Conor Chaplin

Johnson Suggests All Adults Must Be Offered Jab Before Passport Scheme

Asked about the vaccination programme during a visit to a nursery in West London, Boris Johnson suggested that everyone must have been offered a jab before any immunity status certification system could come into force. The BBC reports:

He said no decisions had been made but there would be an update on the idea in April. A review will report in June.

There were “difficult issues… moral complexities, ethical problems that need to be addressed”, the PM added.

Any passport could also reflect a negative test result as well as whether someone was vaccinated or has immunity.

Good to know that Johnson is engaged in such hand-wringing over the ‘moral complexities’ of the matter.

He continued:

“There are some people who for medical reasons can’t get a vaccination, pregnant women can’t get a vaccination at the moment, you’ve got to be careful about how you do this.

“You might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheme even if you wanted such a thing in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine.”

In the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is leading the review, told MPs: “A system that relied purely on vaccination would not be appropriate.

“What would be right was a system that ensured we could open up our economy to the maximum extent that takes into account both vaccine status but also of recent test status and indeed potentially also antibody status as well,” he added.

Submit Your Views to Government’s Review on ‘Covid-Status Certification’

The Government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ to its Covid-Status Certification Review is open for another five days, until March 29th. Anyone can respond as an individual, and although a cynic might suspect that the review is a piece of theatre designed to confer legitimacy on a foregone conclusion, a healthy quantity of negative responses from the public would be no bad thing.

The page states:

The Government is reviewing whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety.

Covid-status certification refers to the use of testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that individuals have a lower risk of getting sick with or transmitting COVID-19 to others. Such certification would be available both to vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people who have been tested.

The Government will assess to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and its potential uses in enabling access to settings or relaxing Covid-secure mitigations.

The government is looking to consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of a potential certification scheme, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.

We are issuing this call for evidence to inform this review into Covid-status certification, to ensure that the recommendations reflect a broad range of interests and concerns. We welcome views from all respondents.

This idea has been gaining a head of steam recently despite ministers initially making noises to the contrary. It is an idea that ought to be anathema to any Western liberal democracy, and which, on the Government’s own terms, makes no sense once at-risk groups have been offered vaccinations, accounting for a vast proportion of potential hospitalisations and deaths.

We would encourage all Lockdown Sceptics readers to make their views known. The ‘Call for Evidence’ can be found here.

Latest News

Health Secretary Matt Hancock struck an upbeat tone at the daily press conference yesterday where he announced that a single dose of either the AstraZenica or Pfizer jab reduces risk of hospitalisation in the over-80s by 80%. He continued:

The effectiveness of the vaccine on protecting people, and on reducing transmission, is critical to the roadmap [for lifting lockdown restrictions]… The data that we’ve published today shows that the roadmap is achievable, because it shows that we will be able to break the link from cases through to hospitalisations and to deaths, and until now in the pandemic that link from cases through to hospitalisations and deaths has been unbreakable. And we have demonstrated with the data today that the vaccines can break that link, and that is down to the power of science. So it’s good news for everybody.

Good, but given that all the over-80s and all the over-70s have now been offered at least one dose – and more than 90% have taken that offer – why is there so little urgency in when it comes to lifting of restrictions, considering what a whopping chunk of Covid hospitalisations and deaths these people account for?

Meanwhile, a ‘manhunt’ is underway for a missing case of the so-called Brazilian variant. Prime Minister Boris Johnson downplayed fears about the variant though, saying:

We have no reason not to think our vaccines are effective against these variants of concern. People should take that as some evidence of confidence.

Health Correspondent Nick Triggle at the BBC had this analysis.

It is tempting to think that if officials can identify the one missing case, the UK will be able to stamp out the Brazil variant. 

But it’s unlikely this will be possible. There will no doubt be more cases either of this variant or others circulating with the E484 mutation that allows the virus to escape some of the effect of the vaccines. 

That’s because not all positive cases can be checked for variants. The UK carries out nearly half of the genomic sequencing in the world and can check around 25,000 positive tests a week for variants. 

That means about a quarter of positive cases were checked last week, but a month ago – with infection rates higher – it was under one in 10. 

What is more, not everyone who is positive comes forward for a test in the first place. We are seeing just the top of the iceberg.

We received this intriguing comment about the variants from a well-connected reader who cannot be named lest he endanger his source.

I have good reason to believe that Hancock is desperate for variants, and that experts think it a waste of time to hunt for them and think vaccinations are fine to keep things going well, including coping with variants. He wants twice daily briefings on any possible variants.

Stop Press: How to spot the Brazilian variant.

Battle-Weary Peter Hitchens Takes Flak for Jab Decision

Peter Hitchens, one of the earliest of the UK’s small band of sceptical journalists, used his weekly conversation with Mike Graham on talkRADIO to discuss the mixed reaction to his Mail on Sunday column in which he revealed he had had his first Covid jab. He wrote:

Of course my selfish injection didn’t hurt. I’m a blood donor (so also please don’t call me selfish), used to far bigger needles in my arm, for a lot longer. I did feel a pang of regret and loss. For me, the vaccination was a gloomy submission to a new world of excessive safety and regulation. I’d tried to fight against it but I lost.

The New Jerusalem, in which we allow the state to boss us around even more, in the name of our own good, is now coming into being.

And so we are just going to be under surveillance a lot more, recorded a lot more and bossed about a lot more.

He had weighed up the pros and cons and concluded that, nearing 70 and with part of his family abroad who he had been prevented from seeing for over a year, resisting the coming vaccine passport system was un-winnable. In response, he was deluged with accusations of capitulation on social media yesterday. Anyone who has listened much to Hitchens for the last year will know that he has said very little about the vaccine and certainly never said whether he would or wouldn’t take it, nor discouraged anyone else from taking it. On talkRADIO, he underlined the point that the battle was over as far as he was concerned.

You can’t lead when there’s nothing much behind you. I’ve worked day and night, before breakfast, before lunch, before supper, into the evening day after day after day trying to make the case against this folly for 11 long months, sometimes very nearly totally alone in my trade. I resent very much anyone who suggests that I didn’t put my all into it or that I didn’t believe in it. But I don’t think that there has been sufficient resistance at a time when it could have been any use. People wake up now and say, “Oh gosh, this is all a terrible mistake!” – Where were they?! – Particularly in my own trade, but in general, where were they in the months of March, April and June? Where were they in Parliament, in the Law, when some difference could have been made and this could have been stopped? They weren’t anywhere to be seen. It’s no good turning on me now and saying ,”Actually, we have failed.” I didn’t fail! I kept on, but I’m just not going to pretend you can carry on and on fighting a battle with nobody behind you against an enormously powerful, immensely rich enemy who simply turns a steamroller on you. I’ve been steamrollered. It’s an experience I’m horribly used to.

He turned his exasperation on would-be members of the ‘resistance’ who remained silent.

There are people in this country not like me, a lot of people I just don’t appeal to, but commentators who instantly, if they take up a cause, attract a powerful following, and I’d name two of those among them. Douglas Murray and Charles (now Lord) Moore. These were voices which in my view, if they’d spoken out against this, could have changed the whole tendency of things. But among so many others, they looked on it as spectators. They didn’t see it as their cause.

Perhaps it is a sign that Hitchens is going to hang up his fiddle, but we certainly hope not.

Worth watching in full.

Hypocrite of the Week

The militant campaigner against reopening public schools drop his own daughter off at a private school

We thought our teaching unions were bad, but America’s are worse. The President of a teaching federation in California, who’s been campaigning against re-opening public schools, was spotted dropping his own child off at a private school. Fox News has more.

A group known as Guerilla Momz is calling Berkeley Federation of Teachers president Matt Meyer a hypocrite after spotting him dropping his two-year-old daughter off for in-person instruction at a private pre-school.

“Meet Matt Meyer. White man with dreads and president of the local teachers’ union,” the group wrote in a tweet on Saturday along with video footage of Meyer. “He’s been saying it is unsafe for *your kid* to be back at school, all the while dropping his kid off at private school.”

Meyer told Fox News in a statement that the video, which blurred out his child’s face, was “very inappropriate” and an intrusion of his child’s privacy. He added that there were “no public options for kids her age”.

As ever, it’s one rule for me and another for thee.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: An editorial has been published in the British Medical Journal by Sarah J. Lewis, Alasdair P.S. Munro, George Davey Smith, and Allyson M. Pollock entitled “Closing schools is not evidence-based and harms children“.

Keeping schools open should be the UK’s top priority 

Some 8.8 million schoolchildren in the UK have experienced severe disruption to their education, with prolonged school closures and national exams cancelled for two consecutive years. School closures have been implemented internationally with insufficient evidence for their role in minimising COVID-19 transmission and insufficient consideration of the harms to children.

For some children education is their only way out of poverty; for others school offers a safe haven away from a dangerous or chaotic home life. Learning loss, reduced social interaction, isolation, reduced physical activity, increased mental health problems, and potential for increased abuse, exploitation, and neglect have all been associated with school closures. Reduced future income and life expectancy are associated with less education. Children with special educational needs or who are already disadvantaged are at increased risk of harm. The 2019 report of the Children’s Commissioner for England estimated that 2.3 million children in England were living in unsafe home environments with domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or severe mental problems among parents. These long term harms are likely to be magnified by further school closures.

The overall risk to children and young people from COVID-19 is very small, and hyperinflammatory syndrome is extremely rare. Studies are under way to gauge the effect of post-Covid syndrome among children.

Although school closures reduce the number of contacts children have, and may decrease transmission, a study of 12 million adults in the UK found no difference in the risk of death from COVID-19 in households with or without children. Only 3% of people aged over-65 live with children.

In-person learning increases teachers’ exposure and might be expected to increase their risk of becoming infected, but accumulating evidence shows that teachers and school staff are not at higher risk of hospital admission or death from COVID-19 compared with other workers. Teacher absence because of confirmed COVID-19 in England was similar in primary and secondary schools in the autumn term, despite secondary schoolchildren having much higher rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover teacher absence decreased in Tier 3 regions during the November lockdown despite schools remaining open.

Worth reading in full.

Hans Rosling’s Ten Instincts

A reader has got in touch with a summary of the 10 faulty human instincts described in Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness, lifted from a review of the book on Amazon. The question is: How many of these faults has the Government exhibited in its thinking about the pandemic?

1. The Gap Instinct – We tend to divide the things into two distinct groups and imagine a gap between them. To control gap instinct, look for the majority. Beware of the averages, if you look at the spread, the majority will overlap. Beware comparisons of extremes (the media loves to do it).

2. The Negativity Instinct – We tend to instinctively notice the bad more than the good. We need to learn to acknowledge the fact that things can be both ‘better’ and ‘bad’ at the same time. Example, education levels have improved over time, but still, 10% of the children don’t get any education, that’s bad. We also need to know that good news is never reported, media would hype the bad stuff always. Subsequently, gradual improvement isn’t reported either. Countries, government, media often try to glorify the past, so we need to be beware of these rosy pasts.

3. The Straight Line Instinct – When we see a line going up steadily, we tend to assume the line will continue to go up in the foreseeable future. To control this instinct, remember that curves come in different shapes. Finally, don’t assume straight lines if data doesn’t show it.

4. The Fear Instinct – We tend to perceive the world to be scarier than it really is. We overestimate the risks associated with violence, captivity, contamination, etc. The world seems scarier because what you hear has been carefully selected to be told. Remember, Risk = Danger x Exposure, and act accordingly. Make decisions only when you’re calm, not when you are afraid.

5. The Size Instinct – We tend to see things out of proportion, over-estimating the importance of a single event/person that’s visible to us, and the scale of an issue based on a standalone number. A lonely number may seem impressive in isolation, but can be trivial in comparison to something else. Hence, always look for comparisons. Use the 80/20 rule. When comparing countries, look for rates per person.

6. The Generalisation Instinct – We tend to wrongly assume that everything or everyone in a category is similar. Hence, we must look for differences within a group, look for similarities across groups and look for differences across groups. We should beware of the term ‘Majority’ – it can mean 51% or 99% or anything in between. Beware of vivid images, which are easier to recall but can be exceptions to the general norm.

7. The Destiny Instinct – We tend to assume that the destinies of people, cultures, countries, etc. are predetermined by certain factors, and such factors are fixed and unchanging, i.e., their destinies are fixed. To control this, we must keep track of gradual changes and improvements. We should update our knowledge on different subjects, and look for examples of cultural changes.

8. The Single Perspective Instinct – We tend to focus on single causes or solutions, which are easier to grasp and make our problems seem easier to solve. It is better to look at problems from multiple perspectives. To control this, always test your ideas and allow people to find weaknesses. Don’t claim to be an expert at all times, be humble about your limited expertise in different areas.

9. The Blame Instinct – When something goes wrong, we instinctively blame it on someone or something. To control this, resist finding a scapegoat. Look for causes, not villains. Finally, look for systems and processes, not heroes.

10. The Urgency Instinct – We tend to rush into a problem or opportunity for fear that there’s no time and we may be too late. To control this, take small steps. Always insist on data rather than making hunch based hasty decisions. Always be aware of the side effects of your hasty decision to avoid making the same.

The Mortality Risk of COVID-19 is Dying Out

We are publishing an original paper today by Howard Greene that looks at the diminishing risk of dying from COVID-19 and argues that it’s now within the normal range Americans are typically prepared to live with and, for that reasons, restrictions should be lifted. Howard‘s credentials cover 40 years of working in the medical technology field, for both large and small companies. He is the co-inventor of the monoclonal antibody sandwich assay which is today the standard clinical chemistry method for measuring proteins, including the test for SARS-CoV-2 antigen. Here is an extract:

Governments have imposed extreme policies to contain COVID-19 infections because of public perceptions that the mortality risk is high. As the collateral damage to education, careers, routine health care, and economies grows, and as infection rates decline, it is reasonable to assess to what degree the COVID-19 mortality risk justifies continued Government intervention in normal life.

It goes without saying that any unnatural death is a tragedy to be avoided. Nevertheless, in a free society, individuals make decisions every day that come with mortality risk: driving at high speeds on crowded interstate highways, or rock climbing, or ignoring the onset of serious obesity. In America, Government policy should reflect  population mortality costs without trying to protect every citizen from the inevitability of death. Individuals should make decisions about risky behavior based on knowledge about their personal exposure to mortality risks.

Unfortunately, bad news sells better than good news, and politicians are driven to ‘do something’. As a result, the actual population cost and individual risk of dying from COVID-19 have been lost in a fog of tragic stories and fear mongering. This paper aims to cut through that fog by answering some basic questions:

  • What is the individual risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2?
  • If an individual contracts COVID-19, what is his risk of dying?
  • How does this mortality risk compare to the normal risks of modern living?


Average Individual Risk of Contracting COVID-19 Within the Next Year Is Less Than 5%

The average American’s risk of contracting COVID-19 during the period March 1st 2020 through February 16th 2021 was about 18%, i.e., one-in-five. This estimate is based on data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington.

The CDC tabulates Daily New COVID-19 Cases (DNCC), but they do not capture infections which were not serious enough to require medical care. Daily New COVID-19 Infections (DNCI) estimates include both diagnosed and undiagnosed infections, and they are generated by epidemiological models using data from seroprevalence studies that test for antibodies to the virus and/or tracing programs that test for live virus in people who contacted infected individuals. IHME has developed such a model, and Figure 1 compares the CDC case numbers against IHME’s infection estimates.

During the period March 1st 2020 to February 16th 2021, IHME estimates that slightly less than half (47%) of SARS-CoV-2 infected Americans were diagnosed as COVID-19 cases. Their estimate of cumulative total infections during that period is 27.6 million people, which is about 18% of the 328 million people living in America.

Dividing DNCI by the total population produces the average, population probability of having been infected in a 1-day time period. This Daily COVID-19 Infection Rate (DCIR) can be annualized using this formula: RA = 1 – (1 – RD)^365, where RA = Annual Rate and RD = Daily Rate. The Annual COVID-19 Infection Rate (ACIR) measures the probability of the average American contracting COVID-19 during the next 12 months, if the epidemiological parameters of the day in question were to remain constant for one year.

Figure 2 shows the daily ACIR for the period March 1st 2020 to February 16th 2021, along with IHME’s projection of ACIR to June 1st 2021. As the chart indicates, the ACIR varied, with high points in April, August, and January, and low points in May and September.

The implication of the IHME projection is that, by May 2021, the ACIR will drop below 5%. Thanks to the end of the virus season and the onset of herd immunity, the average American will face an annual risk of contracting COVID-19 of less than one-in-twenty. An individual American will be at higher or lower risk depending upon his relative exposure to infected subjects.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 will remain dangerous for people susceptible to the severe acute respiratory syndrome which can result in hospitalization and death. This danger is reflected in the COVID-19 Infection Fatality Rate (CIFR), which is a measure of the percentage of subjects infected with SARS-CoV-2 who die because of the infection.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Eleanor Hayward in the Daily Mail has reported the startling statistic that one in four of the deaths attributed to Covid were of people with dementia, highlighting the huge skew towards those in care homes, as well as the devastating toll of isolation.

More than 34,000 dementia sufferers have died from COVID-19, research published today shows.

One in four of all virus deaths have been among those with the illness – but care home visiting bans have denied families the chance to say goodbye.

Today’s study lays bare the devastating toll of lockdown on the nation’s 850,000 care home residents living with dementia.

Nine in 10 families said the pandemic had accelerated their loved one’s symptoms, the Alzheimer’s Society found.

Seven in 10 care home residents have dementia, but most have not had meaningful visits for almost a year.

Almost a quarter of family members have not been able to see their relative with dementia at all for over six months, the survey reveals. This isolation and loneliness has caused some residents to lose the ability to eat, drink and speak.

More than a quarter of family members who care for someone with dementia said they witnessed an “unmanageable decline” in the health of their relative.

Of the 124,978 COVID-19 deaths registered up to February 12th, an estimated 27.5% had dementia.

Worth reading in full.

Government’s Notorious ‘1 in 3’ Propaganda Line Doesn’t Square With ONS Data

Wrong!

