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The First Anniversary of “Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve”

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on 12th December 2020

To mark the anniversary of the first lockdown, we’re publishing a collection of short pieces by regular contributors to Lockdown Sceptics, as well as the editorial team, reflecting on the year gone by.

The Senior Doctor

Just over a year ago a patient asked me in clinic what I thought about Covid. My honest answer was I didn’t really know. There had been minimal information in the medical press and no official communication from the Department of Health. The lack of preparedness in spring 2020 by PHE and senior NHS management was palpable at the time – in retrospect it appears close to criminal. Being in the eye of the storm last year, it was clear that NHS management were paralysed by ‘battle shock’. As one of my colleagues put it in the Guardian recently ‘top down didn’t work, bottom up did’. Dominic Cummings giving evidence to a Parliamentary committee described the Department of Health as being a ‘smoking ruin’ – that’s certainly how it looked from the worm’s eye viewpoint.

I could write several pages analysing governmental actions in the last year, but the overarching aim has been a deliberate campaign to generate fear of a disease which is only seriously dangerous to a small subset of people. If government succeeds in the – surprisingly easy – task of terrifying the population about some external threat, then it can take the most extraordinary actions, cheered on by the Opposition and mass media. In tandem with state backed misinformation has been concealment of quite egregious errors such as the rate of nosocomial infections, the PPE debacle, the failure of Test and Trace, the lack of adequate preparation and training for a predictable winter surge and many other serious mistakes.

If I had to identify one critical error it would be this – that the executive has allowed a form of ‘state capture’ to occur, whereby a self – selecting group of medical apparatchiks are effectively dictating policy across the entire government. Dissenting informed opinion has been ruthlessly repressed, ridiculed and censored in favour of a one-sided presentation of the data. Despite repeated assertions to be ‘following the science, this is the very antithesis of scientific method. Simply put, we are no longer living in a ‘free country’ in the way we used to define it. As to the question of how we escape from this unacceptable situation, I revert to the response given in the first paragraph – I don’t really know. I suspect the answer lies in revealing to the public the extent to which they have been deceived over the last 12 months. If that ever happens, the consequences could be profound.

David McGroggan, Associate Professor of Law, Northumbria Law School

I think the best way of describing the last 12 months is as a series of profoundly shocking discoveries, one after the other, whose cumulative effect has been to change my worldview irrevocably. I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus, suddenly and unexpectedly forced to confront the fact that he is not in Asia after all, but a completely different continent – one in which everybody wears face masks and speaks a bizarre foreign tongue peppered with vaguely recognisable words which they actually appear to believe mean something: ‘lockdown’, ‘tiers’, ‘social distancing’, ‘the R rate’. It’s discombobulating to say the least to be disabused of so many of the truisms one once held dear, all at once, and so brutally. It turns out people don’t value freedom, as I once thought, but compliance. It turns out it’s not reason that wins through in the end, but fear. It turns out Britain doesn’t have a unique culture of respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, but we just got lucky before 2020. It turns out our much vaunted ‘common sense’ was a complete phantom, and we’re actually a nation of irrational ‘Clap for Carers’ cultists. It turns out our constitutional arrangements, which I had once thought of as being quietly beautiful and unintentionally brilliant, collapse like a pack of cards the moment a crisis hits. I could go on.

Looking back, what I most clearly remember now about the febrile atmosphere of February and March last year was my own naïve optimism. I knew that some people were panicking. But I ascribed this to social media-led melodrama that would soon blow over. And I genuinely thought I was part of a silent majority of sensible people who weren’t getting swept up in the frenzy. I don’t think I appreciated at the time that I am, actually, a bit unusual: my father died of the ‘flu, so the idea that respiratory viruses can really be quite nasty was not a shock to me; I have lived through a bona fide life-threatening natural disaster and know what an actual catastrophe looks like; I don’t have any social media accounts so my antennae have not been borked by echo chambers; I have spent a long time overseas so I don’t imbue the NHS with quasi-religious significance or see it as my duty to ‘protect’ it; I have read my Hayek, my Bastiat, my Friedman, my Smith, and I am predisposed to value freedom and limited government. I hadn’t realised that I was somewhat different from my countrymen in these respects. So I was genuinely flabbergasted on March 23rd when it turned out people were actually going along with the nonsense. And since then I have found myself constantly surprised at just how out of step I am with the people around me.

It starts with the original justification for ‘lockdowns’ itself. In February and March I was looking at the data coming out of places that had been hit before us – Japan (where I lived for eight years and still have friends and family), South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, New York, Spain, Iceland and so on. There is a revisionist narrative that now says “we didn’t know anything about the virus” in those early days, but we did know quite a lot, very quickly: most saliently, that the average age of death was always around 80, and that it was basically impossible to catch the virus outdoors. The Taiwanese CDC, for example, had by late February tracked every single Covid infection in its territory and all of their contacts – and determined that not a single case had been transmitted outside. And it was evident from Italy, New York and Spain that the ‘modal death’, as it were, from Covid was somebody about 80 years old with one serious comorbidity. So I was looking at this freely available information and thinking to myself, well, since eventually this knowledge will filter through to the population and our political leaders, we’ll find a straightforward path through this – protect the elderly, let everybody else get on with their lives. It was just a matter of time. The order to stay at home seemed bizarre given that we already knew that was where you were most likely to get infected. But I thought the ‘3 weeks’ thing was a precaution and that after it was over people would probably have realised that you can’t just hide behind the sofa and hope a virus will go away.

I still clung to my innocent faith in our society’s capacity for rational decision-making for quite a long time even as lockdown went on (and on, and on). As the weeks passed, I began to think that probably the Government knew it had overreacted and made a mistake, but that it didn’t want to admit it, and would slowly wind everything down over summer as a face-saving exercise. And I thought by that point the spell would be broken over the population and people would merrily embrace normality again. I still hadn’t grasped that our society had collectively become completely wedded to all of this. It was only with July, and the compulsory wearing of face masks and the ‘Leicester lockdown’, that it began to dawn on me that, yes, our politicians really believed that ‘controlling’ a respiratory virus was a sensible policy goal, and that the population was actually in large part behind them. I then, finally, started to become deeply pessimistic and afraid about where things are going. And that hasn’t lifted since.

I now look at the future with a deep sense of foreboding. I see a society which has little genuine commitment to freedom or evidence-based decision-making, and which is instead interested largely in compliance and being seen to do the right thing. I see a politico-legal establishment which has no real understanding of what the rule of law entails (the complete lack of outrage expressed by the judiciary and the legal profession over the spectacle of government Ministers creating law by executive fiat throughout this crisis has been a deeply unpleasant surprise). I see a culture which prioritises the needs of the old over the young – the mirror image of what a healthy society looks like. And above all I see a future which increasingly resembles that of China: a purportedly benevolent but ultimately authoritarian and controlling State bestowing blessings on a grateful population who are never allowed to get out of line and who are forever looking to public authority to tell them what they ought or ought not to do. And, I might add, an elite who see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m not sure what can be done, if anything, to resurrect the way of life we once had. But there is also part of me that wonders whether that way of life really existed in the first place, given that so many of its predicates were abandoned in a heartbeat the moment things got difficult. If a society gives up its freedoms as soon as a nasty but essentially manageable threat materialises, was it ever really committed to freedom at all? Was our precious liberty always just on borrowed time?

David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia

Impending lockdown forced me to abandon a tramp round Anglesey last March. Watching the coast slip away on an empty London train, I didn’t expect it to do much good. In the 21 years (1997 to 2018) I’d worked full- or part- time for PHE and its predecessors I’d never heard lockdown touted as part of respiratory pandemic planning. At best it might push the problem into the future, I thought. Still, the UK has a paucity of intensive care beds and I could see ICU collaborators under heavy pressure. There were issues with oxygen supply, I learnt, and lockdown would give time to secure PPE. So, I wasn’t a vehement early opponent.

What turned me was the way that three weeks kept extending, and the fact that Sweden, with no lockdown, fared no worse than us. Friends caught the virus and recovered. Sometimes, on professional Zoom calls, it was possible to believe that good was being done. But as soon as I went outside it wasn’t. The collateral damage was clear. Forcing a route along the often-pathless coast from Aberdeen to Lossiemouth in the August truce of ‘Eat out to help out’ I found the half-ruined owners of little hotels praying for a normal Christmas, which they weren’t to get. One was kind enough to re-open a shuttered pub to give us a room. Thank you, Grant, if you’re reading this. In Norwich and London the boarded shops multiply. Veiled citizens flit nervously. Some are still sufficiently spooked to ‘mask up’ if they encounter me on a windswept country path. Others, unseen, hide indoors, disinfecting deliveries. They might do better to fear £400bn of extra debt, half funded by a money-printing magic circle whereby ‘Government issues bonds; Bank of England buys bonds’. That cannot end well. COVID-19 can be lethal but, even at its January peak, a million infections per week only put a few thousand into ICUs. The ‘death total’ is inflated by including ‘died with’ as well as ‘died from’ and the excess deaths by those who, owing to COVID pressures, couldn’t or wouldn’t access healthcare for treatable conditions. Many ‘hospital cases’ were infected, more or less seriously, whilst already hospitalised. No statistic is quite as it looks.

Toby asks what I got wrong. Answer: ‘Plenty’. I underestimated how long people would tolerate the restrictions heaped upon them. I overestimated how long vaccine development would take. I underestimated Kate Bingham. Last and most serious. I believed that Boris was a libertarian of a sort – an easy mistake but a bad one. But, on the central issue, I remain convinced: It’s a nasty virus, indubitably causing deaths, but we’ve overreacted. To have made it the sole driver of policy is folly, for it isn’t the plague of 1665 or 1347 and public health is not benefitted by dislocating the economy nor by terrorising the population. These points apply even more strongly now that the great majority of the most vulnerable have had a shot of vaccine. A vaccinated America is reopening swiftly, and we should do so too.

Conor Chaplin, Editorial Staff

It is now something like a year and a month since I first began to feel that the sky was falling down. My day job as a freelance musician can sometimes be a precarious and unpredictable one, but in fact it’s vanishingly rare for engagements to be cancelled. The first inkling, therefore, that something big was coming was when the first of these cancellations came in – an entire week’s work at a famous jazz club in London’s West End. Within weeks all my income for the foreseeable future was gone. Looking back, I was probably part of that group, identified in retrospect by various commentators, who was picking up on the signs earlier than others. Friends and colleagues, yet to be subjected to hysterical media coverage, blithely went about as normal, sometimes even talking of “just another flu”, while I slathered myself in hand gel, opened doors with my elbow, and eyed with suspicion anyone who so much as cleared their throat in public. Eventually, I pre-emptively retreated to the family home a full week before the official ‘Stay At Home’ instruction was given.

In under a month I had switched places almost completely with my initially carefree peers. The divide between us was, I think, our consumption of information, and has been reflected in society at large ever since. Those more inclined to investigate and monitor diverse news sources, perhaps with a better grasp of how to use the internet intelligently, were among the first to see the footage (bizarre and dubious in hindsight) of people falling over in the streets of Wuhan, but by the same token were also the first to come across, for example, the Stanford study from early in the pandemic led by Dr John Ioannidis, the first large-scale serological survey. I was convinced that the earth-shattering findings of this study (that the number of people already exposed to the virus was somewhere between 50-85 times greater than the official case numbers) would be headline news, considering the magnitude of its implications. But it sank with scarcely a mention and from that moment on it was clear to me that the mainstream media’s coverage of the pandemic was not going to admit of any awkward questions. Good news was not permitted.

In the intervening year, though perhaps less so recently, many have quite understandably shut themselves off from everything except a psychologically tolerable daily or weekly dip into a trusted channel such as the BBC. This has meant that they are often not aware there is really any debate or controversy about the lockdowns. This is evidenced for me by the fact that I still encounter people on an almost daily basis who have never even heard of Neil Ferguson, and have no idea what his role in this has been. This alone suggests the population is living in two parallel worlds. All of this has been a challenge for me politically – naturally a cosmopolitan liberal type, voted to remain in the EU, and having always voted for left-of-centre parties, my new allies almost all came from parts of the political spectrum with which I did not associate myself. The Opposition in Parliament did not oppose, and now the only people in that chamber who make any sense to me are a handful of slightly eccentric backbench Tory MPs. Many of the bizarre rules and rituals of the last year have made me resent the state entirely, but perhaps none had quite the bitter Cromwellian joylessness as the law requiring publicans to prevent customers from “singing or dancing” in licensed premises.

Discussion of the matter with friends is fraught with peril. It can seem tasteless to argue statistics with someone who has lost a relative to the disease. While many, including me, still to this day hardly know of anyone who has succumbed during supposedly the worst pandemic in a century, this is not true for everyone and no lockdown sceptic I know has ever suggested that the disease was trivial, that it would have no impact, or that no-one would die of it. But the amount of personal suffering that some people have invested in their compliance can mean that you are met with jabbing fingers and indignantly raised voices if you start suggesting that all their torment was for nothing. Other contributors to these pages are much better at crunching the numbers to prove why all of this has been dubious at best, but to me it has always been a moral or philosophical question. The state should never go this far, unless the threat is catastrophic. Worst of all, the precedent is now set that mass compliance can be achieved among a fearful population, and that this is now an acceptable way of managing relatively unthreatening contagious diseases. I would not bet my house that we have seen the last lockdown yet…

Mike Hearn, ex-Google software engineer and Blogger

The story of lockdown is largely one of corruption and decay inside academia. When I sent Toby an analysis of Ferguson’s COVID-Sim program, I didn’t expect it to get over quarter of a million views and become the second most popular page on the site. But it got attention because it proved with evidence what many people already suspected: that the scientists justifying lockdown weren’t merely making suspicious assumptions but were actually doing their work wrong in an objective sense.

