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Second Lockdown For Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday announced new restrictions in Scotland – a new lockdown in all but name. Christopher Snowdon is not impressed in the Spectator.

So now we know the threshold at which Nicola Sturgeon pulls the trigger. If the number of daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 exceeds a tenth of the number recorded at the April peak, she will lay waste to the hospitality industry. From Friday, all pubs and licensed restaurants in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran – where two-thirds of Scots live – will be forced to shut their doors for at least 16 days. So too will snooker clubs, casinos, bowling alleys and bingo halls.

In the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve food and soft drinks – but not alcohol – until 6pm. Cafés which don’t have an alcohol licence can also stay open until 6pm. Hotel restaurants will be permitted to open beyond 6pm but only for residents and, again, only without alcohol.

Repressive stuff, and with a whiff of prohibition and temperance. And it’s only October.

The pub industry is keen to point out that only 5% of Covid infections take place in the hospitality sector, and there is certainly a sense of the trade being made a scapegoat. But Sturgeon had little else left to ban. Scots were already forbidden from mixing at home with people from outside their household. The rule of six applied outside, albeit with an exemption for children aged under 12. The whole UK had – and has – a 10pm ‘curfew’.

Sturgeon is insistent that the new regulations do not amount to a second lockdown, but with only shops and schools left open, it seems awfully close to one – and there are still six months of cold weather to go. Given the prominence in the Scottish media of ‘Zero Covid’ idealists and anti-alcohol academics, Scots shouldn’t get their hopes up about the ‘circuit breaker’ ending on October 25th.

Scotland has only had around one Covid death each day this week, Snowdon points out. “However else you might describe this strategy, it is not learning to live with the virus,” he says.

Worth reading in full.

One other point: If the SNP had got its way in 2014 and Scotland was now an independent country, Nic Sturge-un would not be able to lay waste to the Scottish economy in this way. It is only because almost all taxes are collected (and money borrowed) nationally – and the Scots are bailed out by the English each year – that she can get away with it.

Stop Press: Bars and cafés in Brussels were closed for a month yesterday. New York has begun imposing new local lockdowns, largely in Jewish neighbourhoods, where a strong opposition is developing.

Pressure Mounts For New Lockdown in England

A large rise in “cases” over the past week, especially in the North of England, has led to calls for new nationwide restrictions in England. The Times has more.

Surging coronavirus infection rates have put Britain on the brink of tougher lockdown measures, overshadowing Boris Johnson’s attempt yesterday to focus on life after the pandemic.

The Government’s scientific advisers called for “urgent and drastic action” after cases doubled in 11 days to 14,542 and deaths doubled to 76 in the same period.

Hospital admissions in England jumped by a quarter in one day and ministers are scrambling to find a way to bring down cases in the North West amid concerns about the ability of the health service to cope over winter in infection hotspots.

Rates in Manchester have doubled in a week to more than 500 cases per 100,000 people. Liverpool and Newcastle are close behind with rates increasing by more than 50 per cent in seven days.

However, Manchester has already been in local lockdown since July 31st and Newcastle since September 18th. In fact, as Labour leader Keir Starmer put to Boris Johnson at PMQs yesterday, 19 out of the 20 places with local restrictions have seen cases surge, often much more than places without additional restrictions. The answer, according to lockdown zealots? Harsher restrictions, obviously.

However, Professor Calum Semple of the University of Liverpool, a member of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), said that a “circuit-breaker” lockdown was already overdue, urging ministers to impose one rapidly to squash the epidemic.

“Perhaps a circuit-breaker a couple of weeks ago would have been a really good idea,” he told Today on BBC Radio 4, speaking in a personal capacity.

“It’s always easier to reduce an outbreak at the earlier stage than to let it run and then try to reduce it at a later stage. So, yes, circuit-breakers are certainly something we should be thinking about on a national basis.” …

Professor John Edmunds, a member of Sage, said local measures had failed and more stringent lockdown restrictions were required. “These local restrictions that have been put in place in much of the north of England really haven’t been very effective,” he told BBC’s Newsnight. “We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control.”

