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“Okay children, let’s all pretend to be kamikaze pilots as a homage to my political career.”

First the good news. All schools will re-open in full in September, the Government has declared. No, really. They will.

Now the bad news. They won’t. At least, not if all schools are expected to comply with the voluminous and entirely pointless guidance the Government has issued today. The BBC has a summary and we’re talking about a veritable forest of red tape. All entirely pointless, of course.

  • Grouping children together in groups or “bubbles”, one per class in primaries and one per year group in secondaries
  • Avoiding contact in school between these groups, with separate starting, finishing, lunch and break times
  • Attendance compulsory with the threat of penalty fines
  • Test and trace in place for schools
  • Regular cleaning of hands, but masks not expected for pupils or staff
  • Those with symptoms told to stay out of school
  • No big group events like school assemblies and arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
  • Separate groups on school buses and discouraging the use of public transport
  • Pupils will be expected to continue with all their GCSEs and A-levels
  • Emphasis on Maths and English in primaries and in Year 7 of secondaries

Readers of lockdown sceptics may not know this, but I co-founded four schools and have been a Chair of Governors, a Chair of a multi-academy trust and CEO of a multi-academy trust. So I know a thing or two about running schools. And believe me when I tell you that complying with some of these “safety measures” will be flat out impossible.

Take the guideline about lunch and break times. Staggered break times are notoriously difficult to manage, but staggered lunch times? Forget it. Suppose the school in question is a two-form entry primary. That means 14 different classes or “bubbles”. How on earth can you have 14 different lunch sittings over the course of an hour? Just managing it with two separate sittings is a logistical nightmare and often means lunch over-runs, thereby eating into the first period of the afternoon. But 14? Cloud cuckoo land. Even doing that over the entire school day would be a logistical nightmare. These guidelines, like so much that comes out of the Department for Education, have been written by a group of bureaucrats who have never set foot in a school and haven’t a clue about how to run one.

The teaching unions have already said the guidelines are going to be “enormously challenging” to implement, i.e. impossible. So “Down tools, comrades” as per usual. Or rather, “Don’t bother picking up your tools until you’re satisfied that your school is going to comply with every jot and tittle of this guidance, comrades.” Not much hope of headteachers getting behind them either – they’ve described them as “mind-boggling“.

Back to watching The Last Dance on Netflix for teachers, in other words.

And even if a school somehow manages to hack its way through this red tape, there’s the ridiculous rule that if two or more children test positive for the virus, the entire school will probably have to close! What a complete nonsense.

In the Telegraph, Angela Epstein asks, what is the point of Gavin Williamson? Incredibly, she manages to spend 1,000 words answering this question.

If I was the Education Secretary I’d scrap all the guidance and replace it with four words: Use your common sense.

Prague Throws End-of-Lockdown Party

Residents dine at a 500-metre-long table spanning across the length of the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague (David W Cerny/Reuters)

Inspiring story in today’s Independent about Prague.

Prague has celebrated a self-proclaimed end to its coronavirus epidemic – by throwing a massive party attended by thousands of people all sharing food and without any social distancing.

The Czech capital held the unorthodox gathering to say a “symbolic farewell” to the infection and to show residents should no longer be scared to meet with friends or visit local businesses.

A 500 metre table was set up on the famous Charles Bridge with people packed along it swapping snacks and drinks brought from home.

Dancing and singing were enjoyed as local musicians played in the open streets.

The event was held despite some 260 new COVID-19 cases being found in the country last week. Fears that such an event could become a super-spreader if just a few undiagnosed sufferers turned up were apparently dismissed.

I like that note of alarmism at the end. Two hundred and sixty news cases in a week out of a population of 10.7 million. Ooh, mother!

People of Leicester, I look forward to you following suit.

World At One – and Matthew Parris – Embraces Scepticism!

Matthew Parris: Born Again Lockdown Sceptic

It seems as if the sleeping broadcasters are finally waking up to the fact that the lockdown may – just may – have been a mistake.

Matthew Parris was interviewed on the World at One today and said he’s changed his mind and now thinks we should have stuck with herd immunity.

Matthew Parris: I think the herd immunity idea was right, right from the start and I think in the end the whole world is going to develop some kind of immunity from this and it won’t mean some people won’t still get it but its not going to rage through the population as it has been doing.

Sarah Montague: So ultimately do you think we’ll look at Sweden with envy?

MP: I think it’s going to be a very long time before anybody admits that they were wrong and I suppose I should include people like me in that analysis. But I think the Swedes who stuck to the course on which we started out and then lost our nerve will turn out to have done at least no more harm to their population than the Norwegians or the Danes have.

That was refreshing enough, but the Parris interview was immediately followed by one with Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford and longstanding lockdown sceptic. He was even better!

Carl Heneghan: The death rates as they currently stand have diminished. This is a radically different disease than what it was a few months ago. About six per cent of all people in hospital were dying then. Now it’s down to about one per cent. So the key about lockdown is that it’s a very blunt tool and it should be used for one reason and one reason only because the health system is becoming overwhelmed. What we see in Leicester is an increase in the number of people coming forward for testing and a small increase of the number of people with Covid. I would say right now it’s a very blunt tool and a mistake for us to be locking down in Leicester. It’s a perfect opportunity to let the test-and-trace system start working and in fact we’ve seen a 30% reduction in cases in the last week already so it is having an effect.

