Pyser Testing

Day: 10 May 2021

CPS Admits That “All Offences Charged Under the Coronavirus Act Were Incorrectly Charged”

A Freedom of Information request has confirmed that zero prosecutions have been made successfully under the Coronavirus Act. The request asked: “Since its inception – how many prosecutions have been made successfully under Coronavirus Act?” The response, given on Monday by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), reads as follows:

Since the CPS started its review on finalised cases charged under the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the Act) in April 2020 and up until February 2021, we found that all offences charged under the Act were incorrectly charged, and therefore discontinued because there was insufficient evidence to prove the offences under the Act. There were no cases where a suspect was convicted under the Act as of February 2021.

In April, the Independent reported on the “embarrassment” caused to the justice system by incorrect prosecutions made under the Coronavirus Act and the Health Protection Regulations.

Every one of the 232 prosecutions brought under the Coronavirus Act was incorrect, with its misuse described as an “embarrassment” to the justice system. [The figure will, of course, have gotten much higher.]

A further 127 wrongful charges were brought under the Health Protection Regulations, which were created to enforce the first nationwide lockdown in March 2020 and have been changed numerous times for different restrictions.

They represent around 12% of prosecutions under the law, which is more commonly enforced by police using fines…

The Liberty human rights group called for the Government to support people to follow health guidance rather than having a “relentless focus on enforcement”…

[Director Gracie Bradley said:] “It’s… impossible to know how many unlawful fines have already been paid by people too afraid to challenge them – the Government must urgently introduce a right to appeal fines. Frequent and high-profile instances of arbitrary and wrongful enforcement have fanned the flames of mistrust.”

The CPS figures only cover finalised cases in England and Wales, and more prosecutions are currently progressing through the courts.

Reports issued by parliament’s Home Affairs Committee and Joint Committee on Human Rights had called for mistakes by police to stop in April, warning of the potential for miscarriages of justice and punishment “without any legal basis”.

MPs said that some police officers appeared to be enforcing Government guidance rather than the law, and that differences between the two were causing confusion among the public and law enforcement…

The vast majority of wrongful prosecutions were brought by police and withdrawn by the CPS before people were convicted, but 56 cases had to be returned to court to be quashed.

They include a woman who was fined £660 for a crime she had not committed, five days after the Coronavirus Act became law last March.

It gives police the power to direct “potentially infectious persons” to a place suitable for screening and assessment, and take them by force if they refuse.

The law makes it a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 to refuse a direction, escape or provide false information.

Isn’t it about time the Act was repealed?

The Independent report is worth reading in full.

Boris Announces Next Step in Reopening as Daily Covid Deaths in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland Fall to Zero

Boris hailed what he called a “very considerable step on the road back to normality” at a Downing Street press briefing this evening, outlining what he’s graciously going to “allow” us to do from May 17th. MailOnline has more.

Pints inside the pub are back from Monday, along with hugs for friends and family and staycations, Boris Johnson said tonight. …

But he urged people to be cautious, saying the country must remain “vigilant” about fuelling cases and the threat from variants.

When the next stage in the roadmap is reached groups of six or two households will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months.

Overnight visits will also be allowed, while outdoors the limit will rise to 30 in the most significant loosening yet.

Staycations can also get properly up and running, with hotels and B&Bs that do not have self-catering facilities permitted to open – as well as cinemas and theatres if audiences wear masks.

Crucially the government has decided the risk is now low enough that social distancing can be left more to “personal choice” – meaning that while people are urged to be ‘cautious’, hugs are allowed at private gatherings.

However, despite the very low infection rate and stunning vaccine rollout, social distancing rules will still be maintained at bars and restaurants.

Together with a requirement for table service indoors it means many venues will still struggle to make ends meet.

Advice to work from home where possible will also stay in place.

In other elements of the changes from next week, the much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events.

Indoor sport and exercise classes can restart, along with sauna and steamrooms. And secondary pupils will no longer need to wear masks at schools in England.

In a huge relief for many isolated elderly people and their families, care home residents will be able to have up to five named visitors – and up to two at once provided they are tested and follow guidelines. Residents will also have greater freedom to leave homes without having to isolate afterwards.

Worth reading in full.

