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“SAGE is Like a Golfer With a One-Club Strategy” IDS

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP has penned a withering attack on SAGE in the Telegraph, targeting its catastrophically one-dimensional handling of the pandemic.

In the midst of this sits the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). The normal run of affairs is that advisors advise and ministers decide. Yet with Sage it is different. Though it is a public body, it is one which the like of I have never previously come across.

So much of the advice influencing policy that has changed our lives and livelihoods has come has come from this opaque organisation, which operates behind closed doors and whose members were only officially identified in May after a very public clamour for transparency.

Appointments to it of an estimated 100 scientists and academics appear to be made by the Chief Scientific Officer [Patrick Vallance] and the Chief Medical Officer [Chris Whitty] alone. And yet its “advice” has taken on the character of commandments written on tablets of stone – despite the fact that many of its recommendations are hotly disputed by other reputable scientists with relevant expertise. Meanwhile, when the government does not follow its advice exactly, it immediately publishes its minutes, in what appears to be a nakedly political act.

The search for a way to control the virus without severely damaging the economy and causing life-threatening delays to other vital health treatments is an entirely legitimate one. But – as one scientist put it to me – Sage has fallen prey to a form of groupthink that focuses exclusively on a drive to push down the infection rate to the exclusion of all else.

The problem is that if this one aim becomes the only thing that is discussed and advised on by Sage, we end up like a golfer with a one-club strategy – lockdown.

So, while it was gratifying to see the Prime Minister this week break ranks with the scientific technocracy over what Sage euphemistically calls a “national circuit breaker”, however with London and other places now entering Tier 2 restrictions, the risk is that it could come to be seen as a national lockdown by stealth.

Why, he asks, has more not been done to promote effective treatments, such as rolling out pre-emptive antivirals as part of protecting high-risk groups?

With the average age of death from Covid-19 standing at 82, and fewer than 4% of those who have died of the virus having no known comorbidities, such a policy of prescribing antivirals to members of vulnerable groups would reduce both admissions and deaths. Such a move now could help prevent the need to lock down the economy.

Importantly, in 2012 the Government did this very thing by massively widening the prescription of antivirals in the community to combat the risk of flu.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Antiviral drug remdesivir has been found to have “little or no effect” on the chances of survival of hospitalised COVID-19 patients, according to a WHO clinical trial although the authors allow it may still work early on or as a prophylactic. According to the Swiss Doctor, the treatments with the best current evidence base are: for prophylaxis and early treatment Zinc, Quercetin, Bromhexine, Vitamins C & D, and Aspirin (early treatment only); for ancillary treatment Hydroxychloroquine, High-dose vitamin D, Azithromycin and LMW heparin.

Cases Fall Again

From CEBM

How can the Government justify bringing in new restrictions and continue to warn of “exponential” increases in cases when it is becoming clearer by the day that “cases” are barely rising in most areas? Furthermore, this flattening-off happened before the additional restrictions were put in place, just as the autumn spikes in the North appeared despite the local lockdowns. When will the Government give up its conceit of claiming to control this virus and focus on protecting the vulnerable while the rest of us get back to normal?

Lockdown is Political

We’re not partisan here at Lockdown Sceptics and welcome readers from across the political spectrum. However, it’s hard not to notice that lockdowns seem to have a greater attraction for people on the Left than the Right. We’ve known this for some time, but it’s particularly apparent in the latest polling from Gallup in the USA. To illustrate: a miniscule 4% of Democrat voters say they’re ready to return to normal activities right now compared to a whopping 59% of Republicans. Again: 71.5% of Democrats say they avoid going to public places compared to 34.5% of Republicans. (It’s also apparent that women are much more pro-lockdown than men). Partly this will be a reflection of how partisan the issue has become in America around Trump in an election year. And, of course, Democrats tend to be richer than Republicans so are less likely to be feeling the economic damage. But it has also become increasingly clear that the Left sees the pandemic as an opportunity to drive forward some of its favourite causes, such as disfiguring inner cities with endless bicycle lanes. Something No 10 ought to keep in mind when it listens to the demands of Sage, whose members are overwhelmingly left wing.

A Top NHS Doctor Writes…

London’s ITU Network – occupancy not rising

We’ve heard again from our friend, the top NHS doctor, whose understanding of what’s going on in NHS England gets deeper by the day.

I’m beginning to understand this latest crap from the medical point of view. The ground truth is that there are very few Covid patients in London hospitals.

More in the north east sector than elsewhere (Barts/Royal London/Newham/North Middlesex, etc.) but certainly not swamped – maybe 5% to 10% of ICU beds but there is no flu around at all this year so far. So that’s a normal upper respiratory case load and as we know ICU capacity can be ramped up very quickly if needed.

There were 82 patients in total in ICU in London on October 15th – half of them not intubated. We have an ICU bed stock of approx 1,500 across the capital, so well within capacity.

The problem – the reason the NHS wants tighter restrictions – relates to how the medical management have ‘organised’ the hospitals.

Instead of designating certain hospitals as ‘dirty’ (‘fever hospitals’) and other sites as ‘clean’ they have instituted a bizarre and complicated traffic light system.

Red means Covid positive; Amber means Covid suspected but swab not back or negative test with Covid clinical signs; Green means Covid negative.

Patients are mixed up all over the place and this may be one reason for the high hospital acquired rate – everyone knows you can’t keep things separate when staff are coming and going or patients have to be moved about the hospital for tests, etc.

So you may be asking why has it been set up like this? Non-medical people assume that the NHS is a cohesive national system. In fact, it is a series of quasi-independent fiefdoms ruled by princelings – especially so in London. There is a vast amount of under-the-counter professional jealousy and rivalry. Essentially no one wants to be the dirty hospital – so there is vast push back, foot dragging and passive resistance to the sensible plan of isolating patients and their carers on one site.

Allied to that, Simon Stevens has decreed that all hospitals have to continue business as usual instead of scrapping non-urgent stuff – again, this is a political thing and exacerbates the problem of in-hospital transmission by having more staff and patients moving around the place.

So the pressure from the NHS for more lockdown is one of convenience not emergency. They are nowhere near approaching overload. They have had five months to sort this out and have completely failed (again).

When medical managers implement a useless plan which is clearly not working, instead of scrapping it early and starting again, they tend to double down and start blaming external factors – a bit like politicians because they are often incapable of shouldering responsibility and terrified of the personal reputational risk. Of course, they are not the ones to suffer. Salaries and final salary pension schemes are still paid by the taxpayer. Lockdown only affects doctors and NHS managers in a positive way. They get to stay at home and have less work to do but still get the same level of remuneration what’s not to like?

As Charlie Munger says – show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome.

“It’s An Absolute Shambles” ONS Survey Nurse

The Lockdown Sceptics reader who is participating in the ONS’s Covid infection survey and whom we heard yesterday has written an update.

Amazingly, I’ve just had a visit from a lovely nurse. She spent half an hour telling me what an absolute shambles it is. Her husband is trying to get her to give her notice because of how stressful it is. I asked if she’d let me pass on her number, but they’ve been instructed very firmly that they mustn’t speak to anyone in the media and she didn’t dare. But she did say I could tell you what she said.

Some days they’re given nothing to do. Some days, they’re given more than they can possibly do and she ends up working until 10 at night to finish the paperwork. Sometimes they give her some people to see at one side of her two-hour’s driving area and some at the other, so it’s impossible to see them all.

They get their list in the evening and have to see everyone on it they can the next day. No chance to make prior arrangements with them. They’re not allowed to see people at weekends or evenings, so she keeps missing anyone who has children.

People have been promised their results, but no one has been given any at all.

It’s being administered by several private companies and no one knows who’s supposed to be doing what. When she emails about a problem, they never get back to her in time for the answer to be of any use; usually weeks later, always by a different person.

Lots of people, like me, have had lots of missed appointments, but they’re listed on the system as having happened, even though they haven’t.

In the beginning, it all worked reasonably well, but they keep taking on more and more subjects and it’s getting worse and worse. She, and all the subjects are doing their best to make it work, but it’s becoming impossible.

I felt really sorry for her. Whatever data, if any, is coming out of this, it just has to be a steaming pile of poo.

Best Smoked Salmon For Christmas

Vitamin D. Yummy!

Bleiker’s Smokehouse in Yorkshire has won the “Best Smoked Salmon for Christmas” accolade from Good Housekeeping. Well-deserved – it’s Toby’s favourite. And don’t forget, salmon is a natural source of Vitamin D which we now know beyond doubt is an effective prophylactic against Covid. Indeed, if the Government had spent 1% of the money it has spent on NHS Track and Trace (£12 billion and counting) on buying smoked salmon from Bleiker’s and distributing it to care homes, we’d likely have far fewer Covid deaths.

Order it here.

Charity Commission Censors Lockdown Sceptic

A reader has written to tell us the shocking story of the Charity Commission threatening a charity trustee who has dared to question the wisdom of lockdowns.

More evidence of attempted censorship of anti-lockdowners, but this time from the Charity Commission.

Yesterday, the Charity Commission sent a threatening email to a small local charity in Norfolk called Hey Jude, which supports people with chronic neurological diseases and cancer.

A week ago, its founder, Dr Henry Mannings, wrote an opinion piece that was published in the regional newspaper Eastern Daily Press and widely shared. In it, he essentially argues along the same lines as the GB Declaration.

The Charity Commission has alleged in its email that the article “could give the impression that Dr Mannings is writing in his capacity as charity trustee”, and warned that although no action will be taken at this time this incident has now been ‘”saved to the charity’s records”, and they may “decide to proactively look into the concerns in future”.

But if you read the article, there is no mention of the charity in the article at all, other than in the caption below the article’s photo, which correctly states that Dr Mannings is the founder of the charity.

But even if he did mention the charity in his article, what on earth has that got to do with the Charity Commission? If it’s verboten for a trustee of a charity to have a point of view on the lockdown and associated measures, why isn’t the Commission censuring those who toe the Government’s line?

Lastly, in case you missed it, note how pernicious the allegation actually is. It wasn’t even that Dr Mannings spoke on behalf of the charity, it was that the article “could give the impression” that he did.

This is a clearly a completely unfounded warning email that has been sent to intimidate Dr Mannings and the charity – the nasty implication being “shut up or the charity may face consequences”.

I would use the word unbelievable but I think I’ve exhausted its use over the last six months.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Life Is A Risk” by Red Metafor and “Outdoors And Indoors” by The Creams.

Love in the Time of Covid

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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing stories: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, 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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A new preprint study by Dr Colleen Huber and colleagues reviews the evidence on masks and finds “mask use is not correlated with lower death rates nor with lower positive PCR tests” and that due to risks of contamination the “use of face masks will contribute to far more morbidity and mortality than has occurred due to COVID-19”. Worth a read.

Woke Gobbledegook

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has removed human remains from its displays – including any artefacts made using human bone, teeth and tissue. CREDIT: © Pitt Rivers Museum University of Oxford

The new Belgian Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford – which has inspired generations of students with its rag bag of fabulous oddities – doesn’t seem very fond of the institution. Martin Fletcher in the Telegraph has more.

When the museum reopened for the first time since the Covid lockdown last month, visitors were greeted with brightly-coloured new signage warning that the PRM is ‘a footprint of colonialism’; that its labels ‘use language and imagery that is derogatory, racist and Eurocentric’; and that ‘often the interpretation in the cases evades the complex and devastating circumstances in which many of the objects were collected’.

Under the leadership of Van Broekhoven, who conducted similar work in the Netherlands before her arrival in Oxford, it has conducted an ‘ethical review’ of its entire public collection. Displays are being systematically relabelled and ‘contextualised’ to explain their historical and cultural significance. Around 120 human remains, including skulls, scalps and a mummified Egyptian child, have been removed from public view and put into storage.

The PRM has even removed – from a case labelled ‘Treatment of Dead Enemies’ – the celebrated shrunken human heads with their sewn-up lips and eye sockets and great cascades of hair.

The Shuar and Achuar people of the Upper Amazon produced these ‘tsantsas’ by removing the brains and skulls before boiling the skins and filling them with hot sand and rocks to shrink them. They were allegedly a means of imprisoning the souls of enemy warriors, or possibly of honouring Shuar chiefs.

Last month the Oxford Mail called the removal of those heads ‘the latest symptom of a politically motivated curatorial revisionism sweeping the land’. A Times art critic accused the museum of ‘patronising’ the public and observed that ‘nobody will be attracted to the Pitt Rivers by the slogan: “It’s the museum that won’t let you see its shrunken heads”’.

But Van Broekhoven is unrepentant. ‘Our audience research has shown that visitors often saw the museum’s displays of human remains as a testament to other cultures being “savage”, “primitive” or “gruesome”. Rather than enabling our visitors to reach a deeper understanding of each other’s ways of being, the displays reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking that goes against the museum’s values today.’

Sounds like Van Broekhoven is aiming to close the museum altogether. First tell visitors it’s a monument to white supremacy, then give away all the exhibits.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff 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 on October 5th and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Googled it last week, the top hits you got were two smear pieces from the obscure Leftist conspiracy website Byline Times, and one from the Guardian headlined: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this hit job the day before it appeared). On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now shows up in the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about it is the top hit – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. 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. It now has more than half-a-million signatures.

Stop Press: The number of experts signing a petition doesn’t have any bearing on the truth of its claims, of course. In the “hierarchy of evidence” for evaluating healthcare interventions, expert opinion is dead last. This letter in the BMJ by John Ioannidis on why petitions and open letters should be taken with a large does of salt is very good.

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).

Special thanks to graphic designer and Lockdown Sceptics reader Claire Whitten for designing our new logo. We think it’s ace. Find her work here.

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEi3EhPkTMY&feature=youtu.be

Comedian Simon Brodkin thinks he’s figured out how the Government picks its coronavirus policies – and it bears an uncanny resemblance to the National Lottery. Watch his latest YouTube video.

Latest News

Good story on the Mail‘s front page today. But is it true? According to the paper, Boris has set a 10-day deadline to operationalise the Government’s ‘track-and-trace’, programme. Once it’s in place, he’s promised to dial down the lockdown. On the plus side, the number of people tested yesterday hit a record of 177,216 and the Government has reportedly hired a 25,000-strong army of trackers. But if the NHS’s contact-tracing app is part of the plan, we may be in for a longer wait. According to the front page of the Independent, it won’t be ready by June 1st.

Simon Dolan Serves Papers on the Government

Lawyers acting for Simon Dolan, the aviation entrepreneur mounting a legal challenge against the lockdown, filed over 1,000 pages of legal documents with the High Court this morning. The proceedings are against Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – whose name is on the lockdown laws – and Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, who has presided over the closure of schools and universities. The aim of the court action is to lift the lockdown, restore our civil liberties, and allow schools, healthcare services and the economy to restart.

Due to its huge potential significance, the Court is being asked to deal with the matter urgently on a speeded-up timetable. Simon says he hopes to have the case heard in the first week of June. In a press release issued earlier, Simon says:

The number of people furloughed or unemployed stands at 10 million, and billions are being wiped off the economy with every passing day.

Those lucky enough to have jobs left at the end of this crisis could see income tax increase by up to 10p in the pound. The Government has spent £13,000 per household on the bailout so far.

A judicial review is the only effective means of challenging what the Government is doing and holding them properly to account. Boris Johnson and his crew have sleepwalked into this mess and are taking the nation over the cliff edge with them.

Our fight begins proper today!

You can read the press release in full here and contribute to Simon’s crowdfunder here. He has already exceeded his fundraising target of £125,000 and increased it to £175,000. Thanks to all those readers who’ve contributed.

Economic News Just Keeps Getting Worse

Under the headline ‘Sunak’s £124bn virus bill‘, the Mail reports findings from the National Audit Office (NAO) showing that Government ministers made more than 500 announcements between January 31st and May 4th in response to the outbreak, amounting to £124.3 billion of spending. It includes £6.6 billion for health and social care measures, £82.2 billion for businesses, £19.5 billion to support individuals – such as via benefits – and £15.8 billion on other public services. It does not include £13.4 billion of NHS debt which has been written off, nor money which the NAO suggests may be lost to “fraud and error”.

So that’ll be another £10 billion.

An updated online version of the same story warns further that “[t]he grim consequences for UK plc of the coronavirus crisis are becoming clearer with every passing day – as GDP goes into free-fall, public debt soars past £2 trillion and millions become unemployed. Apocalyptic predictions from the Bank of England and others show the UK is on track for the worst recession in 300 years, when the Great Frost swept Europe.”

The Guardian reports the Chancellor’s plans to spend yet more borrowed money on extending the mortgage relief scheme beyond the end of June, and adds that the Bank of England may move to negative interest rates, a first in its 325-year history. Is the global economy in such a parlous state that the Bank of England thinks investors will pay the British Government to take their money?

On the heels of yesterday’s news that 9,000 jobs are being lost at Rolls-Royce, the Times reports that current plans for relaxing the lockdown will not be enough to save many businesses.

Two-Metre Social Distancing Rule Unnecessary, According to NERVTAG Member

Downing Street said yesterday that it has no plans to change the “sensible and safe” two-metre social distancing rule, after Robert Dingwall, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said the evidence that it is necessary is “fragile”. This is despite the fact that many other countries, and even the the World Health Organisation, recommend just one metre. Britain and Spain are now the only European countries to apply the two-metre rule, says the Mail.

Professor Dingwall said on BBC Radio 4: “The World Health Organization recommends a one-metre distance, Denmark has adopted it since the beginning of last week.

“If you probe around the recommendations of distance in Europe you will find that a lot of countries have also gone for this really on the basis of a better understanding of the scientific evidence around the possible transmission of infection.”

Iain Duncan Smith has also called for the two-metre rule to be scrapped, according to the Sun.

The Times reports that many businesses will go bankrupt if the rule isn’t relaxed. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, told the paper that “at two metres you’re probably looking at only 20 per cent of pubs being able to operate” but reducing it to one metre “would put the majority of pubs back in play”. Other sectors have also raised concerns:

Richard Walker, boss of Iceland, the supermarket, said: “The reality is that many businesses will not survive if we are too zealous with the two-metre rule. If scientists and experts are comfortable with a way that we can relax it then we absolutely should, because it is critical to so many sectors.”

Edwin Morgan, of the Institute of Directors, said that “maintaining two metres’ distancing will be difficult for many firms, and impossible for some”. He urged the Government to help industry find “innovative ways to adapt”.

Some businesses, facing bankruptcy if they remain closed, “have taken it upon themselves to open up despite lockdown restrictions“, says the Mail. Can we include them here, please?

Salons, butchers, florists and coffee shops are tentatively opening their doors to customers, by coming up with their own interpretations of the Government’s social-distancing rules. In Alresford, Hampshire, eight high street businesses are now open, including a salon – despite the Government insisting hairdressers should not yet be open. And in Thame, Oxfordshire, the chocolatier, hardware store, florist and butcher have thrown open their doors for the first time since the lockdown started in March. Meanwhile in the capital, Broadway Market in Hackney was packed with Londoners lapping up the sunshine and grabbing disposal pints of beer from pubs which have opened up for takeaway refreshments.

The Easy Way to Get Through Lockdown

The Telegraph reports that Liberal Democrat peer Chris Fox is “milking” the taxpayer by furloughing himself from his business but continuing to claim his daily £162 House of Lords allowance for Zoom meetings.

A frontbench peer has furloughed himself despite having a £100,000 cash pot in his company and claiming the daily House of Lords allowance during lockdown, the Telegraph can reveal.

Lord Fox, who owns two homes worth more than £2 million, is the first Parliamentarian known to use the Government’s wage subsidy scheme to pay himself. The 62-year-old Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman for business is the owner and sole employee of Vulpes Advisory, a ‘strategic communications’ company. His decision to double dip into the taxpayers’ pocket was criticised as “milking the taxpayer” by MPs, who said on Wednesday that he should pay the money back. Asked on Wednesday night whether having his private income paid by the state as well as taking the Lords stipend was “greedy”, Lord Fox said: “I don’t think conflating the two is even logical.”

Accounts filed with Companies House show Lord Fox has access to more than £100,000 cash in his Vulpes bank account. Instead of using the money to tide the business over, he furloughed himself and has already received his first month’s wage subsidy, of about £1,000, from the Government. Asked why he did not first use the £100,000, he said: “I’m hoping to tide the business over, I’m hoping to relaunch it properly when the scheme… when the virus lifts.”

Lord Fox has a five-bedroom house in Windsor, which he reportedly bought in 1995 for £280,000 and which is now estimated to be worth up to £1.89 million, as well as a second home in east London. He sits on the Lords economic affairs committee, before which Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, appeared as a witness this week. It has held four hearings over the past month, for which Lord Fox will receive £648. He also claims the daily allowance for his work as the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon said: “It’s incredible that, when my residents in Harlow are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, this peer seems to want to milk the taxpayer at both ends, for every penny – both through the Lords allowance and the furlough scheme. The Chancellor needs to nip this in the bud and make sure this is not allowed. The least he could do is pay the furlough money back.”

The Sun splashes with the story that Labour Party supporter Steve Coogan – creator of Alan Partridge – has furloughed his gardener and housekeeper.

The wealthy comic, 54, has left the taxpayer to stump up 80% of the pair’s wages. His two staff work full-time at his £4 million home in southern England, which boasts a swimming pool and tennis court.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said last night: “The furlough scheme is to protect businesses that are suspended and can’t operate during the coronavirus pandemic. It’d be difficult to see how Steve Coogan’s earning potential has been diminished.”

TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive John O’Connell said: “Support should only be sought if it’s really needed.”

