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Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30 billion mini-budget on Wednesday to supposedly kickstart the economic recovery.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of his initiatives was a scheme designed to get people eating out again – “eat out to help out”. Participating restaurants will be able to offer half price meals every Monday to Wednesday throughout August, and be reimbursed by the Government within five working days. Although before you get your hopes up, there’s a cap of £10 on the amount you can be reimbursed for.

Not sure it’ll do much to halt the devastation unleashed in the hospitality sector by the lockdown. Even Burger King has announced closures and redundancies.

Stop Press: If you put on even more pounds as a result of Rishi’s meal deals, you can at least now go to the gym.

Couples Told to Wear Face Masks During Sex

Love is in the air – but so is something else!

According to the New York Post, a new study out of Harvard recommends couples should mask-up before having sex – and not for kinky pleasure.

Safe sex during the coronavirus pandemic might soon require protection beyond just the nether regions.

A new study from researchers at Harvard University says that hooking up carries some risk for transmitting COVID-19 from one partner to the other and recommends — among other practices — wearing a face mask while doin’ it.

The research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ranked frisky situations based on how likely it is to catch coronavirus while in the act. Researchers recommend wearing a mask for the riskiest sexual scenario: sex with people other than those with whom one is quarantined.

Meanwhile, American DJ Dan Bongino reacts to mandatory mask wearing in Martin County, Florida by saying: “You can take your mask mandate and shove it right up your ass.”

Is that after or before the mask-wearing sex?

Government Spent £10 Billion on Bungled Track-and-Trace Scheme

“Check out my new phone. Only cost £10 billion.”

Blimey! Wondering where all that Government money has gone? Now we know.

Documents released on Tuesday revealed that the Treasury has spent an extra £48.5 billion on public services since the coronavirus outbreak. Of this, £31.9 billion went to the NHS – including the £15 billion for PPE and £10 billion on Matt Hancock’s failed track-and-trace scheme.

The Mail has the story:

Ministers spent an astonishing £10 billion on the bungled test and trace programme as part of an extra £48 billion of spending on public services during the coronavirus crisis, it has emerged.

The programme was championed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock when introduced at the end of May but, as of last week, it is still failing to track a quarter of patients who test positive for the illness.

Scientists have warned contact tracing programmes need to catch at least 80 per cent of infections to ensure the spread of the virus is contained.

Earlier this week, Baroness Dido Harding, who is charge of the programme, admitted it is still is not hitting Government targets – but claimed it is ‘not far away’.

She said more work needs to be done to build up public confidence in the tracing system and the expected app, because neither will work without people’s co-operation. She said people’s trust must be earned rather than expected.

Every time you think the Government couldn’t have bungled its handling of this crisis more badly, there’s another shocking revelation. This one will be hard to top though.

Bad Luck Zealots: Sweden is Virtually Covid Free

These three graphs tell a story lockdown zealots don’t want to hear: Covid has all but disappeared in Sweden.

Covid Catch-22

John Waters, the Simon Dolan of Ireland, has written a great piece for Lockdown Sceptics about the difficulty he and Simon have faced in challenging the constitutionality of the suspension of our liberties. In both cases, the judge shot them down on the grounds that there was nothing disproportionate about the laws and regulations introduced to minimise the loss of life likely to be caused by the virus because, at the time, the Government didn’t know how virulent and deadly COVID-19 was. In other words, so long as a government is able to show that there is some possibility, however slight, that its draconian restrictions will save lives, they there is nothing unconstitutional about suspending our liberties.

Since before the present Irish Constitution was framed in 1937, and right up to a Supreme Court ruling as recently as 2011, the courts were adamant that an emergency, with or without a capital E, could only be declared in the circumstances set out in Article 28 of that Constitution. The lockdown legislation therefore created all kinds of new precedents, which, if left to lie, would in effect allow the Constitution of Ireland to be suspended for almost any kind of crisis, thereby transforming said Constitution from a Bill of Rights to a Charter for Occasional Totalitarianism. As far as I know, Japan is the only place where fundamental constitutional rights have prevailed in the face of COVID-19-related attacks, though Sweden’s robust constitutional principles, too, may have contributed to the more relaxed approach to managing the virus there.

