Month: February 2021

Latest News

Don’t They Know Lockdown isn’t Over?

Primrose Hill on Saturday afternoon

According to MailOnline, the police were out and about yesterday doing their best to stop people enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

Locked-down Britons ignored stay-at-home warnings and flocked to parks and beaches to bask in glorious sunshine today as the country’s Covid figures continue to plummet…

As the daily figures continue to drop and the vaccination numbers creep closer to the Government’s ambitious target, lockdown-weary revellers flocked to great outdoors in their droves today to enjoy Saturday’s balmy 59F (15C) temperatures

Police were out in numbers to urge revellers to follow lockdown guidelines – with Londoners claiming fines were issued for rule flouters.

As it stands, Britons are only permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons such as daily exercise with one member of another household.

And the warm weather is set to continue tomorrow, with temperatures hitting 57F (14C) in parts – before the mercury drops next week.

Officers yesterday warned the public that they would be on patrol this weekend to ensure people were still abiding by the restrictions after huge crowds ventured out last week, with Sussex Police tweeting: “Don’t stop now.'”

Journalist Tom Harwood shared footage of two police officers approaching him near to Tower Bridge in London today.

One asks “what are you doing here”, to which he replies ”I’m on a walk”.

The officer then asks if he lives locally.

Mr Harwood shared the clip to Twitter with the caption: “Really officious police presence by Tower Bridge. 

“A dozen policemen storming up to people who are simply sitting down. Issuing fines. 

“One demanded to know if I (walking by myself) lived locally to the area.”

A Met Police spokesman said: “Officers have been speaking to people in the area throughout the day, adopting the ‘Four E’s’ process of engaging, explaining, encouraging and then enforcing to take action against any rule breakers. 

“Right now the restrictions have not changed and we must all continue to follow the rules to save lives and protect the NHS.”

Worth reading in full.

The Bill Is How Much?!?

Getty Images

To date, the Government has spent more than £280 billion in Coronavirus relief, merrily funded by borrowing at ultra low interest rates and quantitative easing. A budget is due on Wednesday, however, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak used an interview with the Financial Times to “level with people” over the “enormous strains” that have been imposed on the public finances by the lockdown policy.

The Chancellor said there was an immediate need to spend more to protect jobs as the UK emerged from the COVID-19 threat, but he warned that Britain’s finances were now “exposed”. “There are some people who think you can ignore the problem. And, worse, there are some people who think there isn’t a problem at all. I don’t think that,” Sunak said.

The Treasury has been spooked by recent financial market turmoil, which has seen 10-year UK Government borrowing costs rise half a percentage point over the past month. The effect on the Government’s debt interest will not be included in next week’s forecasts because it has happened too recently, but that did not diminish the Chancellor’s concern.

Sunak said: “Because we now have far more debt than we used to and because interest rates . . .  at least a month or two ago were exceptionally low, that means we remain exposed to changes in those rates.”

He added that the UK’s exposure to a rise of 1 percentage point across all interest rates was £25 billion a year to the Government’s cost of servicing its debt. “That [is] why I talk about levelling with people about the public finances [challenges] and our plans to address them,” Sunak said.

He urged his Tory colleagues to support his tough message on public finances, seeking to create a clear dividing line with Labour at the next election.

“All of us as Conservative MPs, not just in this election, are elected by the British people because people trust us with the nation’s public finances, they trust us with their money, they trust us to run the economy responsibly,” Sunak said.

Worth reading in full.

Worth noting the recent warnings of Bank of England policy maker Andy Haldane, as reported in the Guardian.

Adding to market jitters about the resurgence of price pressures as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Andy Haldane said borrowing costs could need to go up sooner than the City expected to tame the inflationary threat.

Threadneedle Street’s Chief Economist – who has been the most optimistic of the nine members of the Bank’s rate-setting monetary policy committee – said the low-inflation era of the past few decades may be coming to an end.

Other MPC members believe rising unemployment and business failures will ensure that inflation remains close to its official 2% target in the coming years, but Haldane said a smaller workforce, the retreat from globalisation, the stimulus provided by central banks, and the boost to consumer spending generated by running down savings would combine to push up the cost of living.

What then can we expect on Budget day? Well, Rishi will have to keep borrowing and spending, given that much of the economy is in deep freeze. There will be further support for those who were forced to close their businesses – a £5 billion package for pubs, restaurants and high street shops – the Telegraph reports. It also carries a couple of hints of what may be in store further down the road.

Rishi Sunak is plotting a new tax on online deliveries next month and a raid on the self-employed later this year, the Telegraph can reveal.

The Chancellor will use Wednesday’s Budget to announce a £5 billion fund to help high street pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops that have remained closed as a result of the Covid lockdown.

On March 23rd – dubbed “tax day” in Whitehall – he will then unveil a series of consultations on further tax increases to start paying for the £300 billion cost of dealing with the virus crisis.

The Telegraph has learnt that this will include options to tax online retail more heavily, including the possibility of a new green tax on every internet delivery, alongside other online tax ideas. However, it is understood that he has turned his back on a mooted windfall tax on the “excess profits” of internet companies.

Mr Sunak is also planning to use a Budget in the autumn to increase National Insurance Contributions paid by Britain’s 4.5 million self-employed, arguing that they too benefited from state support in the pandemic.

A Treasury source said: “The idea of an online sales tax is being looked at as part of the business rates review. Responses to the consultation are being considered in the round, but the Chancellor is cognisant of the need to level up the playing field between the high street and online taxation”

Sources said Mr Sunak’s concerns about the different tax treatment of the employed and self-employed have not changed since his first Budget last March. He said then: “It is now much harder to justify the inconsistent contributions between people of different employment statuses. If we all want to benefit equally from state support, we must all ‘pay in’ equally in future.”

There is likely to be an increase in capital gains tax, which is paid on shares and company assets, from 28% to 40% to align the rates with income tax, but the timing remains unclear. Mr Sunak is also considering freezing personal income tax allowances in a move that could bring in up to £6 billion by 2024-25.

The Tory party’s 2019 manifesto committed to no increases in VAT, inheritance tax and National Insurance but left the door open for rises in capital gains tax and corporation tax.

If polling is to be believed, the public accepts the need for tax increases. According to Opinium:

Ahead of the budget next week, 31% of the public think that taxes on corporations should be higher. An even higher percentage, 40%, think taxes on top earners should be higher. Over half (53%) support the specific policy of rise in corporation tax by 6% to help fund Government spending, including 50% of Conservative voters. Almost half of voters, (46%), would support a new tax specifically to pay for the NHS.

Domestic issues and healthcare continue to be a priority. When it comes to Government spending, the public want more money to go to the NHS and social care and less to go on international aid. 62% want money to go to the NHS (62%) and social care (24%) compared to only 4% who want it to go on international aid.

It’s just as well holidays overseas are banned at the moment and will be difficult in future. We won’t have any money left to go on foreign holidays after we’ve paid all those taxes.

Stop Press: Liam Halligan has written a piece in the Telegraph arguing that the Budget must deal with two big issues: rising unemployment and the fact that the Bank of England will soon own half of the UK Government’s outstanding gilts stock.

The post that follows is by Dr David McGrogan, Associate Professor of Law, Northumbria University, and Dr John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Tort law at the University of Liverpool. Both are regular contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.

This week’s news that schools in England will reopen on Monday March 8th is welcome. The return to school is the first phase of the prime minister’s “cautious but irreversible” lockdown exit plan, which should culminate in the restoration of our freedoms on June 21st. What may be less welcome is the news that secondary school pupils will be “strongly encouraged” to undergo multiple asymptomatic COVID-19 tests as part of their return to the classroom. Pupils who test negative can return to face-to-face education; those who test positive must self-isolate in accordance with current public health rules. For families keen to return to normal, the risk that a false-positive result might ground them for a further 10 days might dissuade school pupils from taking a test. This raises an interesting question about whether schools can compel pupils to undergo COVID-19 testing as a condition of their return to the classroom.

According to the Department for Education’s COVID-19 Operational Guidance, secondary schools should offer three on-site asymptomatic tests, at a rate of one test every three to five days, from Monday March 8th. In addition, staff and pupils will receive take-home Lateral Flow Devices with which to test themselves twice a week. The guidance suggests that secondary school pupils should undergo as many as seven COVID-19 tests within the first two weeks of their return. Some may wonder with all this testing whether there will be any time left over for educational purposes.

The key message is that testing “remains voluntary but strongly encouraged”. In other words, pupils can refuse to take a COVID-19 test and schools have no powers to override that refusal or refuse their admittance. The guidance expressly states that pupils not undergoing testing should still attend school, so their return to the classroom will not be contingent upon a negative swab result. Schedule 21 to the Coronavirus Act 2020 does contain compulsory testing powers relating to potentially infectious persons – including children – but they remain unused in this crisis. The Government clearly prefers the principle of “testing by consent”, rather than resorting to more coercive interventions.

The Department for Education expects independent schools will follow the same guidance. Yet by their nature, independent schools are free to set their own priorities as part of their contractual relationship with their fee-payers. There is nothing to stop an independent school from going even further than the Department for Education’s guidance, e.g. by making a pupil’s return to school conditional on a mandatory COVID-19 test. This would likely be a controversial move, not least because it would go beyond the Government’s guidance without any apparent justification. Generally speaking, laws that protect the health and safety of school pupils apply regardless of the type of school they attend. And the courts have shown a willingness in recent years to harmonise rules so that state and independent school pupils enjoy the same legal protections (see Woodland v Essex County Council [2013] UKSC 66). This is not to say that an independent school cannot insist on a higher standard – of course they can – but this would buck recent trends and risk creating disparities where none need exist.

Anyone concerned about the legalities of a school’s testing policy should speak to a solicitor.

Stop Press: Professor Russell Viner, an expert in adolescent health at University College London and a scientific adviser to the Government, has said that school closures risk permanent scarring, the Telegraph reports.

The question of when it is ‘safe’ to reopen schools has focused on the risk that having children back in school will raise COVID-19 infection rates, putting us back where we were in December. Yet when we focus on infection risk we forget the potential for harm that can occur when schools are closed. 

“We know that closing schools harms children’s education. Our research provides clear evidence for the first time that school closures and lockdown also bring a wide range of serious harms to children’s health and well-being.

Stop Press 2: Once open, schools must stay open for good, says year 12 student Qais Hussain in an excellent article for Schools Week.

The Prime Minister’s announcement that I and my peers can return to school on March 8th is perhaps the best news I have received throughout this pandemic – better even than my GCSE results.

Truth be told, I have been struggling. If schools were closed for much longer, I don’t know if some of my cohort would have coped. In fact, I and many others wish the announcement had come earlier. While schools have looked after the most vulnerable admirably, the pandemic response has created new vulnerabilities. If I’d been born to key worker parents, my lot would have been so different.

Every day, my motivation has been decreasing. Every day, I have witnessed my friends getting stressed out about falling behind on their schoolwork or failing their exams. People who were unassailably confident in school before the pandemic have been reduced to tears by this pandemic.

Stop Press 3: In other parts of the world, such as Los Angeles, a negative test is a condition of being allowed to return to the classroom, as this helpful video makes clear.

What Level of Covid Deaths Will Necessitate a Fourth Lockdown?

“We cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations and sadly more deaths,” said Boris as he mapped out the route out of lockdown in the House of Commons. “There is therefore no credible route to a Zero Covid Britain or indeed a Zero Covid World.” That was good, but what was left unclear was how much Covid death he’d be prepared to tolerate before, with a heavy heart, he thinks we should lock down again. Businessman Keith Anderson thinks this figure should be made clear for the reasons he sets out in this letter to Lockdown Spartan Sir Desmond Swayne.

Dear Sir Desmond,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for championing civil liberty of late (a subject most of your fellow members seem uninterested in) and for bringing some common sense to the Covid ‘debate’ (if that term can be used in regard to a monotropic Parliament!)

On this subject, as you know, on Monday the Government at last unveiled a Road map to lead the country out of the chaos incurred by its ham-fisted response to Covid, albeit the route seems closer to a footpath than any kind of highway, in respect of the pedestrian pace it’s set for the lifting of crippling restrictions (there being no great urgency, it seems, to restore national kilter, despite the fact that [a la the ONS*] one to two thousand deaths a week are brought on by lockdown measures – an estimate substantiated by last year’s mortality figures**– while countless lives and livelihoods are blighted with every passing day).

What however seems odd for a supposedly rational plan is that the dates it contains are in no real way linked to death rates or hospitalisations (perhaps these figure little in Government thinking?). Nevertheless, I don’t doubt for a moment that if the death rate suddenly surged then the Government would hastily re-date its plan for lifting restrictions… yet should not the converse be the case then? Viz., if death and hospitalisation rates quickly dwindle to a trickle, should not the said dates be brought forward (infection rates being irrelevant, after all, if all infection causes is a little sickness)?

The fact of the matter of course is that, akin to the previous assurances it has given, the dates the Government has set have as much substance as coloured bubbles, for if the political landscape changes, then these will shift; if public opinion shifts, they will change; if SAGE changes its mind, they will shift; if a shifty new hysteria trends on the internet… I think you get the picture.

Still, it was positive to hear Bojo say that, going forward, we will have to accept a certain amount of Covid deaths per annum, as we do with flu and other bugs.

What he failed to say, however, and what must be clearly stated, is what level of Covid death the Government will accept before it once more removes civil liberties, suspends education, coshes the economy, and so on – measures which killed 50,000** people at least in 2020 alone, and will go on to kill 500,000*** in the decades that follow. It is vital that this figure is known, both in respect of the present epidemic and, more importantly, for when the next one besets us – these events coming every five to 10 years it seems, though, somewhat like buses, they could easily come in threes.

To this end, a precedent of sorts has been set by pneumonia, which in recent years has killed c.40,000 per annum, albeit these deaths went unnoticed by the public, press and the Government (these deaths, is seems, being un-newsworthy). What level would pneumonia deaths have to hit before the Government sought to paralyse society in an attempt to check its inexorable spread?

Or should the figure be based on lockdown cost? To wit if, as per the ONS, 200,000 will be killed by the lockdowns we’ve imposed in the last 12 months, surely, in light of the collateral damage, 300,000 at least should die within a given year before such preventative measures are seriously considered, especially when they have been shown to be ultimately futile anyway (at best postponing the inevitable – and even this benefit is contestable****).

Yet whatever measure is set, and however it is arrived at, what is undeniable is that such a metric is necessary, for until this is established then everyone in the UK remains imperilled, and cannot sleep easy, regardless of the virility of Covid, or any other disease.

Please can you therefore petition the Government to set a Bearable Death Level.

Thank you for any assistance you can give,
Regards,
Keith Anderson

*It’s been estimated that through lockdowns and non-pharmaceutical anti-Covid measures the UK Government will kill 200,000 UK citizens of all ages in the medium to long-term, due to missed medical diagnoses, missed treatments, loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue (which means less money to spend on the NHS and social care), and economic damage in general (with disadvantaged people suffering the most).

**In line with these dire estimations, the 2020 death statistics (as tallied by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries) indicate that of the 71,200 excess deaths recorded since the pandemic begun, 46,721 of these must be attributed to lockdown measures – a rate of over 1000 people a week – which is nearly double the 24,479 people who died during the same period due to COVID-19 (NB: though 73,512 people died in 2020 with COVID-19, as was admitted by Professor Neil Ferguson before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 25th March, 66% of people who died of coronavirus in 2020 would have died from other causes that year and thus would not figure in the 71,200 excess death figure for that year).

***A Professor at Bristol University has forecast that the Government’s response to COVID-19 (to November 2020) will ultimately kill 560,000 UK citizens. Many other studies have supported such predictions and, consequently, the WHO has advised that lockdown policies should not be adopted.

****NB FYI please note the graph below. As you will see, the states that didn’t impose a winter lockdown faired better than those that did.

Professor Neil Ferguson’s Technocratic Despotism

Last week, Lockdown Sceptics shared some email exchanges between our readers and Professor Neil Ferguson which were prompted by Derek Winton’s article criticising his infamous model. One reader, who has chosen to remain anonymous but who has a background in the social sciences and dozens of peer-reviewed publications to his name, has sent us a critique of the Professor’s comments. They represent, he tells us, a technocratic world view, dressed up to seem apolitical, but which is, of course, highly political. Here is an extract:

The political assumption is that ‘we’ as a society make decisions for the whole society (i.e., society is not an aggregate of individuals), that within this range of decisions, anything goes (the only criteria are quantitative), and that the decisions should be made based on expert data. These are highly contentious beliefs: they are not apolitical or scientific. I believe lockdowns are always wrong because people are autonomous beings with a need for freedom, and acts such as threatening violence if a person leaves their home are abusive regardless of circumstances (I don’t believe there is any significant moral difference between a Government, a terrorist group, or an individual abuser making such threats, and I don’t believe the ends justify the means). But I could also cite dozens of political theories which oppose the general model that the Government should do whatever it likes on behalf of the entire society based on expert guidance. Literally everything from right-libertarianism to the Marxist class model of society, from Kantian deontology to participatory and deliberative democracy, from conservatism to deep ecology to postcolonial theory, runs against this view. The closest philosophical forerunner is probably Hobbes: the idea that we need to submit to tyranny or our lives will be nasty, brutish and short – though I think the current version is a novel ideology which has developed out of cybernetic information theory and behaviourist psychology, and which reaches us mainly through the Third Way. There is also a background here in disaster management theory (e.g., Quarantelli): the idea that the main problem in disasters is the public response, and that this response should be managed through media and behavioural manipulation, with the goal of preventing the disaster – which by definition is already horrific for the human beings affected – from overwhelming the state’s ability to cope. In other words, it’s a strategy based on damage reduction, permitting or increasing human suffering so as to preserve state/Government stability (again clearly a contentious view, and again with Hobbesian and behaviourist roots). Yet Ferguson embeds this view of politics in such a way as to make it seem obvious, apolitical. It isn’t. It is a choice in favour of technocratic governance.

Ferguson’s desire not to ‘politicise’ science involves effectively making policy decisions based on the ‘expert’ conclusions arising from computer modelling. This kind of technocratic model is perfectly compatible with how countries like China are run. There is a current tendency to turn western democracies into electorally competitive technocracies in which changes in elected Government has little impact on the ‘evidence-based’ functioning of the policy machines – a narrowing in political space which dates back at least to the early 2000s. It is not a desirable trend, and it likely reflects the economic success of China and the resultant appeal of its model in the same period. I don’t think this requires secret conspiracies or Chinese manipulation; it might just be a matter of elites/experts seeing what works and copying it. But it means that, if we follow the path of ‘what works’, and China clearly works (or keeps up a good enough appearance of working), we will end up copying China. This happens both because China ‘works’ and because China has a model of governance based on experts applying ‘what works’.

Having decided to defer to ‘experts’ in making policy, there is then a second political decision as to which data counts. The choice to rely on computer modelling – and to treat it as if it were impartial, apolitical expertise – is itself a political choice. Different methods would have produced different outcomes. Suppose, for instance, that the response had been based on the knowledge provided by historians who have studied previous epidemics. The Government and public would have been told that non-medical interventions do no good, that even such an intuitive measure as closing borders between affected and unaffected regions only delays spread by a few weeks, and that one of the biggest dangers is public panic. Suppose the discussion was driven by virologists. The focus might have been on rapidly testing promising drugs and fast-tracking these into use with Covid patients. In this scenario, Remdesivir might have been confirmed effective back in March (say), instead of only in autumn, and lives might have been saved. Or suppose a decision had been taken early on to test virus transmission and impacts of interventions on small but substantial communities of volunteers from among the low-risk population. One would, within a month of the outbreak, have clear evidence on whether (for example) masks or distancing or Vitamin D have any effect. If the ‘experts’ were people working in sociology of health, likely they would have recommended avoidance of compulsion and encouragement of community support. The response might then have been more like Venezuela’s or Kerala’s. It’s also worth noting here that had scientists, including modellers, been consulted earlier, NHS beds per capita might be nearer to those of Sweden and Belarus, who never feared their health systems being overwhelmed. Ferguson suggests a novel pandemic was the Government’s number one priority risk, yet neither the current nor the previous Governments ensured there were enough ICU beds to handle a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu. If the central focus was preparedness, this failing would be at the centre of the public debate – and lockdowns could also cost lives if they incentivise future Governments to keep under-resourcing healthcare without accepting resultant risks.

Worth reading in full and filed under “How Reliable is the Modelling” on the right-hand side.

In This Covid Pandemic, We’ve Been Plagued by Craven Leaders

Yesterday, a terrific piece appeared in the Australian by Steve Waterson – unfortunately, we couldn’t link to it because it’s behind a paywall. Steve is a Senior Editor at the Australian and a former editor of TIME magazine’s Australian and New Zealand editions. He is a fan of Lockdown Sceptics and has given us permission to reprint his article in full.

Last August I made my first visit to the northern NSW town of Tweed Heads. Captivated by a dazzling stretch of beach at the end of a side street, I strolled towards it, only to discover I had strayed across the closed border into Coolangatta, in the People’s Democratic Republic of Palaszczuk.

Fearing a monumental fine, I slipped unseen back into NSW and retreated to the nearest pub to steady my nerves. A smiling old lady guarding the door asked where I was from.

“Sydney,” I said.

Her face clouded.

“Not from one of these hotspots,” she said, holding up a list of suburbs.

“No,” I said, showing her my driving licence. “Lane Cove. It’s not on there.”

“What about these ‘Eastern Suburbs’?” she said, pointing. “Are you sure it’s not one of those?”

“Quite sure,” I replied.

She looked close to tears. “It’s just that I’ve hardly ever been to Sydney,” she said, “so I don’t know where these places are.”

“Would it be easier,” I said, “if I just went somewhere else?”

Her face lit up. “Aah, would ya, darl?”

“No worries,” I said as I left. “We’re all in this together.”

I thought around that time that things couldn’t get more ridiculous, but how wrong I was. It was clear almost a year ago that COVID-19 was a serious respiratory infection, a bad flu-like virus, but that unlike the target-rich flu we’ve always lived with, its victims were the old, the infirm, the morbidly obese, people living with multiple deleterious conditions.

Even so, their average age at death was generally a couple of years above the average life expectancy.

In June I wrote in these pages that it would be interesting to see the true, unvarnished, unspun data on deaths, and now it’s beginning to come in.

As various countries assemble their annual mortality rates, the figures suggest we should be relieved, celebrating the fact this pandemic was nowhere near as lethal as some had feared.

Here in Australia, this week’s data from the Bureau of Statistics, covering January 1st to November 24th, 2020, registers 126,974 deaths, against an average of 127,872 over the past five years. Interestingly, influenza and pneumonia deaths in that 2020 period numbered 1952, against the five-year average of 3097.

Should we attribute that decline to the use of masks and social distancing, as we are encouraged to do; or is it faintly possible the missing 1000 people who would normally have died of flu and pneumonia are the ones who succumbed to COVID when it first arrived? Did the virus simply tip those teetering on the verge of death into an earlier quarter?

We, of course, cut ourselves off from the world, so perhaps our figures are artificially low. So let’s consider the “nightmare scenario” playing out in Britain.

Last month the UK’s Office of National Statistics added its provisional 2020 figures to a series that goes back almost 200 years. It shows a rate of 1043.5 deaths per 100,000 population, ahead of 2019’s number of 925.

I would describe that rise with the COVID-appropriate word “unprecedented”, except the rate has been higher before, most recently in 2008, when I don’t believe the world shut down. Oh yes, and it was higher in every single year before 2008, right back to 1838, when the records begin.

So if the impact of deaths from COVID (and I think we all know by now we should be saying “with”, not “from”) is not as bad as it first appeared, why are British hospitals reported to be almost overflowing, at or near 90% occupancy? Unprecedented again, until you note the country’s National Health Service has the entirely reasonable efficiency goal of having fewer than 15% of beds lying vacant at any time.

Or might the fact that in the past 30 years Britain has reduced the number of hospital beds from 300,000 to 140,000, while adding 10 million to its population, shed some light on the situation?

Sweden, poster nation for personal freedom during the pandemic, and whipping boy for lockdown enthusiasts, has recorded a 2020 death rate that has not been matched in its history since — drum roll, please — 2015.

But, the critics point out, even King Carl XVI Gustaf has said they handled the crisis badly. I’d never known being a king gave you medical expertise, but I’m no authority on Scandinavian monarchy.

None of this is meant to diminish the seriousness of the virus; witnessing my father’s struggle in the late stages of pulmonary fibrosis taught me that death from a respiratory disease is a singularly unpleasant way to go.

But there are many vile diseases out there that can kill you, and the price we have exacted from the healthy to protect the sick, uniquely from this ailment, is out of all proportion, and it need not have been so.

Instead of dancing in the streets at our narrow escape, we continue the brutal, self-destructive madness of lockdown, following the example of communist China, one of the last truly totalitarian states on Earth. Who saw the Chinese welders sealing citizens into their Wuhan apartments and thought “what a terrific idea?”. Our state leaders, clearly, and their moronic counterparts around the world.

Meanwhile, we have quietly acquiesced to the shutdown of our state borders on the most trivial grounds; and watched, without protest, as our international border was closed, and not just to incoming traffic.

Never mind the absurd and selfish obstacles presented to Australian citizens hoping to come home after study or work – or, God forbid, a holiday – overseas; you are currently forbidden, like a North Korean, to leave your country unless you apply for an exemption, to be assessed by some Border Force bureaucrat.

We are a nation of immigrants and dual citizens with ties that circle the globe; the gap-year wandering has long been a rite of passage. What possible impact can your departure have on the nation’s health? And if another country is happy to accommodate you, what business is it of the Government to prevent you leaving?

Again, these are the kind of restrictions conceived and imposed by some of the most wicked states in human history, and we should be embarrassed and disgusted to add our name to that list.

So the cost piles up, hundreds of billions of dollars now, with little but devastation and paranoia to show for it. Amid this vast ocean of incompetence and mindless disassembly of our economy, NSW’s handling of the crisis is widely acclaimed as an island of common sense. Which only goes to show how badly our other federal, state and territory leaders have performed.

A year ago the notion of shutting down the whole of Sydney’s northern beaches over Christmas because a couple of dozen people had tested positive for a flu-like virus in Avalon would have seemed beyond preposterous; an utter impossibility. Only because we are acclimatised to fantastically more ludicrous overreactions do we consider such an astonishing response “measured”.

And these were “cases”, remember, many of them completely asymptomatic. In the old days of common sense, you only knew if people had flu if they were ill enough to stay home from work and see a doctor. Now, if you walked through a shopping centre when someone who didn’t know they had the disease was buying their groceries, you’re ordered to have a test to see if you also don’t know you have it.

Perhaps there’s something super-tough about super-spreaders, but in my experience flu victims are tucked up in bed whimpering and mainlining Lemsip, not driving Ubers, strolling round the gardening aisles of Bunnings or choosing finger buns at Bakers Delight.

That’s what makes COVID so insidiously deadly. You don’t know you have the virus, and you might pass it on to someone else who wouldn’t know they had it, and eventually it might make its way to someone it could really hurt: a very old person or someone with severe co-morbidities.

Logic might suggest the last person in that chain is the one who should be taking precautions, but not in the fevered fantasies of our governments.

As some have been saying since the start of the mass hysteria, we should have been looking after the vulnerable, who form a tiny proportion of the population.

They, and anyone else who fears the disease, could stay at home, shop and work online, keep in shape with some lounge room exercise, entertain no visitors, have food delivered to their door.

It’s exactly the same as living in Victoria, except people who don’t share your terror can get on with their own lives and businesses.

And now the vaccine is being rolled out, we’ll soon be protected. Which should mean we don’t have to fear people who aren’t. Once the vulnerable have had their shots we should return to normal, by which I mean the old normal, not some twisted “new” normal.

And then the country should be released immediately and completely from the multiple intrusions on our privacy and civil rights. There should be no more dehumanising masks. No anti-social distancing. No more testing. No QR codes. No track and trace. No hotel quarantine. Let’s stand elbow to elbow at the bar, and cheer lustily at the football. Let’s see if the constabulary can return to policing by consent and regain our respect.

This should never have been a disaster on the scale of a world war. Leaders worthy of the name would have calmed those prone to panic, and allayed the fears of the vulnerable and their families by working out how to protect them.

They would have accepted from the start that some would rather face the risk of infection, perhaps because, like my father, they knew their remaining time on Earth was short and wished to spend it with their families. Nimble minds would have come up with smart systems to accommodate the huge range of attitudes to this threat, in order to safeguard the people who needed and, more importantly, wanted protection.

But the modern politician’s career path of student politics to minister’s office to safe seat doesn’t encourage or reward mental agility; the years of business experience that might tell you that restaurants buy expensive, perishable stock before a fully booked holiday weekend is time wasted in the scramble to reach the trough of public money.

I don’t subscribe to the swirling conspiracy theories that say this is all an evil plan to destroy our economy and weaken Western civilisation to facilitate a new world order, although it might as well be.

I suspect the catastrophe is rather the consequence of years of hollowing out the political class, the relentless, self-perpetuating promotion of game-playing mediocrities who lack the wit and imagination to deal with a fluid, complex problem. They might have slick presentation skills and a glib facility with words, but would any of them command respect in any other field?

So no, self-congratulating leaders, you have not “kept us safe”.

You have destroyed thousands of businesses, families, lives and futures. You have cheated people of the highlights of human existence, the moments of shared joy and sorrow, the weddings, births, anniversaries, farewells and funerals that mark our journey through life.

You have placed unimaginable burdens of debt and despair on future generations, and crafted a dangerous template for all the idiots who follow you.

And to use your own arrogant formulation, I make no apology for saying that.

Postcard From the Alps

Our correspondent sent us a photo

We’ve had another postcard! This one comes from a Lockdown Sceptics reader who has managed to find himelf a legitimate work reason to cross the border and head for the relative freedom of the French Alps. Our correspondent has kindly written in to tell us how this feat was achieved and how life is looking on and around the pistes. Here is an extract:

So many essential workers put their lives on the line to keep the lights on for the rest of us that it occurred to me that I should show similar courage and do my part. With no real work at home, I decided that I was willing to step out into the virus-ravaged wastelands and risk it all. As we know, international travel is perhaps the most dangerous act of any, and so that would be how I tested my mettle. 

Ideas such as ‘chalet inspector’ or ‘independent fondue taster’ seem unnecessary these days; I’m sure people can manage to taste their own fondues during a pandemic. What, though, is the field that absolutely requires travelling in person? Transport, of course – whether that’s driving a coach, flying a plane or moving a lorry full of goods.

Readers will remember the chaos suffered by hauliers backed up along the motorway just before Christmas after Mr Hancock felt it opportune to popularise the now-foundational ‘mutant strain’ gimmick. After much hoo-ha, the poor, stranded souls were allowed to continue their journeys and the transport/haulage industry rolled on.

But, alas, I am not in possession of an 18-wheeler, and parking on my street would have been a little tight. A small van, though? Practical as well, for someone who even in normal times tends to carry more equipment than passengers. A suitable second-hand vehicle was acquired locally and the plan was set in motion.

Now I needed a job. It turns out that quite a number of UK nationals are marooned in ski resorts this season, having gone over in the more optimistic days of early December and found that there would be no work after all, but also no particular reason to return to our gloomy islands. Perhaps they required courier services of some kind?

As it happened, I was soon able to identify a prospective customer – with his stay in the mountains indefinitely extended he required more of his worldly goods bringing down to him. The house to collect from was coincidentally not too much of a detour from our route to Folkestone.

The correct paperwork was downloaded from the French Government portals. Boxes were ticked and signatures scrawled. For good measure, I made sure to include various other bits of paperwork evidencing the job at hand and the legitimacy of my newly formed courier company.

The van was loaded with a few essential bits of our own, and my colleague and I set off to make the collection. Several hours later we passed through border control at Folkestone with absolutely no trouble – UK side wished to see our passports and negative Covid test certificates (a pdf on one’s phone is sufficient). French control wanted the same, plus a very brief conversation about my reason for travel, which was of course easily explained. This was much to their satisfaction and onto the train we drove, along with 30 or so other vehicles.

Worth reading in full.

We’ve filed this along with the others in the “Around the World in Eighty Lockdowns” series on the right-hand side. This is postcard number 46, so do write to us here if you are anywhere interesting so we can complete the collection.

Poetry Corner

Today’s entry in Poetry Corner is by John Dunnit (a nom de plume).

The Seven Points of Resonance

(They do not know, nor do they understand…)

If they are stunned by what you just said
And debate for just a moment is dead;
Then carry on as is nothing is wrong,
You can sense that you have been misread

If they feel they cannot distil
what you said with honest goodwill
And prime their gainsaying with: “So what you are saying is…”
To imply you are mentally ill.

Although it is not what you meant
You are accused of nefarious intent.
Should you show contrition ’cos they couldn’t listen
And endeavoured to disorient?

If you find that the goal posts keep moving
In chaotic assays of disproving.
You answer each case, but they just pull a face
In a belligerent act of reproving.

They may even get angry and yell
At the logic you’re using so well
A real diplomat would have trouble with that
Temper’s a hard thing to quell.

They may even turn on your name
In an effort to hurt and defame
This is the cost when their arguments lost
Do not gloat ’cos it’s truly a shame!

In the end they may simply retreat
Without ever conceding defeat
And so a quiet chat has turned into a spat
Next time you should be more discreet.

If these seven verses have resonance
For discussions you’ve had in all innocence.
It wasn’t your fault they went on the assault.
They are suffering from cognitive dissonance

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Thirteen today: “Needle And The Damage Done” by Neil Young, “A Prisoner Of The Past” by Prefab Sprout, “The Art of Falling Apart” by Soft Cell, “So Low” by Ocean Colour Scene, “They Don’t Own Me” by Richard Ashcroft, “Solitaire” by The Carpenters, “When Tomorrow Comes” by Eurythmics, “I’m So Lonely” by Cast, “Free Me” by Cast, “Autonomy” by Buzzcocks, “Give More Power to the People” by the Chi-lites, “Nutted by Reality” by Nick Lowe and “Tired of Waiting” by the Kinks.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as the undercover spy couple in The Americans

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 newly enacted “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” of the Illinois State Board of Education. The Foundation for Economic Education has the story:

Beginning in October, all Illinois teacher training programs must start to reflect the new standards that focus on “systems of oppression”, with teacher trainees required to “understand that there are systems in our society that create and reinforce inequities, thereby creating oppressive conditions”.

Under the new standards, all teachers-in-training are also expected to “explore their own intersecting identities”, “recognize how their identity… affects their perspectives and beliefs”, “emphasize and connect with students about their identities”, and become “aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities”.

