OECD sees uncertainties and moderating growth ahead for world’s big economies – dpa international

Outdoor dining resumed in Ireland far later than most other OECD member-states (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The pace of growth in “major economies” is likely to moderate, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday, warning of “persisting uncertainties” despite the lifting of pandemic restrictions in many countries. The Paris-based OECD said China could expect “steady growth” in industry, while Britain, much of the European Union, Japan and the US face a general “moderating pace of growth at above-trend level.” For India, which recently was hit with a huge coronavirus surge, “stable” growth prospects have been forecast, but France and Brazil respectively face “below trend” and “slowing” growth. The forecasts came after lower-than-expected second-quarter gross domestic product growth (GDP) numbers for the US and China, by far the world’s two biggest economies.

Ireland’s bishops challenge government’s restrictions on some ceremonies – dpa international

St. Saviour's Catholic church in Dublin in mid-July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government and several Catholic bishops have clashed over whether already-postponed first communion and confirmation ceremonies should be put off until later in the year. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said plans by three of Ireland’s 26 dioceses to proceed with the ceremonies, which usually take place during the school year but have been postponed as part of pandemic curbs, amounted to “putting lives at risk.” Donnelly’s warning followed similar comments by Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Michéal Martin late last week. However the health minister acknowledged as correct an interpretation advanced last week by Kevin Doran, bishop of the western Elphin diocese, that the apparent bans are guidelines rather than laws. Alphonsus Cullinan, bishop in the southern town of Waterford, said on Saturday he could “see no valid reason for the further postponement of the sacraments,” after crowds returned to sports events.

Multinationals in Ireland outdid rest of economy combined last year – dpa international

US multinatonal's Baxter Healthcare operations in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen

DUBLIN —  For the first time on record, multinational corporations in Ireland last year produced more gross-value-added (GVA) than all other parts of the economy put together. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), “sectors where foreign-owned multinational enterprises are dominant grew by 23.1 per cent,” pushing their share of GVA from around 45 per cent in 2019 to almost 53 per cent in 2020. But, with Ireland’s government imposing some of Europe’s longest-lasting pandemic restrictions, domestic-focused sectors, including construction, farming and retail, shrank by almost 9 per cent. The CSO said in June that around three-quarters of Ireland’s smaller enterprises reported falling turnover last year.

Scientists estimate one-fifth of Americans caught coronavirus by March – dpa international

dpa

DUBLIN — Almost 20 per cent of Americans had likely caught the coronavirus by March this year, more than double the roughly 29 million officially reported by that time, according to research published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences. A “statistical framework” put together by University of Washington scientists suggests around 65 million Americans  caught the virus by March 7. The team said they aimed to “provide a clear picture of Covid-19’s prevalence” as “access to tests, and a willingness to be tested, vary by location.” Official data for Sunday show around 34.3 million cases in the US, where 608,403 people have died after catching the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An undercount of infections could mean the virus is less deadly than official numbers suggest, as the real infection-fatality rate widens substantially beyond the official case-fatality rate, or ratio between confirmed deaths and confirmed cases.

NASA team creates satellite-run system aimed at slowing deforestation – dpa international

DUBLIN — A NASA-led research team has developed a “unique” satellite-based deforestation tracking system they hope could avert a “tipping point” for the world’s shrinking jungles. The plan is for the new “tropical vulnerability index” to enhance “early warning” about rainforests facing destruction. According to Sassan Saatchi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “frequent droughts, higher temperature and longer dry seasons, along with increasing pressures from deforestation and degradation in the last two decades, have pushed the tropical rainforests to the verge of a tipping point.”

For big populations, rapid coronavirus tests work better than PCR – dpa international

Antibody coronavirus tests for sale in a shop in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Rapid antigen tests for coronavirus likely work better for larger populations than slower but more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Indian scientists have found. A “computational analysis” comparing testing regimes and results across India, which was recently hit hard by a virus surge, suggests “the amount of testing matters more than the sensitivity of the tests.” The findings hint that lower- and middle-income countries “might be able to achieve optimal outcomes by concentrating on ramping up testing using less sensitive tests which provide immediate results.”

Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international

Outside a Dublin hospital (Simon Roighneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

Irish government’s pub reopening plan criticised as “discriminatory” – dpa international

Outdoor drinking on a June Sunday afternoon in Galway (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pubs in Ireland’s capital Dublin have slammed government plans to make them screen customers for proof of coronavirus vaccination as “discriminatory” and likely to spark conflict. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the measures, which would apply nationwide as part of a plan to reopen indoor service in restaurants and pubs, “will lead to flashpoints between hospitality staff and potential customers.” “Our members are already reporting there is real anger about this,” according to LVA chief Donall O’Keefe, who on Tuesday said there are “major question marks” about enforcement of the proposed rules, which would also cover customers with proof of previous coronavirus infection. However the LVA believes it has “no option” but “to go along” with plan due to the government’s threat to otherwise retain Europe’s sole remaining ban on indoor drinking and dining until at least September.

Germ resistance to antibiotics driven partly by money – dpa international

Waiting area inside the traditional Chinese medicine section of Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance could prove “the death knell for modern medicine” and lead to an “antibiotic apocalypse,” according to England’s former chief medical officer. Ahead of this week’s European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, speaker Sally Davies warned of scant progress in curbing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, a growing danger that has been widely flagged in recent years. “Compared to 8 billion dollars of profit for cancer drugs, the 100 million loss for antimicrobials means that our medicine cabinets are becoming emptier – because of bankruptcies, not lack of scientific brainpower,” Davies said.

Littering makes smoking a drag on the environment- dpa international

Cigarette butts discarded on a Dublin street (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The world’s 1.3 billion smokers “improperly dispose of” an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes each year, making the butts “the most littered item on the planet,” according to STOP, an anti-tobacco organization. But even that deluge is “only a portion of the environmental harm caused by the tobacco industry,” STOP said, as tobacco is not only “grown on deforested lands” but its production “degrades soil and pollutes air, land and water.” Billions of trees are chopped down each year to make cigarettes, accounting for 5 per cent of global deforestation, according to STOP, which said cigarette butts make up around 20 per cent of debris gathered during ocean clean-ups.