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15 Million People Vaccinated. Time to Re-open?

Yesterday the Prime Minister formally confirmed that 15 million people had received the first dose of the vaccine.

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1360983403793969153

That’s two days ahead of schedule. So now what? The announcement of a ‘road map’ out of lockdown is expected next Monday, with restrictions set to be eased from March 8th. Hints of what this easing might look like continue to be reported. The Telegraph highlights the prospect that Grandparents will be allowed to hug their grandchildren.

Grandparents would be able to see their grandchildren again from as early as March under plans to ease lockdown being considered by the Government…

“If grandparents had had the vaccine, that would be likely to be okay. Given that people will have immunity, that would be a fair assumption, but nothing has been decided,” said a Government source.

MailOnline suggests high street shops may reopen and some limited self-catering holidays at Easter my be allowed.

It is thought that this could mean the re-opening of High Street shops within weeks as well as the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising.

Ministers are also said to be considering plans to allow for families of a single household to travel across the UK for an Easter holiday in self-catered accommodation.

However, there remains a fair degree of official nervousness about the prospect of reopening leading to increased infections, according to MailOnline.

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success ministers are currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays.

This has raised fears that letting people travel long distances to their destinations could lead to “big movements” across the UK – potentially leading to a spike in coronavirus cases once again…

But the Prime Minister said: “Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the lockdown, plus possibly the effect of the vaccine, we’re going to see the rates coming down more sharply.

“They’re falling at the moment, we want to be in a position where we can begin to open up.”

In the interview with US television network CBS, Mr Johnson continued: “What people want to see is clarity about the way forward, and taking steps to unlock, which you don’t then have to reverse.”

Readers will well remember his cautiousness in his announcement of Lockdown 3.0 on January 4th.

If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.

I must stress that even if we achieve this goal, there remains a time lag of two to three weeks from getting a jab to receiving immunity.

And there will be a further time lag before the pressure on the NHS is lifted.

Come on Boris. Screw your courage to the sticking place!

Stop Press: St Austell Brewery and other industry leaders have written a strong letter to the Prime Minister urging him to allow pubs to reopen.

We must be allowed to reopen in an economically viable manner – not with ill conceived, unworkable restrictions that confuse the public, limit our financial viability and are questionable in terms of mitigating public health risk.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph points out that the vaccine data is not quite so clear cut. Fifteen million doses have been administered, but out-of-date figures and blind spots in the publicly available statistics make it difficult to assess who has had the jab with complete certainty.

Hotel Quarantine Opens for Business

© PA

Today is the day the new rules for entry in the United Kingdom come into force. Unsurprisingly, chaos is expected at ports of entry. The Telegraph has more.

Heathrow has warned of quarantine chaos that could lead to passengers queueing for up to five hours and flights being suspended as the Government’s new border controls come into force on Monday.

The airport warned ministers the extra checks needed on arrivals and shortages of Border Force staff could “compromise” the safety of up to 8,000 passengers a day flying into Heathrow to quarantine either in Government-approved hotels or at home.

Border Force officials estimate the checks on whether passengers have come from one of the 33 red list countries and paid for their quarantine hotels and Covid tests could double the time taken to 15 minutes per arrival. E-gates have been shut because of the need for face-to-face checks….

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Our key concern remains the ability of Border Force to cope. Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable.” 

From today, anyone heading for England must now undergo at least three tests. The first in the three days prior to travel, and the second and third during their 10-day quarantine. These latter two tests must be purchased at a cost of £210 as a “Covid Testing Package”.

That’s just for those arriving from a country that isn’t one of the 33 that have been red-listed. Anyone arriving in England from one of those must book a 10 day (11 night) “Managed Quarantine Package” which includes hotel stay, food and beverages, transfers, security and two COVID-19 tests at a total cost of £1,750. Failure to do so may mean a fine of £10,000 or 10 years in jail – or possibly both. Heathrow, according to the Telegraph report, is pleading for some leniency.

Heathrow is also urging the Government not to issue £4,000 fines to red list passengers who have failed to book their hotels in recognition of the technical problems that crashed the official booking website for 24 hours last week. The airport has offered facilities for them to make the bookings.

The booking portal is here should any overseas readers really want to come to England at the moment. CityAM reports that contracts have been secured with 16 hotels close to airports and sea ports, a total of 4,600 rooms. Grant Shapps estimates that the number coming in from the relevant countries “probably comes to less than 1,000 a day”. Better hope so, or he will be needing more rooms. Some fear that these hotels might turn into infection hotspots, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Ahead of the new rules being introduced at midnight, Meher Nawab, chief executive of the London Hotel Group, warned that many airport hotels rely on central air flow systems.

Pointing to Australia’s system – which is currently under review amid an outbreak linked to quarantine hotels – he warned such systems could increase the risk of the virus spreading between guests and hotel staff. 

Mr Nawab also warned that airport hotels often use central air conditioning systems – rather than individual units – and sometimes have windows that cannot be opened.

The warning comes as passengers were seen making a desperate dash to return to the UK before the rules come into force. 

Union chiefs meanwhile warned that the quarantine measures were not enough to prevent Covid variants spreading in the UK.

The GMB union also raised concerns about its members interacting with arrivals from ‘red listed’ countries which are included in the quarantine hotel scheme.

Who Decided Which Countries Should be on the ‘Red List’ and Why?

The 33 ‘red list’ countries. Picture: Getty Images/Metro.co.uk

How do they choose which country’s visitors should go into quarantine? Lockdown Sceptics contributor Jonny Peppiatt has taken a close look at the ‘red list’ and can’t see the logic.

With hotel quarantine coming into effect on Monday, I think it’s time we did some armchair sleuthing into the countries on our red list, because when I saw the list it struck me, on first impression, as a broadly random selection of countries that, if anything, seemed more anti-African and anti-South American than anything else.

Of course, South Africa and Brazil feature in there because of the two now world-renowned “Variants of Concern” (VOC) named after those countries – 501Y.V2 (of which, the UK has more cases than all other countries combined bar South Africa) and P.1, respectively. Other than these two “VOCs”, it is difficult to see what explanation could be offered for adding other countries to the red list (seeing as there are no other major nationally branded “VOCs”), other than their case rates rising rapidly, or staying at a very high level.

The explanation often cited is that we are defending our borders against unknown variants. But if that is the case, why highlight individual countries and not just shut our borders to everyone? Are some countries more likely to create “VOCs” than others? If so, why? I’m not sure that’s a line of questioning anyone on SAGE would be happy to be taken down…

Perhaps it’s a case of restricting travel from countries around SA and Brazil. There’s an argument to be made here, with every country on mainland South America on the red list, along with Panama. But if Panama is on the list, why not Trinidad and Tobago, or Curacao, or Aruba, or Grenada, and so on and so on.

Of course, you also have all countries south of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the list. But why would you add Mauritius but not Madagascar? Or the Seychelles, or Cape Verde? These seem more like holiday destinations the Government is seeking to dissuade travel to than genuine threats.

So, other than broadly being countries near SA or Brazil, the infection rate must be a factor. So, let’s take a look at that. But, before we do, maybe it would be helpful to have the list of 33 countries to hand:

Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Let’s start with the ludicrous: four of these countries (French Guiana, Mauritius, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe) recorded no cases on February 11th. None. It’s worth worth noting that Tanzania hasn’t recorded a single case since May 8th when their Matt Hancock was sacked after a positive test being obtained from a papaya.

Another 14 countries have case rates per million in double figures. These are Angola, Burundi, DR of Congo, Lesotho, Rwanda, Malawi, Venezuela, Mozambique, Namibia, Suriname, Eswatini, Guyana, Zambia and South Africa – yes, South Africa, that terrifying country that is rife with mutant variants. The highest of these is 56 cases per million.

For reference, the UK, despite having fallen by 80% since the peak of daily reported cases on the 8th January, has 199 cases per million.

And sure enough, another nine of our 33 red listed countries, while having triple-figure case rates, still have lower case rates than us. These nine are Cape Verde, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Panama, and Chile. Have we missed any South American or southern African countries?

Oh yes, of course, Brazil, home to VOC P.1, Peru, Botswana and the Seychelles.

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Peru

  • Cases reported: 11th February: 6,724
  • Case rate per million: 204
  • Trend: Seems to be reaching a peak, but the cases curve looks different to any other I’ve seen.
  • Variants of concern: Indeterminable from my armchair.
  • Conclusion: If you’re applying the precautionary principle, including Peru on the red list seems fairly reasonable, I suppose.

Botswana

  • Cases reported: 11th February: 491
  • Case rate per million: 209
  • Trend: Nothing has really changed since the middle of October.
  • Conclusion: What on earth is happening in Botswana? Why has nothing changed for four months? That seems very weird. Yes, let’s keep them out. Thanks.

Brazil

  • Cases reported: 11th February: 54,742
  • Cases per million: 258
  • Trend: Broadly unchanged since early January.
  • Trend of neighbouring countries: Argentina has fallen 47% since peak on 12th January; Panama has fallen 84% since peak on 6th January; Colombia has fallen 63% since peak on 14th January; Bolivia has fallen 53% since peak on 27th January; Suriname has fallen 77% since peak on 12th January; Uruguay down 63% since peak 14th January; Venezuela has been low since mid-October; Paraguay has been broadly unchanged since September; Guyana low since August; Ecuador hasn’t really changed since April.
  • ConclusionThere just doesn’t appear to be a hugely concerning variant of concern ripping through South America right now…

The Seychelles

  • Cases reported: 11th February: 73
  • Cases per million: 745
  • Trend: Cases appear to be growing.
  • Conclusion: Surely, having a sample size of less than 100,000 (i.e. their entire population) means that cases per million will just be distorted. I’m not sure a comparison here is worthwhile at all.

We have two countries left on our list: Portugal and UAE – the only two countries on the list not in Africa or South America. With cases per million of 341 and 356 respectively, you could almost accept these two being on the red list, but Portugal has seen a decline of 79% daily cases reported since its peak on January 28th, and UAE appears to have peaked on January 29th, although it isn’t coming down as quickly as some other countries on this list.

If I were to speculate as to how the Government had come up with this list, I would say that Grant Shapps has drawn a big circle around Brazil and South Africa on a big map, and thrown any countries that appear in those circles on to the list without bothering to look at individual case rates in any of these countries.

However, they forgot to include all the little countries around the north coast of Venezuela. They also forgot Madagascar.

Then, they did a quick google search for high cases per million which spat out Seychelles, Portugal, and UAE, so they added them to the list without even bothering to look at the fact that Portugal’s cases are plummeting at the same rate as ours, UAE’s cases are coming down fairly quickly, and Seychelles’ cases per million are simply an artefact of having such a small population.

All in all, I would struggle to conclude that this red list has been carefully thought out, carefully planned, or carefully investigated. But then, I’m just an armchair epidemiologist, aren’t I?

Stop Press: New Scientist is similarly unimpressed by the new quarantine rules.

“In the case of Australia, the goal is to eliminate the risk of international travellers bringing COVID-19 into an environment where we have no community spread,” says Nancy Baxter at the University of Melbourne. “But when your country has one of the world’s biggest outbreaks, I’m not really sure what you’re gaining by having hotel quarantine – other than being ready for when you do get your numbers to the point where international travellers pose a greater risk to your community than just going to the grocery store,” she says.

“I think it might very well be too late,” says Beverley Paterson at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Hancock has said that the border rules are needed to “secure the nation against new variants of coronavirus”.

However, given that the new quarantine rules will be enforced only for passengers returning from red-listed countries, many researchers think they are unlikely to be effective. “Clearly there are political reasons that countries are or aren’t on that list. It’s not a risk-based plan,” says Baxter.

For instance, the US isn’t on the red list, despite the rapid spread of a new virus variant in California. “The likelihood of something being introduced from America is just enormous,” says Paterson. There is a huge number of cases in the US, and it is probable that many more new variants will arise there, she adds.

Stop Press 2: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wants all international travellers to be herded into quarantine hotels, while the Scottish Government has put that rule in place. This has given rise to the prospect of checks on the Scottish-English border.

Stop Press 3: In case anybody believes rigid border controls are a guarantee of Zero Covid, there’s been an outbreak of three local cases in Auckland, New Zealand, plunging the city into a ‘level 3’ lockdown for three days. The Guardian has more.

People should work from home where possible, and schools will be open only to the children of essential workers. Public venues such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets will close, as will businesses that cannot ensure physical distancing.

The rest of the country is in ‘level 2’. Travellers to New Zealand from any country must complete a 14-day stay in managed isolation or quarantine.

The Shocking Backlog of Cancer Patients

An increase in deaths from cancer is a well known side-effect of the lockdowns, with screening programmes and treatments being delayed by hospitals and people being reluctant to turn up for appointments for fear of catching the virus. Turns out, 2020 was the worst year on record when it comes to the number of people being diagnosed with cancer, i.e. fewer were diagnosed than at any time since records began. Euronews has the details.

In December 2020, there were 200,940 urgent cancer referrals made by doctors in England, compared with 187,811 the year prior – something believed to be caused in part by lockdown coronavirus.

“We had the initial first wave of the pandemic and at that point a lot of the routine work was actually paused while we tried to cope with the first wave of COVID-19,” said Dr Julian Elford, a clinical radiologist.

“We can’t get patients through the pathway as quickly as we’d like. There are lots of different reasons for that, but it is frustrating and that is leading to some delays in diagnosis and treatment.”

According to Elford, that backlog is also due to patients’ fears of catching COVID-19 in the hospital setting. Plus, fewer clinicians are able to refer patients as they are helping to fight COVID-19 themselves.

Meanwhile, England’s National Health Service has said 350,000 patients in England had been waiting for more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in December 2020.

They added a total of 345,664 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.

In December 2019, the equivalent figure was 41,906.

“There’s a long backlog, a large backlog of cases waiting for CT and MRI scans as the first part of their diagnostic pathway, at the moment there are more than 72,000 patients waiting longer than six weeks for a CT or MRI scan,” Elford said.

The Telegraph says that the backlog of cancer patients waiting more than 100 days has doubled since last year.

NHS England data show the staggering challenge hospitals have to save the lives of cancer patients.

At the start of February, the backlog of cases already at more than 15 weeks had hit 6,109, compared to 3,000 at the same point in 2020. National targets state cancer patients should be treated within 62 days of being referred…

In the North West, the backlog has nearly tripled over the same time period, from 289 to 831.

It adds:

In a statement, NHS England said Covid has put the services under huge pressure, but the vast majority of cancer care is continuing and more people were treated and referred in Dec 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.

It added: “The NHS message is clear, people should continue to come forward for routine screening or get checked if they have a worrying symptom.”

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the growing backlogs were “very worrying”, adding: “Life-saving, emergency surgery has continued through the pandemic, however, as hospital beds have filled up with COVID-19 patients, many thousands of patients have been forced to wait for cancer and other types of NHS treatment

Not every case of cancer is fatal, of course, but prompt diagnosis improves the chances of survival. According to Cancer Research, there are more than 166,000 cancer deaths every year.

Stop Press: A Lockdown Sceptics reader has flagged up a paper published by the Nuffield Department of Health which investigated the impact on colorectal cancer specifically.

As compared to the monthly average in 2019, in April, 2020, there was a 63% reduction (from 36,274 to 13,440) in the monthly number of two-week referrals for suspected cancer and a 92% reduction in the number of colonoscopies (from 46,441 to 3,484)…

By October, 2020, the monthly rate had returned to 2019 levels but did not exceed it, suggesting that, from April to October, 2020, over 3,500 fewer people had been diagnosed and treated for colorectal cancer in England than would have been expected. 

Imperial’s Prediction of a June-July Spike is Implausible, says Prof

Changing of the Seasons by Luke Price on Wikimedia Commons

There follows a guest post from David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia, responding to Glen Bishop’s article on February 12th and the contributions of others since.

I read with great interest and some astonishment Glen Bishop’s article and subsequent correspondence on Lockdown Sceptics, indicating that the Imperial group has omitted seasonality effects in its modelling of COVID-19 trajectories.

Seasonality is a feature of respiratory viruses in general, at least in the northern and southern temperate zones, including Europe. This is well illustrated in the review and meta analysis by Li and colleagues of Edinburgh University, published last July in Journal of Infectious Diseases

This has easily-understood heat maps illustrating how seasonal (i.e. non-Covid) coronaviruses, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza virus all peak in December to February in the Northern hemisphere and in July to August in New Zealand. Their patterns are erratic in the tropics. The only exception is China, where ‘seasonal’ coronaviruses seemed to be less seasonal. Maybe that, and patterns of arising cross-immunity, contribute to the different trajectories of SARS-CoV-2 in China and elsewhere? 

That, though, is a topic for another day.

What matters now is the recent (January) modelling by Imperial (which is likely influencing Government policy). This seeks to predict COVID-19’s trajectory as vaccine is deployed and non-pharmaceutical interventions are eased up to July. All its models show a spike in hospitalisations in June and July (see its figure 5). The height of this varies according to the speed of vaccine roll out and the R number, but it is widely projected to exceed hospital capacity. 

Imperial writes:

Our results highlight the importance of speeding-up vaccine roll-out, and suggest that a more cautious approach to gradually lifting NPIs may need to be considered than the ones modelled in this report.

Yet if we accept the obvious seasonality of coronaviruses, a June-July spike is simply implausible. We know this not only from Li et al.’s review of other respiratory viruses but also from experience with SARS-CoV-2 itself. COVID-19 became infrequent in summer 2020 in unrestricted Sweden. It did not rise swiftly in the UK summer despite mass summer protests and ‘Eat out to Help Out’. In the Czech Republic, which largely evaded the spring pandemic and then relaxed completely, even a Covid-naïve population was not seriously hit until the Autumn.

In short, Imperial’s January modelling is deeply flawed by ignoring seasonality and should not be used as an excuse to delay releasing lockdown. The test of vaccines will, in reality, come next winter, not in the summer.

Have the Young Really Suffered More than the Old?

Today we are publishing a new piece by Lockdown Sceptics regular, Guy de la Bédoyère. Written in response to Dr Alberto Giublini’s article, which we published on Saturday, Guy argues that everyone in lockdown is in this together. Everyone has been damaged somehow, and we must now act together in our collective interest of coming to terms with the disease and return to a manageable normality. Here are the opening paragraphs:

I wonder how helpful at this stage Dr Alberto Giubilini’s article really is. It belongs to a range of claims that one group or another has suffered more or less than others either from lockdowns or other Covid-suppression measures. In this case, he argues that the young have been hit more than anyone else in the Government’s quest to make us all pay the price for Covid in the interests of ideological moralism.

Some of what he says is true. I certainly agree with him that the media’s obsession with trying to find unrepresentative stories about younger people dying from Covid in an attempt to make a false extrapolation that “we’re all in it together” is grossly misleading. The data, as he says, speaks for itself and only in this last week we have learned the sad fact that 60% of Covid-related deaths in the last year in the UK have occurred to the disabled, confirmed by the ONS. And it is absolutely correct that young people’s lives and prospects are being devastated for the sake of something that barely affects them. With four adult children of my own, all in their thirties, I am painfully aware of the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions on their lives and those of their own children.

But it is not that simple.

In the most recent edition of New Statesman, the resident medic Dr. Phil Whitaker, paints in his weekly column a sentimental and self-regarding picture of elderly ‘survivors’ coming for their vaccines and drowning him and his colleagues in effusive thanks. Reinforcing the notion that there is an unfair conflict of interest at play, he says of his elderly patients who have arrived to be vaccinated:

They must be all too aware of the strand of opinion that bemoans what society has borne in order to protect them. The vaccine offers the chance to leave such commentary behind. They have survived a year of Covid – unlike the 110,000 who have, to date, succumbed.

The disparaging tone in the reference to “the strand of opinion” is all too obvious. We should all have willingly sacrificed everything.

What both Whitaker and Giubilini overlook is that it will be a long time, especially with the young, before we can really assess the relative impact of all the measures. It would be more constructive at this point, especially with our concerns about the impact of Government measures, to consider how lockdowns have affected everyone but in very different ways, including – crucially – the elderly.

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/docwas/status/1359561529276907522

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Twenty-one today: “Something Better Change” by The Stranglers, “Trapped in a Box” by No Doubt, “Somebody to Love” by Dicepeople, “We’ve Heard It All Before” by Freak Kitchen, “I Can’t Get Next To You” by the Temptations, “We Live as We Dream, Alone” by Gang of Four, “Rules And Regulations” by Public Image Limited, “Breaking the Rules” by the Fall, “Shake The Disease” by Depeche Mode, “Day In Day Out” by XTC, “Change The World” by Eric Clapton, “Mad World” by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, “Do They Owe us a Living” by Crass, “Police On My Back” by the Clash, “It’s In Our Hands” by Björk, “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by The Smiths, “This Mess We’re In” by P. J. Harvey, “We’re In This Together” by Nine Inch Nails, “Nappy Love” by the Goodies and “Rock the Boat” by Hues Corporation.

