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Children More Likely to Die of Flu than Covid – Deputy Chief Medical Officer

This is what England’s teaching unions would like primary school classrooms to look like

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England, told Sky News this morning that children are more likely to die of flu or be killed in a road traffic accident than succumb to COVID-19.

“The long term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks,” she said.

“No environment is completely risk-free.

“Every time a parent sends their child off to school pre-Covid they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sorts of things.

“In fact that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risk of Covid.”

This message was complemented by the Times’s front page story this morning, which says, “Teachers spread virus more than pupils.”

New research from Public Health England revealed that two thirds of outbreaks arose from staff-to-staff transmission, or staff-to-pupil.

In June the number of schools open was between 20,500 and 23,400, with pupil numbers increasing from 475,000 to 1,646,000. In June and last month 200 children and staff were affected by the illness. Over the same period 25,470 cases were recorded across England as a whole.

Thirty outbreaks, defined as two or more linked cases in one school, were recorded between the start of June and the end of last month. These represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

The figures will encourage those who have argued that school is a safe place for children during the pandemic.

Killer line: “These [outbreaks] represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

Stop Press: Boris issued a statement this morning saying children’s “life chances” will suffer if they don’t go back to school and in the Telegraph Iain Duncan-Smith urges the PM to show “some Churchillian spirit” to get kids back to school.

Lockdown Was a “Monumental Mistake on a Global Scale” – Sage Member

Lockdown will come to be seen as a “monumental mistake on a global scale” and must never happen again, says Mark Woolhouse, a scientist who advises the Government on infectious diseases. The Express has the story.

Mark Woolhouse said lockdown was a “panic measure” but admitted it was the only option at the time because “we couldn’t think of anything better to do”.

But it is a crude measure that takes no accounts of the risk levels to different individuals, the University of Edinburgh professor said, meaning that back in March the nation was “concentrating on schools when we should have been concentrating on care homes”.

The Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology said that the Government must now focus on increasing testing and striving to unlock society safely rather than restricting it further.

Prof Woolhouse OBE, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours that advises the Government, said: “Lockdown was a panic measure and I believe history will say trying to control Covid-19 through lockdown was a monumental mistake on a global scale, the cure was worse than the disease.

“I never want to see national lockdown again. It was always a temporary measure that simply delayed the stage of the epidemic we see now. It was never going to change anything fundamentally, however low we drove down the number of cases, and now we know more about the virus and how to track it we should not be in this position again.

“We absolutely should never return to a position where children cannot play or go to school.

“I believe the harm lockdown is doing to our education, health care access, and broader aspects of our economy and society will turn out to be at least as great as the harm done by COVID-19.”

He said that Sage, the government’s advisory board on dealing with Covid, needed to have members from a wider range of fields.

At last, one of the Government’s scientific advisors is talking sense. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to NHS England there has only been one Covid death of someone under 40 in the past month.

NHS Ordered Care Homes Not to Resuscitate

Alarming story in the Telegraph. According to Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor, one in 10 care home staff members changed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ plans without discussing them first with family members, nursing staff, or residents.

Care homes were asked by NHS managers and GPs to place blanket ‘Do not resuscitate’ (DNR) orders on all their residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to keep hospital beds free, a new report has found.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) – the world’s oldest nursing charity – discovered one in 10 care home staff surveyed was ordered to change DNR plans without discussion with family members, nursing staff, or with the residents themselves.

Half of staff members who said they had been asked to change DNRs worked in homes for the elderly, while half worked in homes for younger people with learning or cognitive disabilities.

Staff also warned that some hospitals were operating a ‘no admissions’ policy for care home residents – even for non-COVID-19 conditions such as heart attacks – and some said they had struggled to make appointments with GPs for elderly people.

Report author Prof Alison Leary MBE said the findings were ‘worrying’ and called for an inquiry.

This is a scandal. Worth reading in full.

Another Terrible Cancer Story

A couple of days ago I invited readers to send me their stories about failing to secure adequate cancer care on the NHS. They’ve been flooding in. Here’s another heart-breaking tale.

My husband has a history of Hodgkins Lymphoma and is one of the 1.5 million people who were sent a long, terribly concerned letter from the Government strongly urging him to stay at home until they decided it was safe enough to venture out again. In the first week of lockdown he discovered a lump in his neck and, after some hesitation, tried to see our local GP. The surgery was abandoned by all the doctors who we were told were “working” from home.

A doctor rang my husband the following day for a consultation – no Zoom and no access to his medical notes. However, due to his history, the doctor agreed to refer my husband to our local hospital in Chelmsford. After two weeks we discovered he had been referred back to the GP. We tried again and another referral was made which was taken more seriously.

