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ICU Occupancy in English Hospitals No Higher Than Last December

This is stock photo, not a photo of an empty ICU ward in an English hospital

The media is full of alarming reports of NHS hospitals being on the brink of armageddon, such is the surge in coronavirus patients. “As we head into the new year we are seeing a real rise in the pressure on NHS services, particularly across London and the south-east,” Saffron Cordery, the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers told the Guardian.

A letter from NHS chiefs sent to the chief executives of all NHS trust and foundation trusts on December 23rd contained this alarming paragraph:

With COVID-19 inpatient numbers rising in almost all parts of the country, and the new risk presented by the variant strain of the virus, you should continue to plan on the basis that we will remain in a level 4 incident for at least the rest of this financial year and NHS trusts should continue to safely mobilise all of their available surge capacity over the coming weeks. This should include maximising use of the independent sector, providing mutual aid, making use of specialist hospitals and hubs to protect urgent cancer and elective activity and planning for use of funded additional facilities such as the Nightingale hospitals, Seacole services and other community capacity. Timely and safe discharge should be prioritised, including making full use of hospices. Support for staff over this period will need to remain at the heart of our response, particularly as flexible redeployment may again be required.

And the Independent reports that the London Ambulance Service has issued a warning saying it can no longer guarantee an ambulance will turn up if women giving birth at home require emergency care.

Sounds like a major crisis, right? Better move the rest of England into Tier 4, make mask-wearing mandatory in all settings and close schools until Easter.

Or is it?

If you look at ICU occupancy in NHS hospitals across England on December 20th it was lower than the December average in 2019 in most of the country – and it’s worth remembering that the 2019-20 flu season was unusually mild.

Admittedly, the total number of ICU beds occupied in London on Dec 20th was quite a bit higher than the average for December 2019, but according to the ZOE app daily symptomatic cases in London are falling. The ZOE data in the graph below shows rising and falling daily symptomatic cases up to December 27th.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are more ICU beds this year than last year, so if you calculate the percentage of ICU beds occupied in NHS hospitals across England and compare that to the average percentage in December 2019 the picture looks even less bleak. In every region, including London, the percentage of ICU beds occupied at the moment is lower than it was this time last year.

East:
Dec 2019 average: 76.3%
On Dec 20th 2020: 74.0%

London:
Dec 2019 average: 88.7%
On Dec 20th 2020: 86.3%

Midlands:
Dec 2019 average: 82.2%
On Dec 20th 2020: 67.0%

North East and Yorkshire:
Dec 2019 average: 78.4%
On Dec 20th 2020: 69.8%

North West:
Dec 2019 average: 82.6%
On Dec 20th 2020: 68.7%

South East:
Dec 2019 average: 83.7%
On Dec 20th 2020: 75.4%

South West:
Dec 2019 average: 79.5%
On Dec 20th 2020: 73.3%

I’m not suggesting that NHS hospitals aren’t under pressure – nor even that they aren’t under more pressure than they were this time last year. But the issue isn’t a lack of ICU beds and it doesn’t appear to be a surging number of patients admitted to ICU beds with COVID-19. After all, if those numbers were surging on top of the usual December admissions for respiratory diseases you’d expect the total number of ICU beds occupied to be much higher this year than last and, as you can see from the Spectator data, the totals are lower in four of England’s seven NHS regions.

The reason for the crisis – if indeed there is a crisis – must lie elsewhere.

My money’s on a combination of higher-than-average staff absences and poor management. Disappointing, considering the NHS has had over six months to prepare for this “crisis”.

Lockdowns Pose Greatest Threat to Mental Health Since Second World War

According to the country’s leading psychiatrist, the ongoing restrictions pose the greatest threat to mental health since the Second World War. The Guardian has more.

Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a combination of the disease, its social consequences and the economic fallout were having a profound effect on mental health that would continue long after the epidemic is reined in.

As many as 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are thought to need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the crisis.

“This is going to have a profound effect on mental health,” James said. “It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.”

Demand for mental health services dropped at the start of the pandemic as people stayed away from GP surgeries and hospitals, or thought treatment was unavailable. But the dip was followed by a surge in people seeking help that shows no sign of abating.

Data from NHS Digital reveals that the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher, and some hospital trusts report that their mental health wards are at capacity. “The whole system is clearly under pressure,” James said.

Modelling by the Centre for Mental Health forecasts that as many as 10 million people will need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the coronavirus epidemic. About 1.3 million people who have not had mental health problems before are expected to need treatment for moderate to severe anxiety, and 1.8 million treatment for moderate to severe depression, it found.

The overall figure includes 1.5 million children at risk of anxiety and depression brought about or aggravated by social isolation, quarantine or the hospitalisation or death of family members. The numbers may rise as the full impact becomes clear on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, care homes and people with disabilities.

Worth reading in full.

