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Covid grips Europe’s unvaccinated east

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Hospitals are struggling to cope as Covid-19 sweeps through large unvaccinated populations in central and eastern Europe, where low levels of trust impeded acceptance of inoculation programmes.

Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and others have teamed up to send oxygen supplies, medicines and ventilators to Romania after it appealed for help from the European Union to cope with a crushing fourth wave of the pandemic.

Just 36 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated in the country, according to EU figures, the second-lowest level in the union after Bulgaria, where the rate is just one in four adults, far below the pan-EU rate of 75 per cent.

Both countries are suffering a brutal surge of infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Romania has seen an average of more than 400 deaths a day for the past week, in a population of 19 million, the highest rate in the EU according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In Bulgaria, in a population of seven million, more than 100 people have died on average each day for the past week.

Romania on Monday imposed a night-time curfew, shut schools and introduced mandatory Covid-19 passes for most public venues in a bid to curb the soaring infections as its intensive-care wards ran out of beds.

Reimpose restrictions

Infections are also soaring in the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, which became the first European country to reimpose sweeping restrictions last week by shutting schools and all non-essential shops, and imposing a curfew from 8pm to 5am for a month. Restrictions were also tightened in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.

In neighbouring Russia, daily Covid-19 infections reached a record high of 37,930 in 24 hours on Monday, and some regions shut workplaces in response.

World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that with 50,000 Covid-19 deaths a week the pandemic was “far from over”, but he said it would end “when the world chooses to end it”.

“It is in our hands. We have all the tools we need,” he said. “Unlike so many other health challenges, we can prevent this. Complacency is now as dangerous as the virus.”

 In Austria, where 73 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated, chancellor Alexander Schallenberg warned that restrictions could be placed on the unvaccinated if Covid-19 patients began to take up the country’s ICU capacity.

“The pandemic is not yet in the rear view mirror,” Mr Schallenberg said. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

He warned that if Covid-19 patients took up a quarter of national ICU beds, then only the vaccinated or people who had recovered from the virus would be allowed entry into restaurants and hotels. If the percentage reached a third, the unvaccinated would be allowed to leave home only for specific reasons.

Vaccination rates have reached above 90 per cent for those eligible in several countries in western Europe including Ireland, though coverage is lower in some cities and particular populations.

Hospitalisations

This is helping to keep hospitalisations under control, but infections are still rising and many countries have opted to continue with some precautions including mask-wearing, working from home recommendations, and mandatory Covid-19 passes in public settings. Last week, Italy made the passes mandatory for workplaces.

The WHO warned last week that Europe region was the only region in which Covid-19 cases were rising, led by surges in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Emergencies chief Dr Mike Ryan appealed for the unvaccinated to come forward for jabs, and said the rise in infections came as restrictions were dropped in many countries, coinciding with “the winter period, in which people are moving inside as the cold snaps appear”.

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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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Bournemouth is the most popular coastal town for buyers, says Rightmove

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The most popular seaside location for house hunters this year has been Bournemouth, new research has revealed.   

Rightmove identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain, based on the highest number of buyer enquiries via its website.

The Dorset resort is the most popular, followed by Southampton, Hampshire and Brighton, East Sussex, with the South coast dominating the list. 

Rightmove has identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

Rightmove has identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

The top ten list also includes Blackpool, Lancashire – a coastal resort known for its amusement arcades and donkey rides – where prices have increased 8 per cent in the past year to £137,301.

It compares to the average house price in the top 10 locations, which rose 6 per cent this year. 

It is just ahead of the national average rise of 5 per cent, from £318,188, to £333,037. These figures are based on an average between January and November 2020 compared to January-November 2021. 

At the same time, Rightmove provided a list of coastal locations that have seen the biggest increases in house prices this year.

Padstow in Cornwall topped that list of coastal hotspots, with prices rising 20 per cent this year, from from £548,382, to £658,588.

The most popular seaside location for house hunters is Bournemouth (pictured), according to Rightmove

The most popular seaside location for house hunters is Bournemouth (pictured), according to Rightmove

AVERAGE ASKING PRICES IN COASTAL HOTSPOTS 2021
Rank Location Average asking price 2021 Average asking price 2020 Average asking price increase 2021 vs 2020
1 Padstow, Cornwall £658,588 £548,382 20%
2 Whitby, North Yorkshire £254,218 £217,620 17%
3 St. Ives, Cornwall £473,161 £411,484 15%
4 Porthcawl, South Glamorgan, Bridgend (County of) £307,051 £270,505 14%
5 Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire £173,612 £153,140 13%
6 Newquay, Cornwall £317,846 £281,204 13%
7 Filey, North Yorkshire £214,617 £189,914 13%
8 Pwllheli, Gwynedd £222,607 £197,213 13%
9 Brixham, Devon £299,127 £266,604 12%
10 Preston, Paignton, Devon £303,684 £272,029 12%
Source: Rightmove       

It was followed by Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which came second, with prices rising 17 per cent from £217,620, to £254,218. 