Day Trippers Defy Lockdown Orders

Southend beach yesterday. Credit: ITV News

All the papers had pictures of people ignoring social distancing rules to enjoy Britain’s hottest day of the year, with temperatures climbing to 82F – although the snappers know their pictures are more likely to be used if they make it look as if people are bunched more closely together than they are. According to the Mail, tens of thousands of sun seekers packed on to beaches up and down the country and traffic wardens ran out of tickets.

Needless to say, some local panjandrums have been harrumphing about the influx of visitors. According to the Telegraph:

When Boris Johnson announced on May 19th that from May 13th English residents would be allowed to drive to enjoy the outdoors for any length of time (as long as they do not stay overnight), local authorities in places like the Lake District were in uproar, telling travellers firmly to stay away.

In recent days the row has rumbled on, with placards and barricades appearing in parts of the Lakes. Messages scribbled onto boards include “no entry”, “please stay away”, and – in one specific case – “Keswick is still closed. Please come back when we are open”. This “informal” lock-out has even included “impromptu” road blocks – with plastic barriers blocking routes to popular sites. 

It’s a welcome change then to hear Councillor Seán Woodward, Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage at Hampshire County Council, insisting the all responsible daytrippers are more than welcome.

He told Telegraph Travel: “Our country park car parks operated well over this last weekend and all within the 60% capacity limit imposed following a risk assessment. The vast majority of people behaved both sensibly and in a good humoured fashion, they were pleased to be able to visit, and appreciated the precautions being taken by our staff and the measures in place, which included clear signs and advance communications.” 

Case Numbers Keep Falling

Meanwhile, the number of cases keep falling. The Times quotes Stephen Powis, NHS England’s Medical Director, saying there were 9,953 people in hospital with coronavirus on Tuesday, the first time this has been below 10,000 since March 29th:

No cases of coronavirus have been confirmed for Monday across London and eastern England, an area covering 15 million people, and just 79 have been recorded across England. While the number will rise as laboratories report more data, the figures underline the extent to which transmission has been brought under control.

The Telegraph says that new “surveillance data” suggests “those aged 17 to 29 are the most likely group to carry the infection – although they are far less likely than older people to fall seriously ill”.

The sampling by Public Health England, which occurred as the epidemic approached its peak, showed that in early April, around 11% of those aged between 17 and 29 were infected with the virus. Those in their 30s were the age group with the second highest number of infections, at around 10%, with rates closer to 7% among those in their 60s.

Fewer People have Died in 2019-20 than in 2017-18

Interesting post on the COVID-19 In Proportion blog pointing out that the total number of deaths in England and Wales between November 29th and May 8th (275,044) was lower than the total number in the same period in 2017-18 (281,566), when there was an above-average number of deaths from seasonal flu. He also notes that the lockdown on March 23rd doesn’t appear to have made any dent in the number of people dying from non-Covid flu and respiratory diseases in 2019-20: “If lockdown is effective at stopping the spread of infection wouldn’t there be a drop in the rate of non-Covid flu and respiratory deaths?”

Worth reposting this from the same blog last month, comparing the coverage of deaths from COVID-19 with deaths from influenza in 2018 on BBC News. Needless to say, the 2017-18 influenza epidemic which killed more people than Covid got nary a mention.

Stop Press: COVID-19 In Proportion blog has now updated this post. If you add the second week of May, the total number of deaths in 2019-20 does now exceed those in 2017-18.

MPs “Must Go Back”

House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees Mogg says MPs “must physically return to Westminster if they want to participate in debates and vote on new laws”, according to the Mail:

The House of Commons is currently using a ‘hybrid’ system which allows a maximum of 50 MPs to be present in the chamber while up to 150 can take part using Zoom video software. But Mr Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader, said the current set-up dramatically curtailed the amount of time which could be spent debating legislation as he said all MPs should come back to London on June 2nd after the Whitsun recess which starts tomorrow. However, the decision sparked a furious backlash from some opposition MPs who said the ‘hybrid’ model is working and moving away from it would force them to make ‘non-essential’ journeys. 

The Problem With Epidemiological Models

We’ve published a great piece on Lockdown Sceptics today by Hector Drummond entitled ‘The Real Fault with Epidemiological Models‘. Drummond, a former academic with a must-read blog called Hector Drummond Magazine, argues that critics of the computer modelling used by Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial to show that half a million people would die from COVID-19 in the “do nothing” scenario shouldn’t focus on the poor quality of the code because “any number of epidemiological modellers could have come up with similar analyses using impeccable code”. Rather, the fault lies with epidemiological models in general:

Epidemiology seems to be one of those areas, like climate change, where model reliability matters far less than it should. This can happen to areas that become politicised and where the journals are controlled by strong-armed cliques. It can also be a consequence of modern academia, where the emphasis has shifted almost totally to funding success. Funding success in areas like epidemiology can depend on exaggeration to impress people with agendas and money to burn, like Bill Gates. In an objective field you would expect, after all, underestimates to be as prevalent as overestimates. Yet in this field, overestimates are rife. And the reason for this is the same as the reason why alarmism thrives in climate “science”: it’s because all the research money goes to those who sound the alarm bells.

This is a top notch piece from someone who understands how academia works. Well worth a read.

How Good is the University of Minnesota’s Epidemiological Model?

A reader sent me a long email expressing his doubts abut the epidemiological model that was cobbled together by three grad students overnight at the University of Minnesota in March and then invoked to justify Minnesota’s lockdown. This is the model that was unveiled with great fanfare by state officials last month and was relied upon by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz when deciding how to respond to the pandemic. According to an article on the University’s website, the model was developed by three graduates students who were called by a professor at the University’s School of Public Health on the evening of Friday March 20th and told the model needed to be ready to present to the Governor on Monday morning. “I don’t think a lot of researchers get to work on something over the weekend and have public figures talk about it and make decisions based on it three days later,” said Marina Kirkeide, who was on a gap year when she got the call.

The model predicted that 57,000 Minnesotans would die absent a lockdown and Governor Walz duly issued a stay-at-home order on March 25th, two days after the results of the simulation were presented to him.

So how shonky was the grad students’ model? I asked “Sue Denim”, the ex-Google engineer who reviewed Professor Ferguson’s model for Lockdown Sceptics, to take a look.

I did a quick scan of the code, insufficient to thoroughly check for bugs, but enough to get a feel for the likelihood of their presence. Despite being the work of rushed grad students it’s of a significantly higher quality than the Covid-Sim program from Imperial College – for example, the functions all have extensive comments explaining what they do, variables mostly have meaningful names, there are internal safety checks, and so on. It’s written in R, instead of C. R is a language designed for mathematical and scientific use, so the code is a much closer match for what the developer really means and is thus much easier to read. R manages memory automatically and thus the sort of basic memory errors found in the ICL code aren’t possible in this kind of program.

Model-wise, it explicitly takes into account hospital capacity, whereas Ferguson’s model ignored beds and assumed constant capacity throughout the entire epidemic. It has 36 parameters vs the over 400 parameters found in the ICL code. This is still large, but more reasonable.

Professor Ferguson’s team should sit through some lectures given by these students.

So that’s the good news. Unfortunately, it’s outweighed by the bad news. I agree with your reader’s comments about the dodgy assumptions. It’s obvious these models have severe theoretical flaws as different codebases keep generating predictions that are wrong, and always wrong in the same direction and magnitude. Beyond parametric difficulties and although this team doesn’t seem to have made the same kinds of staggering coding errors found in the ICL codebase, this is still academic code so the critical structural and process problems identified in my first and second analysis of the ICL code are still present.

1. Like before, the history of this program is missing. Taxpayers being able to check the work that was actually used to change policy is seen as unimportant.

2. Although there are no Covid-specific assumptions in the code, it was written fresh for this problem instead of re-using a battle-tested infrastructure. This is something ICL theoretically did better: they re-used a previous codebase from years ago, so it had plenty of time to be thoroughly written and validated. Ferguson’s team didn’t in fact use the time to do this, but could have if they’d cared, whereas in this case the code was written from scratch in a rush. Even with the best intentions and practices it could never have been subjected to proper validation.

3. There are still no unit or regression tests of any kind. Although they were rapidly changing this program under pressure (exactly the situation where mistakes are most likely to occur) ,nobody bothered writing any code to verify sub-functions or that results of e.g. a single time step matched expectations. That’s not surprising – in recent days scientists responding to comments by software engineers have explained that in academic science “if it looks right then it is right”.

Given this attitude, is it any wonder that epidemiological models keep producing estimates that are wrong when compared to real world outcomes, yet this doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the field ? And models appear no more accurate today than they were during the UK foot-and-mouth epidemic in 2001? Given the lack of any really Covid-specific assumptions that we’re seeing here, it would make sense to use generic models that are extensively unit tested against prior-observed outcomes, but we don’t see that.

Imagine if a piece of safety-critical software controlling a car were thrown together in a few days by some interns, sold into the market and then went wrong in some way that caused people to die. People would be incredibly angry. It would end up in court. In fact, we don’t have to imagine, because the case of the Toyota engine control system gives an example of what happens when standard practices aren’t followed. The code for the Toyota ECS looked very much like the code for Covid-Sim: written in C, many global variables, no working peer review process and other problematic practices. Although I think it was never proven that this led to unintended accelerations that killed people, there was also no way to convince a jury it didn’t. Unlike in academia, where so far we’ve seen widespread denial that any problems exist at all, Toyota ended up recalling nearly 10 million cars and dealing with multiple lawsuits. In one of those the court heard testimony about code quality: Toyota settled after they realised the testimony was devastating and they couldn’t win.

Bad code can be found anywhere. Markets and regulations can’t stop bad code being written, but they do ensure that when the systems are working low quality has consequences and gets pushed to the bottom of the barrel. Those consequences can range from losing customers to losing court cases. If there’s any academic equivalent of these outcomes it’s unclear what they are. Students determining the fate of millions of people will continue to occur for as long as policymakers incorrectly believe that academic output is of trustworthy quality.

Note on Yesterday’s Chart Showing UK Infections Peaked Before Lockdown

The chart I published yesterday provoked an interesting discussion in the comments, with several people asking where the author got his figure of a 23-day lag time between infection and death. After all, if the median lag time is significantly less than that, then the graph doesn’t show that infections peaked before the lockdown was imposed. I asked the reader who sent me the graph to respond:

The source is one of the first studies in Wuhan which was widely reported.

I’ve read some of the comments it attracted on your site. It’s a fair challenge that the time to death might be less than 23 days in the UK – for example, if the population is more elderly they might die quicker. But I don’t think that answers why the time gap is different between the UK and London. The lockdown was imposed across the country on the same date, so if that was the cause of infections declining surely it would have happened at the same time in London and the rest of the country?

I’ve dropped an email to Kit Yates, a statistician who features on a BBC Sounds Podcast talking about this specific point (which one of your other readers pointed to), to see if he has an explanation for this – and also why the time gap from lockdown to peak deaths varies so much from country to country. That’s the same point – if lockdowns work, you’d expect a consistent gap between the lockdown being imposed and deaths declining in each country where they’ve been imposed. But you don’t.

Another Chart Showing Lockdowns Don’t Work

This chart formed part of a presentation by JP Morgan to investors yesterday. It shows infections haven’t increased in those US states that have ended their lockdowns. The JP Morgan analyst told investors: “This means that the pandemic and COVID-19 likely have its own dynamics unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures that were being implemented.” NBC’s Carl Quintanilla did a Twitter thread on the presentation yesterday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s Anti-Media Rant

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=80&v=LXjQn4eGpi8&feature=emb_logo

This is worth a watch: Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, unleashes on the media for predicting he was conducting an experiment in “human sacrifice” by refusing to order a lockdown sooner than he did, and that Florida would be “the next Italy”. He also faced criticism when he became one of the first Governors to start easing restrictions at the end of April. In fact, Florida has had one of the lowest number of deaths per 100,000 of any state in the union. This probably has nothing to do with the four-week lockdown and more to do with DeSantis making sure elderly people infected with the virus were removed from care homes. You can watch his rant here.

Continuing School Closures are #NotOk

A group of concerned parents called Us For Them have launched a campaign to try and persuade schools to reopen – and without the ludicrously excessive and potentially harmful social distancing measures that nearly all schools are planning. The campaign’s hashtag is #NotOk. You can find out more about the #NotOk campaign, and sign a petition to show your support, here.

One of the people behind the campaign is Christine Brett, the market access consultant who wrote ‘How at Risk Are Your Children From Coronavirus?‘ for Lockdown Sceptics last week. Worth a read if you missed it the first time.

Cambridge Clarification

The University of Cambridge has issued a clarification following yesterday’s news that all lectures are moving online until the end of the next academic year. Turns out, face-to-face contact between students and academic staff will still take place, albeit from behind masks:

The University and the Colleges will welcome as many students as possible to Cambridge for the start of the next academic year, guided always by advice from Public Health England. We are committed to continuing to deliver high quality education to all our students and to delivering a rich student experience, while ensuring that we respond effectively to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small group teaching – supervisions, seminars or individual tuition – is at the heart of our educational provision and will continue in person as much as possible. Given the likely need for continued social distancing, we have decided to suspend mass lectures in person for the next academic year. Lectures will be available online; this system is already in place in some University Departments. Lectures are only one part of the rich education that Cambridge offers and freeing up space in lecture halls will allow us to concentrate on delivering small group teaching, language classes, lab work and practicals.

Colleges are planning to offer a wide range of activities, and will work hard to build up community life, even in the midst of social distancing.

Round-Up

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

Small Businesses That Have Reopened

Last week, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have reopened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have reopened near you. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet. We’re up to 500+ now – keep ’em coming.

Theme Tune Suggestions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0uvt97Xn20

Only one suggestion today, but it’s a goodie: ‘Deal Wiv It’ by Slowthia and Mura Masa.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. I’ve now got two journalists helping out and I’d like to pay them something, so if you feel like donating please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in tomorrow’s update, email me here. The site’s total page views have now passed one million and it’s averaging 54,000 visitors a day. We’re making a difference!

And Finally…

Have a read of my latest column in the Spectator. Trigger warning: this probably won’t appeal to left-wing readers of this site (and I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve tried to keep the partisan sniping to a minimum). Here are the opening two paragraphs:

It has become a commonplace among social psychologists that one of the characteristics that unites conservatives is our sensitivity to disgust. A succession of experiments carried out over the past ten years seems to show that a person’s political views are linked to how disgusting they find the idea of, say, touching a toilet seat in a public lavatory. The more repulsed you are, the more likely you are to hold conservative positions on issues like gay marriage, immigration and abortion. These findings have been lapped up by liberal social scientists since they confirm their view of conservatives as uptight control freaks whose love of hierarchy and tradition is rooted in an irrational fear of contagion.

But like many findings in psychology, these experiments haven’t always been easy to replicate and a meta – analysis of 24 studies in 2013 found that the relationship between conservative opinions and sensitivity to disgust was fairly modest. Today, I wouldn’t be surprised if people on the left are more easily repulsed than those on the right. It is liberals who seem to be gripped by a horror of contamination, not conservatives. How else to explain the enthusiasm with which they’ve welcomed the quarantining of whole populations as a way of managing the outbreak of coronavirus?

News Round Up

https://twitter.com/talkradio/status/1372130589889998849?s=21

Latest News

Don’t You Dare Enjoy the Sunshine

Yesterday, the R Rate was as low as it has ever been; infections, hospitalisations and deaths were continuing to drop; and Brits were told not to relax. MailOnline has the details.

Jonathan Van-Tam tonight urged Britons not to “relax” as the UK heads into a glorious weekend with the first warm weather for months, warning that “this is not a battle that we have won yet”.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England brought stern warnings to tonight’s Downing Street press conference when he told the public: “Do not wreck this now.”

Coronavirus cases are rising in dozens of parts of England, around one in five and mainly in the Midlands and the North, Professor Van-Tam said, and people must continue to follow lockdown rules for as long as they are in place.

He called for the UK to “hold our nerve” and added: “I do worry that people think it’s all over. The more they think that when it’s not, the greater the headwind they’re going to give to the vaccine programme and the more at risk will become the milestones set on the road map.”

His “sobering” warnings came as data show that Britain’s Covid outbreak is still firmly in retreat, with a catalogue of official figures today piling even more pressure on Boris Johnson to relax lockdown sooner. 

Department of Health bosses recorded another 8,523 coronavirus infections and 345 deaths – with both measures down by roughly a third week-on-week. More than 520,000 vaccines were also dished out, with nearly 19.2 million Britons now vaccinated. 

No 10’s top scientific advisory panel SAGE estimated the R rate – the average number of people each Covid patient infects – is still at the lowest level since records began in June, staying between 0.6 and 0.9.

Separate statistics from one of the country’s most respected surveillance studies showed England’s outbreak has nearly halved in size over the last fortnight. Office for National Statistics experts estimated 373,700 people would test positive for the virus on any given day in the week ending February 19th, or one in 145 residents. In comparison, the figure was almost 700,000 two weeks ago.

But a weekly report from a symptom-tracking app today warned daily cases had risen 3% in a week, to 9,545 in the seven-day spell ending February 21st. SAGE also estimated the R rate has crept up slightly in the South East, North West and the Midlands but insisted the figure is still below the crucial level of one.

Despite the troubling trend, one leading scientist today urged Britons “not to panic” because hospitalisations and Covid deaths were still falling – and said Number 10 was still on track to lift restrictions “sooner rather than later” because the UK is in a similar position to last May.

Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who is behind the app, added: “The difference this time is, while the variants may be more infectious, we have a vaccine that works and the older age groups are largely protected.”

Worth reading in full.

Over in the Spectator, Ross Clark comments on the deceleration in the decline of infections reported at the press conference.

But why should the decline in new infections be slowing down? There are several possible explanations. It is likely that people are beginning to tire of lockdown and are beginning to circulate, even to break the rules, a little more than they were in January. Then there is the weather: the week before last was especially cold; it may be that the virus was better able to spread in those conditions.

Today’s instalment of the Office of National Statistics’ infection survey seems to confirm that the prevalence of Covid infection has fallen in recent weeks. However, it only goes up to February 19th. Over the seven days to that date, it estimates that 373,000 people in England were infected with Covid – equating to 0.69% of the population. In the previous week, it estimated that 0.88% were infected. During the worst week – January 3rd to 9th– it was 2.08%.

Overall, the decline in deaths and hospitalisations seems to be much faster during the second wave than it was during the first wave. As far as infections are concerned, it is much harder to tell, because there was a huge ramp-up in the number of tests being performed last April. There is nothing in the figures so far to suggest that the Government’s plans for lifting lockdown and reopening society should be at risk.

Could it be that people are beginning to break the rules a little more? The Telegraph reports new ONS data on compliance with Social Distancing rules.

People are less likely to adhere to social distancing measures as increasing numbers are vaccinated, Government figures suggest.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data analysing the social impact of Covid during the period from February 17th to 21st found compliance with most measures to stop the spread remained high, with the proportions reporting always or often washing their hands after returning home (89%) and using a face covering (96%) unchanged from the previous week. 

However, researchers found that 86% of adults reported always or often maintaining social distance when meeting people outside their support bubble – lower than last week, when it stood at 91%.

The lower compliance comes as personal happiness levels have begun to increase and a growing number of people receive Covid jabs amid a decline in vaccine scepticism.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Tim Spector makes a good point about the slowing decline in cases.

https://twitter.com/timspector/status/1365344870890680322

What is the Truth About Covid Deaths?

The Daily Mail has splashed on mounting concerns about doctors wrongly putting “novel coronavirus” as the cause of death on death certificates when it’s blindingly obvious to the relatives of those who’ve died that their death had nothing to do with Covid.

Grieving families last night said deaths had been wrongly certified as COVID-19.

Demanding an inquiry, top medical experts and MPs also insisted they were “certain” that too many fatalities were being blamed on the virus.

One funeral director said it was “a national scandal”. The claims are part of a Daily Mail investigation that raises serious questions over the spiralling death toll.

More than 100 readers wrote heartbreaking letters following a moving article by Bel Mooney last Saturday. She revealed the death of her 99-year-old father, who suffered from dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was recorded as coronavirus.

Dozens expressed similar frustrations that the causes of death of elderly and already-unwell relatives had been wrongly attributed. Eight of the families who wrote to the Daily Mail have successfully urged doctors to change causes of death previously recorded as COVID-19.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: “The Government should call a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic immediately with an interim investigation into all Covid deaths that should report as soon as possible.”

Tory MP Paul Bristow, a member of the Commons health committee, said: “It’s almost certain that a number of deaths have been wrongly attributed to COVID-19.

“Not only has this skewed figures when data has been so important in deciding how we respond to the pandemic, it has caused distress and anxiety for relatives.

“Whether we have received the most appropriate figures should definitely be considered in any future inquiry.”

A funeral director in the North West told the Mail: “The way Covid has been recorded and reported is a national scandal and a thorough enquiry should be opened immediately.”

Medical experts have cited pressure on doctors to include COVID-19 as a cause of death because it was last year ruled a ‘notifiable disease’, meaning any case needs to be reported officially.

Professor Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “When this all comes out in the wash, we will find out we have over-recorded COVID-19 as a cause of death.”

Richard Vautrey, who chairs the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the toll may have been overstated at the beginning of the pandemic when testing was not widely available and “cause of death would have been based on best judgement of clinical symptoms”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are confident the death statistics are robust and provide an accurate picture of those who have sadly died from the virus. The guidance to doctors completing a medical certificate of cause of death explains they are expected to state cause of death to the best of their medical knowledge and belief.”

