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Is the NHS in Danger of Being Overwhelmed?

Morten Moreland in yesterday’s Times

Just how great a risk is there of the NHS being overwhelmed? We’re constantly being told by Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and others that unless we observe the traffic light restrictions in our area, we will witness the kind of scenes we saw in Lombardy back in March, with Covid patients dying in hospital corridors. But is that true? Not according to my friend who’s worked as an NHS doctor for the past 30 years. Here is his guest post for today’s Lockdown Sceptics.

The last three weeks have seen much speculation about the numbers of COVID patients in intensive care units, particularly in the North West and London. Further local lockdowns have been enforced by the Government in the North West, London and yesterday in the Midlands on the grounds that the NHS risks being overwhelmed. But how close is the system to being swamped, and what can we reasonably conclude from publicly available information?

NHS data released to the public to date is incomplete and usually a week in arrears. Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson point out in their recent Spectator article that this crisis has been characterised by sequential data inadequacy from the Government’s scientific advisors, Public Health England and the NHS. As they say “a look back at the figures issued shows that the track record, eventually validated against the facts, is abysmal. This is important because major decisions continue to be taken on the strength of such data”.

Some of these mistakes relate to crass errors of basic management, others more disturbing over-exaggeration or over-extrapolation of the size of the threats to public health. It is known that more granular data exist – for instance around the cause of death statistics and in-hospital Covid infection rates. But these figures are not being released to the public by the NHS despite requests for more transparency – seemingly at odds with Freedom of Information obligations.

The data we do have throw up some interesting patterns.

Firstly, the rate of change of numbers of patients in ICU appears to be levelling off in all regions other than the North West up to October 20th (Graph 1). What happened after that we are not permitted to know.

In comparison with the spring surge of Covid, the curves seem very different, especially in London (Graphs 2 and 3). It is clear that the rate of increase in the autumn is nowhere near as steep as in the spring. Further, the number of patients in London ICU beds is not out of proportion to what one would generally expect from respiratory infections at this time of year.

The data curves from the North West look different to London (Graphs 4 and 5). Again, the ICU patients track the ward inpatients, but the slope of the graphs is steeper in the autumn. Why the difference? Broadly, there are two schools of thought. The first maintains that the London population has a higher immunity or resistance to COVID-19 after having been hit harder in the spring. The North West had a surge in the spring too, but national lockdown occurred before the Northern surge was fully mature, hence there may currently be more susceptible people in the North West for the virus to infect than there are in London. Serology data on antibody levels suggests that London has a significantly higher proportion of people with antibodies than the rest of the UK (approx. 15 – 20%). It is reasonable to assume that London also has a higher level of people with T-cell immunity on the basis of greater previous viral exposure.

The other school of thought holds that there is no difference in the resistance profiles between the London and North Western populations, and that the difference in hospitalisation rates is due to poor social distancing habits in the North West and more working from home in the London population. This view inclines to the belief that eventually the ‘second wave’ will travel from the North to London with a lag time of about two weeks.

A deeper analysis of the data suggests this is unlikely to be the case. There is a clear inflection point in the North West where ICU cases of Covid start to rise on or around September 22nd (Graph 6). ICU data by individual hospital can be difficult to interpret as intensive care units usually operate as a network involving several hospitals. In a surge crisis, the larger inner-city hospitals usually receive patients from smaller peripheral units, increasing their apparent numbers accordingly. In the North West, almost all the hospitals saw a sudden increase in ICU cases after September 22nd.

The inflection point in the London figures is different and the distribution of cases between trusts is also very different (Graph 7). Overall numbers are substantially lower than in the North West – a region of roughly comparable population. In London, ICU cases started to rise on September 20th – so, rather than being two weeks behind the North West, London may be seeing a ‘second wave’ at roughly the same time. Unlike the North West, where cases were spread equally between hospitals, cases in London were concentrated in the East of the City, with Barking and St Barts seeing the majority of cases. Hospitals which had been seriously stretched in April, such as Lewisham, Guys and St Thomas’s, the Whittington, St Georges and Northwick Park, have so far not seen many Covid patients, lending support to the enhanced resistance theory.