Even the Chicago Tribune editorial board warned against the passage of these standards in the days preceding the legislative session, noting that “while the rule-writers removed the politically charged word ‘progressive’ from their proposal, there’s no doubt these are politically progressive concepts as we know them in our current national dialogue. If the rules were tilting more toward traditional concepts of teaching, if the word ‘conservative’ were peppered throughout the rules, you can imagine the uproar.”

The Tribune editors also acknowledged the “real concerns” critics have expressed toward these standards.

“Teachers could be evaluated on how sensitively they meet students’ needs, how engaged they become in political causes, rather than how much their students understand basic reading, writing and critical thinking – must-have skills to prepare any student for life,” wrote the editorial board on February 15th.

Two days later, a legislative committee approved the new standards.

The Illinois action is one example of an accelerating trend toward introducing and elevating critical theory ideology throughout US institutions, including Government schools.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Amazon has announced a new feature for the Kindle platform, reports the Babylon Bee. Kindle Bonfire will allow users to virtually participate in book burnings – that time-honoured tradition of tolerant, open societies – by burning digital books.

Stop Press 2: The Daily Star reports that 1970s TV series Porridge has been hit with a “discriminatory language” warning.

Stop Press 3: Students at Durham University have removed Margaret Thatcher from a list of inspirational women. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: It is harder for shop staff to spot underage customers when they’re wearing face masks, Yorkshirelive reports, leading to an increase in underage sales of alcohol and fireworks.

Secret shoppers aged 16 volunteer to help the council find out which businesses are selling age-restricted products to underage customers – and the number caught selling alcohol increased significantly this year.

Matt Boxall, Head of Public Protect for York, said this is likely to be because customers are wearing face coverings.

He said: “If the [secret shopper] is asked how old they are they must give their true age and if they’re asked for ID they must say they don’t have any.

“Obviously this year was slightly different in that the purchaser was wearing a face covering.”

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Stop Press: Responding to a letter in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, signatory Martin Kulldorf makes one or two things clear about the Great Barrington declaration and the approach it advocates:

With two other infectious disease epidemiologists, I co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration that calls for better protection of high-risk elderly while ending lockdowns, for example by opening schools and universities for in-person teaching.

Berkowitz’s claim that billionaire Charles Koch funded the Declaration is false. We received no money to write the Declaration. No organisation influenced its content. We have no ties to the Koch brothers. Ironically, the opposite is true, as the Koch funded Mercatus Center gave money to pro-lockdown modeller Neil Ferguson at Imperial College.

Lockdowns have been profitable for big business while throwing the working class under the bus, with inner-city working class being hardest hit. It is therefore understandable that many Pioneer Valley progressives question the wisdom of lockdowns, including teachers and the fine folks at blogs.umass.edu/covidbalance.

Berkowitz uses Sweden as an example of a failed pandemic strategy, but despite an older population, the reported COVID-19 mortality of 850/million is less than both Massachusetts (1,800/million) and the United States (1,020/million). Neighbouring Finland and Norway locked down less than Sweden and report even lower mortality.

Sweden received international criticism for keeping schools open for all children ages 1-15 throughout the height of the pandemic. This led to zero COVID-19 deaths among the 1.8 million Swedish children in this age group, while teachers had the same risk as the average of other professions.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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 case you missed it a couple of days ago, here it is again: Toby’s talkRADIO debate with Christopher Snowdon about the lockdown policy.

Latest News

Don’t You Dare Enjoy the Sunshine

Yesterday, the R Rate was as low as it has ever been; infections, hospitalisations and deaths were continuing to drop; and Brits were told not to relax. MailOnline has the details.

Jonathan Van-Tam tonight urged Britons not to “relax” as the UK heads into a glorious weekend with the first warm weather for months, warning that “this is not a battle that we have won yet”.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England brought stern warnings to tonight’s Downing Street press conference when he told the public: “Do not wreck this now.”

Coronavirus cases are rising in dozens of parts of England, around one in five and mainly in the Midlands and the North, Professor Van-Tam said, and people must continue to follow lockdown rules for as long as they are in place.

He called for the UK to “hold our nerve” and added: “I do worry that people think it’s all over. The more they think that when it’s not, the greater the headwind they’re going to give to the vaccine programme and the more at risk will become the milestones set on the road map.”

His “sobering” warnings came as data show that Britain’s Covid outbreak is still firmly in retreat, with a catalogue of official figures today piling even more pressure on Boris Johnson to relax lockdown sooner. 

Department of Health bosses recorded another 8,523 coronavirus infections and 345 deaths – with both measures down by roughly a third week-on-week. More than 520,000 vaccines were also dished out, with nearly 19.2 million Britons now vaccinated. 

No 10’s top scientific advisory panel SAGE estimated the R rate – the average number of people each Covid patient infects – is still at the lowest level since records began in June, staying between 0.6 and 0.9.

Separate statistics from one of the country’s most respected surveillance studies showed England’s outbreak has nearly halved in size over the last fortnight. Office for National Statistics experts estimated 373,700 people would test positive for the virus on any given day in the week ending February 19th, or one in 145 residents. In comparison, the figure was almost 700,000 two weeks ago.

But a weekly report from a symptom-tracking app today warned daily cases had risen 3% in a week, to 9,545 in the seven-day spell ending February 21st. SAGE also estimated the R rate has crept up slightly in the South East, North West and the Midlands but insisted the figure is still below the crucial level of one.

Despite the troubling trend, one leading scientist today urged Britons “not to panic” because hospitalisations and Covid deaths were still falling – and said Number 10 was still on track to lift restrictions “sooner rather than later” because the UK is in a similar position to last May.

Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who is behind the app, added: “The difference this time is, while the variants may be more infectious, we have a vaccine that works and the older age groups are largely protected.”

Worth reading in full.

Over in the Spectator, Ross Clark comments on the deceleration in the decline of infections reported at the press conference.

But why should the decline in new infections be slowing down? There are several possible explanations. It is likely that people are beginning to tire of lockdown and are beginning to circulate, even to break the rules, a little more than they were in January. Then there is the weather: the week before last was especially cold; it may be that the virus was better able to spread in those conditions.

Today’s instalment of the Office of National Statistics’ infection survey seems to confirm that the prevalence of Covid infection has fallen in recent weeks. However, it only goes up to February 19th. Over the seven days to that date, it estimates that 373,000 people in England were infected with Covid – equating to 0.69% of the population. In the previous week, it estimated that 0.88% were infected. During the worst week – January 3rd to 9th– it was 2.08%.

Overall, the decline in deaths and hospitalisations seems to be much faster during the second wave than it was during the first wave. As far as infections are concerned, it is much harder to tell, because there was a huge ramp-up in the number of tests being performed last April. There is nothing in the figures so far to suggest that the Government’s plans for lifting lockdown and reopening society should be at risk.

Could it be that people are beginning to break the rules a little more? The Telegraph reports new ONS data on compliance with Social Distancing rules.

People are less likely to adhere to social distancing measures as increasing numbers are vaccinated, Government figures suggest.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data analysing the social impact of Covid during the period from February 17th to 21st found compliance with most measures to stop the spread remained high, with the proportions reporting always or often washing their hands after returning home (89%) and using a face covering (96%) unchanged from the previous week. 

However, researchers found that 86% of adults reported always or often maintaining social distance when meeting people outside their support bubble – lower than last week, when it stood at 91%.

The lower compliance comes as personal happiness levels have begun to increase and a growing number of people receive Covid jabs amid a decline in vaccine scepticism.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Tim Spector makes a good point about the slowing decline in cases.

What is the Truth About Covid Deaths?

The Daily Mail has splashed on mounting concerns about doctors wrongly putting “novel coronavirus” as the cause of death on death certificates when it’s blindingly obvious to the relatives of those who’ve died that their death had nothing to do with Covid.

Grieving families last night said deaths had been wrongly certified as COVID-19.

Demanding an inquiry, top medical experts and MPs also insisted they were “certain” that too many fatalities were being blamed on the virus.

One funeral director said it was “a national scandal”. The claims are part of a Daily Mail investigation that raises serious questions over the spiralling death toll.

More than 100 readers wrote heartbreaking letters following a moving article by Bel Mooney last Saturday. She revealed the death of her 99-year-old father, who suffered from dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was recorded as coronavirus.

Dozens expressed similar frustrations that the causes of death of elderly and already-unwell relatives had been wrongly attributed. Eight of the families who wrote to the Daily Mail have successfully urged doctors to change causes of death previously recorded as COVID-19.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: “The Government should call a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic immediately with an interim investigation into all Covid deaths that should report as soon as possible.”

Tory MP Paul Bristow, a member of the Commons health committee, said: “It’s almost certain that a number of deaths have been wrongly attributed to COVID-19.

“Not only has this skewed figures when data has been so important in deciding how we respond to the pandemic, it has caused distress and anxiety for relatives.

“Whether we have received the most appropriate figures should definitely be considered in any future inquiry.”

A funeral director in the North West told the Mail: “The way Covid has been recorded and reported is a national scandal and a thorough enquiry should be opened immediately.”

Medical experts have cited pressure on doctors to include COVID-19 as a cause of death because it was last year ruled a ‘notifiable disease’, meaning any case needs to be reported officially.

Professor Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “When this all comes out in the wash, we will find out we have over-recorded COVID-19 as a cause of death.”

Richard Vautrey, who chairs the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the toll may have been overstated at the beginning of the pandemic when testing was not widely available and “cause of death would have been based on best judgement of clinical symptoms”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are confident the death statistics are robust and provide an accurate picture of those who have sadly died from the virus. The guidance to doctors completing a medical certificate of cause of death explains they are expected to state cause of death to the best of their medical knowledge and belief.”

Worth reading in full.

It’s great to see a national newspaper finally digging into this story.

Why Has Boris Thrown the Hospitality Sector to the Wolves?

Cartoon by Brian Adcock in the Independent on August 11th 2020

As with the lockdown, so with the Roadmap: few industries can have suffered more than hospitality from the Government’s cack-handed attempts to minimise the COVID-19 death toll. Pubs will not be allowed to open until April 12th, and even then only to offer an outdoor service. Johnnie Arkwright, who runs a visitor attraction called Hatton Country World in Warwick – as well as a local pub – feels that the sector has been thrown to the wolves. This is his statement to the local media,

Not being allowed to open the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs at the end of March in time for Easter is a major financial blow for many desperately stretched small hospitality businesses; and it’s down to serious anomalies in the PM’s Roadmap to Lift Lockdown.

It must be a nonsense to let playgrounds in public parks stay open throughout Lockdown, after-school activities to proceed from March 8th, amateur contact sports like football with 22 players to start on March 29th and then to continue to ban family groups from the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs until the middle of April.

Under the proposals, the Great Outdoors, with all its fresh air and space to socially distance, can only open at the same time as higher risk ‘Enclosed Areas’ like non-essential shops and gyms in the middle of April.  

Even drive-in Cinemas are banned till then, despite the fact that families never even get out of their cars – surely, no reason for them not to be open now!  

And, actually, why on Earth keep shops closed for another seven weeks when Garden Centres have remained open throughout the current lockdown?

None of us want another false dawn again, but when we at Hatton Country World were allowed to open last summer, we entertained well over a thousand people a day without a single COVID-19 case by taking sensible precautions – pre-booking so we could Track and Trace, restricting numbers, maximum family groups of six, not opening enclosed areas, taking temperatures, installing social distance markers, hand sanitiser points, and so on .

That, of course, was before the more vulnerable elements of our society were all vaccinated in the brilliant initiative that has put the UK at the forefront of the Western world.

Frankly, the chances of small family groups catching COVID-19 in an outdoor environment is minimal anyway. 

As for pubs and restaurants – we all understand why packed boozers and boogying nightclubs need to wait. But keeping the inside of food-led pubs and restaurants with table service closed for another three months – really?

The hospitality sector has been closed for eight of the last 12 months – we’re all right on the edge. The detail of this blanket plan has not been properly thought through, and more businesses will close completely unnecessarily unless changes to the plan are made.

With closures come, of course, job losses – mostly the under-25s and school leavers who staff the hospitality sector, the same young people who have already been hit so hard by the pandemic for which they will also be paying most of their lives.  

Let’s pray that Parliament makes the Government see sense.

The More Stringent the Lockdown, the Higher the Covid Death Toll

Spot the association with Covid outcomes

Last week brought the news that Britain’s Covid response was ranked among the toughest in the world by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. Only two countries ranked higher on the school’s stringency index – Lebanon and Venezuela. What does that tell us about the effectiveness of our national response? One Lockdown Sceptics reader with a head for numbers has analysed this data against their reported cases and deaths and made a striking observation:

Anecdote is not data, so the recent revelation that the UK has among the harshest anti-Covid policies but also among the highest Covid case and death rates does not prove that lockdowns (and the other fun response measures) are useless. It’s more meaningful actually to look at the whole of the data on national policy responses and COVID incidence/harm.

The Oxford University Blavatnik School’s index of COVID-19 policy ‘stringency’ (comprising 18 policy indicators) covers over 180 countries, ranking stringency on a scale 0 to 100. The UK was 81 on February 23rd. At worldometers there are data on Covid cases, deaths and tests for 220 countries or so.

By aligning these two data bases together – mainly leaving out countries where the Blavatnik School doesn’t have policy data – the correlation between policy rigour and Covid cases/deaths can be calculated. Now, we all know “correlation isn’t causation”. Indeed, the British Journal of Medicine only goes so far as saying correlation “is used in everyday life to denote some form of association”. And the ‘correlation coefficient’ measures the strength of this association, on a scale from -1 (perfect negative; one variable moves opposite the other perfectly) to +1 (perfect positive; one variable moves in tandem with the other perfectly).

The correlation coefficients I calculated are also ‘good’ for only one point in time – I’m simply looking at the association of the latest known data we have on Covid harm and anti-Covid policy. This could be improved by looking at average values since Covid began, but it’s a good enough place to start.

Now you’d expect, if you’d been listening to ‘the science’ for a whole year, that the association between Covid harm and policy response would be negative, wouldn’t you, i.e., the more draconian the policy, the better the Covid outcome. You’d be wrong.

The correlation coefficients with policy stringency are:  +0.35 with COVID cases and +0.38 with COVID deaths! On the face of it – data remember, not anecdote – the harsher the anti-Covid regime the worse the Covid harm.

Is this significant? Well, in a purely statistical sense, yes. There are tables to check, and on the basis of a sample size of 170 countries used here, correlations of 0.35 and 0.38 are indeed ‘significant’ (handsomely so).

A couple of pictures might save a thousand or two words. Quite clearly ‘the experts’ have deployed a scatter gun to fight Covid. Policy stringency varies from Somalia at 2.8 (413 cases per million, 14 deaths per million according to Worldometers) to Lebanon at 93 (54,324 cases per million and 677 deaths)

But through this scatter, the ‘association’ between policy and COVID harm is not ‘linear’. Above stringency of around 60, increases in policy bloody-mindedness are associated with faster rises in Covid cases and deaths.

The takeaway, as it were, is demand ‘cold turkey’; let’s do a Somalia and watch Covid cases and deaths go zero-wards.

A Response to Ian Dunt’s Anti-Sceptic Screed by a Law Professor

Yesterday’s round-up linked to a piece by Ian Dunt, arguing, that lockdown scepticism is “an ethical abyss”. There follows a response by Dr David McGrogan, Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School

Ian Dunt describes lockdown scepticism as “an ethical abyss” in a recent article – “a testament,” he puts it, “to how certain commentators and politicians will allow their need for attention to overrule even the most rudimentary of moral standards.”

This is, of course, kneejerk mainstream opinion: lockdown sceptics are immoral because they don’t care about grannies dying. It is also complete nonsense on its face, as we all know: one could just as readily respond that lockdown zealots are immoral because they don’t care about children’s futures or about cancer patients or about the death of liberal democracy. That doesn’t ultimately get us very far. It has been my argument since March 2020 that the main argument against lockdowns is that they actually make ethical conduct impossible. Indeed, they deprive human beings of that most fundamental characteristic of humanity: the ability to make ethical choices of one’s own. In that sense, they represent the complete absence or negation of ‘ethics’ properly understood. So the phrase “ethical abyss” is absolutely on the money – the perfect descriptor of the lockdown movement.

Michel Foucault once said that “freedom is the ontological condition of ethics”. That is a fancy French post-structuralist’s way of saying that ethics cannot exist without freedom. What does this mean? Very simply, if you are being forced to ‘do the right thing’, or you just do so to comply with the law or social expectation, then you can hardly be said to be acting ethically. You are just doing what you’re told, or what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, and that isn’t the exercise of any genuine sort of ethics. The only time you can properly be described as acting ethically is when you have a choice to do two or more things, and you make that choice in reference to ethical standards of your own. To simplify things rather, Adam and Eve were not acting ethically in the garden of Eden – until they had the choice to eat the forbidden fruit or not.

Foucault did not dismiss the difficulty of all of this. How does one generate one’s own ethical standards, and exercise choice on that basis? How does one cultivate in oneself the propensity to act ethically? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are not impossible ones, and indeed Foucault was attempting to chart a path to genuine self-actualising ethics before his untimely death. What he was clear about was that the whole enterprise was contingent on acting freely. “Freedom is a practice,” he once said in an interview. You have to do it. In doing it, in acting freely, and in reflecting on what it is doing, one can develop within oneself the propensity to act in light of ethical standards of one’s own. The two things go hand in hand: ethics do not exist without freedom; freedom is ethics’ ontological condition.

The lockdown movement is responsible for many great crimes but the greatest might be depriving people of their moral agency – depriving them of the capacity to make ethical choices. Our ethics have been determined for us. In taking our freedom away from us, the Government has taken away our capacity to develop ethically, indeed to act ethically at all. We do not exercise our own judgment about risk and the harms we might do to others – choosing to stay at home, choosing to limit social interactions, choosing to wear a mask if we think it important. We act mostly only in reference to ‘the rules’.

Lockdown zealots like Ian Dunt will say that this is all to the good, because people can’t possibly be trusted to behave ethically (or at least with the ‘right’ ethics) if left to their own devices. They will have parties, they will hug their grannies, they will watch football matches, and they will kill people as a result. Maybe, maybe not, but what we can really be sure of is that their capacity to exercise genuine ethical conduct, on Foucault’s terms, will wither and die on the vine the longer lockdownism prevails. They will become ever more dependent on predetermined ethical standards, selected for them, and ever less able to develop that most essential of human capacities, the ability to determine one’s own moral fate. How, when this lockdown is over, will people ever revert to the position of acting, not in reference to what the government says is permissible, but in reference to their own ethical standards? How will children grow into fully formed adults if they can’t exercise ethical choices of their own? How will our society recover when the State has imposed its own ethics in between every single one of us in such an intrusive way, and for so long?

This is the real enormity of what lockdowns are doing. This is the real ethical abyss.

The Ne Plus Ultra of Zero-Zealotry

In an article for the New Statesman, Professor Gabriel Scally argues that it is not too late to pursue a Zero Covid strategy. Guy de la Bédoyère, historian and Lockdown Sceptics regular, felt that this prime example of Zero Covid absurdity required a response on these pages, and so here it is.

Those of us contribute to and read Lockdown Sceptics have had the opportunity to consider a wide range of views. There’s been a healthy debate. I’ve tried to steer something of a middle course in an effort to find common ground that might help us get out of this mess.

I’ll lay my cards on the table. I am going to be vaccinated as soon as I can. That is my choice, and I am glad that it is my choice.

I accept for example that in order to protect other people I needed to learn to drive and to have a driving licence to prove it. Similarly, I accept the normal passport as a means of proving who I am and protecting me and everyone else from maniacs and others not entitled to come to this country. I also accept that there are consequences of making choices. If I choose not to have a driving licence, then I would have to accept I cannot drive on a public road. And I doubt if anyone would want me to. If I chose freely not to have a passport then I would not be allowed to travel. So, I have no problem with the notion of vaccine choice as another facet of choice with consequences. I grew up at a time when large numbers of children had polio, a disease that gradually dwindled away as a result of the vaccine program.

That is all about freedom of choice. However, occasionally something pops up that is so horrifying it sends a chill down my spine, and freedom of choice is at the heart of it.

I have just opened the latest edition of New Statesman and found myself reading an article by Professor Gabriel Scally, President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine. The article, which extols the virtues of Zero Covid, is a portal into the level of insanity evolving behind closed doors among some of the scientific community.

In this extraordinary piece of zero-zealotry Scally is pleased to point out that many of the countries which have dealt with the pandemic ‘effectively’ are islands. Oblivious to the vastly differing population sizes and profiles, and geographical locations, he lumps them together with the success achieved by one-party states in other geographical settings like Thailand and Vietnam (where the median age is lower, and the incidence of obesity is also lower). One has an instant sense of where this is going.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: It was reported yesterday that the UK’s Coronavirus ‘alert’ level has been lowered from level five to four, as the risk in all four nations that the NHS could be overwhelmed has receded. One reader posed an interesting question: Given that Zero Covid is apparently not the policy of the British Government, one must assume that it is accepted that there will continue to be some transmission. Does that mean that the alert level can never sink below ‘two’ and that there will therefore forever be some level of minimal social distancing and enhanced tracing?

An Incredible Berk of Staggering Ignorance

Owen thinks he’s landed a knock out blow on Alastair Campbell. Alastair isn’t so sure

Today we’re publish a new essay by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University and regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. Here she responds to a recent video by Owen Jones, whose title “The Deniers” tells you everything you need to know about its contents. Dr Murphy sees in Jones’s supreme confidence and unmannerliness, an illustration of the ‘Covid Differend’, a concept devised by Michel Foucault to describe an impasse between two sides in a dispute that is irresolvable.

Over a week ago, the journalist Owen Jones posted a video on his YouTube channel. Its title: “The Deniers.”

I have not been a reader of Jones’s writings nor a viewer of his videos, but I have been aware of his relatively high profile as an opinion columnist and an interviewer. Nothing could have prepared me for his performance in “The Deniers”.

Jones’s demeanour in this video is that of a bad-tempered child who, from the safety of his mother’s skirts, entertains himself by taunting his chosen targets – he pulls faces, he calls names, and he mocks the objects of his petulance with hand gestures and sarcasm of the most puerile variety.

Jones’s victims are professional people – just like him. Among them: Professor Karol Sikora, former Chief of the Cancer Programme of the World Health Organisation; Professor Sunetra Gupta, Chair of Theoretical Epidemiology at University of Oxford; Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal’s Evidence-Based Medicine provision; and Dr Michael Yeadon, former Head of Allergy and Respiratory Research at Pfizer Global.

These are the people – the ‘Deniers’ – at whom Jones makes his faces and levels his taunts. More than once, he uses his hands to place notional quotation marks around Karol Sikora’s academic title. What is this to suggest? That Karol Sikora is not a professor, or not a real one, or not a good one? Jones all but spits the word “oncologist” in his description of Sikora’s area of scientific practice, with the caveat that there’s “nothing wrong with that” and that “we all have our opinions”. Nothing wrong with world-renowned expertise in the treatment of cancer? The medical opinions of a leading cancer specialist, neither better nor worse than those of anyone else?

The ignorance of Jones’s opinionating, let alone its unmannerliness, is staggering. That any one of his targets would address him in this way is inconceivable – every convention of professional conduct is against it.

So as to rise to something better than mere scorn at this degrading display, I began to consider the question: What is it that has given Owen Jones such assuredness, such an implicit sense of immunity from censure, that he puts himself abroad in this way – so full of his own opinions, so lacking in respect, so unmoderated, so misjudged? If it is the style of a mean-spirited child sticking out his tongue from behind his mother’s skirts, then from what does Jones’s extraordinary sense of security stem? Whence his heady experience of standing on ground that is so protected from counter-argument or criticism that he can throw aside established forms of reasonable and respectful exchange of ideas and indulge himself in childish antics?

Worth reading in full.

COVID-1984

We are continuing to get some great slogans for COVID-1984. Here are a few of the best.

ISOLATION IS COMMUNITY
LOVE IS FEAR
SILENCE IS ELOQUENCE
DISTANCE IS CLOSENESS
BREATHING IS SELFISHNESS
SANITY IS ACCEPTING ABSURDITY
TO LEAD IS TO FOLLOW
TO HUG IS TO HATE
MASKS ARE FREEDOM
VACCINATION IS LIBERATION

And one reader thought Shakespeare said it all

FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL IS FAIR

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Eleven today: “Minority” by Subhumans, “If The Kids Are United” by Sham 69, “Questions” by Manfred Mann, “Same Old Blues” by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, “Shadow of a Doubt” by Sonic Youth, “On My Radio” by Selecter, “Everything’s Ruined” by Faith No More, “Down Down” by Status Quo, “Hey Hey Bad News” by Bad News, “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai and “Help!” by the Beatles.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 la langue française, which, if some of the woker voices in France have their way, will become even harder for us rosbifs to get our tongues around. Happily this looks unlikely. Anthony Peregrine has the details for the Telegraph.

In some dim and distant future, leisure travel to France might once again become possible. Those wishing to take advantage in order, among other things, to brush up their French should be holding their breaths right now. They should be hoping that France’s simmering campaign to promote “inclusive writing” falls flat, and falls flat fast. Irregular French verbs are, they will know, enough of a challenge already, without the added headache of tangling with a woke revision of the language.

Granted, the signs are promising. More than 60 French MPs have this week tabled a proposition to stop France’s vast, heaving public administration from using “gender inclusive” words. Former PM Edouard Philippe had already ordered something along these lines, but it seems the message needs ramming home more firmly. The MPs, drawn both from Emmanuel Macron’s party and the conservative Republicans, are to have the draft law debated in the French parliament in coming weeks…

Standard French – you know, a world language for a couple of millennia and still spoken by more than 300 million people in France and beyond – holds that a group of neighbours be termed by the masculine “voisins”. That is the case even if the vast majority are women, even if they are all women except for one man. The feminine version of the word, “voisines”, is only used if there’s no male among the group. L’écriture inclusive would correct this gender “imbalance” with things apparently called middots. The word would thus be rendered “voisin.e.s”, thus covering masculine and feminine. Yes. Really. Everyone would be happy. Or, to put it another way, half a dozen zealots would be very happy indeed.

Apart from being visibly bonkers, and unpronounceable, the change would mangle the language into incomprehensibility. Among very many objections, one concerns adjectives. In France, as you know, these agree with the gender of the noun they describe. Thus we wouldn’t be stopping at vandalising the word “voisins”. We’d have to corrupt any accompanying adjective, too. So “kind neighbours” – presently “voisins gentils” – would become “voisin.e.s gentil.le.s”. Good luck with getting your tonsils round that. And you can imagine how great it’s going to look on the pages of a novel. It will improve Flaubert no end.

A further complication is that France has no neutral “they”. The third person plural pronoun is gender sensitive. If you want to say “they”, you have to specify whether the people or things indicated are masculine or feminine: in other words, “ils” or “elles”. Take the neighbours. Having established they’re kind, we now learn they are organising a street party. How do we tackle that? “I.elle.s organisent une fête de rue”? Is that even sayable ?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Douglas Murray takes a look at the ‘cancellation’ of Professor Gregory Clark in UnHerd, who was unable to give a lecture at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School because of its title: “For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A Lineage of 400,000 Individuals 1750-2020 Shows Genetics Determines Most Social Outcomes.” What is the woke mob so scared of, asks Murray?

Stop Press 2: “Putin has weaponised western wokery – and Amnesty has been fooled,” says John Lloyd in CapX, referring to the case of Alexei Navalny, and the way attention was drawn to his Nationalist views.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: At the press conference yesterday, Dr Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Advisor to Public Health England, warned against forcing primary school children to wear masks, the Daily Mail reports.

A top Public Health England adviser said experts were “very strongly” against advising coverings for primary-age youngsters.

Dr Susan Hopkins told last night’s Downing Street press conference: “This is for two reasons.

“One is that they can have difficulties wearing them and keeping them on all day.

“The second part is that it is really important that they can see facial expressions in order to develop their communication and language skills.”

Dr Hopkins added that other risk-reducing measures were in place instead, as well as plans to test the families of primary school pupils when they return to class.

Stop Press 2: At the CPAC conference in Florida, hosts were booed for asking guests to wear masks.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

The World Economic Forum has released a video celebrating the impact of the lockdowns on cities. No, you didn’t read that wrong. The WEF likes the fact that there are fewer cars driving round, fewer planes in the sky and fewer people on the street. Oh, and less “ambient noise”.

They really are psychopaths, aren’t they?

Latest News

The Great Lockdown Debate

Toby went head-to-head on talkRADIO this week against Christopher Snowdon, the erstwhile sceptic and now lockdown cheerleader with whom Toby has been sparring in recent weeks.

It’s a cracking debate and general opinion is that Toby won hands down – but then we would say that.

Toby says:

I debated Chris Snowdon on talkRADIO on Wednesday. It was a lively but good-humoured exchange chaired by Mike Graham, the veteran radio presenter and former editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror. I don’t suppose we changed many minds, but I was pleased that Mike and talkRADIO created a forum for a proper, grown up debate about the lockdown policy, something that hasn’t really happened on the BBC or any other mainstream media platform.

You’ll notice quite a contrast between mine and Chris’s appearance. We see Chris lounging on his sofa in what appears to be a dressing gown, a microphone in one hand and a vape in the other. All you see of me, by contrast, is my enormous noggin. I don’t think that was a consequence of my Zoom set up. Rather, I think talkRADIO decided to chop out the Free Speech Union banner behind me and that meant a tight close up of my face. 

I’ve had some nice comments about it on Twitter since it appeared on YouTube yesterday, but then most of the people I follow on Twitter are lockdown sceptics so they’re inevitably biased. In my long experience of doing these debates, the people who agree with you think you did well, whereas the people that disagree with you think you got owned by your opponent. I think it was a draw. We both got an opportunity to put our arguments across and neither of us landed a killer blow.

Watch for yourself and see what you think.

Stop Press: Nicholas Lewis has taken Snowdon to task for his groundless criticisms of Mike Yeadon when he wrote about false positives in September.

A GP Protests “No Jab, No Job”

A GP, Dr Clare Jones, has written to her MP Jesse Norman to protest against being compelled to be vaccinated or face disciplinary action from the General Medical Council, as Lockdown Sceptics reported yesterday. She copied us in and we thought we’d share it with you.

Dear Jesse,

Having worked tirelessly for the NHS for 31 years as a hospital doctor, A&E doctor and a GP with probably two sick days in my whole career, is the Government really suggesting that because I exert my choice not to have the Covid vaccine, my wealth of medical experience is going to be lost just because I choose to exercise my free will and conscience ?

Like most other people who decline the vaccine, I’m not an “anti-vaxxer”. My son is fully vaccinated; I have travel vaccines. But I weigh up the pros and cons of vaccines in a more informed way than most other people and have decided for now I don’t want it (likewise the flu vaccine). There is currently a haemorrhaging of experienced GPs due to unprecedented stress levels, including one over the last couple of months from our five partner practice. If I go it will destabilise our already struggling practice.

I have borne the burden of vaccinating (with no extra payment and massive organisational toll) the population who CHOOSE to be vaccinated, the burden of listening to the thousands of patient emotionally damaged by the ill-judged and poorly assessed lockdown (the lack of risk/benefit analysis has been criminal), the burden of carrying work for other colleagues who can’t manage the unprecedented stress in the system, the dumping of more and more work onto primary care – and now this slap in the face.

The Government needs to take a break from criticising the Chinese Communist Party for a moment and stop in its own attempts at re-educative, repressive and punitive strategies directed toward minorities such as those who choose not to be vaccinated. It is disrespectful and demeaning to an educated and thoughtful sector of society to impose a medical procedure against our will.

I would also like to be able to continue to move freely in the UK and the world at large, which is a much more effective and healthy way of managing mental strain than the endless mental health online resources we are bombarded with and that we’re much too busy and exhausted to look at. Travelling and exploring freely in the world at home and abroad has proved an effective way to keep me functioning well in a highly stressful job. Happily, I just need to be able to move freely in my God-given environment and breathe God’s free air to keep me happy and functioning as a productive and functional human being. Vaccine passports would deprive me of this healthy outlet.

Believe me, I will make the most of an imposed early retirement if enforced vaccination becomes a reality, by finishing my thesis on “governmental revolving door policies with particular emphasis on pharmaceutical companies”. After all, what do I have to lose? Not my freedom.

(Dr) Clare Jones
Hereford

Stop Press: Care UK, one of the UK’s largest care home firms, has introduced a ‘no jab, no job’ policy, saying new staff must have received a Covid vaccination before they start work, the Guardian reports. Barchester, meanwhile, which operates more than 220 private care homes, has said it is insisting that current staff are vaccinated, warning that if they “refuse … on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work”.

How Effective Are the Vaccines?

Source: ONS

The latest results from Imperial’s REACT study, published yesterday, have shown that more than nine out of ten of those vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine develop COVID-19 antibodies. 91% of those vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine had antibodies, rising to 95.5% in the under 60s but dropping to 88% in the over 80s. After a single dose, 94.7% of under 30s had antibodies after three weeks, but only 34.7% of over 80s.

This is encouraging news, given the Government’s apparent determination to use vaccines to exit the lockdowns.

Lockdown Sceptics reader Paul Roe, however, wonders why the purported benefit is yet to show up in the deaths data from the ONS. He comments:

The claim for the vaccines is that they have an efficacy of up to over 90% (Pfizer 94% Oxford-AZ 90%). It is claimed that you reach a “significant level of protection after 22 days”.

So you would expect that 22 days after the first jab (so from December 30th 2020) there would begin to be a significant fall in deaths for the 70s, 80s and 90+ age groups.

However, looking at the graph (above) the curves actually shoot up at that point and don’t begin to drop until four weeks later.

It has to be hoped that this is just a delayed reaction, bearing in mind that markedly low 34.7% figure for antibodies in the over 80s three weeks after the first dose. The ONS data relates to the situation around two weeks ago.

On a more cheering note, deaths are plummeting now.

Stop Press: Her Majesty the Queen has made a rare intervention in the vaccination drive, calling on people to “think about others rather than yourselves”, the Mail reports. The jab “didn’t hurt at all” when she had it, she said. The implication that those refusing the vaccine are selfish won’t go down well with those who decide that, for them, on balance the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.

Lockdown States Suffer More Deaths Than No-Lockdown States

Source: Worldometers

No-lockdown states in America continue to outperform lockdown states this winter, with 1,475 Covid deaths per million in states which didn’t lock down this winter (seven of them didn’t lock down in the spring either) compared to 1,558 deaths per million in states which locked down in winter (all of which locked down in spring as well).