Worth reading in full.

It’s great to see a national newspaper finally digging into this story.

Why Has Boris Thrown the Hospitality Sector to the Wolves?

Cartoon by Brian Adcock in the Independent on August 11th 2020

As with the lockdown, so with the Roadmap: few industries can have suffered more than hospitality from the Government’s cack-handed attempts to minimise the COVID-19 death toll. Pubs will not be allowed to open until April 12th, and even then only to offer an outdoor service. Johnnie Arkwright, who runs a visitor attraction called Hatton Country World in Warwick – as well as a local pub – feels that the sector has been thrown to the wolves. This is his statement to the local media,

Not being allowed to open the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs at the end of March in time for Easter is a major financial blow for many desperately stretched small hospitality businesses; and it’s down to serious anomalies in the PM’s Roadmap to Lift Lockdown.

It must be a nonsense to let playgrounds in public parks stay open throughout Lockdown, after-school activities to proceed from March 8th, amateur contact sports like football with 22 players to start on March 29th and then to continue to ban family groups from the ‘Outside’ areas of rural attractions and pubs until the middle of April.

Under the proposals, the Great Outdoors, with all its fresh air and space to socially distance, can only open at the same time as higher risk ‘Enclosed Areas’ like non-essential shops and gyms in the middle of April.  

Even drive-in Cinemas are banned till then, despite the fact that families never even get out of their cars – surely, no reason for them not to be open now!  

And, actually, why on Earth keep shops closed for another seven weeks when Garden Centres have remained open throughout the current lockdown?

None of us want another false dawn again, but when we at Hatton Country World were allowed to open last summer, we entertained well over a thousand people a day without a single COVID-19 case by taking sensible precautions – pre-booking so we could Track and Trace, restricting numbers, maximum family groups of six, not opening enclosed areas, taking temperatures, installing social distance markers, hand sanitiser points, and so on .

That, of course, was before the more vulnerable elements of our society were all vaccinated in the brilliant initiative that has put the UK at the forefront of the Western world.

Frankly, the chances of small family groups catching COVID-19 in an outdoor environment is minimal anyway. 

As for pubs and restaurants – we all understand why packed boozers and boogying nightclubs need to wait. But keeping the inside of food-led pubs and restaurants with table service closed for another three months – really?

The hospitality sector has been closed for eight of the last 12 months – we’re all right on the edge. The detail of this blanket plan has not been properly thought through, and more businesses will close completely unnecessarily unless changes to the plan are made.

With closures come, of course, job losses – mostly the under-25s and school leavers who staff the hospitality sector, the same young people who have already been hit so hard by the pandemic for which they will also be paying most of their lives.  

Let’s pray that Parliament makes the Government see sense.

The More Stringent the Lockdown, the Higher the Covid Death Toll

Spot the association with Covid outcomes

Last week brought the news that Britain’s Covid response was ranked among the toughest in the world by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. Only two countries ranked higher on the school’s stringency index – Lebanon and Venezuela. What does that tell us about the effectiveness of our national response? One Lockdown Sceptics reader with a head for numbers has analysed this data against their reported cases and deaths and made a striking observation:

Anecdote is not data, so the recent revelation that the UK has among the harshest anti-Covid policies but also among the highest Covid case and death rates does not prove that lockdowns (and the other fun response measures) are useless. It’s more meaningful actually to look at the whole of the data on national policy responses and COVID incidence/harm.

The Oxford University Blavatnik School’s index of COVID-19 policy ‘stringency’ (comprising 18 policy indicators) covers over 180 countries, ranking stringency on a scale 0 to 100. The UK was 81 on February 23rd. At worldometers there are data on Covid cases, deaths and tests for 220 countries or so.

By aligning these two data bases together – mainly leaving out countries where the Blavatnik School doesn’t have policy data – the correlation between policy rigour and Covid cases/deaths can be calculated. Now, we all know “correlation isn’t causation”. Indeed, the British Journal of Medicine only goes so far as saying correlation “is used in everyday life to denote some form of association”. And the ‘correlation coefficient’ measures the strength of this association, on a scale from -1 (perfect negative; one variable moves opposite the other perfectly) to +1 (perfect positive; one variable moves in tandem with the other perfectly).

The correlation coefficients I calculated are also ‘good’ for only one point in time – I’m simply looking at the association of the latest known data we have on Covid harm and anti-Covid policy. This could be improved by looking at average values since Covid began, but it’s a good enough place to start.

Now you’d expect, if you’d been listening to ‘the science’ for a whole year, that the association between Covid harm and policy response would be negative, wouldn’t you, i.e., the more draconian the policy, the better the Covid outcome. You’d be wrong.

The correlation coefficients with policy stringency are:  +0.35 with COVID cases and +0.38 with COVID deaths! On the face of it – data remember, not anecdote – the harsher the anti-Covid regime the worse the Covid harm.

Is this significant? Well, in a purely statistical sense, yes. There are tables to check, and on the basis of a sample size of 170 countries used here, correlations of 0.35 and 0.38 are indeed ‘significant’ (handsomely so).

A couple of pictures might save a thousand or two words. Quite clearly ‘the experts’ have deployed a scatter gun to fight Covid. Policy stringency varies from Somalia at 2.8 (413 cases per million, 14 deaths per million according to Worldometers) to Lebanon at 93 (54,324 cases per million and 677 deaths)

But through this scatter, the ‘association’ between policy and COVID harm is not ‘linear’. Above stringency of around 60, increases in policy bloody-mindedness are associated with faster rises in Covid cases and deaths.

The takeaway, as it were, is demand ‘cold turkey’; let’s do a Somalia and watch Covid cases and deaths go zero-wards.

A Response to Ian Dunt’s Anti-Sceptic Screed by a Law Professor

Yesterday’s round-up linked to a piece by Ian Dunt, arguing, that lockdown scepticism is “an ethical abyss”. There follows a response by Dr David McGrogan, Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School

Ian Dunt describes lockdown scepticism as “an ethical abyss” in a recent article – “a testament,” he puts it, “to how certain commentators and politicians will allow their need for attention to overrule even the most rudimentary of moral standards.”

This is, of course, kneejerk mainstream opinion: lockdown sceptics are immoral because they don’t care about grannies dying. It is also complete nonsense on its face, as we all know: one could just as readily respond that lockdown zealots are immoral because they don’t care about children’s futures or about cancer patients or about the death of liberal democracy. That doesn’t ultimately get us very far. It has been my argument since March 2020 that the main argument against lockdowns is that they actually make ethical conduct impossible. Indeed, they deprive human beings of that most fundamental characteristic of humanity: the ability to make ethical choices of one’s own. In that sense, they represent the complete absence or negation of ‘ethics’ properly understood. So the phrase “ethical abyss” is absolutely on the money – the perfect descriptor of the lockdown movement.

Michel Foucault once said that “freedom is the ontological condition of ethics”. That is a fancy French post-structuralist’s way of saying that ethics cannot exist without freedom. What does this mean? Very simply, if you are being forced to ‘do the right thing’, or you just do so to comply with the law or social expectation, then you can hardly be said to be acting ethically. You are just doing what you’re told, or what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, and that isn’t the exercise of any genuine sort of ethics. The only time you can properly be described as acting ethically is when you have a choice to do two or more things, and you make that choice in reference to ethical standards of your own. To simplify things rather, Adam and Eve were not acting ethically in the garden of Eden – until they had the choice to eat the forbidden fruit or not.

Foucault did not dismiss the difficulty of all of this. How does one generate one’s own ethical standards, and exercise choice on that basis? How does one cultivate in oneself the propensity to act ethically? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are not impossible ones, and indeed Foucault was attempting to chart a path to genuine self-actualising ethics before his untimely death. What he was clear about was that the whole enterprise was contingent on acting freely. “Freedom is a practice,” he once said in an interview. You have to do it. In doing it, in acting freely, and in reflecting on what it is doing, one can develop within oneself the propensity to act in light of ethical standards of one’s own. The two things go hand in hand: ethics do not exist without freedom; freedom is ethics’ ontological condition.

The lockdown movement is responsible for many great crimes but the greatest might be depriving people of their moral agency – depriving them of the capacity to make ethical choices. Our ethics have been determined for us. In taking our freedom away from us, the Government has taken away our capacity to develop ethically, indeed to act ethically at all. We do not exercise our own judgment about risk and the harms we might do to others – choosing to stay at home, choosing to limit social interactions, choosing to wear a mask if we think it important. We act mostly only in reference to ‘the rules’.

Lockdown zealots like Ian Dunt will say that this is all to the good, because people can’t possibly be trusted to behave ethically (or at least with the ‘right’ ethics) if left to their own devices. They will have parties, they will hug their grannies, they will watch football matches, and they will kill people as a result. Maybe, maybe not, but what we can really be sure of is that their capacity to exercise genuine ethical conduct, on Foucault’s terms, will wither and die on the vine the longer lockdownism prevails. They will become ever more dependent on predetermined ethical standards, selected for them, and ever less able to develop that most essential of human capacities, the ability to determine one’s own moral fate. How, when this lockdown is over, will people ever revert to the position of acting, not in reference to what the government says is permissible, but in reference to their own ethical standards? How will children grow into fully formed adults if they can’t exercise ethical choices of their own? How will our society recover when the State has imposed its own ethics in between every single one of us in such an intrusive way, and for so long?

This is the real enormity of what lockdowns are doing. This is the real ethical abyss.

The Ne Plus Ultra of Zero-Zealotry

In an article for the New Statesman, Professor Gabriel Scally argues that it is not too late to pursue a Zero Covid strategy. Guy de la Bédoyère, historian and Lockdown Sceptics regular, felt that this prime example of Zero Covid absurdity required a response on these pages, and so here it is.

Those of us contribute to and read Lockdown Sceptics have had the opportunity to consider a wide range of views. There’s been a healthy debate. I’ve tried to steer something of a middle course in an effort to find common ground that might help us get out of this mess.

I’ll lay my cards on the table. I am going to be vaccinated as soon as I can. That is my choice, and I am glad that it is my choice.

I accept for example that in order to protect other people I needed to learn to drive and to have a driving licence to prove it. Similarly, I accept the normal passport as a means of proving who I am and protecting me and everyone else from maniacs and others not entitled to come to this country. I also accept that there are consequences of making choices. If I choose not to have a driving licence, then I would have to accept I cannot drive on a public road. And I doubt if anyone would want me to. If I chose freely not to have a passport then I would not be allowed to travel. So, I have no problem with the notion of vaccine choice as another facet of choice with consequences. I grew up at a time when large numbers of children had polio, a disease that gradually dwindled away as a result of the vaccine program.

That is all about freedom of choice. However, occasionally something pops up that is so horrifying it sends a chill down my spine, and freedom of choice is at the heart of it.

I have just opened the latest edition of New Statesman and found myself reading an article by Professor Gabriel Scally, President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine. The article, which extols the virtues of Zero Covid, is a portal into the level of insanity evolving behind closed doors among some of the scientific community.

In this extraordinary piece of zero-zealotry Scally is pleased to point out that many of the countries which have dealt with the pandemic ‘effectively’ are islands. Oblivious to the vastly differing population sizes and profiles, and geographical locations, he lumps them together with the success achieved by one-party states in other geographical settings like Thailand and Vietnam (where the median age is lower, and the incidence of obesity is also lower). One has an instant sense of where this is going.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: It was reported yesterday that the UK’s Coronavirus ‘alert’ level has been lowered from level five to four, as the risk in all four nations that the NHS could be overwhelmed has receded. One reader posed an interesting question: Given that Zero Covid is apparently not the policy of the British Government, one must assume that it is accepted that there will continue to be some transmission. Does that mean that the alert level can never sink below ‘two’ and that there will therefore forever be some level of minimal social distancing and enhanced tracing?

An Incredible Berk of Staggering Ignorance

Owen thinks he’s landed a knock out blow on Alastair Campbell. Alastair isn’t so sure

Today we’re publish a new essay by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University and regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. Here she responds to a recent video by Owen Jones, whose title “The Deniers” tells you everything you need to know about its contents. Dr Murphy sees in Jones’s supreme confidence and unmannerliness, an illustration of the ‘Covid Differend’, a concept devised by Michel Foucault to describe an impasse between two sides in a dispute that is irresolvable.

Over a week ago, the journalist Owen Jones posted a video on his YouTube channel. Its title: “The Deniers.”

I have not been a reader of Jones’s writings nor a viewer of his videos, but I have been aware of his relatively high profile as an opinion columnist and an interviewer. Nothing could have prepared me for his performance in “The Deniers”.

Jones’s demeanour in this video is that of a bad-tempered child who, from the safety of his mother’s skirts, entertains himself by taunting his chosen targets – he pulls faces, he calls names, and he mocks the objects of his petulance with hand gestures and sarcasm of the most puerile variety.

Jones’s victims are professional people – just like him. Among them: Professor Karol Sikora, former Chief of the Cancer Programme of the World Health Organisation; Professor Sunetra Gupta, Chair of Theoretical Epidemiology at University of Oxford; Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal’s Evidence-Based Medicine provision; and Dr Michael Yeadon, former Head of Allergy and Respiratory Research at Pfizer Global.

These are the people – the ‘Deniers’ – at whom Jones makes his faces and levels his taunts. More than once, he uses his hands to place notional quotation marks around Karol Sikora’s academic title. What is this to suggest? That Karol Sikora is not a professor, or not a real one, or not a good one? Jones all but spits the word “oncologist” in his description of Sikora’s area of scientific practice, with the caveat that there’s “nothing wrong with that” and that “we all have our opinions”. Nothing wrong with world-renowned expertise in the treatment of cancer? The medical opinions of a leading cancer specialist, neither better nor worse than those of anyone else?

The ignorance of Jones’s opinionating, let alone its unmannerliness, is staggering. That any one of his targets would address him in this way is inconceivable – every convention of professional conduct is against it.

So as to rise to something better than mere scorn at this degrading display, I began to consider the question: What is it that has given Owen Jones such assuredness, such an implicit sense of immunity from censure, that he puts himself abroad in this way – so full of his own opinions, so lacking in respect, so unmoderated, so misjudged? If it is the style of a mean-spirited child sticking out his tongue from behind his mother’s skirts, then from what does Jones’s extraordinary sense of security stem? Whence his heady experience of standing on ground that is so protected from counter-argument or criticism that he can throw aside established forms of reasonable and respectful exchange of ideas and indulge himself in childish antics?

Worth reading in full.

COVID-1984

We are continuing to get some great slogans for COVID-1984. Here are a few of the best.

ISOLATION IS COMMUNITY
LOVE IS FEAR
SILENCE IS ELOQUENCE
DISTANCE IS CLOSENESS
BREATHING IS SELFISHNESS
SANITY IS ACCEPTING ABSURDITY
TO LEAD IS TO FOLLOW
TO HUG IS TO HATE
MASKS ARE FREEDOM
VACCINATION IS LIBERATION

And one reader thought Shakespeare said it all

FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL IS FAIR

Round-up

https://twitter.com/Unlocked_UK_/status/1365323598995496960

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Eleven today: “Minority” by Subhumans, “If The Kids Are United” by Sham 69, “Questions” by Manfred Mann, “Same Old Blues” by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, “Shadow of a Doubt” by Sonic Youth, “On My Radio” by Selecter, “Everything’s Ruined” by Faith No More, “Down Down” by Status Quo, “Hey Hey Bad News” by Bad News, “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai and “Help!” by the Beatles.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as 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. 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 la langue française, which, if some of the woker voices in France have their way, will become even harder for us rosbifs to get our tongues around. Happily this looks unlikely. Anthony Peregrine has the details for the Telegraph.

In some dim and distant future, leisure travel to France might once again become possible. Those wishing to take advantage in order, among other things, to brush up their French should be holding their breaths right now. They should be hoping that France’s simmering campaign to promote “inclusive writing” falls flat, and falls flat fast. Irregular French verbs are, they will know, enough of a challenge already, without the added headache of tangling with a woke revision of the language.

Granted, the signs are promising. More than 60 French MPs have this week tabled a proposition to stop France’s vast, heaving public administration from using “gender inclusive” words. Former PM Edouard Philippe had already ordered something along these lines, but it seems the message needs ramming home more firmly. The MPs, drawn both from Emmanuel Macron’s party and the conservative Republicans, are to have the draft law debated in the French parliament in coming weeks…

Standard French – you know, a world language for a couple of millennia and still spoken by more than 300 million people in France and beyond – holds that a group of neighbours be termed by the masculine “voisins”. That is the case even if the vast majority are women, even if they are all women except for one man. The feminine version of the word, “voisines”, is only used if there’s no male among the group. L’écriture inclusive would correct this gender “imbalance” with things apparently called middots. The word would thus be rendered “voisin.e.s”, thus covering masculine and feminine. Yes. Really. Everyone would be happy. Or, to put it another way, half a dozen zealots would be very happy indeed.

Apart from being visibly bonkers, and unpronounceable, the change would mangle the language into incomprehensibility. Among very many objections, one concerns adjectives. In France, as you know, these agree with the gender of the noun they describe. Thus we wouldn’t be stopping at vandalising the word “voisins”. We’d have to corrupt any accompanying adjective, too. So “kind neighbours” – presently “voisins gentils” – would become “voisin.e.s gentil.le.s”. Good luck with getting your tonsils round that. And you can imagine how great it’s going to look on the pages of a novel. It will improve Flaubert no end.

A further complication is that France has no neutral “they”. The third person plural pronoun is gender sensitive. If you want to say “they”, you have to specify whether the people or things indicated are masculine or feminine: in other words, “ils” or “elles”. Take the neighbours. Having established they’re kind, we now learn they are organising a street party. How do we tackle that? “I.elle.s organisent une fête de rue”? Is that even sayable ?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Douglas Murray takes a look at the ‘cancellation’ of Professor Gregory Clark in UnHerd, who was unable to give a lecture at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School because of its title: “For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A Lineage of 400,000 Individuals 1750-2020 Shows Genetics Determines Most Social Outcomes.” What is the woke mob so scared of, asks Murray?

Stop Press 2: “Putin has weaponised western wokery – and Amnesty has been fooled,” says John Lloyd in CapX, referring to the case of Alexei Navalny, and the way attention was drawn to his Nationalist views.

“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: At the press conference yesterday, Dr Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Advisor to Public Health England, warned against forcing primary school children to wear masks, the Daily Mail reports.

A top Public Health England adviser said experts were “very strongly” against advising coverings for primary-age youngsters.

Dr Susan Hopkins told last night’s Downing Street press conference: “This is for two reasons.

“One is that they can have difficulties wearing them and keeping them on all day.

“The second part is that it is really important that they can see facial expressions in order to develop their communication and language skills.”

Dr Hopkins added that other risk-reducing measures were in place instead, as well as plans to test the families of primary school pupils when they return to class.

Stop Press 2: At the CPAC conference in Florida, hosts were booed for asking guests to wear masks.

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…

The World Economic Forum has released a video celebrating the impact of the lockdowns on cities. No, you didn’t read that wrong. The WEF likes the fact that there are fewer cars driving round, fewer planes in the sky and fewer people on the street. Oh, and less “ambient noise”.

They really are psychopaths, aren’t they?

The 76 MPs Who Deserve Our Praise

These are the 76 MPs who voted against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act for a further six months this afternoon, plus two tellers.

Conservative

Adam Afriyie (Windsor)

Steve Baker (Wycombe)

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)

Bob Blackman (Harrow East)

Peter Bone (Wellingborough)

Sir Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)

Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds)

Philip Davies (Shipley)

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden)

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)

Richard Drax (South Dorset)

Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford)

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil)

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean)

Philip Hollobone (Kettering)

David Jones (Clwyd West)

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire)

Jonathan Lord (Woking)

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)

Karl McCartney (Lincoln)

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage)

Esther McVey (Tatton)

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

John Redwood (Wokingham)

Andrew Rosindell (Romford)

Henry Smith (Crawley)

Julian Sturdy (York Outer)

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West)

Sir Robert Syms (Poole)

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne)

David Warburton (Somerton and Frome)

William Wragg (Hazel Grove)

Labour

Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington)

Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse)

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

Richard Burgon (Leeds East)

Dawn Butler (Brent Central)

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish)

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck)

Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields)

Clive Lewis (Norwich South)

Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles)

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

Ian Mearns (Gateshead)

Kate Osamor (Edmonton)

Kate Osborne (Jarrow)

Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham)

John Spellar (Warley)

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton)

Zarah Sultana (Coventry South)

Jon Trickett (Hemsworth)

Derek Twigg (Halton)

Beth Winter (Cynon Valley)

Liberal Democrat

Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife)

Daisy Cooper (St Albans)

Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Wera Hobhouse (Bath)

Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West)

Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon)

Sarah Olney (Richmond Park)

Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Munira Wilson (Twickenham)

Democratic Unionist Party

Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry)

Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

Paul Girvan (South Antrim)

Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann)

Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East)

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim)

Green Party

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)

Alliance

Stephen Farry (North Down)

Independent

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)

Tellers

Chris Green (Conservative, Bolton West)

Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat, Orkney and Shetland)

The final toll was 484 votes to 76, giving the Government a majority of 408. The MailOnline has more.

Stop Press: Toby says: “Good to see Layla Moran in the ‘no’ lobby. When I debated her at the Cambridge Union in January she was pro-lockdown. Let’s hope the superior arguments on our side of the debate helped to change her mind.”

