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Government Slammed By Experts For Repeated Failings on Data Used For Lockdown

Professor Carl Heneghan from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine have penned a searing piece in the Telegraph excoriating the Government’s abysmal failures in presenting clear, honest, reliable data to justify its decisions.

The data failures in this pandemic have been considerable: continually they have overestimated the numbers going to die, mis-categorised COVID-19 deaths, exaggerated the impact on hospitals, and missed some 16,000 cases because of an Excel blunder

Perhaps even worse, these failings do not come to light because of Government transparency – but rather when painstaking analysis, eagle eyes, and sometimes even the simplest of questions are enough to expose major faults.

Tellingly, the errors and misrepresentations only ever skew in one direction.

This week has seen death estimates invalidated; statements on case numbers from the chief medical officer to the Science Technology committee requiring “clarification to avoid any misinterpretation”; and significant errors in medium term projections that seemingly do not affect interpretations. 

To understand and interpret the current Covid-19 data is proving nigh on impossible. The publication and presentation of data is confusing, and at times it is unsound.

The methods and data underlying the models used to generate “scenarios based on assumptions” are inscrutable and decisions taken on their basis are unaccountable. While the fog of a pandemic – with events taking place in real time – can justify or at least excuse some of these mistakes, nothing can justify the lack of transparency and humility.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May stated this week that: “For many people, it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures.”

The growing number of errors seem to occur in only one direction (the worst case scenario) which underpins the point.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The UK Statistics Authority, the OSR, has given the Government a firm wrist slap.

In the context of the pandemic there are three things which governments should consistently do to support transparency:

– where data are used publicly, the sources of these data or the data themselves should be published alongside any press briefing and associated slides to allow people to understand their strengths and limitations
– where models are referred to publicly, particularly to inform significant policy decisions, the model outputs, methodologies and key assumptions should be published at the same time
– where key decisions are justified by reference to statistics or management information, the underlying data should be made available

When data and associated information are made available it should be done in an orderly way, and in a way that is equally accessible to all.

It is clear that those working on the pandemic face significant pressures. But full transparency is vital to public understanding and public confidence in statistics and those who use them.

Stop Press 2: The Government has been forced to reissue key charts used to justify the second lockdown after admitting projected fatalities were overstated. The Telegraph has the details.

Official projections which pushed the country into a second lockdown have been quietly revised to no longer suggest deaths could soon overtake those at the peak of the first wave, The Telegraph has learned.

Graphs presented at a televised Downing Street press conference on Saturday suggested that the UK would see up to 1,500 Covid deaths a day by early December, far beyond the numbers seen in the first wave.

But documents released by Government show that the figures were far too high and have been “amended after an error was found”. The forecast has been revised, reducing the upper end of the scale to around 1,000 deaths a day by December 8th – on a par with the peak of the pandemic in April.

Students Tear Down Hated Fence in Manchester

That’s a bit more like it. Students at Manchester University last night tore down a nasty metal fence that had been erected to confine them to their halls of residence. MailOnline has more.

Furious students last night ripped down a metal fence erected around their halls on the first day of England’s new coronavirus lockdown.

Crowds of undergraduates at Manchester University trampled on the barrier and set off flares in the Fallowfield area of the city.

Pictures showed tradesmen putting up the huge blockade for the four-week shutdown as scores of residents claimed it would have had a “devastating” impact on their mental health.

Joe Hindley, 19, a first-year maths student, said: “We’ve just been really frustrated. There’s no benefit we can see to them being up.”

He added: “They’ve said something about it increasing our safety but from what we can see it’s a complete waste of money.”

One student, who asked to remain unnamed, told MailOnline: “The consensus amongst the student population is that this is incredibly dehumanising.”

Another added the university had relayed “absolutely no information” about the fencing and that they only told students at 3pm Thursday.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell last night apologised for the “concern and distress” and said it was meant to protect students from non-university visitors but would be removed today.

Okay, it’s not exactly a Berlin Wall moment. But still. Glad to see that some people in Britain are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more.

Worth reading in full.

Vitamin D: Did a Prescribing Ban in Care Homes Contribute to Fatalities?

