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More Pointless, Incomprehensible, Unevidenced Restrictions Imposed on North

Bob’s latest cartoon in the Telegraph. Can there be any doubt Bob is a lockdown sceptic?

The Sunday papers have been trying to get their heads around what Boris is going to announce on Monday, but none of them have the details because the plan is still being thrashed out between Downing Street and regional mayors. The Sunday Times thinks the Government is moving away from its centrally-planned, top-down model towards a more federalist approach, but what local areas will be given control over sounds like pretty small beer.

Mayors will be given more control over the coronavirus test-and-trace system as ministers try to secure their support for tough new local lockdown rules due to be announced tomorrow.

In an admission that the national system is failing, ministers will empower town hall bosses to deploy an army of new local volunteers to knock on doors and ask people to self-isolate.

With COVID-19 running rampant, they want local people to take charge of controlling the spread of the virus in the hope it will generate “community spirit” and “improve compliance”.

Details of the plans were being thrashed out between Downing Street and mayors yesterday amid warnings that immediate action is needed to stop the NHS being swamped in the north of England.

Tomorrow ministers will publish new rules for local lockdowns in areas labelled “medium risk”, “high risk” and “very high risk”.

The Sunday Telegraph thinks pubs and bars are going to be closed in the North-West and North-East – but not restaurants – and people will be told to avoid travelling outside their areas and not to visit other households.

The talks included discussions about deals that would give local leaders greater autonomy over measures and testing in their area in exchange for helping to enforce and explain the rules.

Plans for the third “very high” tier are understood to include guidance asking residents not to travel outside their area other than for specific reasons such as work or education. Local mayors said they expected pubs and bars in these areas to have to close, with restaurants able to remain open until 10pm.

In telephone calls with local leaders, Boris Johnson’s aides also indicated that areas put into the third tier could face bans on multiple households mixing either indoors or outdoors.

Separately, Downing Street is inviting leaders whose areas are due to be in the “very high” tier to request the closure of specific types of hospitality or leisure venues, including beauty salons and sports centres.

That came after acknowledgement that the Government had not done enough to achieve “local buy-in” for some of the existing restrictions faced by areas with high infection rates in the North-East and the North-West.

Meanwhile, local leaders in the North are threatening legal action against the Government for not bunging their regions enough cash to secure their consent to these potty new rules. The Telegraph has more.

Northern leaders have said they “cannot accept” the financial package offered by the Government that will pay two-thirds of the wages of workers at businesses forced to close by local lockdown measures, and may launch a legal challenge.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said that the current financial package would “surrender our residents to hardship and our businesses to potential failure or collapse, and we are not prepared to do that”.

Mr Burnham added that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, had told local leaders that the package was “final and non-negotiable”. But the mayor said the package suggested that hospitality workers were “second-class citizens”, given that national furlough was much higher at 80 per cent.

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool City region, echoed the comments and said that “imposing new restrictions without providing adequate Government support is simply not acceptable”.

According to the Mail, some Northern mayors are claiming the daily number of cases is beginning to fall.

Data on patients with Covid-19 is not comparable across the UK due to differences in the way the figures are reported.

Separate statistics show almost one in five with the virus in hospital tested positive seven days or more after admission – implying they caught it there.

The findings suggest COVID-19 hospitalisations caused by community outbreaks may not be growing as fast as some fear.

Rises in admissions have been greatest in North West England, say health officials.

But the total number of virus patients in UK hospitals is still a fraction of the peak figure of 19,849 in April.

The latest figures come as local leaders have urged the Government not to punish the North East of England with draconian lockdown restrictions forcing the closure of pubs and bars, as it is claimed the number of daily new coronavirus infections in the region has begun to fall.

Those statistics referred to above were provided by Prof Carl Heneghan and his team, as reported in the Telegraph, and show that up to a quarter of patients currently in hospital with COVID-19 caught the virus after being admitted.

One thing is clear: the authority of the Prime Minister and his Government continues to drain away at an alarming rate.

How much longer can this omnishambles continue?