Why the Left Should Oppose Lockdown

by Phil Shannon

The Durham Miners’ Gala

Preamble

The contemporary left’s support for an economically devastating, authoritarian lockdown, which doesn’t even achieve its limited public health aims, is one of the more remarkable developments in current politics. With its support for extreme ‘social distancing’, the left has reached a new nadir in the ‘political distancing’ between it and its traditional working class constituency, a relationship that has been fraying badly since the democratic, national, working class populist upsurge of recent years as symbolised by the Brexit referendum, the thumping Get-Brexit-Done electoral victory of Boris Johnson, and the surprising Trump miracle.

The left’s lockdown betrayal of the working class further accelerates its decline into political irrelevance. This is not a cause for celebration, especially for someone like myself, a four-decade Australian veteran of working class socialism including as a trade union activist, and member of the Communist Party of Australia and more Trotskyist grouplets than you could shake a Program of the Fourth International at, who still cooks on the left burner (see author’s page here).

What follows is an attempt to understand how and why the left has got into such a pickle over lockdown and how it can begin to resurrect its political integrity.

Why the left (and not just the left) should oppose lockdown
Science
  • The virus is not the virus to end all viruses. The herd immunity threshold is apparently much lower than expected because of cross-immunity due to the common cold and other coronaviruses. Most people (other than the aged with specific comorbidities) who contract it are either asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Panicked by one spectacularly bonkers epidemiological model, however, health authorities and politicians across the planet have done their most flamboyant ‘Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!’ impressions, and massively overstated the virulence and lethality of the virus to justify the lockdown lunacy they rushed to institute in order to be seen to be doing something. The virus did not herald the End Times, there never was a curve to be flattened, it never gave cause for draconian lockdown measures.
Public Health
  • Lockdown simply doesn’t work on its own terms. Regardless of if, or when, lockdown was implemented, or how draconian its scope, within and between different countries, the trajectory of the virus, as of other viral pathogens, has followed a natural bell curve of exponential rise, plateau and rapid decline (over just a month or two for the current one) as it hits the limits of natural or acquired herd immunity (Farr’s Law – still going strong since William Farr formulated it in 1840!).
  • Lockdown will kill many times more people (from health conditions left undiagnosed and untreated, and from the so-called ‘diseases of despair’ that accompany economic distress) than the virus could ever manage.
The Economy
  • Quarantining the healthy is economically catastrophic, with Depression-era levels of unemployment, business closures, and mind-numbing long-term government debts and deficits. A demographically-targeted, strategic approach of protecting the vulnerable would have had far better financial (as well as health) outcomes both for the vulnerable and for the whole population.
Liberty and Freedom

With precious little opposition, lockdown has ushered in:

  • ‘Police-state’ powers conferred by emergency decree
  • Suspension of democratic accountability – both parliamentary democracy, and the democracy of the streets (unless it’s for an approved, i.e. woke, cause such as #BLM – that’s allowed!)
  • Fettering the rights to free speech
  • State surveillance (there’s an app for that!)
  • Tech giant censorship
  • Nauseous government propaganda, and
  • Simplistic, in-your-face agit-prop from the establishment media, both private and state
What the left could uniquely contribute to opposition to lockdown
An economic, working class perspective

The left should be emphasising the economic aspect of lockdown because it is the working class who are the principal victims of lockdown. The political right, by contrast, are more authentic when representing the profit-making owners of capital rather than the proletarians they employ, the latter having to content themselves with, at best, an amalgam of conservative economic nostrums such as ‘trickle-down theory’ and ‘a rising sea floats all boats’.

Including retired workers and the young who are destined for a wage/salary-earning future, the working class, those who have to sell their labour to an employer, are the vast bulk of the population. The left thus has the biggest constituency, by far, affected by the economic devastation of lockdown.

A view from the global poor

The rural and other subsistence poor in developing nations are also big losers – from their own countries’ lockdowns and from the contraction of economic demand in the lockdowned richer countries. Three-quarters of new coronavirus cases now detected occur in developing countries and are forecast to increase the prevalence of global ‘extreme poverty’ (living on less than US$1.90 per day) by some 400 million, increasing global ‘extreme’ poverty from one in ten of the global population to around one in seven, and total poverty (living on less than $US5.50 a day) to one in two of the world’s people. This economic hit to the global poor is a result partly of the direct health-related costs of the virus itself but is likely to arise mostly from a population-wide lockdown impacting on the productive, working age population in developing countries because the aged, the most at-risk for the virus, are a much smaller proportion of the total population in poorer countries than they are in the West.

How the left has failed on the virus/lockdown

So, it should be a lay-down-misere for the left to oppose the lockdown on the left’s bread-and-butter economic issues affecting the working class (and the global poor).

It should also be entry-level politics for the left to oppose lockdown on those non-economic issues where lockdown policy dilutes civil liberties and free speech, and strengthens political authoritarianism, censorship, media power, etc.

In the past, the left would have gone off like a firecracker on all the above issues, not least because, historically, it has been the working class which has been the left’s core political stomping ground, and it has been the left which has been the target for repression, censorship and denial of free speech by the capitalist state.

The ideological failings of the lockdown left

What the left has delivered re lockdown, however, are stunning volte-faces on fundamental questions of working class material living standards and on the issues of political and ideological power, such as:

  • The economic hit to the working class: The left has displayed either mute unconcern over the economic cost of lockdown to the working class, or passive acceptance of the ‘necessary evil’ of lockdown in a bizarre twist of the old Vietnam War saying that ‘to save the village [from communists/COVID] we had to destroy the village [the people/the economy]’.
  • The global poor: Finding the developed world’s (white) working class insufficiently reverential of the ‘Other’ (the West’s BAME people – Black and Minority Ethnic – are the sum total of the left’s attention nowadays), the left has increasingly switched its focus to the world’s poor (BAME writ large), who are now, however, to be thrown under the lockdown bus by the left as lockdown drastically ramps up global poverty.
  • Science: The left has rightly demanded that science should prevail over ideology (on climate change, for example) when determining public policy, yet ‘The [Selective] Science’ invoked by politicians, and uncritically embraced by the left, to justify lockdown is either bogus, not proven or still up-for-grabs, and now serves the role of self-justification for promoters of an (ineffective) lockdown.
  • Obedience to authority: ‘Question authority!’ used to be the operating principle of the old left. Now, however, on lockdown, the stance of the left appears to be ‘bow down and obey’ as it welcomes policy dictation from above, including the various placebo-like, theatrical ‘social distancing’ rituals (facemasks and tracing apps and social spacing) that dramatically hype the limited threat of the virus. For the lockdown left, the punchline to the old joke set-up of ‘How can you tell when a politician is lying?’ (answer – ‘When their lips move’) has stolen away in the pandemic panic night.
  • The media: ‘Always believe the opposite of what the media say’ was once the default setting of the left which was clear-eyed about the establishment media’s role as the propaganda arm of the wealthy ruling class. Now, however, the lockdown left has proven itself to be disappointingly susceptible to a media-confected atmosphere of dread and hysteria foregrounded against the omnipresent graphic of a scary virus, or a harried doctor in full PPE, or a nurse in scrubs, that forms the visual backdrop to every emotionally manipulative virus news item, all invoking a sense of Crisis! Crisis! Crisis! and demanding severe lockdown in response. The left’s political compliance with government lockdown guidance, rules, regulations and laws has been surprisingly cheaply acquired.
  • Hypocrisy: Cognitive dissonance is the order of the day for the lockdown left. The imperative to elevate woke pieties above class priorities has, for example, highlighted the woke left’s support for the #BLM protests-cum-riots which flouted the very ‘social distancing’ norms that the left had been, up to then, enthusiastically pushing. Of course, the same leftist priests of social-distancing pronounce anathema on anti-lockdown protests or a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For the woke/lockdown left, we’re not ‘all in this together’ – hypocritical political exemptions apply.
The behavioural failings of the lockdown left

The ideological failings of the left on lockdown are accompanied by a pronounced tendency to behave in politically-revealing stylistic ways, including:

  • Belligerence: Converse with most lockdown leftists and you will be struck by their hostility to sceptical views and their lack of respect for the holders of those views. Calm discussion of evidentiary and political differences on lockdown has been replaced by the left’s need to beat down lockdown apostates in heated argument, not with better ideas but with belligerence. In politics, as in fashion, ‘the style is the man’ and the lockdown/woke left’s antagonistic and intimidating behaviour reflects poorly on a political grouping that claims to value liberalism, tolerance and ‘diversity’.
  • Straw Men: Say that lockdown doesn’t work and is worse than the disease and the sceptic will swiftly be accused of being a callous granny-killer, a moral monster who places ‘money’ ahead of ‘lives’, and profit over people (cf. the facile “No life is worth losing to add one more point to the Dow” of Joe Biden, or the rhetorical doing whatever it takes to “save just one life” homily of New York governor, Andrew Cuomo). Setting up straw men (lockdown sceptic = murderer) to knock down is so much easier than respectfully contesting an exchange of ideas or exploring strategies such as demographically-targeting the vulnerable for protection from the virus.
  • Smear by association: Oppose the lockdown? Why, says the lockdown leftist, you must be one of those kooky 5G conspiracists or whatever. Case dismissed. Yes, it is true that some strange political life-forms attach themselves to the fringes of lockdown scepticism. But neither is the left free from a history of its own unwanted and unattractive political relatives, particularly the wild and fundamentally anti-democratic anarchists, up to and including the Antifa goons and Extinction Rebellion loons. Guilt-by-association is a tawdry debating gambit whether used by left or right. Neither the left nor the right can enforce an ideological purity test to control who marches under their banner. There is not much either can do about the loose threads in the great tapestry of political life.
  • Virtue-signalling: Left lockdown lovers portray themselves, overtly or by implication, as a better class of person who is superior to the lockdown sceptic – intellectually superior to those they misrepresent as ‘Deniers’ of ‘The Science’ and morally superior to those whom they caricature as being more concerned with ‘the economy’ over health. We, say the left, may have lost a democratic national referendum or an election but we are still better than the nativists, the xenophobes, the gap-toothed, knuckle-dragging deplorables and, now, the heartless lockdown sceptics who are prepared to cruelly cull society of its old geezers.
Why has the left got it so wrong on lockdown?

Given the sign-off in the US and UK on national lockdown guidelines by both Donald Trump and Boris ‘Get-Brexit-Done’ Johnson, there was a glimmer of hope that the left could come out swinging against a lockdown endorsed by their intensely-hated bêtes noires. Opposition to lockdown could have chimed with the left’s noisy imprecations about evil Tories and wicked Republicans responsible for a lockdown which has savaged the working class. This never materialised, however. Why?

The defeat of the trade unions: Neo-liberalism, Thatcher-Reagan and the rise of Woke

The left’s abandonment of the working class for woke politics is the sour fruit resulting from the defeat of the western labour movement in the 1980s when capital, hit by a severe oil crisis, sought to restore capitalist profitability by making the working class pay. At the forefront of this resurgent neo-liberalism was the neutering of the then-powerful trade union movement, an assault led by the dozy Reagan and the flinty Thatcher, who proved to be more aggressive class brawlers than the defensive organs of labour. In industrial battles of Iwo Jima prominence (Reagan vs the air traffic controllers, and Thatcher vs the coal miners), the neo-liberal victory over militant trade unions demoralised the whole labour movement, sent trade union membership into freefall (aided by structural changes in the economy) and juiced up a “globalisation” which imported cheap foreign labour through ‘open borders’ and off-shored domestic industry to cheap labour countries.
Bereft of its crucial labour support base, a left that once defined itself by the principle of ‘class struggle’ now reaches out to a coalition of the social fringes, what Hillary Clinton extolled as a “rainbow of discontents” who primarily define themselves by race, ethnicity, sex and other identity classification rather than class.
In this break-up between the left and the working class, the left did a reverse ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ routine and blamed the working class for the moral and political failings (‘White privilege,’ ‘toxic masculinity’ and other woke analytical concepts) of the relationship, woke concerns which now preoccupy most of the left.

Derangement Syndromes afflicting the left

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and Brexit/Boris Derangement Syndrome (BDS)
In response to being jilted by their long-term working class partners, most of the left has succumbed to what the right duly, and accurately, mock as political Derangement Syndromes. The democratic, populist, assertive working class revolts manifested in the Brexit/Boris and Trump electoral outcomes has seemingly traumatised the woke left which reflexively dismisses such political phenomena as racist, xenophobic and reactionary nationalist eruptions instigated by ‘far-right’ demagogues. The Trump and Brexit/Boris phenomena were wrong, ill-informed and morally bad choices, says the woke left, wilful choices made by a working class inadequately enamoured of the economic wonders of globalisation, particularly mass Third World immigration and outsourcing, and its attendant woke politics.
Implicit in every woke leftwinger’s spittle-flecked rave about how Trump, for example, is either Bozo the Clown or ‘literally Hitler’, is a distaste not just for the unlikely populist figurehead but for their voters and supporters, who are largely industrial and blue-collar working class (and still largely, and unforgivably to the woke left, white). Both the US and UK versions of Derangement Syndrome are marked by political ferocity towards all populist policies as the work of the political devil, and which are often accompanied by behavioural paroxysms of rage and resentment, incredulity and incomprehension, and intolerance and illiberalism, not to mention frequent verbal profanity. The various Derangement Syndromes allow a rejected woke left to salve the political wounds inflicted on it by its old working class base, to re-occupy the moral political heights by presenting itself as politically and morally virtuous, despite its democratic rebuffs.

From TDS and BDS to Virus Derangement Syndrome (VDS)
The seamless transition of most of the left from TDS and BDS to VDS (Virus Derangement Syndrome) is not surprising. Just as TDS and BDS allowed the left to rage against the political virus of right-wing populism, VDS licenses the left to proclaim that it is us, the left, who still deserve to be in charge of those who either suffer from ignorance (and need to be enlightened by the left-wing holders of truth on the virus/lockdown), or are stupid (congenitally incapably of grasping ‘The Science’ of social distancing) or who are simply Bad People who choose to be immoral, elder-killing delinquents for the sake of their own convenience and pay packets, and who thus deserve to be shamed and demonised for wrongthink on the virus/lockdown.

The cavalier dismissal of the disastrous economic fallout for the working class (and for the global poor) arising from lockdown is the seedy terminus for a left which has swapped class struggle in favour of woke culture wars and identity politics. As millions of workers join the dole queue and lose their freedoms and civil liberties under lockdown, the left is consumed by statuary, ostentatious BLM histrionics, ‘cancel culture’, transgenderism, ‘believe all women’ and the other woke fads of identity politics.

For the left to drop what should have been easy home games (on favourable economic grounds of lockdown-caused recession, unemployment, etc.) against a third-tier virus opponent, is an existential political crisis for the left if ever there was one.

Prognosis for the left after lockdown

Can the left learn from its self-made political disaster of embracing the damaging lunacy of lockdown?

Signs unhopeful

It will be hard to admit error for a left (as with so much of the scientific, political, media and cultural elite) which is so heavily invested in the myth of an apocalyptic virus necessitating draconian lockdown. Political humility is a rare commodity across the left-right spectrum, and the lockdown left is in the same cognitive-psychological space as were those who were strong supporters of invading Iraq because of (mythical) WMDs and who still believe that WMDs were indeed found after the invasion. So, too, does the left have so much political capital tied to the ‘war’ on the virus that the mythology that lockdown actually saved lives will forever inform the dominant narrative of lockdown as a triumphant vindication of the lockdown left’s ‘lives ahead of money’ strategy. Any self-reflection by the lockdown left will be drowned out by the racket of self-congratulation for supporting lockdown and, indeed, for being more hard-line on lockdown than reluctant and half-hearted lockdown conservatives.

Signs hopeful

There are some leftist heartbeats being detected amongst the lockdown rubble, however. Lockdown Sceptics, for example, has flushed out a heartening number of dissident leftists who oppose the deadly nonsense of lockdown (and who, if they’re anything like me, get a little buzz of political dopamine from each issue). New life for the left could yet emerge from the political crisis of lockdown.

Although it is far easier for the left to never agree with the right on anything, it is possible for the left and the right to agree to be all grown-up and adult on what divides us whilst working productively on opposing, and learning from, the disaster of lockdown. Breaking bread with your traditional enemies does carry political risk (to which the ex-leftists which litter the political landscape testify) but any fear of lockdown scepticism being a conservative Trojan Horse is overblown. Strange lockdown times make for strange political bedfellows but if the greatest political blunder and economic own goal in living political memory doesn’t throw up some novel and much needed political couplings, then what will? And who knows what new political charms and pleasures we may discover in each other’s arms?

Latest News

Sweden’s Per Capita Deaths in Line with the European Average in 2020

Will Jones has taken another look at the situation in Sweden. He finds that the country does indeed show that lockdowns aren’t needed.

Severe restrictions on civic and economic life are the only thing standing between us and the virus spiralling out of control and killing many times more people than at present. That is the foundational belief of lockdownism. Unfortunately, it is defeated by the example of any country or state that does not impose such restrictions and does not experience such an outcome. A number of states in America fit this description this winter, such as Florida, Texas, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Sweden is the main example in Europe. It is also a good comparison for the UK as it is similarly urbanised (actually slightly more, 87.7% vs 83.4%) and the capital Stockholm has a similar population density to London.

In the spring Sweden imposed only light restrictions, including a limit of 50 on public gatherings, but did not at any point close businesses or most schools or require people to stay at home. This light-touch approach has largely continued, although the country has come under huge pressure to impose more restrictive measures.

In the midst of a winter surge, Sweden finally passed a law that came into effect on January 10th adding some new restrictions on gathering sizes and venue capacity and enabling the Government to close businesses, though it has not yet done so. Reuters reported:

Sweden tightened social distancing rules for shopping centres, gyms and private gatherings on Friday and said it was ready to close businesses if needed, but stopped short of a lockdown to fight the spread of the pandemic.

Earlier in the day, parliament voted the Government wider powers to close businesses and limit the size of public and private gatherings as an addition to what have so-far been mostly voluntary measures to ensure social distancing.

“Today, the Government has not decided on the closure of businesses, but the Government is ready to make that kind of decision as well,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference. “This is not something that we take lightly, but people’s lives and health are at stake.”

From Sunday [January 10th], gyms, sports centres, shopping malls and public pools will have to set a maximum number of visitors based on their size.

In addition, private gatherings will also be limited to eight people, a rule which until now has only affected public events.

A Lockdown Sceptics reader whose family lives in Sweden sent us an update on the current rules.

  • We can visit family and friends – max eight people inside or out
  • Social distancing – one person per 10 square metres in shops etc.
  • Bars and cafes are open but can not serve alcohol after eight o’clock, max four people to a table
  • Restaurants open – table service only and max four people to a table
  • All shops and businesses open but must be Covid safe
  • Hairdressers and beauty parlours open but must be Covid safe
  • Nurseries and primary schools (under 13) open
  • Lower secondary schools mostly open but decision up to the school board
  • Schools over 16 years mostly closed but may take decision to open from January 25th
  • Universities closed
  • Theme parks closed
  • Gyms mainly open but must be Covid safe
  • Public swimming pools and theatres closed
  • Museums and cinemas – some open, some not. Must adhere to Covid restrictions
  • All other businesses open
  • Advice is to avoid unnecessary shopping/travel and so on
  • No requirement to wear a mask/face covering. However, it is advised on public transport during peak times and should be more substantial than a face covering

Despite these much lighter restrictions than in the UK and many other countries, Sweden has had a death toll broadly in line with other countries that locked down hard. Indeed, a study from researchers at the University of Oslo concluded that between July 2019 and July 2020 Sweden had almost no excess deaths at all.

The winter surge is currently in decline in Sweden, and was in decline prior to the new restrictions coming into effect on January 10th. ICU admissions have been declining sharply across the country since the week beginning January 4th, and in Stockholm, which was hit hard in spring, ICU admissions stopped rising at the beginning of December and have declined since (see below).

Source: Swedish Government

Overall excess deaths in the country have been running quite high since mid-November but are now, like ICU admissions, in decline (see below). A recent, very thorough blog post found that if you add Sweden’s all-cause mortality in 2019 and 2020 together (2019 had below-average mortality), it was about the same as the cumulative total for 2017 and 2018.

Sweden didn’t do nothing. But it did a lot less than many other countries including the UK, and without seeing the huge death tolls predicted by those who tell us lockdowns are the only way to “control” the virus. There are places which did even less than Sweden, and their examples should also be studied for the lessons they teach us. But Sweden continues to expose the central myth of the lockdowners – that without severe restrictions things would be far worse than they are now, and so all the collateral damage must be worth it.

Stop Press: Philippe Lemoine, a PhD student at Cornell, has produced a great Twitter thread about Sweden and the unavoidable conclusion that lockdowns don’t have much impact on reducing Covid mortality.

https://twitter.com/phl43/status/1353091523836076032?s=21

Ivermectin: Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?

Shutterstock/File Photo

City AM reports that Oxford University is to investigate the potential of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin for treating COVID-19:

A cheap drug credited with dramatically reducing COVID-19 deaths has been moved to trial stage in the UK.

Researchers at Oxford University are carrying out a Principle trial programme aimed at finding a treatment that can counteract the disease at an early stage and could be used at home soon after symptoms appear.

The next batch of medicines it will assess includes ivermectin, which has been hailed as a Covid “wonder drug”, the Times reported.

Ivermectin has traditionally been used on livestock and to treat people with parasitic infestations, but has been credited with reducing Covid deaths in the developing world.

However, scientists have warned that its efficacy is yet to be properly proven.

