Latest News

Croatia Added to Quarantine List

First it was holidaymakers in Spain who were told they had to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Britain, then France. Now, Croatia has been added to the “red list”. According to The BBC the 20,000 Brits currently holidaying in Croatia have until 4am on Saturday to leave the country or face the consequences. Meanwhile, the Scottish government has added Switzerland to the lists of countries on its quarantine list!

However, there is a scintilla of good news. Portugal has been added to the “green list”, meaning you don’t have to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from the Algarve.

Portugal’s ministry of foreign affairs welcomed the changes as “useful for all those who travel between Portgual and the United Kingdom”.

In a tweet, it added: “This decision is proof of the good outcome of intense bilateral work. It allowed for an understanding that the situation in the country has always been under control, with Portugal standing as one of the European countries with more tests, fewer deaths and fewer hospitalisations.”

A friend of mine returned from the Algarve last week. Does he still have to self-isolate, even though the Government has finally admitted the virus has all but disappeared in Portugal? No doubt he does.

Another Judicial Review

Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred

Another group has applied to the High Court to judicially review the Coronavirus Act 2020, this one led by an outfit called the People’s Brexit. It describes itself as “a legal research and campaign group… fighting for the democracy and rights of the people of the UK”. The solicitor acting for the group is Robin Tilbrook of Tilbrook’s – the same firm I advertise on this site. You can read his excellent pre-action protocol letter here.

Here’s an extract:

In passing the Act complained of, the Government has failed to have any or any adequate regard for the Department of Health’s own report “UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011“.

This report made it clear that the Rule of Law should be upheld and life should carry on as normal for the healthy.

Further, the ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ were measures that were forced upon us and were based upon advice by Government ‘advisors’, from ‘modeling’ estimates and reports not even peer reviewed. These ‘advisors’ included Professor Neil Ferguson who has a track record of failure, including the slaughter of millions of healthy animals and the ruin of livelihoods during the Foot and Mouth debacle.

The World Health Organisation themselves in their report ‘Nonpharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza, National and Community Measures’ from 2006, the writers of which include current members of SAGE, criticises forced isolation and quarantine branding these measures “ineffective and impractical”. It also states that “Legal authority and procedures for implementing interventions should be understood in advance and should respect cultural differences and human rights.”

Crucially, the report states that at Phase 6 of a Pandemic, when it is officially declared, measures such as tracing and quarantine should not be attempted. It states “Patient isolation and tracing and quarantine of contacts should cease, as such measures will no longer be feasible or useful.”

For these reasons, the Act is irrational.

If you want to contribute to the cost of bringing this case, the Crowdjustice fundraiser is here.

New Paper Purporting to Show Lockdowns Were Effective is a Bit Thin

A new paper purporting to show that the lockdowns have been effective in preventing the spread of the virus was published by Plos Medicine last week. I asked Alistair Haimes, a financial analyst and independent researcher, to take a look at it for Lockdown Sceptics. He isn’t very impressed.

For those of us more interested in the “hard” data of covid (triage calls, hospital and ICU admissions and deaths), and less in the haruspex hand-wringing over ‘cases’ (subject to changes in test availability and protocols), the key finding of this paper is: “Statewide social distancing measures were associated with a decrease in the COVID-19-attributed mortality growth rate beginning 7 days after implementation [of statewide social distancing measures], although this decrease was no longer statistically significant by 10 days.”

Is significance that only lasts three days actually significant, or just coincidence? In other words, there is only a statistically significant correlation between implementing social distancing and reducing the growth rate in Covid deaths if the lag period between symptom onset and death is seven days, and this significance evaporates if the interval is longer; but the Lancet paper by Verity et al estimates this gap as 18 days, and the later Zhang/Zhou paper at 15 days, with seven days well outside the confidence intervals of both papers, which raises the question: is there any association at all?

This is a secondary finding of the paper, and is acknowledged slightly sheepishly and a bit awkwardly. The main body of the paper looks at the daily growth rate in cases (i.e. positive tests) before and after the introduction of social distancing measures. Happily, the authors acknowledge that the growth rate in cases was indeed slowing before the introduction of a state’s first social distancing measure (i.e. the growth in cases was not exponential), though they do not seem to have much of a handle on quite how fast it was decelerating. That’s the line of black dots to the left of the dashed green line below – it basically means they aren’t sure what the gradient should be. As such, the central claim that the growth rate in cases decelerated faster after the introduction of social distancing measures (the line of black dots to the right of the dashed green line) is rather holed below the waterline: eyeballing the data, I could just as easily fit a single straight line through the data, or more convincingly a modest curve, which might well make more sense.

