Homeowners in Portugal are getting paid to have mortgages as negative rates spread

Aerial view of Funchal with traditional cable car above the city, in Madeira island, Portugal
A cable car in Portugal perhaps floats above some of those mortgage holders with negative rates.

  • In Portugal, mortgage holders are seeing negative rates – meaning they’re getting paid by their banks.
  • What was supposed to be a rare phenomenon has likely increased during the pandemic.
  • Meanwhile, home-buying in the US has become expensive and difficult throughout the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

How would you like to be paid to have a mortgage? Maybe you should buy a house in Portugal.

Some mortgage holders actually have negative mortgage rates – meaning their banks pay them interest. The Wall Street Journal’s Patricia Kowsmann reported on the phenomenon, which was rare pre-pandemic. Rates were originally allowed that low a few years back to help bolster the economy.

But in Portugal, mortgages are increasingly seeing negative rates, a consequence of low interest rates in general across the developed world. One consumer-rights group, Deco, told the WSJ that it estimated more than 30,000 mortgages had negative rates back in 2019, but that has more than doubled now. BPI, the bank for one of the negative mortgage holders profiled, said it has paid out over 1 million pounds in interest.

The negative rates aren’t just in Portugal; some mortgage holders in Denmark are also increasingly seeing interest. However, banks there have begun administering fees for deposits; in many instances, according to the WSJ, the fees can offset the interest that the mortgage holders are receiving.

Meanwhile, in the US, prospective buyers should be prepared to pay more than the asking price, as supply stays low and goes quickly. As Insider’s Taylor Borden wrote: “It’s actually a horrible time to buy a house.”

Yes, Borden writes, American mortgage rates are low, but prices are high, effectively pushing the American dream of homeownership out of reach. Also, as the American economy has started reopening this spring, mortgage rates have gone back above 3% again, and seem likely to keep rising.

But even for the lucky mortgage holders of Portugal, it’s not all smooth sailing. One person that the WSJ spoke to, Paula Cristina Santos, has had to halt her own plans for buying a house. One reason why: The charge from her bank to get a new mortgage is just too high – and can’t compare to her current negative rate.

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There’s no evidence yet that AstraZeneca’s vaccine causes blood clots, and experts say any risks are outweighed by the shot’s benefits

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A vaccinator administers an injection of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at a vaccination centre in Chester, northwest England, on February 15, 2021.

  • Denmark and Norway suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot Thursday as a “precautionary measure”.
  • The Danish Health authorities cited concerns about blood clots in people that had received the shot.
  • Data suggests that the risk of clots is no greater than in the population at large.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Denmark, Norway, and Iceland suspended their roll out of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine as a “precautionary” step Thursday, citing concerns about blood clots in people who had received the shot.

One person in Denmark who was immunized with the vaccine died from a blood clot, the Danish Health Authority said in a statement Thursday. At this point, it’s not known whether there is a link between the vaccine and blood clots, it said.

This follows Austrian authorities saying Sunday that a 49-year-old woman had died as a result of severe coagulation disorders after taking the shot.

The Danish Health authorities said officials “have to react” to reports of possible serious side effects, although there was “good evidence” that the vaccine was both safe and effective.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) OK’d the shot on January 29, having looked extensively at all its safety and efficacy data, but individual countries can ultimately decide whether they give it to their citizens.

AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots: the stats so far

There have been a total of four reported cases in Europe of people getting vaccinated with a specific batch of AstraZeneca’s shot and then developing blood clots afterwards, according to the EMA. The batch of 1 million doses had been sent to 17 EU countries, including Denmark.

At least five countries – Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Latvia – have suspended the use of this particular batch. Norway, Denmark, and Iceland suspended the vaccine completely.

The EMA said Wednesday that one person in Europe had been diagnosed with multiple blood clots in vessels 10 days after vaccination. It was unclear whether this was the Danish case, although by that time Austrian authorities had already reported a death.

Insider contacted the Danish health authority for clarification, and a spokesperson said that they were “not at liberty to inform on the data that we receive from other authorities, national or international.”

Another person in Europe was hospitalized with a blood clot in the lung after being vaccinated, who was “now recovering,” the EMA said.

The time-frame between getting the vaccine and developing the clot for this person was not documented.

There were two other reports of blood clots, the EMA said. No further details were provided such as age, or whether they had medical conditions that made their blood more likely to clot.

No more blood clots than in general population

The EMA said in a press release that overall, as of Thursday, there had been 30 cases amongst more than 5 million who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s shot overall. There was no indication that the vaccine caused blood clots, and this wasn’t a known side effect, they said.

