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Gove: Primary School Children and Years 11 and 13 Will Return to School Next Week, But as For the Rest…

Michael Gove said on the Today programme yesterday that primary schools, along with Year 11s and Year 13s in secondaries, would return to school in the first week of January, although he stopped short of saying other year groups would return later in the month and stressed that this was the Government’s intention, not a cast-iron guarantee. BBC News has more.

“It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible,” he said.

He said that prioritising children’s attendance in school was “the right thing to do” but he acknowledged concerns about the new variant, which scientists believe may be more transmissible.

“We have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant,” Mr Gove said.

“We are confident that we will be able to get schools back in good order. Our plan and our timetable is there, and we are working with teachers to deliver it.”

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast the safe return to school would be built on an effective testing system, with teachers working “incredibly hard” to implement it.

However, it’s not all good news, with the Cabinet Office Minister stressing that re-opening schools involved “trade offs”, i.e. other restrictions would need to be ramped up to compensate.

MailOnline was unimpressed by the announcement.

SAGE scientists have urged Boris Johnson to impose an even tougher third national lockdown including keeping all schools closed throughout January to curb the new mutant coronavirus strain – consigning millions of children to sub-standard online classes for at least a month, it was revealed today.

Michael Gove said today that only children in years 11 and 13, and those with key worker parents, will go to school from Monday – with only primary schools expected to open as usual.

But he has also sparked fears that secondary schools could remain closed for longer than a week after admitting the plan to reopen them all on January 11th is already “under review” amid rumours that students in Tier 4 could be at home until the mid-February half-term.

Worth reading in full.

How Persuasive is the SAGE Argument for Closing Schools?

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on June 25th

According to the Guardian, the Government is split over the issue of whether to re-open secondary schools in full in January, with some ministers proving susceptible to lobbying by SAGE’s lockdown zealots.

Government deliberations are expected to be influenced by two preprint studies that suggest closing schools is inevitable, including an analysis from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers who modelled the impact of the fast-spreading UK variant of Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.

They found that the only scenario that reduced the peak intensive care burden below the levels of the first wave was to impose the Tier 4 system across England after Boxing Day and close schools until the end of January, as well as vaccinating two million people a week.

“If our parameter estimates are correct… it seems like [Tier 4] alone isn’t enough, so something else might need to be done on top of that. And we’ve looked at school closures because that’s sort of the next obvious thing to do on top of those restrictions,” said the lead researcher, Dr Nick Davies, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which feeds into Sage.

Susan Michie, a Professor of Health Psychology at University College London and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavioural Science, a SAGE subcommittee, said emerging data suggested transmission rates were going up everywhere, hospitals were being overwhelmed and thus the only way forward was a national lockdown, including the closure of schools.

The paper referred to by the Guardian has been produced by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and can be read here. The same paper also forms the basis for an alarming headline in a Telegraph piece by Paul Nuki: “Why ministers must ramp up Covid vaccination to 2m a week or face a devastating third wave.

But if you read the paper, the argument for closing schools in January (all schools, not just secondaries, and universities too) isn’t straightforward.

Let’s suppose the two critical assumptions these boffins make are right: (a) the new Covid variant (VOC 202012/01) is significantly more transmissible than preexisting variants; and (b) children are more susceptible. As with the modelling Neil Ferguson presented to NERVTAG earlier this month, the “evidence” for (a) and (b) is that when these researchers create a range of different epidemiological models to explain the recent rise in daily cases, the models into which they plug these assumptions are a better fit with the data than the models into which they plug other assumptions. But, of course, they only consider a very limited number of alternative explanations – greater mobility in London, the South East and the East of England, for instance – so this is a pretty clumsy application of Occam’s Razor.

Nonetheless, let’s park those reservations for a moment and suppose this group of mathematicians are right about the causes of the rise in daily cases. That still doesn’t mean we should close all schools (and universities) in January. Why? Because one of the assumptions the modellers make is that the three NHS regions which haven’t yet seen an uptick in infections – the South West, the Midlands, the North West and the North East and Yorkshire – are 30 days behind the three that have – London, the South East and the East of England. Consequently, if you allow schools (and universities) to reopen in January, the pressure on the NHS as a whole will be lower than if you delay reopening them until February. Better, surely, if the NHS is forced to cope with hospital admissions peaking first in three regions, then in the other four, than in all seven simultaneously?