The no-lockdown states have gained a little on the lockdown states since February 1st: previously the lockdown states had 5.7% more deaths but now the difference has fallen to 5.3%. But there is no sign yet of any huge surge that might reverse their positions any time soon.

Could there be much clearer evidence that, whatever Neil Ferguson’s models might say, lockdowns do not hold back a flood of hospital admissions and deaths?

Time to follow the example of Florida and the other free states and end the restrictions.

Stop Press: 111 triages for potential Covid in England dropped yesterday to their lowest level since August 9th, indicating there is almost no community transmission of COVID-19 in England at present.

Source: Spectator Covid Data Tracker

Biostatistician Jon Deeks has also spotted that the Innova lateral flow tests have been returning a positive rate of 0.32% for three weeks in a row now. That is the estimated false positive rate for the tests, further indicating almost zero community transmission of COVID-19.

Yet still we are set to stay in lockdown for many weeks yet.

Postcard from Bulgaria

We’ve received a postcard from Lockdown Sceptics reader Tim Ireland, who is in Sofia. He says there is “lots of hope restrictions will be released in the coming week or two”. Right now, though, it’s not a very happy place.

I’ve been coming and going from Bulgaria for 20 years – which is to say my knowledge of the country doesn’t reach back to the fall of the Iron Curtain, but it started in the heady days of pseudo mafia rule in the years that followed. Most of the people I know here were teenagers of young adults when the wall fell. Some were actively involved… they all remember what life was like before.

The somewhat depressing refrain I’ve heard from many – especially those with international exposure and who know how pervasive and demoralising the lockdown has been in the UK – goes roughly like “I thought we threw this junk out, dealt with the joblessness, disenfranchisement, and community decline of the transition to capitalism so we didn’t have to live like this. The reward for that price was supposed to have been liberty”. A high school best friend – still a very good mate and sardonic at the best of times – shrugs his shoulders and proclaims as if narrating the history of the human species from a pulpit “That’s it. Those that have lived, have lived. Those that have travelled, have travelled. The end.”

He’s actually among the more chipper of his countrymen, has worked hard to build a career, copped life’s knocks on the chin and still has a sense of humour, so he continues, more seriously: “We’ll learn to live with it, we always do”. Part of that adaptation has meant reverting to the kind of ground-up subversion of nonsensical rules. Decades ago, illicit restaurants and bars operated a series of code-name entry protocols, so-called ‘parola’ bars. Sometimes voiced, but more often just an unmarked door with a combination lock. No code, no entry. Another friend, a sickeningly multilingual pocket rocket who has spent the bulk of her career working for Belgian and Dutch outsourcing companies, grins conspiratorially as she explains “Do you know what’s the latest ‘hit’ in Sofia? – posting your restaurant bill on social!” It seems a small, humble thing, to have gone out to dinner, shared a meal with other people, but she makes no effort to hide the sheer triple-multiplied joy of both having socialised, screwed the authorities… and bragged about it publicly.

Worth reading in full.

COVID-1984

Our revisiting of George Orwell’s 1984 this week has inspired Lockdown Sceptics contributor and former Sunday Times medical correspondent Neville Hodgkinson to write a reflection on the Orwellian nightmare that our society has quickly descended into. He begins:

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère gave powerful testimony this week about the inhumanity inherent in the global hysteria surrounding COVID-19.  Following his post here on Tuesday reporting the death in a care home at the weekend of his 100-year-old mother-in-law, BBC Radio 4’s World at One listeners heard him describe coolly but movingly the tragedy of her last days and months.  

She did not die of Covid and did not have dementia.  She was mentally alert to the end, and acutely aware of what she had been denied through the brutal isolation, as Guy put it, imposed by lockdown laws for the sake of keeping her ‘safe’.   In her last year of life she never saw her four great-grandchildren, had only one or two fleeting visits from grandchildren, and was unable to hug or hold her one surviving child.  

It was a “hideous punishment”, Guy wrote.  “That it has come to this, that we as a society and led by the Government and its scientific advisers with the willing acquiescence of organisations and individuals have done so much to commit the ultimate act of betrayal towards people at the end of their lives will surely go down in history as one of the most ignoble and demeaning aspects of this tragic year.”

Since the start of the pandemic, I have asked myself how and why COVID-19 could have triggered so many policies that seemed aimed at generating as much fear as possible, with repeated exaggerations in numbers forecast, and little regard for the social, economic and health costs involved. Our politicians, and the select group of scientific advisers who seem to be dictating policy, present themselves as caring, smiling individuals, not at all like jack-booted monsters.

And yet… the Orwellian flavour of our current experience is unmistakable.  It has given rise here at LS to suggested ‘Ministry of Truth’ slogans such as Breath Is Death, Solitude Is Solidarity, Fear Is Hope, Deaths Save Lives, Lockdown Is Liberty, and so on.  

Find it on the right-hand side menu. Worth reading in full.

Plus, here are today’s top Party slogans. Thanks to all who have sent suggestions in.

LUNACY IS SANITY
COMPLIANCE IS LIBERATION
DETECTION IS INFECTION
DETENTION IS PREVENTION
FAILURE IS SUCCESS
DEBATE IS HATE
CANCELLATION IS COMPASSION
SCARING IS CARING
AUTHORITY IS TRUTH
DOUBT IS DEADLY

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Six today: “I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again” by Stacey Kent, “Killing Yourself To Live” by Black Sabbath, “The Scientist” by Coldplay, “Road To Rack And Ruin” by King Kurt, “Feel like living” by Hothouse Flowers and “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring.

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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, it’s the news that Mr Potato Head is going gender neutral and is a Mister no more. Bloomberg has the story.

Hasbro, the company that makes the potato-shaped plastic toy, is giving the spud a gender neutral new name: Potato Head. The change will appear on boxes this year.

Toy makers have been updating their classic brands to appeal to kids today. Barbie has shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. Thomas the Tank Engine added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll.

Hasbro said Mr. Potato Head, which has been around for about 70 years, needed a modern makeover.

Read it in full here.

Stop Press: Just 16% of black Brits believe tearing down statues is “a legitimate form of protest“, according to a new report from the Henry Jackson Society, Guido reports.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Now that’s a mask

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Wearing masks obviously isn’t possible while playing brass instruments. But that doesn’t mean somewhere can’t be found to place useless pieces of cloth. The Post Millennial reports that Wenatchee High School in Washington state hit upon making the school’s band practice in pop-up tents (picture above), providing each pupil with their own tent while also social distancing them six-feet apart. That’ll stop those pesky virus particles…

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph reports that some primary schools are telling children as young as five to wear face masks in the classroom. Depressing.

Stop Press 3: Mark Dolan on talkRADIO delivered a satisfying rant against forcing children to wear face masks in classrooms.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

Lockdown Sceptics reader David Kelly has come into possession of a leaked list of pledges inadvertently missed off the Conservative Party’s last election manifesto. Maybe they’ll include them next time?

Latest News

No Jab, No Job: GMC Threatens Doctors With Disciplinary Action For Declining Vaccine

Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty has said doctors have a “professional duty” to get a COVID-19 vaccine and the General Medical Council has backed him saying medics could face disciplinary action if they refuse one without a valid reason. Personnel Today has the report.

Although the Government has said vaccination will not be mandatory for the general public, it has been reported that NHS executives have been considering making it a requirement for frontline health workers – following in the footsteps of many care homes that were starting to make vaccination a condition of employment.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty has told health staff that they have a professional duty to be vaccinated and, according to a report in The Times, there is a “live debate” among NHS leaders about whether it should be mandatory.

The General Medical Council has said “doctors should be immunised against common serious communicable diseases unless medically contraindicated” and that “strong measures” should be put in place to protect patients where there are good reasons why a doctor cannot have the jab.

Likewise, the British Medical Association (BMA) has backed Chris Whitty’s position and agreed that health staff should be vaccinated unless they have a valid medical reason preventing them from doing so.

“We will continue to encourage uptake of vaccinations but any proposal for a contractual or regulatory requirement for healthcare workers to have a COVID-19 vaccine would require careful scrutiny to consider the legal and ethical implications,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA Council.

NHS England has said it was right for Whitty to suggest that NHS staff have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated. Personnel Today has contacted it for further comment.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that just two-thirds of social care staff and four-fifths of NHS workers have received a vaccine, despite all employees in these groups having been offered the jab.

There has been much debate around whether making vaccination a condition of employment is legal and last week the justice secretary confirmed that employers can insist on new employees having the jab.

This comes despite the well-established ethical and legal principle, reaffirmed last month by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, that people should not suffer discrimination or disadvantage on account of declining medical treatment.

One clued-up Lockdown Sceptics reader told us:

All the COVID-19 vaccines are still in Phase 3 trials which are not due to finish until the end of 2022 or early 2023. These trials look for medium and long term safety data. They are not licensed but are being used under Emergency Authorisation. Here is a letter to employers that the UKMFA has published outlining the legal and scientific issues around demanding jabs with these experimental (or indeed any) products.

It seems extraordinarily illiberal to demand that someone must have some particular medical intervention in order to keep their job or be appointed to a new position. Worse, this medical intervention is still unlicensed and officially regarded as being in an experimental phase of development. Why, then, is making it mandatory even being considered by a society that claims to respect personal autonomy and human rights? I’m certainly no opponent of vaccines, which I regard (when properly and safely developed) to be a miracle of medical science. But it seems equally clear to me that under no circumstances should a person be compelled – including through threat of social or economic disadvantage – to receive an experimental medical intervention to which they do not consent. As the Council of Europe resolution indicates, this should be basic in a civilised society, even for non-experimental interventions. That it is not speaks volumes about how far as a society we have fallen since this time last year.

Stop Press: Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph says vaccine passports are no “gateway to freedom”.

Vaccine passports are yet another treacherous step on the road to a licensed, permission-based society. We won’t be able to travel, work in an office, or meet up with friends unless some official somewhere has stamped our papers. Worse, the risk is cultural as much as legalistic. It was already going to be a struggle to unwind the impact of nearly a year of lockdown, where people had the most intimate areas of their lives micromanaged by the state. The danger was always that this state of mind would become entrenched, that we would become used to waiting until we were told what to do before we did it. Vaccine passports would help to institutionalise that mindset, at tremendous cost to freedom and much else.

There is a far better solution. Once vaccines are available to everyone, it is up to you whether you get a jab or not. If you don’t then clearly you are taking a risk, but that is up to you. Other than that, you should be able to live your life as you please. We need to be working out how to reduce the massive increase in state power witnessed over 12 painful months – not finding new ways to permanently increase it.

Worth reading in full.

Government Confirms Masks and Testing in Schools Are Voluntary

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson addresses a Downing Street press conference yesterday

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told a Downing Street press conference yesterday that the newly introduced requirement for secondary schoolchildren to wear masks in class and be tested twice a week is voluntary, not required by law, and children will not be excluded if they do not comply. The Telegraph has more.

Children are not under any obligation to wear face masks, the Government said on Wednesday night, telling schools not to send pupils home if they refuse to wear one.   

While masks and regular Covid tests are strongly encouraged, they are not legal requirements and pupils should not be “denied education” as a result of non-compliance, officials said. 

This week, Boris Johnson announced that secondary school students will have to wear masks in the classroom when they return if it is not possible for them to keep two metres apart.

Pupils are also being asked to take four lateral flow tests during the first two weeks of school, three of which will take place at school and one at home. After that, they will be asked to take two tests per week at home and report the results to their teachers.

But ministers have said both these measures are voluntary and pupils must not be kicked out of classes if they refuse.

On Wednesday, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary told a Downing Street press conference: “In line with public health guidance, we are also now advising that face coverings should be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings unless social distancing can be maintained.

“Again, this is to help reduce transmission. The risk to children themselves is incredibly low. This is a temporary measure to support the return of schools and will be in place until Easter, when it is reviewed.”

Worth reading in full.

Since partial compliance would seem, on lockdowner logic, to nullify the purpose of the measures (which presumably is to catch infections and keep Covid out of schools), you have to wonder whether these measures were just announced to pacify the unions.

Stop Press: A secondary schoolteacher writes in the Telegraph: “I won’t force children to wear masks in my classroom – and I won’t be wearing one either“.

Stop Press 2: Gavin Williamson has said 2021 exam grades will depend on teachers, not algorithms, according to the MailOnline. Exams will, however, be optional. Meanwhile, the Government pledges to throw lots of money at schools to try to make up for the lost learning of millions of England’s schoolchildren. Perhaps they should just not have closed the schools in the first place?

Has Boris Really Rejected Zero Covid?

Professor of Sociology and Government adviser Robert Dingwall

Professor of Sociology and SAGE member Robert Dingwall had an excellent piece in the Telegraph yesterday exposing the Zero Covid logic lurking behind the Government’s roadmap.

In his statement to the House of Commons outlining his road map to end lockdown, the Prime Minister explicitly rejected the idea that either he or his scientific advisers thought Zero Covid was remotely credible as a policy goal. When we look more closely at the plans, however, the proposed actions are not consistent with this. While the Government accepts that COVID-19 will be endemic, the road map still does not envisage living with the infection as we do other illnesses such as flu.

The idea of Zero Covid is certainly not a credible policy goal, although Nicola Sturgeon seems to have adopted it for Scotland by “trying to get as close to eliminating [the virus] as possible”. COVID-19 does not meet any of the requirements for eradication: easy diagnosis; easy containment; lifelong immunity after vaccination. Nor is the system of control required to try to suppress Covid in the long term either workable or desirable.

For true believers, pursuing Zero Covid involves reconstructing everyday life around the objective of eliminating, or greatly suppressing, the virus in one country, and maintaining that status via rigorous border controls. Nobody enters or leaves for any reason as frivolous as a summer holiday or a weekend break.

Within the country, people are constantly checked, monitored and regulated to ensure that they are continually prompted to fear the world outside their homes. Vaccines, rather than a ticket back to normality, are treated as just one of a range of measures used to keep down the virus until it is eventually wiped out. Lives are permanently lived in the shadow of COVID-19.

Boris Johnson’s road map predicts the end of legal controls by June 21st, but that will not mean a return to normality. Mass testing is expected to continue indefinitely – using lateral flow tests that are known to be unfit for this purpose. Local lockdowns may be revived if new variants appear. Vaccine passports or “Covid status certificates” are the zombie policy that refuses to die and the Prime Minister said yesterday that he had put Michael Gove in charge of considering them.

“A regime of constant testing, recurrent lockdowns and internal passports does not sound much like a return to normality,” Prof Dingwall says.

Thus, Boris needs “a Step 5 on the road map that will consign lateral flow tests to landfill, put a stake through the heart of vaccine passports, and banish the threat of recurrent local lockdowns. Only then will we truly be committed to living with this endemic respiratory infection, just as we have lived with its siblings for millennia.”

Worth reading in full.

Retired Oxford Theological Lecturer and Lockdown Sceptics reader Dr Timothy Bradshaw was similarly unconvinced by Boris’s claim to be repudiating Zero Covid.

One casualty of the Government’s policy on the Covid crisis is a hardening of my cynicism towards anything about the pandemic on the MSM. At the very start the sloganising, infantilisation, contradictory U-turns by Government were reported without any critical analysis by the MSM, as public services announcements. Those who did want to ask serious questions were somehow seditious and dangerous to society, conspiracy theorists. Lockdown Sceptics to me is a place of refuge to read careful critical analyses, despite the smear attacks of the establishment in all political parties. I recall Matt Hancock early on scolding a questioner “watch your tone”, saying “the messaging” is vital. A quasi-religious authority was being claimed against a heretic. This has been the unbroken pattern of the messaging ever since. I’m afraid I gave up watching and listening to governmental announcements – it was like getting onto a kind of dodgems game, being whirled around and banged into with no pathway of reason at all. Why bother to listen just to be upset? 

One clear pattern that has really annoyed me when I have been foolish enough to allow this ‘messaging’ into my ears is the good cop/bad cop routine. How often have we heard Boris, looking increasingly like a broken man, wild eyes, hunched, furtive, desperately trying to maintain that youthful tousled hair look, this PM suggesting hope lies ahead. Then a day later the trolls pop up from under the bridge to say no, no, no…we can’t have that sort of hopeful alleviation of your manacles, sorry. This really has been a pattern, and as Janet Daley has asked, is it a deliberate plan to offer therapy and to slam the prison shut, to manipulate and control us?  

We had his “moral duty” to keep schools open, we had Christmas as vital, we had the messianic saving news of vaccination, we had the suggestion that the PM would roll out a bold decisive release of the captives in the light of the surprisingly successful roll out of vaccinations. But no, sorry, mistake. Monday’s roadmap was not a way out, but a cordon sanitaire, not “irreversible” “certainty” but more of the same. Not going by the “data” now, rather keeping the lockdown on fearing that data might get worse in a month or so, so “the data” is in fact usable only when it favours or might later favour the idol called “lockdown”. No longer save the NHS but save lockdown.

Boris had said a few days before that only when the “levels” of infection, or possible infection of which a lot was about still, were “really really low” might a release be considered. This was in fact the now discredited Zero Covid doctrine, in looser language. So the iron cynicism in my soul hardened even more on Monday when I realised that Boris was yet again doing his blarney act – nothing will really change for months and should even then the “data” get worse, he won’t hesitate to U-turn into another lockdown, again. Total reversibility, not “irreversible” road to freedom.

Matt Hancock had earlier accused sceptics of being “arbitrary” in their demands to be “allowed” their freedoms back, but Boris’ blarney is wholly arbitrary. The modellers are guessing. We hear that Boris was scared back from a release by the threat of 55,000 more deaths if he moderated lockdown: he caved again to the augurs of doom, and as far as we can see this priesthood will do this indefinitely – they like it.

No specific reasoning is ever offered for the various lockdowns: evidence for schools needing shutting despite the moral imperative to keep them open? Evidence for pubs being big spreaders, bigger than NHS hospitals, even outdoors when we are now “allowed” to sit on a bench and speak with another human? Reasons for making the isle of the UK a quarantined plague island? Data, precise data, for now? Appeal by the soothsayers to other nations doing the same as the UK is made (see Prof Ferguson’s letters in LS) but schools are not for example shut in France, we note.  

As to policy being dictated by “the data”, I would like much more data from a wider lens used by the PM at his Mario the Magician talks. How about the data on cancer treatments being cancelled? The data on mental breakdowns? The data on school closures affecting children? The PM adduces only data that support his green-eyed yellow idol, Lockdown, a myopic lens not a wide angle. Do those speculative 55,000 deaths compensate for the deaths and illness caused by Covid lockdowning? Data on that please Boriolanus. 

Monday’s conjuring was, as Professor Dingwall so forensically said in his DT article, effectively the Zero Covid policy when we look at the restrictions to remain in place indefinitely, a picture not of a return to normality but of an East German society. Read Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin for another taste of the new normal under this Hancockian nightmare, messaging and micromanaging of our lives by the state and this is called a “Conservative” Government!

Basically Monday’s terrifying disappointment also declared to any who had foolishly believed in the salvific vaccination process, “hold on, this does not work” after all. You can all be vaccinated, but don’t [think] for a minute that gets you out of gaol free… sorry you misinterpreted the messaging. This live experimental scorched earth “public health” policy continues.

Stop Press: Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said yesterday that while we may not need to wear masks over the summer as it is a “safer period for us, with less need for interventions”, she wouldn’t “rule it out as we go into the winter periods again”. So much for pandemic measures ending on June 21st.

This is the same Jenny Harries who, on March 12th (back when the Government was still defending its sensible, well-evidenced Pandemic Preparedness Strategy), said (correctly) that masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in. “For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Dispatch From a Covid Test Centre

A Lockdown Sceptics reader who works in a Covid test centre has sent us a report with the lowdown of what it looks like from the other side. Like some of his colleagues, he’s appalled by the expense and pointlessness of it all.

Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool rabid lockdown sceptic and rebel I have a job in a Covid test centre. I don’t trust the government statistics or media propaganda, I want to live a normal life, I don’t really agree with the mass testing of healthy people, but I find myself in this position so I thought I would try to explain why I have taken this job and what it is like.

I will have to be pretty vague as to my details, those of my fellow workers and the site on which I work as I have no wish to be sacked or prosecuted. I used to run a small business operating as a sole trader and was badly hit by the lockdown restrictions, so needed to find a new job. As you can imagine, opportunities are few and far between right now, so when I saw jobs advertised at a test site in my local town I applied – partly for the cash, and partly because I was interested in getting a worm’s eye view of a small part of this covid debacle.

I am employed by a large multinational corporation that is primarily concerned with catering but has managed to secure what seem to be extremely lucrative government contracts to run test sites. I earn £9.50 an hour along with 16 fellow workers, four security guards on a similar wage, a supervisor on £13.50, and a manager on considerably more. We work 13 hour shifts, three long and tedious days on and three days off. My fellow workers are a mixed bunch, mostly drawn from the lower reaches of the social spectrum. There are a couple of students who have abandoned university and moved back home because they could not cope with the isolation and boredom imposed on them, a few shop workers, pub and cafe workers, some women in their 50s who were cleaners, some youngsters who left college this year and cant find any other work, and an eastern European with limited English. The supervisor is an intelligent man who has had a variety of interesting occupations and is clearly exasperated by the bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency of this large company. The manager is on furlough from a well paying job in a similar multinational company and has slotted easily into the role, burnishing her CV and earning a tidy bit at the same time. None of us, apart from the manager, wants to do this dreary and monotonous work, swathed in PPE and expected to sanitise our hands ridiculously often with harsh alcohol gels. We would all much rather have our old jobs and our old lives back. Although we come into close contact with suspected Covid cases throughout the day, none of us is paranoid. A few have had Covid, a few have recently had the vaccine, all of us are of the opinion that for young healthy people it’s not that serious.

The site is divided into a red (danger) zone, a green (safe) zone and an amber transition zone. In the red zone where the testing takes place, we wear disposable masks, gloves and aprons. These are donned/doffed in the amber zone and everything disinfected before entering the green zone where we have the site office, welfare hut to sit and drink tea, toilets, storage containers, etc. Every area is doused liberally with a nasty disinfectant every 30 minutes, and I dread to think what happens when this leaches into the environment.

The manager sits in the office sending emails and documents to the innumerable layers of management above him, dozens and dozens of documents, daily cleaning schedules of every area, twice daily health and safety briefs, thrice daily fridge temperature checks (not fridges to store tests in, these are room temperature, but merely the fridges in which the cheap sandwiches provided for staff lunches are kept), daily stock updates, fire extinguisher checks, etc., etc. All forms diligently filled in, boxes ticked, scanned and filed in a complicated IT system.

The expense of our site, replicated across the country, must be staggering. Rows of converted shipping containers, portacabins, generators, sewage plants, lighting rigs, all hired from subcontractors on a weekly basis, huge amounts of single use plastic gloves, aprons and masks, chemicals, test kits, IT systems, staff wages. When something goes wrong with the equipment, as it frequently does, workmen are despatched from across the country to fix tiny faults. The other day we had an electrician drive for five hours to get to our site, and he fixed the problem in 30 minutes.

I have small children and I am frightened to think that they are paying for this, but meanwhile I get on with my job. When no one is looking I take my mask off, even in the red zone. On my days off I see my family, my parents, some of my friends. If you go to get tested and see us swathed in PPE, looking like dehumanised zombies, please be aware that behind the masks some of us are allies, we know it’s madness, and we hope one day that the truth will be told.

A Problem With Numbers

We’re publishing an original piece today by mathematician and filmmaker Suzie Halewood taking a closer look at some of the ways numbers have been used to mystify and mislead during the crisis. From the introduction:

On January 27th 2021, the cover of most daily newspapers showed a picture of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, head hung in shame as the number of Coronavirus deaths in the UK passed the 100,000 mark. Johnson appeared to mourn every loss, knowing some must surely be down to his action – or inaction. Taking full responsibility, he looked beaten. “A grim total,” announced the newscasters. But is it an accurate one?

The figure demands closer scrutiny not just because it is the number being used to justify extended periods of lockdown and the vaccine rollout, but because with big numbers come huge anxieties, with many too afraid to leave their homes for fear of catching or transmitting the virus. These anxieties are compounded by NHS ads in broadsheets and on TV which demand that you “look them in the eyes and tell them you’re doing all you can to stop the spread of COVID-19”. The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are all on board, spoon-feeding the dystopian narrative to a nightly captive audience who feast their eyeballs on flickering images of overstretched morgues, coffin shortages and eye-watering fatalities as they work their way through another case of wine in their new dressing gowns.

We’ve been here before. “Britain Faces Worst Flu Epidemic in 50 Years” is how the Sun reported the 2017 Aussie Flu, “Killer Aussie Flu on Rise” (Mirror), “Why Australian Flu is tearing through the UK” (BBC). During the Swine Flu epidemic, if any doctors refused to work and the pandemic was severe, they were to be physically escorted to the surgery by the armed forces. When COVID-19 came along, those same GPs were instructed to leave the patient and close the door. There have always been seasonal flus. The press has always exaggerated them and the NHS will forever be under huge pressure in winter. The only difference with this pandemic, is that governments stepped in.

It hasn’t worked. And we are still in lockdown. Time to relook at the numbers.

Worth reading in full.

Faith Masks

Photograph by Laura Dodsworth, mask by Nina Murden

Writer and photographer Laura Dodsworth has a photo essay in the Critic this month probing the quasi-religious nature of the Covid pandemic and the totemic role that the face mask plays in the cultic system.

Do masks provide confidence, or do they keep fear in your face? Are they scientifically-proven barriers to transmission or hopeful talismans? Do they express communitarianism or abnegation of the self? 

Curiously, I am more nervous about unveiling a photography series depicting the quasi-religious values masks represent than I was about my series on penises and vulvas. Will mouths covered by stitched words be more provocative than bare bodies?

This past year we have been told that wearing a mask was an act of solidarity; it showed you care. I even remember an article saying that wearing a mask was an act of love. Social media has rung with “Wear a goddamn mask!” Masks have become totemic in the latest culture war, putting the issue of conformism or rebellion right in our face.

As a people photographer I think I am especially attuned to the face. Even after several months I find masked faces discombobulating. Most communication is non-verbal so it’s not surprising that it is harder to connect and communicate. A friend told me she cries after shopping trips because the hidden faces feel so dehumanised. I know of a little girl who is frightened of crowds of people in masks.

Some people feel more confident and protected in masks. I met a nurse who told me she is so accustomed to mask-wearing that her face feels bare in public. She said she doesn’t think masks actually help prevent infection but she feels safer anyway.

At the beginning of the epidemic, politicians and public health leaders around the world told us masks were not effective in the community. But although there was no new hard evidence, policies changed country by country. In England, masks were legally mandated on public transport on June 15th last year and then on July 24th in shops. In a speech last August, World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The mask has come to represent solidarity.”

What he did not mention was any new evidence behind the policy change. In fact, the WHO’s guide, “Mask use in the context of COVID-19”, published last December, says: “At present there is only limited and inconsistent scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.” 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that masks “give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops”. The UK Government website does not offer the facts and figures behind the “science”: it just says that the “best available scientific evidence” is that face coverings “may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others”. 

A recent large-scale randomised controlled trial in Denmark found that masks do not protect the wearer, although it was not designed to test whether others could be protected.

In the face of such flyweight evidence we must have faith. And that, to me, is one of the key qualities masks have come to represent. Our church is the NHS, nurses our angels, and masks sacralise our faith and hope for protection.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Alasdair Palmer has written the cover piece for this month’s issue of the Critic on the theme of “lockdowns don’t work“, taking readers through the evidence that lockdowns are ineffective and not worth the cost.

The Government’s Raw Deal for Students

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written in to point out that students are still being treated very poorly by the Government, particularly when you consider how much they’ve had to sacrifice for a disease that poses almost zero risk to them.

Students are getting a particularly raw deal in the snail-paced exit from lockdown. No in-person teaching this side of Easter, and no fixed date for when this will resume.

Now, those who have chosen to return to university because of practical courses or ability to study and access the library have been told that they will not be allowed to return home for Easter!

See this communication from the University of Nottingham under “Minimising your travel”.

Meanwhile they are threatened with £800 fines for any house parties.

If only the legendary student activism could be roused over the scandal of lockdowns. Alas, far too many appear to be true believers themselves.

Neil Ferguson Postscript

We received a comment from our occasional oncologist contributor on the recent exchanges with Professor Neil Ferguson that we thought was worth sharing.

I read with interest the email exchanges between Prof Ferguson and two of your contributors. Ferguson provides an insight into how not to engage in constructive scientific discourse.

He makes no attempt to argue his case and instead resorts to war tactics:

1. Tainting opponent as a conspiracy theorist. Nice and dirty. In the right circumstances this tactic can succeed. 

2. Point (1) does not work for quite obvious reasons (which are pointed out to him by your contributors in their replies) so he claims the arguments made against him are “unscientific” hence not worth refuting or discussing. 

3. Upon further challenge he retreats into the expert bunker, explaining that his ideas are not only his but that of a group of worldwide experts who agree with him.

If (3) was the level of proof required for medicine we probably would still be lobotomising patients…

Stop Press: CRG chair Mark Harper told Robert Peston yesterday that “Models are a bit garbage in and garbage out”. Has he been reading Lockdown Sceptics?

COVID-1984

Kim-Jong Dan, Supreme Leader of Victoria, apparently mistaking 1984 for a how-to guide

We’ve received some great suggestions from readers for Orwellian Party slogans in the spirit of 1984. These were my favourites so far:

BREATH IS DEATH
SOLITUDE IS SOLIDARITY

Here are some of the other strong contenders:

FEAR IS HOPE
DEBATE IS TREASON
SPEECH IS VIOLENCE
POLITICS IS SCIENCE
MODELS ARE FACTS
EVIDENCE IS LIES
DEATHS SAVE LIVES
FRIENDS ARE ENEMIES
LOCKDOWN IS LIBERTY
SAFETY IS FREEDOM

One cut close to the bone: “Don’t kill Granny – leave that to us”.

One reader was put in mind of a famous quotation from the Vietnam war:

Today’s article about the all pervasive Orwellian doublespeak of 2021 reminded me of the infamous comment by an American officer after the carpet bombing of a Vietnamese town during the Battle of Ben Tre in 1968: “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” (As reported by legendary war journalist Peter Arnett.)

So in the same spirit can I therefore propose the slogan: DESTRUCTION IS SALVATION. 

Keep ’em coming.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Sixteen today: “I’ve had enough” by Dropkick Murphys, “Spent the Day in Bed” by Morrissey, “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones, “Imitation of life” by R.E.M., “Viva La Revolution” by the Adicts, “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours” by the Smiths, “What a Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers, “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac, “Passport To Pimlico” by Jimmy Raney, “There’s Nothing To Celebrate” by Second Hand Furniture, “You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party” by the Beastie Boys, “Game’s Up” by Hello, “Gonna Be Free” by Iron Claw, “Wasted Years” by Iron Maiden, “The Day That Never Comes” by Metallica and “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles.

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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, it’s the news that Amazon has pulled from its virtual shelves a book questioning transgender ideology, without so much as a notification or explanation to anyone. Ryan T. Anderson, the author of the book and President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., writes in First Things about the growing censorship of anything deemed insufficiently “progressive”.

My book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment was released exactly three years ago. It was attacked twice on the New York Times op-ed page. The Washington Post ran a hit piece on it that was riddled with errors. It was obvious the critics hadn’t read the book. But they were threatened by it and wanted to discredit it lest anyone pick it up and learn from it.

Now, three years after publication, in the same week that the House of Representatives plans to ram through the Equality Act – a radical transgender bill amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Amazon has erased my book opposing gender ideology from its cyber shelves.

The people who did read the book discovered that it is an accurate and accessible presentation of the scientific, medical, philosophical, and legal debates surrounding the trans phenomenon. Yes, it advances an argument against transgender ideology from a viewpoint. But it doesn’t get any facts wrong, and it doesn’t engage in heated rhetoric. 

Moreover, it was praised by experts: the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a longtime psychology professor at NYU, a professor of medical ethics at Columbia Medical School, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah, a distinguished professor at Harvard Law School, an eminent legal philosopher at Oxford, and a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton. 

But for a heretic-hunting Left, none of that matters. It’s not about how you say it, or how rigorously you argue it, or how charitably you present it. It’s about whether you affirm or dissent from the new orthodoxy of gender ideology. 

Amazon never informed me or my publisher that it was removing my book. And Amazon’s representatives haven’t responded to our inquiries about it. Perhaps they’re citing a religious objection to selling my book? Or maybe they only sell books with which they agree? (If so, they have a lot of explaining to do about why they carry Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.) If there’s a religious or speech objection, let’s hear it. But if it’s just an attempt to skew the conversation in the public square with an attempt to discredit one of the Equality Act’s most prominent critics, that’s a different matter.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Dr. Theodore Noel demonstrates why face masks don’t prevent the spread of viruses via aerosols

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Ross Clark in the Spectator highlights the German study showing the ill-effects of schoolchildren wearing masks in class.

Last autumn, researchers at the University of Witten/Herdecke set up a registry for parents, teachers and doctors to report their observations of children wearing masks at school. After a week it had received 20,353 entries, referring to 25,930 children aged 0 to 18. 

The researchers then analysed the results of the 17,854 entries which had been made by parents. Of those, 60% reported increased irritability in the children concerned, 53% reported headaches, 50% difficulty in concentrating, 49% “less happiness”, 44% reported a reluctance to go to school, 42% malaise, 38% impaired learning and 37% drowsiness or fatigue.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Watch “Masks: The Science and Myths” from America’s Frontline Doctors – a good overview of why masks don’t protect against respiratory viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

Latest News

Coronavirus Endgame

With the publication on Monday of the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, the Covid crisis enters its final phase, albeit a painfully extended one.

The Government has ruled out Zero Covid and, despite earlier reports, not included infection or case levels in its criteria for sticking with its timetable, save for the reference to increases in infections threatening to overwhelm the NHS.

However, it is still beholden to the modellers, with reports that a faster timetable was shelved following an intervention by SAGE scientists who claimed it would cause 55,000 more deaths (or was it 91,000?).

Jeffrey A. Tucker in AIER has written an excellent piece heralding the wind-down in America and around the world and looking ahead, with a welcome air of optimism, to what comes next.

There is a sense in the air that the pandemic is winding down, and the toxic culture of division, fear, and hatred along with it. Cases are down dramatically. Deaths too. Hospitalizations are no longer irregular. Restrictions are being repealed. You can follow all the action daily at the CDC’s new and unusually competent landing page on the virus (it only took them a year to build this). 

Despite all the talk of a new normal and infinite mandates, there is hope that it could all unwind quickly, pushed by force of public impatience and frustration with restrictions, and a political scramble to avoid responsibility by running away from all that they did for the last year. 

The list of signs and symbols could be made very long. 

The politicians who overreached are suddenly being held accountable, with both Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom on the hotseat. Calls for governors and mayors to resign consume state and local news. There is clearly major political tumult building. 

– The Great Barrington Declaration scientists can hardly keep up with the requests for respectful interviews, now that it is becoming clear that they were right all along.
– The experience in open states like FloridaGeorgiaSouth Dakota, and so on, makes it impossible to ignore the grim truth that the lockdowns achieved nothing for public health but did harm health, businesses, liberties, law, and civilized life. 
– The push to open economies, by the same people who locked down the economies, such as Boris Johnson in the UK, is an implicit repudiation of the nonsensical Zero Covid movement. Everyone seems now to agree with what AIER has been saying for a year: humanity must deal intelligently with pathogens and stop pretending that political forces can control them. 
– AIER visiting senior fellow Naomi Wolf had a hit just last evening on the Tucker Carlson show, and they spoke as allies in the reopening efforts after years of ideological sparring. 
– There is growing weariness of Anthony Fauci’s daily word salads that have massively mixed up the public health messaging for a full year, to the point that Meghan McCain has called for his firing. 
– A year ago, Slate was making sense until the virus became political and they joined the lockdown mob. Now the publication is back to making sense again, with this excellent piece
– British medical journal the Lancet is publishing excellent short pieces on the cost of lockdowns, including this riveting letter from Martin Kulldorff. 
– A prestigious European journal of public health has published a blistering attack on the very idea that a power government should ever be trusted with is virus mitigation. 

The people who have committed their careers and lives to this pandemic and the policies surrounding it might soon need to find a new raison d’etre. Then the clean up begins – how did this happen, who did it, how to make sure it never happens again – and does not end perhaps for decades. 

It’s been fascinating to see the early drafts on the reasons why. There will be some perfunctory efforts to credit lockdowns, masks, human separation, and closures for somehow making the virus go away. The trouble is that there is no evidence of this. There is evidence for many other explanations having to do with herd immunity and “seasonality” (another way of saying the pathogen comes and then goes) and possibly more precision in testing. 

For example, this new article by the very sensible Jennifer Beam Dowd of Oxford names many factors (while downplaying the role of vaccines) but says of masks and so on that it is “challenging to identify their specific effects, and cases are dropping in almost all states even with a wide range of policies.” 

Indeed! 

The reckoning will be taking place for months if not years. In the end people will be left wondering why we took such extreme measures that wrecked so many lives when the endemic equilibrium comes in time regardless of all these measures. We tried a crazy experiment in social and economic control and we are left with scant evidence that it made much difference on the virus but vast evidence that they demoralised and ruined life for billions of people. 

Worth reading in full.

Tell Your MP: Look at Florida

Lockdown Sceptics contributor and mathematics student Glen Bishop has got in touch with a suggestion of something we could all send to our MPs to challenge their lazy lockdown thinking. In short: look at Florida.

On Monday, the British PM answered nearly 100 questions from MPs and journalists. Not one raised the case of Florida, the obvious counterexample to the course laid out by the PM. I am yet to see an MP or SAGE member acknowledge the case of Florida. That needs to change.

Empirical data from an experiment which has already taken place will always be a better measure of what to expect when repeating the experiment than speculative modelling based on dozens of assumptions that already predicted the first experiment wrong. That is why it is crucial policymakers take a long hard look at Florida before assuming their favoured modellers are on the money.  

The Imperial team predicted 2.2 million deaths for the US within months if there were no restrictions. Accounting for population, that would estimate over 143,000 deaths for a state the size of Florida. Despite having one of the oldest populations in the US, its current death toll stands at just 30,000, less than a quarter of the original Imperial estimate after a year (including a winter), never mind 143,000 in the few months.

Trying to explain to MPs how or why the modelling is inaccurate is mostly a futile endeavour. However, showing them the reality of where the experiment has already been undertaken and the models proved wrong can hit them between the eyes. Why, then, don’t we all email our MPs politely and disarmingly asking why we are lifting our lockdown so slowly when Florida lifted theirs in the autumn and have fared better with fewer Covid deaths? Here is a rundown of key facts about Florida for inspiration.  

In September of last year, the Governor of Florida called in an expert team including specialists from Stanford and Harvard Universities to assess whether restrictions had been effective enough to justify their continued use. They concluded they had not been. Subsequently, on September 25th the Governor nullified all public health measures connected to the coronavirus emergency. Instead he targeted resources on shielding the vulnerable and offering sensible advice to the public. This resulted in the following.

Contrary to the SAGE modelled predictions of massive surges in deaths and overwhelmed hospitals, they had a death rate 20% lower than the UK: 1,400 per million in Florida compared to 1,781 per million in the UK, lower than the US average. Case rates followed a similar pattern to that of the UK, peaking in January and subsequently falling sharply, despite having no meaningful restrictions in place.

Compared to the UK, Florida has been a major success. Children’s education has not been sacrificed this autumn and winter, unemployment is low because businesses have been operating freely. The economy is thriving: it only contracted 2.4% in 2020 compared to 10% in the UK and is already back at pre pandemic levels. The civil liberties of Florida’s citizens have been restored. 

Florida has an older population than the UK with a median age of 42 compared to the UK median of 40. It has a similar population density, a more urban population distribution (87.7% vs 83.7% urban), worse metabolic health and has had community transmission of the Kent variant since at least December. Other than the warmer climate in Florida, on paper the UK should have performed better, not worse. This is why it is perhaps a better comparison for the UK than say Sweden or South Dakota, which have more differences in population demographics.

Over 30% of the UK adult population has now received at least one dose of a vaccine, including our most vulnerable groups. We also have more population immunity from prior infection than Florida had in September and we are now coming into summer, when coronaviruses typically recede. Data now suggests that vaccines can reduce the chance of hospitalisation and death by around 90%. Yet we are still being told we need to continue the damaging restrictions for months longer. Florida managed fine with no vaccine and less natural immunity. Why would it be any different in the UK when our most vulnerable groups, who account for 88% of deaths and most hospitalisations, plus all NHS and care staff, have already been vaccinated and by April groups accounting for 99% of deaths will have too?

MPs owe their constituents an explanation for why we are following the SAGE path of at least four months more restrictions, when despite following their advice we have higher death rates than Florida, which did not? MPs need to explain why we are not switching to the approach proposed by Florida’s team from Stanford and Harvard, which was right about what would happen in Florida without restrictions this winter when SAGE was wrong again.

The website Write To Them makes it easy to email your MP. As the coronavirus endgame staggers forward, let’s keep the pressure on.

Stop Press: The UK has one of the strictest lockdowns in the world according to Oxford University’s Coronavirus Response Tracker, the Mail reports. Only Ireland has harsher measures, having ceased construction. Worth bearing mind though that the Blavatnik School’s stringency index has been criticised for not distinguishing between mandatory and voluntary measures, which is why it ranks Sweden’s response as among the most stringent. It also does not distinguish between states in the US.

Neil Ferguson Writes Again…

Mystic Neil as imagined by Miriam Elia

And so to our now regular slot where we feature the latest missive that Professor Lockdown has sent to an intrepid Lockdown Sceptics reader who has dared to write to him with facts. The latest is a cracker. Derek Winton, the software developer who wrote the original article for us on Saturday criticising the Imperial model, kept his email succinct and reiterated to Prof Ferguson the points he had made in his piece, but to which no response has yet appeared. Predictably, Ferguson did not respond to any of them, but did give a prickly reply.

Dear Professor Ferguson,

I wrote the article recently published on Lockdown Sceptics entitled “The Imperial Model and its Role in the UK’s Pandemic Response”. It would have been polite to give you a chance to respond to the article before publishing. I did not do that and for that I apologise. I write this email to give you the opportunity to rebut my claims. Please be aware that I intend to publish any reply.

I made eight substantive claims in the article, along with supporting evidence, upon which my conclusion was based. Having read your correspondence with other parties it does not appear that you have directly contested any of those claims. I’ll summarise them here:

  1. The Imperial model was influential in the decision to pursue a lockdown strategy.
  2. The research for “Report 9” was not peer reviewed.
  3. The model was not documented.
  4. You appear to have no formal training in computer modelling, medicine or epidemiology.
  5. Projections of death tolls from your team in previous epidemics had been out by several orders of magnitude.
  6. The code was of poor quality from a legibility stand point.
  7. The model is an attempt to model a highly complex (and therefore highly sensitive) system but omits at least one key variable.
  8. Projections based on the Imperial model for Sweden were out by a factor of seven and therefore the model was not fit for purpose.

Which, if any, of these claims are incorrect?

In anticipation of your response to point 8, I did notice you have stated that “no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us)”. If you did indeed model Sweden, what did you find? Will you publish those findings in full? How do you account for the sustained fall in infections and deaths in both the UK and Sweden that began last April, despite their different use of NPIs?

Sincerely,

Derek Winton

Came the reply:

Dear Derek,

Thank you for your email. I am not going to engage in responding to loaded and scientifically irrelevant questions. As I have stated previously (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/lockdown-sceptics-are-distorting-the-science-xvzcm2sr5), policy decisions depended not on any single model, but on epidemiological characterisation of the virus and the implications for the health system and mortality. All models are simplified representations of reality and different scientists interpret data differently and make different assumptions – which is why the UK government never relies on a [sic] one alone.

I am aware you and the readers of Lockdown Sceptics are convinced that lockdown measures have been unnecessary or at least disproportionate. The latter – whether controlling COVID spread has been worth the costs of lockdown – is a valid issue to be debated, as I’ve previously said. But it’s not really a scientific issue. I realise you are trying to make it so, but I think that 120 thousand deaths has provided quite conclusive if tragic evidence that the science which has underpinned the assessment of the public health risks by COVID is valid.

I’m afraid the “motivated reasoning” indulged in on Lockdown Sceptics means that you are never going to compete with those (such as 99% of the scientific community) who dispassionately examine the data. Neil O’Brien’s cogent critique I think summarises the issues and the damage you and your fellow sceptics have caused: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/17/id-love-to-ignore-covid-sceptics-and-their-tall-tales-but-they-make-a-splash-and-have-no-shame

If you want to actually persuade people, do some real research and publish it in scientific journals. Pure rhetoric, cherry-picking “evidence” and ad hominem attacks are never going to succeed.

Best wishes,

Neil

Stop Press: One Lockdown Sceptics reader thinks Prof Ferguson has backed the wrong horse in his admiration for China. He writes:

I noticed in his recent letter, posted on Lockdown Sceptics, Professor Fergusson is again drawing parallels with Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) alleged success in controlling COVID-19 through harsh lockdowns. Reports from the ground in China tell a rather different story, which might be worth sharing on Lockdown Sceptics. Almost a year after the CCP claimed to have rid China of COVID-19, it seems the disease is still prevalent in China and the inhumanity of the lockdown measures exceed even what we experience: hardly something to be emulated. This view from China Uncensored tells the tale of a man who was literally starving because of lockdowns and then sent to prison for reporting the fact on social media. Similar stories can be found here and here

SAGE Models Are GIGO Garbage In, Garbage Out

How the models fared in autumn, from the Spectator Data Tracker.

Erstwhile sceptic Christopher Snowdon may have crossed the aisle of late to become a lockdown enthusiast and Toby’s sparring partner – they’re in action again today, head-to-head in a pre-recorded debate on talkRADIO, more details tomorrow – but he hasn’t entirely lost his critical faculties when it comes to SAGE BS. He regards the vaccines as the way out of the crisis, and he is withering about the latest modelling from SAGE, which he thinks makes far too many pessimistic assumptions regarding the vaccination programme. He starts with the team from Warwick.

In their best case scenario, lockdown reduces R to 0.8 and three million vaccines are delivered each week from February (with one million a week delivered in January). Lockdown ends on February 22nd and all NPIs are dropped by July. This means that everybody who wants a vaccine has had one (or, indeed, two) by the summer. The authors nevertheless predict that England will see 2,000 deaths per day in August. If the vaccines don’t work as well as expected, this rises to nearly 5,000 per day.

I am only an interested amateur and am happy to be put straight, but WTF?!? Last August, when there was no vaccine and minimal NPIs, England had about eight deaths a day. At the height of the winter second wave, it had 1,238 deaths (January 19th). 5,000 deaths per day is more than 70 per million. Even the worst hit countries such as Belgium and Czechia never got above 30 per million at the height of their epidemics. And yet these guys think that it could far exceed that in Britain in the summer after the vaccines have been fully rolled out. Even in their best case scenario, there would still be 1,000 deaths a day.

When your model gives you such an implausible result, you have to question your assumptions. So what are they?

According to the brief text, the authors expect all these deaths to come about because some people will refuse to take the vaccine and some people who take the vaccine won’t be protected. 

“Uptake: Throughout we assume 95% uptake in care homes, 85% in the general population above 50 and 75% in adults below 50 for the first dose. This drops to 75% for the over 50s and 66% for the under 50s for the second dose.”

People aged under 50 are almost irrelevant in terms of Covid mortality so the figure to focus on is 85%. Here are their assumptions about protection against symptomatic disease:

“Efficacy: We sub-divide into the effects of protection against symptoms (disease efficacy) and reduction in transmission – we assume that transmission blocking acts by stopping infection. Disease efficacy is taken as 70% and 88% after dose one rising to 88% and 94% after dose two for the Oxford and Pfizer vaccine respectively. Transmission efficacy is taken to be 48% rising to 60% for both. Protection is lagged by 14 days after the dose is delivered.”

This roughly reflects what the trials have shown us about these vaccines.

The authors don’t provide a figure for the total number of deaths in their projected third wave, but it looks around twice as bad as the second wave which has killed about 60,000 people in England and will probably end up killing around 75,000. So, as a very rough estimate, they’re suggesting there will be 150,000 deaths after everybody who wants a vaccine has had one. That’s more than all the deaths we’ve had already. Unsurprisingly, the authors call for the Government to hold back on relaxing lockdown, although quite what this would achieve is unclear: the lesson of the study is that COVID-19 will get us all eventually.

Imperial have also done some modelling. This study was produced on January 14th, the day after Warwick’s. It makes exactly the same assumptions about transmission efficacy and disease efficacy. Unlike Warwick, they assume vaccine uptake is 85% across all age groups. They assume that NPIs are gradually lifted on the first day of each month but do not say which ones. As with Warwick, all NPIs are lifted by July 1st.

The assumptions are therefore very similar and the conclusions are only slightly less gloomy. Like Warwick, they predict a massive summer wave and 130,800 dead even under their most optimistic scenario.

He spies two problems.

Firstly, both models underestimate how many people will take the vaccine. So far, 91% of the 80+ cohort have taken it and 96% of those aged 75-79 have taken it. That’s a lot more than 85% assumed in these models.

Secondly, and more importantly, the estimates of disease efficacy (the reduction in risk of getting symptomatic disease) are roughy correct, but the authors seem to have overlooked the crucial point about the AstraZeneca vaccine which is that there were “no severe cases and no hospitalisations” in the trials. The vaccine seems to be 100% effective in preventing death from COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease altogether, so the number of deaths that would occur among the cohort who take it would, presumably, be very low (in Israel, there were four severe cases and no deaths among 523,000 vaccinated people).

It is incredible that neither study factors in the effect of the vaccines on severe disease and mortality. You can forgive them for not predicting that so many people would take up the vaccines, but we’ve known about the AZ vaccine’s ability to prevent severe disease and death since November.

Worth reading in full. He expands his argument in this Twitter thread. And also in the Telegraph.

As sceptics we would want to add a few more problems to the list. We’d ask why seasonality is ignored and mass deaths are predicted in the height of summer, despite almost zero Covid last year with few restrictions and no vaccines. We’d wonder why prior infections, innate immunity and cross T-cell immunity from other coronaviruses are ignored, and why the IFR is so high compared to those estimated by the WHO and CDC.

So many poor assumptions. As the Americans say, Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Stop Press: Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in America, declared on Monday during a White House COVID-19 press briefing that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 still shouldn’t dine indoors at restaurants or go to cinemas “because of the safety of society”. This is despite the positive cases in the country continuing to decline. They do seem to be missing the point of the vaccine, don’t they?

Stop Press 2: CRG chair Mark Harper has tweeted his questions about the dubious modelling assumptions.

The Most Chilling Sentence in the Roadmap

Steve Sieff from GreenBandRedBand has got in touch to say he thinks we overlooked the worst part of the roadmap. He explains here.

I am one of the three who has read the roadmap in full. For me the most chilling paragraph is one you didn’t quote (emphasis mine).

64. For these reasons, a significant proportion of the population could still be infected, either because they have not been vaccinated or because the vaccine is not effective for them. … This could mean that some measures to limit transmission are still needed after all adults have been offered a vaccine. These could include guidance such as “hands, face, space”, maintaining the Test, Trace and Isolate system and controls at the border… The extent to which such measures will be required after all adults have been vaccinated is still unknown. …the Government is exploring what measures may be required.

I also note that although the document makes several references to the various harms caused by the restrictions, it does not include within those harms the basic objection that all of the measures taken reduce our ability to live freely. Even for the ‘lucky’ individuals who have not been physically or mentally affected by the ongoing measures, restrictions on freedom should still be seen as a last resort where no other answer is available. One of the stated aims of the Government in the roadmap is “to restore freedoms sustainably, equitably and as quickly as possible” but in the context of the whole document it feels very much like that is the very bottom of the priority list.

So on the plus side we have the idea that Zero Covid is not realistic. That is a big relief for sure. But on the negative we have a painfully slow re-opening, none of which is guaranteed, with the most far-reaching changes being subject to further reviews. No doubt these reviews will be carried out by… SAGE.

There is also an increase in use of face coverings by one of the groups least likely to be affected (schoolchildren), the clear acknowledgement that vaccine passports for international travel will be required and the concession that some form of immunity certificate might well be used domestically. We also have a long term plan based heavily on continued testing of asymptomatic people with the aim of heavy enforcement of local outbreaks. Possibly also the longer term continuation of distancing and masks to some extent. So I cannot help but read this document as a map to the dreaded ‘new normal’ and a nail in the coffin of pre-Covid freedoms. Covid will be endemic and comparable to flu, but we will be expected – on pain of criminal sanction – to continue with measures which exceed any reasonable assessment of the risk which will remain.

One other small point. As you are aware, there is still no legislation obliging schools to close. It was Government advice during the first lockdown and the same approach was taken with the current lockdown. The wording of the roadmap hints that the face masks in schools changes may also be by way of recommendation rather than obligation. It may not make any difference to schools who feel obliged to comply, but it would be marginally better than making them mandatory by law (emphasis mine).

92. The Government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained. Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

Secondary School Confirms Children Will Not Wear Masks in Classroom Despite Government Recommendation

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to us to say she wrote to the head of her child’s school and received a quick reply confirming that they do not plan to introduce masks into classrooms and will keep things as they were last term. She has given us permission to publish the email she wrote in case any Lockdown Sceptics readers wish to use it as inspiration or a template for their own email.

I am deeply concerned about the new Government “recommendation”, that children will have to increase their wearing of face masks, including in lessons and classrooms, which would effectively result in up to eight hours of mask-wearing a day for healthy children. From my previous emails you will be aware of my deep reservations about the usefulness of face masks and concerns about the harm to physical and psychological health from wearing them for long periods of time, especially in children. I cannot understand why a mass testing scheme is being rolled out in schools twice a week, which will guarantee that all the healthy, asymptomatic children in schools do not have COVID-19, yet they are being asked to behave as if they have symptomatic, infectious COVID-19. This is encouraging a pathological germ phobia and obsession, as well as blocking healthy social interactions and impeding communication. School will no longer feel like a safe place for children.

I believe this has now reached the point of insanity that it has become a serious safeguarding and child protection issue, as it will have serious detrimental effects on children’s mental, educational, and physical well-being. The Government have not published a risk assessment of this ill-thought out policy and I pray that school leaders will now stand up and protect the children in their care against this abuse of power and abusive policy. Reading the documentation, it has been left up to schools to decide whether to implement this policy as it is a “recommendation” – I urge you to stand firm and not extend the mask-wearing at ***** school beyond the requirements set last term.

To help with your own risk assessment, I urge you to read an Open Letter that the UK Medical Freedom Alliance (UKMFA), sent to Government Ministers a couple of weeks ago, regarding the current face covering mandates in the UK. They are requesting an urgent and permanent revoking of all mandates for children under 18 years, and a switch to the voluntary use of face coverings in adults, unless or until a full ‘risk vs benefit’ assessment is published which demonstrates that the benefits are significant and far outweigh the harms. They present and reference comprehensive scientific evidence showing that face masks cause serious harm in children, and that there is no evidence that they prevent transmission of the virus, especially in healthy, asymptomatic people. Of particular note was a recent German study of over 25,000 children – the only published study looking at the impact of mask-wearing on children – and the results were horrifying. Impairments to children, caused by wearing face masks, were reported by 68% of the parents. This included irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), less happiness (49%), reluctance to go to school/kindergarten (44%), malaise (42%) impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%).

We already know that one in four teenagers have contemplated suicide over the last few months and many more are struggling with anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm and depression as a result of the draconian restrictions on their social and educational development. Blighting their return to school with an inhuman requirement to wear masks for many hours a day will no doubt tip many of these children over the edge into despair.

I understand that you will be under pressure from many directions, but I hope that you will keep a sense of proportionality and perspective and put your duty of care to the children above political and societal pressures to conform. If this policy were to go ahead the only way that my children could come back to school is with mask exemptions as they both experience chest pains, panic, anxiety, and breathing issues when wearing a mask. But this would bring its own issues of social exclusion and fears of bullying for being the ‘odd ones out’. It may be that they would not feel able to return to school at all until these restrictions were lifted.

Who’s Getting Rich Off all this School Testing?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader emailed us to ask why no one is talking about the cost of all the mass testing in schools, and who is getting paid for it.

Perhaps I’ve missed it, but nobody seems to be talking about the cost and who is getting paid for all the school testing?

I wandered around the internet a bit looking at articles, for instance, this one from Schools Week. They are all pretty much the same:

“Returning secondary pupils will be tested three times on site and then again once at home in the first two weeks after reopening. They will then be provided with home kits for twice weekly testing thereafter.”

Who is getting paid for all of this? There must be laboratories and companies all over the place rubbing their hands with glee?

How long is it expected to go on for?

I can see this costing more than the furlough payments and business loans.

The last time I had to pay for a test at Boots it cost £120. Obviously, the Government won’t be paying this much (well I hope not).

Even if it is only £50 a test at bulk rates/discount prices for the Government, that still approaches £1,300 per child per term.

And when they pivot into testing at home, how many people are going to do it properly, how many people are going to wilfully provide a negative result (by sticking it under the tap) because they can’t afford to isolate and other such issues?

I listened to an interview with Andy Burnham on talkRADIO this morning and he mentioned at least a thousand families in his city tested positive on a regular basis but could not afford to isolate.

Obviously, that figure extrapolated across the whole country really begins to add up.

I suspect that the Government will be forced (because it’s a vote winner) into providing more support for families forced to isolate, thus providing an incentive in some cases to provide a false positive test.

It’s really like they never want to let us out properly – a great excuse to continue with vaccine passports and Covid certificates.

I just can’t get it into my head. All the ministers spent the last month and a half telling us there would never be a need for vaccine passports but again it seems that they were foreshadowing it in some way by mentioning them, and then finding the excuse to say “oh we need to change our mind because of the massive positive rate in children” or some other emotional blackmail like that.

COVID-19 Behaves Like the Flu

Today we’re publishing an original piece by an academic economist looking at how this winter compares to an ordinary flu season. His prediction that the Government would claim credit for the perfectly normal January decline of the seasonal virus has come to pass, he says.

In my previous piece for this site, I floated what I called “the flu hypothesis”. My idea was to treat COVID-19 like the flu in order to predict how it might behave. From here, we could get a sense of how Government policy might respond. This was based on the assumption that the Government policies did not really have any impact on the trajectory of the disease. So, whether the Government response ended up looking like a success or failure all depended on how the virus behaved on its own terms.

What I found was that there were two types of flu season. One was more ‘gradual’. It tended to rise slowly at the start of the year, through January and February and into March. The other type was sharper and more ‘aggressive’. This type of flu season tended to spike early, around the first week of January, and burn out quicker.

Since the Government launched its lockdown policy at the start of January, I pointed out that if COVID-19 behaved like a ‘gradual’ flu season the policy would look like a failure. If, on the other hand, COVID-19 behaved like a more ‘aggressive’ flu season then it would look like it was the Government causing the decline due to their policy

How did things turn out?

To find out, read it in full here.

A Family Note

Following Guy de la Bédoyère’s note yesterday about his sad family news, a reader has written with some of her own.

I read the piece about the sad death of Guy de la Bédoyère’s mother-in-law at her care home and wanted to add my own family’s tragic tale. I want to do this because the many people who have been responsible for the response to the pandemic must hear of the tragedies that have resulted. 

Many organisations have asked for families to be included in the regular testing in care homes and it is looking likely this may be put in place later in March but it is nearly 12 months that residents and families have been kept apart and is too late for many with devastating consequences.

My own father is on end-of-life care at his care home and we have been allowed to visit him in person for the past 10 days. Prior to this, since March 12th when care homes were told to prevent family visits, he has had visits from his family only through locked double glazed patio doors, with the aid of mobile phones to communicate. 

My father does have dementia and it has been heartbreaking watching him decline for the past year and not to be able to support him in the way we would have wished to do so. Prior to being locked out of his care home my father had a visit from one of us on six days of every week. We helped him with feeding, cut his hair and nails, helped him to shave, took him out in his wheelchair in the local park where he chatted to people who lived locally and were a connection to his past life.

During the past long 12 months we have sat outside the locked patio doors in rain and shine. In the rain my father could not understand why we would not come inside, he pleaded with us to please come inside. As he deteriorated we were unable to help him hold his cup or locate a biscuit. He sometimes offered us the cup asking if we could put it on the table. We couldn’t help him and had to explain the double glazing between us. This situation has devastated us, we have struggled with anxiety, guilt, sadness, anger and depression, lack of concentration and poor motivation. We have asked ourselves how we will forgive ourselves for not being there for him in his last year of life and what our dead Mother, his wife of 60 years, would have thought of us letting him down in this terrible way. As Guy says, it will be very hard for us to come to terms with what we have all lost.

My father is now in the last few days of his life and we are grateful that the care home allowed us to be with him while he could still enjoy our company and we could care for him, offer him drinks and food he likes. His condition is such that he does not really know we have not been there for him in the way we would have wished to be for almost a year. That is something we must try to take some small comfort from.

COVID-1984

A reader has revisited Orwell’s 1948 classic and been inspired to think up some Party slogans of his own.

Forty-four years since it was my O-level text I have just revisited Orwell’s 1984. The book has, not surprisingly, had a bit of a resurgence in recent times.

It is so much more harrowing to read as an older and wiser adult, and I reckon it should be required reading for anyone who’s not yet sceptical about lockdown and the interference in our personal lives.

Imagine a world where the Party rules by the constant repetition of self-contradictory slogans?

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Just imagine.

The Party slogans got me thinking about ones that might fit closer to home.

ISOLATION IS FELLOWSHIP
HARMING HEALTH IS PROTECTING HEALTH SERVICES
DESTROYING LIVES IS SAVING LIVES
INCARCERATION IS SAFETY

If any readers have any more suggestions, email us here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Six today: “We’ll Meet Again” by Johnny Cash, “Everybody Get Together” by Dave Clark Five, “Ain’t Living Long Like This” Waylon Jennings, “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, “How Long Has This Been Going On?” by Sarah Vaughan and “Little Lies” by Fleetwood Mac.

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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, it’s “Britain’s wokest headteacher”, who was all too ready to abandon English historical figures in favour of people with nothing to do with English history when a solitary complaint arrived last year. Melanie McDonagh in the Spectator has more.

Ah, a story for our times. And I think you know how it’s going to go. There was this junior school in Yorkshire which had houses named after various figures in English history: Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Nelson. And then? You can take it from here. 

Some very agitated pupils got together and sent round a petition which frightened the headteacher so much that he renamed the houses?

Well, you’d be right except for one thing. It only takes one really annoying person to write the Great Men out of a school; that and a suggestible head teacher, one Lee Hill, who posts school news on Twitter with a picture that shows off his extensive arm tattoos, posing with a takeaway coffee. But if you are going to rewrite history, for goodness’ sake make sure you get the history right

Mr Hill – who has been described as Britain’s ‘wokest’ headteacher – says that:

During the Black Lives Matter protests, I received a passionate and brave email from a former pupil. This pupil not only educated me about the history of the three house names – that sat on our website, in our hall and were raised as ambassadors for our school – but also explained the impact of seeing these figures – who have links to slavery, oppression and racism – had on her during her time at our school. Not only a brave email to send to a white male in a position of power but also an email that set off a chain of events.

Actually, the bit suggesting a teacher with tattoos is an authority figure does make you laugh. You wish, mate. But it says quite a lot about where we’re at that a) it takes only one former pupil to say she was upset to see white males with associations she doesn’t find congenial to cause a school figuratively to topple its statues; and b) a school head who doesn’t appear to know much about Drake, Raleigh and Nelson. You’d think that for his pioneering work promoting tobacco alone, Raleigh would be immortal. But nope, it seems not.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study 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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

We’ve been searching for a suitable theme song for Lockdown Sceptics since its inception 10 months ago, but now, finally, we’ve found it: “Lockdown Sceptics Stand Ye Ready!” This really is a must watch. 

Latest News

The Great Reopening – or Three Months Before We Can Go to the Pub

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Yesterday, as expected, The Prime Minister held a press conference in Downing Street, flanked by Witless and Unbalanced, and unfolded his roadmap. As expected, it looks like it’s a map of pre-industrial Britain, with no motorways or even A roads to speak of. The journey is going to be slow, terribly long and the horse and cart may break down on the way. Isabel Hardman has written an explainer for the Spectator.

Step 1: From March 8th, people will still be instructed to stay at home, but schools and colleges will reopen, along with practical higher education courses. Face coverings should be worn in all indoor environments including schools unless two metre social distancing is possible… From March 29th there will still be no indoor mixing or holidays. People will be advised to minimise travel. The rule of six – or two different households – will return for outdoor mixing. 

Step 2: No earlier than April 12th and at least five weeks after Step 1. Still no household mixing indoors. All retail, outdoor attractions such as zoos, libraries and community centres, personal care premises and outdoor hospitality will reopen. Indoor leisure such as gyms will open for individual or household group use. People will be able to stay away from home within the same household, and all children’s activities and indoor parent and child groups of up to 15 parents will reopen. Wakes and wedding receptions will widen up to 15 people. 

Step 3: No earlier than May 17th and at least five weeks after Step 2. Indoor entertainment and indoor sports will reopen and a 30 person limit will apply outdoors. Outdoor entertainment such as performances can start along with some large events with capacity limits. The rule of six will now apply to indoor mixing. People will be able to travel overseas.

Step 4: No earlier than June 21st and at least five weeks after Step 3. Legal limits on social contact will lift and larger events allowed. Nightclubs will reopen

Hard not to be disappointed, given that Boris promised last year that it would all be over by Christmas. Does he now intend to under-promise, and over-deliver? One can but hope. At least Zero Covid appears to have been ditched, as Hardman points out.

The roadmap also covers what life with Covid as an endemic disease might look like. Ministers are opening four programmes of work to inform their policy on what ‘living with the virus’ will involve. These cover Covid status certification (the vaccine passport), large events, international travel and social distancing.

Worth reading in full.

Turning to the roadmap itself, it’s a long document, but here with a few ‘highlights’.

65. It is not currently known for how long people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be protected. This is because, as is the case with many vaccines, the protection they confer may weaken over time. It is also possible that new variants of the virus may emerge against which current vaccines are less effective. As well as working closely with manufacturers, Government scientists are seeking to better understand the impact of some Variants of Concern on the vaccines currently in deployment.

66. To ensure the country is prepared for these scenarios and while further evidence is gathered, the Government is planning for a revaccination campaign, which is likely to run later this year in autumn or winter. Any revaccination is likely to consist of a single ‘booster’ dose of a COVID-19 vaccine: the ideal booster may be a new vaccine specifically designed against a variant form of the virus. Over the longer term, revaccination is likely to become a regular part of managing COVID-19.

Moving on to the most politically sensitive bit:

Covid Status Certification

131: The Government will review whether COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety. This will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of COVID-Secure mitigations. The Government will also consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of this approach and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification. It will draw on external advice to develop recommendations that take into account any social and economic impacts, and implications for disproportionately impacted groups and individuals’ privacy and security. The Government will set out its conclusions in advance of Step 4 in order to inform the safe reopening of society and the economy.

What about football and travel?

Large Events

133) Over the spring the Government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.

134) The Government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.

International Travel

135) The Government’s objective is to see a safe and sustainable return to international travel, for business and pleasure. When it is safe to do so the UK will again be the destination of choice for international visitors from around the world. In the short-term, the Government will continue to protect the vaccine rollout and mitigate against the risk posed by imported variants.

136) Vaccinations could offer a route to that safe and sustainable return. Once more is known about the evidence of vaccines on transmission and their efficacy against new variants, the Government can look to introduce a system to allow vaccinated individuals to travel more freely internationally.

137) The UK is working with other countries who have started similar programmes, to lead global efforts to adopt a clear international framework with standards that provide consistency for passengers and industry alike. The Government will make this a reality through ongoing work with the World Health Organisation and other multilateral organisations, the UK’s presidency of the G7 this year, and by working with other international partners.

138) However, any such system will take time to implement. It will be heavily dependent on improved scientific understanding about the role vaccination plays in reducing transmission. Introducing such a system also needs to be fair and not unduly disadvantage people who have yet to be offered – or gain access to – a vaccine. That being the case, the Government does not expect this solution to be available quickly, and restrictions like those in place across the world are likely to continue for the near future.

When can we ditch the masks and the stupid one-way systems in shops?

Social Distancing

145) Social distancing is difficult and damaging for businesses and, as a result, it is important to return to as near to normal as quickly as possible. Ahead of Step 4, as more is understood about the impact of vaccines on transmission and a far greater proportion of the population has been vaccinated, the Government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission. The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home – people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.

And finally, under the section marked long term:

Living with the virus

196) Like some strains of flu, COVID-19 is a relatively mild illness for much of the population, but it is more dangerous to vulnerable groups. The Government will ensure the country can live with the virus in the longer-term without imposing restrictions which bear heavy economic, social and health costs. The outcome of the four programmes of work set out in chapter 3 (large events, COVID-Certification, international travel and social distancing) will inform Government policy on living with the virus.

197) In addition to a comprehensive revaccination programme, set out in chapter 2, the Government will also use the Test, Trace and Isolate system to keep the virus in check. This includes regular asymptomatic testing in sectors with the highest risk of transmission, as well as testing in the workplace to help protect employees from infection and keep businesses open. The UK has already stepped up domestic production of lateral flow tests. As set out in chapter 2, the Government is also investing in bolstering domestic vaccine production capacity across the whole of the UK.

Worth reading in full – although, God knows, I cannot imagine more than about three people will.

Stop Press: The Telegraph reports that proposals for a major easing of lockdown before Easter were dropped after scientists warned the Government that it could lead to an extra 55,000 deaths. Thank you, SAGE.

Stop Press 2: Again in the Telegraph, Ross Clark notes the irony that we may be the first country to vaccinate its population but the last to reopen.

Stop Press 3: Watch Boris unveil his plan in the House of Commons yesterday.

The Ruination of Census 2021: An Unintended Consequence of Boris’s Glacial Reopening

A reader has flagged up an unintended consequence of the lengthy lockdown exit plan.

The Government has taken a blundering stride to repeating some of the planning mistakes of the current pandemic by telling public libraries they can’t reopen until April 12th.

By doing so, it will prevent library staff assisting in person anyone, notably those with poor English, completing their 2021 Census forms, even though they have been receiving training to do precisely that! This year, for the first time, the forms will be available online and the many people who still don’t have internet accesss at home will need to use a library PC to fill theirs in. Virtually all public libraries have PCs.

A high take-up rate for the once-a-decade census, whose accuracy is crucial for local and central government planning and prudent spending, is arguably even more important than the rate for vaccination, since everyone will benefit from the former while only the vulnerable truly need the latter.

It is disproportionately BAME people who will struggle to provide all the very detailed information that is required, and so go underreported, which will distort planning for a future pandemic. The failure to appreciate cramped living conditions, with more people living in homes than they were intended for, has accounted for very many Covid deaths as isolation was just about impossible and transmission hard to avoid. Hence the many instances of infections within the same family.

Putting your postcode in the search box here will produce many libraries as designated Support Centres, yet all are shown as closed. Very many are not even offering a telephone service. Some are offering email help – not much good if you don’t have digital access and an inefficient way to assist you if you do.

The ONS organises the Census on behalf of the Government and has been preparing the event for years. Will they be any more reliable with this than they are with the COVID-19 Infection Surveys they carry out every week, one wonders?

NB The online questionnaire goes live today (February 23rd) and completion is due by March 21st, the day for which all details should be valid.

P.S. It is still possible to request a printed copy, but some people are sure to not realise this. If a census helper knocks on their door (it’s not clear if they are even planning to visit people who haven’t returned their form), how likely are they to answer in the current climate of fear of strangers?

Another Reader Exchanges Emails With Neil Ferguson

Following Professor Neil Ferguson’s email exchange with one of our readers, which we published in yesterday’s Lockdown Sceptics, another reader decided to email him. He again replied. Here is their exchange in full.

Neil,

Someone sent you an article written by Derek Winton and you replied to that person by sending him/her a handbook about conspiracy theories.

So – anyone who disagrees with you must be a conspiracy theorist? Is that it?

But the Derek Winton article made no reference at all to any conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

It is possible you know to take a different view from you without thinking that you are part of some conspiracy.

Your reply referred to above doesn’t come across at all well. You might want to consider proffering an apology for it.

All the best,

XXXX

The Professor replied, with a couple of references that suggest he may have Googled “Lockdown Sceptics” and “no Second Wave” or “Casedemic” before replying.

Dear XXXX,

Reductionist rhetoric such as “anyone who disagrees with you must be a conspiracy theorist?” rather makes my point. It is not just anyone.

Science is about alternative perspectives, debate and being prepared to change ones view. My views are driven by the data and analysis of it – not just that from Imperial, but from researchers globally. Like most other people working on the virus, I learn new things every week, and that sometime involves rejecting previous beliefs.

However, the Winton piece was an ideologically motivated rhetorical rant, not a serious scientific discussion. Criticising 15 year-old C code is never going to be scientifically persuasive, because the science never depended on that (or any other) code. Never mind the bizarre but persistent minority belief that the world locked down because of the results from one modelling study.

That post came from a mindset that has predetermined what the truth is, feels that the “mainstream” world is not listening, and seeks to use polemic rather than actual scientific research to change others’ minds. That ticks quite a few of the conspiratorial thinking boxes. Admittedly not to the same degree as the emails I receive accusing me of being a minion of Bill Gates in wanting to implant microchips in people. But that is not saying much.

That is not to say I don’t think it’s legitimate to disagree about whether the social and economic costs of Covid measures are “worth it”. Or indeed about whether compulsory measures or recommendations should have been adopted. Neither of those issues are fundamentally scientific ones.

What is dangerous “alternate reality” nonsense is using rhetoric and cherry-picking of the science to try to deny the threat posed by the virus. To give a couple of not too historic examples:

https://lockdownsceptics.org/2020/09/01/latest-news-121/

https://lockdownsceptics.org/dr-clare-craig-false-positive-pseudo-epidemic-coronavirus-testing-pcr-lateral-flow/

This last year has been a tragedy for the world, and the consequences will be with us for decades. The response of the scientific community has been a silver lining though. We have learned more about this virus in a shorter time than I could have conceived would be possible. That we have multiple vaccines now available is a remarkable achievement – and one which will benefit the control of many other diseases. And, unlike much of the rest of the response to the pandemic, that research has been a truly global and co-operative effort.

Instead of futilely trying to undermine the work of thousands here and abroad, perhaps try celebrating human ingenuity in the face of adversity. The pandemic has been a random, terrible event. It is no-one’s fault – and while every country has made mistakes, most decision-makers (and the doctors and scientists behind them) have been trying to do the best they can, faced with very difficult decisions.

Best,

Neil

Our reader then replied to him.

Dear Neil,

Thanks for your email in reply to mine. I am grateful to you for taking the time. I know you are busy.

Some lockdown sceptics have made predictions that haven’t come to pass. But is that not also true of Imperial College modelling as Derek Winton has said?

You may say that the reason your team’s BSE projection on which he comments never came to pass is because the Government of the day took the projections of that team seriously and took drastic measures to mitigate the disease’s impact.

But what about your telling the Guardian in 2005 that up to 200 million people could be killed by bird flu? Few precautionary measures were taken to mitigate the impact of Avian Flu and yet the number of deaths is a tiny fraction of that figure.

And in 2009 an Imperial College modelling team of which you were a member significantly over-estimated the likely death toll from Swine Flu.

Again nothing approaching a lockdown was imposed. I accept these things don’t mean your subsequent work should be dismissed, but by the same token I don’t think you can dismiss the central arguments of the lockdown sceptics – that the lockdown policy will ultimately do more harm than it prevents – just because some of their predictions turned out to be inaccurate.

Correct me if I have this wrong but I don’t think that the adverse health/educational/social/political/other effects of lockdown have featured in modelling with which you have been involved. Could be your view is that that’s not your bailiwick – is that how you see it?

(In fairness to you, I do see on looking again at your email to me that – whatever your modelling work says – you accept that there is room for debate on the question of the social and economic harms that Lockdown might cause – though you don’t refer to the harm to health it might/does cause.)

If you have a moment I’d love to know how you respond to the evidence that the most severe policies – such as stay-at-home orders and business closures – are not more effective at reducing overall transmission than the more modest policies put in place in countries like Sweden and South Korea. I’m thinking of the work of John Ioannidis and his colleagues at Stanford in particular.

In addition, there is the evidence that laypersons like me can see with our own eyes.

Such as the fact that Florida which didn’t lockdown again in the autumn/winter has a lower Covid death toll than some states that did and overall the average number of Covid deaths in those US states that haven’t issued stay-at-home orders is lower than in those that did.

Isn’t it at least arguable that had we kept to our Pandemic Preparedness Strategy we wouldn’t have significantly more Covid deaths than we’ve had in England after three lockdowns? And that we’d have far lower levels of collateral damage?

Some of the criticism directed at you is deplorable, vitriolic stuff which I find utterly unacceptable. Reprehensible in fact. I am not with the people who put out that kind of material.

I would like to see reasoned debate instead.

I would like to see you talking to Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan and John Ioannidis for example.

In fact, I would love to see a proper grown up debate between the leading scientists on both sides of this issue on the BBC or Channel 4.

I bet if you proposed it to the Beeb they’d have a good look at putting it on. (I can’t know whether any of the people I refer to above would want to show up – don’t know them.)

Take it easy.

Many thanks.

Cheers,

XXXX

Professor Ferguson, who must, by this stage, have had a fairly good idea where his response was going to end up, replied:

Dear XXXX,

Can I point out that I never “predicted” 200m would be killed by bird flu. The Guardian article you refer to was reporting this Nature paper – https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04017

What we looked at was what might unfold if bird flu (H5N1) gained the ability to spread from person to person. A threat which still exists, but not something we can predict the likelihood of happening (or ever tried). As I explained to journalists at the time.

That paper was a small part of a global research effort to improve preparations for a novel influenza pandemic which was stimulated by the emergence of H5N1. Pandemic planning has been a top priority for the UK Government since that time, with a novel pandemic being top of the UK Government risk register.

In relation to Swine flu, I think you are referring to the Dept. of Health reasonable worst case planning scenario which was agreed by SAGE in 2009. Multiple groups input into that, and it was never a prediction (rather it was closer to the upper bound of a confidence interval) – as the name implies – given the data available in April 2009, it quantified the worst case the UK Government might need to plan for. As more data became available, the uncertainty range narrowed and the upper bound on the confidence interval came down, leading the RWC to be revised down. That is how science works.

I would also note that SAGE has never revised the RWC for Covid agreed last March, largely because the severity we estimated for the virus turned out, unfortunately, to be basically spot on.

Best,

Neil

Stop Press: It is now 20 years since 2001’s Foot and Mouth epidemic and to mark the occasion John Lewis Stempel has written an interesting piece in UnHerd.

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook: a Short Review

Professor Ferguson’s first email to a Lockdown Sceptics reader included this link (pdf) to The Conspiracy Theory Handbook by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook. This ruffled a few feathers. After all, who would want to be a conspiracy theorist? Brian Davey, who has read the book, has written an explainer for us.

There’s a lot about the Conspiracy Theory Handbook in today’s LS. A few months ago I wrote a critique of that text – it bugged me that conspiracy theorist had become a phrase that is a “thought stopper” or “thought terminating cliché” to discourage further reflection about a topic. No doubt this is because it used to be the case that conspiracy theorists theorised plots against the elite – e.g. assassination plots. However, from about Kennedy’s assassination onwards “conspiracy theorists” were people who explained events by claiming plots that were organised BY the elite against ordinary people (or against other elite factions).

In this regard, one of the things that really bugged me about Lewandowsky and Cook’s description of what they analyse as a new kind of “thought disorder” is that people who are “conspiracy theorists” have what L and C decide to be an “unreasonable degree of scepticism of official narratives”. However Lewandowsky and Cook do not calibrate that idea. In other words, they do not tell us what a reasonable degree of scepticism of official narratives would be. It is almost as if, in the world of L and C, there is no public relations industry and spin does not exist… Clearly it does. Indeed what Gary Sidley, with justice, complains about – that psychologists now direct the Government’s PR lockdown strategy by deliberately inflating fear and the use of shaming – is not really new. PR has used sophisticated psychological insights ever since Edward Bernays who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. What is happening then is that many otherwise comfortable people are waking up in horror to find themselves on the receiving end of manipulative techniques that have been used for a very long time…

Needless to say, Lewandowsky and Cook have ignored my criticisms which were published by the Irish think tank Feasta.

In conclusion, the so-called “Great Reset” and building back better is a strategy of the global super elite to concentrate economic power and push through a technological and social agenda in response to climate change, biodiversity collapse and resource depletion plus the damage done to the biosphere that is spilling out in new diseases. A considerable part of the people who previously thought of themselves as part of the elite are finding that they are not part of the club and are suddenly outsiders… while the Neil Fergusons’s, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whittys of this world were in the right places at the right times with the connections to hitch a ride on the imaginary strategy of the super elite fantasists like Bill Gates. This elite strategy is not really a conspiracy because it is open and there is no secrecy about their techno fantasies – but people who oppose this delusionary vision of the future for one reason or another have the “thought stopper” conspiracy-theorist label thrown at them. In my view, the super elite strategy is pure fantasy but that’s another story…

A Family Note

Anne Carey, 1920-2021

There follows a post by our regular contributor Guy de la Bédoyère with some sad family news.

This in normal times would be private but I think that under the circumstances it’s worth sharing because I doubt if my wife and I are alone and the point has far wider relevance.

On the night of February 21st/22nd my 100 year-old mother-in-law died in her care home. Although she had deteriorated physically she was mentally very alert and had no dementia. We had last seen her a few days earlier on one of the occasional ‘window visits’ we were permitted, and by today’s standards that was good fortune. She did not die of Covid and the doctor has confirmed that.

My mother-in-law’s long life included the deaths of two husbands and the even more tragic deaths of two of her three children, one as an infant in 1958 and about whom she still often talked. Thanks to the last year’s precautions her final 12 months of life meant that she never hugged or held her only surviving child again, she never saw her four great-grandchildren again and indeed never even met two of them thanks to Covid laws, and had only one or two fleeting visits from the three of her five grandsons who were able to travel from within the UK to see her back in the late summer and autumn. The two who live abroad of course were unable to come at any time in the last year.

She was acutely aware of what she had been denied for the sake of keeping her ‘safe’. I know there will be some who will respond by saying that the precautions over the last year have kept other people like her alive. And that is possibly true. However, the fact remains that people of very advanced ages are by definition not far from death, from whatever cause. For any one of them death can come without warning and they do not have time to spare. My mother-in-law was in her own way just as much a victim of Covid and its fall-out as those who died from the disease and I know she is far from alone.

So many elderly people, whatever the cause of death, Covid included, have spent their last months and weeks in brutal isolation in the name of keeping them safe.

That it has come to this, that we as a society and led by the Government and its scientific advisers with the willing acquiescence of organisations and individuals have done so much to commit the ultimate act of betrayal towards people at the end of their lives will surely go down in history as one of the most ignoble and demeaning aspects of this tragic year. There ought to have been a better way than that. 

My mother-in-law’s last year of life was a hideous punishment. We can only console ourselves with the knowledge that her sadness, loneliness, and despair are over. We as a family, however, and especially my wife will be scarred forever by the experience. Boris’s lethargic lightening of the lockdown is of little use to us right now.

There will be a long time in which all of us will ruminate on the decisions made, but perhaps we can add my mother-in-law’s dismal last days to the ever longer list of things we should make sure never happen again.

Sunday in the Park With Rosie

The weather was good on Sunday and so Lockdown Sceptics reader Rosie Langridge went for a walk in a nearby park, and saw people out, about and relaxed. The trip led her to put some thoughts together on what lockdown sceptics can do to try and help the country readjust to the old normal. It involves getting out and about, talking to people and making social life as ordinary as possible again. Quite simple really.

Sunday being warm and sunny, we set off for the park. Not sure if that was a reasonable excuse or if we were indulging in a criminal activity.

There were crowds of people looking relaxed. Lulled – almost – into a parallel universe where life is as it should be. I wandered through a wide open door into a spacious café and looked around at the piled up tables and chairs, the barricaded display of artwork for sale, and the paintings on the wall. I just ignored the ‘people’ lined up in their masks. The ethical case for expecting me to overcome my aversion is slim. They choose to do it, not me.

I’d entirely forgotten about the one-way system business, and was unaware that I’d come in at the ‘wrong door’. I made my way backwards up the queue until a big burly man moved to block my way and towered over me saying, “There’s a one-way system for a reason,” and then blamed me for having “forced” him to speak to me. His muzzle was bizarrely emblazoned with “Lest we forget”. I nearly managed to remain polite.

But standing there I realised what we lockdown sceptics need to be doing now – our civic duty is to go into public places and behave in an ordinary manner, to show people that human interaction isn’t dangerous, and to re-accustom people to the sight of a human face. Go out and make our parks and streets crowded.

So, having recovered my aplomb, I fixed a cheery smile to my face and set off on our walk, exchanging nods and smiles with anyone who was ready to do so. And there were a lot of people out. It was lovely to see. I exchanged comments along the lines of, “Such a lovely day”, “So lovely to see the children having fun” (NB important!) – plus a few longer exchanges, taking opportunities where I could to talk about the issue of the day.

As an older woman was giving me advice, the man standing by replied that we are in unprecedented times with the pandemic. I said: “What pandemic? We’ve had flu and cold viruses all this time and there’s nothing different about a coronavirus.” The man walked off without even hearing me out. I’m still trying to think of a better reply to the “Unprecedented Times” meme but at least the woman heard my views.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From the Philippines

We’ve been sent another Postcard! This one comes to us from Kyle Helke in Manilla, which has endured one of the longest and strictest lockdowns seen anywhere in the world. From the sound of it, they have done everything we have here, only more so and worse. Here is an extract:

Having lived in both New York and Italy during this time, I thought I had seen it all when it came to lockdown absurdity, but the Philippines are on a whole different level. Upon arrival, you are subjected to a PCR test and then sent to a hotel to quarantine (both at your expense). When we arrived, you were able to leave the hotel and go home to do your mandatory two-week quarantine after receiving your negative test result, but now they don’t even let you do that anymore; you have to remain at the hotel for the two-week duration. We were lucky to be able to move into our employer-provided housing during this time period, but getting food and taking care of other tasks was very difficult. I hate to think of how the less fortunate here manage in the same situation.

Regulations are stricter in Manila because it is the most populated region in the country. Face masks and face shields are mandatory when leaving your home, and you are subjected to temperature checks pretty much everywhere. There has been some push for people to use contact tracing apps, but because there are a plethora of them and the contact tracing system is not really standardised, it’s just really a formality. Most of the time when you enter a restaurant you can opt out of scanning the QR code or using the tracing app and just fill out your information on a sheet of paper. The culture here is one of compliance and rule-following, so no one really cares about the contact tracing stuff as long as they are seen to be following the rules. But, like many developing countries, the rules change frequently and without notice, so because of that everyday is a surprise. In November, we were allowed to bring our toddler to the grocery store; in December, that privilege was rescinded without public notice. One day there are one-way schemes on sidewalks with security admonishing violators by waving a compliance sign in their faces, the next week it could be like none of it ever happened.

The most grievous offence in this country, in my opinion, is the war the Philippine government has waged on children. Mask and face shield mandates are applicable for children two years and up. Children under 15 are technically not allowed to even leave the house, but this is such a young society that a blind eye is often turned on this regulation. For the longest time children under 18 were not allowed out, but I think in recent months the government is realising how unfeasible it is to keep working-age children at home, and they have reduced the age restriction to 15. However, children are still barred from restaurants, malls, and similar commercial establishments. Naturally, this also means children are not allowed in school, as it has been the case since March when the lockdown began. All learning is either done online, or, for public schools, through textbooks and workbook exercises that the schools drop off and pick up monthly at each family’s home. Every now and then there are a few articles in the news about getting kids back in schools, but I think this is just to placate the public; most people think this situation will go on until the end of the school year, and even into the next. All of this, of course, because the Government here – with the support of the Philippine Pediatric Society – is convinced that children are asymptomatic ‘superspreaders’ and therefore a grave threat to public health, which they base on numerous ‘scientific studies’. At this point, this country is one of the few in the world where children are not in some type of in-person school. How the Government here can know this and not be consumed by embarrassment and shame is beyond me.

This is an excellent postcard. Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Sixteen today: “Mixed Signals” by Robbie Williams, “Roadmap to Revolution” by Oceans on Mars, “From Safety to Where” by Joy Division, “Fear Loves This Place” by Julian Cope, “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Big A, Little A” by Crass, “Mighty and Superior” by Conflict, “What’s Another Year” by Shane MacGowan, “A History of Bad Men” by the Melvins, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by the Animals, “Detention Home” by the Dead Boys, “Ain’t Nothing To Do” by Dead Boys, “Road to Ruin” by the Libertines, “Storm the Reality Asylum” by Rip Rig and Panic, “People Have The Power” by Patti Smith and “Running Scared” by Roy Orbison

Love in the Time of Covid

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Bonnie and Clyde

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 a hitherto under-considered method of reducing the COVID-19 infection rate in the US: Reparations for Slavery. Happily a peer-reviewed study by researchers from the Harvard Medical School has now hit upon this solution as Cockburn notes in Spectator US.

To defeat coronavirus, America didn’t need a vaccine. It just had to pay every black person in the country $250,000.

This remarkable finding comes from the intrepid minds of Harvard Medical School. In their paper, 11 elite health professionals claim that reparations for slavery would have radically reduced US infections and death rates from coronavirus.

To reach its conclusion, the study compares coronavirus infection rates in Louisiana with the country of South Korea, where coronavirus was largely quashed. Now, Cockburn can think of many differences between South Korea and Louisiana – he has never thrown up into a garbage can in Seoul, for starters – but for all their PhDs Harvard’s experts are remarkably simpleminded on the topic. The paper says nothing about South Korea’s conformist culture, its intense xenophobia, its high education levels, or its low obesity rate. No, it’s the equity, stupid: South Korea is more equal than Louisiana. It didn’t have slavery. So a few hundred thousand in reparations and Louisiana would be just like South Korea.

The paper’s scientific pretensions fray towards the end, when its authors collectively turn toward the reader and tell them that, if they want to reopen the country without erecting socialism, they might as well bring back Jim Crow:

“Since reparations have not been enacted, however, ‘reopening’ American society early (after coronavirus-forced shutdowns) had a disproportionate adverse mortality effect on Black people, an effect that was predictable. Therefore, de facto, it resembles a modern Tuskegee experiment, since massive wealth redistribution could have averted these deaths, just as penicillin to treat syphilis would have averted deaths in the nearby state of Alabama.

That’s some real science right there. Would one-off reparations payments really change American inequality long-term? How can anyone possibly predict the sociopolitical ramifications of the most dramatic wealth transfer in the history of the United States? Isn’t it irresponsible and an abuse of the scientific method to create a ‘model’ where virtually every variable is simply made up?

Stop Press: Merseyside Police has apologised after driving through Wirral with a poster on a van proclaiming that “being offensive is an offence”. from the BBC.

Merseyside Police has apologised for claiming “being offensive is an offence” as part of a campaign to encourage people to report hate crime.

The force came under fire over the weekend after the message appeared on a billboard in Wirral.

It has since clarified that while hate crime is an offence, “being offensive is not in itself an offence”.

A spokesman added the poster was “well intentioned” by the local policing team in Wirral but it was “incorrect”.

The message on the billboard sparked criticism over whether being offensive constituted a crime.

The Telegraph also has a report of the episode in which Toby is quoted:

It’s deeply alarming that Merseyside Police have such a poor grasp of the law. As Lord Justice Sedley said in a landmark case in 1999, “Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”

The Free Speech Union has written to Merseyside Police asking for assurance that they have not interviewed or arrested anyone for this imaginary crime.

Needless to say, Titania McGrath was thrilled to discover that being offensive is now a criminal offence.

Stop Press 2: The Salisbury Review has a good think piece on the Nigerian actress who was was dropped from her role as Celie in the musical version of The Colour Purple after another actor dug up a five year-old Facebook post in which, as a Christian, she had expressed her view that homosexuality is a sin.

Stop Press 3: We do, occasionally, like to post links to arguments being made by people on the other side of the aisle. Responding to Gavin Williamson’s recent proposals for strengthening free speech protections in universities, Arianne Shahvisi argues that the Goverment has conjured up an imaginary problem to distract its supporters from its abject failures of the past 12 months.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Boris’s roadmap involves secondary school pupils wearing masks in classroom. A senior teacher at school in London has sent us some thoughts.

It was already clear in the autumn term that the wearing of masks in the corridors and communal spaces had the effect of maintaining the idea that there was a crisis.  Seeing hordes of kids with masks over their faces was a genuinely dystopian sight. But at least we didn’t have to put up with that nonsense in the classroom. Now, it seems, we do. Put aside for a moment the peculiarity of insisting on a further restrictive measure as part of your ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, and at a time when you are trumpeting the success of the vaccines. The real nightmare is the de-humanising effect that masks have. To obscure the bulk of your face in an environment that is meant to encourage social participation is the worst possible measure. If you want to reduce your children to suppressed, voiceless drones, then masking them up is the best way to do it. Ignore for a moment the health hazards of an increasingly damp, germ filled bit of material across your respiratory systems all day long. Ignore, if you can, the environmental knock-back of millions of disused, disposable masks. What the mask really does is symbolise your liability as a human being. Only by somehow becoming less human are you allowed to exist in the Covid-mad world, and masking in classrooms will bring that message home to school pupils better than anything else.

Boris Johnson and his inadequate crew of wilting ministers may have added the mask mandate for classrooms as a further sop to the anti-education teaching unions. For them, it is just another minor measure in the destruction of society that they are so determined to achieve. For children in school, they may start to wonder whether the return was really worth it, as they exchange a screen for a mask and get no nearer to proper human interaction.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

London Calling is back! After a one-week hiatus due to technical difficulties (one of them forgot to press the record button), Toby and James Delingpole are back to have a good old moan about the roadmap, Harry and Meghan’s ungracious exit from the Royal Family and the horrors of children having to wear masks in schools.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

It’s Roadmap Day

Peter Schrank’s cartoon in the Sunday Times on February 21st, 2021

Today is the big day. First in the House of Commons then later in a Downing Street Press Conference, Boris is expected to unveil the long-awaited roadmap, which will detail the route out of lockdown. The Daily Mail has something of a preview.

The first steps to freedom from lockdown will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families, Boris Johnson said last night.

In two weeks, on March 8th, you will be able to meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic.

On the same date, all pupils will return to the classroom as part of the first of four steps towards getting the country back on its feet.

Unveiling his long-awaited roadmap today, the Prime Minister will announce that on March 29th, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed – enabling families and friend groups to meet properly for the first time in months.

That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.

But in a blow to many families, they will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest.

Still a fair amount of time left to spend watching Netflix then. Why so slow? Katy Balls has some analysis in the Spectator. It seems that being criticised in the media and elsewhere for coming out of the spring and autumn lockdown too quickly – and for being prematurely optimistic that each lockdown would be the last – has made Boris ultra-cautious. He wants to avoid any more U-turns if he possibly can.

When Boris Johnson stands at the despatch box on Monday afternoon to unveil his roadmap for ending the lockdown, those hoping for a big bang moment in ending restrictions will be left disappointed. Instead, the Prime Minister will announce a very gradual easing of the lockdown stretching to the summer – with Johnson reserving the right to make it even slower should the data go the wrong way. Having been stung by previous promises to avoid further lockdowns, the roadmap will be more cautious than members of the Conservative party’s Covid Recovery Group would like…

When it comes to the timescale, should deaths and hospitalisations plummet the Prime Minister is still keen to have a period of a few weeks between each easing to see the effect it has on the data. As a result, even if things appear to be going better than expected, it could be a long wait for a full reopening. There will be four tests for easing the lockdown at each stage: 1. Vaccine rollout going as planned 2. The vaccine is driving down deaths and hospitalisations in the way expected 3. The infection rate is one that doesn’t risk the NHS being overwhelmed 4. New variants do not change the risk assessment. 

So one bit of good news: the number of infections doesn’t appear to be one of the tests, provided there’s no risk of the NHS being overwhelmed. Does this mean the Zero Covid fanatics have been shown the door? We can but hope.

Worth reading Katy’s piece in full.

The Telegraph has interviewed some of the people most badly affected by the lockdown and they are in no doubt that it must end ASAP.

Lifting lockdown can’t come soon enough for many across the country. While the tragic cost of the pandemic in terms of lives lost has frequently been foregrounded, the cost of the ongoing restrictions has been harder to quantify and often overlooked.

Business owners, mental health and education experts, families, sport coaches and care home managers are now pleading with the Prime Minister to recognise this toll and allow safe reopening as soon as possible.

Michael Caines, chef/patron of Lympstone Manor, Devon

I don’t think it’s extreme, nor is it scaremongering, to say that the hospitality industry is teetering on the edge.

My flagship is Lympstone Manor, a contemporary hotel within an historic country manor house in East Devon, with a vineyard and Michelin-starred restaurant. I’m all set to open another, in Exmouth, which is ready to go. I’m just waiting for the nod from the Government. So much depends on what measures the Prime Minister unveils in his roadmap on Monday…

Sarah Lloyd, 40, mother-of-two from in Farnborough, Hampshire

I have hit absolute burnout. My husband works full-time from home and I run my own business, Indigo Soul PR, while we simultaneously try to homeschool our two daughters, aged seven and five.

It has affected all four of us badly. My two girls are just so pent up and angry all the time, and at one point were even refusing to go out for a walk because they were so upset. They usually get on so well, but at the moment it’s constant tantrums and fights because they just feel so pent up. I really worry about the long-term impact on their mental health…

Sarah Gillow, owner, Galio jewellers, George Street, St Albans

Sarah Gillow opened her high street jeweller in the midst of a recession in 1992. Neither that nor the ups and downs of the intervening years could have prepared her for the brutality of lockdowns, however. 

“It’s hit us really hard,” she said, having had to cut staff and watch her sales slide over the latest year…

Business was good between June and November, but lockdown number three came as a major blow. “I never dreamt in a million years that the Government was going to shut us down just before Christmas,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Come on Boris. The vaccine roll out is going better than anyone could have expected. The weather is good. Foot to the floor!

Stop Press: The Telegraph has a detailed overview of when the different stages of the roadmap are likely to occur.

Derek Winton Responds to Neil Ferguson

Yesterday, we published Professor Neil Ferguson’s reply to a reader who sent him Derek Winton’s critique of the Imperial College modelling. Derek sent us this response.

I’m not sure of the protocol for responding to an email from a third party to another third party but given that the initial article was published on Lockdown Sceptics perhaps it’s appropriate for the follow up to be published there too.

I should start by saying I don’t suspect any sinister intent on the part of Professor Ferguson or believe he’s part of a conspiracy. As someone with a background in the hard sciences who also got their start in the heyday of British ‘bedroom coders’ I even feel a certain amount of kinship.

To me this is a governance issue. Decisions on pandemic response strategies affect millions of lives and in my (hopefully not unreasonable) opinion should be based on the very highest quality of information and subject to the highest level of scrutiny.

In my article I made eight substantive claims, summarised below:

  1. The Imperial model was influential in the decision to pursue a lockdown strategy.
  2. The research for ‘Report 9’ was not peer reviewed.
  3. The model was not documented.
  4. Professor Ferguson apparently has no formal training in computer modelling, medicine or epidemiology.
  5. Projections of death tolls from the same team in previous epidemics had been out by several orders of magnitude.
  6. The code was of poor quality from a legibility stand point.
  7. The model is an attempt to model a highly complex (and therefore highly sensitive) system but omits at least one key variable.
  8. Projections based on the Imperial model for Sweden were out by a factor of seven and therefore the model was not fit for purpose.

Leaving aside the link to The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, Professor Ferguson does not appear to dispute any of these points. Instead, he points out that other models made equivalent predictions and the report I cite for predictions on Sweden did not in fact use the Imperial model. It’s tempting to say at this point that the prosecution rests but of course we should allow Professor Ferguson the chance to rebut any of the above points.

Professor Ferguson does raise some points though that raise even more questions. Taking them in turn:

1) The Imperial model was influential in the decision to pursue a lockdown strategy

Other Models

Professor Ferguson points out that several other models, upon which the Government relied “all agreed”.

The models written by LSHTM, Warwick University and Institut Pasteur Paris all agreed with “the” Imperial model. All used different code bases.

And in fact, there was never  “one” Imperial model, but several. We now have 4 different COVID models, again which all agree.

Where are the code bases, designs, documentation and assumptions for these models? Given that the Imperial model was considered the gold standard, couldn’t we be forgiven for having concerns about these models too?

What exactly is meant by the term ‘agree’? Do they predict the same death tolls in all of the scenarios modelled in Report 9? If not, by how much do they vary?

The ‘reality’

Professor Ferguson also states that:

Government responses… were driven by the reality that any disease which generates epidemics which double every 3-4 days and for which over 2% of those infected require hospitalisation will overwhelm any health system that exists.”

[Emphasis mine]

This is what philosophers would call question begging, i.e., assuming what we are trying to prove. Of course if we assume the epidemic doubles every 3-4 days indefinitely, any health service would be overwhelmed. The critical question for the Government was to determine whether the epidemic would continue to double every 3-4 days and for how long, and it was this question that the computer modellers purported to answer.

8) Projections based on the Imperial model for Sweden were out by a factor of seven

Professor Ferguson claims that “no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us)”. Here he is absolutely correct. Indeed, it is impossible for anyone outside of the Imperial team to run the exact model (used to generate Report 9) as the original source code was never released.

It’s surely reasonable to ask then: If the team did indeed model Sweden, what did they find?

We have created a separate page for Derek Winton’s response and stuck it on the right-hand side beneath Prof Ferguson’s response filed under “How Reliable is the Modelling?”

Other Readers’ Responses

A number of Lockdown Sceptics readers were intrigued by Professor Ferguson’s reply, and indeed by his inclusion of a link to The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. One reader, who has been published here before, even went so far as to send us a line by line analysis of his email.

I was interested to see Professor Neil Ferguson’s reply to one of your readers. I was surprised he had replied, but no less surprised that anyone had bothered to write to him.

Now, I think it’s a bit unfair to write to someone and then publish that person’s reply, especially if it hadn’t been made clear the reply would be published. However, it has been, and I suppose anyone in public life would have to be naïve to believe that anything they say is immune to being disseminated more widely.

I thought it would be interesting therefore to analyse the reply.

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

Here we have an assumption of motive. The writer, who is a woman, is depicted as having become emotional (‘angry, upset’), seeing herself as a frustrated victim (‘no-one is listening’), aggressive (‘want to hurt me’) and manipulative (‘want… to change my mind’). Therefore, the original email is dismissed as having come from someone who is behaving irrationally and antagonistically. This is not an especially surprising opening gambit because it is designed immediately to create the impression that the original writer has lost control in some way and therefore by implication that Professor Ferguson is in contrast a rational being who is still in control of himself.

What is odd is that the email he’s responding to just asked him whether he’d seen Derek Winton’s article, but Professor Ferguson, at this point, makes no mention of that. He has responded initially only by seeking to diminish the sender. However, he has only just started.

I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

This is an interesting paragraph. Firstly, it involves telling the sender that he, Professor Ferguson, is a member of a strong gang consisting of “colleagues and friends”. This means that the sender is attacking the gang, and here he reinforces the idea that the sender is talking rubbish by referring to the way that such emails normally get “dumped into junk folders”. The implication is therefore that even email client algorithms are able to detect such emails as automatically worthless.

Secondly, the listing of gang members is designed to be intimidating, reminding the writer that his assault is against a powerful cabal of highly-qualified people who by being “friends’”will therefore act together to protect each other. Such is their status that they don’t even “notice [these emails] any more”. This is an important way of maximizing the distance between the writer and Professor Ferguson.

We thought this fisking of Ferguson’s email was so good we’ve stuck it in the right-hand menu, where you can read it in full.

Other readers got in touch with additional matters they’d like to see put to Professor Ferguson’s comments. One, for example, flagged up the question of seasonality, which as Nottingham University Student Glen Bishop recently wrote in Lockdown Sceptics, was not considered by the Imperial Model.

He has four models and they all agree, as do various other academic models. Well, colour me convinced. I would however bet a meal for four at the Fat Duck that they all assume NPIs work and that none of them model either seasonality or partial pre-existing immunity.

Our reader also pointed out that Ferguson…

wrote about “epidemics that double every 3-4 days”. I’m not aware of any time-point where SARS-CoV2 was doubling that fast, whether in positive tests, hospitalisations or deaths.

In any event, if the epidemic had doubled every 3.5 days and starting with one case, then everyone in the UK would be infected in three months (and the entire world population around 24 days later). Since we probably started with at least 1,000 imported cases that falls to 56 days for the UK population to succumb in its entirety.

Another reader got in touch with a straightforward point about the inaccuracy of the modelling.

 I suggest that someone email Mr. Ferguson and ask if he can thus explain why all of the models presented on October 31st failed to match what really happened, as shown in the graph presented and update daily in the Spectator.

Neil Ferguson’s Original Correspondent Responds – and He Responds Again!

The reader who originally wrote to Prof Ferguson has herself replied to his email – and he, in turn, replied to her, and she then replied to that.

Here is their exchange in full.

Dear Professor Ferguson,

I was surprised to get a reply to my email – but frankly amazed to read the content of the link you sent me. Is that really the best you can do? Do you respond to other scientists’ theories by shutting them down by yelling ‘conspiracy theorist’? Instead of engaging with the central tenet of the argument, that your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris model might be wrong, you call me a conspiracy theorist. That is very odd and suggests to me it’s you that have developed a very warped sense of reality and that maybe you do not understand what is going on in people’s lives. We look at ONS/NHS data every day on cases/hospitalisations/deaths, not wild theories.

So let me speak from personal experience. I have 21 year-old twins, studying at Bristol (Economics) and Montpellier (Year abroad) respectively. Their lives are relatively rubbish at the moment, no enjoyment of the university life for which my daughter at Bristol is paying £18K a year. My son is living under a curfew. But I accept, not a disaster. Their friend killed himself while incarcerated as a student last year. He was in despair.

Just this week we heard of the suicide of a lovely man my husband met at the gym, a Tunisian. He worked as a waiter, so I guess he had financial worries.

We help a Syrian Refugee family in the town. Two children, aged six and 12. In the summer we realised that all the progress they had made at their excellent primary school was slipping away and that the 12 year-old was losing his English (they speak Arabic at home) so we started doing lessons at our house for the mum and the two children. We realised that the boy was virtually illiterate. His parents had been so terrorised by the fear porn churned out by the government (acting on your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris models) that they would not send the children back to school even though they were ‘allowed’, being in Years 1 and 6. He then started at the local High school, has got into fights, been bullied and I fear for his future. His life chances have been damaged by having his education denied to him by this government relying on the models mentioned above. Of course our weekly lessons had to stop. Online learning started. The family did not have a laptop. The Government agencies that get paid handsomely to do so could not provide a laptop, so we set up a charity to recycle laptops to deprived children.

We’ve helped him and 178 other children in our nice leafy middle-class Stratford-on-Avon. I wonder what it’s like in Middlesborough, Fleetwood, Great Yarmouth? Multiply my young Syrian friend’s experience by literally millions and you start to approach the truth (not a conspiracy theory!) of the world that you have been key in ushering in (and of course LSHTM, Warwick University and the Institut Pasteur Paris). So many young people’s lives will be poorer, in so many ways. My point is this is real world stuff, not theory (either your theory or a conspiracy theory).

Me and my husband both have widowed mothers. His mum is 94 – one of the last years of her life has been lived in almost total isolation. She has 14 grandchildren who are (should read, were) very involved in her life, regularly travelling 2.5 hours+ to visit her in Suffolk. All stopped. She’s living life as a husk. Both her and my mother’s mobility have seriously declined, because they do not go out any more, due to lockdown (not the virus). My mum is I’d say typical of a lot of 87 year-olds. She’s reasonably intelligent, used to be a teacher. She lives alone in the house she’s lived in for the last 63 years. It is completely in the ‘back of beyond’. The house sits atop a sea wall and the nearest land mass looking west is Ireland. The Irish Sea hits the house at high tide. She is miles from anywhere and has no part of community life. She isn’t online and gets all her news from the BBC (refusing a newspaper in case “it’s on it”– the virus). The house is for sale as it’s a mad place for an 87 year-old to live in but she won’t allow any viewings – you can guess why. Her mobility is also much reduced and she is desperately lonely. I haven’t seen her in over a year. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s my mum’s life. She lives like this because of the messaging from the Government, acting as a result of modelling by you/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris. The aim of the Government was to terrify the population. I do hope you of all people do not think that this is a conspiracy theory. I’ve read the relevant minutes from Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) on March 22nd 2020 which says among other things:

A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent using hard-hitting emotional messaging

Use media to increase sense of personal threat

Perhaps you think the 47 signatories to this petition are also conspiracy theorists? The BIT feeds into SAGE – so count yourself as part of all this – and together they have set out to terrorise us – and you’ve done such a brilliant job that people like my mum (who has had her first vaccine) is unlikely ever to resume normal life again. Her house won’t sell and we’ll have the same horrendous problems trying to get carers for her as we did for my dad four years ago – except that unlike him, he had mum, she’ll be alone. Just telling you what real life looks like.

Do you get it? You might live a nice comfortable life as an academic. I too want for nothing (apart from normality). I am sufficiently well off to shield my three children from the coming, shall we call them, difficulties. It’s the ‘left behind’, the marginalised, the poor, the lonely elderly, the millions upon millions of dirt poor people in the developing world that keeps me awake at night. So yes, I’m angry. But you call me the conspiracy theorist! Do you not see reports like this: 270 million marching towards starvation (perhaps they too are infected with conspiracy theories?). This isn’t the virus that’s caused this, it’s lockdowns. First World lockdowns have a terrible impact on the the Third/Developing world – I don’t think that’s in contention. Surely you can see that? Even if you didn’t foresee it as a consequence.

Or this in the Lancet: 94 million children at risk of not getting their measles vaccine (perhaps the Lancet is in on the conspiracy?)

Maybe if you, Whitty, Valance, Drosten, Farrar and Edmunds are all merrily putting communications in your junk folder you really are totally unaware of what is happening in the real world? Pause: think: what if they are right? What if only half of what I say is right? I thought scientists were supposed to welcome their theories being challenged? I thought that’s how they are tested. You describe me as being “sucked into” an “alternate reality” – and that is precisely my beef – you are the one living in a land of modelled theories – I am the one asking you to look at my reality – the ‘on the ground Real World’ data. What has happened in countries which didn’t/couldn’t lock down? Yes, look at Sweden, though it obviously pains you do to do so. How to explain its death rate? Or Texas? Or Brazil? Or Belarus? How is that a conspiracy? Is the FT in on the conspiracy? Worldometers? Perhaps the health reporting agencies are in on it too!

I might not be an epidemiologist but it’s fairly obvious to me that your model (and that of Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris) is out by several orders of magnitude and the fact that you resort to calling people who disagree with it “conspiracy theorists” only serves to illustrate how far down the rabbit hole you have fallen. Oh, and what is wrong in pointing out that you have made the self-same error with Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Foot and Mouth? Or do you dispute those figures when you say I’m quoting the “same old misinformation”? Are all those reporting your past predictions v the actuality also in on the conspiracy?

I loathe this Government and its key players in this, the worst mistake the world has ever made. You – I would say that you are obviously a decent human being and I wonder if you do not see that you are going to be hung out to dry by those chancers running this operation. Just look at their record – the failed Test and Trace, the corruption, the care home deaths, the infection rate in hospitals – you have hitched your star to the worst Government we have ever had but unfortunately it will forever be your name attached to ‘The Science’ that drove them. If you can’t see that then you are not as clever as we all were led to believe. You and Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris have made the biggest mistake of all time and in my view the sooner you accept it and try and proffer some sort of explanation the better. The truth might be able to be suppressed in our society now so bereft of free speech, but it will come out – starting in other countries.

I find it unfathomable that you/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris were listened to, the Pandemic Preparedness Plan thrown away and we embarked on lockdowns, with the rest of the world following. Perhaps you could do some good at this late stage by trying to get the mass-testing/False Positive Rate sorted out (by following the WHO’s guidelines, for instance) otherwise we are never going to get out of this mess. My husband drew this up – from Government data.

Sorry for the long email. The conclusion I’ve reached that it’s you that is living in some parallel universe if you think that I am the conspiracy theorist. The world lies in tatters because of your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris theory.

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading.

XXXX

Surprisingly, Neil Ferguson replied.

Dear XXXX

I would start by asking whether you really think I and my colleagues are unaware of the social and economic consequences of societal restrictions? Every life lost is a tragedy, whatever the cause. And I absolutely agree that this pandemic – and the measures adopted – have hit the poorest hardest.

But I wonder what you think motivates me and my (many hundreds of) fellow scientists who have been working on this pandemic for over a year? It certainly isn’t publicity or a desire to impose draconian rules on society. Nor do I have any love of lockdown restrictions myself, personally or ideologically. I don’t know anyone who does. Rather, we are trying to learn as much as possible about the epidemiology of this virus and how best to limit its health impacts.

The judgement call on the balance between compulsory measures and voluntary recommendations is a political one, but the effectiveness of each is likely culturally specific. Sweden made one set of choices, Denmark and Norway another. The result is that Sweden has had fewer restrictions overall, but has had 3-4x the per capita death toll of its neighbours. Our death toll is higher still not because we over-reacted, but because we introduced measures too late last March, and then repeated the mistake last autumn. And because of factors which were just bad luck – the level of seeding last February and the new variant last November.

As for the UK, what are you really suggesting the Government should have done back in December in response to the new variant and the overwhelming levels of hospital demand seen in London and elsewhere? Let people continue to go about their normal business as thousands died at home or on hospital corridors, as is happening in Mexico?

And to reassure you, we track the pandemic globally. And have a significant research programme comparing how different countries have responded. I am a bit surprised you point to Brazil as a success story though. And if you highlight Belarus, why not China?

I am also aware that there is a continuum between scepticism and outright conspiracy theory craziness. But some of the “facts” you and the lockdown sceptics throw out are tending towards the latter category. Remember the claims that there would be no second wave and that we were just experiencing a “casedemic”?

False positive rates are not a major issue at present. We are aware they will need to be accounted for more in future though. Also, while every suicide is tragic, there is no evidence that the suicide rate has increased in the last year. I am actually much more worried about all the cancer diagnoses and treatments which were postponed in the last few months due to Covid-related NHS demand.

I certainly agree there are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic – including regarding test and trace (especially early on) and care homes. I do not see myself as a Government cheerleader. Indeed, one of the depressing aspects of the discourse around this pandemic is the politicisation of science.

Best,

Neil

Our reader then replied to Prof Ferguson.

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your considered response.

I suspect you epidemiologists are told that there will be economic and other consequences of the lockdowns but I, and many others, think you have got the balance wrong. The precautionary principle has overtaken acceptable risk. I was quite taken aback by your link to the conspiracy theory website, which does make me worry that reasonable suggestions are being rebuffed by you and people like you as “crazy conspiracy theories”. I hope you would concede that I have made some valid points to you about the outcomes of lockdowns.

You asked in your first reply what would I have done, dealing with a disease that would see 2% in hospital. Nowhere in the world have cases continued to grow “exponentially”, regardless of the level of NPIs imposed. My point is (and I rely on real world data to support it) that you and your colleagues have concentrated on the 2% to the enormous disbenefit of the other 98% and society in general. We might argue what the IFR is but whether it’s 10 in a 1,000 or two in a 1,000, the BBC and government ministers have focused too much on the (let’s settle for four in 1,000) fatalities rather than 996 recoveries. The result is a terrorised population, lacking the ability to get the risks into perspective and the very real long term threat that people will never get back to normal for fear of flu or other seasonal illnesses. We can’t all live forever.

How can you argue against the fact that other countries do illuminate what could happen if a different approach to NPIs were taken? That NPIs (or lack thereof) made very little difference to Covid health outcomes and that the disease didn’t grow exponentially in those countries, such as Vietnam, India and Japan? Are you suggesting all the data I’ve been looking at – Euromomo, the FT, Worldometers – are somehow presenting false information? How does that make me and other sceptics (not deniers, obviously!) conspiracy theorists? It does rather suggest an over sensitivity on your part.

Yes, I overlooked the cancers/other missed health treatments (so many other horrors to mention). A year down the line, do you not consider that the cure is going to be worse than the disease, in cancer/missed treatments alone, quite apart from the other societal/economic/libertarian damage

By the way, which ‘fact’ in my email makes you think I am on the side of conspiracy theory craziness? I think that we should have lived with a greater degree of risk and that in fact you have opened a Pandora’s Box of fear and risk aversion which is going to be a constant plague. Though with a trashed economy, I’m not sure how it’s going to be paid for, if we are to have annual lockdowns. I think that we should have dealt with it differently, by following the Pandemic Preparedness Plan, by shielding the vulnerable (think: Great Barrington Declaration). It might have seemed an impossible task but it is nothing compared to what we have done. We’ll never agree that the NPIs delivered a step change in outcome – but as I said, those who disagree with you can point to countries which didn’t use them/used them lightly and observe that the death rates were much the same as those who did lock down. I guess my point is that if your (and all the other institutions you mention) model were to be tested against these countries, your modelled response would be very far apart from what actually happened. Is that calling it wrong? Or just out by several factors.

We’ve infantilised the population, created an enormous health crisis and trashed the economy. We’ve turned a once-in-40-years health crisis into a cataclysmic health/economic/political/societal disaster. I agree I don’t know what part your input played in these decisions, but I know that you are so frequently on our airwaves some people think you were pretty instrumental.

But thank you for your time in engaging with me.

Best wishes

XXXX

COVID-19 UK Strategy: Have We Got It Wrong and at What Cost?

Cases in Florida have declined at the same rate as they have in the UK, in spite of no stay-at-home orders in the autumn or winter

Today we’re publishing an original essay by Sarah Williamson BSc Dip ION (Dist.), a nutritional therapist with a degree in economics. Now that nearly a year has passed since the country adopted the strategy described at the time as “three weeks to flatten the curve”, Sarah investigates why we did what we did, the key factors that truly explain the peak in cases that we saw in Spring 2020, and crucially whether lockdowns actually stop or slow the infection (Spoiler alert: not really). Finally, she takes a look at the cost.

Coronavirus, a year ago, seemed like something peculiar to Wuhan in China – Oh! How we might long for those days. Since then, like most countries across the world, the UK has pursued a strategy that began with “three weeks to flatten the curve” and has stretched out to restrictions for the best part of a year?

The aim of the UK strategy was to postpone COVID-19 deaths until an effective vaccine became available and to reduce the likelihood of the NHS becoming overwhelmed, allowing surgeries and treatments to continue. The mantra has been “Save lives; protect the NHS”. The real question now is did we save lives and protect the NHS? The question we need to answer is not are the hospitals busy, but did our strategy help reduce hospitalisations and deaths?

Our aim should be saving the most lives, not just COVID-19-positive lives and reducing NHS admissions.

What did the WHO guidelines for a pandemic recommend and why did we do something else?

In October 2019, the WHO guidelines for a respiratory pandemic suggested the following – regular hand washing, respiratory etiquette (i.e. don’t cough or sneeze on people), face masks for symptomatic people, regular cleaning of surfaces, open windows and doors and isolate the sick.

Contact tracing, once the disease has taken hold, was not recommended. The quarantine of exposed individuals was not advised. Border closures were not recommended. School closures were advised only under extreme circumstances and only after careful consideration of the consequences for the wider community. Lockdown of healthy individuals was not mentioned.

So where did the idea come from? Did we import the idea from the Chinese, who exported pictures of a ghostlike Wuhan? Was it this, coupled with the fear generated by the press stories of a ‘killer virus’ spreading uncontrolled throughout the world? No longer in far off China, but now here, in Europe. With reports of deaths in all age groups – no-one was safe. The ‘three weeks of restrictions to flatten the curve’ seemed at least reasonable to most, whilst hospitals geared up.

Who did it affect and why did we have such a peak in spring 2020?

SARS-CoV-2 is recognised as a seasonal virus, like many other corona viruses responsible for the common cold. In the UK in the spring the virus spread rapidly killing the vulnerable, particularly those in care homes, causing a highly unusual spike in deaths.

Notably the viral transmission rate, from the moment we started charting it, appears to have already been decelerating (this was highlighted by Nobel prize winner Sir Michael Levitt). This is a mathematical proof, one that is easy to reproduce, for example plotting the difference in the natural logarithm of the weekly fatal infections in London.

A good summary of the sceptics’ case. Very much worth reading in full.

Postcard from Bali

Georgie Day on a beach in Bali

We have a new addition to our collection of postcards from around the world to add to the growing number on the right-hand side. We originally called this “Around the World in 80 Lockdowns” but at this rate we’ll end up with more than 80 postcards. This one comes to us from Georgie Day, a digital nomad who is now “stuck” in Bali. The Covid world has intruded somewhat on Indonesia’s Paradise Island – it’s brought masks, curfews and widespread temperature checks – and yet Bali still seems like a very nice place to be.

Despite this global pandemic, widespread anxiety and fear, I do feel out here that my life has become incredibly uncomplicated and very simple and I’m not sure if it’s the Bali Effect. My mental load feels exceedingly stripped back I seem to have found clarity and direction in the stillness of allowing myself to not be stressed, pushing, doing, thinking. 

The Bali lifestyle can be frustrating at times. But the ‘expat’ community, to date largely comprised of ‘digital nomads’ – a new term referring to the nomadic (non-locals) with digital occupations (jobs/work/income that relies almost entirely on functioning wi-fi and a laptop) – maintain the buzz of a semi-Western ‘societal norm’ in this eclectic fusion of creative, tropical paradise Neverland. The traditional Balinese culture sings through in the beautiful acts of faithful devotion, frequent ceremonies at the religious temples, daily offerings to the spirits, respectful dress and appropriate uniform. However, the beautiful third-world nature during this time can sometimes miss the mark, as in order to dodge a hefty monetary fine, we can do push-ups or sing a song if caught by the Banjar (local mafia/police) driving around without a mask on.

I’m still not sure what to make of my current reality. Despite needing to wear a mask, sanitise hands and temperature check at the entrance of every establishment, to have access to the amazing world created for transient Bali holiday-makers here in this tourist town, with no traffic, queues, and at discounted rates and daily food deals as businesses battle to maintain their customer flow off the remaining Westerners of Bali. Currently, lockdown laws also enforce a 9pm (just moved from 8pm) curfew, where everything must close, hence the early to bed, early rise routine (yes, happy hours now just start at 2pm!).

I have to often pinch myself, as Bali right now really is a scene in itself. Only here could I be sitting in a Swedish inspired and owned cafe sipping an almond Matcha latte whilst cows roam the streets and the neighbouring plot of land, or driving my motorbike across the island to a New Moon ceremony after shooting for a bikini label on the beach all day. Where I get my need-to-know news updates from Instagram profiles and Tinder is obsolete if you have an Amo Spa or Body Factory membership.

I must admit it continues to surprise me that despite all the creative talent residing here currently (photographers, videographers, designers, branding and marketing creatives, models), and all the #content available, that there has not yet been a Netflix Originals reality series created on The Life of a Digital Nomad in Bali during COVID-19. (Any takers? I’ll hook you up!)

Worth reading in full.

Round Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Eighteen today: “Unhappy Anniversary” by Vitamin C, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” by Judy Garland, “Into The Light” by Mariana Bell, “Plan B” by Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “I Can Hardly Stand It” by the Cramps, “Take Me Home Country Roads” by Toots and the Maytals, “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” by Ella Fitzgerald, “I Wanna Rule The World” by 10cc, “Wastelands” by Suede, “Bad Day” by R.E.M, “In A Rut” by the Ruts, “Hole in My Life” by the Police, “Strange World” by Iron Maiden, “2+2=5” by Radiohead, “Everyday Is A Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow and “The Final Countdown” by Europe.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 a recent paper in the British Dental Journal which seeks to address racial inequalities in dental education. How should we do that? By decolonising the dental curriculum, obviously.

Like other healthcare professions, dentistry has a historical legacy of being conceptualised as a ‘white’ profession. Despite a growing population of students in higher education including medicine and dentistry, there are stark ethnic disparities in UK academic employment and approximately 76% of academic faculty and staff members identified as white, 9% as Asian and 2% as Black. This is also reflected in the low proportion of minority ethnic dental academics in senior posts in UK dental schools.

Ethnic disparities in turn may influence the power relations and academic hierarchies in dental schools and pose an impediment to proportional representation of minority ethnic staff and students in institutional strategy and decision-making processes. Data from medical schools also highlight that students tend to accept that career progression may be dependent on their capacity to tolerate intimidation and they may not feel confident in questioning the underlying power relations and rules of engagement…

Decolonisation of dental curricula needs to be considered in a psychosocial context. Racial inequalities in dental education have a negative impact on the educational experiences of students from minority ethnic groups and may contribute to poor educational experiences and attainment gaps, and pose barriers to career progression. Lack of representation of minority ethnic groups in dental curricula can also translate into disparities in patient care for minority ethnic groups, with far-reaching implications for their health and wellbeing.  If dental schools are to make meaningful progress on decolonisation of curricula, it would require: a systematic review of the existing governance structure; appropriate representation and empowerment of minority ethnic staff and students in existing committee memberships; and treating decolonisation as a strategic priority

Decolonisation of the dental curricula is also fundamental to improve the cultural competence of dental graduates and warrants a review of curriculum content and delivery, provision of dental care in community settings and promotion of reflective practices…

Get your teeth into it here.

Stop Press: The Wall Street Journal has an an interview with Professor John Staddon who, following a brush with anti-racism and anti-bias training, is speaking out against woke dogma in American universities. “When we lower our standards to pretend we know what we don’t know, we diminish the work and misinform society,” he says.

Stop Press 2: If you thought being a vegan was sufficient to win you plenty of brownie points with the woke left, think again. You may be suffering from “white veganism“, which is only one step away from being a white supremacist.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: The South Wales Argus reports that those with mask exemptions are experiencing increasing amounts of discrimination.

Stop Press 2: Dr Fauci has confirmed that it may be necessary for Americans to wear masks in 2022, WYMT news reports.

Washington (CNN) Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it’s “possible” Americans will still need to wear masks in 2022 to protect against the coronavirus, even as the U.S. may reach “a significant degree of normality” by the end of this year.

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union whether he thinks Americans will still need to wear masks next year, Fauci replied: “You know, I think it is possible that that’s the case and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality.”

The comments from Fauci come as the US COVID-19 death toll approaches 500,000 and the country nears a full year in its fight against the virus. And though the US is now steadily rolling out vaccines to fight the pandemic, the nation’s top infectious disease expert underscored the importance of mitigation measures to fight the aggressive virus and its emerging variants as many Americans express pandemic fatigue.

Fauci told Bash that while he can’t predict when the US might return to operating as it did before the pandemic took hold, he thinks that by the end of this year “we’re going to have a significant degree of normality beyond the terrible burden that all of us have been through over the last year”.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

Vaccine sceptics will enjoy this – “mRNA” by our favourite band Media Bear. Worth a watch. Some of the lyrics cut to the quick. And all sung to the tune of “YMCA” by the Village People.

Latest News

First Anniversary of a Day That Will Live in Infamy


There follows a post by Will Jones.

Today on Lockdown Sceptics we mark a year to the day since the world changed forever. 

On February 21st, 2020 the Government of Italy did something no Western Government had ever done before. Something that the World Health Organisation had expressly recommended against only four months earlier.

It decided to set aside all established pandemic protocol, as well as all considerations of basic freedoms and human rights, and imitate Communist China (which had already been praised by the WHO for its “extraordinary” response) and quarantine a whole local population in an effort to control a coronavirus outbreak.

What started with 10 towns and 50,000 people in Lombardy quickly established itself as the go-to and unassailable response to the coronavirus threat. Seventeen days later the whole of Italy was locked down, 33 days later most of the world. A year later, we still are.

From that moment on it became acceptable for Western governments to quarantine entire populations to try to control the spread of contagious disease, even one scarcely more deadly than a bad flu. They haven’t looked back. No amount of data from the few Western countries or states which refused to impose such restrictions will convince them they were or are wrong to do so. Model after model appears from respectable scientific institutions to shore up the faith. The politicians seem interested only in listening to the experts who reassure them they were right to take such extreme and costly action.

There will be many anniversaries to mark in the coming weeks, as we complete a full year since the nightmare began – the declaration of the pandemic on March 11th, the “three week” UK lockdown on March 23rd, and so on. But at Lockdown Sceptics we felt that this was the one to flag, the pivot on which the world turned. We can no longer go back to the world as it was on February 20th 2020, because we cannot undo the fact that we were locked down by our politicians for an indefinite period of time to try to control disease, and it was accepted by the public and reinforced by the medics, the scientists and the courts.

In December, Professor Neil Ferguson admitted to the Times the critical role of Italy in bringing lockdowns to the West:

[China] is a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.

Our best hope is that in time the lesson will be learned that we must never do this again, and next time must be different – we must not panic but must stick to the pre-prepared plan.

But the tragedy is that even if we reach such a point, we can never change the fact that our Governments now know that “lockdown” is an option, that they can indeed “get away with it”. Western civilisation is undoubtedly diminished as a result.

Neil Ferguson’s Tetchy Response to Yesterday’s Article in Lockdown Sceptics

One of our readers sent a copy of Derek Winton’s article in yesterday’s Lockdown Sceptics criticising Imperial College’s modelling to Professor Neil Ferguson on the off chance he might actually read it and reply. Rather surprisingly, he did. We’re publishing his response in full below.

Dear XXXX,

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

But for a change, I thought I would reply to you. Not that I really expect it to change the alternative reality you seem to have got sucked into, but occasionally I feel I should try.

To start with may [sic] want to read this: https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ConspiracyTheoryHandbook.pdf

And ask yourself if a loved one started to exhibit those behaviours, would you be worried?

As to the article you refer to, it recycles the same old, same old misinformation. You may be surprised to learn that the Telegraph and Spectator have published over a dozen corrections in response to complaints from Imperial College about inaccurate articles. For instance, no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us).

More substantively, the government never relied on just one model. The models written by LSHTM, Warwick University and Institut Pasteur Paris all agreed with “the” Imperial model. All used different code bases.

And in fact, there was never “one” Imperial model, but several. We now have 4 different COVID models, again which all agree.

Government responses were never dependent on one model. They were driven by the reality that any disease which generates epidemics which double every 3-4 days and for which over 2% of those infected require hospitalisation will overwhelm any health system that exists.

In fact, a case could be made that the U.K. government took too little notice of our (not just Imperial- all the SAGE groups) modelling. In that they basically only acted when they saw hospitalisations and deaths growing exponentially.

Best,

Neil Ferguson

Boris Unfolds Road Map – Can’t Tell if it’s Upside Down

According to several of the Sunday papers, the centrepiece of Boris’s Downing Street press conference tomorrow – in which he’s going to reveal his much-ballyhooed roadmap out of lockdown – is a pledge to give everyone in the country an opportunity to be vaccinated by July 31st. The Mail on Sunday has more.

Every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July, Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow.

The ambitious new inoculation target will form a vital part of the Prime Minister’s long-awaited roadmap towards easing lockdown restrictions.

The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.

He is also expected to say that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.

Unfortunately, the world-beating success of the Government’s ahead-of-schedule mass vaccination programme does not mean we’ll be accelerating quickly out of lockdown. On the contrary, Boris’s “roadmap” appears to have been created before 1958 because it doesn’t contain any motorways. It’s B roads only. The Mail on Sunday summarises its key components.

All pupils will return to school on March 8th, and care home residents in England will each be allowed one regular visitor.

By Easter, at the start of April, two households will be allowed to meet up outside. That will be followed shortly afterwards by the reopening of non-essential shops and pubs and restaurants for outdoor service only.

The hospitality industry is expected to reopen fully in May.

And there we were thinking that Boris was engaged in a game of expectation management: stress how cautious he was going to be in the run-up to tomorrow, then surprise us with some better-than-expected news. If that’s still the plan, he’s kept the good news well hidden.

A Hospital Visit

We received the following e-mail yesterday from a reader of Lockdown Sceptics. It says a lot about what has gone wrong over the past year.

How delightful that the Prince of Wales was able to visit his father in hospital today, despite the Covid precautions. I understand from the BBC News that visiting someone in hospital is considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave home.

However, one of our neighbours hasn’t been so lucky. At 2am on Saturday morning her husband (aged two years less than the Prince of Wales, as it happens) was rushed to hospital with heart failure. He’s holding on – just – but needless to say his wife isn’t allowed to visit him. Let’s hope he survives then, because otherwise she and their son may never see him again. Heart failure doesn’t usually delay itself long enough to make sure family members can make it to hospital in the end. Still, at least he’s being kept safe. He’s been vaccinated, so he might not catch Covid.

Mind you, the elderly chap two doors up has solved the problem himself. He has terminal liver cancer and has been in the same hospital for weeks (where of course he tested positive for Covid after catching it following admission, but luckily never had any symptoms). But, completely sick of not being able to see his wife, he’s come home to die, preferring that option to expiring on his own in a hospital ward.

This is Boris’s Lockdown Britain, a year into this nightmare. It is almost beyond belief that it could have come to this. These are the choices real people are having to make on a daily basis as this misery goes on, and on, and on.

And it’s all because of the nebulous pursuit of ‘protecting’ everyone (except Prince Phillip and the Prince of Wales who can do as they please apparently) from one risk at the expense of absolutely everything else, driven by Lockdown Lunatics, and particularly those peculiarly idiotic scientists who have lost any sense of proportion and driven the country to the wall. I wouldn’t wish my neighbours’ experiences on any one of them, but perhaps if one of them is hit by something like this they might momentarily wake up and realise they’re supposed to be human beings. Or at least, they were. Once.

The State of the Northern Ireland Health Service

Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann (Image: David Young/PA)

There follows a post from a Lockdown Sceptics reader based in Northern Ireland who felt compelled to write about the pitiful state of the local health service, which has been a big factor in the region’s chaotic response to Covid. As this correspondent put it: “Every time I hear Hugh Pym’s sonorous pronouncements on your waiting lists all I can think of is: Northern Ireland –‘ Hold my beer!’”

Northern Ireland is a very small place. We all know each other, and criticism of the system is never welcome. I am therefore remaining anonymous.

A Government Minister invoking the Bible in Northern Ireland is probably of little surprise and satisfies many stereotypes. As we experienced our first official Covid death in March 2020, Robin Swann (Ulster Unionist Party), our Minster for Health, warned us of a Covid experience of “Biblical proportions”.

We are a small country of approx 1.8 million souls. He predicted 15,000 could die. As of February 19th, 2021, we have reached 2026. (Source: Department of Health, NI.)

We were most recently incarcerated on December 26th, 2020 and are now locked down until April 1st, or sometime… forever. We have all lost track.

Swann has the same misfortune that all health ministers faced – a new unknown health challenge – so perhaps some hyperbole should be excused. Also, he had barely opened his brief when it all started. Swann had been left with the short straw of Health when the departments were carved up between our political parties using the byzantine ‘De Hondt’ method. After three years without a Government, he found himself made Health Minster in January 2020. (For anyone looking for a break from the Covid stats, here’s the wikipedia page on how ‘De Hondt’ works.)

There is no doubt, however, that long before Covid appeared his department was quite familiar with a health service that is overwhelmed and in chaos. Here is a short sample list of some of Northern Ireland’s current health issues:

  • In data published in February 2020 – pre-Covid – 130,000 had been waiting a year for their NHS treatment to start and 305,000 had been waiting for their first outpatient appointment with a consultant out of a population of just over 1.8 million. Perhaps the most alarming element of that statistic is that it only went up 4,000 in the first three months of Covid. For an eye-opener on the comparative state of our waiting lists and England’s, see this blog post from the Nuffield Trust.
  • A £200 million Critical Care Unit built at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast in 2012 remains empty – because of plumbing problems. It has never taken in any patients.
  • Muckamore Abbey Hospital – for those with mental health problems and severe learning difficulties – has seen 13 of its staff arrested and 61 others placed on ‘precautionary suspension’. As of November 2020 these 61 have received £1.5 million in pay. After years of campaigning by families of residents, the Minister has announced a public enquiry into the place.
  • Dr Michael Watt, Senior Consultant Neurologist based at the Royal Victoria Hospital, is the subject of an investigation after 3,000 of his cases were reassessed. A report into the recall, published in December 2019 by the Department of Health, found that more than 20% of these patients were misdiagnosed, while a further 329 patients were given “uncertain” diagnoses. As of August 2020, 231 legal cases have been brought against his employer, the Belfast Health Trust (according to the Belfast Telegraph).
  • When Robin Swann took up the reins of his Health Department he was also faced with a nurses’ strike.  
  • The entire board of the RQIA – our equivalent of the Quality Care Commission – resigned in July 2020 due to a falling out with the Minster and his officials. 

This is the Health Department that has been handling our response to Covid. Perhaps we should be relieved that our deaths have been this low and our hospitals were not truly ‘overwhelmed’. Its record of looking after the health of the people of Northern Ireland is not exactly glorious.

