The Prime Minister tried to put on his best Churchill impression yesterday and ended up sounding preposterous as he dug in to “fight and defeat” the virus.
“I know some people think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that may entail,” he said in the televised briefing.
“I profoundly disagree. I don’t think the British people want to throw in the sponge, they want to fight and defeat this virus.”
He said that “we will not hesitate” to introduce further measures, but stressed the Government is hopeful that these will not be needed.
Huge loss of life? Right, like in Sweden, where fewer people died per million than in the UK, and Belarus, where fewer people died, and South Dakota, where fewer people died, and Tanzania, where – you get the idea. Since none of these countries or states, however lax their response, lost more than 0.06% of their population to the virus, and the second ripple in Spain was on the wane prior to any new restrictions being brought in (hospital occupancy in Madrid fell yesterday for a third day in a row), on what basis are we supposed to believe that loosening restrictions will lead to a “huge loss of life”? Where did the ludicrous idea come from that we can “control” or “defeat” this virus, which is akin to the common cold?
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick Vallance claimed the virus is not “under control” and defended his graph of doom.
“The illustration was to point out that epidemics either double or halve, they’re either growing or shrinking,” he says. “And doubling means things go very big very quickly. And when things double you see that exponential growth and there’s clearly fast growth in some areas.
“And unfortunately as we’ve seen not only cases going up, but we’re already seeing an increase in deaths. So things are heading in the wrong direction.
“The number of cases that we’re seeing now are picked up because there’s much more testing. The number of cases reported in March were almost an underestimate of the total. So it’s much more likely in March and April we were seeing 100,000 cases a day at certain times.”
But it simply isn’t the case that the COVID-19 epidemic has been either doubling or halving over the past nine months – that is a misrepresentation of the data that feeds into the Government narrative that it is either growing “exponentially” and out of control or it is in decline, supposedly because of timely Government interventions. In fact, the case and death curves in different countries show only very brief periods where the figures could be said to be “doubling”, as Professor Michael Levitt has shown. Thus while UK “cases” are currently rising, the rate of that rise has already slowed down from a couple of weeks ago, and the Telegraph has calculated there will be only 11,000 daily cases by mid October, assuming the current rate continues, rather than Vallance and Whitty’s 50,000. Since the rate has already been slowing there is no reason to think it won’t slow further.
The rate of growth does vary considerably around the country – Ross Clark looks at the possible reasons for this in the Spectator, highlighting especially population density and household size. But seeing as the epidemic in March went into decline in many parts of the UK prior to lockdown coming in, as Prof Carl Heneghan observed in June, the current ripple, insofar as it involves real spread and not just false positives from increased testing, is likely to consist mainly of cities and regions developing the herd immunity delayed by the lockdown.
Note also the slippery definition of “cases”. Vallance suddenly used “case” to mean infection when he says there were 100,000 a day in March. In fact, one of the central problems in this whole farrago has been a loose, non-medical definition of “case”. A case properly understood must be diagnosed by a suitably qualified clinician recognising characteristic symptoms. A mere positive test, which may well be a false positive and in any case may be asymptomatic, is not properly speaking a case of COVID-19. Neither is the mere fact of “infection” or exposure if no symptoms are present.
To make matters worse, Dr Chris Whitty then started speaking in contradictions.
Hospitalisations follow very much the pattern you would expect from the rates of infection. The NHS data show that the rates of hospitalisation are now climbing steadily.
“They’re at a much lower level than at the beginning of April – I want to stress that quickly – but they are heading upward at a steady and rapid pace.”
So are they steady or are they rapid? You can’t have both. They are steady, of course, which is why he said it first, before realising he was supposed to be justifying extreme interventions so quickly added “rapid”.
The positive rate in the UK went up from 1.5% on September 19th to 2.5% on September 29th, a two thirds rise (67%) in 10 days (though on the most recent day it actually declined slightly). This is steady but not rapid growth, and if it is anything like Spain it will top out before long.
Could it be that the “second wave” is just the usual round of “freshers’ flu”, watched unusually closely, now with added Covid? Perhaps “Churchill” has picked the wrong enemy this time.
