Hats off to Carl Heneghan and Yoon Loke. Three weeks ago, they wrote a post on the Centre For Evidence-Based Medicine blog drawing attention to a peculiarity in the way Public Health England (PHE) recorded Covid deaths. They discovered that if you’d ever tested positive for COVID-19 and you subsequently died, even if several months had elapsed since the test, your death was recorded as being from coronavirus.
PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community. Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.
By this PHE definition, no one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness. A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.
After their post was published, Matt Hancock announced a review into the way in which PHE collects Covid data and temporarily suspended its publication. Yesterday, that review was concluded and PHE has said that henceforth it will only record a death as being from coronavirus if it occurs within 28 days of a positive test. (Heneghan and Loke suggested 21 days.) As a result, PHE’s Covid death toll has been revised downward by over 5,000. This is more than even I expected. The BBC has the details.
The new methodology for counting deaths means the total number of people in the UK who have died from COVID-19 comes down from 46,706 to 41,329 – a reduction of 12%.
And figures for deaths in England for the most recent week of data – July 18th to 24th – will drop by 75%, from 442 to 111.
That 75% drop for the third week of July is astonishing. As Heneghan and Jason Oke point out in a new blog post, this doesn’t just apply to July 18th to 24th, but to the whole of July.
under the old PHE system, 2,086 deaths were reported in England in July by date of death, with the 28 days cut off this number is 574 – nearly a quarter of what was previously reported.
The same applies to August. For instance, if you look at the last two days, under the old reporting method 100 people were recorded as having died from coronavirus yesterday and 77 today. Under the new method, those numbers are revised downwards to 11 and 15. Heneghan and Oke have illustrated the difference with a graph showing the seven-day moving average for July.
Incidentally, the Government still hasn’t updated its own dashboard. If you look at this page, you’ll see that the number of Covid deaths recorded yesterday was 100 and the number today is 77.
Raise your game, Handy Cock.
Does PHE’s over-counting matter? Yes, obviously, not least because it brings the official method of counting deaths in England into line with Scotland’s, making it harder for Nic Sturge-Un to claim she’s handled the crisis better than Boris. (Although she couldn’t have done much worse). More importantly, the over-counting may have contributed to the coronaphobia that has gripped the British public and which may in part account for why the UK has suffered a 22% fall in GDP since the beginning of the year.
The above graphs from the Economist show that the British are more frightened to leave their homes than the citizens of France, Germany, Italy or Spain, particularly when it comes to returning to the workplace. Not the sick man of Europe, exactly, since the UK’s Covid deaths per million are in line with those of France, Italy and Spain. Rather, the hypochondriac of Europe.
Alastair Heath, the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, has written a damning piece about the Government’s handling of the crisis in today’s Telegraph. Here are the opening two paragraphs:
So now we know: Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.
Our arrogant quangocrats and state “experts” should hang their heads in shame: their reaction to coronavirus was one of the greatest public policy blunders in modern history, more severe even than Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Suez or the ERM fiasco. Millions will lose their jobs when furlough ends; tens of thousands of small businesses are failing; schooling is in chaos, with A-level grades all over the place; vast numbers are likely to die from untreated or undetected illnesses; and we have seen the first exodus of foreigners in years, with the labour market survey suggesting a decline in non-UK born adults.
Alastair has always leant towards scepticism, but this is his most sceptical piece to date. Great stuff. Worth reading in full (if you can get past the paywall).
We often hear alarmist reports of a ‘second wave’ in Europe, with rumours swirling about which countries are about to be removed from the travel corridor. According to the Telegraph, as many as 14 countries could soon be removed from the list, including the Netherlands, Gibraltar, Monaco, Malta and San Marino. But in the case of every ‘second wave’ country, all we’ve seen is an uptick in the number of people testing positive each day, no corresponding uptick in the number of daily deaths. I’m grateful to the FT for helping to make this point with a couple of graphs.
First the graph showing the increase in daily infections.
And now the graph showing the daily deaths.
In other words, the uptick in infections is almost entirely due to increased testing and nothing to worry about.
As readers will know, I spent an enjoyable week with my family in Italy last month – three days in Venice, followed by four in the Dolomites. I’ve now written this up for the Telegraph and, as you’ll see, I wasn’t with my whole family.
After four months of living under virtual house arrest in Acton, I desperately needed a break. I know the lockdown is tough on everyone, but it’s particularly difficult to endure if you think it’s a catastrophic mistake. Since the beginning of April I’ve been running a blog called LockdownSceptics.org, pumping out daily reminders of the harm the lockdown is doing, whether to schoolchildren, cancer patients or elderly care home residents. Not that it makes any impact on public opinion. It’s as if the entire world is suffering from ‘psychotic delirium’, to use the phrase of Bernard Henry-Levi, the French philosopher.
My wife and I booked a family getaway, but we hit a lockdown-related snag two weeks before departure. No, our chosen destination wasn’t removed from the travel corridor – we’d arranged to go to Italy not Spain or the Bahamas, thank God. Rather, we discovered our 15-year-old son’s passport was about to expire. Normally, you can pay extra to fast-track the application or, failing that, stand in a queue for a few hours at the Passport Office. But not at the moment.