Health Minister Swann may be new to all this but his officials are not. The Health Department and Health Trusts are run by the same people who have been in post for years. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, was appointed in 2006. Between 2014 and 2017 he found time to be CMO and concurrently CEO of the Belfast Health and Social Services Trust.

On February 9th, 2021, Dr McBride helpfully announced what we all suspected was the future policy towards lockdown. The summary makes for unpleasant reading: “While restrictions will not be fully lifted until 2022, he hopes this summer will bring some respite from the current lockdown. However, he said it is likely that a range of restrictions will return in the autumn and remain in place into 2022.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly has been at the helm of this Health Department since 2014.

Minister Swann confirmed the priority of COVID-19 patients over everything else in Northern Ireland’s NHS in November when the News Letter reported on November 13th 2020 that “cancer patients may die as a result of not turning away patients with COVID-19 from hospitals”. Here is his BBC interview on the point.

Despite what are perhaps truly biblical levels of health problems, our Minster still finds time to castigate regularly “armchair experts” who have the temerity to question his approach to the pandemic. He also contributed an op-ed to Rolling Stone Magazine criticising Northern Ireland’s own Van Morrison for his Covid protest songs.

You may be aware Van Morrison isn’t very complimentary about the orthodox approach to managing Covid. Minister Swann is also a musician – a Pipe Sargent in his local pipe band.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Vaccinations – A Reader’s Perspective

Cartoon by Shadi Ghanium in the National, October 4th 2020

In Friday’s Lockdown Sceptics Newsletter we published an article by Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist, about some of risks associated with the Covid vaccines. It prompted one reader to write with with an additional point: What about a cost-benefit analysis?

There has been a lot of debate about vaccines relating to Informed Consent and whether that can be properly given due to the speed at which the vaccines have been developed and whether all the possible long term side effects are known, as well as the incessant propaganda in the media telling us that they are safe and it’s our civic duty to have the vaccine when offered. However, there’s another issue that doesn’t seem to have been raised – a cost-benefit analysis of mass vaccination.

I wouldn’t want to undertake a cost benefit-analysis myself, but it’s worth considering the similar situation regarding the flu vaccine. This is offered every year to certain groups of people, namely the elderly plus other high risk groups to whom it gives a certain amount of protection. Being middle aged and in good health I have never been offered the flu vaccine despite having a miniscule risk of becoming seriously ill plus a higher chance of developing a minor illness and passing the infection on to people in a higher risk group. I assume the reason why people such as myself aren’t offered the flu jab is that a cost-benefit analysis shows it isn’t a good use of finite resources to vaccinate everyone. This is a position that I fully support. The NHS’s resources should be targeted where they can do the most good, so I’m happy not to have a flu jab in order that people with more pressing health problems can be treated.

It seems to me that no such cost-benefit analysis has been considered in relation to Covid vaccinations. Given the incredibly low fatality rate among younger people without comorbidities, I can’t believe that vaccinating the whole population offers anything approaching value for money. Obviously, unvaccinated people might catch Covid, but if the at risk groups are protected, so what if the worst that happens is people stay in bed for a couple of days.? Admittedly, given the amount of panic that has been generated by the Government and media leading to a lot of people thinking Covid is an existential threat to us all, it would be politically almost impossible to only offer the vaccine to some people. However, this doesn’t change my basic point that vaccinating the whole population is not good value for money.

A related issue is the funding of vaccine programs in the developing would. Numerous groups such as the WHO seem to think that the whole world should be vaccinated and that richer countries should pick up a large part of the bill for this. I’m all in favour of richer nations giving aid to poorer countries (despite being on a relatively low income, I have direct debits with a couple of aid charities) providing the money is well spent. Given the incredibly low death rates in many developing countries, with the exception of South Africa, I don’t believe that mass vaccination is a wise use of money. Lots of developing countries have serious public health problems, e.g. malaria or limited access to clean water. Surely it would be much better to target aid towards these problems rather than protecting people from something that is highly unlikely to do them any harm.

Not Cock Up or Conspiracy, but Fraud

Today we are publishing a new essay by Jonny Peppiatt, a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. So far, many of the efforts to explain the response to COVID-19 have focussed on placing it on the spectrum between cock-up on the one hand and conspiracy on the other. Jonny reckons, however, that the ‘fraud triangle’ is a more useful analysis tool. As he explains:

The question most often posed of me when I embark on yet another monologue about the endless lunacies plaguing our lives right now is “why?”; if what you’re saying is true, if the damage is so great, if the virus isn’t such a threat, if the efficacy of the measures is so low, then why would the Government be doing this to us?

We’ve heard a lot of discussion around ‘cock-up’, ‘conspiracy’, and even ‘cockupspiracy’; be that, in the case of ‘cock-up’, the recurring inadequacy of advisers and politicians, in the case of ‘conspiracy’, more often than not, the Great Reset, and in the case of ‘cockupspiracy’, the opportunism of the likes of big tech and big pharma.

All of these are important factors that require attention. However, it seems to me that the debate has largely been based on the fallacy that the reason for all this lies somewhere on a spectrum between ‘cock-up’ and ‘conspiracy’, with ‘cockupspiracy’ falling somewhere in the centre. I do not believe this is the case, because I do not believe that there is a spectrum here.

What we are seeing, I’m sure many of you will agree, is a fraud – a wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain (or avoidance of loss) – on a monumental scale, and, as such, and given my background in audit, I believe that, instead, this should be analysed with reference to the fraud triangle (above).

The fraud triangle (comprised of Opportunity, Rationalisation, and Incentive/Pressure) is the basic framework used to explain the reason behind an individual’s decision to commit fraud, and so it is also going to be the basic framework by which I attempt to explain the Government’s actions termed “Polis-20” in James Alexander’s December 9th piece in Lockdown Sceptics (“A Cockupspiracy”).

Opportunity

“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world” – Professor Klaus Schwab

We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.” – Neil Ferguson

If neither of these quotes sends shivers down your spine, then I can only conclude you are as spineless as our current leader.

I include these not because I believe that the Great Reset is the factor driving the pandemic response, or that Neil Ferguson is some criminal mastermind intent on watching the world burn, but because they highlight a key fundamental of my explanation: when people panic in the face of an unknown, they are more malleable; and when people are malleable, opportunities arise.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Brussels

We have received a new postcard, this one from Paul Farrar in Brussels. From the sound of it, the country has suffered a classic Covid crisis, with experts dominating the national response, lockdown enthusiasts filling the media, and testing data fuelling the general sense of alarm. Here is an extract:

I’m an expat working a living near Brussels. Back in March when the lockdown was announced, we, along with half of Belgium, went out to a restaurant for our ‘last supper’ the night before their closure. Although Belgium’s Hotels, Restaurants & Cafes (HoReCa) were allowed to re-open during the summer, they have borne the full brunt of the lockdown, being the most put-upon industry despite almost no infection incidents being recorded and all the obligatory track and trace measures being in place. Belgium life is all about is HoReCa.

Belgium’s Covid strategy seems to be dominated by a few ‘expert’ individuals, supported by the local media, with an ever-changing strategy as the country tries to follow each of its neighbours by adding their own unique twist to help pretend that they know what they are doing and that they are in charge.

As an example, it was reported on October 20th that the Ministers of Health and Welfare had adapted the corona test strategy:

Those who have no symptoms will no longer be tested, even if you had high-risk contact with an infected person. In that case, a quarantine is still mandatory. If you came back from red zone or had close contact with infected person, but no symptoms themselves? Then you will no longer be tested.

The aim was to reduce waiting times that were too long and to ease the burden on the testing labs. This had an immediate effect on the reported cases… and did calm things a little.

However, this changed again in November when they introduced new travel restrictions and the testing started to increase again.

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

Today’s entry to poetry corner comes from Edmund Sutton. He writes:

The below is a rendering of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears which in some regards describes how I have been feeling after a mental collapse late last year and suicidal depression, exacerbated by the repeated public announcements of a lifting of restrictions, followed by the imposition of new ones. I cannot tell you how much your work, plus that of others like Profs Heneghan and Gupta, has meant over the past few months. In hospital, the psychiatrists said that my personality had been eroded on all fronts, as absolutely everything that I would normally do stopped in March last year – work, social life, volunteering – and I couldn’t even go to church. I missed physical contact greatly, just simple things like shaking hands or passing a cup of tea. Happily, I am receiving treatment, and have support from my parents. I shudder to think of the state of people who do not have such help.

Mad/Sad World
after “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

Nowhere round me are familiar faces:
In all places, hidden faces
Why be early for our daily races,
Going nowhere, going nowhere?

My tears are blurring up my glasses –
No expression, no expression –
Hide my head, I want to end my sorrow:
No tomorrow, dark tomorrow.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When people can’t be people,
It’s a very very mad world – sad world, bad world, mad world.

We are waiting for the day we feel good –
May I see you, even touch you?
And I cry for all the children who must
Sit and listen, not be children.

Went outside and I was very nervous –
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello Governor, what may I do now?
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When people all are hidden,
It’s a very very mad world – sad world, bad world, mad world.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When we are all imprisoned,
It’s a very very mad world, sad world –

Reducing our world – mad world.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Thirty-four today: “Divide and Conquer” by Hüsker Dü, “We Want Revolution” by Covenant, “We Shall Overcome” by Joan Baez, “Day After Day” by Badfinger, “Slow Day” by Kristin Asbjørnsen, “Yesterday” by the Beatles, “Darklands” by the Jesus and Mary Chain, “Another Day, Another Death” by the Mob, “Fear” by Zounds, “Tomorrow Never Comes” by Dreadzone, “First World Problems” by Ian Brown, “We’re Gonna Get There In The End” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Jr, “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys, “Sleeping My Day Away” by D-A-D, “The ID Parade” by Danielle Dax, “Dazed And Confused” by Led Zeppelin, “Easter Is Cancelled” by the Darkness, “Sorrow” by David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, “Could It Be Forever” by David Cassidy, “Join Together” by the Who, “Mistreated” by Deep Purple, “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple, “Hysteria” by Def Leppard, “Action” by The Sweet, “Don’t Believe A Word” by Thin Lizzy, “Helpless” by Diamond Head, “Stand Up And Shout” by Dio, “The Bug” by Dire Straits, “Breaking The Chains” by Dokken, “All We Are” by Warlock, “Run To The Hills” by Iron Maiden and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” by Hubert Parry.

Love in the Time of Covid

Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in Badlands

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 news that the Free Speech Union is defending the right of fans to boo football players who take the knee. The Mail On Sunday has the scoop:

Football fans who boo players taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter should not be banned by clubs, a free speech group has demanded.

In a letter to the Football Association, the Free Speech Union insist that if players are free to make the gesture, then fans must be free to disagree with them.

The FSU argued in the letter to the FA’s interim Chairman Peter McCormick that the “simplest solution” to an issue which continues to split football and other sports, would be to stop players taking the knee at all on the grounds that it shows support for a political cause and not a moral one, something banned in football law. 

And extending that argument, the FSU said players who advertise their support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) by taking a knee should “face similar penalties” to booing supporters.

The FA insist taking the knee is an apolitical stand against discrimination, yet a list of high-profile footballers among them Les Ferdinand, Wilfried Zaha and Britt Assombalonga have started to rail against the gesture, which they believe has become devalued and is covering up a lack of real change in anti-racism policies.

On Saturday, more players in the top two divisions didn’t kneel before kick-off than the concerted support shown for the gesture when it was first conceived last summer post-lockdown.

General secretary of the FSU, Toby Young, wants the FA, whose president is Prince William, to issue guidelines for clubs ahead of the return to stadiums later this season or at the start of the next campaign.

In the letter, he said: “If the position of the FA is that it is perfectly legitimate for players to express their support for BLM in the stadium by taking the knee it should make it clear that it is also acceptable for fans to express their feelings about this political movement.

“If fans want to boo players taking the knee or applaud, come to that they should face no negative repercussions. From a free speech point of view, it cannot be fair or reasonable that people on the pitch are allowed to express their political views, but those in the stands are not.”

Worth reading in full.

You can read Toby’s letter to the to the Football Association here.

Stop Press: The Welsh Government is conducting a historical audit of street names and statues which has amusingly gone a little awry in the case of Peel Street, Wrexham. The street is named after Sir Robert Peel, but which one? James Delingpole tells the story in Breitbart.

A street in Wales has been put on the naughty step by the Welsh Government because of its supposed historical associations with the slave trade. But the man after whom it is named was in fact one of Britain’s most ardent and heroic anti-slavers.

Peel Street in Wrexham is one of dozens of streets put on a warning list as part of a £170,000 audit – The Slave Trade and the British Empire – commissioned by the Welsh Government in the wake of the briefly fashionable Black Lives Matter protests.

Though it doesn’t make it onto the Red danger list reserved for alleged monsters like Christopher Columbus, Lord Kitchener, Clive of India, and Francis Drake “definite personal culpability” — it does make it onto the next-worst amber list marked “personal culpability uncertain”.

But the only reason it’s “uncertain” is because of the sloppiness of the woke crusaders who put the report together. They have confused Sir Robert Peel – the anti-slavery prime minister – with his slavery-supporting father.

True, both men confusingly share the same name. But the son was much more famous than the father and it’s after the son that the street is definitely named.

Stop Press 2: Following the news that an NHS trust in Brighton has started using the term ‘chestfeeding’ instead of ‘breastfeeding’, the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon has examined the implications of the ongoing move to gender-inclusive language. Time to meet your ‘gestational parent’ and ‘non-birthing parent’.

Stop Press 3: The Salisbury Review has published an excellent review of Cynical Theories by Niall McCrae. The book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay documents the evolution of woke dogma, providing a kind of primer for those that haven’t yet grasped the scale and influence of the cult.

Stop Press 4: Disney’s streaming channel has slapped an “offensive content” warning on… the Muppets. You did not read that wrong. Beneath these words is the following disclaimer:

This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.

Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Disney World requires all guests, including those who have been vaccinated, to wear facemasks while on their property except for when they are eating and drinking. But some visitors have been making it known that they would appreciate being permitted to take the things off for the photos, according to Inside the Magic.

Inside the Magic follower, Amy B. (@safarigirl76) shared that she wishes Disney would allow pictures without masks, though she understands why this rule is in place:

“I’m planning to go in May. The masks are a concern, as I’ll have a newly two year old with me. I’m not worried about safety at all. I’d love to take pictures without masks, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

And this is something that ITM fan Emily (@emilyazd21) agrees with:

We are going in November, hopefully for our first Christmas party! While I understand the mask requirements, it would be so nice if Disney would let people remove masks for pictures […] Would love to have pictures to capture and remember the excitement and beautiful smiles of my children when they experience the Christmas party!

Stop Press 2: A restaurant in Hernando County, Florida has gone viral after it made clear that facemasks are not required to dine.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

Latest News

Matt Hancock Acted Unlawfully

Yesterday a court ruled that Matt Hancock acted unlawfully when his department failed to publish details of COVID-19 related contracts worth billions of pounds. The BBC has the full story.

Matt Hancock acted unlawfully when his department did not reveal details of contracts it had signed during the Covid pandemic, a court has ruled.

A judge said the Health Secretary had “breached his legal obligation” by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.

The public had a right to know where the “vast” amounts spent had gone and how contracts were awarded, he added…

In his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said: “There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.

“There is also no dispute that the Secretary of State failed to publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.”

The judge said the Health Secretary had spent “vast quantities” of public money on Covid-related goods and services during 2020.

“The public were entitled see [sic] who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded,” he added.

He said this was important so that competitors of those awarded contracts could understand whether the obligations had been breached.

The judge also said publishing the details allowed bodies such as the National Audit Office, as well as Parliament and the public, to “scrutinise and ask questions about this expenditure”.

Mr Justice Chamberlain acknowledged that the situation faced by the DHSC during the first few months of the pandemic had been “unprecedented”.

He said it was “understandable that attention was focused on procuring what was thought necessary to save lives”.

But he added that the DHSC’s “historic failure” to publish details of contracts awarded during the pandemic was “an excuse, not a justification”.

Worth reading in full.

The case illustrates one of the many issues with the response to COVID-19. Yes there was an emergency, but if rules relating to procurement, transparency and the such like matter, they should also matter when the pressure is on. The case was brought by the Good Law Project, which released a statement following the ruling:

Government’s behaviour came under criticism in the judgment. If it had admitted to being in breach of the law when we first raised our concerns, it would have never been necessary to take this judicial review to its conclusion. Instead, they chose a path of obfuscation, racking up over £200,000 of legal costs as a result.  

We shouldn’t be forced to rely on litigation to keep those in power honest, but in this case it’s clear that our challenge pushed Government to comply with its legal obligations. Judge Chamberlain stated that the admission of breach by Government was “secured as a result of this litigation and at a late stage of it” and “I have no doubt that this claim has speeded up compliance”. It begs the question, if we hadn’t brought this legal challenge, what other contract details would have remained hidden from view? …

This judgment, which can be found here, is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold Government to account. But there is still a long way to go before the Government’s house is in order. We have now written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care detailing what needs to be done to improve procurement processes and ensure value for British taxpayers.

The letter from the Good Law Project to Matt Hancock is here.

What Children are Really Being Taught at Home

Today we are publishing a new essay by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University and a Lockdown Sceptics regular. Here, following on from an article which appeared in the Conservative Woman earlier this month, Dr Murphy examines the realities of home schooling. For many, she argues, home schooling is not a pale imitation of normal school, but something quite different. Here are the opening paragraphs:

PLZ I DONT LIKE THIS – This message was typed by a nine-year-old child, over and over again. In capitals and with relentless economy. An unmistakable SOS.

Where was this child and what was happening to her?

She was at home. In her Geography class. On Microsoft Teams.

I saw her cry for help in an article published by Conservative Woman on February 5th. The article outlined what a day at school is now like for a nine year-old boy called Simon, who lives with his mother on the 12th floor of a council tower block.

Simon’s day is a cruel one – on that, most of us would agree. But do we see just how cruel? With neither video nor audio available for the Geography lesson, PLZ I DONT LIKE THIS, typed repeatedly into the chatbox by one of Simon’s classmates, is as close to a scream as this child had the tools for.

Members of our Government thoughtlessly describe the ‘challenges’ of remote learning: the difficulties of keeping children interested and active. But in this child’s scream, there is not the disengagement and inertia presumed by their careless acknowledgements. In this child’s scream, there is actual DISTRESS.

So-called ‘home-schooling,’ for many if not most of our children, is not a less effective version of normal schooling or a less fun version of normal schooling. It is another thing altogether – complete with its own curriculum. And it is driving our children to despair.

The President of the British Paediatric Neurology Association has described a recent ‘explosion’ in tics and Tourette’s Syndrome among children in the UK. These tics are coping mechanisms, repeated behaviours to give familiar shape to experiences that are new and threatening. A tic says PLZ I DONT LIKE THIS, over and over again – just not, usually, in those words.

So, the nine-year-old in her Geography lesson who fashioned a typeface scream from out of her solitary distress did so on behalf of countless of her kind. Her great effort, on such a paltry forum as her tiny Teams chatbox, poorly overseen by a teacher with little time and bad tech, must surely be amplified by anyone who has the chance.

Conservative Woman, to its great credit, was the first to take up her cause. I would like to follow suit and try to understand what, exactly, is being taught to our children and why it is so many cannot bear it.

Worth reading in full.

Dr Murphy goes on to outline the process of ‘derealisation’ that can occur when children lose their ability to engage with what is real, as distinct from is virtual. It is not that they are not learning what they should be learning, but that they are learning that none of it matters.

Crunching the Data on Population Immunity

From Sky.com

Our next post comes from Jonny Peppiatt, a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. Epidemiology enthusiast that he is, he has produced a parody of a SAGE paper, with a fun surprise at the end:

Here follows a SAGE-style paper.

Introduction and assumptions

The most important piece of information with regards to our position on the timeline of the pandemic is our proximity to the point defined as herd immunity – the point at which it is no longer possible for cases to rise exponentially.

In order to assess this, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, and a number of assumptions need to be made.

For the purposes of this paper, it will be assumed that the Non Pharmaceutical Interventions have been 100% effective in protecting the elderly and vulnerable, and therefore, there will be no crossover between those who have had prior infection, and therefore obtained assumed immunity to the virus, and those who have received the vaccine, for which, it will be assumed, 80% immunity will be obtained upon receipt of the first dose and 90% immunity upon receipt of the second.

In order to better assess the data, it will be assumed that “80% immunity” will mean 100% immunity in 80% of those administered the first dose of the vaccine.

While the WHO and the Stanford paper (pdf) by John Ioannidis estimate the Infection Fatality Rate to be in the region of 0.23%, this paper will assume an IFR for the UK of 0.33% due to the higher rate of obesity than the global population, the UK population being more aged than the global population, and the lower levels of metabolic health found in the UK population compared to the global population.

Further, it will be assumed that the IFR in the spring wave of the pandemic was 0.67% due to the increased impact on the care home population.

Note: while this contradicts the initial assumption that the elderly and vulnerable have been protected up to this point, the crossover will be assumed to be insignificant as those who are aged and vulnerable and who were infected in the spring wave of the pandemic are unlikely to form a significant proportion of the population as at today’s date.

It will be assumed that the IFR in the winter wave of the pandemic was 0.33%, in line with the assumed UK population IFR.

It will also be assumed, as a result of the vaccine rollout, that deaths will continue to decline at a rate of 4.6% per day as that has been the average decline since the peak recorded on January 19th. The total number of cases required to reach these death figures will be extrapolated for three weeks and an IFR of 0.08% will be applied to these cases due to the efficacy of the vaccine. It will be assumed each of those deaths relates to a case that has been contracted as of today’s date.

It will be assumed that those aged 0-14 form the population who had prior immunity due to the statistically insignificant number of deaths from COVID-19 arising from this population.

Finally, it will be assumed that immunity is lasting.

Modelling

Vaccinations
1st dose: 16,423,082
2nd dose: 573,724
Immunity is calculated at (573,724 x 0.9) + ((16,423,082-573,724) x 0.8) = 13,203,038.

Spring cases leading to effective immunity
Deaths up to July 31st were recorded to be 41,294. Applying an IFR of 0.67% as assumed above gives the number of suspected cases, and therefore assumed immunity, of 6,163,284.

Autumn and Winter cases leading to effective immunity
Deaths from August 1st up to February 17th were recorded as 78,091. Applying an IFR of 0.33% as assumed above gives the number of suspected cases, and therefore assumed immunity, of 23,663,939.

Future deaths leading to effective immunity
Extrapolating the deaths on the trend currently seen of a decline per day of 4.6% over the next three weeks gives a cumulative death toll of 5,736 up to March 9th. Applying the IFR of 0.08% as assumed above gives the number of suspected cases, and therefore assumed immunity of 7,170,538.

Prior immunity in the age group 0-14
The size of the population that is aged between 0-14 currently amounts to approximately 11,960,000. As stated above, this figure will be assumed to have full immunity.

Conclusion

This model anticipates that the proportion of the population currently immune stands at 62,160,799/66,650,000. This is equal to 93.3%. There is a possibility that this figure is lower due to crossover of groups identified above.

It should also be noted that applying the WHO IFR of 0.23% throughout the pandemic results in a population immunity figure of 119.4%. Therefore, we conclude that the population immunity figure stands at 93.3%, with a 95% confidence interval of 67.2% – 119.4%.

Stop Press: Dr Marty Makery, a Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, has written an interesting op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he argues that the USA could be well on its way to herd immunity. Estimating that about 55% of Americans have natural immunity, and that 150 million vaccine doses will have been administered by the end of March, he concludes that “Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life”. Needless to say, his prediction hasn’t been welcomed by his colleagues in public health.

Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little COVID-19 by April but suggested that I not talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth. As we encourage everyone to get a vaccine, we also need to reopen schools and society to limit the damage of closures and prolonged isolation. Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.

A Complaint to the General Medical Council

PenWin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Earlier this year, Saga introduced the requirement that all guests on its cruises must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This rule prevents keen cruisers and retired general dental practitioners Dr Graeme Munro-Hall and Dr Lilian Munro-Hall from taking part in Saga cruises – a clear case of discrimination, according to them. The pair are seeking to challenge this and have written to the General Medical Council urging it to take action. We’re publishing an original essay by them today in which they explain their thinking. Here are the opening paragraphs:

We are retired general dental practitioners and former registrants of the GDC, Dr Graeme Munro-Hall (GDC 45121) and Dr Lilian Munro-Hall (82913). As avid cruisers and potential guests of Saga cruises, we have written to Saga Cruises about their mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for their guests. No reply has been received yet. We, who have declined these vaccines, are being discriminated against by Saga Cruises on the basis of not wanting to participate in a particular form of experimental medical treatment. The FDA describes these vaccines as “Investigational” and “experimental”.

Extracts of the letter are below.

We are seeking advice as to whether it will be an appropriate course of action to request that the General Medical Council take action against Saga Cruises, and specifically Nigel Blanks, the Chief Executive Officer of Saga Cruises, for, in effect, practicing medicine without a licence while being unqualified and unregistered to do so thereby potentially endangering the health and wellbeing of UK citizens.

The General Medical Council must take steps to instruct Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks to cease and desist immediately from the Practice of Medicine.

We feel this is putting undue pressure on people to undergo an experimental medical treatment.

The Nuremberg Convention in article 1 states that:

any person involved in (medical treatment) must be able to exercise free power of choice and voluntary consent is absolutely essential and that this must be given without any element of duress. Experimental medical treatment requires that the subject know the nature, duration, purpose of the experiment, the method and means by which it is to be conducted, all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected and the effects upon health or person which may possibly come from participation in the experiment.

On January 20th this year, Nigel Blanks, Chief Executive Officer for Saga Cruises, published a statement in which he, on behalf of Saga Cruises, announced the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination on all guests wishing to partake in a Saga Cruise.

This was followed by an extensive media advertising campaign announcing that all guests must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to travel with Saga Cruises.

This goes against the recommendations with regard to mandatory vaccination of:

The UK Government
The Council of Europe

It also involves:

Unquantifiable health risks by putting undue pressure on some people to participate in the largest medical experiment in human history;
Breaches of human rights and the tenets of Informed Consent and is a violation of article one of the Nuremberg Code;
Discrimination on philosophical, religious, medical and age grounds;

What Saga Cruises are doing is practising medicine.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A column by Richard Littlejohn in yesterdays Daily Mail made the case as for no jab, no job and was a disappointing read:

Our boiler went on the blink this week. Frankly, who would you want to come and repair it – someone who’s had the vaccine or Typhoid Mary’s spotty kid brother, runny nose in full flow?

The Infamous Ferguson Model and its Role in the UK’s Pandemic Response

It’s a cornucopia of original essays today! The last one we’re publishing is a new analysis of the critical role played of Imperial College’s epidemiological modelling in the UK’s response to COVID-19. The author, Derek Winton, is a coder and a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Reform UK Scotland running on an anti-lockdown platform. Here, he examines the Imperial model and its manifold failings from the perspective of future historians, who are bound, he says, to shake their heads and wonder: ‘What were they thinking?’

Historians are sure to pore over this ‘unprecedented’ period for centuries to come. It is my belief that in the fullness of time, they will come to regard our response to the Sars-CoV-2 virus as monumental folly. In particular, they will be bewildered by the role of deeply flawed computer modelling in triggering a chain of events that fundamentally, and perhaps catastrophically, damaged Western society.

I should outline my own credentials on this subject:

I have an MA in Philosophy and Mathematics and a MSc in Computational Intelligence. I have been developing software professionally for more than 10 years and also have experience working with the code produced by academic institutions. In this particular instance I am a contributor to the official online software repository for the Imperial Model. I have submitted hundreds of lines of comments that explain the functioning of the model and these comments were accepted by the Imperial team.

Background

To put the role of the Imperial Model in the proper context, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the situation as it stood in February 2020.

There had been rumours for a few months of a new virus in China. Footage of Chinese citizens being forcibly dragged from their homes by Government agents in hazmat suits and locked in hermetically sealed vans. Tales of doctors who, after sounding the alarm, mysteriously disappeared.

Viruses had emerged in the recent past though and their impact had been relatively small outside of Asia. Many in the West watched with interest more than deep concern.

Then the virus arrived in Italy and events took a darker turn. Footage of overflowing ICU units, ventilator shortages, exhausted doctors. People were dying horribly, in the West, and in large numbers. Then Italy did something unprecedented in a western democracy. It locked down.

Soon the rest of Europe started to implement lockdown measures of their own. Ireland then Denmark then Bulgaria. In a few days, almost every country in Europe and many more around the world had started to implement a policy that until that year had never been used to deal with a pandemic.

Two countries chose a different path. In line with the plans they had in place to deal with pandemics, they chose to build capacity and mitigate the effects of the pandemic while building ‘herd immunity’. Those countries were Britain and Sweden.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer, Chris Whitty and Patrick Valance chose, with the apparent full backing of the Government, not to panic and proceeded in line with our well-developed pandemic strategy based on hundreds of years of clinical experience.

Then one of the members of SAGE, Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, published a paper on March 16th predicting up to half a million deaths. That paper was then picked up by the media and the conclusions were duly published.

Public pressure mounted and just a week later the UK Government took the unprecedented step of issuing a stay-at-home order for the entire nation, describing the Imperial College model as the ‘gold standard’. Indeed from the report itself: “Results in this paper have informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks” (Page 1 – Summary).

Some eyebrows were raised. Decisions of this magnitude should surely be subject to the highest level of scrutiny. People started to ask for more details on the model.

Worth reading in full.

Follow Derek Winton and his campaign on twitter at @derekwinton.

The Franklin Tests and the Moran Doctrine – A Reader’s Thoughts on Lockdown

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on May 29th, 2020

Can lockdown ever be justified? If so, how? A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written in with some thoughts prompted by the latest episode of Irreverend:

I’m a new convert (see what I did there?) to the Irreverend podcast, which I believe has had the occasional shout-out on Lockdown Sceptics. The podcast features two engaging and articulate men of the cloth, the Reverend Dr Jamie Franklin and the Reverend Thomas Pelham, talking about the news of the day – usually about the lockdown, which they are firmly against, and sometimes about more niche ecclesiastical matters. I’m not a Christian myself, but like many people who are dismayed by the direction society has taken of late I find myself increasingly turning for some degree of solace towards the spiritual and moral traditions of our country that have been steadily eroded in recent decades, and find this podcast to be a comforting and enjoyable listen.

In the latest episode, Rev Franklin made a moral argument against the lockdown, which I thought might be worth setting out for the benefit of your readers. It’s nothing any of us haven’t heard before, but as a formulation I found it particularly clear and helpful in organising my own thinking on the topic. I’m paraphrasing somewhat, and perhaps not using his exact words, but the argument was more or less the following.

Rev. Franklin argued that for a lockdown to be justified, it would have to meet all four of the following conditions. Let’s call them the Franklin Tests:

a) The threat that the lockdown is introduced to counter (in this case Covid) must represent an extremely grave, even “existential” societal threat, in terms of the death toll and the wider knock-on effect (e.g. the effect of the NHS being “overrun”). That is, we should only lock down if the situation is very, very serious indeed.

b) The lockdown measures themselves must have demonstrable efficacy in countering the threat. We should only lock down if it actually works, and can be shown to work.

c) There must be no other measures available, less intrusive and disruptive to our civil liberties, that would achieve an equivalent or comparable effect in countering the threat. We should only lock down if it really is the only option.

d) The harms caused by the lockdown measures must be shown beyond reasonable doubt not to outweigh the benefits. We should only lock down if definitely doesn’t do more harm than good.

Readers of Lockdown Sceptics will, of course, take little persuading that the Government has failed to make a persuasive case that the lockdown measures pass each of these tests. Some might accept (although many would not) that a case could, just maybe, have been made in March 2020, based on the information available at the time. But does that case really still stand up in February 2021, given everything we now know about Covid itself, the discovery of effective treatments, the availability of a vaccine, and the huge amount of data that calls into question the efficacy of lockdowns and demonstrates the harms that they cause?

Of course, we need to interrogate the detail, and to have an open and honest debate. For Franklin Test (a) we need to look at things such as the Infection Fatality Rate, which is a scientific/medical matter, and also consider what level of deaths from a seasonal respiratory virus we consider, as a society, to be acceptable without needing to resort to extraordinary preventative measures, which is essentially a moral and political question. For Test (b) we need to look at evidence relating to the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical interventions: mask studies, comparisons of different territories (Florida vs California, Brazil vs Peru, Sweden vs the UK) and so on. For Test (c) we need to consider the merits of less intrusive measures – Sweden again, where the public was encouraged to take certain sensible measures but were not locked down by law, as well as alternative options such as the enhanced shielding approach advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration. For Test (d) we need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the evidence showing the definite harms that lockdowns cause (missed cancer diagnoses, suicides and other deaths of despair, the impact of the economic damage caused, etc.) against the claimed benefits of lockdown.

We should also consider another position which I believe has been put forward forcefully by the cartoonist Bob Moran, so I shall call this the Moran Doctrine. This is, simply, that the Government should not have the power to impose lockdowns under any circumstances: even if each of the four Franklin Tests were met, a lockdown would not represent a legitimate measure. Just as the state should never torture anybody, under any circumstances, the Government should not have the ability to “lock down” its citizens. We should be given accurate information and clear advice, but we should never have our human rights and civil liberties curtailed by law to this dramatic extent.

Stop Press: Listen to the latest episode of Irreverend, in which Rev. Franklin sets out his ‘tests’, here. It includes a review of the news, of the Hitchens v Hodges debate and an instalment of one listener’s rewrite of the New Testament for the age of Covidianism.

An Impossible-to-Follow SMS from NHS Test and Trace

One reader has had a bossy text from the Test and Tracers, but is a little unsure how he is supposed to comply:

I had the pleasure of the following text message from NHS Test and Trace (presumably someone in my circle gave them my number): “You have been identified as a contact of someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19. You must now stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your last contact with them.”

Obvious to anyone that the command makes zero sense from a logical point of view. You are not telling me who this someone is so therefore how do I know when I last had contact with them?

Also of course there is no right of appeal. A bad actor may have given out my number. 

For me (as a man of numbers, logic and reason!) It just sums up the absurdity of it all. 