During the announcement, Boris thanked the public for their commitment and said infections were now at the “lowest level since last July”. That’s also true of Covid deaths in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with zero being recorded in the last 24 hours in all three nations. MailOnline has more on that, too.

The UK has confirmed another 2,357 coronavirus cases and four deaths – all four in Wales – as the country’s Covid alert level was downgraded from four to three, suggesting the virus is ‘in general circulation’ and not rising.

Both figures mark increases on last Monday’s numbers, although that was a bank holiday and the counts are so low that even relatively small changes can appear to have a big effect. The longer-term trend remains flat.

July 30 was the last time that the reported death count was zero and the return marks a huge milestone after England’s toll peaked at 1,243 at the height of the second wave on January 19. The figure includes only death certificates processed yesterday; it does not mean that nobody died of Covid.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Telegraph Science Editor Sarah Knapton has interviewed a number of scientists, including Prof. Carl Heneghan, to ask them whether we really need to wait until June 21st before reopening in full. One of those in favour of reopening sooner is Dr. Jason Oke of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford. He said: “We are rapidly approaching the figure required for population immunity, if we haven’t already reached that point. Even the modellers who have been the most pessimistic in the past have revised their concerns about another wave in the summer.”

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Hails “Day of Freedom” as Restrictions Are Partially Eased – but Hotels, Pubs and Restaurants Will Remain Closed Until June

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has branded Monday a “day of hope and freedom” following the partial easing of lockdown restrictions.

A number of businesses have been able to resume service. But much of Ireland’s society – including hotels, pubs and restaurants – will remain closed until June at the earliest. BBC News has the story.

The Republic had been at the highest level of restrictions – level five – since Christmas.

But close-contact services, such as hairdressers, are now reopening and click-and-collect retail has resumed.

People are now also able to travel across the country.

They can move outside their own county for the first time in more than four months. Sports training can also resume.

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme on Monday that 12,000 businesses were due to reopen this week and 100,000 people could return to work.

He said the current financial support for businesses would be in place until the end of June…

The easing of restrictions in the Republic of Ireland is part of a phased relaxation of the country’s strict Covid lockdown announced by Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in April.

Libraries, museums, galleries and other cultural attractions are also opening…

The measures permit people to travel for non-essential journeys outside their county and up to 50 people can attend weddings, funerals and other religious services.

Three households, or a group of six people, can meet outdoors, including in private gardens, and a vaccinated household can meet an unvaccinated one indoors.

Some dates have been laid out for when (“all being well”!) lockdown restrictions will further ease.

From May 17th, all non-essential shops in the Republic of Ireland can reopen to customers.

From June 2nd, hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation will be permitted to trade.

All pubs, regardless of whether they serve food, along with restaurants can open for outdoor service on June 7th.

The summer relaxation is premised on containing new variants and accelerating a vaccination programme that is well behind Northern Ireland’s.

Worth reading in full.

Health Minister Nadine Dorries Opposes Mandatory Vaccination for Care Home Staff

Health Minister Nadine Dorries says she opposes the idea of care home staff being forced to take Covid vaccines. MailOnline has the story.

The Government last month launched a consultation into whether mandatory vaccines for carers would work and be ethical, with a final decision expected by July.

Ms Dorries’ boss, Matt Hancock, has publicly endorsed the proposal, arguing that care home staff have a “duty of care” to elderly residents most vulnerable to Covid. 

Quizzed about the plans on LBC radio this morning, Ms Dorries said: “Would I force people to be vaccinated? No I wouldn’t force people to be vaccinated.”

… Latest NHS England figures released last month suggested about 78.9% of care home staff nationwide have had the jab. But in 17 local authority areas, fewer than 70% have received a first dose.

When the consultation was announced on April 14th, Mr Hancock claimed care home bosses were united in their calls for a “no jab, no job” policy.  A final decision on whether to force staff to be vaccinated is expected by July. 

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman previously accepted it would be “discriminatory” to force anyone to be vaccinated. 

Documents leaked in March revealed that both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary “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“. Similar requirements are being considered for healthcare workers, such as those who work on hospital wards, according to reports – but there has been a good amount of opposition to the idea within the health profession.

