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Slowly Opening the Cage

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on February 1st, 2020

With the vaccine rollout on schedule – 15 million people have now received at least one dose – the Telegraph is reporting that Boris is due to announce an easing of restrictions from next month.

Meeting a friend for a coffee on a park bench and outdoor picnics will be the first activities to get the green light on March 8th, the Telegraph can reveal, with golf and tennis following shortly after…

Households, however, will not be allowed to mix inside or outside with anyone else. The changes are the first official confirmation that the national lockdown in England will ease on March 8th.

Ministers are privately also saying they expect pubs to be allowed to reopen – with outdoor dining as minimum – as soon as the first weekend in April, so households can have Easter lunch together.

Before preparing the hamper, it’s worth noting that restrictions will be eased more quickly in some areas than others, depending on local infection rates, and local authorities will retain the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17th this year.

As part of a “carrot and stick” approach, ministers are also working on an Australia-style approach that will see local areas locked down if there were a massive outbreak of the virus, or an outbreak of a new strain that could affect the efficacy of vaccines.

An announcement is expected tomorrow in the usual way.

Mr Johnson will host a press conference at 10 Downing Street on Monday to mark the moment, but sources said he did not want any early celebration with the overwhelming majority of the country still waiting for their jabs.

One minister said: “The PM does not want any celebration, very much business as usual, I will not rest until the whole country is vaccinated.”

Worth reading in full.

On that basis, it sounds like a return to where we were before Lockdown 3.0 was imposed – London and most parts of the country marooned in Tier 4 – but with children allowed to go to school. This is unlikely to be enough for some back bench Conservative MPs. The Mail on Sunday has more.

The simmering Tory tensions over lockdown came to a head in spectacular fashion last week when venerable backbencher Sir Charles Walker encountered Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the Commons.

Sir Charles passionately believes that measures to limit the spread of the virus risk causing more harm than they prevent, particularly in terms of mental health; Mr Hancock has consistently argued that the protection of the NHS should be the over-arching priority.

Sir Charles was enraged by the chaos over messages from Mr Hancock and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over whether people should book a summer holiday – and by the decision to impose a 10-year jail sentence on people who flout strict new quarantine rules, a rule introduced without MPs getting a chance to vote on it.

So when Mr Hancock addressed a private meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, of which Sir Charles is Vice-Chairman, he let rip at the Cabinet Minister, telling him that the Prime Minister’s “legs have been cut from underneath him as a result of the interventions” by Mr Hancock and Mr Shapps, adding: “If the PM is let down again by his Secretaries of State, he should remove them from Cabinet.”

With “vaccines coming out of our ears”, as Sir Charles has put it, impatience on the party’s backbenches is growing.

By last night, a total of 63 Tory MPs had signed a letter from the party’s Covid Recovery Group urging a swift exit from lockdown – easily enough to wipe out the Prime Minister’s majority if they voted with Labour.  

Mark Harper MP posted the letter on Twitter.

The letter reads as follows:

We all have concerns about outside sport and swimming pools, gyms, personal care businesses, care home visits, hotels, events industry businesses, and allowing couples to get married. All restrictions remaining after March 8th should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected. The burden is on Ministers to demonstrate the evidence of effectiveness and proportionality with a cost-benefit analysis for each restriction, and a roadmap for when they will be removed…

Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April, there is no justification for any legislative restrictions to remain. These groups represent 99% of Covid deaths and about 80% of hospitalisations.

Back to the Mail on Sunday for details of how the Government reacted to this letter.

Last night, senior Government sources indicated that the group’s demand for what’s been dubbed “alfresco April” to start at Easter, the weekend of April 4th, was also likely to be met.

But the divide between the economic ‘hawks’ pushing for as much commercial activity as can be safely allowed – led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – and the more cautious ‘doves’ has opened up again.

Mr Hancock and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove led calls to wait until late April or May to reopen the hospitality industry, arguing that it would be wrong to “casually dine al fresco” until the data was clearer on the vaccine’s impact on transmission.

