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School Threatens to Send Children Home for Joking About Covid

A school in Hastings has told parents it will send their children home if they make “humorous” or “inappropriate” jokes about Covid. The Independent has more.

Pupils could be excluded for “malicious coughing or sneezing” or making “inappropriate” jokes about the coronavirus pandemic, a school has warned.

And at a second school, any pupil refusing to follow hygiene routines and social distancing will immediately be moved to a separate area, leaders say.

The Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings, East Sussex, set out a list of coronavirus “red lines” that will result in fixed-term exclusions for pupils breaching them.

The academy says “humorous, inappropriate comments or statements” related to Covid-19 and “purposeful physical contact with any other person” are off-limits and will risk the child being sent home.

You can read the school’s letter to parents here.

Worth remembering that Milan Kundera’s satirical novel The Joke about a man whose life is destroyed after he makes an inappropriate gag on a postcard to his girlfriend was set in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia.

Only 84% of Children Have Returned to School in Scotland

Tens of thousands of children have not returned to school in Scotland, according to the BBC.

More than 100,000 pupils in Scotland are absent from school with attendance down to 84.5%, according to Scottish government figures.

Data collected from local authorities shows that more than 15.5% pupils were off school last Friday.

However, only 22,821 of the absences are recorded as “COVID-19 related”.

The Scottish government said it was common for other viral infections to circulate after a “prolonged break” away from school.

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, told BBC Scotland it believed many parents were “erring on the side of caution” and keeping children who had cold symptoms off school.

Pupils in Scotland began returning to school on August 11th after being away since March.

Provisional figures from 28 August show that 84.5% of pupils in Scottish schools were present, down from a confirmed 95.8% attendance on August 17th.

I wonder how many children won’t return to school in England, thanks to bedwetting parents?

I predict hundreds of thousands.

Christ Whitty Threatens to Resign – Let Him

The Telegraph has a story saying Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, may resign if people return to work too quickly.

Professor Chris Whitty is hampering the Government’s return to work message because ministers fear he could resign if too many people return to the workplace at once.

Cabinet sources have told The Telegraph ministers believe Prof Whitty could leave his post as Chief Medical Officer if they push too hard on their plans to reopen workplaces in an attempt to get the economy moving.

Prof Whitty fronted many of the Government’s first COVID-19 briefings from Downing Street, and is seen by the public as one of the most trustworthy voices in the debate over how to handle the pandemic.

If he were to resign over a conflict of opinion with the Government, it would undermine any attempts by ministers to persuade the public to follow its advice, it is feared.

Prof Whitty has recently urged caution in reopening offices and other workplaces too quickly.

If Whitty wants to die in a ditch to defend his erroneous advice, let him. But worth bearing in mind that he acknowledged the R number was probably below one before the lockdown was imposed when testifying before the Health Select Committee in June.

If the R number was below one before the lockdown was imposed, what makes Whitty thinks it will climb above one if it’s eased?

The Reliability of PCR Tests

A scientist has been in touch to correct the Mail article about the unreliability of PCR tests that we wrote about yesterday.

One of the reports you highlighted, from the Daily Mail, included the quote: “Today the PCR test, which provides a yes or no answer if a patient is infected, doesn’t say how much of the virus a patient has in their body.”

I am sure your readers are intelligent enough to know the truth, which is that the PCR test does reveal how much virus is in the body, but that this information is not provided to ‘patients’ in the yes/no text message. The underlying technique used is qPCR, where the q stands for quantitative. Samples are run for multiple cycles, each one potentially doubling the amount of target DNA. If there is a lot of starting material then fewer cycles will be needed than if there are only a few copies.

A good analogy is the rice/grain on a chessboard legend. Each cycle represents the next square, and twice the DNA. The difference between a test from an infectious individual (fewer than ~26 cycles) and one at maximal sensitivity (up to 42 cycles) is therefore potentially 2^16, or 65,000-times more.

PHE presumably knows how many cycles were needed for each positive test; it would be gross incompetence not to collect this data. The interesting question is whether they are passing this information on in briefings to ministers. My guess is that with admissions continuing to fall the vast bulk of positives have required high cycle numbers, indicating limited to no infectivity.

Carl Heneghan covered this in a bit more depth here.

Et Tu, Wetherspoons?

I thought Wetherspoons was a beacon of sanity during this madness. But apparently not, according to one reader.

I wanted to share with you my concern at developments at Wetherspoons, previously a beacon of sanity in our current mad situation, with clear signage and protocols in place to support the measures put in place by the government, but no enforcement and a lightness of touch seen in very few other places. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago one of their London pubs received heavy media criticism for – allegedly – not following the ‘rules’ around track and trace, social distancing, and so on (though in reality I suspect this criticism was based on ignorance of what the law actually requires). Now, individual pub managers have to risk assess their own venue, meaning that the uniformity of practice that previously made all Wetherspoons branches a safe space for sceptics has been watered down.

