Search Results for: suicides

BBC Covid ‘Reality Check’ Needs a Fact Check of Its Own

In its latest “reality check” the BBC attempts to rebut seven of the “most frequently-shared” “false and misleading claims”.

It’s written by Jack Goodman, a “producer, newsreader and reporter at BBC Radio Derby”, and Flora Carmichael, a “journalist and producer with a strong track record of developing media partnerships and managing international projects and teams”.

So you can see why they would be well-qualified to set straight Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta, Harvard’s Professor Martin Kulldorff, Stanford’s Professor Jay Bhattacharya and other eminent sceptics.

Let’s take each of the seven “myths” in turn.

1. “Here we are a year later – the world shut down for a 99.97% survival rate”

Verdict: This figure and similar figures being widely shared, are incorrect.

One recent estimate shows that overall, on average, about 99.3% of people who catch coronavirus survive it, according to statistics analysed by University of Cambridge.

That might not seem like a big difference, but it means that about 70 in 10,000 people are expected to die – not three in 10,000.

The death rate is much higher for older and more vulnerable people.

The “fact check” does not cite any sources for the claims it is debunking so it’s hard to know what the full context is. However, a search on Twitter brings up a number of recent tweets claiming that Covid has a 99.97% survival rate. While taken by itself this is not in line with current best estimates, a number of the tweets claim this is the survival rate once the over-65s have been vaccinated, though without citing a source. One tweet uses data from Minnesota to estimate a survival rate for the under-60s of 99.97%.

The BBC quotes 99.3% (IFR 0.7%) from the Cambridge MRC Biostatistics Unit, but it’s worth bearing mind that this is the same modelling team that produced the notorious projection of more than 4,000 deaths a day by the start of December, modelling which was already wrong on the day it was presented to the public by Witless and Unbalanced.

Professor John Ioannidis has estimated the global IFR for the WHO at 0.23% overall (survival rate 99.77%) and, for people under-70, 0.05% (survival rate 99.95%).

The BBC’s “fact-checked” IFR of 0.7% is therefore on the high side, and if the 99.97% claim refers to the under-60s (or to a scenario where all the over-60s have been vaccinated) then it would be within the ballpark of current data.

The wider point though is that the death rate has been greatly exaggerated, especially for those who are young and without underlying conditions. The median age of death with Covid is 83, and only 388 people under 60 with no underlying conditions died with Covid in English hospitals in 2020. Sweden, a country which did not implement strong restrictions (retail, hospitality and most schools remained open, there were no limits on private gatherings and no mask mandate) experienced only 1.5% excess age-adjusted mortality in 2020.

Steps Towards a Technocratic Dystopia

I have a research background in the social sciences and dozens of peer-reviewed publications to my name. There’s a lot that sets off my crap detector in Ferguson’s comments – mostly to do with overestimating the validity of his own data, and using this to in effect depoliticise political questions and naturalise a kind of technocratic despotism under the guise of neutral science. I don’t think this is a deliberate conspiracy; I think it’s a predictable result of a particular way of seeing.

The political assumption is that ‘we’ as a society make decisions for the whole society (i.e., society is not an aggregate of individuals), that within this range of decisions, anything goes (the only criteria are quantitative), and that the decisions should be made based on expert data. These are highly contentious beliefs: they are not apolitical or scientific. I believe lockdowns are always wrong because people are autonomous beings with a need for freedom, and acts such as threatening violence if a person leaves their home are abusive regardless of circumstances (I don’t believe there is any significant moral difference between a Government, a terrorist group, or an individual abuser making such threats, and I don’t believe the ends justify the means). But I could also cite dozens of political theories which oppose the general model that the Government should do whatever it likes on behalf of the entire society based on expert guidance. Literally everything from right-libertarianism to the Marxist class model of society, from Kantian deontology to participatory and deliberative democracy, from conservatism to deep ecology to postcolonial theory, runs against this view. The closest philosophical forerunner is probably Hobbes: the idea that we need to submit to tyranny or our lives will be nasty, brutish and short – though I think the current version is a novel ideology which has developed out of cybernetic information theory and behaviourist psychology, and which reaches us mainly through the Third Way. There is also a background here in disaster management theory (e.g., Quarantelli): the idea that the main problem in disasters is the public response, and that this response should be managed through media and behavioural manipulation, with the goal of preventing the disaster – which by definition is already horrific for the human beings affected – from overwhelming the state’s ability to cope. In other words, it’s a strategy based on damage reduction, permitting or increasing human suffering so as to preserve state/Government stability (again clearly a contentious view, and again with Hobbesian and behaviourist roots). Yet Ferguson embeds this view of politics in such a way as to make it seem obvious, apolitical. It isn’t. It is a choice in favour of technocratic governance.

Ferguson’s desire not to ‘politicise’ science involves effectively making policy decisions based on the ‘expert’ conclusions arising from computer modelling. This kind of technocratic model is perfectly compatible with how countries like China are run. There is a current tendency to turn western democracies into electorally competitive technocracies in which changes in elected Government has little impact on the ‘evidence-based’ functioning of the policy machines – a narrowing in political space which dates back at least to the early 2000s. It is not a desirable trend, and it likely reflects the economic success of China and the resultant appeal of its model in the same period. I don’t think this requires secret conspiracies or Chinese manipulation; it might just be a matter of elites/experts seeing what works and copying it. But it means that, if we follow the path of ‘what works’, and China clearly works (or keeps up a good enough appearance of working), we will end up copying China. This happens both because China ‘works’ and because China has a model of governance based on experts applying ‘what works’.

Having decided to defer to ‘experts’ in making policy, there is then a second political decision as to which data counts. The choice to rely on computer modelling – and to treat it as if it were impartial, apolitical expertise – is itself a political choice. Different methods would have produced different outcomes. Suppose, for instance, that the response had been based on the knowledge provided by historians who have studied previous epidemics. The Government and public would have been told that non-medical interventions do no good, that even such an intuitive measure as closing borders between affected and unaffected regions only delays spread by a few weeks, and that one of the biggest dangers is public panic. Suppose the discussion was driven by virologists. The focus might have been on rapidly testing promising drugs and fast-tracking these into use with Covid patients. In this scenario, Remdesivir might have been confirmed effective back in March (say), instead of only in autumn, and lives might have been saved. Or suppose a decision had been taken early on to test virus transmission and impacts of interventions on small but substantial communities of volunteers from among the low-risk population. One would, within a month of the outbreak, have clear evidence on whether (for example) masks or distancing or Vitamin D have any effect. If the ‘experts’ were people working in sociology of health, likely they would have recommended avoidance of compulsion and encouragement of community support. The response might then have been more like Venezuela’s or Kerala’s. It’s also worth noting here that had scientists, including modellers, been consulted earlier, NHS beds per capita might be nearer to those of Sweden and Belarus, who never feared their health systems being overwhelmed. Ferguson suggests a novel pandemic was the Government’s number one priority risk, yet neither the current nor the previous Governments ensured there were enough ICU beds to handle a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu. If the central focus was preparedness, this failing would be at the centre of the public debate – and lockdowns could also cost lives if they incentivise future Governments to keep under-resourcing healthcare without accepting resultant risks.

Medical data arising from methods such as clinical trials is (in my view rightly) highly trusted. Clinical trials are what I would call a ‘conservative’ method: they are far more likely to produce false negatives than false positives in terms of effectiveness, and thus, any positive result is highly likely to be true (provided of course that there is no foul play). However, this trust is being squandered through the misleading association of medical authority with less-developed, less-reliable methods.

Any discussion of non-medical interventions is a social science discussion, not a medical science discussion. Pandemic modelling is similar in scientific reliability to the slew of statistics on things like the crime rate, the impact of trade liberalisation, development strategies in poor countries, causes of mental health problems, the impact of internet use on children, etc. None of this evidence is very reliable: there is always substantial scholarly debate, competing models which show different things, and vastly different outcomes from different quantitative and qualitative methods. For example, it’s quite common that I look into the impact of structural adjustment policies in a country like Uganda or Egypt, and there is one set of data showing that the SAP improved economic indicators, another showing that it did terrible harm, and a third, qualitative data-set which suggests that, from the perspectives of the worse-off, the impact was entirely negative. There are those on both sides of the debate who point to their own ‘science’ as conclusive data and denounce the politicisation or bias on the other side. But the truth is, there just isn’t currently a way to provide in human/social settings the kind of decisive evidence people expect in the physical sciences (in these cases, I lean towards trusting the qualitative). Even a strongly reliable method like clinical trials starts to fail in the social sciences, because the criteria of ‘success’ become more questionable: when testing psychiatric interventions for instance, one often has to rely on self-reports.

Having made a political decision to treat statistical modelling as gold-standard expertise, the devastating consequences of lockdown come to seem a ‘tragedy’, a ‘random, terrible event’, and ‘no-one’s fault’ – a series of perverse disavowals typical of a certain style of technocratic politics. The (unconscious) sleight-of-hand here is to confuse the virus with the responses. It’s plausible to argue that the virus is no-one’s fault (though it may well have human causes, whether these be eating undercooked meat, a lab leak, or something else). The policies result from human agency, and from the choice to rely on computer modelling as the main source of ‘data’. Now, there is no avoiding here the fact that all deaths and other harms caused by lockdowns are due to human agency. At most Ferguson can appeal to a kind of ‘necessity defence’: yes, we killed all these people, but it was necessary so as to save a greater number of others. Right away this opens a can of ethical worms outside the domain of ‘science’ on Ferguson’s definition (and one which is certainly not limited to the question of whether it was ‘worth it’). Assuming lockdown passes this test, we’re then in the situation where, if lockdown doesn’t work, there has been a cock-up of monumental proportions, and methodologies and assumptions need to be revised to avoid a repetition (what the computer-modelling establishment are currently resisting). I assume Ferguson realises that a group of people causing large numbers of deaths based on well-meaning but flawed methods in which they had excessive confidence is more serious than just an academic disagreement.

A few standard problems with statistical approaches. Firstly, it is easy to miss statistically things which are obvious on the ground at a qualitative level, or to deduce things which are completely fallacious (as the most attractive or parsimonious explanation). Secondly, the very fact of presenting things numerically has the effect of depersonalising them, of making inhumane, barbaric actions seem sensible and reasonable (planning for nuclear wars is a classic example of this). And thirdly, the reliability of the outputs depends on the inputs. (I have seen, for example, statisticians claiming very high lockdown compliance in India based on mobile phone tracking; every on-the-ground source I’ve found says completely the opposite.) Quantitative approaches mean the worse-off get observed, but do not get any input into the process; their voices are not heard, and often the reasons they act a certain way are not deduced or understood – reasons which could easily be established with a little simple qualitative research. The overemphasis on quantitative research over qualitative, tends to produce a set of top-down findings which reinforce the widespread impression among the worse-off that the political and scientific elites are out-of-touch. Hence responses like those of the first correspondent: that Ferguson seems to be living in a parallel world where the things she’s seeing day-to-day don’t exist. Statistics cannot see either the microsocial or the intrapersonal; human relations and human suffering are largely invisible to it. Hence a massive cost at these levels registers either weakly or not at all at a statistical level. I don’t think people like Ferguson have the slightest idea of the human effects of lockdown (or, most likely, of Covid): the sheer misery and desperation, the rage or despair arising from the violation of assumed rights or the loss of sources of survival or wellbeing, the existential collapse of known parameters, the violations of fairness and trust, the ripping-away of the simple ways people stay sane.

These are problems with statistical approaches based on existing data. With statistical modelling, there is the additional problem of dealing with the unknown. Computer modelling is not a longstanding established science. It has very low reliability compared to (say) laboratory virology or peer-blind clinical trials. Computer modelling looks scientific because it’s mathematical and the decision is made by the machine. But it depends completely on the inputs and the model, which are at base human inventions (however much algorithmic learning is layered on top of them). It’s basically the same procedure which is used to tailor targeted ads, Amazon recommendations and Facebook feeds. That gives something of a sense of its reliability as a method. It’s a bit like leaving a bunch of AIs playing Risk and concluding from this that we’re about to be nuked. And it is also possible to use computer modelling to show that lockdowns will cause millions of deaths. For example, there’s a study in America which predicts 800,000 suicides, based on previous evidence that a 1% increase in annual unemployment generates 21 extra suicides per 100,000, and the current crisis had at that point caused a 12% increase. This isn’t necessarily any more reliable than the Imperial modelling, but it’s not much less reliable either (nobody really knows if the unemployment-to-suicides rate applies to very high rates). At least in this case I can check the maths (and the maths works). The point is, however, that an expert on suicides in a position like Ferguson’s could very easily have told the Government, “even if you’re expecting 200,000 covid deaths and you can prevent these with a lockdown, you must not lock down because you will cause 800,000 suicide deaths”. It might be true, it might not; it’s just what happens when you choose this particular method.

I read the notorious Imperial study back in March, and two things stood out for me. The first is that all the claims about the characteristics of Covid and the impact of lockdowns were derived from WHO studies in Wuhan, i.e., from data the Chinese Government were feeding to the WHO. I’m sure you were privately aware that the Chinese Government were probably manipulating statistics, and it’s been reported that the Government expected the Chinese data to be underreported, but still, these were the statistics that underpinned the model. The second is that the paper explicitly admitted that it was only considering impacts on Covid, and bracketing out other economic and social effects and ethical implications – leaving it to the Government to ‘weigh’ these. I can understand leaving out ethics, but excluding other quantifiable variables was quite methodologically irresponsible, given that these effects could be modelled in similar ways, and that the impact of the paper was predictably going to be pressure to implement lockdowns to avoid consequences which seemed (to a non-specialist) so great as to override everything else. By the way, this would not just include suicides over many years (not just during the acute crisis), but deaths arising from economic crisis, cancelled operations, increases in coping strategies (drugs, drink, overeating, thrill-seeking) developed during or after lockdown, etc. We are probably never going to be able to calculate these, because it will be impossible to unpack the impact of Covid, the impact of lockdown, the impact of economic crisis (which may or may not have happened anyway), the impact of war or civil unrest or whatever else might happen, so as to definitively say “lockdown killed this many people”.

A third point: the initial messaging was ‘slow the curve’, the idea being that fewer people would die if infection rates could be slowed. Lockdown sceptics always pointed out that any delay in infections would simply be displaced to second or subsequent waves. This seems to have been confirmed. But lockdown supporters have not turned around and said, “OK, you were right, we just postponed infections until later waves and ended up in an indefinite cycle of lockdowns.”

Ferguson and Imperial College have (rightly or wrongly) come under suspicion for using faulty models. (It doesn’t matter much here whether the suspicion is valid, whether it’s a reasonable misunderstanding, or whether it’s just a ‘conspiracy theory’). Ferguson’s response is basically that critics don’t understand the model because it hasn’t been published – therefore they cannot run the model for Sweden or other cases, cannot talk about ‘the’ model (because unbeknownst to us there are actually four Imperial models plus several from other institutions), etc. But here’s the problem: the model’s secrecy does not at all rebut suspicions, particularly when this model (or these models) has led to politically contentious outcomes and has led to predictions which do not seem to have been confirmed. One is caught in a situation where any criticism is a ‘conspiracy theory’ or at least mistaken because it might not be referring to the real model.

Now, it’s not a scientific norm that people can get out of scepticism (whether justified or not) by simply concealing the basis for their claims. Even if the suspicion is unjustified or malicious, it’s important that scientists take measures to prevent it. In academic publishing, the way to mitigate such suspicion is to publish details of the entire method used so that it can be replicated if necessary, and any flaws pointed out. In computer programming, the best method is open-sourced release of the source code so any programmer can review it for bugs, followed by inspection of the source code by independent experts. Ferguson/the Imperial group are refusing to do any of these things – thus making it impossible to test whether or not critics of the model are right about its flaws. And in fact, it’s becoming more common for researchers working with corporations or Governments to avoid scrutiny by using closed-source proprietary software to reach conclusions which nobody (sometimes including the researcher) can account for. Sometimes, the software is produced and owned by the same entity that benefits from the research. This generates, in practice, a perverse incentive-structure for companies and academic clusters to use secret algorithms to produce ‘data’ which cannot be tested by others, and thus claim for themselves expertise similar to that of oracles. Whether or not Ferguson’s group are doing this, it’s a danger which needs to be reduced. It is simply good practice for scientists’ methods to be fully public so they can be replicated if necessary.

Now, clearly there is a world of difference between saying “this is what we should do because a highly tried and tested method has shown it” and “this is what we should do because this relatively new, dubiously reliable method, applied to complex material, indicates it if we put in certain data of dubious reliability”. It seems to me that people in the computer modelling sector (so to speak) have interests in exaggerating the reliability of their methods and data, promoting themselves as the definitive gold-standard experts ahead of the hundreds of other species of academics, and promoting worldviews (technocracy) and policies (‘behavioural’ interventions) which direct status, power and resources towards their own discipline. I have no idea how far this is working at an individual or group level with Ferguson and his research cluster, or whether it’s also speaking to a general propensity to risk-aversion, scaremongering, assuming the worst, etc. (a propensity which certainly seems historically to encourage abject endorsement of authority).

Latest News

Government Extends Coronavirus Laws Without Telling Anyone

Christopher Hope reports in the Telegraph on the latest sneaky move by the Government.

The Government has quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17th this year.

The news will be a major setback for those hoping that life might have returned to normal by early summer once more people are vaccinated against coronavirus.

It comes after Boris Johnson admitted late last week that “it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions”.

The Government had pledged to review the lockdown measures in the middle of next month.

The changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 were made as part of a review of the third lockdown by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, earlier this month.

This law (originally introduced on July 18th last year) allows a local authority to close or limit access to premises or outdoor spaces in its area to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including stopping events.

The regulation, which applies to England only, was due to expire last week but has now been extended until July 17th, around the date when school summer holidays begin, as part of a slew of other measures.

Mark Harper, the chairman of the Coronavirus Recovery Group of Tory MPs which is campaigning against unnecessary restrictions, said: “The extension of councils’ Covid powers until July will be of great concern to those worried about their jobs and businesses.

“Given the limited time allowed for debate this change in the law was little noticed.” 

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an interview on Sky News that we are a “long, long, long way off lifting lockdown restrictions”. Three “long”s in a row will not give much reassurance to beleaguered businesses and an increasingly depressed public and will be confusing to those who heard him point out in his recent Downing Street briefing that the high-priority groups the Government is hoping to have vaccinated by mid-February account for 88% of all Covid deaths to date. This latest interview also contradicts what the Health Secretary said in an interview in the Spectator two weeks ago:

The goal is not to ensure that we vaccinate the whole population before that point, it is to vaccinate those who are vulnerable. Then that’s the moment at which we can carefully start to lift the restrictions.

The Express has reported on some of the fighting talk of those in Parliament opposed to the restrictions:

The Prime Minister will be asking MPs to agree to the six month renewal of the Government’s so-called Henry VIII emergency powers to be able to impose restrictions at will to tackle the pandemic. But already senior MPs in his own party have warned that significant numbers could vote against unless there are moves to end lockdown and revitalise the economy. Former cabinet minister Esther McVey, the founder of the powerful Blue Collar Conservatism Movement, said: “It is absolutely essential that once the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated the Government start easing the lockdowns. 

“These restrictions are doing huge damage to people’s livelihoods and mental health in particular, and the Government must start to stand up to those siren voices who want lockdowns and restriction to become a near permanent feature of our lives. 

“If the Government don’t start making rapid headway in doing that it will be the duty of Parliament to remove these swingeing powers from them.”

She also raised concerns over the way seemingly exaggerated estimates are being used to push public policy.

Previously there have been question marks over Professor Neil Ferguson’s claims that 500,000 would die of COVID-19 which initiated the first lockdown and then the claims by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance in the late autumn of 5,000 infections a day which preceded the second lockdown. 

Ms McVey argued that the concerns are highlighted in a written answer on prisoner deaths.

At the start of the pandemic the Government was pushed to have a mass early release of prisoners because thousands would be killed by coronavirus.

Ministers eventually resisted the calls and a written answer has revealed that just 47 died of the disease.

Ms McVey said: “There is no better example of the scaremongering to drive Government policy they wanted to see from the so-called experts than the predictions on prisoner deaths. 

“I appreciate that these estimates aren’t an exact science but the difference between a prediction of 2700 to the reality of 47 is embarrassing to say the least, and shows why the Government must not hand over total policy control to the scientists who are clearly not infallible with their predictions.”

Sir Desmond Swayne MP also weighed in:

He said: “It seems to me that Boris has been completely taken over. He’s completely given over to these people and as a consequence there’s a complete lack of any sense of urgency on the need to lift restrictions.”

Sir Desmond is gravely concerned by speculation the hospitality industry could still be shuttered in June.

He said: “The notion there will be any industry left in June is barking. What we’ve seen is the most extraordinary mission creep.

“Remember, the issue was to protect the NHS, stop the NHS being overwhelmed by hospital admissions. Clearly, as we vaccinate that proportion of the population most likely to be hospitalised were they to be infected, that risk of the NHS being overwhelmed diminishes.