Conservative MPs Urge Boris to Keep Schools Open

A number of Conservative MPs have pleaded with Boris not to close schools in January even if it increases the R number. Camilla Turner in today’s Telegraph has more.

Their intervention comes ahead of crunch talks due to take place today between Number 10 and Department for Education officials about whether to delay the return to the classroom in January.

Downing Street has repeatedly said that keeping schools open is a “national priority” but scientists are warning that closures may be necessary to slow the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG ), which advises the Government, has said that the new variant of the virus may spread far more effectively in children than the original strain.

They said that might explain why the rate of the virus continued to increase in some areas during the second lockdown, when schools were open but more adults stayed at home.

Prof Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist who became known as “Professor Lockdown” due to his instrumental role in pressing the Government into the first lockdown in March, has raised similar concerns.

He said data so far suggested that the new variant “has a higher propensity to infect children” with “statistically significantly higher” rates found among under-15s compared with those of the standard virus.

But Conservative MPs have told the Prime Minister that schools must be kept open even if it means a rise in the R number. “The view of most Tory MPs is that schools do need to stay open,” one backbencher said.

“It is the health people who are saying ‘oh gosh, the hospitals will be full’. We know that schools being open does increase the R rate. The question is, is that a price we are willing to pay and in my view it should be. Frankly, children don’t get harmed so why on earth should we punish them?”

Another senior Tory MP said it is regrettable that closing schools is now “on the table” but added that many MPs would oppose this.

“Until the Chief Medical Officer gets up and says ‘this is a disaster if we keep schools open because the new strain will threaten parents’, then fine, even I would accept that,” he said.

He added that “Professor Lockdown” is a “fanatic who wants to shut down everything” adding: “I think it’s absolutely wrong for him to start scaring parents and children without actually having the scientific evidence.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In the US, school administrators are rethinking quarantine rules, according to the Wall St Journal.

Ten More Reasons to be Anti-Lockdown

An anti-lockdown protest in Queen’s Park on April 25th

A reader has sent us a good piece setting out 10 reasons to be opposed to lockdowns which we’re publishing today. Here are the first three:

The research: While those who oppose lockdowns have rigorously sought to justify their position with research – and can reference tens of studies as to the lack of efficacy of lockdowns (or stringent measures under different names) – the Government has been capable only of publishing one graph in their cost-benefit analysis of the tiers which appeared to show a correlation between Tier 3 measures and a reduction in cases (since discredited).

The use of data: While those who oppose lockdowns have analysed all data in as close to real time as possible, the ‘data’ used to justify lockdowns have been cherry-picked and often predictive, while being based on spurious assumptions that have repeatedly been proved inaccurate.

The source and balance of information: While those who oppose lockdowns possess no bias in obtaining their information, the Government is informed on the risks by a number of committees (SAGE NERVTAG, SPI-M) whose sole responsibility is to consider the virus and present the risks of that virus.

Then there’s my favourite, number 9:

Censorship and debate: While those who oppose lockdowns are constantly appealing for open debate and free speech, the Government avoids open debate, seeking instead to censor dissenting voices. Further, as there is a push to censor any “misinformation”, one can quite easily conclude that the mass of information available, and uncensored, from dissenting voices must therefore be much closer to irrefutable having had to pass a much higher standard in order to simply be available.

Worth reading in full.

BBC’s Alarmist Report on Fake News Contains Fake News

A report by the BBC’s “disinformation reporter” raises the alarm about the dangers of fake news. According to Marianna Spring, the “flurry of online falsehoods about coronavirus” are “destroying relationships and endangering lives”.

But what sort of deadly misinformation is the reporter talking about? Scroll down and you find this paragraph:

We catalogued mass poisonings and overdoses of hydroxychloroquine – a drug that world leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro falsely claimed cures or prevents COVID-19.

Hang on a second. The claim that HCQ cures or prevents COVID-19 is false?

I’m afraid that doesn’t pass the fact-checking test, Ms Spring. Over 200 studies have shown HCQ is an effective treatment for Covid. Trump and Bolsonaro may have exaggerated the preventative and curative properties of HCQ, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective and anyone taking it is likely to poison themselves. On the contrary, it’s almost certainly no more dangerous than any of the Covid vaccines.

Stop Press: David Goodhart wrote an excellent piece for the Telegraph yesterday about the moment he lost his faith in television news.

I believe it was on Monday April 20th that it struck me most forcefully: that day, a grim milestone was reached, with 100 health and social care workers reported to have died from COVID-19 – and I was witnessing a national panic. I realised then that we can no longer do television news for grown-ups.

For the preceding three weeks, I had been watching the same thing every night on the BBC Ten O’Clock News: here is a shocking statistic about Covid, here’s someone who died, here’s a sobbing relative or frontline hero telling you to stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS.

