Month: July 2020

Latest News

The Government’s Incoherent New Measures in the North

Matt Hancock and his SpAds try to get through to Dominic Cummings before the Health Secretary appears on BBC Breakfast

I didn’t think the Government’s management of the pandemic could get any worse, but I was wrong. The measures announced last night, imposing new restrictions in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, are a new low.

They were announced by Matt Hancock in a Twitter thread at 9.16pm – no, I’m not making that up. He really did announce restrictions affecting millions of people on Twitter less than three hours before they were due to come into force. Or should that be farce? It’s as though Matt Hancock’s script is being written by Armando Iannucci, creator of The Thick of It. Oh, and the Government then published the new guidance two hours later – less than an hour before it came into effect – and then published further guidance this morning.

Let me see if I can get this straight. In Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees, people from one household won’t be allowed to meet people from other households in their homes or gardens. That seems relatively clear, but the Government then added the caveat that you are allowed to mix with a person or persons in another household if the two households have formed a “support bubble”. A “support bubble” “must include a single adult household, i.e. people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18”.

Clear?

When asked about this rather complicated rule on breakfast television this morning, Hancock only added to the confusion.

“The law that we’re bringing in is that two households cannot meet in the area defined, but obviously any two households that are meeting should follow the social distancing guidelines,” he said.

Not only did that fail to make the advice any clearer, but by using the words “in the area defined” he muddied the waters even further. In its published guidance, the Government specified that people in the these areas should not “visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas”. So has the Government changed its mind about that? Or does Hancock not understand his own guidance?

Perhaps Hancock’s confusion isn’t surprising since the guidance is borderline incomprehensible.

For instance, someone from outside an “affected area” is not allowed to visit someone inside an “affected area” unless they’re attending a wedding or a funeral, in which case they can provided there are no more than 30 people in attendance. Oh, and you’re allowed to travel into an “affected area” if you’re “holidaying” there.

Clear?

There’s more of this gobbledegook. People in the “affected areas” will be allowed to visit pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues and visitor attractions, but only if they remain with members of their households while in those venues and don’t “socialise” with anyone else – unless they’re in their “support bubble”, of course.

In Leicester, where a local lockdown has been in place for the past month, pubs, cafes and restaurants will re-open on Monday, but the no-socialising restriction will apply, as will the other new rules.

You are allowed to meet people in the open air, provided it’s not in a private garden:

In line with the national guidance, you can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households.

What if one of the two households includes someone from another household in their “support bubble”? And why public parks but not private gardens? Who knows.

The new law mandating these restrictions is going to be called “The Dog’s Breakfast Act”. Or is it the “Whack-A-Mole Act”?

In his Twitter thread, Hancock said this decision was “based on the data” and referred to “an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England”.

The main evidence that the number of cases is increasing comes from the ONS, which claims it has discovered a slight increase in the number of people testing positive based on a nose and throat swab in recent weeks. Here’s what the BBC has to say about those data:

The figures are based on its infection survey, which takes swabs from people selected at random in homes in England.

The ONS estimates that about 1 in 1,500 people in homes in England are infected (roughly 36,000 people in total) with 4,200 new infections each day.

Both figures are up on last week, when it was estimated there were 2,800 new infections each day and that one in 2,000 people (28,000 total) were infected in homes in England.

Unfortunately, the ONS hasn’t disclosed whether it re-tested anyone to ensure the first test result wasn’t a false positive.

Even though these data show a slight uptick in the number of cases in the past few weeks – from 0.05% of the population to a whopping 0.07% – the overall number of cases is far lower than it was at the end of April (0.34%):

Can these data be used to justify the new measures? No. The ONS has produced a breakdown of the percentage of infected people per region, but it shows that the North West has fewer infected people than all but one other area (the South West) and lower than Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the East of England, the South East and London, which is way out in front. If I lived in Manchester, I would ask why I’m having to endure these additional restrictions when a smaller percentage of my city is infected than London.

The BBC also published some data from PHE showing the number of new cases per 100,000 has increased in some parts of Greater Manchester, although it has fallen in Bolton and Rochdale:

Can this be used to justify the local lockdowns? Not really. In Germany, the trigger for a local lockdown is the number of new cases climbing to above 50/100,000. The only part of Greater Manchester that’s happened in is Oldham. Why are the people of Manchester having to suffer all these new restrictions when the infection rate is only 25/100,000?

As usual, there’s no rhyme or reason to the Government’s handling of the crisis. They’re just making it up as they go along. No wonder more than half of the British public don’t understand the lockdown rules.

Stop Press: A reader has emailed to point out that anyone from one of the affected areas who’s currently visiting someone in another area is now breaking the law and could be fined £100.

My mother-in-law is staying with us. She lives in Manchester. Now, according to the hapless Hand Cock, she’s breaking the law unless we make ourselves her support bubble. Whatever that means.

Boris “Squeezes the Brake Pedal” (Mistook it For Woman’s Thigh)

“Cripes! Brake pedal you say? I thought it was the upper thigh of a luscious young virgin.”

There was more bad news this morning. Boris held a press conference with Chris Whitty in which he announced that he was going to “squeeze the brake pedal” on the planned easing of lockdown restrictions on August 1st. Here’s the BBC’s summary:

On July 17th, the Prime Minister set out plans to further ease lockdown rules from 1 August to:

* Reopen most remaining leisure settings, including bowling, skating rinks and casinos
* Allow live indoor theatre and concert performances to resume with socially distanced audiences
* Reopen all close contact services including any treatments on the face, such as eyebrow threading or make-up application
* Allow wedding receptions for as many as 30 people

These changes have now been postponed for at least a fortnight, with the Prime Minister saying at a Downing Street press conference that “we should now squeeze that brake pedal to keep the virus under control”.

The changes to the guidance for employers, allowing them to make decisions about how and where their staff can work safely from tomorrow, will remain in place.

In addition, fans will no longer be permitted to attend the sporting pilot events allowing limited numbers of spectators at Goodwood, the Crucible and the Oval in coming days.

Again, no evidence was presented to show that the virus isn’t under control. On the contrary, PHE published data showing that the number of people turning up at hospital Emergency Departments with Covid-like symptoms has declined since its peak in early April:

It also published data showing the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 being admitted to hospital and ICUs has declined since early April and is continuing to fall:

SAGE Member Says Project Fear on Steroids Must be “Ramped Back Up”

A reader sent me this extraordinary comment made by Professor Robert West from University College London, a member of the behavioural science group that feeds into SAGE, on the Today programme. You really couldn’t make it up.

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

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.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 4th to 14th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here and an NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his wizard strategy for avoiding wearing a mask on his Ryanair flight to Crete:

Masks are to be worn on board Ryanair flights, of course, but not if you are eating or drinking. €27.50 seemed a bit steep for a toasted ham and cheese croissant, two half litres of still water and a double Hendriks and Britvic, but we had a tail wind down to Crete and they lasted the three hour flight.

Worth every pfennig.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Latest News

Second Wave? Virus Has All But Disappeared

Your daily reminder that the virus has dwindled away to almost nothing. This graph shows daily triage calls for 19-69 year-olds. Note no uptick during the Hyde Park BLM protests or during the “major incident” on Bournemouth Beach. (Hat tip Alistair Haimes.)

Unfortunately, nobody’s told the National Trust. Had an amusing email from a reader just back from the Lake District.

My girlfriend and I took a trip up to Ambleside last week, arriving the day before Maskgeddon. We were denied an early check-in as the room-cleaning regime at our B&B involved multiple rounds of antibacterial fumigation!

The National Trust seems to have completely lost the plot! The day of our first outing, we visited the Aira Force waterfall and parked in one of their car parks near the top of the trail down to the waterfall. As we walked towards the trail, a bedwetter loudly informed me that there was a one-way system on the trails, before we’d even reached the sign. When we got back to the car, I noticed that the Trust has helpfully supplied a hand-sanitiser dispenser embedded in a tree stump near the pay & display machine! Goodness knows how many thousands of lives they’ve already saved with such thoughtful measures!

For the rest of the trip I refused to muzzle up, and I wasn’t challenged at all – in fact most shop staff seemed pleased to be seeing a human face rather than a soggy rag. When we were up on to the fells, it was (mercifully) easy to forget all the absurdity going on down in the valleys…

Not surprising that the National Trust is anticipating having to make 1,200 members of staff redundant, according to the BBC.

Tall Lives Matter

If I stand next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at a party, I feel like the grinning street urchin in that famous photograph of the two Etonian schoolboys towering over the local working class lads

I’ve written a squib for today’s Telegraph about the research purporting to show that people over 6ft are twice as vulnerable to catching Covid. No, it’s not the usual demolition job. As a short(ish) man, I actually welcome the news and hope it’s true.

This comes as something of a relief because I’ve always been a bit chippy about my height. For years, whenever anyone asked me how tall I was, I would say, “Five foot eight and a half,” and then stare at them defensively, daring them to contradict me. But I realised eventually that adding “and a half” wasn’t doing me any favours. It was just advertising the fact that I had an inferiority complex. So now I say, “Five foot nine” and try not to look away too quickly.

Believe it or not, five foot nine is average height for a fully-grown British male and being below that, even if it’s only half an inch, is still a source of resentment. Without quite being aware of it, most people treat height as a proxy for social status, a form of “unconscious bias” that’s unlikely to be addressed by any diversity training programme.

People don’t exactly stop me as I’m on my way back from the lavatory in restaurants and ask me to bring them the bill, but I can still detect a hint of patrician disdain whenever I’m introduced to a tall, upper class man. If I stand next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at a party, for example, I feel like one of the grinning street urchin in that famous photograph of the two Etonian schoolboys towering over the local working class lads.

Worth reading in full, obviously.

My Mask Hell

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

I’m publishing a new essay today by regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère. It’s about his first trip to the shops since the mandatory face coverings policy was introduced.

Walking round a supermarket is actually quite tiring. It’s not like wandering into a newsagent. You have to carry a heavy basket or push a laden trolley. This means that breathing is quite important. As my expedition progressed, I began to feel light-headed. This perplexed me until I realized I was experiencing the first signs of hypoxia. Not only was I not breathing enough, I was also breathing back in my carbon-dioxide laden exhalations. It was like being in Apollo 13 before they managed to knock up some emergency DIY carbon-dioxide filters.