Norman Fenton, a Professor of Risk Information Management at Queen Mary University has analysed the data from a study of ‘asymptomatic cases’ in Cambridge and published his conclusions in a blog post:

The Cambridge study testing asymptomatics is the gift that keeps on giving

This makes interesting reading for anybody who still believes the Government ‘case’ data and the claim that just because you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms it doesn’t mean you aren’t an danger.

This data also means that if the Government claim that “1 in 3 people with the virus has no symptoms” is correct then the ONS estimated infection rate is massively inflated – the currently reported ‘case’ numbers must be at least 8 times greater than the true number of cases. On the other hand, if the Government estimates of case numbers are correct then at most 1 in 26 people with the virus has no symptoms. Here’s an informal explanation why (formal proof is below):

Cambridge has a population of 129,000.

If the ONS infection estimates for Cambridge (0.71%) are accurate, then during an average week in this period about 916 people had the virus and 128,084 did not. 

But if the “1 in 3” claim is correct about 305 people in Cambridge had the virus but no symptoms. 

So at most 128,389 people in Cambridge had no symptoms and that means at least 305/128389 people with no symptoms had the virus. That is at least 0.24% (i.e. at least around 1 in 421). 

But the study shows on average only 1 in 4867 (0.028%) with no symptoms had the virus. So there should only have been about 36. 

That means the “1 in 3” claim and the ONS estimates cannot both be correct. 

If the “1 in 3” claim is correct, then the maximum possible value for the infection rate is 0.084% and not 0.71% as claimed (with 0.084% we would have 108 with the virus of whom 36 have no symptoms). So the ONS estimated infection rate is over eight times greater than the true rate. 

If the 0.71% infection rate is correct, then the maximum possible value for the proportion of people with the virus who have no symptoms is 3.9% (as this would mean 36 of the 916 people with the virus have no symptoms as predicted by the Cambridge data).

Worth reading Professor Fenton’s conclusions and workings out in full.

“Why I am Not a Lockdown Sceptic”

The Trolley Problem.

We are publishing on original piece today by Alastair Cavendish, a former professor of English Literature, explaining why technically speaking he is not a sceptic. Below is an extract:

In times of stress, which occur with increasing frequency these days, I find myself turning to Lockdown Sceptics almost as a guilty pleasure. One ought, of course, to challenge oneself with news sources that do not simply reflect one’s own views. The echo chamber and the hall of mirrors have become characteristic metaphors to describe the news media, which produce sounds and images as distorted as they are familiar. On Lockdown Sceptics, however, I can at least be certain of finding sanity, courtesy, and commitment to evidence, qualities which are in short supply elsewhere. The alternatives are to retreat even further from human society, or to listen to a smug voice on the BBC wondering out loud how people like Toby Young can sleep at night with all the blood on their hands.

All the same, I am not a lockdown sceptic myself, any more than I am a racism sceptic or a rape sceptic. Lockdown, like racism and rape, is an evil thing, and I am unequivocally against it. If this seems like an extremist position, consider the question as a variant of the trolley problem, which has been a staple of philosophy classrooms since Judith Jarvis Thompson and Philippa Foot wrote about it in the 1970s. The student is asked to imagine that s/he is a bystander who is watching a trolley speeding along a track, on which there are five people tied up ahead. There is no way to stop the trolley, but it is possible to pull a lever which will divert it onto another track, on which there is one person tied up.

Many people say that they would pull the lever and murder the person on the other track. However, they are apt to change their mind when presented with an alternative problem in which the bystander is on a bridge, standing beside a large, heavy man. The trolley is about to run under the bridge, but the man is large enough to stop the trolley if he is pushed onto the track, though it will kill him in the process. Very few people say that they would push the man onto the track, killing him in order to save the five people tied up ahead.

The parallel with lockdown is clear. Lockdowns kill people, and the people who will suffer most from them are reasonably foreseeable. Those who live alone, and whose mental health is fragile, are clearly suicide risks. So are people who have lost their businesses and livelihoods, or jobs that gave their life meaning. Many others are at risk from untreated conditions less fashionable than COVID-19. To be in favour of lockdown is to say that these people are less valuable than others, the type of people one might as well shove off a bridge to stop a speeding trolley.

Worth reading in full.

A Change in Nomenclature

A hideous creature, pictured alongside two morlocks.

A reader has written in with a suggestion, along with a doctored photo to illustrate his point.

‘Pro-lockdowner’ is a bit of a mouthful. Why not ‘Morlock’, after the sinister underground creatures of HG Wells’s Time Machine?

COVID-1984

We have a particularly good crop of ‘Party Slogans’ submitted by readers today:

REASON IS TREASON

‘THE SCIENCE’ IS SCIENCE

DATASET IS TRUTH

TRUTH IS LOCKDOWN

SOCIALISING IS SELFISH

INACTIVITY IS HEALTH

FRESH AIR IS CONTAGION

EXERCISE IS UNHEALTHY

HUGGING IS VIOLENCE

SICKNESS IS SELFISH: HEALTHCARE MUST BE LIBERATED FROM SELFISHNESS

and…

VARIANTS BYPASS COMMUNITY IMMUNITY WITH IMPUNITY

Do keep them coming – send them to us here.

Poetry Corner

A reader, a man of the cloth, has sent us a ‘Covid-Tide Hymn for Supine Clergy’ to be sung to the tune of “All to Jesus” by Winfield Scott Weeden:

1.

All to Boris I surrender,

All to SAGE I freely give,

I will ever live and trust them

In their presence daily live.

Chorus:

I surrender all, 

I surrender all,

All to thee my glorious leaders,

I surrender all. 

2. 

All to Boris I surrender,

Humbly at his feet I bow,

Worldly pleasures all got taken; 

Lock me, Boris, lock me down.

(Chorus)

3. 

All to Boris I surrender, 

Take my freedom, it’s all thine; 

Let me have thy saving vaccine, 

Truly know that this is fine.

(Chorus

4. 

All to Boris I surrender, 

Now I feel the sacred jab. 

Oh, the joy of full salvation! 

Glory, I can use a cab!

(Chorus)

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Eight today: “Life is for Living” by the Malopoets, “Chaos is my Life” by The Exploited, “Do Nothing” by The Specials, “Take Back the Land” by Oi Polloi, “You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For” by Catatonia, “Shake the Disease” by Depeche Mode, “Clock is Running ” by Seasick Steve and “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gill Scott Heron.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we have an extract from “There is No Such Thing as White Math”, in which Princeton mathematics Professor Sergiu Klainerman laments how even STEM subjects have begun to succumb to woke gobbledegook.

Like children all over the world, I was attracted to mathematics because of its formal beauty, the elegance and precision of its arguments, and the unique sense of achievement I was able to get by finding the right answer to a difficult problem. Mathematics also granted me an escape from the intoxicating daily drum of party propaganda – a refuge from the crushing atmosphere of political and ideological conformity. 

The woke ideology, on the other hand, treats both science and mathematics as social constructs and condemns the way they are practiced, in research and teaching, as manifestations of white supremacy, euro-centrism, and post-colonialism.

Take for example the recent educational program called “A pathway to equitable math instruction”. The program is backed financially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; it counts among its partners the Lawrence Hall of Science at U.C. Berkeley, the California Math project, the Association of California School Administrators, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, among others; and it was recently sent to Oregon teachers by the state’s Department of Education. 

The program argues that “white supremacy culture shows up in the classroom when the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer” or when students are required to show their work, while stipulating that the very “concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false”. The main goal of the program is “to dismantle racism in mathematics instruction” with the expressly political aim of engaging “the sociopolitical turn in all aspects of education, including mathematics”.

In the past, I would have said that such statements should be ignored as too radical and absurd to merit refutation. But recent trends across the country suggest that we no longer have that luxury.

So let me state the following for the record: Nothing in the history and current practice of mathematics justifies the notion that it is in any way different or dependent on the particular race or ethnic group engaged in it.

For historical reasons, we often discuss contributions to the field of mathematics from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Arabs and refer to them as distinct entities. They have all contributed through a unique cultural dialogue to the creation of a truly magnificent edifice accessible today to every man and woman on the planet. Though we pay tribute to great historical figures who inform the practice of mathematics, the subject can be taught – and often is – with no reference to the individuals who have contributed to it. In that sense it is uniquely universal. 

Schools throughout the world teach the same basic body of mathematics. They differ only by the methodology and intensity with which they instruct students. 

It is precisely this universality of math – together with the extraordinary ability of American universities to reward hard work and talent – that allowed me, and so many other young scientists and mathematicians, to come to this country and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams. 

The idea that focusing on getting the “right answer” is now considered among some self-described progressives a form of bias or racism is offensive and extraordinarily dangerous. The entire study of mathematics is based on clearly formulated definitions and statements of fact. If this were not so, bridges would collapse, planes would fall from the sky, and bank transactions would be impossible.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sir Kazuo Ishiguro says that young writers may be self-censoring to avoid the ire of woke mobs. The BBC has more.

Sir Kazuo, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, warned that a “climate of fear” was preventing some people from writing what they want.

He said they may be concerned that an “anonymous lynch mob will turn up online and make their lives a misery”.

He told the BBC: “I very much fear for the younger generation of writers.”

The 66-year-old said he was worried that less established authors were self-censoring by avoiding writing from certain viewpoints or including characters outside their immediate experiences.

“I think that is a dangerous state of affairs,” added the acclaimed author, whose works include The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.

He said he was particularly troubled about young writers “who rightly perhaps feel that their careers are more fragile, their reputations are more fragile and they don’t want to take risks”.

His comments come after a number of freedom of speech disputes, with writers being “cancelled” or facing threats to boycott their work. High-profile targets have included J.K. Rowling, Julie Burchill and Jeanine Cummins.

Sir Kazuo, however, who received a knighthood in 2019, said he was not worried about being “cancelled”.

“I think I’m in a privileged and relatively protected position because I’m a very established author,” he said. “I’m the age I am. I have a reputation. Perhaps it’s an illusion but I think I’m protected.”

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

Toby and James Delingpole have recorded their weekly episode of London Calling. In this edition, they discuss Peter Hitchens’s decision to have the jab – he and James were going at it like rats in a sack on Twitter yesterday – as well as Harry and Meghan’s upcoming moan fest, Toby’s career advice to James Corden (delivered in person at the GQ Man of the Year awards) and the novels of Bernard Cornwell.

You can listen to the episode here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Latest News

Arrival of the Brazilian Variant

Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro

Despite newly toughened entry requirements to the UK, a ‘variant of concern’ first detected in Brazil has made its way onto our shores, as the BBC reports.

Three cases have been detected in England and separately three in Scotland.

In England, officials are still trying to track down one of those who tested positive for the new variant.

The three Scottish residents had flown to north-east Scotland from Brazil via Paris and London, the Scottish government said.

Experts believe this variant (P1) – first detected in travellers to Japan from Manaus in northern Brazil in January – could be more contagious. 

There are also concerns vaccines may not be as effective against it – but NHS England’s Prof Stephen Powis said vaccines could be “rapidly adapted”.

Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England (PHE), said the UK was more advanced than many other countries in identifying the variants and mutations and therefore able to act quickly.

On-again, off-again sceptic Alistair Haimes greeted the news with a tongue-in-cheek Tweet:

Advocates of Zero Covid have been having a tricky week too, as the supposedly Covid-free island fortresses of New Zealand and the Isle of Man have hurtled back into various shutdowns and restrictions after, inevitably, finding cases again. The BBC reports on the Manx situation:

Nine new cases of coronavirus have been detected on the Isle of Man, including two that cannot be linked to a known chain of transmission, the government has said.

People have been urged to stay at home, avoid mixing with other households and postpone events as a “precaution”.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle said it was now “possible that the virus is circulating in the community” again.

A clearer picture would be known “within 24 hours”, he added.

Mr Quayle said while the government had “stopped short” of making the measures a legal requirement, the “clear advice” was for people to stay at home where possible as a “precautionary measure for now”.

“As we are unable at this stage to link either of these cases to a known transmission chain – or to each other – we must conclude that it is possible that the virus is circulating in the community,” Mr Quayle said.

The island has on two previous occasions celebrated lifting all its restrictions after stints with no known new infections, most recently on February 1st. It comes just after the news, which we included in yesterday’s round up, that Auckland was imposing a seven-day lockdown after detecting just one case. At least both offer an example of what the reality of life would be like under a ‘Zero Covid’ regime.

Police Giving Up On Outdoor Gatherings

British Bobbies

In a departure from some of the recent fighting talk from police officials, and some reports of officious behaviour by cops, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation has said that the police are neither willing nor able to patrol outdoor gatherings. The Telegraph has more.

Police no longer wish to enforce Covid rules to break up groups gathering outdoors in the month before the restrictions are eased, rank and file officers said on Sunday night.

Huge crowds took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to meet in large numbers in parks and on beaches this weekend, but anecdotal evidence suggested only some police forces were still trying to enforce the existing rules.

The relaxation of Covid regulations only begins next Monday when, for the first time since the lockdown began, two people can meet in an “outdoor public space” for recreational purposes that include a coffee, drink or picnic. 

Only by March 29th will six people – or two households – be allowed to meet outdoors, including in back gardens.

On Sunday night Ken Marsh, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in the UK’s biggest force, said his members had no desire to carry out the law to the letter.

“Police don’t want to police this,” he said. “We have had enough of this. It is not policeable. It is not manageable.”

UK Orders 30 Million Doses of Single-Shot Johnson & Johnson Jab

Whether it’s because the Prime Minister likes the name, or because the USA has just authorised emergency use of the jab, the UK has committed to purchasing 30 million doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine before it has been approved by the MHRA, as the Telegraph reports.

single-shot vaccine to combat Covid in Britain could be just weeks away, with regulators set to begin the approval process this week.

Ministers are expecting the Johnson & Johnson  jab – which has been authorised in the US for emergency use – to start formal regulatory approval in the coming days. The UK has ordered 30 million doses, the US 100 million and Canada 38 million.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which must carry out the checks for the UK, did not respond to a request for a comment.

The development came as reports emerged that just one shot of the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of being admitted to hospital by more than 90%.

Public health officials have briefed ministers on the new results, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday.

Health sources said the jab, developed by Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines division Janssen, was not yet being considered by the MHRA for formal approval – a process that normally takes less than two weeks, based on the timelines for Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s jabs.

A senior Government source said the MHRA formal process was “very likely” to start this week. The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The BBC reports that Rishi Sunak is committing a whopping £1.65 billion extra to the UK’s vaccination programme in the upcoming budget in a bid to ensure all adults are offered a jab by July 31st.

Trust Me, I’m a Doctor

Following on from Chris Whitty and the General Medical Council’s comments regarding vaccine uptake in the medical profession, which Will Jones reported in Lockdown Sceptics a few days ago, a reader has expressed his worries about the implications for the trust between doctors and patients. This dawned on him after a conversation with his goddaughter, a medical student.

My goddaughter is a medical student in her final year. She has recently received the Pfizer vaccine not entirely willingly. Her experience is consistent with reports of doctors facing pressure and even disciplinary action if they refuse a Covid vaccine.

Doctors who don’t want to receive this new vaccine treatment but are finally coerced into it are doing so presumably to protect their jobs and their careers. This should be a very frightening prospect for patients. What it essentially does is cast doubt on how much we can trust those doctors. If they are willing to risk harm to themselves for the benefit of their careers, who is to say they won’t risk harm to us for the same reasons? They might prescribe what is best for us or they might prescribe whatever best serves their careers.

The same can be said for healthcare workers as a whole. Following reports that about half of care home workers were refusing to be vaccinated, two major care home operators have announced a ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy. The message for anyone who has a relative in a care home the message is clear. You have no guarantee that those caring for your relatives will do what they think is best for your relative. If they are willing to risk harm to themselves (at least in their minds) to save their jobs, then the chances are they will be prepared to risk harm to your relative for the very same reason. 

Codes of ethics in professions are important. They give us confidence by elevating our interests over those of the professionals serving us. This is particularly important in the medical profession because our lives are often literally at stake. This might be why a code of ethics in medicine goes back thousands of years to the hippocratic ideal of not causing intentional harm.

Doctors may reasonably argue that things aren’t that simple any more. Long gone are the days of the independent doctor serving a community and exercising personal judgment. Most doctors these days carry out their work within sophisticated, gargantuan healthcare systems. Best practice is heavily prescribed by organisations such as NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or the WHO (World Health Organisation) which in practice leaves doctors little leeway to exercise personal judgment. Even at the individual level, difficult decisions are often made by multidisciplinary teams with shared responsibility.

Doctors and healthcare workers who are averse to receiving a new, little-tested vaccination may find it easy to persuade themselves that they are ultimately submitting to the better judgment and wisdom created by the system. If the NHS says it’s best, well, maybe it is, even if I personally doubt it, a doctor could easily say. 

The problem is, does a juggernaut like the NHS seek to do what is best for me as an individual or what is best for the public collectively? (We might be tempted to think that in fact, like many doctors, it is serving itself first and foremost. What does “Protect the NHS” otherwise mean, if not that?)

Most if not all NHS trusts have codes of ethics that safeguard the individual interests of patients. But the reality of course is that a hospital or a clinic ends up considering the interests of several people at the same time and when those interests are in conflict, it is often physical and financial constraints rather than ethical considerations that guide decisions. Medical systems or corporations tend to aim at maximising collective rather than individual well-being. So in the end it is people who we end up relying on to behave ethically. 

Where does that leave us patients? Now that we know that doctors can be coerced, whenever a doctor advises or prescribes some treatment, we will have no guarantee that the treatment is the best thing for us. It might be, but it might not. It could be what is best for the doctor or what is best for the hospital or the system at large. We have always assumed that doctors will tell us what they believe is best for us. No longer. That’s yet another pillar of our free and liberal society that is being destroyed in this crisis.

Stop Press: The Telegraph reports that in London vaccine uptake among NHS staff is only at about three-quarters, with the greatest hesitancy among BAME staff.