At first I hoped COVID-Sim was a problem restricted to a single team at a single university, one which would be corrected by an embarrassed administration. In the months that followed it became clear that the academic establishment was simply going to sweep it all under the rug and deny anything had ever gone wrong. What followed was a failed attempt to delete audit logs, claims that arbitrary prediction differences of 80k deaths didn’t matter and most shocking of all, “scientists” at prestigious universities making arguments so stupid they would get high school students a fail grade. Maths lessons sure would be easier if you could just do your sums wrong a few times and then take the average! So Ferguson et al are not an isolated case but appear to be a symptom of systematic problems with programming competence across government funded science. In the months that followed I wrote again and again and again and again about research papers that contained basic, obvious problems which should never have been published at all. Lockdown theory was invalidated by observed data but epidemiology simply ignored it. A few months later Alvaro de Menard published “Reflections After Reading 2578 Papers“, which studies the quality problems found outside of epidemiology. And now even the most naive institutions are finally accepting that a lab leak cannot be just waved away as a possible source of SARS-CoV-2.

The root cause of these problems is incorrect/missing incentives. Academics get career growth when they make interesting claims confidently, not correct claims hesitantly. Universities don’t encourage cross-discipline research, so scientists routinely try to do complex statistical or programming work alone despite having inadequate training to do so. Society holds academics unaccountable for the correctness of their work and simply trusts them to be intellectually honest on a massive scale, a bad decision we are now all paying dearly for. Statistical modelling in particular is like a drug to these people because it allows users to generate new “science” on the back of any semi-plausible assumption at all, of which there’s a limitless number (and which can easily be ideological). People can’t tell the difference between genuinely scientific work and papers that just contain equations, so all that’s left is to lose the cultural expectation of comparing predictions against observed data and the flow of research grants can never end.

Can academia be reformed? It seems doubtful. The best people keep leaving for superior pay and the more results-oriented culture of the private sector, leaving those who don’t get it to dominate. In the UK the ruling party is settling on a narrative that lockdowns were correct, that it was mea culpa for not listening to ICL even sooner and the right thing to do to research budgets is increase them. Meanwhile, the opposition relies heavily on academics and students for votes. The flow of bad science will get larger, rational people will more frequently reject claims based on academic modelling, and the establishment will descend even further into delusional explanations for why people don’t trust them anymore – like blaming “conspiracy theories“, YouTube or Russian interference. There is no obvious end to this process because government/donor funding kills any incentive universities have to improve. Things will get worse before they get better.

Sinéad Murphy, Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University

On the first anniversary of Covid UK I thought I might comment on something other than Covid – or something that seems to be other than Covid, at least.

There has been a subplot to the events of this year. Through all of the government’s crimes against its people, through the isolation and the anguish and the suffering they have caused, there has been a most persistent and apparently unrelated campaign: to do justice to racial and sexual identities.

Perhaps we were taken aback at the timing of this campaign, launched and pursued in the context of unprecedented containment of the population: we were banned from laying eyes on our dying father, from touching our only child, even from leaving our house. But there is is a long-established and intimate connection between the contempt for the weakness and corruption of our bodies implied by the Covid measures, and elevation of a somewhat vague, even mystical, identity as the sacred site of personal truth.

During the 1970s and 80s, Michel Foucault outlined this intimate connection, between disdain for bodies and worship of identities. In Discipline and Punish, he described the modern era’s reframing of the body as mere clay, docile fodder for the industrial age, criss-crossed by interests that are not the less oppressive for being sterile and organised rather than bloody and spectacular. And in The History of Sexuality, he described the great compensation for our body’s humiliation and rejection: our modern soul, our identity, in which the real truth about us resides, and which is uncovered and cherished using concepts from the life sciences.

The inapt body: to be, not punished, but disciplined. The precious soul: destined, not for an after-life, but for telling its truth in this life, endlessly and without pause.

Two sides of a single strategy, according to Foucault at least, for the management of the populations of democratic societies.

A pair of recent UK Government campaigns have activated this strategy quite openly, revealing the Covid crisis and its identities-subplot as the quintessentially modern kind of control that Foucault alerted us to. Act Like You’ve Got It intensified the year’s suspicion of our bodies by urging us to treat them as diseased and deadly even if they give no signs of being so – and to swab them and mask them and isolate them and keep our distance from them as the contemptible lumps of flesh that they are. Look Her In The Eyes was the counterbalance campaign, directing us to random sets of eyes as the windows into infinitely precious souls, reminding us that inside every decaying would-be-corpse is a person whose purity and truth is as worthy of boundless respect as their fleshly casing is deserving of limitless censure.

There is, clearly, a religious quality to our implicit appeal to a sacred core as consolation for the weakness of our bodies. But our modern soul is a secular soul; it has no actual religious content, only content given to it by the biological, psychological and social sciences. And if we have learnt one thing during this past year, it is that such sciences are not above being conduits for the agenda of governments and corporations.

While we obediently cultivate a hatred of our bodies beyond any felt before in human history, we obediently look for our real selves in an imagined identity that is conveniently manufactured by scientific concepts advertised and distributed by those with power and influence.

And the effect is intensifying, with the roll-out of these treatments they are calling ‘vaccines’, new mRNA pharmaceuticals that have never been used before and that are still in the experimental phase of their development. We should investigate these treatments, and not allow those in power to simply ‘get them in arms’. For, we are not identities trapped in contemptible bodies. Whatever we are, we are embodied.

A Twitter bio I came across recently included the designators, 21y/o, ‘sapiosexual,’ ‘panAfrican,’ and ‘VACCINATED’. It is the endgame of the management of people with democratic freedoms, when they experience themselves as liberated by cleaving to newly invented, politically infused categories of race and sex, and are so scornful of their body as to replace its native immunity with an artificial version when, at the age of 21, it is highly unlikely to be improved upon.

Will Jones, Editorial Staff

Three weeks to squash the sombrero and here we are, a year later and still locked down, with threats of more to come in winter. What shocked me most? How few people, both among elites and in the public, saw through the nonsense and bluster and stood up to the emerging public health tyranny. How swiftly and comprehensively coercive fanaticism became the norm. How deaf to data and confounding evidence mainstream media and science became, and how intolerant of dissent. Even the Spectator embraced Communist lockdownism in the winter; that was one of the toughest blows. Et tu, Nelson?

I wrote my first sceptical piece on March 17th, arguing the cure was worse than the disease, and haven’t looked back. The night before, Boris had just done his first press conference and inaugurated social distancing, which had coincided with the Neil Ferguson Imperial report of doom projecting over 500,000 deaths. Ferguson anticipated 18 months of restrictions while waiting for a vaccine. Seems prescient, till you realise it was self-fulfilling. James Gallagher on the BBC just wrote: “We are in this for the long haul.” How right he was.

Did I get everything right? Certainly not. Like many I was wrongfooted by the size of the winter surge, having mistaken the seasonal decline in the spring for the full emergence of herd immunity. But the basics were all there: don’t overestimate the deadliness of the disease or the effectiveness of lockdowns; don’t underestimate the harms of lockdown or the resilience of the human immune system. These are lessons the Government has failed to learn, having invested far too much in the opposites being true.

Will they let us out now we have the vaccines? It’s hard to tell. I try to remain upbeat, thinking they have to let us go sooner or later – it’s just too expensive otherwise. But in my darker moments I wonder if they have it in them to restore personal liberty and a proper assessment of risk. Has everyone just become too attached to the false safety of their solitude? That, I confess, is my greatest fear.

Guy de la Bédoyère, Historian

I made it back from Australia about 48 hours before the first lockdown here kicked in, fighting my way through airports at Perth, Bangkok and finally Heathrow, all in different stages of shutting down. Looking back a year later, I can understand to some extent why panic set in. The history of plagues and even apocalyptic disaster movies like Contagion meant there was some inevitability about expecting the worst, at least in the short term, bolstered in my view by a wider culture of doom-mongering that has become one of the great paradoxes of living in a world that is for some at least the wealthiest and healthiest in human history.

What I cannot forget is the power and influence given to a very small number of people who seem quite unable or unwilling to consider the wider consequences of their recommendations, and the government’s feeble acquiescence, based on modelling that could only ever be short-term. This was especially unforgiveable once it became clear that COVID-19’s impact was inconsequential (when set against many other diseases) for most of the population, and that protective measures should have been focused on those at serious risk. The claimed mitigating effects of lockdowns could only be temporary, if they even worked at all, yet the mentality of lockdown seems to have become engrained despite the mounting weight of evidence for the terrible damage it is doing. Worse, many of the consequences will not become clear until long after the career of this current bout of politicians and scientists have slunk off into the long grass to live off their pensions.

More recently, we have seen the lockdown lunatic fringe gleefully promoting the insane idea of zero Covid, a goal that has the potential to paralyze our society and economy on a permanent basis. Worse, the maniacs so keen on this absurd and destructive fantasy are sufficiently ignorant or dismissive of history and wider social and political culture that they are encouraging an international lurch towards totalitarianism, nationalism, and tension. The easiest thing in the world is to sleepwalk into one-party states ruled by oppressive dictatorial governments, something I wrote about for this site back in the late spring of 2020. Far from that threat abating it is becoming more palpable by the day, aided and abetted by a public horrified by graphs and data they do not understand, and deliberately terrorized by the Government and elements of the media. The vaccine clot scare just shows the extent to which this time is turning into the Age of Fear even, it seems, avidly embraced by some. Sadly, what I thought might have been a passing crisis shows ominous signs of bedding in for the long-term. Fortunately, the way out still exists but we will have work ever harder to stop it slithering through our fingers. If we let it go, it will not return for many of us in our lifetimes.

James Moreton Wakeley, former Parliamentary researcher

“This is our war.” I remember that this sentiment was not uncommon when coronavirus stopped being something of a joke involving Mexican beer and the government imposed the first lockdown on the country, a year ago today. The specious language of war has since dominated the airways: doctors and nurses are ‘on the frontline’ and house arrest and economic collapse are all part of a ‘national effort’ to ‘defeat the virus’. The state’s public information campaign, by embracing powerful, emotionally charged scare-stories and lies, became tantamount to wartime propaganda. Politicians love such bellicose rhetoric. It flatters the ego and it always seems to cut through to a society for which real wars are small affairs fought in faraway places.

The language, however, is in some respects quite apposite. Conflicts can presage profound cultural change. Rome was shaken to its foundations in a series of wars in the third century AD, and the revolution that was Christianisation followed. Centuries later, France erupted in social and political revolution after helping the rebels drive out the redcoats from the Thirteen Colonies in America. World War One set in motion the destruction of the moral order of Christian Europe – as well as its old empires – with conflicts ranging from the Russian Civil War to Vietnam changing societies in ways that are still being worked-out today.

By amplifying the threat posed by a new respiratory disease, and crashing the economy, the government has synthesised a wartime scenario. It will have lasting implications. Dirigiste solutions look set to be the norm in the new Safety State. The government has assumed responsibility for all of our lives, all of the time, so expect lasting limits on how we can associate with one another – lest someone catch yet another new strain of Covid or the flu. The Government’s use of fear has infected too many with an irrational degree of trepidation, like the mask-wearing couple who hurled themselves into a hedgerow as I jogged past them the other day. Such neurotic behaviour may become a new social norm – simply ‘polite’ – with people reluctant to socialise, travel, or to do anything other than err on the extreme side of caution. A society that has had precious little chance to question the efficacy of lockdowns will be told how it was saved by the policy in fact responsible for its new-found penury and complicated physical and mental health crises. Banishing Covid hysteria and making the case for trusting people, believing in freedom, and welcoming views to the public arena even if they are unfashionable will become ever more important.

A year on, I feel that the fight to return to our lives as we knew them is only just beginning.

Martin Paul Evison, PhD

My first surprise was how readily the public have accepted lockdowns and authoritarian government. My second was how Public Health morphed from encouraging the unhealthy to adopt healthier lifestyles, to picking corporate winners irrespective of health overall. My third surprise was to see the extent ‘advocacy research’ has permeated the sciences.

SARS-CoV-2 is seasonal and will be back. Taking into account nosocomial infections, lockdown deaths and mis-classifications this winter, the rate of excess deaths due to COVID-19 may not be as great as it appears and any resurgence is likely to involve a further diminution.

I can’t see an end to lockdowns unless there is popular opposition – perhaps driven by the electoral threat of anti-lockdown parties – or until the harm begins to bite on the public as a whole.

I will no longer trust predictive models, meta-analyses or similar studies lacking a robust scientific basis being used to seed public policy.

The Top Financial Journalist

A year ago, I joined the ranks of lockdown sceptics. I didn’t profess any particular understanding of epidemics but had spent decades studying financial markets. In our response to the appearance of COVID-19 I saw the type of irrational behaviour normally displayed during stock market bubbles. The difference being that the Covid “bubble” was driven by fear rather than greed.

Since last March, we have witnessed the following irrational behaviours: extreme risk aversion, saliency (placing excessive weight on particularly vivid risks), availability bias (described by the Israeli-born psychologist Daniel Kahneman as “a self-sustaining chain of events which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action”), confirmation bias, intolerance of dissenting views, poor probability calculations, forecasting by linear extrapolation, etc.