He added that the Government’s “light touch” measures were “delaying the inevitable”. “We will at some point put very stringent measures in place because we will have to when hospitals start to really fill up,” he said. “Frankly, the better strategy is to put them in place now,” he said. …

Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and another Sage member, pointed to the recent struggles of intensive care units in the south of France to urge tougher action now. “A fudge will neither deliver an open economy nor save lives,” he wrote on Twitter.

Matt Keeling, of the University of Warwick, a member of the government’s SPI-M modelling group, said: “We are now at a time where most measures of the epidemic are increasing exponentially. Urgent and drastic national-scale action is required if we are to re-establish control.”

The call for nationwide action is curious, seeing as the second ripple appears already to have peaked in London and the South and is slowing in the Midlands. The biggest worry is the North West, which currently has nine times as many Covid patients as the South East, and where patient numbers have doubled in two weeks to 996 on Tuesday. That is about a third of the peak there of 2,980 on April 13th, with no sign yet of slowing down.

Its hospitals are not in immediate danger but ministers believe that cases must be brought down to avoid them struggling with large numbers of elderly Covid patients at the height of winter. Local action is still preferred, and a shutdown of pubs and restaurants is being planned as the top level of a “three-tier” lockdown system that could be announced tomorrow. The system has yet to be finalised, with sources saying that it was “stuck in No 10”. National action has not been ruled out.

Chris Hopson, head of the hospitals’ group NHS Providers, urged Mr Johnson to be willing to “adopt appropriately tough local lockdown measures wherever the virus is spreading in a way that could jeopardise the NHS’s ability to cope”. He said that if cases continued to rise “in areas where tough lockdown measures have already been in place for some time, that may well suggest that the existing approach is insufficient”.

However, as Nick Triggle points out on the BBC website, only about 3% of hospital beds nationwide are currently occupied by Covid patients, and with the woeful lack of other healthcare being provided by the NHS, there is no shortage of room. He writes: “But none of this is exceptional at this time of year especially the closer we get to winter. Admissions for respiratory illnesses can double from late summer to the peak in December and January.”

Triggle also points out that hospital Covid cases in Spain and France have slowed in recent weeks.

Unfortunately, he repeats the claim that this drop-off is a result of additional restrictions, which is easily disproved. Data for Spain from the Carlos III Health Institute show cases by date of symptom onset peaking before the end of August, well ahead of any new restrictions. Given that areas with local lockdowns in England have, conversely, seen surges, the evidence for the efficacy of lockdowns in controlling COVID-19 outbreaks is entirely mythical.

This is a point born out by science journalist John Tierney in a detailed analysis of the effect of lockdowns across the world in City Journal.

While the economic and social costs have been enormous, it’s not clear that the lockdowns have brought significant health benefits beyond what was achieved by people’s voluntary social distancing and other actions. Some researchers have credited lockdowns with slowing the pandemic, but they’ve relied on mathematical models with assumptions about people’s behavior and the virus’s tendency to spread—the kinds of models and assumptions that previously produced wild overestimates of how many people would die during the pandemic. Other researchers have sought more direct evidence, looking at mortality patterns. They have detected little impact.

In a comparison of 50 countries, a team led by Rabail Chaudhry of the University of Toronto found that Covid was deadlier in places with older populations and higher rates of obesity, but the mortality rate was no lower in countries that closed their borders or enforced full lockdowns. After analyzing 23 countries and 25 U.S. states with widely varying policies, Andrew Atkeson of UCLA and fellow economists found that the mortality trend was similar everywhere once the disease took hold: the number of daily deaths rose rapidly for 20 to 30 days, and then fell rapidly.

Similar conclusions were reached in analyses of Covid deaths in Europe. By studying the time lag between infection and death, Simon Wood of the University of Edinburgh concluded that infections in Britain were already declining before the nation’s lockdown began in late March. In an analysis of Germany’s 412 counties, Thomas Wieland of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology found that infections were waning in most of the country before the national lockdown began and that the additional curfews imposed in Bavaria and other states had no effect.

Tierney concludes:

The lockdowns may have been justified in the spring, when so little was known about the virus and the ways to contain it. But now that we know more, there’s no ethical justification for continuing this failed experiment.

Yet ministers are once again faced with calls from their scientific advisers to impose illiberal and ruinous restrictions on the nation so as not to “jeopardise the NHS’s ability to cope” and to “avoid them struggling with large numbers of elderly Covid patients at the height of winter”. Isn’t this what the Nightingale hospitals are for? It would certainly be far cheaper and proportionate to expand the winter health service capacity than force tens of thousands of businesses to close – with many going bankrupt as a consequence – and once again imprison the entire population in their homes.