The Royal College of Nursing, which has a membership of 450,000 registered nurses, said last month that health and social care staff should not be “coerced” into having a Covid vaccine, and the Royal College of General Practitioners, representing over 50,000 British GPs, said a mandatory rollout would only lead to “resentment and mistrust”.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

New Postcard From Back To Normal Promotes Ivermectin

The anti-lockdown group Back to Normal, which campaigns by delivering postcards door to door by hand – and has delivered over half a million to date – has produced a new postcard (see above). Geoff Cox, one of the organisers of Back to Normal, explains what it’s about:

To take advantage of not having to talk about lockdowns (for the moment), Back to Normal are teaming up with the growing number of medical and scientific voices calling for Ivermectin to become the drug of choice in combating COVID-19. If we can bring this to the attention of doctors, MPs and the general public, there will be no excuse for governments around the world to ignore it any longer. This is a win/win for us as either governments will use Ivermectin and the Covid crisis is over, or they don’t and it will be confirmed that governments are working to a different agenda.

If you are not yet up to speed with Ivermectin, The Ivermectin Story is a shortish video which will show you why we are so excited about this development.

Please order your boxes of postcards for delivery door to door by emailing backtonormalrh@yahoo.com.

Covid Recovery Group Calls on Boris to End All Restrictions on June 21st

Mark Harper and Steve Baker – the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Covid Recovery Group – have come out swinging today, demanding the Government end all social distancing restrictions on June 21st and allow the country to return to normal.

Steve has written a piece for the Sun today arguing it would be morally wrong to prolong our agony after June 21st:

The data is so good, and the doomsayers so wrong, that it cannot possibly be rational or morally right for us to have to socially distance from each other in any context or setting in the UK beyond June 21st. Being social is key to being well so by June 21st at the latest, Britain must meet again, must be reunited in every sense, and we must start healing the broken bonds of the last year with social contact and normal human interaction.

Worth reading in full (although the effusive praise for Boris’s leadership in the throat-clearing section at the top may irritate some readers).

And Mark has written for the Telegraph making a similar argument:

As Parliament returns, with his personal authority enhanced, the Prime Minister faces a choice. Last week, he gave us a fairly clear indication of what he would like to see when he hailed the “good chance” of social distancing being completely scrapped next month. With financial support schemes soon winding down, as they cannot go on forever, removing social distancing is crucial to the survival of many sectors of our economy such as hospitality, that simply cannot make any money and pay wages if it remains in place.

There needs to be early confirmation that social distancing will be completely scrapped from June 21st so that businesses can plan to fully reopen and ensure that we are truly on the “one way road to freedom” that the Prime Minister promised.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Steve Baker appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s talkRADIO show this morning to talk about why all restrictions need to be lifted on June 21st.

“I Hate Neighbourhood Snitches”

A reader spotted a good comment by someone styling herself “Delores” on Nextdoor.co.uk, a website that hosts numerous local forums. This one was headed “Neighbourhood Snitches”:

I hate Neighbourhood Snitches. Unbelievable, after over a year in lockdown, a family decides to have a celebration in their garden with just a few family and friends and their neighbour opposite – not next door, opposite! – decides to take a photo of them in their garden, post the photo on a neighbourhood WhatsApp group asking whether they should report them and one of the group members informs them to contact the police!!!

The neighbour complains that the family are disturbing them. The police show up and stop the celebration. This is on a beautiful Sunday evening between 6-7Pm. The disturbed neighbour had their window open whilst taking the photo. How disturbed were they really?? This is the calibre of neighbour living on XXXXXXX Road. You know who you are. I hate Neighbourhood Snitches!!!! And the police need to find better ways of spending their time!!!

The reader replied to this person in the forum:

Magnificent comment, Delores. Do, please, one day go to the War Tunnels in Jersey (if you’ve yet to do so). The tunnels – built by the Germans – now house a museum about Jersey’s wartime occupation. There is one exhibit which it is impossible to forget: a small rather crumpled piece of paper on which, in faint pencil, are written two names – those of a father and son who listened to a radio [banned, of course]. The note was written by a neighbour informing the Germans. Father and son were shot.

The Electorate Didn’t Endorse the Lockdown Policy Last Week; They Just Plumped For the Least Terrible of the Pro-Lockdown Parties

A Lockdown Sceptics reader called Keith Anderson has taken issue with my note on the election result. He thinks I was being too pessimistic.