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 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, it is the Labour party, from whom two stories of wokery have emerged over the weekend. First, from the Mail On Sunday, the shadow minister who wants to see ‘Mx’ being used more widely.

‘Mx’ should be used as a gender-neutral alternative to titles such as Mr and Mrs on forms, a member of Keir Starmer’s team has suggested.

Alex Sobel, a shadow Culture, Media and Sport Minister, wants the Government to tell public bodies and private companies to start using ‘Mx’ on forms and documents.

Mr Sobel has also supported contentious trans-rights reforms including the abolition of single-sex changing rooms, toilets and prisons.

Women who object are bigots who should not vote Labour, the MP declared.

But some Labour MPs worry that issues such as this show that Sir Keir, a former human rights lawyer, is unable to connect with the many working-class voters the party lost in the last Election.

Labour HQ has already embraced ‘Mx’. A form used for job applicants since last year offers titles including ‘Mx’, ‘Ind’ and ‘Misc’.

However, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch indicated that the Government had no plans to push for the compulsory use of ‘Mx’.

Second, according to the Express, the party has released a report calling on Britain to make financial reparations to countries pillaged by the British Empire.

The 234-page document, titled ‘Remaking Of The British State: For The Many, Not The Few’, lays out a programme for Government should Labour win a general election…

The report stated: “In recognition of the past wrongdoings of the British state, the new constitution should make an unreserved apology to all of the countries of the world that the Empire invaded and negatively impacted.

“In addition, the British state should set up a reparations fund as part of the constitution, which offers financial assistance to communities across the world that can show loss and detriment as a result of the actions of the British state.”

Financial payments should be made from taxpayers’ money if “the British state owed the claimants in question a duty of care” according to the document.

Stop Press: Rod Liddle says taking the knee is a divisive, pantomime act that has run its course.

Stop Press 2: Satirical news site the Babylon Bee reports that Gina Carano, recently fired from The Mandalorian for being a Trump supporter, has been rehired by Disney after she identified as an abusive male director.

https://twitter.com/TheBabylonBee/status/1360680142348013570?s=20

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: The Winsford and Middlewich Guardian has a story about a man being banned from his local branch of Asda for a year for refusing to wear a mask in spite of being exempt.

Mr Martin said he entered the store at around 12.30 and after being asked by a member of staff at the entrance if he had a mask, replied that he was exempt from having to wear one…

“At approximately 12.45 I vacated the store and upon exiting was approached by the security guards who pulled me up in front of other customers to ask what my issue was.”

Upon returning home, Mr Martin went on to explain how he made a call to Customer Services to make a complaint about his ordeal, but said how he was kept on hold for around 20 minutes before the call was ended.

“I phoned again and upon speaking to the next contact was told that I had now been banned from the store for a year for apparently abusing workers, yet this event never happened,” he said

Stop Press 2: Business Today reports that scientist are working on a new kind of face mask with an antiviral coating that will kill coronavirus in just one hour.

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.

Stop Press: France24 has a video report from the German City of Tübingen which has implemented something approaching Focussed Protection to avoid another lockdown and it appears to be working.

https://twitter.com/gbdeclaration/status/1361096275647733762

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Boris Says Schools to Be Shut Till At Least March 8th

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that the lockdown will continue until March at the earliest, dashing hopes of an earlier reopening. Katy Balls in the Spectator has the details.

England’s national lockdown is set to run on until at least March. Speaking in the Commons chamber this afternoon, Boris Johnson confirmed that the return of pupils to the classroom would be the first thing to be eased – and this would not happen in February as he had previously hoped. Addressing the House, Johnson said “it will not be possible” to reopen schools in England after the half-term break next month. However, he remained hopeful that so long as the UK’s vaccination programme remained on track, the return of pupils to the classroom would be able to begin from Monday March 8th.

Given that No. 10 have no plans to relax any restrictions prior to schools reopening, this means the lockdown is here for the foreseeable. However, Johnson attempted to give both his MPs and the public some hope by saying that work on a roadmap out of lockdown was now underway. He said his government would reveal its “phased” route out of lockdown in the week beginning February 22nd. Guiding this work will be the research underway in government on whether vaccines block transmission of the virus.

In fact, Boris was only prepared to say that March 8th “could see the start of a phased return of pupils to the classroom”.

The Government has made this decision despite its own health advisory body, Public Health England, saying primary schools were safe to open after half term, as the Times reported on Tuesday.

Public Health England (PHE) said that there was now a “strong case” for the return to class, adding more pressure on Boris Johnson to set out a timetable for primary schools to reopen.

Pupils in that age group are “resistant” to wider coronavirus trends and play a small role in spreading infection, a series of comprehensive studies has concluded.

Outbreaks were recorded in 3% of primary schools during the autumn term, with most cases among teachers rather than pupils, PHE found. “Everything we have learnt from the summer half-term and the recent autumn term indicates that they are safe to remain open,” Shamez Ladhani, its chief schools investigator, said. Secondary schools were five times as likely to record outbreaks and much more closely reflect wider infection patterns, suggesting that a later, more phased opening might be necessary.

The harms to children from these lengthy school closures are incalculable and often irreversible. 

Deborah Cohen presented a carefully balanced report for BBC Newsnight about the risks and benefits of reopening schools on Tuesday evening that is worth a watch.

Stop Press: Portugal has banned private schools from using online tuition during a two-week closure to prevent state schools falling behind. Talk about levelling down. No surprise to learn the PM is a socialist. The Mail has more.

Portugal’s socialist Prime Minister has banned private schools from teaching pupils remotely during a two-week classroom closure. The minority Socialist-led government of Antonio Costa said that allowing private institutions to teach remotely would put state school pupils at a disadvantage. The Portuguese government ordered all schools closed for two weeks last Thursday to slow contagion rates as hospitals faced record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

The performance of state schools was patchy during Portugal’s first lockdown, with many schools coming under fire for poor provision of online schooling.

Portugal’s ban on private schools teaching remotely also includes international schools, meaning British children living in the country doing GCSEs, A Levels or the International Baccalaureate cannot by law be taught for the next two weeks. Learning time lost during the imposed holiday, and any additional time lost from the school closure, would be compensated at a later data in the school year, the Government said.

“Banning digital classes in private education is a totalitarian and Marxist-style measure,” Rui Rio, the leader of the centre-right opposition party said. “[The measure] has nothing to do with the public interest or with the defence of public health. It is the left at its worst.”

Stop Press 2: The Mail reports that teaching unions are calling for even longer closures. The paper has also run a piece with comments from exasperated parents.

Borders Closing Ever Tighter With Arrival of Forced Quarantine

Home Secretary Priti Patel set out the details of the Government’s new forced quarantine policy for arrivals into the UK yesterday. Kate Andrews in the Spectator has the details.

Arrivals from 22 “high-risk” areas will soon be forced to quarantine in a hotel when they arrive in Britain. There will be no exceptions to the rule, and travellers must stay put for 10 days, even if they test negative for COVID-19. The “red list” of countries include Portugal, South Africa, Brazil and Cape Verde.

This crackdown was a long time coming. When Denmark found a mutant strain of Covid last autumn amongst its mink farms, the UK became the only country in the world to close its borders to anyone from there. Did the fast response acknowledge regret among ministers about not being stricter on the border last spring? Quite possibly. This time, the Government has been much clearer about the reasoning behind this decision. Priti Patel told the Commons:

The Government’s focus is on protecting the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme – a programme that we should be proud of. And reducing the risk of a new strain of the virus being transmitted from someone coming into the UK.

The details of this quarantine scheme are still up in the air and it is not yet clear when it will come into effect. But despite these tougher measures, it seems that some in the Cabinet wanted the Government to go further. Had Patel had it her way, the measures would have extended to everyone arriving in Britain. Boris Johnson stopped short of this for now. But once the infrastructure is in place, it is easy to see how arrivals from any country, with no advanced warning, could be affected.

Is this an attempt to emulate Australia and New Zealand? Except their strategy was to wait in splendid isolation for a vaccine. But we’re closing borders after the vaccine has arrived because we’re worried about new vaccine-resistant variants. The problem with this is that the logic seems permanent – after all, there will always be a risk of some new mutant variant emerging. As Kate says: “Britain will be one of the first countries to close its borders to countries based on a hypothetical scenario – the possibility of a mutant Covid strain that can evade vaccines – rather than an immediate threat.” Such excessive caution bodes ill for the future and a return to normal.

Worth reading Kate’s piece in full.

Stop Press: Professor Devi Sridhar, the Scottish Government Covid adviser, has said the quarantine plans will be ineffective and need to go further because they don’t apply to all countries. Won’t be long…

Flying is Only For The Rich in Covid World

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to tell us about the extraordinary cost and inconvenience his partner had to go to just to fly to Prague to visit her frail mother.

My partner is from Prague and needed to travel home last week in time to see her mother who is very frail, has had multiple strokes and is now going for quite a complex operation. She wanted to make sure she saw her before the potential issue got out of hand (or there were complications in the hospital). So last Monday I managed to book a flight to Prague. 

It transpires there are no direct flights although at short notice I managed to book something with KLM via Amsterdam. Having taken my payment, an hour later they sent a message saying that they required not only a PCR test within 72 hours of flight, but also a rapid test at the airport within three hours of flight or so.

Having investigated, it looked like Boots was the best place to get a PCR test, although you have to use two separate portals to book one. It cost £120 and the test results only turned up by email about 12 hours before my partner was due to take off. It was an email showing a “certificate” which could be printed off.

To get the rapid test, we had to use a company called Collinson at City airport, where she was flying from. It seemed to have only been recently set up and may be part of another group involved in test and trace but I cannot be sure. This test cost £80.

Passengers were not allowed to enter the airport (even though it was completely empty) unless they could prove that they already had a test booked with Collinson. Chairs were all removed meaning everybody had to stand outside until they were called for their test. Once the test has been completed, they email you the results but they refuse to print anything off, meaning in some cases this can cause a problem with some airlines if you are unable to show something “physical” at the gate. And to come back into the UK she has to do it all again at similar cost. 

Overall this makes a flight that would normally cost £150 approximately £600 just for a quick jump to a European city. This may change, but I don’t think the idea that they want rapid tests at the airport is going to go away anytime soon, making it completely price prohibitive for anybody on a normal wage to travel, especially with children over 12 who are required to have a test as well.

On top of it all, even though everybody on the same flight must have been negative for COVID-19, they all still had to wear a mask. What sort of lunacy is that? Either they are safe to fly since they had the two tests or they are not.

As a side note, since it was a nice day I decided to take a drive along the river from City airport and randomly arrived (I promise) at the Excel Centre being used as a Nightingale Hospital. It looked completely deserted so I decided to drive around the perimeter.

Apart from one security guard who told me that it was “very quiet today” I saw nobody else. I’m not sure if it is officially “in use” currently, but apart from a few signs directing people to “have your vaccination here” I didn’t see anything and it looked completely dead.

Lastly, having just written this it transpires that KLM have cancelled all their flights from Amsterdam to London so I had to scramble to get my partner on a flight with Air France via Paris. Once again there seems no logic to it at all.

Preliminary Materials For a Theory of Devi Sridhar

We’re publishing a new essay today by regular contributor Sinéad Murphy, a Philosophy Lecturer at Newcastle University. She takes Scottish Government adviser Professor Devi Sridhar to task for her “Young-Girlism”. I’ll let her explain.

Following her appearance on Newsnight on Friday January 22nd, Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, tweeted this:

https://twitter.com/devisridhar/status/1353002258779299845?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1353002258779299845%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Flockdownsceptics.org%2Fthe-tyranny-of-public-health-response-to-devi-sridhar%2F

During the past year, those of us opposed to Government lockdowns have repeatedly asked this question: What has disarmed the populations of apparently democratic societies that they have so quietly accepted the suspension of their freedoms?

Devi Sridhar’s tweet – banal as it is – contains all the ingredients for an answer to this question.

2020 did seem, as it unfolded, to impose a sudden reversal of established freedoms. But the surreptitious erosion of those freedoms had, in fact, long been observed.

In 1999, for example, the French magazine, Tiqqun, published a short text entitled “Preliminary Materials For A Theory Of The Young-Girl“, which sketched an outline of the emergent citizen of Western democratic societies, who willingly participates in and perpetuates their own oppression at the hands of global corporate governance, actively consenting to “the molecular diffusion of constraint into everyday life” and to the “immuno-disarmament of bodies”.

The Tiqqun text summarized this acquiescent citizen as the “Young-Girl”. The descriptor has met with objections for its alleged misogyny. But it applies to men as well as to women, and to the old as well as to the young, only seeking to capture the defining characteristics that make the populations of twenty-first century democracies so ripe for control.

These characteristics are: infantilisation, emotionalisation, and relativisation. The Young-Girl, as model citizen of modern democracies, is childlike, sentimental, and eminently prepared to relinquish heretofore absolute values.

Devi Sridhar’s tweet is a perfect example of Young-Girlism. It is worth taking the time to pick it over.

Worth reading in full.

Times Front Page Misrepresents Covid Victim Age Distribution

The front page if yesterday’s Times

To mark the unhappy milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths yesterday (which are “with” not necessarily “of” Covid, of course), the Times displayed the names and faces of 20 people who died with Covid on its front page. They’re striking because many of them are relatively young. A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written in to point out that they are in no way representative of the typical age of people who die with Covid, making the image highly misleading.

Whilst recognising that the 20 victims represent personal tragedies, it is also important to note that their selection conveys a very false sense of the age distribution of Covid deaths.

I’ve plotted below the age distribution of all UK Covid deaths (taken from the same edition of the Times) and also the age distribution of the victims in the Times photos. The 45-64 age bracket is nearly nine times over-represented. The 15-44 bracket is five times over-represented.

Right at the end, the article does say: “The vast majority of victims have been older people, with 90% of those who died aged 65 or more and 75% aged at least 75.” Many readers won’t get this far and if they do they will tend to remember the much more salient pictures rather than the stats.

I think this sort of thing matters because it fuels the well documented public risk-blindness when it comes to Covid. And this is going to hinder a rapid escape from the lockdown.

Locked Down in Mexico

Jo Nash has written a fascinating account on Left Lockdown Sceptics about her experience getting stuck in Mexico last spring, and her journey during the restrictions from lockdowner to sceptic.

As lockdown started to bite after a few weeks, my local taxi driver friend who regularly helped me with my shopping told me how the people in the small town where I was living were suffering. The vast majority of Mexicans work in the informal economy on a day to day basis. After a week of no income many were unable to pay bills and buy food. Alcohol abuse was rising alongside violence in the home. Children witnessing these growing tensions had nowhere to go, and often got caught up in family violence. Children in more stable situations were expressing hopelessness and lethargy as their education had been abandoned and they could no longer play outside with their friends.

Then, the organised gang raids started. The Walmart where I shopped once a week was raided by a motorbike gang of 30, all wearing black, all masked and armed, who walked into the store and took as many electrical items as possible – smashing up glass display units with hammers and grabbing their swag in a precise military style operation. Later these items were sold on the black market and it was rumoured the money was used to buy food for the poor which was distributed free by gang members. These were happening country wide and a media blackout ensued to prevent copycat raids.

The left-wing President Amlo appealed for calm as a return to pre-Amlo anarchy was looming on the horizon due to the harms of lockdown. These experiences, and my increasingly obsessive probing of the background to C-19, shifted me from pro- to anti-lockdown as the consequences of the restrictions for the poor became clear. I signed the Great Barrington Declaration within hours of its publication in support of focused protection rather than lockdown and began to follow the scientific and political developments closely.

During this time I worked online editing research, but the isolation began affecting my concentration, morale, and energy levels. I had been hanging on to see when lockdown would lift so I could see my Mexican friends again, and we could resume with our previous plans, but it didn’t end. So, in the middle of May as my visa was about to expire, despite the ‘shelter in place’ order, I booked a flight to Scotland to stay with old friends where lockdown appeared to be lifting and then go on to India from there after summer. I booked a flight to Edinburgh with Tui and two days later the new UK quarantine order was imposed, so it was cancelled. With the refund I booked another flight, with Turkish airlines via Istanbul for June. This was cancelled for the same reason, rebooked, and cancelled again with no refund “until flights returned to normal” the airline said. Other airlines that were still flying were cashing in by charging 300% of normal flight prices.

Not only was I now in the country illegally as my visa had expired but I was five hundred pounds out of pocket and faced paying another £1,500 to get to Edinburgh.

Worth reading in full.

Share Your Story With Julia

Julia Hartley-Brewer is appealing for more “Lockdown Stories” from people willing to share their experiences of lockdown on her talkRADIO breakfast show. 

Please email breakfast@talkradio.co.uk if you are willing to speak on the radio about how lockdown has affected you or your family – whether it’s your physical or mental health, missed NHS treatments, losing your job or fighting to keep your business afloat, financial worries, unable to see family members in care homes, children missing vital schooling or university or any other experiences you want to share. Please include your phone number.

Sceptics Under Fire

George Monbiot in the Guardian has proposed a Ministry of Truth to deal with sceptic troublemakers.

I would like to see an expert committee, similar to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), identifying claims that present a genuine danger to life and proposing their temporary prohibition to parliament.

While this measure would apply only to the most extreme cases, we should be far more alert to the dangers of misinformation in general. Even though it states that the pundits it names are not deliberately spreading false information, the new Anti-Virus site www.covidfaq.co might help to tip the balance against people such as Allison Pearson, Peter Hitchens and Sunetra Gupta, who have made such public headway with their misleading claims about the pandemic.

But how did these claims become so prominent? They achieved traction only because they were given a massive platform in the media, particularly in the Telegraph, the Mail and – above all – the house journal of unscientific gibberish, the Spectator. Their most influential outlet is the BBC [Eh?]. The BBC has an unerring instinct for misjudging where debate about a matter of science lies. It thrills to the sound of noisy, ill-informed contrarians.

Self-professed “lockdown hardliner” Peter Franklin in UnHerd is alarmed by Monbiot’s proposal.

I… thought that the claim that the ‘lockdown mentality’ was a permanent threat to our way of life was wildly overblown. But suddenly I’m not so sure. The fact is that some of my fellow hardliners are going off the deep end.

This morning The Guardian published a column by George Monbiot, which calls for Government restrictions on free speech:

“We have a right to speak freely. We also have a right to life. When malicious disinformation – claims that are known to be both false and dangerous – can spread without restraint, these two values collide head-on. One of them must give way…”

The one he want [sic] us to give way on is free speech: “When governments fail to ban outright lies that endanger people’s lives, I believe they make the wrong choice.”

What does he mean by “outright lies”? The examples given include “vaccines are used to inject us with microchips” and other conspiracy theories. But why suppress obvious nonsense that isn’t going to inform government policy? Monbiot’s answer is that ordinary people might believe it and refuse to get vaccinated – thereby putting themselves and others at risk.

On this basis, he proposes a time-limited ban on the most blatantly false claims – “running for perhaps six months”. But why stop there? Why not set up a Ministry of Truth to provide an ongoing means of suppressing dangerous information? If lives are at stake, then isn’t that all that matters?

Worth reading in full.

Tim Worstall in CapX isn’t too impressed either. He suggests George will need to censor himself given his own inglorious history of “dangerous falsehoods”.

Stop Press: Sky News have done a hit job on sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne MP for urging Save Our Rights UK, whom Sky label “anti-vaxxers”, to “persist” with their anti-lockdown campaign.

Swayne’s interview was from November and many of his comments, such as those about ICU occupancy being normal for the time of year, relate to the situation then rather than the unusually busy period in January.

Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, has written to Conservative Party chairwoman Amanda Milling calling on the party to take action.

The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) seems to be playing a big role in this smear campaign. Which is surely a case of mission creep, as being sceptical about lockdowns can hardly be described as “hate”.

Sir Desmond posted on Twitter yesterday: “Sky is wrong. Aside from my question to the PM this afternoon, an examination of my blogs will reveal that I am a most enthusiastic vaccinator.”

Stop Press 2: In response to Toby’s Twitter thread we published yesterday, Sam Bowman corrected himself and apologised for the mistake. Rather oddly, he then blocked Toby, meaning he won’t be able to see any of his tweets again. Sam will have to rely on others in future to correct his mistakes.

https://twitter.com/s8mb/status/1354352923053088771?s=20

Round-up

https://twitter.com/jengleruk/status/1354129343975481344?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “6ft Further” by Media Bear, “What’s Another Year?” by Johnny Logan and “Break The Rules” by Status Quo.

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.

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’re hearing from Roger Tarrant, who was cancelled by the Federation of Small Businesses late last year for questioning the ideology of BLM. He wrote about what happened to him in the Critic.

