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Limerick vaccination centre to close on horse racing days

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Local TDs have criticised the “unacceptable” decision to close the Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse on Saturday, to facilitate a horse racing meeting.

The HSE Covid-19 vaccination centre which is based on the grounds of the racecourse, located in Patrickswell, will close while racing goes on at the track, a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group confirmed on Friday afternoon.

The vaccination centre will also close to allow racing meetings on June 18th, July 4th, July 10th, July 22nd, he added.

The spokesman said there had been no cancellations as a result of Saturday’s event, and vaccine appointments had been offered to people in our centres in Nenagh and Ennis, a spokesman said.

Limerick has the highest incidence of Covid-19 in the country. On Friday evening, deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said incidence in Limerick remained very high with 879 cases over past fortnight, but there had been “a concerted effort by all to arrest this pattern”.

He said on Twitter: “It remains very important that people nationally, but particularly in Limerick, continue to adhere to core protective measures-meet outdoors, avoid crowds, keep distance from others & come forward for testing if you have any concerns.”

The UL Hospitals Group said that in the first three days of the vaccination centre operating at the racecourse, which opened on June 8th, a total of 4,645 vaccines had been delivered by close of business on Thursday.

“Next week, due to the acceleration of vaccine administration locally, made possible by our relocation to Limerick Racecourse, there will be 24,000 vaccines delivered at the Racecourse centre, and approximately 14,000 between the centres at Ennis and Nenagh,” a spokesman said.

“The pausing of the programme at the racecourse centre to accommodate a scheduled race meeting tomorrow and on four other days in June and July, will not delay the administration of vaccine because of the increased vaccination capacity at the racecourse, which holds a maximum of 46 vaccination booths compared with the 32 available at the Radisson Blu.”

“As part of the agreement allowing for the relocation of the vaccination centre from the Radisson Blu to Limerick Racecourse, it was agreed that due to movement to and from the site for the race meets on June 12th, June 18th, July 4th, July 10th, July 22nd, no vaccinations would be scheduled on those dates.”

Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to clarify who made the decision to close the vaccination centre and if his department was aware of it.

Mr Quinlivan said people had contacted his office upset that their appointments for the Limerick vaccination centre had been moved to Nenagh in Co Tipperary.

“This is just incredible, we are in the middle of a public health emergency, there has been a spike in Covid cases in Limerick over the last few weeks, yet we are closing our vaccine centre,” Mr Quinlivan said.

He claimed the vaccine rollout in Limerick “has been mismanaged from the outset”, and he complained that the previous local vaccination site, at the Radisson hotel, was actually located in Co Clare and “wasn’t a convenient location for those who needed public transport access”.

“We called for a centre to be placed in the city to facilitate those who don’t have public transport, and instead the people of Limerick were provided with the racecourse,” he added.

“It is farcical in the extreme that this vaccine centre will be closed to facilitate a horse meeting. The public take up on vaccinations has been excellent, but this closure creates the impression that public health falls second to commercial activity.”

He urged Mr Donnelly to establish a vaccine centre within the metropolitan area of Limerick city.

Local Green Party TD, Brian Leddin said the closure was “unacceptable” and “the latest misstep in the planning of the vaccination programme in Limerick”.

He argued that “it is unacceptable that issues like this are being communicated in a haphazard fashion, and the HSE urgently needs to clarify these issues to maintain public confidence in the vaccination programme”.

Limerick Racecourse had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds

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Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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