In respect of Tory success in the local elections/by-election, the fact that people choose the lesser of two evils in no way means they endorse or support the same – in this case they were faced with opting between the Conservative lockdown party, or the Labour would-have-been-a-worse lockdown party!

As for the failure of anti-lockdown parties and candidates to make headway, to the mind of most, to elect someone to combat something that’s going to end in a month anyway holds little attraction – better to vote for a brand they understand and has stated positions on other ongoing/future issues whilst, tactically, preventing the other, more lamentable set of cretins/phoneys from taking control by splitting the vote.

In short, we used to live in a two-party state. That now has become a one-party state by dint of hollow/woke opposition.

Another reader and occasional contributor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is more gloomy.

I think the problem is lack of opposition and media monoculture. Lockdowns are contentious in U.S. politics. Ron DeSantis is going to run in 2024 on his anti-lockdown policies and their success in Florida, for example. And large percentages of the population are awake to their dangers. But most importantly opposition is basically ingrained on one side of the isle.

I think this is telling us that political and media monoculture in the U.K. is becoming downright dangerous. To the extent that democracy works it relies on competition. There’s none of that now. So it doesn’t work. I really hope something shifts, or we’re in for a troubled decade or two.

The article also produced some good comments below the line, such as this one from Stephensceptic:

The populations of western countries are getting what they have asked for. It is the old axiom that you get the government that you deserve.

Most people got deeply scared in March 2020. We can debate the role of the media, Imperial College and other so-called “experts”, as well as the novelty of a daily death count in creating this fear but it was real. They demanded that government “do something” and so governments did. They had no clue what to do and copied China. Johnson started out rightly by saying that nothing would really stop this but he got destroyed in the Press and by public opinion. He took the message and did an about face.

Many people have then stayed scared. Governments have realised that their activist measures are still popular, given the fear, and have no incentive to unravel them or to assuage the fear. Indeed, they see more political risk in unrolling the measures because they will then be blamed if Covid comes back. They will also lose their “rally round the government” political calling card.

First World War analogies kind of work best for me. It was begat by mutual fear of other countries, rather than of a virus of course. The war was then actually popular for most of its period in all belligerent countries. Even the generals were popular despite the casualties. Ending the war would have taken far more political courage than continuing it. Just like now. It took a long time for the popularity of the First World War to unravel as people woke up to the reality of the disaster it truly was. This happened quickest in places such as Russia and only really happened afterwards in countries such as Britain.

I agree with Toby that the awakening from this man made disaster will be slow. But when it comes it will be all the more vicious for that. My instinct is that deep down many members of governments realise this and will continue to perpetuate the emergency and the fear. Stopping it will bring the whole deck of cards crashing down.

And finally, a word of encouragement from a commentator who describes themselves as A.N. Other Lockdown Sceptic:

As my wise 87 year-old Mum said at the start of this shit show, “They told us that WW2 would be over by Christmas.”

Sadly, we need to be in this fight for the long haul. The truth will come out, we just need to put our shoulders to the wheel to ensure that it does.

Keep up the good fight, fellow courageous lockdown sceptics.

U.K.’s Covid Alert Level Should Be Lowered to Def Con 3, Say Chief Medical Officers

The four U.K. Chief Medical Officers have agreed that the Covid alert level should be lowered from level four to level three, suggesting that the “epidemic is in general circulation” and that there should be a “gradual relaxing of restrictions and social distancing measures”.

Sky News has the story.

A statement from the Medical Officers and NHS England’s National Medical Director said that people must remain “vigilant” of the virus, but added the decision to downgrade the alert level was “thanks to the efforts of the U.K. public”.

They said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the U.K. Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the U.K. alert level should move from level four to level three.

“Thanks to the efforts of the U.K. public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and Covid hospital pressures have fallen consistently.

“However, Covid is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant. This remains a major pandemic globally.

“It is very important that we all continue to follow the guidance closely and everyone gets both doses of the vaccine when they are offered it.”

The downgrade comes after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Just two Covid deaths were reported on Sunday and since late March there have been fewer Covid deaths each day than the five-year average of deaths from influenza and pneumonia. While the lowering of the Covid alert level will likely push the Government to loosen “social” distancing restrictions, there are currently no plans for bringing rules on mask-wearing to an end.

