The Express leads with the fact that 15 million day-trippers are expected to hit the road this weekend, taking advantage of the easing of restrictions. Unfortunately, they may not be greeted with open arms when they reach their destinations. Council executives, tourism boards and national park bodies have warned off members of the public who might want to take advantage of the good weather and fresh air. Despite overwhelming evidence that the risk of transmission in the open air is practically zero and that sunlight is vital in helping the body resist infection, quangocrats and town hall Sir Humphries are pulling up the drawbridge.
The leader of Cornwall Council issued a proclamation: “People shouldn’t be coming to Cornwall on holiday and that it’s totally inappropriate. The minor changes in policy that happened this week don’t change that and we’re not open for tourism.” The Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire has taken a similar line. He told the Times: “People also need to understand that not all services would be open as usual, including public conveniences, pubs, restaurants and accommodation so it won’t be the usual visitor experience. If you’re travelling more than 10-15 miles is it really necessary? We’d say, ‘Dream about it, explore later.'” Hard to believe his job is to persuade people to visit Yorkshire.
You might have better luck in the South Downs National Park. Its representative says visitors are welcome provided they follow social-distancing guidance – which shouldn’t be too hard, given that it covers almost 630 square miles of Sussex and Hampshire.
A reader tells me he took his family to the beach yesterday in Hunstanton, Norfolk, having been reassured by his council that beaches have reopened. But when they arrived, they were confronted with this sight:
Presumably, the boys in blue were there to make sure no one comes within two metres of each other. Baywatch, Covid-style.
The Times, Guardian and BBC this morning all led with the news that academies and independent schools will definitely reopen on June 1st – though only for the “priority” year groups of Reception, Years 1 and Year 6. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, says the plan is “sensible” and pointed out the “overwhelming” evidence that prolonged periods out of education are damaging, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Teaching unions, however, have instructed their members not to “engage”– and, as Juliet Samuel says in the Telegraph, they should be ashamed of thsemselves. They were given some succour by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chairman of the BMA Council, who told the Telegraph: “Until we have got case numbers much lower, we should not consider reopening schools.” Why, given that children are not themselves vulnerable to COVID-19 and there’s little evidence that they can infect others? Liverpool City Council says its schools won’t reopen until June 15th, and then only for Year 6.
The Chief Executives of some of the country’s largest academy chains – Reach 2, Oasis, GEP and Harris – say they will reopen their schools on time. Roughly 25% of English primary school pupils attend academies, over which local authorities have no control. Christopher King, head of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, which comprises 670 schools, says he expects all of them to reopen for priority groups on June 1st, in line with the Government’s plan.
I’ve come across lots of anecdotal evidence that mental health has taken a battering since the lockdown began, most often due to job losses, isolation, bereavement and substance abuse. Now, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has reinforced this with evidence from its latest survey of 1,369 practitioners, carried out between May 1st and 6th. Its conclusion is that those with no previous history of mental illnesses are becoming unwell in alarming numbers.
According to the Guardian, four out of 10 psychiatrists say they have seen an increase in the number of people urgently requiring emergency care for mental health. Particularly prevalent are 18-25 year-old men with no previous history of mental illness. Participants in the survey reported “patients having severe psychotic symptoms which incorporate Covid-related themes” and that “many of our patients have deteriorated or developed mental disorders as a direct result of the coronavirus disruption, for example social isolation, increased stress [or that they have] run out of meds”.
Dr Kate Lovett, the RCP’s Dean, told the Guardian: “Of the people I am seeing, many are extremely unwell with symptoms of severe mental illness: serious changes in their moods, belief system and hallucinations. Life events associated with COVID-19 have triggered this or led to a relapse for almost all of them. Relationships are now all feeling lockdown pressures. Routines have disappeared.”
A member of Simon Dolan’s legal team has sent me this chart, showing how the the death toll from coronavirus stacks up against other viruses. Helps to put things in perspective. And worth nothing that during none of these previous pandemics did governments react by locking down entire populations:
I linked to a 2007 story in the New Scientist yesterday about how the foot and mouth epidemic was caused by a leak from a rusty pipe at one of the Government’s scientific research labs in Pirbright, Surrey and said it made the theory that SARS-CoV-2 had escaped form the Wuhan Institute of Virology more plausible. Today, an architect has got in touch to say he thinks that’s a plausible hypothesis, too:
A few years back, as an architect, I became involved with the then Health Protection Agency (HPA) and Centre For Emergency Preparedness and Response (CEPR) operations on their Porton Down site, adjacent to the MOD’s DsTL operation.
The reason I became involved was a mooted £600 million refurbishment of their rotting accommodation. They had just spent £17 million on rebuilding their drainage to avoid a repeat of the MASSIVELY embarrassing Pirbright event.
There is some interesting footage on YouTube regarding the genesis of the Wuhan lab, where the Chinese typically stole a French Cat IV containment lab design and built it out themselves. I would not be at all surprised if the drainage design at Wuhan is not fit for purpose, as the drainage designs would not have been sufficiently developed at that point in the procurement process for the Chinese to steal them. Equally, the functioning of the physical lab is very dependent on good practice of its scientists, which is also reported as being lamentable at Wuhan.
In short, I strongly suspect the pandemic is due to very embarrassing cock up at the Wuhan lab. Dictators a la Chairman Xi do not like to be embarrassed, so don’t expect this to ever be disclosed. My suspicion is intelligence agencies had wind of COVID-19’s origin in a Wuhan lab, and were consequently more fearful of it than they might have been of a coronavirus without a relationship to a biowarfare research establishment, and this fear may have influenced the massive overreaction of global responses.
