Europeans feeling less free since pandemic started, survey shows – dpa international

Reduced numbers and mask mandates have been widely imposed on public transport systems as a virus-related restriction (Simon Roughneen)

Only one in five of Europeans claim to “still feel free in their everyday life,” around a third as many as before the coronavirus pandemic. A survey published this week by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) showed 22 per cent of respondents claiming to feel free, “compared to 64 per cent who say they felt free two years ago, before the pandemic struck.” The poll, carried out in May and June and taking in over 16,000 people, suggested 41 per cent of Hungarians and 38 per cent of Spaniards “currently feel free,” the highest among the 12 countries canvassed. Meanwhile one in two Germans, the most of any country, say they are “not free” – despite being put under arguably less onerous restrictions than elsewhere.

Car makers face chip shortage as pandemic curbs hinder Asian factories – dpa international

Social distancing in May 2020 on a city train in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a major manufacturer of electronics and related parts (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ford’s Cologne factory is to pause production of Fiesta models due to a shortage of semiconductors usually sourced from Malaysian factories, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and related government restrictions. The shutdown is to begin on Thursday and last at least two weeks, the company said on Wednesday, and comes as factories around the world are being hit with shortages of computer chips and other components due to manufacturing supply chains snapping due to pandemic curbs. Toyota and Volkswagen are among the other car brands to recently warn of slowing production due to tightening supplies of chips. According to Capital Economics, with “virus disruption” likely to last “at least the next couple of months,” the global shortage of chips is “unlikely to get better any time soon.”

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.

Tourism collapse could cut 4 trillion dollars from global economy – dpa international

Galway in the west of Ireland is a popular with visitors to the island (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy is facing losses of up to 4 trillion dollars due to the collapse of international travel, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing containment measures have caused a “crisis with devastating effects on developing countries, especially those dependent on tourism,” UNCTAD said on Wednesday.” The worst affected region is likely to be Central America, where gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by almost 12 per cent by the end of the year in a worst-case scenario.

Listening to Mozart could curb epilepsy, Czech neurologists say

dpa

DUBLIN — Listening to Mozart could prevent epileptic seizures, according to research being presented over the weekend to the European Academy of Neurology. A Czech-led team, from St. Anne’s University Hospital and Masaryk University in Brno, found a 32 per cent reduction in seizure-inducing epileptiform discharges (EDs) among patients who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448. Exposure to Mozart “may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures,” the team suggested, after using “intracerebral electrodes” that were “implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery” to measure the effects of music.

Singapore cedes top spot to Switzerland in competitiveness index – dpa international

Singapore harbour seen from Marina Bay, a popular vantage point for visitors (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Wealthy city-state Singapore is no longer the world’s most competitive economy, according to the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which on Thursday put Switzerland top of its 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking. Singapore topped the list for the previous two years and was the sole Asian representative in the top five, which was rounded out by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Though most European countries were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, measured by lives lost and case numbers, the Lausanne-based IMD said the continent’s economies “weather[ed] the health crisis better than most other regions,” with Switzerland ranked highest after it “kept a disciplined financial strategy.” Singapore’s fall from first to fifth came despite being it being relatively lightly hit by the pandemic – and was down to “problems with job losses, lack of productivity and the economic impact of the pandemic,” the IMD said.

Irish GDP up 7.8 per cent though local businesses hurt by lockdowns – dpa international

Retaliers deemed 'non essential' such as this sports shop, were not permitted to open during Ireland's pandemic lockdowns (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s gross domestic product grew by 7.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year due to surging exports by multinational corporations, according to official estimates. However, gross national product, a measurement which cuts out multinationals, fell by 1 per cent quarter-on-quarter, the government’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) said on Friday. According to the CSO’s Jennifer Banim, “the tightening of Covid-19 related restrictions led to lower levels of economic activity for many of the sectors focused on the domestic market.” Ireland’s government lifted a third pandemic lockdown in May after almost five months of restrictions that were ranked among Europe’s harshest by the University of Oxford.

Ireland’s hospitals hit by ‘sophisticated’ cyberattack – dpa international

Sign for a coronavirus vaccination centre in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A cyberattack on Ireland’s Health Service Executive is “having a severe impact on our health and social care services today,” according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, with hospitals across the country battling disruptions. The University of Limerick Hospitals Group warned of “long delays” at its six facilities, while the Ireland East group said staff at its 11 hospitals were asking for “the public’s patience at this time.” Although emergency departments remain open, “delays should be expected while hospitals move to manual, offline processes,” the HSE said later on Friday. The National Maternity Hospital said “a major IT issue” would mean “significant disruption,” while Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital, said the attack forced staff to “revert back to old-fashioned based record-keeping.”

Democracy undermined by pandemic restrictions, according to Council of Europe – dpa international

Restrictions have seen pubs such as this at the foot of Ireland's best-known pilgrimage mountain Croagh Patrick closed for most of the time since March 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Restrictions imposed to slow the coronavirus pandemic have “compounded” what the Council of Europe describes in a new report as “democratic backsliding” across the continent. According to Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric, even “legitimate actions” by governments to deal with the virus have curtailed liberties “in ways that would be unacceptable in normal times.” “The danger is that our democratic culture will not fully recover,” Pejcinovic Buric warned.  The council’s 47 members, which include some of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, have veered in and out of lockdowns of varying duration and severity since March 2020.

With most sports banned, Ireland’s long lockdown saw walkers step up – dpa international

Sports facilities such as this Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Centre of Excellence in Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland have been closed for most of the past year due to government restrictions (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s recent third pandemic lockdown led to an increase in “recreational walking,” according to Sport Ireland, a government body, with the usual mist-laced winter gales blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean proving no deterrent to a population otherwise told to stay at home for months on end. The report said “overall levels of physical activity have increased on 2019 figures,” with the percentage of Irish adults “walking for recreation” climbing from 65 per cent before the pandemic to 76 per cent during the first quarter of 2021, slightly below the high reported during Ireland’s first lockdown last year. “Running and cycling experienced similar fluxes,” according to Sport Ireland, with the early 2021 step-up in numbers coming “despite a decrease in organised sport participation.” The lockdowns required people to mostly remain within five kilometres of home, another limit that seemingly did not deter walkers.