Day: 1 April 2021

Pfizer Vaccine 98% Effective Against Brazilian Variant

A new study – the largest of its kind – has found that the Pfizer vaccine produces an “off the scale” immune response that is likely to protect against the Brazilian variant of COVID-19. The Telegraph has more.

The biggest study on antibody and cellular immune factors to date suggests people are likely to be protected against the Wuhan, Kent and Brazilian types of coronavirus following two doses of the vaccine.

The research, led by the University of Birmingham and including Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory, found 98 per cent of people aged 80 or over who had two doses of the Pfizer jab had a strong antibody immune response.

Professor Paul Moss, from the University of Birmingham and leader of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, told a briefing: “We’ve certainly seen in this paper that the antibody levels are so good, really after the first two weeks, that we are pretty confident that this should be very helpful against the Brazilian variant.”

Worth reading in full.

Every Customer Must “Sign in” When Pubs Reopen

In yet another blow to the hospitality industry, the Government has announced that all customers at pubs, restaurants and cafes must provide contact details (either written or via the NHS Test and Trace app) on entry. Previously, only one member of each group had to provide details. Doing so was voluntary (staff were only asked to “encourage” customers to provide their details). But the new guidelines state that those who will not provide their details must be “refuse[d] entry”. BBC News has the story.

New rules to help pubs, cafes and restaurants reopen outdoors safely in England on April 12th have sparked anger from industry groups.

All customers will have to sign in on entry, not just one member of the group like before. It is also unclear whether payment at the bar will be permitted. …

Under the new guidance, every customer aged 16 and over will have to check in to NHS Test and Trace before entering a venue, or give their contact details to staff.

Pubs and restaurants must take “reasonable steps” to stop people who won’t comply from coming in, or they could face fines.

Carl Ford, an accountant based in Tamworth, told the BBC he was frustrated and confused by the rules.

“I feel like it’s almost like going back to school where I have to sign in and out,” he said. 

“I don’t understand why I have to do this in a restaurant or pub, but I don’t need to do this in a supermarket where you have a free for all. People don’t have to sign in and they can pick up fruit with their hands.” …

In a joint statement, UK Hospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping said the rules would add “more confusion and inconvenience for customers and staff”.

When pubs and restaurants opened last summer, customers were “encouraged” to provide their contact details, but to do so was not mandatory (see official guidance below).

These guidelines have, however, since been updated: venues must now take “reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide contact details”. Compliance is no longer a personal choice. It is mandatory.

The Lockdown Sceptics’ Library

We’re publishing an original piece today by David McGrogan, an Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School, in which he recommends some books that can help us understand how we ended up living under the plimsol of soft totalitarianism. One of his recommendations is The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter:

Tainter’s thesis is relatively straightforward: as societies grow and develop, they become increasingly complex, with new laws and regulations and public services being endlessly created. These increasing layers of complexity cannot be removed once they’ve become entrenched – because we get used to them, and they come to appear essential. This results in a never-ending conglomeration of purportedly necessary government schemes, none of which is ever revoked; in the end, all this stuff becomes a drain, gobbling up resources, until the society is denuded of productivity and becomes brittle, ready to be pushed over as soon as a genuine crisis hits. Some, including Rishi Sunak, entertain the naïve belief that there will be a ‘back to normal’ moment for our economy. Tainter would tell them that the opposite is much more likely: furlough and other forms of government support for businesses, vaccine passports, mass-testing, Covid regulations and ‘guidance’, massive quantitative easing/money printing, quarantine and the like will all become part of the furniture, something we ‘have to do’ indefinitely, draining productivity and constantly increasing public debt, until a real emergency comes along and it all comes falling down like the biggest house of cards in history.

Have a look at David’s piece to discover the other books on his lockdown reading list – and then email us if you can think of books we should add.

Covid Vaccinations Made Mandatory for All Health Workers in Italy

The Italian Government has mandated Covid vaccines for all health workers, warning that those who do not take the jab could lose their jobs at least until the end of the year. The Mail has the story.

Italy has mandated Covid vaccines for all health workers in a move aimed at crushing anti-vax sentiment.  

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who stands at the vanguard in the EU’s jabs battle with Britain, said health workers, including pharmacists, who refused the vaccine could be struck off until the end of the year. 

Italy’s vaccine roll-out, dented by the EU’s failure to secure AstraZeneca doses, is faltering with just 16.03% of its population inoculated, compared to more than 50% of people in Britain, amid soaring infections.

The country’s entrenched anti-vaccination movement came into sharp focus after the recent discovery of clusters of hospital staff refusing the jab despite Italy having Europe’s highest death toll. …

Italy’s Government said today: “The aim of the measure is to protect as much as possible both medical and paramedical staff and those who are in environments that may be more exposed to the risk of infection.”

The decree also introduces legal protection for those who administer the jabs, a measure doctors and nurses had demanded after medics were placed under investigation for manslaughter following the death of a vaccinated man in Sicily.