Almost a quarter of NHS staff in some parts of the country are refusing Covid jabs, with official statistics showing more than 200,000 health and care workers putting patients at risk.

NHS figures show that 91% of front line healthcare staff across the country have taken up the offer of a vaccine, but that dips to 76% in London – the worst refusal rate. 

In total, more than 41,000 front line healthcare workers in the capital, including medics, hospital porters, cleaners and laboratory staff, have not had the jab.

The national picture among care home staff is even worse, with uptake of less than 73%.

The statistics show that around 106,000 front line healthcare staff and more than 121,000 care workers have yet to take up the vaccine. 

Last week, Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said NHS and care home staff had a “professional responsibility” to get vaccinated, while the Queen said those who refuse the vaccine “ought to think about other people rather than themselves”.

Scientists and ministers are concerned that vaccination hesitancy, particularly in deprived areas, could create “pockets of infection” which continue to fuel transmission and slow down the efforts to ease lockdown.

There is particular concern about low levels of uptake among those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, including healthcare workers. But ministers are reluctant to make vaccination mandatory amid worres that the move could make those with doubts about the jabs more fearful.

It emerged last month that while 80% of staff overall at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals in London had been vaccinated, the rate was around a quarter among black workers and lower still for Filipino staff.

What Happened to T-Cell Tests?

A reader has written in wondering what has become of T-Cell immunity tests, some of which were mooted last year but seem to have been forgotten about.

I wanted to tell you/ask about the idea of T-Cell immunity and the ability to test for it. As you will know, immunity to SARS-CoV-2 through T-Cells is a known thing, with there being reports that those exposed to the original SARS-CoV 17 years ago displaying immunity to the current scourge of the world.

Last Autumn there were a few articles published on companies developing a test to determine immunity:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-53764640

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/22/uk-trial-effectiveness-t-cell-immunity-test-kits/

https://www.geekwire.com/2020/adaptive-plans-fall-launch-t-cell-test-past-covid-19-detection-alternative-antibody-tests/

The first, on the BBC, was a company in Cardiff. I have exchanged emails with them and their test is ready but held up in the regulatory process. The second, mentioned in the Telegraph article, is a company whose product is, again, ready, but held up in regulatory process, although it is not a home consumption product but one for health professionals and trained labs.

Nevertheless, there appear to be tests designed to do the job. Implementing them would therefore uncover those in the UK, indeed worldwide, who have natural immunity and/or immunity after catching COVID-19. The impact of these being made available now would be immense:

1.  UK Govt could target only those who were not immune, rather than blanket jab everyone.

2.  Those who were nervous of the jabs could find out if they were at risk or fine as-is.

3.  The Covid certificates (AKA health passports), if inevitable (I hope not), could incorporate those who have natural immunity, so reducing the prospective ‘apartheid’ such a device would bring in.

So why are they being held up and why is no-one talking about them? It wouldn’t be because the authorities and those who drive the pharma industry want to make the world vaccine junkies would it?  Surely cockup not conspiracy?

Perhaps worthy of your attention/investigation.

Readers with any knowledge of what’s happened to the T-Cell tests can email us here.

Masks in Schools: A Template Letter for Concerned Parents

A lawyer who would prefer not to be named has alerted us to a template letter which he has produced for the website Law or Fiction, run by a group of concerned lawyers in order to provide clarity on lockdown laws and regulations. It is free to use, although donations to the site are encouraged. It is aimed at parents who do not wish their children to be made to wear masks at school, and it includes detailed reference to all the relevant sections of law which back up the case. A great time-saver for anyone who can’t sift through the rules and regulations themselves.

Law or Fiction commented:

Health and safety law did not change with the arrival of Covid (SARS-CoV-2). We are providing free to parents to download for personal use (though we have a donate button) a draft letter to use to send to your child’s school and your local authority. It asserts the right of yours and all children at the school not to wear any mask and demands immediate action from the school.

Get a cup of tea. The letter sets out all you, the school and its lawyers need to know about the law and school policies regarding masks. Share it with everyone you know.

The letter is drafted for local authority schools in England but the substance of it will apply equally in other parts of the United Kingdom and to private schools and academies.

The letter is also a formal and detailed ‘letter before action’ of the sort solicitors would send before starting court proceedings. Using the letter does not oblige you to take any further action. However, if schools and authorities do not respond as demanded, it may allow proceedings to be started quickly. This is important since mask policies are being introduced quickly.

Legal advice on your circumstances and yours or your child’s claim should be obtained before commencing proceedings.

Download the letter here.

Stop Press: The Daily Mail reports that a teaching union activist is calling for teachers to go on strike to disrupt the return of pupils on March 8th, such is the danger that he thinks they will face:

Union activist Martin Powell-Davies has said school chiefs will be “failing in their responsibilities” of health and safety measures if they “recklessly” open their doors. 

He has urged the National Education Union, which represents 450,000 employees, to join his plans for a strike the day before children are due to return to the classroom.

Mr Powell-Davies argues that schools should be reopened in phases and that class sizes should be dropped by 50%. 

Their future is in safe hands…

Stop Press 2: By way of contrast, Freddie Sayers at UnHerd has interviewed David Perks, a headteacher in East London who will not be implementing the face mask guidance at his school:

“I just felt it was completely upside down,” he tells [Freddie] on LockdownTV. “If you’re going to bring the kids back, we want face to face teaching. Unless you do that, what are we actually doing?”

“We’ve just been doing months of Zoom lessons where the big problem you have with children is they won’t turn their cameras on. To then bring them into school, and instead of getting on with what you normally do, you put a face mask on – it’s like being back at home in a Zoom lesson. It’s just completely antithetical to what we’re trying to do.”

Worth watching in full.

Dispatch from HMP Quarantine Hotel

No social distancing in those days…

We’re publishing an original article today by a reader describing the abysmal standards in the hotel his stepson has been forced to quarantine in following a work trip to the UAE. His stepson has taken some pictures to illustrate the point (not recommended viewing for clean-freaks).

My stepson is a race engineer with an elite sports team employed by a major player in the motorsport industry. To protect his identity, I’ll call him ‘the Stiglet’. The team returned last Monday February 22nd having been to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to compete in a series of events held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They were all aware before leaving the UK that because the UAE is on the Government’s ‘red list’, that they’d have to go to a Government-designated hotel and isolate for 10 days upon their return. A group of about 24 of them (circa half the team) were taken to their appointed hotel by bus; none of them were allowed to drive their own vehicles there, presumably for fear they’d do a runner. HMP Covid has four stars, is part of a major group and, as the team’s employer very generously agreed to pay the £1,750.00 bill per person, you might think – as did the Stiglet – that for that amount of money it couldn’t be all bad. Well, think again…

The room given to the Stiglet was disgustingly dirty. As you can see from the photo below, it’s covered in a layer of dust so thick that it’s obviously not been cleaned for many weeks, if not months.

The second picture appears to be showing flaky paintwork in the bathroom, something one wouldn’t expect to find in a four star hotel. But it’s not the poor standard of decoration that caught the Stiglet’s eye, it’s the little black curly things on the floor! (Look closely and you’ll see them: please bear in mind that the Stiglet isn’t a photographer.)

Needless to say, he complained to the hotel manager, who told him that all rooms are deep cleaned and sanitised according to Government guidelines. Yeah, right! What about cleaning products provided by the hotel so the Stiglet could do his own cleaning, you ask? You can be excused for assuming that in a Government-designated hotel used to quarantine people who may have contracted the virus, there would be any amount of cloths, mops, detergent, disinfectant and sanitiser etc.? Four sachets of wet wipes are the only cleaning materials in the room.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Pandemonium erupted amongst angry ‘inmates’ at Canadian quarantine hotels after meals failed to arrive. CTV National News has the story.

Postcard from the Sinai Desert

The Red Sea coast, in Dahab, south-east Sinai

I’m compiling today’s update on Lockdown Sceptics from Dahab, in the southern part of the Sinai desert in Egypt. Some ‘work that can’t be done from home’ brought me here at the end of January (my day job is, or was, as a full-time professional musician). Amusingly enough, I made it from my London flat to the taxi rank outside Cairo airport without having to explain myself to a single official. On arrival, I discovered an exhilarating normality which put my worries about getting trapped out of the country, or facing possible hotel quarantine, to the back of my mind. I decided not to hurry home after our performance as I had planned.

I spent a week or so nervously eyeing the worsening border restrictions in the UK, but eventually it all started to seem so blissfully remote and irrelevant that I began to ignore it. I girded myself to the possibility of an extortionate stay in a one-star hotel by the M25 and got on with things. As it turned out, Egypt has remained off the red list so far, so the inconvenience upon my return looks to be limited to the standard 10-day spell at home, during which two extra mandatory PCR self-test kits must be completed, at a cost of £210.

Our travels took us to Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and Dahab. In the traffic-choked capital, there appear to be no real Covid restrictions at all, other than a few confusingly arbitrary opening hours at certain museums and other tourist attractions, and a blanket closing time of midnight for all hospitality. It is possible to wander into any bar or restaurant without a mask, and sit down without registering details or being quizzed about households. Masks outdoors are a reasonably common sight (especially among western tourists), although they do not appear to be mandatory. Neither over-zealous members of the public nor any of the numerous armed policemen in the city attempted enforcement, in any case. Taxi drivers don their masks (or not) depending on what their passengers choose to do, perhaps in a bid to please more cautious foreigners.

Standing amid the deafening chaos of an enormous street market in downtown Cairo, I looked around, imagining the sheer impossibility of attempting a lockdown in a place like this, and laughed out loud. There may well be a wealthier class of Egyptian ‘knowledge worker’ who can work from home on a laptop, but they are far from the majority. Many people in this city, the biggest on the African continent, live hand-to-mouth, and the economy is hugely cash-based. Lockdown would simply mean starvation for most. Robert Jackman, who joined me for a week in Cairo for other work purposes, made a similar observation in his subsequent piece in the Telegraph. In a country where on average 50,000 children die per year from diarrhoea at the best of times, and where the official Covid death toll has yet to scrape 10,000, perhaps many feel that it is a little hard to take this risk quite as seriously as those in the relatively cosseted West.

The further away from the capital we found ourselves, firstly on the Nile Express train south to Luxor and Aswan (the locations of some jaw-dropping Ancient Egyptian historical sites) and afterwards by domestic flight to our current location in Sinai, the fewer masks there were to be seen. Dahab itself, though, has proved the ultimate escape from ‘Covid World’. Part of the difference could be that although we are in Egypt, this is a Bedouin region. The Bedouins do not strictly consider themselves Egyptian and therefore government edicts may have less truck with local leaders. Though visitor numbers are undoubtedly low by normal standards, there is a healthy cohort of so-called ‘Covid refugees’ here. Aside from the few scraggly looking hippies who appear to have turned up decades ago and forgotten to go home, there are plenty of Russians, Egyptians, various continental Europeans, and even Brits, enjoying the ‘Old Normal’. We have befriended many of them at the local beach bar, where it is possible to order a drink shoulder to shoulder with a stranger, and strike up conversation with them. You can even sneeze in public and no one will dart away from you in terror (this would have seemed an especially strange thing to write a year ago). One person we met remarked that during a recent trip to the local surgery, the doctor had told her that despite all the comings and goings of foreigners, he was not aware of a single case of Covid in the area…

I’ll soon have to brace myself for my return flight, arriving smack dab into the middle of Britain’s glacial re-opening schedule. All things considered, I’m not particularly looking forward to it…

COVID-1984

A Scottish anti-lockdown protester

We have had some more suggestions for Orwellian ‘Party Slogans’ from readers. These were my favourites:

INFECTIONS ARE CASES

WITH IS FROM

BIOLOGY IS BUNK

SCIENCE IS DEFINITIVE

COMPLIANCE IS WILLPOWER

DEFIANCE IS DRUDGERY

DELUSION IS REALITY

And one reader added, rather chillingly:

LOCKDOWN IS HOW WE DEAL WITH INFECTIOUS DISEASES. LOCKDOWN HAS ALWAYS BEEN HOW WE DEAL WITH INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Keep emailing us your suggestions here!

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Nine today: “Us Against The World” by GBH, “Industrial Disease” by Dire Straits, “I Don’t Believe A Word” by Motörhead, “Realize” by AC/DC, “False Flags” by Massive Attack, “The End of the World” by The Carpenters, “In the Cage” by Genesis, “Try to Hang On” by Pavlov’s Dog and “How Long Has This Been Going On” by Ace.

Love in the Time of Covid

Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we have the news that a selective programme for high-achieving students in the public school system of Boston in the USA has been suspended because too many of those taking part were white. GBH News has more.

A selective programme for high-performing fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Boston has suspended enrolment due to the pandemic and concerns about equity in the program, GBH News has learned.

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius recommended the one-year hiatus for the program, known as Advanced Work Classes, saying the district would not proceed with the programme for new students next year. 

“There’s been a lot of inequities that have been brought to the light in the pandemic that we have to address,” Cassellius told GBH News. “There’s a lot of work we have to do in the district to be anti-racist and have policies where all of our students have a fair shot at an equitable and excellent education.”

New students will be admitted in the fourth grade by standards to be determined at the school level, according to a BPS spokesman.

There will be no new students admitted in the fifth or sixth grades, the spokesman said, but those already in advanced work will be allowed to continue.

A district analysis of the program found that more than 70% of students enrolled in the program were white and Asian, even though nearly 80% of all Boston public school students are Hispanic and Black.

School Committee member Lorna Rivera said at a January meeting that she was disturbed by the findings, noting that nearly 60% of fourth graders in the program at the Ohrenberger school in West Roxbury are white even though most third graders enrolled at the school are Black and Hispanic. 

“This is just not acceptable,” Rivera said at a recent school committee meeting. “I’ve never heard these statistics before, and I’m very very disturbed by them.”

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, the state that shunned business closures and lockdowns, gave a barnstorming address at last weekend’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), taking aim at everyone from Andrew Cuomo to Dr Anthony Fauci.

Latest News

Boris Keeps Schools in Limbo

Pressure has been increasing on the Prime Minister to tell children and their families when schools can reopen after officials at Public Health England (PHE) decided it would be safe to open primaries after February half term. The Times has more.

Primary schools can safely reopen after half-term if cases keep falling, government health advisers have concluded.

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

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

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

Mr Johnson promised yesterday to give a further indication on reopening schools “as soon as we can”. Several Tory MPs demanded clear plans for a return before Easter and Labour called for a guarantee that schools would be the first priority for lockdown easing.

Leading paediatricians warn in a letter to the Times today of the “calamitous” impact of closures and say that “anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts are at frightening levels”.

Pressure from backbench MPs, some of whom have endorsed the UsForThem campaign, is mounting, the Sun reports.

Boris Johnson must begin getting children back into classrooms next month, his own MPs and parents demanded last night.

The PM was warned that a swift return was vital to avoid risking “a lost generation” of kids from the country’s poorest families.

The calls came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted teachers will be vaccinated as a priority – but not before Easter.

Tory MPs and parents warned Boris Johnson last night that children risk becoming the “forgotten victims” of the Covid pandemic.

Former Cabinet Minister Esther McVey said “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about schoolchildren. 

“They are the pandemic’s forgotten victims. We’ve got to start thinking about their prospects and futures.”

She added: “It’s time to get schools open, to safeguard children’s futures and to make sure we don’t let down an entire generation.”

More MPs spoke out about the ongoing and future harms:

The Essex MP [Robert Halfon] told the Sun: “Long after the coronavirus has gone, our younger children could be mired in a ditch of educational poverty, mental health crises and safeguarding hazards because of the damage of school closures.”

Mansfield MP Ben Bradley said: “Schools must reopen. Each day they’re out of the classroom, the most disadvantaged children are falling behind in their education, and their life chances are poorer as a result.”

Mark Harper, head of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said: “As the PM himself said last August, ‘Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, ­economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.’”

The Telegraph also urged the Government to set out a timetable for schools reopening.

It is evident that the Government has no more idea when all children might return than anyone else. It is unclear what the official metric is for ending the lockdown and allowing schools to resume normal teaching. Is it the infection rate among teachers who, as Office for National Statistics figures showed yesterday, are no more at risk from Covid than many other walks of life? Is it the propensity of children to pass the virus on to older family members? If that is the case, that risk will persist because children are not to be vaccinated, certainly not for months, if at all. Moreover, if children are passing on the virus within their own families then vaccinating teachers will make little difference to the spread of Covid though it might help create the conditions to reopen schools.

Or is the date for reducing restrictions the point at which the most vulnerable have been vaccinated? This is expected to be mid-February, by which time 13 million vaccines should have been administered to the elderly and sick. Yet doubt is now being cast over this because it is not certain that the vaccine will give sufficient protection. Another metric is pressure on the NHS. Even if infection rates remain high, will controls be eased once it is evident that the vaccine has helped reduce hospitalisations?

We know none of the answers to these questions and Boris Johnson was unable to shed any light when asked yesterday to give an idea when the lockdown might be eased.

Stop Press: Ross Clark reports in the Spectator that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has not found a conclusive link between schools and the winter resurgence.

Schools were the last institutions to close and can be expected to be the first to reopen. But just how big a part do schools play in the spread of COVID-19? The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has published a review of the evidence from 17 countries and concluded that the reopening of schools cannot be blamed for a resurgence in the virus.

Most countries closed their schools during the first wave of the epidemic in spring 2020. From April 15th, Denmark reopened schools – with social distancing – for two to 12 year olds. There was no increase in cases following this reopening, according to the ECDC. Similarly, South Korea’s phased reopening of schools between April and June was not found to be associated with any sudden rise in paediatric cases.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: The Daily Mail has reported on a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that, amid much hand-wringing about the safety of teachers, they are far from the highest risk occupation.

Binmen, male lorry drivers and carers are among the groups most at risk of contracting coronavirus, official figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed.

The report published today found that men in ‘elementary occupations’, including binmen, postmen, cleaners and security staff, had the highest number of deaths from the virus last year, with 699 deaths in this category – a rate of 66.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

They were followed by lorry and bus drivers and others working in transport, where 608 fatalities were recorded. 