Hancock Breaks 10pm Curfew in House of Commons Bar and Makes Tasteless Joke

The Mail on Sunday has a belter of a story on its front page. Hancock broke his own Covid rules about not drinking after 10pm and made a crass joke about the failures of the Government’s test and trace programme.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was last night accused of breaking his own Covid curfew by drinking in a Commons bar beyond 10pm – where he made a crass joke about the Government’s test and trace failings.

Mr Hancock arrived at the bar just before a 9.40pm vote, ordered a glass of white wine and announced: “The drinks are on me – but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything.”

His ill-conceived joke came after he had tried to explain to the Commons why the quango had lost nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus tests – a fiasco which Labour claimed had put “lives at risk”.

A senior Tory MP told the Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock remained in the Smoking Room bar until at least 10.25pm, despite Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle insisting that Commons venues must abide by the same 10pm drink-up-and-leave curfew as all English pubs.

Is it time to send a taxi to the Department for Health and Social Care? I wrote in my Spectator column this week that Hancock was only being kept around to serve as Boris’s human shield and it may be time to initiate Operation Scapegoat.

Prophetic?

A Senior Doctor Writes…

A top NHS doctor has been checking the stats and made some interesting observations.

I spent Friday morning (when I should have been operating) running over the PHE released stats up to Oct 1st – they are obviously not up to date but there is quite a lot of info on here, though the data on the complex spreadsheet isn’t as granular as one would like, so definitive conclusions are difficult to draw.

However, there are some interesting findings.

Firstly, the number of people admitted with an already positive test is quite low as a percentage of the whole – about 20% in the last week of September.

Most ‘admissions’ are admitted without a positive test and only become ‘positive’ after two to five days when the test comes back. But about 6% to 9% test positive after eight days in hospital and these may be hospital acquired covid – Hennegan has access to more up to date figures and says in the DT today that this percentage of late positive tests is rising, possibly suggesting more hospital acquired infection.

Some of those positive swabs will be people with covid symptoms – but many are admitted with other things and the positive swab is an incidental finding as they don’t have any covid symptoms – I have heard this from anecdotal discussions, For example every patient admitted (irrespective of the reason for admission) is swabbed on admission, again at five days and weekly thereafter – any positive swab puts them into the ‘covid admission’ column regardless of reason for admission.

So the reported number of covid admissions is not the same as the number of patients with covid symptoms – in some ways it could be the same testing artefact as with the community asymptomatic tests.

The age breakdown of positive swab tests also shows a disparity in the last week of September – the positive admission swabs are skewed to a younger age group. I’m not sure what the significance of this could be as we don’t know if all these admitted patients were symptomatic for covid or not (I suspect not).

I thought the number of daily discharges of covid patients also interesting – there is quite a ‘churn’ of patients in and out of hospital with covid – again this may be asymptomatic patients or people admitted for treatment who get better quickly. Of note is that the percentage of discharges per day is higher in September (15% – 20% per day) than it was in April (8% to 10 % per day) – this might mean that a proportion of these people discharged in September were not covid symptomatic patients – i.e., admitted for routine reasons and discharged with a positive swab as an incidental finding. You can clearly see the ‘weekend effect’ in the sheet (highlighted in red) – it is more marked in September than in April as well.

The percentage of patients on ventilators is pretty constant at between 11% and 13% of the total in September (the figure for Sept 12th is clearly a counting error) – there is no age breakdown on these figs and they are a small proportion of total ventilator available beds. I’m also told that this time round there will be more scrutiny on decision making so that a greater number of patients who have minimal chance of survival will be ventilated (whereas last time round there was a cap on the ceiling of care for people with minimal chance of survival). The percentage of people in ventilated beds in April was a bit higher at about 15-16%. Also note that just because a patient is in a ventilator capable bed, it does NOT necessarily mean that the patient IS ventilated – they could quite easily be on a face mask – its one way of massaging the data… I do know that the ‘planners’ are assuming that we will not be short of ventilators this time and that more patients can be managed by CPAP – this is important as the main issue last time was managing a lot of intubated patients and the lack of ITU nurses – much easier to manage if they aren’t tubed. This has major implications as last time the critical skills shortage in London was ICU nurses. I wrote a paper about it in May suggesting that over the summer we needed to rapidly upskill the junior ICU nursing cohort – predictably, nothing has been done.