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Twenty-nine today: “Love Removal Machine” by the Cult, “Psychotic Reaction” by the Count Five, “Some Play Dirty” by Cockney Rejects, “Power To All Our Friends” by Cliff Richard,  “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” by Cinderella, “The More Things Change” by Cinderella, “No Particular Place To Go” by Chuck Berry, “Nothing to Fear” by Chris Rea, “Maybe Tomorrow” by the Chords, “The Future Is Past” by Chicory Tip, “Bad Days” by the Charlatans, “I’m Not Afraid of You” by Carmel, “Panic Station” by Muse, “Freedom” by Rages Against the Machine, “I Just Don’t Like This Kind Of Living” by Hank Williams, “Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow” by the Monkees, “Year Of The Rat” by Badly Drawn Boy, “There’s Got To Be A Better Way” by Hugo Montenegro, “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Echo and The Bunnymen, “Is That All There Is?” by John Parish and PJ Harvey, “Like Humans Do” by David Byrne, “Power To The People” by John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band, “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley, “What Do I Get?” by Buzzcocks, “How Do You Think It Feels” by Lou Reed, “Sadness” by RDF, “Alive And Kicking” by Simple Minds, “So Lonely” by the Police and “Sheep” by Pink Floyd.

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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 Coca-Cola, and the white fragility workshops to which some of their are employees are being subjected. The PostMillenial has the details:

Outspoken critic of critical race theory and knitting community dissident Karlyn Borysenko shared an alleged whistleblower account from inside the Coca-Cola company. In a series of screenshots, she reveals that employees within the company are being required to “try to be less white”.

The images show an online employee training course called “Confronting Racism with Robin DiAngelo”, which is a 49-minute webinar. The first slide Borysenko shared, on “confronting racism”, reads: “Understanding What it Means to Be White, Challenging What it Means to Be Racist.”

The next instructs that “To be less white is to” “be less oppressive”, “be less arrogant”, “be less certain”, “be less defensive”, “be less ignorant”, “be more humble”, “listen”, “believe”, “break with apathy” and finally to “break with white solidarity”.

The lesson continues, saying: “In the U.S. and other Western nations, white people are socialised to feel that they are inherently superior because they are white. Research shows that by age three to four, children understand that it is better to be white.”

The final slide that Borysenko shares reads simply: “Try to be less white.”

Worth reading in full.

The anti-whiteness course is available on LinkedIn.

Stop Press: More than 120 charities give staff unconscious bias training, reports the Telegraph. The lists includes Parkinson’s UK, the Alzheimer’s society, the Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee. Just 120?

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: MailOnline has a story about a delivery driver who is thought to be the first worker sacked for refusing to wear a mask. He was inside his lorry, and during a delivery to a Tate and Lyle sugar refinery he ignored requests that he should put on a mask in the cab. Bosses at the site were concerned he could pass on the virus while speaking out of the window.

Stop Press 2: The devolved administration in Scotland have shelved the idea of requiring residents to wear medical grade masks, according to Herald Scotland, as clinical advice has indicated that there isn’t much evidence to back it up.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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…

The good folks at the Babylon Bee have produced a make-believe video in which they imagine what life might have been like in 2020 if we’d flattened the curve in two weeks and hadn’t all been imprisoned in our homes for the best part of 12 months. Among the highlights: Zoom goes bust, people who still wear masks are seen as deranged conspiracy theorists and toilet paper does not run out. Worth watching in full.

Latest News

19,000 Schoolchildren Will Needlessly Self-Isolate Every Week Under Government Mass Testing Scheme

Morten Morland’s cartoon in yesterday’s Times

Yesterday Lockdown Sceptics reported that the Government is planning to require parents to test England’s three million secondary schoolchildren twice a week. I suggested that because lateral flow tests (LFTs) are being used for this intrusive testing regime, the number of false positives (positive test results for people who do not have the disease or are not infectious) would be lower than with PCR tests. A reader got in touch to say, while technically true, we should certainly not underestimate how many false positives will be produced by this frequent mass testing. Lateral Flow Tests have a false positive rate of 0.32%, so if three million secondary school children are tested twice a week, that means 19,200 schoolchildren will get false positives every week, and the – plus their families, classmates, teachers and other contacts – will be forced to self-isolate needlessly. Since there are 3,448 secondary schools in England, that’s five or six children in every school in England every week. I’ll let him explain.

The reality is that LFTs produce very high numbers of false positives when used in the mass screening of asymptomatic populations. To be fair to the companies, these tests were developed, tested and licensed for use in symptomatic patients presenting at hospitals, where they have very high diagnostic value. They are not appropriate for use in asymptomatic patients where a false positive adversely affects numerous family members and other contacts as well.

Of course, PCR tests have their own problems, really are not a gold standard (the way they are used), and are badly abused. But that is a different story. 

The number of false positives depends on the prevalence in the community. Note: False Discovery Rate (FDR) – probability that a positive is not a true positive.

If we assume that all three million schoolchildren are tested twice a week (so six million tests weekly), then even in a population with zero COVID-19 the Innova test will still find 19,200 positives weekly (all false positives, of course, because there is no COVID-19 in the population).  If we use the prevalences specified by the ZOE app (0.334% on February 18th) and the REACT study (0.51% for the period February 4th-13th) we get the following.

Six million tests per week, sensitivity 95%, specificity 99.68%

 Prevalence (%)Number of True Positives (TP)Number of False Positives (FP)Number of False Negatives (FN)False Discovery Rate (FDR)Positive Predictive ValueNegative Predictive Value
Zero Covid-190.0000.0019200.000.00100.00%0.00%100.0000%
ZOE App0.33419038.0019135.871002.0050.13%49.87%99.9832%
REACT study0.51029070.0019102.081530.0039.65%60.35%99.9743%

So, between 40% and 50% testing positive will be false positives (depending on which prevalence you take) – almost half of positives are false positives.

If we use the sensitivity identified in this BMJ article for self-trained members of the public (58%), which is likely to be more accurate/realistic when parents are doing the testing, we get:

Six million tests per week, sensitivity 58%, specificity 99.68%

 Prevalence (%)Number of True Positives (TP)Number of False Positives (FP)Number of False Negatives (FN)False Discovery Rate (FDR)Positive Predictive ValueNegative Predictive Value
Zero COVID-190.0000.0019200.000.00100.00%0.00%100.0000%
ZOE App0.33411623.2019135.878416.8062.21%37.79%99.8590%
REACT study0.51017748.0019102.0812852.0051.84%48.16%99.7845%

So, between 50% and 60% testing positive will be false positives (depending on which prevalence you take) – a majority of positives are false positives.

In summary:

  • False positives in mass screening are not rare – they are very common (relative to the number of true positives). Too much emphasis has been placed on the false negatives in the MSM but, for a disease that is as bad as a bad flu, the false negative rate can be ignored when the prevalence is quite low. This would not be true of Ebola or Smallpox of course, but COVID-19 can hardly be compared with these.
  • Substantial numbers of false positives will be generated as large scale testing of schoolchildren is rolled out. The proportion of false positives to true positives will greatly increase as the community prevalence decreases. 
  • It should be clear that the country will never be able to meet the goal of fewer than 1,000 “new cases” per day in order to remove restrictions.

If only there was another way…

Imperial Credits Lockdown For Drop in Cases, Florida Begs to Differ

Professor Paul Elliot, leader of the REACT study at Imperial College London

Our assiduous maths student, Glen Bishop, has been in touch again to set straight another misleading report from Imperial College. This time it’s the news yesterday from the REACT study that infection rates plummeted by two thirds from January to February – and lockdown is credited. Here he is.

Another day, another misleading headline. LBC titled a piece on yesterday’s update from the Imperial REACT study: “Lockdowns driving down coronavirus rates but they remain high, study finds.”

The (pre-print) study in question is not like the models from the other Imperial team. It is a sensible analysis of the prevalence of coronavirus in the population by randomised testing of large numbers of the community. It is not intended as a study that attributes causation to correlation. Nonetheless, it can’t resist slipping it in there and LBC, like other outlets, found what they needed to fit their confirmation bias. There is one reference directly linking the fall in cases to lockdowns in the paper. It noted that the fall in prevalence in the over-65s was similar to that in other age groups, concluding that any effect of the vaccine reducing cases is not yet a “major driver”. Instead, the paper comments: “The observed falls described here are most likely due to reduced social interactions during lockdown.”

To be fair to this Imperial group, the above comment lies in the discussion part of the paper. Unfortunately, I think it shows how many academics and professors who support the lockdowns have their heads buried in the sand with regard to the realities found in the rest of the world. As Lockdown Sceptics readers will know, the Governor of Florida nullified all public health orders and banned the shutting of businesses or fining of those ignoring mask mandates in September. Their case rates increased over the last five months and peaked in early January, just like in the UK. In the six weeks since January, their case numbers have fallen by about two thirds. The same decrease that the Imperial REACT study found in the UK over the last six weeks.

In the LBC article Professor Paul Elliot, who leads the Imperial REACT study, says easing lockdown restrictions is a “very delicate balance”. Why is it a delicate balance here, when Florida has been fine despite its last five months of complete freedom, and it still has a lower coronavirus death rate than the UK? Florida has also had community spread of the new Kent variant since December, so that cannot be it. If this were the private sector, rather than the public sector, SAGE would be overruled and those advising and running Florida would be poached to lead the UK’s response.

LBC quote another Professor on the REACT team: “This is a better decline than many people would have hoped for, certainly when we were thinking about this at the end of December.” Well, professors, given Florida experienced the same decline with no restrictions and your surprise at the UK decline, maybe you are missing something big.

Why are so many professors now advocating lockdowns and restrictions? The psychological explanation lies partly in “the law of the instrument” first expressed by philosopher Abraham Kaplan in his book The Conduct of Inquiry: “I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

Scientist should never have been given the almighty hammer of lockdowns, but now they have been given the hammer, MPs need to stop them pounding.

Stop Press: Professor Paul Elliott, the director of the study, seems to think it’s his job to tell ministers what they “have” to do. Speaking to Sky News, he said:

At the moment, the prevalence levels are still very, very high. We just have to get them down further. It is really encouraging news, what we’ve seen reported today – that the virus is on the way down, the ‘R’ value is robustly below one, which means that the epidemic is shrinking rather than growing. But we just have to be cautious because at the moment the pressure on the NHS is still severe and there are still very large numbers of patients in hospital with coronavirus, sadly.

Another example of scientists and advisers not respecting the boundary between science and politics, between providing data and weighing up the costs and benefits across the whole of society, which is properly a job for our political leaders.

Stop Press 2: The Mail reports on the moment Joe Biden’s Covid adviser “is unable to explain why lockdown-loving California isn’t doing better than open-all-hours Florida”.

Stop Press 3: Summit News points out that no-lockdown Sweden is seeing Covid deaths plummet quicker than lockdown UK. See this tweet by Dr Eli David for a nice graph illustrating this point.

A Senior Doctor Writes…

The senior former NHS doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics on the situation in hospitals has sent us an update.

Lockdown Sceptics have again kindly asked me to review the medical position now Covid cases are falling in number across the country. Specifically, I will look at some of the predictions and assertions made by media commentators in the past weeks to assess how they compare with the emerging data. The usual caveats apply in relation to data interpretation – one can only comment on information provided by the authorities in the way that they chose to display the figures. The NHS does not permit peer review, so it is not possible to interrogate the raw data in a meaningful way.

Firstly, a few graphs showing the hospital situation in England. Graph 1 shows the number of patients designated Covid positive in English Hospitals from the beginning of December. The decline in numbers is clear and we are pretty much back to where we were nearly three months ago.

Graph 1

Graph 2 shows the number of Covid designated patients admitted from the community expressed as a three day moving average to smooth the curve lines. Please note that these figures do not include in-hospital nosocomial Covid infections – I will return to this point later.

Readers will observe that community admissions have fallen dramatically since the peak on January 6th. The recent decline has been particularly steep in London (orange line), consistent with the data from the Imperial College REACT study which estimates the prevalence of Covid in London to have fallen from 2.83% to 0.54% from swabs taken between February 4th and 13th. The feared second peak in the Midlands (grey line) does not appear to have materialised thus far. I have noticed in the media that the fall in cases is being largely attributed to ‘Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions’ (the medical euphemism for lockdown). It is not clear to me why commentators draw that conclusion from this data. It is broadly accepted that NPIs take at least seven to 10 days to show an effect on admissions to hospital. Graph 2 shows that admissions peaked on Jan 6th in all English regions. Given that Lockdown 3 was only announced on Jan 5th, how can lockdown have been responsible for the reduction in admissions commencing on Jan 7th? This data is much more compatible with the Zoe App community infection survey showing peak community infection on or around December 30th.

Graph 2

Graph 3 shows the number of Covid patients in ‘mechanically ventilated beds’ – effectively ICU. Again, the fall in numbers is marked, but the angle of decline is much shallower – which is what one would expect. It will probably take another month for ICU numbers to fall to the levels seen at the beginning of December, as these are the sickest patients who often stay on ICU for extended periods.

Graph 3

I would now like to address a few specific issues.

1. Age stratification of disease with the ‘new variant’

Over the last few weeks there has been much commentary about the new Covid variant being more lethal than the 2020 version and younger patients being more at risk of severe disease. It had been difficult to assess these claims, because the standard data packets put all patients aged 18-64 into the same category. However, someone in the NHS appears to have taken note of the discussions around age stratification and released information with slightly tighter age brackets dating back to October 2020. Table 1 shows a summary of this data from October 2020 – February 7th 2021. Readers will observe that patients between the ages of 18 and 54 made up 20.9% of the total admitted over the period.

Age range of COVID admissions and diagnosesNumber of patientsPercentage of total
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  0-515600.7%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  6-1714840.7%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  18-544623520.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  55-643293414.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  65-744028518.2%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  75-845286523.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  85+4606120.8%
Table 1 – COVID Hospital patients Oct 12th 2020 – Feb 7th 2021

Of course, it is possible that expressing the data as a summary like this, might conceal variable trends over the period – so graph 4 expresses the information on a day by day basis. There does not seem to be a substantial increase in the younger patient group over the study period – hence one can conclude from this information that the ‘new variant’ emerging in December did not cause a disproportionate increase in admissions in younger people than earlier in the year.

Graph 4

Drawing conclusions from just one source of information is highly risky. In Graph 5 I have examined the ONS death figures from week 12 of 2020 to week 4 of 2021 broken down by age bands and expressed as percentages of the total. Again, there seems to be no discernible difference in death rates by age across the period.

Graph 5

Graph 6 expresses Covid deaths in 2021 by age category. The coloured bars represent the first four weeks of the year. It is important to note that death reporting lags hospital admission figures quite substantially, so one would expect reported deaths to rise over January. Further, the beneficial effect of vaccinations is not seen in this graphic. Graph 6 confirms that the new variant of Covid still has disproportionate lethality in older age groups. Deaths in patients under 60 are no more common than in the spring and account for approximately 6% of total deaths. Patients under 55 accounted for 21% of hospital admissions but 3.6% of total deaths. Patients over 55 constituted 78% of admissions and 96% of the deaths.

Graph 6

2. In-hospital infections

A recent paper presented to SAGE written by Public Health England and the LSHTM estimated that 20-25% of hospital cases in the spring wave were acquired in hospital.

I find it remarkable that there has been virtual silence on this issue by NHS leadership. In the first decade of the century, when nosocomial infections with MRSA and C. difficile were recognised to be a serious problem, hospitals were obliged to monitor and publicly disclose their infection rates, as this was a matter of considerable public interest. Such measures served to drive up standards of infection control and drive down MRSA rates. Why is Covid any different?

3. Patients with ‘new variant Covid’ are sicker than previously

The February 12th update to the ICNARC report (national ICU audit) shows some interesting figures. Overall age of ICU patients has fallen slightly when comparisons are made between the cohort of patients admitted Sept 1st – Nov 30th and patients admitted after December 1st. The mean age of the first group was 61.1 years and of the second 58.8. Although there was a slight fall in ICU age, this could be an artefact – during periods of high intensity, the admission criteria for ICU do change. For example, ICU patient ages are always skewed to the younger side as older and sicker patients do not meet the criteria for admission to critical care. NHS managers are always very cautious about acknowledging ‘ceiling of care’ criteria in public, but it’s the type of decision that clinical doctors make every day – not just during pandemics. As an example, the over-80 age group account for 25% of total hospital inpatients, but only 5% of ICU patients. Over-80s also account for 60% of Covid deaths.

The ICNARC report also finds that there is evidence that patients admitted to ICU since December 1st are sicker in terms of blood oxygen levels than earlier in the year. We can measure ‘sickness’ in a variety of ways – ICNARC use a ratio called PaO2 / FIO2 – which compares the blood oxygen level of a patient against the percentage of oxygen given to that patient by face mask or intubation. In a nutshell, the lower this number, the worse the lungs are at passing oxygen from the inhaled air into the blood stream. The latest audit shows that there are more patients in ICU with lower PaO2 / FIO2 than previously and that this change is most marked in London and the South East. The numbers of patients involved are quite small in the overall context, but the change is measurable and significant.

Although this is a genuine difference in the data, it is quite possibly a consequence of selection bias in the ICU patient cohort rather than a change in disease severity. Graph 7 shows that the proportion of patients admitted to ICU in January was a smaller percentage of the total (12%) than in the spring peak (17%). Under these circumstances it is possible that while the ICU doctors can detect a change to more serious disease, when the overall hospital patients are considered, there is no actual difference.

Graph 7

The survival curves continue to show a survival advantage of recent patients compared to earlier in the pandemic – this advantage has narrowed in recent months, most probably attributable to the stress of demand and expansion of ICU capacity. But more patients are still surviving than in the spring.

Another interesting finding is that pregnancy or recent pregnancy may be associated with severe Covid. Again, the numbers are small, but in January just over 100 pregnant or recently pregnant patients were admitted to English ICUs with acute Covid compared to about 40 in April.

So, in summary, there does not appear to be an overall change in the age of Covid patients admitted to hospitals, or a change in the age stratified deaths, but among the very sickest patients there is some signal of a higher proportion of more severe illness, which may be a genuine change or reflect selection bias in the ICU figures.

4. The dogs that didn’t bark.

I’ve already mentioned the absence of comment from NHS senior management about the high levels of nosocomial Covid infection, but there are a couple of other strange omissions. The first is the level of Covid Discharges from English Hospitals. Readers may remember Simon Steven’s alarming TV interview when he warned the British public that every 30 seconds a patient was admitted to hospital suffering from acute Covid. I’m a bit surprised that he didn’t mention that on January 26th a recovered Covid patient was also discharged from hospital every 30 seconds. In fact as Graph 8 shows, Covid discharges have exceeded in-hospital diagnoses since mid-January (and this graph includes admissions and nosocomial infections). Readers may wonder why the discharges (blue line) exhibit a regular wave like pattern – this is due to the ‘weekend effect’ where fewer patients are discharged at weekends or bank holidays.

Graph 8

On January 26th at the Downing Street press conference, the Chief Medical Officer commented that the number of daily deaths recorded from Covid in the UK was likely to come down “relatively slowly”. Professor Whitty went on to say: “I think we have to be realistic that the rate of mortality, the number of people dying a day, will come down relatively slowly over the next two weeks – and will probably be flat for a while now.”

Graph 9 shows what actually happened to daily deaths since January 26th. To help the readers with interpretation, I have highlighted January 26th in red. Since that date, daily recorded deaths have halved. It is important to note that I am not being overly critical of Professor Whitty. After 30 years of practicing clinical medicine I am acutely aware of how easy it is to make a mistake and how vulnerable one is when making prognostic predictions. Nevertheless, it’s important that doctors acknowledge error and correct it when necessary. To be fair, he may already have done so – I rarely watch television these days, so could well have missed an erratum.

Professor Whitty is a highly capable doctor – his errant statement speaks to a wider point about accuracy of projections. No matter how eminent the commentator any prediction is simply an educated guess. We can only be certain about what has actually happened.

Graph 9

Finally, we have heard a lot in the press and from Government spokespeople that Covid is a disease that can affect everyone regardless of age or sex. I now refer to one of the really standout risk factors from the ICNARC database – body mass index (BMI).

In the cohort of patients in English ICUs from September 1st, 36.7% had BMIs between 30 and 40 and 11.5% had a BMI over 40 – so almost half of critically ill patients with COVID were either overweight or grossly obese. For comparison, 3% of the general population have a BMI over 40 and 28.7% have a BMI between 30 and 40. For clarity, I’m not criticising fat people (as I’m also a few pounds over my ‘ideal weight’…) but making the point that Government and the NHS should avoid ‘spinning’ selected statistics to achieve political ends and strive to present a comprehensive and balanced picture. Doing otherwise leads to poor decision making and a damaging loss of trust in our civic institutions.

We’re publishing an original piece today by Lockdown Sceptics contributor and retired dentist Dr Mark Shaw, giving his considered and balanced view of the vaccines from a responsible clinician’s point of view. Here’s a taster:

The problem with the Government’s strategy is that it is rolling out a vaccination programme in a blanket approach that does not allow the public to make a properly informed decision based on evaluating their own relative risk of suffering from the effects of catching Covid. A clinician should only advise a patient to undergo treatment when they have been informed of all the pros and cons – so that the clinician has the patient’s informed consent. Informed consent (in this case of the public) can only have been obtained when the relative risks have been presented in a non-biased way without frightening them.

It would be reasonable to question the speed at which the vaccinations were rolled out (can you really compress time?) and the way the vaccines were administered (strictly as manufacturers recommended or not?) and, in this case particularly, the trial numbers and age range, etc.

If we throw caution to the wind and just accept that we have to get everyone vaccinated willy nilly in order to achieve a speedy end to lockdown, then we have failed as clinicians to act professionally. We run the risk of taking a gamble (again no matter how small) of failing to provide the best care for the public and ( if that “no matter how small” gamble fails in any small way), losing the most precious value that patients place in us – TRUST.

Worth reading in full.

The Hierarchy of Clinical Evidence: of Lockdowns, COVID-19 and Chickens

We’re also publishing an original piece today by a senior scientist working in clinical development about how we can be confident in our scientific findings and the pitfalls to avoid. He introduces it with an entertaining tale about chickens, but with an important point.

A man owned a chicken farm. One day he became concerned that it hadn’t rained for a while and that his crops, which he used to feed his chickens, might fail resulting in lots of chickens dying. So, the man went to the nearby temple to consult the Sage. After performing a complex ritual, the Sage had the answer: “You must sacrifice one of your chickens every week or it will never rain.” The man was upset – he liked his chickens and was always reluctant to kill them. But the Sage was wise and the ritual complex, so he obeyed the command and that evening he killed a chicken. The next day it rained.

We may well laugh at the man’s stupidity. How could he believe that sacrificing a chicken will have any relationship to the weather? But how do we prove that it doesn’t?

Clearly, the first time the man sacrificed a chicken it rained the next day, but this isn’t really evidence of cause and effect. So, rather than just this one case, what if we observed the man for a whole year? If we did this, we’d note that he sacrifices a chicken every week on a Tuesday night and that it rains in the subsequent week 10 times. From these observations we might conclude that chicken sacrifice has an efficacy of about 20% when it comes to making it rain. The problem with this is that because the man sacrifices a chicken every week there is a 100% certainty that he will have sacrificed a bird the week before it rains. So, this doesn’t help us as we are still unable to separate correlation from causality.

Thinking on this, it is clear we need to compare chicken killing with not chicken killing. Luckily, his neighbour is a turnip farmer and does not sacrifice chickens and when we compare them, we see that it rains regardless of whether a chicken is killed or not. But what if turnip farming and chicken farming are not comparable when it comes to sacrifices and rainfall? To remove this as a possibility, we go and find lots of chicken farmers and randomly assign some of them to chicken sacrifice and others not. This way we are comparing like with like. Now we observe that there is no difference between these two groups with respect to whether it rains or not, and we’re really getting convinced that chicken killing is not making it rain. In the end we pull all of our observations together and publish them in CLUCK! (The magazine for Chicken Farmers) where we consider all of the evidence in the round and conclude firmly that there is no relationship between sacrificing chickens and whether it rains.

The points of this story are twofold. Firstly, it can be very difficult to disprove an assumed relationship between an intervention and an outcome once it is established as ‘truth’; and secondly, the only way we can do this is through building a case of ever higher quality evidence.

Putting aside poultricide, this kind of “hierarchy of evidence” is well established in clinical science. It recognises that not all data is equal, and that the strength of conclusions are different depending on the data used to underpin them.

Worth reading in full.

How to Spread the Virus in Hospital

Where was Hattie Jacques when we needed her?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader who lived for a while with an NHS nurse has written with some observations on one way the virus might be spreading in hospitals.

I am writing this not as a biologist or epidemiologist, but as a lockdown sceptic who was living with an NHS worker from March to November. I had always noticed that my flatmate would launder her uniforms at home in 30°C water, which irked me prior to the lockdown, but I said nothing. When lockdown 1.0 was enforced, she continued to bring home her uniforms and at this point, I had to question this. I had become a prisoner in my home to ‘keep the NHS safe’ and she was allowed to bring dirty uniforms from the hospital into my home? I queried about a hospital laundry service which would thus ensure that all uniforms would be sterilised. She told me it was “too complicated”. I could not help but wonder what was so complicated about using a laundry service so I wrote to the hospital to probe further. I received the following response:

“All our staff have been provided with information in line with our Infection and Prevention policy. This has been around laundering their uniform at work if they wish to or alternatively, taking their uniform home in a bag and washing at 60 degrees. We have advised staff that they are not to travel in uniform or scrubs and there are shower facilities at work for staff who wish to shower and change into their own clothes before going home.”

If they wish?! These lockdowns have all been about erring on the extreme side of caution and we are happy to let the NHS do whatever they wish? And who is to say that hospital workers are following such guidelines? I have read that in many countries in Europe, including Germany and Austria, it is forbidden for healthcare workers to bring home their uniforms because not only does it elevate the risk of infection to other members of households, but it can also introduce infections back in the hospital which would have been picked up at home.

Studies have been conducted on cross-contamination: “In a study from 2015, the following was discovered: In total, 265 healthcare staff from a range of disciplines including nurses, healthcare assistants, ward clerks, housekeepers, physiotherapists responded to the study questionnaire; 43.7% laundered their uniforms below the 60°C recommended by the DH; 33% washed them at 40°C and 5% at 30°C.” (Fig 1) (Riley et al, 2015).

The following concluding points were made:

– Uniforms, which are washed by staff at home, could be potential sources of bacterial contamination
– Trusts’ home laundering policies can be unclear, and inconsistent
– Not all staff wash their uniforms at the recommended temperature
– Guidance needs to be standardised and staff provided with better changing facilities and enough uniforms
– A radical solution would be to move from home laundering to in-house industrial laundering of uniforms

I am thoroughly disgusted and always scoff at the message, “Protect the NHS”. Perhaps a more appropriate message would be “Protect the public from the NHS”. From what I have witnessed, sloppiness could have easily caused such a high percentage of hospital-acquired Covid infection.

The reader wrote to her MP, Rupa Huq, about this matter. Rupa responded:

You have raised some very salient points in your correspondence and I am concerned at what you have highlighted to me. It is worrying that there could be a considerable risk of health and social care workers across the UK potentially bringing coronavirus back into their household bubbles if uniforms are not being treated properly or washed thoroughly.

As is such, I have now made formal enquiries on your behalf to the UK Government in order to clarify their understanding of the risks involved and whether a change in policy could be needed in order to minimise the risk of intra-household infection given the sacrifices everyone is making to try and prevent a second wave of infections.

I will be in touch with you as soon as I have received a response from the Government that I can share with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me again should you require any additional support. Thank you for raising your concerns with me – they are important and I hope to receive a substantive reply from the Government shortly.

No update, however, ever came.

Discriminating Against People With No Mask or Vaccination May Contravene Equality Law

Robin Tilbrook from Lawyers for Liberty sent a letter to the Telegraph yesterday pointing out that if employers or service providers start requiring things like masks or vaccines which disabilities prevent some people from using or having, it could quickly get very expensive for them.

Re: Philip Johnston’s Article, Telegraph February 17th 2021 “Vaccine passports will be difficult to resist, whether we like them or not”

Philip Johnston’s otherwise excellent article about the looming threat to our liberties of vaccine passports does however miss the point that there are many people who have genuine medical reasons for not being vaccinated (or wearing masks).

These reasons are, by definition in the Equality Act 2010, “Disabilities.” It therefore is not merely illegal, but also potentially expensive to require something that cannot be easily complied with by people with disabilities.

A single ordinary incident of discrimination, such as a refusal of service to someone without a vaccine passport (or mask), will incur liability for Damages of up to £8,400. If it is a more serious incident then Damages will be up to £25,200. Such claims are already being made and are impossible to resist!

Yours faithfully

R C W Tilbrook
Director & Solicitor
Lawyers for Liberty

A Victim of Lockdown

A Lockdown Sceptics reader copied us into the email she sent to her MP, Pete Wishart, about the challenges a friend with learning difficulties is experiencing in lockdown. A stark reminded of how badly lockdown and public health panic can impact people.

Lisa (not her real name for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand) has been in our lives since her birth 45 years ago when she was born with a learning disability. Her parents have since separated and moved on but Lisa has remained as a family friend.

Life has been hard for her. She’s managed to live independently but not without a struggle. In the absence of her parents, her sister and brother have been thrown into the role of reluctant carers. She could never cope with paid employment so volunteering has been her lifeline as has her love of filling empty days by travelling to Edinburgh and Glasgow by bus, often just to buy shampoo or have a coffee in a different place. She’s blossomed and flourished in a volunteer placement where wonderful people value her contribution.

Over the last year, Lisa’s life has shrunk to virtually nothing. Her ‘bubble’ is her sister and family but both she and her brother and their spouses are mainly self-employed and struggling to manage floundering businesses; alongside the pressures of home schooling. At Christmas they had been made too terrified of ‘infecting’ Lisa with Covid they decided not to risk having her to the house. I’ll leave it to you to guess how this was humanely managed.

Lisa’s life has shrunk to virtually nothing other than limited contact with her support worker. Volunteer work is cancelled and bus travel forbidden. Mask wearing leaves her panicked and breathless – of course she’d be exempt but try telling her that when she’s terrified of rebuke for not wearing one. So she stopped going out on her own, something she did relatively confidently previously. The treat of a Costa coffee is gone, even when it was allowed last summer because she feared being asked for her name and didn’t know at what point her mask could come off to drink it.

So, what does her life look like during these lockdown days on her own in a small flat? Some days she doesn’t even dress because there’s no point. She eats and watches DVDs. Her weight has increased, she’s breathless and her blood pressure has increased but still the nurse merely phones and checks that she’s wearing her mask and washing her hands which are red raw from over washing.

Normality for Lisa is not a holiday abroad or a trip to the pub. It’s meaningful occupation with her friends at the farm, it’s a trip in the bus for a coffee, hopefully with the friendly driver who knows her name. She doesn’t ask for much but what little she needs and wants is denied to her. This life is no life. She sees so few people it’s unlikely that Covid will kill her but I fear that lockdown certainly could.

Please think about Lisa and her family and the many others like her when you add your support for continuing lockdowns.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Leave The Children Alone” by Steve Tolluch, “Maybe Tomorrow” by Stereophonics, “Something Changed” by Pulp, “I Fought the Law” by Dead Kennedys and “I don’t live today” by Jimi Hendrix.

Love in the Time of Covid

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde

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 Lockdown Sceptics 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

Proud Puffs is a chocolate-flavored, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a Black fist

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Proud Puffs: a chocolate-flavoured, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a black fist from a black-owned breakfast food company. The Huffington Post has the details.

On one particular night last summer, Nic King had trouble sleeping. There was a lot on his mind.

The 34 year-old had recently left his corporate job. The Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd had just begun to spread nationwide. 

It was out of this moment, one that he calls “divine inspiration”, that he came up with the idea for Proud Puffs, a chocolate-flavoured, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a Black fist. 

“I woke out of my sleep. It was a random idea that was on my mind,” King told HuffPost. “I’m thinking, where is cereal coming from? Starting a cereal company is a super bizarre idea to think about at 3am but as a man of faith, I’ve always believed if you get a random idea, God gives you an idea and you look into it.” 

From there, King, who lives in Darien, Connecticut, spent the next several months conducting research on how to pursue his vision. He officially announced the launch of Legacy Cereal in December, which he says may be the only Black-owned business of its kind. 

While the majority of businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected due to the lack of support and resources. Yet, King pushed forward with his idea, even after losing his commercial kitchen in December because of COVID-19 restrictions slowed down the production launch of the cereal.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the sheer lunacy of the woke cultists, they do something even more bonkers. Check out this video in which a wokester explains what the “fraysexual” flag is.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.

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.

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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Listen to the Daily Wrap Up from the Last American Vagabond on how “Masks Lead To Bacterial Pneumonia, Oral Thrush, Systemic Inflammation and May Be The Cause Of ‘Long-Haul’ COVID”. Nothing to worry about then.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. 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 and Runnymede Trust’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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th 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 his latest Spectator column Toby has some words of wisdom for the next person to be made the ‘Free Speech Champion’ on the board of the Office for Students. It didn’t work out so well for him three years ago.

I was delighted to hear the Government plans to appoint a ‘Free Speech Champion’ to the board of the Office for Students. His or her responsibility will be to make sure universities in England and Wales do everything that is reasonably practicable to uphold freedom of speech within the law, including preventing external speakers from being no-platformed by student activists. This legal duty has been on the statute books since 1986, but there is no enforcement mechanism. That’s why this announcement is so important. The new free speech tsar will have the power to fine universities that don’t uphold the law.

Theresa May’s government took a dummy run at this when it appointed me to the board of the Office for Students in 2018. I wasn’t billed as a free speech champion, but the minister who oversaw my appointment — Jo Johnson — made it clear that my track record of defending freedom of expression was why he wanted me.

Unfortunately, my appointment was derailed after the combined forces of the regressive left, including numerous woke academics who believe free speech is an “alt right” hobby horse, started petitioning the Government to change its mind. I mean that literally. A petition on Change.org calling for the Prime Minister to sack me got more than 220,000 signatures. In the course of prosecuting their case, my detractors trawled through everything I’d ever said or written, dating back more than 30 years, looking for evidence that I was an unsuitable person to serve in public office. At one point, the 10 most searched-for articles in the Spectator’s digital archive dating back to 1828 were all by me, as the offence archaeologists went about their work. Needless to say, it didn’t take them long to strike gold. Someone found an article I’d written in 2001 headlined: “Confessions of a porn addict.”

The sleuth who’d found this bragged about it on social media and hours later the Evening Standard ran a story: “New pressure on Theresa May to sack ‘porn addict’ Toby Young from watchdog role.” I naively thought this couldn’t possibly damage me — it was a self-deprecating piece about trying to watch a late-night show on a satellite channel called Men & Motors without Caroline finding out — but the Times went big on the story the following day: “‘Porn addict’ Toby Young fights to keep role as student watchdog.”

Worth reading in full.