A Lockdown Sceptics reader writes to tell us of his experience at the protest in Trafalgar Square last weekend.
I was at the top near the stage, thankfully just to the side of the police’s path.
We had been briefed not to antagonise the police under any circumstances and the organisers had stressed the lengths they had gone to complete the necessary paperwork and liaise with police. They made announcements every 20 minutes to social distance (which were obviously met with derision). We held a perfectly observed minutes silence for the recently fallen officer and the sergeant in charge was praised for his constructive approach to the event.
The police have claimed that we were instructed to disperse but I received no such communication. The last speaker had just started when my wife suddenly commented “where have all the police gone”. It was like the tide had gone out. Minutes later there were screams and shouts as a phalanx of police emerged from a concealed position and marched at pace through the crowd shoving and throwing anyone in their path out the way. We had been instructed to sit down as a sign of passive resistance. Some did so but it led to them being trampled or struck in the head. Secondary lines of police blocked the stairs at either side.
After the police had surrounded the tent, a small minority of understandably angry people jeered and taunted them. These are the pictures you see in the papers. I saw a couple of water bottles being thrown. We made ourselves scarce at this point.
The experience has destroyed any trust I have in the police. They would have known that the speeches were almost finished. It appeared to me to be a deliberate attempt to intimidate and antagonise a peaceful crowd. The reason they attacked was supposedly because we weren’t social distancing, but a number of protests including our own had been allowed to proceed in the month prior. We were causing no damage and no obstruction. Asking us to obey the rules that we are protesting against as we protest is surely absurd and how would such a protest work anyway? We would have to spread ourselves out half way down Whitehall. I cannot see the Westminster authorities permitting a PA system suitable. No doubt they would recommend we just do it over Zoom.
In effect, then, mass protests are de facto illegal in this country in 2020.
I am 36 and this is the second protest I have ever been to. The first protest being the one on August 29th. There is certainly a preponderance of “conspiracy theorists” at these events but my sense is that a larger proportion are ordinary people like myself, angry at the political system and deeply concerned by our loss of liberty and damage to the economy. Regardless, believing something that others do not is not a crime.
A reader has sent us the cracking letter he sent to his MP – Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg.
I had hoped that by now the Government would be rapidly dismantling the unnecessary controls, but unfortunately their recent actions have only served to increase my concerns.
Does Boris really think that he is King Canute and can “fight” a virus? The evidence is increasingly clear that lockdowns are ineffective (e.g. here). Despite their massive social and economic costs, they simply do not work (quite apart from the disease being of low risk to healthy people).
I had hoped that the Government would at least begin to realise the massive cost of its misguided actions and reconsider the way it has trampled on traditional democratic freedoms and rights. Sadly, this is not the case – and I am heartened to see many Tories finally voicing similar concerns.
I had the highest hopes for Boris and this Government, but unfortunately I now view their Covid response as the worst mistake of any British Government in my lifetime and of utmost significance to both my personal freedom and our future welfare. I am therefore unlikely to be able to support any party or MP backing this dystopian approach to running our country – despite my great admiration for you personally.
I have reiterated some of my key concerns below, so that you can understand why I take this so seriously.
– The arbitrary and tyrannical rule of six prevents me from meeting my family, celebrating Christmas or enjoying any other activities together. Given that we are responsible adults (and the children are zero risk) this is totally unscientific and very cruel. It strikes at the core of social relationships in a way which is unprecedented in our country and totally abhorrent to me. This is a clear power grab by the state, overturning individual family and social relationships in a manner which even communist dictators hesitate to impose.
– The draconian, inconsistent, arbitrary, ineffective and bureaucratic regulations are making daily life increasingly difficult. There have already been over 200 changes (which even the Prime Minister can’t understand) and it now appears that this will continue with no end in sight. (A far cry from the three weeks Boris initially promised to “save the NHS”!) These edicts make no allowance for individual common sense or discretion and infantilise the entire population.
– The regulations have also, in effect, instituted a police state. For the first time ever, police are now mandated to interfere with ordinary family and social life and informers are encouraged and praised, just like a Stasi state. And if that were not enough, Boris has been publicising increasingly draconian fines and the involvement of the military, criminalising family life with a nasty similarity to dictatorships.
