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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 Restrictions are being repealed.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. 

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