The Year the NHS Failed the People of Britain

A GP and regular reader of Lockdown Sceptics has sent me an angry letter about how the NHS has been failing patients since last March. What pushed her over the edge was a brain-dead tweet by the Health Secretary praising the NHS. Here’s the opening section:

I am a UK GP and feel devastated at the catastrophe unfolding before us and the harm that governmental decisions (un-debated, unchallenged and ignoring the evidence) have done. The last straw was Matt Hancock’s October 9th tweet

To which I say, what utter rot. As a GP I know hospital activity is less, because we get fewer inpatient/outpatient letters from them, and many of those we do request us to do tests that they are no longer inclined to do. When I see a patient with life-threatening symptoms they are terrified to go to hospital, fearing Covid. Cancer screening has been suspended, and cancer diagnostic tests are delayed, scanty and often not the optimal tests – I am already aware of delayed cancer diagnoses and treatment. Outpatient waits for people with disabling, unstable, chronic conditions have soared. Mental health services are overwhelmed with little face-to-face contact. We continue to see people but the ‘guidance’ from up above makes us triage everyone, limit numbers in our waiting room, wear masks, wipe things down and this significantly slows our throughput. This is made worse by our having key staff frequently and suddenly absent due to requirement to isolate should their child, as children do, get a transient cough. Despite this, in our large practice, not a single one of us has been diagnosed with Covid, despite our likely contact in the earlier days of the pandemic. The evidence for these heightened hygiene measures are non-existent – we have never done it in high flu prevalence years, and it should be noted they are not preventing a continued ‘average’ stream of flu deaths at present, which by far exceed current deaths from Covid. Two metre separation is entirely arbitrary and I have read no compelling evidence regarding cloth masks, yet plenty, including from the British Medical Journal, to indicate they increase risk. My experience is that they constrain communication and invoke fear.

Worth reading in full.

Latest Polling Data: Public Still Gulled

I got an email yesterday afternoon from Opinium with its latest polling data. pretty depressing reading, although support for the 10pm curfew is falling.

Overall, the public support the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Seven in ten (72%) support the notion that people should work from home wherever possible, 71% agree that face masks should be compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers, shop workers and waiters and 70% agree with the introduction of table service only in bars, restaurants and pubs.

There are lower levels of support for a potential “circuit breaker” lockdown where hospitality venues close for a short period (58%) and continuing the “rule of six” and limits on socialising over Christmas (55%). Meanwhile 44% support pubs, bars and restaurants closing at 10pm (vs. 27% opposing), almost half (49%) support limiting guests at wedding from 30 to 15. Two-thirds also support fines for not wearing masks or following rules increasing to £200 for first offence

There has however been a drop in the number of people who support the 10pm closure of pubs, bars and restaurants. A fortnight ago, 58% supported the measure while 16% opposed. This week, 44% supported this measure while 27% oppose.

In line with the above, people are continuing to err on the side of caution when it comes to the measures in place. Half (53%) lean towards the view that coronavirus threatens a large number of lives and we need strong measures in place to keep us safe. On the other hand, 24% lean more towards the belief that the measures in place are too damaging and we need to learn to live with Coronavirus for the time being. The vast majority of people (88%) are still generally or strictly following the rules.

Boris’s Willing Executioners

Ulrich Muhe as as Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others

We like to tell ourselves that Hitler could never have risen to power Britain. But seeing vast numbers of the British public leap at the opportunity to become Covid enforcers and informants has put paid to that myth. It could have happened here. Bella Wallersteiner, a Lockdown Sceptics reader and Parliamentary assistant, has written an original piece for us today about the creeping authoritarianism that the Covid pandemic has given rise to. Here’s the opening section:

It has been nearly 31 years since the Berlin Wall came down to reveal 69 miles of files amassed by the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) as it spied on more than 5.6 million citizens of the former German Democratic Republic. The archive holds films, photographs, recordings of phone conversations, mind-blowingly tedious reports of mundane conversations and interactions between neighbours and even samples of sweat collected by punctilious officers hoping to win a medal or promotion. We have a supercilious and unfounded belief that British citizens would act differently and rise above compliance with an authoritarian state. Do we not cherish individualism, freedom of speech and make fun of our politicians?

