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Irish plans to send Covid-19 support to India at ‘advanced stage’

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said plans to send aid to India, which is grappling with a massive second wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, are at an “advanced stage”, with Irish officials working throughout the weekend on efforts to deliver support to the subcontinent.

A DFA spokesman said on Sunday afternoon that “given the urgency of the pandemic situation in India”, department staff were working with the health department, the HSE and the EU Civilian Protection Mechanism to figure out how best to send India support.

“These efforts are at an advanced stage and we will soon provide a formal announcement,” he told The Irish Times, adding that the department was in contact with the relevant Indian authorities.

Earlier on Sunday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s This Week programme that the Government was “assessing” what it could share with India with a particular focus on oxygen and ventilators. Mr Coveney said it was likely India would be added to the State’s mandatory hotel quarantine list very shortly.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tweeted on Sunday that India was “facing a terrible second wave causing suffering beyond our comprehension”. He paid tribute to Indian healthcare workers in Ireland before writing that the Government was assessing plans to send oxygen and ventilators to the country.

This commitment comes as the European Commission announced it was also planning to send oxygen and medicine to the country following a request from Delhi. India has set a new global record for the most number of coronavirus infections in a day while the United States says it is racing to send help to the country.

India’s number of cases surged by 349,691 in the past 24 hours, the fourth straight day of record peaks, and hospitals in Delhi and across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Sunday that she was “alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India” and that the EU was ready to offer support. “The EU is pooling resources to respond rapidly to India’s request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism,” she wrote. “We stand in full solidarity with the Indian people,” she added.

Speaking in a radio address on Saturday, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to be vaccinated and exercise caution, saying a “storm” of infections had “shaken the nation.”

Varghese Joy, a HSE nurse and national convenor of the Migrant Nurses Ireland organisation, said he had found it “distressing” and “disheartening” to watch the videos and news reports emerging from his home country and called on the EU and Irish Government to support the Indian healthcare system in “any way they can”.

“The whole world needs to act,” he said. “India’s situation can impact nearby countries, that double mutant variant can travel. This virus has no borders, you cannot contain it. Everyone is in danger so everyone should help.”

Mr Joy, who has lived in Ireland since 2007, recalled watching one video of a man in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat driving his young wife from hospital to hospital, begging for help. “Doctors came out of the hospitals and tried to help but they couldn’t admit her, there were no beds or oxygen. Finally she died, I was very tearful watching those images.”

He has also read the reports of hundreds of bodies being burned being cremated in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the worst affected part of the country. “It’s absolutely shocking. You can feel the healthcare workers’ pain. If you have a patient in from of you and can’t offer them a bed you feel worthless. I’ve seen lots of videos of doctors from Mumbai and Delhi crying and appealing to the central government for oxygen. It’s like watching those videos last year of American healthcare workers asking for PPE but much, much worse.”

Mr Joy is from Kerala, the southern Indian state which is one of the only parts of the country, along with neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which has been spared this second Covid-19 wave. The Times of India reported this weekend that both states had “learnt important lessons from the last surge and stand out for their public health approach in tackling the pandemic”. Mr Joy says Kerala has spent decades building its public health infrastructure which is far more developed than most other hospitals around the country. “Kerala has always invested in public health and vaccination programmes like the polio vaccine. That has made a huge difference.

“Kerala is doing well and is now helping nearby states with their oxygen supply.”

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Tetchy Tánaiste stirs the Stormont pot

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Some of the most petulant reaction to the latest protocol row has come from Fine Gael, which may explain unwise comments on direct rule and a Border poll from Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at a Co-operation North event in Dublin on Tuesday night, the Tánaiste said direct rule was not a viable long-term alternative to devolution. If Stormont is not restored quickly other options must be considered, with the best forum to do so being the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) of the Belfast Agreement.

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen by the bed is up for rent at £1,000-a-month

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen just few feet away from the bed goes up for rent for £1,000-a-month in London

  • A cramped studio flat that is up for rent in south London is so small it has a bath located in the lounge
  • The property, that is in the ‘highly sought after’ Wimbledon area, has a bed only feet away from the kitchen
  • Renters will have to fork out over £1,000-a-month to live in the odd space, though bills are included

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A tiny studio flat has been mocked because it costs over £1,000-a-month to rent and the bath is located in the lounge.

While the bed is found only feet away from the kitchen area, with a giant telly on the wall.

The south London property is on the market to rent for an eye-watering amount considering its size.

The bath is right by the back door leading out to a small private area on a patio garden.

