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British Public No Longer on Double Secret Probation; Just Probation

Okay, it’s an Animal House joke and those who aren’t of my vintage might not get it. But at one point, when Dean Vernon is trying to think of ways to nobble Delta House, he says, “There is a little known codicil in the Faber College constitution which gives the Dean unlimited power to preserve order in time of campus emergency.” On this basis, he puts the unruly fraternity on “double secret probation”.

The “alert level” was lowered today from “Level 4” to “Level 3”. The UK Government’s press release about it is full of “the science” – “The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that… blah, blah, blah.” Apparently, the definition of Level 4 is “a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially” and the definition of Level 3 is “a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation”.

Transmission hasn’t been “rising exponentially” since around March 18th, according to best estimates, so why has the Government left it until now to lower the “alert level” to 3? They really are making it up as they go along. Presumably, this charade is so Boris can say he’s abandoning the absurd two-metre social distancing rule because of “the science”.

Incidentally, according to the eagle-eyed reader keeping a beady watch on the NHS England daily death tolls, only two people died in English hospitals yesterday. He writes:

I was interested to read on the BBC news website a piece in which it was going through the various reasons people disbelieve some of the “facts” about COVID-19.

One of the reasons the BBC gave was that “people think the numbers are being misrepresented”.

I think the irony of that was lost on the BBC which regularly distort the numbers.

We only have to look at the officially produced figures released by the NHS every day, and the ONS weekly, to see for ourselves that the numbers quoted in the daily briefings are misrepresenting the actual figures.

He predicts that any day now NHS England will be forced to disclose that no people have died in English hospitals from COVID-19 the previous day.

Will that mean the Government drops the “alert level” to Level 2? Don’t bet on it.

Meanwhile, Britain’s largest hospital trust – the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – has become the first to declare it has no COVID-19 patients requiring treatment in intensive care.

Ripley’s Un-PC, Believe it or Not

I can understand Aunt Jemima being cancelled, even, at a pinch, Uncle Ben. I mean, it’s batshit crazy, but you can see the twisted logic. But Ripley from Aliens? The kick-ass space soldier who takes on one of the scariest creatures in the universe? She’s a feminist icon, surely? I mean, she’s right up there with JK Rowling… no, wait.

Incidentally, it isn’t just Aliens that now carries a “disclaimer” on Sky. According to the Mail, 16 films have now been put on the naughty step:

Sky has warned viewers that Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Flash Gordon, Aladdin and even a version of The Jungle Book from as recently as 2016 have “outdated values”, as broadcasters respond to concerns that some content is no longer acceptable.

Sky Cinema, the broadcasting giant’s movie service, has issued a disclaimer to its subscribers that some of its content “has outdated attitudes, languages and cultural depictions which may cause offence today”.

Sixteen films have the warning, including The Goonies, Aliens, Dumbo, Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Tropic Thunder, The Jazz Singer, The Littlest Rebel, The Lone Ranger, Balls of Fury and The Last Samurai.

Hang on a minute. Why hasn’t How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, the film based on my memoir of the same name, been given a “disclaimer”? Oh, the shame…

Has Smoking Always Been a Prophylactic Against the Plague?

A reader sent me the above extract from Thomas Hearne’s Diary. Looks like it isn’t just Covid that tobacco protects people from…

Greater Anglia Absolutely Determined to go Bust

Greater Anglia is literally begging people not to use its service

A reader has drawn my attention to the absurdly alarmist notice on the home page of Greater Anglia’s website. Here’s the notice in full:

Can you travel another way? Help us keep trains clear for those who really need them.

Greater Anglia is temporarily running an amended rail service as part of the national effort to deal with the coronavirus crisis. To support this, it is important that people work from home if they can, stagger their travel times to avoid crowds, and use other forms of transport wherever possible.

To help stay safe, you should maintain social distancing wherever possible and remember passengers should wear a face covering whilst on our stations or trains. This will be mandatory from 15 June 2020.

Social distancing measures will effectively cut the number of people able to travel on our trains by up to 90 per cent – so it’s even more important that people take only necessary journeys.

Passengers should always book online where possible and travel at quieter times, and we urge those who must travel to be considerate of other travellers and our staff during these testing times.

It seems like a parody. Social distancing has “effectively cut” the number of people who can use Greater Anglia’s service by “up to 90 per cent”? How have they worked that out? Nonetheless, this warning seems to be having the desired effect. According to the reader:

We travelled on four trains today and we were the only people in the entire carriage in each case…

It’s heart-breaking. Rail businesses, strapped for cash at the best of times, are now doing their utmost to discourage people from using their services. Their chances of surviving this period of insanity must be slim. Although, to be fair, they’re just doing the Government’s bidding. Perhaps with the “alert level” falling from “Level 4” to “Level 3”, they’ll be able to reduce the number of rail users they’ll have to cut from 90% to 75%.