“They should be planning now at what stage they will lift the restrictions. At what proportion of the most vulnerable being vaccinated will the risk be acceptable?

“That’s the sort of thing they ought to be taking us into their confidence [about] and debating in public now. But what we’re getting is this mission creep.”

Stop Press: The Spectator has commissioned a poll that has returned alarming results:

A new poll for Coffee House by Redfield and Wilton – with a sample size of 2,000 – saw the public quizzed on the current lockdown, restrictions and vaccines. For now, there appears to be majority support for the current Government restrictions with 62% saying the restrictions are more helpful than harmful to society, compared to 24% who think they are more harmful than helpful.

Although Boris Johnson insisted again this week that lockdown measures will be looked at in mid-February to see whether they can be eased, few expect them to be. Only 25% think the current level of restrictions will be relaxed within a month from now. Overall, 70% think the current level of restrictions will be relaxed within three months from now. As for how many people need to be vaccinated before there can be a substantial easing, both the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock have suggested that decision is a matter for debate – one the country should have before making any firm decisions. The poll suggests there is as of yet no clear consensus. When surveyed on when the lockdown should end, 21% say it should end as soon as those over the age of 70 have been vaccinated, 32% think it should end when those over the age of 50 have been vaccinated, while 38% said the current lockdown should only end when the vast majority of the entire population has been vaccinated. On the question of when all non-travel related restrictions should go, a majority – 61% – agreed they should end only once enough vaccinations have been given to the general population. However, 39% think they should end sooner – once enough vaccinations have been given to the vulnerable population.

Pretty depressing, although it’s good to know 24% of those polled agreed with the main contention of lockdown sceptics, namely, that the restrictions cause more harm than good.

Stop Press 2: The Daily Mail reports, Boris Johnson will soon be announcing a draconian new Australia-style quarantine system for all arrivals to the country.

British holidaymakers returning home won’t escape an order to quarantine in airport hotels – signalling the death knell for summer getaways.

Ministers are finalising plans to force travellers to isolate for 10 days as soon as they enter Britain, with details to be decided tomorrow.

Boris Johnson had wanted to exempt British residents and only target those arriving from places where new strains of the virus have been detected.

But Cabinet sources last night said they expect the Prime Minister to sign off on a comprehensive proposal – modelled on Australia – that will see all arrivals sent to airport hotels, regardless of their nationality and where they have come from.

It means people who live in Britain will face having to pay extra, on top of the cost of their trip, to spend their quarantine period in a hotel patrolled by security guards. 

Any new restrictions would be a further blow to the beleaguered travel industry – and could spark chaos at airports already battling through new arrivals checks. 

Children’s Mental Health Continues to Deteriorate

There are recent reports from both sides of the pond that young people are starting to suffer badly from the suspension of their normal lives. In the UK, Camilla Turner, Education Editor at the Telegraph, reports:

The number of children admitted to hospital for mental health reasons now outstrips those with medical conditions, a leading paediatrician has said.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said this is a phenomenon that paediatricians have seen across the UK since the start of the pandemic. 

He was addressing MPs at the Education Select Committee which was hearing evidence on the science behind school closures.   

It comes after a survey by the Prince’s Trust found that one in four young people feels unable to cope with life and that crisis has taken a “devastating toll” on teenagers and young adults.

Prof Viner was asked by Dr Caroline Johnson, a Tory MP and practising consultant paediatrician, whether more children were now being admitted to hospital for mental health reasons than physical ailments.

She said: “On a recent shift that I did at hospital, there were more acutely unwell children admitted for mental health presentations than there were acutely medically unwell children. Is that an unusual pattern or is that a pattern that you are seeing in other parts of the country too?”

Prof Viner, who is a Professor of Adolescent Health at University College London’s Institute of Child Health, replied: “Yes, that is absolutely a pattern that our paediatricians around the country have told us about  since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Worth reading in full.

Meanwhile in the USA, Erica L. Green reports in the New York Times that growing fears for the wellbeing of youngsters in Las Vegas is forcing a change of tack on school closures.

The reminders of pandemic-driven suffering among students in Clark County, NV, have come in droves.

Since schools shut their doors in March, an early-warning system that monitors students’ mental health episodes has sent more than 3,100 alerts to district officials, raising alarms about suicidal thoughts, possible self-harm or cries for care. By December, 18 students had taken their own lives.

The spate of student suicides in and around Las Vegas has pushed the Clark County district, the nation’s fifth largest, toward bringing students back as quickly as possible. This month, the school board gave the green light to phase in the return of some elementary school grades and groups of struggling students even as greater Las Vegas continues to post huge numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.

Superintendents across the nation are weighing the benefit of in-person education against the cost of public health, watching teachers and staff become sick and, in some cases, die, but also seeing the psychological and academic toll that school closings are having on children nearly a year in. The risk of student suicides has quietly stirred many district leaders, leading some, like the State Superintendent in Arizona, to cite that fear in public pleas to help mitigate the virus’ spread.

In Clark County, it forced the Superintendent’s hand.

“When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the Covid numbers we need to look at anymore,” said Jesus Jara, the Clark County Superintendent. “We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”

Adolescent suicide during the pandemic cannot conclusively be linked to school closures; national data on suicides in 2020 have yet to be compiled. One study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of youth emergency room visits that were for mental health reasons had risen during the pandemic. The actual number of those visits fell, though researchers noted that many people were avoiding hospitals that were dealing with the crush of coronavirus patients. And a compilation of emergency calls in more than 40 states among all age groups showed increased numbers related to mental health.

Even in normal circumstances, suicides are impulsive, unpredictable and difficult to ascribe to specific causes. The pandemic has created conditions unlike anything mental health professionals have seen before, making causation that much more difficult to determine.

But Greta Massetti, who studies the effects of violence and trauma on children at the CDC, said there was “definitely reason to be concerned because it makes conceptual sense”. Millions of children had relied on schools for mental health services that have now been restricted, she noted.

In Clark County, 18 suicides over nine months of closure is double the nine the district had the entire previous year, Dr. Jara said. Six students died by suicide between March 16th and June 30th; 12 students died by suicide between July 1st and December 31st, the district said.

One student left a note saying he had nothing to look forward to. The youngest student Dr. Jara has lost to suicide was nine.

“I feel responsible,” Dr. Jara said. “They’re all my kids.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian reports that the Government won’t even commit to opening schools after the Easter holidays – maddening news for families with children of school age.

The Government has refused to commit to schools being open even after the Easter holidays, raising the prospect that parents will have many more weeks of homeschooling before even a phased return of most pupils to the classroom in England.

A senior Government source cautioned that although the data was starting to show signs of a slowing of infections, rates were not falling nearly as sharply as had been expected. The source said the picture had become “more pessimistic” over the past week about the Government’s ability to ease any measures in the short term.

Discussions are under way in the Department for Education to decide which pupils could be prioritised, with early years and those facing exams in the summer among those who could be brought back first. Attendance rotas could also be introduced to keep numbers down in schools, but allow for more face-to-face teaching.

The chair of the education select committee expressed dismay at the delay, urging ministers to put “the whole engine of the state” behind paving the way for schools to reopen.

Stop Press 2: The UK Government has ‘sponsored’ this piece in the Daily Mail attempting to reassure parents that “thanks to tireless teachers, the youngsters will be fine”. Oh really? Worth remembering that Ofsted found the closure of schools during the first lockdown had a negative effect on many children’s learning.

Stop Press 3: Historian Neil Oliver spoke in his regular interview slot with Mike Graham on talkRADIO about the worrying things he is beginning to hear from his children’s peer group.

https://twitter.com/talkRADIO/status/1351885942831898626

A Response to Christopher Snowdon

As promised in yesterday’s Lockdown Sceptics, we are today publishing an excellent article by Nigel Alphonso, a business consultant, entitled “To Move The Lockdown Debate Forward We Need More Honesty“. The article is a response to Christopher Snowdon’s “Rise of the Coronavirus Cranks” piece in Quillette. Here is an extract:

On January 16th, an article appeared in the online magazine Quillette by Christopher Snowdon from the IEA, a right of centre think tank. The article purported to demolish the claims of a particular variant of ‘lockdown sceptics’ and as a result has garnered widespread praise including from Toby Young who tweeted that it was a thoughtful piece which sceptics needed to address. I respectfully disagree. The article was disingenuous – not in respect of what it said but in respect of its omissions and its failure to frame the argument within a judicious lockdown/anti-lockdown framework. This is not intended as an attack on Mr Snowdon per se but the criticism I make touches on the wider failure of the libertarian, left of centre and conservative movements to counter the lockdown arguments and the failure of the lockdown sceptics’ movement to achieve any penetration with the wider public. This essay is not primarily about the merits of lockdown or the technicalities of the data but about the intellectual honesty of some of the main protagonists on both sides of the argument.

First to the article itself entitled “Rise of the Coronavirus Cranks.” Mr Snowdon is at liberty to write whichever article he chooses. However, his article might more appropriately have been entitled “My problem with Ivor Cummins and Mike Yeadon” or “My problem with social media Covid deniers” as it seems the bulk of his article focused on a detailed rebuttal of claims made by these two individuals and by extension those he categorises as “Covid deniers”. While he states from the outset that he wishes to focus on “the most extreme variant of lockdown scepticism”, he proceeds to argue on the basis that this “extreme variant” as he puts it is paradoxically the dominant form of scepticism as exemplified by the twitter/social media world he inhabits. If that was not Mr Snowdon’s intention then I accept any inadvertent omission on his part. Unfortunately his article will have been seized upon by all lockdown advocates as being evidence of the general ‘crankiness’ and eccentricity of the lockdown sceptics’ cause. Nor sadly am I convinced that the subtle and nuanced conflating of multiple variants of lockdown-scepticism was entirely innocent – not just on the part of Mr Snowdon, but by multiple other commentators who have sought to attack lockdown sceptics.

Conveniently Snowdon (like Alistair Haimes – another manqué sceptic) positions himself as a “centrist” and spends the opening paragraph reinforcing his credentials in direct contradistinction to the lockdown “junkies” such as (in his estimation) Piers Morgan or the members of Independent Sage. Therein lies the issue with both the lockdown converts such as Snowdon as well as some lockdowns sceptics. Up until the early autumn, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Snowdon was an arch lockdown-sceptic. His myriad articles, podcasts, twitter pronouncements and attacks on the likes of Morgan, Sam Bowman et al, often in the most mocking and vitriolic terms, established him firmly in that camp. If he has changed his mind – so be it. I would fully respect that position as I do those who are clear and unambiguous supporters of lockdown. However, it is mistaken to think that a form of exalted centrism exists in this debate. On one side are those who believe that lockdowns save lives and that the moral imperative is to curtail liberty in the most draconian way in order to achieve that objective. On the other is the belief that lockdown itself is a grotesque invasion of individual liberty which does far greater harm than good and does not meet any public health test of efficacy.

Snowdon, despite his sceptical foundations, is it seems clearly in the former camp. He states explicitly that lockdown “will prevent tens of thousands of people dying this winter”. Leaving aside the veracity of this claim, Snowdon in that one sentence accepts the central argument of the lockdown advocates. The roll-out of the vaccine does not alter that argument although it acts as a useful pretext for those who have moved to the lockdown side. No amount of “centrist” plea bargaining can void the fact that Snowdon has switched sides. In that sense (and to the extent that he has supported two out of the three lockdowns) he is far closer to Piers Morgan than he is to any lockdown sceptic. Moreover, if one is in the lockdown camp, Snowdon’s frequent acerbic critiques against the mainstream media for constantly demanding more lockdowns, deeper lockdowns and sooner lockdowns seem misplaced and ill-judged. If one believes that lockdowns save lives then the logical critique of the UK Government must be that we failed to lockdown expeditiously, that when we locked down the rules were not stringent enough, that the messaging was unclear and that we emerged from it too quickly. Despite the increasing evidence (see the recent study by John Ioannidis et al of Stanford) of the futility of lockdowns in respect of pandemic control, one cannot doubt that if one believes in the central argument about saving lives and protecting the health service, then the mainstream media and academic critique of the Government has an ineluctable logic.

Worth reading in full.

Nothing So Permanent…

Economist Milton Friedman: “Nothing so permanent as a temporary government programme.”

We are publishing another original piece today by Angus McIntosh entitled “Temporary Government Programmes” which raises the alarm about the eagerness with which the authorities have leapt on the pandemic as an reason to curtail our liberty. He is concerned that some of the rights that have been “temporarily” suspended may never be restored to us. Here is an excerpt:

Let us take a moment to look beyond the current turmoil of the pandemic and the ensuing policy chaos and to consider its possible legacy.

At this point we are struggling to cope with the tide of misery which Covid and the lockdowns have created. But eventually, through a combination of spring weather, natural immunity and the vaccine, the virus will subside to the point where we could start to live with it as a normal part of the disease landscape.

It may then take a decade or more to recover from its terrible toll of death, depression and poverty and this is tragedy enough. But potentially even more damaging for our long-term future are the lasting shifts in attitudes which the virus may leave behind.

These will be many and complex, but there are three which are particularly likely:

1. Permanently lowered public tolerance for life’s normal risks and challenges.

2. Increased popular willingness to sacrifice freedoms in pursuit of safety.

3. Greater tendency for authorities of all kinds to exploit the above.

The first two of these malign legacies represent acceleration of existing trends, rather than completely new phenomena. But the third is undergoing more of a revolution.

Anyone who doubts that we have taught certain policymakers an unexpected but welcome lesson need only look at Professor Neil Ferguson’s now-infamous Times interview in which he said, referring to China: “It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought…and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.

This insight has allowed Ferguson and other advisors to promote control of the virus above every other consideration and to keep it there.

When governments take control of a new aspect of our lives, they assume permanent accountability for it in the public and media mind. They know that they are far more likely to be called to account for any negative consequences of later relaxation than they are to be praised for its benefits. That’s why new interventions are very rarely eased, even by those who opposed them in the first place.

Worth reading in full.

Sobering Briefing From a Senior Doctor

A reader has drawn our attention to this video of a briefing by Dr Alasdair Emslie, a senior doctor at at a private healthcare provider. It’s long and detailed, and although Emslie comes across as no lockdown sceptic, it contains plenty of interesting information. Our contributor comments:

It’s fantastically sober, blunt, clear, and makes some key points. I believe Lockdown Sceptics’ future has to be the balanced voice of reason and to push party apparatchiks like Neil O’Brien to the side rather than bother with attacking back directly. This video has no bullshit politics or bullshit data or SAGE panic-stricken scientists, or idiotic BBC journalists. I found it fascinating and for the first time I understand where we are. Key moments in the video:

– Starts out by not pulling any punches about how badly Britain has done mortality-wise.

– 2m 08s – Points out that when he started as a doctor there were 300,000 beds in the NHS. Now there are 130,000. 

– 13m 00s – The elderly are not being admitted to ICU because they are being judged as not likely to survive

– 34m 25s – Key slide where he shows that the reason for current high deaths is that 85+ victims are being triaged not to go into ICU; they are just being given palliative care and left to die (one up for Lord Sumption and ‘nul points‘ for those who think everyone gets the same deal on admission). That’s why despite so relatively few confirmed cases in that group, they are dominating deaths. Hence ICU is full of 45-64s and until that group is vaccinated the hospital crises will remain and therefore all the lockdown and other precautions are going to have to stay in place essentially until the autumn. The trade-off the Government has made has been to vaccinate those aged 65 and over first, in the hope of reducing overall Covid mortality, but at the cost of not doing as much as they could to relieve the pressure on the NHS. This really clarifies how deaths and ICUs are not in fact directly related. Elsewhere he talks about the necessity of vaccinating workers who have been hugely disproportionately affected – no use in crying over spilt milk, but that’s where we are.

– 40m 00s – He really lays it on thick about the mental health fallout: “this is going to be a major problem” for several years “particularly affecting the young”.

– 44m 5s – Summarises his key points which starts with the totally unsentimental assertion that Covid is here forever, we will never get rid of it. That tells me, as we all already knew, that anyone foolish enough to be promoting the idea that we can have zero Covid is genuinely irresponsible or stupid.

Worth watching in full.

Labour’s Loony ‘Zero Covid Now’ Group Addressed by Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn addresses the event from his car

Following neatly on from the comments above, a campaign entitled Zero Covid Now, which describes itself as “jointly convened by Diane Abbot MP and the Morning Star” has held a video meeting which was hosted by Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP and included addresses by Richard Burgon MP, Professor Robert West from Independent Sage, Richard Horton of the Lancet, various other figures from trade unions and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Unsurprisingly, there were a number of highly debatable remarks made, of which the first was only seconds in, when Rebeiro-Addy declared that the UK was headed for the “worst death toll in the world” (deaths in the US currently stand at 417,000) and that the virus could be “stopped in its tracks” while simultaneously protecting lives and livelihoods.

Noticeably absent from the line-up of people apparently seriously suggesting that a seasonal respiratory virus which is now endemic can be completely eradicated was anyone who did not have a safe public sector job.

Ben Chacko, editor of the hard-left Morning Star, was the only contributor to say anything sensible: “Our Government has shown no inclination to learn from other countries that have dealt more successfully with Covid than we have and unfortunately most of the media give them a free pass.”

Hear hear, Ben!

The meeting can be viewed in full here, if you can bear it.

“After My Mum Was Taken Away in an Ambulance, She Disappeared into the System.”

A reader has sent in this distressing account of an ongoing situation involving communication problems with the hospital where his seriously ill mother is being treated:

Over a week ago my mother, in her mid 60s, was taken to hospital in Norfolk with a mystery affliction. Something similar to stroke or another neurological disorder. The situation looked extremely serious with her unable to eat or speak. As I do not live anywhere near her I have been relying on updates from my much younger sister and brother, who live up there with their dad. My grandad, who is 89, is obviously very worried and as he is down south with me he is reliant on updates from my sister, or me.

Initially things seemed to be being dealt with well. As usual the paramedics were excellent and they did not hesitate to take her in. This is where the problems started. The hospital (which I will not name) has a total ban on any visitors, which on the surface sounds reasonable and inevitable. They offered updates by telephone, and numbers for the main switchboard and her ward were given so that we could call in for updates.

However, last week the wheels seemed to come off. For an entire three day period the hospital would not answer the phone. When we called the main switchboard they would transfer the call, only for it to be cut off, and the ward number wasn’t answered at all. Bearing in mind this was near the beginning of the investigation, with tests being apparently carried out on on a regular basis, you can imagine the intolerable worry this total blackout caused to my family, particularly her other children and my grandad. Eventually they did respond, and the diagnosis was still inconclusive, but pretty much no reason was given for not answering the phone to worried family. Things returned to some sense of normality for a few days, but two days ago we were told she had been moved to a different ward as she had contracted Covid (in hospital – sigh) but no further details were given. That was the last we have heard for two days now despite repeated calls. We don’t even know what ward she is actually on. I gather that she has no Covid symptoms (she could have been pre-symptomatic) but her status remains very serious with respect to her other condition.

Without getting into the whys and wherefores of whether any of the current Government measures are proportionate to the virus, the total ban on visitors even for the most seriously ill patients, or the fact that she caught Covid in hospital, I am absolutely furious and shocked that a hospital would not think it crucially important to keep the family informed, especially in a case this serious. Can your readers imagine the absolute horror of relatives who have seen someone into an ambulance, only for them to effectively disappear into the system and have no way to find out if they are okay? I’m certain this cannot be an isolated incident. I understand the NHS is busy, and even if they are much busier than usual for this time of year, there has not been a natural disaster or a war causing mass casualties, and so I do not think it unreasonable for us to expect updates to be given. This pandemic has done nothing to improve my view of the state of the NHS as a whole and this particular incident has shown a lack of basic humanity that has really shocked me.

Magna Carta-Quoting Hairdresser to Reopen Salon

Sinead Quinn invoked Magna Carta when refusing to close down the first time

The Daily Mail reports that Sinead Quinn, the owner of Quinn Blakey, a West Yorkshire hair salon which clocked up eye-watering fines for defying orders to close last year, as we reported at the time, is planning to flout the regulations again:

A salon owner who racked up £17,000 in fines by staying open during last year’s second national lockdown has indicated she plans to reopen next week.

Sinead Quinn, owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressing, Oakenshaw, near Bradford, has suggested the salon will reopen for on January 30th on a day dubbed ‘The Great Reopening’.

Ms Quinn hit headlines in November after she repeatedly cited the Magna Carta when police officers insisted she close her business during the second national lockdown. 

The salon wracked up £17,000 worth of fixed penalty fines and magistrates ordered its closure for the final two days of the lockdown “to prevent nuisance to members of the public and to safeguard public health”.

Earlier this month, Kirklees Council confirmed none of the fixed penalties had been paid and it had started a prosecution process.

One Instagram comment from the salon said: “We’re all opening regardless of lockdown. They can’t control us all when we stand up to them.”

In a separate post shared two days ago, the comment stated: “When is lockdown meant to end? Feb?

“In February you can bet your life savings that COVID-21 will be here and so will your lockdown.

“I’d like you to sit back and watch it all play out but we’re running out of time.”

