Latest News

Health and Safety Breaches at a Lighthouse Lab

What follows is a guest post by Toby.

Those of us who are dubious about the number of daily cases being announced by the Government each day tend to focus on the false positive rate, as well as the low professional standards at testing centres, leading to cross-contamination before the samples make it to the labs. But focus has now begun to shift to the labs themselves, with Channel 4 broadcasting a Dispatches on Monday night that revealed various lapses at the superlab run by Randox in Northern Ireland that analyses COVID-19 tests from across Britain.

An undercover reporter discovered serious failings, including cross-contamination of test samples. One expert told Dispatches that the lab’s “cavalier approach to safety” could lead to cross-contamination and potentially wrong test results. And by “wrong” they mean a person could be wrongfully diagnosed as positive. After all, if two swabs contaminate each other – one negative, the other positive – they both end up as positive. If cross-contamination is happening at these superlabs – and we have every reason to believe it is – the number of positives is being inflated.

Today, Lockdown Sceptics is publishing an original piece by Dr Julian Harris, a veteran scientist. He got a job in July at the Lighthouse lab in Milton Keynes, one of three superlabs in England run by a company – UK Biocentre – that has received billions in Government contracts. An experienced virologist with a background in biosafety, Dr Harris was horrified by what he witnessed during his first few days on the job. There was no proper induction for new employees familiarising them with how to handle biohazardous material, little awareness of the correct biosafety protocols to follow in the labs and little awareness of the risk of cross-contamination. After his superiors showed insufficient interest in his complaints – treating him as an “irritant”, in his words – he decided to tip off the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He then worked with the HSE, providing them with real-time information when he encountered a health and safety breach. Before long, the HSE decided it needed to mount a proper, on-site investigation.

After he stopped working at the lab, Dr Harris got in touch with a BBC reporter and an Independent journalist and, when the HSE confirmed to them that it had written to UK Biocentre and notified them of numerous contraventions of health and safety law, they both ran stories last month. But those stories lacked granular detail because the HSE wouldn’t share the letters it had written to the lab operator, either with Dr Harris or the journalists.

Not to be fobbed off, Dr Harris submitted an FOI request to the HSE and yesterday he hit pay dirt: a copy of the correspondence the HSE had sent to UK Biocentre, including two letters containing long lists of health and safety breaches. We’re publishing both of these letters today – you can find them at the foot of Dr Harris’s article here.

Here’s an extract from Dr Harris’s piece:

I’ll give you some examples of the kind of breaches I discovered.

There were >20 Class II Biosafety cabinets (BSCs) for the initial processing of the swab samples. The cabinets are designed to protect the sterility of the samples and protect the operator from any potential contagion in the samples. Unfortunately, overloading cabinets with swab sample bags and unnecessary equipment was a common occurrence. This put the operator at risk of exposure to aerosols containing pathogens escaping from the cabinets into the lab environment, as well as endangering the integrity of the swab samples in the cabinet and risking them becoming contaminated by virus and virus components circulating in the lab.

A build-up of dirt in the cabinets can also compromise the integrity of the swab samples. But there was no schedule at appropriate intervals to fully clean all interior surfaces of the cabinets. Fumigation of the cabinets to inactivate any contaminants before servicing – which is supposed to happen regularly – only happened annually at this lab. The UK Biocentre, which operated the lab, felt it was acceptable to clean an unfumigated cabinet by sticking half your body into the apparatus in an attempt to clean the interior. Another high risk practice was technicians regularly doubling up to process the biohazardous swab samples, interrupting the protective air flows generated by the cabinets and further increasing the risk to the integrity of the cabinet environment.

The lab where the real-time PCR assay was run was kept under positive pressure for processing purposes, which meant no air from other areas was supposed to enter this room and potentially contaminate the assay. But cross-contamination issues started at the beginning of the process before the samples were taken to the PCR lab. The main causes of cross-contamination are the way members of the public use the swab kits; contamination of the insides of the tubes and cap by the operator; and the contamination of the thread of sample tubes with sample medium as shown below. These issues are exacerbated by the poor quality of most sample tubes/caps and suppliers’ mix-and-matching tubes to caps, so some of them don’t fit properly.