Professor Jon Gibbons, director of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Reading, said in a statement that blood clots in the general population were relatively common, and affected an average of between one and two people per 1,000 – a higher proportion than 30 in 5 million.

“Therefore if there is any association between the vaccine and clotting, the risk is likely to be very low indeed,” he said.

Dr. Phil Bryan, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) safety lead, said in a statement that the number of reports of blood clots received so far in the UK – where more than 11 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been given – were not greater than what would have occurred usually in a population that size.

The UK did not receive the batch from which the four most recent reports of clots arose.

Denmark’s approach ‘super’ cautious

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement that the Danish approach was “super” cautious.

“Since we know with great certainty that the vaccine prevents COVID-19, and we are almost totally uncertain that the vaccine can have caused this problem, the risk and benefit balance is still very much in favour of the vaccine in my view,” he said.

Evans said that it was difficult to distinguish between coincidence and the vaccine’s side effects.

“This is especially true when we know that COVID-19 disease is very strongly associated with blood clotting and there have been hundreds if not many thousands of deaths caused by blood clotting as a result of COVID-19 disease,” he said.

Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the organization that advises the UK’s vaccine strategy – said in a statement that the public should have “confidence” that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was “safe and highly effective at preventing severe disease, including the prevention of blood clots caused by COVID-19.”

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Denmark suspending use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab is another dark cloud over a troubled vaccine

Denmark COVID-19 AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in Denmark on February 11.

  • Denmark and Norway suspended use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on Thursday.
  • This is another in a series of troubles for the jab, which was already dogged by problems.
  • Poorly-communicated trial results and widespread hesitancy in Europe set the vaccine back.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Today, Denmark said it was suspending its use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine while it was investigating several cases of blood clots among people who had received the jab. Norway followed a few hours later.

Let’s be clear. To date, all signs point towards AstraZeneca’s vaccine working and being safe. Multiple respected regulators cleared it for us, and millions of people have had the shot.

Countries have to investigate serious adverse events when rolling out vaccinates. This is not uncommon, and does not mean that the vaccine has caused the adverse event. Denmark has said the clots could be a coincidence.

Nonetheless, the suspensions sent shockwaves around the world. It is the latest in a series of problems for the jab, which have eroded people’s trust and led to hesitancy.

Almost from the beginning, the AstraZeneca vaccine faced difficult questions over its clinical trials.

When the results came, they too caused confusion by giving two very different figures for how effective the vaccine was. It later became clear that a mistake led to half of their trial participants not receiving a full dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine efficacy it reported in its clinical trials is also lower than other vaccines. This has led to some patients in Europe and the UK, which are relying on the jab for a big part of their vaccine rollouts, to turn it down, thinking that it was not as effective.

Experts argued that the efficacy figures are not directly comparable – and that the imperative of getting out as many vaccine as possible outweighs the relatively small differences in trial results.

Another setback came as several European countries decided that they would not give the jab to those at most risk of COVID-19, those over 65.

They pointed to there not being a lot of data available in clinical trials for those over the age of 65, though some nations have started to reverse those decisions.

Data from the real-world rollouts was a boost, suggesting that the AstraZeneca jab was doing its job – stopping people from dying with COVID-19 – just as well as the other jabs.

European nations, such as France and Germany, have since then been pushing to rebuild trust in the vaccine, but faced a difficult path.

As officials in Denmark have said, the suspension is a precaution. It may turn out that the vaccine was fine all along. But shaken confidence is hard to restore, and AstraZeneca’s already-difficult path is now a bit harder.

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The Whisky War: Why history’s most polite territorial conflict rages on

Hans Island Canada Greenland
A wide satellite image of Hans Island, an uninhabited rock in the Arctic subject to a territorial dispute between Canada, left, and Denmark, right.

  • In a remote section of the Arctic, there’s a whisp of land that is subject to protracted conflict over ownership.
  • There’s not much to say about Hans Island, but the debate between Canada and Denmark over who it belongs to stands out as one of history’s most polite disputes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Conflict over land is as old as recorded history, but the world has never seen another quite like the Whisky War. Wars have been fought, violently and continuously, over the rights to territories across the globe. In the case of Hans Island, however, the two countries at odds had a different way of staking their claim.

If you’ve never heard of Hans Island, it’s probably because, well, there’s not that much to say about it. The half-square-mile island sits directly in the middle of the Nares Strait, a 22-mile-wide waterway that separates the most northern land of Canada, Ellesmere Island, and Greenland, an autonomous Denmark territory.