– Why does the Government permit such misleading efforts to terrorise the public as seen in the Whitty and Vallance presentation of September 21st? Their projections (presented without any allowance for any questioning or challenge) were dangerously misleading and can already be seen to be completely adrift from reality. Why is the Government still in fealty to advisors generating such dangerously misleading projections?
– The Government appears to be intentionally manipulating the population through fear – for example, still publicising misleading “case’” figures, while failing to provide context and ignoring the reassuringly low death rates (which are now far lower now than flu or pneumonia).
– This so called Conservative Government is presiding over unprecedented increases to state controls and regulation of social and economic affairs.
– There appears to be blind faith in the public health services and the NHS, despite increasingly clear shortfalls in patient care – in sad contrast to the high-quality, patient-focused services enjoyed in so many other countries.
– The Cabinet appears to be suffering from groupthink and blatantly ignoring eminent and sensible scientific voices (for example, at the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine) providing views based on evidence and reason and instead is promoting the worst case models and discredited projections.
– The Government restrictions (not Covid) are wrecking the economy, with scant regard for the misery of ruined businesses and the millions of jobs lost and impaired prospects.
– The Government is undertaking unprecedented and unproductive borrowing, which will prove a dead weight to the already damaged economy.
– Travel has been severely restricted by a range of clumsy measures, hampering personal freedom and enjoyment and demolishing even more of Britain’s business and industry.
All of life involves risk and no-one can live for ever. Why can’t this Government trust its citizens to get on with their lives and make informed decisions on what they do, what they wear, where they go and who they meet?
Steve Rucastle is a Late Night Business Operator who says the debilitating restrictions that are ruining his business make him feel like he is on the brink of oblivion. He speaks for many, I’m sure.
As the hospitality sector is brought to its knees, the night time economy is thrown on the rocks and the events business is cast into oblivion, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, prepare to face an unknown future. For many it will bring poverty, destitution, ill-health, and hopelessness. For some it will be too much. It is no exaggeration to say that lives will be lost in the economic tsunami that is about to engulf us.
How exactly has it come to this?
When the Government closed us down and told us to flatten the curve, we obeyed.
When the Government put onerous restrictions on us reopening, we obeyed.
It supported us, the evidence warranted the action, the NHS had to be protected, we did not know enough about this wretched virus.
But now something else has happened. No endgame is communicated, what is the aim of the restrictions now thrust upon us? Support is being withdrawn. Restrictions continue to be put on our industry without any clear evidence to support why. The NHS has the extra capacity and the extra PPE that it did not have at the start of this crisis. We know lots more about the virus now. Every question that’s asked of our premier, when it comes to supporting those industries worst hit by his decisions to restrict or prohibit our businesses from operating, results in the same answer: “We’ll put our arms around these people.”
I do not want your arms around me. I want bloody answers. I want to operate my business without restriction, I want people to decide for themselves whether or not to visit my business or not, I want people to decide who they want to see and where they want to see them. I want people to sing, to dance, to hug loved ones, to get high, to be intimate with a stranger, to take risks, to enjoy life. No one can do any of this. By decree we have had our liberty and freedoms stripped away one nonsensical decision at a time. Life censored, risk forbidden, fun prohibited. Mere existence is all that remains. And all the while, it seems the vast majority of the public support the Government restrictions. No doubt fearful for their lives after being bludgeoned over the head for the past six months with daily death graphs, end of the world public health announcements and a poster, radio and TV campaign that would be more akin to a zombie apocalypse rather than a mild upper respiratory illness that barely affects most people who catch it.
If the masks work, lockdowns work, and curfews work, why the hell are we here? We are now undoubtedly trapped in this never-ending cycle of go out, stay in, eat out, go home, get back to normal, do not see your family, go back to work, work from home. What on earth are our leaders doing? What are they thinking? What is their strategy?
A vaccine may come, it may not. Either way though, this will not pan out like a Hollywood movie where a miracle vaccine fixes all our problems in a couple of weeks. This virus is with us for the long term and we need to learn to live with it. Not by adopting “the new normal”, which is a horrible expression. Nothing about what we are being expected to do is normal and it should never be sold as such.
