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Northern Lockdown Triggered by 14 Extra Cases. Or is it Five?

Matt Hancock receives the news from Chis Whitty: “14 extra cases you say? Right, let’s lock up four-and-a-half million people.”

Was the “surge” in cases in the North West that prompted the Government to impose a local lockdown on more than four million people due to 14 additional people testing positive? It certainly looks that way.

The ONS infection survey data showing that the number of infected people had risen from 0.05% of the population to 0.07% (still below the level of an epidemic), was based on just 59 people testing positive out of 116,026 swab tests over a six-week period. In the previous period, 45 people tested positive out of 114,674, which means the tipping point for a northern lockdown may have rested on only 14 extra positive tests. That’s well within the confidence interval so it’s perfectly possible that there’s been no increase at all and next week the numbers will fall.

If you compare the most recent week’s ONS data it shows 24 people testing positive out of 28,325, compared to 19 out of 31,542 the previous week. So a total increase of five.

Is this “the data” Matt Hancock referred to in his Twitter thread on Friday night when he announced the new restrictions?

No wonder some Tory MPs in “red wall” seats were furious when they heard the news. The Telegraph has more.

“They were furious. They were calling it an outrage. One of them was all over the place, screaming his head off,” said a Labour MP who witnessed the row unfold. “These are Tories who think Boris Johnson can do no wrong, and you could see the scales falling from their eyes.”

Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee and the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, said: “These new restrictions have been introduced over a large area, even though there are massive variations in infection rates. It is unfortunate that these restrictions were introduced so quickly and without consultation.”

Another senior Tory, with an affected northern seat, said: “I just think there remains a default position of extreme caution which jars with the reality that we may have to live with Covid for a very long time and we have to get on with life.”

To Open Schools We’ll Have to Close Pubs – Government Scientist

Peter Brookes’s cartoon in today’s Times

What fresh hell is this? In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Professor Graham Medley, a member of SAGE, said England would have to consider closing pubs in order to reopen schools next month. The Telegraph has more.

When asked about the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty’s prediction that the country was “near the limits” of opening up society and “difficult trade-offs” will have to be made, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that’s quite possible.

“I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

“And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

“It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?”

But in the same Radio 4 interview, Professor Medley also said that the rise in infections in the past few weeks had mainly been among younger people.

“The age distribution of infections has changed, it has moved down into younger age groups and so it is likely we won’t see that increase in hospital admissions related to infection in the same way we did in March.”

In other words, the rise in infections – if indeed it’s happing at all – is nothing to worry about since young people are no more likely to die of COVID-19 than they are of seasonal flu. So, er, why do we have to close pubs if we want to re-open schools?

A reader has passed on a comment from a relative that may throw some light on why members of SAGE are prone to giving these alarmist, grand-standing interviews.

A close relative, a retired consultant surgeon, says that he knew several government health advisers during his career and that, with one exception, they were all “barking mad”. He also reckoned, from his experience, that members of government advisory committees like SAGE like to ramp up the bad news to maintain their own importance and because they thrived on publicity.

Meanwhile, Them For Us, the lobby group campaigning for schools to re-open, has helped organise a letter in the Telegraph signed by a coalition of academics and business leaders saying that schools should be classified alongside nuclear power plants to prevent them from being closed in a local lockdown. The Telegraph has more.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the group argued that deeming schools as “critical national infrastructure” would help prevent them from being “unnecessarily” shut down where there is a regional rise in coronavirus cases.

“Widespread school lockdowns are an inappropriate response to local outbreaks and for the sake of our children and the broader economy, we ask that you now commit to keep schools open,” the letter said.

“Where a significant outbreak takes place within a school the only school to be the subject of a closure should be the one affected by the outbreak.”

No “Second Wave” in Sweden

Cases are continuing to fall in Sweden and Andres Tegnell, the country’s top epidemiologist, says Sweden has no intention of making face masks mandatory. The Sun has more.

Speaking to reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday, Tegnell said: “The curves go down, and the curves over the seriously ill begin to be very close to zero.

“As a whole, it is very positive.”

He also addressed the question of face masks, which the World Health Organisation continues to recommend people use when social distancing isn’t practicable.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” he said.

Meanwhile, Raj Bhopal, emeritus Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, says it’s time to reconsider herd immunity as the only long-term solution to COVID-19. The Telegraph has more.

In a new article published in the journal Public Health in Practice, he argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has put ministers in a “zugwang” which is a position in chess where every move is disadvantageous and where every plan must be examined “however unpalatable” it might be.

