footage of any home currently for sale on Zoopla

The property has an impressive dining room where Oliver Cromwell reportedly declared the start of the Civil War

The property has an impressive dining room where Oliver Cromwell reportedly declared the start of the Civil War

The largest house for sale in the country on Zoopla is in Exeter’s Ottery St Mary. It is called The Chanters House and extends across 22,211 sq ft, the equivalent of 2,063.4 square metres.

The living areas include The Great Library, which is more than 70 ft in length and is where poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s family created one of the West Country’s most impressive libraries,

Meanwhile, the dining room is said to be where Oliver Cromwell hosted a meeting of local people and declared the start of the Civil War in the 17th century.

A story to tell: The Great Library is more than 70 ft in length and was created by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family

A story to tell: The Great Library is more than 70 ft in length and was created by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his family

The property is called The Chanters House and extends across 22,211 sq ft and boasts a large indoor swimming pool

The property is called The Chanters House and extends across 22,211 sq ft and boasts a large indoor swimming pool

The Grade II listed property has a massive 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a striking conservatory with a large seating area

The Grade II listed property has a massive 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a striking conservatory with a large seating area

There is also a billiards room, a conservatory, a swimming pool and a striking greenhouse.

The Grade II listed property has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and sits in more than 21 acres, including parkland and woodland that runs down to the River Otter. It has a price tag of £5.95million and is being sold via estate agents Knight Frank.

Zoopla’s Mr Copley said: ‘Chanters House is a true piece of British history, with links to famous figures including Oliver Cromwell and the renowned poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

‘The spacious interior has plenty of beautiful details including carved wooden ceilings and panelling, as well as a beautiful library with over 22,000 books. There’s also expansive grounds with a BBQ area and pool house.’

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Prosecution of former British soldier over Troubles killing defended

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Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service has defended the decision to prosecute British army veteran Dennis Hutchings over a Troubles shooting.

Mr Hutchings (80) died in hospital in Belfast on Monday after contracting Covid-19, leading unionist politicians to raise concerns that the case against him had been allowed to proceed.

The former member of the Life Guards, had pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974. He also denied a count of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Mr Cunningham, a 27-year-old with learning difficulties, was shot dead as he ran away from an army patrol near Benburb. People who knew him said he had the mental age of a child and was known to have a deep fear of soldiers.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson had challenged the prosecution service over what new and compelling evidence led to the trial.

Deputy director of public prosecutions Michael Agnew said: “The PPS [Public Prosecution Service] decision to prosecute Mr Hutchings for attempted murder was taken after an impartial and independent application of the test for prosecution.

“The test for prosecution requires a consideration of whether the available evidence provides a reasonable prospect of conviction and, if it does, whether prosecution is in the public interest,” Mr Agnew said.

“Whilst a review of a previous no prosecution decision does not require the existence of new evidence, the police investigation in this case resulted in a file being submitted to the PPS which included certain evidence not previously available.

“In the course of the proceedings there were rulings by High Court judges that the evidence was sufficient to put Mr Hutchings on trial and also that the proceedings were not an abuse of process.”

Mr Agnew said the PPS recognised the “concerns in some quarters” in relation to the decision to bring the prosecution.

He added: “We would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Hutchings, and acknowledge their painful loss.

“However, where a charge is as serious as attempted murder, it will generally be in the public interest to prosecute.”

“Our thoughts are also with the family of John Pat Cunningham who have waited for many decades in the hope of seeing due process take its course.”

Mr Hutchings had been suffering from kidney disease, and the court had been sitting only three days a week to enable him to undergo dialysis treatment between hearings.

He was charged with the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Mr Hutchings died at the Mater Hospital on Monday while in Belfast for the trial. Hours earlier, the trial had been adjourned for three weeks in light of his health.

Mr Donaldson said he had been shocked when the decision was taken to bring the case to trial. “He has been literally dragged before the courts,” he told the BBC.

“Dennis is an honourable man, he wanted to clear his name, he was prepared to go despite the risk to his health but I do think this morning there are serious questions that need to be asked of those who took the decision that it was in the public interest to prosecute this man.”

Mr Donaldson said Mr Hutchings’s actions had been investigated at the time.

“So it is not a question of this being something new, and therefore the question I have for the PPS is what was the new and compelling evidence that meant it was in the public interest to bring an 80-year-old in ill health on dialysis at severe risk to his health before the courts, and I think that is an entirely valid question that I am entitled to ask this morning,” he said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie has called for a “full and thorough” review into the decision-making of the Public Prosecution Service. – PA

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How to value your home

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Since Revenue disclosed details of its property tax revaluation campaign back in mid-September, households around the State have started to fret about how much their home is worth.

Where just a few short weeks ago, people were talking jubilantly about how much the house across the road had sold for, now there is a fear that exuberant house prices will cause a sharp rise in property tax bills.

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