I was cancelled as the Federation of Small Businesses’s South West National Councillor towards the end of 2020. My crime was “wrong speak” on the region’s internal WhatsApp group. Or as the Chair, Mike Cherry, and the Board put it, for “conduct likely to bring the FSB into disrepute”.

What was my crime? In response to the Black Lives Matter protests happening in England in June, I sent a message to an internal WhatsApp group pointing out that only 163 people had died in police custody in the UK in the last 10 years and that 140 were white, 10 black and 13 other ethnicities. I also made the point that disadvantaged white boys in England were less likely to go into further education than disadvantaged black boys.

“Does only BLM or should all lives matter?” I asked. “Are only white people racist? Sorry to burst the moral outrage bubble, but FSB should be careful how it handles its response.”

Immediately, the Exeter Area Lead in Devon, a white middle-aged man, accused me of being a racist. He asked me in the group: ­“was I saying that… all that stuff about BLM deaths due to coronavirus was probably all made up and there is nothing wrong with a bit of slavery?” It was hard to make head or tail of his accusation – BLM deaths? – but I had obviously said nothing of the kind. He then immediately left the WhatsApp group and made a formal complaint to the Regional Chair and Board. I assumed it would be dismissed, but within days there followed a letter from the director attached to the region asking me to resign. I declined.

Worth reading in full.

“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.

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…

Flaming Lips give a socially-distanced “Space Bubble” concert, using individual inflatable bubbles to avoid the spread of coronavirus, at the Criterion in Oklahoma City, January 22, 2021. Flaming Lips/Warner Music/Handout via REUTERS

Latest News

Letter From a Care Home Whistleblower

A Care Home Assistant has written to Lockdown Sceptics in response to our request for information about the neglect of elderly residents in care homes.

She begins:

My experience of working through COVID-19 is one that can best be described as harrowing, heartbreaking, and infuriating, which has left me with a sense of loss and emptiness that borders on overwhelming – but not for the reasons the media, this Government or the NHS would have you believe. COVID-19 has brought out the very worst in the care industry giving our managers, team leaders and head office carte blanche to run roughshod over the rights of both their staff and their residents. I have listed a few of the things I have experienced and witnessed as a result.

There then follows a catalogue of appalling neglect and abuse, such as the following:

Forced testing – management made it absolutely clear within the XXX home that staff who did not get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis would be refused shifts despite this being a clear breach of contract. The same home also demanded that all their residents be tested for COVID-19 (later when the tests became more widely available around late spring to summertime) including those with dementia who had to be held down in their beds or chairs while a nurse performed the extremely invasive procedure. This caused such distress to the confused people that many of them screamed, cried in fear and thrashed about violently, causing themselves injury. Despite this failure to act in the best interests of the residents, management did not alter their instructions and the testing continued regardless of the danger and distress it caused the staff and residents. Another home run by XXX has declared it a disciplinary offence, which would result in being sacked, to refuse COVID-19 tests or even to argue with the management against such a decision – another violation of workers’ rights.

Worth reading in full.

We have put this whistleblower in touch with David Rose, the investigative journalist who is working on this story. If you know of similar stories, or you’re a care home worker with a story to tell, please contact us here.

Police Investigation of Grimes and Starkey on Hold After Backlash Over Free Speech

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police contacted Darren Grimes and David Starkey to tell them that the investigation into them for stirring up racial hatred – a crime that carries a maximum of seven years in jail – had now been put on hold while it’s being reviewed by a “senior officer”. In other words, they’re abandoning this absurd investigation.

Toby issued a statement about this development in his capacity as General Secretary of the Free Speech Union.

I’m relieved that this is over, but alarmed that the police embarked on this witch-hunt in the first place.

Dr David Starkey’s words never came anywhere near meeting the threshold for stirring up racial hatred, let alone Darren Grime’s decision to broadcast them.

The Free Speech Union was able to find a top criminal solicitor to defend them and helped galvanise support across the media and in Government. But for every person we’re able to help, ninety-nine go undefended.

Everyone should be defending the right to free speech, not just those on the frontline. If you don’t stick up for the speech rights of contrarians — even those who offend people — the authorities will eventually come after you.

As George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

You can read about the police’s decision to put this ridiculous investigation on hold in the Mail, the Times and the Telegraph.

Has the Government Ditched SAGE for the WHO?

Is Dr Tedros Adhanom the new Sir Patrick Vallance? Now that lockdown-loving SAGE has switched horses to Labour, having been side-lined by the Government, and with Health Secretary Matt Hancock ruling out herd immunity and focused protection on Tuesday, it looks like the Government is pursuing a “third way” backed by the WHO.

WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has penned a piece in the Telegraph, reiterating her boss Tedros Adhanom’s recent dismissal of herd immunity and setting out the WHO’s latest position. It bears a striking resemblance to the Government’s approach.

Dr Swaminathan begins by rehearsing the arguments against herd immunity and focused protection, claiming they mean “wasting precious resources discriminating against high-risk groups”. Professor Sunetra Gutpa has responded to her critics in UnHerd. I have interpolated her responses into Dr Swaminathan’s criticisms to illustrate how each point can be countered.

Dr Swaminathan: First, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus with the use of a vaccine, not by exposing them to it. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of people to be vaccinated. Once immunised against measles, they act as a protective buffer preventing the virus from circulating and infecting the remaining 5% of the population who are unvaccinated.

Prof Gupta: Measles, if it arrives on ‘virgin soil’, can devastate a population. In Tahiti and Moorea and the South-east and North-west Marquesas, between 20% and 70% of the population was lost to the first epidemic. Natural infection with measles provides lifelong immunity, and we now have a vaccine which provides similar solid, durable protection. We have not been able to eliminate the disease, but those who rather selfishly choose not to vaccinate their children are only able make that choice because the risks of infection are kept low by those who are immune – currently, a combination of those, like me, who caught it and recovered and many others for whom it is vaccine induced. The vaccine does not work in babies, which is why you have to wait till they are a year old before they get it. We can do this because herd immunity keeps the risk of infection down, so they are are unlikely to be infected in their first year of life. Without this herd protection, many under ones would die (as they regularly do in sub-Saharan Africa) despite a vaccine being available.

Dr Swaminathan: Second, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting. We know from sero-epidemiology studies that less than 10% of the global population has shown evidence of infection. That means the vast majority of people are still susceptible to the SARS-CoV2 virus. To achieve herd immunity for SARS-CoV-2, it is estimated that at least 60 to 70% of the global population – over five billion people – would need to be infected which, in the absence of a vaccine, may take years. Furthermore, as with other coronaviruses, reinfection cannot be ruled out, exposing people to disease again and again. Cases of reinfection have already been reported. 

Prof Gupta: The development of immunity through natural infection is a common feature of many pathogens, and it is reasonable to assume that COVID-19 does not have any tricks up its sleeve to prevent this from happening – it would pose a very serious problem for the development of a vaccine if it did. Having said this, the COVID-19 virus belongs to a family of viruses which do not typically give you lifelong immunity against infection. Most of us will never have heard of these other four ‘seasonal’ coronaviruses that are currently circulating in our communities. And yet surveys indicate that at least 3% of the population is infected by any single one of these corona cousins during the winter months. These viruses can cause deaths in high risk groups or require them to receive ICU care or ventilator support, so it is not necessarily true that they are intrinsically milder than the novel COVID-19 virus. And like the COVID-19 virus, they are much less virulent in the healthy elderly and younger people than influenza.

One important reason why these corona cousins do not kill large numbers of people is because even though we lose immunity and can be reinfected, there is still always a decent enough proportion of immune people in the population to keep the risk of infection low to those who might die upon contracting it. Also, all the coronaviruses in circulation – including the Covid-19 virus – have some features in common which means that getting one coronavirus will probably offer some protection against other coronaviruses. This is becoming increasingly clear from work in many labs, including my lab in Oxford. It is against this background of immunity from itself and its close relations that COVID-19 virus has to operate…

Unfortunately, we do not have a good way of telling how many people have actually been exposed to the new virus, or how many people were resistant to start with. We are able to test for antibodies – and my lab in Oxford has been doing so since early April – but, as with other coronaviruses, COVID-19 antibody levels decline after recovery, and some people do not make them at all, and so antibody levels will not give us the answer. More and more evidence is accumulating that other arms of immunity, like T cells, play an important role.

Indications of the herd immunity threshold having been reached are available from the time signatures of epidemics in various parts of the world where death and infection curves tend to “bend” in the absence of intervention or to stay down when interventions were relaxed (in comparison with other locations where the opposite happened). But we do not know how far we are from it in most parts of the UK. It is important to bear in mind that the attainment of the herd immunity threshold does not lead to disease eradication. Instead it corresponds to an equilibrium state in which the infections lingers at low levels in the community. This is the situation we tolerate for most infectious diseases (like flu which kills 650K people every year globally). The situation can be vastly improved through vaccination, but it is very difficult to eliminate the disease even with a good vaccine.

Dr Swaminathan: Third, letting the virus spread through populations unchecked would have devastating consequences for communities and health systems. Far too many people would develop severe disease and die, hospitals would be overwhelmed with the influx of patients, particularly as flu season takes off in the northern hemisphere, and communities would be ravaged by the sheer number of people in need of care. We also have no idea how many people will suffer the debilitating impacts of post-Covid syndrome or “Long Covid”, or for how long. Many people describe suffering from months of persistent fatigue, headaches, “brain fog” and trouble breathing. Other serious conditions from being sick with COVID-19 – such as physical and cognitive limitations, psychiatric problems and issues with the lungs, heart and brain – are being reported. 

Prof Gupta: It is not at all unexpected that some people would suffer post-viral symptoms for extended periods of time (I believe I did!) and that it may be quite debilitating for some. Among the lessons we could learn from this crisis could be a wider recognition of the frequency and intensity of post-viral syndromes and an investment in support (leave of absence from jobs, help with daily activities) of those unfortunate enough to suffer in this way. But it is not a new phenomenon and cannot be a good enough reason to stop the world and potentially let tens of millions of people starve to death.

Dr Swaminathan: Fourth, it is a mistake to believe that the virus only severely impacts older people and those with underlying conditions. Research has shown that mortality increases significantly with age, but younger people with no underlying health conditions have developed severe disease and died. At the peak of Italy’s outbreak, up to 15 per cent of all people in intensive care were under 50. 

Finally, how would this theoretical “focused protection” play out in the real world? Governments are already encouraged to protect high-risk groups, as part of a raft of public health measures that are only effective when applied together. Choosing a single intervention, with disregard for the realities of local transmission, would be unwise, ineffective and deadly. 

Prof Gupta: We are of course also able to test for presence of the virus, and there is much attention on this with ‘test and trace’ strategies. However this test, known as the PCR test, is of limited value as it cannot tell us whether someone is infectious and can pass on the disease, whether they have the virus but cannot pass it on, or indeed whether the virus has been destroyed by the immune system and only fragments remain. This means that we need to make public health decisions based on only partial information, and in a changing environment, and is why assumptions of how many people have been infected and are immune are so important.

The Great Barrington Declaration proposes a solution for how we may proceed in the face of such uncertainty. It suggests that we exploit the feature of this virus that it does not cause much harm to the large majority of the population to allow them to resume their normal lives, while shielding those who are vulnerable to severe disease and death.

Under these circumstances, immunity will build up in the general population to a level that poses a low enough risk of infection to the vulnerable population that they may resume their normal lives. All of this can happen over a period of six months, and so this Focused Protection plan does not involve the permanent segregation of the vulnerable from the rest of the population…

Many components of protecting the vulnerable have already been enacted in the process of locking down so we should be discussing how these can be improved rather than dismissing them. Directing efforts at hospitals and care homes is one obvious priority. Other parts of the problem – such as the protection of vulnerable people within family settings – require careful discussion and thought, but it must always be borne in mind that these are temporary measures and in the long run could save more lives than cycling in and out of destructive lockdowns.

Dr Swaminathan goes on to explain what the WHO is now proposing. It is recommending controlling outbreaks through “decisive action to suppress transmission” with “robust testing and contact tracing”. This will enable targeting of “disease clusters” while avoiding “punishing national lockdowns”. Sound familiar? She claims: “We’ve seen this approach succeed in many countries,” though fails to name one, and I can’t think of any. New Zealand? But it is an island in the middle of an ocean and now closed for the foreseeable future. She pins her hope on the arrival of an “efficacious SARS-CoV2 vaccine… as early as next year”, at which point “we can realistically and safely strive for herd immunity”.

Yet Kate Bingham, chairman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, warned on Tuesday that a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, like flu vaccines, will likely only be up to 50% effective. The head of the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine team, Professor Andrew Pollard, doesn’t seem to think that will be enough to protect the elderly and the vulnerable, saying: “Even if we had enough vaccine for everyone, it’s unlikely that… the physical distancing rules can be just dropped.”

If 50% isn’t good enough, though, what is the WHO’s envisaged endpoint, since that may be as good as it gets? Or if it is good enough, why can’t we just get on with aiming for herd immunity now?

It’s hard to see how this waiting around under lockdowns can be ethical. As Dr Matt Strauss argues in the Spectator yesterday:

If lockdowns were a prescription drug for COVID-19 treatment, the FDA would never have approved it. The seminal Imperial College London paper and other mathematical models like it were used to justify their use, but clinicians would never prescribe a drug or propose a surgery based on such modelling. The now well-publicised failure of these models to accurately predict COVID-19 outcomes proves the rule.

Dr Swaminathan concludes by saying until an effective vaccine is here “we have to outsmart this virus, by understanding where and how it spreads, and not giving it a chance to do so”. This seems an extraordinarily naïve statement from the WHO chief scientist given the last 10 months. Meanwhile, life is largely back to normal in Sweden and other places that didn’t impose lockdowns. If the Government is now taking its science from the WHO rather than SAGE then it needs to think again.

Stop Press: Stacey Rudin has written a fascinating piece in AIER on “What’s Behind The WHO’s Lockdown Mixed-Messaging“. The answer may have something to do with China.

Liverpool is Always Short of Hospital Beds

A shortage in ICU beds in Liverpool was making the news yesterday. Here’s the Times.

Intensive care units at Liverpool’s main hospitals are at 95% capacity as a rebellion against the lockdown by local businesses grows.

Sources have told the Times that the number of COVID-19 patients across all beds is expected to surpass its April peak in the next seven to 10 days.

About half of the intensive care beds across the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been taken by patients with the virus, according to the Financial Times.

However, what they don’t mention is that Liverpool ICUs are almost always operating at close to capacity during the autumn and winter. A reader dug these stats out from 2018 and 2019 from the Department of Health website.

The Mail has spotted the story too.

Liverpool’s biggest hospitals are only 10% closer to capacity than normal for October, official data has revealed.

The city’s NHS critical care beds are usually 85% full at this time of year, with 51 out of 60 beds occupied across three hospitals, according to NHS England data from the past six years.

But councillor Paul Brant has warned Liverpool’s intensive care units are already at 95% capacity, sparking fears of an impending crisis. One senior doctor has claimed only 58 out of 60 beds are currently full, with half thought to be filled by coronavirus patients.

The underlying problem here is surely that our “world-beating” NHS has only 6.6 ICU beds per 100,000 people. That compares to 38.7 in Germany, 29.4 in the US and 11.6 in France. Maybe some of the obscene sums spent dealing with this confected crisis should go on that.

At the Sign of the Three Bellends

A Merseyside pub got a surprise new name overnight on Wednesday as the owner protested the pub’s closure as part of the tier three lockdown. The Mail has the story.

A Merseyside pub has been cheekily renamed in an act of defiance towards the Government’s new lockdown restrictions in the area.

The James Atherton in New Brighton, the Wirral, has renamed itself “The Three Bellends” – with a sign featuring the faces of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his close adviser Dominic Cummings and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The sign appears as pubs were forced to close in the Liverpool area on Wednesday as part of the Government’s new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions for England.

Stop Press: Professor Angus Dalgleish in Mail asks how Hancock is still in a job in a searing take down that is well worth a read.

Covid Is Not Categorically Different

Donald J Boudreaux at the American Institute for Economic Research has penned an insightful piece on the terrible psychology of Covid overreaction.

Since March, the coronavirus has been treated as if it is a danger categorically different from other dangers, including other viruses. But this treatment is deeply mistaken. The coronavirus is not a categorically different danger. It occupies a location on the same spectrum that features other viruses. Reasonable people can and do debate just where this location is – that is, how much more dangerous is the coronavirus than are ordinary flu viruses and other ‘novel’ viruses that plagued us in the past. But the coronavirus is well within the same category as other viruses.

Yet humanity has reacted – and continues to react – to the coronavirus as if it is a beast that differs from other health risks categorically. The hysterical overreaction by the press, public-health officials, and politicians – an overreaction undoubtedly supercharged by social media – has convinced many people that humanity is today being stalked by a venomous monster wholly unlike anything to which we are accustomed.

Only by assuming that this virus differs fundamentally from other risks can governments continue to get away with unprecedented and arbitrary restrictions on peaceful human activities – restrictions on activities such as working at the factory or office, on dining out, on attending religious services, on going to school, and even on seeking medical treatments for non-Covid-related ailments. Only by being convinced that the coronavirus poses a threat categorically unique are ordinary men and women led to change their ways of living and interacting as fundamentally as many have done, and to tolerate the categorical change in governments’ responses to epidemics.

The trouble is that people seem to want to be scared.

Very many people today seem almost eager to be misled about the danger posed by Covid. Much of humanity today appears to perversely enjoy being duped into the irrational fear that any one of us, regardless of age or health, is at the mercy of a brutal beast categorically more lethal than is any other danger that we’ve ever confronted. I hope that my despair proves misguided. 

Worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Antibodies Provide Lasting Immunity

Researchers at University of Arizona Health Sciences have confirmed that COVID-19 immunity is lasting. The Medical Xpress has the details.

One of the most significant questions about the novel coronavirus is whether people who are infected are immune from reinfection and, if so, for how long.

To determine the answer, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers studied the production of antibodies from a sample of nearly 6,000 people and found immunity persists for at least several months after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“We clearly see high-quality antibodies still being produced five to seven months after SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, Ph.D., associate professor, UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Department of Immunobiology. “Many concerns have been expressed about immunity against COVID-19 not lasting. We used this study to investigate that question and found immunity is stable for at least five months.”

Based on results from SARS they are hopeful for longer lasting protection.

“The latest time-points we tracked in infected individuals were past seven months, so that is the longest period of time we can confirm immunity lasts,” Dr. Bhattacharya said. “That said, we know that people who were infected with the first SARS coronavirus, which is the most similar virus to SARS-CoV-2, are still seeing immunity 17 years after infection. If SARS-CoV-2 is anything like the first one, we expect antibodies to last at least two years, and it would be unlikely for anything much shorter.”

How Many Hospital “Cases” Are Really Covid?

A top NHS doctor and regulator contributor to Lockdown Sceptics has written a short note for us on the Government’s incomplete and misleading data on hospital admissions.

An eagle-eyed reader in the comments yesterday noticed that the number of ‘patients admitted with Covid’ is the total of the number of patients admitted with a positive test on admission, and the number of patients who tested positive after a number of days in hospital.

He wonders whether this is muddying the waters in respect of the accuracy of the stats – and he is quite right to ask that question.

To try and achieve a bit of clarity – some patients present to hospital with symptoms consistent with Covid and a positive test that has already been done elsewhere. They are classified as ‘admissions positive’.

Some patients present to hospital with symptoms consistent with Covid but have not been tested. They are regarded as possible Covid (as it could be flu, or pneumonia for other reasons). Those patients are tested on admission, but the test result doesn’t come back for a couple of days. If it turns out to be positive, that patient is then put in the Covid admission column.

Some patients present to hospital for a totally non-Covid reason – he mentions his wife having a caesarean section. On admission all patients are swabbed for Covid even if they have no symptoms and they are not likely to either. If the swab then comes back as positive, they are then listed in the Covid admission column. You can clearly see the problem with this, in that a whole load of patients who have no Covid symptoms, never develop any and are in hospital for totally different issues are classified in the Government stats as Covid admissions.

Unfortunately, the officially released statistics are insufficiently granular to distinguish which patients listed as ‘Covid admissions’ are actually sick with Covid and which are merely co-incidentally positive with no symptoms.

Whilst in hospital, all patients are routinely swabbed at regular intervals. So, a patient can be admitted for example after a minor stroke. Swabbed on arrival – swab negative. During the stay in hospital, the patient will be swabbed every few days. Suddenly on, say, day eight, a swab comes back positive. Patient added to the Covid admissions column despite not having any symptoms and having contracted the infection while in hospital. This has been flagged up by the Oxford CEBM already, because the proportion of patients contracting the infection whilst in hospital seems to be increasing – i.e., coming in without Covid and picking it up as a hospital acquired infection (though of course, most of them will have no clinical symptoms).

