Day: 17 March 2021

Swedish School Sends Pupil Home for Wearing Face Mask

A mother in Sweden has revealed that her 13-year-old son was banned from attending classes at an international school in the Stockholm region until he agreed to remove the mask he was wearing. The Local, an English-language European news site, has more.

Linus decided to wear a face mask when he returned to classes at the British International School Stockholm (BISS) in Danderyd, outside Stockholm, on Monday. The school teaches around 550 children aged 3-17, according to its website.

“I decided to wear a mask to school. The first lesson [goes] fine with it on. But then in the beginning of lesson two, the teacher asks me to take my mask off, and I of course say that I didn’t want to because of the coronavirus,” he wrote in an email, forwarded to the Local.

Linus said he was then made to wait isolated in a room for three hours before his mother, Sarah Jefford, a wine educator who grew up in Switzerland, was able to pick him up.

A wine educator?!? I didn’t know that job existed. Where do I apply?

Worth reading in full.

NHS Warns of “Significant Reduction” in Vaccines

Britain’s rollout of the vaccine has been successful to date – half of all UK adults are expected to have had their first jab by the end of the week. An NHS letter suggests, however, that a setback could be approaching in the form of a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of Covid vaccines next month. The BBC has the story.

The NHS has warned of a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of coronavirus vaccines next month in a letter to local health organisations.

The letter says there has been a “reduction in national inbound vaccines supply” and asks organisations to “ensure no further appointments are uploaded” to booking systems in April.

The Health Secretary said the letter, seen by the BBC, was “standard”.

The BBC understands no-one who has booked a vaccine should lose a slot. 

Asked about it during a Downing Street coronavirus briefing, Matt Hancock said the NHS regularly sent out “technical letters” that explained the “ups and downs” of supply.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been told that fewer AstraZeneca vaccines are available than expected.

The letter says that “over this next period it is vital” that health organisations focus on vaccinating those in the priority groups one to nine, who are most vulnerable to coronavirus

It advises vaccination services to work with local authorities, voluntary community and faith organisations “to put in place reserve lists” of people eligible for the vaccine – as well as targeting areas of lower uptake.

Nick Triggle suggests that the increased risk of a vaccine shortage could be a result of the EU’s threat to restrict vaccine exports.

It is unclear what has caused this drop in supply. Government sources are suggesting the amount produced by manufacturers is below the expected yields. But this has been denied by those firms.

Given that we do rely on supply from Europe for some of our vaccine, the fact it comes on the day the EU warned it may restrict exports has raised questions whether this might be part of the cause.

The number of doses available may drop to under two million a week in April. That is a little below what has been available in the past couple of weeks and will be half the level the NHS has been told it will have for the next two “bumper” weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdowns Killed 228,000 Children in South Asia, Says UN Report

A new United Nations report has laid bare the appalling cost of lockdowns in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The report, Direct and Indirect Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic and Response in South Asia, examines the effect of the unprecedented Government shutdown policies on healthcare, social services, education and the economy.

It estimates that the disruption in healthcare services caused by Government responses to COVID-19 in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (home to some 1.8 billion people) may have led to 239,000 maternal and child deaths.

This compares to around 186,000 deaths “with COVID-19”, meaning the lockdowns are estimated to have killed considerably more than the virus. Furthermore, 228,000 is the estimated lockdown death toll just of children under five, almost none of whom would have been at any risk from the virus. With the majority of Covid deaths worldwide being among the over 80s, the difference in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) must be staggering.

The BBC summarises some key figures included in the report.

It says the number of children being treated for severe malnutrition fell by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal, and immunisation among children dropped by 35% and 65% in India and Pakistan respectively.

The report also says that child mortality rose the highest in India in 2020 – up by 15.4% – followed by Bangladesh at 13%. Sri Lanka saw the sharpest increase in maternal deaths – 21.5% followed by Pakistan’s 21.3%.

Experts in India fear that malnutrition rates will be significantly worse across the country as the data comes in over the next few months.

A separate UN report in December estimated that an additional 207 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty over the next decade due to the long term impact of lockdowns.

David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia and a member of HART, told Lockdown Sceptics:

There is far too little appreciation yet (particularly in the liberal left circles ordinarily deeply concerned about child deaths in the developing world) of the damage wrought by lockdowns in these countries. Given that they have young-dominated demographies they were never at great risk from COVID-19. It is a tragedy that they were gulled into lockdowns, even more than it is for us.

Lockdowns over the past year have often been justified using the precautionary principle as the myth was created that they are cost free, at least in terms of lives, and that any financial cost must be worth it as the measures would save “hundreds of thousands” of lives. UN reports like this show how wrongheaded this idea of locking down “just in case” is, how deadly the idea of banning ordinary human interaction and activity for months on end.

Daniel Finkelstein argues in the Times today that “in the absence of preventive measures, it is clear that hundreds of thousands more people would have died”. Yet every study of real-world data shows no relationship between restrictions and Covid mortality. Neither is there evidence of these “hundreds of thousands” of additional deaths in places which eschewed strong restrictions, such as Sweden, South Dakota and Florida. Yet this foundational lockdown myth persists, not because of any actual evidence to back it up, but to preserve the consciences of those who supported measures which did so much harm to their countries and to vulnerable people around the world.

Isn’t it time governments took a proper look at what the data shows – the huge harms, the hundreds of thousands of child deaths, the lack of evidence of effectiveness – and renounced lockdowns forever?