A dangerous practice I observed in the lab was the passing of leaky tubes to the liquid handling personnel, unknowingly putting them at risk, as well as contributing to the risk of cross-contamination.

There’s more in this vein, and if you read Dr Harris’s piece, as well as the two letters, the picture that emerges of one of the UK’s largest Covid laboratories is shocking. The UK Government is basing its decisions to impose draconian restrictions on people’s movements, causing catastrophic harm to the economy as well as public health, on testing data that simply cannot be relied upon, thanks to numerous health and safety breaches and the concomitant risk of cross-contamination.

When asked about the myriad ways in which it was contravening health and safety law, the Milton Keynes lab told the BBC that no improvement notice had been issued by the HSE. That’s true, but the lab operator was forced to pay a hefty fee to cover the inspectors’ time, which Dr Harris estimates was between £15,000 and £20,000. UK Biocentre was also told to get its house in order by October 23rd.

This is an important story. Let’s hope other, better-resourced media outfits than Lockdown Sceptics follow it up.

Read it in full here.

Stop Press: The BBC continue to hammer home the failings of Test and Trace with a new exposé “Inside test-and-trace – how the ‘world beater’ went wrong“.

WIKILOCKS SCANDAL: SAGE Used Wikipedia Data For Lockdown Models

Wikipedia: Not a peer-reviewed scientific journal

The documentary “Lockdown 1.0 – Following the Science?” on BBC Two last night exposed that SAGE had admitted to using data from Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, in its modelling. The Mail has the details.

No 10’s scientific advisers relied on dubious data from Wikipedia to help steer Britain through the spring’s coronavirus crisis and wrongly predicted the peak of the first wave by two months, an explosive new documentary has claimed.   

Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) admitted early virus modelling was based on unverified figures from the online encyclopedia, which can be edited and managed by members of the public. 

Tory MP Steve Baker, who has refused to support the Prime Minister’s second lockdown, told MailOnline: “Some of those claiming to be ‘following the science’ seem not to understand the meaning of the word. SAGE has been put on a pedestal as if they are able to produce a single version of the truth. It’s not possible.”

Professor Ian Hall, deputy chair of the SAGE subgroup SPI-M, defended the approach, saying: “The public may be surprised that we were using Wikipedia to get data very early on in the pandemic, but that was really the only data that was publicly available that we could access.”

The BBC programme also revealed:

  • Britain’s SAGE group advising the Prime Minister on fighting the pandemic contained no specialist on human coronaviruses
  • Before a national lockdown was imposed in March, scientists also predicted the peak of the virus in the UK would be June – when in fact it was April
  • Scientists failed to consider the impact agency workers would have on spreading Covid in care homes by moving between several different sites to work. There were more than 30,000 excess deaths in care homes because of Covid in 2020

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, told MailOnline:

The fact they used Wikipedia for their models is just completely unacceptable. You’ve got to use verified data. I cannot imagine a scenario where any scientist should be turning to Wikipedia – the thing about models is it’s extremely important the evidence they’re based on is as robust as it can be. It reflects our lack of preparedness, there were outbreaks happening in Europe that could’ve been used to inform. If they [SAGE] didn’t understand the data or couldn’t access it they should’ve been in touch with public health officials abroad to understand them.

The charge sheet against Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty, who appoints SAGE, and Chief Scientist Sir Patrick Vallance, is growing by the day. Surely, it’s time Boris showed them the door and got some fresh heads in to bring in some new ideas. That’s one Great Reset we could all get behind.

“Don’t Kill Gran” Guilt-tripping Returns to Spoil Christmas

Newest member of SAGE

The Scrooges of SAGE and Independent SAGE have joined forces to try to destroy Christmas. The Sun has more.

Professor Gabriel Scally told Good Morning Britain: “There is no point in having a very merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February.”

He said Christmas would be a “dangerous time” and would allow the “virus to spread”.

Prof Scally, who is a member of Independent Sage – a rival group to the Government’s own advisers – added: “We need to think very seriously about Christmas and how we’re going to spend it.

“It’s too dangerous a time and opportunity for the virus to spread.”