So, in summary, the headline figure broadcast of ‘patients admitted with Covid’ includes:

– Patients who really are ill with Covid and need treatment
– Patients who test positive but have no symptoms and are in hospital for an unrelated issue
– Patients who arrived without Covid, but contracted it in hospital and may never have developed symptoms either

Unfortunately, we can’t be told what percentage of the reported ‘admissions with Covid’ actually have symptoms of the disease and other confirmatory tests (characteristic Chest X-ray signs, lowered arterial oxygen on blood gas analysis, raised inflammatory markers, high temperature, etc). These are the true ‘Covid positive’ patients.

It is not clear to me why we can’t be told this information, but one can be sure that the headline figure reported on the BBC of daily admissions with Covid is almost certainly higher than the number of patients admitted with symptoms of Covid for active treatment and possibly very much higher.

Plus, of course, some of the patients tested as positive will in fact be false positives on the PCR…

Not having data on symptoms also deprives us in the UK of having clear data and charts on cases by date of symptom onset like they have in Spain, which provide an important early indication of the shape of the epidemic and how it is developing. We’ve only had nine months to sort this out.

How Many Died Because They Were Kicked Out of Hospital?

Source: NHS and ONS

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has put together this graph that raises the question how many died because they were kicked out of hospital? Around half of NHS patients were discharged in short order, and very few were admitted to replace them. SAGE’s own analysis for the Government estimated that as many as 40% of the excess deaths during the epidemic were due to lockdown rather than Covid. Is such a strategy really ethically defensible? And Matt Hancock says that “focused protection” would put the vulnerable at risk! Why are hospitals still cancelling and delaying medical care?

Armed Police Shut Down Liverpool Gym

Armed police will now be visiting premises that refuse to close in Liverpool

Talk about a hysterical overreaction! A gym in Liverpool received a visit from seven or eight armed police officers yesterday because it hadn’t closed, as all gyms in “Tier Three” areas are supposed to do. The Mail has more.

Armed police served a Liverpool gym owner with a £1,000 fine for refusing to shut despite strict Tier 3 lockdown rules.

Nick Whitcombe defied the newly-imposed lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton because they “won’t have one to come back to” if he did.

A member of the public noticed that the gym was still open for business and called the police who issued a warning instructing him to close.

A short while later, when he didn’t shut the premises, ‘seven or eight’ armed police officers turned up his gym, demanding that it close or face a fine.

Mr Whitcombe tells the story in more detail.

“After meeting with the police yesterday, they told us we would get a warning first day, then a second warning, £100 fine, £200 fine and so on.

“They were with us this morning, gave us our warning. Then came back this afternoon, orders from their top boss to issue a fine straight away.

“So, they’ve told us ‘close immediately’ or I’ll take a £1,000 fine.

“Obviously we still had quite a lot of members training and I said to the officers, ‘I’m not asking anyone to leave. Even if I am I’m going to let them finish their sessions first’.

“So they’ve issued the fine. First one’s £1,000. They can come back in three hours and issue £2,000. Three hours after that £4,000.

“It’s disappointing. They sent out seven or eight firearms officers, what a waste of resources.”

In an earlier video announcing his refusal to close the gym, Mr Whitcombe said: “We will not be closing our doors. We can’t.

“If we close our facility we won’t have one to come back to. We will not have a gym to come back to. There will be no business, there will be no gym, there will be no jobs.”

What were the police going to do if Mr Whitcombe refused to close? Shoot him and his customers in the head?

Postcard From Portugal

A reader who lives in Portugal has written to tell us of his sadness at what has become of his country. It sounds wearily familiar.

Like most of the rest of the world, Portugal had a lockdown period. In our case, it went from March 18th to May 4th. Also, like in many other countries, we were initially told it would be just two weeks to “flatten the curve”, which extended to six due to a delay in reporting cases and deaths which was perceived as a rise. In late April, a Portuguese researcher working in Norway called André Dias wrote an open letter to the President of the Republic (who is the Chief of State, while the Prime Minister is the Chief of Government), saying the lethality of Covid had been extremely exaggerated by Imperial College and that it would be safe to return to normal with no restrictions.

Nevertheless, after lockdown (which we prefer to call the “state of emergency”), we went into a “state of calamity” and the PM told us it would be impossible to return to the old normal without a vaccine. It is unconstitutional for the PM to mandate anything during the state of calamity, but he did so anyway. Specifically, while in some other countries, wearing masks only became mandatory several weeks or months after the lockdown ended, it’s been mandatory here in closed public spaces since the end of lockdown (though it wasn’t mandatory anywhere during lockdown). Also, the PM kept schools closed for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year and opened more establishments every two weeks. Large parties became illegal, though a far-Leftist celebration called “festa do Avante” still took place in early September.

In the beginning of May, it was still considered a “civic duty” to stay at home. In mid-May, cases and deaths went down considerably, which put most people in high spirits. This would be short-lived, however, since they began testing asymptomatic people in late May. As you can imagine, we began having hundreds more “cases” (which, of course, are only positive tests), especially in Lisbon. Once again, there were people saying we had ended lockdown too soon, that the general public wasn’t following the rules and that new restrictions had to be introduced. We pretty much stopped talking about deaths and started talking about cases. In July, it became mandatory in the island of Madeira to wear masks even outdoors. However, at the time, the PM said we couldn’t afford a new lockdown. Moreover, we went from a state of calamity to the less serious “state of alert”. Nevertheless, it became forbidden to sell alcohol in certain establishments, and cafés (though not restaurants) had to close at 8pm. Also, in response to several illegal private parties, the Government began forbidding large gatherings more and more.

For the record, the Portuguese have a mixed relationship with masks. Half wear them outdoors and the other half don’t. I’ve seen shop owners removing their masks indoors while not attending customers. I believe it’s mandatory for kids after pre-school to wear masks indoors.

Personally, while I’m not afraid of masks, I hate wearing them, both because I can’t breathe very well with them on and because they’ve been the most persistent symbol of the “new normal”.

Now, we come to today, which is why I’m writing this. After a count of more than 2,000 daily “cases”, we have gone back to a state of calamity. Fines for breaking the rules are to become heavier than ever, gatherings can only be of five people instead of 10, masks are to become mandatory outdoors and the PM has proposed it should be mandatory for employees, students, etc. to install an app called StayawayCovid on their phones. Worse than anything, though, is that the PM has said it’s possible we will have a second lockdown after all, at least as a last resort. We haven’t closed any establishment but, as has happened elsewhere, medical consultations are now done mostly (though not yet exclusively) by phone, with cancer and cardiovascular patients pretty much abandoned for the sake of potential new Covid hospitalisations. Surgeries have been cancelled in some hospitals.

Predictably, no one tells us how many have so far died of cancer, cardiovascular diseases or suicide.

I was optimistic that the worst wouldn’t come to Portugal, but this latest bit of news has really dampened my spirits. I know of at least a journalist and a couple of doctors who write opinion pieces calling out the Government and public health authorities, but there’s no organised opposition as far as I know.

Finally, I appeal to the people reading this to resist what’s happening and do whatever they think will work. Personally, I’ve donated to Rocco Galati and Simon Dolan, both of whom are filing lawsuits against the Canadian and English governments respectively. My hope is that, if one or both are successful, it may send a message to other governments. I’ve also signed the Great Barrington Declaration.

Stop Press: Simon Dolan is in the High Court today. To date, people have donated over £360,000 to his CrowdJustice fundraiser.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Here we go again” by the Isley Brothers, “Herd Mentality” by Lex Rodent and – a tribute to Sunetra et al – “Declaration Of Hope” by Authenticity.

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.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today we bring you the tearing down on Sunday by violent mostly peaceful protestors in Portland, Oregon of statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in a declaration of “rage” toward Columbus Day. An unexpected voice of condemnation came from Sean Ono Lennon, John and Yoko’s son, who Monday took to Twitter to mock the protestors. 

The 45 year-old musician, who has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter, wrote: “The Pyramids of Giza were made under coercion from evil Pharaohs who were not very woke. I think we can all agree the Pyramids should be torn down immediately.” And then: “Since the invasion of Britain by Emperor Julius Caesar in 55 B.C., Italy has remained deafeningly silent. I think it’s time Italy was held accountable.”

An unlikely hero, but we’ll take him.

“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 £1.49 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).

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya – actual scientists, unlike Devi Sridhar

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 last week and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Google it, the top hits you get are 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, 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’s now closing in on half-a-million signatures.

Stop Press: Toby has written about the shameless attempt to suppress and discredit the Declaration in his Spectator column this week.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POBh4ErvOhY

This video is laugh-out-loud funny. Indeed, we recommend you sit down before watching it because there’s a risk you may fall over.

Latest News

Boris Self-Isolating After Fellow MP Tests Positive

The Prime Minister was self-isolating last night after Lee Anderson, a Conservative MP with whom Boris had a 35-minute meeting, tested positive. But why has he got to self-isolate, given that he had COVID-19 less than six months ago and even the BMJ admits that T-Cell immunity lasts at least six months? The MailOnline has an explanation.

It is possible to contract COVID-19 twice, with five confirmed cases of reinfection reported globally as of last month.

Tests have shown that many people who recover from COVID-19 do have antibodies which can produce future immunity.

But not enough is known about whether protection is long-term as the virus has only been known to science for less than a year.

Even if a patient is asymptomatic, they may still be able to pass on the virus to people they are in close contact with.

But hang on. If having had COVID-19 less than six months ago doesn’t give you immunity, what hope is there for a vaccine? The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is already a two-parter. Will we be expected to have a booster every few months as well?

As the MailOnline points out, the telephone call from NHS Test and Trace couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Prime Minister who is hoping to relaunch his Government this week after the recent upheavals among his staff at Number 10.

Stop Press: Dan Hodges didn’t pull his punches in his Mail on Sunday column yesterday. It was headlined: “If the future is now all about wind farms, trans rights and wokery, Boris Johnson is doomed.

Stop Press 2: The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole has posted the WhatsApp message Boris sent to Conservative MPs last night on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/MrHarryCole/status/1328097254469738498

Labour Calls For Censorship of Anti-Vaxx ‘Misinformation’ on Social Media

The Labour Party has demanded the Government do more to force social media companies to remove “dangerous anti-vax content”. Sky News has more.

Anti-vaccination content on social media is “poison” and “garbage” and should be “stamped out”, Labour has said.

With hopes rising of a COVID-19 jab being rolled out by the end of the year, the opposition has called for emergency legislation to remove “dangerous anti-vax content”, such as posts against the use of vaccines.

The party wants the government to bring forward laws that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act against such content.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that “dangerous nonsense” is being spread on social media by people who are against inoculations and it “erodes trust” in vaccines.

There is “poison, garbage (and) conspiracy theories” online and “it’s all nonsense”, he added.

Mr Ashworth said Labour wanted to work with the government to tackle the issue.

This is alarming. First the Royal Society and the British Academy call for disseminating anti-vaxxing ‘misinformation’ to become a criminal offence, and now the Labour Party wants the Government to impose financial and criminal penalties on social media companies that fail to censor anti-vaxxing content. (It shows how out of touch the Labour Party is if it genuinely believes social media companies aren’t doing enough to suppress Covid dissent.)

If the Labour Party wants people to trust public health authorities on vaccines, why not call for a more honest and transparent presentation of scientific data about every aspect of this crisis? It’s not anti-vaxxers who are eroding public trust, but the Government which deliberately misled the public about the risk rising cases posed to the NHS in order to secure the consent of the House of Commons to the second lockdown. To rebuild public trust, we need more openness not more censorship.

It’s true that a significant minority of people are wary of taking the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. But if your aim is to reassure those people that the vaccine is safe and effective, with minimal side effects, censoring anti-vaxxers won’t help. On the contrary, they will conclude that their concerns are well-founded. After all, if they were easily rebutted, why not engage with the anti-vaxxers in the public square? If the pro-vaxxers are relying on censoring their opponents to win the argument, that will make the fence-sitters more nervous, not less.

As the Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “If there be time to expose through discussion, the falsehoods and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Stop Press: Ex-BBC journalist Anna Brees has been told by Facebook that there are certain issues – such as vaccinations – that she is no longer allowed to discuss on her page. Find out more here. As she says: “Censorship removes trust in vaccination whereas debate brings about trust.”

Stop Press 2: A group of NHS workers – doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers – have formed an anti-vax group on Facebook. I look forward to Jon Ashworth calling for their arrest and imprisonment.

How Many People Are Catching Covid in Hospital?

Credit: The Spectator

Yesterday, the doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics posed the question, “How many patients caught Covid while in hospital having been admitted for other reasons?” Shortly afterwards, Professor Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson addressed that issue in the Spectator.

NHS England publishes a daily Covid ‘situation report’ that gives the number of new hospital cases and breaks down how many came from care homes and how many are from wider society, which they term the ‘community’. In line with NHS England guidance, patients who test positive after seven days or more in hospital are considered probable healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).

We noticed that in some of the larger hospital trusts, the amount of absentee staff for COVID-19 has been steady throughout the summer and autumn, indicating likely low-level transmission among staff. But, among patients it is a different story. The current rate of infections in a healthcare setting is hovering at around 20%, up from 12% in October.

Big problem, in other words. They conclude:

We must assess whether the use of dedicated areas and the other measures will be sufficient. If they are not, the only way to control these outbreaks is to separate hospitals.

Worth reading in full.

“A Whole Industry Waiting For a Pandemic to Occur”

Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A reader has drawn my attention to an interview Tom Jefferson did with the German news weekly Der Spiegel in 2009. The subject was Swine Flu, but his remarks anticipated the current pandemic.

Spiegel: Do you consider the swine flu to be particularly worrisome?

Jefferson: It’s true that influenza viruses are unpredictable, so it does call for a certain degree of caution. But one of the extraordinary features of this influenza – and the whole influenza saga – is that there are some people who make predictions year after year, and they get worse and worse. None of them so far have come about, and these people are still there making these predictions. For example, what happened with the bird flu, which was supposed to kill us all? Nothing. But that doesn’t stop these people from always making their predictions. Sometimes you get the feeling that there is a whole industry almost waiting for a pandemic to occur.

Spiegel: Who do you mean? The World Health Organization (WHO)?

Jefferson: The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They’ve built this machine around the impending pandemic. And there’s a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In 2010, Der Spiegel produced a good overview of what it called “The Swine Flu Panic of 2009“.

Brave Boys in Blue Break Up Baptism

Police officers stood at the entrance to the church’s Mount Zion Hall building, stopping people from entering

Heroic Metropolitan Police Officers put themselves in the line of fire yesterday to… break up a baptism. BBC News has more.

Police halted a baptism service after about 30 worshippers gathered in breach of national lockdown restrictions.

Regan King, lead pastor at The Angel Church, Islington, defended his decision to hold the service, saying it served “the greater good”.

The pastor agreed to hold a brief “socially distanced outdoor gathering in the church courtyard” after officers halted the service.

Four officers stood at the entrance stopping people from entering.

Under current restrictions weddings and baptisms are not allowed in England. Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people.Mr King, 28, said he wanted to hold the baptism as it was providing “an essential service”.

He said: “We were told not to have a baptism and police began to block people from entering the church, so we decided to make other arrangements.”

Asked why he had decided to breach the restrictions, Mr King said: “Because I believe we serve a greater good.

“This is an essential service that we provide.

“It’s about loving our neighbour, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated.”

Two police vans and a police car parked outside the church’s hall.

A 22-year-old attendee said: “While the restrictions allow people to go to the supermarket to get food, I think there needs to be consideration for spiritual food as well.”

On Friday, more than 100 church leaders launched a judicial review of the decision to ban people from worshipping together.

A Met spokesman said officers spoke with the pastor following reports he intended to hold a “baptism and an in-person service”.

The spokesman said: “Officers explained that due to COVID-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached.”

Thank God for the police. While most of us run away from danger, they run towards it. They didn’t even know whether the baby was armed!

Where would we be without them?

AIDS and Covid: A Tale of Two Health Scares

We’re publishing an original piece today by Nick Macleod, a former insurance actuary, who sees plenty of parallels between the panicky, over-reaction to the Covid pandemic back in March and the initial reaction to the AIDs pandemic.

AIDS entered the public consciousness in the mid-1980s. At that time, I was working in the USA as an actuary at a large multiline insurer. To my surprise, I was given the rather broad-brush assignment Assess the effect of AIDS on the health insurance industry in North America.

I spent the next several months developing mathematical models of the spread of infection, and applying them to official health statistics, which were provided under free subscription by the Centers for Disease Control in their Weekly Surveillance Report. And, like anyone who has worked with epidemiological models during an emerging infection, I came to understand that early-stage projections are not neutral; they have an intrinsic and marked tendency towards exaggeration of whatever threat they’re applied to.

The reason is that with any new health condition, early infections and deaths naturally occur among the most susceptible parts of the population. With AIDS, there were clearly-defined and relatively small groups of people who were at very high risk, and almost all of the early cases were among members of those groups. As the disease spread to the much larger lower-risk parts of the population, overall rates of infection and death fell significantly.

When unrepresentative infection and death rates derived from early data are projected into the far future their effects are greatly amplified, just as a rifle fired at a distant target will turn a tiny error in aim into a miss by miles. And once the projected rates have been translated into numbers of deaths for a population of millions we end up with apocalyptic forecasts that can’t help but induce panic.

Many scientists spend their careers searching for eye-catching results, and it must be extremely difficult to choose to tone down the few that do occur, especially when they apply to a novel and high-profile disease. The temptation to believe you’ve discovered a genuinely awful and important truth is a powerful one. The Royal College of Nursing certainly couldn’t resist: in 1985, they predicted that one million people in Britain would have AIDS within six years. But by 1990, the cumulative total was less than 5,000.

Worth reading in full.

Fewer than 0.4% of Scousers Have Covid

According to the BBC, 90,000 Liverpudlians have now been tested after one week of mass testing using the lateral flow test and only 336 of them tested positive, i.e. fewer than 0.4%. And, as Dr Clare Craig pointed out, almost all of these will be false positives. After all, the lateral flow test has a false positive rate of 0.4%. This is in stark contrast to the latest ONS infection survey (w/e November 6th), which estimated that 2.2% of people in the North-West are positive.

This could mean one of two things. Either the lateral flow test is more accurate than the PCR test – in which case Liverpool should be released from lockdown tomorrow – or it’s not fit for purpose. Hard to see the Government reaching the latter conclusion, given that it’s spent £40 billion on mass testing so far. But anything’s possible.

Stop Press: The number of coronavirus patients being treated in Liverpool’s hospitals fell by 15% the week before lockdown, according to figures released by NHS England.

Stop Press 2: Channel 4’s Dispatches has an undercover report from one of Britain’s biggest COVID-19 testing labs this evening, where evidence of serious failings have been uncovered.

Covid Poses Almost No Threat to Healthy Under 70s in Scotland

A reader has found the above table in the latest update (w/e November 11th) to the National Records of Scotland’s Covid dashboard. It says that 88% of those who’ve died of Covid in Scotland so far are aged 70 or above and the total number of people who’ve succumbed to Covid with no underlying health condition is 563 (8% of the total). And the reader points out that this number would be even lower if obesity was classed as an underlying condition. In other words, if you’re under 70 and healthy, Covid poses almost no risk.

No surprise, then, that the Scottish Government has introduced a Byzantine, incomprehensible series of restrictions.

Here is the reader’s attempt to summarise what restrictions are planned for the coming weeks:

Level 4 on Tuesday. Councils are being briefed by the Scottish Government this morning on what to expect.

All other areas will stay at their current levels except for the North East moving to Level 3.

West and Central Scotland Level 4 for a minimum of four weeks. If figures are good, they will return to Level 3 mid-December.

All Level 3 areas will remain in that band until January 5th.

If the R Number (R) is estimated to be between 0.6-1.0 at Christmas, there will be a 48hr relaxation on 25th and 26th of December for home visits for those living in Level 3 and 4 areas, which will temporarily be downgraded to Level 2.

If figures are reduced, the Executive is hoping much of Scotland will return to Level 2 on January 5th when footfall for the hospitality sector is traditionally at its lowest.

If you’re planning on visiting anyone in Scotland over Christmas, you cannot arrive until one minute after midnight on December 25th at the earliest (bad luck Santa) and you’ll have to depart at one minute before midnight on December 26th.

Portuguese Appeals Court Deems PCR tests unreliable

A Portuguese professor and lockdown sceptic has sent me a long and informative email about a recent ruling by the Portuguese Court of Appeal which casts doubt on the reliability of the PCR test. It is a great tribute to the integrity of the Portuguese legal system that the Court seems to understand in considerable detail the shortcomings of the PCR test as a diagnostic tool, particularly when not used in combination with a clinical diagnosis. I think this is the best news I’ve had all week. What follows is not the whole email. The professor doesn’t want to be identified, so I’m only publishing an extract.

