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“A Happy and Free Great British Summer”

Brighton Pier – about as exotic a locale as you’re likely to travel to this summer

Matt Hancock was interviewed by BBC Politics East yesterday and was in an optimistic frame of mind. The Metro has more.

Mr Hancock told BBC Politics East that there would be “a few tough few months between now and (summer)”, with many restrictions likely to be in place until the late spring.

But, he added: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer. I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated – and that’s not just the clinically vulnerable groups, but all groups.”

By British Summer, he means British Summer. Readers will likely have seen the Governments new PR campaign, geared at reminding Brits, especially those working as social media influencers, that holidays outside the country are now strictly verboten.

The Telegraph has more.

The Health Secretary said on Sunday he hoped Britain could enjoy the return of lost freedoms this summer – but his language suggested those freedoms may not stretch to overseas travel, with the rest of the world much further behind in vaccination and continued concerns about the emergence of Covid variants…

However, ministers have been warned that Britain may not be able to abandon social distancing rules this year unless a vaccine proves to be 85% effective at stopping transmission of Covid as well as severe illness.

Last week, research from Israel suggested efficacy against transmission will be around 60% – but there is significant uncertainty, with a major study due to be published in Britain next month.

Modelling commissioned by SPI-M, a subgroup of Sage, and passed to Downing Street, suggests the UK could suffer a further huge spike in deaths unless inoculation cuts transmission significantly. Scientists involved in the studies have already said opening pubs before May could cause a third wave of Covid cases.

Worth reading in full.

Israel Today reports mounting frustration in the country, amidst mounting speculation that despite the vaccine drive, and its accompanying passport scheme, the progress out of lockdowns remains slow:

Israel’s successful COVID-19 vaccination drive has had a lot to do with folks being eager to finally be free of lockdowns and the ever-present threat of quarantine.

The Jewish state has for the past year been using advanced technology to track citizens who come into contact with an infected person, and order them into self-isolation. Those who violate the quarantine face a hefty fine.

Getting the shot provides Israelis with a “green passport” (certificate of vaccination) that, among other things, exempts the holder from the quarantine ordeal. But Channel 12 News reported at the weekend that officials at the Ministry of Health are considering cancelling the exemption amid concerns that vaccinated persons can still carry and spread COVID-19.

Professor Gabi Barbash, who last year lead the Government’s coronavirus task force, told Channel 12 that “vaccination alone won’t get the job done. We still don’t know for certain that vaccination will prevent a person from being infected”.

A number of other experts slammed the Ministry of Health over what they called premature speculation that can only serve to confuse the public and potentially harm the vaccination drive.

“We need to wait until more data is in before making decisions, and stop with the constant zig-zagging,” insisted Professor Nadav Davidovitch.

Why the hesitation? Mutant strains, of course.

The initial test results of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provided great cause for hope. And mutations were certainly expected. But now some Israeli officials are raising concerns that the mutations could soon make obsolete the current vaccine, or at least eliminate many of the benefits of being inoculated.

“We don’t have evidence yet that any of the variants are completely resistant to the vaccine, but there is some preliminary evidence to say that perhaps the effectiveness of the vaccine is somewhat less against the South African variant,” said Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, in remarks to the Kan public broadcaster.

Worth reading in full

Perhaps this explains Jet2’s focus on Summer 22 in its current advertising campaign rather than Summer 21. Has someone in Downing Street tipped them off?

Stop Press: The Telegraph points out that all but two of the 33 countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ of banned countries have lower infections rates, and several are seeing more than 10 times fewer infections than Britain.

Facebook’s Wrist Slapped by its Oversight Board for Covid Censorship

David Gothard, WSJ

Facebook’s Oversight Board was formed in October 2019 to support and review Facebook’s content management policies and practice, an area which has become fraught with difficulty for the social media platform. It began operating throughout 2020 and according to the website:

The board uses its independent judgment to support people’s right to free expression and ensure that those rights are being adequately respected. The board’s decisions to uphold or reverse Facebook’s content decisions will be binding, meaning that Facebook will have to implement them, unless doing so could violate the law.

Last week, the Board announced its first set of decisions and one of them is a corker.

The case concerned the removal of content concerning a treatment for sufferers of COVID-19 which, at the time, Facebook decided violated its misinformation and imminent harm rule.