Hans Island itself lacks any real natural resources or territorial advantages. It’s essentially a giant rock, and the only thing that keeps perpetuating the ownership debate is the fact that it sits within the 12-mile territorial limit of both Canada and Greenland, making it close enough that each country involved can claim it under international law.

It started in 1880, when Hans Island got lost in the shuffle of the British transferring remaining arctic territories to Canada. Due to the use of predominantly outdated, 16th-century maps, the small island was not explicitly included in the transfer, and as such wasn’t even recognized until decades later.

Hans Island

In 1933, Greenland was declared the rightful owner of Hans Island, by the ironically named Permanent Court of International Justice. This organization was dissolved within a few years of this decision and effectively replaced with the UN, and the aforementioned ownership resolution was deemed no longer valid, so Hans was once again up for grabs.

Both World War II and the Cold War took precedence over more trivial conversations, and even after a maritime border negotiation in the early 1970s, the territory still sat simmering on the back burner.

The best part of the history of Hans Island comes in 1984, when Canadian troops visited the island and left behind something distinct to the Great White North, an erected Canadian flag, a sign that read “Welcome to Canada” and a bottle of Canadian Club whisky.

Not wanting to show up empty-handed to the party, Greenland’s minister took a trip to the island soon after, removing and replacing all the Canadian offerings with their own flag, a bottle of Danish schnapps, and a sign that read “Velkommen til den danske ø” or “Welcome to the Danish Island.”

And thus began the first chapter of one of the most neighborly and hospitable disputes (or elaborate drinking games) in history, known as The Whisky War. Since then, there have been continued trips by both sides to collect and replace the other party’s goods, and while what happens to the alcohol when it’s taken off the island has never been confirmed, the assumption is someone is out there enjoying it.

In more recent years, both Canadian and Danish representatives have called for the island to be declared a shared sovereignty, but it remains unclear if and when any official resolution to the Whisky War has been reached. Lawmakers have even cited this ongoing discourse as setting an interesting precedent or subsequently having ramifications for border negotiations, particularly international ones.

All in all, few things make for a better story than two allied countries fighting a battle over land for more than three decades with welcome signs and booze.

Editor’s Note: While the word “whiskey” is commonly spelled with an “E” preceding the “Y” in the United States, the “E” is notably absent from the word in nations like Canada, where this story takes place. There actually is a defined difference between the terms, but colloquially, they are often used interchangeably.

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Here are 9 countries sacrificing the holidays and locking down over the festive period

18 December 2020, Saxony, Bautzen: Christmas lights hang over the empty Reichenstraße in front of the Reichenturm. So far, there has been no sign of a turnaround in new infections in the state of Saxony. According to the Ministry of Health in Dresden, the seven-day incidence climbed to 415 on Thursday (17.12.2020). On Wednesday, the value was still at 407. Saxony thus continues to be well ahead of all other federal states. Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Christmas lights hang over an empty street in Bautzen, Germany, on December 18, 2020.

  • A number of countries have announced strict lockdown measures spanning Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Coronavirus cases are still rising in many countries, with holiday travel and celebrations providing a breeding ground for the virus. 
  • Here are 9 countries enforcing new measures. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A number of countries have chosen to drastically curtail Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. 

The trend is particularly apparent in mainland Europe, where curfews, lockdowns, and limits on private and public  gatherings have been reintroduced.

Here are 9 countries where Christmas 2020 and New Year’s 2021 will be like never before.

Germany

14 December 2020, Hamburg: Passers with nose-mouth-guards walk through the Christmassy decorated shopping street "Spitalerstraße" in the city centre. From 16.12.2020, Hamburg is stepping up its measures to contain the corona pandemic in view of the continuing high infection figures. Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa (Photo by Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)
People seen in Hamburg, Germany, on December 14, 2020.

Germany entered a new Christmas lockdown on Wednesday, with only food shops and essential services like gas stations, chemists, and post office allowed to stay open.

Singing Christmas carols and drinking outdoors is banned, but Christmas tree vendors have been allowed to remain open.

From Christmas Eve to Boxing Day only, families are allowed to be visited by four other adult family members.

Precautions have also been put in place for New Year’s Eve. Any and all public gatherings have been banned, as has the sale of fireworks.

The lockdown began on the same day that Germany reported 952 deaths: a new daily record.

Source: Deutsche Welle, BBC

Denmark

Hundreds of Danish farmers and fishermen demonstrate with tractors against a government decision to cull their minks to halt the spread of a coronavirus variant on November 21, 2020. - More than 500 tractors, many decked out with the Danish flag, drove past the government's offices and parliament in Copenhagen to the port. (Photo by Thibault Savary / AFP) (Photo by THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Danish farmers and fishermen demonstrate against a government decision to cull their minks on November 21, 2020.