The truth is this. The health service is always stretched in the winter. Hospitalisations and deaths from respiratory illness caused by various endemic viruses always increase from September onwards towards a winter peak. A new university year always causes a spike in viral infections amongst students. There is nothing unusual about any of this. The fact that the second ripple in the South of England appears already to have peaked without additional restrictions suggests the same will shortly be true in the North.

Widespread immunity and resistance prevents COVID-19 pulling off a repeat of the spring. Time we stopped panicking every time something normal happens just because we’re watching it closely.

Stop Press: A new study from Edinburgh University published in the BMJ suggests herd immunity could have saved more lives than lockdown. Researchers from Edinburgh have reassessed Prof Neil Ferguson’s modelling that showed half a million people would die in the “do nothing” scenario. They estimate that keeping children out of classrooms will mean deaths of between 80,000 and 95,000. Likewise, social distancing of everyone, rather than just the over-70s, could eventually cost between 149,000 and 178,000 lives. The Telegraph has a summary.

How Reliable Are Rising Case Numbers?

Today we’re publishing an original article on Lockdown Sceptics by four scientists at Queen Mary University – two professors, a post-doc and a reader – casting doubt on the “evidence” that we’re in the midst of a deadly second wave.

The massive increase in ‘new cases’ is almost completely explained by factors that have nothing to do with an increasing population health risk. New cases are simply the count of those who get a positive test result. But almost all of those – as can be seen from the university student ‘cases’ – are either asymptomatic or false positives., i.e. they do not – and will not – show any symptoms of a ‘COVID-19 illness’. Nor will they ‘spread the virus’ to others.

Also, contrary to widely believed assumptions, there is no ‘gold standard’ test for COVID-19. A diagnostic process, namely PCR, has been used, but since the outbreak there has been no attempt to determine its accuracy. It might be shocking to find that research on lab grown ‘live’ cultures of the virus, taken from patients, had not been published until early August – eight months after the virus outbreak. These have been used to assess the accuracy of PCR and the results are not good. It has been shown it is possible to return a positive PCR test where a sample taken from the same patient never grows a viral culture – meaning the patient does not have an active COVID-19 infection despite the positive PCR test. The implications of this for the false positive rate of PCR tests are obvious and significant.

The other obvious explanation for the increase in number of ‘cases’ is that far more people are being tested – 280,000 per day now compared to 10,000 at the peak in March. So, while there are twice the number of ‘new cases’ per day now compared to the March peak, the number of ‘new cases’ per 1000 people tested now is actually only ONE-TENTH of that in the March peak (45 compared to 450).

The authors of this piece are Professor Norman Fenton is the Professor of Risk and Information Management, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Queen Mary University of London; Dr. Scott McLachlan is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Queen Mary University of London; Professor Martin Neil is the Professor of Computer Science and Statistics, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Queen Mary University of London; and Dr. Magda Osman is a Reader in Experimental Cognitive Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London.

Very much worth reading in full.

Scientists’ Petition Smashes 100,000 Signatures

Prof Jay Bhattacharya interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer

The Great Barrington Declaration initiated by Prof Sunetra Gupta, Prof Martin Kulldorff and Prof Jay Bhattacharya on Sunday, advocating “Focused Protection” of the vulnerable over indiscriminate lockdowns, has now got over 10,000 signatures from scientists and medical practitioners and over 95,000 from the general public. (Please sign it here.)

The BBC ran a story on it yesterday, and included some criticism.

While clearly “well intentioned”, the declaration has profound ethical, logistical and scientific flaws, University of Leeds School of Medicine associate professor Dr Stephen Griffin says.

The vulnerable come from all walks of life and deserve to be “treated equally”.

And “long Covid” is reported to have left even people mild infections with problems such as fatigue and joint pain for months.

University of Reading cellular biology expert Dr Simon Clarke, meanwhile, says whether herd immunity is even achievable remains unclear.

“Natural, lasting, protective immunity to the disease would be needed,” he says.

“And we don’t know how effective or long-lasting people’s post-infection immunity will be.”