Quinn’s GoFundMe page is still active and she has indicated that in the event of winning her case, the funds will be donated to support her brother who is battling cancer.

New Petition to End Restrictions

A petition with an ambitious goal has been started on the Government’s online portal by David Tyler.

The Department of Health and Social Care has already issued a response to the petition, since it has passed 20,000 signatures, but it makes for predictable reading, regurgitating the Government’s standard line on the matter.

View and sign the petition here.

Look These People in the Eyes

Yesterday we included a reader’s disappointed response to the Government’s latest fear-mongering PR campaign, featuring a series of emotive images bearing the words “look them in the eyes”. Predictably, these have inspired a slew of new versions which have been doing the rounds on social media, taking the opposing view. We thought we’d include a few:

Alternative versions of the Government’s images

Stop Press: The Express has reported that a group of psychologist have written to the their professional body objecting to the Government’s use of fear tactics. We flagged up this letter in Lockdown Sceptics on December 15th, asking for psychologists to contact the organiser if they wanted to sign. Looks like many did.

The Government has been accused of using covert strategies to keep people in a perpetual state of heightened fear to make them obey COVID-19 restrictions.

A group of 47 psychologists has claimed this amounts to a strategic decision “to inflate the fear levels of the British public”, which it states is “ethically murky” and has left people too afraid to leave their homes for medical appointments. Led by former NHS consultant psychologist Dr Gary Sidley, the experts have written to the British Psychological Society (BPS) claiming the strategy is “morally questionable”.

In response the Government has vehemently denied using covert techniques, saying its public information campaigns have been “transparent” and necessary to set out “clear instructions” on how the spread of the virus can be delayed.

It has admitted to communicating public information campaigns 17 per week on average during the peak of the pandemic in order to reach an estimated 95% of adults.

The criticism follows evidence from minutes of the Government advisory group SAGE of March 22nd 2020 which stated: “The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent” by “using hard hitting emotional messaging”.

Dr Sidley said: “It is clear from the methods that are now being used that the Government has taken on this advice. Just because the Government is explicit in its messaging, however, it does not mean this is not having an impact covertly. It is the way this is communicated that we are concerned about. Psychologists know that while the content of messaging might be factual, the way in which it is delivered will determine its impact and we believe the biggest impact is at a subconscious level which we do not think is ethical or healthy for people. We believe inflating fear levels to achieve compliance may be doing more harm than good.”

Stop Press 2: A reader has spotted a particularly misleading Government ad.

I doubt I’m the first to send you this ad, which makes the ludicrous assertion that a THIRD of people are spreading COVID-19 asymptomatically. Attached is a photo of the ad that appeared on page 16 of the i newspaper on January 20th and on the back cover of the following day’s edition.

Obviously the wording should read “Around 1 in 3 people who have the virus have no COVID-19 symptoms….etc.” Missing out those words can hardly be a silly mistake, given the presumed oversight of 40-plus professors on the SPI-B nudge group.

Thanks for the link to the Advertising Standards Agency coronavirus reporting form on Lockdown Sceptics. I’ve submitted this one.

Perhaps significantly, Google turns up only a single example of this version of the ad if one does an online search – a nearly illegible 250x300px image of it on the site of the Orkney Islands weekly paper. Drive-by scaremongering that leaves no trace behind…

Sceptics Under Fire

Arrowing in on the sceptics

Following on from our report yesterday about the new website “Antivirus: The COVID-19 FAQ” set up by Neil O’Brien MP amongst others, which attempts to refute sceptics’ arguments as well as compiling a list of those they consider the most egregious purveyors of wrongthink, we have received a good number of responses from readers.

One argued that since prominent lockdown sceptics are being taken to task over relatively minor errors, perhaps the same standard could be applied to the WHO:

Just a reminder of when this mess started: WHO Director General’s briefing on March 3rd 2020.

Four things they got catastrophically wrong:

1. “First, COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far.”

2. “While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease. Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”

3. “Third, we have vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal flu, but at the moment there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, clinical trials of therapeutics are now being done, and more than 20 vaccines are in development.”

4. “And fourth, we don’t even talk about containment for seasonal flu – it’s just not possible. But it is possible for COVID-19. We don’t do contact tracing for seasonal flu – but countries should do it for COVID-19, because it will prevent infections and save lives. Containment is possible. To summarize, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained – which is why we must do everything we can to contain it. That’s why WHO recommends a comprehensive approach.”

I’m sure we’ve all got things wrong, but each of these points are amongst the biggest errors of the century so far.

Another points out the strange misapprehension by the authors of the website of the amount of influence sceptics have had:

I’ve been perusing the site and a couple of things are striking. Firstly, the currently popular charge that dissent is “dangerous” gets an outing as early as the fourth paragraph. Apparently, such ideas could lead to individuals “or entire countries” deciding to take fewer precautions. As several nations actually have taken less rigid measures (with not noticeably worse outcomes) this raises the hitherto unexplored possibility that Alexander Lukashenko wakes up every morning listening to Julia Hartley-Brewer or that Anders Tegnell developed his ideas on epidemiology at the American Institute For Economic Research. 

The idea that the people the site seeks to “expose” have been “very prominent and influential during the pandemic” is exactly the kind of misinformation the authors claims it exists to counter. Tragically, lockdown scepticism has barely encroached on our Government’s thinking since the Prime Minister first read Neil Ferguson’s prophecies of doom in March. It may make a tiny amount of sense to say broadcasters in Malmö or Minsk have created a relaxed attitude to the pandemic, but to survey Britain’s landscape of closed pubs, darkened restaurants and broken people and conclude that Whitehall mandarins listen to too much talkRADIO borders on madness. 

In reality, the site is little more than an elongated tweet. A primal scream from the entitled “expert” who spends most of their time in quiet fury at the fact that somebody, somewhere does not agree with them. It’s not so much information for the readers as therapy for the writers. One wonders why it even needs to exist given the grip lockdown fanaticism seems to hold on both Government and the alleged opposition. It may be interesting to see how the site’s authors assign blame if figures deteriorate in the coming weeks. You can guarantee they won’t be finding anything wrong with the policy itself. 

Finally, one thing did amuse me. The FAQ kindly explains that they have received no funding for the website and it was paid for “out of our own pockets”. Given how cheap it looks, it had never occurred to me that anyone with a PR budget might be behind this. But now that they brought it up, I can’t stop wondering who is really paying the bills! They’d probably say I’m a “funding sceptic”. Or is it “altruism denier”?

Another reader points out accusing the sceptics of getting the Infection Fatality Rate wrong is a little hypocritical:

My comment relates to the IFR of COVID-19 and the difficulty of putting an exact figure on it. Imperial College produced this report back in October to which Obersturmbannführer Ferguson was a contributor, which demonstrates the dilemma.

It seems pretty pointless to make an issue about something so vague and mercurial when not even the great man himself can find a definite number. Whichever way you cut the cards, it has an extremely low fatality rate which gets lower all the time as treatments improve.

I’m sure Neil O’Brien et al are avid members of the Ferguson cult so you’d think they’d know this.

This reader points to double standards with peer-reviewed studies:

Looking at the website of Neil O’Brien and co, my first thought was “where to start?” There is so much choice. 

I thought I’d begin by having a look at the dying “with Covid” not “of Covid” section:

I looked at point 3: “Covid isn’t just killing people who were otherwise close to death.” I clicked on this link to the University of Glasgow study which O’Brien and his cohorts present as suggesting that people who died of Covid typically had over a decade to live.

The Glasgow study was funded by grants from the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council. The study is old, having been published ​on April 23rd 2020 and it has not been revised since then. The study involves modelling based on standard World Health Organisation life tables. The report was made available for open peer review and has received three reviews. One peer reviewer, based in the US, approved it. The other two reviewers, based in the UK, did not approve it. 

One of the UK peer reviewers nails one of the study’s key problems with this comment:

“The YLL (years of life lost) figure just doesn’t seem to sit with observed reality. I realise this is a modelling study, but it would be nice to compare your findings to what we have actually observed. For example, what is the average age of death expected from your model compared to observed COVID age of death?”

And lastly for today (although keep emailing us your criticisms, putting “Antivirus” in the subject line):

The Anti-Virus website is a treasure trove of selective quotations and misdirection, but one quote neatly illustrated the fact that with lockdown believers it is “heads I win, tails you lose”. On the page for Cases Were Falling Anyway they include the following final point:

A published paper seeks to argue that restrictions have not worked, but contains a glaring flaw. A paper that appeared in January 2021, co-authored by John Ioannidis, looked at the correlation between restrictive measures introduced by government and the number of cases. Ioannidis and his colleagues found that some lockdown restrictions were even correlated with higher growth in coronavirus cases. This should have been a warning of an obvious flaw – which is that case growth and restrictions are endogenous – in other words, governments have brought in tighter restrictions when cases are higher. The argument of the paper is like arguing that “people in hospital are more likely to have heart disease; therefore hospitals cause heart disease”.

A translation into English? “Our contention is that when lockdowns are imposed and cases fall then the fall is entirely down to lockdowns and no other factors. However, in documented cases where lockdowns are imposed and cases rise then.. mumble, mumble… not strict enough… mumble”.

They are saying in effect that if there was a perfect positive correlation between infection rates and lockdown severity it would be proof of an ideal government response, rather than a policy that had no effect.

I have to concede however that the same page included the knockout argument (point 5) that scientists from Imperial College have posted a report on their website that lockdowns work exactly as intended. They neglected to mention who the lead author was…

Stop Press: Toby had a letter published in the Sunday Times yesterday responding to Dominic Lawson’s attack the previous week.

Stop Press 2: We’ve decided to regularly include some of the best pieces endorsing the Government’s lockdown strategy, inspired by J.S. Mill’s famous line: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”

Today, we’re kicking off with Sam Bowman’s piece in the New Statesman: “The eight biggest Covid-sceptic myths – and why they’re wrong.

If readers encounter any particularly good arguments from the other side, please do send them to us and we’ll flag them up.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1353334651406979078

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Six today: “Strange Days” by The Doors, “I Shall Be Released” by the Flying Burrito Brothers, “The Last Time” by the Rolling Stones, “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” by Skip James, “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, and “If You’re Looking for a Way Out” by Odyssey.

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, the shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy MP has become embroiled in a row over her endorsement of a pamphlet that called for the Army to be replaced with a “gender balanced and ethnically diverse” peace force. Sort of like Star Fleet. The Sun has more:

The shadow Foreign Secretary denied she backed a left-wing policy pamphlet – that the Sun can reveal also called for Britain’s nuclear subs to be “reconsidered”.

She told the BBC it was “complete and utter rubbish” that she had “applauded” the loony left wish list.

But she was left red-faced when a recording of a Zoom call emerged where she said: “One of the things that I found really inspirational about this pamphlet is that I think it’s based on the belief that I also share that while we learn from the past we are never bound to it and we have to build a foreign policy fit for this century.”

The introduction to Open Labour’s policy document “A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times” said it was time to “reconsider” Trident.

It also says Britain should: “Consider a real shift in the nature of our services from classic armed forces to what one might call human security services which would include the military but would also include police, engineers, aid workers, or health workers and would be gender balanced and ethnically diverse.”

“Their central task would be to protect human security and in cases of war to dampen down violence rather than intervene on one side or the other.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lawrence Fox was unimpressed by Lisa Nandy’s plans for a new peace force.

https://twitter.com/LozzaFox/status/1353376009463222273

“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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUB66aZ4CdY

A reader has drown out attention to this 2016 YouTube video by psychologist Kati Morton explaining what “Stockholm Syndrome” is. As he points out, it’s as though the entire country is suffering from this peculiar affliction.

Bridge to Nowhere

There follows a guest post by Professor Roger Watson and Dr Niall McCrae.

Suicide is always a tragic event and information is not easy to obtain. This is for good reason, to prevent ‘hot spots’ being advertised and to reduce copycat events. Nevertheless, any landmark with altitude attracts suicide attempts and very few survivals. Sadly, the Humber Bridge is one such spot and only the most notable are reported such as double suicides, for example, and attempted double suicides involving a mother and child.

Since the Humber Bridge opened in 1981 there have been over 200 suicides, which approximates to just below five annually. Merely five persons survived the fall. In the most recent complete annual figures we can find, from a 2019 study of suicides in Hull, three were attributed to jumping from the structure dubbed “the bridge to nowhere”. But the toll appears to have risen sharply under the COVID-19 regime.

In the last month alone there were six deaths from suicide on the Humber Bridge, many of them young people. This has prompted the closure of the footpaths and cycling commuters from Lincolnshire into East Yorkshire have to make special arrangements to cross the bridge to and from work. In none of the reports do we see any specific mention of the impact of lockdown; this is hardly surprising as the local newspapers have tended, like the mainstream media, to be “on message” regarding the need for COVID-19 restrictions. Were he still alive, we would be minded to consult Philip Larkin on this human calamity, and its callous cause.

Latest News

Danish Mask Study: Masks Do Not Protect From Coronavirus

The suppressed Danish mask study – the largest randomised controlled trial to date that had been rejected by three top journals, apparently on political grounds (read the interview with the authors here) – was finally published yesterday.

The headline result is that in the study masks do little or nothing to lower the infection rate. It found a 2.1% vs 1.8% infection rate for unmasked vs masked groups (with around 3,000 participants in each group initially). However, due to low virus prevalence these figures correspond to only 53 and 42 participants respectively so the authors had to state that the result is not statistically significant (too few infections to be confident it’s not random).

The most striking finding is that when you look at participants who report wearing face masks “exactly as instructed” as opposed to just “predominantly as instructed” the proportion infected rises from 1.8% to 2.0% (22 participants). This is the wrong way round – if masks are helping, using them better should reduce infections – and 2.0% is almost identical to the 2.1% infected without masks. This suggests the lower figure for all mask wearers was probably just noise.

A few more observations:

  • Reported symptoms did not differ between those who wore masks and those who didn’t, giving no support to the masker theory that masks make the disease milder (or provide immunity) by reducing viral load.
  • For other respiratory viruses the study found 0.5% vs 0.6% infection rate (9 vs 11 participants) for masks vs non-masks, so again almost the same, supporting the primary finding.
  • Although 91 participants reported someone else in their household contracting COVID-19 during the study (52 masked and 39 non-masked), only three reported then catching it themselves – two with masks and one without. Strange, because the home is usually found to be a primary source of transmission.
  • The study looks at protecting the wearer not others (i.e., source control, the usual justification for masks). It couldn’t look at source control as the study took place in April and May before masks were mandated or in widespread use.

With insufficient infections to achieve statistical significance, despite involving over 6,000 participants, the study leaves a need for further studies that are large enough and in areas of high enough prevalence to achieve statistical significance.

We can’t draw firm conclusions about precise differences in infection rates from this study. However, we can say that wearing a surgical mask even “exactly as instructed” does not appear to prevent infection completely – does not appear to prevent it much at all. And if that’s the case for surgical masks, how much more for cloth masks?

Also worth noting that mask mandates have not prevented the autumn surges in many countries around the world, and that maskless Sweden’s autumn rise in infections came somewhat later than elsewhere. None of this is supportive of masks.

The lead author of the study, Dr Henning Bundgaard, a cardiologist at the University of Copenhagen, tersely said: “Our study gives an indication of how much you gain from wearing a mask: Not a lot.”

Reading between the lines it seems the authors had to tone down their scepticism to get it past the editors and reviewers. They are at pains to stress that “this trial did not address the effects of masks as source control or as protection in settings where social distancing and other public health measures are not in effect.” The strongest they are allowed to get in their discussion is: “While we await additional data to inform mask recommendations, communities must balance the seriousness of COVID-19, uncertainty about the degree of source control and protective effect, and the absence of data suggesting serious adverse effects of masks.”

Absence of (scientific) evidence is not, of course, evidence of absence, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the harm wearing masks does, as Professor Sucharit Bhakdi explains here regarding the impact of reducing oxygen supply on people with high blood pressure. One Lockdown Sceptics reader got in touch yesterday with a powerful personal illustration of this.

I thought you might be interested in this account of my trip to A&E the other night, after a suspected heart attack – false alarm, thanks for asking, I’m fine…

On arrival in A&E I was handed a face mask to put on – which I did, feeling a sort of civic duty as it was a set of special circumstances –  and my underlying medical condition was at least in the right place to be resolved if I had any problems (I have had a heart attack previously, so have to ensure I do not suffer from cardiac ischaemia). Up to this point, when I had had my readings taken, both by the paramedics immediately after the incident at home, in the ambulance, and on my arrival in the hospital, my blood oxygen levels had been fine (97 – in case you are unaware, the normal range is 95 to 100 and hypoxia begins at 90).

After half an hour or so, I was moved into a side room – at which point, I took the mask off of one ear, as I was having trouble breathing properly through it, only putting it back on when a member of staff came in to check on me.

After I had been there for an hour, a nurse came to take my readings again and I had put the mask back on whilst she set things up and, after a couple of minutes of wearing the mask, my readings were taken and my blood oxygen had dropped to 93 – a drop of four points (there are only five between normal and hypoxia).

The first reaction of the nurse was to say that they were concerned because of the drop in oxygen, but that “it was probably just because of the mask”.  I took it off one ear again so I could breathe normally and literally with each breath the reading went up by one, so after four breaths, I was back to where I had been without the mask.

From that point on, I left the mask off and, each time my hourly readings were taken, it remained at 97, so clearly the drop in oxygen levels was down to the mask. During this time – and I was there for six hours – not a single member of staff told me to put the mask back on and indeed I saw several staff sitting behind desks or in corridors with their masks removed.

There is a certain irony that before being taken to A&E, I had self-medicated with a spray to open my blood vessels to increase blood flow to the heart, but on admission to hospital I was given a piece of what can only be described as window dressing (or perhaps set dressing would be a more apt analogy) which actually counteracted the medication I had taken to ensure I did not suffer from ischaemia.

What I’d like to know is why extreme interventions with serious collateral harm like coercive mask-wearing and other restrictions on liberty don’t have to meet the same rigorous safety and efficacy criteria as vaccines and drugs. So-called “public health” needs a serious overhaul.

Stop Press: The Swiss Doctor has written about the Danish mask study, as well as other mask studies, here.

“We Can Now Bring About the Economic and Financial Union that We Have So Far Failed to Achieve by Political Means”

Sebastian Friebel, a former parliamentary adviser to the German Bundestag, has written a magisterial account of the supranational undemocratic forces using the public health crisis as a pivot for far-reaching change and the often sinister secrecy being used to achieve it. More of the convergent opportunism we have been highlighting on Lockdown Sceptics. Here’s the opening to whet your appetite.

Dear fellow citizens, I am addressing you as a non-partisan former employee of the German Bundestag with the function of a parliamentary adviser. As a result of my work in parliament and in a parliamentary group, I have become aware that the people in our country are being deliberately deprived of information on the corona crisis which is of crucial importance for assessing the situation. In view of the enormous significance of recent events, I consider it my duty to my fellow citizens to raise these issues publicly. So as to be able to express myself as freely as possible on these issues, I have resigned from my position in the Bundestag.

I suppose many will lay this text aside after just a few lines because they feel sufficiently informed about all aspects of the crisis. I understand this, because I too used to assumed that, when major events occur, we citizens would always be apprised of the background facts. But in the meantime, not least because of my experiences in parliament, I have been obliged to recognise the methods used worldwide by governments, the media and major players in the global economy to the detriment of us all, and to see that often the population is regrettably too uncritical in its response. I hope that despite this widespread lack of concern about political developments, some of you will at least check out the information provided here.

Some of what I report in the following will be considered by many readers as impossible and will be firmly rejected. I would like to say to these people that in publishing this report I am taking on considerable personal risk, and I would not dare to take this step if I were unsure of my statements. I do not want to say much about myself at this point. You, dear reader, only need to know the following about me: I am writing this report in sincere concern for the security, freedom and prosperity of us all. These fundamental pillars of our democracy are acutely endangered because the Corona crisis is being instrumentalised, and our legitimate concerns about the virus being exploited for third-party objectives.

Previously available only in German, now translated exclusively for Lockdown Sceptics. Find it on the right hand menu here. Well worth reading in full over a cup of coffee.

GP Consultations For Respiratory Infections Declining Before Lockdown II

From the CEBM. Click here for the interactive graph.

The CEBM team have updated their graph on GP consultations for respiratory infections in England and Wales. It shows consultations peaking in the week of October 19th-26th, well before lockdown began.

The RCGP surveillance data reports trends for Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI), along with weekly data on COVID-19 case investigations. The data comes from over four million patients in a network of general practices across England and Wales.

The figure shows that rates of confirmed COVID-19, URTIs and LRTIs rose in September.  Rates of consultations for respiratory tract infections, however, are significantly lower than they were a year ago.

In the week commencing the November 11th 2019, LRTI’s consults were 9.4 per 10,000 and URTI rates were 19.3 per 10,000 about four-fold higher than current consultation rates.

Last year, rates of URTI consultations peaked in the week of December 16th at 30 per 100,000 population and with LRTI rates of 14.7 per 10,000.