Cabinet plans leaked last month revealed that care home workers in England will also be required by law to have a Covid jab. Similar requirements are being considered for other healthcare workers, such as those who work on hospital wards. The Telegraph reported:

The Cabinet sub-committee paper warns that a “large” number of social care workers may quit if the change is made, and that successful lawsuits on human rights grounds could be possible. It makes clear that a similar legal requirement is being considered for some frontline healthcare workers, such as those on wards, but no decision on that has been taken. …

Its key line is understood to read: “The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State [Mr Hancock] have discussed on several occasions the progress that is being made to vaccinate social care workers against Covid and have agreed – in order to reach a position of much greater safety for care recipients – to put in place legislation to require vaccinations among the workforce.”

The sentence makes it clear that both have decided in principle to change the law to require the vaccination of social care workers, even as the specifics are worked up. Government officials are discussing what the legislation would look like, with consultation on a final detailed proposal expected.

The Italian Government’s decision to mandate vaccines for all health workers is likely to encourage the British Government to extend its current plans – in the same way that Italy played a crucial role in bringing lockdowns to Britain last year. In December, Professor Neil Ferguson revealed that Italy boosted the confidence of British pro-lockdown officials:

[China is] a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought. … And then Italy did it. And we realised we could.

The Mail’s report is worth reading in full.

Are Masks Stopping Us From Building Up Immunity? A Paramedic Writes…

A Lockdown Sceptics reader who is a paramedic of four years’ experience has written to tell us about how through her job she encounters hundreds of sick people and hardly ever gets ill, despite never wearing a face mask before the pandemic.

When I began in the ambulance service several years ago and would attend patients with a wide variety of contagious illnesses, I found myself experiencing near-constant cold-like symptoms. These did not necessarily develop into anything worth taking more than a couple of paracetamol for, but it was enough to be noticeably waking up with a sore throat or stuffed nose every morning. On speaking to many of my colleagues, they all recall similar experiences.

As time went on and I continued exposing myself to a plethora of pathogens, I began to find that illness became an unfamiliar state. I’d attend patients and be so convinced I’d catch whatever bug they had that I’d spend the following job with pseudo-nausea. And yet despite being in close proximity and often in the confined space that is the back of an ambulance, with no mask or PPE and with coughs, sneezes, diarrhoea and vomiting, surprisingly I would very rarely contract anything. In five years I can recall a handful of colds, two bouts of vomiting for a few hours, and one case of the flu which still wasn’t as severe as many people experience.

Whilst the use of masks may have little demonstrated impact on the overall spread of Covid, I have often wondered to what extent PPE may be “protecting” us from other contagious particles. If so, what harm is this doing in the long term by not allowing our immune system to continually develop its innate defences? It’s illogical to expect to gain muscular strength being sedentary, yet it seems an alien concept to many to apply the same principle to our immunity.

Should a time ever come when we are no longer advised to wear masks and people no longer scrub their shopping to within an inch of its life, will we potentially see an influx of people becoming more frequently or severely ill from what would have ordinarily been relatively harmless germs?

I’ve certainly noticed a recurrence of prolonged sniffles since I stopped being so ‘contaminated’ all the time.

New Government Campaign Will Urge People – Including Vaccinated – Not to Hug

The Government is planning a new social media poster campaign that will urge people – including those who have been vaccinated against Covid – not to hug. A source has said that the messaging will say that if you “hug your grandchildren there is a chance you are going to infect people you love”. The Telegraph has the story.

Vaccinated Britons will be urged not to hug in a new Government campaign that comes amid fears people are more likely to ignore social distancing rules once they have been jabbed.

The Cabinet Office is preparing a social media poster campaign that will call on people who have been inoculated against Covid to abide by the rules as they are relaxed in order to allow more social contact.

“The messaging will be aimed at people who have been vaccinated to stop them going off-piste and ignoring the regulations, and particularly with the elderly who have had two jabs,” said a senior source.

“It will be along the lines that it is great that you have been vaccinated, but if you are going to visit your family and hug your grandchildren there is a chance you are going to infect people you love.”

A similar campaign has been run during lockdown, in which older vaccinated people were urged to stay at home to save lives. 

The posters, featuring older Britons, warned that they could still transmit the virus even after having a jab. “There is still a risk you could spread coronavirus, even after you have been vaccinated,” they said.

The Government fears that people who have received the vaccine believe they are safe from Covid.

It follows research by the ONS which found that nearly half of all older people who were vaccinated against Covid in England were breaking lockdown rules.

Researchers found that compliance with coronavirus restrictions started to wane after the initial injection, with 41% of respondents reporting that they had broken the rules by meeting up with someone indoors.

Perhaps Bob Moran’s cartoons can act as an antidote to this campaign!

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

‘We Should Hang Our Heads in Shame Over the Way We Have Treated Children in Lockdown’

Professor of Psychology Ellen Townsend, a member of HART, has appeared on Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan’s podcast Planet Normal to tell them how harmful lockdowns have been to the nation’s children.