In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19. The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorise hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorised and promoted remdesivir. The user criticised the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives. The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.

In its referral to the Board, Facebook cited this case as an example of the challenges the company faced when it came to assessing the risk of offline harm that could be caused by misinformation about COVID-19.

But – rather surprisingly – the Board overturned Facebook’s decision to censor the post.

Facebook removed the content for violating its misinformation and imminent harm rule, which is part of its Violence and Incitement Community Standard, finding the post contributed to the risk of imminent physical harm during a global pandemic. Facebook explained that it removed the post as it contained claims that a cure for COVID-19 exists. The company concluded that this could lead people to ignore health guidance or attempt to self-medicate.

The Board observed that, in this post, the user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy. The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.

The Board also found that Facebook’s decision did not comply with international human rights standards on limiting freedom of expression. Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content.

The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards. A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.

The Board instructed Facebook to restore the post.

It also recommended that Facebook

  • Create a new Community Standard on health misinformation, consolidating and clarifying the existing rules in one place. This should define key terms such as “misinformation.”
  • Adopt less intrusive means of enforcing its health misinformation policies where the content does not reach Facebook’s threshold of imminent physical harm.
  • Increase transparency around how it moderates health misinformation, including publishing a transparency report on how the Community Standards have been enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This recommendation draws upon the public comments the Board received.

Facebook has confirmed that that it will implement the Board decisions, which are binding, but said that its current approach would continue.

Given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, we feel it’s important to briefly comment on the decision in the COVID-19 case. The board rightfully raises concerns that we can be more transparent about our COVID-19 misinformation policies. We agree that these policies could be clearer and intend to publish updated COVID-19 misinformation policies soon. We do believe, however, that it is critical for everyone to have access to accurate information, and our current approach in removing misinformation is based on extensive consultation with leading scientists, including from the CDC and WHO. During a global pandemic this approach will not change.

Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 are Most Likely to Become Infected in Belgium, Spain and the UK

When prominent scientists call for a strategy of ‘focused protection’, as described in the Great Barrington Declaration, the response is often that such an approach is nice in theory but unworkable in practice. This, despite the fact that the UK Government appears to be having a go at doing it through its shielding policy. Now Stanford University’s Professor John P. A. Ioannidis has examined the question in an article published on BMJ Global Health. He doesn’t think it’s impossible, but he notes that several countries have done the opposite – protected the least vulnerable and exposed the most vulnerable to the greatest risk of infection.

First he explains the concept of ‘precision shielding’.

Precision shielding stems from the concept of precision medicine and precision public health. The terms stratified medicine, individualised medicine and personalised medicine are also used. The success of the concept has two prerequisites: first, the ability to identify and separate reliably individuals who have very different risks; and second, the availability of effective interventions specifically for those at high risk. The proof that these prerequisites have been met is provided by the improved outcomes of these select, high-risk individuals who are targeted precisely.

There is very strong evidence that the risk of severe adverse outcomes and death in SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals shows extreme risk stratification according to age, and additional substantial risk stratification is possible according to gender, socioeconomic and clinical features. Different individuals (e.g. children vs debilitated elderly people) vary over 1000-fold in their estimated risk of death and other serious outcomes (e.g. hospitalisation) if infected. Therefore, since the first prerequisite is met, the main question is whether the second prerequisite can also be met, that is, whether interventions exist that can offer enhanced protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection targeted to those individuals who are at high risk.

He then explains what yardstick he would use to measure whether ‘precision shielding’ was working.

It is important to have some robust metrics that can assess reliably whether precision shielding is achieved or not. The most direct measure is the ratio of prevalence of ensuing infections among people at a high-risk group versus the prevalence of infections among people in a low-risk group. Let us call this ratio, S, the shielding ratio…

The potential benefit of precision shielding would be greater, when the shielding ratio is lower. A shielding ratio of S=1 means that low-risk and high-risk people are equally frequently infected, a shielding ratio of S=0.5 means that high-risk people have half the risk of being infected than low-risk ones. S may also take values above 1, if somehow high-risk people get more frequently infected than low-risk people, a situation of “inverse protection”.

You can see where this is heading, can’t you? He then crunches some numbers to show that, in fact, high-risk people are at significantly greater risk of being infected in some countries (Belgium, Spain and the UK) than low-risk populations during the first wave of infections last year.

