We’ve been hearing for some time that the Government hopes to return to “normal” through mass testing of the population with enforced quarantine for those who fail the test. Boris Johnson has now dubbed this “Operation Moonshot” and to say it has not gone down well with experts would be an understatement. Sky has more.
The mass testing programme would cost £100bn – almost as much as the government spends on the NHS each year (£130bn) – according to a briefing memo seen by medical journal the BMJ. A separate document revealed there were plans to grow the UK’s testing capacity from the current 350,000 a day to up to 10 million a day by early 2021…
Anthony Costello, a former World Health Organisation director and UCL professor, wrote on Twitter: “The PM’s Moonshot nonsense (no science, feasibility, evidence) has been earmarked for £100bn, almost the entire NHS budget, w contracts for Astra, Serco and G4S. This is waste/corruption on a cosmic scale.” …
Dr David Strain, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter and chairman of the BMA’s medical academic staff committee, said the mass testing strategy is “fundamentally flawed”.
“The Prime Minister’s suggestion that this will be as simple as ‘getting a pregnancy test’ that will give results within 15 minutes is unlikely, if not impossible, in the timescale he was suggesting to get the country back on track,” he said.
Then there’s the teensy teensy problem of false positives, as the Government’s own scientific advisers have stressed.
In a document published on Friday, SAGE said the cheaper and faster tests needed for mass testing were less likely to be able to correctly identify positive and negatives than the tests currently used by NHS Test and Trace.
It said that in a population with low infections, twice-weekly tests with 99% specificity would lead to 41% of the population receiving a false positive over six months.
“In such circumstances, rapid follow-up confirmatory testing will be needed to determine whether individuals should continue to self-isolate – it is important to rapidly isolate infectious individuals, but efforts will be needed to quickly release false positives,” it said.
Statisticians are just sort of banging their heads on the wall at this, because mass screening always seems like a good idea in any disease – ‘Oh yes, let’s test everybody.’ But the huge danger is false positives – no tests are perfect, it is not a simple yes/no thing. If you only have one per cent false positives among all the people who are not infectious, and you’re testing the whole country, that’s 600,000 people unnecessarily labelled as positives.
Moonshot? More like moonshine.
As Boris slams the country into reverse gear to try to hide away from the virus for the winter, Sweden’s public health agency is celebrating widespread immunity. In contrast to England, Sweden is allowing 500 people to attend seated events. No wonder travellers returning from Sweden were removed from the quarantine list last night. The Times reports:
Over the past week the country carried out more than 120,000 tests, of which only 1.3 per cent identified the disease. At the height of the pandemic the proportion was 19 per cent.
Johan Carlson, an epidemiologist and Director of the Public Health Agency, said that Swedes seemed to be benefiting from widespread immunity because of the decision not to order the population to stay at home during the first wave.
“Our strategy was consistent and sustainable,” Professor Carlson said. “We probably have a lower risk of [the virus] spreading than other countries.”…
Some scientists predicted that as many as 180,000 people could die in a country of 10.2 million. Those estimates proved to be drastically overblown: up to now there have been 5,838 COVID-19 deaths. In per capita terms this is the fifth highest death rate in Europe, behind only Belgium, the UK, Spain and Italy, but it has also fallen substantially since the summer. Only seven people died with the disease in the past week.
Sweden’s current Covid guidance? Just wash your hands, keep your distance, and stay home if ill. No masks, no legal restrictions, no closures.
The Mail also features the story, illustrated with some sexy graphs. Great to see some major newspapers challenging the Government on the folly of its suicidal suppression strategy.
Meanwhile, cases in the UK that earlier this week were declared by Government advisers to be “increasing exponentially” remain under 3,000 per day. And those areas subject to local lockdowns? Alistair Haimes has tweeted that there was never a significant increase in Bolton, while a reader has contacted us with the result of a FOI request showing that the positive test rate in Oldham never spiked.
It’s never too late to admit you were wrong, Boris.
Judith Woods in the Telegraph has penned a blistering indictment of Boris’s flip-flopping and how he giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.
In June, our gung-ho Prime Minister reassured us that we had “turned the tide” on COVID-19. Brilliant, we thought.
In July, a bullish Boris promised that it would all be over by December, and that a normal Christmas was in prospect. Thank God, we sighed.
In August, his considered verdict was that local lockdowns would be the answer to any further outbreaks. That sounds reasonable, we nodded.
And now, not a fortnight into September, he’s outlawed gatherings of more than half-a-dozen, drafted in a load of Stasi snitches – sorry, I mean Death Marshals… – to police us, and has summarily turned Christmas into Christmiss…
This latest announcement adds up to far more than a numbers game or a few cancelled get-togethers. It was about the loss of hope, a sense of powerlessness and the stymying of our plans for the future. And that is part of what makes us human…
Cue our collective despair and tsunami of mental health issues. How can we plan for anything, big or small, when the blizzard of mixed messages is Alice in Wonderland bewildering?