Yesterday, I mentioned that a financial journalist had done a bit of analysis based on the “response tracker” that Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government has created. This is a tool that enables you to compare and contrast different countries according to how severe their lockdowns are. Using this information, he created a spreadsheet that included the data for deaths per million in each country from Our World in Data and the IMF’s estimate of what the deficit in each country is likely to be and the fall in GDP per capita. He concluded, not surprisingly, that there was no statistical correlation between the severity of the lockdown and the number of infections and deaths – no signal in the noise – but quite a strong correlation between the severity of the lockdown and the economic trouble each country is in.
Today, a reader gets in touch to say that he’s also done a similar piece of work using the Blavatnik tool, looking at infections and deaths. Peter Forsythe, a Hong Kong resident, has blogged about his findings and linked to his spreadsheet. As he says, if lockdowns are effective you would expect to see a correlation between the stringency of the lockdown and the number of cases or deaths per million. But there isn’t one. His conclusion:
So, there is – at least accusing to the figures we have so far – no correlation between the strength of the lockdown and the number of cases and deaths. This could change, and I’ll keep an eye on it.
Incidentally, my financial journalist friend has been back in touch today to flag a piece of virtue-signalling nonsense in Bloomberg‘s ‘Evening Briefing’ yesterday. “The financial cost of coronavirus crisis could reach $8.8 trillion, but the higher cost – the one in lives – already stands at 306,000,” it says. As my friend points out, if you divide $8.8 trillion by 306,000 (the total number of Covid deaths so far) you get $24.4 million. So the author of Bloomberg’s ‘Evening Briefing’ believes each of those lives is worth $24.4 million? Quite generous, when you factor in that the median age of those who’ve died of the virus in most countries is about 80, with the vast majority having underlying health conditions. There’s another consideration too, which is the lives that are likely to be lost as a result of the global economic recession that’s heading towards us like a tsunami. As my friend points out:
The loss of $8.8 trillion in global output – of which a large amount must be due to the self-inflicted lockdowns – will inevitably lead to the loss of a great many lives in future, especially in poor countries like India and South Africa.
Do lives lost in the future not matter to Bloomberg’s virtue-signallers?
A reader has some scuttlebutt on why hospitals are half empty:
I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine yesterday who is a nurse at a hospital in Suffolk. She said the Covid ward (once a surgical ward) is now empty. However, because of the rules on social distancing, only three bays out of six are allowed to be occupied on all other wards, effectively reducing the capacity of the hospital by half. I asked why do they not test all incoming patients. She said the results take five days to come back so they can only test patients who have a planned admission but cannot test those who are admitted as an emergency admissions. Just hope I don’t get ill or have an accident…
We’ve seen very few examples of bold political leadership in this crisis. But here’s one you may not be aware of: President John Magufuli of Tanzania. He’s a lockdown sceptic and when a government advisor instructed him to over-react to the crisis – because of “the science” – he did what Boris should have done to Professor Niel Ferguson and sacked him. Africa News has the story, but here are the highlights:
There has been a top and controversial sacking in Tanzania. Head of the country’s national health laboratory in charge of coronavirus testing was suspended, a day after President John Magufuli questioned the accuracy of the tests.
On Sunday President Magufuli, who has consistently downplayed the effect of the virus, shocked the world when he said animals, fruits and vehicle oil had been secretly tested at the laboratory. Now, take a look at some of the specific things he said had been tested. A papaya, a quail and a goat. All of them he says had been found to be positive for COVID-19.
Magufuli cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians and questioned official data on the pandemic. He called for an investigation into what he suspected to be a “dirty game” in the laboratory. Where the kits had been imported from though, he would not say. So, the lab director here Nyambura Moremi has been fired. And a 10-person committee has been formed to investigate the laboratory’s operations, including its process of collecting and testing samples. Presently, that is, as of May 5th, Tanzania has about 480 Covid-19 cases including 16 deaths.
And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:
- ‘The moral case for a blanket lockdown is fading fast‘ – Former Conservative MP Douglas Carswell argues that the “moral justification for keeping people locked up in their homes has started to fray”
- ‘Was lockdown the right way to go?‘ – Derry councillor and retired doctor Anne McCloskey with another great piece for Derry Now
- ‘As Europe emerges from lockdown, the question hangs: was Sweden right?‘ – Simon Jenkins asks a question in the Guardian to which we all know the answer
- ‘Top down lies‘ – Richard North on EUReferendum on the cause of the care home scandal, i.e. official guidance instructing hospitals to discharge elderly patients with COVID-19 back into care homes
- ‘Lockdown is showing us the misery that Net Zero 2050 will demand‘ – Charles Moore points out that climate change alarmists are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the privations the public appears willing to endure to fend off danger. All they need do is wildly exaggerate the risk of not doing exactly what they tell us
- ‘Is it finally dawning on the nation that lockdown will make them poorer?‘ – Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph thinks the penny may be dropping for the British public
- ‘The Lockdown Skeptic They Couldn’t Silence‘ – Good piece in the Wall St Journal about Aaron Ginn, a lockdown sceptic who’s been targeted for censorship by social media companies, but whose influence continues to grow
- ‘Could Jeff Bezos become the world’s first trillionaire?‘ – The Chief Executive of Amazon has seen his fortune increase by more than $20 billion since the beginning of the year
On Monday, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have reopened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have reopened near you. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet.
Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. A journalist called David Oldroyd-Bolt helped me with today’s update and will be lending a hand in future. I’d like to pay him something, so if you feel like donating you can do so by clicking here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in tomorrow’s update, email me here.
Bit shorter than usual today – my wife Caroline is getting a bit cross that I’m spending so much time doing this so we’re off to Richmond this afternoon for a walk by the river. The Covid hit parade will be back tomorrow.
I’ll leave you with this picture of an innovative social distancing measure instroduced by the owner of a German cafe: hats with pool noodles on them.