The current data suggest that COVID-19 consultations peaked in the week commencing October 19th in primary care and are currently waning (there can be a delay in data though coming through that might change some of the estimates, particularly in the last two weeks).

Remind me again why the Government is proposing to tighten restrictions after December 2nd when clearly whatever we were doing in October was ample, and probably more than enough?

Why is Lockdown Always the Answer?

The Government’s vision for Britain’s future

In light of the maddening news yesterday of the perma-lockdown that awaits us after December 2nd, Ross Clark in the Telegraph bemoans the Catch-22 we now live in where every piece of evidence is taken as justification for tightening the screws.

The Government’s fetish for incarcerating its own citizens is growing stronger by the day. Britain has become a giant Guantanamo Bay of Covid control, maintained by invisible fences of call centres and fines. Worse, the creeping nature of it has meant that we never get any proper debate as to what price we really want to pay to suppress the virus.

We are fed daily with graphs and charts showing the numbers of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths. But we never get the other side of the ledger (not from the Government or its scientists anyway): the impact on our mental health, on other medical conditions and deaths caused by seriously ill people failing to seek timely medical attention, or the price we are going to pay through deprivation caused by economic decline.

We get dribs and drabs – such as the figures put out by the ONS this morning, revealing a huge rise in people admitting to feeling lonely – but they never make it to Downing Street briefings, and still less do ministers allow them to be used in a public debate as to what lockdown is actually achieving. All public policy has been reduced to this one, narrow aim of reducing Covid numbers.

But whatever happens, it seems to mean more lockdown. Like the poor wretches dragged off to medieval ducking stools – who were judged innocent if they drowned, found guilty of witchcraft and burned alive if they survived the ducking – we can’t win. If Covid numbers fall it is taken as a sign that lockdown is working, and must therefore be prolonged. If Covid numbers rise, it is taken as a sign we must have even tougher lockdown. Never mind that Covid numbers were already levelling off before the second lockdown was called, very sharply so in Tier 3 areas such as Liverpool and Nottingham.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Zanzibar

Lockdown Sceptics reader Matthew Sample has discovered one of Africa’s havens from the Covid insanity. Sounds amazing.

Following a pleasant ‘Covid-lite’ holiday in Sweden in September I set about investigating other countries which do not impose serious Covid restrictions. My eyes alighted on a Daily Telegraph article written by a lady who had recently spent an idyllic holiday in Zanzibar, free of such rules and restrictions. I booked a flight.

I have now been in Zanzibar for over two weeks. Bliss. Lovely warm sunny weather (with the occasional heavy shower), incredibly beautiful beaches with crystal clear turquoise sea, some excellent bars, cafés and restaurants, comfortable accommodation, cheerful welcoming locals and plenty of sights and activities to interest a holiday-maker. All relatively inexpensive. But most significantly, NO Covid rules or restrictions.

On arrival in Zanzibar via Nairobi (where staff and some passengers sported masks and PPE as if in a biological war zone) we were welcomed at Zanzibar airport where no staff, or locals, were wearing face-masks and no requirement for an expensive ‘Covid negative’ certificate (someone is making a mint from these ‘Profits of Doom’!). After a visa and passport check with a welcoming smile we were wished a happy stay.

Now I have no idea how much ‘Covid’ is prevalent in Zanzibar or Tanzania in general, all I do know is that nobody is in the least bit fussed about it. There are no gloomy statistics or graphs published daily (or at all) to alarm and terrify people. After all, this part of Africa is subject to many more serious endemic illnesses and diseases and nobody has ever wet themselves over these, not even tourists. Malaria? Prophylactic anti-malaria pills always come with the proviso that they are not 100% effective. All I do know is that both locals and tourists (yes, there are quite a few, although not as many as they would like) are happily free of any sense of the fear or paranoia over Covid that so afflicts the West. No silly face-masks anywhere and no anti-social distancing. People even shake each other’s hands without a second thought. Heaven forbid in UK! Life is absolutely normal and, as far as I have observed, people are not keeling over in droves due to Covid. It is an enlightening and pleasant experience which is favourably remarked upon by tourists in the places I have visited.

From my point of view, I would much rather live like this, even with the risk of getting a ‘bug’, than exist with my freedom and social life grossly curtailed under draconian, and probably ineffective, anti-social ‘lockdown’ restrictions cowed behind a de-humanising, fear inducing and probably useless face-mask. How have so many people in UK become so risk-averse that they will tolerate (indeed often encourage) any ‘rules’, however illogical and restrictive, to make them feel ‘safe’? Nothing in life is totally safe and our freedom to take risks should be sacrosanct.  

I was due to return after two weeks. I have cancelled my return ticket.

Read Matthew’s blog, with more from his lockdown-free travels, here.

Postcard From China

A reader writes to tell us of life back to normal in China.

I’ve just had a fascinating video chat with a friend in China. I had a virtual tour of her, largely student, locality – shops, food-halls etc. It was a busy and bustling place with no social distancing and hardly anyone wearing masks. Life is entirely back to normal. The Government line is that the only ‘cases’ of the virus are coming from people who travel in from abroad – hence why they have mandatory quarantine hotels where inbound travellers are taken, by Government officials, for two weeks upon arrival (at your own expense). I find it somewhat difficult to believe that a country with such large and dense population centres has managed to eradicate a virus not dissimilar in terms of ease of transition to the common cold. So one is forced to ask where are the overflowing hospitals and morgues? If there were overflowing hospitals and morgues which the government propaganda machine were hiding, the people would still know and you would see changed behaviour rather than people carrying on as normal. How ironic that the place where SARS-CoV-2 originated has simply moved on from the issue while much of the rest of the world flounders.

The floated reasons that China (and other East Asian countries like Taiwan) have not been so badly affected by Covid range from conspiracy theories and exaggerated claims of the efficacy of their responses to the much more likely proposals of greater pre-existing immunity and the simple realisation that a country can cope without extreme measures.

The Great Escape – to a Welsh Pub!

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has sent us a delightful account of how he achieved a fleeting moment of freedom over the border.

It was a trivial bid for freedom, but important to me. 

I live in England where pubs and restaurants are currently closed, without public consultation or consent. I find this fundamentally offensive. I believe it should be up to individual citizens to choose what risks to accept, but apparently we can’t be trusted, so I am not allowed to have a traditional pint in the presence of other consenting adults, under a Conservative government with a large majority.

I live an hour or so from the Welsh border. After a fanatical two week ‘firebreak’, Wales now has less restrictions than England. So I took a train from England to Wales, with the one intent of having a pint in a pub, as a free man.

This was a predictably surreal experience. All the trains are running as normal, despite having few if any passengers. They are plastered with labels, as are the platforms: SIT HERE, DON’T SIT HERE, DON’T SIT HERE, though this is not the case with the seats on the train, where you can sit as close to another passenger as you and they choose. Clearly the virus is more potent on the platform.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had a ‘reasonable excuse’ prepared were I to be challenged, but the guard stayed in his office and there was no-one else around in any case. In my imagination I had anticipated feeling like an escaped prisoner of war on the run. In reality I had an entire train to myself.

The people in the Welsh town I visited are obviously depressed and fearful, as much about what the next random Government decision may be as about the virus. The talk in Costa Coffee was subdued, but this was nothing compared to the pub, in which the staff (of one) was as well protected as he would be in an infectious disease unit. All that was missing was the airlock.

I was asked for my name and number, and then my postcode: “We’re not allowed to serve people from over the border.” This called for quick thinking. “Well,” I said, “I don’t have a Welsh postcode or an English one. But I do have a New Zealand postcode, would you like that?” Happily, this response seemed to transcend the known rules and I was able to take a table in the otherwise empty pub.

My lunchtime pint was delivered and, though the environment was cold, miserable, and uninviting, I savoured my drink. 

I don’t think having an illicit pint is particularly noble, and I can understand that some people may think me irresponsible for breaking the rules, even though the rules were quite different a few days ago. But for me it was an expression of my rights, and I am prepared to defend my actions in front of anyone and any court.

My need to be free is more deep-seated than the apparent haven of conformity. I think that sooner or later this will be so for more and more people. If we are prevented from making choices then there is no reason for us to exist. Repressing personal judgement is an existential insult. I believe we must resist in whatever ways we can.

“You’re Being Led Down the Garden Path by the Chief Medical Officer of Hell”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvYzf0MqObg

The following is a transcript of the talk delivered by Dr Roger Hodkinson to a private meeting of Alberta government officials that we linked to yesterday, kindly provided by a number of Lockdown Sceptics readers – thank you!

Thank you very much and I do appreciate the opportunity to address you on this very important matter. And what I’m going to say is lay language and blunt. It’s counter-narrative and so you don’t immediately think I’m a quack, I’m going to briefly outline my credentials so that you can understand where I’m coming from in terms of knowledge base in all of this.

I’m a medical specialist in pathology which includes virology. I trained at Cambridge University in the UK. I’m the ex-president of the pathology section of the medical association. I was previously an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine doing a lot of teaching. I was the chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada Examination Committee in Pathology in Ottawa. But more to the point I’m currently the chairman of a biotechnology company in North Carolina selling a COVID-19 test and you might say I know a little bit about all this.

The bottom line is simply this: there is utterly unfounded public hysteria driven by the media and politicians. It’s outrageous. This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to contain this virus other than protecting older, more vulnerable people. It should be thought of nothing more than a bad flu season. This is not Ebola, it’s not SARS. It’s politics playing medicine and that’s a very dangerous game.

There is no action of any kind needed other than what happened last year when we felt unwell. We stayed home, we took chicken noodle soup, we didn’t visit granny. And we decided when we would return to work, we didn’t need anyone to tell us.

Masks are utterly useless, there is no evidence based for their effectiveness whatsoever. Paper masks and fabric masks are simply virtue signalling, they’re not even worn effectively most of the time. It’s utterly ridiculous seeing these unfortunate, uneducated people and, not saying that in a pejorative sense, seeing these people walking around like lemmings, obeying without any knowledge base, to put the mask on their face.

Social distancing is also useless because Covid is spread by aerosols which travel 30 metres or so before landing. Enclosures have had such terrible unintended consequences. They should everywhere be open tomorrow as was stated in the Great Barrington Declaration that I circulated prior to this meeting.

And a word on testing. I do want to emphasise that I’m in the business of testing for Covid. I do want to emphasise that positive test results do not – underlined in neon – mean a clinical infection. It’s simply driving public hysteria and all testing should stop unless you’re presenting to hospital with some respiratory problem.

All that should be done is to protect the vulnerable and to give them all in the nursing homes that are under your control, give them all three to five thousand international units of Vitamin D every day, which has been shown to radically reduce the likelihood of infection.

And I would remind you all that using the province’s own statistics the risk of death under 65 in this province is one in 300,000, one in three hundred thousand, you’ve got to get a grip on this. The scale of the response that you’re undertaking with no evidence for it is utterly ridiculous.

Given the consequences of acting in a way that you’re proposing, all kinds of suicides, business closures, funerals, weddings, etc. etc., it’s simply outrageous. It’s just another bad flu and you’ve got to get your minds around that. Let people make their own decisions. You should be totally out of the business of medicine. You’re being led down the garden path by the chief medical officer of hell for this province. I’m absolutely outraged that this has reached this level, it should all stop tomorrow. Thank you very much.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band and “Wake Up Everybody” by Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

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’re bringing you some interesting historical data about the origins of “taking the knee”, the supplicant gesture favoured by British police officers when faced with Black Lives Matter protestors.

At one stage, it was widely believed to have originated on Game of Thrones, in which various conquered leaders had to “take the knee” before their conqueror to show fealty to their new master. Not so fast, said the professors of woke-logy (or should that be woke professors?). It was not an act of genuflection, but a way of protesting about the unfair treatment of black people, particularly in America, as devised by the NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

But an enterprising Lockdown Sceptics reader has found an instance of “taking the knee” that predates both of these – a photograph of a group of white businessmen professing their loyalty to the Ugandan leader Idi Amin. Their willingness to “take the knee” before the tyrant was not surprising, given that he boasted of keeping the decapitated heads of his enemies in his freezer.

History doesn’t record when this photograph was taken, but it accompanies this article by Tatenda Gwaambuka in the African Exponent that’s well worth a read. He reckons Amin was responsible for the deaths of anything between 100,000 to half a million people.

Next time someone tells you that “taking the knee” is a sign of just how compassionate and progressive they are, you might point them towards this picture. Unless they’re your boss, in which case you probably shouldn’t.

“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.

Stop Press: Good riposte from Laura Perrins on Conservative Woman to the topsy-turvy idea that it is the uncovered human face that is scary.

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 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 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

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

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 Announces Second National Lockdown

Bob’s cartoon from today’s Sunday Telegraph

Talk about a cock-up! Downing Street originally briefed that the Prime Minister would be holding a press conference on Monday to set out plans for a second national lockdown. Then someone leaked the details to the press, meaning Conservative MPs had to read about the plans in yesterday’s papers rather than being told about them by Boris. In an effort to minimise the damage, Downing Street brought forward the announcement to 4.30pm yesterday. Then moved that to 6.30pm. And in the event, the Wizard of Oz didn’t appear from behind his curtain until about 6.45pm, even though Downing Street had been warned by the BBC that it had to start at 6.30pm because they weren’t going to move Strictly.

As one Conservative minister told the Times‘s Matt Chorley: “The incompetence is another level. Is this a deliberate destruction of the Tory Party? People only vote for us because they think we don’t care, but are competent. Lose the competence and we’re f***ed. We’ve lost the competence. And we are f***ed.”

And let’s not forget the PM scoffed at Keir Starmer’s call for a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ three weeks ago and described a second national lockdown as the “nuclear option”. Pitch rolling, Boris-style.

The key points of yesterday’s announcement were as follows (courtesy of the Mail):

  • Restrictions will start at midnight on Thursday morning and last until December 2nd.
  • People can only leave their homes for specific reasons, such as to do essential shopping, for outdoor exercise, and for work if they are unable to work from home. International travel will only be allowed for business purposes and returning travellers will have to quarantine. (This is a devastating blow to the already beleaguered aviation industry.)
  • Non-essential shops will be told to shut, although supermarkets do not need to stop selling non-essential goods, as happened in Wales.
  • Restaurants and pubs will have to close to the public, though they can still operate a takeaway service.
  • Leisure centres, gyms, sporting venues, hairdressers and beauty parlours will have to close, although professional sport, including the Premier League, will continue.
  • Key businesses that cannot operate remotely – such as construction – will carry on as before with safety precautions.
  • Schools, colleges and universities will remain open.
  • Places of worship can stay open for private prayer.
  • Funerals are limited to close family only.
  • The furlough scheme will be extended during the period of the lockdown, rather than ending tomorrow as originally planned.
  • Exercise is permitted with no limits on frequency, but organised sports – including outdoor activities such as golf – will not be permitted.
  • When the lockdown lapses the Tiers system will be reinstated, although Boris didn’t say what metric will be used to decide whether areas can have restrictions eased.

Rather implausibly, after Witless and Unbalanced had unveiled graph after graph of doom, Boris claimed to be optimistic about the medium- and long-term and tried to get the dour-faced Patrick Vallance to second that, which he reluctantly did. The reason for this optimism? Vaccines, obviously, but also a rapid testing programme that’s due to be rolled out in the next few days. Boris promised whole towns – nay, whole cities – could be tested at a stroke, with the help of the British Army. The Times has more on this plan, which is stage one of the Prime Ministered fabled “Moonshot”.

Not sure many people will be convinced that upscaling the NHS Test and Trace programme, which has proved completely ineffective to date, is a silver bullet.

He also said, rather ominously, that the Army would “help” people to self-isolate. Does that mean purpose-built quarantine facilities, like the kind they have in New Zealand? Let’s hope the buffoon just misspoke.

Towards the end of this rambling stream-of-consciousness, Boris said we’d need to observe the old mantra that was rolled out in March: “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Bit of a shock, that, given how many people who needed urgent care avoided hospitals last time round, seemingly in a misguided attempt to “protect the NHS”, with catastrophic consequences. Did Boris just pull that out of his hat at the last minute?

Bob’s sketch for a cartoon that wasn’t used. Too brutal?

According to a Twitter thread by Matt Chorley, the fact that the “stay home” mantra was being revived came as news to the Cabinet, as did the extension of the furlough scheme. Is that why the press conference was delayed for more than two hours? Was Boris negotiating that with Rishi? The furlough news went down like a cup of cold sick with Northern leaders, who’d been told less than two weeks ago it would not be possible to cover workers’ pay above two thirds as part of the Tier 3 support scheme. Why all the brinkmanship if the Treasury was going to fork out four fifths two weeks later? Feels to Andy Burnham and others as if the PM thought he could get away with short-changing Northerners, but now Southerners are going to be locked down as well he’s decided to be more generous.

There is also a lot of suspicion among Tory MPs that the new restrictions aren’t being imposed because of the gloomy data; rather, the gloomy data is being conjured up to justify the new restrictions. Many grumbled to Chorley that case numbers were falling in their constituencies. For instance, cases are falling in all of Liverpool’s local authorities.

One Conservative MP told the Sunday Times: “The sentiment some of us are trying to convey to the Prime Minister is that goodwill is at an all-time low and his long-term future in Downing Street could be at risk. It just looks like a shit-show.”

How much comfort should we take from Boris’s assurance that the second lockdown will only remain in place until December 2nd, at which point the country will return to the three-Tier system? Absolutely none, obviously. Chorley put together the following timeline of other assurances made by the Prime Minister:

Mar 19th: Turn tide in 12 weeks

May 17th: “Near normality” by end of July

July 17th : “Significant normality” by Christmas

Sep 9th: “back to normal by Christmas”

Oct 23rd: “some aspects of our lives… back to normal” by Christmas

Oct 31st: very different and better by spring

The word “omnishambles” doesn’t quite fit the bill here. Nor does “shit-show” or “cluster-f***”.

The word to describe this level of incompetence has yet to be coined.

Stop Press: Ross Clark in the Spectator assesses the claim that new daily cases are escalating so rapidly it won’t be long before the NHS is overwhelmed. He says the Government’s blind panic is largely based on last week’s REACT survey, which showed cases doubling every nine days. However, the most recent King’s College London survey has cases doubling every 28 days, while the latest ONS infection survey has cases doubling every two-and-a-half weeks. If you take the seven-day average of confirmed test results, as reported on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, it shows daily new cases have risen from 20,249 to 22,678 over the past week, which yields a doubling time of about six weeks. Clark’s conclusion: “Last week’s REACT survey does look something of an outlier.” Shame the Government decided to base a second lockdown on it.

10 Reasons A Second Lockdown is a Terrible Idea

I thought I’d put this list together, just in case anyone needs reminding.