One minute, it’s our patriotic duty to go to the pub and Eat Out to Help Out; the next, we are being scolded for failing to stop the spread of the virus by being out and about too much.
Daily tests are trumpeted as the ultimate solution to Covid just days after peevish accusations that we, the public, have been taking too many.
Workers are being urged to return to big offices while six is otherwise deemed the maximum safe number for any group.
Care home residents are desolate without regular visitors, which is badly impacting their health and wellbeing. Yet visitors are being kept away to avoid impacting on their health.
Worth reading in full.
Lord Sumption: Use of Fear Has Brought About the Greatest Invasion of Personal Liberty in Our History
Arch-sceptic Lord Sumption has been speaking to the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson on her Planet Normal podcast about how the Government has used fear to take our freedom away.
If you are going to inaugurate the greatest invasion of personal liberty in our entire history, even including wartime measures, if you dare to do that, then you have to move straight into justification mode.
The Government has now found itself trapped in a position where, first of all, it has to exaggerate the extent of the problem in order to justify its past actions. And secondly, by exaggerating the scale of the problem, it is contributing to the difficulty that it now faces in persuading people to go back to school and back to work, because naturally what people ask is, well, what has changed since?
The use of fear has, of course, been noticed by many people. And some members of Sage have made public statements since then saying that this was perhaps overdone, but it was a matter of deliberate policy, as it quite clearly was. “What you have to remember is that when societies lose liberty, it is not because liberty has been crushed under the boot of some tyrant. It’s usually because they’ve been frightened into giving it up voluntarily.
A father writes to tell us about the ongoing disruption to his children’s schooling from the ever-present threat of quarantines:
My two children, aged 10 and 12, finally returned to school last Wednesday, after putting up with an awful lot during the last six months. Having been away from school for so long, they were understandably nervous. However, by this week, I was pleased to see them starting to regain their confidence and enthusiasm. That was until yesterday. At lunchtime, we received a message from the school, asking us to pick up our youngest son as a matter of urgency. Apparently, someone in his bubble had received a positive PCR test result. The “bubble” in question consists of a whole year group of around 60 children, all of whom are now required to self-isolate and not see anyone outside of their own households for nine days (it would have been two weeks, but the child who tested positive hadn’t been in school this week). I said to the Head that we can’t subject our children to a whole term of this, where they go in for a few days, are subsequently imprisoned for two weeks, go back to school, and then sit there dreading their next period of incarceration. The Head looked at me wearily and shrugged her shoulders. My son then spent the evening in tears, unable to articulate what was upsetting him. Meanwhile, my oldest son has accepted that the same fate will befall him soon and has therefore lost motivation. I worry that the combination of instability, uncertainty, and social exclusion is a perfect recipe for cultivating chronic anxiety and demoralisation. How many children will go through this during the coming weeks, and how much harm will it cause them and their families? If the response were proportionate to the problem, then fair enough. But, as your readers are aware, it is not.
Guy de la Bédoyère, longstanding contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a “Postcard From the British Museum” about a recent trip he made to London. He wasn’t impressed, particularly by the “Covid secure” railway stations.
Getting to departures at Kings Cross is another massive Covid job-creation scheme with a battalion of hapless zombies positioned around waving at you to walk as far as possible, and past as many people as possible, to get to the trains. Has anyone actually considered how inefficient this is? It manifestly doesn’t even serve the purpose it’s supposed to. Apparently walking straight past someone through an entrance is tantamount to distributing plague like alms but walking alongside a crowd of people going in the same direction through yards and yards of corridors is ‘safe’.
In the carriage the woman opposite had a large mask clamped to her face like the hideous monster in the movie Alien and sat there in a paralysed state of self-preservation. She seemed to be totally unaware that the woman behind her was rabbiting away into her mobile phone with her mask around her neck which means that according to some Government animations she was being showered by a hailstorm of virus particles.
Worth reading in full.
Kevin Corbett, a seasoned sceptic, has been in touch to say YouTube took down a video he posted of Piers Corbyn setting out the case against lockdowns for “violating our community guidelines”. How did it do that, exactly?
YouTube doesn’t allow content that explicitly disputes the efficacy of the World Health Organization (WHO) or local health authorities’ recommended guidance on social distancing and self-isolation that may lead people to act against that guidance. Learn more here.
The funny thing about this, as we have said many times before, is that the WHO changes its mind so often about what to recommend that it must be a full-time job for some poor drudge at the Googleplex to keep track of what the official line is. To make matters worse, some very important people are allowed to contradict WHO guidance. For instance, here’s a YouTube video of Dr Anthony Fauci saying back in March that there’s absolutely no need for ordinary American citizens to wear face masks.