Evidence from the first month of lockdown suggests that many of us harbour an inner Stasi: in April the UK Police received 194,000 calls from members of the public snitching on neighbours alleged to have broken lockdown rules by making an unnecessary journey, going for more than one walk a day or checking on a second home. So much for the doughty spirit of British non-conformity and defiant anti-authoritarianism.

More recently, the police arrested 32 protesters at the Resist and Act for Freedom Rally in Trafalgar Square on September 19th. The media focused almost entirely on the lunatic fringe of anti-vaxxers and 5G conspiracy theorists and chose to ignore the majority of the protesters who turned up for a peaceful demonstration with banners and placards proclaiming “This is now Tyranny” and chanting “Freedom!”

Worth reading in full.

Joint Letter in Times From Matt Ridley and Others

There was an excellent “we, the undersigned” letter in the Times yesterday written by a clutch of peers, including Matt Ridley. It’s exactly the same message as the Great Barrington Declaration.

Sir, It is now clear that a policy of lockdown failed to bring the virus under control while having crippling economic and social side effects. Sweden has achieved a lower death rate from COVID-19 than the UK, with far less economic and social damage, despite being a slightly more urbanised society. If lockdown were a treatment undergoing a clinical trial, the trial would be halted because of the side effects. We suggest the Government try a new approach, more in keeping with the Conservative philosophy of individual responsibility. Anyone who wishes to be locked down, whether because they are vulnerable or for other reasons, should be supported in doing so safely. Anyone who wishes to resume normal life, and take the risk of catching the virus, should be free to do so. The choice would be ours.

Lord Ridley; Lord Cavendish of Furness; Lord Dobbs; Lord Hamilton of Epsom; Lord Howard of Rising; Lord Lamont of Lerwick; Lord Lilley; Lord Mancroft; Baroness Meyer; Baroness Noakes; Lord Robathan; Lord Shinkwin

Free Speech Under Attack

27 year-old journalist Darren Grimes

I’ve been busy over the last few days defending my friend Darren Grimes, the journalist who’s been threatened with arrest by the police because of things Dr David Starkey said when Darren interviewed him at the end of June. I’m pleased to say Darren is a member of the Free Speech Union so we’ve been able to arrange pro bono legal support in the form of a top flight criminal solicitor called Luke Gittos. You can read about this outrageous assault on press freedom in the Mail. The support for Darren has been almost universal, and his defenders include an ex-Home Secretary as well as the current one. I’d be amazed if the police don’t drop this like a hot potato. This should never have been a police matter.

But there are three other recent victims of censorship I wanted to draw your attention to and urge you to sign the petitions supporting them.

The first is a petition expressing support for Bruce Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State, who has been cancelled for the second time in three years. In 2017, the editors of Third World Quarterly, an academic journal, started getting death threats after publishing an essay by Professor Gilley called “The Case For Colonialism” and promptly deleted it from their website. Now, the same thing’s happened again. He has written a book about Sir Alan Burns, a post-war colonial governor who argued that Britain was decolonising too quickly, that was due to be published by Rowman & Littlefield this month. However, the publishers have now decided not to go ahead after a petition objecting to the book was started by Joshua Moufawad-Paul, a self-described “Maoist”. Even though the petition hasn’t even managed to scrape up 1,000 signatures, it was too much for the panty-waists at Rowman & Littlefield. Professor Gilley has written about the episode for the Wall St Journal. Please sign the petition to show your solidarity with him.

The second is a petition in support of Mark Crispin Miller, a professor in NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication, who got into trouble for urging his students to review all the scientific studies on the effectiveness of wearing masks, including those suggesting they’re ineffective that Google has shadow-banned. This was for a class he teaches on propaganda. One of his students made a flurry of complaints, claiming he was endangering public health, and as a result the university has asked him not to teach his propaganda class next term. Please sign this petition to express your support for academic freedom.

Finally, a petition has been started urging The Hist, a society at Trinity College, Dublin, to reissue its invitation to the biologist Richard Dawkins after he was no-platformed last month. The College Historical Society – known as the Hist – recently disinvited Professor Richard Dawkins on the grounds that things he’d said on Twitter about Islam and sexual assault would make the members feel uncomfortable. I wrote a letter in my capacity as General Secretary of the Free Speech Union to the head of the Hist on 30th September, urging her to honour the original invitation, but so far she hasn’t replied. Please sign this petition, which makes the same request.