No wonder I was overcome with a constant desire to tear the mask off and gulp air in. With a mild sense of panic beginning to take me over I hurried to the self-service till where I wouldn’t have to use up any additional air trying to speak, constantly having to resist the reflex to remove the mask, hurried through and exited the shop. What a total relief it was to get outside.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Killing 2,700 People A week – New Study

According to a study by economists and academics from Sheffield and Loughborough universities, the lockdown has already killed 21,000 people. The Telegraph has the story.

The analysis examines Office for National Statistics (ONS) data in the eight weeks that followed the national lockdown.

Researchers said the findings show that “lockdown has killed 21,000 people” because the policy has had “significant unintended consequences” such as lack of access to critical healthcare and a collapse in A&E attendances.

The study examines deaths data in recent months, and tracks it against long-term trends, taking account of other variables such as demographic and economic factors.

It suggests that the lockdown – and the subsequent reduction in access to healthcare – increased total mortality by roughly 2,700 deaths a week.

It follows warnings that the number of people attending Accident and Emergency departments fell by 50% at some points during the pandemic, while urgent referrals for suspected cancer dropped by 70%.

21,000 people seems like an underestimate to me. This new study complements Carl Heneghan and Daniel Howden’s article yesterday for the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine blog flagging up the high number of excess deaths in homes, which they speculated could be caused by “individuals deterred from visiting hospitals”.

Bakery Refuses to Sell Bread to Pensioner, 94, Because She Only Has Cash

Bird’s the Bed-Wetters in Arnold

The woman behind the counter at Bird’s Bakery in Arnold refused to serve a pensioner because she only had cash. Nottinghamshire Live has the story.

A 94-year-old woman who lived through the Second World War was was told she couldn’t buy bread from Birds bakery because she didn’t have a bank card.

Former hosiery worker Edna Dalchin, of Basford, has never owned a bank card and prefers to pay “the old fashioned way” with cash.

She was left shocked and embarrassed when staff at Birds Bakery in Bulwell told her to put essential items back because they could not take her money.

What utter madness. I’m tempted to send the owner of Bird’s Bakery this recent comment in the Lancet in which the Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the New Jersey Medical School review the evidence about whether the virus can live on fomites and concludes “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small”.

Postcard From Derry

A reader in Northern Ireland has been in touch with some cheery news: the people of Northern Ireland haven’t succumbed to Coronaphobia. Face masks still aren’t mandatory over there. And you don’t even need a passport, just some ID.

The atmosphere in Derry is very close to normal now. People are chatting and friendly, and even though cafes, etc. have fewer seats, the ones that are open are quite busy.

Last week there was a brief flurry of mask wearing, but it seems to have died down. About a third of people wear them in Marks and Spencer Food (that middle class virtue signalling is everywhere!) and a much lower percentage elsewhere. Staff in (NI) aren’t wearing masks, but south of the Border (e.g. in a really good cafe called Tank and Skinny’s), they do have to. The South seems to be going backwards very badly, having initially been getting better.

Talking to people here, there is a great deal of scepticism about the disease and the response. I get the impression from Lockdown Sceptics and my friends in England that the atmosphere is a lot more Stasi-like over there, so we are all very glad to be here!

There are a few other local peculiarities which help.

The history of the Troubles mean that the police are very wary of giving any excuse for a riot, so they were pretty light touch even during the worst of the lockdown. The Troubles also mean people are much less trusting of the media and the Government anyway, especially on the Nationalist side of the fence.

There is also a sense in Ireland, North and South, that people are entitled to their view (apart from that obnoxious and tiny minority which has caused most of the trouble over the years), which doesn’t come over in the media at all, and does make daily life a lot less Orwellian than, say, undergraduate studies at Oxford…

On the downside, the public sector is basically completely inert here just like everywhere else.

As well as that, the economic impact of the lockdown is increasingly visible. It is clear many of the shops, cafes and restaurants won’t be re-opening, possibly ever, and from my own perspective trying to get a new tax consultancy business off the ground, not being able to meet people face to face has not been good news.

It’s hardly the biggest problem caused by the lockdown, but I suspect in aggregate it will hit new businesses disproportionately and so hamper the recovery. Certainly, from my own experience things were going very well up to lockdown, and then went into the deep freeze and have been slow to come back out again. Many people thought in June we would be back to normal by September, but we all now think it’s going to be the New Year before the nonsense stops.

Anyway, overall things are about as good as they can be here, and if people wanted to visit somewhere in the UK with nice scenery, nice people and the same very little to do as everywhere else, they could do a lot worse!

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

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.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

This NHS “Mask Exempt” card is only £2.99 from Etsy

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 2nd to 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here and an NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

A couple of readers have emailed to say just how effective these devices are.

I am currently in Corfu after flying this morning from Birmingham International Airport. I drove down from Hull in the early hours, 50 / 50 as to what my strategy was going to be. Shops are one thing, airports and aeroplanes another. I had my lanyard on me from Amazon, which you had kindly sent a link to previously on Sceptics.

I thought, what the hell, parked my car at the meet and greet, should have been wearing a muzzle, but Unchallenged as I handed my keys over. Walked into the airport, guy at the entrance motioned to me about a mask, showed him the lanyard, waved me through. Checked my case in after having to get the required Greek travel number to the staff member, no problem. Shopped in the airport, asked in Smiths but again showed the lanyard, fine. Coffee in Starbucks then through to the boarding gate. Asked again, showed the Lanyard, onto the plane.

I was literally the only person on the plane without one. Strangely, I felt proud, rather than guilty, but naughty nevertheless. End of flight, into Corfu, and the long queue to go through customs. Kept reaching for the muzzle in my back pocket as it was feeling a little uncomfortable, I was the only one! I got a couple of comments in the queue but only to ask where I got the lanyard from, half jokingly. Got through, no problem, onto the transfer bus to the Hotel, never needing to put a muzzle on. I may act slightly differently on the way back but I’ll make that call at home time.

Anyway, thought you might to hear that the Lanyards do work. To my defence I do genuinely have mild asthma at times so I feel justified, although I was probably fitter than 50% of people on the flight.

And here’s the other one.

My Amazon mask exemption card/lanyard arrived conveniently on July 24th – £4.95 plus postage – and has proved 100% effective.

Nobody has questioned it nor have I had any ‘dirty’ looks in fact the reverse with some retailers actually thanking me for wearing it !

I have now refined it further by buying an NHS lanyard from etsy.com – £2.95 – and wearing this as well.

This has the added benefit of making the exemption card look totally official and quite a few members of the public giving me big smiles presumably because they think I work for the ‘wonderful’ NHS – which I don’t. Like most of us, I just pay for it.

Absolutely brilliant. All sceptics should get one!!!

And just in case you think we’ve got it bad, a reader has emailed from the People’s Republic of Victoria in Australian where things are much, much worse.

Premier Daniel Andrews has recently imposed a draconian face masks (or face coverings) requirement on us that makes England’s requirement of masks in shops and on public transport sound positively utopian. Melbournians must now wear face coverings at all times whenever they are outside their homes. This includes all workplaces, all day. There are a few anomalous exceptions. Although masks must be worn when walking for exercise, they can be taken off while jogging, cycling, drinking a takeaway coffee, smoking or vaping, or in a car with only other members of your household. Thus, a person walking outside by themselves with no-one else around must wear a face covering. Fines of $200 apply for non-compliance and social pressure from the “true believers” and media is also strongly apparent.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

A city-sanctioned, socially distanced homeless encampment in downtown San Francisco

Picture from the Spectator USA to illustrate an article on how law and order has broken down in San Francisco. Perfect illustration of how we’ve got our priorities upside down during the Covid crisis. And in case you believed any of that guff about housing the homeless in the UK, a reader reports on his conversation with a homeless person in Lincoln yesterday:

Spoke to a homeless woman who said:

* That policy they had to house the homeless through this period (talk of hotels being repurposed) never happened.

* Council/social services/benefits were almost entirely unavailable during this period.

* Police were nowhere to be seen and it became very dangerous.

* No people in streets meant no money and no city centre shops to buy food, but some people drove down specifically to bring food parcels. Very kind.

* She knows nobody that has had the virus or anyone that they know.

* She was shocked that my ways of thinking about this episode were similar to hers – this was the first time she had met anyone that wasn’t sold on the lunacy of this irrational wave of thinking.

Latest News

Censortech

Censorship of Covid dissent reached new heights yesterday with a concerted effort by numerous social media platforms to remove all content relating to the press conference held by America’s Frontline Doctors. Not only did Facebook and YouTube remove the videos – and the server hosting the Doctors’ website disabled it – but Twitter banned Donald Trump Jr from its platform for 12 hours because he posted a tweet that contained content from the press conference relating to hydroxychloroquine. (You can still see a video of the press conference on Bitchute here.) Dr Stella Immanuel, one of the doctors featured in the video, has been widely ridiculed for her strange beliefs, branded a “witch-doctor” and had her Twitter account deleted. (You can read a transcript of some of her remarks at the press conference here.)

According to the BBC, the reason the video has been banned is because it promotes the use of hydroxychloroquine, both as a prophylactic and an effective treatment.

The video, a 45-minute livestream of the first day of a “White Coat” summit by the group, was posted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by Breitbart and quickly went viral.

“The virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” says one of the doctors in the video.

“You don’t need masks. There is a cure. I know they don’t want to open schools. No, you don’t need people to be locked down. There is prevention and there is a cure.”

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have removed the content because it violates their “COVID-19 misinformation policies”, presumably by touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.

In a statement to BBC News, Twitter said: “Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy. We are taking action in line with our policy here.”

“We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” Facebook told the BBC, confirming it was also removing other versions of the video.

YouTube told the BBC: “We have removed the video for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policies.”

This view – that claiming hydroxychloroquine can be used both to prevent and cure COVID-19 is straightforwardly false and could lead to people harming themselves – appears to be based on the WHO’s official guidance.

The WHO says: “While several drug trials are ongoing, there is currently no proof that hydroxychloroquine or any other drug can cure or prevent COVID-19.”

“The misuse of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects and illness and even lead to death,” it adds.

There are three things wrong with this argument for censoring America’s Frontline Doctors and anyone who links to the group’s claims.