  1. Our rights belong to us by dint of our status as freeborn Englishman. Therefore, if the Government is going to suspend them, it needs a really good reason for doing so. It did not have a good reason when the first lockdown was imposed in March and it doesn’t have a good reason today. (I made this argument in discussion with Prof Michael Levitt.)
  2. Quarantining the healthy as well as the sick to stop a virus spreading has been proved not to work historically and, for that reason, was advised against in the UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011. More recently, Dr David Nabarro of the WHO cautioned governments to treat lockdowns as a “last resort“.
  3. There’s little evidence that lockdowns reduce Covid mortality. The evidence on this is plentiful, but to give just one example the per capita Covid fatalities in the eight US states that didn’t shut down (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Utah) was lower than in the 42 states that did. (See this piece in the WSJ.) The main argument for locking down – and the one we heard yesterday – is that it prevents healthcare systems becoming overwhelmed, something which means more people dying from COVID-19, as well as other diseases. But in those US states that didn’t shut down, the healthcare systems weren’t overwhelmed – and nor was Sweden’s. A group of researchers at Uppsala University plugged Sweden’s numbers into Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College model in early April, hoping to persuade the authorities to abandon its mitigation strategy and impose a lockdown. According to the model, if the Swedish Government continued to pursue its “reckless” policy the capacity of the healthcare system would be overwhelmed 40-fold. Needless to say, it wasn’t even overwhelmed one-fold. In any event, we’ve already built additional critical care capacity into the English healthcare system to mitigate this risk – the seven Nightingale Hospitals, for instance, as well as all those ventilators the Government procured in March and April. Oddly, they weren’t mentioned in yesterday’s Downing Street briefing. As for overwhelmed healthcare systems being unable to treat other diseases, isn’t that already happening in our underwhelmed, Covid-ready NHS? One argument Patrick Vallance made yesterday was that if Covid admissions continue to rise at their present rate, the NHS would have to start turning away other patients in need of critical care. But that’s a sliding scale not a binary choice and the NHS has been turning patients away since March.
  4. Interrupting transmission among those who aren’t vulnerable to the disease, i.e. everyone under 75 and in good health, delays the time it takes for the population to reach herd immunity and that, in turn, prolongs the period in which the vulnerable have to be shielded and causes needless collateral damage to those who aren’t at risk. (See the Great Barrington Declaration.) Given that we’re going to have to learn to live with this virus, and that the “vaccines” are only likely to reduce the severity of the symptoms, what’s the point of continually kicking the can down the road?
  5. Lockdowns cause more loss of life than they prevent. This is contested, obviously, because the number of lives they’ve saved depends on a counter-factual generated by shonky computer models, and, on the other side of the equation, we don’t yet now how much loss of life has been caused by the lockdowns. (For instance, unnecessary cancer deaths will occur over the next five years.) But given that the average age of the people whose lives are supposedly being saved is 80+ and given the tens of thousands of people who will die unnecessarily as a result of cancer screening programmes being postponed, cancer care being delayed, strokes and cardiovascular disease being untreated, elective surgeries being postponed, out-patient care being cancelled and the long-term impact of job losses on mortality, it seems overwhelmingly likely that lockdowns cause a net loss of life. (The Department of Health and Social Care, Office for National Statistics, Government Actuary’s Department and Home Office have tried to calculate the collateral damage caused by the first lockdown and estimated it could be as high as 200,000 deaths. But they claim the lockdown was still worth it by contrasting the Government’s suppression strategy with an “unmitigated” scenario in which they claim that ~1.5 million lives would have been lost. That’s about 420,000 to COVID-19 and a further 1.1 million non-Covid patients dying who wouldn’t have been able to access health care in our overwhelmed NHS. You can check their sums here.) I’m just talking about the domestic impact of the lockdown here. Sceptics can easily show that the loss of life caused by all the lockdowns, collectively, is greater than the lives supposedly saved by pointing to the catastrophic impact of the lockdowns on the developing world. (See point 8 below.) Prof Sunetra Gupta estimates that 130 million people will starve to death as a result of the global economic recession triggered by the lockdowns. Zealots – even neutrals – argue that the pandemic would have caused the same economic damage in the absence of the lockdowns because people would have naturally adjusted their behaviour. But that’s implausible. The UK economy contracted by 20.4% in Q2, while Sweden’s only contracted by 8.6%.
  6. Lockdowns wreak havoc with people’s mental health and cause a rise in suicides. The Centre for Mental Health estimates that up to 10 million people in England (almost 20% of the population) will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the crisis. 1.5 million of those will be children and young people under 18. The UK Government hasn’t released any data about the number of suicides in 2020 yet, but anecdotal evidence from GPs suggests it’s increased significantly, particularly among children.
  7. Lockdowns cause catastrophic economic damage, destroying businesses and throwing millions out of work. Boris announced yesterday that the furlough programme would be extended for another month. But how do you compensate those people who won’t have a job to go back to? 750,000 people lost their jobs as a result of the first lockdown. How many more will lose their jobs as a result of the second? According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, which keeps tabs on public spending, the Government will have to borrow £372 billion for the current financial year (April 2020 to April 2021), compared to £55 billion in a normal year. And that’s before the cost of new lockdowns and support measures announced yesterday are factored in.
  8. The global economic recession caused by the lockdowns will likely reverse the progress that’s been made in the past 25 years in lifting billions of people out of poverty in the developing world and will cause huge loss of life. From “The Coming Post-Covid Global Order“ by Joel Kotkin and Hügo Krüger: “In its most recent analysis, the World Bank predicted that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, with developing countries overall seeing their incomes fall for the first time in 60 years. The United Nations predicts that the pandemic recession could plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 a day. The disruption will be particularly notable in the poorest countries. The UN has forecast that Africa could have 30 million more people in poverty. A study by the International Growth Centre spoke of “staggering” implications with 9.1% of the population descending into extreme poverty as savings are drained, with two-thirds of this due to lockdown. The loss of remittances has cost developing economies billions more income.”
  9. Lockdowns are fundamentally undemocratic in that they involve the arrogation of power by the executive branch of government at the expense of the legislative branch, rule by decree, postponing elections so politicians remain in power after their term of office has expired, suspending the right to protest, censoring the fourth estate (see Ofcom’s ‘coronavirus guidance’) and restricting travel. What guarantee do we have that things will return to normal when the pandemic is over? Will the powers-that-be ever declare victory in this war, given that it will mean a diminution of their power? As Milton Friedman said, nothing is as permanent as a temporary government programme.
  10. Lockdowns require police forces to enforce arbitrary, illogical rules in a draconian, heavy-handed way (e.g. fining students £10,000 for hosting parties). That undermines the rule of law and destroys policing by consent.

Stop Press: Matt Ridley in the Telegraph has come up with six reasons why a second lockdown is a mistake.

Carl Heneghan’s Plan B

Chris Whitty attends the funeral of the British economy

Prof Carl Heneghan and his colleague Dr Tom Jefferson have written a comment piece for today’s Mail on Sunday arguing for an alternative to a second national lockdown.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the situation we now face is as clear as it possibly could be – and that it is becoming more dangerous by the day. The virus, we are told, is out of control, that Britain is heading for 3,000 to 4,000 deaths a day by Christmas, and that our hospitals are on the edge of catastrophe.

Yet we believe the situation is not at all clear. There are only two things about which we can be certain: first, that lockdowns do not work in the long term. They kick the can down the road. The idea that a month of economic hardship will permit some sort of ‘reset’, allowing us a brighter future, is a myth. What, when it ends, do we think will happen? Meanwhile, ever-increasing restrictions will destroy lives and livelihoods.

The second certainty is this: that we need to find a way out of the mess that does no more damage than the virus itself. We presented just such a plan to the Prime Minister himself more than a month ago. It will be put before him once again this weekend. We urge him to pay attention and embrace it.

Our strategy would be to tackle the four key failings. We must address the problems in the Government’s mass testing programme; we must tackle the blight of confused and contradictory statistics; we must make real efforts to protect and isolate those who are vulnerable; and we must inform the public about the true and quantifiable costs of lockdown (as if they needed telling).

If we do these things, there is real hope that we can learn to live with the virus. That, after all, was supposed to be the plan.

Worth reading in full.

Teaching Unions Call For School Closures

The National Education Union’s joint General Secretary Citizen Smith Kevin Courtney

The largest of the teaching unions, the National Education Union, has demanded that schools close during the second national lockdown, as has the UCU, the largest of the academic trade unions. The Mail has more.

Teaching unions are already calling for schools to shut in defiance of Boris Johnson’s insistence on Saturday that they will remain open during a new national lockdown.

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary Kevin Courtney called for schools to be included in new lockdown restrictions and said it would be a ‘mistake’ to allow them to remain open.

As for higher education, Jo Grady, the general secretary of the Universities and College Union (UCU) said it would be ‘incomprehensible’ to allow in-person teaching to continue.

The teaching unions really are a disgrace. If these ‘teachers’ care so little for children’s education, shouldn’t they consider another profession?

The worrying thing is that Boris is so weak – so prone to U-turns – that he may well give in to these demands within days.

Covid and the Religious Impulse

A postgraduate researcher in political philosophy and the sociology of religion has got in touch, having written a fascinating essay on the religious aspects of this mad historical moment. We’re publishing it today. It’s in seven parts (although each part is quite short, so don’t let that put you off) and here is the part labelled “Heretics”. Should strike a chord with many readers of Lockdown Sceptics. It certainly struck a chord with me.

Honest open debate, indeed the fierce collision of differing opinions, is a wonderful thing. If the lockdown lobby were interested in developing the greatest possible sophisticated understanding, they would cherish the contribution of the sceptics. They would glory in the contradictions of their own arguments being pointed out to them. Following Hegelian dialectics, thesis would create antithesis would create synthesis. But, sadly, sophistication is not high on their agenda. A crushing uniformity of message seems to be more up their street. So to hell with Hegel (and Plato too); the arguments must be structured, not as an eternally progressing dialectic of knowledge, but rather as a flat, stale, unprofitable split between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Rather than being painstakingly ground out in a crucible of trial and error, a corpus of infallible knowledge that we have come to know as “The Science” has simply been revealed. As many sceptics have noticed, the sole custodians of this knowledge, the keepers of the arcana, are the members of the scientific priesthood. They zealously claim all rights of interpretation, mediation and exegesis. Wielding their esoteric degrees as armour no factual nuance can penetrate, they have no trouble shouting down the citizen-scientists. Ah but those fellow priests, sometime quite high priests, who spout heterodox opinion are a thornier proposition. But the sacerdotal rite of peer review comes to their rescue, so that even the most bumptious of novices can denounce the most learned and venerable. With the help of giant online corporations richer and more influential than the Knights Templar, any inconvenient book, article, blog and petition is placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Contrarians are no-platformed, but not before that platform (or scaffold) has witnessed the last of the heretics’ ashes blown away on the wind. Before long these orthodox priest-scientists will have changed, through their dogmatism and intolerance, the very nature of medical science. In the rise of the public health professor, at the expense of the traditional clinician, we are seeing the emerging dominance of a new Augustinianism. For just as Augustine of Hippo hardwired the concept of original sin into the burgeoning cult of Christianity, so the goons of public health have got everyone thinking in terms of mass infection rates, reproduction numbers, and cases. Those who resist, those who retain an attachment to individualised clinical need, are attacked and dismissed as adherents of a twenty-first century Pelagian heresy. As Christopher Hitchens was fond of saying, quoting Fulke Greville, we are all of us now “objects in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: On the subject of censorship, a reader reports that Anna Brees’s interview on Facebook with Dr. Mike Yeadon has been greyed-out, with users notified that it has been removed because the content is inaccurate.

A Post-Script From Rhodes

Following his “Postcard From Rhodes“, Guy de la Bédoyère has written about his flight home, which sounds like an episode of Little Britain directed by Mike Leigh.

As we headed back to the airport our phones started screeching alarms about the earthquake in the Aegean. We felt and heard nothing but it was a reminder there are more risks in life than just COVID-19.

On the Jet2 flight home I was fascinated by a family or families that involved at least three adult women and several children all seated together two rows in front of us. Their masks were fashion accessories. Not one of them seemed to be able to sit still for a minute. Up and down like yo-yos with at least two vast and obese prepubescent youngsters obsessed with wandering up and down the aisle while the rest of them, children and adults alike, climbed over each other and the seats ceaselessly, with the adults blatantly consuming large bottles of alcohol they had brought on board. By the time we reached London after four hours of this a couple of them were distinctly ‘tired and emotional’.

The hapless Jet2 staff, all aged about 21, were quite unable to bring themselves to do anything about these renegades, despite complaints from other passengers. One of the airline rules is that anyone aged over six is supposed to wear a mask, but that cut no ice.

Fuelled by booze, the women were becoming aggressive. Eventually a dark warning was given that the miscreants would be apprehended by the ‘authorities’ at Stansted. Needless to say this had all the impact of being threatened with the comfy cushion and a cup of tea. They took not the slightest notice. The masks remained only decorative embellishments to any part of their bodies apart from the relevant orifices. The cabin crew continued to do nothing and needless to say there wasn’t the slightest sign of the Covidstasi at Stansted either. Nothing could have exemplified better the futile impact of rules and regulations on people who won’t play ball and the utter meaninglessness of this Government’s authority when challenged.

This was my second arrival at Ghost Airport Stansted in just over a month. And like the last occasion (in September) I had my Government Passenger Locator Form and QR code at the ready. This time I didn’t even notice any signs about showing the form. In any case the form will be useless now. Jet2 had moved our seats in Rhodes meaning that as far as the world-beating UK Government team of PLR QR scrutinizers will be concerned we were sitting somewhere that in fact we weren’t (you have to give your seat number). I look forward to trying to convince them that the Biro alteration to our boarding passes made at Rhodes will prove we were in a different row and not next to the Covid storm in row 21 where we had been originally positioned. Or you know what? Maybe we won’t hear anything at all.

As for the Stansted passport staff, the two 12 year-olds on duty woke up momentarily to wave us casually towards the automatic booths before drifting back into catatonic states. And that was that. We picked up our bags from the laughably non-socially distanced carousel zone and headed out into the night, collected the car, and drove home to face the prospect of another futile lockdown as the lights go out all over Europe. Shall we see them once again in our lifetimes?

Round-Up

https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/1321533528870244352?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Mask Censorship: The Guardian has reprinted a mask survey in Which? magazine that ranked different masks according to how comfortable they are, how much crap they filter out, and so on. Worth reading for a laugh.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last week and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Googled it last week, 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 hit job 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 this 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 well over 600,000 signatures.

Stop Press: Prof Sunetra Gupta tells the Daily Mail about how she’s been intimidated and shamed for backing focused protection over lockdowns.

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 is JR-ing the Welsh Government over its insistence on closing churches during the “circuit breaker”. See its letter-before-action here and an article 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.

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=MRuS3dxKK9U&feature=emb_logo

The time has come, I think, to play this clip from Network, the 1976 satirical film about a TV network starring Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway. This is the famous scene in which Finch, a newsreader, encourages everyone in the television audience to throw open their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

The Corona Virus Pandemic, an Analysis: Part 3

Dr. Roger Hodkinson

Part Three – A Vivisection of the Idiocy

As the title implies, I am outraged, and my reasons will become abundantly clear as you read on.

The Corona Pandemonium was grotesquely mismanaged from its very inception, as I described in the previous two articles. It was driven initially by the computer ‘modelers’ and public health nutcases, otherwise known as left-wing sociopaths, still hell bent on destroying capitalism after their failed putsch with global warming.

In Part Three I intend to dismember limb-by-limb virtually every intervention that has been so forcibly foisted on us, using a combination of (largely) common sense and (some) medical knowledge. If my rant seems excessive to sensitive eyes, I urge you to hold your venom until the end, and then compare the utterly indefensible arbitrary measures with the untimely and unnecessary deaths for so many of our loved ones, and the totally unwarranted devastation of the global economy with hundreds of millions (that’s MILLIONS by the way) of people now out of work and facing a highly uncertain future. The manipulated scale of threat and the inestimable consequences of the so-called ‘control’ measures begs for a vivisection as the beast is still alive. So here it is.

But first, a quick update on the US stats – these are the only ones that matter given the huge significance of the upcoming election there for the future of democracy as we used to know it. (An additional warning to reader: yes, I am indeed a virulent unabashed Trumper.) At the time of writing, there have been close to 100,000 US deaths attributed to COVID-19 (more about that erroneous statistic later), which is virtually identical to the number of US deaths from the 57-58 Asian ‘Flu and the 68-69 Hong Kong ‘Flu (CDC stats). This degree of carnage has already happened erratically in the past, and it was accepted then as a risk of living – oh, but not now, with the Nanny State running rampant and increasingly controlling so many aspects of our lives that were previously off-limits for Government. The ‘me’ population demands that the ‘authorities’ provide iron clad protection from every conceivable risk of ordinary everyday life. Obviously a ridiculous expectation, but beware of what you ask for! You may actually get it, and this time you most certainly did – but with ‘knobs on’ as we say in Lancashire!

Protecting those that need no protection

What was actually needed? NOTHING! I repeat NOTHING, other than what we have previously done ourselves, without the force of Government edict. Allow me to explain why.

The stats speak volumes and their significance intentionally ignored: the vast majority of deaths have occurred in the over-70 age group where risk-defining morbidities abound. Extremely few deaths have happened in the healthy working population. In Alberta, as of the date of writing, only 15 deaths out of a total of 135 have occurred under 70, and the average age for deaths attributed to COVID-19 is 82. So, ipso facto, why pray tell do we need such draconian measures imposed on the under-70s, otherwise known as the working well? Did we really need to completely shut down our already fragile economy in a fatuous attempt at saving 15 lives? Obviously not. The illogic is screaming. Do we ban cars because of road traffic deaths? Do we ban hamburgers due to obesity and coronary artery disease? Get the point yet? But wait – there’s more.

The litany of totally arbitrary idiotic ‘interventions’ includes:

  • Travel bans
    Trump beats his chest and proudly proclaims his travel ban from China saved an enormous number of lives (just add zeros). There I part company with him. It sounds intuitive I know, but there’s no evidence for the claim. It works politically of course to blame China for the early spread, but I strongly suspect the genie was out of the bottle before any effective international containment at the source could have been remotely successful. The volume and speed of international air traffic is such that asymptomatic infected people and those with early symptomatic infection were already flying everywhere – it was unstoppable and got onto every lemon in every grocery store before you could say Jack Robinson.

    That’s not to be misinterpreted as my being an apologist for China – quite the contrary, I’m vigorously and unashamedly sinophobic. China was undoubtedly sloppy in its laboratory hygiene at their Level lV lab in Wuhan, and they certainly hid evidence of it from the international community (including their toadies at the WHO). But in my opinion those factors did not and could not have changed the consequences. So please stop blaming China – they were just doubly incompetent with lab hygiene and what they claim to be really good at: information suppression. Dumb indeed, but not intentionally malicious.
  • Hand washing
    Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Of course it is, but does it work? Unfortunately not. Just ask yourself: exactly how many more times a day are you washing your hands now than BC (the new epoch called Before Covid!)? Put it another way: if physicians don’t/won’t wash their hands regularly in hospitals, which is very well documented, what hope for the general population? It’s absurd to think it makes a scrap of difference, but it sure sounds good on the news. People will still pick their noses going through Wendy’s drive-thru’ as they always have.
  • Masks
    How the lemmings follow their leader!
    Better to describe where masks could be effective: emergency personnel and relatives visiting the vulnerable. That’s it. If you’re infected and staying at home, wearing a mask is useless – the virus is everywhere in the home and family cannot be protected. Everything else in my opinion is simply window dressing. Why should everyone wear a mask if most people are not symptomatic spreaders or post infection? It’s obviously idiotic to wear a mask outside or in your car alone – yet it’s happening everywhere and totally useless. That’s besides the fact that the cheap disposable paper masks don’t fit well enough to be effective at all. Pure cosmetics, but also stigmatising for those smart enough not to wear one!
    Not wearing masks has a major hidden advantage. If the majority of people are not infected, let’s encourage symptomatic people to freely spread the virus as widely as possible (except obviously to the vulnerable)! We actually want to encourage herd immunity until an effective vaccine is found. It may never be, as RNA viruses such as COVID-19 and Influenza are always mutating and ahead of the game. Infection of the working well is the very best vaccine there is. It costs nothing, builds herd immunity, and is immediately available – so logic dictates we should use it to the fullest extent possible. Sounds like heresy doesn’t it – but give me effective counter arguments!
    Dr Deborah Birx of Trump’s Corona task force has quoted “scientific evidence” that masks do trap infectious droplets as justification for everyone wearing them. Of course they do – we don’t need to be lectured with obviousisms. But so what? It’s irrelevant, intended to mislead, and is besides the point for reasons I’ve stated above.
  • Social distancing
    During the forgotten time called BC this phrase didn’t exist. Give a useless activity a fancy name and it is more likely to be innocently followed. It’s the lemmings again. It doesn’t and can’t protect you at all – most people coughin’ ‘n sneezin’ stay home. Those breathing normally in the line up at SafeWay never did aerosolise their saliva in your face. And the plastic screens don’t work either – you can’t hear the clerk speak through it with a mask on, so naturally you speak around its edge. Brilliant! But oh so woke.
  • School closures
    This one takes the cake.
    First off kids don’t get sick from COVID-19. Secondly any politician should be aware of the demographics of the workplace: so many working women have their kids in daycare or school, and it should have been so obvious that closing those centres would automatically mean that a large number of companies would be without key personnel effectively shutting them down. Only a minority of women so affected could work from home, which is yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences referred to in my second article.
    In any event we want to ENCOURAGE spread, not reduce it.
  • Business closures
    Did we shutter businesses last year with the flu, or ANY other year? Of course not. It was idiocy to kill commerce in order to avoid killing a handful of workers – that’s not callous, it’s just harsh reality. It’s that thing called LIFE – it happens. Sadly, thousands of people die unannounced every single year from the ordinary common or garden flu.
    In any case, why is it that some people could still buy marijuana but others not openly shop for what they considered essential items such as lawn seed for example? Again, Big Daddy (or the nice neighbourhood snitch) is watching, and you may be fined or even arrested for such heinous acts as wave surfing or attending a funeral. The micro-minded politicians in charge of all this should be ashamed of forcing the police to lay such ridiculous and indeed inflammatory charges. The consequences of business closures, unemployment, and lower tax revenues, not to mention suicides, will take years to recover from and totally eclipse any relatively minor public health benefit.
  • Self-Isolation (another word never heard BC)
    Didn’t we all do that every year with the ordinary flu? We didn’t have to be told to obey or else! We just did it, not wanting to infect our co-workers. We had chicken noodle soup with a sprinkling of Tylenol, went to bed and sweated it out, didn’t we? Of course we infected our entire family in the process, but that was good for herd immunity. So there’s no need to force us to do what we always did anyway, just as our parents did and theirs before them. Funny isn’t it that the only thing that’s at all sensible is old hat and decidedly un-woke?
  • Contact Tracing
    This is where it starts to get distinctly Orwellian.
    There are actually plans afoot to force citizens to carry smart phones, or implanted chips, so that their every movement can be tracked for more efficient contact tracing. It’s already happening in Taiwan, but won’t fly in North America as it would rightfully be seen as a gross intrusion into our personal liberty. Civil disobedience would rapidly follow if any jurisdiction was foolish enough to try it on. Yet 300,000 ‘contact tracers’ (all in brown shirts) are already being proposed for the USA by the CDC. Remember the title of this piece: A Vivisection of Idiocy! I wasn’t kidding.