Some say the most likely scenario is immunity is not long-term but future reinfections then become milder.

All these criticisms are taken from an article on the Science Media Centre site entitled “Expert reaction to Barrington Declaration“. The Science Media Centre was set up in 2002 “to renew public trust in science”, yet every single “expert” it has quoted on the Great Barrington Declaration condemns it. Such one-sided support for the pro-lockdown, wait-for-the-vaccine status quo seems unlikely to restore public confidence in science, particularly when you look at who the most generous sponsors of the Centre are: AstraZeneca, Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Limited, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline.

These criticisms are very weak and easily countered. That people “deserve to be treated equally” is not a reason to reject an effective public health strategy based on scientific evidence of differing levels of risk for different groups. The period of differential treatment is also envisaged to be short – a matter of months before the non-vulnerable population achieves herd immunity.

Long Covid appears to be a serious issue for a few, but it is unlikely that a rational cost-benefit analysis would conclude that the costs and harms imposed on society by lockdowns are warranted just for that risk alone. Lockdown Sceptics published a detailed analysis of that risk by an epidemiologist and a retired Professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology and concluded it had been exaggerated.

Regarding whether immunity fades over time, all the “experts” quoted in the Science Media Centre blog claim it doesn’t last but there’s very little evidence for that assertion. Dr Mike Yeadon, Lockdown Sceptics contributor and former head of R&D at Pfizer, has told us the “immunity fades” argument doesn’t stack up.

We don’t know that immunity to the coronavirus wanes over time. While circulating antibody levels wanes over time, that does not mean the individual loses protection. In fact, it’s not only expected but the rule rather than the exception that this occurs. Consider the serum in which those antibodies are dissolved. If you had to keep in circulation a high concentration of antibodies against everything to which your body had immunity, there wouldn’t be room for your blood cells! What keeps you protected are the memory cells of your immune system, T-cells which orchestrate accelerated responses if ever you encounter the virus again and B-cells which rapidly expand and secrete fresh antibodies when needed. We know by studying cells in those who survived SARS in 2003 that their T-cell memory is present and vigorous, 17 years later.

While a tiny number of apparent re-infections have been recorded, I don’t think a single case of serious illness has resulted from such a re-infection. The more relevant statistic is that of the 750,000,000 people which the WHO has estimated have so far been infected, 99.999% of them have not been re-infected. That’s why the pandemic is self limiting wherever low interventions have been chosen (e.g. Sweden, Malawi), or have otherwise occurred despite best efforts (e.g. the UK).

Herd immunity is without any doubt the force responsible for bringing the spring pandemic under control. Lockdown started after the rate of infection had already begun to fall as grumpily acknowledged by Prof Whitty to a select committee in July. Once this is appreciated, a candidate is required to explain how a rapidly expanding pandemic was converted into one which was expanding ever more slowly until it stopped expanding. No one has put forward a single alternative force than diminished remaining % susceptibility in the population, aka ‘herd immunity’.

One further point: if herd immunity isn’t achievable because antibodies fade, leaving those who have them vulnerable over time, then that also rules out an effective vaccine. In truth, all the evidence indicates that, with these kinds of viruses, infection adds considerably to the body’s resistance to the virus making reinfections much less likely and, when they do occur, either mild or asymptomatic.

Stop Press: Watch Prof Jay Bhattacharya being interviewed on talkRADIO about the Declaration here. And Prof Sunetra Gupta has an op-ed making her case in the Telegraph.

Government Defrauded For £26 BILLION and Counting

The National Audit Office has estimated that more than half of the loans under the Government’s pandemic “Bounce Back” scheme may be fraudulent. Matthew Lynn in the Spectator has more.

We learned today that the ‘Bounce Back’ loan scheme may well have been defrauded to the tune of £26 billion – serious cash even for a Government that has recently discovered the magic money tree. According to a report from the National Audit Office there were so few checks in place when the scheme was hurriedly put together that it was simple for fraudsters to set up a company in a borrowed name, take out a state guaranteed loan, and then disappear with the cash before anyone knew what was happening.

We will find out just how many of the loans were fraudulent when repayment is finally demanded. But the NAO reckons it is more than half of them. The colossal sums of money stolen were more than the entire amount spent on police and prisons every year (which seems a shame, since they might be busy with all the fraud going on), or the total dished out to students in loans annually. In other words, it was a lot.