The report found 139 teachers in primary schools, secondary schools and universities in England and Wales died last year after catching the virus.  

Protecting teachers earlier than other vulnerable Brits has been a subject of hot debate in recent weeks with ministers desperate to reopen schools, but the data showed their death risk was no higher than average.

Daily Mail graph showing relative deaths per occupation category

Lorry drivers and binmen faring worse than doctors, nurses, and care workers points towards more complex risk factors than just the sheer amount of human contact (lorry drivers in particular, experience practically none in their day-to-day work).

Stop Press 3: A schoolgirl in Keswick, Cumbria has been spotted in the town square staging a reverse Greta Thunberg-style protest:

The Anti-Greta

Does Charging Travellers for Enforced Hotel Stays Violate WHO Rules?

As the country awaits news later today of the final decision on Australia-style quarantine hotels in the UK, the policy seems likely to go ahead in some form, with the majority of the cabinet in favour of it. However, a reader has been perusing the WHO’s International Health Regulations and thinks that the policy might technically be against the rules if travellers are made to pay for their incarceration.

There have been numerous news reports that the UK may announce mandatory hotel-based isolation for international arrivals and that travellers will have to pay the cost. This would violate the UK’s international obligations, which the WHO describes as a legally binding.

The UK is party to international obligations by virture of its membership in the World Health Organisation and I have heard members of Government say that travellers would be required to pay for the cost of their isolation. This would breach these obligations.

Article 32 of the Regulations requires the state to provide or arrange for adequate food, water and accommodation for travellers who are quarantined or isolated for public health purposes. Article 40 prohibits the state charging for such provision.  

There is a limited exclusion from prohibition on charging for persons arriving in the UK to take up temporary or permanent residence. This exclusion would not apply to visitors to the UK nor to UK residents returning to the UK.  

WHO International Health Regulations: 

Article 32: Treatment of travellers

In implementing health measures under these Regulations, States Parties shall treat travellers with respect for their dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms and minimize any discomfort or distress associated with such measures, including by:

(a) treating all travellers with courtesy and respect;

(b) taking into consideration the gender, sociocultural, ethnic or religious concerns of travellers; and

(c) providing or arranging for adequate food and water, appropriate accommodation and clothing, protection for baggage and other possessions, appropriate medical treatment, means of necessary communication if possible in a language that they can understand and other appropriate assistance for travellers who are quarantined, isolated or subject to medical examinations or other procedures for public health purposes.

Article 40: Charges for health measures regarding travellers

1. Except for travellers seeking temporary or permanent residence, and subject to paragraph 2 of this Article,** no charge shall be made by a State Party pursuant to these Regulations for the following measures for the protection of public health:

(a) any medical examination provided for in these Regulations, or any supplementary examination which may be required by that State Party to ascertain the health status of the traveller examined;

(b) any vaccination or other prophylaxis provided to a traveller on arrival that is not a published requirement or is a requirement published less than 10 days prior to provision of the vaccination or other prophylaxis;

(c) appropriate isolation or quarantine requirements of travellers;

(d) any certificate issued to the traveller specifying the measures applied and the date of application; or

(e) any health measures applied to baggage accompanying the traveller. 

** Para 2 allows charging for medical services that are primarily for the benefit of the individual and not for public health reasons. It would not allow charging for isolation.

On the face of it, our contributor seems to have raised a problem the Government appears to be unaware of. But if there are any readers with the relevant legal expertise who think this is too good to be true, please let us know.

Stop Press: The Times reports that even if the policy is given the green light tomorrow, it could take three weeks for the many currently dormant hotels to become fully operational again, particularly with the extra staff and procedures they’ll need to put in place.

Boris Johnson is tomorrow expected to sign off plans to quarantine all travellers at a meeting of the Government’s coronavirus operations committee in an effort to stop the import of variants from abroad.

The Prime Minister said he wanted “maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad” to prevent new variants from jeopardising the mass vaccination programme.

However, a hotel industry source told the Times that as many as a quarter of the 30-plus hotels around Heathrow were shut at present because of the collapse in passenger demand at Britain’s biggest airport. Some of the remaining hotels have undergone partial closures.

The number of travellers passing through Heathrow was down by 83% last month compared with a year ago.

The source said that it could take two or three weeks to reopen closed hotels – if they were needed – while vital safety procedures were carried out. This includes checks on the water supply to make sure it is free of potentially deadly bacteria and training staff in the latest COVID-19 compliance procedures.

The Price Some Families Will Pay if Britain Imprisons Travellers in ‘Quarantine Hotels’

A Norwegian fjord

We are publishing an original article today by Kathrine Jebsen Moore, a freelance writer in Edinburgh. She regularly contributes to Quillette, where she covered the culture wars in the knitting community, and has also written for the Spectator, spiked and New Discourses. It takes the form of a letter written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, lamenting the move towards pulling up the drawbridge, and the consequences for her international family:

Dear Priti Patel,

I sympathise with your idea of looking to Australia and New Zealand for inspiration. They have managed to practically eliminate the virus by shutting themselves off from the rest of the world, only allowing natives to return, and when they do, imprisoning them in ‘quarantine hotels’. Britain looks set to achieve, finally, a pandemic success, rolling out the vaccine faster than any other European country. This is of course good news. For most Britons, pulling up the drawbridge is surely a logical next step as life gradually returns to normal. After all, holidays are all but illegal at the moment, so why shouldn’t those who do wish to return from abroad, or indeed venture here, be faced with an extra barrier? The number of visitors is currently around 10,000 a day and it’s hoped that the threat of an enforced quarantine in cheap hotels will get the numbers down. All arrivals are currently expected to quarantine, but with no real way of ensuring that everyone does. That means the risk of new strains of coronavirus arriving with them is still real.

But have a thought for those of us with families divided between different countries. This news feels like yet another blow to our plans to being able to see our family overseas this year. To explain: I arrived in the UK more than 20 years ago as a student. I’m from Norway, which is only a short flight across the North Sea. I’ve settled with my English husband in Scotland, and travelling to Oslo from here is just 20 minutes longer on a plane than flying to London. Pre-pandemic, all our holidays were spent in Norway. We own a house there, in a little town on the Oslo Fjord coast, where our four children have friends, see family, and immerse themselves in Norwegian life. This means skiing in the winter, and swimming and enjoying the warm weather in the summer. My parents have been very grateful that, despite us living abroad, they have seen their grandchildren almost as much as other grandparents whose children reside in the same country.

Worth reading in full.

Antibody Levels May Show Swedish Herd Immunity

Following on from our headline article by Will Jones a couple of days ago about Sweden’s deaths being in line with the European average, the Swedish doctor Sebastian Rushworth MD has published a piece on his site drawing attention to a graph showing the proportion of Swedes with antibodies. He concludes that it shows further evidence that Sweden’s much less draconian strategy was a success.

Here’s a graph that doesn’t get shown in the mass media, and that I’m sure all those who want you to stay fearful of Covid don’t want you to see. It shows the share of the tested population with antibodies to Covid in Sweden week by week, beginning in the 28th week of 2020 (the first week for which the Swedish Public Health Authority provides data on the share of tests coming back positive).

There is so much that is interesting about this graph. Like I said, it begins in Week 28, in other words in early July, which is around the time the first Swedish Covid wave was bottoming out. At the time, I personally thought this was due to enough of the population having developed immunity to covid, but we now know that was wrong. Rather, it was due to seasonality – in other words, summer caused covid to disappear.

The proportion testing positive for antibodies was 15% in early July. It remained stable for a few weeks, and then started to drop, as we would expect, given that the rate of new infections was very low at the time. Your body generally doesn’t keep producing antibodies forever after an infection, rather they wane. Of course, this doesn’t mean immunity is waning, as I discussed on this blog a while back. Although the actively antibody producing cells disappear, memory cells remain, ready to be activated at short notice if you get re-exposed to the pathogen.

After an initial reduction, the proportion with antibodies stabilized at around 10% in August, and stayed that way until October, when it started to rise, in line with the beginning of the second wave. And it’s literally kept rising by a percentage point or two, every week, all autumn and winter so far. In the second week of January 2021, 40% of those tested in Sweden had antibodies to Covid.

Funnily enough, mainstream media has so far shown relatively little interest in publicizing this astounding fact. I’ve been getting most of my statistics from SVT, the Swedish public broadcaster. They had been providing data on the share with antibodies in Stockholm up to a month or two back, when that information discretely disappeared from their website. I wonder why.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has drawn our attention to a Swedish report on care home deaths in Stockholm, which Dr Rushworth also links to later on in his article. The original Swedish report is here, and our reader has kindly translated and summarised the findings:

A report from care homes in Stockholm with Covid deaths: only 17% died of Covid (dominating cause of death); for 75%, Covid could have been a contributory factor; and for 8% , there was another cause of death entirely. This is the same percentages found in a study of care homes in another part of Sweden published in 2020.

The interesting thing is the description of these three categories describing the types of frail patients in the group. It is highly likely that only the first group were Covid deaths.

The first group (17%), where Covid was the dominating cause of death, had the following features: before getting Covid they were in a stable condition and had few underlying diseases. The actual Covid disease was more often in two phases and the second phase was characterised by high fever and poor oxygen saturation.

In the second group (75%), where Covid was a contributory factor, the individuals where already sickly and frail. The time between the onset of symptoms and death was short, but without dramatic signs.

In the third group (8%), where there was another cause of death, the individuals had already caught Covid and recovered and then got another disease. They had a longer time between the recording of Covid infection and time of death.

Stop Press 2: Ross Clark’s short summary in the Spectator of a new study of how long immunity lasts after infection is also worth a read.

Covid Riots in the Netherlands

Police car on fire outside Eindhoven Centraal Station

The Netherlands adopted a relatively light-touch approach to restrictions last year, and enjoyed a relatively normal summer, but ramped up restrictions last October. In recent days, violent riots have broken out, with protestors objecting to a new curfew law. The Times has more.

Police have warned that the Netherlands could face weeks of rioting after a coronavirus curfew ended in the worst riots for 40 years as delays to vaccinations raised tensions across Europe.

There were over 240 arrests last night as police used tear gas and water cannon to break up demonstrations in Amsterdam and Eindhoven leading to rioting across the country.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, blamed the “criminal violence”, which “has nothing to do with fighting for freedom”, on a “one per cent” minority opposed to lockdown restrictions.

“We are fighting against the virus to regain freedom,” he said. “We are not taking these measures for fun. It is the virus that is depriving us of our freedom.”

The caretaker Prime Minister singled out attacks on a virus testing centre and a hospital for particular criticism after a weekend of violence following the curfew’s introduction on Saturday night.

“It is intolerable. Any normal person can only become aware of this with horror. What has got into these people?” he said to the NOS public broadcaster. “This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such.”

Frustration at the curfew, from 9pm to 4.30am and the first such restriction since Nazi occupation, has flared because Dutch infections are down and the country’s vaccination rate is low.

Dutch vaccinations are at some 0.8% compared to an EU average of twice that, while the UK has passed 10%, holding the prospect of a prolonged lockdown.

John Jorritsma, the mayor of Eindhoven, warned the Netherlands could be “on the road to civil war” after what he described as enormous damage in his city.

“This was not a demonstration. This was excessive violence, boredom, idleness. Hooligans came from all over the country, meeting on social media,” he said. “You see that the riots in Eindhoven were imitated in other municipalities. If you set the country on fire in such a way, it looks like we are heading for civil war.”

Police are worried that the violence will continue for “days or weeks” after violence in Eindhoven and Amsterdam spread to other cities including the Hague, Tilburg, Venlo, Helmond, Breda, Arnhem and Apeldoorn.

“It was terrible,” said Hubert Bruls, the Chairman of the National Security Council of Cities and Regions. “This is not a demonstration, I would call this corona hooliganism.”

Rioting broke out on the curfew’s first night, with almost 3,000 fines of €95 and violence in the fishing town of Urk on Saturday where a street testing centre for coronavirus was set on fire.

Koen Simmers, the head of the Dutch police union, said it was the worst rioting since since the squatter protests of 1980 and predicted that the violence was here to stay. “I hope it was a one-off, but I’m afraid it is the harbinger for the coming days and weeks,” he said. “We haven’t seen so much violence in 40 years.”

Worth reading in full.

Any readers in the Netherlands witnessing what is happening on the ground are invited to email us and give us their accounts.

Stop Press: Watch footage of the Dutch riot police abusing protestors.

HART: Health Advisory and Recovery Team

Some of the members of HART

A new group of experts has been set up with the intention of raising the level of debate about lockdowns. They aren’t all lockdown sceptics, but they aim to put the existing measures in proportion and challenge some of the more extreme justifications for the current lockdown. Among their number are a few familiar faces such as Dr John Lee, Prof David Livermore, Joel Smalley, Dr Jonathan Engler, Dr Malcolm Kendrick, Prof David Patton and Prof Gordon Hughes. Their mission statement reads as follows:

HART is a group of highly qualified UK doctors, scientists, economists, psychologists and other academic experts. 

Our core aim is to find the common ground between the Government and groups that are concerned about COVID-19 restrictions. The ambition is to bring all sides together and to widen the debate in order to formulate an exit strategy that benefits everyone in society.

Our research has identified a need for public policy to reflect a broader and more balanced approach across a number of key areas, in particular:

– Impact of restrictions across the whole of the healthcare system and on wider society; 

– Cost vs benefit of school, college and university closures; 

– The mental health impact of the restrictive measures;

– Mass-testing procedures and associated data analysis; 

 – A full assessment of the psychological impact, on individuals and wider society, of COVID-19 communication policies;

– Safe and effective treatment and prevention/prophylaxis options, in addition to vaccination, to increase survival rates. 

Consultations from HART will be founded on scientific, evidence-based principles in the interests of public health. We want to encourage clear, calm and compassionate discussions.  

Our experts take a collaborative approach and invite contributions from all sectors and interested groups or communities, at all levels.

HART is a not-for-profit, unincorporated membership association and its consulting members collaborate on an entirely voluntary basis.

The group could be considered an alternative to Independent Sage – a sensible, non-partisan version.

We wish them the best of luck. You can find their site here.

Is Lockdown Scepticism Rational?

What follows is a guest post from a senior scientist.

I was reading Lockdown Sceptics today and how the rhetoric about us sceptics is being ramped up, it really got me questioning whether I am rational. What if they’re right? So I thought I’d write down my own personal reasons as to why I am a lockdown sceptic. I thought I’d share these with you just to check I’m not mad!

There are many reasons and rationales to be sceptical of lockdown as an approach. My own ones grew out of the fact that my working career as a scientist has been mainly spent in drug R&D and, so, I naturally view non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as lockdown, from this point of view. As a result, after the first lockdown, I found myself asking a very simple question: ‘is lockdown good medicine?’

 My own answer to this question is ‘no’, but this answer is not a fantastical one based on denying the existence of COVID-19 or any other such nonsense. It is a logical and entirely rational position which I will explain below. It is based on evidence and a bunch of assumptions, most of which are I believe are to a large extent uncontentious. 

These uncontentious assumptions are:

1. COVID-19 is a serious new human disease, caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, that can kill people. The disease ‘jumped species’ in Wuhan Province, China and spread globally from there. 

2. Doing nothing in the face of this new disease and the resulting pandemic was not an option because, despite some pre-existing immunity to the disease, in the UK a large proportion of the population was naïve to the infection and as a result even a modest infection fatality rate could have resulted in a significant number of deaths.

3. COVID-19 hits older and more vulnerable individuals harder than younger, fitter individuals. As a result, the majority of deaths and serious illness are in the older, sicker population. This doesn’t mean that some younger or otherwise apparently healthy people can’t die or have significant illness, it is just a lot less common in this group.

4. Our responses to COVID-19 breaks into three areas – a) treatments, b) vaccines c) non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs).

5. NPIs, including severe blanket societal restrictions such as lockdowns, aim to limit the spread of coronavirus by breaking chains of infection within the population. NPIs were deployed to help tackle the pandemic with the aim of reducing the burden of disease to healthcare systems and buying time to develop 4a and 4b. As such, as we develop new treatments and vaccines the need for NPIs should reduce.

6. NPIs require behavioural changes within the population and therefore always have consequences.

7.  NPIs vary in the severity of these consequences to individuals and society as a whole: at one end of the spectrum are things such as hand washing, in the middle things like banning large gatherings of people and at the other end, forcing individuals to stay home and closing schools and businesses (lockdowns).

8. National deployment of NPIs affects almost everyone in society regardless of age. Some NPIs affect younger people more than older people e.g. closing schools and universities.

9. More severe NPIs can cause damage to both mental and physical health and wellbeing (including deaths). They also produce proportionally greater economic damage. These harms can be, and will be, significant and long-lasting.

There is only one other additional assumption, and this is where my scepticism about lockdowns comes from:

10. There is only weak evidence to support the notion that more severe restrictions result in proportionally more effective disease control. This contention is based on the fact that there are many published papers suggesting little or no relationship between more stringent forms of NPIs (such as lockdowns) and better outcomes. A summary of some published papers can be found here.

I believe that this is probably a classic case of the law of diminishing returns, where more severe restrictions produce little additional benefit over less severe ones and so come with a disproportionally high cost, both to the economy and to the individual and society.

So, if you take onboard 8 and 9 and accept that 10 is to some extent true, then you have to be sceptical of lockdown as an effective intervention because you have to doubt that any gains from imposing more severe NPIs outweigh the harms and negative consequences they cause.

Note: this doesn’t mean that there are no benefits, just that they are marginal gains over less severe restrictions and come with huge costs and risks. In addition, from assumptions 3 and 8 we can further argue that by ignoring the demographics of the disease we don’t focus NPIs on those most likely to benefit from them and, in fact, we impose them on individuals who are very unlikely to benefit. Logically, if you accept assumption 10 to any degree, you are led to the conclusion that the harms and costs of lockdowns outstrip their benefits and that lockdowns are not a viable NPI with which to effectively manage COVID-19 (or any other similar infection). They are bad “medicine”.

