Monday 5 July 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 5/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

OPINION / Emma Searle

Fair shot

Whether it’s via an email, text message or good old-fashioned letter, the moment you receive word that you’re eligible to book your vaccine is a memorable one. About a month ago I found myself obsessively scrolling through my NHS app, searching for that golden ticket to get my coronavirus jab. When I got the call, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to live in the UK, a country with a speedy vaccine rollout. But it dawned on me at the time that in my home country of South Africa, my 86-year-old grandmother was still waiting for her turn.

With less than 2 per cent of its population vaccinated, South Africa is currently facing a third wave of infections, driven largely by the spread of the Delta variant. In a bid to combat this alarming spike in cases, president Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed strict lockdown measures. These include school closures, a ban on alcohol and the prohibition of both indoor and outdoor gatherings. South Africa’s sluggish vaccine rollout will no doubt be measured in the lives lost to the virus. As it stands, the official death toll tops 60,000 but the actual figure is likely three times that according to the number of excess deaths recorded by the Medical Research Council.

Many nations are facing similarly dire situations. But in the case of South Africa, the problem is not a lack of infrastructure, it’s the result of corruption and poor planning. Government leadership failed to engage early enough with pharmaceutical companies to secure vaccines. What’s more, a string of allegations of misconduct against figures including the country’s health minister Zweli Mkhize has weakened the government’s credibility. “They have not prepared properly or at all on the vaccine front, on the hospital front, on the procurement front,” Tony Leon, a former MP and one-time leader of the opposing Democratic Alliance party, tells me. “The only thing they can do now is use blunt instruments like lockdowns and liquor bans.”

If South Africa is to stand a chance of recovering from the economic hardships induced by the pandemic, it needs to be vaccinating people at a much faster rate. For this to happen, corruption must be stamped out and a new generation of leaders with honest track records must be appointed. The world will not be free of the pandemic’s grip until all grandmothers in all countries are protected.

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

Tech / Vietnam

Stream of consciousness

Netflix is trying to navigate choppy waters in Vietnam. The streaming service removed the Australian spy drama Pine Gap (pictured) from its Vietnam listings on Friday following a complaint from authorities over the brief appearance of a map depicting the South China Sea. The image depicts China’s “nine-dash” line, a demarcation that encompasses most of the sea, which Beijing uses to justify its claim on the contested waters. Though the map appears onscreen within the context of disputed claims in the region, Vietnamese officials claim its appearance is a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The row highlights the increasingly fraught relationship between streaming providers and certain governments that are increasingly pushing to regulate the likes of Netflix and Amazon for political reasons. Some view these laws as a potential threat to free speech and worry about censorship. So far, however, most streaming giants seem willing to compromise in order to remain successful in key global markets.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Malta

United fronts

Owners of homes in several of Malta’s urban conservation areas will soon have access to a €2m funding pool to help them look after their listed façades. Recently announced by the country’s planning minister Aaron Farrugia, the fund will make up to €10,000 available per property to be used in maintaining, restoring or replacing traditional masonry, timber and wrought iron elements.

And while it’s common for state-funded preservation organisations to dole out grants for such works, it’s rare for a federal government to step in and actively ask heritage building owners to request assistance. In doing so, the Maltese government will hopefully ensure the longevity of a large number of the country’s historic buildings. And, given that protecting significant heritage architecture matters when it comes to building national identity, other federal governments would be wise to follow Malta’s lead.

Image: Leslie Williams


Foreign exchange

Few things say “USA” like the great American road trip. A 60-person creative contingent of photographers, illustrators, writers and more will be sent by the French government on their own grand tours of the US as part of the ministry of foreign affairs’ cultural residency programme, Villa Albertine. Announced this month and launching in November, the scheme was inspired by France’s 400-year-old Villa Medici residency in Rome, which was founded so that French artists could see Renaissance works for themselves. According to Gaëtan Bruel, cultural counsellor at the French embassy in the US, it serves as “the ideal artist residency in the 21st century”, as each participant will be able to tailor their itinerary to their personal project – with destinations including the French government-owned Villa San Francisco (pictured). With an outward-looking US back on the map thanks to Joe Biden and travel increasingly possible, cross-cultural exchange has never sounded so good.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / UK

Truck or treat

German sweet manufacturer Haribo has announced that it is having trouble delivering its products to the UK; news which will dismay children and adults alike. The confectionery giant has attributed the problem to a lack of lorry drivers, a claim echoed by the British Road Haulage Association which believes there is a deficit of 100,000 qualified hauliers in the country. Transportation is not the only UK sector struggling to recruit employees. Ubiquitous vacancy posters in pubs, restaurants and shops attest to similar difficulties faced by those in the hospitality and retail industries. Many market analysts believe the shortages are at least partially down to the loss of European workers who, having left Britain during the pandemic, have not returned due to a combination of lockdown measures and new immigration rules brought in post-Brexit. Neither reason is likely to provide sweet relief for consumers.

Image: Giandomenico Frassi

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 251: Nubocha

Katrina Smith and Gianluca Franzoni are the co-founders of Nubocha, a US-based company that has developed a healthy and delicious dairy-free gelato for the American market. Launched in 2018, the husband-and-wife team worked to develop an innovative recipe using high quality, sustainably sourced ingredients, including Italian hazelnuts and Ecuadorian cacao. Franzoni is an Italian chocolatier who created premium chocolate brand Domori in the 1990s.

Monocle Films / New Zealand

Christchurch School: sunny modernism

We explore a New Zealand take on mid-century modern architecture that fused British brutalism with a Scandinavian aesthetic. The simple construction methods of the Christchurch School’s creative homes have endured changing tastes – and earthquakes too.


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