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Record Rise in “Cases” – But October Still Normal For Respiratory Disease

Yesterday saw the biggest daily rise yet in positive tests reported: 26,688. The last three days have each seen significant increases, though it’s worth noting that by date of specimen there is still no major upward trend since the start of the month. That may change in the coming days (the column for October 19th admittedly looks high already) but relying on reporting date can give a false impression of trends.

What’s really missing in these numbers though is context. Were more tests done on October 19th than 18th, so the apparent rise is just an artefact of the increase in testing? And how many of these “cases” are false positives? As Sir Patrick Vallance said on Tuesday, SARS-CoV-2 is now likely to be an endemic virus that comes back in some form each flu season. Infections are rising now because it’s autumn and many respiratory viruses spread in autumn, plus the spring lockdowns will have left some areas with lower levels of immunity. It’s notable that London, where infections were falling before lockdown as Chris Whitty admitted to MPs, has yet to see any major increase in hospital admissions or deaths.

But if Covid infections, hospital admissions and deaths do keep rising throughout the winter there would be nothing unusual about that. Herd immunity doesn’t mean no one gets infected anymore, especially in the colder months. It means enough people have enough resistance to prevent a repeat of the spring and keep it within normal bounds.

COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory disease around of course. But this year the rest are being strangely timid. Flu and pneumonia hospital admissions and deaths have been trending well below average since May with no sign of change yet, leaving Covid largely having the field to itself. That’s one reason the rise in Covid hospital admissions isn’t likely to overwhelm the NHS – there’s been a corresponding fall in admissions for flu and pneumonia.

If winter 2020 is a typical year then it’s likely to get a lot worse than this – not because we’re in the midst of a “second wave” but because it’s winter. If those panicking and calling for lockdowns think October’s bad, wait till they see a typical December. While the few journalists who have been asking the right questions haven’t been able to get the data from the NHS that would let us properly compare 2020 with a normal year (what are they hiding?), Carl Heneghan and co have tracked down this graph released in 2017 in response to an MP’s request.

It shows that England typically experiences a sharp increase in emergency admissions for respiratory conditions from September through November, followed by an even bigger spike in December, before beginning to drop off again in the new year. How does 2020 compare with this?

October 2016 had around 24,500 admissions, which is an average of 790 per day. Covid admissions this month up to the 18th are 10,503 with 13 days to go. The month started at around 370 per day and reached about 800 as of October 18th, so is currently running about average.

In other words, so far as we can tell from data in the public domain there is nothing unusual about the current October rise in respiratory disease-related hospital admissions. We can expect them to keep on rising and then to peak in December, although we don’t yet know if COVID-19 will fizzle out during the winter, to be replaced by other viruses. The lack so far of a big rise in Covid admissions and deaths in Sweden, London and New York suggests the emergence of herd immunity could lead to it receding. But even if it doesn’t, there is no evidence so far that Covid’s second ripple will exceed the usual bounds of a seasonal virus now that population immunity is moving upwards.

What Western countries have really lost sight of here is perspective. As Philip Johnston points out, in 1999-2000 – the last really bad flu season before this one, when a greater proportion of the UK population died – hospitals would leave people dying in waiting rooms. Yet it never occurred to anyone that this unfortunate situation meant we should shut down society for months on end – an intervention which kills and harms people in numerous ways.

As Professor Karol Sikora says: if lockdown was a drug or a vaccine, the authorities would have to take into account the side effects. Given that it causes so much harm to healthy people for so little demonstrable benefit it is unlikely it would even make it through the first hoop – a point also made by Dr Matt Strauss in the Spectator. Why then should we have different standards for drugs than for other public health interventions? Somewhere along the line, Western nations have lost sight of the key ethical principle that we are not responsible for viruses and illnesses, we are only responsible for our actions. And governments, like doctors, should aim to do more good than harm and not contravene important ethical principles such as consent. Even vaccinations of nasty diseases like measles and TB are not compulsory. Yet lockdown is imposed on all by force of law. How is that ethical? Covid has turned our principles upside down.

Stop Press: The CEBM has a new study explaining T-Cell immunity and reviewing the mounting evidence for longer-term immunity from SARS-CoV-2.

Why Were Democratic Citizens So Willing to Surrender Their Liberty?

Emperor Nero declares war on Neptune and orders his soldiers to attack the sea

Stacey Rudin has written an excellent piece for the American Institute for Economic Research exploring the question of why citizens of liberal democracies around the world complied so readily with draconian government diktats.