My experience today will illustrate this. I went into two Wetherspoons pubs in the same city. In the first, new signs said that track and trace forms must be handed to staff, but nobody that I saw was asked for one, and I bought two rounds of drinks and lunch without being challenged. Good for them. In the second, where I simply wanted a drink, I was first of all told off for not standing in quite the right place whilst waiting to order (having in fact moved off the right place at the request of a waitress carrying trays of hot food). Then, I was told by the heavily masked man behind the bar that I needed a table number simply in order to buy a drink. This was a classic piece of jobsworthiness, since nobody was checking and the drinks were still handed to the customer at the bar, so if I’d simply plucked a number out of thin air instead of querying it, I’d have got my drink. Needless to say, I made my excuses and left.

One of the sad things about the current situation is that it has taken all of the joy out of eating or drinking out (and shopping). Not knowing what the rules will be before you step into a place makes it simpler and less stressful simply not to bother. Previously, Wetherspoons was an exception to that bleak outlook. Now, not so much.

Professor Says Stop Listening to the Experts in Telegraph

I spotted a good letter in the Telegraph yesterday from a Professor.

SIR – Like many experienced medical academics who are not members of bureaucratic government committees, I despair at the clear evidence from the precipitate falls in hospital admissions and death rates that the Covid epidemic is drawing to a natural conclusion, and that lockdown has had little, if any influence. It has, however, had profound effects on morbidity and deaths from non-Covid causes, quite apart from trashing our economy.

We desperately need better “expert” advice, proper public discussion and above all decisive political leadership.

If the way out of this mess is not handled better than the way in, particularly the economic consequences, we face terminal decline. However, suggestions of major tax rises from a nominally Tory government do not bode well. On the face of it, would anything have been different had Jeremy Corbyn been successful at the December election?

Professor R A Risdon
London SW13

The COVID-19 Assembly

This got a very positive response yesterday, with over 70 people signing up, so we’re running it again.

The man behind Lockdown Truth, a companion website, is starting something called the COVID-19 Assembly. We asked him to do a few paragraphs explaining what it is.

The purpose of the COVID-19 Assembly is to allow the people themselves to take control of the COVID-19 narrative rather than the government and the mainstream media. By bypassing the MSM we will undertake the job of getting the real facts out to the public. One of the biggest problems with the current situation is that there is very limited information that the average person will come across without specifically looking for it. Most people simply aren’t aware that they don’t know many of the key facts about COVID-19 and “lockdown”.

We will create eye-catching and easy to understand content. Our “Top Ten Facts” can then be downloaded as leaflets, posters, roller displays, public presentations and slideshows for tablets and phones. All information will be based on official data and will avoid “conspiracy theories” which may put people off listening or helping. Volunteers will operate autonomously and present the facts to friends, families, colleagues, neighbours, clubs and amenity groups via pop-up displays in town squares and village halls or small meetings and workshops.

We will aim to create a diverse collection of people from ordinary members of the public to Nobel laureates working together to take control of this matter once and for all. Everyone has a part to play whether you just share our facts on social media or set up and run a local group. We need to work at local level changing public perception one person at a time. If we all do a little then the effect could be enormous.

If you’d like to join the Assembly, click here.

More Bad News For Partners of Pregnant Women

Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up

We’ve had a few emails from pregnant women and women who’ve recently given birth following our story yesterday about an expectant father not being able to attend his baby’s scan. This one was the most comprehensive.

Just wanted to get in touch to follow up on the piece in today’s Lockdown Sceptics regarding fathers’ attendance at antenatal scans. I’m afraid it’s not just scans that fathers are banned from – it gets worse. I’m currently pregnant with our second child, so I’m living under these rules at the moment. They differ up and down the country, but are broadly similar. A handful of trusts have lifted some of these restrictions. The rest (including my own) seem happy to stick with their ‘new normal’. Here is a summary of what pregnant women and their families are experiencing in my area and beyond.

Reduction in face to face appointments. I’ve already had two phone appointments so far during my pregnancy. I was surprised and slightly horrified to find that one of my future appointments during late pregnancy, a whole month after a face-to-face appointment, will also be held over the phone/video call. At every normal, routine midwife appointment, they do vital checks such as checking blood pressure, taking a urine sample and measuring the size of your bump. These checks can pick up serious issues for both mother and baby, such as pre-eclampsia, and fetal growth issues. Surely there is a high risk to pregnant women and unborn babies by holding a phone appointment, where you cannot do these vital physical checks? Even if you feel well in yourself, this doesn’t mean all is well with your baby, so how is a phone appointment adequate? Phone appointments have been continuing, even as lockdown has started to lift, and when cases in my area have been very low for some time. Hugely worrying- how many complications will be missed/have already been missed as a result?