Dr Gary Sidley, a former NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist (and a member of HART), has drawn our attention to a piece he has published on his blog, posing a series of questions about the vaccine that should be considered before making an informed decision on the matter. Here is an excerpt:

In December 2020, accompanied by expressions of unbridled elation from politicians and the mainstream media, the UK began the roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine. This milestone closely followed the announcements of the initial results from three of the front-running drug companies in the vaccine race, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZenica, all reporting high levels of efficacy for their new vaccine. The Government’s intention is to offer the jab to the large majority of the UK population, starting with the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

But is it in everyone’s interest to take the vaccine when the opportunity arises?

Within a civilised society each of us retains the fundamental right to decide whether or not to accept a medical intervention, including the offer of a drug or vaccine. In order for an individual to make an educated and rational judgement, all relevant information – about both the likely benefits and disadvantages of the medicinal chemical – should be made available to the potential recipient. Only by careful consideration of this range of information can a person give ‘informed consent’ to accept the treatment. So with regards to the COVID-19 vaccines, what are the need-to-know facts?

It makes sense for each of us to assess the risks and benefits of accepting the vaccine, taking into account age and current health status. To aid this process, here are five questions to ask when deciding whether to say yay or nay, followed by my attempt to offer the relevant information.

1. If I become infected with SARS-COV-2 virus, what is the actual risk of becoming ill, or dying?

If you contract the SARS-COV-2 virus, there is about a 1-in-5 chance that you will suffer significant COVID-19 symptoms, the large majority of those testing positive showing either no or very mild signs of illness. Considering all age groups together, around 1-in-100 infected people will require hospital treatment and 1-in-750 will require intensive care. For older people (>70 years), the average risk of hospitalisation may be as high as 1-in-20.

Overall, the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of SARS-COV-2 is in the range 0.15 to 0.2%; in other words, for every 1,000 people who contract this virus no more than two people will die. The mortality risk is largely determined by age, the threat growing steadily with advancing years. The average age of those dying is 82 (slightly above normal life expectancy). The IFR for people below the age of 70 is between 0.03 and 0.04%; for every 10,000 people infected, 3 to 4 will die. About 95% of fatalities will have had serious underlying conditions.

For healthy people under the age of 35 the additional fatality risk of contracting SARS-COV-2 is almost zero. Meanwhile, children are as good as bullet proof, with seasonal influenza presenting a much greater risk of mortality to under-15-year-olds.

A useful rule of thumb for understanding age-related risk levels is to remember that contracting SARS-COV-2 virus is like packing a full year’s worth of death risk into a four-week period. Thus, on a child’s 10th birthday the chances of that child not reaching their 11th birthday is vanishingly small; this tiny probability is roughly equivalent to the risk of this 10-year-old dying from a SARS-COV-2 infection. In contrast, an 85-year-old person will typically have a 10% chance of not surviving until their next birthday, and around a 10% risk of dying within four weeks should they contract the virus.

In summary: For healthy people under 50, the risk of serious harm from SARS-COV-2 is vanishingly small, with other threats (for example, cancer and accidents) presenting a greater risk. The risk of the virus for old people is many-fold greater, but even a reasonably-healthy-90-year-old will have over 90% chance of survival.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Unexpected news out of Germany as Der Spiegel reports that Government sources are finding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is only proving 8% effective in the very elderly group which it’s supposed to benefit the most. (Translated from German):

The corona vaccine from the manufacturer AstraZeneca apparently has little effectiveness in older people. As the Handelsblatt reports, citing Government circles, the vaccine is only expected to be effective at 8% in those over 65 years of age. AstraZeneca rejected the reports as “completely inaccurate”, according to Reuters news agency.

The Bild newspaper, however, also citing Government circles, reports that the vaccine should only receive approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for people under 65 years of age. 

According to the Handelsblatt report, the Federal Ministry of Health is already checking whether the sequence of vaccinations, which is staggered according to age, needs to be adjusted. A statement by the ministry on the possible consequences of the low effectiveness on the Government’s vaccination plan is not available, according to Handelsblatt.

A final result on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine is not yet possible, according to the newspaper. In the clinical studies of the pharmaceutical company, older people were apparently relatively poorly represented. The British approval authority MHRA had already noted that meaningful results on the effectiveness of the vaccine could not be determined in these studies.

AstraZeneca is already under pressure because it apparently cannot meet the contractually agreed delivery quantities of the vaccine to the EU. The British-Swedish group announced on Friday that after the approval of its vaccine – which is due to take place this week – it will only deliver 31 million doses instead of 80 million by the end of March.

UPDATE: It’s being reported that the German health ministry has said the 8% figure instead refers to the proportion of 56 to 69-year-olds in the vaccine trials. In a statement, the ministry said: “At first glance it seems that the reports have mixed up two things: about 8% of those tested in the AstraZeneca efficacy study were between 56 and 69… But one cannot deduce an efficacy of only 8% with older people from that.”

Another Patient ‘Disappears Into The System’

After reading the story of a stressful breakdown in communications between a reader and the hospital where his seriously ill mother was being treated that we published yesterday, another reader has got in touch with a similar account.

I have had the same experience as your reader. At the end of December, my 90 year-old sister was taken into hospital with a chest infection. It was extremely difficult to find out how she was or where she was. I too found calls not answered, calls forwarded to wards cut off, or again not answered at all, and numbers for direct lines to wards that were posted on the hospital website no longer in use. But the situation became worse when she recovered and was due to be discharged. As a routine, she was tested for Covid and was found to be positive – a hospital-acquired infection. 

The family expected to be kept informed and did not wish to distract busy ward staff, but when after three days we had heard nothing I rang the hospital. It took me two hours to find out where she was, but I was pleased, if surprised, to find they were trying to discharge her, possibly that day. That was a Thursday. We were promised an update. Having heard nothing, the following Monday I rang again and was told by the ward clerk that she was alert and chatty and taking her medicine. When I asked whether she had developed Covid symptoms the ward clerk couldn’t tell me. On Thursday I was again told she was to be discharged when they had heard that her care home was happy to take her back. A hospital social worker later rang me to say that all was well and she would be going back to her care home on Saturday, in two days’ time. On Monday I rang the ward again, to be told, again, that they wanted to discharge her but were waiting to hear from the care home. I rang the care home. Staff there said they were waiting to hear from the hospital. The care home then rang the hospital and I discovered the next day that they, the care home, had managed to get her back.

Three things to note: 

– I can confirm that patients do indeed disappear into the system. This was distressing, but my sister is a frail 90-year-old and we have come to terms with the fact that she might not be with us much longer. Imagine, though, if that was your husband or wife, son or daughter, that the ambulance had whisked away.

– Covid was acquired in hospital. Or was it? It was never clear to us whether she actually had Covid or not. What does this mean for official infection statistics?

– The discharge procedure was completely chaotic. This meant my sister was in hospital for five days, possibly even 12 days, longer than necessary. I do not need to point out the extra pressures and increased danger of infection caused by this incompetence.

This too was in Norfolk – the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, where my sister was herself a nurse for many years. Almost, but not quite, without exception, the many staff I spoke to were doing their very best to be as helpful as possible, and it’s true that hospitals have been under enormous pressure in the last month. However, when my sister was previously hospitalised, in August last year, it was almost as difficult to get information. For instance, every phone call to the switchboard was answered with an interminable message about visiting arrangements. 

It does seem to be the usual story of a cumbersome and inadequate bureaucracy and extremely poor communication systems working together to make the jobs of the frontline staff and the lives of concerned families as difficult and stressful as possible.

Sceptics Under Fire

We’ve continued to receive responses regarding the “Antivirus: The COVID-19 FAQ” website from readers.

One points out more double standards:

One of your readers very helpfully listed some of the errors made by the WHO, making the point that the Anti-Virus site applies an extraordinary double-standard when attacking the credibility of lockdown sceptics. It is not only the WHO that has escaped the notice of O’Brien et al.

The Q&A section on that site says:

Q. Why are you singling out specific individuals? Do you have some kind of grudge against them?

A. A few people, for whatever reason, have consistently made false claims and bad predictions throughout the Covid pandemic, and have refused to admit when they’ve got it wrong. Some of these people have been very prominent and influential during the pandemic. We try to use their own words to show that many of them are not reliable people to listen to.

But of course they haven’t named and shamed the most consistently false prophets in the debate. Were that the case, Neil Ferguson, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty, Anthony Fauci and many more would be included. Had the same standard (or even a lesser standard) been applied to advocates for authoritarian measures, those held up as “The Science” would be more deserving of the attentions of the fact-checkers on the site than the sceptics.

Far from being denounced for their authors’ inaccurate predictions, we see modelling studies by Imperial College presented as evidence against the lockdown sceptics, and described as one of a handful of “high-quality studies” showing that lockdowns “do save lives”.  Incidentally, the studies referred to also include an analysis in Nature, but Anti-Virus makes no mention of the fact that that analysis found that “less disruptive and costly NPIs can be as effective as more intrusive, drastic, ones (for example, a national lockdown)”.

We also received a more lengthy critique, taking each of the site’s claims in turn:

It has become noticeable in recent times (since the invention of social media?) that resolving contentious issues has become more about ‘winning’ the argument than about finding the best solution to a real-world problem. The Anti-Virus website is certainly in the former genre, being more about rubbishing the views of a perceived opponent than seriously engaging in discussion of the issues. 

Four argument techniques are primarily used by Anti-Virus:

– Straw Man (present opponent’s arguments escalated to absurdity)

– Rubbish opponent’s reputations rather than their arguments

– Categorise opponents with established ‘negative’ words

– Avoid considered debate of the issues when space/time is limited and just go for ‘knockabout’ denigration

Effects of Covid-19

Claim 1: “99.5% survive Covid – we’re overreacting”

Response: A statistical argument which depends on what data you select, its level of supposed accuracy and how you manipulate it. The whole Covid episode shows that opposing points of view (often honestly held) are often based on different ‘facts’. Pointless pursuing as there is no resolution in the discussion time frame as to which (if any) data is ‘true’.

Claim 2: “It’s only as deadly as the flu”

Response: More statistical manipulation! Regardless, the only issue for lockdown sceptics (note, NOT ‘covid sceptics’) is selecting a response to whatever threat level presents itself. This is entirely a matter of human judgement which can never be proved right or wrong as you can never re-run history to explore the alternatives.

Claim 3: “91% of Covid ‘cases’ are false positives”

Response: You can argue for ever on the actual figures. In the military, the key to a successful operation is correctly identifying your objective. The issue (which space here does not allow for development) is whether reducing ‘case’ numbers is a sensible objective. Clearly limiting hospitalisations and ‘excess’ deaths is a sensible objective, but the link to ‘cases’ in general is highly contentious.

Claim 4: “There are no excess deaths”

Response: More statistics! A reasonable participant in the argument would accept that even your opponents would prefer to see no excess deaths. If they are inevitable, calculating any changes are dependent on factors such as the definition of an ‘excess’ death, over what period should you measure it and what would have been the life expectancy for different categories of excess death. In the real world, all these factors are so ambiguous, and the excess death variance between the two positions so relatively small, that it is not an issue to spend too much time on.

Claim 5: “People are dying ‘with’ Covid but not ‘of’ Covid”

Response: Again, this is aimed at a non-existent opponent. Lockdown sceptics are certain there are many deaths ‘by, with or from’ Covid but where they fall in the death league table and how accurately they are classified is not going to have much effect on shaping pandemic policy.

Lockdown Scepticism

Claim 6: “Lockdowns cause more deaths than they prevent”

Response: A good example of Straw Man attack. Raises two issues, both of which cannot be answered with any certainty, but should be considered in a balanced discussion. Firstly, would there have been more or less deaths using a different strategy to lockdown? Cannot be answered unless you have a means of running history twice. You end up falling back on modelling and probabilities which a cynic would say are pseudonyms for guesswork.

Secondly, will the excess deaths caused by delays to non-Covid medical treatment exceed those of Covid? Cannot be answered for several years when its only value would be in shaping response to future pandemics. This is perhaps where all the investigation should be concentrated as we are clearly not going to change course this time round.

Claim 7: “Cases were falling anyway – lockdowns don’t work”

Response: Another Straw Man! Cases have been constantly going up and down throughout the last 11 months with innumerable analysts (journalists, academics, Government ministers) claiming correlation for their preferred factor(s). Correlation is not causation so innumerable mechanisms are cited to explain the connections. Factors that do not fit the required relationship are dismissed as irrelevant. Such is the world we live in, but it is wise to take it all with a pinch of salt, particularly when you consider that even trained statisticians must consider their future employment. 

All that can really be said is that no strategy has yet been demonstrated that enables humanity to control/eliminate the endemic virus that Covid has become. The specific examples of smallpox and a few other rare viruses seem unlikely to change that situation in any relevant timescale. What we can do is consider whether our level of self-imposed harm (which is real and measurable) is likely to be worse than the rather speculative guesswork on the nation’s future health. The handling of regular pandemics since WW2 would suggest that our unique experiment is going to be quietly overtaken by time-honoured resolution although it is unlikely that any of the actors will admit to that.

Claim 8: “The Great Barrington Declaration gives a good alternative to lockdown”

Response: Lots of Straw Men here! The Declaration has been expanded in a condemnatory manner to include numerous imagined scenarios which lead to hopeless outcomes. A year ago, proposing what we have done with Lockdown would have been condemned as hopeless. The barriers to implementing the Declaration which Anti-Virus objects to are trivial in comparison.

If anything, the Declaration looks more like the way we have handled pandemics since WW2 so at least has some support from actual evidence. Our present strategy is, at best, a monumental experiment with no prior evidence as to how it will progress or how it will end. Perhaps we imagine that our technological prowess is so great that we have the ability to keep nature under control. A rude awakening awaits any such arrogance!

Keep sending us your responses here, with the subject line “Antivirus”.

Stop Press: 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 including this article by Alex Morton in CapX, making the most plausible case for the travel restrictions coming in at the moment:

Nothing would give me greater pleasure right now than a holiday somewhere warm. I suspect that this is true of many. But this option has to remain off the table for some time to come. At present, border controls are being discussed in the same breath as school reopening at half term or Easter, or when pubs could serve again. But this totally misses the point: if a vaccine resistant strain arises in the UK then this will undo every single hope of a return to normality – no schools, restaurants, pubs, family visits, offices or anything. We will be back to square one just with a crippled economy and compliance exhaustion.

The success or failure of this Government hinges on how fast the UK returns to normality, with people allowed to behave as usual and Covid deaths and serious cases remaining low. The UK’s success in rolling out vaccines could massively boost this country. But if lax border controls allow a new strain that is vaccine resistant to enter, or escape, there will be severe implications across a number of fronts:

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Niall McCrae at Unity News Network has written an entertaining piece entitled “The Progressive Death Cult and the Silencing of Lockdown Sceptics” on the virtue signalling of the “blood on their hands” brigade.

Lockdown sceptics have “blood on our hands”, according to the propagandists of Covid terror. The supposedly liberal intelligentsia, the same people who tried to defy democracy after the EU referendum, are now putting the plebs in their place. They must stay at home, muzzle themselves, and forego their leisure pursuits of football, shopping and the pub. Anyone failing to fully comply is recklessly spreading germs and contributing to the daily death toll. 

Yet the sceptic need not leave the house to be accused of endangering lives. Toby Young, for example, sits indoors at his computer all day long, but his Lockdown Sceptics website makes him a pariah figure. Lockdown zealots such as Observer writer Nick Cohen and Tory MP Neil O’Brien smear him as a Covid denier. 

Under fire last week was Lord Sumption, who got into a futile debate on the BBC television show The Big Questions. The value of life, he said, is not equal, but measured by rational criteria. Health economists use QALY (quality-adjusted life years) to assess the impact of services and treatments. The retired Supreme Court justice wasn’t saying anything radical: in a dilemma between saving a healthy young child and an octogenarian with a debilitating disease, who wouldn’t choose the former?   

But Lord Sumption was challenged by a woman with advanced cancer, who accused him of saying that her life is ‘worthless’. Against such raw emoting, no amount of sophisticated ethical reasoning could prevent him from being characterised as callous – thus a typical lockdown sceptic. 

Another illustration was in the Mayor of London’s question time on Thursday, when David Kurten probed Sadiq Khan on his promotion of Covid vaccines as safe. They have not been tested on pregnant women or children, Kurten said, but according to the mayor he was categorically wrong. Faced with further contrary facts, Khan resorted to virtuous grandstanding of no relevance to the question, suggesting that Kurten go to a NHS hospital to hear from staff about their heroics. Severe adverse events are likely to be either ignored or accepted as a collateral price worth paying. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 3: Julia Hartley-Brewer mounted a spirited defence of lockdown scepticism on her talkRADIO show yesterday morning.

https://twitter.com/talkRADIO/status/1353603539063468032

Poetry Corner

We get all kinds of contributions sent in to us every day, often drawing our attention to practical matters like news items and new scientific studies, but also personal stories from people suffering all kinds of distress from lockdown’s collateral damage. In light of everything we’ve been publishing on the matter of children’s mental health recently, this one was a hard read:

My 14-year-old godson, whose name I’m going to leave out of this, told me he was barely hanging on a couple of weeks ago. He told me that he didn’t even miss his friends anymore because he’d come to terms with the fact that he’d never see them again. He told me that he’d come to terms with the fact that his life held no possible future worth. He told me that he’d been working on his ‘suicide note’ when he’d written a seven-line poem.

As you can imagine, I was a broken man by this point. In fact, I can barely see my screen as I write this my eyes are so watered.

He’s okay tonight. I know that for sure, because his mum is sleeping in his room, as she has been for the past couple of weeks now, since I told her what he told me. Which I had to do, even though he felt I betrayed his trust and didn’t talk to me for those couple of weeks. 

Tonight we had a long chat and he seems to be doing better. He’s forgiven me for talking to his mum. And he shared his poem with me.

It broke my heart all over again.

Once I’d read it, he said something that just epitomises exactly why he is such a formidable young man: “If you think that it will make the slightest bit of difference in one person’s life, knowing that that’s where I was, and that now I’m okay, then I want you to share it with whoever you can.”