Cornwall’s St. Ives is in third place, with average values rising 15 per cent from £411,484 to £473,161.

A house with a good sea view and location will cost you, as it will probably be worth at least 40 per cent more than the equivalent inland, if not more.

Robin Gould – Prime Purchase 

Robin Gould, director of buying agency Prime Purchase, says: ‘Many people love the idea of living beside the sea, even more so since the pandemic struck and we have all been spending more time outside. 

‘However, a house with a good sea view and location will cost you, as it will probably be worth at least 40 per cent more than the equivalent inland, if not more. 

‘A frontline house is arguably worth 30 per cent more than one immediately behind it.

‘I recently bought a “frontline” house near Polzeath in north Cornwall for a client, which was right on the cliff top with stunning coastal and sea views.  

‘Although the house itself was very “vanilla”, most people would have forgiven it anything to have that ever-changing, interesting view.’

Also among the most popular coastal locations for homebuyers is Brighton (pictured)

Also among the most popular coastal locations for homebuyers is Brighton (pictured)

QUICKEST COASTAL MARKETS TO FIND A BUYER
Rank Location Average asking price 2021 Average time to find a buyer 2021 (days) Change in time to find a buyer 2021 vs 2020 (days)
1 Saltcoats, Ayrshire £111,419 19 -35
2 Troon, Ayrshire £178,666 22 -8
3 Westward Ho, Bideford, Devon £297,138 24 -46
4 Ayr, Ayrshire £161,301 25 -15
5 Kessingland, Lowestoft, Suffolk £219,538 25 -22
6 Littlehampton, West Sussex £364,180 26 -28
7 Goring-By-Sea, Worthing, West Sussex £396,078 26 -23
8 Marske-By-The-Sea, Redcar, Cleveland £181,882 28 -15
9 Canvey Island, Essex £308,261 28 -23
10 Weymouth, Dorset £283,585 29 -25
Source: Rightmove       

The red hot property market this year has translated into the time it takes to find a buyer hitting a record low number of days.

The average time find a buyer across the whole of 2021 is 44 days, 15 days quicker than the average in 2020.

Saltcoats in Ayrshire is this year’s quickest coastal location to find a buyer, at 19 days on average.

Troon in Ayrshire came second at 22 days, and Westward Ho, in Bideford, Devon was third at 24 days.

Calshot beach was included as Southampton, which features in the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

Calshot beach was included as Southampton, which features in the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

THE INCREASE IN COASTAL SEARCHES IN 2021
Rank Location Average asking price Increase in searches 2021 vs 2020
1 Morecambe, Lancashire £164,424 32%
2 Blackpool, Lancashire £137,301 21%
3 Great Yarmouth, Norfolk £194,066 15%
4 Swansea, Wales £180,603 15%
5 Saltburn-By-The-Sea, Cleveland £227,611 15%
6 Southampton, Hampshire £249,053 14%
7 Llandudno, Conwy (County of) £235,316 13%
8 Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales £319,587 12%
9 Southport, Merseyside £215,838 12%
10 Scarborough, North Yorkshire £191,879 12%
Source: Rightmove     

Meanwhile, Morecambe, Lancashire saw the biggest jump in coastal buyer searches compared to last year, up 32 per cent, followed by Blackpool, up 21 per cent, and Great Yarmouth, up 15 per cent.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘After a year where coastal locations really captured the imagination of British buyers, it’s interesting to reflect on how the overall picture looks at the end of the year.

‘In terms of average asking price growth, homeowners in Cornwall and Devon are the real winners this year, with properties in some areas outpacing the national average, though this does mean that it is increasingly difficult for some locals to get onto the ladder.

‘The speed of this year’s market really is astounding, seen in the time to find a buyer in some areas, particularly in Scotland.

‘Overall, this has been the year that either through changed lifestyle priorities, or the ability to work remotely, living in coastal areas has become possible for more buyers, which is reflected in the data we’re seeing in this study.’

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UK to require all incoming international travellers to take Covid-19 test

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All international travellers arriving into the UK will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – while Nigeria is being added to the British government’s travel red list, British health secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Mr Javid said the government had decided to move after receiving new data about the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, which emerged in southern Africa.

“Since we have learned of this new variant our strategy has been to buy time. We have always said we will act swiftly should new data require it,” he told broadcasters on Saturday.

“Over recent days we have learned of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria.

“There are 27 cases already in England and that’s growing. Nigeria now is second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to Omicron.”

Mr Javid said that the number of cases of Omicron in Britain had now risen to about 160.

Under the new rules, from 4am on Monday only British and Irish nationals travelling from Nigeria will be allowed into the UK and they must isolate in a government-managed quarantine hotel on arrival.

And from 4am on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status. – PA/Reuters

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