Since then he has had a PET scan showing “areas of concern” and two biopsies, the first one on June 26th, the results of which would be discussed with us by phone on July 24th. The day came but no phone call. We rang them only to be told the wrong biopsy had been done – a fine needle aspiration instead of a core biopsy – and a new biopsy would be done on August 5th. He was now officially a “fast path” patient and we were promised a phone consultation to discuss the results on August 20th. Again, no call, no results.

My husband first made contact with the GP on April 9th. It is now nearly September and he is yet to see a medical professional and we know no more than we did in early April. The stress and anger this has caused us, me in particular, are impossible to describe. My husband is an otherwise fit and healthy 60 year-old and father of two teenage children. He hasn’t missed a day of work during this whole time keeping a small manufacturing company in Harlow going without any redundancies or furloughs.

I feel I’ve woken up in a parallel universe where the normal citizenry have been turned into obedient Stepford wives and the government and its institutions are the smug husbands. We are at sea in a sinking boat drifting further from shore whilst the lifeguards look on shrugging their shoulders before turning away to deal with a couple of cases of mild sunburn.

I don’t feel I can ever love my country again.

I know how she feels.

Twitter Thread Claims China Used Fake Media Accounts to Promote Lockdown

Cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen, Jyllands-Posten

There’s a fascinating Twitter thread by Michael Senger about how the Chinese Communist Party launched a massive disinformation campaign in March urging governments around the world to impose full lockdowns. It links to plenty of evidence, such as this piece in the New York Times about how the CCP used fake Twitter accounts to amplify tweets praising China’s response to the pandemic in early March. The day after that Times article appeared, Twitter suspended more than 170,000 suspicious Chinese accounts. But according to Senger, many of these accounts remain active.

For instance, when the Governor of South Dakota refused to shut down her state, her Twitter feed filled up with thousands of abusive messages from these accounts. “By contrast, the accounts heap praise on governors who tighten lockdowns, like Dan Andrews, gov of Victoria, AUS,” writes Senger.

When Boris initially seemed to plump for herd immunity, the bots went to work, swarming his feed with messages comparing the policy to “genocide”.

And the disinformation campaign continued, focusing on different leaders each day, urging them to lock down. “Hard to think of any place more ill-suited to a total lockdown than Africa, but that’s exactly what CCP’s fake accounts demanded of South African President @CyrilRamaphosa on March 22,” Senger writes. “The next day, they got what they wanted, and Ramaphosa announced a total lockdown.”

After South Africa, it was India’s turn to be targetted. “On March 23, CCP’s army of fake accounts implored PM @PMOIndia to lock down India and order the army to ‘shoot on sight’ to enforce it,” writes Senger. “The next day, Modi announced a destructive lockdown.”

Senger is continuing to compile evidence and adding to his thread every day. If you’re not on Twitter, you can read the whole thread here.

Disturbing.

Stop Press: Sue Denim, who knows a thing or two about Twitter bots, says this is complete balls. Treat with extreme caution.

Covid Mortality Higher in Democratic States

A reader has been comparing the deaths per million in US states run by Democratic governors with those run by Republican governors.

On my first day of quarantine from Majorca I thought I’d amuse myself by looking at US state stats by political affiliations. Deaths 67% higher in Democrat states, deaths per million 41% higher. Cases actually higher in Republican states. All data from Worldometers.

Looser lockdowns in Republican states and the fact that many are in the south explains it I would think. However, if I were the US President it’s something I’d be flagging daily in the run up to an election. Obviously runs counter to the media narrative.

Postcard From the Dolomites

Sounds like this reader had a very different experience to me. Sorry to read this.

I know you were in the Dolomites a few weeks ago and I seem to recall that you said things were relatively relaxed at that time. My wife and I arrived in Villabassa yesterday for a weeks’ walking in the mountains and I am sad to report that we have found ourselves in muzzle central.

In our hotel you are expected to wear muzzles in all public areas unless seated at a table in the restaurant or bar and sadly everyone is complying. On stepping outside I had assumed that at least in the streets people would be largely muzzle-free but not a bit of it. Outside in the town 75 to 80% of those walking around, including those who are clearly serious mountain walkers are muzzled. Most children are muzzled, even some of about two.

Today we have walked about nine miles from the town to the Lago di Braies. This is a glacial lake which attracts a lot of tourists in coaches plus some fairly keen walkers, such as us. On the way up we passed a fair number of people walking down in muzzles. Others when they saw us approaching put on their muzzles even though there was plenty of room to pass. I reckon about 30% of those we passed (or possibly a little more) fell into this category even though we we were out in the open and they quite literally passed us in a second or so.