Is it Time to Retire the “Bedwetter” Jibe?

Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do Ave Em

I got an email from an elderly gentleman who thinks our use of the term “bedwetters” to describe those who are excessively concerned about catching COVID-19 – and think the rest of us should be too – is unacceptable.

I am very grateful for Lockdown Sceptics and often find myself (a) wishing to refer other people to items published on the site, and (b) wishing to make a financial contribution. But, unfortunately, I find myself unable to do either of these things for the following reason…

You frequently use the term “bedwetter” as a term of disapprobation. I agree that those to whom you apply the term deserve the disapproval, and very possibly also a measure of disdain, but surely you can see that the epithet “bedwetter” — which, after all, denotes a rather distressing disability, whether of mind or body or both — really cannot be an acceptable way of expressing this in civilised discourse.

I am old enough that I can remember when the designations “spastic” or “spaz” were considered acceptable ways of mocking other people’s clumsiness or physical incompetence. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everybody in civilised modern societies now understands that that is simply not on. I fail to see why mocking someone’s excessive timidity using the epithet “bedwetter” is any different.

I hope I have persuaded you to change your ways. If so, please publish something on the site saying that you intend to do so, and why (I have no objection to your quoting what I have written, although I definitely do not wish my name to be published), and send me a link to that item on the site. If on the other hand you publish something about this on the site, prefaced with “A Bedwetter Writes …”, then I shall know what to conclude!

What do people think? Is it time to retire this insult?

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Gimme Some Truth” by John Lennon and “The North Will Rise Again” 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.

“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: The Chair of the BMA, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, has urged the Government to make masks mandatory in all outdoor settings and indoor settings. He also said alcohol sales should be restricted in England, just as they now are in Scotland. What else, Dr Feelbad? A ban on sweets? Whistling to be made illegal because it might spread the virus? The same GP who’s written the angry letter we’ve published on Lockdown Sceptics today has sent us another email about this codswallop.

I am a member of the BMA and no-one has asked the membership what they think. As far as I can see, this is the BMA Chair going unilaterally off piste and making an unevidenced dictat. I note neither he, nor anyone on SAGE, has cited any reliable randomised control trials to indicate they will make a blind bit of difference.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya – actual scientists, unlike Devi Sridhar

If you Google “Great Barrington Declaration”, the top hit you get is a smear piece in the Byline Times, an obscure, online magazine that traffics in left-wing conspiracy theories. One of the three videos linked to at the top of the results page is an interview with Devi Sridhar telling Channel 4 News that the Declaration is not “scientific”. That’s rich considering the three main signatories – Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya – are all eminent scientists, whereas Devi has a PhD is in social anthropology. If you continue scrolling through the Google search results, you cannot find a link to the Declaration. It has been shadow banned. Discussion of the it has also been censored by Reddit.

You can find it here. Please sign it. It now has over 200,000 signatories – no thanks to Google or Reddit. On the contrary, the attempt to suppress it is having a Streisand effect. I spoke to Jeffrey Tucker yesterday, Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research, which hosted the scientific conference at its headquarters in Great Barrington that led to the Declaration. He told me the website that hosts the petition experienced 10,000 denial-of-service attacks within the first few hours of going live. Pro-lockdown zealots on social media have been encouraging their followers to sign the petition with names like “Dr Bananas” in order to discredit it, keeping Jeffrey and his staff busy as they go through the signatories, weeding out the fakes. But these sophomoric attempts to discredit it have backfired. The petition just keeps gathering momentum.

Stop Press: The Declaration now has over 250,000 signatures, including over 7,000 medical and public health scientists and more than 20,000 medical practitioners.

Google Update: The correct link does now come up in the first page of Google searches in Google UK. I hope I played a small part in persuading the tech giant to reconsider. I tweeted about it yesterday and that tweet got more than 9,000 likes and among those replying to it, endorsing the Great Barrington Declaration strategy, was Elon Musk, a lockdown sceptic with ~40 million followers.

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 YouTube video about the way politicians try and shame their opponents into accepting ever rising levels of sate interference in their lives is brilliant.

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