First, while there may be no definitive “proof” that hydroxychloroquine “can cure or prevent COVID-19”, there isn’t any definitive “proof” that wearing non-surgical masks reduces the risk of infection either. Yes, there’s some evidence that non-surgical masks are effective, but then there’s also some evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective. This study conducted by the French doctor and virologist professor Didier Raoult, for instance. That study has been subject to intense scrutiny and considerable criticism, but other, less controversial studies have also found hydroxychloroquine to be effective (see here for instance) and it’s still used in hospitals around the world to treat COVID-19 patients, including in the US. In Russia, Spain and Nigeria, as well as in some other countries, its use is recommended by the public health authorities. Yes, its “misuse” can result in harm, but that’s also true of almost any medical intervention, including face masks. Why apply a higher standard to doctors promoting hydroxychloroquine than to those promoting masks? If Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are going to ban anyone from touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine on the grounds that there’s no definitive “proof” that it’s effective, shouldn’t they also ban anyone from touting the benefits of non-surgical masks?

Second, while some studies have shown hydroxychloroquine to be an ineffective and harmful treatment – see here and here, for instance – there isn’t any definitive “proof” that it’s ineffective and harmful. On the contrary, numerous trials are still going on around the world to try and determine how effective it is (if at all). Many of those trials were halted, including one by the WHO, after a study was published in the Lancet purporting to show the use of hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients, but the data cited in that paper turned out to be dubious and the Lancet subsequently retracted it and apologised. The trials have now been resumed. In the absence of “proof” that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective or harmful, why should the default positions of the Big Tech companies be to ban any doctors promoting it? In due course, the weight of evidence may point to its effectiveness, so by banning doctors from singing its praises YouTube and Twitter could be causing harm. At present, it’s far from obvious that publishing such content is more harmful than removing it.

Third, social media platforms should err on the side of free speech, so in the absence of “proof” that hydroxychloroquine is actually harmful they shouldn’t ban people promoting it. If an organisation intends to violate a person’s right to free speech – particularly a social media company – the burden of proof should be on that organisation to show that more harm will came from allowing the person to speak than from stopping them speaking, and in this case, that threshold hasn’t been met.

I’m afraid this is just another example of Big Tech companies labelling a point of view that’s endorsed by Donald Trump and other conservatives as “misinformation” to give them with an excuse for censoring it. The real reason, as always, is political.

A Patient Writes

Today’s Blower cartoon in the Telegraph

I got an email from a frustrated reader who tried and failed to get an appointment with his GP yesterday.

Two days ago I got to witness what a basket case the NHS has been turned into.

My GP does not now do face to face bookings. Nor can you book an appointment over the internet any more, you have to ring up.

So at 12.30pm I did so. I was in a queue, and I ended up hanging on the phone for 40 minutes until I spoke to a receptionist. I asked her if I could speak to a GP. She said sorry, there were no appointments available this week, but I could ring at 8am or 2pm to try and get an ’emergency’ appointment. I said it’s only 45 minutes till 2pm, could this not be sorted now: she said no, the computer system only “opens” at 2pm.

So I rang back at 2pm. It was engaged. I tried again 20 times, it was always engaged. I finally got through and was put in a queue. At 2.45 I spoke to the receptionist. I requested an emergency appointment. She said sorry, they have all gone, I’d have to try tomorrow at 8am.

At this point I pretty much broke down, saying I’d been on the phone for nearly an hour and a half today and still no sign of any appointment with a GP, and no guarantee I would get one this week, no matter how many times I rang back. I was in utter despair.

The slightly happy ending to the tale is that because I complained to her so much, she did pass a message on to the doctor, and I was rang later to tell me a prescription was ready to pick up. But no GP appointment, which is what I most need.

This is what the Government has done to the NHS thanks to its bug eyed focus on one single virus, a virus which has declined massively in the last four months. I pity those who are older than me and iller than me, this is a terrible situation with real human cost.

Btw, I live in Bath which, as far as I am aware, has had very, very few infections in the last months.

Public Hopelessly Misinformed About Covid Mortality

This is astonishing. An opinion pollster – Kekst CNC – has discovered that the people of Scotland believe that 10.23% of the UK population have died from coronavirus! That’s approximately seven million people, more than the entire population of Scotland (5.454 million). No wonder mobs of nationalists are setting up makeshift roadblocks on the English border.

Admittedly, Kekst only asked 89 Scots, so it’s a tiny sample, but the polling company asked 527 women across the UK the same question and they think that 9.91% of the population have succumbed to the virus. Men are less pessimistic – they believe 3.45% of the population have died – but the mean figure is 6.76%, or four-and-a-half million. And in the US, the mean is a whopping 9%! That’s twenty nine-and-a-half million.

This throws some light on why the British public has been so compliant with lockdown restrictions and are so keen on mandatory face coverings. (According to Kekst, 65% of the UK population is in favour of compulsory face masks in indoor public spaces.) They’ve effectively been completely terrorised by the Government and the mainstream media. Not bed-wetters, just hopelessly misinformed.

Needless to say, the real Covid death toll is <0.1% of the UK population.

Postcard From the Hague

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his recent trip to The Hague. Sounds heavenly.

I just returned from two weeks house-sitting in The Hague. The difference in atmosphere was jaw-dropping. Whilst there are some token rules (largely ignored), it is clear that the Dutch have not been subjected to anything like the kind of fear campaign that the Brits have. The city centres of The Hague, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam were all bustling and filled with lively outdoor and indoor bars cafes and restaurants, with no distancing or masks. I even attended three jazz gigs, one of which took place in a crowded bar in Amsterdam, and featured a legendary 85-year-old Dutch drummer who also happily chatted to me in close proximity afterwards without batting an eyelid. (I suppose he must be one of those old people who have decided to “keep on living”).

Returning to the UK involved a stern commandment to fill in the Government’s online form and present it at the border or risk a hefty fine. After descending the steps down to the car deck of the ferry back to Harwich behind a British woman adorned with plastic gloves, a face mask, AND a plastic visor over her head (I never saw any such thing in Holland of course), I then breezed through the passport control without any mention of the form, meaning I needn’t have bothered with it and had been merely convinced to comply voluntarily by the threat of a fine.

Now if so much as ONE person on the enormous half-empty ferry tests positive we will all be told to self-isolate, I suppose.

What’s Causing Excess Deaths in Homes?

There’s an interesting new blog post by Carl Heneghan and Daniel Howden at the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine about the high numbers of excess deaths in homes and what the likely causes are.

While the currently registered deaths in England and Wales have fallen below the five-year average for the last five weeks, excess deaths at home remain above average and high. Over 700 excess deaths per week – 3,799 in total reported in the home setting over the past five weeks. Only 179 deaths of these have mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate.

It is not clear why there is such excess in the home. What is clear is that this represents a huge number of unexplained – and potentially avoidable deaths – particularly if they represent individuals deterred from visiting hospitals.

The number of deaths in the home setting are almost 50% higher than the total number registered with COVID-19 in any setting over the last five weeks (3,799 versus 2,582).

Individuals deterred from visiting hospitals. If that’s not the cause, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

The Telegraph wrote a news story about the paper yesterday.

Masks All Removed in Unison

Not wearing a mask, even on the deck of a boat in the open sea, can attract some ‘Paddington stares’

I’ve been sent an unusually upbeat email about a trip to the seaside from a reader who identifies himself as Charlie in Warwickshire.

Myself and family booked a 1hr Coastal Sea Cruise, last Sunday morning, to leave from a Harbourside in North Devon (obscure to protect the company). When we got there, we noticed that everyone in the queue had face masks on, which I thought was odd.

It was only then that we checked the booking that said “Face Masks should (note, should) be worn on all Cruises” which is strange for many reasons – outdoors, by the Coast and in the lovely sea air on a boat where you’re sat outside.

I had my exemption card in my lanyard and then went to the booking office to ask them about it. They saw my card and were really cool about things saying – no worries, just show to one of the crew.

Went back in the queue and my partner donned her ‘bandit scarf’ and my daughter didn’t have any covering as she’s under 11.
The people in the queue ranged from couples to families, all of them in masks (including, worryingly, a few kids under five) and quite a few were giving me their best ‘Paddington Stares’ even after scrutinising my exemption card.

So, got on the boat and no problems as I sat at the back of the boat, in the outside. Captain comes on and says “going to go through some Covid awareness points but I can tell you that your masks are not necessary as we’re out in the beautiful sea air and the risk is low”.

In unison, they all removed their masks like it was some sort of revelation and surprise! All it took was someone ‘in authority’ to issue some commands and they dutifully complied.

So it was both worrying and heartening to see the masks come off. Worryingly, because they were like drones being programmed what to do, despite all their instinct and evidence telling them it was unnecessary to begin with.

If people need to be told that a face mask is not required on a sea cruise, and can’t work it out to begin with, then I weep for the future.

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

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.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve now found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Some “Mask Exempt” lanyards created by a reader

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard. The one featured above, or one very like it, is available for free here and has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here. The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And you can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here.

And don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Yesterday, I reported that a house cat had supposedly tested positive for the virus. A reader was reminded of this Simpsons episode in which a “secrete conclave of America’s media empires” dream up the next “phony crisis” and hit upon “house cat flu”. A case of life imitating art?

Latest News

Dead Souls

Marc Chagall’s illustration for Dead Souls

Zugzwang, a reader of Lockdown Sceptics (not his real name, obviously), has written a great essay which I’m publishing today. The opening three paragraphs set the scene:

The anti-hero of Gogol’s Dead Souls, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, had his reasons for cultivating the nobility of a provincial Russian backwater, and buying from them, for a nominal sum, those of their serfs who happened to be dead. This saved the vendors an amount of poll tax (which continued to be payable for some time after death) and transformed Chichikov himself into a gentleman proprietor of some 400 serfs, potentially capable of raising a large loan on these assets and eloping (presumably under another name) with the Governor’s daughter.

When I first read Gogol, I found the whole idea totally obscure and mystifying, and I’m not sure that he ever spells out in words of one syllable how Chichikov’s business model is supposed to work. There’s a highly respectable view that the whole thing was always intended as pure shaggy-dog, and it’s only fitting that it breaks off in mid-sentence, as an act of Shandyean surrealism.

Compared with the COVID-19 mortality statistics, however, Gogol provides us with a paradigm of lucidity. Chichikov had found a way of monetising actual serfs who merely happened to have died. We have a Government agency, Public Health England, which seems to be busy manufacturing statistical deaths, to no purpose that makes even Chichikovian sense.