Stop Press: Matt Hancock has said he’s ready to “live with the virus” – but is Britain? Writing in the Telegraph, Ross Clark looks at the shift in public attitude towards infectious disease and wonders if Britain is quite ready for freedom.

Stop Press 2: “We can’t kill flu but life goes on doggedly,” says Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times. “The same should be true with Covid.”

The Government’s Website Needs Updating

Snip from www.gov.uk/coronavirus taken Saturday 13th Feb

The above banner on the GOV.UK site makes two alarming claims about the state of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom: First, that it’s spreading fast, and, secondly, that one in three people who have the virus have no symptoms. Lets take those in order.

Reports come in daily at the moment about the declining rate of infection. According to the latest, from MailOnline:

The UK has recorded another 13,308 coronavirus infections – down 27% on last week.

Daily deaths have also dropped by a quarter to 621 taking the total to 116,908 – although separate figures suggest the number could be much higher…

It marks the third Saturday in a row where deaths have dropped week-on-week. 

To put this into context, here are a couple of good graphs from the COVID-19 data-tracker at the Spectator, taken from the GOV.UK coronavirus dashboard.

What about the R number? These estimates all come from Professor Philip Thomas, University of Bristol, the ONS, the Imperial College REACT study and the UK.GOV coronavirus dashboard and all put the number below 1:

The GOV.UK page on the R number confirms this.

Latest R range for the UK: 0.7 to 0.9

Latest growth rate range for the UK: -5% to -2% per day

An R value between 0.7 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people.

A growth rate of between -5% and -2% means that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 2% and 5% every day.

So still spreading, but perhaps the banner should read “Coronavirus (COVID-19) is slowing down”. It could speed up again, I suppose, but at this particular moment in time it is slowing down.

Leaked NHS data shows that hospitalisations are shrinking at a faster rate than predicted, with hospital admissions and deaths projected to halve over the next month.

The second claim in the banner, that “one in three people who have the virus have no symptoms, so you could be spreading it without knowing it” is debunked on the Probability and Risk blog maintained by Norman Fenton, a maths professor at Queen Mary, and Martin Neil, a computer science professor at Queen Mary, both contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.

Based on data provided by the UK Government, the Worldometers website estimates the number of active cases on any given day. In the week of 1st – 7th Feb the average daily number of active cases in the UK was 944,650. But not everybody who has the virus gets tested, so assuming testing is accurate, the true number of active cases must be higher than this. If we use the Government “1 in 3” claim – together with reasonable assumptions about the proportion of people with and without symptoms who actually get tested – then the ‘true’ number of active cases would have to be about 1.4 million, which represents just over 2% of the population (see the detailed analysis).

Combining the Government’s claim and an assumption of a 2% active daily infection rate, means that 0.711% of the population who had no symptoms must have had the virus, for the period 1st – 7th Feb (the detailed analysis provides the full Bayesian calculation). So, if we randomly tested 10,000 people without symptoms, during that week, we would expect to have found that about 71 tested of these people would test positive.

We can empirically test the implication of the Government’s claim that 0.711% of the population who had no symptoms must have had the virus, using an ongoing study at Cambridge University to do so. This study is testing students without symptoms and, for the week of 1st – 7th Feb, reported that a total of 4058 students with no symptoms were tested. Given this number, and the government’s claim, we should have expected to see that 29 of these 4,038 should have tested positive. But how many did test positive? If it is a lot less, then the Government’s claim must be wrong. In fact, none tested positive!

They have come up with a different estimate of the percentage of people with the virus who are asymptomatic – and it’s a lot less than one in three.

Taking proper account of uncertainty, as explained in the detailed report, we estimate there is a 95% probability that the true proportion of people with COVID-19 but no symptoms is between 0.65% and 7.19% with mean 3.077%. So, between as few as 1 in 153 and as many as 1 in 14, with a mean of 1 in 32.

Worth reading in full.

The second claim in the GOV.UK coronavirus banner, therefore, is in need of some revision.

