With the City of London deserted once more, its streets only populated by the occasional Deliveroo driver or tumbleweed-seeking photographer, it seems a strange time to be completing the largest office building the capital has ever seen, not least because the very future of the workplace is now in question.
But, rising far above the Cheesegrater and the Walkie-Talkie, dwarfing the now fun-sized Gherkin and boasting the floor area of almost all three combined, 22 Bishopsgate stands as the mother of all office towers. It is the City’s menacing final boss, a glacial hulk that fills its plot to the very edges and rises directly up until it hits the flight path of passing jets. The building muscles into every panorama of London, its broad girth dominating the centre of the skyline and congealing the Square Mile’s distinctive individual silhouettes into one great, grey lump.
It is the absurdist conclusion of three decades of steroidal growth, the final product of superheated land values stretching loose planning rules to breaking point. And, just as the building is being handed over to its first tenants to fit out, it feels like a monument from another epoch. Remember when we used to commute to the office?
In France, every child is now obliged to have 11 vaccinations. If parents want their children to attend school, or take part in many extracurricular activities, they must accept. There is no opt-out or concessions made to vaccine doubters.
On Monday France’s government and health authorities are speeding up the country’s Covid-19 vaccine drive – a process complicated by widespread scepticism about the inoculation that has encompassed the usual global conspiracy theories.
For weeks, polls have suggested up to 60% of the French population do not wish to be vaccinated. As the government’s vaccine operation enters its third week, official figures show that as of Saturday at least 93,000 people had been given the jab – a much lower number than elsewhere in Europe, including the UK, Germany and Italy:
More now on the opposition to the Tokyo Olympics:
The Kyodo poll results show a hardening of opposition to the Olympics among the Japanese public, despite repeated claims by the organisers, the IOC and government officials that it will be possible to host a “Covid- safe” Games under plans to be released in the spring.
But with the vaccine rollout in Japan expected to start several months later than those in the US, Britain and other European countries, doubts are growing about the wisdom of allowing 11,000 athletes, as well as large numbers of officials and other Games-related staff to enter Japan. No decision has been made on whether to admit overseas sports fans.
Concern that the Games may have to be called off has spread to the organising committee itself, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
“The Tokyo Olympics could be canceled if the state of emergency is not lifted by March,” a Tokyo 2020 official told the newspaper. Another Olympic-related official cited the difficulty in winning over the public when medical workers are struggling to cope with an influx of Covid patients in the capital.
The IOC’s official line is that the Games will go ahead as planned, but last week, the organisation’s longest-serving member, Dick Pound, said he was uncertain about Tokyo 2020’s prospects. “I can’t be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus,” Pound told the BBC.
About 80% of people in Japan are against holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer, amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the host city and other parts of Japan.
A weekend poll by the Kyodo news agency found that 35.3% wanted the Games to be cancelled, while 44.8% favoured another delay. Local organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said that it will not be possible to postpone a second time.
The Games, which are due to open on 23 July, were delayed by a year due to the Covid pandemic.
The survey was conducted as experts warned that the recent rise in cases was putting hospitals under extreme pressure, forcing the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to bow to pressure from the governors of Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures to declare a state of emergencythat will last until at least early February.
Suga’s handling of the pandemic since he took office four months ago has seen his approval ratings fall 9 percentage points since December to just 41.3%. The poll found that disapproval of Suga stood at 42.8%, with “lack of leadership” over the pandemic the most commonly cited reason.
The daily tally of infections in Japan exceeded 7,000 for the third day in a row on Saturday, although the country’s cumulative death toll, at just over 4,000, is much lower than those in many other countries.