The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed this morning what we already knew: the UK economy suffered its largest contraction in Q2 since records began. (Caveat: the ONS only started keeping records in 1955.) GDP shrank by a whopping 20.4% and, since it’s the second quarter of negative growth in succession, that means the economy is officially in recession. Overall, the British economy has shrunk by 22% since the beginning of the year, reducing output back to the level it was in 2003.
The Government will blame the virus, of course, but that excuse only goes so far because the UK has suffered the worst recession in the G7. GDP shrank by 13.8% in France, 12.4% in Italy, 12% in Canada, 10.1% in Germany, 9.5% in the US and is forecast to shrink by 7.6% in Japan. Lockdown zealots will claim our economic woes have been exacerbated by Boris’s failure to place the country under virtual house arrest even earlier, but one of those countries – Japan, which has fared the best in the G7 if the forecast is accurate – never imposed a full lockdown and Sweden’s economy performed better than most in Europe, only shrinking by 8.6% in Q2.
The truth is that if Boris had stuck to his guns and not imposed a full lockdown Britain’s Covid death toll would be no higher, the collateral death toll would be lower and the economy would be in better shape.
One explanation for why Britain has fared the worst in the G7 is that our Government has been so chaotic, destroying what the economist Paul Krugman calls the “confidence fairy”. First we were going to “take in on the chin”, then we weren’t. Testing was scaled back because it was unreliable, then it was scaled back up because it was our best hope of containing new outbreaks. Masks outside healthcare setting weren’t recommended, then they were. Schools would re-open before the summer holidays, then they wouldn’t. The lockdown is over, unless you live in Leicester, Manchester, Bradford, Preston, etc., in which case it isn’t. You can go on holiday to Spain without having to quarantine on your return – oh no you can’t. But Portugal’s off the list, right? Maybe not. France? Who knows.
In his latest essay for Lockdown Sceptics, longstanding contributor Guy de la Bédoyère asks the six million dollar question. Is there any method in the Government’s madness – some diabolical plot orchestrated by Dominic Cummings – or is it just one cock-up after another?
There are plenty of people who think this Government, indeed almost any government, is hell-bent on a systematic plan to destroy individual liberty, force people to be vaccinated, inject them with chips, monitor social media accounts, use algorithms as a mechanism of control and to do it all with the cynical efficiency of a Bond villain.
Others think governments are exercises in accidental chaos, masked by spin, staggering from one crisis to another, fuelled by individual self-interest, opportunism and chronic disorganization.
I’m firmly in the latter camp, but Guy is more ambivalent. This is one of his best essays yet and worth reading in full.
I got a message from a musician who spent some time in mainland Europe recently. Not as awful as she was expecting.
I just read the Postcard from Belgium you published a few days ago. I was in Belgium from July 30th – August 1st, as a musician performing at an event in Brussels. When I arrived – off a train from the airport – I was dismayed to find people wearing masks even in the streets, and signs saying that masks were mandatory outdoors. I thought Belgium had gone mask-mad. However, this impression soon dissipated. We went to rehearse at a studio – no masks in sight. Then at the outdoor event the next day, despite the sign saying masks were mandatory, the organisers were scathing about the public wearing masks and told us we only had to wear them when the audience arrived so we didn’t appear to be breaking the law. Even then, audience members were only required to wear them when moving around and not when at their seats (which were spaced out somewhat but people were free to join each other at different tables). After the gig, another musician was telling me about how lockdown scepticism was growing in Belgium and the Netherlands and starting to get organised, though he emphasised it was still a minority of people.
Next we drove to Zurich, rehearsed, and went to a cafe – only the staff wore masks. Then to a gig in France. Despite a new law being locally introduced that masks are compulsory even on the streets, very few people are following this, though everyone is wearing them in shops, and staff in cafes and kitchens wear them. People are concerned about the virus – they are not “corona deniers” – but they are just using common sense.
I’m from Scotland and was talking to people from Catalonia where the rules are also strict. They, like me, were thrilled to be part of an event where people can mingle freely, play music together, even sit next to each other to eat. I was very worried about travelling in this current super-safety-fear climate but actually it’s been like a coronavirus holiday. I’ve been given handshakes, hugs, even a kiss on the cheek, Belgian-style. I don’t mention this too much to people back home because they tend to react with horror but for me this trip has been a massive relief. The countries of the UK might still be quite fear-ridden (though there have always been the pragmatic folk throughout) but mainland Europe feels like a sensible place. People haven’t forgotten their humanity and want to live what I call the ‘true normal’ not the ‘new normal’.
If only I didn’t have to come home…
The anti-lockdown movement is gathering momentum. According to the Mail, anti-mask protests are planned for this weekend in London, Liverpool and Hull. And yesterday, a group calling itself StandUp X invaded a Morrison’s in London and told shoppers to remove their masks.