Stop Press: Faulty estimates of the number of asymptomatic cases may have led Swedish authorities to overestimate the level of immunity last year, according to Anders Tegnell. The Telegraph has more.

Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist who devised the no-lockdown approach, said the level of immunity populations had against the virus was “an enigma and mystery” in the early stages of the pandemic.

COVID-19 was perhaps falsely compared with flu, when a large proportion of people catch it and show no symptoms, recover, then develop antibodies, said. Dr Tegnell.

This resulted in Sweden believing more people had developed immunity than was accurate, he explained.

“We thought that it would be similar with COVID-19 – that we would have quite a large part of people that actually develop antibodies with very low levels of symptoms and didn’t show up in health care,” Dr Tegnell told the Oxford Union this week.

“That has proven to be not right because immunity in the population has developed much much lower than I think anybody expected in the beginning. A lot of the initial modelling stuff was also having that assumption and it didn’t turn out to be the case.”

Worth reading in full.

The One That Got Away

Borders around the world are getting tighter, but one particularly enterprising reader of Lockdown Sceptics has still managed to book a trip.

What follows here is an explanation of how I’ve created a legal excuse to get out of the country and find myself sitting on South Beach in Miami in two weeks’ time. However, in doing so I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of rules that I may have broken, and so, just in case, I’m going to keep this anonymous.

These breaches are, in my opinion though, harmless, necessary, and easy to get away with. Harmless because we know that travel contributes to such a small proportion of transmissions, but also because I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, so I believe my travel is even more harmless than harmless. Necessary because I don’t think I’ll make it through to the next Great Goalpost Shift, whenever that is, without getting away for a bit. And easy to get away with because I’ve had some excellent help from complete strangers.

My first problem that needed overcoming was creating a legitimate and legal excuse for leaving the country. There seems to be a bit of hubbub around traveling for property viewing, but I decided the safest option was traveling for work. Of course, I want a break from everything, so I don’t want to actually do any work when I could be sitting on a beach in 30-degree sun; and, regardless, my employer certainly wouldn’t be sending me abroad any time soon when we are not even meant to be going into our own offices.

So I came up with a different idea. Here is the email I sent to a number of bars and pubs in Florida:

Hi [insert bar name],

I’m emailing from London, UK with a plea. As you may well know, we here in the UK are living under the cruel dictatorship of an unelected pseudo-Government called SAGE, the priests of the new religion that is stampeding across our now-God-forsaken country of worshipping the NHS. They have systematically removed every single part of life that makes life worth living, and, put simply, I’m not sure I will make it through the next few weeks – let alone the months that we are now being told we will have to endure.

What makes it all so much worse is that we are not only trapped in our houses, but we are now trapped on this island too, with only one means of escape: we can travel for work.

So, this is my plea to you: can I have a job interview?

It can be for anything – I’d happily take one shift a week cleaning floors on my hands and knees as a volunteer if it meant I could travel to one of the only places that has any right to call itself a “land of the free”.

To be perfectly honest, it can even be a job interview where we both know I won’t actually get a job; so long as you “insist” that the “interview” is face-to-face, I can show that to anyone who questions my travelling as proof that I am travelling for work.

I have a few things to wrap up here first, but I will be “free” to travel on the 25th Feb, so anything between the 26th – 28th would work.

I hope this email falls on compassionate ears.

Kind regards,

******

One response was all I needed, and boy did I get one:

Hi ******

Thank you for your application for the role of bar staff.

We have had a large number of applications for this position, so it’s with great joy that I am able to invite you for an interview for the position.

Here at [redacted bar name] we have a strong family ethos and so it is vitally important that we meet everyone who we might offer a job to in order to ensure that they will be a good fit for us.

With that in mind, would you be able to come down at 2pm Sunday 28th February?

Your interview would be largely informal, but we would like you to prepare a couple of cocktails, which we would then enjoy while having a chat to get to know you better!