And that may be just the tip of the iceberg once you add in all the misuse of furlough, start-up rescue packages and Eat Out to Help Out. Does this help explain why the public was so supportive of the lockdown?

Worth reading Matthew Lynn’s piece in full.

Fake NHS App Fools Bars and Restaurants

An enterprising individual has built an app that creates a fake check-in confirmation screen to fool door staff. Vice has more.

First developed for the Android operating system, and later made available to iPhone users as a browser-based service, the app allows users to type in the name of a venue to generate a false check-in page, which can be used to gain entry without scanning a QR code or providing contact information.

“A little present for you and your friends,” read one message forwarded to several Telegram channels used by anti-lockdown activists. “Fake track and trace, as London was a nightmare to get into places and we was refused entry in nearly all places without abiding to track and trace, which I’m sure left us all with no entry at all… if you click the link before entering it will show that you have checked in on your screen. It will always change date times for you. Enjoy.”

Shamefully, however, Vice has doxxed the app’s creator – a Nordic walking instructor and herbal medicine practitioner based in South Wales. That’s extraordinary, not least because Vice routinely publishes articles in which it protects the identity of drug dealers and other law breakers. In Vice‘s view, if you sell illegal drugs you deserve anonymity, but if you develop an app that enables people to evade state surveillance you deserve to go to jail.

Fiddling the Hospital Figures

A senior doctor has got in touch with a warning about the hospital data being pumped out across the media to persuade us we’re in the midst of a deadly “second wave”.

Something to watch out for Boris, Hancock and so on have painted themselves into a corner. They can’t backtrack and say they made a mistake in crashing the economy. They need the figures to show some justification for their approach and provide a ladder to eventually climb down. It’s inconceivable that they will acknowledge error in decision making.

As you know, medical figures can be presented in such a way as to resemble virtually anything the PCR false positive saga being a case in point.

Hospital admission data are harder to fiddle with, but not impossible. For example, the definition of “patients in intensive care” can be widened to include not just patients on a ventilator but patients needing oxygen by CPAP mask as well, or even just oxygen by venturi face mask this can make it look like there are a greater number of more severely ill patients than in fact there are.

Hospital admission data can also be “reclassified” – by lowering the criteria for admission, for example. Or by including all patients who attended A&E, even if they were subsequently sent home without spending a night in hospital.

Or the definition of Covid patients in hospital can be widened to include people who have had a positive test for Covid while being admitted for something else and are showing no Covid symptoms (in other words, an incidental finding).

There are many other ways of presenting the data to make the epidemic look more serious than it actually is watch out for these tricks in the coming days. I have seen all of these methods used in the past in other settings.

“Keep Your Mask On Between Bites,” says California Governor

Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, has tweeted that if people go out to eat they should wear a mask “in between bites”. Fox News has the story.

For emphasis, the tweet shows an image of someone at a dining seat wearing a mask, then not wearing a mask while taking a bite, and then putting the mask on again.

However, the image then advises people to “minimise the number of times you take your mask off”.

The Governor appears to be unaware that one of the reasons masks are so poor at preventing infection is because people keep touching them. Indeed, his tweet would seem to contradict the message of the image he shared with it, which appears to encourage the removal of the mask for the duration of the meal (hence picking up the napkin in the third picture). With such absurd and extreme virtue-signalling in play, have we reached peak mask?

Postcard From Naples

Lockdown Sceptics reader James Hardy has just got back from Naples and highly recommends it.

My girlfriend and I have just returned from a wonderful week in Italy, taking in Naples and Sorrento. As Italy is one of the few places one can currently travel to without fear of Grant Shapps’s dart resulting in a quarantine, it was a no-brainer to head off for a well-needed week away.

We flew from Heathrow Terminal 5 (warning to fellow sceptics: check-in took ages with only a fraction of the self-checkout machines open). British Airways, it must be said, was fantastic and relatively relaxed. I of course made my crisps and water last the entire flight – thank you James Delingpole for that.

Naples was a joy. The Italian police were pretty unrelenting in reminding people to wear masks, but the moment they drove past everyone reverted back to warming their chins. The bars and restaurants were all open and busy with no ridiculous 10pm curfew. With everywhere offering outside dining/drinking, it was even more chilled-out with the Campari sodas flowing at about three euros a pop. The streets were buzzing, just the right number of locals and tourists, the weather wasn’t too shoddy either.