The idea that not before May 10th have Government advisers been prepared to state that transmission is no longer “high or rising exponentially” shows what a parallel reality they inhabit. According to the ONS infection survey, transmission has not been rising exponentially in the UK for over four months, since December 26th. The last time it could sensibly be described as high is February.

Also disturbing to be reminded of the assumption of Zero Covid baked into the Government alert levels. To reach Def Con 1 COVID-19 must be “not known to be present in the UK”. This criterion, of complete eradication, is obviously unachievable. This means the best we can hope to hit is Def Con 2, where “number of cases and transmission is low”. Which amounts to a permanent state of emergency where there may still be “social distancing measures” and certainly will be “enhanced testing, tracing, monitoring and screening”. Forever, it appears.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

Lack of Attention to Airborne Transmission Led to Blunders in Pandemic Management

In the early weeks of the pandemic, we were inundated with reminders to “wash our hands”. It was said that 20 or even 30 seconds of thorough scrubbing was needed to kill any particles that might be lurking there. 

And we were treated to some rather patronising instructional videos. You’d assume that most adults were already familiar with the concept of hand-washing. (Telling us to “be thorough” would probably have sufficed). 

Yet more and more evidence emerged that surfaces (known in the medical jargon as “fomites”) are not an important mode of transmission for SARS-CoV-2. Which is not to say you shouldn’t wash your hands.

However, there was still a dispute over whether respiratory droplets or airborne particles play a greater role in viral spread. Droplets are transmitted over short distances, and fall to the ground quickly. (Hence the ‘2m rule’.) Airborne particles, on the other hand, can remain aloft for minutes or even hours, and travel much greater distances. 

Over the last couple of months, it’s become clear that COVID is primarily transmitted via airborne particles. (Though some would say this was clear as early as the Diamond Princess outbreak, when several hundred passengers caught the virus on a cruise ship.)

In a recent article for the New York Times, the science writer Zeynep Tufekci reviews the debate over the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and explains how mistaken assumptions led to errors in pandemic management. 

She begins by noting it was only on April 30th this year that the WHO finally updated its website to indicate that COVID is transmitted via both droplets and airborne particles. Until then, it simply had claimed, “the main way the virus spreads is by respiratory droplets”.

As Tufekci notes, this mistaken assumption led to errors of both commission (like closing playgrounds) and omission (like ignoring ventilation).

If the importance of aerosol transmission had been accepted early, we would have been told from the beginning that it was much safer outdoors, where these small particles disperse more easily, as long as you avoid close, prolonged contact with others. We would have tried to make sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, with air filtered as necessary. 

This also implies that plastic shields – which you might have seen in your local gym or supermarket – do essentially nothing to prevent transmission:

There was no attention to ventilation, installing air filters as necessary or even opening windows when possible, more to having people just distancing three or six feet, sometimes not requiring masks beyond that distance, or spending money on hard plastic barriers, which may be useless at best. (Just this week, President Biden visited a school where students were sitting behind plastic shields.)

Indeed, one of the safest places to be during the pandemic is outdoors. (As I’ve noted before, the vast majority of infections occur in indoor spaces.) This raises serious questions about the Government’s stay-at-home order, which confined us to our homes for weeks, with only one form of outdoor exercise per day. 

Particularly absurd was when police forces used drone footage to shame people who were out walking in the countryside (most likely from indoor offices where the risk of transmission was far higher.)

If COVID mainly spreads via airborne particles, then telling people not to go outside doesn’t really make sense. And in fact, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined shelter-in-place orders in the United States, but did “not find detectable effects of these policies on disease spread or deaths.”

Tufekci compares the lack of attention to airborne transmission of COVID with our misunderstanding of cholera’s spread in the era before John Snow:

So much of what we have done throughout the pandemic — the excessive hygiene theater and the failure to integrate ventilation and filters into our basic advice — has greatly hampered our response. Some of it, like the way we underused or even shut down outdoor space, isn’t that different from the 19th-century Londoners who flushed the source of their foul air into the Thames and made the cholera epidemic worse.

Tufekci’s article contains a lot of interesting details, and is worth reading in full.