    At this point it’s so important to remind the reader that we’re dealing with just another flu, albeit with a Chinese handle that makes it sound scary. We are NOT dealing with Ebola or HIV. Our leaders need to get a grip – they are the servants of the people, not heading a fascist regime.

Not surprisingly, this draconian iPhone based contact tracing concept is being actively promoted by the likes of sino-friendly Bill Gates (wonder why!).

As I said: NOTHING works for the working well. So why do it?

For a more precise expression of indignation: 135 deaths in Alberta represents a staggering 0.003% of the entire population of 4.41million! And the 15 deaths under the age of 70 represent 0.0003%, with some of those likely representing immuno-compromised people or otherwise vulnerable and in need of extra protection. And for that degree of risk we shut down an entire economy? Go figure.

Everybody was forced to drink the Jones Town KoolAid, and suffer we did. Unthinking obedience on a slippery slope backwards in time to 1984 BC. Nothing ‘flattened the curve’ – the mortality curves all have identical bell shapes in every country, with an eight-week course, including Sweden that did virtually nothing. ‘Grattis Sverige’ for boldly highlighting everyone else’s idiocy.

Protecting those that need protection

This is where that uncommon virtue called common sense kicks in.

If it’s the old and immuno-compromised that the virus picks off, then obviously that is where intense focus should have occurred. But, bizarrely, it didn’t. In fact, the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, intentionally sent back to nursing homes elderly patients known to be COVID-19 positive where they would kill the other inhabitants! All to “free up’’ hospital beds that were going unused. Cruel and unusual punishment indeed from a supposedly socialist Mayor. Class action suits are already lining up.

Most of the vulnerable over 80 years of age are concentrated in nursing homes – facilities that are physically well defined and into which access can be efficiently controlled. So here is my list of ‘Must Dos’ next time around:

  • Access to nursing homes by everybody and everything should be vigorously controlled

  • All staff should take an accurate blood test for the virus every evening, after a shift, to demonstrate a negative result before being allowed to enter the next day. The test should have a next morning result, with testing performed overnight in a local laboratory without transportation needs.
    The fast point-of-care tests (similar to pregnancy tests) should not be used as they have an approximately 5% false negative rate which undermines the entire intent of really tight protection. Just ONE COVID-19 positive nurse is quite sufficient to kill many of the occupants.

  • Many nursing home staff are from third world countries, and many of them do not understand English well enough to read and understand infection control instructions, let alone the underlying principles. Serious ongoing education of all the nursing home staff on infection control would be vital.

  • All objects and food supplies entering would need to have surface decontamination

    All the occupants would be required to take a daily prophylactic once one has been identified. Contenders known to have very low risk of toxicity include:
    • Hydroxychloroquine
    • Vitamin D – use of this immune-enhancer has been widely overlooked. Most nursing home occupants are severely deficient in this important vitamin

  • All occupants would be encouraged to get vaccinated if a safe effective vaccine becomes available

  • At the very first sign of potential COVID-19 infection the patient would be transferred to a hospital with trained triage staff

These measures imply very restricted contact with loved ones which is highly undesirable, especially for a likely two-to-three-month period. Given modern communication technology, there should be elegant ways to overcome this with readily accessed Skype/Facetime video between the family members. Family could even visit inside the nursing home if they could show a negative COVID-19 test from the day before, performed by an accurate method.

So in summary, my position is this: on a mass population basis, it is supremely idiotic to try and protect those who are not going to die, with success totally unachievable. What is immensely logical is to implement effective quarantine measures for the vulnerable in nursing homes. It is also a heck of a lot less expensive and does not result in economic shutdown with its many unintended consequences. Doesn’t all that make a lot of sense? I mean common sense!

The ‘re-opening nonsense (another word from BC)

Businesses were only forced to close because of the mass hysteria generated by hugely exaggerated statistical predictions from clairvoyants without a shred of common sense, ably abetted by Public ‘Health’ Officers who dutifully fell in line. Politicians are now backed into a corner of their own making, and cannot allow everything to open up immediately as it would undercut the rationale for their massive overreaction in the first place, and put the idiocy of it all in plain sight.

ALL businesses, schools, daycares, etc. should re-open TOMORROW with NO restrictions whatsoever! There is no evidence that there will be a menacing ‘second wave’ – again fear mongering by fortune tellers who have been wrong so many times already.

Not to ‘Open’ immediately is preposterous, and makes an already bad situation considerably worse. Businesses are going bankrupt by the thousands as I write this, taking with them the jobs and taxes generated by their employees. Suicides in California apparently already exceed so-called COVID-19 deaths.

The ‘New Normal’ idiocy

Give me a break.

It’s just another flu with a funny name. We should all get back to the old BC ‘normal’ immediately, but also better prepare for the next ‘Big One’ with enhanced stockpiles of protective gear for front-line workers and substantially better testing accuracy and availability.

This whole idiotic experience, the greatest mass hysteria since the 17th century Dutch tulip bubble, has resulted however in additional realisations that should be very positive:

  • The obvious brewing confrontation with China that previous US administrations chose to ignore is now front and centre US politics. It all started with the belated realisation of how dependent we are on pharmaceuticals made in China, but will expand dramatically to the repatriation of much US manufacturing that was outsourced to China. It could be an example of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ as previously described.
  • The unavoidable start of a new Cold War with China has been accelerated before China planned it. We should take advantage of this new window of opportunity to defeat China economically, before its growing economic strength gives it the upper hand and the West suffers the predictable consequences.
    We defeated the Nazis, Japan, Russia and Islamo-terrorism – and we can bring China, our emerging new foe, to its knees too. But timing is everything – and the window is NOW.
  • Well-founded distrust of so-called experts in ‘Modelling’ and Public Health, and more reliance on good old Common Sense.
  • The mortality stats themselves are totally suspect. They have been artificially inflated/deflated in different countries for different reasons – such as dying ‘with’ COVID-19, instead of ‘due to’ COVID-19. And then there was the financial incentive for US hospitals to code any death as due to COVID-19 because they were paid more! There needs to be much more rigour in how mortality stats are reported.
  • No protection of any kind is needed for the working well. Attempting to do so will fail and dramatically reduce herd immunity. Actually encouraging transmission to enhance herd immunity is the best vaccine we have to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. Protecting the vulnerable should have been the entire focus. The global approach was exactly the opposite of what was obviously needed.

Finally, one more time: Knock, Knock – it’s just another bad flu! Remember that next time they threaten to shut down our economy for a 0.0003% risk of dying for the working well!

That risk translates into ONE in 300,000! Calling it all idiocy is understated; it’s actually lunacy.

This article was originally written for the University of Regina School of Public Policy on May 24th. The author was told it would be published if he toned it down. He refused.

The Emerging Totalitarian Dystopia: An Interview With Professor Mattias Desmet

by Patrick Dewals

Cartoon by Peter Poplaski

Few phenomena have had a profound impact on a global level as quickly as the current corona outbreak. In no time, human life has been completely reorganised. I asked Mattias Desmet, Psychotherapist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University, how this is possible, what the consequences are, and what we can expect in the future.

Almost a year after the start of the corona crisis, how is the mental health of the population?

For the time being, there are few figures that show the evolution of possible indicators such as the intake of antidepressants and anxiolytics or the number of suicides. But it is especially important to place mental well-being in the corona crisis in its historical continuity. Mental health had been declining for decades. There has long been a steady increase in the number of depression and anxiety problems and the number of suicides. And in recent years there has been an enormous growth in absenteeism due to psychological suffering and burnouts. The year before the corona outbreak, you could feel this malaise growing exponentially. This gave the impression that society was heading for a tipping point where a psychological ‘reorganization’ of the social system was imperative. This is happening with corona. Initially, we noticed people with little knowledge of the virus conjure up terrible fears, and a real social panic reaction became manifested. This happens especially if there is already a strong latent fear in a person or population.

The psychological dimensions of the current corona crisis are seriously underestimated. A crisis acts as a trauma that takes away an individual’s historical sense. The trauma is seen as an isolated event in itself, when in fact it is part of a continuous process. For example, we easily overlook the fact that a significant portion of the population was strangely relieved during the initial lockdown, feeling liberated from stress and anxiety. I regularly heard people say: “Yes these measures are heavy-handed, but at least I can relax a bit.” Because the grind of daily life stopped, a calm settled over society. The lockdown often freed people from a psychological rut. This created unconscious support for the lockdown. If the population had not already been exhausted by their life, and especially their jobs, there would never have been support for the lockdown. At least not as a response to a pandemic that is not too bad compared to the major pandemics of the past. You noticed something similar when the first lockdown came to an end. You then regularly heard statements such as “We are not going to start living again like we used to, get stuck in traffic again” and so on. People did not want to go back to the pre-corona normal. If we do not take into account the population’s dissatisfaction with its existence, we will not understand this crisis and we will not be able to resolve it. By the way, I now have the impression that the new normal has become a rut again, and I would not be surprised if mental health really starts to deteriorate in the near future. Perhaps especially if it turns out that the vaccine does not provide the magical solution that is expected from it.

Desperate cries of young people regularly appear in the media. How seriously do you take them?

Well, you should know that the lockdowns and the associated measures are completely different for young people than for adults. Unlike a middle-aged adult, the time span of a year for a young person means a period in which one undergoes enormous psychological development, much of which takes place in dialogue with peers. Today’s young people are living through this period in isolation, and it may well be that it will have negative consequences for the majority of them. But everything is complex where young people are concerned. For example, those who previously experienced acute social anxiety or social isolation may now feel better because they are no longer the misfits. But in general, the youth is undoubtedly the hardest hit by this corona crisis.

What about anxiety in the adults?

In adults there is also fear, but the object of the fear differs. Some are primarily afraid of the virus itself. There are people living in my street who hardly dare to leave their homes. Others fear the economic consequences of the measures. And still others fear the social changes brought about by the corona measures. They fear the emergence of a totalitarian society. Like me (laughs).

Are the mortality and morbidity rates associated with the coronavirus commensurate with the fearful responses?

Well, sickness and suffering are always bad, but the deleterious effects of the government response are disproportionate to the health risk of the virus. Professionally, I am involved in two research projects on corona. As a result, I have been working fairly intensively with the data. Clearly, the virus mortality rate is quite low. The numbers that the media are announcing are based on, let‘s say, an overly enthusiastic count. Regardless of any pre-existing medical problems, just about every elderly person who died was added to the list of corona deaths. I personally only know one person who was registered as a corona death. He was a terminal cancer patient who died with rather than from corona. Adding these sorts of deaths to corona deaths increases the numbers and increases anxiety in the population.

Several emergency doctors called me during the second wave. Some told me that their ward was absolutely not overrun with corona patients. Others told me that more than half of the patients in the ICU did not have corona or showed such mild symptoms that they would have been sent home to recover, were they diagnosed with influenza. But given the prevailing panic, this turned out to be impossible. Unfortunately, these doctors wished to remain anonymous, so their message did not reach the media and public opinion. Some of them later also told their story to a journalist from the VRT news network, but unfortunately nothing has come of this to date. And I want to mention that there were other doctors who interpreted the apparent facts in a completely different fashion than portrayed in the conventional narrative.

We are struck by the disappearance of the ability to criticise the consensus and the corona measures, even within the academic world where scientific ideals require critical thinking. How do you explain this?

Make no mistake: at university and in the medical world there are many people who are amazed by what is going on. I have quite a few friends in the medical field who don‘t accept the conventional narrative. They say “open your eyes, can‘t you see this virus isn’t the plague?” But all too often they don‘t take the step to say this publicly. Moreover, for each critical voice, thirty others do go along with the story, even if this means that they have to abandon their critical scientific standards.

Is this a sign of cowardice?

In some cases it is. In fact you can distinguish three groups everywhere. The first group does not believe the story and says so publicly. The second group does not believe in the story either, but publicly goes along with it anyway, because, given the social pressure, they dare not do otherwise. And the third group really believes in the dominant narrative and has a real fear of the virus. The latter group is certainly also found at the universities.

It is striking how scientific studies, also in this corona crisis, reveal very diverse results. Based on these results, scientists can defend almost diametrically opposed theories as the only truth. How is this possible?

The research on corona is indeed brimming with contradictions. For example, regarding the effectiveness of face masks or hydroxychloroquine, the success of the Swedish approach, or the effectiveness of the PCR test. Even more curiously, the studies contain a huge number of improbable errors that a normally sane person would not be expected to make. This is still the case in terms of establishing the absolute number of infections, while a schoolchild knows that this means nothing as long as the number of infections detected is not compared with the number of tests taken. Obviously, the more tests you carry out, the more likely your infection rate will increase. Is this so difficult? In addition, it should be kept in mind that the PCR test can yield a large number of false positives, because the technique is widely misused for diagnosis. Together, this means that the inaccuracy of the figures distributed daily by the media is so great that some people understandably suspect a conspiracy, albeit apocryphally, in my opinion.

Again, this phenomenon is better placed in an historical perspective, because the problematic quality of scientific research is not a new issue. In 2005 the so-called “replication crisis” erupted in the sciences. Several committees set up to investigate scientific fraud cases found that scientific research is teeming with errors. Often the stated conclusions are of very dubious value. In the wake of the crisis, several papers appeared with titles that leave little to the imagination. In 2005, John Ioannidis, Professor of Medical Statistics at Stanford, published Why most published research findings are false. In 2016, a different research group wrote about the same topic, in Reproducibility: a Tragedy of Errors published in the medical journal Nature. These are just two examples of the very extensive literature describing this problem. I myself am well aware of the shaky scientific foundation of many research results. In addition to my master’s degree in clinical psychology, I earned a master’s in statistics. My doctorate dealt with measurement problems in the field of psychology.

How was the criticism received within the scientific world?

Initially it led to a shock wave, after which an attempt was made to resolve the crisis by demanding more transparency and objectivity. But I don‘t think this solved much. Rather, the cause of the problem lies in a specific kind of science that emerged during the Enlightenment. This science is based on an absolute belief in objectivity. According to the adepts of this view, the world is almost totally objectifiable, measurable, predictable and verifiable. But science itself has shown that this idea is untenable. There are limits to objectivity and, depending on the scientific domain, one is highly likely to encounter these limits. Physics and chemistry are still relatively suitable for measuring. But this is much less successful in other research areas such as economics, biomedical science, or psychology, where an investigator is more likely to discover that a researcher’s subjectivity has had a direct influence on his or her observations. And it is precisely this subjective core that scientists have sought to eliminate from scientific debate. Paradoxically – but not surprisingly – this nucleus flourishes in its exile, leading to the complete opposite of the hoped-for result. Namely, a radical lack of objectivity and a proliferation of subjectivity. This problem has persisted even after the replication crisis, it was not resolved in spite of the efforts of critics. As a result, now, 15 years later, in the throes of the corona crisis, we continue to face exactly the same problems.

Are current politicians basing the corona measures on incorrectly established scientific principals?

I think so. Here, too, we see a kind of naive belief in objectivity that turns into its opposite: a serious lack of objectivity with masses of errors and carelessness. Moreover, there is a sinister connection between the emergence of this kind of absolutist science and the process of manipulation and totalitarianisation of society. In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, the German-American political thinker Hannah Arendt brilliantly describes how this process took place in Nazi Germany, among other places. For example, nascent totalitarian regimes typically fall back on a ‘scientific’ discourse. They show a great preference for figures and statistics, which quickly degenerate into pure propaganda, characterised by a radical “disregard for the facts”. For example, Nazism based its ideology on the superiority of the Aryan race. A whole series of so-called scientific data substantiated their theory. Today we know that this theory had no scientific validity, but scientists at the time used the media to defend the regime’s positions. Hannah Arendt describes how these scientists proclaimed questionable scientific credentials, and she uses the word “charlatans” to emphasize this. She also describes how the emergence of this kind of science and its industrial applications was accompanied by an inevitable social change. Classes disappeared and normal social ties deteriorated, with much indefinable fear, anxiety, frustration, and lack of meaning. It is under such circumstances that the masses develop very specific psychological qualities. All fears that haunt society become linked to one ‘object’ – for example, the Jews – so that the masses enter into a kind of energetic struggle with this object. And onto that process of social conditioning of the masses, a completely new political and constitutional organisation subsequently grafts itself: the totalitarian state.

Today, one perceives a similar phenomenon. There is widespread psychological suffering, lack of meaning, and diminished social ties in society. Then a story comes along that points to a fear object, the virus, after which the population strongly links its fear and discomfort to this dreaded object. Meanwhile, there is a constant call in all media to collectively fight the murderous enemy. The scientists who bring the story to the population are rewarded with tremendous social power in return. Their psychological power is so great that, at their suggestion, the whole of society abruptly renounces a host of social customs and reorganises itself in ways that no one at the beginning of 2020 thought possible.

What do you think will happen now?

The current corona policy temporarily restores some social solidarity and meaning to society. Working together against the virus creates a kind of intoxication, resulting in an enormous narrowing of attention, so that other matters, such as the concern for collateral damage, vanish into the background. However, the United Nations and several scientists warned from the outset that the global collateral damage could generate far more deaths than the virus, for instance from hunger and delayed treatment.

Social conditioning of the masses has another curious effect: it causes individuals to psychologically put aside selfish and individual motives. In this way, one can tolerate a Government that takes away some personal pleasures. To give just one example: catering establishments where people worked their entire lives can be closed without much protest. Or also: the population is deprived of performances, festivals and other cultural pleasures. Totalitarian leaders intuitively understand that tormenting the population in a perverse way reinforces the social conditioning even more. I can‘t fully explain that now, but the process of social conditioning is intrinsically self-destructive. A population affected by this process is capable of enormous atrocities towards others, but also towards itself. It has absolutely no hesitation about sacrificing itself. This explains why, unlike simple dictatorships, a totalitarian state cannot survive. It eventually devours itself completely, as it were. But the process usually takes many human lives.

Do you recognise totalitarian traits in the current crisis and the government response to it?

Definitely. When one steps away from the virus story, one discovers a totalitarian process par excellence. For example, according to Arendt, a pre-totalitarian state cuts through all social ties of the population. Simple dictatorships do that at the political level – they ensure that the opposition cannot unite – but totalitarian states also do this among the population, in the private sphere. Think of the children who – often unintentionally – reported their parents to the government in the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Totalitarianism is so focused on total control that it automatically creates suspicion among the population, causing people to spy on and denounce each other. People no longer dare to speak out against the majority and are less able to organise themselves due to the restrictions. It is not difficult to recognise such phenomena in today’s situation, in addition to many other features of emerging totalitarianism.

What is it that this totalitarian state ultimately wants to achieve?

At first, it doesn‘t want anything. Its emergence is an automatic process coupled on the one hand with great anxiety on the part of the population and, on the other hand, a naive scientific thinking that considers total knowledge possible. Today there are those who believe that society should no longer be based on political narratives but on scientific facts and figures, thus rolling out the red carpet for rule by technocracy. Their ideal image is what the Dutch philosopher Ad Verbrugge calls “intensive human husbandry”. Within a biological-reductionist, virological ideology, continuous biometric monitoring is indicated and people are subjected to continuous preventive medical interventions, such as vaccination campaigns. All this to supposedly optimise public health. And a whole range of medical hygiene measures must be implemented; avoiding touch, wearing face masks, continuously disinfecting hands, vaccination, etc. For the supporters of this ideology, one can never do enough to achieve the ideal of the greatest possible ‘health’. A newspaper article appeared in which one could read that the population ought to be made even more afraid. Only then would they stick to the measures recommended by the virologists. In their view, stirring up fear will work to produce good. But when drawing up all these draconian measures, the policymakers forget that people cannot be healthy, either physically or mentally, without sufficient freedom, privacy and the right to self-determination, values that this technocratic totalitarian view totally ignores. Although the Government aspires to enormous health improvement for its society, its actions will ruin the health of society. By the way, this is a basic characteristic of totalitarian thinking according to Hannah Arendt: it ends in the exact opposite of what it originally pursued.

Today, the virus creates the necessary fear on which totalitarianism rests. Will finding a vaccine, and the subsequent vaccination campaign, allay this fear and end this totalitarian flare-up?

A vaccine will not resolve the current impasse. For in truth, this crisis is not a health crisis, it is a profound social and even cultural crisis. By the way, the Government has already announced that the measures will not just disappear after the vaccination. A recent article even stated that it is striking that the countries that are already very advanced with the vaccination campaign – such as Israel and Great Britain – are strangely enough still seriously tightening the measures. Rather, I foresee this scenario: despite all the promising studies, the vaccine will not bring about a solution. And the blindness that social conditioning and totalitarianisation entails will blame those who do not go along with the story and/or refuse to be vaccinated. They will serve as scapegoats. There will be an attempt to try to silence them. And if that succeeds, the dreaded tipping point in the process of totalitarianisation will come: only after it has completely eliminated the opposition will the totalitarian state show its most aggressive form. It then becomes – to use Hannah Arendt‘s words – a monster eating his own children. In other words, the worst is perhaps yet to come.