He highlighted that people could face 25 days of lockdown in January to make up for the “jollity” over the festive period.

But he said the lockdown would pale into insignificance compared with the number of people who could get Covid and spread it over Christmas.

After appearing on the show he tweeted: “We have not made nine months of sacrifices to throw it all away at Christmas.”

Professor Scally is a former Labour donor who has previously contributed £20,000 to Andy Burnham’s bid to become party leader.

Meanwhile, another expert echoed Prof Scally’s warnings.

SAGE expert, Prof Andrew Hayward from University College London, said mixing at Christmas could “fuel the Covid fire”.

He warned that at the exact moment we are on the “cusp of protecting the elderly”, we risk undoing all the good work by focusing “too much” on Christmas.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch Covid.

“My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas.

“We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.”

What seems to pass them by is that this guilt-tripping could equally be done any year there’s a bad flu going round, as this winter is little different to many others in terms of ICU occupancy and winter mortality. Yet somehow we’ve always managed to celebrate Christmas.

Europe’s “Second Wave” in Decline

Positive “cases” are now in decline in France and have flatlined in Germany.

“It is a fact that the measures are working,” claimed Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI), referring to Germany’s partial lockdown, in place since November 2nd. According to Reuters: “Bars and restaurants are closed, while schools and shops remain open. Private gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households. After an exponential increase in the number of infections over the past weeks, Wieler said a plateau had now been reached. ‘We do not see the number of cases falling yet, but I am optimistic that they will.'”

Positive “cases” and, more importantly, hospital occupancy is also falling in Spain, as the above graphs show. It’s not so long ago, on September 28th, that Madrid was being reported as the “capital of Europe’s second wave”. But the international media quickly lost interest when the deluge never came. In fact, as the above graph shows, by September 28th hospital occupancy in the city had already begun to decline.

Lockdown zealots will claim the declines are due to the interventions. Some of them might be, but that doesn’t mean the interventions were necessary to achieve them. In fact, infections by date of symptom onset in Madrid had already peaked around September 1st, well ahead of the first set of restrictions on September 7th when restaurants, churches, sports centres, theme parks, guided tours, etc. had limits placed on them. Similarly, hospital occupancy had already been in decline for well over a week when the stricter lockdown came in on October 3rd, and schools and universities were not closed even then.

The myth that infections only peak and fall once restrictions are imposed needs to be busted. Time and time again the data tell a different story, but it seems many people don’t want to know. Until they accept this evidence, we are doomed to live in on-off lockdowns, unable to leave them lest the threatened great catastrophe finally arrive.

PHE Finally Recognises T-Cell Immunity

Is PHE at last catching up? In a collaboration between Public Health England and several UK testing bodies, the results of the Edsab-Home trial have confirmed that many people have pre-existing immunity to coronavirus. The Telegraph has more.

A quarter of people may already be immune to coronavirus even though many of them have never been infected, a new study by Public Health England (PHE) suggests.

Over the past few months, researchers have followed nearly 2,850 key workers from the police, fire and health services to gauge levels of immunity to the virus.

They discovered that, by June, one in four had high levels of T-cells which recognised Covid, suggesting they had some level of protection against the virus – but nearly half had never been infected.

Researchers believe they probably picked up immunity from similar coronaviruses such as those that cause the common cold. In the four months of follow-up, nobody with a high T-cell count became infected with Covid, suggesting they were protected against it.

Dr Peter Wrighton-Smith, the CEO of Oxford Immunotec, the company that developed the T-cell test for trial, said it showed antibody testing alone may underestimate the number of people already immune to the virus.

There are now a number of studies that confirm this.

At least six studies have now reported T-cell activity against coronavirus in 20 to 50% of people with no known exposure to the virus.

In blood donor samples taken in the US between 2015 and 2018, around half showed some kind of immune resistance to Covid, even though they were taken years before the virus emerged. Likewise, in the Netherlands coronavirus-fighting T-cells were found in two of 10 people who had not been exposed to the virus. 

During the Swine Flu outbreak, scientists also discovered that people had prior immunity to the H1N1 strain, probably through earlier exposure to flu.

Read the full Telegraph report here.