The authors of the paper acknowledge this in Table 1 on p.10, reproduced below.

As you can see, peak ICU occupancy in 2021 is projected to be 113% of peak ICU occupancy in March/April of this year if schools reopen in January, and 114% if they remain closed. Similarly, the number of ICU beds occupied by Covid patients when infections peak in 2021 is projected to be 3,310 if schools reopen, but 3,360 if they remain closed.

In other words, even the SAGE lockdown zealots grudgingly acknowledge that delaying the reopening of schools (and universities) by a month will put more pressure on the NHS than if you reopen them in January.

Stop Press: Teachers will be added to the priority list when the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved next week. There are fewer than half a million teachers in England. Problem solved, surely?

Nightingales Still Empty

Matt Hancock marvels at his handiwork in London’s ExCel Centre

The Telegraph has a good story in today’s paper about the scandal of the empty Nightingales.

They were opened with great fanfare at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic – vast new facilities designed to save the NHS.

But as the UK is gripped by a second wave of Covid, the £220 million Nightingale hospitals lie empty, with medics warning that, even if they are needed, they do not have the staff to open them.

On Monday, the hospital in London’s Excel centre not only had no patients, it is understood to have been stripped, with beds and ventilators missing. Barriers protecting the facility had been removed, partition boards which separated beds were stacked outside and signs directing ambulances lay on the floor.

A single security guard watched the door, while nearby residents said that they had seen oxygen tanks, previously under 24 hour guard, being removed in November.

A contractor who helped supply and set up the facility told the Telegraph it was “disgusting” that it had been dismantled and a colleague, who was working at the site two weeks ago, said the facilities inside had been “ripped out”.

Meanwhile, the Nightingale at Birmingham’s NEC and the one in Sunderland are also empty but on standby, while Manchester’s is open for “non-Covid care”, with that at Harrogate being used as a “specialist diagnostics centre” and Bristol’s deployed for “local NHS services”.

Birmingham’s Nightingale can be opened in 72 hours if needed, it has been claimed. But Ian Sharp, the clinical lead for elective care at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), said that, with hospitals in the region full, “taking staff out of those organisations to open what is effectively a field hospital fills many of us with dread” and was therefore being treated as a “last resort”.

If it really is impossible to staff the Nightingales – and that’s the reason they’ve been largely unused – why didn’t the Department for Health anticipate that before committing £220 million to building them? Did Matt Hancock just commission them without a thought as to how they’d be staffed? One for the public inquiry.

Stop Press: Perhaps the reason the Nightingales haven’t opened is because the NHS doesn’t need the extra critical care capacity. See the below graph from the Spectator comparing ICU occupancy on Dec 20th with the the three-year average for December.

The Great Preset

Klaus Schwab, the evil Mega-Mind behind the Great Reset

James Alexander, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey, has written a follow-up piece to Cockupspiracy, which Lockdown Sceptics published earlier this month. In this one, he develops the idea that the political situation we find ourselves in is neither cock up nor conspiracy, but something in between. It was made possible by what he calls “the Great Preset”. Here’s an extract:

There is something which has to be said immediately about conspiracy in relation to the current crisis. The current crisis is the twisting of an apparent crisis caused by the disease COVID-19 into a real crisis by the political response which I have called Polis-20. The crisis is a consequence of an unusually intense attempt to combine scientific and political imperatives, as mediated by an agitated press. It is difficult to know how to frame a causal explanation: whether to blame scientists or politicians or those who mediate scientific and political claims and hence sanction them and harden them into public opinion. But we can avoid ascribing exact blame by saying that policy has infected scientific claims just as scientific models have infected political claims. The word ‘infected’ is of course a metaphor, derived from viruses. It should be obvious why it comes to mind.

At every point it is possible to ascribe blame to conspiracy or cock-up, though I prefer cockupspiracy, the view that in any human activity there is no simple competence or incompetence but a thousand combinations of competence and incompetence. In this case, what I think we have seen, since politicians and scientists and the media have been so eager to form an alliance against the people, is that the incompetence of the handling of matters has at every point ratcheted up the despotic tendency of the policies initially supposed to have been legitimated by the competent handling of matters.