It should be clear 12 months later that lockdowns are a blunt tool which have failed to deliver and carry huge costs to society. Yet governments and their advisers cannot admit to their errors. They are locked in a state of “cognitive dissonance,” which causes them to screen out non-confirming evidence and even double-down on their mistaken actions. Epidemiologists remind me of modern economists, likewise addicted to mathematical models whose dubious inputs guarantee unreliable forecasts. Both these academic disciplines appear to have banished common sense.

In the world of finance, we have become used to monetary policymakers implementing untested, extreme and ultimately ineffective measures to combat phantom risks. We are painfully aware that outbreaks of irrationality can last for what seems like an eternity. A consoling thought is that when great bubbles burst, an angry and impoverished public look for someone to blame. One day, I believe, those responsible for the great lockdown crime will face a similar reckoning.

Jonathan Barr, Editorial Staff

It all made so much sense when it first kicked off. We were faced with a novel, highly transmissible virus. We couldn’t stop it, but we might, just, be able to slow it down. By staying apart, we could ‘slow the spread’ and thereby ensure that there would be a hospital bed for everyone when they needed it. Moreover, I was not unhappy to sit at home for three weeks, doing the odd errand for the local vulnerable, and catching up on some TV.

What folly! Three weeks to ‘flatten the curve’ led inexorably into six weeks and then into a bewildering array of rules and tier systems. It was the first step, in fact, towards the absurdly hubristic notion that we were somehow going to ‘control’ the virus and thereby save lives. That hubris was, for my money, the Government’s most egregious sin. We can no more ‘control the virus’ than we can control any other part of nature. We can try to protect ourselves from it – e.g. as set out in the Great Barrington Declaration – and we can try to repair the damage that it can do, but we cannot ‘control’ it. In trying to, it seems pretty clear that the virus was handed control of us. Indefinitely and with terrible consequences.

What should the Government have done instead? It should have been mindful of its actual responsibilities. I thought Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church, Edmonton spoke rather well on this in his last sermon before his arrest and imprisonment for Public Health Act offences. It is not Government’s responsibility, he pointed out, to protect citizens from a virus. They didn’t create it. It’s not their fault. It is Government’s responsibility, however, to protect our rights to live fully and properly and to work, to assemble and to be with our families when they are dying. They should have found ways of responding to the virus that are compatible with protecting those rights and calling on citizens to get involved if necessary, for there were plenty who were willing. Lockdown, of course, is no such solution and the Government bears the responsibility, shared with everyone who has supported it, for the suffering it has caused.

I hope that people’s sense of personal threat is now sufficiently diminished to avoid another lockdown, though I wouldn’t bet on it. What about the next novel virus that comes along, or threat of any other kind for that matter? It is tempting to believe that a law protecting rights might help, or a public inquiry that helps us better prepare for the next pandemic. Alas, though, I think we’ve seen that when the pressure is on, and the experts are making their confident projections based, as ever, on inadequate data, and the media is ramping up fear, it doesn’t really matter what laws and plans are in place. So I suspect lockdowns are set to become a perennial fixture of life in Britain.

Sean Walsh, Philosopher

Some truths cannot accurately be represented by a slide on a government graph. There are harms which are invisible to science. These harms take spiritual, religious, and emotional form. Since the Whitty types grabbed the Power Point, they have been not merely overlooked but concealed.

There is no specific piece of moral repugnancy that I would wish to point to as an example of the tyranny of the last year. Although there’s much to choose from. I could, I guess, point to the enforced dehumanization agenda known as “the wearing of masks” – an insistence that people are not allowed to smile at each other in a shop. But I’ll go with the general SAGE strategy: the bastardisation of language in service of its own ends. The Humpty Dumpty approach in which a positive PCR test is a “Covid case” and the distinction between “dying with” and “dying from” is dissolved in service of political expediency.

That’s my language – your language – and they had no right to steal it.

But if I’m honest most of my anger is directed at the public. Governments are child-like in that they like to test boundaries. It is our job to push back. We didn’t.

A positive note? That human nature always surprises and that the impulse to freedom is intact. People I never cared for have shown themselves to be cool. This fight is a righteous one and the right side will win it.

Jonny Peppiatt, Poet and Novelist

Tasked with identifying the Government’s most egregious sin of the past year, of isolating a single transcendent sin from the cacophony of catastrophic callousness, the easy option would be to pick the abandonment of the findings and recommendations arising from Exercise Cygnus – without which, none of this would have happened.

But there have been two elements that have particularly disturbed me: the first being the general treatment of the elderly, including the denial of visits for loved ones in their old age that has either dragged forward dementia-related declines or, unforgivably, left so many of the elderly to die alone, having wasted the final year of their lives miserable, confused, lonely; and the second being the vilification of our vibrant youth as the drivers of the pandemic, while simultaneously denying them their right to education, and to life – all without any supporting evidence.

While we reflect on the past year though, it is also worth looking forward and considering future lockdowns, whether we would be forced to endure them, and how to avoid them, because there have now been three floated ideas for future lockdowns: new variants; lack of immunity to influenza; and climate change.

Considering these in turn: each new “variant of concern” has been followed by an announcement a week or so later that the vaccines work against them. So while some individuals will be keen for “booster jabs” come winter, the overwhelming majority will not buy into a lockdown next winter given the success of the vaccination programme.

But if we are to be sure, if we are to guarantee that the lockdowns never happen again, then we need to buck the system. We need to revive democracy and get out and vote for whichever anti-lockdown candidate we can in whichever election we have the opportunity to vote in, from Kenneth Morton for Reform UK in Mid-Scotland and Fife to Laurence Fox for Reclaim in London; and we need to spread the word, perhaps even help out with campaigning where possible, because Sadiq Khan won the 2016 London Mayoral Election in the final round with only 1,310,143 out of a possible 5,087,764.

So, rally the troops, talk to friends, get people engaged, back Lozza, and let’s send a very, very loud message on May 5th, because it is through the power of the people – through true democracy – that we can ensure insanity never again prevails.

Michael Curzon, Editorial Staff

2020: what a year to graduate… The lockdown has pushed my route into a career in journalism down a unique path – that of food retail. (Perhaps there is a decent Co-op on Fleet Street that I can aspire to.) At the very least, this has allowed me to witness the “panic-buying” of bog rolls first hand (and, later, of fags, booze and scratch cards).

I soon realised, from my behind-the-till view, that those who grumble the loudest about Covid rule-breakers on the front pages, and about fellow customers not following the arrow floor markings, are also the most likely to step within the forbidden 2 metre distancing zone, and embrace friends when they pass by. What does this tell us about the restriction-favouring polls, I wonder?

It has been rather less humorous to see the change in peoples’ behaviours caused by a lack of social contact (especially in older regulars). Those who were the most spritely a year ago (I started the day lockdown began) have become quiet and cold; their heads have dipped. “How’s your week been,” I ask, to which I usually hear “the same as the last”. These people know they don’t have long to live anyway, and that this time is being wasted.

One older customer I have become close to recently lost his wife. He saw her once (for about five minutes) in her last weeks, for he wasn’t allowed to visit her at hospital. At any time, this would have been painful, but the circumstances have visibly broken him. I’m just grateful to have been able to spend the past six months living with my better half in a rented flat (I thank the shop for that much!). Without this, I’m sure I’d be a little more withered too.

John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Liverpool

I was in the Zambezi Region of Namibia when the UK went into lockdown on March 23rd 2020. My girlfriend and I were among the many thousands of Britons stranded overseas by the COVID-19 crisis. By the time we were repatriated on 5th April, the UK had changed almost beyond recognition. I will never forget how eerie it was landing at a deserted Heathrow Airport and driving back to Liverpool along empty motorways. It has become a cliché to refer to all this as ‘dystopian’, but that is what it was.

In the year since, I have often wondered whether my lockdown scepticism owes much to the fact that I was not in the UK when COVID panic first took hold. I missed the panic-buying, the pasta and toilet roll shortages, the desperate scramble to clear out offices, the price gouging on hand-sanitising products, the start of the weekly ‘Clap for our Carers’ ritual, the advent of Zoom quizzes, ‘PE with Joe Wicks’, banana bread bake-offs, neighbours shopping each other to the police, and so on. An entirely new vocabulary had emerged during my six weeks in the Southern Hemisphere: ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’, ‘WFH’, ‘furlough’, ‘Covidiot’. Even the word ‘lockdown’, with all its swaggering pomposity, seemed to me to be the language of an American penitentiary, not a free society. It should be as jarring to our British-English ears as ‘sidewalk’, ‘gasoline’ and ‘eggplant’ – and yet it, and all it stood for, seemed to be accepted without question. In Namibia, I had been at far greater risk of malaria than coronavirus disease, so I felt bemused by this astonishing overreaction. I had a tough time adjusting to what certain sections of the media began gleefully calling ‘the new normal’ (a habit that Weetabix put beyond parody when it started referring to ‘new-normal-a-bix’ in its adverts). I came to it late, so I struggled with newly-embedded codes of social etiquette which governed practices like queuing outside shops and crossing the road so as not to come within two metres of another human being. I also resented it deeply for cutting short my tour of southern Africa, for which my girlfriend and I had planned for over a year.

But the main source of my scepticism is ideological. As I have written elsewhere, ‘I believe that liberty should always be presumed and that deprivations of it should be exceptional and legally justified.’ To put it another way, I am a classical liberal. Although it is unusual within the soft-left consensus of academia, I have never considered this outlook to be controversial. To my mind, the primacy of the individual, economic freedom, civil liberties, parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law are precious things. For that reason, there should be a high threshold before the state abrogates them. I am unconvinced that the threat from COVID-19 ever met that threshold and doubt that the lockdown is in any way commensurate with the public health risk posed by the SARS-Cov-2 virus. It is incredible that this has become such a highly contentious thing to say.

I began my legal education in the post-9/11 era, when lawyers actively resisted the indefinite detention of the ‘Belmarsh 9’, control orders, the expansion of police powers, ID cards, and attempts to introduce 90- and 42-day pre-charge detention. It was an exciting time in which, in the battle between security and liberty, the ‘legal establishment’ seemed unapologetically on the side of the latter. Yet when the UK Government, at a stroke and with minimal Parliamentary scrutiny, abandoned the precious presumptions of our free society on 23 March 2020, whither the lawyers, I wondered?

For the most part, lawyers both in practice and academia have uttered little public criticism of the rules. Instead, there has been an earnest compliance. I have lost count of the number of times I have been greeted by awkward silences or mealy-mouthed ‘Yeah, but…’ justifications – even from lawyers – when expressing my scepticism of the rules over the last year. At times, voicing my opinion has felt like career suicide. That lockdown scepticism has been so skilfully conflated with nutty 5G conspiracies, or assailed by appeals to misty-eyed emotion about ‘our NHS’, has made thoughtful criticism of the restrictions all but impossible.

One exception to this has been Jonathan Sumption, who has at various points over the last year seemed like the only lawyer in the country willing to raise a dissenting voice. The former Supreme Court justice, famously in possession of ‘a brain the size of a planet’, has described the lockdown as a ‘remarkable departure from our liberal traditions’. He is surely right about that. Lord Sumption has made his case in newspaper columns, lectures, and interviews and has done so in the face of what at times is a hostile media. I suspect that, much to his surprise, he has found himself painted as a dangerous radical, despite advancing his argument from what was, until fairly recently, a fairly humdrum set of first principles. It is no exaggeration to describe Lord Sumption as a hero of English liberty. Whether he will get the recognition he deserves for that in his lifetime remains to be seen. At the very least, His Lordship should never have to pay for a drink again.

As we reflect on a year of lockdowns and restrictions, it is hard to know what to make of it all. I am still seized by an occasional sense of unreality, as though all this is a nightmare from which I will soon wake. Yet the startling fact is that, despite losing a year of their lives, a majority of Britons support the lockdown and believe that the government should have made the rules even tougher or locked down sooner – as though bans on leaving the house, the criminalisation of social activities, and ruinous £10,000 fines were somehow feeble interventions. Perhaps much of this has to do with the fact that the full extent of the lockdown’s collateral damage remains unknown. Or maybe it is because many people fear that criticism of the lockdown will come across as selfish or callous. Or perhaps lots of people have quietly enjoyed the latitude afforded them this year.

I believe Lord Sumption is right that history will judge the government’s legislative response to the pandemic as ‘a monument of collective hysteria and government folly’. Eventually the worm will turn. I was reminded recently that prior to the Iraq War in 2003, 54% of respondents to a YouGov opinion poll were in favour of military action against Saddam Hussain. And in 1997, millions of people were gripped by an outpouring of collective public grief following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I imagine you would struggle to find anyone now who admits to supporting the invasion of Iraq, or who would willingly confess to mourning Diana’s death – but lots of people did. My hunch is that, ten years from now, you will struggle to find anyone who believes that any of this was a good idea.


It would be remiss of me to end this contribution without paying tribute to Toby Young and his team at Lockdown Sceptics for all their hard work over the past year. I read the site every day and have enjoyed contributing as their ‘legal eagle’ – a sobriquet that flatters me no end. I hope Toby and his team will not mind it when I say that I hope this time next year they are busy doing other things, enjoying the restored freedoms we have all been denied for so long.

I’ve bunged Toby and co a tenner to help them celebrate this milestone and would encourage everyone else to do the same. Thanks chaps.

The First Anniversary of “Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve”

To mark the anniversary of the first lockdown, we’re publishing a collection of short pieces by regular contributors to Lockdown Sceptics, as well as the editorial team, reflecting on the year gone by. It includes contributions from, among others, Guy de la Bédoyère, Sinéad Murphy, David Livermore, the Senior Doctor, Will Jones, James Moreton Wakeley, Sean Walsh, Jonny Peppiatt, the Top Financial Journalist and David Fanning. Here’s an extract from David McGrogan’s piece.