So, here it is. (And yes, that is the title he gave it)

Meh

I’m really struggling with the point today,
With getting up, or finding a way.
I’m really struggling to lift myself up,
To smile, to laugh, even play with the pup.
I’m really struggling with all of my work,
Just lying here wondering if I can shirk.
I’m really struggling to see what’s the point.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “You’re Driving Me Crazy” by The Temperance Seven and “Hotel Hell” by Eric Burdon and The Animals.

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.

“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…

On this week’s episode of ⁦‪London Calling‬⁩, ⁦‪James Delingpole‬ and Toby puzzle over why almost no one is tuning in to the DAVOS talks happening this week, which are all freely available online. Are they shadow-banning themselves so we don’t discover their plans for the Great Reset? Or are they just really really boring? 

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.

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.

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

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.

“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…

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.

Latest News

Hancock Refuses to Commit to Opening Up After the Most Vulnerable Have Been Vaccinated

Matt Hancock at yesterday’s Covid Briefing

Health Secretary Matt Hancock led yesterday’s Covid press conference from Downing Street and struck a non-committal note regarding any timetable for exit from restrictions. Katy Balls in the Spectator has more.

As ministers voice their hope that the country can start to lift restrictions from early March, questions are being asked as to when restrictions can go altogether and normal life resume. Members of the Tory Covid Recovery Group have argued that most restrictions should go as soon as the vulnerable are protected. While officials remain tight-lipped on the issue, Matt Hancock did offer an insight in today’s press conference as to the key factors the Government will consider when making that decision. Announcing that over four million people have now been vaccinated in the UK, the Health Secretary urged the public not to blow it as the route out was clear. In the Q&A, he pointed to the factors that will decide when restrictions can go.

The first clue came when Josh from Newcastle asked how much it would matter if there were a high surge of cases among young people once the vulnerable were vaccinated. This gets to the crux of the matter: once the most vulnerable are protected (the 20% of the population who account for 90% of Covid deaths) will the government be OK with the virus passing at a fast rate among younger age groups for whom the disease is a lot less serious? 

If the answer is no then social distancing policies are likely to remain until every adult has been vaccinated, which the Government aims to do by September. The first four groups (14 million people) are due to be vaccinated by the middle of next month.

The Health Secretary said that while this is a very important question, as of yet there is no clear answer. Instead, Hancock described it as a “very careful” calibration, which rests on to what extent the vaccine protects the most vulnerable groups from serious disease, as well as the fact that younger people can sometimes need hospital treatment from Covid, even if they are very unlikely to die from the illness. 

If the Health Secretary’s sense of the costs and benefits of the restrictions is so out of whack that the small number of young people requiring hospitalisation from Covid outweighs the damage done by the lockdown, what hope is there?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: MailOnline reports on the Prime Minister’s even greater reluctance to commit to any escape route, amid a dropping infection rate:

Boris Johnson today defied fresh demands from Tory MPs for a ‘road map’ out of lockdown as coronavirus infections tumbled again.

The PM is under pressure to say how and when the brutal restrictions in England will ease after the UK recorded another 37,535 cases – down a fifth from last Monday.

Although deaths rose again to 599 there are increasing signs that the curve is flattening, as it lags weeks behind the new infections. 

Conservatives this evening underlined calls from former Chief Whip Mark Harper, who heads the CRG group of lockdown sceptics, to say what will happen when the Government has vaccinated the four most vulnerable groups – meant to happen by mid-February. The number of people receiving their first jab topped four million today.

The Deputy Chair of the group, Steve Baker, said: “We locked down the country and shut down our schools on the basis of a forecast, so why can’t we open it up on the basis of one too? It is not sustainable to leave the public and British businesses languishing any longer.

“Businesses and individuals desperately need hope and the opportunity to plan our recovery, that’s why we need to know our road to recovery as soon as possible.”

Another Tory backbencher told MailOnline the Government should lay out its plans even if it is like “snakes and ladders” and the arrangements later have to change. 

However, Mr Johnson poured cold water on the idea this afternoon, insisting that it will not be possible to set out the route for unwinding restrictions until February 15th.

Touring the Oxford Biomedica vaccine plant, the PM also warned when the loosening does come it will not be an “open sesame” moment.

“I understand completely that people want to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can. It does depend on things going well,” he said.

“It depends on the vaccination programme going well, it depends on there being no new variants that throw our plans out and we have to mitigate against, and it depends on everybody, all of us, remembering that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

He said: “We’re going as fast as we can but I stress we can do everything we can to open up but when we come to February 15th, and the moment when we have to take stock of what we’ve achieved, that’s the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we’ve had.

“It’s only really then that we can talk about the way ahead and what steps we can take to relax.

“I’m afraid I’ve got to warn people it will be gradual, you can’t just open up in a great open sesame, in a great bang, because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious.”

Stop Press 2: The BBC reports that all travel corridors are confirmed as closed until February 15th at the earliest.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that Public Health England would be stepping up checks on travellers who must self-isolate.

He said enforcement checks at borders would also be “ramped up” and added that asking all arrivals to self-isolate in hotels was a “potential measure” the Government was keeping under review.

However, the Daily Mail reports that the outgoing President Trump is lifting the blanket ban on non-American citizens travelling to the USA from January 26th onwards:

Donald Trump will lift travel bans for most non-U.S. citizens flying from the UK, Brazil and much of Europe starting on January 26th, two officials said on Monday. 

The restrictions are set to end under a new proclamation from the President the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect requiring all international visitors to have a negative result. The White House has not commented. 

It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden will simply re-impose these restrictions or even adds more when he takes office on Wednesday.

Stop Press 3: Schools could be closed until after Easter, reports MailOnline.

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis academy chain, which runs 48 schools, said: “I don’t think schools will reopen until post Easter. I think they will miss the second half of term as well.”  

He said many teachers are very worried about catching Covid in school and that they will feel “safer” and “more confident” when the weather warms up and they can take children out of the classroom more. 

Stop Press 4: Annabel Fenwick-Elliott has written a good piece in the Telegraph bemoaning the folly of needless further destruction of the travel industry, with a strong dose of lockdown scepticism thrown in for good measure.

It is January 2021. A virus which spares the vast majority of victims it infects has been endemic across the world for the best part of a year. There have been many attempts to contain it; almost none have been satisfactory. Most strategies have caused immeasurably more harm than good.

It is a disease that rips through hospitals and care homes, claiming the lives of the elderly and infirm, no matter how many masks or disinfectants we throw at the situation. We accept this as being unavoidable. Like every virus, new strains regularly emerge; crossing borders faster that we can chase them. Inexplicably, this we can not condone. 

Despite the fact that much of the world is under national lockdown and international travel has dwindled to a trickle, the crusade on a largely innocent industry continues. Regardless of the fact that between March and October of 2020, the International Air Travel Association traced just 44 cases of potential coronavirus infections back to flying, out of the 1.2 billion people who boarded planes in the same time period, our assault on free movement only intensifies.

This week, Germany is plotting to repurpose refugee camps to detain quarantine flouters. In Bali, foreigners found to be strolling the beaches without wearing masks are being punished with push-ups. And here in Britain, there is talk of forcing new arrivals into expensive hotel sentences, and checking up on people using GPS data and facial-recognition software. 

I wish all this was, as it sounds, the compelling but implausible plot of a big-budget sci-fi movie. I take comfort only in the fact that given our government has just today, after much delay, finally managed to get its act together on testing overseas visitors upon entry, it will likely be years before our geo-surveillance tactics enter the realm of China’s; by which time, hopefully, COVID-19 will be a distant memory, right?

Don’t bet on it. By mid-March of this year, according to the UK Government’s targets, all over-60s and those with underlying health conditions will have been vaccinated. Of the remaining population, more people died in road accidents last year than of coronavirus

Worth reading in full.

Is the Second Wave Overstated?

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, has produced an in-depth analysis of the statistics around the ‘second wave’. It shows that misunderstood and misrepresented data are leading people to exaggerate the scale of the winter resurgence compared to the first peak last year.

On January 13th, Dr Yvonne Doyle, the Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), issued an alarming statement claiming that Britain had reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths on a single day since the pandemic began.

She also alleged that there have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.

Both these statements were “technically” true. On that day, 1,564 people were added to official mortality figures, the highest number ever, while the 44,198 “second wave” coronavirus deaths passed the 40,563 recorded up to August 31st. 

Yet dig a little deeper and the narrative that the second wave is more deadly than the first begins to unravel. 

I make an early caveat here that I firmly believe we are having a deadly second wave, and thousands more people are dying than would be expected ordinarily at this time of year. But it is not the tens of thousands more PHE would have you believe.

According to some figures, the second wave is five times less deadly than the first wave. This is in spite of the fact we have a new variant which is between 50% and 74% more infectious.

To get a real feel for how the waves compare, it is necessary to look at excess deaths rather than crude reported deaths.

According to the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI), set up by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, there have been 72,900 excess deaths from the start of the pandemic in March to the end of December.

Some 60,800 of those occurred in the first wave, but just 12,100 in the second. It means that, unlike the first wave, huge numbers of people included in the coronavirus death figures would have been expected to die of other causes in the past few months. 

Look at Office for National Statistics (ONS) graphs showing deaths over time and this becomes startlingly clear. While there is a mountainous peak in April as deaths soared over the average, now we are trending a little above the five-year average line. On some days towards the end of December, we were actually below it. 

Dr Jason Oke, of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford, said it was difficult to understand the pandemic from the graphs published on the Government’s daily coronavirus dashboard.

While the “deaths within 28 days” graph appears to show that the second wave is as bad as the first, the “weekly deaths by date registered” shows no such correlation.

“If you look at the 28-day graph and the hospital data you could well believe it is as bad as the first wave,” Dr Oke said. “The first graph suggests we are now at the same place as the first wave (and due for worse) whereas the second graph tells a different story – half the first wave currently and no increase in December.”

The CMI also reported that during week 53, from December 28th to January 3rd, there were 19% fewer deaths registered in England and Wales than would have been expected if Standardised Mortality Rates had been the same as in week one of 2020.

These December figures will undoubtedly rise as more deaths are registered, and have suffered from the Christmas and New Year holidays when fewer deaths than normal were recorded. But they are not likely to rise so significantly as to take us back to the extraordinary excess deaths of April.

This week’s Monthly Mortality Analysis from the ONS also makes this point very well. The report states: “Although mortality rates due to COVID-19 have increased between October and December 2020, these remain significantly lower than in April 2020.” 

In fact, in England, age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR) were 62.5% lower in December than April. They have fallen from 623.2 per 100,000 people in April to 233.6 per 100,000 in December. 

The same is true in Wales, although to a lesser extent. In April the ASMR was 495.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and it was 374.4 per 100,000 in December, a 24.4% decrease.

Worth reading in full.

Lord Sumption in the Dock

Lord Jonathan Sumption took to the airwaves to clarify and defend his comments made on the The Big Questions on Sunday, which we reported on yesterday.

He joined a panel on Good Morning Britain and, with considerable patience, faced a bellowing Piers Morgan who, along with co-presenter Susanna Reid, repeatedly refused to understand the perfectly plain meaning of his words even after several attempts to explain them, ending with Sumption declaring that he had said all he had to say on the matter and would either continue to speak on another topic or leave.

Worth watching in full.

Stop Press: The wilful misunderstanding continued in the Times yesterday courtesy of this piece by Melanie Phillips.

Stop Press 2: Michael Curzon, editor of Bournbrook Magazine and assistant editor of Conservative Woman, has penned this piece in defence of Sumption.

Stop Press 3: Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed Lord Sumption on her talkRADIO show yesterday.

The Threat Lockdowns Pose to Human Rights

Adam Wagner, a legal expert and barrister focused on human rights, and a Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths University, was interviewed by Freddie Sayers for UnHerd‘s Lockdown TV. It’s a shame he joined in the mistaken pile-on against Lord Sumption, but if you can get past that he provided a wide-ranging expert perspective on the legal aspects of the lockdown debate.

Adam Wagner is one of the UK’s highest-profile legal experts on human rights, citing Shami Chakrabati as one of his main influences in the field. He strongly distances himself from “Covid deniers” whose attempt to minimise the threat of the virus he describes as “dangerous nonsense”, and expressed dismay at Lord Sumption’s insensitive phrasing about the value of lives on television yesterday. In other words, he’s about as far from an ideological right-winger as you’ll find in the British media.

So it was especially sobering to hear him set out some of the things he is worried about from a legal and human rights perspective since the pandemic started around 12 months ago. He wondered aloud on Twitter whether, had the virus not originated in China and had the response not been set by their invention of lockdowns, this approach would ever have become the accepted sensible response in liberal Western democracies?

He argues that, while he absolutely accepts that the virus constitutes a threat that justifies emergency action:

– Lockdowns have become a “received wisdom” and that, in due course, a proper inquiry into which components actually were effective, and whether each component passed the proportionality test, is essential.

– The emergency powers taken by the Government have been abused – they were not designed to be used over such a long period of time. He deplores the lack of oversight and due process for these measures that change everybody’s lives.

– The “Napoleonic” principle that everything is illegal unless you are explicitly allowed it is an inversion of the way the law has worked in this country throughout modern times. If you had told a human rights expert or public lawyer this would be the situation 12 months ago they would never have believed you.

– From a Human Rights perspective, balancing the right to life with the right to associate, and the right to a family life, is a precarious act and it is right to scrutinise every measure in that context and be sceptical of them to make sure they are not going too far

– Once restrictions are taken for temporary emergencies, a look at history shows that they tend to become permanent (he cites the terrorism measures in response to 9/11 as an example).

“I think with Covid, the danger is that if it never leaves us, or it mutates or a different virus arrives with a similar dynamic, we’ll be in a semi-permanent state of ‘this is what we do’ – when this happens, we have lockdowns, we have emergency laws, we take away parliamentary niceties like scrutiny, debates, votes, that sort of thing… And I think that is a danger that doesn’t come out of the fringes of the lockdown sceptic movement. That’s the real deal as a worry.”

Worth watching in full.

WHO Inspector Discussed Coronavirus Research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology Weeks Before Outbreak

Vincent Racaniello and Peter Daszak

Further to our headline piece in Lockdown Sceptics on January 17th on the U.S. State Department’s fact sheet about the possible origins of the virus, Taiwan News reports that a WHO Inspector discussed the research of modified coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a video podcast called “This Week In Virology” shortly before the first cases of COVID-19 were declared in Wuhan.

In a video that was originally taken on December 9th, 2019, three weeks before the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced an outbreak of a new form of pneumonia, virologist Vincent Racaniello interviewed British zoologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance Peter Daszak about his work at the nonprofit to protect the world from the emergence of new diseases and predict pandemics. Since 2014, Daszak’s organization has received millions of dollars of funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which it has funneled to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to carry out research on bat coronaviruses.

In the first phase of research, which took place from 2014 to 2019, Daszak coordinated with Shi Zhengli, also known as “Bat Woman”, at the WIV on investigating and cataloging bat coronaviruses across China. EcoHealth Alliance received US$3.7 million in funding from the NIH for this research and 10% was channeled to the WIV, reported NPR.

The second, more dangerous phase, which started in 2019, involved gain-of-function (GoF) research on coronaviruses and chimeras in humanized mice from the lab of Ralph S. Baric of the University of North Carolina. Funding for the program was withdrawn by the NIH under the Trump administration on April 27th amid the pandemic.

At the 28:10 mark of the podcast interview, Daszak states that researchers found that SARS likely originated from bats and then set out to find more SARS-related coronaviruses, eventually finding over 100. He observed that some coronaviruses can “get into human cells in the lab,” and others can cause SARS disease in “humanized mouse models”.

He ominously warned that such coronaviruses are “untreatable with therapeutic monoclonals (antibodies) and you can’t vaccinate against them with a vaccine”. Ironically, he claims that his team’s goal was trying to find the next “spillover event” that could cause the next pandemic, mere weeks before cases of COVID-19 were beginning to be reported in Wuhan.

When Racaniello asks what can be done to deal with coronavirus given that there is no vaccine or therapeutic for them, Daszak at the 29:54 mark appears to reveal that the goal of the GoF experiments was to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine for many different types of coronaviruses.

Based on his response, it is evident that just before the start of the pandemic, the WIV was modifying coronaviruses in the lab: “You can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily.” What he then mentioned has become the telltale trait of SARS-CoV-2, its spike protein: “Spike protein drives a lot of what happens with the coronavirus, zoonotic risk.”

Worth reading in full.

The full video podcast can be viewed here.

Julia Hartley-Brewer’s Appeal

Readers can either reply to Julia on Twitter or email us here if they want us to pass on their stories and contact details.

A Postcard from New York’s Orthodox Jewish Community

Frieda Vizel, a reader who is a member of the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, New York City, has sent us a description of life there at the moment:

I thought I would share my report of a day in the Jewish Hasidic community of Brooklyn, New York, where everything is completely open and no one is wearing masks. It has been interesting to see that the community can pull this off with the power of the collective. They are able to operate busy weddings and mass celebration of holidays because they have each other’s back. Whenever the media or government gets on their case, they form a network of sorts, sharing information on how to get around inspectors and when journalists are around. And although there have been two or so episodes of intense obsession with them (once in April and once in October), they have held on through it. Months go by where they mostly forget about Covid. By any measure, their death rate is no worse than the general death rate. They had higher case rate in October but the overall highest tallies of New York City deaths were not in the Orthodox sections. The worst affected areas were in the Bronx and Queens. The most interesting thing about all this is that the media here pays no attention to their success story, but the moment they have a blip in rates, they descend on the neighbourhood and twist it all into a tale of primitive idiots committing mass suicide. What a shame!

Frieda also has a longer piece about life in the city on her site here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Beat the Bastards” by The Exploited, “Keeping Two Chevrons Apart” by Half Man Half Biscuit, “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)” by Fun Boy Three, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” by Manic Street Preachers, “What a Waste” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “One Day I’ll Fly Away” by Randy Crawford, “Count Me Out” by New Edition, and “It’s All Too Much” by The Beatles.

