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More than 100,000 Covid vaccinations given in North

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More than 100,000 coronavirus vaccinations have been administered in Northern Ireland.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said the programme is being stepped up but is dependent on the availability of supplies of the vaccines.

“By close of play yesterday [Tuesday], 109,259 doses had been administered, with 91,419 people having received their first dose,” he told an Executive press conference in Belfast.

“458 out of 483 (95 per cent) of our care homes have received their first dose, and 67 per cent their second.

“With our GP-led vaccinations barely off the starting blocks, already close to 20 per cent of our over-80s have received a jab.

“The programme will be scaled up rapidly as supplies allow, and I have to emphasise again that availability of supplies is the key limiting factor at present, not locations or staffing or operating hours. Supplies are limited.

“We cannot vaccinate everyone right now, much as we would like to, but we will get there, steadily and systematically.

“The supplies will keep coming in batches and we will keep prioritising in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation guidance.”

Meanwhile, Mr Swann said lockdown in Northern Ireland is producing results, with the number of cases dropping, but added “the challenge is to keep it there”.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a public information sign in Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

He said restrictions will be kept under review by the Executive, and ministers “may well have some further challenging decisions to make by early February”.

“We will have to avoid easing restrictions too early or too widely, the situation in our hospitals is too precious for that,” he said.

Chief scientific adviser Prof Ian Young said the average number of new cases of coronavirus per day in the region had risen to more than 2,000 a day.

Ireland

Health Minister says up to 700,000 to be vaccinate…

He said that while the number of cases is falling, they remain at a “very high level”.

“Even now as we see the numbers falling, getting lower, they remain at a higher level than at any time in wave one or wave two of this epidemic,” he said.

“So, what everyone is doing is working to reduce cases, but we still have a long way to go.”

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Ireland

Ireland’s billionaires’ fortunes increase by €3.28bn during pandemic

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The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months, while it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, a new report from Oxfam revealed today.

Mirroring this global inequality trend, Ireland’s own nine billionaires saw their fortunes increase by €3.28 billion since March — a tenth of which would pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for every person in the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile, essential workers – such as our carers and supermarket and factory workers — cared for our vulnerable and kept our food supplies running throughout the pandemic — quite often on minimum or low-paid wages.

Inequality Virus report

Oxfam’s The Inequality Virus report, published to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Agenda’, highlights how Covid-19 has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.

A new global survey commissioned by Oxfam of 295 economists from 79 countries, including Ireland, reveals that 87 percent of respondents, including Jeffrey Sachs, Jayati Ghosh and Gabriel Zucman, expect an ‘increase’ or a ‘major increase’ in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic.

Financial crash

This thinking was shared by 85 percent of Irish economists who participated, with most estimating it would be the worst increase in inequality in Ireland since the financial crash of 2008.

Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels than it took for the fortunes of the top 1,000, mostly white male billionaires, to bounce back.

Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began, with the deep divide between the rich and poor proving as deadly as the virus itself. Around the world the impact of Covid-19 is magnifying and exacerbating existing inequalities – as well as racial and gender divides. One of the most extreme and unjust indicators of inequality we are seeing around the world right now is between those who have access to life saving vaccine and those who don’t’.

“Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in safety, while those on the frontline— our shop assistants, healthcare workers, and factory workers — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table, and often do not have benefits such as paid sick leave.

“The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began —more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic has ushered in the worst job crisis in over 90 years with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work.

“In Ireland, the fallout of the pandemic on employment has disproportionately hit young adults as well as people in low-paid occupations, all of whom are more likely to be paying rent. Without significant government intervention, we are looking at a return to long-term unemployment, increasing risks of homelessness and economic insecurity for younger generations in Ireland.

“In addition, women and marginalised racial and ethnic groups are yet again bearing the brunt. They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare.

“Long before Covid-19 disrupted our lives, in Ireland and across the world, women sustained our societies through their paid and unpaid care work. They continue to do so as we manage this public health crisis and as the social and economic consequences unfold. However, there is a lack of attention to gender equality in much of the economic decision making that has taken place since the onset of the pandemic.”

Road to recovery

Oxfam said the road to recovery will be much longer for people who were already struggling pre-Covid. When the virus took hold, over half of workers in poor countries were living in poverty, and three-quarters of workers globally had no access to social protections like sick pay or unemployment benefits.

Clarken concluded: “Extreme inequality is not inevitable, but a policy choice. Governments around the world must seize this opportunity to build more equal, more inclusive economies that end poverty and protect the planet.

“The fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts. Governments must ensure everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and financial support if they lose their job. They must invest in public services and low carbon sectors to create millions of new jobs and ensure everyone has access to a decent education, health, and social care, and they must ensure the richest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share of tax to pay for it.

“These measures must not be band-aid solutions for desperate times but a ‘new normal’ in economies that work for the benefit of all people, not just the privileged few.”

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Taoiseach says ‘Ireland is committed to fighting antisemitism, racism’ at Holocaust memorial

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed a virtual commemoration in the Mansion House in Dublin this evening to mark National Holocaust Memorial Day.

Tomi Reichental and Suzi Diamond, the two remaining Holocaust survivors in Ireland, also addressed the event which was organised by Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Holocaust Education Trust Ireland works with teachers, students and the wider community to educate about the Holocaust and its place in today’s society.

Mr Martin said: “Education is an important tool in deepening our understanding of the Holocaust…Ireland is committed to fighting antisemitism and racism.

“Today’s ceremony will be addressed by two Holocaust survivors, Tomi Reichental and Susie Diamond, last year’s ceremony marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and as we move further away from the horrors of the Holocaust, the value of being able to share the personal experience of Tomi and Susie is incalcuable.”

 

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Man arrested after garda vehicle is struck in Donegal car chase

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A man was arrested following a pursuit after he failed to pull over when gardaí spotted him driving a jeep erratically near Donegal town.

The incident took place near Tullyearl in Donegal town this afternoon.

A shot was discharged from a Garda firearm during this incident and as a result, GSOC have been notified of the incident.

Gardaí signalled for a jeep, that appeared to be driving in a dangerous manner, to pull over just after 1.30pm at Drumlonagher in Donegal town. This vehicle failed to stop and proceeded to drive away from gardaí.

A managed containment pursuit was carried out and during this, one garda vehicle was struck.

The pursuit concluded near the Tullyearl roundabout when the jeep went off the road.

The driver of the vehicle, a man in his 30s, fled from gardaí when it had come to a stop. The four passengers who had been in the jeep remained at the side of the road. The driver was located in a nearby field a short time later.

One Garda was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital for treatment of injuries following this incident. These injuries are non-life threatening. The driver of the jeep, and four passengers were uninjured.

The four passengers, two women and two men, were arrested at the location and taken to Ballyshannon Garda Station. They have all since been released.

The driver of the jeep has been charged and will now appear before Donegal Town District Court tomorrow morning.

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