What on earth does the Government think it’s doing? What possible reason is there for reimposing a full lockdown on Leicester? In an act of sheer lunacy, Matt Hancock announced this morning that non-essential shops have been told to close today and schools asked to shut their doors to the majority of children from Thursday. Pubs, restaurants and hair salons that have been gearing up to re-open on Saturday have now been told to remain closed.
The rationale, needless to say, is that Leicester has seen a “surge” in cases, with over 900 new cases in the past two weeks. Confusion surrounded this figure since the published data for Leicester recorded just 80 new positive tests between June 13th and 26th. But Hancock now says there were in fact 944.
How do we know the increase in cases isn’t simply an artefact of increased testing in Leicester? We don’t, obviously. The 80 figure is based on Pillar 1 data, which are from tests done in hospitals; the 944 figure is based on Pillar 2 data, which are from tests done at Government centres or at home and processed by commercial labs. But surely the hospital data are more reliable than the community data – although these are all PCR tests and they’re all notoriously unreliable (see this Off-Guardian piece). And if the number of new cases being discovered by hospitals is low that suggests there isn’t a “surge” in new cases in the community. Deaths, too, are low, although, to be fair, if the alleged rise in cases has only happened since June 13th you wouldn’t expect to see any corresponding rise in deaths yet. On June 29th, only two people died from COVID-19 in the whole of the Midlands. According to the FT, the rise in infections is mainly among younger people (as it is in southern and southwestern US states) which means we’re unlikely to see any corresponding rise in deaths.
Let’s suppose the Pillar 2 data are accurate and there have been 944 new cases in Leicester between June 13th and 26th. That’s an average of 472 new cases/week. Assuming an infection fatality rate of ~0.25% (almost certainly an over-estimate), that means ~1 person/week will die if the infection rate remains where it is. And even that’s over-egging it, given that a majority of the new cases are among younger people.
Is it really worth reimposing a lockdown on Leicester to prevent one person/week from dying? I looked at the NHS England data for hospital deaths and of the five people who died from coronavirus on June 29th four were 80+ years’ old.
So the people of Leicester are being asked to close schools, shut non-essential shops and keep their pubs, restaurants and hair salons shuttered for two more weeks in order to prevent the deaths of two people aged 80+? Setting aside the civil liberties argument, is Matt Hancock confident that more than one person per week won’t die as a result of reimposing the lockdown? I’m thinking of cancer operations being postponed, the increased risk of suicide and domestic violence, and elderly people who may die of thirst or starvation because their relatives aren’t allowed to visit them.
What an absolute shower this Government is. If I was the Mayor of Leicester, I’d just point-blank refuse to comply. This report on Sky says the Leicester lockdown has “legal underpinning” which sounds like a mealy-mouthed way of saying its not legally enforceable.
Hector Drummond’s Graph
There’s a good piece in Hector Drummond Magazine entitled “This Is What We Shot Ourselves in the Foot For“. Hector has plotted the ONS’s figures for all-cause mortality in England and Wales dating back to 1900 on a graph and it shows a pretty modest uptick in 2020. For graphing purposes, he assumes that the number will be the five-year average for 2015-19 (531,355) + total Covid deaths. However, as he says, that’s probably an overestimate since some of the people who’ve succumbed to coronavirus would have died anyway this year. He’s also taken total Covid deaths for the UK (42,462), not England and Wales, so that too means the uptick is higher than it will be. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty meagre increase. He concludes:
So: no gigantic, bowel-emptying spike in 2020. No jaw-dropping upwards vertical rocket-ship to match those jaw-dropping downward vertical cliffs we saw with the economic data. Just a tiny little uptick, like many other little upticks in there, indistinguishable from random noise. If you asked someone in the future who was unacquainted with the era to point to where the once-in-a-century medical disaster was, they would have no chance of picking it out.
Far from being a once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19 turned out to be a bad flu. We shut down the world for a bad flu. We shut down the world despite living in the safest era in the whole of history.
ONS Says All-Cause Deaths Now Below Five-Year Average
Today’s data release from the ONS for the w/e June 19th shows all-cause mortality has dropped below the five-year average. This is in addition to Week 23 having the lowest Covid death toll for 13 weeks (623).
A total of 9,339 people died of any cause in the w/e June 19th, down from an average of 9,404 for the same week over the past five years. This bears out Hector Drummond’s suspicion (see above) that the total Covid death toll for 2020 is likely to be lower than the five-year average + those who’ve died from Covid.
As one reader points out:
Since it’s inconceivable and impossible that without COVID-19 being a factor the average death figures would have been below average for Week 23 because of some magical and coincidental reduction in other causes of death, then that leaves only one conclusion, viz. that many people who have died of (or “with”) coronavirus in the UK would have done so this year anyway.
In the movie Aliens, Ripley tells Newt, the small girl and only survivor of the deserted space colony, of all the precautions she and the marines will take to protect Newt against the aliens.
Newt says: “It won’t make any difference.”
I wonder what Newt would say if you told her that, from tomorrow, we’ll have been locked in our homes for 100 days?