I think the best way of describing the last 12 months is as a series of profoundly shocking discoveries, one after the other, whose cumulative effect has been to change my worldview irrevocably. I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus, suddenly and unexpectedly forced to confront the fact that he is not in Asia after all, but a completely different continent – one in which everybody wears face masks and speaks a bizarre foreign tongue peppered with vaguely recognisable words which they actually appear to believe mean something: ‘lockdown’, ‘tiers’, ‘social distancing’, ‘the R rate’. It’s discombobulating to say the least to be disabused of so many of the truisms one once held dear, all at once, and so brutally. It turns out people don’t value freedom, as I once thought, but compliance. It turns out it’s not reason that wins through in the end, but fear. It turns out Britain doesn’t have a unique culture of respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, but we just got lucky before 2020. It turns out our much vaunted ‘common sense’ was a complete phantom, and we’re actually a nation of irrational ‘Clap for Carers’ cultists. It turns out our constitutional arrangements, which I had once thought of as being quietly beautiful and unintentionally brilliant, collapse like a pack of cards the moment a crisis hits. I could go on.

Looking back, what I most clearly remember now about the febrile atmosphere of February and March last year was my own naïve optimism. I knew that some people were panicking. But I ascribed this to social media-led melodrama that would soon blow over. And I genuinely thought I was part of a silent majority of sensible people who weren’t getting swept up in the frenzy. I don’t think I appreciated at the time that I am, actually, a bit unusual: my father died of the ‘flu, so the idea that respiratory viruses can really be quite nasty was not a shock to me; I have lived through a bona fide life-threatening natural disaster and know what an actual catastrophe looks like; I don’t have any social media accounts so my antennae have not been borked by echo chambers; I have spent a long time overseas so I don’t imbue the NHS with quasi-religious significance or see it as my duty to ‘protect’ it; I have read my Hayek, my Bastiat, my Friedman, my Smith, and I am predisposed to value freedom and limited government. I hadn’t realised that I was somewhat different from my countrymen in these respects. So I was genuinely flabbergasted on March 23rd when it turned out people were actually going along with the nonsense. And since then I have found myself constantly surprised at just how out of step I am with the people around me.

This piece, along with all the others, is worth reading in full.

The Covid Models Were Tested Against the Real World, and Failed

As we pass through the anniversary of the week in which our freedoms became circumscribed by the outputs of a physicist’s dodgy computer model, Phillip W. Magness at AIER has revisited Imperial’s infamous Report 9 to remind us quite how wrong it was.

Ferguson’s model presented a range of scenarios under increasingly restrictive nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). Under its “worst case” or “do nothing” model, 2.2 million Americans would die, as would 510,000 people in Great Britain, with the peak daily death rate hitting somewhere around late May or June. At the same time, the ICL team promised salvation from the coronavirus if only governments would listen to and adopt its technocratic recommendations. Time was of the essence to act, so President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson both listened. And so began the first year of “two weeks to flatten the curve”.

It took a little over a month before we saw conclusive evidence that something was greatly amiss with the ICL model’s underlying assumptions. A team of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden adapted Ferguson’s work to their country and ran the projections, getting similarly catastrophic results. Over 90,000 people would die by summer from Covid-19 if Sweden did not enter immediate lockdown. Sweden never locked down though. By May it was clear that the Uppsala adaptation of ICL’s model was off by an order of magnitude. A year later, Sweden has fared no worse than the average European lockdown country, and significantly better than the UK, which acted on Ferguson’s advice.

Pressed on this unexpected result, ICL tried to distance itself from the Swedish adaptation of its model in May. The records from the March 21st supercomputer run of the Uppsala team’s projections belie that assertion, linking directly to Ferguson’s March 16th report as the framework for its modelling design. But no matter – the ICL team’s own publications would soon succumb to a real-time testing against actual data.

A second ICL report, attempting to model the reopening of the United States from lockdowns, wildly exaggerated the death tolls that were expected to follow. By July, this model too had failed to even minimally correspond to observed reality. ICL attempted to save face by publishing an absurd exercise in circular reasoning in the journal Nature where they invoked the unrealised projections of their own model to supposedly “prove” multiple millions of lives had been saved by the lockdowns. That study soon failed basic robustness checks when the ICL team’s suite of models were applied to different geographies. 

Another team of Swedish researchers then noticed oddities in the ICL team’s coding, suggesting they had modified a key line to bring data from their own comparative analysis of Sweden into sync with other European countries under lockdown after the models did not align. A published derivative of this discovery showed that ICL’s own attempts to validate the effectiveness of its lockdown strategies does not withstand empirical scrutiny

Finally, in November, another team of researchers from the United States compared a related ICL team model for a broader swath of countries against five other international models of the pandemic, examining the performance of each against observed deaths. Their results contain a stunning indictment: “The Imperial model had larger errors, about 5-fold higher than other models by six weeks. This appears to be largely driven by the aforementioned tendency to overestimate mortality.”

The verdict is in. Imperial College’s COVID-19 modelling has an abysmal track record – a characteristic it unfortunately shares with Ferguson’s prior attempts to model mad cow disease, swine flu, avian flu, and countless other pathogens.

Not only did Ferguson’s modelling overstate mortality in the absence of restrictions, it also grossly exaggerated the effectiveness of restrictions in reducing deaths.

Israel Begins to Ease Lockdown Restrictions as around 80% Of Its Population Are Now Vaccinated

With almost 80% of its population having been vaccinated, Israel has scrapped the requirement for people to wear face masks outdoors. The rule has been in place – for all outdoor activities not relating to exercise – for the past year. The Mail has the story.

Israel has dropped its almost year-long outdoor mask mandate as it inches towards total immunisation of its adult population. 

The restriction, which required masks to be worn outdoors unless exercising, was lifted on Sunday as Reuters reported that the country had vaccinated around 80% of its adult population. 

“The rate of infection in Israel is very low thanks to the successful vaccine campaign in Israel, and therefore it is possible to ease [restrictions],” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday, adding that masks will still be required indoors.

Israel’s highly successful vaccination campaign has seen close to five million of its 9.3 million people vaccinated, according to Reuters.

The drive has drastically cut hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obtained millions of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in part by agreeing to share with Pfizer medical data on the product’s impact.

The vaccines have transformed life in Israel. In mid-January the country had a peak of some 10,000 new infections a day but the rate is now about 200 cases a day.

The rate of new infections has remained low even after in-person learning resumed and restrictions were loosened on bars, restaurants and indoor gatherings.

Strict measures also remain in place for anyone entering the country with citizens and foreigners alike required to self isolate.   

“We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. “(But) we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return.”  

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was a guest of honour at a Government ceremony on Wednesday evening marking the 73rd anniversary of the founding of Israel…

Throughout the festivities marking the anniversary, thousands of people held barbecues, lounged on beaches and celebrated at parties, often without masks.

“Breathing Freely,” read the cover headline of the mass-circulation daily Israel Hayom, as reported by Reuters.

The Mail’s report is worth reading in full.

Is Covid the Most Deadly Infectious Disease in a Century?

A new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was all over the papers on Monday afternoon making the striking claim that COVID-19 caused more deaths last year in England and Wales than other infectious diseases have caused in any year for more than a century.

Here is the story in the Mail.

The ONS report, entitled “Coronavirus: A Year Like No Other”, was released to mark the one year anniversary of people in the UK first being told to limit their non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. 

The report confirmed that COVID-19 caused more deaths last year than other infectious diseases caused in any year for more than 100 years. 

More than 140,000 people have died in the UK with coronavirus either described as the underlying cause or as a contributory cause on their death certificates.

Some 73,500 people in England and Wales who died in 2020 had COVID-19 registered as the underlying cause of death. 

The ONS said coronavirus is “likely to be classed as an infectious and parasitic disease”, allowing a comparison with previous deadly outbreaks. 

The statistics body said: “This means COVID-19 was the underlying cause of more deaths in 2020 than any other infectious and parasitic diseases had caused in any year since 1918; that year there were just over 89,900 deaths from various infectious and parasitic diseases registered in England and Wales.”

Latest News

Today is Victory in Europe Day, the 75th anniversary of the day the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to replace the usual newspaper front page with a picture of Winston Churchill.

Many readers of this site will be aware of the disconnect between the victory we’re celebrating today and the ongoing restrictions on our liberty that we’re expected to endure without complaint for the foreseeable future. One particular reader – a distinguished journalist and author who cannot say what he really thinks about the lockdown without jeopardising his career – has sent me what he’d like to say publicly. I’m sure many of you will share his sentiments. I know I do.

There’s a horrible irony that the 75th-anniversary of VE Day should fall during the lockdown. The British nation fought the Nazis to preserve our ancient freedoms, so that future generations would be able to live without fear. At this moment, Parliament is no longer properly functioning, jury trials have been suspended (perhaps permanently), technology giants appear to be censoring free speech, protest is deemed a dangerous activity and the citizens of this country remain under indefinite house arrest. A Government adviser, Professor Dingwall, of Nottingham University, today admits (in the Telegraph) that the Government has created a “climate of fear” that has “terrorised” Britons. Fear has replaced hope and an untrammelled statel has replaced limited government. A year before VE-Day, Friedrich Hayek published The Road to Serfdom. Never before has our nation progressed so far down that route. What in the hell is there to celebrate?

The Telegraph article referred to above quoting Professor Dingwall is here. In addition to being a Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham Trent, Rupert Dingwall is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, aka NERVTAG. He also featured in a report broadcast by Newsnight last night by Deborah Cohen, a BBC reporter with a background in medical journalism. This was the first time I’ve seen a senior BBC journalist properly scrutinise the advice the Government was relying on when it decided to place the entire country under virtual house arrest in March. It includes an interview with Dame Deirdre Hine, author of The 2009 Influenza Pandemic, the official inquiry into the Swine Flu outbreak. Hine is pretty scathing about the quality of the predictions generated by computer models in 2009 and although she doesn’t mention Neil Ferguson by name we know that his modelling helped guide Gordon Brown’s response. You can watch the 12-minute report here. Deborah Cohen is my Sceptic of the Week.

The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey reports that Boris Johnson is alarmed by the hares that have been set running by newspaper headlines proclaiming the lockdown will end on Monday. Yesterday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister tried to lower expectations, saying “we will advance with maximum caution” and Number 10 insiders have warned that any “easements” to the current Government guidelines will be “very limited”. The same tone is struck on the front page of the Times, which reveals Boris is planning to keep the country locked down until June. One close ally of the Prime Minister is quoted using the phrase “baby steps” to describe the easing of restrictions. Meanwhile, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has announced Wales is dropping the limits on outdoor exercise from today and garden centres and libraries can reopen from Monday. Looks like England, the birthplace of liberal democracy, is going to be one of the last countries in the world to set its people free.

Matt’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Another ‘we, the undersigned’ letter has been published and it reads like a reply to yesterday’s letter in Le Monde signed by Madonna, Robert De Niro and others urging us not to return to normal. This one is co-authored by three Catholic Cardinals and an Archbishop and signed by more than 80 people, including prelates and theologians, doctors, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals. It contains many of the standard Catholic objections to vaccination programmes, but large parts of the letter will appeal to all lockdown sceptics, not just anti-vaxxers. Here’s one of the opening paragraphs, setting out the argument:

The facts have shown that, under the pretext of the COVID-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted. Public health must not, and cannot, become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world, let alone for depriving the civil authority of its duty to act wisely for the common good. This is particularly true as growing doubts emerge from several quarters about the actual contagiousness, danger and resistance of the virus. Many authoritative voices in the world of science and medicine confirm that the media’s alarmism about COVID-19 appears to be absolutely unjustified.

Yesterday, I mentioned a new piece of research the University of East Anglia (UEA) had done that the Mail picked up on. I’ve now found out a bit more about it and it’s definitely worth a closer look. Researchers from EUA’s Norwich Medical School examined the impact of different social distancing measures used in 30 European countries using data from the European Centre for Disease Control, analysing how effective they’ve been in reducing the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities. They concluded that the most effective measures are closing schools, banning mass gatherings and closing some non-essential businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry. However, some measures, such as compulsory face masks, have not been effective. In particular, indiscriminate stay-at-home measures are ineffective.

According to Dr Julii Brainard of UEA’s Norwich Medical School: “We found that banning mass gatherings, closing some non-essential businesses, and closing educational facilities are most strongly associated with reduced incidence after a certain lag period. But widespread closure of all non-essential businesses and stay-at-home policies do not appear to have had a significant effect on the number of Covid-19 cases across Europe.” You can read a summary of the report’s findings here and read the preprint here.

For a layman’s view of “the science” that sat behind the Government’s decision to lock down the country, I recommend this excellent piece sent in by a reader that I’ve published alongside the review of the code that powered Professor Ferguson’s computer model. Lot’s of meat to get your teeth into. You can read it here.

Andy Shaw, Spectator Life‘s resident satirist and the co-host of Comedy Unleashed, the monthly politically incorrect comedy night in Bethnal Green, has written an amusing piece about his phrase of the week: “Herd Immunity.” Andy also co-hosts a weekly podcast for the Spectator called That’s Life with Benedict Spence in which they interview different commentators and comedians. This week, I was the guest on the podcast, which you can listen to here. And in case you missed it, James Delingpole and I recorded a regular episode of London Calling on Tuesday, along with a “shagadelic” special about the resignation of Neil Ferguson on Wednesday. You can listen to the normal one here and the special here.