“It has potential antiviral properties and anti-inflammatory properties and there have been quite a few smaller trials conducted in low and middle-income countries, showing that it speeds recovery, reduces inflammation and reduces hospitalisation,” Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Oxford and a co-chief of the Principle trial, told the newspaper.

“But there’s a gap in the data. There’s not been a really rigorous trial.”

The drug has been shown to block the entry of viral protein into the nuclei of cells, which could prevent the virus from replicated.

Results from initial, small-scale trials have been described as “promising”, though scientists and health officials have warned that further tests are needed.

It seems worth doing a mini round-up of just some of the evidence recently amassed for the beneficial effects of ivermectin:

The Swiss Doctor has an explanation of how ivermectin works:

To date, the mode of action of ivermectin against the SARS-CoV-2 has remained somewhat of a mystery. Early studies indicated that ivermectin may inhibit viral protein transportation. But a new US-Canadian study, published in Nature Communications Biology, found that ivermectin is highly effective (>90%) in inhibiting the main enzyme (3CLpro) involved in the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 (and other RNA viruses). This might explain why ivermectin appears to be highly effective even as a prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 infection

Scepticism is required in all things, of course, but this treatment does look promising, as Mike Yeadon confirms:

https://twitter.com/MichaelYeadon3/status/1352518627212353537

REACT Report: Why Wasn’t it Peer Reviewed?

The latest REACT report from Imperial College received a fair amount of media attention for its finding that “Coronavirus infections are not falling” and that they “may have begun to rise”. Today we’re publishing a guest post by Alice Bragg, who points out that the REACT reports are seldom subjected to peer review.

Here we go again! Imperial College publishing reports that tell us we need more lockdowns for longer. The latest REACT report claims the last three weeks of lockdown have made no difference, so our children must suffer more.

The problem is that this report has not been peer-reviewed. As an academic friend once said to me, “If it’s not peer-reviewed, it’s not relevant.”

Which begs the question: why have only two of the 14 REACT reports, stretching back throughout last year, been peer-reviewed?

Here is the December 15th REACT report on the World Health Organisation website with its own clear warning:

“Preprints are preliminary research reports that have not been certified by peer review. They should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behaviour and should not be reported in news media as established information.”

Worth noting…

We have all been shocked by the footage from inside Intensive Care Units at hospitals in London and the South East. All the doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and managers working in them are heroes, and we are indebted to them for the rest of our days.

But are lockdowns the way to prevent these scenes?

One would assume that policymakers would only implement a policy as far-reaching and punishing as lockdown if they had a strong degree of certainty that the suspension of our liberties will save lives.

It was in response to a model produced by Imperial College that the Government imposed the first lockdown. However, it is now widely acknowledged that the assumptions underpinning that model were highly dubious.

In addition, the code that powered that model has been found to be of very poor quality when reviewed and analysed by coding experts, computer programmers and epidemiologists. Even Professor Ferguson himself said that it was a model he had created more than 13 years ago to model the likely course of flu pandemics.

Nevertheless, we have watched our freedom of movement be suspended indefinitely, along with our freedom to associate with others of our choosing, the freedom to assemble and gather, and the freedom to protest (the cornerstone of any democracy). Our children are being denied their right to go to school and, in many cases, have been separated from their peers and wider family for almost a year. Businesses have been forcibly closed, many of which will never recover.

At a time when the stakes are so high, why would Imperial College’s REACT reports not be peer-reviewed?

The answer can be found in the peer-review process itself. Over the last 20 years, the number of papers submitted to journals has grown dramatically. This has been compounded by the growth of ‘pay to publish’ sites that make money every time a paper goes up. Experts who are qualified to carry out rigorous peer-reviews would probably prefer not to spend all their time critiquing other peoples’ papers. Demand outstrips the ‘peer’ supply.

That said, when research findings are being used to guide Government policy, there must be a way to cut through the crowd? After all, not many scientific papers are used to justify a population being denied their basic freedoms or children being taken out of school.

According to David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia and Chair of the Public Health England Resistance to Antibiotics Programme:

“REACT is a surveillance programme which then supports various studies and analyses. Such a surveillance programme would normally have an Independent Advisory Committee”

An Independent Advisory Committee of this nature, according to Prof Livermore, would undertake a number of tasks, including making sure that the people who participate in the programme continue to represent the population. They would also, he stresses, play the role of the peer-reviewer, so that when REACT reports hit the media and arrive on ministers’ desks, the information they contain has been rigorously assessed.

This is only possible if ‘independent’ means what it says, and that people who are constructively sceptical – asking awkward questions – are appointed, not just like-minded ‘friends of the project’. As the debate about ‘the science’ becomes increasingly polarised, inviting informed and qualified critics such as Dr Clare Craig, Dr Jonathan Engler, Dr Michael Yeadon, Dr John Lee and Joel Smalley onto an independent REACT advisory board would inspire great confidence.   

Stop Press: Over at the Spectator, Philip Thomas has more on why the REACT study is problematic

What Value Should We Put on a Human Life?

Today we’re publishing a new piece by Dr David Cook, a senior scientist with over 20 years’ experience in drug research and development. Following the row over Lord Sumption’s contribution to the Big Questions last weekend, Dr Cook explains the concept of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY), and then applies it to lockdowns.

In 2017 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) rejected the drug nivolumab for use in the NHS to treat patients with advanced head and neck cancers. The reason given was that, despite the drug showing positive benefits, it was judged to be too expensive based on the cost per ‘quality adjusted life year’ (QALY). For patients with this disease (and clinicians treating them) this was a hugely disappointing decision and although subsequently nivolumab has been approved for use, at the point of this judgement it must have felt to these patients that their lives were somehow being deemed to be less valuable than those of other patients.

Let’s wind forward to today and Lord Sumption discussing the impact of lockdown on society and apparently suggesting something similar, namely, that some lives are less valuable than others.

But in both of these cases is this what was actually meant? Are we really assigning a value to a life? Are we really judging that some lives are more valuable than others and so more worthy of saving?

To answer these questions, let’s focus on QALYs because these seem to be highly culpable in the crime of ‘life valuation’.

Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) are not used to assess the quality of a life and they are certainly not used to make a judgement on its value.

The reason for this is because QALYs are used to assess the impact and value of an intervention. The judgement as to the quality of someone’s life is something that only the individual can make, but regardless of how they feel about it as a whole, they would certainly be able to tell if it had improved or got worse after some kind of treatment. If I whack you on the hand with a ruler has this improved your quality of life? What if I now kiss it better?

This is the fundamental point – QALYs are always used comparatively: did this treatment or intervention improve or reduce the quality of life?

In assessing the value of new therapies, QALYs are used to try and produce an objective view of their (hopefully positive) impact. A good example of the challenges of this kind of assessment and why QALYs are so helpful is if we think about how we would assess the value of a new analgesic or pain treatment. Such a treatment may have no effect on life expectancy and so its whole impact is on quality of life. But how do you assess this impact when pain is such a personal experience? The only way is to actually ask the individual patient. As a result, a major part of the assessment of the benefit of such medicines is done through use of questionnaires and asking how the individual feels; did the treatment improve your quality of life? Then, by aggregating all of these individual responses together, we can start to assess whether overall the treatment was beneficial or not. You can see that at no point are we making a judgement of the quality or value of the patient’s life. The assessment we are making is of the value of the treatment.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: John Humphrys covers similar ground in his Saturday Daily Mail column. Noting that, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the value of a QALY is about £30,000, he writes:

No one can possibly know yet how much the lockdowns have cost the country. The bills rocket with every day that passes. What we do know is that if we applied the QALY test to the lives ‘saved’, we would no longer be talking about £30,000 a year. It would be many times that amount.

The price of even the most expensive new drug is a drop in the ocean compared to the vast cost of closing down half the nation’s economy – and the bill is rising with every word I type.

So does that mean the life of someone who faces the risk of dying from Covid must be valued more than those who have other life-threatening conditions?

Many people have died because they’ve been unable to get the treatment they needed. Hard-headed calculations were presented to policy-makers who knew what the consequences of lockdowns would be but they took them anyway.

Look Him in The Eyes… A Reader Responds

A reader has written to us to express his disappointment about the NHS’s latest advertising campaign.

I am writing about the shocking new HMG/NHS coronavirus public health campaign. These are the adverts with “Look them in the eyes…” which show a poorly person wearing an oxygen mask.   

In public health the aim of an information campaign should be to give accurate, truthful and honest information so that the public can understand the issues and take any necessary steps or measures for their own health.

Does the Governments and NHS “Look them in they eyes…” poster campaign fit any of the above? A resounding NO! Their campaign is one of blame and division. They have chosen to set one group against another. There is the victim group, this is the sick virus sufferer. They are portrayed as the innocent victim whom someone else has done a terrible thing to.

If there is a victim then this other person must be a perpetrator, a bad person or person who has committed a crime. We would generally consider a perpetrator to have carried out their actions against the victim on purpose and in a planned way. It follows that whoever becomes sick with Covid, or any virus for that matter, has had a bad thing done to them and a bad person is to blame.

The Government and NHS in this poster campaign is blaming one set of people for doing a bad thing to another set of people and no good can come from this. No one is given accurate, measured or honest information upon which they can take actions. Instead, in setting up a victim and a perpetrator, our Government and NHS are setting one lot of people against another. It is extraordinary that a Government and Public Health Service should commission a campaign that blames and divides its population. The campaign fails on all accounts – it provides nothing, people will be angered by it and take no notice of it because it is not truthful, while other people will seek out the bad people to punish them.

A poster campaign like this fails all groups. There are real families who have passed covid on to each other. One person I know of who works for the NHS likely picked up the infection during their hospital shifts. From this person, the elder parents picked up an infection and sadly one died. Does our Government and NHS understand what it is suggesting to this worker and their family? The suggestion is the NHS worker has killed their own parent. 

It is widely acknowledged that many patients acquire their coronavirus infections during their hospital stay. Some of these people have died. Has the Government and the NHS looked itself in the eyes?

This is a terrible public information campaign. I believe it has come from a Government which has taken on the belief it can control a respiratory virus and is desperate to deflect blame as it becomes obvious it cannot.   

When a Government blames its population and attempts to turn one group against another what will become of us? Is the Government aiming for civil war?

A Smidgen of Optimism on Masks

Lockdown Sceptics reader Steve Sieff finds cause for optimism in the change in emphasis to medical and surgical masks in the various mandates, rules and guidance. Steve runs the Green band: Red band website which makes the case for a coloured wrist band system that could promote individual choice when it comes to social distancing and managing Covid risk.

I have an optimistic view to offer on the advance of N95 masks.

I know that the position of most lockdown sceptics is that masks should go. I also know that many of the LS arguments are based on the lack of evidence that they are effective to reduce transmission – even in some cases that they increase the risk of harm. I do not know, but I suspect, that for many LS readers, the question of transmission is largely irrelevant because they consider that the negatives of a masked society outweigh the gains that might be made if some reduction to transmission were shown. The logic behind this goes back to the fundamental belief that COVID-19 should not be ascribed the special status that it has been given on the basis that it affects a small percentage of people. Beyond that, the groups most likely to suffer can be easily identified and therefore can easily protect themselves or be protected.

I believe that underpinning the views above is a strong desire amongst the vast majority of LS readers to see a restoral of the individual’s right to make choices for themselves. We would all like to see a more balanced presentation of risks and of facts from our Government (and others). In the event that the balanced presentation of available data convinced some people to take extraordinary protective measures, we might disagree with the reaction, but most of us would acknowledge and respect others’ right to be cautious provided their decisions did not overly impact on the decisions we make when not in contact with them. This is the basis of Green Band: Red Band of course.

In the context of individual freedom, I wonder if a shift towards more protective masks might be a positive thing. I know that this might sound like anathema to most LS readers so I will explain. The mask narrative to date has been that “my mask protects you, your mask protects me”. This logic moves us away from personal responsibility towards collective responsibility. Those who do not wear a mask are letting down others and are stigmatised. More protective masks such as N95s and N99s could change this narrative. These masks are designed to protect users. If they were widely available then the message could shift to wearing a mask to protect yourself. There would still be some protection for others, but the emphasis would be on protecting oneself. That is extremely important because it could pave the way for masks to become a choice. Those at lower risk (whether through age or vaccination) could decide that they do not require the protection that a mask provides while those who were more concerned could opt to protect themselves.

Of course, this shift in approach will not come easily. There will be many who argue that mandatory self-protection has an important place (see seat-belts, motorcycle helmets, etc.) because the dramatic reduction in risk is worth enforcing for the relatively minor loss of liberty. And there will be those who will continue to believe that the individual has a duty to protect the NHS by making every effort not to get sick/injured, etc. While hospital numbers remain high, those arguments will no doubt be persuasive for the majority. However, as hospital numbers fall, the general assessment of risk will change. It is harder to maintain a climate of fear without supportive death rates and as increasing numbers of people are vaccinated. At that stage the availability of protective masks could give the Government the opportunity to end mask mandates in favour of advising people to wear N95/N99s if they are concerned.

Stop Press: The Connexion reports that the WHO is maintaining its recommendation for fabric masks.

A Close Encounter With the Police

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to us describing a nightmarish afternoon dog walk.

I just need to offload.

I went two miles to a huge area of open space. Arrived at 3pm. Walked the dog and got back to the car at 4.30pm, darkness now creeping in and a howling gale. My 21 year-old was with me (student final year law degree… yep so much stress and upset). We were about to drive off when a police car drove up and a rather hot (okay unnecessary detail) bobby stopped us.

Now at this point I looked around at the car park. Four cars and maybe a few bedraggled dog walkers. Hmm… No way he’s here for Covid surveillance, I thought. Maybe it’s a drug selling hotspot? To cut a long story short, yes he was there to nab (engage and educate) Covid rule-breaking criminals. After a 15-minute chat I drove off uncomfortably, having given him no details about how far we had come or why. The local police had actually sent a patrol car out in the rain to a hill at dusk to ask people why they were there!

Admittedly, my husband is critically vulnerable according to the NHS. Was I taking unnecessary risks and endangering his life? We walk locally and rarely go in shops. I’m  antisocial. I don’t need shops but I do need open spaces!

I relayed this story to a close friend. Her reply was aggressive, judgemental and swift. I shouldn’t have driven and my actions put others at risk. She claimed I could have had an accident and caused yet more issues for the ambulance service. I was very much in the wrong. She is a partner at a large law firm. She’s now so far lost in the crazy mists of fear that her reasoning is, in my opinion, misguided and extreme. A lawyer! We’ve had many such conversations and I’ve patiently listened and respected her views. This was a line too far over-stepped.

I’m terrified for the evolution I see in society. It’s gnawing holes of fear and anger into my very being . I’m watching the shifting mood, peoples lives used like props in a high-budget Derren Brown special.

And so, don’t stop fighting. I’m a harassed and war torn ‘at home mum of three’ with no influence. I need you… and all the other questioning sceptics. I want educated reasoning rather than fear-focused propaganda.

Next Week’s Davos Guest List

Like so much else these days, next week’s DAVOS summit will take place on Zoom. Deutsche Welle has the story:

It’s that time of the year again when a sleepy Alpine town in Switzerland usually comes alive as the global elite descends on its snow-clad slopes to debate global challenges. This year, however, Davos has been left undisturbed with its eponymous annual jamboree moving online amid a still raging COVID-19 pandemic…

The more than 50-year-old annual event attended by global political and business leaders, celebrities and prominent social activists is taking place amid the worst economic crisis in living memory that has rendered millions jobless and deepened global inequalities.

An annual risks survey published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday warned that economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to “social unrest, political fragmentation and geopolitical tensions”.

We need an economic recovery that is “more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable”, WEF founder Klaus Schwab told reporters…

The pandemic and the uneven responses to the crisis unleashed by it have stoked geopolitical tensions. Governments have chosen to put national interests ahead of others, unilaterally shutting down borders and hoarding food and medical supplies.

We need to restore trust in our world, Schwab said. “We have to substantially reinforce global cooperation again and engage all stakeholders into the solution of the problems we face, and here we have to engage particularly business.”       

Nowhere has this me-first approach been more apparent than on the vaccine front where rich nations have secured billions of doses – many times the size of their populations – while poor nations struggle for supplies. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is also one of the speakers, cautioned that the world was on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure”.

The global scramble for vaccines, or vaccine nationalism, risks prolonging the pandemic and delaying the easing of global travel restrictions.

“COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere,” WEF President Borge Brende told reporters. “We all are in the same boat and we would have to collaborate to really make progress.”

It is interesting to note that the WEF has a date in mind for when it may be able to meet in person:

A virtual summit doesn’t mean that Davos regulars, many of them without official badges, would be robbed of their opportunity to hobnob and strike deals at glamorous receptions that take place on the side lines of the main event.

The WEF has said it would hold its marquee event in person in Singapore from May 13th-16th later this year.

Worth reading in full.

Sceptics Under Fire

It won’t have escaped readers’ attention that lockdown sceptics are coming under increasing fire from defenders of lockdown orthodoxy. Now, it seems, the most fanatical of these defenders – a group that includes Neil O’Brien MP – have created a website called “Antivirus: The COVID-19 FAQ“. As you’ll see if you click on the link, it attempts to rebut most of the sceptics’ arguments and singles out a group of sceptics for criticism, most of them contributors to this website.

We thought about producing a lengthy response, making all the obvious points: the fact that some sceptics’ predictions have turned out to be inaccurate doesn’t mean their main argument – that the costs of lockdowns outweigh the benefits – should be dismissed; the proponents of lockdowns have made equally inaccurate predictions (remember the “Graph of Doom”?); some of the stories we’ve flagged up that were initially dismissed as “conspiracy theories” have turned out to be quite plausible (e.g. that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology); there’s a world of difference between being a ‘lockdown sceptic’ and a ‘Covid denier’; the WHO has confirmed that our reservations about the accuracy of the PCR test are well-founded; etc., etc.

However, we thought it might be more fun to invite readers to defend lockdown scepticism from the arguments set out on Neil O’Brien’s ‘myth-busting’ website instead. So please take a look at the website and let us know what you think. Put the word “Antivirus” in the subject line and we’ll publish some of the best responses over the next few days.

Stop Press: We’ve received a terrific response to Christopher Snowdon’s Jan 16th piece in Quillette that we’ll publish tomorrow.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/gbdeclaration/status/1353000419270795265

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Hard Times Of Old England” by Steeleye Span, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” by Aretha Franklin, “Running Out Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin, “Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive” by John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by The Allman Brothers Band, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who and “Hard Times (Nobody Knows Better Than I” by Ray Charles

Love in the Time of Covid

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 the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Stop Press: In another disturbing development for our times, it would appear that the best hope of a right swipe on a dating app is getting vaccinated. TMZ reports that Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid have all seen a major uptick in profiles mentioning the words “vaccine” or “vaccinated’ in their bios, and indicating vaccination readiness as a screener for matches. The jury is still out on whether the vaccine reduces transmission.

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 author Jen Hatmaker, who has publicly apologised for the offensive opening line of the prayer she delivered at the inaugural interfaith prayer service held for President Joe Biden. The Christian Post has the story:

Christian author Jen Hatmaker, who on Thursday joined a progressive group of interfaith leaders for the National Prayer Service in honour of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, has apologized for the first line of a prayer she delivered at the event.

“Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage,” Hatmaker began in the prayer that she said was written by organisers of the event in her apology posted on Facebook shortly after the event.

“I was proud to offer the final liturgical prayer which was written by the organizers to serve as an anchor. I have one regret and thus apology. The very first sentence thanked God for giving us this land as our heritage. He didn’t. He didn’t give us this land,” she said.

“We took this land by force and trauma. It wasn’t an innocent divine transaction in which God bestowed an empty continent to colonizers. This is a shiny version of our actual history. If God gave this land to anyone, it was to the Native community who always lived here,” Hatmaker continued.

She explained that as soon as she read the line from the prayer she began to regret it.

“I panicked and froze and then just kept going. I am so sorry, community. Primarily sorry to my Native friends. It matters to me that we reckon with our history of white supremacy and the lies we surrounded it with, and I am filled with regret that I offered yet another hazy, exceptional rendition of the origin story of colonization. Ugh,” she lamented. “I can’t go on without apologizing. My stomach hurt all day.”

Hatmaker, who is also a mother of five, said if she could change anything about the prayer she would have included a call for America to repent of things like the unjust systems the nation has built.

Hatmaker, who is also a mother of five, said if she could change anything about the prayer she would have included a call for America to repent of things like the unjust systems the nation has built.

“God, may we continue to be a people who reckon with our violent history, repent from the unjust systems we built, denounce white supremacy in all its forms past and present, and continue to work together to form a more perfect union,” she said

Stop Press: In a comment piece for the Times, Janice Turner says that the US is heading towards eradicating “the language of biological sex in order to appease an influential trans lobby”.

Stop Press 2: The Post Millennial has an exclusive interview with they/them, the editor of the Spectator USA’s new Wokeyleaks column who is seeking to expose the “CEOs and board members of the social justice movement”.

“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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops 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: We have been reminded that today, 24th January, is the deadline by which the Secretary of State for Health was bound to review the requirements of the mask rules. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 were passed on 24th July 2020. Regulation 9 stipulates that: “The Secretary of State must review the need for the requirements imposed by these Regulations before the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which they come into force.’” It is unclear what the review will have entailed, but if any reader can enlighten us, please do so. According to Regulation 10, the mask regulations expire “at the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which they come into force.” Six months to go.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph has an entertaining postcard from South Dakota, where the Republicans are shunning masks to the consternation of the Democrats.

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. 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. 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.