The coverage was relentlessly emotional and infantilising, lacking explanation and context. Was the 100-plus NHS staff deaths from Covid a lot, or a little? There are 600,000 patient-facing staff in the NHS, so a few probably die from infections they catch from patients every month in normal times. Was 100 deaths since the start of the crisis, about a month earlier, twice the normal rate or 50 times? How did it compare to other countries?

Not a word. In Britain, we are supposed to be good at media. And no doubt in some niches we still are. But at the start of the crisis, our main channels of electronic communication became showcases for our contemporary vices: emotionalism, virtue-signalling and a querulously adolescent attitude to authority.

At the same time, I was keeping an eye on the main TV bulletins in Germany and France and while, reassuringly, they were having exactly the same debates as us about inadequate PPE supplies and the disease ravaging old peoples’ homes, the news seemed to be delivered with more rigour and authority and without the British reflex of blaming the Government for everything that was going wrong.

Worth reading in full.

Is Public Opinion Finally Beginning to Turn Against Lockdowns?

Hancock keeps selling, but fewer people are buying

According to a poll in yesterday’s Sunday Express, millions of Britons want the Tiers to be scrapped.

With much of Britain stuck in Tier 4 rules, an exclusive survey for the Sunday Express showed more than half of people do not want to wait for the whole ­population to be vaccinated. The One Poll survey revealed one in five people (21%) want the tiers to be ended when MPs have the chance to vote on them at the end of January. Three in 10 believe that ­restrictions should end when all the over-60s and people in ­vulnerable groups have had the chance to have the vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have suggested restrictions should remain for most of next year until the whole population has had the chance to have the vaccine.

However, only 32% of the 1,013 people, surveyed in the week before Christmas, support this position which some MPs have already branded extreme.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey, the founder of the ­powerful Blue Collar Conservatism movement of more than 120 Tory MPs, said that the poll shows the Prime Minister cannot keep forcing restrictions on an unwilling country.

She said: “As on every issue the public are way ahead of ­politicians. We cannot keep these restrictions and lockdowns in ­perpetuity and the Government needs to take heed and ensure a new strategy is developed ASAP which returns our freedoms and allows the economy to reopen.”

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Fear” by Pulp, “Stuck in a Bubble” by George Alice and NASAYA, “Going Out of My Head” by Dodie West and “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley.

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 as well as post comments below the line, 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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the tragic story of a young American girl who lost her college place when a vengeful classmate released an embarrassing SnapChat video she’d posted when she was 15 in which she used a racial epithet. The New York Times has more.

Jimmy Galligan was in history class last school year when his phone buzzed with a message. Once he clicked on it, he found a three-second video of a white classmate looking into the camera and uttering an anti-Black racial slur.

The slur, he said, was regularly hurled in classrooms and hallways throughout his years in the Loudoun County school district. He had brought the issue up to teachers and administrators but, much to his anger and frustration, his complaints had gone nowhere.

So he held on to the video, which was sent to him by a friend, and made a decision that would ricochet across Leesburg, Va., a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee and whose school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.

“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur, Mimi Groves. He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right.

Ms. Groves had originally sent the video, in which she looked into the camera and said, “I can drive,” followed by the slur, to a friend on Snapchat in 2016, when she was a freshman and had just gotten her learner’s permit. It later circulated among some students at Heritage High School, which she and Mr. Galligan attended, but did not cause much of a stir.

Mr. Galligan had not seen the video before receiving it last school year, when he and Ms. Groves were seniors. By then, she was a varsity cheer captain who dreamed of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, whose cheer team was the reigning national champion. When she made the team in May, her parents celebrated with a cake and orange balloons, the university’s official colour.

The next month, as protests were sweeping the nation after the police killing of George Floyd, Ms. Groves, in a public Instagram post, urged people to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” responded someone whom Ms. Groves said she did not know.

Her alarm at the stranger’s comment turned to panic as friends began calling, directing her to the source of a brewing social media furor. Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer.

By that June evening, about a week after Mr. Floyd’s killing, teenagers across the country had begun leveraging social media to call out their peers for racist behavior. Some students set up anonymous pages on Instagram devoted to holding classmates accountable, including in Loudoun County.

The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. Groves was removed from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.

This is an appalling story, revealing just how petty and spiteful the woke can be. Worth reading in full – although bear in mind that the New York Times calls what happened to this teenage girl “a reckoning”, as though she got her just deserts. Chilling.

Stop Press: Rakib Ehsan in the Telegraph says he hopes we can ditch the concept of “white privilege” in 2021

Stop Press 2: In the latest twist in the free speech scandal at Eton, the Telegraph‘s Camilla Turner reveals the Head Master referred English teacher Will Knowland to the Local Authority because of his concerns that his lecture challenging radical feminist orthodoxy was a breach the Prevent Duty, as set out in the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: The constitutional court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared that the forced wearing of masks is a violation of basic human rights.

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 in October 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 over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Stop Press: An Italian court has declared lockdowns illegal.

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…