Latest News

Lockdown 2.0 to End in Tiers

Boris is expected to announce his post-lockdown Covid plans on Monday. The Telegraph has the details.

England’s national lockdown will end on Dec 2nd but be replaced by a new harsher three-tier system, Boris Johnson will announce on Monday.

More areas will be placed into the higher tiers than before the lockdown after warnings from SAGE scientists that the previous levels of restrictions were not strong enough and a tougher regional approach was needed.

The Telegraph can also reveal that everywhere from factories and offices to towns and cities will be blitzed with mass testing if cases start to rise, under plans to be set out this week.

The Prime Minister’s “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to ensure further restrictions are not needed.

While some local measures will be similar to those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

Last night it emerged that the 10pm curfew for restaurants and pubs – which has been severely criticised by Tory MPs – is likely to be extended to 11pm when the tiers are published on Monday.   

Final details will be signed off at a meeting of the Cabinet today. Details of the new tougher tiers system, which comes into force on Dec 3rd, will be announced on Monday, with the final decision on which areas are in which tiers on Thursday. The plan will set out how people will be able to spend their Christmas, but ministers have made clear that the ­festive season will be different to ­normal, with some restrictions expected to remain in place.

This is sad news indeed, not least as it suggests the lockdown logic of the likes of Professor Ferguson is still dominating Downing Street thinking, with small relief to be taken from the curfew on bars being moved to 11pm. Happily it looks like Boris can expect stiff resistance from the Conservative back benches.

Boris Johnson’s plans for a new toughened three-tiered system to replace the national lockdown next week is under threat after 70 Conservative MPs threatened to veto the plans in Parliament. The Tory MPs on Saturday wrote to the Prime Minister saying they could not support further new restrictions if the Government does not publish an economic analysis of the impact of the restrictions… The number of signatories to the letter is more than enough than the 43 Tory MPs to defeat the Government’s 85-strong working majority in the Commons if Labour votes against the plans when they are put to MPs next week.

Referring to the previous tiered system of restrictions, which were not as onerous as the ones set to be proposed this week, the Conservative MPs told Mr Johnson: “The tiered restrictions approach in principle attempts to link virus prevalence with measures to tackle it, but it’s vital we remember always that even the tiered system of restrictions infringes deeply upon people’s lives with huge health and economic costs.”

It is also worth listening to the Planet Normal podcast interview with Steve Baker, Vice-Char of the Covid Recovery group, on the prospects of a back bench rebellion.

Stop Press: A Telegraph survey has found that one in four will break the rules at Christmas.

There is No Asymptomatic Spread

A new paper in Nature has struck a blow against the Covid orthodoxy of asymptomatic spread. Following the lockdown, the city government of Wuhan conducted a city-wide nucleic acid screening for SARS-CoV-2. It was carried out on an impressive scale:

There were 10,652,513 eligible people aged ≥6 years in Wuhan (94.1% of the total population). The nucleic acid screening was completed in 19 days (from May 14th, 2020 to Jun 1st, 2020), and tested a total of 9,899,828 persons from the 10,652,513 eligible people (participation rate, 92.9%). Of the 9899,828 participants, 9,865,404 had no previous diagnosis of COVID-19, and 34,424 were recovered COVID-19 patients.

The results make good reading for lockdown sceptics.

The detection rate of asymptomatic positive cases was very low, and there was no evidence of transmission from asymptomatic positive persons to traced close contacts. There were no asymptomatic positive cases in 96.4% of the residential communities.

Previous studies have shown that asymptomatic individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus were infectious, and might subsequently become symptomatic. Compared with symptomatic patients, asymptomatic infected persons generally have low quantity of viral loads and a short duration of viral shedding, which decrease the transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2. In the present study, virus culture was carried out on samples from asymptomatic positive cases, and found no viable SARS-CoV-2 virus. All close contacts of the asymptomatic positive cases tested negative, indicating that the asymptomatic positive cases detected in this study were unlikely to be infectious.