Smoked Salmon: A great source of Vitamin D. Order from Bleiker’s Smokehouse in Yorkshire

We’re publishing today an important piece of original research by a dietitian and Lockdown Sceptics reader on the ongoing scandal of depriving our most vulnerable citizens of life-saving Vitamin D. She writes:

Vitamin D, contrary to popular thought, is not a vitamin. It is an inflammation-regulating steroid hormone involved in many of the body’s essential processes.1 Leaked NHS internal guidance, issued in June 2020, states that “evidence supports a causal role in Vitamin D status and COVID-19 outcomes”, and urges clinicians to “monitor, report and treat”.2

Meanwhile, a NICE rapid evidence review also published in June, states “there is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to specifically prevent or treat COVID‑19.” However, it does re-enforce its September 2018 advice that at-risk groups should take a 10µg supplement all year round.3

Rewind to March 2018: the ‘world’s biggest quango’ NHS England, released new guidance not to issue Vitamin D and many other commonly available over-the-counter (OTC) medicines on prescription, which was intended to save NHS costs by promoting patient self-care.4

Vulnerable elderly care home residents, many of whom lack mental capacity, are unable to obtain Vitamin D without a prescription, as Care and Quality Commission (CQC) regulations prevent tablets being given by care staff without GP Guidance.5

This logistical deadlock has not been resolved, and Vitamin D deficiency has long been known to be widespread in care homes.6 Over 19,000 care home residents in England have died with COVID-19, representing at least 36% of all COVID-19 fatalities in England and Wales.7 8

In her conclusion she does not hold back.

The combination of loneliness, lockdown, and denial of a cheap and evidence-based treatment amounts to an abysmal failure of the most vulnerable members of our society. As we are locked down again, and the economy left to likely ruin, why is this safe, well-evidenced and ridiculously cheap treatment being ignored? This has to stop now. NHS England must review their position, and allow for and actively promote prescribing to those who cannot buy Vitamin D. If this Government really cared, instead of ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’, they would stay ‘stay sane, take vitamin D, you could survive’.

Read it in full here.

Stop Press: Find a comprehensive summary of clinical and scientific studies on Vitamin D and COVID-19 on the excellent COVID-19 Studies website here. Also HCQ, Zinc and other treatments.

What’s Really Going On In The NHS

NHs worker Shelley (pictured) claimed that when she was working at the height of the pandemic she had no work for three weeks because there were no patients

Yesterday, Shelley Tasker a healthcare assistant at Treliske hospital in Cornwall featured in a viral Facebook video showing her telling members of the public outside Truro Cathedral what is really going on behind closed doors in NHS hospitals. She announced:

Today I am publicly resigning OK? I am wearing this uniform sadly for the last time. I absolutely loved my job, those of you who have been following what’s going on, we’ve done tasks, we’ve organised protests, I’ve had a lot of flack.

We’re at the point now it’s all coming back to me. I’ve had an email from work last night asking me what’s going on, people are reporting me and unfortunately I can’t lie any more.

I did something really bad. I took a screenshot on Friday which shows the figures of how many people are in Treliske hospital with Covid and I shared it, because this should be public information.

Lots of people have to start speaking out, there’s lot of doctors and nurses who have come forward. They’re all on restrictive duties, they’re all seeing solicitors etc. I’ve decided there’s no point, I have gone against the rules of the NHS and have shared confidential information that people need to see.

The Mail has more details.

“We no longer have health care, we can’t see dentists. I can tell you now when I was working at the height of the pandemic I had no work for three weeks because there were no patients. We have a particular Covid ward. None of the wards were overflowing with Covid patients and they’re not now.”

She went on to claim that the flu and Covid cases are now recorded as “the same thing” on death certificates. 

In response to cheers from the crowd, she continues: “I can tell you on Friday in Treliske there were three people in with Covid. No extra deaths, three and that covers Treliske, West Cornwall and Hayle hospital.” 

“The total deaths from these three hospitals in seven months, is 76 people – that’s about 10 people a month over the last seven months, and we have locked down.”

NHS figures show that 67 people died from COVID-19 at Treliske hospital between March and September, and official data seems to back up her point there were just four people with the virus receiving care at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust on October 29th. 

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL about the figures the Government are presenting to the public, Shelley claimed: “It’s all lies. We’ve closed all of Cornwall down for three people in hospital. They haven’t even died they’ve supposedly got COVID. How many people are going to die because of this?  There’s a massive agenda going on here and people need to start realising.”

Stop Press: The Mail produced this graph which shows how small a proportion of hospitals beds Covid patients account for – never more than 30% even at the height in April.