So what does all this mean? The fact that respiratory infections increase in autumn is not a surprise – the annual winter beds crisis has been a constant feature of my three decades in medicine and cancellation of routine surgical work due to winter pressures is commonplace. Certainly, it is very difficult at the moment for hospital staff in the North West – having been in the eye of the storm last time round, I have the utmost sympathy for them. However, the Mayor of Manchester and the head of the regional ICU network in the North West have both stated on the record that the healthcare system can cope with the surge. Meanwhile in London, Covid patients occupy 10% of ICU beds – completely in line with normal winter pressures at this time of year.

An objective reading of the available data does not currently support the hypothesis that the NHS is in imminent danger of being over-run. The argument from ‘circuit breaker’ advocates is that winter pressures may increase in the coming weeks and create further stress on the system – and that may come to pass, but should Covid admissions or influenza cases increase, there are several measures hospitals can take to manage the problem, such as cancellation of elective work, and use of overspill facilities constructed in haste and at substantial expense in the spring, before resorting to mass incarceration of the public and destruction of viable businesses.

So why the Tier 3 lockdowns in the North and now the Midlands?

Governmental restrictions of civil liberties must be a last resort in a democratic society. To justify such radical measures, both the Government, their scientific advisors and the NHS must be more honest and transparent with the public in respect of the data driving lockdown decisions. Simply asking the population to trust the experts is insufficient, particularly when the experts have clearly been so seriously in error in recent months.

Failure to provide sufficient evidence to justify unprecedented curbs on citizens’ rights suggests arbitrary deprivations of civil liberty are being enforced for political reasons rather than medical necessity.

Trust and confidence are essential for the operation of a modern liberal democracy. Our current leadership is rapidly running out of both.

50 Northern Tory MPs Demand Roadmap Out of Lockdown

Witless and Unbalanced’s Graph of Doom

Fifty Northern MPs have demanded a roadmap out of lockdown as a further million people have been told they’ll be placed under the most severe restrictions from Thursday, with the addition of Nottingham, Broxtowe and Warrington to Tier 3. The Mail has more.

A letter to Boris Johnson from the Northern Research Group – a newly-launched alliance of Tory MPs led by ex-Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry – outlines the group’s demands, which include a tailored economic recovery plan for the north.

Mr Berry says that the virus could widen the North-South divide and “send the North into reverse”. His group is now calling for Mr Johnson to “level-up the North”, something the PM claimed he would do following sweeping Conservative gains in the region in the General Election.

It comes as around eight million people in England face living under the toughest COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the week after officials confirmed four separate parts of Nottinghamshire will be thrust into a Tier 3 lockdown from midnight on Wednesday, following three days of crunch talks with the Government.

Officials have agreed to adopt the draconian measures in Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe in an attempt to drive down transmission. It will mean all pubs and bars have to close unless they serve meals, while people are banned from mixing with anyone they don’t live with indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.

MPs from the Northern Research Group describe how the region has been hit with harsh local restrictions and local economies will continue to suffer, with many losing their jobs and facing the prospect of closing down their businesses.

MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Mr Berry, said: “The virus has exposed in sharp relief the deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by our communities and it threatens to continue to increase the disparity between the North and South still further.

“Our constituents have been some of the hardest hit by this virus with many losing jobs, businesses, and livelihoods. Never has there been a more pertinent and urgent political and economic case to support people living in the North.

“However, instead of moving forwards on our shared ambitions, the cost of Covid and the virus itself threatens to send the North into reverse.”

Ironically, Nottingham has been placed in Tier 3 in spite of the fact that daily new cases are falling. Department of Health statistics show that the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Nottingham each day has been dropping since the start of the month.

Over the weekend, South Yorkshire became the latest region to fall under the highest tier of controls, following Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. If you add the areas announced yesterday, a total of eight million people will be living in a Tier 3 area, which means no household mixing – indoors or out – pubs closing unless they serve food, and locals advised only to leave their areas for essential travel such as work, education or health, and they must return before the end of the day.

Stop Press: ITV reports that drive-by testing facilities across the UK’s hotspot areas are well below capacity, with very few people showing up for tests.