With Spain and Greece, Portugal is one of the few countries in the so-called West where enough people are still alive to know what a dictatorship looks like. Our numbers are dwindling, as you have to be at least 60 to have experienced the 1974 revolution in any meaningful manner. I was a teenager at the time, and I remember very well what daily life was like under censorship, massively lying mass media, police brutality, arbitrary detention in the name of the “national interest”, etc. — all those things that I hoped never again have to experience but that the current Covid climate has brought very, very vividly to the fore. Yet, it may well be exactly because of such things having happened in living memory that our Government has been less heavy-handed about the pandemic than most others in Europe. And, now to the point, maybe that’s also why our high courts have issued rulings of potentially devastating consequences for the current Covid narrative. Portugal is a small country but is part of the EU and so what happens here still is of some international significance. That’s why I thought you’d be interested in learning about some recent developments.

In a recent decision, dated November 11, 2020, a Portuguese appeal court ruled against the Azores Regional Health Authority concerning a lower court decision to declare unlawful the quarantining of four persons. Of these, one had tested positive for Covid using a PCR test; the other three were deemed to have undergone a high risk of exposure. Consequently, the Regional Health Authority decided that all four were infectious and a health hazard, which required that they go into isolation. The lower court had ruled against the Health Authority, and the appeal court upheld that ruling with arguments that explicitly endorse the scientific case for the lack of reliability of the PCR tests (e.g., as extensively explained in Lockdown Skeptics by Dr. Mike Yeadon, Dr. Clare Craig and others).

The court’s ruling is a long text. I provide below a summary of the key passage.

The court’s main points are as follows:

  • A medical diagnosis is a medical act that only a physician is legally qualified to undertake and for which such physician will be solely and entirely responsible. No other person or institution, including government agencies or the courts, has such an authority. It is not up to the Azores Regional Health Authority to declare someone ill, or a health hazard. Only a physician can do that. No one can be declared ill or a health hazard by decree or law, nor as the automatic, administrative consequence of the outcome of a laboratory test, no matter which.
  • From the above, the court concludes that “if carried out with no prior medical observation of the patient, with no participation of a physician certified by the Ordem dos Médicos who would have assessed symptoms and requested the tests/exams deemed necessary, any act of diagnosis, or any act of public health vigilance (such as determining whether a viral infection or a high risk of exposure exist, which the aforementioned concepts subsume) will violate [a number of laws and regulations] and may configure a crime of usurpação de funções [unlawful practice of a profession] in the case said acts are carried out or dictated by someone devoid of the capacity to do so, i.e., by someone who is not a certified physician [to practice medicine in Portugal a degree is not enough, you need to be accepted as qualified to practice medicine by undergoing examination with the Ordem dos Médicos, roughly our equivalent of the UK’s Royal College of Physicians].”
  • In addition, the court rules that the Azores Health Authority violated article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, as it failed to provide evidence that the informed consent mandated by said Declaration had been given by the PCR-tested persons who had complained against the forced quarantine measures imposed on them.
  • From the facts presented to the court, it concluded that no evidentiary proof or even indication existed that the four persons in question had been seen by a doctor, either before or after undertaking the test.

The above would suffice to deem the forced quarantine of the four persons unlawful. The court thought it necessary, however, to add some very interesting considerations about the PCR tests:

  • “Based on the currently available scientific evidence this test [the RT-PCR test] is in and of itself unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that positivity in fact corresponds to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, for several reasons, among which two are paramount (to which one would need to add the issue of the gold standard, which, due to that issue’s specificity, will not be considered here): the test’s reliability depends on the number of cycles used; the test’s reliability depends on the viral load present.”
  • Citing Jaafar et al. (2020;), the court concludes that “if someone is tested by PCR as positive when a threshold of 35 cycles or higher is used (as is the rule in most laboratories in Europe and the US), the probability that said person is infected is <3%, and the probability that said result is a false positive is 97%.” The court further notes that the cycle threshold used for the PCR tests currently being made in Portugal is unknown [N.B. – I know from acquaintances that in at least some Portuguese labs the threshold is 35 cycles].
  • Citing Surkova et al. (2020)), the court further states that any diagnostic test must be interpreted in the context of the actual probability of disease as assessed prior to the undertaking of the test itself, and expresses the opinion that “in the current epidemiological landscape of the United Kingdom, the likelihood is increasing that Covid 19 tests are returning false positives, with major implications for individuals, the health system and society.”

The court’s summary of the case to rule against the Regional Health Authority’s appeal reads as follows:

  • “Given how much scientific doubt exists — as voiced by experts, i.e., those who matter — about the reliability of the PCR tests, given the lack of information concerning the tests’ analytical parameters, and in the absence of a physician’s diagnosis supporting the existence of infection or risk, there is no way this court would ever be able to determine whether C was indeed a carrier of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or whether A, B and D had been at a high risk of exposure to it.”

I anticipate this ruling to have massive legal implications in my country. Note that it comes in the back of a previous ruling by the Constitutional Court, our highest court, declaring as an unlawful deprivation of liberty a decision by the Regional Government of the Azores to force into a 14-day quarantine every passenger landing in an airport of the territory.

Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to say he’s looked at the NHS definitions for the terms used in the monthly data analysed by my doctor friend yesterday and uncovered the following gem:

For all relevant data items: a confirmed COVID-19 patient is any patient admitted to the trust who has recently (ie in the last 14 days) tested positive for COVID-19 following a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Patients who have been diagnosed via X-ray and assessment rather than a positive test should be counted as suspected (and not confirmed) COVID-19 patients.

So patients that have a test but no diagnosis are confirmed COVID patients. Anyone with a firm clinical diagnosis but no positive test are “suspected”.

Boris’s 12 Days of Christmas

Can’t claim to have written this one. Not sure who did. But it’s pretty darn good.

On the 12th day of Christmas Boris gave to me
12 sanitizers
11 plastic visors
10pm curfew
9 months in lockdown
8 swabbing test kits
7 frigging face masks
6 people only
5 TOILET ROLLSSS
4 isolations
3 tier system
2 metre distance
AND A USELESS TRACK AND TRACE APPPP

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Carrie” by Cliff Richard.

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.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, I’m reproducing a helpful list of the characteristics of white supremacy, as compiled by some American educators.

“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.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want 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.

Mask Censorship: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.

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 last month 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 my 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 650,000 signatures.

Update: The authors of the GDB 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”.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many JRs being brought against the Government and its ministers, we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. 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’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.

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.

Christian Concern and over 100 church leaders are JR-ing the Government over its insistence on closing churches during the lockdowns. Read about it here.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

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.

Quotation Corner

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Charles Mackay

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…

Ideology – that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.

Sir Winston Churchill

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

Richard Feynman

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Carl Sagan

We’re Hiring

Lockdown Sceptics is looking to hire someone to help us write the daily update. This will involve producing a daily update yourself two or three times a week – so a page exactly like this one – under your own byline. The ideal candidate will have some journalistic background, be able to work quickly under pressure and know their way around WordPress. We can pay you £75 for each update. If you’re interested, email us here and put “Job Application” in the subject line.

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…

Nick Newman’s latest photobubble in the Sunday Times

Latest News

Croatia Added to Quarantine List

First it was holidaymakers in Spain who were told they had to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Britain, then France. Now, Croatia has been added to the “red list”. According to The BBC the 20,000 Brits currently holidaying in Croatia have until 4am on Saturday to leave the country or face the consequences. Meanwhile, the Scottish government has added Switzerland to the lists of countries on its quarantine list!

However, there is a scintilla of good news. Portugal has been added to the “green list”, meaning you don’t have to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from the Algarve.

Portugal’s ministry of foreign affairs welcomed the changes as “useful for all those who travel between Portgual and the United Kingdom”.

In a tweet, it added: “This decision is proof of the good outcome of intense bilateral work. It allowed for an understanding that the situation in the country has always been under control, with Portugal standing as one of the European countries with more tests, fewer deaths and fewer hospitalisations.”

A friend of mine returned from the Algarve last week. Does he still have to self-isolate, even though the Government has finally admitted the virus has all but disappeared in Portugal? No doubt he does.

Another Judicial Review

Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred

Another group has applied to the High Court to judicially review the Coronavirus Act 2020, this one led by an outfit called the People’s Brexit. It describes itself as “a legal research and campaign group… fighting for the democracy and rights of the people of the UK”. The solicitor acting for the group is Robin Tilbrook of Tilbrook’s – the same firm I advertise on this site. You can read his excellent pre-action protocol letter here.

Here’s an extract:

In passing the Act complained of, the Government has failed to have any or any adequate regard for the Department of Health’s own report “UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011“.

This report made it clear that the Rule of Law should be upheld and life should carry on as normal for the healthy.

Further, the ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ were measures that were forced upon us and were based upon advice by Government ‘advisors’, from ‘modeling’ estimates and reports not even peer reviewed. These ‘advisors’ included Professor Neil Ferguson who has a track record of failure, including the slaughter of millions of healthy animals and the ruin of livelihoods during the Foot and Mouth debacle.

The World Health Organisation themselves in their report ‘Nonpharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza, National and Community Measures’ from 2006, the writers of which include current members of SAGE, criticises forced isolation and quarantine branding these measures “ineffective and impractical”. It also states that “Legal authority and procedures for implementing interventions should be understood in advance and should respect cultural differences and human rights.”

Crucially, the report states that at Phase 6 of a Pandemic, when it is officially declared, measures such as tracing and quarantine should not be attempted. It states “Patient isolation and tracing and quarantine of contacts should cease, as such measures will no longer be feasible or useful.”

For these reasons, the Act is irrational.

If you want to contribute to the cost of bringing this case, the Crowdjustice fundraiser is here.

New Paper Purporting to Show Lockdowns Were Effective is a Bit Thin

A new paper purporting to show that the lockdowns have been effective in preventing the spread of the virus was published by Plos Medicine last week. I asked Alistair Haimes, a financial analyst and independent researcher, to take a look at it for Lockdown Sceptics. He isn’t very impressed.

For those of us more interested in the “hard” data of covid (triage calls, hospital and ICU admissions and deaths), and less in the haruspex hand-wringing over ‘cases’ (subject to changes in test availability and protocols), the key finding of this paper is: “Statewide social distancing measures were associated with a decrease in the COVID-19-attributed mortality growth rate beginning 7 days after implementation [of statewide social distancing measures], although this decrease was no longer statistically significant by 10 days.”

Is significance that only lasts three days actually significant, or just coincidence? In other words, there is only a statistically significant correlation between implementing social distancing and reducing the growth rate in Covid deaths if the lag period between symptom onset and death is seven days, and this significance evaporates if the interval is longer; but the Lancet paper by Verity et al estimates this gap as 18 days, and the later Zhang/Zhou paper at 15 days, with seven days well outside the confidence intervals of both papers, which raises the question: is there any association at all?

This is a secondary finding of the paper, and is acknowledged slightly sheepishly and a bit awkwardly. The main body of the paper looks at the daily growth rate in cases (i.e. positive tests) before and after the introduction of social distancing measures. Happily, the authors acknowledge that the growth rate in cases was indeed slowing before the introduction of a state’s first social distancing measure (i.e. the growth in cases was not exponential), though they do not seem to have much of a handle on quite how fast it was decelerating. That’s the line of black dots to the left of the dashed green line below – it basically means they aren’t sure what the gradient should be. As such, the central claim that the growth rate in cases decelerated faster after the introduction of social distancing measures (the line of black dots to the right of the dashed green line) is rather holed below the waterline: eyeballing the data, I could just as easily fit a single straight line through the data, or more convincingly a modest curve, which might well make more sense.

The paper is quite open about the “potential confounding by contemporaneous changes (e.g. increases in testing)” although this isn’t expanded upon – rather frustratingly, given it could be all-important for their conclusions. The poor quality and lack of testing in the early days of America’s epidemic are well publicised. Not that I’m here to peer review, not being a peer, but oddly it also doesn’t expand its reach internationally to check its findings against countries that did/didn’t lock down hard (sceptics know that Sweden’s covid report compares well to countries that had far more social distancing), nor check its claims against the less locked-down US states such as South Dakota. Social distancing after all is a gradient rather than a binary switch, and you’d think the authors would check that the relationship they claim is more robust, the stricter a state locked down. The analysis is a bit… thin.

It also doesn’t discuss the most fundamental questions: even if social distancing did modestly reduce the growth rate in cases, which the paper does not convincingly prove, (a) was it worth it, given the other health impacts of social distancing (particularly non-covid excess deaths), and (b) would ‘flattening the curve’, reducing the growth rate in cases, likely reduce the eventual cumulative number of covid infections and deaths (i.e. the area under the curve) anyway? Perhaps these latter questions were simply left for someone else to answer, but they seem the most important questions of all.

Faulty Risk Assessments of COVID-19

I’ve published an interesting piece today by Brian Gedalla, a retired insurance actuary, about how we routinely assess risk and why so many people are exaggerating the risk posed by COVID-19. Here’s an extract;

We assess risks every day of our lives. We learn to do this as very small children and long before we reach adulthood we carry out most of the assessments completely subconsciously.

COVID-19 is forcing us to assess the risks associated with the virus in our conscious minds and we are not very good at it.

This is an illuminating analysis of the problem by someone who’s spent 30 years assessing risk. Worth reading in full.

Sydney Unions Want More Masks on Buses

A guide to Melbourne public transport

A reader in Australia has got in touch about a threatened strike by Sydney bus drivers.

The New South Wales Rail, Tram and Bus Union is threatening a 48-hour strike by Sydney’s 2,300 bus drivers next week unless masks are made compulsory for passengers on crowded buses (when passengers exceed the number of socially-distanced green dots on the bus). It pains me, as a former workplace delegate/shop steward (in the high school teachers’ union and public service workers union), to see teachers and public servants essentially on strike to maintain the lockdown. Sydney’s bus drivers are flexing their union muscle, not to break free of The Mask, but to make the thing mandatory.  All, sadly, part of the Left’s surrender to virus hysteria, policy panic and a faux-radical embrace of the principle of putting ‘lives’ ahead of ‘money’.

Peru: The Country Lockdown Zealots Don’t Want to Talk About

“Don’t repatriate me. Please!”

Jordan Schachtel has a good piece on Substack, the blogging platform, about Peru. The South American country imposed what is arguably the strictest lockdown in the world – masks everywhere, 10pm to 4am curfew, grocery stores close at 3pm, mandatory face shields on public transport… Yet it is about to surpass Belgium to take first place in the league table of Covid deaths per million.

Once hailed as a COVID-19 “success story,” Peru is now the COVID-19 case study that lockdown advocates no longer want to discuss. Lima is on pace to surpass Belgium (another strict lockdown country) sometime next week as having the world’s highest COVID-19 deaths per million. So why is no one talking about it?

Pandemic panic promoters have been quick to criticize neighboring Brazil for its leadership’s more relaxed policies towards the virus, but they’ve been noticeably absent in discussing Peru. That’s because Peru implemented arguably the earliest (for their region) and strictest lockdowns in the entire world, along with several attempted suppression measures with the hopes to contain the virus, and none of it worked.

Has the Peruvian Government now woken up and smelt the coffee? Don’t be silly.

Instead of learning from their mistakes, and admitting that the lockdown failed and the several suppression measures undertaken were a catastrophic error, Peru is doubling down on the madness. Last week, the country reimposed and tightened nationwide curfews. The new curfew prevents any citizen from leaving their home on Sundays.

Worth reading in full.

New Poem From Bent Knee

Bent Knee, a lockdown sceptic poet, has sent me his latest.

The Initiation

Banish your old gods and superstition
Before science shall ye kneel in submission

Why have you forgotten me? Your spirit roars
Remember, religion closed its doors

Abandon all hope of afterlife
Seek only to extend earthly strife

Obediently consent to be baptised
Ablutions performed, hands sanitised

Thou shalt have no other gods before science
Governments will ensure compliance

Thou shalt not covet fleshy delights
Laws must govern all intimate rites

The pleasures of the body forbidden
Heavy breathing masked and hidden

If you must make love, do so through a glory hole
Relinquish the last vestige of your soul

Trust none but the Righteous Book of Face
Sign in to state-approved truth and grace

Adore TikTok’s uniformed nurse angels
Pray for health delivered in syringes and pills

Incanted by broadsheet bourgeoisie
Mask up, love it, demonstrate your piety

It’s just a bit of cloth, this vestiture of faith
Protect others, be reborn a masked wraith

In the long, dark night of lockdown,
Did you forget your soul is your own?

So-Called Second Waves Much Less Lethal Than the First

I’ve published a short article today by a reader who’s spotted a curiosity about the supposedly terrifying “second waves” engulfing Europe and the United States: they’re much less lethal than the first waves.

The second wave of reported Covid infections we have seen across Europe should be neither a surprise nor any great cause for alarm. But instead of a measured response, balancing all considerations and planning for the long term, we’ve been subjected to hasty and high-handed panic-measures. These range from the UK’s ruthless quarantine ambush of those who dared to take a holiday abroad to the Spanish Government’s national edict to wear masks when anywhere outdoors, even when totally alone. Every day we were admonished with the threat of stricter measures unless infections return to somewhere near zero.

What justifies this new approach? Are we seeing a greater proportion of Covid deaths associated with these increases in reported infections?

No, we are not. Quite the reverse in fact. There is something fundamentally less dangerous about the recent waves of reported infections than the first.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has sent me an absurdly alarmist story in the Eastern Daily Press about how Norfolk County Council is preparing for a “second wave” that the Council says will last longer and cause more deaths than the first wave. To be fair, this prediction appears to be based on data that’s been sent to the Council by some organ of the Government, although it doesn’t say which. Can someone please send the leader of the Council the above analysis?

Give Yourselves a Smoked Salmon Treat

Food recommendation for readers of Lockdown Sceptics: a side of smoked salmon from Bleiker’s, a smokey in Yorkshire. I ordered a side of the peat-smoked salmon a couple of months ago and it was so good I’ve just ordered it again – and it arrived this morning, less than 24 hours later! Postage and packing is free. Place your order here. Highly recommended.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Con Trick Of The Century” by Moonlight J and “Up The Creek (Without A Paddle)” by The Temptations

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

Some interesting “Mask Exempt” lanyards created by an enterprising reader

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 5th to Oct 15th). 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).

Stop Press: All the passengers on a JetBlue flight were forced to deplane after two-year old refused to wear mask. Let’s hope the genius who made that risk assessment isn’t flying the plane!

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 several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named. 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.

I’m taking a day off tomorrow because I’ve got a bit too much on my plate. Back at the weekend, hopefully.

And Finally…

This year’s cohort of A-level students have been gifted extra places at good universities at the expense of next year’s cohort

In my Spectator column today I’ve written about the impact the Gavin Williamson’s reverse ferret on last week’s A-level results will have on the next cohort of university applicants.

Whatever harm the Government may have prevented by its U-turn will have been more than offset by the harm it has done to next year’s cohort of A-level students, of which my daughter is one. Good universities make many more offers than they have places because they know that not all the applicants will meet those offers. Cambridge, for instance, made 4,500 offers for 3,450 places this year, while Oxford made about 3,900 offers for 3,287 places. Had Williamson stuck with Ofqual’s grades, roughly the same number of children would have been disappointed as in previous years, but now that he’s allowed children to choose between the Ofqual grade and their predicted grade, a far larger number of applicants to good universities will have met their conditional offers. Most universities will honour those offers, which will mean accepting many more students than in a typical year. But they won’t have the space or resources to accommodate them all, so they’ll encourage some to defer until 2021. That will mean fewer places available at good universities next year, when my daughter will be applying.

You might think I’m being pessimistic. After all, won’t the expected decline in foreign students applying this year, thanks to Covid, mean that universities have room to squeeze in all the additional British students? Afraid not. That’s partly because universities have already factored that in, lowering their entry requirements in order to admit more British applicants; and partly because the decline in the number of foreign students isn’t as great as anticipated. And next year they will be back to full strength. Indeed, there may be more than usual because some who would have applied this year if it weren’t for travel restrictions will apply in 2021 instead. In effect, my daughter will be facing a double whammy. Fewer places available for British students overall, and what places there are already part-filled by this year’s overspill.

I conclude by comparing the Government’s A-level climb down to the lockdown – “a quick fix to avoid some bad publicity, even though the unintended consequences are far worse than the problem it was designed to solve”.

Worth reading in fullobviously.

Latest News

Do Medical Complications and Lingering Effects Make COVID-19 an Unusually Dangerous Diseases?

https://youtu.be/_9D8qmGjki8

In the last few weeks, as the evidence mounts that the infection fatality rate of COVID-19 is not much higher than seasonal flu and that most areas that have experienced bad outbreaks are well on their way to achieving herd immunity, the argument for keeping lockdowns in place has shifted away from the lethality of the disease and towards the medical complications and lingering effects associated with it. Advocates of a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy, like Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University, point to the complications of COVID-19, such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents (MIS-C) and the persistent symptoms that some people have experienced after recovering from the illness, as a reason to continue with draconian suppression measures until a vaccine becomes available.