If that was bad enough, it was far worse when we reached the lake. This was where we encountered the coach trippers and 90% were masked even though we were high up in the mountains. We saw 2 men fully masked riding mountain bikes up quite a steep hill and a masked couple having a snog! What is it about these people that they have reached such an irrational level of fear that they spoil their enjoyment of the fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery that they feel it necessary to act in a totally irrational manner?

Normally I love a holiday in the mountains but I fear that my experience of the last 24 hours is making me feel that it is one I shall quickly wish to forget.

Submitting Evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus

A reader has come up with a sensible suggestion:

I am not sure how important the work of the APPG on Coronavirus will be to the Government’s ongoing approach but I assume it may have some relevance. This is obviously very worrying. Unfortunately, I do not fit into any of the categories from whom they would like evidence and the list of those that have provided evidence thus far does not inspire confidence that they will hear a balanced view. Hence, I would suggest you give more prominence to this issue in a future edition of Lockdown Sceptics and encourage some of your readers that do have the relevant expertise to submit evidence as soon as possible!

If you’d like to submit evidence to the Group, click here.

Italian Philosopher Becomes Lockdown Sceptic, Shunned by Colleagues

Nurses practised social distancing while protesting for better working conditions following the coronavirus pandemic in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo square, in June. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

There’s in interesting article in the New York Times about Giorgio Agamben, a radical, left-wing philosopher whose been shunned by his Italian colleagues after coming out as a lockdown sceptic.

The part of the Italian intellectual establishment that calls itself “radical” has been Mr. Agamben’s milieu for half a century. His position on the coronavirus has cost him its support. Paolo Flores d’Arcais, the influential editor of the bimonthly MicroMega, accused Mr. Agamben of “ranting.” The newspapers La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and Il Foglio all called him a negazionista regarding the coronavirus, using a word generally reserved for those who deny the Holocaust happened. Just as unexpected as these repudiations was the sudden receptivity to Mr. Agamben’s recondite philosophy in the pages of La Verità and Il Giornale, newspapers more often sympathetic to Mr. Salvini’s League.

A member of the radical Left, Agamben was very critical of the West’s “War on Terror”. In 2004, he was so alarmed by the U.S.’s new fingerprinting requirements for foreign visitors that he gave up a post at New York University rather than submit to them. He warned that these measures were only passing themselves off as temporary; they would inevitably become a normal part of peacetime life.

His argument about the coronavirus runs along similar lines: The emergency declared by public-health experts replaces the discredited narrative of “national security experts” as a pretext for withdrawing rights and privacy from citizens. “Biosecurity” now serves as a reason for governments to rule in terms of “worst-case scenarios.” This means there is no level of cases or deaths below which locking down an entire nation of 60 million becomes unreasonable. Many European governments, including Italy’s, have developed national contact tracing apps that allow them to track their citizens using cellphones.

Agamben has written a series of critical pieces about the Italian authorities’ response to the virus and they’ve been published in a single volume called Where Are We Now? The Epidemic as Politics. It hasn’t yet been translated into English, but it should be. Many of his sentiments will strike a chord with sceptics around the Anglosphere.

The politics of the pandemic expose a deeper ethical, social and even metaphysical erosion. Mr. Agamben cites Italians’ most beloved 19th-century novel, Alessandro Manzoni’s “The Betrothed,” which describes how human relations degenerated in Milan during the plague of 1630. People came to see their neighbors not as fellow human beings but as spreaders of pestilence. As panic set in, authorities executed those suspected of daubing houses with plague germs.

When a society loses its collective cool this way, the cost can be high. Rich, atomized, diverse, our society has a weak spot, and the coronavirus has found it. “For fear of getting sick,” Mr. Agamben writes, “Italians are ready to sacrifice practically everything – their normal living conditions, their social relations, their jobs, right down to their friendships, their loves, their religious and political convictions.”

In fact, “the threshold that separates humanity from barbarism has been crossed,” Mr. Agamben continues, and the proof is in Italians’ treatment of their dead. “How could we have accepted, in the name of a risk that we couldn’t even quantify, not only that the people who are dear to us, and human beings more generally, should have to die alone but also – and this is something that had never happened before in all of history from Antigone to today – that their corpses should be burned without a funeral?”

Worth reading in full.

Sir Humphrey Writes…

A retired Civil Servant has been in touch to take issue with last week’s post, “The Covid Civil Servant“, which in part blamed the Civil Service’s poor response to the coronavirus crisis to a lack of numeracy and scientific literacy.