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.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Press: A reader has sent us the letter he has written to his local MP Geoffrey Cox, describing the daily ordeal he endures as a mask-exempt person due to his autism.

Dear Mr Cox,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing in the hope that you can help put an end to the madness and division caused by the Government’s un-nuanced public message and the ignorance of a sizeable portion of the public with regard to the face covering guidelines. The guidelines clearly state that there are “face covering exemptions”, and yet whenever I am in a shop unmasked (I am autistic and can experience severe anxiety) I am stared at by a good number of utterly ignorant shoppers, and indeed some staff members. 

Why is this happening? Well, it seems to me that it is because the Government, while consistently emphasing the ‘need’ to wear face coverings, has utterly neglected to consistently stress the need to be mindful of those who for disability/health reasons cannot wear face coverings. The contrast between the message on the Government website – where it is clear about exemptions and on the public’s need “to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering” – and the Government’s message in public: on the news, in briefings, etc. is striking. Does the Government, which constantly infantilises the public with its stupid slogans, expect this same public to read the website? This is not acceptable, and it is causing tensions between citizens.

This brings me to my latest visit to Tesco, Barnstaple. As I approached the store I was greeted by a big sign declaring :”No Mask, No Entry.” I’m a big man, and I am not easily intimidated, but I found this somewhat intimidating. Imagine how others will feel when facing this threatening sign knowing they are legally exempt and have done nothing wrong. Tucked away underneath the large, intimidating/threatening “No Mask, No Entry” sign, in very small letters, were words to the effect of: “See Government website for details on exemptions.” Astonishing. As soon as I walked in I was treated to the usual stares from a large and ignorant portion of shoppers and one or two staff members.

I have spoken to Tesco Customer Servive on the phone and suggested similar sized letters on the same sign or on a separate, equally ‘in your face’ sign asking people to be mindful of those with a disability/health issues who cannot wear a face covering. He seemed to be in agreement and said he will forward the message on, and hopefully Tesco stores everywhere will make this clear from now on. One truly hopes they do.

That’s Tesco. What about all the other shops? What about the inconsistency concerning the Government’s message on its website and its message in public, on the news, in briefings? Surely Government does not want citizens to be suspicious of other citizens. Surely Government does not want an atmosphere of open, self-righteous discrimination where ignorant, bone-idle citizens discriminate against their fellow citizens. 

I hope you can see how dangerous this is, and the evil historical parallels it brings to mind.

I ask and urge you to do something about this, Mr Cox.

Stop Press 2: This is a recent notice sent out by the Royal Courts of Justice – a case of masks for thee, but not for me.

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…

In the latest episode of London Calling, ⁦‪James Delingpole‬⁩ asks Toby how he copes with all the attacks on him on Twitter. “I try not to look,” he says. In addition, they defend Lord Sumption, discuss the other attacks on lockdown sceptics, argue about whether they’re coordinated (James thinks they are, Toby doesn’t) and sing the praises of the novelist Bernard Cornwell.

Listen to the episode here and subscribe to London Calling on iTunes here.

Latest News

Welcome to the Hotel… Quarantine

The Sunday Times reports that the UK is set to copy countries such as New Zealand and introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals into the country, replacing what has hitherto been a requirement only to go home directly and self-isolate there:

Ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for a fresh crackdown at Britain’s borders to stop new variants of the coronavirus undermining the vaccination effort.

Officials have been told to prepare for the creation of quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain and to use GPS and facial-recognition technology to check that people are staying in isolation.

This is a significant change in policy and comes as the Government is simultaneously downplaying suggestions that the various mutations of the virus may be resistant to the vaccine when talking about their ongoing roll-out of it to millions of Brits, and, at the same time, using precisely those fears to justify more travel restrictions.

Last week officials were ordered to study New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation”, where everyone arriving is charged for a stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks.

In Australia it is between 14 and 24 days, with travellers charged between £1,500 and £2,500. The UK Government is only considering a system where visitors pay the costs themselves.

Civil servants will also examine how to emulate a scheme in Poland, where those told to isolate are subject to “enhanced monitoring”. Each person is contacted once a day and told to send a photograph of themselves at the location where they are confined. These are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software. Those who fail to comply within 20 minutes receive a visit from police.

It is understood that ministers discussed both ideas at a meeting on Thursday. A senior Government source said that, if used, this technology would be confined to new arrivals in the UK, not those told to self-isolate who are already here.

The plans go further than changes announced last week that require everyone coming to the UK to produce a negative Covid test. “Air corridors”, which allowed some people to come in more easily, were scrapped.

Cabinet sources said Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, floated a moratorium on all international travel for a month, to stop new variants in their tracks, but faced resistance from Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, on the grounds it would cripple trade.

Concerns that the pandemic response has been accompanied by a tendency towards China-style surveillance won’t be assuaged by these plans to require a digital ‘minder’ in the room at all times.

If these variants are to be treated with such extreme caution now, for fear that the vaccines provide no immunity to them, how will normal travel ever resume, given that new strains are bound to keep emerging and vaccines can only be developed and manufactured so quickly?

Worth reading in full.

Lord Sumption and Dr John Lee on The Big Questions

Nicky Campbell hosting the BBC’s discussion show

Sunday morning’s edition of The Big Questions, the BBC’s ethical, moral, and religious discussion show, which has returned in a socially distanced format, featured two prominent lockdown sceptics: Lord Jonathan Sumption and Dr John Lee. It was noteworthy for having being one of the first instances of a broadcast debate on lockdowns with participants physically present (although not the audience). The panel included various representatives of the full spectrum of opinion on lockdowns, including Professor Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool, Imam Asada Zaman from the Muslim Youth Foundation, Maddy Mussen, assistant editor at The TAB, as well as a strong ally to the sceptic cause, and Shelagh McNerney from the Academy of Ideas, among others.

Much was made afterwards of Lord Sumption’s remarks about the “value of life”. He made the common-sense observation near the top of the programme that we should attribute less ‘value’ to the life of an older person than a younger one, and made reference to the familiar concept of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) used by health services worldwide.

“All lives are not of equal value because the older you are, the less life you have left,” he said.

He then faced repeated rebukes from other panellists, including from Deborah James, a sufferer from Stage 4 bowel cancer, who claimed Sumption had essentially declared that her own life was worthless.

“I’m the person who you say their life is not valuable,” she said, at which point Lord Sumption interrupted her: “I didn’t say it wasn’t valuable, I said it was less valuable.”

She then responded: “Who are you to put a value on life? In my view and I think in the view of many other people, all life is sacred and I don’t think you should make these judgement calls.”

A torrent of pearl-clutching followed on social media, with a stream of Twitter users sharing edited excerpts from the programme and condemning Sumption as a “fascist” or “eugenicist”. Even the Daily Mail ran a piece claiming “former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption today told a Stage 4 bowel cancer sufferer that her life was ‘less valuable’ than others”.

He did say that, but he was nonetheless misunderstood. The concept of QALYs has been developed so we can make value judgements when facing difficult medical choices in a way which doesn’t commit the cardinal sin Lord Sumption was accused of, namely, making a subjective judgement about how much value to place on a person’s life. Instead, it attaches a value to a unit of a person’s life – a year – and then adjusts that value according to the quality of life that they will have during that year. It doesn’t take into account what sort of person they are, their values, what they do with their time, etc. So he didn’t say Deborah James’s life was “less valuable” in the judgemental sense he was accused of. Rather, he was saying it was only less valuable than, say, a healthy young person because she won’t live as long and her quality of life during her remaining time won’t be very high.

The fact that Lord Sumption’s remarks were greeted with such shock – both on the programme and afterwards – is due to people’s ignorance of health economics. They are apparently unaware that health economists make these sort of calculations all the time – as do the heads of intensive care units in hospitals when they triage a patient. Indeed, the people answering emergency calls make these life-and-death decisions on an hourly basis, dispatching ambulances to some callers but not to others. As Dr John Lee pointed out, “Not making these decisions is a luxury health economists don’t have.”

It was a shame Nicky Campbell, the show’s host, didn’t do more to clarify this misunderstanding.

Nevertheless, the programme is worth watching in full.

One in Six Covid Patients Caught Disease in Hospital

One in six patients have been infected in hospital, according to David Rose and Laura Dodsworth in today’s Daily Mail.

More than 25,000 patients have caught coronavirus in hospital since the second wave of the pandemic began in September.

One in six COVID-19 patients in NHS hospitals in England were infected while being treated for other conditions, according to internal Health Service figures.

So far this month, 5,684 Covid-positive in-patients out of 44,315 – about one in eight – were infected after being admitted for other conditions.

An intensive care consultant in the Midlands said that he took a “snapshot” of all the patients in his unit on one day last month and found that 40% of them had been infected in hospital.

A specialist Covid nurse treating people at home said many of her patients had contracted the virus in hospital and were re-admitted when their conditions worsened.

The nosocomial nature of the disease has been a cause for concern since the start, with such experts as Dr John Ioannidis were making the point as early as March 2020. It’s also been flagged up frequently by the senior doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics.

David Oliver, an NHS Consultant, recently wrote in the BMJ:

Hospitals are currently in the eye of a COVID-19 storm, driven by a rapid rise in community infection rates and more new emergency cases presenting daily. But before the current surge there were concerns about Covid infection acquired or identified during a hospital stay.

In October the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) issued a report on the factors behind hospital acquired COVID-19 infections in England last spring. We now have better access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE). We have better knowledge from research and guidelines. But the rates of Covid infection officially classified as “hospital acquired” have yet to fall.

NHS hospitals are fielding formal complaints from people angry and distressed that they, or a family member, may have contracted infection in what they expect to be a place of safety. Teams battling to deliver clinical care in a highly pressurised environment and at some personal risk will be sent down a distracting, demoralising warren of complaint handling and root cause analysis, for something that can seem inevitable and out of our control.

Sir Simon Stevens’s Interview with Andrew Marr

The senior doctor who regularly contributes to Lockdown Sceptics has given us this reaction to the interview given by NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stephens on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday.

Yesterday, Simon Stevens was interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC. He used two statistics to illustrate the pressure the NHS was under. Firstly, that one Covid patient was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds and that there were 15,000 extra Covid inpatients in English hospitals since Christmas Day.

Is this true?

One patient every 30 seconds is the equivalent of 2,880 Covid patients per 24-hour period. The most recent figures show that the “total reported admissions to hospital” released on the daily hospital situation report have been in excess of 2,880 every day since December 29th.

However, the “admissions from the community” are lower than this figure and have only been above the 2,880 threshold since January 4th. The NHS is typically opaque at defining what these terms mean. I take the difference between the two figures to indicate the number of patients contracting Covid in hospital.

With respect to the statement about the total number of inpatients, it is correct that on Christmas Day there were approximately 17,000 Covid inpatients and that number is now 32,000.

What Simon Stevens forgot to mention was that patients are also being discharged from hospital. The discharge information is only disclosed in the monthly data packet and we only have information up to January 6th.

The problem the NHS has is in managing the flow of patients through the hospital. Simply put, there are more patients coming in or catching Covid in hospital than there are going out. Some of this problem is just bad luck because of the viral spread – some of it is NHS inefficiency.

I have displayed the relevant information in Graph 1 below. This a complicated graphic with two different Y axes, so I will explain:

Firstly, note the orange bars – these are “admissions from the community”. In other words, the patients coming through the doors every day with Covid. The blue bars are “new Covid hospital patients – admissions plus positive tests in hospital”. The NHS does not explicitly acknowledge that there are any patients acquiring Covid in hospital, but I take this to mean that the difference between the orange and the blue bars are the numbers of nosocomial infections every day. Any time the blue line crosses 2,800 on the left-hand side Y axis, the rate of admission per 24 hours is one patient every 30 seconds.

Graph 1.

Next, observe the yellow line. This is the daily rate of hospital discharge of Covid patients. You can see that this is quite a low number over Christmas Day and Boxing Day – patients are very rarely discharged on bank holidays or at weekends. 

In the week before Christmas, discharges were running at about 1,200 per day – or in Simon Stevens soundbite speak, “one discharge every 72 seconds”. The yellow line picks up after Christmas, dips again over new year then rises to 2,400 per day by January 5th – or “one discharge every 36 seconds”.

The problem is that the yellow line is always below the level of the blue bars, so the total number of Covid patients is always rising. Have a look at the gray line using the right-hand Y axis, showing a rise from 17,000 on December 25th to 32,000 by January 16th.

We are not allowed to know where the yellow discharge line currently stands. These figures are available but will not disclosed by the NHS until mid-February.

Patients that have recovered from Covid may not be discharged for a variety of reasons. I have covered these before in previous posts. The principal problems are that care homes are reluctant to take patients back from hospitals because of what happened in the Spring. Some patients do not want to go home as they have vulnerable relatives who are shielding. Some may not have anyone at home and may be too frail to look after themselves. This is a perennial problem in the NHS and is exacerbated every winter. Despite having six months to prepare for an expected winter crisis, the NHS didn’t prepare for this eventuality. I don’t recall Andrew Marr asking Simon Stevens to explain why.

If the yellow discharge line rises above the blue bars, then the total number of inpatients on the gray line would start to fall and the pressure on hospitals would reduce.

For some reason Simon Stevens forgot to mention that – but it’s not a very snappy soundbite. 

More On Harms to Children

Yesterday we flagged up the Sunday Times article by Dr Vanessa Moulton describing the huge increase in mental health issues she is witnessing among children in her clinic. Sadly, news of the mounting impact of lockdowns on children comes thick and fast at the moment. The New York Times has a piece by Matt Richtel on the upward trend in children’s screen addictions, which were already a serious cause for concern among many experts before the Covid crisis.

The day after New Year’s, John Reichert of Boulder, CO, had a heated argument with his 14 year-old son, James. “I’ve failed you as a father,” he told the boy despairingly.

During the long months of lockdowns and shuttered schools, Mr. Reichert, like many parents, overlooked the vastly increasing time that his son was spending on video games and social media. Now, James, who used to focus his free time on mountain biking and playing basketball, devotes nearly all of his leisure hours – about 40 a week – to Xbox and his phone. During their argument, he pleaded with his father not to restrict access, calling his phone his “whole life”.

“That was the tipping point. His whole life?” said Mr. Reichert, a technical administrator in the local sheriff’s office. “I’m not losing my son to this.”

Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, parents across the country – and the world – are watching their children slide down an increasingly slippery path into an all-consuming digital life. When the outbreak hit, many parents relaxed restrictions on screens as a stopgap way to keep frustrated, restless children entertained and engaged. But, often, remaining limits have vaporized as computers, tablets and phones became the centerpiece of school and social life, and weeks of stay-at-home rules bled into nearly a year.

The situation is alarming parents, and scientists too.

“There will be a period of epic withdrawal,” said Keith Humphreys, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, an addiction expert and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama on drug policy. It will, he said, require young people to “sustain attention in normal interactions without getting a reward hit every few seconds”.

Experts voice further concerns about addiction later in the article.

Recent neuroimaging research suggests heavy use of certain video games may cause brain changes linked to addictive behaviors. One of the study’s authors, Christian Montag, a Professor of Molecular Physiology at Ulm University, also co-authored a recent overview of digital use during the COVID-19 pandemic, published last month in Addictive Behavior Reports. It reported that German teens are playing video games with much greater frequency than before lockdown and concluded “that overuse of digital technologies represents a likely phenomenon and outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Dr Humphreys, from Stanford, said he believed that adults and children alike could, with disciplined time away from devices, learn to disconnect. But doing so has become complicated by the fact that the devices now are at once vessels for school, social life, gaming and other activities central to life.

These psychological concerns are not the only ones to have been raised. A paper entitled: “Digital Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Risk for a Further Myopia Boom?” published in the American National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) last summer drew attention to looming problems with eyesight, concluding in its abstract:

Increased digital screen time, near work, and limited outdoor activities were found to be associated with the onset and progression of myopia, and could potentially be aggravated during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak period. While school closures may be short-lived, increased access to, adoption of, and dependence on digital devices could have a long-term negative impact on childhood development. Raising awareness among parents, children, and government agencies is key to mitigating myopigenic behaviors that may become entrenched during this period.

Stop Press: Christina Lamb wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times about the stresses faced by the children of poor families in Tower Hamlets in the East End of London.

When Rekha Begum’s seven year-old son Moussa showed her what he had written on the “hope tree” he was asked to draw for school, she cried. He had written: “A house.” “I felt so bad,” she said. Begum, 40, who is disabled, lives with her four children, aged from seven to 21, in a cramped second-floor flat on a council estate in Tower Hamlets, east London, one of the most deprived – and Covid-infected – parts of Britain.

From the end of the street, past a patch of grass littered with discarded syringes, where Moussa once picked up a condom, the gleaming glass towers of Canary Wharf, the headquarters of leading banks and finance companies, can be seen on the horizon. It seems a world away. More than half of children in Tower Hamlets live in poverty.

A former carer, Begum shares a bed with Moussa. Her two other sons, aged 15 and 19, share a room, and her daughter sleeps on the sofa. “Nobody gets much sleep,” she shrugged.

Apart from Moussa, who is at primary school, one son is doing GCSEs and the two eldest children are university students. They have two laptops in total, including for Begum’s work as virtual assistant for a cab company, and she fears her children are falling behind – disastrous on estates rife with gangs and drugs.

“I asked for another, but the teacher said, ‘You have two and many families don’t have one,’” Begum said.

Lockdown the third time round, with its cold, dark days and return to homeschooling, may feel harder than ever – the novelty of baking sourdough, Yoga with Adriene, or Zoom cocktails long having worn off for many – but for families such as Begum’s and others in London’s poorest borough, it is unimaginable.

I was shocked when I first met these families last April to see how different life was in lockdown from mine, with a garden and plenty of space, and have stayed in touch with them since.

Nine months on – more than half of them spent under lockdown – many households are reaching breaking point. “I feel like a small boat being tossed about with dangerous waters all around,” said Begum. “We’re all feeling suffocated, both physically but also mentally.”