The report in Nature is a bit technical, but very much worth reading in full.

Lockdown Sceptics readers will recall that Dr Maria van Kerkhove, the technical lead of COVID-19 response and the head of the emerging diseases and zoonosis unit at the World Health Organisation, said the same thing about asymptomatic transmission at a WHO press conference on June 8th:

Question: It’s a question about asymptomatic transmission, if I may. I know the WHO’s previously said there are no documented cases of this. We had a story out of Singapore saying that at least half of the new cases they are seeing have no symptoms and I’m wondering whether its possible this has a bigger role than the WHO initially thought in propagating the pandemic.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove: We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They are following asymptomatic cases, they are following contacts and they are not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare and much of that is not published in the literature.

The comment drew sharp criticism at the time, and the WHO swiftly explained that there had been a “misunderstanding”. We will look out for a further update.

Stop Press: The Centre for Disease Control might also want to take a look at these results. They have just released new guidance saying that “Most SARS-CoV-2 infections are spread by people without symptoms“. Not in Wuhan they weren’t.

Covid Immunity is for the Long Haul

Another good news study. This time on the long-term immune responses to Covid. Details in Nature:

The immune system’s memory of the new coronavirus lingers for at least six months in most people. Sporadic accounts of coronavirus reinfection and reports of rapidly declining antibody levels have raised concerns that immunity to SARS-CoV-2 could dwindle within weeks of recovery from infection. Shane Crotty at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and his colleagues analysed markers of the immune response in blood samples from 185 people who had a range of COVID-19 symptoms; 41 study participants were followed for at least 6 months. The team found that participants’ immune responses varied widely. But several components of immune memory of SARS-CoV-2 tended to persist for at least 6 months. 

The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal but it is the most comprehensive long-range study on immune memory to the coronavirus to date. The New York Times has further details.

Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.

“That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology who co-led the new study.

The research squares with findings from elsewhere.

The findings are consistent with encouraging evidence emerging from other labs. Researchers at the University of Washington, led by the immunologist Marion Pepper, had earlier shown that certain “memory” cells that were produced following infection with the coronavirus persist for at least three months in the body.

A study published last week also found that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have powerful and protective killer immune cells even when antibodies are not detectable.

This is happy news, but it came as no surprise to Dr Yeadon, commenting on the NYT article:

Genuinely good news, but not a surprise. Per the article, those recovered from SARS still have vigorous T-cell responses 17y later. Humans are good at becoming immune to this virus. That’s great. That’s why vaccines work yet will be needed by so few.

Twitter, @MichaelYeadon3 17 Nov 8.47 pm

The NYT article is worth reading in full.

You can read the study here.

Protests Spreading Faster than the Virus

A protestor holds aloft a quote from Dr Mike Yeadon at a rally in Bournemouth

Hundreds came out to march against the lockdown yesterday in Bournemouth, Liverpool, Basildon and Hyde Park. The Daily Mail has a full report.

At least 22 people have today been arrested after anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police when hundreds took to the streets in an ongoing fight against coronavirus restrictions.   

Rallies were held in Bournemouth, London and Liverpool, where a growing crowd chanted “freedom” as they marched through the city centre in the rain this afternoon.

The group in Merseyside were shepherded by police, who later moved in to make arrests, with some demonstrators seen being pepper sprayed as they grappled with officers on the ground. It is thought that the protest began at 1pm and started with around 100 people gathered on Church Street before the group grew significantly in size.

At least 13 people were arrested during the demonstration in Liverpool, Merseyside Police confirmed. Among those detained was a 36 year-old man from Kirkby, who was arrested on suspicion of assault of an emergency worker after an officer was pushed to the chest on Church Street.   

Rallies were also held in London, where the Metropolitan Police confirmed four were arrested for breach of COVID-19 regulations after gathering at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

Officers confirmed those detained remained in custody this afternoon while the “remainder of the crowd have been dispersed”.     