What are you thinking about these days?

Totalitarian systems generally all have the same tendencies to methodically isolate and that, in order to guarantee the health of the population, the ‘sick’ portions of the population will be further isolated and locked up in camps. That idea was actually suggested several times during the corona crisis, but dismissed as “not feasible” due to social resistance. But will that resistance persist if the fear continues to increase? You may suspect me of being overly paranoid, but who would have thought in early 2020 that our society would look like this today? The process of totalitarianisation is based on the hypnotic effect of a story and it can only be broken by another story. Hence, I hope more people will question the supposed danger of the virus and the necessity of current corona measures, and dare to speak publicly about this.

Why is this fear response not occurring with the climate crisis?

The climate crisis may not be suitable as a fear object. It may be too abstract and we cannot associate it with the instant death of a loved one or ourselves. And as an object of fear, it is also less directly related to our medical-biological view of man. Hence, a virus is a privileged object of fear.

What does the current crisis tell us about our relationship with death?

The dominant science perceives the world as a mechanistic interaction of atoms and other elemental particles that collide randomly and produce all kinds of phenomena, including humans. This science makes us desperate and powerless in the face of death. At the same time, life is experienced as a totally meaningless and mechanistic given, but we cling to it as if it is all we have, and we want to eliminate any behaviour that might risk the loss of it. And that is impossible. Paradoxically, radically trying to avoid risks, for example through corona measures, creates the greatest risk of all. Just look at the colossal collateral damage that is being caused.

You perceive the current social evolution as going in a negative direction. How do you see the future?

I am convinced that something beautiful will come out of all this. Materialistic science starts from the idea that the world consists of material particles. Yet precisely this science reveals that matter is a form of consciousness, that there is no certainty, and that the human mind fails to grasp the world. For example, the Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr argued that the elementary particles and atoms behave in a radically irrational and illogical way. According to him, they were better understood by using poetry than by using logic.

We will experience something similar on a political level. In the near future, we will perhaps historically be making the most far-reaching attempt to control everything in a technological, rational way. Ultimately, this system will prove itself to not work and show that we need a completely different society and policy. The new system will rely more on respect for what is ultimately elusive to the human mind and on respect for the art and intuition that were central to the religions.

Are we in a paradigm shift today?

Doubtless. This crisis heralds the end of a cultural historical paradigm. Part of the transition has already been made in the sciences. The geniuses who laid the foundations of modern physics, complex and dynamic systems theory, chaos theory and non-Euclidean geometry already understood that there is not one but many different logics, that there is something intrinsically subjective in everything, and that people live in direct resonance with the world around them and all the complexities of nature. Moreover, Man is a being who is dependent on his fellow man in his energetic existence. The physicists have known this for some time, now for the rest of us! We are now witnessing the latest upsurge of the old culture based on control and logical understanding that will demonstrate at breakneck speed what utter failure it brings and its inability to truly organise a society in a decent and humane way.

The original article in Flemish containing links to supporting documents is available at the blog site here.

The interviewer and blogger, Patrick Dewals, is a political philosopher and author.

Thanks to a group of Lockdown Sceptics readers for translating this for us.

Latest News

Whistleblower: 37% of NHS Staff Are Absent “Due to COVID-19” In Yorkshire and North-East

An NHS whistleblower has leaked a slide deck dated November 2nd. In the words of the leaker, it’s a “pretty standard high level (NHS England) briefing, looking at operational areas and the general picture”. It’s full of interesting data that I’ll be working through over the next couple of days, but the thing which jumped out after a brief perusal was the figure for “regional Covid-related staff absences” in Yorkshire and the North-East – a whopping 37%! As the whistleblower says, “This has to be due to false positives, no way can over 1/3 of staff all have Covid.” (The figure is even higher in the Midlands – 40%.)

This confirms my analysis, published last Wednesday, of why the ‘Quad’ took the decision to place England under a second lockdown, in spite of knowing that Covid hospital admissions were unlikely to exceed those during the peak of the first wave, when no NHS trust anywhere in the country was overwhelmed. As I said then, they were just worried about certain hotspots – specifically, those in cities in Yorkshire and the North-East. And the reason for their anxiety was because NHS England’s critical care capacity in those areas is now lower than it was in March/April. Why? Because hospital trusts have been ordered to admit non-Covid patients (unlike during the first wave) and because intensive care units are under-staffed.

Another difficulty is that there are fewer specialist intensive care nurses than there were in March/April, partly because some of them have asked to be reassigned to other departments after the stress of the first wave and partly because hospitals are obsessively testing all their staff using the unreliable PCR kit because they’re terrified of “healthcare-associated infections” (nosocomial transmission of the virus). The upshot is there are fewer intensive care nurses and some of those that are still around have been sent home and told to self-isolate for 10 days. Another issue is that those with young children who’ve been sent home from school and told to self-isolate – because a child in their bubble has tested positive – are having to stay at home to care for their kids. And yet another issue is that some schools and NHS trusts are telling nurses to self-isolate for 14 days if one of their children has been identified as a “contact” of an infected person, even though that’s not something NHS Test and Trace are insisting upon.

If 37% of staff in Yorkshire and the North-East were absent for Covid-related reasons on November 2nd, that was clearly what was fuelling anxiety, not the ‘second wave’ baloney that Witless and Unbalanced obediently trotted out. (A reader made the same point: the NHS has a manpower problem.)

And yesterday brought further confirmation that staff absence is the issue, not a fear of rising hospital admissions, with the news that NHS England has relaxed the one-to-one rule, saying nurses can now look after two patients at the same time. Here’s the tell-tale paragraph in the Telegraph:

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals across Grimsby and Scunthorpe, said it was struggling with staff shortages after dozens of nurses and doctors were ordered to self-isolate.

So there you have it. The reason we’ve gone into lockdown is because of staff shortages within some NHS trusts thanks, in part, to the false positive rate of the PCR test and the over-zealous enforcement of quarantining for those who’ve come into contact with “positive” cases.

Stop Press: On the Spectator‘s Coffee House Shots podcast on Saturday it was disclosed that that the NHS asked the Government for extra resources over the summer to build capacity for the so-called second wave. Apparently, it refused on the grounds that its “world beating” Test and Trace system would ensure that extra capacity wouldn’t be needed.

Top Doctor Says NHS In Contempt of Parliament

Separated at birth: the Health Secretary and Oberleutnant Hubert Gruber in ‘Allo ‘Allo!

What follows is a guest post from my doctor friend who has cast his eye over the latest weekly data released by NHS England. He believes the NHS was wrong to withhold crucial data from MPs ahead of the vote on Lockdown 2.0, creating the impression that the service was on the brink of being overwhelmed when Sir Simon Stephens and others knew perfectly well that it wasn’t.

On November 4th, the British Parliament voted to enforce a lockdown of the population in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 admissions.

In support of the Government, Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance provided graphs of dubious provenance suggesting catastrophic consequences if lockdown was not re-introduced. These projections subsequently turned out to be grossly inaccurate.

Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England then presented figures suggesting that the NHS was in imminent danger of collapse from Covid pressures in the coming weeks. He stated that the number of Covid patients in some hospitals was greater than the number in the spring and that in total there were enough Covid patients in England to fill 22 hospitals.

Conservative MPs complained that the information they had been provided with was insufficiently detailed to allow them to make an informed decision on the matter. The motion was duly carried.

On November 5th, the NHS released weekly Covid statistics in respect of inpatients and patients in mechanical ventilation beds (only 30% of patients in these beds are actually being mechanically ventilated).

Analysis of these figures throws up some interesting findings.

Firstly, the 850 bed Liverpool University Hospital – regarded as the epicentre of the outbreak in the North West of England.

Here is a graph of Covid patients in Liverpool.

As you can see from this graph, the total number of Covid patients has been flat or declining for the last 10 days. The proportion of patients in ICU as a percentage of the total has also declined from about 17% at the start of October to 5% currently. This could mean that Liverpool has a low threshold for admitting patients from the community with Covid symptoms. Or that a substantial proportion of the ‘Covid’ inpatients in Liverpool may have positive covid tests but no symptoms of the disease.

Either way, the number of Covid patients in the ICU at Liverpool’s main hospital has fallen from 29 on Oct 22nd to 19 on November 3rd. This does not look like a hospital in imminent danger of collapse.

Comparing the Liverpool figures to the wider England figures shows a similar pattern – there is a clear measurement artefact on September 11th, but the percentage of Covid hospital patients admitted to ICU has fallen from 15% in the spring to 7% now, and the proportion of patients needing mechanical ventilation has fallen from 70% to under 30% (ICNARC reports). This may mean either that the severity of the disease is lower than in the spring, or the number of Covid patients in hospitals is being over-estimated by including asymptomatics. Whichever way one looks at it, the burden on the healthcare system is a lot lower than in the spring.

Graph 3 is a graph of the daily Covid admissions in hospitals across England expressed as a three day moving average. Seems to have flatlined for the last week. Unfortunately, Sir Simon forgot to inform the public with respect to the daily discharge figures of Covid patients, so I can’t provide a graph of how discharges compare with admissions. Anecdotally I am informed that most patients spend three to four days in hospital and are then discharged, so in many hospitals the influx of symptomatic Covid patients is balanced by discharges.

The balance between Covid admissions and discharges has troubled me for some time. Looking at the granular level data released in relation to admissions from the community and diagnoses in hospital seven days after admission, it appears that there is a very significant percentage of in-hospital infection with Covid. The NHS will not voluntarily release information about the number of patients who go into hospital without Covid but contract it having been admitted for another medical matter. The Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has already identified this problem and the Daily Mail has submitted Freedom of Information requests to force individual NHS Trusts to divulge this information from the spring wave of COVID-19.

The way information is released by the NHS is difficult to interpret. Graph 4 is derived from calculating the number of patients with a positive Covid test within the last 24 hrs and subtracting from that the number of patients with a positive Covid test within seven days of admission. The difference between those two figures is probably the number of patients who tested positive for Covid from a test conducted while in hospital. It is possible that this graph may overestimate the number of in-hospital infections, but the NHS does (or should) know this figure accurately – if they don’t release the information, they can’t complain when third parties try to make reasonable estimates from the data that they do provide. By my rough calculation this appears to be running at close to 20% across English NHS hospitals. Something else Sir Simon forgot to mention.

It is disturbing that the Daily Mail has had to resort to statutory instruments such as FOI requests to extract information on hospital-acquired infections that should be publicly available. In relation to a number of highlighted cases of deaths, hospital spokespeople were quick to make the assertion that “a death with Covid does not necessarily mean a death because of Covid”. That’s a true statement, but it appears that the NHS counts all patients carrying Covid as positive cases when it suits them, and excludes the same patients from the numbers when it doesn’t.

The comment from Dr David Nicoll, a leading neurologist from Birmingham, that the NHS “acts like North Korea by obfuscating figures” is in my experience entirely accurate. Some weeks ago I wrote an article advising readers of Lockdown Sceptics to be on the look-out for NHS revision of statistics by altering counting methods, burying embarrassing information in the middle of dense spreadsheets and concealing bad news. I think the issue of hospital acquired infection is a good example.

The data released on November 5th do not support the assertion of a health service close to collapse. Further, this information was clearly available before the vote on November 4th and should have been given to MPs before the division. Data from the ONS death statistics up to October 16th suggest that there has been a slight increase in the number of deaths compared to the five-year average for this time of year. However, the deaths in hospital from all respiratory causes including COVID-19 are lower than expected for this time of year – the excess deaths are occurring in people’s homes, not hospitals. It’s extremely unlikely these excess deaths are due to COVID-19 and much more likely they are due to heart disease.

Taken together, I find this situation troubling.

Professors Whitty and Vallance present information to the public, now accepted as grossly flawed and exaggerated, in support of a Government motion to severely restrict civil liberties.

The head of the NHS presents a one-sided, unchallenged narrative of imminent healthcare collapse, without mentioning that admissions across the UK appear to be levelling off, or that the percentage of patients needing critical care has dropped substantially, or acknowledging the percentage of hospital-acquired Covid infections. Information held by the NHS executive which should be in the public domain is concealed and suppressed, even from elected parliamentary representatives before a crucial national vote.

There has been no presentation to the public of the known healthcare costs of lockdown. Data on this issue will be published in the open literature in the next few weeks – too late to avert a damaging second lockdown.

Could someone explain to me why this situation does not constitute contempt of Parliament?

Dissent is suppressed by ridicule, exclusion or intimidation. Valid alternative interpretations of the data are ignored. Inconvenient metrics in relation to hospital-acquired infections or death rates are concealed. It’s not clear to me what path this Government is following, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a scientific one.

Daily Covid Cases Drop by 11.5% compared to last Sunday

Yesterday’s 20,572 coronavirus cases mark a significant drop of 2,682 compared to last Sunday’s total of 23,254. This cannot be due to Lockdown 2.0, which was only imposed on Thursday, and suggests cases were falling before the latest restrictions were imposed, just as they were before Lockdown 1.0 was imposed on March 23rd. The MailOnline has more.

Today’s all-settings death toll marks a drop of 3.7% on the 162 deaths reported this time last week.

It is also fewer than half the 413 deaths reported on Saturday – but figures on Sunday can be lower than usual due to a delay in processing over the weekend.

The positive drop in case numbers adds fuel to criticism against Boris Johnson’s trigger-happy lockdown put in place this week.

The Prime Minister pushed ahead with nation-wide restrictions amid concerns rapid spread of the virus in September and October is leading to surging hospital admissions across the North of England and sparking fears the NHS could be overwhelmed again.

But the move has proven controversial as streams of data from various sources – some official and some not – seem to show that the local lockdown policy was working.

Of today’s figures, England recorded 122 deaths, while Scotland announced three.

In Wales, 19 new deaths were reported, along with 744 new cases, as it prepares to leave its ‘firebreak’ lockdown tomorrow.

Seven deaths were recorded in Northern Ireland and an additional 420 cases.

Today’s figure come on the fourth day of England’s national lockdown, with Tory MPs warning Boris Johnson he will face a “massive revolt” if he tries to extend it beyond December 2nd.

Worth remembering that we’re still nowhere near Witless and Unbalanced ‘Graph of Doom’ prediction of 50,000 new positive cases per day and a very long way indeed from 1,000 deaths a day, let alone 4,000.

Looks like the British public were sold a pup by Boris and his henchmen.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ex-Conservative MP David Mellor in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday said that the dossier Boris presented to the public last Saturday was so dodgy even Tony Blair wouldn’t have touched it.

Protestors in Manchester Chant: “Take Off Your Masks”

There was a sizeable anti-lockdown protest in Manchester yesterday, resulting in four arrests. The Manchester Evening News has more.

Hundreds of people gathered in Piccadilly Gardens in central Manchester today to protest against the national lockdown.

The protest is believe to have got underway in the city centre at around 1pm.

There appeared to be little social distancing and none of the protesters appeared to be wearing masks.

Condemning the protest on Sunday evening, Greater Manchester Police said they estimated 600 were in attendance and said police officers responding to the incident were left injured.

They also said a large number of people had travelled to Manchester for the protest – including one group who came via coach from Cumbria.

Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain said: “I would like to use this opportunity to publically condemn this gathering. Both the organisers and attendees were irresponsible – increasing demand on police who are also responding to calls regarding serious incidents and people who are in immediate danger across Greater Manchester.

“Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, officers authorised a Section 34 Dispersal Order. They also arrested four people on suspicion of public order offences and issued 24 £200 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs). Enquiries are ongoing to also issue an FPN to the organiser.”

He added: “Whilst responding to this gathering, a number of officers were injured. This is unacceptable behaviour towards officers who were simply doing their job and protecting people. Investigators will now work to identify those responsible and ensure they face justice.”

Worth reading in full.

Was Boris Bounced Into Ordering Lockdown 2.0?

The slippery pig

According to today’s Mail, Boris is furious about having been strong-armed into agreeing to a second lockdown after being shown dodgy data. Political Editor Jason Groves has more.

Boris Johnson believes he was bounced into ordering a second national lockdown, a Cabinet ally said last night.

The Prime Minister reluctantly signed off a new lockdown in England last weekend after being warned by Government scientists that deaths could rise to 4,000 a day – four times the peak seen in April.

The decision was rushed out with minimal Cabinet consultation after news of the warning, and the PM’s reaction to it, was leaked to news organisations, including the Daily Mail.

The 4,000-a-day figure has since been widely discredited and Government scientists have been forced to correct other dire warnings used to inform the lockdown decision.

Some data last week suggested that the second wave may have levelled off or even peaked before the lockdown was introduced last Thursday.

Yesterday another 156 Covid deaths were reported across the UK, down from 162 a week earlier.

Some 20,572 cases were recorded, a fall of 2,682 on the previous Sunday’s total of 23,254.

One Cabinet minister last night told the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson felt he had been pushed into the decision.

“I think he is concerned that he may have been bounced into it,” the source said.

“He was really, really cross about the leak because at that point a different decision might still have been made.

“There is also concern that some of the information used to inform the decision now seems to be crumbling.

“In fact the figures seem to be suggesting things were getting better before the lockdown began – we are being shut down for a month when we did not need to be.”

The source predicted the episode would harden the PM’s attitude against any attempt to renew the restrictions.

“It means a third or fourth lockdown is very unlikely,” the source said. “All of this goes against his political inclinations.”

Do we believe this? Or is Boris just trying to escape the blame for a political decision he took knowing full well it wasn’t supported by the data? It wouldn’t be the first time he wanted to have his cake and eat it. Not for nothing is the Prime Minister known as “the slippery pig” by some Tory grandees.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Mail on Sunday ran a powerful editorial yesterday saying that if Lockdown 2.0 doesn’t end on December 2nd it’s “curtains for Boris”.

Number of People With Suicidal Thoughts Trebles Since Lockdown

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpKs8EYk0qk&feature=emb_logo

The number of people seeking help because of suicidal thoughts has tripled since lockdown, according to a new investigation, with some ambulance services seeing cases rise by almost two thirds. The Telegraph has more.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said mental health services were “overflowing” with patients, with growing numbers struggling to cope with anxiety, psychosis and depression. Experts said millions were battling isolation, fear and post-traumatic stress, with many only seeking help when their crisis had become acute.

The number of people needing support and advice because of suicidal thoughts has tripled, with similar trends being seen among those with anxiety disorders, the new data shows.

London Ambulance Service has seen a 68% rise in suicides and attempted suicides, with crews now attending 37 cases a day compared to 22 this time last year. A survey of almost 700 psychiatrists revealed that six in 10 are now dealing with an increased number of emergency cases, including people needing to be sectioned for their own safety.

One doctor said bed shortages were so extreme that he had recently been unable to secure a specialist bed for a 17-year-old boy suffering from psychosis anywhere in the UK.

Very worrying.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: 50 charities and top doctors have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to abandon cancer patients. Data from first wave suggests 35,000 extra deaths may be caused by cancer next year as a result of the second lockdown.

Message From the People’s Republic of Wales

A Welsh reader has sent an encouraging message.

Luckily for us we live in Wales, albeit by about 75 yards, and our “firebreak” ended yesterday. I’ve had a good look at the Welsh Government guidance that will apply from today. To be fair to Chairman Drakeford, he has clearly taken some sensible advice, presumably following the “non-essential” items furore, and toned down the rhetoric. With the exception of pointless face coverings, a “rule of four” in pubs and restaurants and daring to cross the border from plague-ridden England everything else appears to be guidance, as opposed to law, which will not be enforced by the police. He has clearly realised, or been told, that people respond better to gentle encouragement than diktats which I, with fifteen years experience of hostage and suicide intervention negotiation, could have told him from the outset.

For those of you unfortunate enough to live in England I have had a good look at the latest nonsense from Boris and his cronies and am of the view that it is all completely unenforceable. Everything comes with the “reasonable excuse” caveat but doesn’t define a reasonable excuse so if you are approached by the police for breaching one of the regulations simply claim to have a reasonable excuse as you don’t appear to have to define what that excuse is. People also need to understand that Fixed Penalty Notices are not compulsory so if a police officer tries to issue you with one, particularly if it is for a ridiculous sum of money, simply refuse to accept it and ask to be summoned to court instead. Preparing a summons file is a laborious task which most officers don’t have time to do and, in any case, the CPS have failed to prosecute anyone so far as the law is so vague.

Liverpool School Update

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange about to undergo mandatory testing at the hands of Government scientists. Photo by Warner Bros/Hawk Films/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Readers will recall that on Saturday I published a letter that parents had been sent the previous day by the head of Broadgreen International School informing them that the Army would be testing their children today using the new lateral-flow test. Among the letter’s many horrors was this paragraph:

Under normal circumstances parental permission is sought for the testing of children, however under these very challenging circumstances that is not possible, therefore we would ask that if you wish to exclude your child from this test please do so in writing to me first thing on Monday morning.