It’s not just a cynical old Tory like me saying this, incidentally. Someone forwarded this message by the Labour-supporting railway historian Christian Wolmar:

The railways emphasis on simply deterring people from using trains will undoubtedly have a long term effect. Usage bottomed out at around 5 per cent of previous levels but even now, in the middle of June, it is only approximately 11%. How is the industry going to start persuading people that train travel is safe? In fact, evidence from Japan, Italy and New York suggests that very few people actually catch the disease from public transport – in research, few clusters were found on public transport.

When will the rail industry change its message? Waiting for a vaccine could be worse than waiting for Godot. Social distancing and the railways are simply incompatible and the industry bosses should be honest enough to accept that and put out messaging to that effect. Unfortunately the unions have been complicit in this as well. Rather than supporting measures that would begin to attract people back, TSSA boss Manuel Cortes said on June 15th that he hoped the mandatory wearing of masks would not mean people started using the railways again. Yet, his members’ jobs depend on precisely that.

The long term consequences could be devastating. The hordes of the Treasury are already circling the rail industry’s wagons. They are already unhappy about the huge cost of the bail-out to the railway companies and things will only get worse if passenger numbers do not pick up substantially soon. Even optimists in the industry reckon usage will reach 50% of last year’s norm by the middle of next year. That means subsidies to operate the railway will be enormous – possibly £300m per month in addition to the £5bn or so a year for investment – and there will be enormous pressure to cut back on investment and even on services.

The railways must start welcoming people and not keep telling them to go away.

Schools Soon Able to Increase “Protective Bubbles” From 15 to 30!

How’s this for a non-climb down climb down? According to the Mail, Gavin Williamson has announced that schools will be able to increase the number of pupils in “protective bubbles” from 15 to 30 so all children can return in September. So, er, what’s the difference between a “protective bubble” and a “classroom”, then? Thirty pupils is the average class size in England, for heaven’s sake.

He said the “bubbles” would in future be expanded to “include the whole class” – which would be around 30 pupils. But he refused to give more details, saying full guidance for schools will be published over the next fortnight.

Expanded to “include the whole class”? So they’re not actually “bubbles” any more? Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The only “bubbles” are in Boris’s brain.

Simon Dolan Gets His Day in Court

Simon Dolan has been given a High Court date for his application for permission to Judicially Review the Government’s coronavirus regulations to be heard: July 2nd.

The Judicial Review will seek to challenge the Government on three main points:

  • Whether lockdown is unlawful because the Government implemented regulations under the Public Health Act 1984 instead of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 or the Coronavirus Act 2020.
  • The legality of the continuation of lockdown, and whether the tests for lifting it are too narrow, failing to take account of the economic and social impacts of lockdown.
  • Whether the restrictions brought in by the Government contravene the European Convention of Human Rights, which cover the right to liberty, family life, education and property.

To date, the CrowdJustice campaign behind the Judicial Review has raised more than £182,000, with 5,400 pledges. Thanks in no small part to readers of this site. If you feel like contributing again, click here.

Sign the Stu Peters Petition

The Free Speech Union has gone to bat for Stu Peters, the Manx Radio host who’s been suspended by his employer and referred to the Isle of Man’s Communications Commission – the equivalent of Ofcom – because he had the temerity to challenge the concept of “White Privilege”. This is a flagrant violation of Stu Peters’ right to free speech and the FSU has written to the Communications Commission demanding it drop its investigation and exonerate him.

A petition has been started by some Isle of Man locals in support of Stu. Please sign it to show your support for free speech.

Another Poem

Tiree MacGregor, who has written a poem for Lockdown Sceptics before, has written another.

Of a Convention under Threat

“[A]nd the two honest men grasped each other’s hard hands in mutual understanding.”
— George Eliot, Adam Bede

Handshaking: formerly, a civil act
In which the right hand, classically, grasped
Another’s and, depending on the tact
Of each, then “shook” (jerked up and down), while clasped
Briefly or long; in pressure varied, some
Shakes called “firm,” “crushing,” “wet fish,” even “non-”;
Of universal use; perhaps had come
From early in mankind’s existence on
The continent of Africa; of late,
Since civil life has seemed to many rotten
And Covid fears hold sway at any rate,
Avoided if not seemingly forgotten,
Forbye defences of civility
Put forth by lockdown sceptics (please which see).

Round-Up

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:

Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers

Two suggestions for theme tunes for this site from readers today: “Lunacy” by Swans and “Right to Decide” by Hawkwind.

Small Businesses That Have Reopened

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 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 opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have reopened – 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.

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 daily 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. Alternatively, you can donate to the Free Speech Union’s litigation fund by clicking here or join the Free Speech Union here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Note: please don’t email me at any other address.)

And Finally…

Amusing video by a YouTuber calling himself AwakenWithJP. It purports to be useful advice for risk-averse people – particularly about how they can protect themselves from the super-dangerous, Spanish Flu-like, killer-virus known as Covid.

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