People need to be aware of the risk that this virus poses to them personally, businesses need to be honest and factor in the level of risk they pose to people, in terms of possible infection (Outdoor Construction: Low/Nightclubs: High) and then everyone needs to get on with their lives. If I want to go to a nightclub with 1,000 people on a Saturday night, I would know the risk to myself and I also know that I probably shouldn’t visit my 75 year-old parents for a couple of weeks after. Although to be honest, they would probably care less about their risk than I do.
But we are not able to do any of this because the Government has decided it will tell us what level of risk we are all allowed to take. This leads me to the crux of the issue. How have we got here? The answer is simple. Boris Johnson.
Not only did I vote for Boris in the General Election. But as a former Conservative Party member, I elected him to the leadership of my former party. I would apologise, but at the time it felt the right thing to do. He was the right man for the job. Sadly, the man I elected is no longer present. He is gone. He has left the building. Replaced by an imposter.
But of course, that is not true. He is the same man. Boris Johnson, who is fast making Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars seem like a beacon of freedom and liberty, is no longer fit to run this country under the current circumstances. He is a man who had a close brush with death, thanks to this virus. Some would say that makes him the ideal man to lead us through it, but I must disagree. I believe that he has been so frightened, so utterly mortified that his own mortality was threatened by this virus, that he now feels a civic duty to stop anyone else experiencing that. A noble cause, but a misguided one. It is because of his very experience that he should not be leading the fight against COVID-19. His judgement is off, and every decision is taken on the basis that he worries everyone or indeed just anyone will have to endure what he did. He means well, I am sure he does, but he is just not the leader we need right now.
Dr Chris Whitty yesterday stated that hospitals are “open for business” and are ready to help people with all conditions, not just Covid. A reader begs to differ.
Last week I had a telephone consultation in a Hertfordshire surgery re the possible onset of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The doctor said yes that sounds like COPD, book an appointment for a spirometry test. This is an essential element in diagnosing COPD. As this incurable condition progressively worsens, more spirometry tests are conducted and changes in treatment are made.
I booked the test and was called back 15 minutes later to be told that my appointment could not be kept because it was “not allowed”.
“Not allowed?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“It’s not allowed.”
“I understand that,” I said. “Why not?”
Again the reply, “It’s not allowed”, and so it went on. Eventually in a temper I requested he ring back shortly when he had found out exactly why this essential test for COPD was “not allowed”. 15 minutes later he rang back. It’s not allowed, he told me, because the test involves exhaling with as much force as one can muster and therefore there is a Covid risk to the nurse.
If there is that much risk have the test outside! This test, I repeat, is essential for COPD diagnosis and treatment.
Absurd as this is, the doctor herself, by proposing that I have a spirometry test, is clearly unaware that currently in that practice at least they are not allowed.
A new Ipsos MORI poll for the BBC appears to catch the Great British Public telling pollsters what they want to hear.
Overall, a large majority of Britons say they are very likely or certain that they will follow government guidelines and self-isolate should they test positive, come in close contact with someone who is positive, or arrive in Britain from a non-exempt country. 84% will do so if they themselves test positive for coronavirus while 77% will do the same should they come into close contact with someone who tests positive. A further 71% say they would quarantine if they returned from a country without a ‘travel corridor’.
Oh yes, 84%? So why did King’s College London find only 18% of those who developed symptoms followed the self-isolation rules, and that just 11% of contacts of those who tested positive did the same?
It makes you wonder whether all these polls that appear to show just how much public support there is for lockdown measures are really just measuring virtue-signalling.
Stop Press: A reader sheds some light on how the polls might turn out to be wrong.
I used to be a member of the YouGov Panel (the rather self-aggrandising name which YouGov awarded to questionnaire respondents at the time).
When YouGov used to ask me to participate in an online questionnaire, the content was never a simple “do you agree with ‘n’ Government policy?”, but instead it was a lengthy affair (often dozens of questions) which used to take up to 30 minutes to complete. This is why I stopped participating.
It occurred to me that such polling arrangements would only attract politically dedicated people (prepared to regularly fill out long questionnaires) and only people with sufficient spare time to do so.