The paper is quite open about the “potential confounding by contemporaneous changes (e.g. increases in testing)” although this isn’t expanded upon – rather frustratingly, given it could be all-important for their conclusions. The poor quality and lack of testing in the early days of America’s epidemic are well publicised. Not that I’m here to peer review, not being a peer, but oddly it also doesn’t expand its reach internationally to check its findings against countries that did/didn’t lock down hard (sceptics know that Sweden’s covid report compares well to countries that had far more social distancing), nor check its claims against the less locked-down US states such as South Dakota. Social distancing after all is a gradient rather than a binary switch, and you’d think the authors would check that the relationship they claim is more robust, the stricter a state locked down. The analysis is a bit… thin.

It also doesn’t discuss the most fundamental questions: even if social distancing did modestly reduce the growth rate in cases, which the paper does not convincingly prove, (a) was it worth it, given the other health impacts of social distancing (particularly non-covid excess deaths), and (b) would ‘flattening the curve’, reducing the growth rate in cases, likely reduce the eventual cumulative number of covid infections and deaths (i.e. the area under the curve) anyway? Perhaps these latter questions were simply left for someone else to answer, but they seem the most important questions of all.

Faulty Risk Assessments of COVID-19

I’ve published an interesting piece today by Brian Gedalla, a retired insurance actuary, about how we routinely assess risk and why so many people are exaggerating the risk posed by COVID-19. Here’s an extract;

We assess risks every day of our lives. We learn to do this as very small children and long before we reach adulthood we carry out most of the assessments completely subconsciously.

COVID-19 is forcing us to assess the risks associated with the virus in our conscious minds and we are not very good at it.

This is an illuminating analysis of the problem by someone who’s spent 30 years assessing risk. Worth reading in full.

Sydney Unions Want More Masks on Buses

A guide to Melbourne public transport

A reader in Australia has got in touch about a threatened strike by Sydney bus drivers.

The New South Wales Rail, Tram and Bus Union is threatening a 48-hour strike by Sydney’s 2,300 bus drivers next week unless masks are made compulsory for passengers on crowded buses (when passengers exceed the number of socially-distanced green dots on the bus). It pains me, as a former workplace delegate/shop steward (in the high school teachers’ union and public service workers union), to see teachers and public servants essentially on strike to maintain the lockdown. Sydney’s bus drivers are flexing their union muscle, not to break free of The Mask, but to make the thing mandatory.  All, sadly, part of the Left’s surrender to virus hysteria, policy panic and a faux-radical embrace of the principle of putting ‘lives’ ahead of ‘money’.

Peru: The Country Lockdown Zealots Don’t Want to Talk About

“Don’t repatriate me. Please!”

Jordan Schachtel has a good piece on Substack, the blogging platform, about Peru. The South American country imposed what is arguably the strictest lockdown in the world – masks everywhere, 10pm to 4am curfew, grocery stores close at 3pm, mandatory face shields on public transport… Yet it is about to surpass Belgium to take first place in the league table of Covid deaths per million.

Once hailed as a COVID-19 “success story,” Peru is now the COVID-19 case study that lockdown advocates no longer want to discuss. Lima is on pace to surpass Belgium (another strict lockdown country) sometime next week as having the world’s highest COVID-19 deaths per million. So why is no one talking about it?

Pandemic panic promoters have been quick to criticize neighboring Brazil for its leadership’s more relaxed policies towards the virus, but they’ve been noticeably absent in discussing Peru. That’s because Peru implemented arguably the earliest (for their region) and strictest lockdowns in the entire world, along with several attempted suppression measures with the hopes to contain the virus, and none of it worked.

Has the Peruvian Government now woken up and smelt the coffee? Don’t be silly.

Instead of learning from their mistakes, and admitting that the lockdown failed and the several suppression measures undertaken were a catastrophic error, Peru is doubling down on the madness. Last week, the country reimposed and tightened nationwide curfews. The new curfew prevents any citizen from leaving their home on Sundays.

Worth reading in full.

New Poem From Bent Knee

Bent Knee, a lockdown sceptic poet, has sent me his latest.