But just how many children are at risk of MIS-C and how many recovered Covid patients experience lingering symptoms? We asked an epidemiologist with a PhD from a Russell Group university and a retired Professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology – both readers of Lockdown Sceptics – to carry out a review of the evidence and we’ve published their findings today.

It’s good news and bad news: good news for lockdown sceptics and bad news for lockdown zealots. For the most part, the risks of complications and lingering symptoms from COVID-19 are no greater than they are from the flu. So not a great argument for maintaining strict lockdowns – unless, that is, you think entire populations should be placed under house arrest every winter.

Here’s the section in their article in which they compare COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

Distressing though COVID-19 associated MIS-C is, these cases have decreased from an already low population incidence and risk of fatality. While symptoms may persist in COVID-19 and may sometimes be serious, they are not typically so, and appear to measurably diminish with time, even within the short time frame of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some years, epidemic – let alone pandemic – flu may lead to a broadly similar number of deaths to COVID-19, even given widely available vaccination.

Like COVID-19, influenza poses an elevated risk to the over-65s. However, influenza presents a clearly greater risk to all other ages, including children and adults. While seasonal flu leads to higher mortality rates at the extremes of age, 2009 H1N1 flu, for example, may have posed a particular threat to ‘working age’ adults.

Multi-organ complications, including myocarditis and encephalitis, occur in both flu and COVID-19. In both cases, these complications have the potential to be persistent and serious, but such instances are rare and may be complicated by pre-existing disease. Patients typically recover in a few weeks and where symptoms do persist, they diminish – if sometimes gradually – in frequency with time. The most persistent symptoms are predominately those such as fatigue, aches and pains, and shortness of breath and are not life-threatening.

It is far from evident that COVID-19 presents a greater risk of complications or persistent symptoms than flu and – given the demographic most affected – COVID-19 does not present as great a threat as flu to children and younger adults and the otherwise healthy.

Epidemiologically and clinically, flu may be as bad as COVID-19. In children, juveniles and productive adults flu appears worse.

This scholarly article, by two sceptical scientists, is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lungs damaged by coronavirus can repair themselves within three months, according to a study involving 86 patients in the Tyrolean region of Austria. The Telegraph has more.

Lungs can repair themselves after a serious bout of coronavirus in just three months, a new study has revealed, raising hope patients will not be living with debilitating symptoms for years on end.

Doctors said trials showed nearly half of patients in trials showed no evidence of lung damage at 12 weeks.

Although they confirm longstanding fears that Covid patients can suffer serious effects weeks after recovering from the virus, the results are the first to show that these tend to heal over time.

Are the Lockdowns a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy?

Conspiracy theorist David Icke

In light of the evidence that you’re no more likely to suffer medical complications and lingering effects from COVID-19 than you are with the flu, why do public health panjandrums like Devi Sridhar seemingly exaggerate the risk to argue for keeping strict lockdowns in place? Cynics would point to the links between those experts and various funding bodies and institutions that are linked to Bill Gates and which all seem to be singing from the same pro-lockdown, pro-vaccination hymn sheet – and in Prof Sridhar’s case, they do seem to be pretty extensive. As one scientist reader of Lockdown Sceptics pointed out:

I learn that Devi has written a book Governing Global Health Who Runs the World and Why? with Chelsea Clinton (both seem to have taken their MPhil at Oxford at about the same time). Devi has served on the World Economic Forum Council on the Health Industry and is a member of Edinburgh’s WHO Collaborating Centre on Population Health Research and Training. Her 2014 paper in NEJM argues that “a renewed attention to lawmaking efforts by the WHO and the human right to health are crucial elements of progress”. In a BMJ Opinion article, Devi and Chelsea offer advice to the new director of WHO – Dr Tedros – who had come from the The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Apparently, Chelsea’s doctoral thesis is entitled “The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria: a response to global threats, a part of a global future”. HIV/AIDS is a priority of the Clinton Foundation, of which Chelsea is the Vice Chair (and which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helps to fund).

This BMJ paper shows how much money is involved: “…in 2017, official development assistance for health reached $23.9bn, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private funder, gave $2.5bn in health aid…”

Just sayin’, as they say… and I don’t wish to question ‘good works’ at all, but I do wonder why so many countries are doing the same thing and why there is so much conformity and so little resistance within the public health establishment itself.

So is Prof Sridhar promoting a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy for self-interested reasons rather than in good faith? Probably not. In fact, we don’t think that’s a meaningful distinction in her case or in the case of Neil Ferguson, Sir Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty et al. Rather, we think they are capable of advocating those public health policies that perfectly align with their broader professional interests without experiencing the slightest twinge of discomfort. They’re not being dishonest because they have persuaded themselves of the wisdom of the safety-first, interventionist approach. If they’re engaged in a conspiracy, it’s an unconscious conspiracy. This quote from Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities sums it up:

And indeed the most coldly calculating people do not have half the success in life that comes to those rightly blended personalities who are capable of feeling a really deep attachment to such persons and conditions as will advance their own interests.

Influential Lockdown Advocate Benefits Financially From Lockdowns

For fans of conspiracy theories, this one’s a doozy. Thomas Pueyo, who wrote a now famous, pro-lockdown Medium post on March 10th that’s had over 40 million views and been translated into more than two dozen languages is the President for Growth of an online learning platform called Course Hero that’s just raised over $80 million.

Among the claims Pueyo made in his post were:

  • The coronavirus is coming to you.
  • It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
  • It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
  • When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
  • Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
  • Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
  • They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
  • The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
  • That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.

He followed up with another post on March 19th in which he claimed that 10,000,000 Americans would die if strict shut downs weren’t imposed in every US state immediately. “If we do nothing: Everybody gets infected, the healthcare system gets overwhelmed, the mortality explodes, and ~10 million people die,” he wrote.

Not just a run-of-the-mill bedwetter, then, but a kind of super-bedwetter. And a highly influential one at that. The celebrities who shared his post included former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, actor George Takei, Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, author Margaret Atwood, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker. (Et tu, Pinker?)

Well, Course Hero, Pueyo’s company, has just netted $80 million in its latest fundraising round. Tech Crunch is in no doubt about why it’s been so successful – edtech companies offering remote learning tools have all done phenomenally well thanks to school and college closures during the lockdowns.

From a high level, the new raise is not surprising. Other edtech companies have also recently added on more capital to their balance sheets to meet remote learning demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But in Course Hero’s case, the new capital comes as a stark contrast to how the business functioned before 2020. After launching, the startup waited eight years to raise a $15 million Series A. Now, after going another nearly six years without raising venture capital, Course Hero has closed two rounds in this year alone.

Should we give Pueyo the benefit of the doubt and accept that he’s just another of Robert Musil’s “rightly blended personalities”? Maybe. But the fact that he hired a PR company to promote his Medium posts suggests he wasn’t just a disinterested blogger.

Philosophy Lecturers at Newcastle University Condemn Masks

We’re publishing an original piece today by Michael Lewis and Sinéad Murphy, two philosophy lecturers at Newcastle, about why they object to the the compulsory masks and draconian social distancing measures being insisted upon by their university.

As academics and as a university as a whole, our role is reasonably to examine and exemplify what is true and what is good, and to help our students to do likewise. This is particularly relevant for those of us in the humanities, allied as we are with the concept which, above all others, ought to have led policy responses to the virus, and which humanities academics should have seized upon immediately and promoted tirelessly: the humanity of the human.

Historically, the deprivation of the face and the refusal of contact with others (frequently in the context of virulent disease) have been the very first and most effective gestures of dehumanisation. And yet, now we are asked to imagine a truly risible classroom in which the teacher, and perhaps eventually everyone, is faceless, masked, and spaced two metres apart, so that all chance of serious interaction, human interaction – between student and teacher, but, perhaps most ruinously of all, among students themselves – is ruled out in favour of the atmosphere of the operating theatre.

Worth reading in full.

Black Lives Matter Window-Smasher is Rich White Liberal

Clara Kraebber, street-fighting woman

The New York Post has learned that a Black Lives Matter protesters now facing felony rioting and misdemeanour graffiti charges – after a window-smashing spree in Manhattan on Friday night – is a wealthy Upper East Sider whose mother is an architect and whose father is a child psychiatrist.

Clara Kraebber, 20, is one of eight people arrested Friday night after a roiling, three-hour rampage that police say caused at least $100,000 in damage from Foley Square up to 24th Street.

“Every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground!” the group chanted as it moved up Lafayette Street while busting the plate glass facades of banks, Starbucks and Duane-Reades.

The protest was organized by groups calling themselves the “New Afrikan Black Panther Party” and the “Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement.”

Given her privileged upbringing, Kraebber might seem an unlikely alleged revolutionary in those ranks.

Kraebber’s mother, Virginia Kindred, runs Kindred Arch. Works, a Manhattan architect firm that has designed spaces for Columbia University and NYU, and worked on numerous school and business spaces throughout the city.

Her father is Markus Kraebber, an Upper East Side child and adolescent psychiatrist who teaches at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry.

In 2016 the family paid $1.8 million for their 16th-floor apartment on East End Avenue. The family also owns a 1730 home — featuring four fireplaces, according to property listings — in tony Litchfield County, Conn.

Turns out, Kraebber was a student at Hunter College High School, a selective school that has been ranked as the top public high school in the United States. So let’s get this straight: a white member of America’s ruling class spent Friday night destroying the workplaces of working class immigrants to advance the cause of racial equality. The Post quotes a New York police officer who is justifiably outraged.

“This is the height of hypocrisy,” one law enforcement source who was at the protest told The Post. “This girl should be the poster child for white privilege, growing up on the Upper East Side and another home in Connecticut.

“I wonder how her rich parents feel about their daughter. How would they feel if they graffitied their townhouse?”

Worth reading in full.

Handy Cock “Concerned” After Cases Spike

Appearing on Sky News yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “concerned” after 2,988 new COVID-19 infections were reported in the 24-hour period to Sunday.

Mr Hancock said there had been rises across Europe, and that it was “so important that we do all we can to prevent that happening here”.

He added that the new positive tests were predominantly among younger people, but warned that this could lead to a rise across the population as a whole, because it had happened elsewhere.

He said: “It’s so important that people don’t allow this illness to infect grandparents and lead to the sort of problems we saw earlier in the year.”

No need to worry Matt because there’s been no corresponding uptick in hospitalisations or deaths. In fact, there were only two Covid deaths in the whole of the UK yesterday, according to the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Nothing to see here folks, move on…

An Australian Nomad Writes…

“In the roar of an engine, he lost everything… and became a shell of a man… a burnt-out, desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.”

A regular reader of Lockdown Sceptics has written to tell us about his adventures in Europe as an Australian expat.

We left Australia in September last year on a European adventure. We figured we’d take advantage of my UK dual citizenship status before Brexit and our ability to work from anywhere as digital nomads.

I thought I’d share some perspectives based on our experiences since the plague hit.

We were based in Bulgaria living inside a city apartment with four children when the very restrictive Bulgaria lockdowns started. Contemplating being stuck in an apartment for weeks with four children and with not so much as a balcony, we jumped on a flight to London and got ourselves some farm accommodation in Scotland for a few months. We watched as the mask requirement for shops was coming to Scotland, so bought a car and planned our exit from the UK via the only means possible without a mask requirement on transport, the Eurotunnel. We left Scotland on the same day masks were mandated, spent the next couple of weeks in England and left just before masks were mandated in shops there.

We carefully selected our next “home” after lots of research (including your site) and arrived in Denmark after an overnight airbnb in France followed by Germany. It was like being on a different planet, no masks, no perspex screens, no one-way aisles with stickers on the floor, no social distancing. The first weekend was rainy, so we took the kids to an extremely busy indoor play centre, with everyone packed in like sardines, no indication of a pandemic except for a few extra bottles of hand sanitizer around. We took the kids to the aqua park, Legoland and Lego House over the course of a few days, again no indication of a pandemic except for Legoland we found a couple of families in masks and one of the rides closed due to it being in a small confined space.

On seeing Denmark weaken their position on masks, we planned our next move once again, and shortly after masks were mandated on public transport in Denmark. We are currently in Norway and much like Denmark, life is normal here. We’re considering making a residency application and our children will start school here next week.

We were considering a flight back to Sydney, Australia, however…

In their wisdom, the Australian Government has placed a cap on the number of arrivals into Australia each day so as to not overwhelm the hotel quarantine program (now billed to the traveller). A Facebook group has been set up for hotel quarantine and the stories in there are very depressing. In order to try and get maximum revenue on enforced empty flights, airlines are giving preference to business class passengers and those who are booking economy fares are being continually cancelled and bumped to a later date, i.e. the best chance of getting home is to book a business class flight. Some people have been cancelled more than a dozen times, and are still waiting after months. Media reports have the number of stranded Australian’s trying to get home at over 23,000. In addition to thousands of expats trying to get home, people who have been given special permission to leave Australia for a funeral, medical travel etc. and were only prepared for a week or two away, are now living out of hotels, running out of money, and risk overstaying their visas.

Finally, back in Australia our Government has announced that it may become a requirement for citizens entering Australia to be vaccinated for COVID-19, if a vaccine is available. We are not excited about the prospect of being first in line for a rushed vaccine, so we, like many Australians may have a limited window of opportunity to find a way back into Australia before being forced to make that decision.

Based on the trainwreck that Australia has become, we feel very lucky to be in Norway and that we’re not stuck in the “lucky country”!

Another Heartbreaking Care Home Story

We got an email from a woman whose father is trapped in a care home with a “no visitors” policy.

My father’s care home is still not allowing any visits. I know other care homes have allowed garden visits since June so it is dependent on their management but I am not surprised by their fear.

My poor father is very unwell, but my family will not be allowed to see him unless he is dying. They will hold the phone near to him so he can hear our voices. I am so angry I wish it were possible to sue the Government for causing this misery and despair to so many poor frail and elderly people at the end of their lives. Should he die during this time, and it is looking more likely as I don’t see care homes being less afraid until the spring, I will carry the guilt of not being able to support him during the last months of his life for the rest of my life.

This inhuman cruelty has to stop. The Labour Party and various charities have called on ministers to take urgent action to help care homes in England receive more visitors – more power to their elbow.

Stop Press: The Sunday Times ran a piece about this issue last Sunday and yesterday it published the responses it got from readers, all telling their own heartbreaking stories.

Postcard From Portugal

Vale do Lobo

If you live in England or Northern Ireland, but not Scotland or Wales, you can still go to Portugal without having to quarantine on your return. Clear? We didn’t think so. Nonetheless, if you’re prepared to risk it, a one-week break in the Algarve sounds idyllic. A reader sent us this yesterday.

I have just spent a week in brilliant sunshine in Vale do Lobo near Faro. Great to escape the new panic over so-called case numbers rising.

It has been a delight to be on holiday where almost everything seems normal. Apart from mandatory masks in shops, very few people seem to be wearing the ridiculous things. The minority that do seem somewhat mad and apologetic – like people who go out in full storm gear, sou’westers and wellies only to find that the sun is out.

We have eaten out every night and didn’t notice any crazed social distancing. The restaurants observe a weird dance in which customers put on a mask to walk to their table then take it off and breathe all over everyone around them for the rest of the meal, before putting the mask back on to leave the premises. What purpose this serves is clearly beyond anyone’s understanding, but it is the law.

Meanwhile, the beaches are uncrowded and completely normal, with children playing, families mingling and no social distancing at all.

The bars are open, complete with live music and the mandatory groups of young Brits singing Sweet Caroline at the top of their lungs.

A great place to go and free of usual crowds. Seems like this part of Portugal is over the virus.

Lockdown Madness in Seaford

Punters queue to get into a car boot sale in Seaford

We got an email from a reader in Seaford. The country really has been driven completely insane by all the bedwetting propaganda being pumped out by the Government and the BBC.

I went down to Rotary’s Car Boot Sale on the seafront at Seaford this morning. As can be seen from the picture, all visitors were expected to wear masks, as were the stallholders. Numbers on site were limited to 150 with a one-way system, hand sanitiser, and no more than six people, including myself, chose not to wear masks. So conditioned are people that nearly everyone donned a piece of cloth to protect themselves from a terrible virus in the fresh sea air on a sunny day, where the risk was zero. Current number of detected cases in town of 28,000 is zero. Last death in our NHS Trust’s area of 525,000 people was on August 2nd. Clearly, there is a lot of fear about, if not Coronavirus.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “You Ruined The Holidays” by Liz Bissonette.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans. Credit…Jeffrey Neira/FX

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 7th to Oct 17th). 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 31,500).

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).

Stop Press: The European Commission has issued a health warning about two different types of face nappies on sale in the UK, here and here.

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 we 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 we should include in future updates, email us here. (If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the link).

And Finally…

https://webplayer.whooshkaa.com/player/episode/id/729026?theme=light&enable-volume=true

In case you missed it, I interviewed Douglas Murray for the Quillette podcast last week to mark the publication of the paperback of The Madness of Crowds. We spoke about all that’s happened since the book came out a year ago – a year in which the crowds seem to have become even madder! Douglas’s conclusion? “The silent majority needs to speak up – now.”

You can listen to our conversation here.

Which Countries Could Feature On the Holiday “Green List” This Summer?

The Government has yet to announce which countries will be categorised as “green”, “amber” or “red” on its “traffic light system” when holidays resume this year.

The rules around travel for different countries on the “traffic light system”.

A country’s classification will depend on the proportion of its population that has been vaccinated, as well as on its infection rate and the prevalence of Covid variants. Based on these metrics, the Telegraph has identified seven countries that are likely to feature on the holiday “green list”.

Israel

The country is currently leading the charge when it comes to vaccinations. 58.6% of the adult population has received a first dose, and 54.2% are fully vaccinated. This is likely to be the main metric used by the Government, when building its “green list”. …

Gibraltar

… Bars and restaurants are open again in Gibraltar and face masks are only required on public transport. What’s more, British Airways has just launched flights from London City to Gibraltar, starting from June 25th – indicating the airline is optimistic The Rock will feature on the “green list”. It was also the last “quarantine free” option in 2020. …

Madeira

The island of Madeira is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination. What’s more, case numbers are low in Portugal – 32.55 over a seven day average. The UK, by comparison, is at a similar rate of 29.5 per 100,000. However, the vaccination drive in Portugal lags behind (only 13.6% have received a first dose), making it unlikely that mainland Portugal appear on the “green list” when it is unveiled in May. …

The Caribbean

Since the pandemic began, the Caribbean has been the most reliable corner of the world when it comes to holiday options for Britons. Prior to the UK Government scrapping all travel corridors in January 2021, there were eight Caribbean islands welcoming British travellers, including the likes of Barbados, Cuba, St Lucia and Antigua. All require testing prior to departure or on arrival, or both, as a means to dodge quarantine. Given their willingness to introduce new protocols and their collective heavy reliance on tourism, it is quite possible the islands will start accepting some kind of vaccination certificate as an alternative to a negative test. …

Iceland

As of March 18th, all Britons who have been fully vaccinated against Covid are allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to PCR testing and quarantine. The exemption also applies to UK travellers who can provide valid proof of prior infection. …

Malta

Malta has said it will reopen to vaccinated British arrivals from June 1st. This, accompanied by the country’s strong vaccination drive (a third of the population has received a first dose) puts Malta high on our green watch list. …

USA

… With London – New York City flight route one of the busiest in the world for business travel, we can expect to see the UK Government prioritising a USA travel corridor in the coming weeks.

News Round Up

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

Latest News

No Escape From Stalag Britain

Two inmates of HMP UK attempt a breakout

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced severe penalties for those not complying with the new border quarantine arrangements, including a 10 year prison term for lying about where you have travelled from. Kate Andrews in the Spectator has the details.

From Monday, all arrivals will need to take two PCR tests: one on day two and another on day eight of self-isolation. This will apply to everyone, regardless of where they are travelling in from or whether they are quarantining in a hotel or in their home.

This means anyone arriving in the UK will now be taking a total of three COVID-19 tests, as a negative test within 72 hours of travel is also required. Hancock announced that any positive result will require 10 more days of quarantine from the date of the test (notably not symptoms) and that all positive results will be analysed by genome sequencing to identify the variant and control the spread of any mutations deemed worrisome. Already pressure is mounting from backbench MPs to announce when these restrictions will be eased

Meanwhile, arrivals from 33 ‘red list countries’ (which are thought to be increasingly at risk of new variants) are expected to start mandatory hotel quarantine from next Monday – a policy that has proved to be a logistical challenge for officials. There will now also be increased fines for those who fail to quarantine – up to £10,000. Those who are found to lie about where they have travelled from (trying to skirt around the ‘red list’ to avoid hotel quarantine) will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. These announcements are clearly designed to grab headlines – but also suggest the Government worries people think they are unlikely to get caught (and that hotel quarantine will require the co-operation of passengers if current systems struggle to easily identify who is lying).