As shown, Belgium, UK and Spain have had very unfavourable S values (S=1.9, 2.2. and 3.1 in the baseline scenario, potentially even higher in some sensitivity analyses). This means that people who were institutionalised in nursing homes were approximately two times as likely to be infected than the non-institutionalised population in Belgium and the UK and more than three times more likely to be infected than the non-institutionalised population in Spain.

Setting these figures in context, he continues:

The shielding ratio can be used as a metric to assess whether protection of high-risk populations is being achieved in a given country or jurisdiction. As shown, data from the first wave of COVID-19 suggest that the shielding ratio can take very different values, ranging from extremely effective protection of vulnerable high-risk populations to major inverse protection, where high-risk populations have been protected far less successfully than low-risk populations.

Fatality rates tend to be relatively low in countries where the elderly (and even more so the institutionalised elderly) have been effectively protected. It is possible that one can achieve better values of shielding (lower S) in nursing homes than in non-institutionalised elderly who are unavoidably more freely mobile in the community. Countries that have avoided massive infections in nursing homes have had much lower fatality burden from COVID-19 in the first wave. It is estimated that in the first wave, only 0.01% of South Korean nursing home residents died with COVID-19, as opposed to 3.3% in Sweden and more than 5% in Belgium, England and Spain. While there may be differences on how deaths are attributed to COVID-19 among nursing home residents, these are unlikely to explain away such major differences across countries. Besides nursing homes, some differential protection can be achieved even for the non-institutionalised elderly and this may result in substantially lower fatalities overall. Thus, Iceland and Denmark did have 20% and 35%, respectively, of the COVID-19 deaths occur in nursing homes, but they seem to have protected effectively their community-dwelling elderly; therefore, they have had low fatalities in the first wave…

Some countries may have had mixed patterns, for example, protecting somehow their elderly, but not specifically their institutionalised elderly, as in the case of the UK and probably also the USA where 44% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in the 0.59% of the population that resides in nursing homes. This pattern can still translate to heavy cumulative death toll. Institutionalised elderly are at much higher risk of death than other elderly people, and they can contribute a lion’s share to the overall death count.

He concludes:

The most-widely used metric for the success of interventions against COVID-19 to-date has been the number of infections. This metric alone is problematic because the vast majority of infections remain unrecorded and the documented infections depend on how many tests are done. A more informative metric of success is the ability of different interventions to generate a most favourable shielding ratio for the most high-risk subgroups of the population. These subgroups may account for the vast majority of the potential deaths and, if properly protected, many deaths can be avoided…

Precision approaches had received enthusiastic support before the COVID-19 era as a way to transform medicine and health at large… COVID-19 offers a situation where risk discrimination is far better than most previous efforts at materialising precision medicine. If the risk stratification offered by COVID-19 does not suffice for precision purposes, then it is unlikely that the concept of precision medicine can find fruitful applications with major impact across medicine (perhaps with the exception of some rare conditions). At a minimum, it is worth trying to make precision approaches work for COVID-19. Even modest shielding ratios may translate into hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives saved during the multiyear course of the pandemic

Worth reading in full.

SAGE Should Take a Look at the Decline in Infections in U.S. States with Few Restrictions

New York Times

There follows a guest post from Will Jones.

A number of American states have rejected stay-at-home lockdowns and other strong restrictions throughout the crisis, while a larger group, though locking down for a period in the spring, have eschewed them during the autumn and winter surge.

Here is a list of the US states which have remained largely open during the autumn and winter (e.g. no stay-at-home orders) along with the dates that their positive cases went into decline this winter. (Source: Worldometers)

  • Florida: Cases declining since January 12th
  • Georgia: Cases declining since January 14th
  • South Carolina: Cases declining since January 19th
  • Texas: Cases declining since January 16th
  • South Dakota: Cases declining since January 9th (main peak on November 17th)
  • Utah: Cases declining since January 10th
  • Nebraska: Cases declining since January 10th (main peak on November 20th)
  • Iowa: Cases declining since January 11th (main peak on November 13th)
  • Wyoming:  Cases declining since January 17th (main peak on November 23rd)
  • Arkansas: Cases declining since January 11th
  • North Dakota: Cases declining since November 18th

Note that all of these states saw infections starting to decline within ten days of each other in January. This is the same time that UK positive cases went into decline (January 10th).