He then goes on to disect the official Covid death data and can discover little rhyme or reason:

Since July 17th, the daily death statistics from PHE have not been published directly by the Government, which is currently “investigating” them. But they do go on being input into the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, which is fed by PHE. Not only that, they continue to illustrate the official thesis that while the virus may be on its way out, it is going very, very, slowly. The rolling seven-day average number of deaths per day on July 26th was 66, holding its own with 68 the week before. No decline recorded at all – and 444 deaths reported by PHE in the week ending July 24th.

The thing is, though, that it is entirely mysterious where these deaths are occurring. For the week to July 24th there have so far been zero deaths reported in Scotland and Northern Ireland and just one in Wales. In the hospitals of England, the total recorded deaths (according to the NHS) were 67. So we have 376 unaccounted for (85% of them).

I’ve given it pride of place on the right-hand menu under “Are Sceptical Voices Being Suppressed?” Worth reading in full.

America’s Frontline Doctors

A group of sceptical doctors in the US, including Dr Dan Erickson, one of the two Bakersfield doctors, held a press conference on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington yesterday in which they talked a great deal of sense. They pointed out, among other things, that the lockdowns across the US are causing more harm than they’re preventing, that COVID-19 is treatable and that the vast majority of the population, e.g those under 65 without any co-morbidities, aren’t at risk from the disease.

Needless to say, America’s tech giants quickly moved to suppress the information. Breitbart News posted a video to Facebook yesterday which became the top-performing Facebook post in the world before the social media company removed it, and YouTube and Twitter removed footage of the press conference too. You can still view it on Breitbart, however.

The same group organised a second event yesterday at which they sang the praises of Hydroxychloroquine. If YouTube has taken it down by the time you click on this link, you can find the information at AmericanFrontlineDoctors.com.

Cat Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Patch feels gloomy after losing her sense of taste and smell

Oh no! Time for another panic. A cat has tested positive for COVID-19. The BBC has the story, although for once the news organisation is trying to tamp down the hysteria.

A pet cat has tested positive in the UK for the strain of coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic.

Experts say it is the first confirmed case of infection in an animal in the UK but does not mean the disease is being spread to people by their pets.

It’s thought the cat caught coronavirus from its owner, who had previously tested positive for the virus. Both have now recovered.

Health officials stress the case is very rare and no cause for alarm.

Reminds me of the story about the goat testing positive in Tanzania. The President, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, promptly sacked his chief health advisor, taking this as evidence that the test being used was unreliable. I wonder if the Covid cat might also be a false positive? The BBC doesn’t record whether the moggy was retested to confirm the initial diagnosis.

Heart-Rending Stories

I’ve been sent a harrowing story by a reader who works for a cancer charity.

I don’t know if this story is helpful to you at all, but I work for a national cancer charity answering support calls. I had an extremely distressing call the other week from an 90 year-old lady whose 69 year-old daughter who was in a hospice due to her advanced cancer.

The lady told me that she hadn’t seen her daughter for months – since lockdown was imposed – and knowing her daughter didn’t have long left she drove to the hospice, desperate to see her, only to be refused at the front door. Worse still, she said she was verbally reprimanded by the manager for trying to come in and told that she was putting herself and everyone else at risk.

Her daughter died a few days later. She never got to say her goodbyes….

On the phone to me, the lady was emotionally distraught, crying inconsolably. She also told me that she lives alone and had been self-isolating herself since February, which she has really struggled with as well. I have been supporting cancer patients for many years and never been lost for words, but on this occasion I was. I just felt so angry inside.

The prevention of people being able to say goodbye to their loved ones is, for me, one of the most shockingly under-covered stories throughout this whole lockdown. I’m sure this is not a one off….

And another reader sent me this story. Pretty awful, too.

I have a rather depressing story told to me by a close friend.

Her grandmother died in hospital at the start of lockdown and sadly, having tested positive for COVID-19 and locked in a Covid ward, she was not able to see her family in her final days. As it happens, the cause of death was certainly not Covid as she had been struggling with cancer for some time.

Upon trying to recover the grandmother’s belongings, however, my friend’s family were told that they were missing. The items’ total value was a sizeable four-figure sum as she had been wearing her jewellery at the time of her death. After months of wrangling with the hospitals and fears the items had been stolen, they finally received a concrete response.

The hospital said that at the time of the grandmother’s death, guidance for dealing with Covid patients’ property had not been set up, leading to large build-ups of personal property at the hospital. When guidance did materialise it stated that personal clothing (at the time, it has since changed), were to be disposed of. The hospital admitted that the likely outcome was that, due to the pressure the hospital was facing, the grandmother’s jewellery had been disposed of by mistake along with her clothing.

Of course, this caused great distress to the family in question and it has led me to wonder how many families were similarly affected. It is not inconceivable that due to this absurd guidance, the total value of patients’ lost items could be millions of pounds, and many deeply saddened families.

This whole saga seems typical of the whole national response to Covid, where an easily sterilisable item, such as an engagement ring, is thrown aside in the name of irrational Covid responses. I feel that stories and scandals like these are going to continue surfacing for months to come.

No Second Wave in Spain

Yesterday’s Blower cartoon in the Telegraph

Will Jones, a contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a good piece for Conservative Woman about the needless panic over Spain’s “second wave”.

While there has in the past month been a surge in cases, mainly in Catalonia, there has been no corresponding surge in deaths nor in serious cases, which remain notably flat, indicating a surge so far either among the low risk or in the number of tests only.

Further considerations are that half the new cases in Spain are asymptomatic and we have no reason to believe that the asymptomatic are infectious. In addition, with the number of people being tested so high, and the percentage of cases so low, it’s likely that some of the uptick is due to false positives. The antigen test is notoriously unreliable, as this episode illustrates, when six out of seven staff members at a Scottish football club who’d tested positive turned out to be negative when retested.

In other words, the newly-imposed quarantine for travellers returning from Spain (and the Spanish islands) is completely pointless.

Who would have guessed?

As Alexandra Phillips points out in the Telegraph, the Government’s U-turn on quarantine travel restrictions is straight out of The Thick of It.

Worth reading Will Jones’s piece in full.

Risk of Catching the Virus From Inanimate Surfaces or Objects is Tiny

Turns out, you can’t get Covid from cans of baked beans

A reader has flagged up a recent comment in the Lancet saying the risk of catching COVID-19 from fomites – inanimate surfaces or objects – has been wildly exaggerated. The author – Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the New Jersey Medical School – points out that the studies purporting to show the virus can survive on fomites for up to six days all used huge quantities of live virus that bore no resemblance to real life situations.

In a study in which the authors tried to mimic actual conditions in which a surface might be contaminated by a patient, no viable SARS-CoV was detected on surfaces.

He concludes:

In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze (within 1–2 h).

Phew! This means there’s no need to “quarantine” food deliveries for three days before consuming and no need to remove clothing that’s been touched from rails in shops.

But I think we all knew that anyway.

Examples of Newspeak

I’m thinking about introducing a new regular slot featuring Orwellian use of language by the mainstream media. Here’s a gem: “Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.” (This was tweeted by ABC News in the US.) I don’t suppose I need to spell this out, but if protestors set fire to a courthouse, vandalised a police station and attacked the police, how was the demonstration “peaceful”? It’s reminiscent of that now famous BBC headline about the BLM protest that turned ugly in Whitehall: “27 officers injured in largely peaceful anti-racism protests.”

If readers notice any other examples of Newspeak, email me here.

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by the Beatles, “Let’s Not Go Shopping” by Robbie Williams and “House Arrest” by Gorgon City x SOFI TUKKER.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard. The one featured above is available for free here and has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here. The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And you can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here.

Although bear in mind that some mask Nazis are so deranged they may just go completely nuts if they see you not wearing one in public. In San Diego, a man having a picnic with his wife in a public park was maced by a woman for not covering his face.

Meanwhile, here’s Peter Hitchens railing against face masks on Mike Graham’s TalkRadio show yesterday.

And you can sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website to end mandatory face nappies in shops here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I talk about being part of the anti-mask rebel alliance, why Covid rule enforcement appeals to aggressive conformists and the unconvincing rhetoric of Sasha, the Oxford BLM rabble rouser. If you enjoy the podcast, please do subscribe.

Latest News

Fatties – You Don’t Need to Worry About Dying From Coronavirus

Shall I have just one more wafer thin mint?

Matt Hancock has written an article for the Telegraph today in which he warns people who are “morbidly obese” that they are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Obesity is one of the greatest long term health challenges that we face as a country.

It not only puts a strain on our NHS and care system, but it also piles pressure on our bodies, making us more vulnerable to many diseases, including of course coronavirus.

The latest research shows that if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 your risk of death from coronavirus goes up by at least a quarter.

And that nearly 8 per cent of critically ill patients with coronavirus in intensive care are morbidly obese compared at around 3 per cent of the country as a whole.

He concludes:

If everyone who is overweight lost five pounds it could save the NHS over £100 million over the next five years. And more importantly, given the link between obesity and coronavirus, losing weight could be lifesaving.

So just how great is the risk of dying from coronavirus if you’re a fatty?

According to the latest ONS infection survey data, about one in 2,300 people had COVID-19 in England in the week of July 6th to 12th. Now, that’s not very reliable because the false positive rate for the antigen test could easily be one in 2,300, so to confirm this the ONS would need to re-test anyone testing positive to confirm the result – which it hasn’t done, obviously. Nevertheless, let’s assume that’s correct – that the number of people infected with coronavirus in England is 1/2,300 or about 24,350 (56,000,000/2,300). We know that the number of new cases is declining because the R is less than one, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that after 14 days, when those 24,350 people have either died or recovered, they’ve each passed it on to one other person. So that means the total number of people infected in England over the course of a year is ~633,100 (24,350 x 26). Again, a huge overestimate, but let’s give the bed-wetters the benefit of the doubt. So if you’re an Englishman, your chances of contracting the virus over the course of the next 12 months is 633,100 in 56,000,000 or 1.13%.

Now what are your chances of dying from COVID-19 if you’re unlucky enough to get it? It varies with age, obviously, but let’s assume an IFR of 0.26%, the last-but-one CDC estimate which I suspect was a little high. Again, benefit of the doubt. That means the average chance of an Englishman catching and then succumbing to the virus are ~0.0029%. Let’s add Matt Hancock’s 25% – the increase in your chances of catching COVID-19 and dying if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 – and it comes to ~0.0036% or one in ~27,777.78. That’s remarkably similar to your chances of dying in a road traffic accident in the UK – and remember, that’s all ages, so if you just look at under-65 year-olds your chances of dying from COVID-19 are far, far lower than your chances of dying in a road traffic accident, even if you’re morbidly obese.

Don’t worry, Mr Creosote. I think you’ve got room for one more wafer thin mint.

Teaching Unions Demand Compulsory Muzzles in Schools

A scene from Good Omens

It was inevitable. The General Secretary of the National Union of Bed-Wetters – I mean, the NASUWT – has called for face coverings to be mandatory in schools and colleges. The Telegraph has the story.

Patrick Roach, the General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “The Government’s guidance for schools is now out of step with wider public health guidance and guidance to other employers where it is recognised that, where physical distancing cannot be assured, face masks should be worn.

“Teachers and other staff working in schools also want to be assured that, when they return to the workplace in September, they will be afforded the same level of protection as other workers, and that the guidance for schools will be brought into line with guidance for other workplaces.”

Mr Roach noted that Government advice means children over the age of 11 are required to wear coverings when they visit “a range” of facilities such as shops and banks. He said: “So there is a strong argument that face masks should also be made compulsory for children when they return to secondary schools in September.”

The teaching unions must know that only four children under the age of 15 have died from COVID-19 in the whole of the UK and no one has been able to document a single case of a child infecting an adult anywhere in the world. So why the insistence of face nappies? I can only assume it is to make it even harder for schools to re-open in September so the unions’ dues-paying members can extend their six-month holiday.

Stand firm on this one, Gavin Williamson. Make it clear that face masks won’t be required in schools and any teacher refusing to turn up for work in September will be sacked.

In the meantime, you can sign this petition started by Them For Us.

Stop Press: Some US colleges are insisting on painful nasal swab tests for all students every other day.

Track and Trace Programme is Unlawful

“Matt, is that really you? What? Say it again? What?”

Lockdown Sceptics has a special correspondent who’s been following the slow-motion car crash that is Matt Hancock’s track-and-trace programme since it was first unveiled. Here’s his latest report.

The UK Government has conceded that its flagship contact tracing programme has been operating unlawfully since its May 28th launch.

Digital rights campaigners at the Open Rights Group (ORG) have forced the Government to admit that its track-and-trace programme has been operating unlawfully. The programme was not subject to a full Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) as required under GDPR. If only they had paid attention to Lockdown Sceptics on May 28th, when we warned of precisely this risk. Apparently, the Government developed the scheme “at such pace and scale” that it was not a primary focus. So going at things in a rush is now a defence?

But who cares about DPIAs and GDPR? It’s not as if contact tracers are sharing patients’ data on social media. Oh wait, what’s this? Coronavirus contact tracers have been sharing patients’ data on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Where is our indomitable UK regulator in all this? It appears the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) see themselves as “a critical friend” of the Government providing guidance and advice. Well that’s nice, but if it is not too much trouble could they please do their job and take meaningful action on behalf of UK citizens?

Cut-Out-And-Keep “Mask Exempt” Cards

A reader has got in touch to point out that “Mask Exempt” cards are available for free from this medical centre’s website. Just download the PDF and print it out. The site even provides a handy dotted line so you can cut out the card and laminate it yourself. And the upside is, you are only claiming you have a “reasonable excuse” for not wearing a face nappy and not falsely claiming to have a specific disability.

Further to your post on lanyards today, I would like to contribute my experience.

I have so far been in three big chain shops since Friday, including Co-op, Waitrose and Currys. In each case I was, depressingly, the only mask dissenter.

I am uneasy with claiming a disability when there is no such reason at all for me to not wear a mask. I was therefore pleased to find the this PDF which I printed out and placed in a holder I had in a drawer. The wording of the dark blue ones is wonderfully appropriate – I have many very reasonable excuses! And my conscience is clear in not claiming disability. Perhaps it’s worth drawing this link to the attention of our friends?

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “No More Heroes” by the Stranglers.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Handy guide to what wearing a mask says about you, as compiled by American cartoonist Ben Garrison.

Latest News

UnHerd Interview With Anders Tegnell

Freddie Sayers, the editor of UnHerd, has done an interview with Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, that’s worth watching.

Freddie kicks off by asking him whether he thinks Sweden’s strategy has been a failure or a success.

I think to a great extent it’s been a success. We are now seeing rapidly falling cases, we have continuously had healthcare that has been working, there have been free beds at any given time, never any crowding in the hospitals, we have been able to keep schools open which we think is extremely important, and society fairly open — while still having social distancing in place in a way that means that the spread of the disease has been limited.

The failure has of course been the death toll… that has been very much related to the long-term care facilities in Sweden. Now that has improved, we see a lot less cases in those facilities.

Tegnell is careful not to claim that Sweden has avoided a lockdown altogether. Rather, it has had a partial lockdown, with the decline in economic and social activity being largely voluntary.

In many ways the voluntary measures we put in place in Sweden have been just as effective as complete lockdowns in other countries. So I don’t think complete lockdown is the way to go for all countries… the rapidly declining cases we see in Sweden right now is another indication that you can get the number of cases down quite a lot in a country without having a complete lockdown.

He is also cautious about claiming the absence of a full lockdown in Sweden has been beneficial and acknowledges that he doesn’t really know whether the Swedish death toll would be lower had they locked everyone down. But he points out that we do know that lockdowns cause considerable collateral damage.

It would have made maybe some difference, we don’t know. But on the other hand we know that lockdowns also have big other effects on public health. We know that closing schools has a great effect on children’s health in the short and the long term. We know that people being out of work also produces a lot of problems in the public health area. So we also have to look at what are the negative effect of lockdowns, and that has not been done very much so far.

However, one thing he is sure about is that trying to suppress or eradicate the virus is a mistake.

I don’t think that this is a disease that we can eradicate – not with the methods that we have right now. It might be a disease that in the long term we can eradicate with a vaccine, but I’m not even sure about that. If you look at comparable diseases like the flu and other respiratory viruses we are not even close to eradicating them despite the fact that we have a vaccine. I personally believe that this is a disease we are going to have to learn to live with.

Throughout the interview, Tegnell sound both modest and sensible – a far cry from our own public health panjandrums. That’s particularly true when he talks about why face masks haven’t been made mandatory in Sweden, my favourite part of the interview.

One reason is that the evidence base for using masks in society is still very weak. Even if more and more countries are now enforcing them in different ways … we haven’t seen any new evidence coming up, which is a little bit surprising. The other reason is that everything tells us that keeping social distance is a much better way of controlling this disease than putting masks on people. We are worried (and we get at least tales from other countries) that people put on masks and then they believe they can go around in society being close to each other, even going around in society being sick. And that, in our view, would definitely produce higher spread than we have right now.

Worth watching in full.

Poor Risk Assessment

A reader heard a worker in the City of London interviewed on Radio 4 yesterday who said something astonishingly stupid, even by bed-wetting standards.

I heard someone on the radio this morning saying she had bought a Harley-Davison to drive to work in Mayfair, in order to – you guessed it – “stay safe”. But if the fatality risk for a person of working age from COVID-19 is roughly equivalent to a daily car drive of about 50 miles, and motorbikes are 25 times more dangerous than driving, it would seem that a motorcycle commute of two miles poses a greater threat to life and limb than coronavirus. Lesson: If you want to stay safe, you must remain sane.

NHS Hospitals in England Reported No Deaths on Three Days Last Week

I have one eagle-eyed reader who checks the daily data releases from NHS England about the number of deaths recorded in hospitals in the previous 24 hours. This is what he found last week:

There were three days during this past week in which the report released for that day recorded ZERO deaths during the previous 24 hour period.

July 21st for the period 4pm July 19th – 4pm July 20th
July 22nd for the period 4pm July 20th – 4pm July 21st
July 24th for the period 4pm July 21st – 4pm July 22nd

During the previous week, this only occurred on two days.

When I’ve reported these findings in the past, readers have contacted me to point out that in the latest data releases for NHS England, the days that initially recorded no deaths in earlier releases have subsequently had deaths assigned to them. That’s due to the much-discussed delay in the reporting. Nevertheless, what my correspondent says is true: when the data release for the 24-hour period in question was first released, it showed zero deaths.

Will Face Nappies Kill the High Street?

Oxford Street yesterday afternoon

In his column in today’s Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens says Boris’s decision to make face masks mandatory in shops will kill off what’s left of the hight street.

The Government’s dedicated efforts to destroy our economy and an entire way of life have moved up a step.

High streets had just begun to stir feebly back into life after months of enforced shutdown. Then the futile decree went out from Downing Street that customers must wear muzzles.

And what will happen? Why, more people will choose not to bother to go near shops at all. They will buy from the internet giants instead.

I fear he’s right and this picture a reader took on Oxford Street yesterday confirms it. On a normal Saturday afternoon, Oxford Street would be teeming with people, but it’s now almost deserted. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos’s fortune has increased to $171.6 billion, cementing his status as the richest man in the world.

France’s Philosopher-King is a Lockdown Sceptic

Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s rock-star philosopher

The most famous philosophe in France, Bernard-Henri Lévy, has a new book out in which he argues that coronavirus has sent the world into “psychotic delirium”. In an interview in the Sunday Times he summarises the thesis of The Virus in the Age of Madness.

“People keep saying this is an unprecedented pandemic,” he says. “It is not true. Humanity has had to deal with many pandemics, often more grave than this one. There seems to be an intention, a collective desire, to panic. It is not as big a disaster as we think.”

“There is a sort of unilateral focus: Covid, Covid, Covid. It completely erased any other information,” Lévy says. He writes of the world falling into a state of “psychotic delirium” and of witnessing “the spectacle of world leaders so terrified by the threat of a corona Nuremberg that they deemed it more prudent to put the world on hold, caring little for the outbreaks of hunger, violence against the poor, and authoritarian takeovers that were sure to follow”.

He rages against “the dieticians, the prophylactocrats, vegetocrats and ecolocrats”, and against those finger-waggers telling us we deserved Covid. “Oozing goodness and contrition, they sing, reminding us that even before the pandemic they warned against the folly of a world that could not continue as it was, a world headed straight into a wall.”

Now he says: “People on the right and left are telling us that we had too much enjoyment and we have to be penitent and so on. This is such an unprogressive rhetoric. This is the most stupid and stubborn, profane religion, the opposite of what the progressives should be. This is exactly the best way to bury all the liberal and democratic dreams that made the West great.”

Sounds like a must read. If you can bear enriching Jeff Bezos even further, you can buy the book here.

Lanyard Success

A “mask exempt” lanyard

A reader gets in touch to say his “mask exempt” lanyard is working like a treat.

I must thank you for recommending the “mask exempt” lanyards. I received mine yesterday and immediately took it for a test ride on public transport. During my journey from Didcot Parkway to Lille Europe, using Great Western, London Underground and Eurostar I was only challenged twice (both times in St. Pancras International). I simply pointed to my lanyard and said that I have a medical condition. No further questions!

You can buy your very own “mask exempt” lanyard here.

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Cancel that racist white dog now

Latest News

Boris Johnson is Mistaken About His Mistakes

PM: “I didn’t have a clue about the virus back in March and I still don’t Laura.”

In an interview with Laura Kuenssberg for the BBC to mark his first anniversary of becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson admitted to having made mistakes in his initial response to the pandemic. Unfortunately, they were the wrong mistakes.

I think it’s fair to say that there are things that we need to learn about how we handled it in the early stages… There will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened.

Maybe there were things we could have done differently, and of course there will be time to understand what exactly we could have done, or done differently.

We didn’t understand [the virus] in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months.

The single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning is the extent to which is was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person. That wasn’t clear to us or to anybody.

What people really want to focus on now is what are we doing to prepare for the next phase.

Not clear to anybody? What nonsense is this? There was plenty of speculation that the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers from almost the first moment it was identified. In late January, Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN: “There’s no doubt after reading this paper that asymptomatic transmission is occurring.”

The paper he was referring too was a study published on January 30th in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But we now know there’s reason to doubt these preliminary research findings. At a WHO press conference on June 8th, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic, said:

We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare and much of that is not published in the literature.

From the papers that are published there’s one that came out from Singapore looking at a long-term care facility. There are some household transmission studies where you follow individuals over time and you look at the proportion of those that transmit onwards.

We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.

This caused a sensation at the time and the WHO subsequently issued a “clarification” saying that it simply don’t know whether the virus can be transmitted by people who are genuinely asymptomatic.

Dr Van Kerkhove’s admission was a “gaffe” in the classic sense of the word: when someone in a position of authority inadvertently tells the truth.

So Boris is (sort of) admitting that he should have imposed a lockdown earlier, even though he shouldn’t, and claiming the reason he didn’t is because he hadn’t realised back then that scientists studying the disease wrongly assumed asymptomatic transmission was a key driver of the pandemic, even though every man and his dog thought that back in March. However, he has now embraced this assumption – just when we have good reason to doubt it – and is now fully prepared for the next wave, i.e. the Government will repeat the same mistake it made in March and indiscriminately lock up the healthy as well as the sick this winter.

Meanwhile, on a walkabout in the Tollgate Medical Centre in Beckton, Boris said we wouldn’t have defeated the virus until “the middle of next year” and hinted that we would still be forced to wear masks in shops (and possibly the workplace) until then.

Give me strength.

New Essay by Guy de la Bédoyère

Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews keeps on eye on his disobedient citizens

I’m publishing a great new essay today by the historian and regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère. The meat of it is an account of the dire situation in the state of Victoria in Australia, where the incompetent state premier Daniel Andrews has imposed a second lockdown. But there’s some great stuff before that in which Guy vents his frustration about mandatory face nappies:

One of my former colleagues has a nurse for a daughter and she has thrown herself with characteristic zealotry into the role of being the mother of a saint. Not only has she busied herself at her sewing machine churning out scrubs but also proclaimed her righteous joy in the ostentatious wearing of masks. She does this, she says, not because she’s scared, because she isn’t (so she says), but because of her solidarity with the legions of angels in the NHS, “it’s the right thing to do”, and she is doing it for the wider good of the community. She might as well have called the latter Volksgemeinschaft.

There is an ominous and crazy religious tone to all this, and she is not alone in exhibiting an inclination to participate in Covid Cult Culture. Masks have rapidly become the symbol of moral superiority, amounting almost to being a badge denoting membership of the Party. Wear a mask and you’re a good person, conspicuously virtue-signalling in public. Don’t wear one and you’re a bad person, a lesser being, a walking symbol of the fear that stalks the streets. In short, you risk becoming the Devil’s hand-servant, a pariah, an enemy of the state. No matter that even surgical masks are only tested on their Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (European Standard EN14683:2019) and splash resistance – viruses don’t come into it. Cheapo face-covering masks don’t even meet that standard. Viruses, which are much smaller, don’t come into it – the efficacy is really only limited to splash resistance. If you want a mask that stops viruses you have to have a respirator-type mask.

Worth reading in full.

More Masks Than Jellyfish in the Sea

Joffrey Peltier of French environmentalist non-profit Opération Mer Propre catches the wrong kind of fish

Anyone who’s been on a country walk recently will have seen discarded masks despoiling the natural environment. (I even saw some in the Dolomites on my recent visit to Italy.) But the situation threatens to become even worse in the world’s oceans. According to a story in the Guardian:

Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds.

The French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, whose activities include regularly picking up litter along the Côte d’Azur, began sounding the alarm late last month.

Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organisation described as “Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans.

CNN broadcast a similar report last month:

Beaches on the French Côte d’Azur like Cannes or St. Tropez are among the most coveted vacation spots worldwide, but now the coronavirus pandemic has left an abundance of pollutants in the water: discarded masks and gloves.

“How would you like swimming with COVID-19 this summer?” Laurent Lombard, a diver and founder of the nonprofit Opération Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea) asked in a Facebook post last month.

Wall St Journal Op Ed Section Sees Off Woke Mob

The Wall St Journal‘s editorial board responds to attempts by snowflake junior staffers to censor conservative content

I’m a huge fan of the Wall St Journal‘s op ed page, which I’ve contributed to many times. It is one of the last outposts of classical liberalism in America’s mainstream media. Consequently, I was alarmed when a letter signed by 280 Wall St Journal reporters, condemning the opinion pages for spreading “misinformation” (woke-speak for conservative views), was leaked last week. Would the paper’s editorial board buckle in response to a revolt by junior staff, mimicking what happened at the New York Times last month? Thankfully not. The editorial board published a robust response yesterday:

It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution. But we are not the New York Times. Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle, and our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.

As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse. And these columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance.

Worth reading in full.

Meanwhile, Barbara Kay, a longstanding conservative columnist at Canada’s National Post, has resigned. It seems the editorial board of the Post is not as robust as its counterpart at the Journal. Shame. Kay is a great columnist.

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “New Rules” by Dia Lupa.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Man finds new use for face nappy

This brave soul walked down Oxford St yesterday wearing a face mask – and nothing else! The Evening Standard, which has several photographs of the gentleman, does not disclose whether he was allowed into H&M or Top Shop.

Meanwhile, a reader points out how ineffective masks have been in South Africa:

They made masks compulsory outside the home on May 1st, when they had 5,951 cases.

Now they’ve had 408,502 cases.

“Imagine how bad it would have been without the masks” is the response of believers in the new religion of face masks.

Latest News

A Date That Will Live in Infamy

The Young family head to the shops

So today is mask day, a new low in the lockdown era. But rather than depress readers by linking to the BBC’s ridiculously upbeat guide to face coverings, I thought I’d confine myself to a few glimmers of hope. For instance, some supermarkets and coffee shops have said they won’t enforce the new rules. According to the Mail:

Sainsbury’s, Asda and Costa Coffee have said they will not police new coronavirus laws which force customers to wear face masks in all shops from today.

The major retailers say they have no intention of enforcing new rules which will punish people who refuse to cover their faces with a £100 fine.

In addition, the director of public affairs at Co-Op has said it isn’t the job of the supermarket chain’s employees to enforce the rules and the Association of Convenience Stores has advised its members not to challenge any customers without face coverings.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has a list of places where masks are not required:

  • Restaurants and pubs with table service
  • Hairdressers and treatment salons unless specified by the venue
  • Gyms and leisure centres
  • Cinemas, concert halls and theatres
  • Museums
  • Heritage sites
  • Dentists
  • Opticians
  • If you are exempt from wearing a mask

And here’s the Telegraph‘s list of who’s exempt:

  • A child under the age of 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency response member of staff, such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official such as a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your own vehicle, such as a car ferry
  • Other legitimate exemptions listed include those with a disability or a physical or mental illness, and anyone travelling with a deaf person who relies on lip reading to communicate.
  • Wearers are also permitted to remove them if it is necessary to avoid harm or injury, as well as to eat or drink if required, to take medication, or if a police officer or other official requests you to do so.
  • Customers in shops will also be allowed to remove them if they are required to present identification for purchasing alcohol and other age-restricted products.

And for four-eyed folks like me, here’s the Telegraph‘s advice on stopping your glasses steaming up if you’re wearing a mask.

Wales Bans Newspapers on Public Transport

Determined not to be outdone by England’s draconian mask rules, the Welsh Government has gone one step further. According to its recent public transport guidance, not only will travellers have to wear face masks from July 27th, they won’t be able to chat on the phone, eat or drink, must remain in “relative silence” and cannot read newspapers! Who knew reading newspapers could spread the virus? Oh, and you’re not allowed to run for the bus because the virus can be transmitted by “breathing heavily”.

The lunatics really have taken over the asylum in Wales.

Another Victory for the Free Speech Union

Nick Buckley, now back at the helm at Mancunian Way

The Free Speech Union has helped a victim of cancel culture get his job back. Here’s the story, as reported by Guido Fawkes yesterday.

Nick Buckley MBE, who was ousted as chief executive of his own charity last month following some mild criticisms of the Black Lives Matter manifesto, is back in charge thanks to the Free Speech Union. As of today, the trustees who fired him have all resigned, new trustees have been appointed and Nick has been re-appointed as CEO of Mancunian Way, the award-winning charity he founded in 2011. Nick was sacked after an article he posted on Linked-In attracted controversy, including a Change.org petition demanding his head. In spite of the fact that the petition only attracted 465 signatures – and Nick himself founded Mancunian Way – the trustees terminated the charity’s service level agreement with Nick’s company within a week of the petition being launched.

Luckily, Nick is a member of the Free Speech Union. It got behind a counter-petition, which has attracted over 17,500 signatures, and found Nick a top flight solicitor in the form of Keystone Law’s Geoffrey Davies, an expert on charity law. After Geoffrey discovered some irregularities in the process the trustees had followed, and pointed these out to them, they agreed to resign. They have now been replaced by three new trustees, appointed by Nick. And Nick is now back at the helm.

Toby Young, General Secretary of the FSU, tells Guido: “I’m delighted Nick has been reappointed to the charity that he founded and which has done so much to help disadvantaged young people in Manchester. No one should lose their livelihood at the behest of a left-wing outrage mob. Nick’s sacking was an example of cancel culture at its worst and I’m pleased that the FSU and Geoffrey Davies have been able to get him his job back.”

And they would have got away with if it wasn’t for that pesky Free Speech Union.

If you’d like to join the Free Speech Union, click here. And if you’d like to contribute to our Litigation Fund here.

Lord Sumption: Why Have Human Rights Organisations Said Nothing?

A special mask for sheeple

In the recent Prospect webinar in which Lord Sumption admitted to breaking lockdown rules, the patron saint of lockdown sceptics also criticised Britain’s human rights organisations for being “extraordinarily silent” on the Government’s wholesale suspension of our liberties.

A case in point is 38 Degrees, a lobby group that describes itself as “progressive” and claims to “campaign for fairness, defend rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy in the UK”. You’d expect a group that “defends rights” to object to the fact that the UK Government has placed 67 million people under virtual house arrest, but not a bit of it. Like most “progressive” organisations it has enthusiastically sided with the lockdown zealots, giving its unequivocal support to our beloved leader. Indeed, it has just made a special offer to its members – a mask that has your support for the NHS emblazoned across the front (see above). A reader, who’s also a member of 38 Degrees, received this “special offer” via email yesterday:

From this weekend we’ll all be required to wear a face mask. It’s a great way to keep our friends, family and neighbours safe from coronavirus.

But why settle for a plain mask, when you could get one that sends an important message? Today, thousands of us are buying this new mask that helps reduce the spread of Coronavirus and shows our support for the NHS.

Masks like this one usually cost over £9. But you can get one for just a fiver to cover the costs! And if thousands of us buy one and wear it, our message will be clear for all to see: we, the public, love the NHS and want to protect it.

So there you have it folks. If you’re concerned that wearing a face nappy doesn’t send a clear enough message that you’ve abandoned your dignity and are submitting to Britain’s dictatorial regime, you can make it even clearer by wearing a mask emblazoned with pro-NHS propaganda. All courtesy of a human rights organisation that “campaigns for fairness”.

I wonder if, for a little extra money, 38 Degrees could create a mask that administers an electric shock to its wearers if they don’t burst into applause every time Matt Hancock appears on television?

More Dodgy Data?

A lecturer in neuroscience (and a reader of Lockdown Sceptics) has got in touch to point out there’s something a bit fishy about Scotland and Wales’s Covid hospital admissions data:

I noticed that Covid hospital admissions in Wales are not falling as one might expect, while those in Scotland have dropped to zero. Currently, Covid admissions to hospitals in Wales are running at a similar level to those in England, which is strange given the very different populations (and reported deaths).

Admissions figures for patients suspected of having COVID-19 for every nation in the UK are updated daily here. You can infer the length of stay for Covid patients in the different nations by comparing patient totals with daily admissions. Discharges are equal to the change in numbers of patients minus any admissions, and the average length of the stays is approximately equal to (discharged per day)/patients.

For England, the average length of a hospital stay for a Covid patient is just under nine days since the start of the lockdown. This seems reasonable and has been relatively constant.

For Scotland, the data are less current because it stopped reporting admissions after July 9th. Based on the older data, the equivalent calculation gives an average of 40 days. That cannot be right.

For Wales, the data are up-to-date, and give an average stay before discharge of five days. However, this has been falling and for July the average was just 2.6 days.

There are two possible explanations. One is that Scotland has a particularly debilitating and long-lasting form of the virus – COVID-19+ – while Wales has a very short-acting one. On the other hand, Occam would suggest that Covid admissions and patients are being counted differently in the two nations. I suspect that Wales is counting anyone arriving at hospital with an elevated temperature and cough as a “Covid admission”, but only counting patients with a positive Covid test. In contrast, Scotland seems to be significantly undercounting admissions, perhaps by only including patients who arrive with a positive Covid test.

I am sure that it is a complete coincidence that these happen to play into the particular political narratives of the two First Ministers: Sturgeon’s line is “Covid has been banished but we may have to close the border to keep it out”, and Drakeford’s is “Covid is much much worse over here, so we have to keep everything shut”.

Anyway, I thought it was curious, although admittedly not of the jaw-dropping “count everyone as a Covid death whatever they actually died of” PHE variety.

This is curious, to put it mildly. I know it’s hard to compare Covid hospital admissions and fatalities in the UK with those in other countries because of different recording methods, and in some countries, such as the United States, it’s hard to compare regions for the same reason. But I wasn’t aware that the different UK nations used different methods. Is it possible that the Welsh and Scottish governments are choosing to record Covid hospital admissions differently to suit their particular agendas? If any readers can throw more light on this anomaly, please email me here.

More Under-25 Year-Olds Died From Influenza in a 16 Weeks in 2014/15 Than COVID-19 This Year

A comparison of deaths in 2020 up to July with deaths in England and Wales over a typical 16 week period in previous years

I’m grateful to a reader for pointing out that I used the wrong table from the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication when comparing deaths from Covid in 2020 with deaths from other causes in previous years a couple of days ago. The table I used compared deaths to July 3rd in 2020 with deaths from other causes in England and Wales over a year, when the table I should have used was the one above, comparing deaths to July 3rd with deaths in England and Wales over a typical 16-week period in previous years.

The data is still pretty startling. For instance, it shows that more under-49 year-olds died of suicide and injury/poisonings in a typical 16-week period in 2018 than Covid in 2020 and fewer under-25 year-olds have died from Covid than from road traffic accidents in a typical 16-week period in previous years.

Round-Up

Here’s a 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 by Readers

Only one today: “Roni Got me Stressed Out” by Chromeo.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here.

Gone Fishin’

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. I’m on holiday in Italy until tomorrow and won’t be doing my usual amount of work on the site until I return. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m away: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.

Latest News

Lockdown Magic-Masked Riders of the Apocalypse Approaching a Town Near YOU

Howard Steen Captures the lockdown madness

This picture was posted by Howard Steen, a retired scientist, on Twitter in response to a sceptical tweet by Michael Levitt. The caption reads: “After 300 years of scientific Enlightenment, the U.K. embraces witchcraft, mythology and magic.” Levitt gave it the thumbs up.

More Nonsense on Masks

Teenagers in North Korea have their temperatures checked before entering their school in Pyongyang

The Welsh Government’s advice on face coverings, which are due to become mandatory on public transport in Wales from July 27th, contains this gem in the section entitled “What is the science behind this advice?”

At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community is not supported by high quality scientific evidence. Social distancing and hygiene measures remain the most effective measures for reducing transmission of COVID-19.

A reader makes a good point about mandatory face coverings in shops, due to come into force in England tomorrow:

If I fill up my car with petrol and then go to pay in the kiosk (=shop?) without a mask, will they let me in?

Meanwhile, in North Korea anyone refusing to wear a face mask will have to do three months hard labour in one of the regime’s notorious prison camps. Squads of student enforcers are patrolling the streets of Pyongyang, bundling anyone not complying into the back of unmarked vans.

How long before Nic Sturge-un follows suit?

And if you think North Korea is bad, get a load of what’s happening in Florida: authorities in Broward County have passed a coronavirus emergency order which includes text suggesting all residents are mandated to wear face masks inside their own homes.

Finally, NHS workers with beards have been asked to shave them off because if they don’t their masks won’t work, according to the Nursing Times. Does this mean the Government will soon slap a ban on beards, with police empowered to issue on-the-spot fines? Won’t go down well in Hoxton.

Perhaps there is a silver lining to the idiotic mask diktat after all.

My Plans for a Covid Inquiry

In my Spectator column today, I point out that the public inquiry is already underway – dozens of them.

First out of the gate was the Sunday Times on 24 May, followed by the New Statesman and, last week, the Financial Times. In addition, there will be ‘inquiries’ by other newspapers and magazines, parliamentary select committees, television and radio programmes, think tanks and universities, scientific and medical journals.

Few will be able to resist blaming the UK’s higher-than-average death toll on the Government’s failure to lock down earlier. That’s been the verdict of those that have been published so far, and we know in advance that Sir Patrick Vallance and Neil Ferguson will confirm this when they’re asked to testify by Uncle Tom Cobley and all. They’ve said as much already. The only thing all these ‘non-partisan’ panels of experts will disagree about is exactly how many dead bodies can be chalked up to Boris Johnson’s “dither and delay”.

If you’re a lockdown sceptic, this is profoundly depressing. What’s the point of all these inquiries if they take it for granted from the outset that the lockdown was the right policy response? Not only will they fail to address the Government’s biggest mistake – which was imposing a lockdown in the first place – but if they all conclude that Boris’s failure to lock down even sooner caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, it will mean the next time a British government is faced with a viral outbreak it will lock down immediately.

Just like in March, all hospital patients still breathing will be turfed out of their beds to “protect the NHS”, billions will be spent on pop-up hospitals that are never used, schools will be closed unnecessarily for six months, the Chancellor will borrow hundreds of billions so the economy can be mothballed indefinitely, and Matt Hancock will spend billions on a track-and-trace system that is about as effective as two tin cans connected by a piece of string. All in a desperate effort to avoid being blamed for not acting quickly enough.

So what can be done about this? I conclude that I’ll have to convene a public inquiry of my own, which will mean pulling together a panel of genuinely independent-minded scientists.

I’m thinking of people like Dr John Lee, the ex-professor of pathology who’s written a series of sceptical pieces for this magazine; Carl Heneghan, the Oxford professor who runs the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and helped to expose the shortcomings of Tamiflu; David Spiegelhalter, the Cambridge statistician who can analyse this year’s excess deaths and put them in context; Sunetra Gupta, the Oxford epidemiologist who believes we may have achieved herd immunity already; and Michael Levitt, the Nobel laureate who understood early on that the number of people infected with coronavirus in any given region was not growing exponentially. And I’ll ask Lord Sumption to chair it, of course.

I don’t suppose they will be any more sympathetic to Boris and his pals than the kangaroo courts being set up across the country. They just won’t take it for granted that indiscriminately locking down the entire population was the right thing to do. They will look closely at those countries that didn’t lock down, such as Sweden, South Korea and Belarus, as well as the seven US states that didn’t, and puzzle over the fact that they experienced fewer deaths per capita, on average, than those places that did. They will wonder, I imagine, why no country before this year ever tried to tackle a viral epidemic by imposing a full lockdown, save for Mexico in 2009, and why so many countries rushed headlong to adopt this draconian policy in spite of the WHO recommending against it last year.

Now all I need is a billionaire to fund it. And, of course, a change of identity so when I invite all these distinguished scientists to sit on my panel they won’t stick my name into Google and then run a mile.

Or is there another solution? Could I use this website and the following it has built up to launch an inquiry? I could ask some of its scientific readers and contributors to pull together panels and look into different aspects of the crisis – a more concise version of the chapter-headings on the right-hand side. They and their teams could then publish their findings at regular intervals and, after a year, produce their final summaries and verdicts which I would then compile into a book. It wouldn’t have any official standing or the imprimatur of a distinguished institution. But it would be right, which is the most important thing.

Email me here if you think this is a good idea and you’d like to contribute.

Lancet Paper Says Lockdowns Ineffective

A new paper in the Lancet entitled “A country level analysis measuring the impact of government actions, country preparedness and socioeconomic factors on COVID-19 mortality and related health outcomes” has some bad news for the Government: lockdowns have done nothing to reduce Covid mortality. In the “Findings” section, the authors state:

Government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of Covid-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.

Worth reading in full.

A singer writes

I got a response from a professional singer to yesterday’s “Postcard From Nordrhein-Westfalen” by a musician based in Germany.

I was most interested in the postcard from Germany today. I too am a professional classical musician, a singer unfortunately. We have been well and truly silenced except for an elite few, while I know for a fact that good technique should be tested by singing onto a flame, which should not flicker. It is slightly safer than talking.

I am about to write to my re-opening health and leisure club, as they have just advised members that the toilets will not be available and members will have to traipse through the large guest lounge, where people eat, drink, work and socialise, to access the reception toilets. All this in the middle of a work-out or swim! I am just going to point out that swimmers peeing in the pool is not unheard of – why make it the easy option? How is that safe? I bet this is a general rule – my husband has to go to the dentist tomorrow, at enormous expense because of the deep-cleaning, resting the room etc., and he has also been warned that the toilet will be closed and to arrive with an empty bladder. More lunacy.

Kent County Council Misleads Public

A reader has been in touch to say he’s received a leaflet from Kent County Council warning him of “misleading information” that’s been disseminated in the Kent area (see above). If you look in the top right-hand corner of the document the Council has identified as “misleading” it says: “Were you aware that fewer people in London died in the past few weeks compared to the same period in 2019?”

In fact, that claim isn’t “misleading”; it’s true. As the Daily Mail reported on June 16th, London became the first region in England to report that deaths from all causes had fallen to below the five-year average – and below 2019 – and that’s now true of the whole of England and Wales. According to the ONS’s latest weekly report, the number of deaths registered in England and Wales in Week 28 was 6.1% below the five-year average.

As you can see from the graph below, this has been true of London since mid-May.

As is so often the case, a public authority that’s issued a pompous warning about Covid “misinformation” is itself guilty of misinformation.

Sign Petition To Stop Mandatory Face Masks in Schools

A scene in Good Omens

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Christine Brett and her colleagues at Them For Us have started a petition on Change.org asking Gavin Williamson to stop schools insisting that children wear face coverings when they return in September. Please sign it.

Lord Sumption Admits to Breaking Lockdown Rules

In conversation with legal affairs journalist Joshua Rosenburg for a Prospect seminar, Lord Sumption admitted to breaking lockdown rules.

The former top judge – who has been a vocal opponent of Number 10’s lockdown rules, previously describing them as the “greatest interference with personal liberty in our history” – is said to have fessed up to flouting some aspects of the “absurd” regulations during a Zoom-based webinar.

The online session, ‘Democracy and the Rule of Law in the Age of COVID-19’, was hosted by legal affairs journalist Joshua Rozenberg, who took to his own Twitter account to confirm Sumption’s rule-breaking revelation.

Lord Sumption was unapologetic in the course of the seminar. The Telegraph has some good quotes:

For a Government to say we are so stupid and untrustworthy we will take this decision-making out of your hands is not acceptable in a democratic society.

If you want a risk-free environment then you can lock yourself up. That’s a better alternative than the Government locking everyone up.

Round-Up

Here’s a 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 By Readers:

Two today: “I Drink Alone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers and “Sea of Madness” by Iron Maiden.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a spam magnet so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here.

Gone Fishin’

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. I’m on holiday in Italy until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing my usual amount of work on the site until I return. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m away: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.

Latest News

Postcard From Nordrhein-Westfalen

I’m publishing another postcard today, this one from Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany. The author, who has written under a pseudonym, is a professional musician and life has been tough, as you would imagine. But as he explains, he’s been more fortunate that most.

I live in a smallish town in West Germany and am a musician. Needless to say work has been pretty hard to come by but luckily I have been able to continue some of the teaching and we are back to some type of normalcy, face to face without a mask, after having utilised Skype in less than optimal circumstances. I have also benefited from a emergency state loan some of which may have to be paid back, any of the funds not paid back will be subjected to tax as income.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a few English friends who are not as fortunate. One – an Echo winner of a few years ago – has seen his income dry up almost completely as he does not teach, lives in a different state where his loan is much less generous and has only a few recording opportunities. The rest were cancelled long ago. Another works for an orchestra which tours the world. At the moment they are trying to find ways of possibly giving concerts locally in the near future. Needless to say a full compliment on stage is impossible and the restrictions still being enforced mean the audience would be reduced to a figure of around 25%.

Worth reading in full.

Template Letter to Object to Mandatory Face Coverings in Schools

The pressure group Them For Us, which has been tirelessly campaigning for schools to re-open, has created a template letter for parents who want to object to mandatory face coverings in schools when they re-open in September. I’m reporting it in full below.

Dear [Governor of School, copying Headteacher and relevant Local Authority]

I am writing in relation to the [newsletter] from school dated XX July 2020 (the “Newsletter”). In the Newsletter, you explained amongst other things that:

“[insert relevant rule requiring wearing of masks in school.]”

(the “policy”)

I and my child have strong objections to this policy. I do not consent to [name of child] wearing a face covering in school.

I must also stress that I understand there to be serious legal problems with your policy and that, if implemented, your policy would be potentially subject to legal redress including by way of proceedings in the Administrative Court.

Public Health England does not, based on current evidence, recommend the use of face coverings in schools and this is reflected in the recently issued guidance (which you are required as a matter of law to have regard to) from the Department for Education:

“They are not required in schools as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education.”

(the “Guidance”)

Your policy – the requirement for pupils to wear masks – is contrary to the Guidance, and could lead to the adverse educational outcomes referred to in that Guidance. Mandatory mask wearing is likely to have a disproportionate and damaging effect upon students. In particular, I am concerned about the effect face coverings have on:

* Breathing, especially if the mask is worn for long periods or during sport

* Restriction of interaction with peers compounding the existing mental health damage

* Limitations to learning and educational outcomes

* Increase in anxiety as a result of an alien environment and behaviour

In legal terms, the policy is accordingly at present irrational and disproportionate and therefore unlawful. You have failed to provide cogent and intelligible reasons as to why you consider that the school should depart from the Guidance.

In light of the serious welfare, health and learning, and legal issues at stake, you must reverse this policy immediately, and issue new school guidance to that effect. If you fail to do so, you are required to explain the policy in further detail, in writing, including providing me with a copy of all risk assessments you have undertaken in relation to such measure, and all supporting evidence by reference to contemporaneous internal documents.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and certainly within seven working days of receipt of this letter.

Yours,

Elusive Report Found

A reader has found the elusive report I blogged about yesterday and which shows more than 200,000 people dying as a result of the lockdown in a reasonable worst case scenario. It’s here. It was published last April, but received no attention until Sir Patrick Vallance mentioned it when testifying before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last Thursday. Makes for very interesting reading.

Number of People Testing Positive Dwindles to Almost Nothing

As the Government’s propaganda shifts from focusing on the daily death toll (approaching single digits) to new cases, a reader has looked at the number of people testing positive as a percentage of the total tested (see above). Turns out, the percentage of people testing positive is also rapidly approaching zero.

Bull Stat on the BBC

A reader flagged up a bit of idiocy in BBC News story:

There was an interesting Covid bull stat for you in aside on the BBC News story on govt pay increases today. They suggest that that more than 300 NHS workers have fallen to Covid 19. If we assume it’s 400, and there are 1.4m NHS employees, that is a fatality rate of 0.03% at this point, i.e. really very low given that presumably much of the NHS was at greater risk of exposure than the population as a whole, and fairly reliable given the decent amount of testing for health workers.

Chris Whitty Admits Virus in Retreat Before Lockdown

Chris Whitty appeared before the House of Commons Heath Committee yesterday and admitted that the lockdown may not have been necessary after all. According to the Times

The coronavirus epidemic was probably already in retreat before full lockdown was imposed, the Chief Medical Officer for England has said as he insisted there was no “huge delay” in government action.

Interestingly, he put a different spin on Sir Patrick Vallance’s testimony to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last Thursday, which was widely interpreted as Sir Patrick claiming Sage had advised the Government to lock down a week earlier than it did.

Last week Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said that Sage had advised on March 16 that more draconian measures were needed. Professor Whitty said today that Sir Patrick had not been referring to full legal lockdown but the advice on avoiding needless travel and socialising that Mr Johnson issued that day.

“Quite a lot changed that led to R going below one well before, or to some extent before, March 23”, when full lockdown was imposed, Professor Whitty said.

More Under-25 Year-Olds Died From Influenza in 16 Weeks in 2014/15 Than COVID-19 This Year

A comparison of deaths in 2020 up to July with deaths in England and Wales over a typical 16 week period in previous years

There’s a fascinating table on the website of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication (see above) comparing the data on different causes of death in 2020 up July 3rd with the data for a typical 16-week period in previous years. It shows, among other things, that more under-49 year-olds died of suicide and injury/poisonings in 2018 than Covid in 2020.

Round-Up

Here’s a 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 By Readers

Only one today: “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened:

A couple of months 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. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. 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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a spam magnet so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here.

Gone Fishin’

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. I’m on holiday in Italy until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing my usual amount of work on the site until I return. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m away: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.