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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- ‘Boris Johnson orders civil servants to return to their desks by the end of next week‘ – Does this mean they’ll be returning to their normal four-day week, starting at 10am and clocking off at 3.30pm with a 90-minute break for lunch?
- ‘Teenager is subjected to tirade of verbal abuse after she briefly lifts her face covering on a train – so her deaf blind sister could read her lips‘ – What has become of us?
- ‘The Four Quadrants of Conformism‘ – Brilliant analysis by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Graham of how the aggressively conformist gang up on the independent-minded. Throws a good deal of light on why lockdown sceptics are treated with such belligerent contempt by zealots
- ‘Boris Johnson’s absurd nanny state crusade‘ – Christoher Snowdon in the Spectator warns of a raft of new anti-obesity measures the Government is intending to introduce on Monday, including a ban on advertising sugary, salty and fatty food on television before 9pm. Why not just eat a bit less Boris?
- ‘The problem with mandatory face masks‘ – Good piece in the Spectator by Alexander Pelling-Bruce
- ‘Coronavirus crisis could spark huge waves of migrants and refugees, Red Cross says‘ – Another unintended consequence of the lockdowns
- ‘Thousands of holiday plans ruined by birth register delays‘ – Story in the Times about delays in issuing birth certificates causing travel chaos due to passport delays. Remember folks, you read it here first
- ‘The Fact-Free Lockdown Hysteria‘ – Great talk by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. for the Mises Institute
- ‘If France’s cinemas are packed, why are Britain’s empty?‘ – Robbie Collin, the Telegraph‘s film critic, poses a good question
- ‘The Models Were Wildly Wrong about Reopening Too‘ – Good post on the American Institute for Economic Research’s website
- ‘Official exemption card for face masks rolled out to stop abuse‘ – The Government has started issuing mask exemption lanyards according to the Sun. Get ’em while stocks last folks
Just one today: “New Rules” by Dia Lupa.
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.
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.
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.
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.