When there is comparative data like this available for US states which declined to impose the restrictions being recommended in the UK and elsewhere, it is hard to understand how respectable scientists can continue to maintain that without lockdowns the NHS would be overwhelmed and deaths would skyrocket. Where is the requirement to test models against real-life evidence like this? 

I have a suggestion. Why don’t SAGE scientists apply their models to some of these places and see if they can accurately predict what will happen, and what has already happened?

There are numerous places which have declined to follow the lockdowners’ prescriptions. Time for the Government scientists to take a closer look and show how their models can match the outcomes that these places have experienced.

Stop Press: For more on the situation in the USA, see this report from France 24. The autumn-winter surge is most definitely easing, and the decline has given rise to a number of explanations, including the suggestion, made by Professor Jay Bhattacharya, among others, that the country is heading towards immunity.

Whatever Happened to the Flu?

Flu this winter seems to have all but disappeared. Sky News reports that “in the third week of January – usually a peak time for the flu – the number of flu-like illnesses reported to doctors was 0.9 per 100,000 people compared with a five-year average of 27”. This phenomenon is being chalked up to the beneficial effects of hand-washing, social distancing and indeed the lockdown. This could spell trouble down the road, enabling the authorities to argue that we ought to lockdown every winter to prevent flu deaths. Business Insider, reporting on the disappearance of flu, carries some interesting comments from various experts.

John McCauley, director of the World Health Organisation’s collaborating centre in London, told the Times that the collapse in numbers was “unprecedented”.

But while this might be good news overall, some scientists who are developing a vaccine for next year’s flu season are struggling because of the few samples they now have to work on. 

“It’s a nightmare to work out what comes next,” said McCauley. “If you have flu away for a year, then immunity will have waned. It could come back worse.”

Stop Press: A Freedom of Information request made to the ONS in August last year produced stats for combined influenza and pneumonia deaths, and COVID-19 deaths with no-pre-existing conditions, that, on the face of it, suggest about the same number of people died of influenza and pneumonia in England and Wales between March and June as died from COVID-19 but without any comorbidities.

How many influenza deaths have occurred in 2020?

As stated above, 2020 mortality data is still in a provisional state and not available in its entirety. We have provisional data available from March – June 2020 grouped for both ‘influenza and pneumonia’ in table 5 of Deaths involving COVID-19, England and Wales.

  • Influenza and pneumonia: England and Wales – 4582
  • Influenza and pneumonia: England – 4426
  • Influenza and pneumonia: Wales – 147 England and Wales – 4582

How many deaths from only COVID-19 have occurred (from the first known case to date)? This means where no other underlying condition was listed on the death certificate.

These figures can be found in table 5 of Deaths involving COVID-19, England and Wales.

  • No pre-existing condition: England and Wales – 4476
  • No pre-existing condition: England – 4169
  • No pre-existing condition: Wales – 294

A Rebuttal of Christopher Snowdon’s Critique of Dr Mike Yeadon

Today, we are highlight a new response to Christopher Snowdon’s Quillete piece in which he took various sceptics to task, including Dr Mike Yeadon. This one, by independent researcher Nicholas Lewis, mounts a robust defence of Dr Yeadon.

Christopher Snowdon makes some reasonable points in his January 16th article in Quillette “Rise of the Coronavirus Cranks”. However, he conflates cranks and rational sceptics, resulting in much of his critique being wide of the mark or plain wrong, and rational sceptics being unfairly tarred with the same brush as cranks. A response to Snowdon’s general argument has since been published elsewhere. However, it does not challenge the key quantitative criticism that Snowdon makes.

Snowdon asserts that claims by Mike Yeadon are “demonstrably nonsensical”. Specifically, he attacks Yeadon’s claim in an article written in Lockdown Sceptics in mid-September that the vast majority of Covid cases identified by Pillar 2 (testing in the community, England) since May 2020 had been false positives. Snowdon accepts the mathematics but challenges Yeadon’s assumptions regarding the true positive rate and the PCR test false positive rate, of 0.1% (the rate found by the Office of National Statistics) and 0.8% (the low end of a 0.8 – 4.0% false positive rate range stated in a report by Government scientists).