No fathers at scans or any antenatal appointments. At our trust, they’ve just started letting fathers into antenatal scans, but my husband has already missed both the 12 and 20 week scans. I have heard stories on social media of women being told when they’re alone, that their baby has sadly died, or has a serious abnormality. Unbelievable when you consider that a father to be is currently allowed to sit in a busy pub, yet can’t be there at such a vital appointment with his pregnant partner.

No fathers/visitors on the antenatal/labour wards. If you’ve had labour induced (I won’t go into detail but I can tell you, it’s no picnic, it’s incredibly painful and it can take DAYS), if you’re awaiting a planned caesarean section, of if you’ve just come into hospital having gone into labour naturally, women are not allowed to have anyone with them, when previously you could have your partner by your side. Once you’re found to be in “established labour”, you get transferred to a private room and your partner can join you. If you’re having a C section, your partner is only allowed to join you just before you go down to theatre. Partners/fathers are being told to sit in the car and wait.

This is a very stressful and scary (not to mention painful!) time, and being separated from your partner at this point in labour must be truly horrible. I don’t know how this works in practice – maybe they’re more lenient than the rules suggest but it’s clear that many, many women have laboured alone.

It looks like this might be starting to change, and at my trust, they’re allowing a short 1 hour visit per day to the wards – not a lot at all though.

The thought of women labouring alone, at all, even in the early stages, or during the induction of labour, for any length of time, sounds awful. It’s well known that stress during labour is detrimental to the normal, natural progress of birth, and the support of your partner is critical. Yet somehow the NHS is allowing this to happen. This is something I haven’t personally experienced, but I’ve seen many a social media story highlighting how awful it was being alone during this time. I’d be interested to hear how women who gave birth since March have found the experience.

No fathers/visitors on the postnatal ward. A few hours after the birth, fathers must leave and cannot see their partner or their newborn baby until they’re both discharged from hospital. This can be anything from a few hours to a few days or rarely, a few weeks. This also looks to be slowly changing, and some trusts are offering short visits per day (an hour or so), but it’s not the same as having round the clock support from your partner. When you’re on the ward, you have a newborn baby to take care of, and some women are recovering from major abdominal surgery (a C section) or a traumatic birth. I personally don’t know how I would have coped on the postnatal ward on my own after our first baby was born.

Every parent knows that those first few days are a crucial time for bonding, and a time when new mothers really need the support of their partners and family. I dread to think the stress that new mothers have gone through being separated from their partners during parts of their labour and then after the birth, as well as the emotional heartbreak for new fathers at what should be an exciting time.

Fathers are not normal ‘visitors’ to the hospital – they are a crucial part of pregnancy and birth, and it’s ludicrous that they are being excluded.

I wonder about the long term negative effects of all of this. Will we see an increase in rates of PTSD following difficult births (where women have been alone for long periods), more cases of post natal depression, and an increase in pregnancy complications from a lack of monitoring?

It’s worth noting what the NHS says about the risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women: “There’s no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus. But pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution. This is because pregnant women can sometimes be more at risk from viruses like flu. It’s not clear if this happens with coronavirus. But because it’s a new virus, it’s safer to include pregnant women in the moderate-risk group.”

So far, no studies seem to have found that pregnant women are more at risk than others. What covid does seem to have caused among pregnant women is increased anxiety, and the feeling that they need to lock themselves away. I wonder how many women have avoided getting medical attention when they’ve felt something isn’t quite right because they’re too scared to go to hospital, and how many have experienced mental health issues, both before and after the birth.

It’s clear that midwives and doctors are working incredibly hard to do their best for pregnant women and try to support them as best they can during this time, but the exclusion of fathers, and reduction in face to face care in particular feels wrong and disproportionate, especially since cases have been falling for some time.

People are up in arms about this, understandably. Somebody has set up a petition against the restrictions on fathers during birth here, which is approaching 200,000 signatures, but apparently has so far been ignored by Matt Hancock and others.

For now, the only loophole to all of this is to opt for a home birth. They can’t yet ban a father from his own home…

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Let Me Learn” by Krayzie Bone, “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” by the Korgis, “Will We Ever Learn” by Wage War and “Teaching is the Key” by Aurel Mihaili.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

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

We’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 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 “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 31,000).

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 (flimsy 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. If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (If you want us to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code).

And Finally…

The latest video from Media Bear is worth watching. Anyone know more about this anti-lockdown band? If so, email us here.

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