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

Outdoor dining in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, where the government has been reluctant to use antigen testing as part of its coronavirus measure (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.”

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 have them screen customers for proof of coronavirus vaccination as “discriminatory” and likely to spark conflict. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) on Tuesday 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 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.

Pandemic restrictions pushing coffee prices up and undermining production – dpa international

Sign outside a Dublin coffeeshop. Cafes in Ireland have been restricted to takeaway services, and more recentky, offering outdoors dining, since December 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Even as the coronavirus pandemic has receded in some parts of the world, coffee drinkers might not be able to sip in peace anytime soon: According to a recent analysis, coronavirus restrictions have likely spurred a crisis across the global coffee industry. In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the US, researchers led by academics from Rutgers University said “socio-economic disruptions” since the start of the pandemic “are likely to drive the coffee industry into another severe production crisis.” Lead author Kevon Rhiney warned of “serious implications for millions of people across the globe” if there is turmoil in the sector.

Singapore aiming to live with flu-like ‘endemic’ Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — Singapore’s government on Thursday said it should be possible “to live normally” with Covid-19, which it expects to become “endemic” like influenza.  The three ministers responsible for the government’s coronavirus response announced “a broad plan” to “turn the pandemic into something much less threatening.” Pointing to the example of influenza, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “we can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.” 

World Bank forecasts ‘uneven’ 5.6 per cent global economic growth this year – dpa international

Pedestrians seen on Grafton St., one of Dublin's main shopping avenues, in late May 2021. Ireland's economy was one of the few to grow last year (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy should expand by 5.6 per cent this year but developing countries will struggle to keep up due to “the pandemic’s lasting effects,” the World Bank said on Tuesday. While such growth would be “the fastest post-recession pace in 80 years,” overall global output could remain 2 per cent less than if the pandemic had not happened and the ensuing restrictions on business were not imposed, the bank estimated. While pent up demand could result in wealthy, large economies such as the US and China growing by 6.8 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively, smaller and poorer nations will have to wait until next year to recover per capita income losses, the bank warned, meaning global growth will be “uneven.” Per capita incomes in many emerging market economies are expected “to remain below pre-pandemic levels,” the bank cautioned, which would likely “worsen deprivations associated with health, education and living standards.”

Pandemic and lockdowns drive food prices up but send diet quality down – dpa international

DUBLIN — The coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions have jacked up food prices around the world and spurred a surge in unhealthy eating, according to a set of papers published on Monday by the American Society for Nutrition. According to author Caroline Um of the American Cancer Society, the researchers found a “decrease in the consumption of many food groups, particularly healthy foods such as vegetables and whole grains, compared to before the pandemic.” “We saw panic buying, problems in the food supply chain, increases in food prices and rising unemployment rates,” Um said. Researchers at Tufts University said food prices went up across 133 countries as pandemic-related curbs were introduced. “More stringent restrictions were linked with a higher price of food and a higher ratio of food prices to prices across all consumer goods,” they 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.

Murders an ‘exception’ as city crime drops by a third during lockdowns – dpa international

Pandemic restrictions have left city landmarks, such as this mall in Kuala Lumpur seen during Malaysia's first lockdown last year, mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pandemic lockdowns coincided with “significant” falls in crime rates in 27 cities across 23 countries, according to academics from the University of Cambridge and the University of Utrecht. The research, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, suggested that rates of “most types of crime” dropped “significantly” in the wake of an “unparalleled sudden change in daily life.” However, homicides fell by a relatively low 14 per cent overall in what the team said was “a key exception” to their findings. With people in many cities forced to mostly stay at home by pandemic-related curbs, Amy Nivette of the University of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, said “restrictions on urban mobility may have little effect on domestic murders.”

Pandemic travel collapse continuing into 2021, says UN agency – dpa international

Pandemic curbs led to a collapse in travel and tourism, affecting visitor numbers to attractions such as Croagh Patrick, a pilgrimage mountain on Ireland's Atlantic coast (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said on Wednesday that first-quarter arrivals were down 83 per cent on the same period last year, as pandemic restrictions continued to hold back international travel. Official data collated by the United Nations agency showed Asia and the Pacific continuing “to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94 per cent drop in international arrivals over the three-month period.” North America reported the smallest decline, at 71 per cent, while arrivals in Europe were down by over 80 per cent. The UNWTO said the weak first-quarter numbers followed last year’s record annual 73-per-cent fall in arrival numbers worldwide, which cost the sector an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars, equivalent to Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Travel ground to a halt in March 2020 after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.

OECD says world economy to grow at an ‘uneven’ 6 per cent this year – dpa international

Businesses such as this retailer in Ireland have been foced to close by pandemic restrictions. Patrons seen here lining up to enter after the end of Ireland's third lockdown in May 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy could grow by “nearly 6 per cent” this year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Monday, while warning that recovery from pandemic-related losses will be “very uneven.” Growth will be driven by the world’s three main economic powers, with China’s gross domestic product (GDP) set to expand by more than 8 per cent, the Paris-based OECD said. The US should be close behind, registering nearly 7 per cent GDP growth, with the European Union clocking a higher-than-usual 4.25 per cent.But while this year’s projected rebound would amount to “an impressive surge after the 3.5-per-cent contraction in 2020” it is unlikely to return living standards “to the level expected before the pandemic” by the end of next year, the OECD said in its 2021 Economic Outlook, which noted that pandemic-related curbs have made it more difficult to estimate GDP and “may have reduced the comparability of economic outcomes across countries.”