Snowdon wrote that Yeadon “did not draw the obvious conclusion that if the false positive rate of the PCR test was 0.8 percent, the ONS should find positives at least 0.8 percent of the time”. Snowdon may think that is an obvious conclusion, but unfortunately that just reveals his scientific and statistical ignorance. As I will show, what Snowdon thinks is an “obvious conclusion” is actually false.

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

We have a new poem today, by the author and Lockdown Sceptics reader who calls herself Liberty Walker. This one inspired by a headline in the Telegraph about child’s play not being a form of exercise

Let Me Play

I’m just a child please let me play
I want to go outside today,
To run around and sing and shout,
Why won’t Boris let me out?

I used to play out in the street,
My friends and I we used to meet,
But now I sit and watch the screen,
My childhood is a tortured dream,

My stolen childhood must be restored,
These politicians should be ignored,
I need to play and socialise,
Not be kept indoors by fear and lies.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Fight For Liberty” by UVERworld, “Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” by Judy Collins and “There’s Gonna be a Showdown” by Archie Bell and the Drells.

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, from the New York Post we bring you Biden’s push for equity at the expense of equality.

President Biden’s embrace of utter nonsense pushed by the “woke” continued with last week’s executive orders to “advance racial equity” and “root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice”.

The “equity” approach assumes that any outcome that doesn’t meet inane racial quotas is the result of bias. It is, in fact, systematically racist.

The four executive orders Biden signed Tuesday don’t seem that earth-shattering. He directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development “to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies”, told the Justice Department to stop using private prisons, recommitted the feds to honouring tribal sovereignty and vowed to combat “racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders”.

But, as the White House put it, his many “equity” orders set up “a whole-of-Government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws and programs”. He’ll also require “all agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity and inclusion”.

Notice that repeated word, “equity.” Liberals used to call (rightly) for equality of opportunity – to have every American treated the same way before the law. “Equity” demands equal outcomes. If some group of Americans is doing better than another, no matter the reason, Government must fix it.

Tellingly, Biden in announcing his orders actually corrected his own use of the “wrong” term: “I believe this nation and this Government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal – equity.” 

Per the White House, Biden is bent on “embedding racial equity across his administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis”. That extends to de-facto quotas for small-business support – making federal aid depend on skin colour.

That’s un-American, but the White House said these steps are “just the start”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Over in Spectator USA, Peter Wood says that President Joe Biden, high priest of the cult of woke, has effectively thrown the weight of the Presidency behind Critical Race Theory.

Stop Press 2: TEDxLondon has helpfully explained why it’s no longer using the term “women” and is now using “womxn” instead.

“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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

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: CTV news reports that infectious disease experts in Calgary aren’t very impressed by the new vogue for ‘double masking’.

Adding layers to a mask is not an added layer of protection.

According to Dr. John Conly, Medical Director of the Research and Innovation Centre at the Cumming School of Medicine, “double-masking” is unnecessary.

The trend of wearing multiple fabric masks simultaneously, or wearing a disposable mask beneath a cloth one, gained momentum on January 20th during the widely broadcast U.S. Presidential Inauguration…

On Friday Canadian medical leaders told CTV News there is little scientific evidence for double masking.

“Starting to double up on them begets a false sense of security, and you are also going to have issues with children under age five or the elderly, or those who are cognitively impaired. There’s going to be difficulties with starting to double and triple up masks,” said Dr. Conly.

“I don’t see any necessity for doing that whatsoever the science doesn’t tell us that’s necessary.”

Stop Press 2: Mask rules are also unpleasant for those being asked to enforce them. Birminghamlive has an account of the confrontations endured by staff at Birmingham hospitals tasked with ensuring visitors mask 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. 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: In a letter to the editor of the FMT, Carmelo Ferlito CEO of the Center for Market Education in Malaysia makes an economics-based argument for the approach recommended by the Great Barrington Declaration

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. 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 underpins the SARS-CoV-2 PCR test protocol. That paper was submitted on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who have also submitted a retraction request.

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…

Gavin Newsom did a good job, says the Babylon Bee. The one-stop shop for fake news you can trust has produced a nice little animation of him joyfully inviting the state of California to reopen. One assumes it will not be featuring in his 2022 re-election campaign.