Worryingly for the Government trying to promote the wearing of masks, the protest group’s public Facebook page shows it is converting other people to its views and cause.
One mother called Gemma Munro told them: “I really want to thank this group for giving me the strength and courage to stop wearing that stupid mask!”
StandUp X is not just opposed to masks. It’s also against vaccinations and 5G masts, which will make some lockdown sceptics understandably wary.
Can’t this movement find a better leader than Piers Corbyn?
A reader in Brazil – a Canadian married to a Brazilian – has written a corking postcard from the South American country. It’s not the usual griping about how an irresponsible populist leader has ignored the advice of his own scientists and let the virus cut a swathe through the favelas. On the contrary, he thinks Bolsonaro has got it broadly right. He points out that Brazil’s per capita death toll is lower than it is in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, the UK, Sweden, and the United States.
Despite high national case numbers, Brazilian cities that were struck hard early on have now seen new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fall off a cliff around the 20% infected mark, just like clockwork. Of course, we all know that herd immunity cannot be reached and would result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold suffering blah blah blah. So what explains these drops? Will we hear the English language media discussing this? Will pigs fly?
With the numbers now falling in my state as well, I shake my head daily at the bizarro world pronouncements of the state Governor proclaiming that beaches and hiking trails, to which people have been flocking for months, are now open. Restaurants are now allowed to operate until 6pm, despite the swanky spot down the block having been open until 2am every night since the beginning of the pandemic, pumping loud music. I suspect bribery.
This is one of the best postcards we’ve published so far. Well worth reading in full.
Yesterday, I published a series of graphs showing that re-opening schools in most parts of the world hadn’t caused a rise in cases – with one exception, Israel. Indeed, the apparent link between the decision to re-open schools in Israel and the subsequent rise in cases is one of the most common arguments against re-opening schools in full in England next month.
However, a reader has pointed out that this is a case of correlation not causation.
I would like to comment regarding the graph showing an increase in cases for Israel after school re-opening.
The point is that the event (i.e. schools re-opened) is as relevant as “Full Moon”.
Israel became an anarchy in the sense that the Orthodox population disregard and disobey the guidelines set for social distancing and mask-wearing.
The result is that a huge portion (over 50%) of the cases are in this group, with an order of magnitude lower rates elsewhere.
However, due to the political situation (PM on trial), the law enforcement authorities do nothing at all.
It would be a mistake to link the cases to “schools re-opened”.
- ‘Stricken Intu’s Trafford Centre shops for £1.3bn buyer‘ – Sky News reports that the Trafford Centre, Britain’s fourth-biggest shopping centre, is up for sale
- ‘Why schools must open in September‘ – Clare Wagner, head teacher of the West London Free School, says the effect of not re-opening schools in September will be catastrophic
- ‘Terrified teacher writes her own obituary saying it’s too soon for schools to re-open‘ – For a contrasting view…
- ‘Summer flu is now more deadly than Covid‘ – Ross Clark in the Spectator points out that more people have been dying of flu than COVID-19 since the middle of June
- ‘No, Europe isn’t being engulfed by a deadly second wave‘ – And here’s Ross Clark in the Telegraph with another great piece
- ‘The Health Passport — A Green Light for Tyranny?‘ – Insider’s account of the proposed new health passport
- ‘Russia Registers World’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Despite Safety Concerns‘ – Something tells me Brits won’t be queuing up to take this
- ‘After Chicago Looting and Coronavirus, Businesses Consider Closing Shop‘ – Black Lives Matter, but the lives of shopkeepers don’t, apparently
- ‘Dan the Dictator locks six million Australians in his pandemic prison‘ – Excellent polemic by Eleni Arapoglou in the Conservative Woman against Kim-Jong Dan, the tyrant of Victoria
- ‘Beauty therapists being forced to work illegally while waiting for the government’s green light‘ – Eye-opening piece in the Telegraph about an unlikely group of lawbreakers
- ‘How The Pandemic Revealed Britain’s National Illness‘ – Well-reported piece by Tom McTague for the Atlantic. Gets quite a lot right, but hampered by uncritically embracing the idea that Boris should have locked down earlier
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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.
We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. Indeed, I’ve written about it for the Daily Express today. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.
Meanwhile, if you want to get a sense of what it would be like to embark on a relationship with a bedwetter, the Terrence Higgins Trust has issued some “safe sex” advice for people worried about catching the virus. You should wash your hands before and after each sexual encounter, avoid kissing and wear a face mask during intercourse. I’m not making that up. The Telegraph & Argus has the story.
I’ve created a 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 25th to Oct 5th). 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 “exempt” card that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy here.
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 (now over 28,000).
A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.
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.
I have a regular correspondent who suggests theme tunes for this site, but his latest is such a good spot I thought I’d stick it down here rather than throw it away in “Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers”. It’s “Absolute Panic” by Bedwetters Anonymous. Well worth a listen.