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After briefly leading the world in Covid-19 infections last month Ireland has dramatically curbed the spread of the virus.

A lockdown that includes a 5km travel limit has reduced the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people to 326, around mid-way in Europe’s table, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

However authorities have signalled severe restrictions will continue at least until late April to drive down infections to around 100 a day, followed by a slow, cautious reopening of the economy.

Ireland has experienced a rollercoaster. In early December it had the EU’s lowest infection rate only to see cases explode after it relaxed restrictions in the run-up to Christmas, fuelled in part by the virus variant first identified in England.

The number of people in hospital for coronavirus has halved in recent weeks but the virus remains widespread, keeping pressure on the health system, Philip Nolan, the chair of Ireland’s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, told RTE on Friday.

“Last week by every indicator we had more disease and more severe disease than any point in 2020. We still have 170 people in ICU. That is an extraordinarily high number.”

A woman wearing a face mask walks by a poster in a shop window in Dún Laoghaire, south Dublin.

A woman wearing a face mask walks by a poster in a shop window in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin. Photograph: Cezary Kowalski/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock












Shifting gender politics and the coronavirus have combined to spell the possible end of the Japanese Valentine’s Day custom of women giving chocolates to male colleagues.

Traditionally, women are expected to buy gift-wrapped chocolates for the men in their working lives – usually senior colleagues and others who have helped them during the course of the year – as part of a tradition called giri choco, literally obligation chocolates.

The custom is not a one-way street, however: men are supposed to reciprocate a month later on White Day – a marketing ploy dreamed up by chocolate makers in the early 1980s to boost sales.

Growing resistance to the practice – which can involve anything from expensive treats from a chocolatier to budget selections sold in convenience stores and supermarkets – has led to a decline in sales in recent years, as more women object to “forced giving”.

A Valentine’s Day display in Tokyo. Growing resistance to giri choco has led to a decline in chocolate sales in recent years. Photograph: jeremy sutton-hibbert/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

A Valentine’s Day display in Tokyo. Growing resistance to
giri choco has led to a decline in chocolate sales in recent years. Photograph: jeremy sutton-hibbert/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Photograph: jeremy sutton-hibbert/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

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KPMG’s UK chairman, Bill Michael, has resigned after telling staff to “stop moaning” during a virtual meeting about the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of lockdown on people’s lives.

Michael, who has headed the company since 2017, was speaking at a virtual town hall meeting on Monday with members of the firm’s financial services consulting team when he made the comments.

The 52-year old Australian, who also said that staff should stop “playing the victim card” and described the concept of unconscious bias as being “complete and utter crap for years”, apologised and said on Friday the scandal over his comments had made his position at the accounting giant “untenable”.





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