The listing states that it has been ‘designed to maximise the space available’ and adds that the bathroom has ‘been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view’, but this appears just to be a shower curtain.

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

The property's bed is located just feet away from the 'Kitchenette area', which boasts a microwave and kettle

The property’s bed is located just feet away from the ‘Kitchenette area’, which boasts a microwave and kettle

The flat has a 'self contained pied-a-tierre' (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat has a ‘self contained pied-a-tierre’ (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat in upmarket Wimbledon Village will cost lodgers £1,150 per month – or £265 per week – to live in it.

Bills are included within the rental and there is a secure parking space available.

One home hunter fumed: ‘London cost of living is so disgusting that you pay £1,150 per month to rent a bath in a bed/kitchen as advertised on Rightmove today.

‘Living in a decent home is an essential and fundamental basic human right.

‘It shouldn’t be a privileged novelty.’

The letting agent said it would be ideal for someone to rent for the Wimbledon tennis tournament which starts next month.

The All England Tennis Club, where the grass championship is hosted, is just half a mile away.

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat 'disgusting'

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat ‘disgusting’

The listing says the flat is 'finished to an exceptional standard' and is available for short term rent

The listing says the flat is ‘finished to an exceptional standard’ and is available for short term rent

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

It is being let by CHK Mountford and advertised via Rightmove, the property listing reads: ‘Set on the ground floor of a wonderful detached private residence in the heart of Wimbledon Village is this self-contained pied a tierre.

‘The property has been immaculately refurbished to a very high standard and has been cleverly designed to maximise the space available.

‘To the front of the property is a small private patio.

‘The room is fully furnished and there is a small kitchenette area complete with sink, microwave and fridge.

‘There is a separate WC and a bath which has been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view if required plus a generous storage cupboard/wardrobe.

‘One parking space is available and is set behind the properties private gates offering complete secure parking.

‘This property would be ideal for a working professional looking for a weekday base and who is looking for something which is centrally located and finished to a high standard.

‘All bills are included within the monthly rental.

‘Available on a short or long term basis, please note that for a short term rental the cost would be on a weekly basis.

‘And would be at a higher rental amount than for a long term tenancy – please contact the office directly for verification of the weekly rental.

‘The property is available for rental during Wimbledon Tennis event and is the perfect base for those wanting to be close to the site and have secure parking in addition.’

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Truss made ‘turnips in truck’ Brexit remark about Ireland, former diplomat says

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UK foreign secretary Liz Truss told a US audience three years ago that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Ireland would only “affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks,” a former UK diplomat said.

Alexandra Hall Hall, a former Brexit counsellor at the UK embassy in the US, disclosed on Twitter on Tuesday night that Ms Truss made the remarks to a US audience three years ago.

The former career diplomat revealed in an article she wrote in a US academic journal last year that a UK government minister made the remarks but she did not identify the minister at the time.

Last night Ms Hall Hall retweeted a tweet by Ms Truss in which the foreign secretary said the UK government’s “first priority is to uphold the Belfast Agreement” – the 1998 deal that underpins the Northern Ireland peace process. Ms Truss shared a link to her House of Commons speech in which she set out plans to introduce legislation to override the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Retweeting the message, Ms Hall Hall said: “So pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters. She was, after all, the minister who told a US audience three years ago that Brexit would not have any serious impact in Ireland . . . it would merely ‘affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks.’”

‘Under strain’

Ms Truss told the UK parliament that the protocol had put the Belfast Agreement “under strain” because of opposition by Unionist parties, citing this as a reason to plan to introduce new legislation in the coming weeks to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Ms Hall Hall wrote in the Texas National Security Review journal last year that during her time as a diplomat in Washington, DC that Boris Johnson’s government damagingly played down the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s peace process in statements intended for US audiences.

She resigned from her job in late 2019 because she said she was unwilling to “peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust,” she said in her resignation letter.

In her article last autumn, she described the “turnip” remarks – without naming Ms Truss at the time – as a “low point” of her time in Washington when the UK minister “openly and offensively” in front of a US audience dismissed the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Irish businesses.

Ms Truss, then the UK secretary of state for international trade, was visiting Washington at the time to meet the then US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, both members of US president Donald Trump’s administration, and other politicians.

In the academic article, she said he had become “increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves.”

She took issue in the article – entitled: “Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of a conflicted civil service – with the UK government’s “use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options” with Brexit.

Ms Hall joined the UK foreign office in 1986 and served in various roles around the world, including in Bangkok, New Delhi and Bogota before serving as British ambassador in Georgia.

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