The cost to the traveller of the mandatory stay in the quarantine hotel will be £1,750 for 10 nights, making travel all but unaffordable save for determined business users and those with a few grand to spare. Oliver Smith in the Telegraph is not impressed, noting that “the vaccine was supposed to herald a return to the wonderful old normal”. As far as travel is concerned, “our Government is in the process of fencing us in”.

Already, all arrivals – even those coming from a Covid-free tropical island – must bring evidence of a negative test. Even after proving themselves free from infection, they must self-isolate for up to 10 days. From next week, those returning from a growing number of ‘red list’ countries (in Scotland it is all returnees) will be required to complete their quarantine period under guard in a grim airport hotel (at a cost of around £1,750). And the latest wheeze from Matt Hancock? A prison sentence of up to 10 years for those who lie about visiting a red list country. For reference, the average term for convicted rapists in Britain is seven. (And how exactly is it fair to threaten travellers who have tested negative for coronavirus with jail time when the punishment for non-travellers who break self-isolation after a positive test is only a fine of £1,000?)

Such restrictions make travel extraordinarily difficult for everyone, and virtually impossible for families and those who cannot work from home. So will these rules be eased in time for spring and summer? The millions of Britons employed by the travel industry, and the millions more in dire need of sunshine after the bleakest of winters, are banking on it. But the noises coming from Whitehall, and its Covid-obsessed advisors, are deeply worrying. 

Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said yesterday: “The more elaborate your plans are for summer holidays, in terms of crossing borders, in terms of household mixing, given where we are now, I think we just have to say the more you are stepping into making guesses about the unknown at this point.” Fancy taking your car on the ferry to France? It might sound like a risk-free holiday to you, but if it involves crossing a border you can forget it. Far too “elaborate”. 

Boris Johnson was even more alarming. “They are most effective, border controls, when you’ve got the rate of infection down in your country,” he said. “For border controls really to make that final difference, so you can isolate new variants as they come in, you need to have infections really much lower so you can track them as they spread.” They don’t sound like the words of a man about to loosen the shackles. Our reward for lower case numbers won’t be more freedom, but a doubling down on controls.  

Worth reading in full.

Former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption thundered that Matt Hancock’s “connection with reality, which has been getting looser for some time, has finally snapped”.

Ten years is the maximum sentence for threats to kill, non-fatal poisoning or indecent assault. Does Mr Hancock really think that non-disclosure of a visit to Portugal is worse than the large number of violent firearms offences or sexual offences involving minors, for which the maximum is seven years?

The hotel quarantine rules are a form of imprisonment in solitary confinement. They are brutal, inhumane and disproportionate. They are economically extremely destructive. They are also of limited value because the virus is already endemic in the UK and spontaneously mutates all the time.

Unwelcome mutations are just as likely to originate in the UK. The so-called Kent variant probably did. So did several cases of the South African variant. At the moment, we are probably a net exporter of mutant viruses.

He diagnoses Hancock with a chronic case of tunnel vision.

As with so many of the Government’s COVID-19 measures, the 10-year jail sentence is important mainly for what it tells us about the mentality of the decision-makers. Laws like these can only be justified on the footing that nothing matters except keeping infections down.

They are the work of people who think that there is no limit to the human misery, oppressive cruelty, economic damage or injustice that we must put up with if it reduces infections.

Mr Hancock is on record as saying that he will “stop at nothing” to suppress COVID-19. Yet, however admirable their objectives, ministers who will stop at nothing to achieve them are dangerous fanatics. There is always a point at which even the best of objectives is not worth achieving if the cost in terms of human wellbeing is too high.

This balance is fundamental to intelligent policy-making. The main charge to be levelled at the present Government is not that it has got the balance wrong. It is that it is not interested in balance at all. It is not a natural tyrant, but it believes, like every tyrant that ever lived, that the end justifies the means.

Worth reading in full.

The Telegraph provides a handy list of offences with similar or lower jail terms to the new one of telling porkies about Portugal:

Offences with 10-year maximum terms

Rioting
Making threats to kill
Indecent assault
Firearm possession
Burglary with intent to commit rape
Indecency with children under 14

Offences with seven-year maximum terms

Child sex offences
Carrying loaded firearm
Racially-aggravated assault
Incest

Stop Press: Kirstie Allsopp was none too impressed by the new tariff for lying about where you’ve returned from: “This isn’t the thin end of the wedge, it’s the whole thing.”

https://twitter.com/kirstiemallsopp/status/1359148450370236420?s=21

Lockdown Battle Lines are Drawn

Prof Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and one of the good guys in the coming battle for freedom from lockdown

Some of the Government’s scientific advisers on SAGE have indicated that the emergence of mutant variants will lead to a need for on-off lockdowns continuing for several years. The Mail has the details.

Britain could be trapped in coronavirus lockdown cycles for “several years” as it’s forced to wrestle with new variants that could scupper vaccines, top scientists have warned. 

Professor Sir Ian Boyd, an infectious disease expert at the University of St Andrews and member of SAGE, said the emergence of potentially jab-resistant strains means the UK could be stuck in a pattern of “control and release for a long time to come”.

Evidence suggests the Oxford University vaccine – the main weapon in Britain’s arsenal to combat the virus – does not stop people falling ill with the South African variant, which is feared to be spreading in the community already. But No 10’s top scientific advisers believe it still protects against severe illness and death.

Professor Boyd and several other prominent SAGE members have warned reopening the current shutdown too early could risk allowing new, equally concerning variants to spawn.

Mutations randomly happen as viruses spread but most changes never change the way it looks or behaves. Very high transmission gives the virus more opportunity to mutate and, therefore, drives up the risk that one of the alterations could change the course of the disease. 

Professor Boyd told the Times: “It stands to reason that the more people there are in the population with infections – the prevalence – the more virus that is replicating and the more chance there is of even highly improbable mutations happening.”

He warned even if Britain gets on top of the South African strain, there will be more concerning ones down the line. He added: “My suspicion is that we will experience a damped oscillation of control-release for a long time to come – perhaps several years.”

Professor Graham Medley, another SAGE member and infectious disease expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “everything works better” when there is lower prevalence, adding that the emergence of new variants “strengthens that case”.

In the Belfast News Letter, Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said:

I suspect that we will require some degree of the current restrictions, certainly for the rest of this year, and probably enhanced again towards the autumn and winter of this year, and I think it will probably be into the following year before we see things a little more normal.

Prof Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, was much more upbeat about the opportunity to lift restrictions provided by the vaccines. The Telegraph has more.

“If people have just got the sniffles then I think our job is done,” Prof Pollard told MPs on Tuesday as he looked ahead to the coming years during an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.

With scientists increasingly talking about an annual Covid jab and warning that the virus will not disappear entirely, MPs are considering how to balance the long-term needs of protecting people and rebuilding the economy.

Conservative backbenchers eager to see restrictions loosened as soon as is realistically possible have told the Telegraph they want Government ministers to make assurances that nationwide lockdowns will not be repeated.

The idea is that to kickstart the economic recovery – getting businesses to reopen and triggering a spending boom – company bosses and workers have to be reassured that the lifting of the rules will not be reversed weeks later…

In a separate appearance, Prof Pollard told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “The really important point though is that all vaccines, everywhere in the world where they’ve been tested, are still preventing severe disease and death.

“And I think that is perhaps the clue to the future here, that we are going to see new variants arise and they will spread in the population, like most of the viruses that cause colds every winter. But as long as we have enough immunity to prevent severe disease, hospitalisations and death, then we’re going to be fine in the future in the pandemic.”

Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, and CRG member David Davis, told the Telegraph there need to be assurances from ministers that lockdowns would be a thing of the past.

Mr Harper said he wanted the easing of lockdown restrictions to begin once all over-70s and frontline healthcare workers are vaccinated, which is estimated to be early March. He hopes something close to full reopening can be completed by May.

After that, with age groups most at risk of dying if they catch the virus overwhelmingly vaccinated, ministers should consider reassurances that future lockdowns will not happen, he argued.  

“The Government basically has to say: ‘We’re not going to stop this by having lockdowns, we have other tools,'” Mr Harper said.

Both Mr Davis and Mr Harper accepted that a “no more lockdowns” promise could never be 100% binding, with the future course of the virus unknown. But they stressed it is essential that reassurances are provided to both employees and employers over the possibility of another national lockdown if the economy is to recover quickly. 

The Times heard from other scientists pushing the suppression line, and more from Mark Harper.

Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, who is leading Britain’s most advanced effort to develop an RNA vaccine, said: “It would be very advisable to try to push the cases as low as possible to reduce the chance of additional variants. This would make sense alongside border restrictions.”

Mark Harper, head of the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, said: “The justification for lockdowns and the severe restrictions on people’s lives and freedoms was always saving lives, reducing hospitalisations and avoiding the NHS being overwhelmed. That must remain the position.” He said that “moving the goalposts risks never going back to normal, never reopening the economy, with a cost to people’s lives and livelihoods that simply isn’t acceptable in a free society”.

Stop Press: German news outlet DW reports on a draft Government document suggesting the lockdown in the country is set to continue till March over fears of virus mutations. “Considering the virus mutations, the steps to lift the restrictions must come carefully and gradually in order to avoid risking the successful curbing of infections,” it says.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph reports that Public Health England has said there’s no indication the “dangerous” new variants are surging: “Dangerous coronavirus variants that may evade vaccines and the immune system are not increasing in Britain and people should be reassured that they are being kept under control,” the report says.

The Zero Covid Cult

Perth in Australia, which recently went into a snap lockdown because of a single positive case, is an exemplar of the Zero Covid approach

Dermot Martin at Laboratory News has written a summary of the Zero Covid approach, which I thought was worth reproducing here in the spirit of Know Thy Enemy.

Vaccines are the great hope, but with the virus’s agility and ability to mutate, they can only be a part of the solution unless the infection rates are reduced to close to zero… A consensus is emerging among some in the scientific community that to breakout from this trap we need a fresh approach. It’s called Zero Covid and it is being discussed in Germany, Ireland and Canada. There seems to be little talk about it in the UK beyond an excellent comment piece in The Lancet.

Top German Virologist, Melanie Brinkmann, and physicist, Matthias Schneider, argue that it is time for a consistent containment strategy to avoid a permanent economic shutdown. It’s called Zero Covid. Instead of more passivity, they say, we need to design an active collective response and it needs to be a “bottom-up process” which embraces tangible and measurable goals leading to the termination of COVID-19.

“We have to move away from reactive harm reduction and towards proactive control of the pandemic, comprising all social, health and economic areas of our society, with a clear goal that enables a return to freedom and stability.”

This is what Zero Covid supporters want to see.

Zero Covid focuses on regional green zones

With Zero Covid there would be a firm regional focus. For example, in the UK, when the incidence of infection in a region falls to zero, that region should be declared a Green Zone. Intense, protective contact and travel restrictions should be imposed around this zone. Such a policy calls for robust test, trace, and isolate protocols which in the UK we have failed to effectively deliver locally – but we can improve.

Individuals and communities would be motivated to conform and support the plan as part of a social consensus – a collective objective for the regional populations. It would be assisted by local daily communication with the public. 

The Zero Covid strategy takes a layered approach

The Zero Covid strategy would have several layers: an effective lockdown until defined regions reach below 10 cases per 100,000 people. Germany dropped as low as 2.5 cases per 100k last year.  It is a doable target. In Melbourne, hitting this target only took four weeks to achieve.

The UK currently has 33 cases per 100,000 and with a Zero Covid policy the current lockdown would remain in place until the figure was below 10 cases per 100k. We might divide the UK along county lines with larger cities London, Birmingham, Manchester counted as counties in their own right. Once a region, county or city reaches near zero cases, it would be classified as a Green Zone. With this GZ status comes normal activity but only within carefully monitored county borders.

As other ‘adjacent’ GZs spring up, normal travel and interactions could take place, while protecting the hard-won successes and providing the rewards of Covid-free living.

The lynchpin of this system would be a rigorous test, trace and support system to ensure the spread does not resume and keeps Covid cases at zero. This would entail robust, sometimes painful, protocols and firm policing.

To cool any virus hotspots, locally based authorities could commit – as Australia and New Zealand did to go hard and early in introducing new lockdowns and measures to tackle any new outbreaks. In a pandemic, we have seen that over reaction is the most effective response when it comes to stopping exponential growth.

Proponents of Zero Covid believe this new focus would be mentally good for the population. It might help reduce the passive daily consumption of Covid statistics on deaths, infections and hospitalisations.

Absolute fanatic.

Worth reading in full.

Playing With Our Theory of Mind

Today we’re publishing a new piece by Philosophy Lecturer at Newcastle University and Lockdown Sceptics regular Dr Sinéad Murphy. It’s an examination of how the Zero Covid crowd are looking to mess with our minds. Here’s the opening:

In an article on February 4th, Unherd’s Freddie Sayers reported on his attendance at an international conference that was held over three days during the previous week. Running under the title ‘Covid Community Action Summit,’ it was a forum for those interested in pursuing what is called ‘Zero Covid’.

Sayers was taken aback at the conference’s emphasis on communication strategies; it is as if they are planning a military campaign, he wrote, and this conference was their war room.

In illustration, Sayers quoted Tomás Ryan, an Irish neuroscientist employed by Trinity College Dublin. Ryan is a co-founder of Ireland’s ‘Independent Scientific Advocacy Group’, which aims to persuade the Irish Government to adopt a Zero Covid policy. Reflecting on the limited success so far of the Zero Covid campaign, Ryan told the conference: “You have to be playing with the theory of mind of your audience.”

This idea – that our “theory of mind” is to be “played with” – struck me as it might strike many who live with someone diagnosed with autism; a seminal experiment conducted by Simon Baron-Cohen over 30 years ago established that those diagnosed with autism lack a “theory of mind”.

For some time now, I have been suspicious of the extent to which this lack of a “theory of mind” is really disabling. In fact, I have begun to wonder whether it is having a theory of mind that is the bigger problem. And then, out of the blue, I find myself reading that one of the would-be architects of Ireland’s Zero Covid campaign has urged for more “playing with” our “theory of mind”.

So, what is it to have a “theory of mind”?

Worth reading in full.

Is COVID-19 Hysteria Driven by the Media? (Is the Pope Catholic?)

Professor Philipp Bagus, Professor of Economics at University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and a Lockdown Sceptics reader, has a new article in a top journal entitled “COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria”. He and his colleagues argue that “mass and digital media in connection with the state may have had adverse consequences during the COVID-19 crisis” particularly through driving “collective hysteria”. Here’s the abstract.

In this article, we aim to develop a political economy of mass hysteria. Using the background of COVID-19, we study past mass hysteria. Negative information which is spread through mass media repetitively can affect public health negatively in the form of nocebo effects and mass hysteria. We argue that mass and digital media in connection with the state may have had adverse consequences during the COVID-19 crisis. The resulting collective hysteria may have contributed to policy errors by governments not in line with health recommendations. While mass hysteria can occur in societies with a minimal state, we show that there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits to the harm inflicted, such as sacrosanct private property rights. However, mass hysteria can be exacerbated and self-reinforcing when the negative information comes from an authoritative source, when the media are politicized, and social networks make the negative information omnipresent. We conclude that the negative long-term effects of mass hysteria are exacerbated by the size of the state.

This article is packed full of insights and well-referenced information about the crisis and repays reading in full.

SAGE Exclusive: PCR Tests With a Ct >25 Pick Up Non-Infectious Positives. No, really?

The SAGE minutes from December 21st contain a striking admission: that PCR tests above the 25 cycle threshold (Ct) are “not associated with transmission-type patterns meaning these people may be less infectious to others than those whose tests have a low Ct value”. This, they say, is a key reason why Lateral Flow Tests, though less sensitive, are no less reliable than PCR for containing the outbreak: “Lateral flow testing (which is more likely to identify cases which have a low PCR test Ct value) is better at identifying more infectious individuals than it is at identifying infected but less infectious people”. Here is the relevant section:

Use of household survey to measure infectiousness

39. Cycle threshold (Ct) values broadly categorise the concentration of viral genetic material in a patient sample following testing by RT-PCR (with higher Ct values corresponding to lower concentrations). Initial analysis from ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) data up to December 7th showed that positive tests with high Ct values (>25) do not cluster with other positive tests (with either high or low Ct values).

40. This suggests that they are not associated with transmission-type patterns meaning these people may be less infectious to others than those whose tests have a low Ct value. Some caution is required with this finding, as higher Ct values were observed during the summer when other factors may have reduced within household transmission. However, it would be in line with expert opinion which suggests a Ct value of below 25 seems to be associated with viable transmission.

41. This also supports the hypothesis that lateral flow testing (which is more likely to identify cases which have a low PCR test Ct value) is better at identifying more infectious individuals than it is at identifying infected but less infectious people.

This is a vindication of an argument first advanced by sceptics like Dr Clare Craig, who saw the advantages of LFT over PCR tests in terms of avoiding false (non-infectious) positives back in November.

How Many Doctors Are Misattributing Covid Deaths?

A letter to the Telegraph yesterday raised this question once again.

Certified Covid deaths

SIR – My 94-year-old cousin died recently. Despite her having no symptoms, and negative Covid testing, her GP put Covid on the death certificate, even though he had not been to see her. At the family’s insistence, that untruth was removed and a more honest cause added. The GP rang to apologise.

How many more of these false certificates are being signed and what effect are they having on statistics?

Peter Welsh
Sale, Cheshire

Just How Many Forms Do You Have to Fill In to Become a Vaccinator in Scotland?!?

The retired GP who let us know he was volunteering to become a vaccinator has written with an update on the bizarre obstacles that keep being put in his way. Perhaps explains why Scotland is struggling to keep up with England in the vaccination programme.

I am a retired GP, and thought that with a lifetime’s experience (and being re-registered with the GMC) I would be able to quickly get involved on an unpaid basis and help with the initial vaccination campaign.

Nope. The only way in was to get a job as a professional vaccinator. Five weeks after applying I am now about to “start” which means start the online training. Hours and hours of slow grinding through modules with minimal new information, designed for brand new nurses training to be vaccinators. Despite accepting the post three weeks ago I have still not been vaccinated, so actually starting to vaccinate people is probably still two to three weeks away.

I am not certain about this, and am unsure how much is planned and how much cock-up, but I think there are two problems here in Scotland.

1. As I was retiring, a new Scottish contract for GPs was being negotiated. Due to a real shortage of GPs, our negotiators wanted to remove from our core role some services such as vaccination, which would be done thereafter by Board employees. Although it is possible to involve practices in the Covid vaccination effort a number of Health Boards (probably most or all) are choosing not to.

2. Our local Health Board seems to be creating a permanent vaccination force. That is fine for the longer term, but we needed an emergency response for the first few months, during which time we retired doctors and nurses could have carried the initial burden.

A retired English GP told me that he and his colleagues had been called by his old practice and asked to help out. Having been vaccinated in December (and having made sure that they were up to date with vaccines and responses to adverse reactions) they have been back working since the beginning of January.

General Practice, due to its small units, is flexible and able to react quickly to new challenges. In England, 75% of vaccinations have been done by practices, which I think shows why England is so far ahead.

Despite the sheer stultifying misery of renewed NHS employment, I will keep buggering on, at least for a few months.

Dear Harriet Harman…

Lockdown Sceptics reader Hugo Stolkin copied us into his email to Harriet Harman, his MP. We thought we’d share it with you.

I write to you as a constituent, born in King’s College Hospital, who campaigned in his childhood in the Lane Ward for the Labour Party, helping my father through the grim 1980s, canvassing for hours each evening against Bowden and Thatcher. I remain broadly left wing and liberal. I hate Brexit. I support the Rule of Law. And I still listen to my father, who continues, in semi-retirement, to teach medicine, as he has done for his whole career, originally at King’s London, and more recently at Guy’s/Thomas’s. I insisted that my children be vaccinated against MMR. And I have never forgotten two fundamental tenets of medicine that my father drummed into me from an early age: “first, do no harm”; and “damaging the economy damages people’s health”.

Lockdown is an obscenity. It will kill around 250,000 Britons in the coming years, from cancelled or delayed diagnoses and treatments and economic damage. Globally, the economic consequences will kill twice as many people as the number of those who died from violence in the whole of the twentieth century. Those people will die horribly, from hunger, poverty, cold, lack of shelter, and the inability to afford medical treatment.

Unpleasant as it is to recognise, on a normal day, in the UK, about 1,700 people die. Sometimes it’s 100 or 200 more. Sometimes it’s 100 or 200 less. But, roughly, it’s 1,700. In a week, it’s roughly 12,000, give or take a thousand, depending on the week in question. In a year it’s roughly 600,000, with a variation of five to ten percent. This has been the position for very many years.