The Initiation

Banish your old gods and superstition
Before science shall ye kneel in submission

Why have you forgotten me? Your spirit roars
Remember, religion closed its doors

Abandon all hope of afterlife
Seek only to extend earthly strife

Obediently consent to be baptised
Ablutions performed, hands sanitised

Thou shalt have no other gods before science
Governments will ensure compliance

Thou shalt not covet fleshy delights
Laws must govern all intimate rites

The pleasures of the body forbidden
Heavy breathing masked and hidden

If you must make love, do so through a glory hole
Relinquish the last vestige of your soul

Trust none but the Righteous Book of Face
Sign in to state-approved truth and grace

Adore TikTok’s uniformed nurse angels
Pray for health delivered in syringes and pills

Incanted by broadsheet bourgeoisie
Mask up, love it, demonstrate your piety

It’s just a bit of cloth, this vestiture of faith
Protect others, be reborn a masked wraith

In the long, dark night of lockdown,
Did you forget your soul is your own?

So-Called Second Waves Much Less Lethal Than the First

I’ve published a short article today by a reader who’s spotted a curiosity about the supposedly terrifying “second waves” engulfing Europe and the United States: they’re much less lethal than the first waves.

The second wave of reported Covid infections we have seen across Europe should be neither a surprise nor any great cause for alarm. But instead of a measured response, balancing all considerations and planning for the long term, we’ve been subjected to hasty and high-handed panic-measures. These range from the UK’s ruthless quarantine ambush of those who dared to take a holiday abroad to the Spanish Government’s national edict to wear masks when anywhere outdoors, even when totally alone. Every day we were admonished with the threat of stricter measures unless infections return to somewhere near zero.

What justifies this new approach? Are we seeing a greater proportion of Covid deaths associated with these increases in reported infections?

No, we are not. Quite the reverse in fact. There is something fundamentally less dangerous about the recent waves of reported infections than the first.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has sent me an absurdly alarmist story in the Eastern Daily Press about how Norfolk County Council is preparing for a “second wave” that the Council says will last longer and cause more deaths than the first wave. To be fair, this prediction appears to be based on data that’s been sent to the Council by some organ of the Government, although it doesn’t say which. Can someone please send the leader of the Council the above analysis?

Give Yourselves a Smoked Salmon Treat

Food recommendation for readers of Lockdown Sceptics: a side of smoked salmon from Bleiker’s, a smokey in Yorkshire. I ordered a side of the peat-smoked salmon a couple of months ago and it was so good I’ve just ordered it again – and it arrived this morning, less than 24 hours later! Postage and packing is free. Place your order here. Highly recommended.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Con Trick Of The Century” by Moonlight J and “Up The Creek (Without A Paddle)” by The Temptations

Love in the Time of Covid

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 attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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. If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Some interesting “Mask Exempt” lanyards created by an enterprising reader

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 Oct 5th to Oct 15th). 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 with lanyard for just £3.99 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 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: All the passengers on a JetBlue flight were forced to deplane after two-year old refused to wear mask. Let’s hope the genius who made that risk assessment isn’t flying the plane!

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. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named. If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

I’m taking a day off tomorrow because I’ve got a bit too much on my plate. Back at the weekend, hopefully.

And Finally…

This year’s cohort of A-level students have been gifted extra places at good universities at the expense of next year’s cohort

In my Spectator column today I’ve written about the impact the Gavin Williamson’s reverse ferret on last week’s A-level results will have on the next cohort of university applicants.

Whatever harm the Government may have prevented by its U-turn will have been more than offset by the harm it has done to next year’s cohort of A-level students, of which my daughter is one. Good universities make many more offers than they have places because they know that not all the applicants will meet those offers. Cambridge, for instance, made 4,500 offers for 3,450 places this year, while Oxford made about 3,900 offers for 3,287 places. Had Williamson stuck with Ofqual’s grades, roughly the same number of children would have been disappointed as in previous years, but now that he’s allowed children to choose between the Ofqual grade and their predicted grade, a far larger number of applicants to good universities will have met their conditional offers. Most universities will honour those offers, which will mean accepting many more students than in a typical year. But they won’t have the space or resources to accommodate them all, so they’ll encourage some to defer until 2021. That will mean fewer places available at good universities next year, when my daughter will be applying.

You might think I’m being pessimistic. After all, won’t the expected decline in foreign students applying this year, thanks to Covid, mean that universities have room to squeeze in all the additional British students? Afraid not. That’s partly because universities have already factored that in, lowering their entry requirements in order to admit more British applicants; and partly because the decline in the number of foreign students isn’t as great as anticipated. And next year they will be back to full strength. Indeed, there may be more than usual because some who would have applied this year if it weren’t for travel restrictions will apply in 2021 instead. In effect, my daughter will be facing a double whammy. Fewer places available for British students overall, and what places there are already part-filled by this year’s overspill.

I conclude by comparing the Government’s A-level climb down to the lockdown – “a quick fix to avoid some bad publicity, even though the unintended consequences are far worse than the problem it was designed to solve”.

Worth reading in fullobviously.