Depressing, but worth reading in full.

Passport Misery

I haven’t been able to renew my 15 year-old son’s passport, so have had to arrange for him to stay with a friend while the Young family heads off to the Dolomites next week. Before you think “what a bastard!” I should point out that he’s extracted a heavy price for allowing us to go – a brand new desktop computer. He’s as happy as Larry. Thank you HM Passport Office.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère has had a hard time trying to get a passport for his grandson.

My grandson was born in Hanoi in December. My son and his wife are both British-born citizens and are employed by the British Council. In Vietnam such a baby is classified as a foreigner and is not entitled to Vietnamese citizenship by birth. Nor do his parents want that. In January they applied for the British passport to which he is entitled. The cumbersome process has to be conducted through the Visa Application Centre in Hanoi to which the UK Passport Office has subcontracted the administration of such applications in cities abroad.

The piles of supporting documents, including my grandson’s vital birth certificate, were all gathered up and sent by courier to the UK. Once those were scrutinized an online interview was booked for late March which my son would have had to attend in Hanoi in order to speak to a passport officer in the UK. This was the process he went through for his daughter two years previously.

Guess what? The interview was cancelled along with all other such interviews. Here we are now more than three months later and although the Visa Application Centre has re-opened in Hanoi these interviews have still not been reinstated (as they have not for applicants in the UK). It has taken my son weeks and weeks to get hold of a passport officer in the UK on the phone in order to find a way to get the documents returned. By law in Vietnam they are not supposed to travel anywhere with the baby without those documents – or a passport! With any luck those might turn up in a few weeks now. But of the passport – apparently for the moment: no chance.

I used a Twitter account to send a direct message on his account to the Passport Office. It took over a week to reply and added nothing.

The result is that my grandson who is entitled by right of his parents to UK citizenship is presently stateless. The Passport Office’s failure to use any common sense at least to instigate the return of documents that have been checked have placed him and his parents in a precarious position.

How many other children born abroad to UK citizen parents in the last seven months are in the same situation? There must be older children whose applications were also only made in the first quarter of this year who are similarly rendered stateless.

It hardly needs adding that of course the Passport Office is in possession of the application fees paid. Yet another example of the countless services that have been suspended since the crisis broke, leaving clients effectively robbed of the money on the nebulous promise that things will return to normal at some unspecified point in the future.

Here’s the real and truly idiotic irony. At no point in the process would it ever have been necessary for my son to be in the same room as a UK passport officer. Since Vietnam is entirely back to normal, and has been for several weeks, all he needed to do was to attend the Hanoi Centre and be shown into a room with a computer.

What’s going on? The answer seems to be a shortage of UK Passport Office staff who have been hived off to deal with matters like universal credit applications. Perhaps that’s more important, but I find the sheer stupidity and negligence of holding on to vital personal documents indefinitely almost unbelievable. It’s a whole new facet of the mounting backlog of administration and frustrated impotent anxiety this ludicrous self-inflicted crisis is generating.

And it’s not just Guy and me, obviously. Check out the comments in this forum – it’s an unending stream of passport misery.

Stop Press: Guy has been back in touch with some good news – sort of.

Incredibly, my son reports to me to today that HM Passport Office is now accepting new applications through the Hanoi Visa Application Centre, despite the unfulfilled existing pile of applications which must be the size of a small mountain and which they have no current plans to deal with.

Hugo Rifkind’s Bedwetting Column

Hugo Rifkind reacts to a member of the public breaking the two-metre rule

Times “humourist” Hugo Rifkind has made a strong bid for the Bedwettter-of-the-week award in his latest column entitled “In your face rulebreakers are out of control”. Here’s a taster:

Looking at those pictures of the Soho crowds, however nationally atypical they may have been, I found myself wondering how it happens. Is it like the wisdom of crowds, but the opposite? As in, is there a threshold of non-observance you need to reach before everybody else just thinks, “ah, screw it, why be different, I’ll have another drink and worry about potentially killing hundreds of people including my own grandmother tomorrow”?