I sat down with Ludo and told him he had a choice: we could either scrap the holiday, or he could stay with a friend and I’d buy him a new gaming desktop. It took him all of two seconds to make up his mind.
There’s plenty more in this vein.
A reader has written to object to a report on ITV News yesterday evening.
This is (honestly) the first time I have felt moved complain about a news report, but Emily Morgan’s piece on tonight’s ITV News at 6.30pm was a textbook example of the exaggeration, scaremongering and frankly, crap reporting that seems to have swept through the media in recent times.
The report was supposedly highlighting how several people who had recovered from COVID-19 were still experiencing negative health issues and implied that these were somehow unique to the virus and constitute a ‘hidden cost’ of the disease that is now now becoming apparent.
These symptoms included chronic fatigue, an inability to concentrate and constant muscular pain. Exactly the symptoms of Post Viral Fatigue in fact – a condition known about for over 40 years (known in the 80s as ‘yuppie flu’).
The clue is in the title – a syndrome that you tend to get after fighting off a debilitating virus (usually the flu). There is plenty of information on the web should anyone at ITN bother to fact check (Hint: it’s usually better to do this before you broadcast the report).
I’d love to know what qualifications Ms. Morgan has relating to Heath/Science? I suspect the answer will be none, just like her equivalent at the BBC, Hugh Pym, who has a degree in PPE. How are these people supposed to critically report on their briefs when they don’t appear to have even a basic understanding of subject they are reporting on? Deborah Cohen (Newsnight) has a background in medicine and boy does it show – her reports are always excellent, balanced, never alarmist and because of this interesting and informative. Sadly, she’s one of the few.
A reader gets in touch after spotting an unlikely sign in Folkestone.
I’m on holiday in Kent this week and whilst walking along coast path at Folkestone yesterday I couldn’t believe this sign was for real. Now they’re just trolling us.
Another reader reports more madness: socially distanced cars.
I was chatting this morning to a neighbour whose wife is currently working from home.
I have no idea what she does, but he told me that her firm has said no one will be going back to the office until at least January and even then they will only allow 40% of the staff back. This is, according to the firm, because “the rules” say that not only must staff socially distance in the office, but cars must be socially distanced in the car park with only alternate spaces used!
As I’ve said many times in the past five months, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
- ‘“State becomes more powerful and individuals weaker” with forced isolation: Alan Jones‘ – More common sense from our favourite broadcaster on Sky Australia
- Plan B Conference in New Zealand – One of the organisers of the Plan B conference in New Zealand (featuring Prof Gupta, among others) has got in touch to say anyone can attend. You’ll be able to watch it here when it’s broadcast live on Monday. Meanwhile, Saint Jacinda has announced that anyone who tests positive in NZ will be forced to quarantine in a government managed facility
- ‘The statistical quirk that means the coronavirus pandemic may never officially end‘ – The Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton flags up something I’ve often drawn attention to on this site: false positives will mean the virus will never be eliminated
- ‘Australia, How Have You Let it Come to This?‘ – Good piece by Professor Augusto Zimmermann in Quadrant
- ‘Mass testing results: Endless panic and false positives‘ – Another corking post from Daniel Horowitz in the Conservative Review
- ‘Flu and pneumonia killed five times more than Covid last month‘ – According to the latest ONS figures, there were 193 deaths reported in the week ending July 31st that had coronavirus mentioned on the death certificate and 928 people who died of flu or pneumonia in the same period
- ‘Partygoers put Oldham at risk of further curbs‘ – More needless misery is in store for the residents of Greater Manchester
- ‘A Tale of Two Tyrannies: Psychiatry and the public health response to coronavirus‘ – Interesting blog post by Gary Sidley, a retired NHS psychologist
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. 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.
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 26th to Oct 6th). 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.
Meanwhile, probably not a good idea to wear unusual face coverings as an expression of your resistance to mask fascism. The Standard reports that the tech millionaire John McAffee was arrested in Norway for wearing a thong on his face.
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.
In my Spectator column this week, I’ve written about why I started “Love in a Covid Climate”.
It all began in April when I started a blog called Lockdown Sceptics. I wanted to create a clubhouse for that small band of dissenters who think that locking down the entire population, the healthy as well as the sick, is a violation of our civil liberties, particularly when our scientific understanding of how the virus is transmitted is so incomplete. It quickly started getting a lot of traffic, suggesting we aren’t such a tiny minority after all. On an average day, the site gets 25,000 visitors and to date it’s had more than 2.5 million page views.
The idea is that if you’re a Covid realist you don’t want to go out with a hysteric who frets about a ‘second wave’
Last week I got an email from one of my regular correspondents saying he was newly divorced and thinking of signing up with a dating agency. ‘It made me realise that a key criterion for meeting someone is that they absolutely must be a lockdown sceptic,’ he wrote. ‘I genuinely think that if I can find a girl as sceptical as me, she must therefore be marriage material. That’s how important (and sadly divisive) this issue has now become. I could never date (let alone build a relationship with) a lockdown zealot.’
That’s when the lightbulb appeared above my head. Why not start a dating site myself? My tech-savvy collaborator, Ian Rons, had already created some discussion forums on the website, so all he needed to do was add a new page where users could post their lonely hearts messages. We decided to call it ‘Love in a Covid climate’.
Worth reading in full.