The Government document, “Evaluating detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies“, can be found here.

New Lockdown-Sceptic Student Campaign Launched

A new student-led group has been started out of Oxford to raise awareness of why lockdowns are such a terrible idea. From their manifesto:

We are Unlock, a student-led campaign that aims to highlight the irrationality and inherent unfairness of lockdown policies. 

Unlock believes that lockdowns are highly damaging, based on overzealous science, and contrary to the very foundations of our traditional British liberty. Our mission is to raise awareness about the unforeseen, true costs of lockdown – the shocking excess deaths, the mental health struggles, and the decades worth of damage to our small businesses. This campaign seeks to give a real voice to people who can testify to the impact of lockdown on their lives.

Our duty as citizens is to support the communities around us. Our aim is to increase public awareness of lockdown’s limitations, ultimately to push the government to rethink the cost of their actions.

The campaign has five goals:

  1. Unlock business. We want to unlock the voices of small business owners who have borne the financial cost of lockdown.
  2. Unlock healthcare. We want to unlock the voices of patients who have missed appointments, treatments and screenings, and what this means for them. 
  3. Unlock education. We want to unlock the voices of students who have had a demoralising university experience like none other.
  4. Unlock sport. We want to unlock the voices of gym-goers, sports teams, and individuals who have been stopped from keeping fit and healthy. 
  5. Unlock life. We want to unlock the voices of people who want to regain their liberty and community, and are frustrated because they aren’t being listened to. 

Read the full manifesto here and, if you’re a student, why not get involved?

Visit the group’s website here, follow them on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Stop Press: On the unlocking theme, Dr Mike Yeadon has done a new interview with Unlocked on “Why Lockdown was a mistake” that is well worth a watch.

Update: YouTube has already deleted the video for “violating YouTube’s terms of service”. Find it on BitChute here.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Masquerade” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and “Take that look off your face” by Marti Webb.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing stories: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the turn of the University of Liverpool, where a Lockdown Sceptics reader’s son who works in the Chemistry Department has just been sent a document for “tackling race equality” entitled “Black Lives Matter – a starting point for addressing racial inequity in your department”.

Twelve pages long, its appetising headings include: “Race, Racism, intersectionality and White Privilege”, “Are Black voices heard and boosted?”, “Decolonising the curriculum”, “Educate yourself”, and the ludicrously patronising “Support for your Black staff and students”.

The reading list includes the classics: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni-Eddo Lodge, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, and Biased – Uncovering the Hidden Prejudices that Shape Our Lives by Jennifer L. Eberhardt.

Here it is on systemic racism:

An important part of understanding systemic racism are the concepts of White Privilege and White Supremacy.

White Supremacy can refer to a social system in which White people experience structural advantages over other ethnic groups, on both a collective and individual level, despite formal legal equality.  Academic, Frances Lee Ansley, describes White Supremacy as “a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily re-enacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”

White Privilege is the privilege experienced by White people when they benefit from unearned advantages, experience an absence of suspicion or negative responses to their presence or actions and have their experiences and culture centred as ‘normal’.

Which is all just lovely, except the claim that British society systematically advantages “white” people is a myth not borne out by the facts. “White” children (and especially boys) do not do best at school, “white” people are not the best paid racial group, and “white” people are the least likely to go to university. So the entire empirical premise is false. But facts don’t seem to come into it.

Of course, there is also the small matter that encouraging people to identify themselves and others primarily by their race and categorise one race as supremacist oppressors and another as a oppressed victims is deeply divisive and harmful to people’s self-understanding. But that, too, features nowhere in the nihilistic woke-fest that is Critical Race Theory.

The reader asks for suggestions as to how his son might resist this nonsense. The Free Speech Union has some suggestions here and here which may be helpful. He should also join in case his woke colleagues turn on him for failing to toe the line.

“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.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

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 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 month and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. 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 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 approaching 700,000 signatures.

Update: 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.

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.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”.

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 and over 100 church leaders are 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.

Quotation Corner

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Charles Mackay

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…

Ideology – that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.

Sir Winston Churchill

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

Richard Feynman

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Carl Sagan

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

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…

Bob’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph