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What’s the problem with extending the country quarantine list?

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The mandatory hotel quarantine system has been in operation for more than a week but continues to cause tensions in Government. What is going on?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and others reacted angrily when an expert travel advisory group recommended that 43 countries, including the US, France, Germany and 15 other EU countries, be added to 33 countries already on the mandatory hotel quarantine list.

The leaking of the list drafted by public health officials, prior to consultations between Ministers and departments, led to a “frosty” meeting between Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Fault lines were drawn between public health concerns and the need to take sweeping measures to keep Covid-19 variants out of the country – as pushed by Donnelly – and the political, diplomatic, legal, business and operational issues – as pushed by Coveney and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar – around imposing the 12-day quarantine on visitors from major EU countries and the US.

A short-term compromise was reached with 26 non-EU countries and states being added, but Donnelly is still pushing for it to cover more countries.

What is at issue?

The aim of the quarantine system is to protect against Covid-19 variants as the country seeks to prevent a fourth wave of the disease and allow some easing of public health restrictions while vaccines are rolled out.

Coveney and others have questioned Donnelly and his officials about whether the means are legal, proportionate and practicable given the numbers of travellers, including Irish people, involved.

What could the legal problems be?

Attorney General Paul Gallagher raised concerns that the correct process under the quarantine legislation had not been followed. Given the freedom of movement rules within the EU, he also asked whether the State could force people arriving from EU countries to quarantine, but it was pointed out that Austria, an EU country, was already on the list and no issue was raised.

He also raised concerns about whether it would be legal to force EU and Irish citizens to pay for quarantine under freedom of movement rules. Health officials have argued that Irish people could bring back variants from visits overseas too and the legislation clearly covers them.

How could the measures be disproportionate?

Department of Foreign Affairs officials have questioned whether the proposed list goes too far when the aim was to stop variants of concern, but health officials said there are now heightened risks in EU states, including from a variant in France that appears undetectable by the PCR test.

What are the practical problems?

The contract with hotel operator Tifco offers 650 rooms with a capacity to increase this to 2,500 rooms. But Coveney and Varadkar have raised concerns about the massive influx of travellers who would be subject to quarantine if EU countries and the US were added to the list.

How could these issues be overcome?

Extra hotel rooms could be sought under a new contract. A more radical proposal could involve applying a cap on arrivals, as Australia has imposed, though this is seen as a last resort given how politically unrealistic it would be to sell to a country with a large diaspora.

So how will matters be resolved?

This is hard to say given the divisions and tensions in Government. At the heart of this dispute is the fact that the quarantine system was set up without being fully thought through and with the Department of Health unusually being charged with its operation.

One source said some in Government were never really enthusiastic about the quarantine system, seeing it as an act of populist appeasement. Health officials, on the other hand, see it as a key public health measure to stop variants entering the State that could undermine the vaccination programme.

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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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