Monday 5 April 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 5/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Suite feeling

After months of delay, I’ve finally managed to fly back to Toronto where, after landing, we all lined up to receive our coronavirus tests in the arrivals hall. Then I checked in for my three-night stay at a nearby quarantine hotel while my test was processed. Given that much of Canada’s handling of these more recent stages of the pandemic has left a great deal to be desired, the process was smooth. If the voices crackling from the hotel staff’s walkie-talkies were any indicator, some guests were even enjoying themselves: “Can we get a bottle opener for room 1091?”, “Room 609 wants extra towels”, and so on.

Canada’s quarantine hotels got off to a bad start. Early on, two security guards were accused of misconduct against guests and the booking system crumpled under only a little pressure. Things improved but some maintain that the hotel plans are a fig leaf to mask the fact that the number of new infections is soaring domestically regardless; official figures suggest that only 2 per cent of cases in Canada can be attributed to people arriving from overseas.

All this is combined with a woefully slow vaccine rollout and a new lockdown starting today in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, barely three weeks since the last one was lifted. Although the use of quarantine hotels remains contested, the current state of the epidemic in Canada means that the hotels’ management, from this former guest’s perspective at least, might well turn out to be one of the few aspects of these later stages of the pandemic that Canada didn’t let slip from its control.

Image: Alex Atack

Trade / UK

Refined sugar

A sweet subset of UK exporters were given a welcome Easter break from the EU following months of Brexit red tape-induced problems. As of this month, certain perishable products are required to be checked by a veterinarian before entering the EU but the 27-nation bloc has now announced a waiver that applies to some Easter favourites, including chocolate and biscuits. Exporters of UK delicacies such as shortbread are breathing a sigh of relief. Not everyone has been as lucky though, with producers of quiches, cheesecakes and traditional Victoria sponges bracing for delays and additional costs if they wish to export their products to the EU en masse. So go ahead and treat yourself to that extra tariff-free Cadbury Creme Egg this Easter Monday. But do spare a thought for exporters preparing for 50 new EU-issued certificates coming into effect over the next few months as the Brexit transition phase comes to an end.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Taiwan

Safe distance

One of the BBC’s senior news correspondents, John Sudworth, will now cover developments on the Chinese mainland from the self-ruled island of Taiwan. The corporation’s bosses haven’t explained exactly why Sudworth is moving from Beijing to Taipei but it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that it has something to do with his tenacious reporting from the Xinjiang region on alleged human rights breaches.

“Every broadcaster will have to think about how they can function on the Chinese mainland,” Humphrey Hawksley, longtime foreign correspondent for the BBC and former China bureau chief, tells The Monocle Minute. “If there are risks to the security and safety of your journalists, then it is a fairly sensible thing to do. Hong Kong and Thailand used to be places that journalists in the region would go to if they wanted to avoid Beijing’s influence – but they are also precarious and Taiwan now seems like a safe bet.”

Image: Getty Images

Business / Sweden

Daddy day care

Volvo has announced a generous new parental-leave scheme for all of its 40,000 employees, wherever they are in the world. Staff of either gender will receive 24 weeks of paid leave at 80 per cent of their base salary. The car-maker is taking its cue from its native Sweden, where the government compensates either parent for 480 days per child. In a pilot scheme carried out in Volvo’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region in 2019, 46 per cent of those applying were fathers. The new Family Bond scheme will be especially gratefully received by Volvo employees in the US, the only OECD country with no statutory parental leave and where one in four mothers return to work within 10 days of giving birth. It won’t be cheap but the manufacturer believes that it’s vital for maintaining a range of ideas and retaining top talent, particularly female executives. It’s a masterclass for businesses in setting your own rules of the road.

Image: Stefan Kaiser

Culture / Switzerland

Dancing on ice

Artists can’t wait to once again show off their skills in front of an audience and will quickly want convenient spaces in which to get back up and running. That’s why the Kulturprovisorium, a cultural organisation in the Swiss city of Zug, has hired a hall that’s normally a venue for the sport of curling and transformed it in just four days into a temporary event space that can fit up to 460 spectators. The hall is now ready to be booked for performance classes, groups and solo artists as soon as Switzerland emerges from lockdown. “We want to help those who work in the culture industry to get back on their feet,” says Guido Simmen, initiator of the project. The set-up, which is easily adaptable and affordable for different types of performances, is due to run until July 2021, although it could be revived next year if needed. It’s a smart stop-gap solution to bringing some life back to the community in a quick, affordable and unbureaucratic way.

M24 / The Menu

DeAille Tam and Bill Buford

How DeAille Tam became one of the best female chefs in the world. Plus, Bill Buford’s odyssey to master French cooking after a career as an acclaimed journalist.

Monocle Films / Global

Media on the move

We visit two bold companies finding canny ways to pivot their product for changing audiences. Transhelvetica, a Swiss magazine, and Spiritland, a London-based hospitality and audio venture, are each shaping the media landscape for the better.


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