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Trump Hospitalised

The big news last night was that Donald Trump, who has tested positive for coronavirus, has been taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, for a “few days” as a “precaution”. The BBC has more.

A feverish US President Donald Trump has been flown to hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

The White House said the president was “fatigued but in good spirits” and was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Mr Trump received an experimental drug cocktail injection at the White House after he and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for Covid-19.

Not great news for Trump, obviously, and not great news for lockdown sceptics either. Trump, after all, is one of the most outspoken critics of the extended “shut downs” in some US states and has praised those Republican governors who have reopened their states the quickest. If he were to die of Covid, lockdown zealots would be cock-a-hoop, treating it as definitive proof that sceptics are wrong. Of course, all it would really show is that people of a certain age, particularly if they’re over-weight, are vulnerable to the disease and if they want to minimise their risk of death they should shield themselves from others. It wouldn’t show that it’s sensible to lockdown entire populations when the risk posed by the disease to healthy people under 65 is no greater than the risk posed by seasonal flu.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Even allowing for his age, gender and weight, Trump still has a 96% chance of surviving. And given that he’s been self-medicating with hydroxychloroquine, the odds are probably better than that. Get well soon, Mr President.

Covid Vaccines “Will Never Prevent Infection”

Are the vaccines little more than glorified Lemsip?

William Haseltine in Forbes has looked at the trial protocols that four leading vaccine developers, ModernaPfizerAstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, have published and drawn a shocking conclusion: none of them is aiming to produce a vaccine that prevents infection or reduces likelihood of death.

Prevention of infection is not a criterion for success for any of these vaccines. In fact, their endpoints all require confirmed infections and all those they will include in the analysis for success,  the only difference being the severity of symptoms between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Measuring differences amongst only those infected by SARS-CoV-2 underscores the implicit conclusion that the vaccines are not expected to prevent infection, only modify symptoms of those infected.

We all expect an effective vaccine to prevent serious illness if infected. Three of the vaccine protocols – Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca – do not require that their vaccine prevent serious disease only that they prevent moderate symptoms which may be as mild as cough, or headache.

So mild are the symptoms the vaccines are being tested against that Haseltine dryly remarks: “These vaccine trials are testing to prevent common cold symptoms.”

It appears that all the pharmaceutical companies assume that the vaccine will never prevent infection. Their criteria for approval is the difference in symptoms between an infected control group and an infected vaccine group. They do not measure the difference between infection and non-infection as a primary motivation.

A greater concern for the millions of older people and those with pre-existing conditions is whether these trials test the vaccine’s ability to prevent severe illness and death. Again we find that severe illness and death are only secondary objectives in these trials. None list the prevention of death and hospitalisation as a critically important barrier.

He concludes the trials are designed to succeed come what may, which may explain the unusual pace at which they are progressing and the strange sense of confidence that surrounds them, with reports coming out that some vaccines may be available this year.

What it means, though, is that these companies are not creating what most people assume they are creating, namely something that bestows immunity or at least reduces the risk of death. The fact that the prevention of hospitalisation and death – the only reason people are really concerned about Covid, after all – is not a primary aim of the vaccine development is somewhat surprising.

No wonder Haseltine concludes the vaccines currently under trial “will not be the silver bullet needed to end the pandemic”. Do the politicians understand what they are getting? If not, it is incompetence of the highest order as they are wrecking their economies and steamrolling their people’s liberties awaiting drugs that are little more than a glorified version of Lemsip. If they do, why are they making their people languish in ruinous confinement awaiting what is essentially a placebo?

Either way, it has the making of a huge scandal.

“Second Wave” Fizzling Out

Another day brings yet more evidence that the second wave ripple continues to dissipate. Backing up the findings of the Imperial React study published on Thursday, the ONS study released on Thursday shows an even greater drop off in new infections, falling from an estimated 9,600 a day last week to 8,400 a day this week. This suggests that, far from continuing to grow exponentially as per Witless and Unbalanced’s graph of doom, the outbreak has already entered a phase of decline. Christian Yates in the Medical Xpress provides further confirmation of this trend from hospital admission rates and the number of calls to emergency services and the NHS.

The Government, inevitably, will claim it’s due to their latest restrictions, and as usual present no evidence but just wave their hands in front of wiggly graphs. But the truth is that cases have been growing fastest in the regions that have been placed under local lockdowns, as the Mail illustrates.

In light of this, the Mail questions whether local lockdowns are really effective or worthwhile.

There are now concerns that Luton will follow in the footsteps of Stockport and Wigan and see even more restrictive measures reintroduced just weeks after they were eased.

If this becomes the case, it will mean not a single town, city or borough in England will have successfully turned around a COVID-19 outbreak with the help of a local lockdown. 

