Friday. 30/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Green means go

International leisure travel from the UK might be limited until at least 17 May but many Brits are already eyeing up summer holidays and eagerly awaiting the list of potential green-light destinations. Under the government’s proposed traffic-light system, countries will have different testing and quarantine requirements depending on whether they are rated red, amber or green.

It’s fair to say that the “green” designation will be decisive in making a destination attractive or not; how many travellers do you know who will happily spend a part of their return from holiday locked inside a hotel room? The extent to which a country has managed the pandemic and its progress on vaccinations will determine whether or not it will be welcoming British travellers this year.

Which brings me to my home country of Portugal. Its journey with coronavirus has had its ups and downs. Last year it was viewed almost as a success story; one of the very few nations in Europe where life remained mostly normal despite restrictions. In September it was still welcoming travellers from most countries without requiring a negative test before allowing entry. Then came winter and everything took a turn for the worse.

Now it has bounced back again: in the past three months, Portugal has gone from having one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the EU to this week registering a day of zero deaths for the first time since August, as well as having offered more than 20 per cent of its population a first vaccine dose – above the EU average. Early reports suggest that it will be one of the lucky few green-light destinations, along with Malta, Iceland and Gibraltar. If there have ever been any doubts that lockdowns and vaccines can work, just take a look at this sunny Iberian nation. Portugal, até breve!

Economy / Vietnam

Viral success

Vietnam’s economy is projected to grow by 6.7 per cent this year and 7 per cent in 2022, making it the fastest growing in Southeast Asia, according to an Asian Development Bank report released on Wednesday. Boosted by export-oriented manufacturing, surging investment and trade, the country’s economic health is also down to its success in dealing with the pandemic. With some of the lowest infection numbers in Asia, Vietnam has been free from community transmissions for more than a month thanks to an efficient public-health system and a proactive containment strategy based on rigorous testing, tracing and quarantining. Yet deadly and sudden recent outbreaks in nearby India, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia give room for pause; in the past week, Vietnamese health authorities have bolstered prevention schemes and reinforced border controls. If it stays clear, Vietnam can still come out of this pandemic as one of the few countries with a strong record.

Defence / France

To the letter

A group of at least 20 retired French generals and about 1,000 active service-men and -women faced sanctions this week for signing a letter on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup attempt. The letter, published on 21 April in right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles, warned that a failure to act against Islamic extremism within France is putting the country in danger of “civil war”. It also attacked the country’s “anti-racism” movement and government crackdowns on Gilets Jaunes protests.

Among other things the letter raises questions over neutrality – whether acting soldiers and officers should be allowed to speak out politically. Government and military officials in France condemned it as a violation of duty and promised sanctions before a military council. It also presents a challenge for Marine Le Pen of the National Rally party, who has sought to soften the organisation’s image but expressed support for the generals. France’s politics ahead of next year’s presidential elections are becoming increasingly tense.

Listen to an analysis of the situation in France on today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24, which airs at 12.00 UK time.

Space / China

Star laws

China has been shooting for the stars of late: yesterday it launched the core module for its planned space station and last month it announced plans for a Sino-Russian lunar base. However, according to space law (yes, it exists), any national base should be subject to restrictions. “According to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, space exploration should be carried out for the benefit of all countries,” Christopher Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University in the UK, tells The Monocle Minute. Though the treaty does allow for national endeavours, Newman adds, “The ventures must be verifiably for peaceful purposes.” That means military installations are expressly forbidden. In theory, that also means that any nation should be allowed to inspect another nation’s stations or space vessels to check that they meet these (admittedly vague) criteria. “The big question is whether that could actually happen,” says Newman. After all, in space there’s no one to hear you cry foul play.

Design / Italy

Back on the table

Salone del Mobile is the cornerstone of Milan’s design calendar – a spring social gathering where the Aperol spritz flows. This year’s event will also serve as a welcome economic stimulus for Lombardy’s capital. After last year’s cancellation, the fair’s promised return in 2021 was recently cast into doubt but the good news, announced on Wednesday, is that the furniture shindig will go ahead from 5 to 10 September. According to one newspaper report, the event’s revival will be aided by millions of euros contributed by Italy’s ministry of economic development. Salone’s press team is promising that September’s edition will be “innovative, iconic and unique” but we would nevertheless expect a slimmed-down version being held at the Fiera Rho pavilion, alongside more central breakout spaces, such as the Triennale museum. Some people will already be looking ahead, no doubt, to the unbridled, business-as-usual knees-up that the 2022 edition could promise to be.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Supporting artisans

We meet Suzie de Rohan Willner, CEO of UK womenswear and homeware label Toast, to learn about its mentorship platform, The New Makers. Plus: we meet Martin Johnston and Lise Bonnet, the couple behind Amsterdam label Crafted Society, which shines a light on some of the leading Italian makers of luxury clothing, shoes and accessories.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: May issue, 2021

Monocle’s May issue lifts the lid on our picks of the world’s best-designed buildings and products in our inaugural Design Awards. From big names such as David Chipperfield to small pleasures like electric switches, we celebrate the makers refining our lives. Elsewhere, there’s custom dog food and glamorous grannies – what more could you want? Available now at The Monocle Shop

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