Please let me know as soon as possible as there are many others who are keen for this role.

Best wishes,

******

I have now saved that email, but I am tempted to print it and frame it, or at the very least, laminate it before flying

I then set my attentions on the ESTA. If my Government believed I was traveling for work, could I legitimately apply for a travel and tourism visa from the Department of Homeland Security? Answer: yes. I would book return flights, travel out there for the interview during which I would, of course, earn no money, but the trip could still be considered a legitimate work reason.

Sure enough, my ESTA was approved in under an hour, which meant I could book my flights. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the outbound flight cost more than twice as much as the return flight – after all, what demand is there for flying into London right now?

However, even with a legitimate reason to travel, an approved ESTA, and booked flights, one issue remains. Ensuring I receive a negative COVID-19 test within the three days before flying, especially as I had the damned thing only a month ago and we all know how long after recovering it is possible to show up as positive. That said, as I have three days, I can get in a fair few tests, if I need to, in order to ensure a genuine negative result.

So, that’s that. I will be flying out in a couple of weeks and will then spend two weeks on the beach, in the sea, in the gym, in bars, pubs, and clubs, going on dates, reading in the sun, and generally just being with people.

I will be sure to send you a postcard from the Sunshine State!

The Seasonality of COVID-19

The article by Glen Bishop, the maths student at Nottingham, pointing out a rather obvious flaw in the latest modelling from Neil Ferguson and his team has generated quite a response. Today, we are publishing an original essay by Dr Noah Carl, who has provided rather a lot of evidence that COVID-19 is indeed a seasonal disease.

I read the article by Glen Bishop in Friday’s Lockdown Sceptics newsletter with great interest. The author, a maths student at Nottingham University, had heard that a new paper by Imperial College researchers was predicting a deadly third wave of COVID-19 in the summer of this year. He decided to read the paper for himself, and noticed that the researchers were making one very questionable assumption: there is no seasonality to COVID-19.

Because he couldn’t quite believe this, Bishop emailed the researchers to check whether he had made a mistake. No, they told him: their model does assume zero seasonality. As a justification, Bishop received a paper titled “Misconceptions about weather and seasonality must not misguide COVID-19 response”, which was published in August of last year. However, he wasn’t convinced, describing the paper as “a political commentary on the consequences of what the virus being seasonal would mean for American politics, rather than a purely scientific paper”.

In the next part of his article, Bishop compared the daily COVID-19 death numbers in four countries: Brazil, Peru, Sweden and the UK. These countries differ in important ways. Peru and the UK implemented extensive lockdowns, whereas Brazil and Sweden took a more relaxed approach. On the other hand, Brazil and Peru are located in the southern hemisphere, whereas Sweden and the UK are located in the northern hemisphere. Bishop reasoned that, if seasonality is an important driver of the pandemic, countries in the same hemisphere should resemble one another. But if only lockdowns matter, countries with similar policies should resemble one another.

As many readers will already be aware, both Brazil and Peru saw deaths peak in June or July and then fall in September, whereas both Sweden and the UK saw deaths rise in March and then fall in May. This suggests that hemisphere matters more than policies in explaining the distribution of COVID-19 deaths over the year. In fact, not a single European country saw deaths rise during the summer, even among those that were spared a deadly spring wave.

Bishop’s criticisms of the Imperial College model are well-taken. In the remainder of this essay, I want to present additional evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19. Before looking at studies that deal specifically with COVID-19, it is worth mentioning that other human coronaviruses are known to be seasonal, with the peak of infections occurring in February (in the northern hemisphere). As one recent study – which analysed eight years of data on a cohort in Michigan – concluded, “Coronaviruses are sharply seasonal.” Hence it would be somewhat surprising if COVID-19 didn’t behave in the same way.