We are all free to risk our own health by overdrinking or overeating or overscubadiving, or whatever, but responsible behaviour in a pandemic is not just about us. It speaks to a sort of social responsibility that is, or at least should be, literally step one in civilised behaviour.

Thankfully, there are some sceptics in the comments below Hugo’s piece:

The bottom line Hugo is that most people now know that Covid doesn’t threaten them. They’re not that worried if they get it. And they’re right to think that because the truth (that the Government doesn’t like to publicise) is that your chances of dying from Covid or even being seriously ill from it are minuscule unless you are in a very small subset of the population that is vulnerable. And it’s that dawning realisation that coronavirus isn’t Ebola or Smallpox or Bubonic Plague, combined with an increasing suspicion that the authorities have both overreacted and been incompetent, that leads to a little rebellion, an urge to regain control of your own decisions and risk assessment. And my guess is that the more the busybodies exhort people to wear a mask or keep you distance or keep working from home, the more likely it is they won’t.

I like the word “busybodies”. Hugo is a bit of a busybody.

At the end of his column, Hugo says the public’s failure to comply with every jot and tittle of the advice of finger-wagging scolds like him has left him worried that they may not comply when it comes to the advice of other metropolitan busybodies concerning things like global warming.

Covid is a unique crisis but it is also the template for every crisis, from tax avoidance, to funding health and social care, to the big looming horror of environmental collapse. Over and again, I read that this crisis was a dress rehearsal and a test, and that humanity was on a learning curve. We are all each other, all intertwined, all responsible for attuning our own behaviour for the greater good. What a shame, though, that we keep forgetting.

Not sure that’s quite the “shame” you think it is Hugo.

Fancy a Beer? Go to Marston’s

Top tip from a reader in Upminster about his experience at his local, a Marston’s pub.

I arrived at the pub at 11am to find that it was opening an hour later at midday. As a result, I walked to a pub a fair distance away – The Huntsman – which had a large banner up saying “WE ARE OPEN”. They lied – they weren’t.

I walked back and as it was 11.40am had to do something I’d never done before in my life and bought a can of beer in a shop and sat in the park across from the pub until I could get a beer.

When the pub opened up the awful experience that I was expecting never occurred. Sharon the pub manager and all the staff were unmasked, unafraid and had the pub running with the common sense lacking in most parts of this country at the moment.

Apart from a few tables being removed from the centre of the pub and a couple of arrows on the floor, you got your beer at the bar.

The people serving were friendly not jobsworths and they were having conversations with the customers that had been put on hold for three months for no good reason other than state-induced fear and global mass hysteria.

I would say to any pub man or woman who doesn’t wish to be treated like a leper while having a beer, find your nearest Marston’s. Stuff the abnormal New Normal and enjoy a beer in a real pub atmosphere. And they haven’t put the price up!

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:

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. 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. 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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

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, 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 Finally…

In my Spectator column this week I’ve asked whether the curriculum in English schools really needs “decolonising”. Here’s an extract:

Listening to the politicians and activists urging schools to “decolonise the curriculum”, you’d think children were being taught about the “white man’s burden” and re-enacting Gordon of Khartoum’s defence of Sudan in the playground. Even in the Tom Brown’s School Days era, I doubt the curriculum was ever as pro-Empire as these people would have us believe. At the last general election, 85 per cent of teachers voted for left-of-centre parties. Do the Black Lives Matter protestors really think these hand-wringing liberals are getting children to measure skulls in biology classes?

You think I’m exaggerating? A whistleblower sent me a memo on “decolonising the curriculum” that had been distributed to all the teachers at a secondary school in Haringey. The headteacher asked them to ensure that “the curriculum diet offered our students in terms of anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-prejudice, is broad, thorough, comprehensive across year groups, faculty areas and times of the year”. And woe betide any member of staff who challenges the idea that schools are perpetuating a system of white supremacy. A teacher at an academy in south-east London has got in touch with the Free Speech Union because he’s being put through a ‘disciplinary’ after writing a blog post criticising the violence of some of the BLM protestors.

Worth reading in full, obviously.