2020 was no different. No more people died last year than in 2008. Yet, for no reason, and flying in the face of all the research and planning for pandemics done, over years, before Covid, we have destroyed the economy and the lives and livelihoods of millions.

No political party is speaking out against this. No mainstream media outlet is giving publicity to the absolutely rational position that lockdown must stop immediately, if far greater harm is to be prevented.

Please will you look at the objective data, that lockdown has saved few, if any, lives, and threatens to kill many more than will ever die with, or from, Covid? Please speak out against this government, which is cynically using Covid to hide decades of NHS underfunding, as well as the catastrophic economic impact of Brexit?

I think of myself as a resilient individual. I run regularly over the hills of South East London. I live in a large house, with a garden, in Peckham. There are parks all around. My children’s home-schooling is irritating but manageable. And, most importantly, the business I work in has continued to do well through 2020. But the moral obscenity of lockdown, the harm it is causing, and, perhaps most terrible of all, the failure of those in positions of authority to speak out against it, leave me shattered and despairing.

Please speak to Keir Starmer and your party and begin a new movement to bring down this murderous government and turn this catastrophe around.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Harper/status/1359242574758879236

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

They’re coming thick and fast. Ten today: “Hysteria” by Muse, “Living In A Ghost Town” by the Rolling Stones, “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie, “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel (ft. Kate Bush), “Take The Power Back” by Rage Against The Machine, “Afternoons and Coffeespoons” by Crash Test Dummies, “Stop in the name of love” by the Supremes, “Ever Changing Times” by Aretha Franklin, “Forever and Ever” by Demis Roussos and “Crackdown” by Cabaret Voltaire.

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 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, it’s the news that Historic England has followed the dubious example of the National Trust and carried out its own woke review of links to slavery. Allison Pearson has penned a searing critique in the Telegraph.

We are all guilty, ladies and gentlemen. You may think you live in a blameless village with a pretty church, a pub, a school, a newsagent and a duckpond. A village where the only thing of note to happen since the Norman Conquest was that time Gary, the postmistress’s nephew, changed the tyre on the Triumph Spitfire of Shelley from Bucks Fizz when she broke down on the B3199 in the summer of 1982.

Think again. You are the unwitting inhabitant of a festering sore on the nation’s conscience, a bastion of white privilege where the Ghost of Injustices Past stalks the High Street and gravestones weep remorseful tears for standing atop the remains of a 400-year-old slave trader whose very name strikes fear and loathing into every liberal heart. (Well, it would if the lettering on the gravestone weren’t obscured by a thick pelt of moss.)

That, at least, is the conclusion of Historic England, the Provisional wing of the Department of Culture which is given £88.5million of our money every year to teach us to be ashamed of our past and now, in an ambitious new move, the places where we live.

Inspired by the National Trust’s recent “Why Our Great Country Houses Secretly Stink” review (aka the Colonial Countryside Study), the woke busybodies of Historic England have tracked down evidence of the “transatlantic slavery economy” in an audit of halls, churches and pubs from Little Gidding to Great Snoring. Apparently, the strategy is intended to make heritage appeal to newly outlined “priority audiences” including “people with black, Asian or other minority ethnic heritage, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer”.

And what a success it sounds. Why, I hear that hardly a day goes by in Tower Hamlets or Southall without the thwarted city dwellers clamouring to be patronised by a bunch of art historians from Historic England who live in expensively restored Georgian terraces in Hackney and have themselves visited the countryside on at least five occasions. Glastonbury, obvs, and there was that afternoon at Charleston, taking in the decorative art of the Bloomsbury Group until Guinevere found out that they were a bunch of snobs and fascists, and Fabien had to drive her to Brighton to have her chakras soothed.

A public body, whose job it is to preserve buildings and monuments, has helpfully drawn up a list of tainted places including chapels, where exploiters worshipped in centuries past, and the graves of slave profiteers and their relatives. All calculated to “better represent the diversity of England and our rich heritage”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press:  Seaford Head School in East Sussex has supinely dropped Winston Churchill and J. K. Rowling from its house names after some woker-than-thou students carried out a “consultation”. The students wrote: “Churchill was a figure who promoted racism and inequality, unfairly imprisoning and torturing many.” As for the Harry Potter author: “We no longer think that J.K. Rowling is a suitable representative, because of her recent words about the trans community.”

What are they teaching them?

“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: US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr Anthony Fauci has said that masks will only go when “the level of virus is so low, it’s not a threat at all”. He told Fox News:

Then at that point, you can start thinking in terms of not having to have a uniform wearing of masks. But we’re certainly not near there yet. When do I think that would occur? It’s very difficult to predict, Bret, but if everything falls into the right place and we get this under control, it is conceivable that you might be able to pull back a bit on some of the public health measures as we get into the late fall of this year. But there’s no guarantee of that.

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.

Stop Press: Facebook have deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”.

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.

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…

Matt’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Latest News

Largest Anti-Lockdown Demo So Far

The pictures from yesterday’s anti-lockdown demo in Trafalgar Square are quite impressive. Some reports put the turnout at 35,000. The Express was one of the first newspapers to report on the protest.

Pictures of the large crowds show people holding signs that read “coronavirus is a hoax”, “no to mandatory vaccines” and “masks are muzzles”.

One person has claimed it is the largest anti-lockdown protest to date.

The large numbers of protesters have filled the area beneath the National Portrait Gallery.

Very few of those in attendance appear to be wearing face coverings.

A flyer for the event said the protesters would be joined by “top professional doctors and nurses speaking out”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, Piers, is also due to make an appearance at the event.

The Express report was more even-handed than the report in the Metro, which began:

Thousands of coronavirus-deniers have gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest against lockdowns and vaccination programmes.

And the Mail was even worse, headlining its report of the protest: “More than 10,000 COVID conspiracy theorists gather in London as police arrest Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers AGAIN: Huge crowd of anti-vaxxers led by David Icke gather to argue that virus is a lie spread in secret global plot organised by Bill Gates“.

A reader emailed me to tell me his impressions after the demo ended.

Just on my way back from the protest at Trafalgar Square. Apparently there were 35,000 people there, according to Piers Corbyn. I wonder what number the mass media will report?

On the whole it was a brilliant atmosphere. Absolutely packed with people, like an outdoor festival event. Brilliant!

My only criticism, is that the MC, Kate Shemirani (an ex-nurse apparently) was pushing some ideas that I just did not agree with. For example:

* 5G radiation will kill us all.

* The vaccine will make us all infertile and kill us all.

* Fluoride in our toothpaste is killing us and numbing our brain.

* Pandemic ideology, that this has all been planned for years/decades, etc.

It frustrates me that 5G conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers are at the forefront of the pushback. I’ve had all my jabs (MMR, BCG, etc.) and I have no issues with vaccines in general. I just don’t agree we need a rushed out vaccine to “cure” a diseases that has pretty much disappeared.

So mixed emotions, but generally I’m feeling good that so many people are waking up to the nonsense.

Meanwhile, a protest in Berlin was broken up by police at 9am, according to MSN News.

Police ordered a protest by people opposed to Germany’s pandemic restrictions to disband after participants refused to observe social distancing rules.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the German capital’s Brandenburg Gate in the morning before streaming down the Unter den Linden boulevard in a show of defiance against Germany’s coronavirus prevention measures.

Protesters carried a wide range of grievances and banners proclaiming their opposition to vaccinations, face masks and the German government in general.

Stop Press: There was an anti-lockdown protest in Ottawa yesterday. The T-shirts and slogans are remarkably similar to those in London and Berlin. This is a global movement.

Is the Government Preparing to Turn the NHS into a Covid-Only Service Again?

Matt Hancock gave an interview to ITV News on Friday in which he suggested plans are underway to turn the NHS into the National Coronavirus Service this winter, seemingly oblivious to the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths this misstep caused over the summer.

“We’re doing a huge amount of planning to make sure that the NHS is prepared and can cope to make sure that people can have as much freedom to enjoy Christmas, to enjoy winter, as possible,” he said.

What’s the rationale, Matt? Better to have half-empty hospitals and turn patients away just in case there’s a spike in Covid hospitalisations over Christmas? That’s like throwing people out of an aeroplane to reduce the risk of it crashing.

Alarming.

Schools Insisting on Unnecessary Face Muzzles

Yesterday, my colleague Will Jones asked readers to get in touch if their children’s schools were insisting on face coverings, even if they’re not in local lockdown areas. Needless to say, we’ve been deluged with responses.

This is an extract from a letter sent to parents at Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School

Face Covering – with regard to the revised Government guidance yesterday about the wearing of face masks in communal areas and in restricted spaces like corridors, at the moment this is not mandatory as Thanet is not in an area with increased lockdown restrictions. However the corridors in the school are very narrow and we have therefore decided that with safety uppermost in everyone’s minds we will require all students to bring face coverings with them to school and wear them in corridors and communal areas. Each student must bring plastic sealable bags to store their face covering and use the lidded bins on site to dispose of face coverings if they get wet or damaged and should also carry spares for this eventuality.

Here’s another, this one from a grandparent in Darlington which is an area of low infection.

My granddaughter attends Polam Hall School in Darlington and will be returning for the new term next Friday. We have received guidance relating to COVID-19 procedures. It says “You will be asked to wear a face covering in crowded corridors and communal areas”. So no mention of Government guidelines or the WHO in this case. However, Darlington has always been at the lower end of the scale in terms of COVID-19 cases. I keep a check via the BBC online service which allows you to enter your postcode to find out how many cases there have been. Last week there were two cases in a town with a population of just over 106,000.

This one is from a parent of a school in Cobham:

I’d like to report my school, ACS International School Cobham, bringing in a masking rule for all children aged 10-18 in indoor communal areas. In our case, this will mean everywhere except in the classroom. Cobham (district of Elmbridge) has no local spikes in infection and has no plans to introduce local lockdown of which I am aware.

I put it down to pre-emptive action due to extreme caution and ignorance of the facts. This action will, of course, make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the odds of someone introducing COVID-19 to the general school body. We have opened a book on the odds of the school shutting again. Current best guess is mid-October.

Here’s the face mask section in a letter from Guy Sanderson, the headmaster of Eltham College, a private school in Mottingham.

As I mentioned last week, students travelling on school buses or public transport will be required to wear a face covering. We have taken the decision to follow World Health Organisation guidelines and to go further than the government’s current stated positions on masks in school. Accordingly, all Senior School students should bring a mask (and ideally some spare masks) to school in addition to the mask that they wear whilst travelling to school. Students will be required to wear these between lessons when moving around corridors and for communal events such as year group assemblies. They will not need to wear them in lessons (where they impede communication) or when outside on the fields at break or lunchtime.

The parent of a child at Alcester Grammar has forwarded the rules issued by the school’s headmaster:

Face coverings should be worn
• In corridors and inside communal spaces
• Whilst queuing for entry / collection of food in the canteen, Pit Stop and Studio
• In the Theatre and Sports Hall for assemblies
• In study areas (library, Newport Study).
• On transport and when queueing for buses after school

The same parent has suggested that another verse should be added to Madness’s “Baggy Trousers“:

Risk-free kids in risk-free schools
Headmasters laying down new rules
No more fun, we’re ruled by fools
Can’t get near the woodwork tools

Do Masks Increase Risk of Transmission?

I’ve published an original article today by a senior research scientist for a pharmaceutical company on the risks posed by face masks. Here’s the kernel of the argument:

The aim of face coverings is to prevent an asymptomatic individual from infecting others. For such an individual, their face covering would become saturated with respiratory droplets containing coronavirus and in fact, the more effective the face covering, the more virus it will have captured. So if an infectious individual touched their face covering, they would potentially be contaminating their fingers with coronavirus…which they could then transfer to the next thing they touched – like a door handle, handrail or table.

Although such an individual could have still contaminated their hands and the environment whilst not wearing a face covering, the fact that the face covering has captured viral particles means that it provides a much more concentrated source of the virus. Additionally, putting a cloth covering on your face will almost certainly increase the probability that someone would touch their face to adjust or fiddle with it, especially if it is not well fitted. This further increasing the likelihood that an infectious individual would actually touch the contaminated cloth material.

Worth reading in full.

Alarmist Sage Report Says 85,000 People Could Die of Covid This Winter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Dr2hlsF_uY&at_custom2=twitter&at_custom4=06067F34-E98D-11EA-9032-2BC2923C408C&at_campaign=64&at_custom3=%40BBCNewsnight&at_medium=custom7&at_custom1=%5Bpost+type%5D

According to a Newsnight report by Deborah Cohen on Friday night, Sage signed off on a report in July predicting that a further 85,000 could die of Covid in the UK between July and March 2021 in a reasonable worst case scenario. Cohen has written up her report for BBC News.

A leaked government report suggests a “reasonable worst case scenario” of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter due to COVID-19.

The document also says while more restrictions could be re-introduced, schools would likely remain open.

But it says the report “is a scenario, not a prediction” and the data are subject to “significant uncertainty”.

However some are critical of the modelling and say some of it is already out of date.

The document, which has been seen by BBC Newsnight, was prepared for the government by the Sage scientific advisory group, which aims to help the NHS and local authorities plan services, such as mortuaries and burial services, for the winter months ahead.

Among its key assumptions are that schools will remain open and that the government’s tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40% effective in cutting the spread of Covid outside households.

It also states that by November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre March 2020 levels”. In other words, restrictions to mitigate the impact – other than school closures – could be put in place.

According to the report these measures might be expected to remain in place until March 2021.

I haven’t seen this report, but what’s the betting that the 85,000 prediction is based on a static computer model that takes no account of the fact that the rise in cases since July, whether here or in Europe, has not been accompanied by any corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths? (The authors should read this surprisingly even-handed piece by Fergus Walsh for BBC News). Business leaders are reportedly furious about this report and the suggestion that there might have to be a second lockdown to prevent these deaths.

The assumptions built into the report, as described by Deborah Cohen, sound unduly pessimistic.

The figures, which the scientists say have a wide range of uncertainty, suggest around 2.4% of infected people could be hospitalised (range: 0.0%-8.9%) with 20.5% of hospitalised patients going into ICU (range: 1.5% – 35.25) and 23.3% (range: 1.2% – 43.3%) of all hospitalised patients dying.

The model also predicts an overall infection fatality ratio of 0.7% (0.0% – 9.7%).

While the model is by no means a prediction and subject to “significant uncertainty”, the reasonable worst case scenario is used to inform government planning decisions.

However, some are critical of the modelling and believe some of the assumptions in the “official sensitive” model prepared for the Cabinet Office are wrong and the model is unhelpful given the wide range in possible scenarios.

Prof Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, said some of the assumptions made in the model were “implausible” and that the report assumes that “we’ve learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease”.

If anyone has a link to the report, or has a copy, please send it to the usual email address. We’ll get our team of experts to scrutinise it.

Worth remembering that last month another report, this one done at the request the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested there might be about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter. Why the discrepancy between that report and this?

They might as well just pick these numbers out of a hat.

You can watch Deborah Cohen’s report here.

Government Casting Call For People to Model “Spreading Germs”

An actor has sent me a casting call he received yesterday. You couldn’t make it up.

Needless to say, SARS-CoV-2 “germs” don’t show up “under a UV light”. What about a UVA light, which is what the writer of this blurb actually means? Nope. Coronavirus particles are so small you’d need an electron microscope to see them.

How the Government can persuade itself that it’s pumping out this bedwetting propaganda to counter “misinformation” is beyond me.

A Philosopher Writes…

A left-leaning, Remain-voting, Tory-averse philosopher

I got another email from a self-described “left-leaning, Remain-voting, Tory-averse” person saying he shares our scepticism about the crisis. This one is from a philosophy professor (not AC Grayling, I should point out).

I’m just writing to thank you for Lockdown Sceptics. I’m a Professor of Philosophy, working mostly on medicine and health. So I find that I’m able to digest a lot of the scientific literature and I’m also pretty good at identifying the weak points in arguments. Back in March, I thought the lockdown was an awful mistake, but I naively assumed that the situation would be reevaluated as the evidence became clearer. That didn’t happen, of course. Instead, anything that didn’t fit the established narrative was distorted until it did and then assimilated, or it was ignored. Still, I hoped that reason and evidence would prevail by now. But no, it’s masks, more masks, and then even more masks – surely they’ll help ward off the evil spirits.

For a while, I was just bemused by it all, but now I’m genuinely frightened. Can one really impose something so odious as mandatory masking on the whole population, despite there being no decent evidence in support of it? Yep, they’ll just slap the rags on their faces as a symbol of virtue and chastise anyone who doesn’t conform, so that the whole wretched thing is self-policing. I dread to think of all the things an authoritarian regime could get the Great British public to do, while barely lifting a finger.

More generally, something deeply unsettling is happening, which I really struggle to understand: somehow or other, this virus has triggered a perfect storm of reasoning biases, fears, and vices disguised as virtues, resulting in something that often looks more like the behaviour of a religious cult than an informed response to a viral pandemic.

Lockdown Sceptics is one of only a few places where I’ve consistently been able to find sensible discussions of what’s going on. So I’m very grateful to you for your efforts. Good luck to you!

That penultimate paragraph is bang on. In response, I sent him this blog post by Hugh Willbourn which flagged up a book called When Prophesy Fails by a psychologist called Leon Festinger who joined a UFO doomsday cult in the 1950s to better understand the mindset of its members. Festinger was astonished by what happened when the cult’s doomsday prophesy failed to materialise. Instead of abandoning their crackpot beliefs, the members doubled-down, coming up with spurious reasons as to why the apocalyptic prediction they’d made hadn’t come true. Festinger hypothesised that the reason these cultists refused to abandon their beliefs was because the pain of admitting they’d been wrong, and their sacrifices were all for nothing, would have been too much to bear.

Sound familiar?

Every Mistake We’ve Made So Far Predicted in 2006

Soothsayer Thomas Inglesby predicted every single mistake we’ve made in 2006 paper

A reader in the US has flagged up a 2006 paper by Thomas Inglesby, Director of Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, in which every mistake that governments around the world have made in their response to the pandemic was warned against. It’s quite uncanny. The paper is called “Disease mitigation measures in the control of pandemic influenza“. Here are some highlights:

In brief, models can play a contributory role in thinking through possible mitigation measures, but they cannot be more than an ancillary aid in deciding policy…

A major challenge for all authorities charged with managing a pandemic will be how to allot scarce, possibly life-saving medical resources and how to maintain hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill flu victims while continuing to provide other essential medical services…

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration…

Home quarantine also raises ethical questions. Implementation of home quarantine could result in healthy, uninfected people being placed at risk of infection from sick household members. Practices to reduce the chance of transmission (hand-washing, maintaining a distance of 3 feet from+ infected people, etc.) could be recommended, but a policy imposing home quarantine would preclude, for example, sending healthy children to stay with relatives when a family member becomes ill. Such a policy would also be particularly hard on and dangerous to people living in close quarters, where the risk of infection would be heightened…

It is reasonable to assume that the economic costs of shutting down air or train travel would be very high, and the societal costs involved in interrupting all air or train travel would be extreme…

Implementing such measures would have seriously disruptive consequences for a community if extended through the 8-week period of an epidemic in a municipal area, let alone if it were to be extended through the nation’s experience with a pandemic (perhaps 8 months). In the event of a pandemic, attendance at public events or social gatherings could well decrease because people were fearful of becoming infected, and some events might be cancelled because of local concerns. But a policy calling for community wide cancellation of public events seems inadvisable…

Schools are often closed for 1–2 weeks early in the development of seasonal community outbreaks of influenza primarily because of high absentee rates, especially in elementary schools, and because of illness among teachers. This would seem reasonable on practical grounds. However, to close schools for longer periods is not only impracticable but carries the possibility of a serious adverse outcome. For example, for working parents, school serves as a form of day care and, in some areas, a source of nutritional meals for children from lower-income families. In 2005, some 29.5 million children were fed through the National School Lunch Program; 9.3 million children received meals as part of the School Breakfast Program. A portion of America’s workforce would be unable to go to work as long as children were out of schools. Heightened absentee rates could cripple essential service industries. Teachers might not be paid and a great many hourly workers (mall and fast-food employees; school janitorial, security, and kitchen staff; bus drivers) would face particular financial hardship…

And here’s the kicker:

An overriding principle. Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.

Lockdown zealots will say, “This was advice about how best to respond to an influenza pandemic and that isn’t what this is.” But in reality the coronavirus is no more deadly than a bad bout of seasonal flu and, therefore, the advice contained in this 2006 paper is 100% relevant.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Twisting and Turning” by the New Foundation, “All Out to Get You” by the Beat and “Germ Free Adolescence” by X-Ray Specs,

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 2nd to Oct 12th). 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 almost 31,000).

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: Jenny Harries, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, says “the evidence on face coverings is not very strong in either direction”. The Mail has more.

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, including Will Jones who will be doing these updates about half the time from now on). 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 me here. And if you’re sending a link don’t forget to include the HTML code.

And Finally…