Experts say it raises questions about whether the juice is really worth the squeeze, as local businesses go bust and people are forced to go weeks without seeing their loved ones due to the targeted measures.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, dubbed the “capital of Europe’s second wave”, hospital occupancy continues its downward trend, now sustained for over a week. Importantly, the decline in infections predates any Government intervention, showing that it is most likely the result of acquired population immunity. And, of course, the Spanish Government has ignored this positive data and just placed Madrid under a local lockdown of sorts, imposing a rule of six and a 10pm curfew.

Boris Rejects Advice of Leading Oxford Epidemiologist

Andrew Neil on Spectator TV on Thursday night interviewed leading Oxford epidemiologist Professor Sunetra Gupta. It’s well worth a watch and confirms what we feared – that Boris has heard and rejected Prof Gupta’s advice. Here’s the relevant part, kindly transcribed by a Lockdown Sceptics reader.

Andrew Neil: What did you make of Kate (Andrews) pointing that public opinion was perhaps moving in a direction that maybe we now need just to learn to live with this? Not that it means everything back to normal or anything like that but that we’ve got to accept it’s going to be around for some time and rather than lockdowns or extreme measures, we should learn to live with it. Would that be a sensible response?

Professor Gupta: I think that that’s a very sensible response and that’s what should have been made available as an option or as the most likely course, again, right from the outset because that is what was likely to happen with a virus of this ilk. So what’s most likely to happen and desirable is that it settles down to what we call an endemic equilibrium such as we enjoy with influenza, with pneumococcal bugs that cause pneumonia and a variety of other pathogens – we live at an endemic equilibrium with them and live lives normally and accept the deaths that they cause because, you know, that’s what society is about; it’s about optimising on this really quite complex landscape of risks and weighing the costs and benefits to arrive at a solution that is the best thing for everybody.

Andrew Neil: When you put these points to the Prime Minister, what did he say?

Professor Gupta: Er, nothing. But then he has responded since then.

Andrew Neil: Clearly, he didn’t listen to you did he?

Professor Gupta: He has since then responded in terms that suggest he doesn’t agree with what we propose as a strategy which is that we allow the virus to reach that endemic equilibrium but meanwhile protect those who are susceptible to death and try and hasten that moment where it becomes the same as flu, which may have already happened, we don’t know, but to try and get there the best thing to do is allow it to circulate and protect the vulnerable people and then once it reaches that endemic equilibrium, life can return to normal – it doesn’t have to go to some new normal; we can go back to the old normal, maybe we can learn a few things from this experiment.

Neil concludes that we’ve been sold a false prospectus intentionally… with Witless and Unbalanced being complicit.

However, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson is a bit more sanguine. Asked by Andrew Neil if the Prime Minister is being held hostage by his two senior scientific advisers, he says:

I don’t think so. I actually think that when he had Professor Gupta in the weekend before last and other people of her persuasion, he was trying at least to listen to other voices. Now, since then, sure, he hasn’t said that he agrees with her or disagrees with the Swedish approach but we haven’t had too much in the way of restrictions. When I heard earlier this week we were going to get another Boris Johnson and Patrick Vallance press conference, I was all braced for sharper lockdown measures, the same as I was on Tuesday last week. In both cases, they didn’t emerge. I think he’s in a position now where he has created some space to allow himself to have a look at the data. Is it going to settle? Is it going to look like the Vallance projections? And if it isn’t following the Vallance trajectory in the way that Kate (Andrews) showed us it isn’t, then we don’t need to proceed with more national lockdown measures. So my sense is that in listening to dissenting voices, and also recently hasn’t asked Patrick Vallance and Chris Witty to meet his Cabinet every week – this is a new development – and expose them to their questioning. So I think he is now creating space where he can say, “OK, gentlemen; I’ve heard you. But I’ve got to consider cancer deaths, the economy, public health in general and I think, on balance, I’m not going to implement lockdowns which you recommend.”

Optimistic, some would say. Isn’t it more likely they will see falling “cases” and conclude all their various convoluted measures did the trick and need to remain in place? Time will tell.

Ripples Not Waves

What governments insist on referring to as “second waves”, sceptics tend to call ripples. Today on Lockdown Sceptics we’re publishing the next instalment in our “Canaries in the Mine” series, this one called “Ripples“. In it, Dr Rudolph Kalveks, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, seeks to put the wave/ripple distinction on a rigorous scientific footing. Here’s the question he tackles:

How can we objectively distinguish a “wave”, which may represent a cause for concern, from a natural “ripple”, which can be expected to subside without impacting the population at large?

His conclusion:

Thus, we continue to have the perplexing situation in the UK where an observational analysis across multiple countries puts the ripples (and their plausible development) at (one or two) orders of magnitude smaller than the first epidemic wave, while government advisers persist in presenting scenarios where the “second wave” could be an order of magnitude greater than the first!

Well worth a read.

Deserted Doctor’s Surgery

Author and Lockdown Sceptics reader Melvyn Fickling wonders where all the patients have gone at his local surgery.