Generation Covid

Rasheed Graham, a 23 year-old who’s fully-funded pilot’s training course has been suspended

Panorama on the BBC last night documented the damage the lockdown and ongoing restrictions are doing to young people. An accompanying article on BBC News summarised the main points.

Young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, have had their earnings and job prospects hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, adding to fears for the long-term impact on their futures.

BBC Panorama found people aged 16-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, while six in 10 saw their earnings fall, according to new research.

It also highlighted the impact of school closures on young people and added to growing evidence that students from poorer backgrounds have fallen behind their more privileged peers.

A quarter of pupils – some 2.5 million children – had no schooling or tutoring during lockdown, the survey by the London School of Economics (LSE) suggests.
But, the study adds, nearly three quarters of private school pupils had full days of teaching (74%) – almost twice the proportion of state school pupils (38%).

The study’s authors warn it could lead to poorer pupils suffering “permanent ‘educational scarring'” when it comes to key academic milestones such as exams and securing a university place.

One of the most moving stories featured on the programme was that of Rasheed Graham, a 23 year-old from north-west London who’d secured a place on a fully-funded pilot’s training course before the coronavirus outbreak brought it to a halt.

Rasheed was told the flying school was closing and the airline could not afford to fund the training anymore.

In order to continue, he needs to find £60,000 to cover the costs.

“This is why the cadetship is worth its weight in gold, because if you don’t come from wealth or money, it gives you the opportunity to pursue a career as a pilot if you didn’t have the means before,” he told Panorama.

Rasheed is trying to crowd fund the money to pay for his course and has raised almost £22,000 so far.

“This could work out or it couldn’t. I’ve actually accepted both eventualities,” he says. “But I’d rather look back and realise that I’d tried to do something to return to flight training than sit back, and let the opportunity go by.”

You can contribute to Rasheed’s GoFundMe here – although it looks like he’s already raised the £60,000 he needs.

You can watch the programme here.

Lionel Shriver Speaks Truth to Power

I interviewed arch-sceptic Lionel Shriver for the Quillette podcast on Friday. She was predictably marvellous. As she said in the course of the interview, this crisis has sorted out the men from the boys when it comes to distinguished scientists, celebrated intellectuals and literary celebrities – with the vast majority proving bitterly disappointing. But a handful of independent-minded giants have emerged and Shriver is among the most impressive. Definitely worth listening to.

Stop Press: Stacey Rudin has written another terrific post for the American Institute For Economic Research, this time arguing that where you stand on the lockdowns is a test of character. She says the sceptics deserve the public’s trust because they have the least to gain from their position.

If COVID-19 is Not a High Consequence Infectious Disease, Why Lockdown?

Martin Neil, Professor of Computer Science and Statistics, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Queen Mary University of London, has done a twitter thread posing an interesting question. Reprinted below.

  1. On 19th March the UK 4 nations public health HCID group made a decision that COVID-19 is NOT a high consequence infectious disease (HCID):
    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/high-consequence-infectious-diseases-hcid
  2. Note this important statement: “The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.”
  3. In the UK an HCID is defined as an acute infectious disease, with high case-fatality rate requires an enhanced individual, population and system response.
  4. Professor Neil Ferguson is a member of The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP).
    https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/advisory-committee-on-dangerous-pathogens
  5. I understand the committee reached the UNANIMOUS view, that COVID-19 is NOT a HCID, at a meeting on 13th March 2020.
  6. Despite this the UK SAGE group published a document on 14th March recommending enhanced individual, population and system responses to COVID-19:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-from-sage-delay-phase-modelling
  7. The SAGE group, Whitty and Vallance made this decision on 14th March – the day after the ACDP committee decision and five days before the HCID group’s decision.
  8. They therefore made this decision despite, and in contradiction to, official scientific advice.
  9. What happened between 13th and 14th March? Why did Ferguson, Vallance and Whitty change direction before the 4 nations HCID group made their decision on 19th March?
  10. Professor Neil Ferguson is a member of SAGE and a member of the ACDP. How can he make a decision one day and then contradict it the next?

Prof Neil has written for Lockdown Sceptics before about how most ‘positive’ cases are either asymptomatic carriers or false positives.