I implore every reader to head to Naples and dart down to Sorrento which was paradise compared with London. Good weather, relaxed locals, busy squares and packed pizzerias. You were obliged to wear a mask in shops. However, the bars, cafes and restaurants were completely normal. Everyone gave us a warm welcome wherever we went, with the obligatory free limoncello at every hour of the day.  

If the rest of Italy is like Sorrento, then book your flight now, some fantastic deals, great food, and the tail-end of some mid-20s sunshine.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Boy in the Bubble” by Paul Simon, “Nicola’s Nits” by Nick Cope and “Hit The North” by The Fall.

Love in the Time of Covid

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.

Sharing stories: 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, it’s the 100 Great Black Britons, with some striking omissions, and telling inclusions. Rakib Ehsan in spiked has the details.

To mark Black History Month, a new campaign called 100 Great Black Britons has been launched. The brainchild of Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon and historian Dr Angelina Osborne, the list, according to the Guardian, “celebrates high-achieving black British individuals over the past 400 years”. But there are some remarkable omissions here.

For instance, the list doesn’t include two of the finest news broadcasters in modern British history – Sir Trevor McDonald, who was knighted in 1999 for his services to journalism, and Moira Stuart OBE, who earlier this year received the Broadcasting Press Guild’s Harvey Lee award in recognition of her five decades in the industry. Other notable people who don’t appear include Welsh singing legend Dame Shirley Bassey and charismatic culinary icon Ainsley Harriott.

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is one of only a few sportspeople to make the list, which probably has as much to do with his recent Black Lives Matter ‘activism’ as his considerable achievements. Meanwhile, Welsh rugby-league legends Billy Boston and Clive Sullivan are left out. And even though black Brits have made outstanding contributions to the game of football, the likes of Viv Anderson and John Barnes also did not make the cut. Nor did Laurie Cunningham, Daley Thompson or Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The most egregious omission, says Ehsan, is cricketer and anti-discrimination advocate Sir Learie Constantine, who was knighted in 1962 and became Britain’s first black peer in 1969. On the other hand, there is room for Labour MPs Dawn Butler and David Lammy, and Guardian-regular, Professor of Black Studies and author of The Psychosis of Whiteness (really) Kehinde Andrews. Andrews recently described Trevor Phillips (also not included) as an embodiment of the “modern day Uncle Tom“, and said “ministers with brown skin wearing Tory masks represents the opposite of racial progress”.

Read Ehsan’s piece in full 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 £1.49 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: Italy is making masks compulsory outside, in the latest evidence-free lunacy.

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…

Boris’s human shield

Toby’s Spectator column today is about Matt Hancock, who’s continuing survival is a modern political miracle.

Matt Hancock has come under so much fire since the beginning of March there’s been speculation that Boris Johnson is only keeping him in the cabinet as a human shield. Whenever the government makes another unforced error, Hancock is pushed out in front of the media and forced to stand there and take it as brickbats are hurled at him. It’s hard to imagine why the Health Secretary is being kept on life support if it’s not to soak up as much blame as possible so he can be sacrificed when things get so bad the public demands blood. Some think that might not be until the official inquiry pronounces its verdict, which is bound to be withering. But surely he can’t last that long?

Toby summarises the recent Amnesty International report into the Government’s care homes policy, pointing out there were 28,186 excess deaths recorded in English care homes from March 2nd to June 12th, with 9,624 making no mention of “novel coronavirus” on the death certificate.

When the country was locked down, far fewer people than normal were treated for heart attacks, cancer, strokes and diabetes, and dementia deaths increased by 50 per cent. Many care home residents will have died as a result of enforced isolation, their only social contact being with tired and overworked staff wearing masks, face shields and plastic overalls.

I’m not saying Matt Hancock is to blame for any of these deaths, but if the buck doesn’t stop with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who does it stop with? Incredibly, though, the media hasn’t paid much attention to the Amnesty report so Hancock hasn’t been damaged by it. But the goodwill of the public is gradually being exhausted and it won’t be long before it’s time for Boris to initiate Operation Scapegoat.

Worth reading in full.