Day: 28 March 2021

The NHS Vaccine App is a Gift to Scammers, Blackmailers and Fraudsters

There follows a guest post by our in-house technology correspondent. He wrote a series of pieces for Lockdown Sceptics about the NHS Covid-tracking app last year and now he returns to the fray to cover the NHS vaccine app.

All that is missing from the dystopian movie that our lives have become is a Bond-style henchman, created through diabolical processes by the wicked super villain. Speaking of which, Michael Gove has a cunning plan to fill that gap. The runt of the NHS app litter, whose creators couldn’t even be bothered to give it a name beyond “The NHS App” has been selected for a set of maniacal modifications transforming it from a lacklustre dictionary of medical conditions into a cyber-bully fit to harass and torment a nation. As we shall see, this once unloved and overlooked app is set to become the accomplice and collaborator of scammers, blackmailers and fraudsters.

According to the Daily Mail, Gove envisages a world where you can’t just go somewhere freely: you have to be permitted by a state-operated app that displays your medical records to unwitting restaurant owners, bar staff, and presumably anyone with an authoritarian streak who sees themselves as an agent of our new bio-security state. It is morally and ethically bankrupt, but technically, could it work? What we know about its implementation is sketchy, but we can contemplate what would be involved.

To prove you have had a jab you must show the relevant entry on your medical record, which is held by your GP, assuming you are registered with one and you didn’t opt out of summary care records in the past. If you are a tourist or business traveller from abroad that rules you out. No Diet Coke for you. Those records are the most personal, private data possible and there is rightly a lot of security around who can access them. Indeed, this information is considered so private that in 2004 the NHS instructed BT to build an entirely separate national network just to handle it! Now for the app to work, any random member of the public needs access to that private data, by connecting to the correct medical record at the correct GP surgery. Get that wrong and you are exposing medical records on a massive scale.

Government Regulations Add £360 to the Cost of a Trip to France

A reader has pointed out the additional costs suffered by British travellers to France because of Government regulations – specifically, the requirement to have three PCR tests at a minimum of £120 each.

If you want to come back from France to the UK you have to provide a negative PCR test. That costs a very reasonable € 15… in France 

But on your return to the UK, you have to undergo two more PCR tests, on day two and day five after you arrive. For some mysterious reason, the cheapest tests in the UK are £120(!) each from Boots (and ridiculous amounts more from other providers). Even the Boots “bargain basement” cost adds an outrageous £360 to the total cost of a trip to France, as, of course, you need a PCR test outward bound too!

My partner and I have written to our MP about this racketeering, but it’s obviously Government policy to deter people from going to deserted beaches abroad and to have them packed on British beaches instead.

We own a gîte in France and hate to think what our fully-booked summer will look like once a party of 10 realises that the Government has permitted £3,600 to be added to their bill!

If the Government sincerely wants to free us from our shackles, it should clamp down on this cynical profiteering and set up a simple system, as for the lorry drivers.

As Lord David Blunkett recently pointed out, travel restrictions imposed by the Government impact not only tourism (the topic which receives the most attention from the broadcast media) but also trade and aviation.

Climate of “Fear” Prevents Experts From Questioning the Handling of Covid

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We’re reproducing an article by Lucy Johnston for the Express on the “climate of fear” that is preventing experts from speaking out against the Government’s handling of Covid because it is hard to read on the newspaper’s website. And it’s a must-read.

A climate of fear is preventing experts from questioning the handling of the pandemic, with reputations smeared, jobs lost and even families threatened.

Much abuse has come from within academic or professional circles, with one professor saying debate was becoming impossible because “we are not talking to each other properly. We are being thrown into confrontational positions”. Many leading experts have withdrawn from the debate after having reputations smeared, jobs lost and even families threatened for raising questions about pandemic policy. This month alone has seen one leading medic, working to protect vulnerable children, forced to abandon a project to safeguard youngsters after their name was sullied when they questioned the Government approach.

Another expert has been sidelined from a vital role on a Government advisory group, while senior NHS staff have been threatened with disciplinary measures for questioning the Government approach online or in the media.

Senior academics say they have feared losing vital funding, warned not to speak out with the threat of disciplinary action or deemed “outliers” for their views on lockdown.

At least two scientists have been subjected to public abuse by scientific colleagues who disagreed with their academic view.

One critic posted a grotesque image superimposed on a professor after he disagreed with his view. Other posts by scientists have branded colleagues “charlatans” and “snake oil merchants”.

A prominent professor accused a fellow academic of “deliberately subverting public health” on a Twitter post after disagreeing with her views on managing the pandemic.

In another case a Government scientific advisor called a university boss to try to stop one of its professors from criticising Government policy.

Retired Supreme Court Lord Sumption told a podcast this week that he was a reluctant figurehead for questioning lockdown – but felt obliged because of the way critics had been treated.

He said scientists and politicians had been”subjected to an extraordinarily unpleasant campaign of personal abuse”. He added:

I know a lot of people that would prefer not to put their head above the parapet. From the very moment I started to make these points I began to get emails from politicians who agreed with what I had to say but that they themselves didn’t dare to speak out. That I think is a very serious state of affairs.

He added that he knew of one scientist whose family had also been targeted: “People ought to be entitled to voice their differences of opinion.”

The Land of the Free Shows it’s Time to Lose the Lockdowns

No surge as schools open in the UK, no surge as Texas throws off restrictions, free states like Florida and Georgia doing no worse than lockdown states – is anyone in Government watching the real world or are they too busy gawping at the curves of Neil Ferguson’s latest model?

