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Reopening indoor hospitality now a ‘reckless mistake’, Paul Murphy says

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The Government’s decision to reopen indoor hospitality in bars and restaurants for people who are vaccinated or who have recent immunity has been described as a “reckless mistake” by an Opposition TD.

Speaking on Tuesday, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the Government was “rushing” into the move, which he said was being made at “the behest” of a private business lobby.

The impact of the decision would come at a cost to public health, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

Under the plan, those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will have to show proof of this to access indoor hospitality.

The Government’s new Digital Covid Certificates, which Ireland and other European Union countries are implementing to facilitate international travel, can be used as evidence of being fully vaccinated.

Young people under 18 who are not vaccinated will be allowed into indoor hospitality services if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian who has a pass.

Legislation to give effect to the changes will be brought before the Oireachtas as early as Tuesday. After it is passed the legislation is expected to be signed into law by the President next week, allowing pubs and restaurants to open for indoor service at the very latest by July 26th.

There is to be a time limit of one hour and 45 minutes on customers being inside restaurants and pubs, with measures for premises to improve ventilation recommended.

Mr Murphy said the further reopening of the hospitality sector would likely see Covid-19 cases rise from current levels of 600 a day to as high as 2,000 or 3,000 a day, which would lead the country into another lockdown.

It was “not a safe time” to ease restrictions, Mr Murphy said, adding the move should be paused until September or October, when the country had obtained herd immunity from the vaccination rollout.

Striking balance

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said the reopening was about striking a balance between protecting public health and jobs in the hospitality sector.

The proof of vaccination or immunity requirement was a temporary system, with a “sunset clause” to kick in by the Autumn, at which point everyone who wanted to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated, she said.

Compliance officers would make unannounced calls to premises to ensure that the measures were being enforced. The officers would be from either the Health Service Executive or the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), she explained.

If breaches were observed then the Garda would be contacted, she said.

A working group including representatives from Fáilte Ireland, the HSA and the Department of Health will meet at 2pm to discuss the details of the plan.

Opposition parties are also expected to be briefed on the details of the plan on Tuesday morning.

Responding to the announcement, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said the resumption of indoor dining was an “important milestone” in the recovery of the tourism sector.

Tim Fenn, chief executive of the IHF, said, “Public health remains the number one priority of hotels and guesthouses across the country.”

Hotels had already been operating indoor dining safely for residents and were looking forward to “extending a warm welcome to non-residents in line with revised restrictions”, he said.

“One of our key priorities now is the opening up of safe international travel and yesterday’s announcement is a key part of that.

“We therefore welcome the Government’s decision to recognise equivalent proof of vaccination for visitors from Britain and the US, two of our key overseas markets,” Mr Fenn said.


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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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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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