“It won’t make any difference.”
Rate of Decline Flattening. Oh No! Mother!
Amusing comment in the Guardian on this graph just released by Downing Street showing the declining daily death tolls:
Downing Street has updated its daily dashboard with the latest coronavirus figures. These are UK figures. Here is the graph showing the number of daily deaths. It is still going down, but now the rate of decline is flattening.
Well, yes. The rate of decline is flattening. That’s what happens when the number approaches zero. When it actually gets to zero – next week? – expect the Guardian run a story saying: “Rate of Decline In COVID-19 Deaths Worryingly Flat.”
Why is the Government telling pharmacies what price to put on hand sanitiser products and face masks? Has it lost its faith in the market to price those items fairly? A reader writes:
Another nail in our freedoms: the Competition and Markets Authority and the General Pharmaceutical Council have threatened pharmacies with fines if they sold face masks and hand sanitiser at high prices. Have these two organisations heard that in a free enterprise market economy prices are not fixed by officialdom but float subject to supply and demand, the exception being where there is an abuse of a monopoly? As far as I am aware, there are multiple manufacturers and suppliers of these products, which are available in supermarkets and on-line as well as in pharmacies. Why are we allowing our freedom to be infringed by such bureaucrats?
Excellent alternative to the ghastly propaganda poem I published in the last Lockdown Sceptics update. This one is by Annie, one of the best commenters below the line.
POEM, TO BE LEARNED BY HEART BY ALL CHILDREN WHOSE PARENTS ARE NOT ZOMBIES
By Annie, Covipoet Laureate and Composer of Deathless Verse for All Occasions (fee scale sent on request)
There was a boy called Johnny
Who as a general rule
Lived a normal, quiet existence
Between home and play and school.
But when the lad was seven
His whole life turned to bad:
Some people caught a flu germ
And all the world went mad.
They took our little Johnny
And every other kid,
And slammed them in a dungeon
And then screwed down the lid.
Johnny went into the garden
But the policemen came and said
There was virus in the garden
And our John would soon be dead.
Mummy took him to the playground,
But all the slides and swings
Had hazard tape all round them
And other dreadful things.
His granny came to see him
Most secretly one day,
But the next-door neighbour dobbed them
And the police dragged her away.
John’s mummy said the police were right,
And Johnny he should not
Even dream of hugging granny
Or she’d drop dead on the spot.
When mummy went out shopping
She put a bandage round her head
It made her look so monstrous
Johnny hid under his bed.
Then she put a mask on Johnny
And to our lad it seemed
That mask was going to choke him,
And he screamed and screamed and screamed.
Then Johnny got into his bed
And turned to face the wall
And it makes no difference what they do,
He won’t come out at all.
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:
- ‘EasyJet to sack up to 4,500 staff and close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle‘ – Another airline in trouble
- ‘GCSE and A-level pupils can sit exams if they don’t like coursework grade‘ – Er, so why couldn’t they have just sat the exams anyway?
- ‘Christian leaders invoke Magna Carta and sue the government over church lockdown‘ – At last, some red-blooded Christians we can get behind. Christian Concern is suing the Government over the decision to close churches. May God be with them
- ‘LOCKDOWN LUNACY 2.0: Second wave? Not even close‘ – Comprehensive debunking of “second wave” balls by JB Handley
- ‘Flatten the Fear‘ – Excellent new sceptical initiative by US docs
- ‘The Real Pandemic Was a Nursing Home Problem‘ – Great post on the American Institute for Economic Research blog
- ‘The lockdown is causing so many deaths‘ – Dr Malcolm Kendrick interviewed in Spiked
- ‘Boris Johnson could quickly come unstuck‘ – The always sensible Matthew Goodwin in the Spectator. Ya think?
- ‘A minority opinion on Covid deaths‘ – The peerless Lionel Shriver in the Spectator
- ‘Welby must look to future, not fuss over past‘ – Trevor Philips in the Times says Welby should stop fretting about the church’s past and start worrying about its future, particularly if he remains at the helm
Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers
Small Businesses That Have Re-opened
A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, 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 opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.
Note to the Good Folk Below the Line
I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.
And while I’ve got you, any holiday tips? Mrs Young thinks Greece is too risky – sensible, given that they’ve just extended their quarantine for another two weeks. We’re now looking at Italy, Austria and Switzerland, but can go further afield. All tips gratefully received. The little male Youngs are keen on a swimming pool that’s actually open and Mrs Young is happy with anything sunny provided she doesn’t have to cook. Miss Young (16) would ideally like to be near a beach.
Shameless Begging Bit
Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, along with everything else, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Thursday.
I was interviewed by Stephen Knight, otherwise known as Godless Spellchecker, for his YouTube channel on Monday. We were supposed to be talking about the Free Speech Union, but I got a bit sidetracked when he asked about Lockdown Sceptics and launched into an epic rant against the Government.
Worth watching in full, obviously.
And, for the die-hard fans, there’s always London Calling, the weekly podcast with James Delingpole and me. Quite a lively one this week, with both of us getting steamed up about Britain and America’s Maoist moment.