Jeffrey A. Tucker at AIER has gathered together some of the alarmist predictions made about Texas that have, so far, not come to pass:

  • California Governor Gavin Newsom said that opening Texas was “absolutely reckless.”
  • Vanity Fair went over the top with this headline: “Republican Governors Celebrate COVID Anniversary With Bold Plan to Kill Another 500,000 Americans.”
  • There was the inevitable Dr. Fauci: “It just is inexplicable why you would want to pull back now.”
  • Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas revealed himself to be a full-blown lockdowner: It’s a “big mistake,” he said. “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s also a cult of death.” He accused the Governor of “sacrificing the lives of our fellow Texans… for political gain.”
  • James Hamblin, a doctor and writer for the Atlanticsaid in a Tweet liked by 20K people: “Ending precautions now is like entering the last miles of a marathon and taking off your shoes and eating several hot dogs.”
  • Bestselling author Kurt Eichenwald flipped out: “Goddamn. Texas already has FIVE variants that have turned up: Britain, South Africa, Brazil, New York & CA. The NY and CA variants could weaken vaccine effectiveness. And now idiot @GregAbbott_TX throws open the state.” He further called the Government “murderous.” 
  • Epidemiologist Whitney Robinson wrote: “I feel genuinely sad. There are people who are going to get sick and die bc of avoidable infections they get in the next few weeks. It’s demoralising.”
  • Virus guru Michael Osterholm told CNN: “We’re walking into the mouth of the monster. We simply are.”
  • Joe Biden famously said that the Texas decision to open reflected “Neanderthal thinking”.
  • The chairman of the state’s Democratic Party said: “What Abbott is doing is extraordinarily dangerous. This will kill Texans. Our country’s infectious-disease specialists have warned that we should not put our guard down, even as we make progress towards vaccinations. Abbott doesn’t care.”
  • The CDC’s Rochelle Walensky didn’t mince words: “Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19.”

Are any of these experts and commentators now reconsidering their fundamental assumptions and examining the data? What do you think?

The coronavirus has certainly surprised many of us in the past year, defying expectations by being more deadly in Europe and North and South America than it was in South East Asia, while in Africa and India it surprised by its mildness.

The lazy mainstream assumption that the differences between countries are explained primarily by their restrictions or interventions has not been borne out by any of the studies that have examined the real world data rather than relying on models that bake-in assumptions of lockdown efficacy.

One of those studies, by eminent Stanford scientists Jay Bhattacharya (co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration), John Ioannidis and colleagues, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, has come under criticism since it was published at the start of January. The authors have now responded to that criticism, defending their paper in the journal.

It includes some great quotations from these two pillars of the sceptic movement.

Covid Numbers Continue to Fall in Texas More Than Two Weeks After State Returned to Normality

There is some great news from Texas today: Covid cases and hospitalisations continue to fall more than two weeks after the state lifted its mask mandate and allowed businesses to reopen to full capacity. President Joe Biden dismissed this return to normality as “Neanderthal thinking”, but it appears as though it has not been the “big mistake” he claimed it would be. Let’s hope that it stays this way. The Mail has the story.

On Saturday, Texas’ seven-day Covid positivity rate reached an all-time low of 5.27%, while hospitalisations fell to their lowest level since October, according to the latest state data.

The state recorded 2,292 new coronavirus cases, about 500 fewer on average from last week, and 107 new deaths.  

The number of people hospitalised with coronavirus, meanwhile, dipped to 3,308. 

The latest figure marks a significant decline in hospitalisations in the state which had seen levels soar past 14,000 for a couple of days in January. 

The drop comes 17 days after Republican Governor Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate and other Covid safety measures.  

Abbott took to Twitter on Saturday to celebrate the state’s progress, saying: “Today Texas hit an all-time recorded low for the seven-day Covid positivity rate: 5.27%. It’s been below 6% for 5 days & below 10% for an entire month.

“Covid hospitalisations declined again – now at the lowest level since October 3rd. Vaccinations continue to increase rapidly.”

Our leaders could certainly learn some lessons from what is happening on the other side of the pond.

Worth reading in full.

Care Home Workers May Have to Sign New Contracts, Forcing Them to Get Covid Vaccines

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Government is considering making Covid vaccination for care home workers mandatory. Details have since been given regarding what form this legal obligation could take, with reports suggesting that staff could be forced to sign new contracts. The Telegraph has the story.

Hundreds of thousands of care home workers could have to sign new contracts as part of a bid to force them to get the Covid jab, ministers have admitted.

Ministers are concerned that only around two-thirds of care home workers have agreed to receive a jab. …

Ministers feel compelled to act amid alarm at the low take-up of vaccines among staff in care homes, where many of those most at risk from Covid live.

Only around a quarter of care homes in London, and half in some parts of England, have reached the level of vaccination among staff and residents deemed safe by Government scientists.

However, there are concerns that any change could take months to implement because of a requirement to change the contracts of health care workers to make a jab a condition of work.

In a House of Commons debate, Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said that new contracts would have to be signed for this change to be implemented.

Contracts would have to be rewritten if vaccinations were to be made compulsory.

Other officials have highlighted, however, that this would take a long time to put into place and would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

One Cabinet minister said it would take time by varying all existing contracts and “that might be tested in court”. The minister said there would have to be medical exemptions for those who could not be vaccinated, but there there had to be “some sort of intervention”.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up