One has to wonder, how did this come about? Why weren’t we behaving this way before, when seasonal influenza is known to kill up to 650,000 people globally every single year? Why didn’t anyone ever care about saving all of those millions of people? If we really can stop infections, we murdered all of them!

Fortunately for our collective conscience, none of our pre-COVID public health guidelines so much as suggests that human behaviour can eliminate infections as necessary to stop deaths. We have always understood that we have limited control over invisible biological agents, which is why we do not opt to incur the gigantic costs of “lockdowns” and similar: we realize the effort to save every life, while noble, is unfortunately futile. We cannot stop death, so we accept it, and balance it with many other human interests. We know that pandemics causing upwards of two million deaths can and do occur, yet our CDC does not EVER recommend isolating healthy people outside of the household of the sick, closing “nonessential” businesses, or closing schools for longer than 12 weeks.

So why did we adopt all of these extreme, harmful, and deadly measures in 2020 for COVID-19, a pandemic that has not even caused statistically significant excess deaths in nations with short lockdowns and no lockdowns. Why did we depart so completely from our regulations? Did new science develop? I can’t find any. All pre-Covid epidemiological and public health literature unanimously acknowledges that it is impossible to stop infectious diseases with isolation and quarantine.

Good question and one that most lockdown sceptics have been puzzling over. Why isn’t everyone more like us? As Lionel Shriver said:

The supine capitulation to a de facto police state in a country long regarded as a cradle of liberty has been one of the most depressing spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. In a matter of days, busybodies are ratting out neighbours for going for a run twice; these people would be pigs in muck in the GDR.

Rudin’s answer is that politicians succeeded in persuading the public that they could prevent death – something the public, who’d already been terrified out of their wits by the politicians and their handmaidens in the media, wanted to hear.

To the calm (rational) mind, it is clear that “suppression” is a set of “brakes” that should only be imposed to the minimum extent necessary to manage hospital capacity. Any “extra” suppression just saves infections for later — when you may or may not have a vaccine or improved treatment — at extraordinary cost. To scared (irrational) people, however, suppression provides at least some “hope” of avoiding a horrific early death. You cannot blame terrified people for their feelings, but you can and should blame the media and government for misrepresenting personal risk during a pandemic. No cost is too high to keep open the possibility of staying alive. People focused on that will not comprehend any second- or third-tier consequences of their self-preservation efforts.

This is a terrific piece, written in a punchy, accessible style. Worth reading in full.

Impact of Lockdowns on the Developing World

There’s a good piece in Quillette by Joel Kotkin and Hügo Krüger called “The Coming Post-Covid Global Order“. It makes for grim reading, predicting the further decline of Western liberal democracies and the ascendancy of authoritarian China. The opening, in which the authors document the devastating impact of the lockdowns on the developing world, is particularly sobering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economics in the West, but the harshest impacts may yet be felt in the developing world. After decades of improvement in poorer countries, a regression threatens that could usher in, both economically and politically, a neo-feudal future, leaving billions stranded permanently in poverty. If this threat is not addressed, these conditions could threaten not just the world economy, but prospects for democracy worldwide.

In its most recent analysis, the World Bank predicted that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, with developing countries overall seeing their incomes fall for the first time in 60 years. The United Nations predicts that the pandemic recession could plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 a day. The disruption will be particularly notable in the poorest countries. The UN has forecast that Africa could have 30 million more people in poverty. A study by the International Growth Centre spoke of “staggering” implications with 9.1% of the population descending into extreme poverty as savings are drained, with two-thirds of this due to lockdown. The loss of remittances has cost developing economies billions more income.

Latin America had seen its poverty rate drop from 45 to 30% over the past two decades, but now nearly 45 million, according to the UN, are being plunged into destitution as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In Mexico alone, COVID-19 has caused at least 16 million more people to fall into extreme poverty, according to a study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

These trends undermine the appeal of neoliberal globalization across the developing world. The pandemic has forced people to stay in their countries, and has closed off the ability to move to wealthier places. With Western countries themselves in disarray, there’s been a growing temptation to adopt authoritarian controls modeled by China, which appears to have emerged from the pandemic and economic collapse quicker than the rest of the world. The pandemic could boost China’s great ambition to replace the West, and notably America, as the heart of global civilization.

Worth reading in full.

The Official Government Line?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader got a reply this week from their MP, Kelly Tolhurst. I’m reproducing it here because it reads to me like the official line provided pre-packaged from central command, albeit with some personal touches. (Although the bizarre, run-on sentences suggest it isn’t just being copied verbatim by Kelly’s researcher). Did anyone else receive something with words like these from their MP? Full of holes, obviously – I’ll leave it to readers to take it apart below the line.