I flagged up a new anti-lockdown petition on the UK Government website yesterday which I said had got past the gatekeepers. Turns out, I jumped the gun. After receiving enough signatures to get over the first hurdle, it has now disappeared to be processed. Will it ever re-emerge? Who knows. Apologies for the bum steer (and thanks to the 256 people who emailed me to point out my mistake).

Latest data from Germany’s Robert Koch Institute suggests no “second spike” in infections as a result of the country easing its lockdown. Here’s a graph that illustrates the point nicely:

A reader tells me about an encounter with a doctor on his daily bike ride this morning:

I bumped into a neighbour cycling with her daughter. Her daughter is a doctor at a large hospital in the East of England. The mother has been an assiduous lockdown observer but has had enough. So has her daughter who has been working in a Covid ward, and she’s come home for a week’s rest, driving across country to do so. The neighbour’s elderly grandmother died a week or so ago (not from the virus) and will be buried at a funeral with five mourners next week, which will include the profoundly traumatised neighbour’s mother who was unable to see her mother (the grandmother) in her last weeks. The neighbour says she wished she’d arranged the funeral to be in B&Q since on a click-and-collect trip the other day there were so many people in there it was obvious a full wake could have been surreptitiously arranged.

In spite of the polling showing the majority of Britons don’t want the lockdown to end, there is a growing minority of sceptics out there. The driver of this van is one of them:

White Van Man let’s us know his view of the lockdown

Avaaz, the US campaign group that Neil Ferguson’s girlfriend works for, has published a letter calling for even more censorship on social media of anyone who dissents from Covid orthodoxy. Perhaps Antonia Staats could get a job as a member of what the Mail describes as “Facebook’s new thought police”. According to today’s paper, an oversight board has been set up which will be the ultimate court of appeal for those people whose posts are removed from the platform or those who’ve been banned outright. Members include Alan Rusbridger, ex-editor of the Guardian, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the wife of Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

Great letter in the Telegraph this morning from Virginia Ironside, a reader of this site, abut exactly what Professor Lockdown did wrong – and it wasn’t breaking the rules:

SIR – When I heard about Professor Neil Ferguson’s slip-up and resignation (report, May 6) I felt like clapping on my balcony. I’ve distrusted him and his advice from the start. And yet wasn’t he just doing what we’re all doing – sticking to the rules, but only up to a point?

I’ve caught the most law-abiding of my friends arranging get-togethers in their gardens or streets, or meeting friends for walks when it’s not strictly allowed – simply because they realise there’s no logic to doing otherwise.

What Professor Ferguson did wasn’t wrong. If only his edict could have been: “Be as sensible as you possibly can.” Wouldn’t that have caused less misery?

His sin was to think that he knows when the rules can be bent, but everyone else is too much of an idiot to do the same. The idea that there’s an oikish and irresponsible “them” and a responsible and upright “us” is one that pervaded the Brexit argument. It’s patronising and reprehensible.

Virginia Ironside, London W12

A round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention by readers, in the last 24 hours:

Song suggestions for today: ‘Wake Up Everybody‘ by the Blue Notes, ‘Rabbit‘ by Chase and Dave, ‘Trapped in My Flat‘ by Reeves and Mortimer, ‘Release the Bats‘ by The Birthday Party and, in anticipation of Sunday’s lockdown announcement, ‘Five Years‘ by David Bowie.

Thanks as always to those who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of the site. If you feel like donating, you can do so by clicking here. (Every little helps!) And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in tomorrow’s update, you can email me here.

News Round Up

https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1371503632076603392

Latest News

First Anniversary of a Day That Will Live in Infamy


There follows a post by Will Jones.

Today on Lockdown Sceptics we mark a year to the day since the world changed forever. 

On February 21st, 2020 the Government of Italy did something no Western Government had ever done before. Something that the World Health Organisation had expressly recommended against only four months earlier.

It decided to set aside all established pandemic protocol, as well as all considerations of basic freedoms and human rights, and imitate Communist China (which had already been praised by the WHO for its “extraordinary” response) and quarantine a whole local population in an effort to control a coronavirus outbreak.

What started with 10 towns and 50,000 people in Lombardy quickly established itself as the go-to and unassailable response to the coronavirus threat. Seventeen days later the whole of Italy was locked down, 33 days later most of the world. A year later, we still are.

From that moment on it became acceptable for Western governments to quarantine entire populations to try to control the spread of contagious disease, even one scarcely more deadly than a bad flu. They haven’t looked back. No amount of data from the few Western countries or states which refused to impose such restrictions will convince them they were or are wrong to do so. Model after model appears from respectable scientific institutions to shore up the faith. The politicians seem interested only in listening to the experts who reassure them they were right to take such extreme and costly action.

There will be many anniversaries to mark in the coming weeks, as we complete a full year since the nightmare began – the declaration of the pandemic on March 11th, the “three week” UK lockdown on March 23rd, and so on. But at Lockdown Sceptics we felt that this was the one to flag, the pivot on which the world turned. We can no longer go back to the world as it was on February 20th 2020, because we cannot undo the fact that we were locked down by our politicians for an indefinite period of time to try to control disease, and it was accepted by the public and reinforced by the medics, the scientists and the courts.

In December, Professor Neil Ferguson admitted to the Times the critical role of Italy in bringing lockdowns to the West:

[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.

Our best hope is that in time the lesson will be learned that we must never do this again, and next time must be different – we must not panic but must stick to the pre-prepared plan.

But the tragedy is that even if we reach such a point, we can never change the fact that our Governments now know that “lockdown” is an option, that they can indeed “get away with it”. Western civilisation is undoubtedly diminished as a result.

Neil Ferguson’s Tetchy Response to Yesterday’s Article in Lockdown Sceptics

One of our readers sent a copy of Derek Winton’s article in yesterday’s Lockdown Sceptics criticising Imperial College’s modelling to Professor Neil Ferguson on the off chance he might actually read it and reply. Rather surprisingly, he did. We’re publishing his response in full below.

Dear XXXX,

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

But for a change, I thought I would reply to you. Not that I really expect it to change the alternative reality you seem to have got sucked into, but occasionally I feel I should try.

To start with may [sic] want to read this: https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ConspiracyTheoryHandbook.pdf

And ask yourself if a loved one started to exhibit those behaviours, would you be worried?

As to the article you refer to, it recycles the same old, same old misinformation. You may be surprised to learn that the Telegraph and Spectator have published over a dozen corrections in response to complaints from Imperial College about inaccurate articles. For instance, no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us).

More substantively, the government never relied on just one model. The models written by LSHTM, Warwick University and Institut Pasteur Paris all agreed with “the” Imperial model. All used different code bases.

And in fact, there was never “one” Imperial model, but several. We now have 4 different COVID models, again which all agree.

Government responses were never dependent on one model. They were driven by the reality that any disease which generates epidemics which double every 3-4 days and for which over 2% of those infected require hospitalisation will overwhelm any health system that exists.

In fact, a case could be made that the U.K. government took too little notice of our (not just Imperial- all the SAGE groups) modelling. In that they basically only acted when they saw hospitalisations and deaths growing exponentially.

Best,

Neil Ferguson

Boris Unfolds Road Map – Can’t Tell if it’s Upside Down

According to several of the Sunday papers, the centrepiece of Boris’s Downing Street press conference tomorrow – in which he’s going to reveal his much-ballyhooed roadmap out of lockdown – is a pledge to give everyone in the country an opportunity to be vaccinated by July 31st. The Mail on Sunday has more.

Every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July, Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow.

The ambitious new inoculation target will form a vital part of the Prime Minister’s long-awaited roadmap towards easing lockdown restrictions.

The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign.

He is also expected to say that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.

Unfortunately, the world-beating success of the Government’s ahead-of-schedule mass vaccination programme does not mean we’ll be accelerating quickly out of lockdown. On the contrary, Boris’s “roadmap” appears to have been created before 1958 because it doesn’t contain any motorways. It’s B roads only. The Mail on Sunday summarises its key components.

All pupils will return to school on March 8th, and care home residents in England will each be allowed one regular visitor.

By Easter, at the start of April, two households will be allowed to meet up outside. That will be followed shortly afterwards by the reopening of non-essential shops and pubs and restaurants for outdoor service only.

The hospitality industry is expected to reopen fully in May.

And there we were thinking that Boris was engaged in a game of expectation management: stress how cautious he was going to be in the run-up to tomorrow, then surprise us with some better-than-expected news. If that’s still the plan, he’s kept the good news well hidden.

A Hospital Visit

We received the following e-mail yesterday from a reader of Lockdown Sceptics. It says a lot about what has gone wrong over the past year.

How delightful that the Prince of Wales was able to visit his father in hospital today, despite the Covid precautions. I understand from the BBC News that visiting someone in hospital is considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave home.

However, one of our neighbours hasn’t been so lucky. At 2am on Saturday morning her husband (aged two years less than the Prince of Wales, as it happens) was rushed to hospital with heart failure. He’s holding on – just – but needless to say his wife isn’t allowed to visit him. Let’s hope he survives then, because otherwise she and their son may never see him again. Heart failure doesn’t usually delay itself long enough to make sure family members can make it to hospital in the end. Still, at least he’s being kept safe. He’s been vaccinated, so he might not catch Covid.

Mind you, the elderly chap two doors up has solved the problem himself. He has terminal liver cancer and has been in the same hospital for weeks (where of course he tested positive for Covid after catching it following admission, but luckily never had any symptoms). But, completely sick of not being able to see his wife, he’s come home to die, preferring that option to expiring on his own in a hospital ward.

This is Boris’s Lockdown Britain, a year into this nightmare. It is almost beyond belief that it could have come to this. These are the choices real people are having to make on a daily basis as this misery goes on, and on, and on.

And it’s all because of the nebulous pursuit of ‘protecting’ everyone (except Prince Phillip and the Prince of Wales who can do as they please apparently) from one risk at the expense of absolutely everything else, driven by Lockdown Lunatics, and particularly those peculiarly idiotic scientists who have lost any sense of proportion and driven the country to the wall. I wouldn’t wish my neighbours’ experiences on any one of them, but perhaps if one of them is hit by something like this they might momentarily wake up and realise they’re supposed to be human beings. Or at least, they were. Once.

The State of the Northern Ireland Health Service

Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann (Image: David Young/PA)

There follows a post from a Lockdown Sceptics reader based in Northern Ireland who felt compelled to write about the pitiful state of the local health service, which has been a big factor in the region’s chaotic response to Covid. As this correspondent put it: “Every time I hear Hugh Pym’s sonorous pronouncements on your waiting lists all I can think of is: Northern Ireland –‘ Hold my beer!’”

Northern Ireland is a very small place. We all know each other, and criticism of the system is never welcome. I am therefore remaining anonymous.

A Government Minister invoking the Bible in Northern Ireland is probably of little surprise and satisfies many stereotypes. As we experienced our first official Covid death in March 2020, Robin Swann (Ulster Unionist Party), our Minster for Health, warned us of a Covid experience of “Biblical proportions”.

We are a small country of approx 1.8 million souls. He predicted 15,000 could die. As of February 19th, 2021, we have reached 2026. (Source: Department of Health, NI.)

We were most recently incarcerated on December 26th, 2020 and are now locked down until April 1st, or sometime… forever. We have all lost track.

Swann has the same misfortune that all health ministers faced – a new unknown health challenge – so perhaps some hyperbole should be excused. Also, he had barely opened his brief when it all started. Swann had been left with the short straw of Health when the departments were carved up between our political parties using the byzantine ‘De Hondt’ method. After three years without a Government, he found himself made Health Minster in January 2020. (For anyone looking for a break from the Covid stats, here’s the wikipedia page on how ‘De Hondt’ works.)

There is no doubt, however, that long before Covid appeared his department was quite familiar with a health service that is overwhelmed and in chaos. Here is a short sample list of some of Northern Ireland’s current health issues:

  • In data published in February 2020 – pre-Covid – 130,000 had been waiting a year for their NHS treatment to start and 305,000 had been waiting for their first outpatient appointment with a consultant out of a population of just over 1.8 million. Perhaps the most alarming element of that statistic is that it only went up 4,000 in the first three months of Covid. For an eye-opener on the comparative state of our waiting lists and England’s, see this blog post from the Nuffield Trust.
  • A £200 million Critical Care Unit built at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast in 2012 remains empty – because of plumbing problems. It has never taken in any patients.
  • Muckamore Abbey Hospital – for those with mental health problems and severe learning difficulties – has seen 13 of its staff arrested and 61 others placed on ‘precautionary suspension’. As of November 2020 these 61 have received £1.5 million in pay. After years of campaigning by families of residents, the Minister has announced a public enquiry into the place.
  • Dr Michael Watt, Senior Consultant Neurologist based at the Royal Victoria Hospital, is the subject of an investigation after 3,000 of his cases were reassessed. A report into the recall, published in December 2019 by the Department of Health, found that more than 20% of these patients were misdiagnosed, while a further 329 patients were given “uncertain” diagnoses. As of August 2020, 231 legal cases have been brought against his employer, the Belfast Health Trust (according to the Belfast Telegraph).
  • When Robin Swann took up the reins of his Health Department he was also faced with a nurses’ strike.  
  • The entire board of the RQIA – our equivalent of the Quality Care Commission – resigned in July 2020 due to a falling out with the Minster and his officials. 