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…

Truth In The Timeline Of Covid

The Covid Physician

Valentine’s Friday, 2020. A quarter century practising medicine. Half in hospitals, half in general practice. I’d been treating unseasonal, politely-coughing, relatively-well patients for the previous two and a half weeks. Extraordinarily, on Saturday at 4am I was abruptly awoken by uncontrollable, whole body, flailing movements. They continued without relent for 5 hours. I’d hypothesised I was having a grand mal seizure, but as I lay violently shaking and goose-pimpled I coldly concluded I was conscious, so these were rigors. I’d witnessed two in my career one as a naïve house officer on a medical ward, and now the second in the comfort of my own bed. It wasn’t my last hurrah. Two Paracetamol, two duvets, two days of bad diarrhoea and I returned to work Monday, a few pounds lighter and clinically puzzled. This was no ordinary fever. As it happens, two other GPs in my vicinity later described similar contemporaneous symptoms, and we all tested negative for Roche’s COVID-19 antibody assay 4 months later. That, however, is not so meaningful since most people are thought to clear the virus without the need for specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. On top of this, in PHE’s own studies, Roche’s test demonstrated only 83.9% – 86.7% sensitivity, so it was missing 13-17% of true positives.

There are two arms of the cellular immune response. The immediate, innate system (no specific antibodies required), and the delayed, adaptive immune system (B and T-cells, and specific antibodies required which may or may not persist after the infection). So, no antibodies does not necessarily equate to future risk. 10% of us may raise antibodies in response to the acute infection. We could die in the attempt. 90% of us might deal with the infection innately, yet have nothing but our healthy, vigorous lives to show for it. A vaccine may not work, it may not be safe to some, it may raise antibodies but still not work. It may raise antibodies and make matters worse by ‘pathogenic priming’ and enhancing any future infection. These are all normally valid medical points, but I do not feel our Government likes doctors and scientists making these anymore. The normal medical and scientific truths of our time feel radically heretical to modern day Dr. Galileos.

Something very odd was going around. I don’t usually get ill on the job, and I have never had the influenza vaccine. As many doctors might agree, to our families’ inconvenience we become ill as soon as we switch off, relax, and take a holiday.

What was even odder to witness was the surreal lock-stepped, global lockdown that began around March 2020. Same language, same procedure, same time, no independent engagement of resource nor intelligence, no bespoke solutions. All but Sweden appeared to fall into a blind panic. The theatrics of lockdown on 26th of March did affect me, I was ejected from my accommodation and struggled to find anyone willing to take on a walking NHS repository of certain viral death. I returned to work in a single-handed practice with a deep dread of the cataclysm that would befall me and my community. No such thing happened.

I recall the fear of the clerical staff. They furtively asked why I wasn’t wearing a mask – remember this was the early days of PPE shortage, with no Government mandate of general mask-wearing. My attitude was flimsy clinical masks were of no real effect, and besides risk of infection is part of the job description. However, I quickly succumbed to their unease to avoid the inevitable escalating inquisition and workplace disciplinary. I learned quickly, knowledge and experience were now nullities.

Frankly, if it had not been for mainstream media and the Government I would not have even noticed there was a pandemic. I experienced no excessive dying, and no excessive becoming seriously ill. Since January, I have worked in three different general practices across England, in two regions. Accumulatively, they contained over 16,000 patients. Up to my last time of asking in September 2020 there had been many well COVID-19 ‘swab positives’, and only 5 deaths ‘with’ a COVID-19 ‘swab positive’. Those 5 deaths were all white, over 60 years, with other co-morbidities.

In the BAME-dominated practice of nearly 6000 where I work with the most deprived, the poor, the homeless, addicts, and migrants, no one was known to have died in association ‘with’ a COVID-19 swab-positive test.

In the practice of 1800 where I worked through the inception and peak of the pandemic, only two people died of anything between January and July. These two were expected deaths of metastatic terminal cancer.

Enough has been said on statistics and science to convince the current Government response is disproportionate. Yet most governments dismiss it all with incredible contempt. Clinical experience is as equally relevant as the statistical manipulation and science. My experience is no one but the Government and mainstream media are sharing apocalyptic COVID-19 death experiences with me. I don’t see it in my clinical practice as a simple GP.

My attitude to the Government pandemic advice hardened significantly when I received the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) advice on pyrexial over-70 year olds in the community: do not admit them. If they get very ill, call the Macmillan nurse and palliative care team. This was my first sniff of the new-normal clinical lunacy. It was redolent of the swine ‘flu panic where in 2009 we were negligently told to prescribe novel anti-viral medication to anyone on the basis of the slightest raised temperature, regardless of better alternative diagnoses. A reasonable body of doctors would never do this under sane conditions.

I did research. Given my older patients were to be left at home to sink or swim, I concluded that the very safe hydroxychloroquine, zinc and azithromycin combination was worth trying in the best interests of those marooned patients. I was blessed to have my own NHS dispensary and quickly ordered the medications. That was when the second whiff of madness was caught: the gaslighting (‘nudging’) mainstream media was repeatedly telling me it was very dangerous, they were lambasting my brave and learned international medical colleagues for daring to say anything but a vaccine was effective in mitigating COVID-19. Our CCG pharmacist emailed all GPs to ask us to not prescribe hydroxychloroquine in suspected COVID-19 cases as this would diminish stock for the usual rheumatoid and lupus users.

As it happens, such was the lack of community cases of clinically-unwell COVID-19, I never had to use the triple therapy. The closest I got was when a very feverish lady in her 80s was being left to probably die of a severe sepsis. She was refused hospital admission. At that time, I was not allowed to see her, as we had a dedicated Covid ‘red hub’ to remotely triage queried Covid cases to. Its guidelines had concluded temperature equated to Covid, which in turn equated to no hospital access allowed for over-70s. This was my third experience of what was now a reeking stench. Fortunately, her home-help called me to notify me of the ensuing danger. I assessed the situation remotely and concluded that the clinical logic of the red hub was wrong. The most likely cause was line sepsis (she had an in-dwelling feeding line in a major blood vessel). I spoke to the red hub and the hospital to explain that the guidelines were fatally negligent. They took her in, and line sepsis it was. This simply required a new line and intravenous antibiotics. She survived to rejoin her husband, but how many are still dying of perfectly treatable, potentially fatal illness?

The fourth time. I was called by a Macmillan nurse. She had been delegated the responsibility of persuading me to prescribe a cancer drug without due normal clinical process by the consultant breast surgeon, who presumably was instructed to avoid doing his job at all costs. The nurse explained to me the lady who had a very large breast lump diagnosed in hospital just before lockdown was somehow neglected to be assessed for 5 weeks, presumably because of lockdown. Here’s where it got more distressing. She said the consultant would not be able to see her for at least 3 months. Would I see her and confirm there really was a lump and prescribe a speculative breast cancer treatment? Normal protocol would be a two week maximum wait for a cancer specialist and biopsy. Then a treatment plan, usually some combination of a biopsy-determined hormonal medication, radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy.

In her case, they wanted me to provide speculative hormonal medication without any real prospect of review, confirmatory biopsy nor other intervention for at least 3 months. Moreover, I was told by the nurse that the poor dear did not even sound all there over the phone. Inference: doesn’t really matter what she thinks, she’s old and its a hopeless case.

I did see her. The old dear was compos mentis, and she agreed that she did not want a speculative treatment for which I had no qualification nor experience of initiating. I informed the palliative care nurse I would not do her delegated task. Eventually, without confirming they had back-tracked the cancer team saw her for themselves a few weeks later; but both I, the patient, and her daughter had to dig our heels in deeply. How many patients are still languishing with advancing cancer due to a litany of permissive state diktats? Look at section 11 of the unbelievably quickly drafted Coronavirus Act 2020 on medical indemnity during coronavirus. Does it mean extra indemnity or extra protection for medics, the NHS and the government against the most unforgivable clinical gross negligence during the state-determined pandemic measures?

At this time the shock and awe of the terror and OCD-inducing state mind-programming triad, of don’t touch your face, wash yours hands and stay away from other humans was wearing off. I’d had my fill of hospital NHS TikTok videos and being needlessly back-slapped and clapped for.

In fact, for once in my career I had nothing to do, except keep patients away from the practice, fob them off on the phone, and see the odd one at my own choosing. They were all very understanding, and even thanked me for it. Everything was, in a sense, either Covid or not an absolute NHS problem. I now reach in to my bag first for a headset, and rarely touch my stethoscope. I am losing my hands-on clinical skills.

Our mission: save the NHS by neglecting ourselves and the NHS. I received numerous CCG advice and flow-charts on the Covid-centric mass processing of patients. Most of it it was about whom not to see, and who could pass the pearly gates of the hospitals. Then there was the advice on the parallel IT and video-consultation medical industrial revolution: our new NHS normal.

Then there was the circular from the British Medical Association (BMA) received on 22 April 2020 reminding us that we did not have to be that sure to write COVID-19 on a death certificate, simply to the standard of the best of our knowledge and belief. The BMA went on to advise:

In those cases where the doctor is confident on medical grounds that a particular cause of death is likely then that should be entered on the MCCD (Medical Certificates of Cause of Death). COVID-19 is an acceptable direct or underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the MCCD, even without the results of a positive test, and it is important that likely COVID-19 deaths are reported as such via the registrar.

That was highly irregular. What’s to say without testing it wasn’t equally likely to be ‘flu, or pneumonia like most winters? We now know even a positive test doesn’t help diagnose with any confidence.

Unless you are one of my maximum lucky two given the golden ticket each morning or afternoon, if you wish to actually be seen and be examined by me these days, go private. For the right price they’ll see all of us and pass us on the extra Covid-related costs, while we all protect the NHS. To see Sir Simon Stevens CEO of NHSE be tweeted saying, to paraphrase – “you thought COVID-19 was bad, but wait until we ram climate change down your throat” simply beggars belief. Isn’t this an over-ambitious and a slight over-reach of his remit? Surely he should concentrate on concluding his five year NHS plan: stealthily privatising the NHS under the helpful cover of the pandemic, before joining Greta Thunberg fear-pushing the global green agenda?

I had the easiest 3 months of NHS practice in my life from March to June 2020. No wonder all those apart from in ICU were smiling, laughing, and apotheosising the NHS on social media. This was their first real break in 70 years. They genuinely felt they deserved it. Then, a strange thing happened in an already strange time in June 2020. Bad stink five. I received an email from the CCG. Cascaded presumably by the BMA to every CCG and GP in the country, simultaneously. I was fed their pro-BLM message, and invited to click on a link where I could donate to the neo-Marxist trained BLM leaders via a US Democrat party central-funding company, ActBlue.

How very odd. I had not yet received one email on the pathophysiology of COVID-19, not one email on life-saving potential early community interventions and treatments (maybe more on these another time). Nothing. Yet here was priority number one in the pandemic apart from systematically neglecting my patients: dip into your pockets, doctor. Donate to the statue-toppling, English-heritage-bashing, and lockdown-breaking SARS-CoV-2 spreaders-in-chief.

While I was twiddling my thumbs, feet on my desk, and frankly disturbed by the BMA’s endorsement of BLM’s Critical Race Theory. I began to ponder, to review what had actually happened. Everyone had been in shock, on autopilot.

My senses and faculty of independent, critical-thinking had begun to return. I began to think deeply about basic medical sciences, cause and effect, Koch’s postulates and normal clinical diagnosis and practice.

What was actually going on here? Ostensibly and hitherto, the government, moreover the WHO, was asking me to suspend my medical training, my clinical disbelief and trust them.

I started to look at the clinical timeline. There were many decisions made that did not sit comfortably with my medical sensibilities.


My trust started to erode in March 2020. Public Health England (PHE) had wisely classified the SARS-CoV-2 entity as a ‘highly contagious infectious disease’ (HCID). This brought it in to the infamous company of long-gone worries such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, bird ‘flu and Ebola virus.

However, the PHE had strangely declassified SARS-CoV-2 from being a highly contagious infectious disease to a non-HCID on 19th March 2020. It seemed to them to no longer merit the company of SARS et al. This was few days before the UK lockdown regulations of 26 March 2020 when the whole world was implementing the most draconian pandemic measures ever. That’s an odd timeline. I asked PHE, why? It replied that it was because by March 19th 2020 they knew it was not as fatal as it was first thought. Wasn’t that a bit rich? Surely, declassification did not make government sense on March 19th?

My own view is that there was perhaps a different agenda. There was a PPE (I must here confess, like most, I had not come across this term, before) shortage in March – it was a massive political problem. The Government was just resiling from a herd immunity approach (more’s the pity, in my opinion). Was PHE in more control of advising on the pandemic and matters such as PPE while the bug remained classified a HCID? The Government was in a panic trying to requisition all available PPE to the clamouring NHS. Perhaps not recommending masks to the public and nursing homes whilst recommending them for hospitals for an as yet unquantified, airborne, respiratory HCID was a cognitive and scientific dissonance too far for someone at PHE?

Was the quickest way for the government to take control of the Covid narrative to have PHE declassify SARS-CoV-2 from its HCID category? Perhaps this explains why after the event we are all being policed into wearing any old ineffective rags over our muzzles. Most of the public still falls for it. I await the day the Government edict to not wear masks comes (if it ever does). Most obedient citizens will stop without question, suddenly and miraculously feeling safe. The mask totalitarians – those who use incorrect mask etiquette as a proxy for some other odious social prejudice – will have to hide again. Some poor souls will never stop wearing them. Some may never re-emerge from their homes.

In the 1980s we were terrified, mostly via innuendo, by the Thatcher government’s ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ AIDS ‘Monolith’ campaign. I worked through BSE (1995-97), SARS (2003), swine ‘flu (2009) and MERS (2012). That was all pre-2013, and pre-PHE. Before PHE, we had the more independent and expert Health Protection Agency (HPA) to help us. It ran the public health labs and the civilian arm of the biological warfare centre, Porton Down. The HPA was deconstructed by the Cameron-Clegg coalition (as was much else of the NHS) by the Health & Social Care Act 2012. HPA’s health protection duties fell to the hands of the new quango, PHE with the added distraction of general population ‘health improvement’ .

It has been well-documented by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care, Steve Brine MP in a letter of 22nd March 2019 to PHE CEO, Duncan Selbie, that his Government priorities for PHE for 2019/20 were not at all about protecting England against emerging pandemics. During the pandemic there was frustration expressed by the Government at the PHE, and the decentralisation of NHS command and control to NHSE. Recall, these were all acts of deliberate NHS deconstruction, decentralisation and quasi-privatisation by the previous Cameron-Clegg coalition government. Matt Hancock’s response? Disband much of Public Health England (PHE) and merge it with NHS Test and Trace to create a new quango, the National Institute of Health Protection led by a Tory peer Dido Harding, a business expert with no healthcare credentials. She already led the controversial, dysfunctional SERCO-outsourced test and trace ‘system’. Her husband just happens to be a Tory MP and our UK anti-corruption champion. You couldn’t write it. My suggestion is, why not simply bring back the more-expert and independent-of-business interests HPA? It did far better with far more fatal viruses. Why not scrap NHSE, and make the Health Secretary accountable for our health again? Maybe better still, repeal the Health & Social Care Act.

What would have befallen us if the NHS had already been fully privatised? Probably something akin to America: line the pockets of the private hospitals in a further blind panic. Stop them treating anything but Covid. Therefore, inducing the hospitals to fit everything in to a Covid-shaped hole. Then, just add fatal ventilation to maximise profit. If we are to learn and improve, an uncomfortable truth that must be acknowledged is the revolving door between government and corporations in public private-partnerships causes collusion and corruption. It is failing our nation’s health.

Back to the timeline. The alleged first official Chinese case was 17 November 2018. China announced the problem to the WHO on 31 December 2019 as a ‘atypical pneumonia’. On 3 Jan 2020 Chinese officials provided information to the WHO on the cluster of cases of ‘viral pneumonia of unknown cause’ identified in Wuhan. On 9 Jan 2020 the WHO reported that Chinese authorities had determined that the outbreak was a distinct disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Remarkably, it seemed we in the West had an indirecty-deduced, best-guess PCR test ready-to-go in mid January 2020 before we even had time to isolate and confirm the suspected in vivo causative agent, SAR-CoV-2 for ourselves.

The first two confirmed cases in the UK were 29 January 2020. Had the virus actually been caught in the act, on an electron microscope, isolated and purified from a human COVID-19 victim, yet? The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the presumed novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) on 11 February 2020.

It also appeared to me that we had blind trust in China and the WHO, which in a knee jerk, prematurely decided that COVID-19 was a disease (i.e. a condition with a definite aetiology) and not a syndrome (i.e. a collection of symptoms and signs without a definite sole cause – just like the elusive irritable bowel syndrome, or ‘IBS’).

For clarity, the ‘D’ in COVID means ‘disease’, the second ‘S’ in SARS-CoV-2 means ‘syndrome’. In a sense, the WHO had already decided COVID-19 was a distinct disease entity caused by a novel coronavirus before characterising it as a syndrome called SARS-2, and before the naming of the virus as SARS-CoV-2. The importance of scientific syntax and semantics cannot be overemphasised. Such cognitive slip-ups trickle unnoticed into general parlance and may have fatal consequences for us as a species.

Without a definite cause, one cannot definitively conclude to treat anything in particular. Is COVID-19 a syndrome, a mixed bag of symptoms and signs that has been negligently and politically globally fast-tracked to a scientifically wrong conclusion? Is it, in practice, a conflation of different, distinct disease entities including influenzae, rhinoviruses, pneumoniae and other coronaviruses, not to mention other non-infectious phenomena?

We may now never know, due largely to a fast-thinking panic, and incompetent local and global health systems biased by commercial and political interest.

Allow me to illustrate what a convincing, normal scientific timeline looks like, with a historical example. The AIDS epidemic (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) officially began in 1981. Before it was called AIDS, the syndrome was first termed “GRIDS”, or gay-related immune deficiency syndrome. The aetiological agent, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was confirmed two years later in 1983. The first ever recognised case of AIDS, in retrospect, may have been in the 1960s. The scientists who discovered the causative HIV were awarded the Nobel prize in 2008, 25 years later. That is the normal order and speed of how good, reliable science used to operate. What we have with the COVID-19 narrative is extraordinary, regardless of intervening new scientific advances; so much so that it is arguably a new pseudo-medical paradigm.

Forget finding a virus first, forget antibody and antigen serology, blood PCR and routine chest X-rays, forget electron microscopy, culture and blood markers of inflammation. Forget even looking for other probable causes and taking a temperature or a pulse; just speculatively swab asymptomatic or vaguely symptomatic scared members of the public’s contaminated oral and nasal cavities for bits of RNA, with a poor test, and over-amplify the apparatus. As the WHO’s Dr. Tedros said very emphatically at the very outset: ‘Test, test, test’. As a physician, I wish he’d said, ‘Think, think, think’; or as carpenters say, ‘Measure twice and cut once’.

In March and April 2020, without the proper science, if it felt like Covid, it was Covid, it was buried as Covid. To this day, this irrational, pharma-political new world order narrative persists bullet-proofed, immune as if pre-vaccinated against all the countless eminent medics and scientist amongst the global intelligentsia.

In early May 2020 I was initially amused, but then concerned to read the Reuters report about the Tanzanian Government’s official samples submitted for PCR testing. It reported that pawpaw and tortoise swabs tested positive for COVID-19.


The 2020 new infectious disease pseudoscientific paradigm goes something like this: anyone and everyone is a potential Covid super-spreader, all the time, regardless of fever, other symptoms, or no symptoms. Whether you have already had it or not, whether one wears a mask or not, the risk is always there. You may even contract it again, and again. Anyone who dies within 28 days of a positive Covid test is a Covid death. The nominated standard community test for COVID-19 is an unprecedentedly bad one, far from any gold standard test. Potentially up to 93 percent may be false positive. This will create a synthetic ‘case-demic’ spike because the Health Secretary pushes poor mass-testing hard and fast. This will be used to frighten those of the public who do not understand statistics, and who understandably instinctively trust their Government. Testing simultaneously for more probable causes such as colds, ‘flu and pneumonia will not be done. Everyone else with any other disease can go rot or go private. Children who are almost never at fatal risk (unlike with influenza) will be denied proper social care, an education and freedom of association.

This is not normal clinical medicine, nor public health medicine Where was this year’s ‘flu, respiratory viruses and pneumonia mortality spikes? Perhaps they were parasitically conflated with that will-o-the-wisp SARS-CoV-2?

It is an irrational doomsday reading of the situation by our Government, which is nothing of the sort in reality. It is a wilful governmental catastrophising of a situation I have not actually encountered in my professional nor my personal reality this year. Certainly the emergent case-fatality data is not reflective of the Government’s persistent narrative of fear. I find myself asking is this melodrama, or medicine I am being asked by the Government to practise?

We may all be suffering the consequences of the many mistakes by Matt Hancock’s department such as his face-saving personal target and vanity-project of more than 100,000 community tests per day for which perfectly decent, independent scientific laboratories such as Sir Paul Nurse’s were dismissed or ignored and contracts awarded to favoured, corporate, inner circle cronies. Presumably they are also more apt to adhere to the official narrative. Do not forget the other reactive decisions such as his white elephant Nightingale hospitals and the costly and harmful ventilator crusade).

My fear is the Government wants to sustain this disproportionate narrative of fear, and a lockdown until we either find a vaccine or die of loneliness, other disease and a broken heart. Is this incompetence, political face-saving, health and safety-gone-mad or something else?