Is that even legal? I got a message on Twitter from Liverpool City Council yesterday which suggests that it isn’t. It said: “Hi Toby, the letter sent to parents at this school was incorrect – parental consent is required. This is an entirely voluntary testing programme and only parents who return the consent forms will have their child tested.”

I replied as follows: “Thanks for letting me know. Have parents at the school been informed? And will you be issuing guidance to schools to make sure this mistake isn’t repeated?”

I then got this back: “Hello Toby, parents at the school have started to be informed and we are in conversation with schools across the city.”

https://twitter.com/lpoolcouncil/status/1325390546395926529

I sincerely hope this is true. Liverpoool’s schoolchildren should not be used as guinea pigs in the roll out of Boris’s ‘Moonshot’ testing programme, and certainly not after their parents have been given so little notice and told that unless they object their children will be tested.

Stop Press: The school has indeed delayed the testing and informed parents that “opt in” consent will be required.

Stop Press 2: A paper published on April 20th by Professor Derrick Cook concluded that the ELISA and lateral flow immunoassays were “inadequate”.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “The Gates of Delirium” by Yes, “Walking on the Edge” by Wilko Johnson and “I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas” by the Goons.

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, 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 bringing you an extract from Andrew Sullivan’s column about the US election results, which, according to him, shows how fed up to the back teeth most Americans are with woke dogma.

And this was also clearly and unequivocally a rejection of the woke left. The riots of the summer turned many people off. In exit polls, 88 percent of Trump voters say it was a factor in their choice. On the question of policing and criminal justice, Trump led Biden 46 — 43 percent. For the past five years, Democrats have been telling us that Trump and his supporters were white supremacists, that he was indeed the “First White President” in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ words, that all minorities were under assault by the modern day equivalent of the KKK. And yet, the GOP got the highest proportion of the minority vote since 1960! No wonder Charles Blow’s head exploded.

We may find out more as exit polling is pored over, but in the current stats, Trump measurably increased his black, Latino, gay and Asian support. 12 percent of blacks — and 18 percent of black men — backed someone whom the left has identified as a “white supremacist”, and 32 percent of Latinos voted for the man who put immigrant children in cages, giving Trump Florida and Texas. 31 percent of Asians and 28 percent of the gay, lesbian and transgender population also went for Trump. The gay vote for Trump may have doubled! We’ll see if this pans out. But it’s an astonishing rebuke of identity politics and its crude assumptions about how unique individuals vote.

Why did minorities shift slightly rightward after enduring four years of Trump? First off, many obviously rejected the narrative being pushed out by every elite media source: that the core of Trump’s appeal was racism. They saw a more complicated picture. I suspect that many African-Americans, for example, were terrified of “defunding the police” and pleased to be economically better off, with record low unemployment before Covid19 hit. Many legal Latino citizens, perplexing leftists, do not want continued mass immigration, and are socially conservative. Asians increasingly see the woke as denying their children fair access to education, and many gays just vote on various different issues, now that the civil rights question has been largely resolved by the Supreme Court.

Obviously a big majority of non-white and non-straight voters still backed Democrats. But the emergence of this coalition of minority conservatives is fascinating — and, of course, a complete refutation of what critical race theory tells us how minorities must feel. Ditto the gender gap. It’s there, but not quite the gulf we were led to believe. We have again been told insistently that being female in America today is a constant nightmare of oppression, harassment, violence and misogyny; and that no one represents this more potently than Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump. And yet white women still voted for Trump 55 to 43 percent. Among white women with no college education, arguably those most vulnerable to the predations of men, Trump got 60 percent support. This is not a wave of rage; and it suggests that the left’s notion of patriarchy is, in 2020, something many, many women just don’t buy, or do not believe should outweigh other, more important issues.

And look at California, one of the most leftist states in the country, and minority-majority. The initiative to allow public institutions to discriminate openly on the basis of race — in order to favor some groups over others on the Ibram X. Kendi model — decisively failed, after months of unceasing propaganda about “white supremacy” and the need to counter it. So did an attempt to regulate the gig economy and to expand rent control. The appeal of assimilation and economic success among Latinos is not, pace the critical race theorists, an attempt to gain the advantages of “white-adjacency”. It’s simply the American way, paved by generations of immigrant groups before them.

This is one of the best analyses of the US election results I’ve read so far.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sarah Phillimore, a barrister specialising in child protection, has started a CrowdJustice fundraiser so she can bring a case against the police to get them to remove a ‘non-crime hate incident’ they’ve recorded against her name. Donate here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Mask Mandate: According to Fox News, Biden is planning to implement mask mandates nationwide as one of his first acts as President.

Stop Press: West Midlands Police challenged a shopper in Sainsbury’s who wasn’t wearing a mask. He explained that he was exempt because he suffered from anxiety and they threatened to arrest him unless he either put a mask on or left the shop. The West Midlands Police later apologised: “We got this wrong and we’re sorry for any upset & distress we’ve caused.”

https://twitter.com/HappyHarryMedia/status/1325154421261545475?s=20

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last month and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. 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 hit job 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 well over 600,000 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.

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 is 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.

Stop Press: Dr Gary Sidley has come up with a list of five reasons to be cheerful about coronavirus.

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=1f7OwFqTnco

You will enjoy this. It features a group of television presenters watching a music teacher’s video in which she plays a song she’s written to help her adapt to online teaching and learning. The song – and their reaction – is priceless.

Latest News

Boris Panicked and U-Turned Over Lockdown After Seeing Neil Ferguson’s Projections

“I see death in your future – a lot of death.”

The Mail on Sunday is serialising an explosive new biography of Boris by Tom Bower that claims Boris was panicked into imposing a full national lockdown after Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance were presented with Neil Ferguson’s apocalyptic predictions at a meeting of SAGE.

Bower tells how a critical meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on February 25th was presented with the ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ from Professor Ferguson under which 80% of Britons would be infected and the death-toll would be 510,000 people.

The author writes: “This was an improvement on Ferguson’s earlier assessment that between 2% and 3% would die – up to 1.5 million deaths. Even with mitigation measures, he said, the death toll could be 250,000 and the existing intensive care units would be overwhelmed eight times over.

“Neither Vallance nor Whitty outrightly challenged Ferguson’s model or predictions. By contrast, in a series of messages from Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who would correctly predict the pandemic’s initial trajectory, Ferguson was warned that he had overestimated the potential death toll by ‘ten to 12 times’….

The book reveals how shortly before the national lockdown, on March 16th, Ferguson forecast that one third of the over-80s who were infected would be hospitalised, of which 71% would need intensive care using ventilators.

This exaggerated prediction – that hospitals would be overwhelmed by at least eight times the usual admittance rate – made the lockdown all but inevitable.

Worth reminding people again that Professor Ferguson’s estimates of the impact of previous viral outbreaks have been almost comically inaccurate. In 2001, he predicted that foot and mouth disease could kill up to 50,000 people. It ended up killing less than 200. In 2005, he told the Guardian that up to 200 million people could die from bird flu. The final death toll from avian flu strain A/H5N1 was 440. And in 2009, a Government estimate based on one of Ferguson’s models estimated the likely death toll from swine flu at 65,000. In fact, it was 457.

Why did Boris take the predictions of this serial doom-monger so seriously?

BBC Not Telling Us Full Story About Covid – Matthew Parris

Lockdown sceptic Matthew Parris has written an excellent column in the Times today in which he berates the BBC for not doing its job properly in covering the coronavirus crisis.

“Coronavirus: GP letter was like a ‘death warrant from grim reaper’ ” (BBC News); “One death every 80 seconds: Brazil reaches a grim milestone as it becomes the third worst-hit country…” (BBC News); “Grim milestone as virus cases top 25m globally” (BBC News).

Grim, grim, grim. There has been a lip-smacking quality, not only in headlines but in the reports that follow from the world’s news media. All of us should be more rigorous in resisting the appeal of a ghoulish turn of phrase. But the BBC has been a serial offender.

In what follows I’m aware that, when it comes to panic-spreading, our state broadcasting corporation is only one of many miscreants among print and broadcast media. But that’s because I look to the BBC to help set standards. The corporation has a particular duty to stand a little back from the noise and introduce a note of quiet balance into the national conversation.

When our politicians try to use science as propaganda, broadcasters should be rock-solid in resisting the hype. Instead, they’ve swallowed the government’s line that “the science” is clear and unquestioned, and that the prospects, should we fail to “follow” the science, are apocalyptic.

Both are highly disputable. Science is divided. The most apocalyptic, however, are getting the loudest shout. Neither on how, nor where, nor when the virus spreads most virulently is there consensus among epidemiologists; and even if that consensus existed, broadcasters and journalists would still have a duty to remind politicians and the public that combating an illness should not elbow from national attention the equally honourable goal of saving livelihoods as well as lives.

Worth reading in full.

Unfortunately, Parris neglects to mention Ofcom’s “coronavirus guidance” – published on March 23rd, the same day the full lockdown was imposed – cautioning the BBC and its other licensees to treat with extreme caution anyone criticising the advice of the “public health authorities”, i.e. the NHS, the DHSC, PHE, Witless and Unbalanced and the Government more generally. I don’t think this is the major cause of the BBC’s dereliction of duty, but it was one factor among the others – laziness, innumeracy, group think and a deeply misguided belief that it was their public duty to amplify Downing Street’s scaremongering in order to frighten people into observing the rules because that would save lives.

I don’t need to remind readers of Lockdown Sceptics that the Free Speech Union is seeking the permission of the High Court to Judicially Review Ofcom’s “coronavirus guidance” in the hope of having it declared an unlawful interference in free speech. You can donate to the FSU’s “fighting fund” here.

Stop Press: Charles Moore has ruled himself out of running for the role of BBC Chairman for personal reasons. Shame.

Lord Gumption Says Boris is Behaving Like an Authoritarian Dictator

An original work created by artist and Lockdown Sceptics reader Galina Gardiner

Jonathan Sumption wrote a blistering attack on Boris and his ‘strongman’ Government in the Telegraph yesterday.

Behind the spat about Parliamentary control over the Government’s Covid measures, there is an older and more fundamental divide. It is the divide between an authoritarian model of government and a more deliberative and democratic model.

The authoritarians believe in the “strongman”: the boss who gets things done with the aid of a team of technicians, who surmounts crises by intervening swiftly and decisively, without wasting time in argument or debate. The alternative, according to this view of the world, is a bunch of squabbling politicians picking over the entrails while the sand runs through the hourglass.

There has always been a strand of political masochism in Britain which likes this idea: the sort of people who admire dictators because they make the trains run on time. From time to time there is a more widespread move towards authoritarian government. We are experiencing one of those times now.

Worth reading in full.

Grant Shapps Gets His Sums Wrong

A sharp-eyed reader has spotted a mathematical error in Grant Shapps’s attempt to defend sticking Poland on the quarantine list.

I don’t know whether you picked up on Grant Shapps claiming that Poland had to be put back on the quarantine list because their “test positivity has nearly doubled, increasing from 3.9% to 5.8%”. That is, of course, an increase of only 50%, not 100%.

I believe that Mr Shapps, who was formerly the Chairman of the APPG for General Aviation, still holds a Pilot’s Licence. Let’s hope his navigational skills are as good as his maths and the next time he goes for a flight he gets lost and we never have to see him again. If he could take Mad Boris and Nanny Hancock with him, so much the better!

BBC Reality Check Loses Touch With Reality

There’s a snarky piece about Julia Hartley-Brewer under the BBC’s “Reality Check” banner claiming she got her facts wrong about the False Positive Rate. In fact, the BBC journalists who’ve written the hatchet job – Simon Maybin and Josephine Casserly – are the ones who’ve got their facts wrong.

Julia’s sin was to claim that nine out of 10 “cases” could be false positives. The journalists say that is categorically untrue.

Could it be true that 90% of positive results from tests in the community – that means tests not carried out in hospitals – are false? The answer is “no” – there is no way that so-called false positives have had such an impact on the figures.

Actually, there is a way “so-called false positives” could have had that impact. Suppose the true community case rate is eight in 10,000. If the false positive rate is 0.8% – as estimated by this paper submitted to SAGE – then if you test 10,000 people, you’ll get 88 positive results, of which 80 are false positives and eight are true positives. Perhaps the true community case rate is now slightly higher than eight in 10,000 – the latest ONS infection study puts it at 21 in 10,000 – but even so there is certainly a plausible scenario in which 90% of the positive results from tests in the community are false.

The extraordinary thing is that these reality-checking sleuths then go on to admit this.

If you tested 1,000 people at random for COVID-19 in early September, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection study suggests you should have expected one of them to actually have the virus.

With a false positive rate of 0.8% – a figure used by Ms Hartley-Brewer and within the broad range of what we think might be the actual rate for community testing – you would get eight false positives. So in that context, it’s true that roughly 90% of positives would be false.

But having admitted that there is a scenario in which 90% of positives could be false, they then go on to say that it’s no longer plausible because the people volunteering for community testing, as opposed to the people being sampled at random by the ONS, are much more likely to have the virus – the same point made by Tom Chivers in UnHerd and which James Ferguson comprehensively rebutted on Lockdown Sceptics.

Here’s what the reality checkers think is their killer point:

Figures for late September from Public Health England show that 7% of community tests were positive. That means if 1,000 people were tested with a false positive rate of 0.8%, eight would be false positives, but 70 would be true positives – the vast majority.

But hang on. They’re assuming that PHE’s 7% positive rate doesn’t include any false positives – hence their claim that if you test 1,000 people 70 would be true positives. But given that they’ve accepted there’s a false positive rate of 0.8%, it’s more likely that PHE is counting the false positives alongside the true positives when estimating the current rate of infection. That means that of the 70 people who test positive, eight are false positives, leaving 62 true positives.

Come on, reality checkers. If you’re going to chastise another journalist for not getting her facts right – even though she did – you need to get the facts straight yourself.

Stop Press: There’s an excellent letter in the Lancet by three doctors raising the alarm about false positives. I look forward to the BBC’s reality checkers doing a number on them.

Teeth Deteriorate as Dentists Struggle to Reopen

The lockdown has caused a backlog of 15 million dental appointments, leaving many patients suffering badly. The Sunday Times has more.

Patients may have to wait until next year for dental treatment because 15 million appointments have been delayed by the coronavirus.

With restrictions still in place, some dentists can see only emergency cases and are not doing routine checkups. Many are carrying out only serious procedures on patients whose teeth have deteriorated from problems “stored up” for months during the lockdown.

“I’ve taken more teeth out from the average patient in the past three months than at any point in my career,” said Mark Green, 49, a dentist in Whitby, North Yorkshire, who has been treating patients for 22 years.

“It’s like going back in time. I saw someone the other day in his twenties who needs 12 teeth out. I’ve removed those that are [causing] the most pain and then we’re going to try and get him in again [for another appointment].”

Though surgeries were able to reopen in June, strict infection-control measures imposed by Public Health England (PHE) mean many dentists can see only a few patients a day. Before the pandemic they would see about 30 a day.

Worth reading in full.

Are Some Muslim Deaths Being Falsely Attributed to Coronavirus?

A reader has an interesting theory about why a higher percentage of Muslims have supposedly died of Covid than non-Muslims.

I was speaking with a work colleague who is a Muslim this week and he was telling me about his 85-year-old neighbour who died. His neighbour had congestive heart disease and wasn’t a well man. He caught a cold and thus had to have a COVID-19 test which came back negative. A few weeks later the man died, but the Doctor wanted to perform an autopsy which would take weeks. As per the Muslim faith, his family weren’t happy with this as the burial needs to occur within 24 hours, so the Doctor put COVID-19 on the death certificate so that the man could be buried without his having to do an autopsy even though he had not tested positive.

Now I remember looking back at the COVID-19 deaths by Religious group from the ONS and the COVID-19 deaths for Muslims was significantly higher than any other based on population percentage.

So, could this need for quick burial as required by the Muslim faith, and thus COVID-19 being put down as a cause of death, be an influencing factor into why BAME COVID-19 deaths are considered to be so high?

Sixty-Six GPs Urge Hancock to Do No (More) Harm

We’ve seen a number of anti-lockdown letters signed by doctors and medical professionals, such as this one in the US and this one in Belgium. But as far as I’m aware we haven’t seen one in the UK – until now, that is. Sixty-six GPs have written to Matt Hancock urging him to consider the collateral damage being done by the ongoing restrictions, listing the tens of thousands of non-Covid excess deaths in private homes since March, the spike in cardiovascular deaths, the rise in child suicides and the problems besetting the elderly – depression, anxiety and loneliness. It’s not as forthrightly sceptical as I’d like – the docs say they supported the first lockdown –  but the reasonableness of its tone may end making it more effective. And the message is clear: the harm the restrictions are doing to the public’s health outweighs the harm they are supposedly preventing. full text of the letter below.

And Now For the Less Admirable GPs…

A reader was prompted by a recent GP horror story on Lockdown Sceptics to provide an anecdote of her own.

My GP surgery is based in a North Wales coastal town. A pharmacy is adjacent to it. I called in to collect a prescription but noticed a queue of six rather dispirited – young and old – people waiting outside the surgery. It was raining, cold and windy. The surgery insists that you don’t turn up for your appointment nowadays until exactly the appointed time. Well, shame on these people for being too punctual. The surgery has two large waiting areas where they could wait seated probably 12 feet apart with no problems whatsoever.

Whilst I was in the pharmacy a member of surgery staff came in, I asked why these poor people were waiting outside in these conditions. She said: “That’s the way it has to be at the moment.” I asked what was going to happen in the winter. Her reply: “They’ll have to get better clothing.” Then she returned to the surgery, and presumably remained snug and dry in her little office.

Disgraceful.

Tory Constituencies Are Being Spared Second Lockdowns

I wonder what genius thought up this wheeze?

The Sunday Times says that leaked emails between health officials reveal that Tory areas, such as the newly-won Red Wall seats, are less likely to have second lockdowns inflicted on them than Labour areas.

Wealthy areas, including the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s parliamentary seat, are avoiding lockdown despite having higher COVID-19 rates than poorer areas that are subject to restrictions, according to leaked emails between health officials.

The Government is under growing pressure to explain why it has placed large parts of the north and Midlands under local lockdowns while overlooking areas with similar infection rates. Asked why the northwest is “treated differently” from areas such as his own seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, Boris Johnson said on Friday: “I appreciate… people want to see an iron consistency applied across the whole country.”

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, decides which areas to place in lockdown during weekly “gold” meetings with advisers. Yesterday, 50 councils were subject to measures such as bans on household mixing. However, there is no official COVID-19 infection rate that triggers a local lockdown.

The Sunday Times has put together a list that illustrates the scandal:

  • NO LOCKDOWN
  • West Lancashire 137 cases per 100,000
  • Barrow-in-Furness 112
  • Darlington 110
  • Craven 109
  • Newark and Sherwood 84
  • IN LOCKDOWN
  • Chorley 73 cases per 100,000
  • Wyre 71
  • Lancaster 66
  • Oadby and Wigston 63
  • Wolverhampton 56

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

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, 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.

Update: 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 links now come up beside the headlines 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 want to draw your attention to an excellent piece in UnHerd by Helen Pluckrose entitled “Is Critical Race Theory Racist?” Helen is the co-author of Cynical Theories with James Lyndsay, an excellent primer on the woke cult. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s an extract in which she discusses the ideas of Robin DiAngelo, author of the bestselling White Fragility.

Robin DiAngelo takes a thoroughly postmodern approach. Her belief is that white people are unavoidably racist because of the ways in which they have been socialised in white supremacist countries. DiAngelo identifies America as just such a country but also much of Europe, including the UK.

For DiAngelo, “whiteness” is a system that whites perpetuate with everything they do. In White Fragility, she describes whiteness as a “constellation of processes and practices” consisting of “basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people”. For DiAngelo these processes are “dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels”.

Elsewhere, she sets out a tenet of anti-racism, stating that “The question is not ‘Did racism occur?’ but ‘How did racism manifest in that situation?’” There is no possibility of not being racist and DiAngelo’s training aims to get white people to accept that they are racist — as the Trump memo claims.

“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 nappies in shops here.

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

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

Stop Press: A reader with a Down Syndrome child had a bad experience when visiting the audiologists.

On Thursday my 15 year-old daughter had her long-awaited audiology appointment. She has Down Syndrome and the fact that all the faces are covered is deeply distressing to her – so she was quite stressed by the time we got to the waiting area. Passing through the main entrance we were greeted by a young man who detected our un-masked status (I was wearing my lanyard with the mask-exempt card). He helpfully dipped his hand into a box and extended his hand with two masks, saying, “Can I give you these?” I’m polite, I took them, and thanked him, as my daughter looked from my lanyard to my face with a puzzled expression. I put the masks in my bag. As we walked to the right department, I began to wonder whether the lunacy has extended to the audiologists – they who know that facial expressions as well as lip-reading are vital cues for those of us who are hard of hearing. It had. At least the loudspeaker which was used for one part of the test wasn’t muzzled!

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.

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScjuNDZ2Xi0

Danielle Matthews, aka the Bin Singer, has written a song about being stuck in Melbourne that’s worth a watch. Some of her complaints will resonate with people still locked down in other parts of the world.