This is the Health Department that has been handling our response to Covid. Perhaps we should be relieved that our deaths have been this low and our hospitals were not truly ‘overwhelmed’. Its record of looking after the health of the people of Northern Ireland is not exactly glorious.

Health Minister Swann may be new to all this but his officials are not. The Health Department and Health Trusts are run by the same people who have been in post for years. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, was appointed in 2006. Between 2014 and 2017 he found time to be CMO and concurrently CEO of the Belfast Health and Social Services Trust.

On February 9th, 2021, Dr McBride helpfully announced what we all suspected was the future policy towards lockdown. The summary makes for unpleasant reading: “While restrictions will not be fully lifted until 2022, he hopes this summer will bring some respite from the current lockdown. However, he said it is likely that a range of restrictions will return in the autumn and remain in place into 2022.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly has been at the helm of this Health Department since 2014.

Minister Swann confirmed the priority of COVID-19 patients over everything else in Northern Ireland’s NHS in November when the News Letter reported on November 13th 2020 that “cancer patients may die as a result of not turning away patients with COVID-19 from hospitals”. Here is his BBC interview on the point.

Despite what are perhaps truly biblical levels of health problems, our Minster still finds time to castigate regularly “armchair experts” who have the temerity to question his approach to the pandemic. He also contributed an op-ed to Rolling Stone Magazine criticising Northern Ireland’s own Van Morrison for his Covid protest songs.

You may be aware Van Morrison isn’t very complimentary about the orthodox approach to managing Covid. Minister Swann is also a musician – a Pipe Sargent in his local pipe band.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Vaccinations – A Reader’s Perspective

Cartoon by Shadi Ghanium in the National, October 4th 2020

In Friday’s Lockdown Sceptics Newsletter we published an article by Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist, about some of risks associated with the Covid vaccines. It prompted one reader to write with with an additional point: What about a cost-benefit analysis?

There has been a lot of debate about vaccines relating to Informed Consent and whether that can be properly given due to the speed at which the vaccines have been developed and whether all the possible long term side effects are known, as well as the incessant propaganda in the media telling us that they are safe and it’s our civic duty to have the vaccine when offered. However, there’s another issue that doesn’t seem to have been raised – a cost-benefit analysis of mass vaccination.

I wouldn’t want to undertake a cost benefit-analysis myself, but it’s worth considering the similar situation regarding the flu vaccine. This is offered every year to certain groups of people, namely the elderly plus other high risk groups to whom it gives a certain amount of protection. Being middle aged and in good health I have never been offered the flu vaccine despite having a miniscule risk of becoming seriously ill plus a higher chance of developing a minor illness and passing the infection on to people in a higher risk group. I assume the reason why people such as myself aren’t offered the flu jab is that a cost-benefit analysis shows it isn’t a good use of finite resources to vaccinate everyone. This is a position that I fully support. The NHS’s resources should be targeted where they can do the most good, so I’m happy not to have a flu jab in order that people with more pressing health problems can be treated.

It seems to me that no such cost-benefit analysis has been considered in relation to Covid vaccinations. Given the incredibly low fatality rate among younger people without comorbidities, I can’t believe that vaccinating the whole population offers anything approaching value for money. Obviously, unvaccinated people might catch Covid, but if the at risk groups are protected, so what if the worst that happens is people stay in bed for a couple of days.? Admittedly, given the amount of panic that has been generated by the Government and media leading to a lot of people thinking Covid is an existential threat to us all, it would be politically almost impossible to only offer the vaccine to some people. However, this doesn’t change my basic point that vaccinating the whole population is not good value for money.

A related issue is the funding of vaccine programs in the developing would. Numerous groups such as the WHO seem to think that the whole world should be vaccinated and that richer countries should pick up a large part of the bill for this. I’m all in favour of richer nations giving aid to poorer countries (despite being on a relatively low income, I have direct debits with a couple of aid charities) providing the money is well spent. Given the incredibly low death rates in many developing countries, with the exception of South Africa, I don’t believe that mass vaccination is a wise use of money. Lots of developing countries have serious public health problems, e.g. malaria or limited access to clean water. Surely it would be much better to target aid towards these problems rather than protecting people from something that is highly unlikely to do them any harm.

Not Cock Up or Conspiracy, but Fraud

Today we are publishing a new essay by Jonny Peppiatt, a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. So far, many of the efforts to explain the response to COVID-19 have focussed on placing it on the spectrum between cock-up on the one hand and conspiracy on the other. Jonny reckons, however, that the ‘fraud triangle’ is a more useful analysis tool. As he explains:

The question most often posed of me when I embark on yet another monologue about the endless lunacies plaguing our lives right now is “why?”; if what you’re saying is true, if the damage is so great, if the virus isn’t such a threat, if the efficacy of the measures is so low, then why would the Government be doing this to us?

We’ve heard a lot of discussion around ‘cock-up’, ‘conspiracy’, and even ‘cockupspiracy’; be that, in the case of ‘cock-up’, the recurring inadequacy of advisers and politicians, in the case of ‘conspiracy’, more often than not, the Great Reset, and in the case of ‘cockupspiracy’, the opportunism of the likes of big tech and big pharma.

All of these are important factors that require attention. However, it seems to me that the debate has largely been based on the fallacy that the reason for all this lies somewhere on a spectrum between ‘cock-up’ and ‘conspiracy’, with ‘cockupspiracy’ falling somewhere in the centre. I do not believe this is the case, because I do not believe that there is a spectrum here.

What we are seeing, I’m sure many of you will agree, is a fraud – a wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain (or avoidance of loss) – on a monumental scale, and, as such, and given my background in audit, I believe that, instead, this should be analysed with reference to the fraud triangle (above).

The fraud triangle (comprised of Opportunity, Rationalisation, and Incentive/Pressure) is the basic framework used to explain the reason behind an individual’s decision to commit fraud, and so it is also going to be the basic framework by which I attempt to explain the Government’s actions termed “Polis-20” in James Alexander’s December 9th piece in Lockdown Sceptics (“A Cockupspiracy”).

Opportunity

“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world” – Professor Klaus Schwab

We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.” – Neil Ferguson

If neither of these quotes sends shivers down your spine, then I can only conclude you are as spineless as our current leader.

I include these not because I believe that the Great Reset is the factor driving the pandemic response, or that Neil Ferguson is some criminal mastermind intent on watching the world burn, but because they highlight a key fundamental of my explanation: when people panic in the face of an unknown, they are more malleable; and when people are malleable, opportunities arise.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Brussels

We have received a new postcard, this one from Paul Farrar in Brussels. From the sound of it, the country has suffered a classic Covid crisis, with experts dominating the national response, lockdown enthusiasts filling the media, and testing data fuelling the general sense of alarm. Here is an extract:

I’m an expat working a living near Brussels. Back in March when the lockdown was announced, we, along with half of Belgium, went out to a restaurant for our ‘last supper’ the night before their closure. Although Belgium’s Hotels, Restaurants & Cafes (HoReCa) were allowed to re-open during the summer, they have borne the full brunt of the lockdown, being the most put-upon industry despite almost no infection incidents being recorded and all the obligatory track and trace measures being in place. Belgium life is all about is HoReCa.

Belgium’s Covid strategy seems to be dominated by a few ‘expert’ individuals, supported by the local media, with an ever-changing strategy as the country tries to follow each of its neighbours by adding their own unique twist to help pretend that they know what they are doing and that they are in charge.

As an example, it was reported on October 20th that the Ministers of Health and Welfare had adapted the corona test strategy:

Those who have no symptoms will no longer be tested, even if you had high-risk contact with an infected person. In that case, a quarantine is still mandatory. If you came back from red zone or had close contact with infected person, but no symptoms themselves? Then you will no longer be tested.

The aim was to reduce waiting times that were too long and to ease the burden on the testing labs. This had an immediate effect on the reported cases… and did calm things a little.

However, this changed again in November when they introduced new travel restrictions and the testing started to increase again.

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

Today’s entry to poetry corner comes from Edmund Sutton. He writes:

The below is a rendering of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears which in some regards describes how I have been feeling after a mental collapse late last year and suicidal depression, exacerbated by the repeated public announcements of a lifting of restrictions, followed by the imposition of new ones. I cannot tell you how much your work, plus that of others like Profs Heneghan and Gupta, has meant over the past few months. In hospital, the psychiatrists said that my personality had been eroded on all fronts, as absolutely everything that I would normally do stopped in March last year – work, social life, volunteering – and I couldn’t even go to church. I missed physical contact greatly, just simple things like shaking hands or passing a cup of tea. Happily, I am receiving treatment, and have support from my parents. I shudder to think of the state of people who do not have such help.

Mad/Sad World
after “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

Nowhere round me are familiar faces:
In all places, hidden faces
Why be early for our daily races,
Going nowhere, going nowhere?

My tears are blurring up my glasses –
No expression, no expression –
Hide my head, I want to end my sorrow:
No tomorrow, dark tomorrow.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When people can’t be people,
It’s a very very mad world – sad world, bad world, mad world.

We are waiting for the day we feel good –
May I see you, even touch you?
And I cry for all the children who must
Sit and listen, not be children.

Went outside and I was very nervous –
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello Governor, what may I do now?
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When people all are hidden,
It’s a very very mad world – sad world, bad world, mad world.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad:
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause
I find it hard to take.
When we are all imprisoned,
It’s a very very mad world, sad world –

Reducing our world – mad world.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/goddersbloom/status/1362831299518619656?s=21

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Thirty-four today: “Divide and Conquer” by Hüsker Dü, “We Want Revolution” by Covenant, “We Shall Overcome” by Joan Baez, “Day After Day” by Badfinger, “Slow Day” by Kristin Asbjørnsen, “Yesterday” by the Beatles, “Darklands” by the Jesus and Mary Chain, “Another Day, Another Death” by the Mob, “Fear” by Zounds, “Tomorrow Never Comes” by Dreadzone, “First World Problems” by Ian Brown, “We’re Gonna Get There In The End” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Jr, “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys, “Sleeping My Day Away” by D-A-D, “The ID Parade” by Danielle Dax, “Dazed And Confused” by Led Zeppelin, “Easter Is Cancelled” by the Darkness, “Sorrow” by David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, “Could It Be Forever” by David Cassidy, “Join Together” by the Who, “Mistreated” by Deep Purple, “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple, “Hysteria” by Def Leppard, “Action” by The Sweet, “Don’t Believe A Word” by Thin Lizzy, “Helpless” by Diamond Head, “Stand Up And Shout” by Dio, “The Bug” by Dire Straits, “Breaking The Chains” by Dokken, “All We Are” by Warlock, “Run To The Hills” by Iron Maiden and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” by Hubert Parry.

Love in the Time of Covid

Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in Badlands

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, we bring you the news that the Free Speech Union is defending the right of fans to boo football players who take the knee. The Mail On Sunday has the scoop:

Football fans who boo players taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter should not be banned by clubs, a free speech group has demanded.

In a letter to the Football Association, the Free Speech Union insist that if players are free to make the gesture, then fans must be free to disagree with them.

The FSU argued in the letter to the FA’s interim Chairman Peter McCormick that the “simplest solution” to an issue which continues to split football and other sports, would be to stop players taking the knee at all on the grounds that it shows support for a political cause and not a moral one, something banned in football law. 

And extending that argument, the FSU said players who advertise their support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) by taking a knee should “face similar penalties” to booing supporters.

The FA insist taking the knee is an apolitical stand against discrimination, yet a list of high-profile footballers among them Les Ferdinand, Wilfried Zaha and Britt Assombalonga have started to rail against the gesture, which they believe has become devalued and is covering up a lack of real change in anti-racism policies.

On Saturday, more players in the top two divisions didn’t kneel before kick-off than the concerted support shown for the gesture when it was first conceived last summer post-lockdown.

General secretary of the FSU, Toby Young, wants the FA, whose president is Prince William, to issue guidelines for clubs ahead of the return to stadiums later this season or at the start of the next campaign.

In the letter, he said: “If the position of the FA is that it is perfectly legitimate for players to express their support for BLM in the stadium by taking the knee it should make it clear that it is also acceptable for fans to express their feelings about this political movement.

“If fans want to boo players taking the knee or applaud, come to that they should face no negative repercussions. From a free speech point of view, it cannot be fair or reasonable that people on the pitch are allowed to express their political views, but those in the stands are not.”

Worth reading in full.

You can read Toby’s letter to the to the Football Association here.

Stop Press: The Welsh Government is conducting a historical audit of street names and statues which has amusingly gone a little awry in the case of Peel Street, Wrexham. The street is named after Sir Robert Peel, but which one? James Delingpole tells the story in Breitbart.

A street in Wales has been put on the naughty step by the Welsh Government because of its supposed historical associations with the slave trade. But the man after whom it is named was in fact one of Britain’s most ardent and heroic anti-slavers.

Peel Street in Wrexham is one of dozens of streets put on a warning list as part of a £170,000 audit – The Slave Trade and the British Empire – commissioned by the Welsh Government in the wake of the briefly fashionable Black Lives Matter protests.

Though it doesn’t make it onto the Red danger list reserved for alleged monsters like Christopher Columbus, Lord Kitchener, Clive of India, and Francis Drake “definite personal culpability” — it does make it onto the next-worst amber list marked “personal culpability uncertain”.

But the only reason it’s “uncertain” is because of the sloppiness of the woke crusaders who put the report together. They have confused Sir Robert Peel – the anti-slavery prime minister – with his slavery-supporting father.