As someone who worked in the Treasury for 21 years, in the final period of my working life, I don’t quite buy the line from your anonymous senior civil servant last week lamenting lack of civil service numeracy and scientific knowledge. During my time, the place acquired vastly more trained economists than when I had first arrived, the majority with postgraduate qualifications in the subject, along with more staff with graduate/postgraduate qualifications in other disciplines requiring sophisticated numeracy such as accounting and statistics. And although I never myself formally acquired any such expertise, I would not have survived a month without being very comfortable with handling numbers. Does this history mean that we became progressively wiser as a department? Does it hell. People who revel in numbers tend to be very uneasy with anything that can’t be captured in numbers, so narrowness, rigidity and sheer lack of imagination increasingly prevailed. The influence of the Treasury right across Government remained immense throughout my time there, and in that time it certainly imposed more widely than hitherto its own version of greater discipline in financial management across Whitehall departments and their related bodies. That didn’t make for better governance overall – there’s no panacea to be found in that direction. Also, the Senior Civil Service are not well paid by comparison with swathes of senior management with far less onerous responsibilities right across the rest of the public sector – that’s a big part of the problem.

Sweden’s Declining Case Numbers Are Due to Herd Immunity

Sweden is doing better than many other European countries when it comes to case numbers thanks to the fact that it didn’t impose a lockdown. The Times has more.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that the infection rate in France is more than 60 per cent higher than that of Sweden. France implemented a strict lockdown in the spring and requires masks to be worn in many public areas but has a fortnightly infection rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people.

Sweden, which decided not to implement compulsory measures at that time and which rejected the use of masks, has a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 people. The government is recording between 200 and 300 new cases a day, with deaths down to three last Friday.

Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist leading the response to the pandemic, has noted, based on the statistics, that infection rates have increased in countries such Spain, Belgium and France during and following the mandatory wearing of masks in many public areas. “The belief that masks can solve our problem is very dangerous,” he said last week.

Worth reading in full.

A Left-Wing Reader Responds to Yesterday’s Letter From a Liberal Sceptic

I love getting emails like this.

I was so pleased that you published the email from the left-leaning lockdown sceptic in your latest update. This was really heartening to read, and made me feel more like I’m a legit sceptic. I have been reading Lockdown Sceptics since you started it but I have wondered from time to time whether I really belong, as I’m a Labour-voting Remainer. (I used to be a Guardian reader, too, but I knocked that on the head in early April when I cancelled my subscription because of the lamentably biased and narrow-minded nature of their coronavirus coverage).

I say I’m Labour-voting but if there was a general election tomorrow I don’t think there’s anyone I could vote for with a clear conscience. What a ship of fools.

Thanks for all you do. I would think I disagree with you on just about everything but scepticism about coronabollocks unites us all.

If you missed the “Letter From a Liberal Sceptic” yesterday, you can read it here.

Postcard From Munich

Will Oktoberfest happen this year?

A reader writes to tell me about his recent trip to Munich. Could have been better…

I’ve just returned from a weekend visiting a friend in Munich. It was… just ok. The German stereotypes of following the rules were very much in show: facemasks when moving around in any indoors or outdoors restaurant/bar area – so if you are coming in from the street to an outdoors restaurant area, you have to wear a mask from the street to the table. And everyone obeys: I barely saw anyone not wearing a mask where required (over mouth and nose) throughout my whole weekend. The beer halls were very much open though; apart from having to wear a mask for the regular loo trips it was relatively normal and we had some good conversations with men in leather shorts. Slightly odd that some tables in the beer hall were cordoned off, meaning that people were crammed into the tables that were available.

Had an interesting experience at a “seesauna” (lake sauna) the next day to try and get rid of the hangover from the beerhall. Very strict social distancing rules (although thankfully no masks in the sauna areas) – the two of us went into one sauna with an eight-person limit (there were seven there already) and got shouted out. A lot of rules which, combined with the experience of being in your natural state of dress with members of both sexes, made for a relatively stressful experience.

All in all, I was pleased to come home to our comparatively liberal (and increasingly ignored) covid rules!

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

A bonanza of songs today: “Anything You Say Now I’ll Believe” by the Flaming Lips, “Complete Control” by the Clash, “Land of Fear” by Julian Cope, “Turnstyled, Junkpiled” by Townes Van Zandt, “F.E.A.R.” by Ian Brown and “Look out There’s a Monster Coming” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (trigger warning: all the band members are wearing black face).

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

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 3rd to Oct 13th). 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).

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 lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). 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.

And Finally…

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