There are several mechanisms that may account for the seasonality of coronaviruses. The first is simply that people spend more time indoors in the winter, leading to more opportunities for transmission. A second is that respiratory droplets remain airborne for longer in cold weather, so they are more likely to enter someone’s nose or mouth. A third is that blood vessels constrict in cold temperatures, which may reduce our immune system’s ability to kill viruses in the nasal passage. A fourth is that viral particles may degrade more quickly when exposed to sunlight. And a fifth is that UV light may boost our immune systems by facilitating the production of vitamin D.

Since the pandemic began, a number of studies have been published (either as preprints or journal articles), which together provide strong evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19.

Dr Carl goes on to summarise eight of these studies.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lockdown Sceptics regular Guy de la Bédoyère has also written a brief response to the Nottingham student’s article.

Glen Bishop’s fascinating paper about how SAGE appears to have overlooked and ignored, or at the very least underestimated, the role of seasonal factors in Covid’s fluctuating impact over the last year, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, is most instructive. His point leads to other assumptions made by modelling scientists which ought by now to have become obsolete. It reminded me of Jean Baptista van Helmont (1577-1644, though given dates vary slightly). If you haven’t heard of him, he was an early chemist. He famously experimented with a willow tree which he observed grow over five years.

Since van Helmont had only added water to the tree he concluded, in a classic example of false science, that the growth was exclusively attributable to the water. He took no account of the nutrients in the soil or sunlight because he was not aware of their effects, did not postulate their potential role, and did not apply the basics of experimentation and replication. As one scholar has observed: “Helmont’s experiment is also notable because although carefully conducted, the conclusions derived from the experiment were wrong because the theory on which it was based was incorrect.” (David Hershey, 1991). So, it has been with those scientists and politicians who assume that the reduction in Covid cases last summer and now is almost entirely attributable to their recommended NPIs and rises in cases to a lack of their NPIs during non-lockdown periods. In scientific terms they have applied one theory leading to one solution, ignored other countries where the solution was different (like Sweden), failed to operate any control experiments, and assumed that the observed results must be down to their solution rather than any other factors. Even if they were right, in Toyland that still wouldn’t past muster as ‘science’ because there is no scientific-standard of proof.

It’s fascinating to see that even today some modern scientists remain susceptible to the belief that the framework of their theories and assumptions represent the beginning and end of the phenomenon they are studying, compounded by a traditional reluctance to admit they might have been wrong. Following the science is one thing, but it does rather boil down to the quality of the science, doesn’t it?

The Public Should Use Yellow Card Reporting System to Report Vaccine Side Effects

The following post, by a senior hospital doctor, urges members of the public to report side effects of the Covid vaccines using the established Yellow Card system. The Yellow Card website he refers to is here and the contact details are here. Weekly summaries of yellow card reporting are available here.

The Yellow Card reporting system was introduced in 1964. It was part of the response to the thalidomide disaster. A lack of ability to co-ordinate reports of uncommon malformations (in this case) or rare medical conditions led to prolonged unrecognised harm with disability and life-restricting deformity.

The scheme is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and the Commission on Human Medicines.

While previously most reporting was by medical professionals (doctors and pharmacists), it is possible for patients or carers and family members to report suspected adverse drug reactions. This can be done online, or via a telephone call, or on cards available from pharmacists.

Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) are being rolled out at an unprecedented scale and speed. Despite reassurances, this rollout is based on extremely limited trial evidence involving short periods of follow-up in largely young and healthy individuals. These trials may miss rare or serious events due to both small numbers and short follow-up. They may also underestimate the importance of ‘minor’ side effects in higher risk patient groups. Vomiting and diarrhoea, in a fit and healthy young person, may cause no harm, for example, but it may be the final event leading to death in a frail elderly care home resident.

It is essential that public awareness, or the ability to use the Yellow Card system to self-report, or to report on behalf of others, is raised. This includes sudden or unexpected deaths from any apparent cause following a recent vaccination. it is particularly important to report the development of COVID-19 shortly after vaccination.

A relevant summary taken from Wikipedia:

Reports can be entered through the MHRA’s website, or a smartphone app which is available for iOS and Android devices. The app can also provide news and alerts to users.