True, both men confusingly share the same name. But the son was much more famous than the father and it’s after the son that the street is definitely named.

Stop Press 2: Following the news that an NHS trust in Brighton has started using the term ‘chestfeeding’ instead of ‘breastfeeding’, the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon has examined the implications of the ongoing move to gender-inclusive language. Time to meet your ‘gestational parent’ and ‘non-birthing parent’.

Stop Press 3: The Salisbury Review has published an excellent review of Cynical Theories by Niall McCrae. The book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay documents the evolution of woke dogma, providing a kind of primer for those that haven’t yet grasped the scale and influence of the cult.

Stop Press 4: Disney’s streaming channel has slapped an “offensive content” warning on… the Muppets. You did not read that wrong. Beneath these words is the following disclaimer:

This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.

Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.

“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.

Stop Press: Disney World requires all guests, including those who have been vaccinated, to wear facemasks while on their property except for when they are eating and drinking. But some visitors have been making it known that they would appreciate being permitted to take the things off for the photos, according to Inside the Magic.

Inside the Magic follower, Amy B. (@safarigirl76) shared that she wishes Disney would allow pictures without masks, though she understands why this rule is in place:

“I’m planning to go in May. The masks are a concern, as I’ll have a newly two year old with me. I’m not worried about safety at all. I’d love to take pictures without masks, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

And this is something that ITM fan Emily (@emilyazd21) agrees with:

We are going in November, hopefully for our first Christmas party! While I understand the mask requirements, it would be so nice if Disney would let people remove masks for pictures […] Would love to have pictures to capture and remember the excitement and beautiful smiles of my children when they experience the Christmas party!

Stop Press 2: A restaurant in Hernando County, Florida has gone viral after it made clear that facemasks are not required to dine.

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…

Boris Johnson Believes He Made a Mistake in Delaying First Lockdown

Boris Johnson believes that he handled the response to Covid poorly in the early days… in that the first lockdown did not come soon – or hard – enough. Supporters of the Prime Minister claim that he was let down by his scientific advisers. The Telegraph has the story.

Boris Johnson accepts it was a mistake to delay the start of the first national lockdown, close allies have said, while insisting the Prime Minister was let down by scientific advisers.

Mr Johnson would act “harder, earlier and faster” if he had his time again, supporters say, raising the possibility of a mea culpa moment in a future inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, Mr Johnson has rightly won plaudits for the runaway success of Britain’s vaccine rollout, but knows he will eventually have to confront the question of why the UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world.

The Telegraph has learnt that the pivotal moment in imposing lockdown came on March 14th last year – nine days before lockdown started – when Mr Johnson was shown evidence that ministers and scientific advisers had badly miscalculated how quickly the NHS would be overwhelmed.

The Prime Minister was “stunned” to be told by a Number 10 data analyst at a hurriedly-convened Saturday meeting that his “squash the sombrero” policy was not working and that hospitals were as little as three weeks away from being past capacity.

Mr Johnson had, until then, been making decisions based on out-of-date projections provided by Government departments.

But he waited until March 23rd to issue his “stay at home” order, a decision which scientists have claimed doubled the death toll in the first wave.

Ministers and officials involved in the Covid response have said it should not be viewed through the prism of “20-20 hindsight”, but admitted the Prime Minister’s instinct for delaying decisions as long as possible was the “worst” approach in the midst of a pandemic.

In December, Professor Neil Ferguson admitted that the implementation of lockdowns in the West was viewed as being unviable until Italy acted (hard, early and fast).

[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 Prime Minister’s confession lays the groundwork for future pandemic responses – that of imposing an even harder lockdown even sooner. Has he learnt nothing?

Worth reading in full.

Latest News

Slowly Opening the Cage

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on February 1st, 2020

With the vaccine rollout on schedule – 15 million people have now received at least one dose – the Telegraph is reporting that Boris is due to announce an easing of restrictions from next month.

Meeting a friend for a coffee on a park bench and outdoor picnics will be the first activities to get the green light on March 8th, the Telegraph can reveal, with golf and tennis following shortly after…

Households, however, will not be allowed to mix inside or outside with anyone else. The changes are the first official confirmation that the national lockdown in England will ease on March 8th.

Ministers are privately also saying they expect pubs to be allowed to reopen – with outdoor dining as minimum – as soon as the first weekend in April, so households can have Easter lunch together.

Before preparing the hamper, it’s worth noting that restrictions will be eased more quickly in some areas than others, depending on local infection rates, and local authorities will retain the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17th this year.

As part of a “carrot and stick” approach, ministers are also working on an Australia-style approach that will see local areas locked down if there were a massive outbreak of the virus, or an outbreak of a new strain that could affect the efficacy of vaccines.

An announcement is expected tomorrow in the usual way.

Mr Johnson will host a press conference at 10 Downing Street on Monday to mark the moment, but sources said he did not want any early celebration with the overwhelming majority of the country still waiting for their jabs.

One minister said: “The PM does not want any celebration, very much business as usual, I will not rest until the whole country is vaccinated.”

Worth reading in full.

On that basis, it sounds like a return to where we were before Lockdown 3.0 was imposed – London and most parts of the country marooned in Tier 4 – but with children allowed to go to school. This is unlikely to be enough for some back bench Conservative MPs. The Mail on Sunday has more.

The simmering Tory tensions over lockdown came to a head in spectacular fashion last week when venerable backbencher Sir Charles Walker encountered Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the Commons.

Sir Charles passionately believes that measures to limit the spread of the virus risk causing more harm than they prevent, particularly in terms of mental health; Mr Hancock has consistently argued that the protection of the NHS should be the over-arching priority.

Sir Charles was enraged by the chaos over messages from Mr Hancock and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over whether people should book a summer holiday – and by the decision to impose a 10-year jail sentence on people who flout strict new quarantine rules, a rule introduced without MPs getting a chance to vote on it.

So when Mr Hancock addressed a private meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, of which Sir Charles is Vice-Chairman, he let rip at the Cabinet Minister, telling him that the Prime Minister’s “legs have been cut from underneath him as a result of the interventions” by Mr Hancock and Mr Shapps, adding: “If the PM is let down again by his Secretaries of State, he should remove them from Cabinet.”

With “vaccines coming out of our ears”, as Sir Charles has put it, impatience on the party’s backbenches is growing.

By last night, a total of 63 Tory MPs had signed a letter from the party’s Covid Recovery Group urging a swift exit from lockdown – easily enough to wipe out the Prime Minister’s majority if they voted with Labour.  

Mark Harper MP posted the letter on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Harper/status/1360713436179673099

The letter reads as follows:

We all have concerns about outside sport and swimming pools, gyms, personal care businesses, care home visits, hotels, events industry businesses, and allowing couples to get married. All restrictions remaining after March 8th should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected. The burden is on Ministers to demonstrate the evidence of effectiveness and proportionality with a cost-benefit analysis for each restriction, and a roadmap for when they will be removed…

Once all nine priority groups have been protected by the end of April, there is no justification for any legislative restrictions to remain. These groups represent 99% of Covid deaths and about 80% of hospitalisations.

Back to the Mail on Sunday for details of how the Government reacted to this letter.

Last night, senior Government sources indicated that the group’s demand for what’s been dubbed “alfresco April” to start at Easter, the weekend of April 4th, was also likely to be met.

But the divide between the economic ‘hawks’ pushing for as much commercial activity as can be safely allowed – led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – and the more cautious ‘doves’ has opened up again.

Mr Hancock and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove led calls to wait until late April or May to reopen the hospitality industry, arguing that it would be wrong to “casually dine al fresco” until the data was clearer on the vaccine’s impact on transmission.

Stop Press: Matt Hancock has said he’s ready to “live with the virus” – but is Britain? Writing in the Telegraph, Ross Clark looks at the shift in public attitude towards infectious disease and wonders if Britain is quite ready for freedom.

Stop Press 2: “We can’t kill flu but life goes on doggedly,” says Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times. “The same should be true with Covid.”

The Government’s Website Needs Updating

Snip from www.gov.uk/coronavirus taken Saturday 13th Feb

The above banner on the GOV.UK site makes two alarming claims about the state of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom: First, that it’s spreading fast, and, secondly, that one in three people who have the virus have no symptoms. Lets take those in order.

Reports come in daily at the moment about the declining rate of infection. According to the latest, from MailOnline:

The UK has recorded another 13,308 coronavirus infections – down 27% on last week.

Daily deaths have also dropped by a quarter to 621 taking the total to 116,908 – although separate figures suggest the number could be much higher…

It marks the third Saturday in a row where deaths have dropped week-on-week. 

To put this into context, here are a couple of good graphs from the COVID-19 data-tracker at the Spectator, taken from the GOV.UK coronavirus dashboard.

What about the R number? These estimates all come from Professor Philip Thomas, University of Bristol, the ONS, the Imperial College REACT study and the UK.GOV coronavirus dashboard and all put the number below 1:

The GOV.UK page on the R number confirms this.

Latest R range for the UK: 0.7 to 0.9

Latest growth rate range for the UK: -5% to -2% per day

An R value between 0.7 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people.

A growth rate of between -5% and -2% means that the number of new infections is shrinking by between 2% and 5% every day.

So still spreading, but perhaps the banner should read “Coronavirus (COVID-19) is slowing down”. It could speed up again, I suppose, but at this particular moment in time it is slowing down.

Leaked NHS data shows that hospitalisations are shrinking at a faster rate than predicted, with hospital admissions and deaths projected to halve over the next month.

The second claim in the banner, that “one in three people who have the virus have no symptoms, so you could be spreading it without knowing it” is debunked on the Probability and Risk blog maintained by Norman Fenton, a maths professor at Queen Mary, and Martin Neil, a computer science professor at Queen Mary, both contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.

Based on data provided by the UK Government, the Worldometers website estimates the number of active cases on any given day. In the week of 1st – 7th Feb the average daily number of active cases in the UK was 944,650. But not everybody who has the virus gets tested, so assuming testing is accurate, the true number of active cases must be higher than this. If we use the Government “1 in 3” claim – together with reasonable assumptions about the proportion of people with and without symptoms who actually get tested – then the ‘true’ number of active cases would have to be about 1.4 million, which represents just over 2% of the population (see the detailed analysis).

Combining the Government’s claim and an assumption of a 2% active daily infection rate, means that 0.711% of the population who had no symptoms must have had the virus, for the period 1st – 7th Feb (the detailed analysis provides the full Bayesian calculation). So, if we randomly tested 10,000 people without symptoms, during that week, we would expect to have found that about 71 tested of these people would test positive.

We can empirically test the implication of the Government’s claim that 0.711% of the population who had no symptoms must have had the virus, using an ongoing study at Cambridge University to do so. This study is testing students without symptoms and, for the week of 1st – 7th Feb, reported that a total of 4058 students with no symptoms were tested. Given this number, and the government’s claim, we should have expected to see that 29 of these 4,038 should have tested positive. But how many did test positive? If it is a lot less, then the Government’s claim must be wrong. In fact, none tested positive!

They have come up with a different estimate of the percentage of people with the virus who are asymptomatic – and it’s a lot less than one in three.

Taking proper account of uncertainty, as explained in the detailed report, we estimate there is a 95% probability that the true proportion of people with COVID-19 but no symptoms is between 0.65% and 7.19% with mean 3.077%. So, between as few as 1 in 153 and as many as 1 in 14, with a mean of 1 in 32.

Worth reading in full.

The second claim in the GOV.UK coronavirus banner, therefore, is in need of some revision.

Stop Press: Faulty estimates of the number of asymptomatic cases may have led Swedish authorities to overestimate the level of immunity last year, according to Anders Tegnell. The Telegraph has more.

Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist who devised the no-lockdown approach, said the level of immunity populations had against the virus was “an enigma and mystery” in the early stages of the pandemic.

COVID-19 was perhaps falsely compared with flu, when a large proportion of people catch it and show no symptoms, recover, then develop antibodies, said. Dr Tegnell.

This resulted in Sweden believing more people had developed immunity than was accurate, he explained.

“We thought that it would be similar with COVID-19 – that we would have quite a large part of people that actually develop antibodies with very low levels of symptoms and didn’t show up in health care,” Dr Tegnell told the Oxford Union this week.

“That has proven to be not right because immunity in the population has developed much much lower than I think anybody expected in the beginning. A lot of the initial modelling stuff was also having that assumption and it didn’t turn out to be the case.”

Worth reading in full.

The One That Got Away

Borders around the world are getting tighter, but one particularly enterprising reader of Lockdown Sceptics has still managed to book a trip.

What follows here is an explanation of how I’ve created a legal excuse to get out of the country and find myself sitting on South Beach in Miami in two weeks’ time. However, in doing so I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of rules that I may have broken, and so, just in case, I’m going to keep this anonymous.

These breaches are, in my opinion though, harmless, necessary, and easy to get away with. Harmless because we know that travel contributes to such a small proportion of transmissions, but also because I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, so I believe my travel is even more harmless than harmless. Necessary because I don’t think I’ll make it through to the next Great Goalpost Shift, whenever that is, without getting away for a bit. And easy to get away with because I’ve had some excellent help from complete strangers.

My first problem that needed overcoming was creating a legitimate and legal excuse for leaving the country. There seems to be a bit of hubbub around traveling for property viewing, but I decided the safest option was traveling for work. Of course, I want a break from everything, so I don’t want to actually do any work when I could be sitting on a beach in 30-degree sun; and, regardless, my employer certainly wouldn’t be sending me abroad any time soon when we are not even meant to be going into our own offices.