Even during the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in the UK, Covid-19 patients never accounted for more than 30 per cent of all hospital patients and tens of thousands of vacated beds went unused during the spring

Meanwhile, KCL’s Tim Spector says his ZOE Covid survey app shows the second peak has already passed. It’s day two of Lockdown 2 and the Government’s case has completely unravelled.

Three-Tier Lockdowns Make No Difference, Data Shows

We keep hearing that the three-tier system is working and explains why infections have been slowing and falling around the country. But what’s the evidence for this? A Lockdown Sceptics reader takes a closer look.

Chris Whitty and others have claimed that the restrictions have had an impact on helping curtail the spread. They clearly feel that non-essential shopping and restaurant/bar activity is at the heart of controlling the spread as it is the main difference between a Tier 3 level restriction and the current nationwide Lockdown. 

In the graph I plot the Google Mobility data for “retail and recreation” for four cities and I’d say it raises some serious question marks about that assumption.

(As a quick aside, Google Mobility data tracks the difference in frequency and time spent in certain places for anyone with an Android phone who hasn’t turned off their location privacy sharing. This is a lot of people – Android is around 70% share of the mobile market. It is expressed as a percentage change versus the baseline i.e. the normal levels pre-Covid. There are multiple classifications like parks, residences and workplaces but we’re looking in particular at retail and recreation which includes restaurants and bars etc.)

The cities chosen are Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and London – picked because they have differing levels of Covid infection rates. Their mobility figure rises from the spring lockdown low of -80% all the way up to -10% in Liverpool, for instance, at the end of August. The cities all start to slope back down as Eat Out to Help Out expires and the summer ends.

What seems apparent to me is that the Government restrictions (marked with the arrows) had very little impact on underlying activity in retail and recreation, despite what may have been said. Ultimately the positive test rate has plateaued or flat lined of its own accord.

This, to my mind, suggests that retail and recreation, which has currently been locked down, seems to have very little correlation with whether cases are rising or falling, placing serious questions over the most recent restrictions, which particularly target and harm the sector.

The absence of any discernible change in retail and recreation mobility when major restrictions like the Rule of 6 came in speaks against the efficacy of the measures. While we can see an impact on mobility data in, say, Manchester when it moved to Tier 3 on October 23rd, this had little to do with infections in the city slowing and flatlining, as we saw that happening weeks earlier before the end of September. Likewise we can see the impact on mobility data when Liverpool moved into Tier 3 on October 14th, but infections had stopped rising a week earlier.

Those who claim the three-tier system is responsible for slowing or declining infections need to produce evidence for that, as the data does not appear to be on their side.

Postcard From the Isle of Wight

We’ve received a postcard from the Isle of Wight from Lockdown Sceptics reader A.R. Norman.

One of the particular joys of living in our island corner of England is the sight of sailing boats out on the Solent – occasionally those menacing black-winged speed yachts hurtling at unfeasible velocity in their bid for Americas Cup glory, occasionally too the square or gaff rigs of large classic yachts, but many more of the brightly billowing spinnakers of the various racing boats vying for silver over the treacherous tides to the north, east and west of Cowes. Most of all, though, is the delight inspired by the sight of those earnest little dinghies sailed by youngsters in their thousands during the summer months.

But not this year. Cowes week was cancelled and now, with this second lockdown, 2021 is in the balance. As for the smaller sailing organisations, like our local club, though past stewards built up a cash reserve to keep us afloat during the economic downturns that trouble the finance committee from time to time, the club’s viability is now seriously threatened. No doubt it will survive, but it is unlikely to do so in its present form. For why? In a way the answer is obvious: it’s the economy, stupid. But there is another, more troubling answer, of which the economy is only part.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “The Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads and “Ain’t got a clue” by the Lurkers.

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.

Mask Censorship: 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 Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff 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 month and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Googled it a week after launch, 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 well over 600,000 signatures.

Update: Prof Sunetra Gupta has penned a defence of the GBD for the AIER. Find it here.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

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.

Christian Concern is JR-ing the Government over its insistence on closing churches during the lockdowns. Read about it here.

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.)

And Finally…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is blue-plaque-liberty-downing-st-1-1-1-1024x640.jpg
A sharp-eyed reader spotted a new blue plaque that appeared outside Number 10 Downing Street yesterday