Herd immunity is when enough people become resistant to a disease – through vaccination or previous exposure – that it can no longer significantly spread among the rest of the population.

With no vaccine available for COVID-19, herd immunity relies on enough people in the population becoming infected to lessen the impact of the disease.

Prof Bhopal argues that even if a vaccine is found it may not work well for older people and those with underlying health conditions.

The side-effects from a vaccine might also be worse for children and young people’s health than catching coronavirus in the first place.

“Herd immunity provokes hostility and controversy as it is usually interpreted as allowing the pandemic to unfold without interventions. The concept needs revisiting,” his paper says.

“If safe and effective vaccines and life-saving preventative and therapeutic medications are not found, lengthy lockdowns prove impossible, and the pandemic does not disappear spontaneously, population immunity is the only, long-term solution.”

Financial Analyst Concludes Lockdown Pointless

Greed is good. The lockdown? Not so much.

My financial journalist friend who has made many anonymous contributions to Lockdown Sceptics has flagged up the latest analysis by James Ferguson of MacroStrategy Partnership. Unfortunately, it’s not online, but here is the executive summary:

What have we done?

The UK has effectively monetised its entire Covid-19 fiscal response budget, with HMG Treasury gilt issuance almost exactly equalling the Bank of England’s (BoE) gilt purchases, with the June decision to add a further £100bn of QE to the £210bn already decided on in March signalling to the government that their relief budget to date will total 14% of GDP. The OECD expects the impact on 2020 UK GDP to be -11% (-14% if there’s a second wave) and government debt has soared to 115% of GDP.

One of the reasons for such an aggressive stance was the £14bn/month cost of the furlough (up to 80% of salary for 9.5m workers) but another was the need to protect the banks from excessive defaults. However, UK banks are in far better shape than they were on the eve of the GFC. They have more capital, more of it is loss-absorbing and with far fewer assets to buffer against.

Nevertheless, the negative consequences of the ill- informed decision to lock down have been huge and some might even prove permanent. What a shame therefore, that now the first wave has passed, we can see that the loss of life was no worse than the 2017-18 flu season and that the course of the disease appears no better than in Sweden, which has carried on near normal (the OECD expects 2020 GDP -6.7%).

Conclusion: the UK lockdown, with all its attendant miseries, appears to have been completely unnecessary.

Hospital Deaths in England Fall to Almost Zero

To hear Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson talk, you’d think the NHS is on the point of being completely overwhelmed, so great is the “surge” in cases in the North West. In fact, on four of the past seven days, NHS England has reported zero deaths occurring in English hospitals in the previous 24 hour period. The days were:

  • July 25th for the period 4pm July 23rd to 4pm July 24th
  • July 27th for the period 4pm July 25th to 4pm July 26th
  • July 28th for the period 4pm July 26th to 4pm July 27th
  • July 30th for the period 4pm July 28th to 4pm July 29th

Of course, NHS England revised these figures as more time elapsed, shoehorning in deaths that had occurred weeks earlier and adding them to the daily totals. But the number of deaths reported by English hospitals in the previous 24 hour period is still a valid metric. During the previous week, there were three days in which NHS England reported zero deaths in the last 24 hours, so it’s falling.

Birds Bakery Disgraces Itself Again

A missing apostrophe is the least of Birds Bakery’s sins

Birds Bakery is in the news again – and not in a good way. Two days ago I flagged up the story of a worker at the branch in Arnold who had refused to serve a 94 year-old woman because she only had cash. Now, the manager of the branch in Radcliffe-on-Trent has been sacked because she accepted cash payments. The BBC has the story.

A bakery manager who paid for customers’ purchases with her own card so they could use cash has been sacked.

Megan Metcalfe, 60, said she did it to help elderly shoppers at Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, where she has worked for four decades.

She said she took about 45 payments totalling £183, but accepting cash was against the bakery’s coronavirus policies.

Her former employer said this was why, “with regret”, they had to fire her.

It’s a tragedy when any business goes bankrupt as a result of the lockdown. But Birds Bakery seems so hellbent on alienating its customers that perhaps it would be cruel not to grant the company its death wish.

Round-Up

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.

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…

I interviewed Rob Henderson for the Quillette podcast on Friday. Rob is a graduate of Yale and a PhD student at Cambridge who’s written some great pieces for Quillette, including “Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update“. In the interview, we discuss why it is that upper middle class white professionals have embraced the woke agenda with such enthusiasm.

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