What kind of person is this likely to be? I think we can all guess.
I would also suggest that this is why opinion polls got things so wrong about Brexit and Trump and why they are clearly making the same mistake regarding the upcoming presidential election.
An illuminating letter from a surgeon appeared in the Telegraph yesterday.
SIR – The vast majority of students who graduate from medical school pursue careers that use the tenets of clinical medicine. A correct diagnosis is typically dependent on a clinical examination using all of the doctor’s senses. In other words, clinical doctors are wholly immersed in a life of risk.
A tiny minority of medical graduates pursue a career in public-health medicine. That these scientists are intelligent is without doubt, but they inhabit a world of epidemiology and theoretical modelling, which keeps risk at a distance. No wonder, then, that when the Cabinet seeks their advice about minimising death, the message is to lock down and shield until the problem goes away.
As a general surgeon, I have not encountered a single Covid-positive patient for more than four months. In this same time, my clinical activity is running at 20% of what it normally would be and the expected numbers of referrals for patients with cancer has fallen dramatically. Yet I am now working in a region that has gone back into lockdown.
The Government is following the advice of a population of doctors who are risk-averse. It is possible to protect both the economy and the vulnerable, and to resume treating more lethal diseases. However, this requires the Government to seek and follow advice beyond the world of public-health medicine. It should listen to the Royal College of Surgeons and to oncologists.
David Scott-Coombes FRCS
- “Boris Johnson backs down as tigerish Tory rebels bare their teeth” – Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph on the success of the rebels in forcing some Government accountability over lockdown despite the failure of the Brady amendment on procedural grounds
- “Until recently, Boris Johnson had a reputation as a libertarian. So whatever happened to the man who loathed the Nanny State?” – Ross Clark asks an excellent question in the Mail
- “Boris must call time on his farcical 10pm pub curfew” – Michael Deacon in the Telegraph on the arbitrariness of the Government’s latest industry-destroying restrictions
- “The Dandemic that’s killing off democracy” – Kevin Donnelly in Conservative Woman on the poor state of democracy in Kim-Jong Dan’s Victoria
- “Blaming, petrifying, and punishing the population are not viable, long term public health strategies” – Veteran sceptic Prof Raj Bhopal takes a stand for good sense in the BMJ
- “The Scandinavian coronavirus story really does suggest it is time to ease restrictions” – Bizarre article by Mark Brolin in the Telegraph arguing that Sweden was wrong but Denmark, Norway and Finland were right
- “Universities should be seeking to help, not punish, students stuck in lockdown” – Sir Michael Barber, the Chairman of the universities watchdog the Office for Students, makes a belated effort to suggest universities be nice to their paying customers
- “From Dad’s Army to Blackadder Goes Forth” – Amusing piece on the Market Thinking blog
- “Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday 18th September that hospital admissions for COVID-19 were doubling every 7-8 days. So how is that going?” – Peter Hitchens in the Mail points out that in the eight days since Hancock made his rash prediction admissions have risen from 205 to 245, not exactly double. Also watch his latest talkRADIO appearance here
- “BP Vice President killed himself after being made redundant because of COVID-19 crisis, inquest hears” – Tragic story in the Telegraph of one of the many victims of lockdown
- “UK spent £569m on 20,900 ventilators but most remain unused” – The Guardian on one example of the horrendous waste of public funds during the pandemic. Unused you say? Perhaps just as well, seeing as they kill people
- “The great student lockdown” – Tom Slater’s latest in spiked, always worth a read
- “Tennessee Governor ending all statewide restrictions on businesses, gatherings” – The Volunteer State joins Florida in winding down the crisis, reports The Hill
We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. 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.
Update: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.
We’ve created a one-stop shop 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 (takes a while to arrive). 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. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it 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.
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: Lockdown Sceptics reader Russell Lewin (who blogs here) has come up with a way to stay sceptical for times when he might not feel brave enough to wear his exemption lanyard.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.
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 hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us 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.
Artist and Lockdown Sceptics reader Miriam Elia has a new satirical, Ladybird-style book coming out this month and has kindly allowed us to publish this preview, which shows just how brilliant her work is. Check out her website here, where you can also pre-order We Do Lockdown.