What we might realise when we recover from our national PTSD is the new normal might be perpetual social isolation if Parliament continues to have its way. Maybe the Government should take a moment of collective maturity and wisdom to acknowledge the real risk: the average age of death die of COVID-19 is around 82 years, similar to the average age of general death in the UK. Any hospital junior doctor who has worked with the elderly knows an attachment in the UK winter is like working in killing season. Most of us don’t suffer from COVID-19, and when we do get it we are fine, or have mild upper respiratory symptoms. The fact is, when (or if) we are eventually released back to our lives, our risk of death from trauma and accidents will increase simply by being allowed outside to play, again. Will the Government frighten the life out of us by over-emphasising these, and swabbing it for COVID-19, too? Has anyone asked the question what would be the COVID-19 swab positive rate had we sent out the army to do it two years ago in winter 2018? I suspect it would not be zero.

The state narrative is in contradiction to the statistical facts, the science, and clinical experience of many doctors and scientists, many of whom are eminent, but easily brushed off with scathing, fearful rhetoric by the Health Secretary, as in his recent parliamentary performance disparaging the sensible, scientific, but censored Great Barrington Declaration authors and its 580,000+ signatories. We forget Sweden never locked down or masked up, and yet it continues to cope well, as we used to for any other seasonal viral epidemic.

My greater fear is that, for the Government it is a simple waiting game; wait for the normal winter spike of deaths, unscientifically read it up to the worst possible case scenario, and class it all as COVID-19 again, contrary to the old, normal medical paradigm. Then, extend the lockdown measures for another six months to September 2021. Presumably, the Government will repeat the ‘no vaccine, no freedom’ mantra, and continue to ignore the cheap, effective community treatments being propounded by my global colleagues, who are being censored, and no-platformed by Government and social media.

The promulgators of the official global narrative anticipated dissent, and prepared for a global infowars. On 18th October 2019, Event 201 sensed a coronavirus pandemic was imminent and advised in its headline:

Public-private cooperation for pandemic preparedness and response, A call to action. The next severe pandemic will not only cause great illness and loss of life but could also trigger major cascading economic and societal consequences that could contribute greatly to global impact and suffering.

Except, it wasn’t the pandemic the triggering the “major cascading economic and societal consequences” . It was the extraordinary, co-ordinated global government and media over-reaction that did the triggering all by itself. Its entire recommendations are predicated on this flawed first heading and sentence:

Event 201’s luminaries went on in recommendation 7:

Governments and the private sector should assign a greater priority to developing methods to combat mis- and disinformation prior to the next pandemic response.

One only has to look at the echoes of this in Ofcom’s radical, very prescient, and human rights-violating bulletin guidelines released on 23 March 2020 to be even more concerned:

We recognise that licensees will want to broadcast content relating to the Coronavirus and that dissemination of accurate and up-to-date information to audiences will be essential during the current situation. However, we remind all broadcasters of the significant potential harm that can be caused by material relating to the Coronavirus. This could include:

• Health claims related to the virus which may be harmful.
Medical advice which may be harmful.
Accuracy or material misleadingness in programmes in relation to the virus or public policy regarding it.

We will be prioritising our enforcement of broadcast standards in relation to the above issues. In these cases, it may be necessary for Ofcom to act quickly to determine the outcome in a proportionate and transparent manner, and broadcasters should be prepared to engage with Ofcom on short timescales.
Ofcom will consider any breach arising from harmful Coronavirus-related programming to be potentially serious and will consider taking appropriate regulatory action, which could include the imposition of a statutory sanction.

It reads like an edict from Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. But it could equally apply to the Government Department of Health’s own COVID-19 narrative. A senior UK doctor, Mr Mohammed Adil, prominent in the fight for medical sense has been suspended by the GMC for simply exercising his right to freedom of speech and dissent within the law, having been no-platformed from YouTube. His European and 1st Amendment-protected American colleagues continue to be allowed to practice.

How are we to operate as a democracy, involving our medical professionals and our royal colleges in constructive, reasoned debate to reach a scientific, reasonable consensus of opinion when the GMC stifles doctors on the front line, and when the Government regulators crush, manipulate and censor their way through the usual democratic and scientific discourse? It seems even reasonable inferences, debate, and the right to speculate out aloud to progress our collective knowledge (particularly when we are not even allowed freedom to associate) is not official Government policy. Not journalistically, professionally nor socially. It is tantamount to thought-policing. Certainly, professional safety in my medical workspace involves suspending one’s disbelief, and zipping one’s mouth in order to stay in a job. What is striking is that my colleagues avoid talking to each other with scrutiny about COVID-19. To do so truthfully would be to dissent and risk unemployment. How as a society are we meant to join the dots, physically isolated, mentally compartmentalised and electronically censored? How can we progress unified and intelligently in this Parliament-created police state?

The Coronavirus Act legislates for one doctor-approved cremations and mental health act sectioning. Before these required two. Medical abortions can now be done at home by tele-consultation under 10 weeks gestation via ‘pills-by-post’, without the gestation being confirmed by the usual scan.

I have heard of medical colleagues who have been informed that if they wanted a relative’s body quickly released for Muslim burial, it could be done within 24 hours if COVID-19 was accepted as the cause of death, but 2 weeks if the cause of death was the more logical ‘stroke’. In London, there seems to be at least one hospital where a confidentiality clause or non-disclosure agreement must be signed before being allowed to work on Covid units. It appears the so-called whistleblower protections for doctors continue to be trounced. What is there worth hiding that we all cannot be privy to? After all, isn’t this a public health matter concerning us all?

Is this coercive, controlling pharma-political alliance of fear-mongering the Government’s new democratic normal? Is it a disproportionate response, deluded self-deception, spurious pseudoscience, fraud or a hoax? Is Sweden wrong? I don’t know, but how can we ever decide if the GMC forces doctors into the corners of anonymity and joblessness, and the Government shuts its ears to us? It feels intellectually embarrassing to be anything other than Swedish.

Even the WHO is turning about-face on lockdown with Tedros Ghebreyesus’ former WHO nemesis and new COVID-19 envoy, Dr. David Nabarro leading a change of narrative. Nabarro vigorously fought Tedros for the director-generalship of the WHO. Nabarro’s campaign team member suggested Tedros was implicated in covering-up three cholera epidemics in his own country whilst health minister for Ethiopia. Whom can you trust?

In the Hong Kong ‘flu pandemic of 1968 and 1969 where in total an estimated 80,000 people died in the UK, and an estimated 1-4 million worldwide, there was no lockdown, no draconian loss of liberty, and no destruction of the economy. No one scared the life out of us, shut down the economy and closed down the NHS then. So why now?

From PHE reports, in England alone, the number of deaths associated with influenza observed through the FluMOMO algorithm was 28,330 in the 2014-15 season, and 26,408 in the 2017-18 season. I really didn’t notice these, did you? They are certainly not scarred on my psyche by the government in the same manner as COVID-19. We also seem to be in the exceptional situation of having conveniently avoided an annual influenza-associated mortality spike in the 2019-20 season. Could it be that a significant proportion were subsumed into COVID-19 associated deaths?

What of vaccines? We still don’t have one for HIV. We’ve never had one for a human coronavirus. Vaccines for flu can be ineffective, and damaging. We may never have a viable candidate for COVID-19. Yes, medical technology has moved on, but not enough to compress the natural academic and clinical medical science response to this novel coronavirus into this timeline: the official narrative of less than one year.

What of mortality: a fraction of a percent, and 10 times less than predicted by the inadequate and presumptive Imperial College models? What about the age-specific mortalities: the younger, the more fractional the risk. Yet, some mask children and we destroy the lives of the least at risk (that’s most of the workforce under 60 years). We destroy jobs, industry and life as we knew it while we wait for a vaccine. The NHS feels like it has been weaponised by the state, and used paradoxically to damage our health. Isn’t that a hell of a timeline?

The Covid Physician is an unheroic NHS doctor. This article is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the views of the NHS. Dr. TCP tweets at @tcp_dr.

Latest News

Children More Likely to Die of Flu than Covid – Deputy Chief Medical Officer

This is what England’s teaching unions would like primary school classrooms to look like

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England, told Sky News this morning that children are more likely to die of flu or be killed in a road traffic accident than succumb to COVID-19.

“The long term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks,” she said.

“No environment is completely risk-free.

“Every time a parent sends their child off to school pre-Covid they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sorts of things.

“In fact that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risk of Covid.”

This message was complemented by the Times’s front page story this morning, which says, “Teachers spread virus more than pupils.”

New research from Public Health England revealed that two thirds of outbreaks arose from staff-to-staff transmission, or staff-to-pupil.

In June the number of schools open was between 20,500 and 23,400, with pupil numbers increasing from 475,000 to 1,646,000. In June and last month 200 children and staff were affected by the illness. Over the same period 25,470 cases were recorded across England as a whole.

Thirty outbreaks, defined as two or more linked cases in one school, were recorded between the start of June and the end of last month. These represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

The figures will encourage those who have argued that school is a safe place for children during the pandemic.

Killer line: “These [outbreaks] represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

Stop Press: Boris issued a statement this morning saying children’s “life chances” will suffer if they don’t go back to school and in the Telegraph Iain Duncan-Smith urges the PM to show “some Churchillian spirit” to get kids back to school.

Lockdown Was a “Monumental Mistake on a Global Scale” – Sage Member

Lockdown will come to be seen as a “monumental mistake on a global scale” and must never happen again, says Mark Woolhouse, a scientist who advises the Government on infectious diseases. The Express has the story.

Mark Woolhouse said lockdown was a “panic measure” but admitted it was the only option at the time because “we couldn’t think of anything better to do”.

But it is a crude measure that takes no accounts of the risk levels to different individuals, the University of Edinburgh professor said, meaning that back in March the nation was “concentrating on schools when we should have been concentrating on care homes”.

The Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology said that the Government must now focus on increasing testing and striving to unlock society safely rather than restricting it further.

Prof Woolhouse OBE, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours that advises the Government, said: “Lockdown was a panic measure and I believe history will say trying to control Covid-19 through lockdown was a monumental mistake on a global scale, the cure was worse than the disease.

“I never want to see national lockdown again. It was always a temporary measure that simply delayed the stage of the epidemic we see now. It was never going to change anything fundamentally, however low we drove down the number of cases, and now we know more about the virus and how to track it we should not be in this position again.

“We absolutely should never return to a position where children cannot play or go to school.

“I believe the harm lockdown is doing to our education, health care access, and broader aspects of our economy and society will turn out to be at least as great as the harm done by COVID-19.”

He said that Sage, the government’s advisory board on dealing with Covid, needed to have members from a wider range of fields.

At last, one of the Government’s scientific advisors is talking sense. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to NHS England there has only been one Covid death of someone under 40 in the past month.

NHS Ordered Care Homes Not to Resuscitate

Alarming story in the Telegraph. According to Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor, one in 10 care home staff members changed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ plans without discussing them first with family members, nursing staff, or residents.

Care homes were asked by NHS managers and GPs to place blanket ‘Do not resuscitate’ (DNR) orders on all their residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to keep hospital beds free, a new report has found.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) – the world’s oldest nursing charity – discovered one in 10 care home staff surveyed was ordered to change DNR plans without discussion with family members, nursing staff, or with the residents themselves.

Half of staff members who said they had been asked to change DNRs worked in homes for the elderly, while half worked in homes for younger people with learning or cognitive disabilities.

Staff also warned that some hospitals were operating a ‘no admissions’ policy for care home residents – even for non-COVID-19 conditions such as heart attacks – and some said they had struggled to make appointments with GPs for elderly people.

Report author Prof Alison Leary MBE said the findings were ‘worrying’ and called for an inquiry.

This is a scandal. Worth reading in full.

Another Terrible Cancer Story

A couple of days ago I invited readers to send me their stories about failing to secure adequate cancer care on the NHS. They’ve been flooding in. Here’s another heart-breaking tale.

My husband has a history of Hodgkins Lymphoma and is one of the 1.5 million people who were sent a long, terribly concerned letter from the Government strongly urging him to stay at home until they decided it was safe enough to venture out again. In the first week of lockdown he discovered a lump in his neck and, after some hesitation, tried to see our local GP. The surgery was abandoned by all the doctors who we were told were “working” from home.

A doctor rang my husband the following day for a consultation – no Zoom and no access to his medical notes. However, due to his history, the doctor agreed to refer my husband to our local hospital in Chelmsford. After two weeks we discovered he had been referred back to the GP. We tried again and another referral was made which was taken more seriously.

Since then he has had a PET scan showing “areas of concern” and two biopsies, the first one on June 26th, the results of which would be discussed with us by phone on July 24th. The day came but no phone call. We rang them only to be told the wrong biopsy had been done – a fine needle aspiration instead of a core biopsy – and a new biopsy would be done on August 5th. He was now officially a “fast path” patient and we were promised a phone consultation to discuss the results on August 20th. Again, no call, no results.

My husband first made contact with the GP on April 9th. It is now nearly September and he is yet to see a medical professional and we know no more than we did in early April. The stress and anger this has caused us, me in particular, are impossible to describe. My husband is an otherwise fit and healthy 60 year-old and father of two teenage children. He hasn’t missed a day of work during this whole time keeping a small manufacturing company in Harlow going without any redundancies or furloughs.

I feel I’ve woken up in a parallel universe where the normal citizenry have been turned into obedient Stepford wives and the government and its institutions are the smug husbands. We are at sea in a sinking boat drifting further from shore whilst the lifeguards look on shrugging their shoulders before turning away to deal with a couple of cases of mild sunburn.

I don’t feel I can ever love my country again.

I know how she feels.

Twitter Thread Claims China Used Fake Media Accounts to Promote Lockdown

Cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen, Jyllands-Posten

There’s a fascinating Twitter thread by Michael Senger about how the Chinese Communist Party launched a massive disinformation campaign in March urging governments around the world to impose full lockdowns. It links to plenty of evidence, such as this piece in the New York Times about how the CCP used fake Twitter accounts to amplify tweets praising China’s response to the pandemic in early March. The day after that Times article appeared, Twitter suspended more than 170,000 suspicious Chinese accounts. But according to Senger, many of these accounts remain active.

For instance, when the Governor of South Dakota refused to shut down her state, her Twitter feed filled up with thousands of abusive messages from these accounts. “By contrast, the accounts heap praise on governors who tighten lockdowns, like Dan Andrews, gov of Victoria, AUS,” writes Senger.

When Boris initially seemed to plump for herd immunity, the bots went to work, swarming his feed with messages comparing the policy to “genocide”.

And the disinformation campaign continued, focusing on different leaders each day, urging them to lock down. “Hard to think of any place more ill-suited to a total lockdown than Africa, but that’s exactly what CCP’s fake accounts demanded of South African President @CyrilRamaphosa on March 22,” Senger writes. “The next day, they got what they wanted, and Ramaphosa announced a total lockdown.”

After South Africa, it was India’s turn to be targetted. “On March 23, CCP’s army of fake accounts implored PM @PMOIndia to lock down India and order the army to ‘shoot on sight’ to enforce it,” writes Senger. “The next day, Modi announced a destructive lockdown.”

Senger is continuing to compile evidence and adding to his thread every day. If you’re not on Twitter, you can read the whole thread here.

Disturbing.

Stop Press: Sue Denim, who knows a thing or two about Twitter bots, says this is complete balls. Treat with extreme caution.

Covid Mortality Higher in Democratic States

A reader has been comparing the deaths per million in US states run by Democratic governors with those run by Republican governors.

On my first day of quarantine from Majorca I thought I’d amuse myself by looking at US state stats by political affiliations. Deaths 67% higher in Democrat states, deaths per million 41% higher. Cases actually higher in Republican states. All data from Worldometers.

Looser lockdowns in Republican states and the fact that many are in the south explains it I would think. However, if I were the US President it’s something I’d be flagging daily in the run up to an election. Obviously runs counter to the media narrative.

Postcard From the Dolomites

Sounds like this reader had a very different experience to me. Sorry to read this.

I know you were in the Dolomites a few weeks ago and I seem to recall that you said things were relatively relaxed at that time. My wife and I arrived in Villabassa yesterday for a weeks’ walking in the mountains and I am sad to report that we have found ourselves in muzzle central.

In our hotel you are expected to wear muzzles in all public areas unless seated at a table in the restaurant or bar and sadly everyone is complying. On stepping outside I had assumed that at least in the streets people would be largely muzzle-free but not a bit of it. Outside in the town 75 to 80% of those walking around, including those who are clearly serious mountain walkers are muzzled. Most children are muzzled, even some of about two.

Today we have walked about nine miles from the town to the Lago di Braies. This is a glacial lake which attracts a lot of tourists in coaches plus some fairly keen walkers, such as us. On the way up we passed a fair number of people walking down in muzzles. Others when they saw us approaching put on their muzzles even though there was plenty of room to pass. I reckon about 30% of those we passed (or possibly a little more) fell into this category even though we we were out in the open and they quite literally passed us in a second or so.

If that was bad enough, it was far worse when we reached the lake. This was where we encountered the coach trippers and 90% were masked even though we were high up in the mountains. We saw 2 men fully masked riding mountain bikes up quite a steep hill and a masked couple having a snog! What is it about these people that they have reached such an irrational level of fear that they spoil their enjoyment of the fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery that they feel it necessary to act in a totally irrational manner?

Normally I love a holiday in the mountains but I fear that my experience of the last 24 hours is making me feel that it is one I shall quickly wish to forget.

Submitting Evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus

A reader has come up with a sensible suggestion:

I am not sure how important the work of the APPG on Coronavirus will be to the Government’s ongoing approach but I assume it may have some relevance. This is obviously very worrying. Unfortunately, I do not fit into any of the categories from whom they would like evidence and the list of those that have provided evidence thus far does not inspire confidence that they will hear a balanced view. Hence, I would suggest you give more prominence to this issue in a future edition of Lockdown Sceptics and encourage some of your readers that do have the relevant expertise to submit evidence as soon as possible!

If you’d like to submit evidence to the Group, click here.

Italian Philosopher Becomes Lockdown Sceptic, Shunned by Colleagues

Nurses practised social distancing while protesting for better working conditions following the coronavirus pandemic in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo square, in June. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

There’s in interesting article in the New York Times about Giorgio Agamben, a radical, left-wing philosopher whose been shunned by his Italian colleagues after coming out as a lockdown sceptic.

The part of the Italian intellectual establishment that calls itself “radical” has been Mr. Agamben’s milieu for half a century. His position on the coronavirus has cost him its support. Paolo Flores d’Arcais, the influential editor of the bimonthly MicroMega, accused Mr. Agamben of “ranting.” The newspapers La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and Il Foglio all called him a negazionista regarding the coronavirus, using a word generally reserved for those who deny the Holocaust happened. Just as unexpected as these repudiations was the sudden receptivity to Mr. Agamben’s recondite philosophy in the pages of La Verità and Il Giornale, newspapers more often sympathetic to Mr. Salvini’s League.

A member of the radical Left, Agamben was very critical of the West’s “War on Terror”. In 2004, he was so alarmed by the U.S.’s new fingerprinting requirements for foreign visitors that he gave up a post at New York University rather than submit to them. He warned that these measures were only passing themselves off as temporary; they would inevitably become a normal part of peacetime life.

His argument about the coronavirus runs along similar lines: The emergency declared by public-health experts replaces the discredited narrative of “national security experts” as a pretext for withdrawing rights and privacy from citizens. “Biosecurity” now serves as a reason for governments to rule in terms of “worst-case scenarios.” This means there is no level of cases or deaths below which locking down an entire nation of 60 million becomes unreasonable. Many European governments, including Italy’s, have developed national contact tracing apps that allow them to track their citizens using cellphones.

Agamben has written a series of critical pieces about the Italian authorities’ response to the virus and they’ve been published in a single volume called Where Are We Now? The Epidemic as Politics. It hasn’t yet been translated into English, but it should be. Many of his sentiments will strike a chord with sceptics around the Anglosphere.

The politics of the pandemic expose a deeper ethical, social and even metaphysical erosion. Mr. Agamben cites Italians’ most beloved 19th-century novel, Alessandro Manzoni’s “The Betrothed,” which describes how human relations degenerated in Milan during the plague of 1630. People came to see their neighbors not as fellow human beings but as spreaders of pestilence. As panic set in, authorities executed those suspected of daubing houses with plague germs.

When a society loses its collective cool this way, the cost can be high. Rich, atomized, diverse, our society has a weak spot, and the coronavirus has found it. “For fear of getting sick,” Mr. Agamben writes, “Italians are ready to sacrifice practically everything – their normal living conditions, their social relations, their jobs, right down to their friendships, their loves, their religious and political convictions.”

In fact, “the threshold that separates humanity from barbarism has been crossed,” Mr. Agamben continues, and the proof is in Italians’ treatment of their dead. “How could we have accepted, in the name of a risk that we couldn’t even quantify, not only that the people who are dear to us, and human beings more generally, should have to die alone but also – and this is something that had never happened before in all of history from Antigone to today – that their corpses should be burned without a funeral?”

Worth reading in full.

Sir Humphrey Writes…

A retired Civil Servant has been in touch to take issue with last week’s post, “The Covid Civil Servant“, which in part blamed the Civil Service’s poor response to the coronavirus crisis to a lack of numeracy and scientific literacy.