I have just returned from my local GP surgery in Norwich where I went to have a routine blood test. I knew it would be an unusual experience, but I was unprepared for what I found. Outside the door stood a large sign in yellow and black telling me that if I felt ill, I should go straight home… Reassured in my own rude glow of good health, I complied with the Wear a Mask signage and tried the door. It was locked… I suspect I was supposed to ring the doorbell, but I discovered that irascible handle rattling had the desired effect. A masked receptionist unlocked the door, stuck out his head and asked “What can I do for you?”

“Er, I have an appointment.”

The young man took my name, locked the door and went to check that I was telling the truth. He returned, unlocked the door and pointed what I took to be a taser at my face. It turned out he was taking my temperature. Reassured that I was not rabid, he finally allowed me across the threshold, immediately directing me to the toilet with an instruction to wash my hands. The toilet door was wedged open so he could watch for any lack of enthusiasm on my part. While humming “Happy Birthday” I read the sign that told me these facilities were cleaned after every single use…

Deemed clean, I was directed to the cavernous waiting room that was completely empty except for half-a-dozen chairs set at a very generous two metre distance from one another. Ludicrously, my escort allocated a specific chair and waited for me to be seated before retreating, presumably to scrub the basin I had just used.

I sat in cathedral-like solitude for a few minutes before the nurse called me. It was apparent that she knew me from better times, but with her features swaddled and her voice attenuated by a visor, I did not recognise her. It was not only the nurse that was wrapped like a mummy; her keyboard and mouse lay under their own makeshift clingfilm coverings.

Blood successfully taken, I was directed to exit following the one-way system. I crossed the still-deserted waiting room to the side door and left via the garden and car park.

All this in a city that is today declaring 12 ‘cases’ per 100,000 and where the hospital (a major hub for the whole county) has recorded only two Covid deaths in the last four months.

In normal times I have never seen this waiting room with fewer than a dozen people at any time of the day, and generally it is quite crowded. Where are those people now? Who is dealing with their health concerns while the NHS pussyfoots around with their risible Covid-emergency overkill?

More University Insanity

It’s water polo, Jim, but not as we know it

A reader has returned to university to find his life is now governed by countless inconsistent and pointless rules.

Back at university with all the restrictions reminds many of us of what Vladimir Nabokov is quoted as having said of ageing faculty members: they had long ceased to notice the existence of students on campus.

Given we are still paying full fees some attempt is being made at normality, and it was with some relief that our university has allowed us to start training to play sport – in this case water polo. But thanks to the new rules made in response to Covid in the UK, water polo has changed beyond all recognition.

Before entering the pool we were instructed to maintain a safe space at all times. This is not only quite difficult in a contact sport, but also rather perplexing as it is played in a pool of chlorinated water – quite literally a bath of disinfectant. More amusing, however, every player was given their own ball, which was not under any circumstance to be passed. No goalkeeper was allowed either, as he or she would be at risk of catching the virus from one of many balls in the pool at the same time.

So a game of countless goals, with every player in the net at the same time retrieving their own or any ball to hand. After the ‘match’, all 15 of us piled back into the same changing room before heading back to campus and being subject to the ‘rule of six’, meaning no celebration at the pub to rejoice in the highest scoring training game in the university’s history.

It is all so pointless and poorly thought out. Campus is lifeless, depressing, dead. If this is the new normal, then it would be much better to subscribe to the Open University where one may still be encouraged to ask the right questions, even about the coronavirus, instead of being fed the ‘right’ answers. It would certainly be cheaper and entail less risk of getting locked into solitary confinement because a student friend happens to meet another who met another who maybe has or had the virus.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “Nanny State Blues” by Marion McCoskey and “Power is Taken” by Moby.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

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.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we feature the “Historic Landmarks Consultative Exercise” by the City of London Corporation.

Like many areas of the country, the City of London has a number of statues and other landmarks which have links to the slave trade and historic racism.

In the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, organisations across the UK are reviewing the cultural legacy of slavery and deciding how this issue should be addressed.

The City of London Corporation is committed to equality, inclusivity and diversity, and to ensuring the City, and City Corporation sites managed outside the Square Mile, are places where people of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel safe and welcome.

In June 2020, the City Corporation set up the Tackling Racism Taskforce to consider what the organisation should do to tackle racism in all its forms.

They want to know:

– Whether you think statues, building and street names and other landmarks with links to slavery, and historic racism in the City of London – or on City Corporation sites managed outside the Square Mile – are a problem
– Which statues and other landmarks in particular you think are a problem
– What action you would like to see taken – for example leaving statues and landmarks in situ, reinterpreting them visually in some way, or moving them.

The consultation is open until November 24th. If you don’t want to see London’s unique history erased by Year Zero fanatics then let them know here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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).

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

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 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.

And Finally…

This video by comedian John Bishop, in which he sarcastically welcomes Boris’s new coronavirus restrictions, is very funny.