Though I suggest that it is wiser to allege cockupspiracy than either conspiracy or cock-up, I think that it is important to say the following. What has happened in 2020 all over the world, in terms of the imposition of a deliberately despotic policy of masks, distancing and lockdown, is so significant that even if it is not a conspiracy (and I am saying it is not) it is on such a scale that we are certainly not wrong to consider it as if it is a conspiracy. The scale of the imposition of controls by states over citizens is so unparalleled outside of conditions of war or revolution that finding of fault is an inevitability, ascription of blame a necessity, resentment a duty. This is because even if through thoughtlessness or local self-interest someone perpetuates the current policies they are guilty of perpetuating one of the most dangerous tendencies of policy I have ever seen in all my years of reading history.

Even if we do not believe in the conspiracy of the World Economic Forum or the Trilateral Commission, I think we should be as vigilant as if there is a conspiracy. One way of being vigilant is to pay some attention to history. Politicians and scientists rarely know much about the great traditions of politics in the West. And I think we can discern in that history some useful suggestions for making sense of our current situation. In particular, I think attention ought to be drawn to what I am going to call the Great Preset.

The Great Reset seeks a world government of extreme competence. If not a conspiracy, it certainly is the desire to have one.

The Great Preset is not an aspiration. It is the world we live in. It is not yet a world of world government. It is a world of states.

Worth reading in full.

When Boris Was a Braver Man

A reader has sent in quite a jolly poem. For understandable reasons, he wishes to remain anonymous. “Just credit it to Wise Doggerel,” he suggested.

When Boris was a braver man,
He faced down Project Fear.
We need the same for COVID now;
From others we should hear.

Try Heneghan, not Vallance, please,
Clare Craig not JVT,
Mike Yeadon over Ferguson,
And see where we could be.

It’s not like there’s no Covid now.
The places spared in Spring
Have suffered in the Autumn gloom.
And yes, it’s still a thing.

But dig down deep and what d’you see?
The 111 calls flat,
Emergency admissions too,
And excess deaths at that.

A plague of “cases” stalks the land:
Disease misdiagnosed.
Our Christmases were ruined and
The little shops are closed.

Please heed the voice of common sense:
Dear Boris, hear our plea –
Be done with tiers, allay our fears,
And set this country free!

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “Climbing Up the Walls” by Radiohead and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” by Maurice Chevalier.

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 list of naughty words proscribed by the University of Michigan.

If any readers feel like composing a paragraph or two using as many of the proscribed words as possible, we’ll happily publish the best ones.

Stop Press: Joshua Katz, a Classics Professor at Princeton, has written a piece for Spectator USA about the recent woke nonsense at Dalton School, his alma mater.

Stop Press 2: A high school student in Nevada is suing her school over the “coercive, ideological indoctrination” that is central to its Critical Race Theory-based curriculum that forces students to associate aspects of their identity with oppression.

“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.

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.

Stop Press: A reader has emailed me to ask why it is that the “Focused Protection” proposed by the authors of the GBD is so often dismissed as far too difficult to achieve?

I am puzzled by the typical pushback against the ideas in the Great Barrington Declaration – that we should protect the elderly and vulnerable while the rest get on with life and supporting the economy.

I read arguments such as “it isn’t practical”, “some communities have older folk living with them”, and “school kids are sometimes looked after by grandparents”. This leaves two questions.

The first question is what proportion of the population would find it totally impractical to protect their elderly relatives while life goes on as normal? If, as I suspect, it is a relatively small proportion then why are we not looking for ways to do so to let the majority out of lockdown?

The second question concerns how we would achieve this. I don’t know the answer, but I look around me and see vaccines developed in a very short time; I see innovations in technology; I see Nightingale hospitals up and running in a few weeks; I see, or saw because I am of that age, man land on the moon.

So why is the Great Barrington idea dismissed out of hand as too hard so we won’t even bother to try?

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.

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…

In this week’s ⁦episode of London Calling⁩, ⁦James Delingpole⁩ and I manage to stay off the subject of the Great Reset – mostly – and instead talk about our best Christmas presents, Boris’s Brexit deal and Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell’s cracking historical novel. Listen here and subscribe on iTunes here.