Michael Walsh, of the Central West Command Unit, said: “We take reports of breaches of COVID-19 restrictions seriously. We are still in a pandemic and it is extremely selfish of a small minority of people to carry on without regard for the regulations.”

There were similar scenes on the south coast, with social distancing nowhere to be seen as activists marched through the seaside town of Bournemouth, holding placards reading “freedom” and “the pandemic is over”.

As street protests are repeatedly being met with arrests and dispersal orders, here’s an idea from a reader, previously posted in the comments, but worth flagging here following yesterday’s item.

Shall we set in motion “unarrestable” protests?

Say, on 1/12/20, i.e. before they renew lockdown from December 2nd, an en masse sit in in cars outside of parliament hooting horns.

Or in the queues caused by extra London cycle lanes.

Or on motorways (a go-slow, like when they tried to increase fuel duty).

Or even everyone, everywhere in the country wherever they are but at a given time (will have to be co-ordinated) all hooting their horns.

A bit like the gilets jaune protests but no-one is breaking the law

On the subject of protests, another reader has asked an interesting question.

Just curious in light of all the news about retailers going into administration. Why do you think they are not taking out full-page adverts in the major newspapers to complain about the lockdown?

Locally, various retail-park retailers including the Range, Poundland and B&M are still open and crammed to the gunwales with COVID-19-transmitting (ahem) people bringing their kids for a trip out, while TK Maxx, Debenhams and Ikea are closed.

Why have clothes and shoes shops been closed? Are they not selling essential items? All it’s done is force people who need ‘essential’ coats and shoes into the food retailers. It feels like the major non-food retailers are somehow benefitting from the enforced lockdown. How? Why? And why are the other retailers not complaining loudly?

Your comments welcomed! Sending this to my MP who will ignore it.

If anyone has thoughts on this, and feels like stepping in for the MP, do please get in touch here.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one song today: “Don’t fence me in” by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.

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 we’re flagging up an item from the Society books section of the Guardian: “How ‘woke’ became the word of our era.”

But what is ‘woke’? Most online dictionaries define it as a perceived awareness of inequality and other forms of injustice that are normally racial in nature. A few describe the term as characterising people who are merely ‘with it’– as in, every cool kid you knew at uni. And increasingly, these days, many use it as a pejorative term to describe someone who is a slave to identity politics. How can all three possibly be the same? It’s a sensibility, a quality, a state of being, a feeling backed up by a set of actions, sometimes all these things at once.

I can’t think of a word that reflects the era as well as ‘woke’ does. There is its relative newness (it was born and grew up alongside social media), its popularity as a hashtag and its political implications and activist leanings. There’s also its journey from black culture to the internet and mainstream news. All theses qualities are extremely particular to this moment.

Confession: I dislike the word (especially since 2016, when MTV declared the term the new “on fleek”.) Ironic, considering I am textbook woke. I identified with what it was but cringe at what it has come to mean, and bristle at the way the word is now weaponised. The disparity compels me to interrogate the term and its evolution. As Susan Sontag writes in Notes on ‘Camp’, which inspired this essay, “no one who wholeheartedly shares in a given sensibility can analyse it; he can only, whatever his intention, exhibit it. To name a sensibility, to draw its contours and to recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion.” So let’s consider what woke is, and what it isn’t…

If woke gobbledegook is the sort of thing you enjoy, this article is most definitely worth reading in full.

Alternatively, read John Redwood’s latest post on his blog: “Politically correct speaking.”

Stop Press: Another literary giant has fallen foul of woke standards. This time its Ted Hughes. The British Library has flagged the poet as implicated in the slave trade thanks to the actions of a distant ancestor.

“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 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 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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger, House of Commons 18 November 1783

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…

Check out this bit from Simon Evans’s set at Comedy Unleashed. He performed the same set at the Free Speech Union’s comedy night, but this was the following day – on November 4th, our last day of freedom. Should raise a smile.