The next interviewee was with Allyson Pollock, former Director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle. She too was a sceptic!

Last up was Professor Julien Legrande – also sceptical.

Julian Le Grand: You have to be careful about applying the precautionary principle. Epidemiologists tend to operate very much on the precautionary principle, which basically says, “Look if you’ve got no data, no information, if you’ve got a dreadful risk of some calamity, better to be safe than sorry.” Which makes a great deal of sense at the first stages, but of course what it doesn’t take account of are the costs involved and what you do when you’ve got a little more data. We’re now in a situation where actually we do have a little more data. Your previous speakers have been talking about the Leicester situation. Well, we do now know that infection rate in Leicester is incredibly low it has to be said. It’s something like 140 out of 100,000 which is 0.14%. I mean this is a tiny risk and I, in agreement with your previous speakers, think it’s certainly not worth the costs involved in locking down the entire city.

Le Grand went on to say the fatality risk for under-45s was “virtually zero”.

You can listen to the entire parade of sceptics from the 20 minute mark here.

What a pleasant change.

The Ethics of Lockdown

Good post in Hector Drummond Magazine on the ethics of lockdown by Tim James. Here’s a taster:

Deaths from COVID-19 are deaths from natural causes, wherever you believe the virus originated. The Government does not have a responsibility to prevent these at any cost, despite their repeated pledges to do “whatever it takes” to beat the virus.

Conversely, deaths resulting from the lockdown will be deaths resulting from reckless human intervention. Those deaths are their moral responsibility. The Government has no moral authority to sacrifice the lives of those at little or no risk in the uncertain hope of saving the lives of those who are.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Comedy

What’s the difference between COVID-19 and Romeo and Juliet? One’s a coronavirus and the other is a Verona crisis.

Getting Away From It All

I got an email from a reader who has escaped Britain for Switzerland and is relieved to somewhere comparatively sane.

Having got thoroughly fed up with the ongoing government insanity, my wife and I decided last week to escape Stalagluft UK and booked up flights to Switzerland. We managed to get some travel insurance despite the blanket FCO “advice” and are spending a couple of days in Geneva. Then we are moving on to the German speaking area in the Bernese Oberland and then Berne itself. While Terminal 5 and the BA flight this morning gave us our first experience of having to wear masks for hours, Geneva is a revelation. The hotel has taken away the mini bar, but otherwise it all feels blissfully normal. The streets are full of shoppers, the bars and restaurants are full and relaxed. Friends greet each other in the streets with hugs and kisses. Hard to imagine anything similar at home. It feels surreally different from the UK – the thought of 10 days away from Matt Hancock and the rest of the gang is more relaxing than an all-inclusive spa break.

Sounds quite tempting. However, I think Mrs Young has settled on the Dolemites. Just a bit nervy about the EasyJet flights being cancelled 24 hours beforehand…

Great Quote

A reader has pointed out that I included a great quote from Richard Klein in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. That book, about my misadventures in New York, was published in 2001 (and made into a film in 2008). But this quote could not be more relevant.

We are in the midst of one of those periodic moments of repression, when the culture, descended from Puritans, imposes its hysterical visions and enforces its guilty constraints on society, legislating moral judgements under the guise of public health, all the while enlarging the power of surveillance and the reach of censorship to achieve a general restriction of freedom.

Richard Klein

Round-Up

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

Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers

Two suggestions today: “Stay Free” by The Clash and “Mad World” by Tears for Fears.

Small Businesses That Have Re-opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, along with everything else, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And if you’d like to join the Free Speech Union, please click here. I’ve talked about the tsunami of censorship we’re facing in my Spectator column today.

And Finally…

In my monthly column for Spectator USA, I’ve documented some of the people who’ve been cancelled in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Never in the field of human conflict has so much misery been caused to so many by so few.

I’m thinking of the hard-left rage mobs that have been policing the public square since the beginning of June — quite literally in the case of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle. I’ve been keeping a list of all the people who have suffered catastrophic career damage because they’ve fallen foul of the Red Guards — and it’s growing ‘exponentially’, as a virologist might say. Like the COVID illness at its peak, it has been doubling every two to three days.

Some of the victims have been people you’d expect to lose their heads in this cultural revolution. Nigel Farage, for instance, the former leader of the Brexit party, who lost his job as a radio presenter in London within 48 hours of comparing statue-destroying protesters to the Taliban.

Others have been canceled, not for anything they’ve said, but because those close to them have breached a taboo — like the LA Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai, who was ‘released’ by the club after his wife captioned a photo on Instagram of a looter carrying boxes out of a shoe store with the words ‘Black Nikes Matter’.

But by far the largest group of victims have been white liberals in their forties or fifties who have made the mistake of genuflecting to the BLM protesters. They’ve issued pro forma statements of solidarity that have been judged insufficiently pious by their more enlightened peers. They took a knee, as it were, when what they should have done was throw themselves to the ground and beg for forgiveness.

And if you want a longer list, there’s always the one I’ve been compiling for the Free Speech Union’s Twitter feed. Now up to 50…

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