Yellow Cards are available from pharmacies and a few are presented near the back of the British National Formulary as tear-off pages; copies may also be obtained by telephoning +44 (0) 808 100 3352. The scheme provides forms that allow members of the public to report suspected side effects, as well as health professionals.

Freedom of Speech Under Threat Say Half of Britons in New Poll

Half of Britons think free speech is “under threat”, according to a new poll by the Reclaim Party. The precarious state of free speech won’t come as a surprise to readers of Lockdown Sceptics, of course, given how often we report on the attempts to silence, smear or delegitimise anyone who dissents from Covid orthodoxy. But it’s good to know we’re not alone in being concerned about this. The Sunday Telegraph has more.

The impact of the rise of “cancel culture” is laid bare today by an exclusive poll that reveals half of Britons believe they are less free to say what they think than five years ago.

Freedom of speech in the UK is “under threat”, 50% of people say, compared with less than a quarter (24%) who disagree.

Just one in eight (12%) believes people have greater freedom to speak freely than five years ago, compared with 49% who feel the opposite.

In recent years there has been a rise in celebrities, including J.K. Rowling, being “cancelled” on social media for speaking out on topics such as transgender rights. The study finds that more than four in 10 Britons (43%) say they are afraid to speak their minds on immigration matters, compared with 28% who felt they could.

A similar percentage (42%) admit they are scared to speak openly on transgender rights. A quarter say they feel OK to speak out.

The survey also finds that 43% of people are “afraid to speak their minds” with the police, while 23% are unafraid.

Worth reading in full.

And if you’re worried about threats to your own freedom of speech, or want to help others under fire, please join the Free Speech Union.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Fourteen today: “F.E.A.R” by Ian Brown, “Living is Better With Freedom” by Spizz, “Broken Dreams” by Thin Lizzy, “You Keep Changing Your Mind” by Jon Plum, “Senseless” by Echo and The Bunnymen, “Mr Johnson” by Jain, “I Wanna Be Free” by The Monkees, “A Strange Day” by The Cure, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley, “Solitary Man” by Johnny Cash, “No Fun” by The Stooges, “Lost” by Morrissey, “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” by The Kinks and “Suicide is Painless“, the theme from M.A.S.H.

Stop Press: A reader has written in: “I expected Theme Tunes to have run out of puff by now but no! Must have got my modelling wrong.”

Love in the Time of Covid

Outlaw lovers 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. Just the ticket if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day date! 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 rare voice of sanity – Wilfred Zaha, the Crystal Palace winger. Turns out, he’s not a fan of taking the knee. MailOnline has more.

Wilfried Zaha believes it is “degrading” that players have to take a knee before matches and called for proper action to tackle the racism.

The Crystal Palace winger has been targeted with abuse on several occasions on social media in the past and says he is fed up of charades that “mean nothing”.

Speaking on the On the Judy podcast, Zaha questioned why he should have to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts or take the knee before matches.

“Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.

“When people constantly want to get me to do Black Lives Matter talks and racial talks and I’m like, I’m not doing it just so you can put ‘Zaha spoke for us’. Like a tick box, basically.

“I’m not doing any more, because unless things change. I’m not coming to chat to you just for the sake of it, like all the interviews I’ve done.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Why is the Church so woke? Writing in UnHerd, Giles Fraser discusses a recent survey which indicated that only 6% of the the Church of England clergy voted Tory at the last election. Something has gone wrong, he says, when the clergy don’t represent their flock.

Stop Press 2: Watch Home Secretary Priti Patel tell Nick Ferrari that, like Zaha, she would refuse to take the knee. She also condemns last summer’s protests and criticises the attitude of some councils when it comes to pulling down statues and renaming streets.

“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 Babylon Bee reports that a shocking video from just one week ago has emerged on social media showing the majority of Americans wearing only one mask, despite the CDC’s clear advice to double up. Just think of all the deaths that might have been prevented!

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 JP’s latest YouTube video, he takes aim at the Great Reset. Worth a watch.