OECD says most big economies yet to shake off virus effects despite recent growth – dpa international

In Dublin, the capital of Ireland, where the government has been slow to lift coronavirus restrictions compared to neighbours (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Most of the world’s big economies are running below pre-pandemic levels despite “accelerating” growth in the second quarter of this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Overall gross domestic product (GDP) across the OECD remains 0.7 per cent below that reported at the end of 2019, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, the Paris-based OECD said on Monday. That’s despite GDP expanding 1.6 per cent across the Group of 7 (G7) economies in the second quarter, up from 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. There were “strong variations” among what the OECD calls the “Major Seven” economies, which does not include China, which does not inclide the world’s second biggest GDP after the the US. Britain grew growing the fastest of the 7, at almost 5 per cent from April to June, after a near 2-per-cent contraction during the previous three months, when, like in many Western countries, economically-debilitating pandemic restrictions were in place.

Birth rates in wealthy nations down since start of pandemic – dpa international

DUBLIN — Birth rates have fallen by almost 10 per cent in some wealthy countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Using monthly live birth numbers from 2016 to March this year, the researchers reported “preliminary evidence” showing the pandemic has “decreased fertility” in all but 4 of 22 “high income countries” studied. The authors, from the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, factored in seasonality and long term trends, but nonetheless estimated a 9.4 per cent fall in Italy and more than 8 per cent in Hungary and Spain. “Belgium, Austria, and Singapore also showed a significant decline in crude birth rates,” they said.

Not all in the genes: some scientists say age is a bigger factor in illness – dpa international

DUBLIN — The interplay of age and vulnerability to illness has been under unprecedented spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed mostly older people affected by pre-existing conditions or ‘co-morbidities.’ with huge death tolls in nursing homes in many countries. But while the conventional wisdom – that people are more likely to get sick as they get older – still holds, according to the University of Oxford, their health in general, for good or bad, is less likely to be affected by genes as Father Time catches up.

Over 100 million Americans caught coronavirus last year, according to Columbia University – dpa international

Outside a hospital in Ireland, where the government has been reluctant to publish estimates of infections beyond the official count or give details on related matters such as natural immunity (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Almost one-third of Americans could have been infected by the coronavirus in 2020, according to Columbia University estimates. Published in the journal Nature, the research by the Ivy League university’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests 103 million people, or 31 per cent of the population, caught the virus last year, far more than the official year-end tally of just over 20 million, of which 351,998 had died by December 31. “The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia. Official numbers were accounting for only 10 per cent total estimated infections at the outset of the pandemic in March, when testing was not widely accessible, but rose to 25 per cent by December, according to the researchers.

Almost 270,000 infants may have died in 2020 due to virus curbs, according to World Bank estimates – dpa international

Construction work at Dublin's Mater Hospital in July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team. The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.

Scientists say nature conservation can prevent pandemics – dpa international

Pandemic-related 'social distancing' message, outdoors, in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — More work is needed to stop potential “spillover” of pathogens from animals to humans, according to scientists investigating pandemic prevention. In a report published on Wednesday by Harvard University, scientists from several continents argued governments should “integrate” public health and nature conservation measures to help prevent animal-human disease spread. The team believes that “reducing deforestation and regulating the wildlife trade” could come in at “as little” as 22 billion dollars a year, roughly around 2 per cent of “the economic and mortality costs of responding to Covid-19.”

Survey shows some medical research undermined by funder demands – dpa international

The coronavirus pandemic has led to pressure on medics and scientists over issues such as initial shortages of protective gloves, such as these seen discarded on a Dublin street, to demands about virus-related research ISimon Roughneen)

DUBLIN –Around one-fifth of scientists working on health-related research have faced pressure from funders over “unfavourable” findings, according to survey results published on Wednesday. Eighteen per cent of those questioned said they were “asked to suppress certain findings as they were viewed as being unfavourable,” according to a summary published in science journal PLOS by Australia-based academics, including from the University of Newcastle and Swinburne University of Technology. Some of the scientists and medics who were surveyed said they faced “subtle pressure” from their research paymasters, such as conveying hopes for “positive findings,” or blunter constraints such as government funding agreements that “require researchers to obtain funder approval to publish reports.” The survey covered researchers involved in over 200 trials related to nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, smoking, and substance use. Two-thirds of those polled were based in Europe or North America, with a fifth of them listed as in Oceania.

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.