Covid Patrol Police Accused of Harassing University Students

Students at several UK universities have accused police officers of invading their privacy when checking for breaches of Covid rules. Universities have been complicit in this harassment, granting officers access to halls of residence, some have claimed. The Guardian has the story.

Students at several UK campuses have accused their universities of granting police officers access to halls of residence to check for breaches of coronavirus rules, with some complaints of officers entering accommodation in the middle of the night.

Students at Sheffield and Manchester who spoke to the Guardian described regular police patrols and widespread use of fines of up to £800 as universities clamp down on the mixing of households to avoid repeating the major coronavirus outbreaks that occurred in autumn now that students are returning for the spring term.

Students at Sheffield and Manchester say they believe that in some instances police officers may have received keys from university security to enter flats unannounced and check that students were not socialising with their neighbours. The universities have denied this.

One first-year student living in Froggatt Halls, which is run by the University of Sheffield, said that police have been patrolling the area in which several halls of residence are located every weekend, with her flat visited three times in the last month.

“The first time was at 1.30am and I was in bed. We had left our door on the latch, so the police officer came in and was quite aggressive. Across the hall I could see another police officer talking to a girl alone in her flat, asking how many people lived there,” she said. “It’s an invasion of privacy.”

A student at the University of Leeds said the police had been given access to his accommodation block at around 4pm one day in mid-February, and knocked when he was watching TV with his housemates. “He asked who was in there, and was quite forceful. He came into the kitchen and said we were all taking the piss and the university had called them in to tell us it’s our last chance.”

A student rent strike group at the University of Sussex tweeted that students should video police entering their flats on their phones and take down badge numbers, as well as asking the reasons for their entry, after the group received a number of reports of heavy-handed policing.

Last week, students at the University of Manchester passed a vote of no confidence in its Vice-Chancellor amid criticism of the institution’s handling of Covid, which included the erection of security fences around students’ halls.

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

There’ll Be A Day
by Jonny Peppiatt

There’ll be a day when we’re together again,
A day when we laugh, smile, and hug our friends.
There’ll be a day when we can all be free,
To think and speak, to believe and to be.
There’ll be a day when our lives are our own,
To live as we please, and not be alone.
There’ll be a day when we worry about dates,
About what to wear, and about being late.
There’ll be a day when we’ve got things to do,
And when half the world doesn’t fear the ‘flu.
There’ll be a day when we pack all the pubs,
Have a few pints and then head to the clubs.
There’ll be a day when every single thing
That we’ve been denied comes back, beckoning
For one and all to just stand and sing
In one grand chorus as every note rings
Out.

Rings out and remembers that we’re together;
Human beings, to each other tethered,
Connected by more than country or race,
Yet connected by just a smile on a face,
Connected by the desire to embrace,
Connected by our need for those days.

And those days are coming back with a kiss;
I promise you hugs, freedom, joy and bliss;
I promise you time with loved ones long-missed;
There’ll be a day soon, I promise you this.

Scotland’s Nonsensical Covid Book Ban

A student at the University of Edinburgh has written a stinging piece in the Spectator on the Scottish Government’s restrictions on library access.

Why is the SNP banning books? On January 5th the Scottish Government introduced a strict new lockdown in response to the spread of a more infectious strain of Covid. As a student at the University of Edinburgh, one particular restriction has baffled me ever since. Unlike in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government decided to ban students from reading, borrowing or even touching books in their university libraries.

Even as fears rose over the rapidly spreading “Kent” variant, it seemed that this policy lacked any scientific foundation. The Scottish Government’s explanation for its book ban is baffling, and seems to be just copied and pasted advice from public websites and bluster over the importance of fighting Covid. Fighting Covid is important of course, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to abandon logic either. A quick look at the Scottish Government’s own Covid data, studies on how the disease spreads and the ramifications for Scotland’s already shameful educational inequality makes you wonder why this policy was ever introduced in the first place.

Harry Warren – the piece’s author – quotes from a paper by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (August 2020) evaluating the claim that Covid is spreading via library books. (Presumably, he didn’t come across the paper in a library.)

In a study in which the authors tried to mimic actual conditions in which a surface might be contaminated by a patient, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was detected on surfaces.

In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze.

Harry comments:

In other words, the transmission of Covid via university books is only feasible if an infected individual coughs or sneezes directly onto a page which is then touched within one or two hours. Before the Scottish Government mandated the book ban, Edinburgh University already isolated used books for a period of 72 hours, mitigating this already negligible risk.

Why, then, is the ban in place?

Worth reading in full.

Holiday Hopes Sink for Unvaccinated, Who Will Be Banned from P&O Cruises This Summer

P&O Cruises will restart holidays around the British coast this year, but only for Brits who have been fully vaccinated against Covid – and many other restrictions will be enforced. The Mail has the story.

Unvaccinated holidaymakers will be banned from P&O Cruises “staycation” sailings this summer.

Brits who wish to sail on a domestic cruise will have to have received both doses of the Covid vaccine at least seven days in advance of their trip, the UK’s largest cruise line has said.

Last week maritime minister Robert Courts told MPs that domestic cruises could be permitted from May 17th.

So far nearly 25 million people have received at least their first dose of a vaccine, while 1.6 million have received both.

Failure to provide proof of the jabs “will result in denial of boarding”, the firm warned.

Other measures introduced due to the pandemic include requiring passengers to wear masks in certain areas of the ship, and making travel insurance mandatory.

There will also be enhanced cleaning regimes, as well as social distancing.

The cruise operator is taking a different approach to a number of countries – including Turkey and Greece – which will welcome unvaccinated holidaymakers, so long as they produce a negative test.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up