I am terribly sorry to hear that your mother recently passed away, I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to say goodbye in that way and how hard it is to be around loved ones and not be able to kiss or touch them.

It is also very upsetting to hear about your business having to close after all the hard work you put into building it up through a tough period. Without knowing the extent and details of your financial situation it is hard for me to offer specific advice, however I have noted that this blog by Money Saving Expert has been very helpful for constituents with financial difficulties over recent months and hope it provides you with some useful information: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/uk-coronavirus-help-and-your-rights/

Regarding our approach to tackling the coronavirus, I understand your frustration with the current restrictions on our normal lives, this is an incredibly difficult situation for everyone. Coronavirus is deadly and, unfortunately, it is now spreading exponentially in the UK. It is our responsibility to act to prevent more hospitalisations, more deaths and more economic damage. We know from recent history that when this virus keeps growing, unless we act together to get it under control, this is the result.

To be clear, our strategy is to suppress the virus, supporting the economy, education and the NHS. Local action is at the centre of our response. The virus is currently not spread evenly, and the situation is particularly severe in some parts of the country. Through the Joint Biosecurity Centre and NHS Test and Trace, we have built up a detailed picture of where and how the virus is spreading. NHS Test and Trace statistics show that testing capacity is up, testing turnaround times are down, and the distance travelled for tests is down too. Thanks to this capacity and analysis, we have been able to take a more targeted approach, keeping a close eye on the situation in local areas, bearing down hard through restrictions on a local level where they are necessary.

I believe that we must take firm and balanced decisions to keep this virus under control. This is the only way to protect lives and livelihoods, and we must act now. Delayed action means more deaths from covid, it means more non-covid deaths, and it means more economic pain later, because the virus comes down slower than it goes up. We should stop it going up in the first place. Unless we suppress the virus, we cannot return to the economy we had; unless we suppress the virus, we cannot keep non-covid NHS services going; and unless we suppress the virus, we cannot keep the elderly and the vulnerable safe and secure.

You also mentioned the range of scientific advice the Government is receiving, and I should point out that the Prime Minister, the Chief Medical Officer and other advisers have been talking to their Swedish counterparts regularly in order to learn lessons from there. They have also been talking to other European countries such as Belgium, which have taken measures, in order to learn internationally. We are all learning the best way to deal with this virus. We are trying to restore the NHS services that were suspended while we dealt with the initial impact of Covid. NHS England has issued guidance for the return of non-Covid health services to near normal levels, making use of the available capacity while protecting the most vulnerable from Covid. The way to minimise disruption to other treatments is to deal with this virus as effectively as we can, so that we do not have a huge spike of people with Covid being admitted to hospital.

“Breathing is Dangerous”

At least in Airstrip One you could still get closer than six feet

An Oxford University student and Lockdown Sceptics reader has written a powerful reflection on the loss of freedom. Here’s an excerpt.

Anyone who ventures out onto the high street will see long queues of masked and muted figures. They probably cannot breathe but, we are told, breathing is dangerous. So we hold our breath. These flimsy shields have become the marks of subservience to a policy that, no one can deny, is bewilderingly inconsistent. The Government has stated on numerous occasions how ineffective face-coverings are; in one document, published on June 23rd, it stated: “The evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small.” And yet, after only a few months, this symbol of conformity is now normalised and unquestionable. We have become literally silenced and distanced from one another. Why? Because scepticism spreads through communication and scepticism is contagious. According to one official within my university: “If you are comfortable talking to someone, then it is likely that you are not socially distanced.” Our statistical language cannot and does not speak to the sanity of human interaction.

This piece conveys the inhuman weirdness of being a university student at present. Worth reading in full.

First Do No Harm

Professor Ramesh Thakur, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy in Australia, has written a cracking piece in Spectator Australia on the real harms and dubious ethics of lockdowns.

We now know the fear-mongers were disastrously wrong, but persist with their heartless cruelty nonetheless. In April, the UN Economic Commission for Africa said “between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19”. In February, Bill Gates warned of 10 million corona virus deaths in Africa. On October 15th, the real number was 38,977. Gates is a genius as a tech entrepreneur but his grasp of epidemiology is near the other end of the scale. Mind you, the tech sector is one of the very few to have done well financially from the lockdown.

The unbearable cruelty imposed by health bureaucrats without a distinguished medical research record has sucked the very humanity out of society: delaying interstate visits until too late to see a dying father or save one of the twins in the womb in need of urgent attention. As British MP Charles Walker said in a BBC radio interview on October 12th, for many elderly people, “being told that you’ve got to spend the next six or 12 months without human contact, without seeing the people that you love, without embracing your grandchildren, is a price too high”.

