Wednesday. 2/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

OPINION / Markus Hippi

Frosty welcome

Finland has fared remarkably well during the coronavirus pandemic. But while life in the Nordic nation has continued with relatively little disturbance, patience in the country’s travel and hospitality sectors is running out. Prime minister Sanna Marin’s government has been unwilling to open borders, instead choosing to prioritise protecting the country from new variants and infections.

Under current rules, visitors have to quarantine – with almost no exceptions – if they decide to make Finland their destination. The restrictions have been in place for more than 14 months, costing billions of euros to businesses that are dependent on international travel and tourism. Recently, Finnair issued a joint plea with Finavia, which runs most Finnish airports, as well as the Finnish Hospitality Association and the capital region’s cities Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. The group is asking the government to follow the example of many other European nations and relax quarantine requirements for arriving passengers if they can provide a certificate for a negative coronavirus test, have already been vaccinated or have recovered from the disease.

With the EU pushing its members to make use of a joint scheme for EU vaccine passports, Finnish travel operators understandably worry that potential tourists will bypass the country this summer in favour of more welcoming destinations. There are also concerns about the status of Helsinki Airport (pictured) as a hub for travel between Europe and Asia, if other carriers and airports get too much of a head start when travel picks up again. With everything from Helsinki’s fine-dining spots to the reindeer farm at Santa Claus Village in Lapland’s Rovaniemi to offer, Finland’s government needs a clear plan to get things moving again.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Philippines

Staying put

There are growing signs that Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte (pictured) hopes to maintain his hold on power after next year’s general election, despite a constitutional ban on serving two terms. Duterte’s political party PDP-Laban, the largest in the Philippines, passed a resolution at its annual meeting on Monday urging him to run for vice-president in 2022. The number-two job is directly elected in the Philippines and the popular president would stand a strong chance of winning. And while the vice-presidency has little executive power, PDP-Laban members also granted Duterte the opportunity to pick his own running mate for the top job. Convincing voters to elect a pliant president – a move straight out of the Vladimir Putin playbook – would allow the 76-year-old Duterte to pull the strings in the Philippines for another six years. That move could threaten the presidential ambitions of another party strongman and former loyalist turned opponent, boxer-cum-senator Manny Pacquiao.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Germany

Crowd pleaser

In Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, lockdown measures are gradually being lifted as incident rates come down and more citizens are inoculated – but culture and hospitality businesses will still need help in the coming months. In a bid to kick-start the country’s pandemic-battered culture sector, Germany’s government has agreed a €2.5bn fund, which will supplement ticket sales for events at which distancing measures force venues to cap audience numbers.

The fund also offers insurance in case dates have to be cancelled or postponed should the situation worsen again. Concerts, plays and film screenings with up to 500 attendees will be eligible for this financial assistance from July. It’s a much-needed safety net for cultural organisations that have struggled to stay afloat through the pandemic. Hopefully it will encourage them to take on the financial risks of planning long-awaited events over the summer.

Image: Getty Images

Health / USA

Healthy progress

Anthony Fauci (pictured), director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and chief medical advisor to Joe Biden, is cautiously optimistic about the trajectory of coronavirus in the US. “We don’t want to declare victory prematurely because we know what happens when you do that: you have the risk of a surge,” he tells Monocle. “But things are going in the right direction.” For Fauci, there are two key areas that could undermine progress: inequitable delivery of vaccines to countries experiencing new waves of infections, and vaccine hesitancy in the US. Fauci estimates the latter group to be about 15 per cent of the US population. “A substantial proportion of the people who just do not want to get vaccinated are members of the Republican Party,” he says. “That doesn’t make any sense. There’s such divisiveness in society.” Rather than seeing each other as enemies, it’s time to do as Fauci says: “pull together and control the outbreak”.

Listen to the full interview with Anthony Fauci in Monday and Tuesday's editions of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Pascal Blanchet

Urbanism / Global

Way to go

As the world slowly begins to open up again, a fresh debate is needed around its missing transport infrastructure. From sluggish railway lines to traffic-clogged city centres, there are far too many examples of transit systems that leave us wanting more (not to mention late to our destination). That’s why for Monocle’s June issue we compiled seven grand projects that, for now, we can only dream existed. They include:

Helsinki’s city-centre tunnel: Proposals to reduce car traffic in the Finnish capital’s core by moving it underground have been idling for some time but officials have yet to hit the accelerator. We don’t understand why: a four-lane tunnel would ease congestion and dramatically cut emissions, while making streets more friendly for pedestrians.

Vancouver to Portland high-speed corridor: A high-speed rail link through Cascadia (pictured) surely sells itself: a picturesque journey that would help to reduce emissions, facilitate tourism and boost the region’s economy.

Bangkok’s canal-ferry system: The Thai capital has an extensive canal system but grapples with congestion on its streets. By investing in a quick, efficient ferry system, which would require minimal infrastructure, officials could transform the way people navigate the city.

For more on Monocle’s grand projects, order or pick up a copy of the June issue of Monocle today.

Image: Rick Guest

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Tom Jones

The legendary Tom Jones joins Robert Bound to discuss the confessional nature of his new record, Surrounded By Time, and how he took on other people’s songs.

Monocle Films / Berlin

Studio Babelsberg: reel deal

Despite the ubiquity of digital effects in cinema, Berlin’s Studio Babelsberg has preserved the craft of prop making. Its lifelike items continue to appear in some of the biggest movies today. We inspect the studio’s stunning hand-built sets and its museum-like archives.

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