As someone who worked in the Treasury for 21 years, in the final period of my working life, I don’t quite buy the line from your anonymous senior civil servant last week lamenting lack of civil service numeracy and scientific knowledge. During my time, the place acquired vastly more trained economists than when I had first arrived, the majority with postgraduate qualifications in the subject, along with more staff with graduate/postgraduate qualifications in other disciplines requiring sophisticated numeracy such as accounting and statistics. And although I never myself formally acquired any such expertise, I would not have survived a month without being very comfortable with handling numbers. Does this history mean that we became progressively wiser as a department? Does it hell. People who revel in numbers tend to be very uneasy with anything that can’t be captured in numbers, so narrowness, rigidity and sheer lack of imagination increasingly prevailed. The influence of the Treasury right across Government remained immense throughout my time there, and in that time it certainly imposed more widely than hitherto its own version of greater discipline in financial management across Whitehall departments and their related bodies. That didn’t make for better governance overall – there’s no panacea to be found in that direction. Also, the Senior Civil Service are not well paid by comparison with swathes of senior management with far less onerous responsibilities right across the rest of the public sector – that’s a big part of the problem.

Sweden’s Declining Case Numbers Are Due to Herd Immunity

Sweden is doing better than many other European countries when it comes to case numbers thanks to the fact that it didn’t impose a lockdown. The Times has more.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that the infection rate in France is more than 60 per cent higher than that of Sweden. France implemented a strict lockdown in the spring and requires masks to be worn in many public areas but has a fortnightly infection rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people.

Sweden, which decided not to implement compulsory measures at that time and which rejected the use of masks, has a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 people. The government is recording between 200 and 300 new cases a day, with deaths down to three last Friday.

Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist leading the response to the pandemic, has noted, based on the statistics, that infection rates have increased in countries such Spain, Belgium and France during and following the mandatory wearing of masks in many public areas. “The belief that masks can solve our problem is very dangerous,” he said last week.

Worth reading in full.

A Left-Wing Reader Responds to Yesterday’s Letter From a Liberal Sceptic

I love getting emails like this.

I was so pleased that you published the email from the left-leaning lockdown sceptic in your latest update. This was really heartening to read, and made me feel more like I’m a legit sceptic. I have been reading Lockdown Sceptics since you started it but I have wondered from time to time whether I really belong, as I’m a Labour-voting Remainer. (I used to be a Guardian reader, too, but I knocked that on the head in early April when I cancelled my subscription because of the lamentably biased and narrow-minded nature of their coronavirus coverage).

I say I’m Labour-voting but if there was a general election tomorrow I don’t think there’s anyone I could vote for with a clear conscience. What a ship of fools.

Thanks for all you do. I would think I disagree with you on just about everything but scepticism about coronabollocks unites us all.

If you missed the “Letter From a Liberal Sceptic” yesterday, you can read it here.

Postcard From Munich

Will Oktoberfest happen this year?

A reader writes to tell me about his recent trip to Munich. Could have been better…

I’ve just returned from a weekend visiting a friend in Munich. It was… just ok. The German stereotypes of following the rules were very much in show: facemasks when moving around in any indoors or outdoors restaurant/bar area – so if you are coming in from the street to an outdoors restaurant area, you have to wear a mask from the street to the table. And everyone obeys: I barely saw anyone not wearing a mask where required (over mouth and nose) throughout my whole weekend. The beer halls were very much open though; apart from having to wear a mask for the regular loo trips it was relatively normal and we had some good conversations with men in leather shorts. Slightly odd that some tables in the beer hall were cordoned off, meaning that people were crammed into the tables that were available.

Had an interesting experience at a “seesauna” (lake sauna) the next day to try and get rid of the hangover from the beerhall. Very strict social distancing rules (although thankfully no masks in the sauna areas) – the two of us went into one sauna with an eight-person limit (there were seven there already) and got shouted out. A lot of rules which, combined with the experience of being in your natural state of dress with members of both sexes, made for a relatively stressful experience.

All in all, I was pleased to come home to our comparatively liberal (and increasingly ignored) covid rules!

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

A bonanza of songs today: “Anything You Say Now I’ll Believe” by the Flaming Lips, “Complete Control” by the Clash, “Land of Fear” by Julian Cope, “Turnstyled, Junkpiled” by Townes Van Zandt, “F.E.A.R.” by Ian Brown and “Look out There’s a Monster Coming” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (trigger warning: all the band members are wearing black face).

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

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 a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

Latest News

The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown

George Orwell: Patron saint of left-wing sceptics

It really annoys me that lockdown sceptics are so often dismissed as Tory-voting, Brexit-supporting, libertarian-sympathising, white, middle-class, middle-aged Gammons. Okay, yes, that’s me, but there are plenty of other sceptics out there who don’t fall into any of these categories. And what’s really infuriating is the assumption that anyone on the Left should be a lockdown zealot. Why? As each day passes, more evidence comes to light that the lockdown has caused disproportionate harm to the most vulnerable people in our society – children, the elderly, cancer patients, the BAME community (not all of them are vulnerable, obviously), those suffering from mental illness… the list goes on. And what about the catastrophic effect the Global Economic Recession will have on the world’s poorest people in the developing world, with hundreds of millions now likely to die of starvation, TB, dysentery, etc.? Are left-wing people now just expected to sign up to the mantra of “safety first” and to hell with the consequences?

So it was heartening to get an email yesterday from a woman who started out by explaining she was a Guardian-reading, Remain-voting, Liberal Democrat who voted for Jeremy Corbyn at the last election, but is nonetheless a staunch lockdown sceptic. I’ve published it and it now sits below “The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown” by Alexis Fitzgerald on the left-hand side. Here are a couple of the opening paragraphs:

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories: There was a moon landing. The earth is round. My child is vaccinated. I know there is a virus, unrelated to 5G, whose effects can be severe with tragic consequences. However, I have been sceptical about the official risk assessments since the news footage from Wuhan emerged at the start of the year. And when a global reaction is so over-archingly bewildering that it has “someone like me” thinking there is more to this than meets the eye, something is wrong. I’ve stopped short (just) of believing that China engineered the entire thing to destroy the US economy and take down Trump. I did read the article in The Asia Times that linked to last October’s “Event 201” and find it rather odd this ‘event’ isn’t talked about more in the media. If you watch the video it looks oddly as though some ‘thought leaders’ and TED talk types who had been simulating virus response strategies (perhaps with good enough reason), just couldn’t wait to roll out their global virus-suppression protocol. When Covid came along (Coincidence? We may never know) governments went ahead on the advice of the WHO as if this were ‘the big one’. After Wuhan locked down with a strategy that was fairly alarming even by Chinese standards, our not-so-fearless leaders followed suit around the globe as though it were a game of Simple Simon.

This is not the big one. I say that as a pretty risk-averse person. My young son calls me “over-safety woman”. But as a cautious individual, I also question advice. Education is important in my family. My grandfather was a doctor and a teacher at the ‘Ivy League’ Cornell University medical school, my uncle is a doctor, and two of my cousins have PhDs. I’m half-way through a health-related science PhD myself (I have a long way to go as a researcher, but am trying hard and learning lots). I’m actually only saying that to keep you reading, as personal perspectives and anecdotal evidence sometimes get unfairly dismissed in the current data-obsessed climate. You’ll notice I’ve included no data or stats here. This crisis is about narratives as well as numbers. I’m just a layman (let’s be gender fluid) like many others currently scratching their heads or shouting at the telly in exasperation. All it took was a calculator (the back of an envelope would have done) to divide the number of cases, hospitalisations, or deaths by the population of the UK to realise that the chances of getting or dying from Covid never came close to justifying a full “lockdown” and all the attendant ramifications that you have documented so well on your site. The only positive digits in my calculation were on the right of the decimal point, preceded by a fair number of zeros. It doesn’t take a PhD to work this out.

A luminously intelligent email from a switched-on liberal. Very much worth reading in full.

Cancer Stories

“Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives… particularly if you’ve got cancer because the NHS is no longer treating cancer patients.”

Yesterday, I reported Karol Sikora’s prediction that as many as 30,000 people could die unnecessarily from cancer over the next 10 years as a result of the NHS becoming a Covid-only service during the lockdown and asked for readers to send me their stories about cancer screenings, diagnoses and treatments being cancelled or postponed. Needless to say, I’ve been deluged. Here are a few of the best.

First, a story from an intensive care doctor, just in case you thought it was only civilians who aren’t getting adequate cancer care.

I am a doctor and have been working in ITU.

I am appalled at the current state of the profession, supine in the face of the lack of evidence in all the restrictions currently applied to accessing care. Unfortunately many colleagues appear to have abandoned critical thinking and become zealots.

I’m writing though about my experience as a patient. Earlier this year I had a standard mole mapping appointment. My back has a number of moles I cannot see and these are checked as part of a cancer surveillance programme. On this occasion a malignant melanoma was detected and removed with commendable speed and efficiency. I was as a result of having this lesion placed on enhanced surveillance so that my back should be checked every three months in case of any new melanoma occurring.

I have to state I’m not personally very worried as the lesion removed was slow growing despite its malignancy.

My follow up appointment was during lockdown. Instead of visiting the clinic and having my back inspected and photographed to check for changes, I had a telephone appointment. An audio call, not even video. I was asked if I had any symptoms. Well as I had no symptoms before the first lesion and symptoms are rare unless the lesion is well advanced I did not expect to have any. The point of surveillance is to catch lesions early before they spread. I did in fact have some itch (a symptom…) But told the clinician it was probably the healing scar from the initial removal causing the itch. I cannot see my back and could not tell if any moles had changed shape, size or colour. Nevertheless despite this pretty inadequate conversation I was deemed fine – next follow up in October.

As I say I’m not personally very worried. But this appointment had literally no value and might as well never have taken place. I feel angry for others for whom this might well have been a missed chance to catch a melanoma early and prevent extended treatment and possibly mortality.

Please retain my anonymity. But this is an example of how even when services for cancer are nominally re-opened, due to the exclusion of patients from attending hospital and being properly examined, they are ineffectual.

Now a story from a patient.

I live in High Peak. I have chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and had a course of chemotherapy at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 2015/16. I was due for my annual check-up at the haematology unit there at 11.30am. on 20th. March. A fortnight prior to that date, with travel and accommodation arrangements in place, I was told by phone that my appointment was postponed for six months.

A couple of weeks ago I was informed by letter that, after a review of cases, it was deemed appropriate to conduct my check-up by phone. This would take place on September 11th “between 9.00am and 1.30pm” and it would help if I could arrange to get my blood sampled and tested in time for then.

So a thorough, hands on (!), physical examination and face-to-face interview by and with the consultant preceded by an in-house blood test (result in c.30 minutes) at the hospital unit which has treated me since my diagnosis has been junked in favour of outsourcing the handling of my blood test to me and to my GP who, in turn, has to rely on the testing service at a hospital in Stockport; and a phone call. My next job will be to ensure the test results reach the RSH and are available for the remote ‘consultation’.

I consider myself very fortunate in not being at imminent risk of my life at this time (I think: if the disease develops as predicted in 2016 I shall not require chemo. to save my life again til 2024/5). I am fortunate in being in good shape, physically and mentally, so can do the necessary running around now required of me. I am also fortunate in being already ‘on the books’ so, even though the previously rigorous protocol for the annual check-up has been dismantled, I am still being monitored after a fashion.

Many of the emails I received were from people who are justifiably angry. Here’s one:

My wife was scheduled for a cancer test, being in a high risk category – family, age and history – three weeks ago. She was understandably becoming increasingly worried as the day approached but was telephoned the day before and told that the appointment has been postponed.

FOR A YEAR.

To say that I am angry would be like calling the Universe big. The whole coronavirus fiasco has cost me my business, the career of my daughter and pretty much everything I have spent my entire life working for, but this is too much. Now these odious selfish… (what? I have no words to describe my feelings toward the perpetrators – cowards, tyrants, murderers?) are prepared to sacrifice my wife (40 years an NHS ITU nurse) on the altar of their imbecility. It is too much, it is intolerable. Can anyone give me a hint as to why? Cui Bono?

I best close before my anger, which I feel rising, takes over.

And many of the emails were very sad, like this one:

This is one of the many heart-breaking stories you will no doubt receive.

A very dear friend of ours, who notwithstanding his age (83) was very fit, walking his dog in hilly terrain at least two hours a day, doing all his own shopping, cooking and gardening, started to have digestive problems around February.

He went to see his GP, who took a blood test, said he was anaemic and prescribed iron tablets, which could (said the GP) lead to some minor digestive problems. I helped our friend to devise small changes in diet to increase his natural iron intake.

Things went from unpleasant, to bad, to worse. In March he tried to see the GP again, but by then the surgery didn’t allow patients in, only telephone consultations.

Other medication was tried, the iron tablets remained mandatory, nothing helped!

Finally, last month, our friend turned as yellow as a lemon. The GP relented, saw him, and referred him to the hospital for tests.

The next week he was admitted to hospital a day after my husband took him there for a Covid-test administered while he sat in our car at the entrance of the hospital.

When he woke up from the anaesthesia administered “for a biopsy” he found out that a duodenal stent had been placed. No explanation of the necessity for this was given, “it was necessary”… He discharged himself next day.

Two days ago he received a letter stating that he had terminal pancreatic cancer, that the GP would telephone to discuss further treatments etc.
He now does not wish to see or hear from another doctor ever again. Yesterday, he has had a very pleasant visit from one of the community nurses who outlined how their service will look after him, and has made his peace with God.

Although he asked us to research “on that internet thing” how long he might still live (according to Pancreatic Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK that is three to six months), having informed him about this, he is now dying before our eyes, and will certainly not make it that long.

An oncologist friend of ours in another town had already warned us 2 months ago about the “tsunami” of cancer cases that would hit the NHS as soon as diagnosis and treatment was “allowed” again…

Our friend will now just be another meaningless number in the NHS statistics. I am disgusted, angry, and terribly sad!

Here’s another sad tale, this time about a reader’s father.

My Father was a 79 year-old retired merchant navy officer who had enjoyed a life of good health until being diagnosed with bowel cancer early in 2019. He underwent the major surgery associated with the condition but responded well to the treatment, a testament to his robust constitution.

Unfortunately in the autumn of 2019 they identified secondary cancers which were only able to be controlled with chemotherapy. However, he responded to the chemotherapy remarkably well, side effects were negligible and the count of cancer cells in his blood dropped to a little above “normal”. He was optimistic and we believed there could be at least a couple of decent enjoyable years left for him. He was benefiting from a costly antibody treatment which was intended to prolong life and I was a little surprised that the NHS were prepared to make such an investment in someone of his age, but we were of course delighted and grateful.

In March his chemotherapy was put on hold, to reduce the “risk” of COVID-19. He was already nervous about infection from the normal flu season so there was little possibility of him being exposed to the virus, except in the NHS!

The lockdown meant he was forbidden from seeing his children or grandchildren, living hundreds of miles away. And his life like everyone else’s was closed down.

In April there was a rapid deterioration in his health, at this stage the symptoms I believed were more due to being confined to the house and a lack of normal exercise. He was hospitalised, with no visitors or even social contact from the nursing staff.

A scan revealed the cancer had spread aggressively and the cell count had risen sharply. It is a fair assumption that three sessions of chemotherapy being denied was the main reason for this.

After a rapid decline my father died in June. Whilst we were lucky to get home home for his final days so he did not die alone, he was largely abandoned by the NHS he paid for over more than 60 years as a taxpayer. He was proud to point out he had paid his taxes every week since 1955.

A GP told him that he would no longer be treated and was only to receive palliative care over Facetime. I cannot believe the religious adulation being heaped on NHS “heroes” when all I have seen evidence of is cowardice.

In summary I believe the arbitrary removal of cancer services dramatically shortened my father’s life. However he was well past his “three score years and ten” and seriously ill so we accept he had to go sooner rather than later. However I know of at least one much younger victim of the cancer scandal.

I have heard countless tales from friends working in the NHS about hospitals being essentially shut and cancer services being withdrawn. I firmly believe my father’s experience will be the tip of a large iceberg, one containing much younger lives which have been unnecessarily lost.

The awful thing is, this crisis in cancer care is far from over. The patient backlog is now greater than it’s ever been and this winter there’s a strong possibility the NHS will return to being a Covid-only service.

There will be a reckoning…

Boris: Schools Must Re-Open Next Month

The Prime Minister is at last doing something right, urging schools to re-open in full next month. “No ifs, not buts,” the Telegraph quotes him as saying.

According to a Whitehall source, Downing Street has made clear there can be “no ifs, no buts” in delivering on the national priority. “Schools not coming back is not an option,” they added. “Failure is not an option.”

Senior Conservative MPs have called for Mr Johnson to take the lead on schools and sideline Mr Williamson, amid fears that widespread anger over this week’s exams about-turn has left him incapable of shaping public opinion positively.

Their concerns have been echoed by several Cabinet ministers, with one saying: “We’ve got to get schools back. That’s the test for him.”

Throughout the pandemic, the prolonged closure of schools has been among the greatest concerns weighing on the minds of Mr Johnson and his most senior aides and ministers.

Meanwhile, all 12 of Britain’s Chief Medical Officers have told parents there is an “exceptionally small risk” of their children succumbing to COVID-19 if they return to school. The Mail has more.

The highly unusual ‘consensus statement’ from the country’s most senior experts removes the final hurdle to the resumption of full-time teaching in September – to the relief of parents who have been forced to home-school the majority of children since March.

It continues:

All 12 Chief and Deputy Chief Medical Officers agree that “very few, if any, teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school”.

And they say that small risk has to be offset against “a certainty of long-term harm to many children from not attending school”.

The experts also conclude that “teachers are not at increased risk of dying from COVID-19” compared to other workers, and say that the evidence from other countries is that reopening schools is not linked to a surge in cases.

When it comes to the evidence from other countries, English parents don’t have to look very far. Schools have re-opened in full in Scotland and there has been no resurgence in cases north of the border.

It’s not all good news, though. Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, gave an interview to BBC Breakfast yesterday in which he said that opening schools would likely cause a rise in infections and to compensate the Government may have to increase restrictions elsewhere.

A Doctor Writes

A doctor has emailed me to draw my attention to a recent editorial in the BMJ.

I am a practising General Practitioner. I wholeheartedly support your efforts to draw attention to the actual facts surrounding the current SARS CoV-2 pandemic.

I follow your Lockdown Sceptics blog almost daily!

I would like to draw your attention to the editorial in this week’s BMJ which expounds the benefits and virtues of T-Cell immunity which you have pointed out for months .

I read the first paper on this subject shortly after I had recovered from COVID-19 myself. This was from a group in Tubingen in Germany back in April or May. There have been multiple papers confirming these findings since as you know.

It has taken the medical establishment three months to even start discussing this evidence!

Meanwhile, a Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard says parts of New York and London have already achieved herd immunity. According to the Telegraph:

“It’s reasonable to think that some local areas have a substantial amount of immunity. I think there are parts of New York and London which are there,” said Professor Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s really noticeable in certain pockets, but it varies city block to block and we have to be careful when interpreting what it means.”

Experts point to new modelling which has used data on the spread of Covid-19 to suggest herd immunity – previously estimated to be upwards of 70 per cent – could be as low as 50 per cent, or even 43 per cent, as one study found.

Make that 19%. A new German study found that 81% of pre-Covid blood donors had T-cell cross immunity to SARS-CoV-2. From the abstract:

SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell epitopes enabled detection of post-infectious T-cell immunity, even in seronegative convalescents. Cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T-cell epitopes revealed preexisting T-cell responses in 81% of unexposed individuals, and validation of similarity to common cold human coronaviruses provided a functional basis for postulated heterologous immunity in SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Worth reading the study in full if the technical language doesn’t put you off.

Postcard From Bogota

A reader has sent me a “Postcard From Bogota“, which I’ve published today. Here’s the opening paragraph:

For the first time in my life I fled from the Police. Running at 7am in my local park all by myself and with a mask over my face, a motorcycle with two policemen approaching on the narrow trail. I saw them early enough and was able to sprint away from the path and hide until they were out of sight. Exercising outdoors is again forbidden, and violation costs a hefty fine (equivalent to $300). My neighbourhood Chapinero was forced into strict lockdown again for two weeks on August 16th. All shops and businesses had to close again (except those which sell food or medicine) and citizens are only allowed outside for emergencies or to buy these products. Colombians have been in lockdown since March 20th and compete with other Latin American countries for the longest lockdown in the world award.

Life in Bogota sounds significantly worse than in England – even Oldham! I was particularly horrified to read that children aren’t expected to return to school until 2021, with predictably catastrophic consequences for the least well off.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Scared Of You” by Nelly Furtado, “Scared of Everything” by Chris Leggett, “We Like to be Frightened” by Vanik and “Bedwetters of the World Unite” by Frankie China.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Meanwhile, Joan Collins has written a diary for the Spectator in which she recounts her fight with an officious French police officer.

On a shopping trip to Ikea I wore a new plastic face visor, which I had seen being worn by London hairdressers. As it’s less stifling than a ‘muzzle’ mask, I could breathe more easily. However, an officious gendarme became deeply offended by it, and while I was mulling over the benefits of Ikea’s gravadlax vs its smoked salmon, he pounced. Gesticulating in Gallic fashion, he yelled at me to put on a proper mask, because visors aren’t legal. Chastised, I slunk away, muttering an Anglo-Saxon expletive under my breath, which, as he glared at me, I feared he might have understood.

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 a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

https://webplayer.whooshkaa.com/player/episode/id/722974?theme=light&enable-volume=true

I linked to Yoram Hazony’s piece in Quillette last week in which he tried to get to grips with why so many seemingly robust liberal institutions, like the New York Times, have proved vulnerable to capture by hard Left Neo-Marxists. I edited that piece and a couple of days ago I spoke to Hazony for the Quillette Podcast. You can listed to that conversation here.