Millions will be pushed into extreme poverty.

Of course, the biggest tragedy will be across the developing world over the next decade, with over 100 million more people pushed into extreme poverty, 10s of millions of additional dead from increased infant and maternal mortality, hunger and starvation with more poverty and disrupted crop production and food distribution networks, sharp cutbacks in immunisation and schooling, and destruction of the informal sectors of the economy in which daily wage earners earn a pitiful living. Most countries will also need to prepare for potential spikes in mental health problems and suicides from the fear generated by exaggerated alarmism as well as the loneliness, isolation, financial ruin and despair caused by the lockdowns.

Read it in full here.

Unlikely Hero Emerges – 83 year-old Herd Immunity Advocate

Is this a sign that public opinion is beginning to shift? Last night, the BBC News included a lone voice of scepticism in the form of an 83 year-old Barnsley resident commenting on the Government’s decision to plunge 1.4 million people in South Yorkshire into a Tier 3 lockdown. In what must have been a nasty shock to the BBC team on the ground, the elderly shopper turned out to be a well-informed advocate of “Focused Protection”. The Mail has more.

The outspoken shopper told the broadcaster: “I think it’s all ridiculous, we should never have been in lockdown. All the people who were vulnerable should have been helped and kept home safe.

“And all the rest of us, I’m 83, I don’t give a sod.

“I look at it this way, I’ve not got all that many years left of me and I’m not going to be fastened in a house when the Government have got it all wrong.

“We need… how can we get the country on its feet? Money-wise? Where’s all the money?

“By the end of this year there’s going to be millions of people unemployed and you know who’s going to pay for it? All the young ones. Not me because I’m going to be dead.”

Can we put this woman on SAGE please? She seems to have a much better grasp of the situation than Sir Patrick Vallance.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Lots today: “Everything Seems Bad” by Abbie and The Sawyers, “Bad As They Seem” by Hayden, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “It’ll be Lonely this Christmas” by Mud, “Clampdown” by Bruce Springsteen and “Tiers” by Dusky.

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

Toby featured Calvin Robinson’s tweet yesterday about equalities minister Kemi Badenoch’s response to a Labour question in Parliament telling schools in no uncertain terms that teaching Critical Race Theory and “white privilege” as fact is against the law. Today we bring you Calvin’s excellent piece in the Spectator.

Why, then, have schools been getting away with teaching highly contested political ideas as if they are accepted facts? The idea of ‘white privilege’, for example, is the principal element of Critical Race Theory, which teaches that white people are at a natural advantage and that black people are oppressed, based on nothing but the colour of their skin. CRT encourages a victimhood mentality among young black people, perpetuating the myth of white supremacy, and aligning blame for all societal problems on the white man.

CRT tells white people they are not only privileged but racist, either overtly or unconsciously. Under these rules, a white person can either admit their racist tendencies and be labelled with ‘white guilt’, or they can deny their unconscious bias and be accused of ‘white fragility’. It is a lazy Kafkaesque trap, completely closed off from challenge and criticism by design.

That is why it was so encouraging to see yesterday that Kemi Badenoch MP, the Equalities Minister, make a rousing address to Parliament during a Black History Month debate, in which she made clear that this is no longer to be tolerated. She said the government are avidly and actively against Critical Race Theory, and it has no place in our schools; any school politicising the curriculum is breaking the law.

Worth reading in full. He’s also written on the same subject in the Telegraph.

Little Known Fact: Calvin used to work as a Computer Science teacher at the West London Free School, the school co-founded by Toby.

Stop Press: In their lead article this week, the Spectator highlights how the recently published ONS figures on ethnic pay disparity put paid to any idea of “white privilege”. The article notes: “The ethnic group called ‘White British’ came only fifth in the pay rankings, with a median hourly pay that is 7% lower than ‘White and Asian’, 16% below ‘Indian’, 23% below ‘Chinese’ and a whacking 41% below ‘White Irish’. Among the under-30s, the ‘White British’ come out even worse: they are fifth from bottom, earning 2% less than ‘Bangladeshi’, 3% less than ‘Black Caribbean’, 13% less than ‘Black African’, 15% less than ‘Indian’ and 46% less than ‘Chinese’.”

“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 masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.

The Great Barrington Declaration

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

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last week and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Googled it on Tuesday, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this hit job the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job).

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over 600,000 signatures.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many JRs being brought against the Government and its ministers, we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

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. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments).

Special thanks to graphic designer and Lockdown Sceptics reader Claire Whitten for designing our new logo. We think it’s ace. Find her work here.

And Finally…