For Professor Ellen Townsend, it’s simple: “We’re putting adults first when we should be putting children first.” The result, according to the University of Nottingham academic, is “a real disaster” for young people and an approach she feels the country will come to regret, citing widely-reported mental health concerns and a sharp increase in youth unemployment.

Speaking to The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, Professor Townsend tells columnists and podcast hosts, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, why she believes it’s now vital for the Government to implement a “trauma-informed recovery approach” to ease young people out of lockdown. The emphasis, she says, should lie on mental recovery rather than catching up on school work: “If we don’t have mental health and wellbeing, the learning is just not going to take place.” And a second plan is needed for the “morally questionable” way in which she believes the Government has induced fear in the young: “If I were to induce any kind of emotion in the lab, for example, I would ethically expect to make sure that people left the lab feeling as good or better than they did when they came in… I’d have an exit plan. What worries me about what has happened is there doesn’t seem to be an exit plan to de-escalate the fear.”

Worth listening to in full (no subscription required).

Europe’s Vaccine Rollout “Unacceptably Slow”, Says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised Europe’s Covid vaccine rollout for being “unacceptably slow”. Only 16% of the EU’s population has received the jab, compared with 52% in the UK. BBC News has the story.

The WHO has criticised the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Europe as being “unacceptably slow”. 

It also says the situation in the region is more worrying than it has been for several months. 

Vaccination campaigns in much of Europe have been hit by delays and the number of infections is rising.

The EU has been criticised for the pace of its vaccination programme – only 16% of its population has received the jab, compared with 52% in the UK.

But the EU says the UK has had an unfair advantage in contracts it signed with vaccine manufacturers, some of whom are based within the EU.

Last month, Boris Johnson said that the success of the UK’s Covid vaccine programme was because of “capitalism” and “greed”. Concerns on the Continent over the AstraZeneca vaccine’s link to rare blood clots are also thought to have slowed the progress of its jab rollout. A recent survey of 1,053 Danes suggests that, regardless of official assurances that the jab is “safe and effective“, concerns about the vaccine are now widespread in Denmark. Reuters has more.

One in three Danes would decline to get a Covid shot using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, local media outlets TV 2 and Politiken reported late on Wednesday, citing a recent survey. …

The survey, conducted by Megafon among 1,053 persons, showed 33% of Danes would decline to get a shot with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, only 7% would decline regardless of which Covid vaccine they were offered.

The WHO’s director for Europe Hans Kluge says that Europe must speed up its vaccine rollout as vaccination “present[s] our best way out of this pandemic”.

We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up

Why Does Wikipedia Claim a Fifth of Covid Infections Are ‘Severe’?

There’s been a lot of worry about ‘misinformation’ around COVID-19, with numerous calls to suppress anything that doesn’t agree with the WHO’s current line, and news and social media companies all too happy to oblige.

Sometimes, though, the worst offenders are the mainstream sources themselves.

Take Wikipedia. On its main COVID-19 page – a page which cannot be edited by mere mortals as it is “protected to prevent vandalism” – it states the following in the second paragraph:

Of those people who develop noticeable symptoms, most (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspneahypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging), and 5% suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failureshock, or multiorgan dysfunction).

This is claiming that almost a fifth of symptomatic COVID-19 infections are severe, and 1 in 20 are critical. If these are the statistics that people are reading then no wonder they’re scared.

Wikipedia is many people’s first port of call when looking up a subject, and often comes out near the top of internet searches. So the fact that it grossly exaggerates the seriousness of COVID-19 should be concerning. Even more concerning is why it does so.

Where did Wikipedia get its stats from? Alarmingly, the reference is to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In its latest clinical guidance, in a section headed “Illness Severity”, the U.S. federal health agency states:

A large cohort that included more than 44,000 people with COVID-19 from China, showed that illness severity can range from mild to critical:

– Mild to moderate (mild symptoms up to mild pneumonia): 81%

– Severe (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging): 14%

– Critical (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan system dysfunction): 5%

In this study, all deaths occurred among patients with critical illness, and the overall case fatality ratio (CFR) was 2.3%.

These statistics come straight from an early study on the first 44,000 Covid patients in China, published on February 24th 2020. The study does not mention hospital admissions and it appears that all of these cases were in fact hospital patients. At any rate, the figures suggest a sample heavily skewed towards serious illness.

A more accurate estimate of severity comes from the ONS. In the December peak, the ONS estimated around 2% of the population of England were infected with COVID-19 and around 0.04% of the population were being admitted to hospital each week with the virus. This means about 2% of infections were leading to hospital admission, or 1% if we allow for the estimated half of serious infections caught in hospital. This is about 20 times lower than the nearly 20% serious infections in the Chinese study.

Why is the CDC still using this early study as its main source of statistics on the severity of COVID-19 when we’ve found out so much more about the illness since February 2020? Why is Wikipedia featuring these figures at the top of its COVID-19 page? Don’t they realise how misleading and unnecessarily frightening they are?