We’re a broad church at Lockdown Sceptics, recognising that sanity can exist across the political spectrum. Our message from a Jezza fan yesterday has inspired another today:
Like the person quoted in Lockdown Sceptics latest newsletter, I too am/was a Corbyn supporter. In short, I was inspired by his message, his policies, his integrity and his person. I joined Labour in 2015 because of him. I left in 2020 when he was finally toppled.
I remain disgusted at the treatment of him by the press and broadcast media – even Peter Hitchens is with me on that one! – but most of all by his own parliamentary party.
That, by way of background, is partly to say that, yes, not all left-thinking people are following the somewhat strange supporting of lockdown.
While you [Toby] and I are probably politically miles apart, on this we are united – the current situation is ridiculous – I see too many parallels with 1930s Germany than I find comfortable.
And for what? A virus that, yes, is dangerous to some, but only as much as other viruses we see year by year. It’s hardly in the same ball park as Ebola.
All the data tells us that the models of the Oxford team led by Sunetra Gupta are much closer to what we are seeing across the country. Why Professor Ferguson keeps getting publicity, it is hard to fathom.
Anyway, more power to your elbow with the work you are doing with Lockdown Sceptics. I just needed to say, I will be certain there are many left-thinkers who will be more with you than against you!
We’ve had a lot of responses to the post yesterday by a frustrated consultant about the failure of our leaders to adjust course in response to the overwhelming evidence that the continuing restrictions on our liberties are causing more harm than they’re preventing.
This gentleman thinks the answer is an anti-lockdown political party, much like the one that’s already been set up in Germany, that can contest elections, starting with the locals next May (assuming they aren’t cancelled). We are inclined to agree – although, as this reader points out, it probably shouldn’t have the word “anti” in its name!
There needs to be a democratic response with “anti-the nonsense“ candidates at each and every bye-election and possibly local elections. If possible there should be a new political party oriented to protecting our liberties and acting in the interests of the people as a whole. That is, people’s livelihoods, welfare, employment and freedom to go about their everyday business. Most of the policy focus of the major parties is on small minorities including the less than 0.5% of the population who might get seriously ill or die from COVID-19.
I see it having a “Positive Vision” mantra as an antidote to the fear and negativity of all the political parties at present.
Can anyone think of a better name than the anti-lockdown party? The Pro-Life Party? The Normal Party? The Let’s Party Party?
- “Boris Johnson facing Cabinet unrest over ‘rule of six’” – Half the Cabinet are reported to be unhappy, while Simon Dolan is already bringing a legal challenge
- “Confusion over ‘Covid marshals’ who will have no power to fine or arrest” – They’ll only guide and advise apparently. Police have already dismissed them as “Covid Wombles”
- “Lockdown forever” – Tom Slater in spiked says enough is enough: “Western societies once put a pretty high bar on when civil liberties should be suspended, but today the precautionary principle rules.”
- “Covid: Has Hancock gone too far this time?” – Kathy Gyngell in Conservative Woman lets hapless Hancock have both barrels
- “How will this ultra-cautious, hellish version of snakes and ladders ever get Britain back on its feet?” – Dominic Sandbrook in the Mail joins in the chorus of denunciation
- “Viral Issue Crucial Update Sept 8th: the Science, Logic and Data Explained!” – The latest update from Ivor Cummins, including: Why is Sweden different from its neighbours, America’s “second wave”, Brazil and Peru, and why we should have been building up immunity in summer
- “Record 2.2m patients faced wait for NHS treatment – as numbers TRIPLE in a year” – Why on earth does anyone still believe lockdowns save more lives than they take?
- “The Dystopian Age of the Mask” – Thomas Crew in The Critic finds mask-mania was anticipated nearly a century ago
- “UK should brace for further restrictions, warns Professor Neil Ferguson” – His model told him so
- “Government Guidance Has Failed Care Home Residents And Their Families” – An important campaign defending the right of people with dementia to have access to their family that is preparing to take legal action against the Government
- “Statistics teach us to be sceptical about ‘Operation Moonshot’” – More reasons not to be falsely positive about Operation Moonshine from Chris Smyth in the Times
- “Covid crackdowns will paralyse our society. We must learn to live with the disease” – Outstanding Telegraph editorial, which includes a quote from the Kirkham et al paper publish on Lockdown Sceptics on Wednesday
- “Ministers need to defy the instinct to lockdown” – Similarly excellent Spectator editorial
- “Boris Johnson Has Led a Fascist Coup Against the UK” – James Delingpole gets right to the point
- “Distributing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and flu” – Important Government consultation on the delivery of unlicensed vaccines that was snuck out at the end of August
- “Ignoring the lesson of Sweden makes a tougher Covid crackdown inevitable” – Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph on the need to follow Sweden and switch from suppression to herd immunity
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.
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 will have to close again on September 14th. 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.
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 14th to Oct 23rd). 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 £1.99 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 31,500).
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).
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 we 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 we should include in future updates, email us here. (If you want us to link to something, don’t forget to include a link).