So I came up with a different idea. Here is the email I sent to a number of bars and pubs in Florida:

Hi [insert bar name],

I’m emailing from London, UK with a plea. As you may well know, we here in the UK are living under the cruel dictatorship of an unelected pseudo-Government called SAGE, the priests of the new religion that is stampeding across our now-God-forsaken country of worshipping the NHS. They have systematically removed every single part of life that makes life worth living, and, put simply, I’m not sure I will make it through the next few weeks – let alone the months that we are now being told we will have to endure.

What makes it all so much worse is that we are not only trapped in our houses, but we are now trapped on this island too, with only one means of escape: we can travel for work.

So, this is my plea to you: can I have a job interview?

It can be for anything – I’d happily take one shift a week cleaning floors on my hands and knees as a volunteer if it meant I could travel to one of the only places that has any right to call itself a “land of the free”.

To be perfectly honest, it can even be a job interview where we both know I won’t actually get a job; so long as you “insist” that the “interview” is face-to-face, I can show that to anyone who questions my travelling as proof that I am travelling for work.

I have a few things to wrap up here first, but I will be “free” to travel on the 25th Feb, so anything between the 26th – 28th would work.

I hope this email falls on compassionate ears.

Kind regards,

******

One response was all I needed, and boy did I get one:

Hi ******

Thank you for your application for the role of bar staff.

We have had a large number of applications for this position, so it’s with great joy that I am able to invite you for an interview for the position.

Here at [redacted bar name] we have a strong family ethos and so it is vitally important that we meet everyone who we might offer a job to in order to ensure that they will be a good fit for us.

With that in mind, would you be able to come down at 2pm Sunday 28th February?

Your interview would be largely informal, but we would like you to prepare a couple of cocktails, which we would then enjoy while having a chat to get to know you better!

Please let me know as soon as possible as there are many others who are keen for this role.

Best wishes,

******

I have now saved that email, but I am tempted to print it and frame it, or at the very least, laminate it before flying

I then set my attentions on the ESTA. If my Government believed I was traveling for work, could I legitimately apply for a travel and tourism visa from the Department of Homeland Security? Answer: yes. I would book return flights, travel out there for the interview during which I would, of course, earn no money, but the trip could still be considered a legitimate work reason.

Sure enough, my ESTA was approved in under an hour, which meant I could book my flights. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the outbound flight cost more than twice as much as the return flight – after all, what demand is there for flying into London right now?

However, even with a legitimate reason to travel, an approved ESTA, and booked flights, one issue remains. Ensuring I receive a negative COVID-19 test within the three days before flying, especially as I had the damned thing only a month ago and we all know how long after recovering it is possible to show up as positive. That said, as I have three days, I can get in a fair few tests, if I need to, in order to ensure a genuine negative result.

So, that’s that. I will be flying out in a couple of weeks and will then spend two weeks on the beach, in the sea, in the gym, in bars, pubs, and clubs, going on dates, reading in the sun, and generally just being with people.

I will be sure to send you a postcard from the Sunshine State!

The Seasonality of COVID-19

The article by Glen Bishop, the maths student at Nottingham, pointing out a rather obvious flaw in the latest modelling from Neil Ferguson and his team has generated quite a response. Today, we are publishing an original essay by Dr Noah Carl, who has provided rather a lot of evidence that COVID-19 is indeed a seasonal disease.

I read the article by Glen Bishop in Friday’s Lockdown Sceptics newsletter with great interest. The author, a maths student at Nottingham University, had heard that a new paper by Imperial College researchers was predicting a deadly third wave of COVID-19 in the summer of this year. He decided to read the paper for himself, and noticed that the researchers were making one very questionable assumption: there is no seasonality to COVID-19.

Because he couldn’t quite believe this, Bishop emailed the researchers to check whether he had made a mistake. No, they told him: their model does assume zero seasonality. As a justification, Bishop received a paper titled “Misconceptions about weather and seasonality must not misguide COVID-19 response”, which was published in August of last year. However, he wasn’t convinced, describing the paper as “a political commentary on the consequences of what the virus being seasonal would mean for American politics, rather than a purely scientific paper”.

In the next part of his article, Bishop compared the daily COVID-19 death numbers in four countries: Brazil, Peru, Sweden and the UK. These countries differ in important ways. Peru and the UK implemented extensive lockdowns, whereas Brazil and Sweden took a more relaxed approach. On the other hand, Brazil and Peru are located in the southern hemisphere, whereas Sweden and the UK are located in the northern hemisphere. Bishop reasoned that, if seasonality is an important driver of the pandemic, countries in the same hemisphere should resemble one another. But if only lockdowns matter, countries with similar policies should resemble one another.

As many readers will already be aware, both Brazil and Peru saw deaths peak in June or July and then fall in September, whereas both Sweden and the UK saw deaths rise in March and then fall in May. This suggests that hemisphere matters more than policies in explaining the distribution of COVID-19 deaths over the year. In fact, not a single European country saw deaths rise during the summer, even among those that were spared a deadly spring wave.

Bishop’s criticisms of the Imperial College model are well-taken. In the remainder of this essay, I want to present additional evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19. Before looking at studies that deal specifically with COVID-19, it is worth mentioning that other human coronaviruses are known to be seasonal, with the peak of infections occurring in February (in the northern hemisphere). As one recent study – which analysed eight years of data on a cohort in Michigan – concluded, “Coronaviruses are sharply seasonal.” Hence it would be somewhat surprising if COVID-19 didn’t behave in the same way.

There are several mechanisms that may account for the seasonality of coronaviruses. The first is simply that people spend more time indoors in the winter, leading to more opportunities for transmission. A second is that respiratory droplets remain airborne for longer in cold weather, so they are more likely to enter someone’s nose or mouth. A third is that blood vessels constrict in cold temperatures, which may reduce our immune system’s ability to kill viruses in the nasal passage. A fourth is that viral particles may degrade more quickly when exposed to sunlight. And a fifth is that UV light may boost our immune systems by facilitating the production of vitamin D.

Since the pandemic began, a number of studies have been published (either as preprints or journal articles), which together provide strong evidence for the seasonality of COVID-19.

Dr Carl goes on to summarise eight of these studies.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lockdown Sceptics regular Guy de la Bédoyère has also written a brief response to the Nottingham student’s article.

Glen Bishop’s fascinating paper about how SAGE appears to have overlooked and ignored, or at the very least underestimated, the role of seasonal factors in Covid’s fluctuating impact over the last year, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, is most instructive. His point leads to other assumptions made by modelling scientists which ought by now to have become obsolete. It reminded me of Jean Baptista van Helmont (1577-1644, though given dates vary slightly). If you haven’t heard of him, he was an early chemist. He famously experimented with a willow tree which he observed grow over five years.

Since van Helmont had only added water to the tree he concluded, in a classic example of false science, that the growth was exclusively attributable to the water. He took no account of the nutrients in the soil or sunlight because he was not aware of their effects, did not postulate their potential role, and did not apply the basics of experimentation and replication. As one scholar has observed: “Helmont’s experiment is also notable because although carefully conducted, the conclusions derived from the experiment were wrong because the theory on which it was based was incorrect.” (David Hershey, 1991). So, it has been with those scientists and politicians who assume that the reduction in Covid cases last summer and now is almost entirely attributable to their recommended NPIs and rises in cases to a lack of their NPIs during non-lockdown periods. In scientific terms they have applied one theory leading to one solution, ignored other countries where the solution was different (like Sweden), failed to operate any control experiments, and assumed that the observed results must be down to their solution rather than any other factors. Even if they were right, in Toyland that still wouldn’t past muster as ‘science’ because there is no scientific-standard of proof.

It’s fascinating to see that even today some modern scientists remain susceptible to the belief that the framework of their theories and assumptions represent the beginning and end of the phenomenon they are studying, compounded by a traditional reluctance to admit they might have been wrong. Following the science is one thing, but it does rather boil down to the quality of the science, doesn’t it?

The Public Should Use Yellow Card Reporting System to Report Vaccine Side Effects

The following post, by a senior hospital doctor, urges members of the public to report side effects of the Covid vaccines using the established Yellow Card system. The Yellow Card website he refers to is here and the contact details are here. Weekly summaries of yellow card reporting are available here.

The Yellow Card reporting system was introduced in 1964. It was part of the response to the thalidomide disaster. A lack of ability to co-ordinate reports of uncommon malformations (in this case) or rare medical conditions led to prolonged unrecognised harm with disability and life-restricting deformity.

The scheme is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and the Commission on Human Medicines.

While previously most reporting was by medical professionals (doctors and pharmacists), it is possible for patients or carers and family members to report suspected adverse drug reactions. This can be done online, or via a telephone call, or on cards available from pharmacists.

Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) are being rolled out at an unprecedented scale and speed. Despite reassurances, this rollout is based on extremely limited trial evidence involving short periods of follow-up in largely young and healthy individuals. These trials may miss rare or serious events due to both small numbers and short follow-up. They may also underestimate the importance of ‘minor’ side effects in higher risk patient groups. Vomiting and diarrhoea, in a fit and healthy young person, may cause no harm, for example, but it may be the final event leading to death in a frail elderly care home resident.

It is essential that public awareness, or the ability to use the Yellow Card system to self-report, or to report on behalf of others, is raised. This includes sudden or unexpected deaths from any apparent cause following a recent vaccination. it is particularly important to report the development of COVID-19 shortly after vaccination.

A relevant summary taken from Wikipedia:

Reports can be entered through the MHRA’s website, or a smartphone app which is available for iOS and Android devices. The app can also provide news and alerts to users.

Yellow Cards are available from pharmacies and a few are presented near the back of the British National Formulary as tear-off pages; copies may also be obtained by telephoning +44 (0) 808 100 3352. The scheme provides forms that allow members of the public to report suspected side effects, as well as health professionals.

Freedom of Speech Under Threat Say Half of Britons in New Poll

Half of Britons think free speech is “under threat”, according to a new poll by the Reclaim Party. The precarious state of free speech won’t come as a surprise to readers of Lockdown Sceptics, of course, given how often we report on the attempts to silence, smear or delegitimise anyone who dissents from Covid orthodoxy. But it’s good to know we’re not alone in being concerned about this. The Sunday Telegraph has more.

The impact of the rise of “cancel culture” is laid bare today by an exclusive poll that reveals half of Britons believe they are less free to say what they think than five years ago.

Freedom of speech in the UK is “under threat”, 50% of people say, compared with less than a quarter (24%) who disagree.

Just one in eight (12%) believes people have greater freedom to speak freely than five years ago, compared with 49% who feel the opposite.

In recent years there has been a rise in celebrities, including J.K. Rowling, being “cancelled” on social media for speaking out on topics such as transgender rights. The study finds that more than four in 10 Britons (43%) say they are afraid to speak their minds on immigration matters, compared with 28% who felt they could.

A similar percentage (42%) admit they are scared to speak openly on transgender rights. A quarter say they feel OK to speak out.

The survey also finds that 43% of people are “afraid to speak their minds” with the police, while 23% are unafraid.

Worth reading in full.

And if you’re worried about threats to your own freedom of speech, or want to help others under fire, please join the Free Speech Union.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/ChrisGr29264921/status/1360532595306618880?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Fourteen today: “F.E.A.R” by Ian Brown, “Living is Better With Freedom” by Spizz, “Broken Dreams” by Thin Lizzy, “You Keep Changing Your Mind” by Jon Plum, “Senseless” by Echo and The Bunnymen, “Mr Johnson” by Jain, “I Wanna Be Free” by The Monkees, “A Strange Day” by The Cure, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley, “Solitary Man” by Johnny Cash, “No Fun” by The Stooges, “Lost” by Morrissey, “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” by The Kinks and “Suicide is Painless“, the theme from M.A.S.H.

Stop Press: A reader has written in: “I expected Theme Tunes to have run out of puff by now but no! Must have got my modelling wrong.”

Love in the Time of Covid

Outlaw lovers Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. Just the ticket if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day date! 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, we bring you a rare voice of sanity – Wilfred Zaha, the Crystal Palace winger. Turns out, he’s not a fan of taking the knee. MailOnline has more.

Wilfried Zaha believes it is “degrading” that players have to take a knee before matches and called for proper action to tackle the racism.

The Crystal Palace winger has been targeted with abuse on several occasions on social media in the past and says he is fed up of charades that “mean nothing”.

Speaking on the On the Judy podcast, Zaha questioned why he should have to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts or take the knee before matches.

“Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.

“When people constantly want to get me to do Black Lives Matter talks and racial talks and I’m like, I’m not doing it just so you can put ‘Zaha spoke for us’. Like a tick box, basically.

“I’m not doing any more, because unless things change. I’m not coming to chat to you just for the sake of it, like all the interviews I’ve done.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Why is the Church so woke? Writing in UnHerd, Giles Fraser discusses a recent survey which indicated that only 6% of the the Church of England clergy voted Tory at the last election. Something has gone wrong, he says, when the clergy don’t represent their flock.

Stop Press 2: Watch Home Secretary Priti Patel tell Nick Ferrari that, like Zaha, she would refuse to take the knee. She also condemns last summer’s protests and criticises the attitude of some councils when it comes to pulling down statues and renaming streets.

“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.

Stop Press: The Babylon Bee reports that a shocking video from just one week ago has emerged on social media showing the majority of Americans wearing only one mask, despite the CDC’s clear advice to double up. Just think of all the deaths that might have been prevented!

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.

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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEQcyIGH_vQ&feature=youtu.be

In JP’s latest YouTube video, he takes aim at the Great Reset. Worth a watch.