Denmark’s prime minister Mette Frederiksen announced a nationwide Christmas lockdown on Wednesday December 16.

The same day, health authorities reported a record 3,692 daily cases, a new record. 

All businesses, except essential food and medical stores, must close between December 25 and January 3. 

As many as 10 people can gather together for Christmas celebrations if social distancing can be observed. Rules for New Year’s Eve are due to be announced the week beginning December 21.

Source: DR

Poland

FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a memorial concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi death camp Auschwitz at the State Opera in Berlin, Germany, January 27, 2020.     Odd Andersen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki seen in Brussels in February 2020.

On Thursday, Poland announced a national lockdown from December 28 to January 17.

It is also forbidden to travel between towns or cities starting from 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Public gatherings on New Year’s Eve have been limited to five people. Wedding parties are also forbidden. 

Schoolchildren under the age of 16 can’t leave home without adult supervision during the school holidays.

Source: Government of Poland

The Netherlands

Amsterdam reopening
Tourists and locals enjoying on the terrace at the Leidseplen amid the Coronavirus pandemic on June 1, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

On December 14, the Netherlands ordered all non-essential shops to close and told everyone to stay inside if possible until January 19, 2021.

In general, households can only entertain two adult visitors who live elsewhere, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas day three people may visit.

Bars and restaurants had been closed for weeks, and will remain shuttered.

 “We’re not dealing with a simple flu,” prime minister Mark Rutte said. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to swallow the bitter pill.”

Source: Euronews, Sky News

Romania

FILE PHOTO: Romania's President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives for the second day of a special European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium February 21, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Romania’s President Klaus Werner Iohannis

Romania has extended its existing lockdown until January 15.

A daily curfew is in place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., which will apply on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve too.

Face masks are compulsory indoors and outdoors in public areas. Christmas parties are banned in public and private areas both indoors and outdoors.

Anyone found breaching the rules can be fined a maximum of $3,800.

Source: UK Government travel advice 

Hungary

BUDAPEST, Dec. 2, 2020 -- Christmas lights and decorations are seen in downtown Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 2, 2020. (Photo by Attila Volgyi/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Attila Volgyi via Getty Images)
Christmas lights and decorations are seen in downtown Budapest, Hungary, December 2, 2020.

The whole of Hungary has been under a 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew since November 10 and family gatherings are limited to 10 people. This includes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the rules also apply on New Year’s Eve and that all parties are banned.

Source: About Hungary

Czech Republic

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - DECEMBER 05: Members of the Cirk La Putyka troupe entertain people driving through with their cars on the eve of St. Nicholas Day on December 05, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic. On the eve of St. Nicholas, Czechs traditionally celebrate by dressing up as Devils, Angels, and St. Nicholas, and visiting children, handing out little presents. Amid the coronavirus crisis, Circ La Putyka troupe offered a drive-thru celebration as spectators drove a route visiting heaven, hell, and St. Nicholas. Due to the governments restrictive measures, the usual traditions of door-to-door visiting would be impossible. The eager guests formed a long line of cars at the Circ La Putyka base in Prague. (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)
A drive-through Christmas celebration on December 05, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Most non-essential businesses shuttered on December 18 and all gatherings have now been limited to six people.

A nationwide curfew from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. has also been enforced.

“This year’s Christmas will be totally different, but that is the result of the situation we are in,” Jan Blatný, the country’s health minister, said.

Source: Guardian 

Italy

colosseum rome italy tourism
Italy’s Carabinieri police in front of the Colosseum on June 1, 2020.

While not yet officially confirmed, Italian newspapers reported on December 18 that the government is due to announce a national lockdown active between December 24 and 27 and between December 31 and January 3.

“For the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, whether until the 3rd or 6th of January, the more restrictions there are, the better,” Francesco Boccia, Italy’s Minister for Regional Affairs, said Thursday.

Source: The Local

Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 17: Surroundings of Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque remain empty after a general curfew imposed every weeknight from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. within measures against a second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Istanbul, Turkey on December 17, 2020. (Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque seen during the curfew in Istanbul, Turkey on December 17, 2020.

Being a majority Muslim country, Turkey does not widely celebrate Christmas, but from 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 5 a.m. on January 4, 2021, the whole country will be under a lockdown. 

However, it only applies to residents, and foreign tourists are exempt from the order, and can sight-see at their leisure.

Source: Independent, The New York Times 

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