C.S. Lewis Could See Into the Future

C.S. Lewis, “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State“, published in the Observer on July 20th 1958

The Price of Panic

Great new website collating the collateral damage of the lockdown under five different headings: Hunger and Poverty, Deaths from Other Diseases, Harm to Children, Anxiety, Depression and Suicides, and Oppression. Here’s an extract from the preamble:

The negative effects of lockdown are too often dismissed as small sacrifices, necessary to keep a highly deadly disease from spreading. These sacrifices are, in fact, neither necessary nor small, and the disease is only a threat to a minority of the population that can be protected without lockdowns. Sometimes, where major harms become hard to ignore, they are lamented as further damage caused by Covid, even though your panic-driven measures are to blame. This is an effort to bring focus to the magnitude of suffering taking place around us because of lockdowns.

Worth bookmarking.

Poetry Corner

A reader – Dylan Lovelock – has sent us a poem. I know how he feels.

No New Normal

I do not accept the new normal, I do not want a new normal thank you very much,

I’m quite happy with the old normal, I’m not a rabbit in a rabbit hutch

There is not a fox lurking around the corner, I’m not hiding in a chicken pen

I’m not masking my smile through fear or phobia, I will shake the hand of my good friend

I will walk freely wherever I choose to, that is why I bought these shoes new

I’m not residing in a prison cell, nor have I committed any crime

So do not expect that any time soon I’ll be doing any time

Please turn off the loathly TV and do not read the news

Unless of course you want to be misinformed and served up sour mistruths

Do not give up on your freedom, do not hand it to the machine

Do not let them take away your cash, this insidious agenda is entirely obscene

Liberty is a precious right for each and everyone

We must protect our way of life for our daughters and our sons

I am a human being, born free to live and breathe

This is not my new normal, I simply will not believe.

Spooky Parallels With Mad Cow Disease

Neil Ferguson predicted 50,000 deaths from Mad Cow Disease. The actual number was 178.

We’re publishing an original piece today by Dr Janie Axelrad, a retired academic who wrote a book about Mad Cow Disease (BSE: A Disaster of Biblical Proportions Or a Disaster of British Science?). She sees uncanny similarities between that crisis and this. During that panic, the equivalent of SAGE was SEAC – the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. And, predictably, it massively over-reacted, got drunk on its own power and caused an enormous amount of needless economic damage. Here is an extract.

Once a course of action is established, original predictions become untestable, and mitigating actions can always explain the discrepancies between predicted and actual figures. The BSE crisis continued for years, and although it became increasingly clear that the dire predictions would not materialise, SEAC maintained enormous power over the narrative, the funding and the media. However, all good things must come to an end: case numbers refused to rise and the funding started drying up. In the midst of the BSE crisis I was asked to write a book for the Institute of Economic Affairs, in which I predicted that fewer than 200 CJD cases would be recorded. Later, in 2002, Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College team proclaimed that the 50,000 predicted deaths could be an underestimate. To date, the number of CJD cases is 178.

The course of that crisis has obvious parallels with the current COVID-19 pandemic response. The impression is that we are following the same handbook, albeit with a copy that is a little dog-eared. So when Ferguson predicts 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 if we ignore his advice, I suggest we should be a little sceptical. So far the UK mortality is around 45,000. Despite a total lockdown and numerous local restrictions, our death rate per million is still higher than that of Sweden, that has no such restrictions. Ten or 20 years in the future, the scientists and politicians responsible will be retired in the comfort of knowing that most people have forgotten their roles, just as happened with the BSE crisis.

We’ve added this piece to the right-hand menu in the section “How Have We Responded to Previous Pandemics?”, one of the strongest group of articles on Lockdown Sceptics.

Worth reading in full.

Our Finest Hour

A reader has adapted Churchill’s famous ‘finest hour’ speech so it applies to our current predicament. It required surprisingly few changes.

My fellow sceptics and I know that the Battle for Britain has now begun. Upon this battle depends the survival of civilisation and democracy. Upon it depends our own British way of life, and the long continuity of our culture, our institutions and our freedom. The whole fury and might of the enemy will soon be turned on us. He knows that he will have to break us and our spirit or lose his agenda. If we can stand up to him, we will be free, and all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole free world, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, remove this tinpot despot and his puppet master, and so bear ourselves that for the next thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Et Tu, New Scientist?

A reader points out that it isn’t just Nature that has abandoned scientific rigour for woke dogma. New Scientist has also been captured.

The most recent issue highlights on the front cover – “The Herd Immunity Myth – why let it rip arguments are fatally flawed” . This article is totally unconvincing and describes herd immunity as “unscientific and irresponsible”. In addition, the leader calls herd immunity “bad science”. This approach is typical of many items published of late.

It is disappointing that a once interesting topical magazine is now so superficial and lacks balance.

A Retired Police Sergeant Writes…

A middle-aged woman is pushed to the ground by TSG officers in Trafalgar Square

I’ve had a lot of emails in response to my query about whether the Territorial Support Group has been recruiting EU nationals to duff up anti-lockdown protestors. Most have been a bit too speculative or conspiratorial to publish, but this one struck me as reliable.

I am a retired police sergeant and can confirm that the police have been recruiting EU nationals for quite a while. I was a Cheshire officer and, towards my retirement, came across a number of Polish officers which, to be fair, made a lot of sense given the significant Polish population in the county and, in my experience, their spoken English was perfectly acceptable although I can imagine quite a lot would have been lost in translation with our usual customers. The main problem was their written English which was, to be frank, incomprehensible. My last role in the police was to assess evidential files before they were sent to the CPS for authority to bring prosecutions and I found myself trying to decode witness statements and frequently having to request that that they were retaken by officers who could actually write in English. This was further complicated by the fact that a significant number of the British nationals were incapable of stringing a sentence together due to the lack of standards in recruitment.

So it’s perfectly possible that some members of the TSG are non-British passport holders if the police routinely recruit EU nationals to fill their ranks. Could that be why our correspondent who wrote about last Saturday’s demo found that many of the TSG officers spoke only very halting English?

Postcard From Argentina

We’ve been sent an excellent postcard form a social science professor in Argentina. He describes his country’s lockdown as the longest and most irrational quarantine on the planet. It sounds like a complete shitshow – even more bizarre and inexplicable than our own festival of incompetence. Here is an extract.

At one point, the city Government of Buenos Aires attempted to require elderly folks to call a hotline to get permission to leave their own house for any non-essential task, the idea being that some poor Government call centre employee would patronisingly explain to them all the risks (as if they had been living in some bubble or under a rock) and attempt to persuade them to stay at home. The most ridiculous thing? The elderly were expected to call and request permission to leave their home every time they needed to go out! And if they left their home without permission, they were threatened with – community service! (Presumably outside the home? One can only guess). The resulting outrage, not least from the elderly themselves, forced the city Government to backtrack rather quickly, not least because was no practical way to enforce this policy anyway.

Since I qualify as an “exempted worker” (which means I did not have to lock down, but I am not allowed to use public transport), I have been able to travel through the interior of the country for work-related reasons. In the countryside the picture looks different to the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area. Local mayors have often reacted to the pandemic like medieval peasants, blocking most access roads to their towns with earth or concrete barriers, and instituting nonsensical additional measures to try to keep the virus out of their communities.

The only consistent criterion for policy adoption and implementation seems to be “monkey see, monkey do”, with local leaders copying each others dumbest ideas without regard to any actual science or cost-benefit analysis. In most places I have been to, whenever you want to enter a town, you have to drive through a disinfection area that will spray the outside of your vehicle as you come in. I have repeatedly argued how ridiculous this is – after all, if someone were sick, the virus would be inside the car, and not stuck on the outside surfaces. Makes as much sense (none) as disinfecting shoe soles, or spraying disinfectant on outdoor sidewalks.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

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 £1.99 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.

Stop Press: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 my 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.

Stop Press: The authors of the GDB have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

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…

In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I talk about James’s confrontation with a pro-masking fanatic on a train (which he wrote about yesterday for Lockdown Sceptics), the fiasco that is NHS Test and Trace and my new favourite TV show – Barbarians. Worth listening to on your daily walk and don’t forget to subscribe.

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