Such is the mental toll that a few months ago her eldest son went to Shadwell Basin and tried to throw himself into the Thames.

Worth reading in full.

Care Home Staff Face Sack After Shunning Vaccine

The Sunday Times reports that:

The National Care Association has taken the unprecedented step of seeking a legal opinion on whether care home workers can be made to accept vaccination after thousands refused. Between 6% and 8% of the 1.5 million adult social care workforce in England are declining jabs, despite the number of coronavirus cases in care homes trebling in the past month, according to industry reporting of uptake across the country.

This is a fairly small proportion compared the general population. With 92-94% declaring themselves willing to get the jab, it could be seen as a rather drastic approach to try to force 100% compliance. If successful, it may also set a worrying precedent for other employers considering a similar approach – the so-called ‘no jab, no job’ policy. The piece continues with poll data:

The development comes as a poll reveals that only 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds say they will “definitely” take the vaccine. In the survey by the research data company Focaldata, the percentage of people who say they will definitely have the jab increases in line with age.

Among 18 to 24-year-olds, just over one in three (36%) say they will definitely be inoculated against the virus, rising to 44% among 25- to 34-year-olds, 56% among 35- to 44-year-olds, 71%- among 45 to 64-year-olds and 90% among those aged 65 and above.

Ethnic minorities are even less likely than young people to say they will take the vaccine, with just a third (33%) committed to having the jab.

Overall, one in six people are opposed to having the jab – with women more hesitant than men. The poll reveals that 60% of women and 69% of men will definitely take the vaccine. The proportion of the population that must be infected or inoculated to achieve “herd immunity” is uncertain, but it is likely to be more than 80%.

People in Greater London are the most cautious about having the vaccine, with just 41% of those asked saying they will definitely have the jab, followed by those in the East Midlands (52%) and West Midlands (56%).

Scotland has the highest percentage of people willing to have the jab, with 78% who will definitely have the vaccine.

The Government may have a challenge on its hands regarding the remarkable vaccine scepticism among ethnic minorities. Having been at pains to emphasise the higher risk faced on average by BAME people during the pandemic, and after a year of heightened tension around Black Lives Matter and race issues, it’s conceivable that a Tory government could find it politically unpalatable to be seen to move in the direction of direct or indirect coercion against the expressed will of two-thirds of the BAME community.

The Chairwoman of the National Care Association, Nadra Ahmed, outlined some of the reasons given by care staff for their reticence:

Ahmed said although the proportion of staff refusing to take the vaccine had fallen since the roll-out began, the figures were still a concern. “I think we started with between 15% and 18% of the workforce, we were being told, who were reluctant to have it, but I think that it’s dropped to about 8%.

“We are also hearing that some of them are based around reasons that are religious, or they’ve got conditions, or it’s a fear… Very few are conspiracy theory types, but there are [some] within the numbers that we’ve been told about.

“Even one [care worker turning down the vaccine] is more than we would want. We’ve asked for a legal opinion on it – we’re just waiting for that legal opinion to come through.”

The poll reveals the two most common reasons people are opposed to the jab is concern the “vaccines have been rushed through” (45%) and “wanting to wait until more people have had it to see if it is safe” (35%).

Lack of trust in institutions and authorities plays a larger part than the more extreme conspiracy theories. One in five (21%) mention a lack of trust in the pharmaceutical companies that made the vaccine as a reason for their opposition, while one in six (16%) “don’t trust the people who want us to take the vaccine”.

One in five (21%) of those sceptical about taking a vaccine say that this because they believe “the side effects and potential risks of the vaccine are worse than the disease itself”, while just over one in 10 (13%) “would rather let nature take its course”.

Worth reading in full.

A Wittgensteinian Writes…

Ludwig Wittgenstein

We are publishing a piece today entitled “Why We Shouldn’t Moralise Means to Moral Ends” by Ben Hawkins, a trainee lawyer with an interest in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

There’s an excellent Mitchell and Webb sketch in which a pair of ministerial aides are reporting back to their minister on potential solutions for dealing with a recession… “raising VAT, cutting VAT, raising interest rates, raising interest rates and VAT, lowering income tax and raising VAT”. But despite their efforts, they haven’t been able to land on anything – when their proposed measures are put through their computer models, none of them seems to work. Suddenly the minister interrupts. “Have you tried ‘kill all the poor’?” When the shocked aides protest the minister replies, “I’m not saying do it, I’m just saying run it through the computer ­– see if it would work.”

Whilst undoubtedly a broadside aimed at the austerity policies of the time, the sketch works as it highlights a feature of our moral reflexes that is often overlooked: for most moral agents with genuinely held moral beliefs, it is not enough to avoid doing wrong; to merely consider doing that wrong action feels like a moral transgression in and of itself. A serious moral agent, believing that killing people is wrong, would never consider running “kill all the poor” through the computer, as doing so would seemingly violate the principle of the sanctity of life which the belief in not killing people upholds. As Robert Webb’s character shrieks exasperatedly when asked why he won’t just give it a go – “Because it’s offensive and evil!”

Worth reading in full.

Telegraph Letter

A reader spotted a good letter that appeared recently in the Telegraph.

SIR – I was recently speaking to a friend in South Africa, who told me that, every day, the government publishes the recovery rate of Covid patients, alongside the data on cases and deaths. This means that South Africans receive some good news – and are reminded that getting the virus is not a death sentence for most healthy citizens.

Our Government, by contrast, seems intent on delivering only the bad news. It’s time that we were given some perspective and hope.

Roger Woodgate
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

NHS Worship: A Doctor Writes…

We are also publishing a piece called “Ruminating About the New Religion” by a medical doctor who writes under the pseudonym Dr J. Here is an excerpt:

In 2020, a new reformation has happened, hastened on by the ‘pandemic’, and credited to the good folk of China. The Church of England, no longer the nation’s moral compass or cultural centre, not only ceased to be the established church, but gladly ceded that title to the NHS, the new established Church in England. Venerable Cathedrals like Salisbury now close their doors to public worship opting for something on the Internet. Yet they open the doors to the new church, the NHS, and allow everyone in to be vaccinated, something that would ostensibly help ‘protect the NHS’. This followed from the example of See of Canterbury which in March first ordered all Churches to close and threatened all pastors with sanctions if they even thought about opening them or stepping inside. All of this was to protect the NHS and save lives. The NHS, the new established religion, must be protected at all costs, especially by the old established religion. No one is permitted to die, or at least not from Covid. And besides, the former CofE never had the time to tell followers how to do that well anyway.

The new head of the Church, our PM, duly appointed its new Archbishop, the Health Secretary, and he appointed and ceded all power to decide how the nation would live its life – or not – to his high priests, the collective heads of the health services and our new prognosticator in chief, Neil Ferguson. A new Parliament was established of course, now called SAGE, appointed to be the new theologians of this religion, instructing us on the reality of certain death if we don’t listen to and heed all they teach and say. In this newly established Church, all other institutions are insignificant – the family, religion, businesses, education, universities – and there will no longer be freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, democracy, or the right to challenge the established orthodoxy. If it’s not the NHS, it’s not important. If all heads of the health service don’t believe and preach it, then neither can you. If they believe and preach it, then you must as well.

The new heads of the newly established Church and its high priests and its theologians have instead decided to preach the doctrines through the pulpit of the BBC, and censor, ridicule, sideline, demonise and use their compliant members to enforce the orthodoxy in the press and on social media.

Worth reading in full.

The Wisdom of Martin Luther King

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States so we thought we’d share a quote from the good reverend.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause.

And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…Y ou refuse to do it because you want to live longer… You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

Ipso Ruling: More Reader Responses

Two more readers with scientific backgrounds have kindly sent in comments about the Ipso ruling against Toby which we reported on two days ago. We published the first set of responses yesterday.

Martin Evison PhD, a retired Science Professor formerly at Sheffield, Toronto, and Northumbria Universities, wrote:

I was disappointed to learn of the IPSO ruling, which I think is mistaken.

With regard to ‘herd immunity’, I refer you to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, whose Q&A would appear to concur specifically with Toby’s comments in the Daily Telegraph regarding herd immunity and the proportion of the population needed to confer it (see the following):

“What is herd immunity?

When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection – or herd immunity (also called herd protection) – to those who are not immune to the disease. For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 50% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity.” (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health)

The term ‘natural immunity’ is a little ambiguous, as it can be used i) to distinguish between pre-existing immunity and immunity conferred only following infection or vaccination; ii) to distinguish between vaccine-acquired immunity and immunity acquired without a vaccine, and iii) to distinguish between innate – including T-cell mediated – immunity and adaptive immunity mediated by antibodies – which I anticipate was Toby’s intended meaning. There is a substantial literature on the latter topic. Here is an accessible recent scientific summary.

If Toby is asserting that natural, T-cell mediated and other innate immunity – including that resulting from prior infection with other coronaviruses, combined with a level – say 17% seroprevalence – of adaptive immunity is probably sufficient to confer herd immunity in London – then this is at least a plausible hypothesis reflecting conventional wisdom.

If scientific uncertainty applies to one claim, then it must equally apply to its opposite – e.g. that natural, T-cell mediated and other innate immunity – including that resulting from prior infection with other coronaviruses, combined with a level – say 17 % seroprevalence – of adaptive immunity is probably insufficient to confer herd immunity in London. 

If Ipso want to preferentially silence one claim over the other, they need to say why and provide evidence supporting that opinion. 

It is at best unethical for the Government or its scientific advisers to pretend they are basing their decisions on certainties, where they do not exist. It seems, furthermore, that they are ignoring a number of certainties – or at any rate preponderance of evidence in their favour – that have become increasingly apparent since March 2020.

Gordon Burns, a retired Professor of Cancer Research who has a BSc in Biochemistry, a Postgraduate Diploma and Primary MRCPath in Microbiology, and a PhD from Cambridge with five years as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Immunology, writes:

The interviews published and the comments provided in the mainstream media on viral replication and the natural immune response are so utterly ignorant and such irresponsible misinformation that I feel obliged to comment. I will try to put things in lay terms.

First – contrary to public belief and propaganda on vaccines – viruses are not killed by antibodies. For the simple reason that – unlike bacteria and other living organisms – they are not living organisms and thus cannot be “killed”, whether by antibodies or anything else within the body.

Infectious respiratory viruses have an RNA core (for replication) and a protein coat. The protein coat consists of invariant structural proteins and the ’spike protein’ that contains within it the small peptide that constitutes the cell-binding domain (CBD).

Most structural proteins are shared by viral groups such as coronaviruses.

Upon primary infection of mucosal and epithelial cells in the bronchial tract, the infected cells in distress display the viral proteins at their cell surface. Structural and spike. Cytotoxic T-cells recognise these foreign proteins and kill the infected cells. These viral proteins (structural or spike) are remembered by the T-cells which survive for (almost) life as memory T-cells.

Killed cells release viral particles that are excreted or infect other cells until the battle is won. Never to progress further.

Thus, in many cases, viral infections never proceed beyond this stage and T-cell immunity is retained. The only antibodies generated at this site are IgM and IgA antibodies.

Immunisation, by contrast, induces IgG antibodies at a distal site. These can be deleterious to primary infections.

If you like, I can extrapolate further on the IgG response, but readers should be aware of the primary response explained above.

We’re grateful for these contributions, and any more expert readers are welcome to email us their responses.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “So Lonely” by The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by Sting, “Throw Away the Key” by Linx, “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson, “Hide Your Face” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Which Side Are You On?” by Pete Seeger, and “A Walk in the Park” by Nick Straker Band.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we have this opinion piece in the Washington Post by Cristina Beltrán entitled “To understand Trump’s support, we must think in terms of multiracial Whiteness”, wherein she burnishes her ‘anti-racist’ credentials by associating everything she dislikes with “whiteness”, which, she argues, is a quality that can be espoused by people who are not actually white. So progressive….

The Trump administration’s anti-immigration, anti-civil rights stance has made it easy to classify the President’s loyalists as a homogenous mob of white nationalists. But take a look at the FBI’s posters showing people wanted in the insurrectionist assault on the US Capitol: Among the many White faces are a few that are clearly Latino or African American.

Such diversity highlights the fact that President Trump’s share of the Latino vote in November actually rose over 2016, notwithstanding years of incendiary rhetoric targeting Mexicans and other Latino communities. Yes, Trump’s voters – and his mob – are disproportionately White, but one of the more unsettling exit-poll data points of the 2020 election was that a quarter to a third of Latino voters voted to reelect Trump.

She continues in a similar vein and adds:

Rooted in America’s ugly history of white supremacy, indigenous dispossession and anti-blackness, multiracial whiteness is an ideology invested in the unequal distribution of land, wealth, power and privilege – a form of hierarchy in which the standing of one section of the population is premised on the debasement of others. Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political colour and not simply a racial identity – a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.

Multiracial whiteness promises Latino Trump supporters freedom from the politics of diversity and recognition. For voters who see the very act of acknowledging one’s racial identity as itself racist, the politics of multiracial whiteness reinforces their desired approach to colorblind individualism. In the politics of multiracial whiteness, anyone can join the MAGA movement and engage in the wild freedom of unbridled rage and conspiracy theories.

Multiracial whiteness offers citizens of every background the freedom to call Muslims terrorists, demand that undocumented immigrants be rounded up and deported, deride BLM as a movement of thugs and criminals, and accuse Democrats of being blood-drinking paedophiles.

Stop Press: Unsurprisingly, Titania McGrath has weighed in:

“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…

Latest News

Hancock Sets Out Vaccination Plan

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

The Government has published its ‘UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan‘ and the Health Secretary gave a press conference alongside Professor Stephen Powis on Monday stating that 2.3 million people have been given at least one dose of a vaccine so far and explaining his plan to continue rolling out the biggest mass vaccination programme in history. The BBC reports:

The vaccine delivery plan says it is expected to take until spring to give a first dose to all 32 million people in the UK’s priority groups, including everyone over 55 and those who are clinically vulnerable.

Under the plan, the government has pledged to carry out at least two million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January, which it says will be made possible by rolling out jabs at 206 hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and around 1,200 local vaccination sites. 

It also reiterates the government’s aim of offering vaccinations to around 15 million people in the UK – the over-70s, older care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable – by mid-February.

According to Mr Hancock, two fifths of over-80s have now received their first dose, and almost a quarter of care home residents have received theirs.

Ministers have stopped short so far of introducing yet stricter measures, and Hancock ruled out scrapping support ‘bubbles’, though several newspapers have run fairly hysterical finger-wagging front pages:

A glaring Chris Whitty is pictured next to an instruction not to “stop for a chat” despite his having repeated yesterday on Radio 4 that fleeting outdoor contact was not a risk.

The Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, meanwhile, has written in The Times:

It is preposterous to me that anyone could be unaware of our duty to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus. We have been clear that those who breach COVID-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines.

The article continues:

Officers are now stopping people on the street and requiring them to explain why they are outside. They will also routinely hand out fines to anyone at illegal gatherings. Enforcement was previously limited to the organisers.

Another force is using surveillance cameras to track down motorists breaching lockdown rules. Devon and Cornwall is deploying automatic number-plate recognition technology, which identifies vehicles on the roads, to monitor vehicle movements.

Despite the doom-laden tone from Number 10, the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App calculated that the R rate in London was 0.9 as recently as January 7th, with infections falling:

The R rate was calculated just barely higher at 1 for the rest of the UK:

On Yer Bike! Did PM’s Journey Contravene His Own Guidance?

Boris Johnson cycles past an aptly-positioned truck

The Prime Minister was accused of making a journey which wasn’t in the spirit of the Government’s guidance after being spotted cycling seven miles from Downing Street. The Evening Standard reports:

The Prime Minister was wearing his TfL hat and a face mask when he was seen cycling with his security detail in Stratford, east London, at around 2pm.

Official Government guidance on exercise says it should be limited to once a day and “you should not travel outside your local area”.

The park has been noticeably busy with families exercising and the PM is said to have been concerned by what he saw in the area.  

Lockdown sceptics will be less concerned by the length of his journey than the existence of such absurd guidance in the first place, although it did give the Health Secretary Matt Hancock an opportunity to clarify that:

“It is OK to go, if you went for a long walk, and ended up seven miles away from home – that is OK but you should stay local. You should not go from one side of the country to another potentially taking the virus with you.

“Remember one in three people who have the virus don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms and yet still pass it on.”

He added: “It is OK to go for a long walk or a cycle ride or exercise – but stay local.”

Steerpike commented in The Spectator:

The guidance on exercise says “you should not travel outside your local area”. So, what does the Prime Minister say? While there’s no official response, a Downing Street source confirmed that the Prime Minister was exercising — but failed to say whether he was driven there to exercise or had cycled the whole way. The former would likely be classed as a rule breach.

They did, however, voice the PM’s concern at the other people using the park at that time: “He did note how busy the park was and he commented on it at the meeting last night. He was concerned about if people were following the rules and was concerned after his cycle ride around the park.”

While going somewhere and then complaining about how many other people have done the same is an unwelcome trend of the pandemic, Mr S had hoped Johnson would know better. After all, if someone should have refrained from showing up there, surely it’s the person who lives seven miles away? 

The Daily Star’s front cover today

Covid, Hyper-Medicalisation, and Viral Interference

We are publishing a guest piece today by Dr Irina Metzler FRHistS, medical historian and former lecturer at the University of Swansea, as well as a Wellcome Trust University Award Fellow. Here is a short extract:

One of the puzzles in the Covid story is how different the effect of SARS-CoV-2 can be from person to person. If we accept the notion of ‘asymptomatic transmission’, then Covid is inconsequential for such a large number of apparently infected people that they notice no symptoms whatsoever, while others have symptoms so mild they are comparable to the common cold, yet a minority of infected people suffer very severe reactions and unfortunately sometimes lethal outcomes. This very wide variance in how individuals’ bodies react to the virus makes COVID-19 a most unusual illness. What follows are some speculative musings on potential factors influencing individual variance, in other words, asking the question: Have we missed something that could explain why some people fall very ill and even die, yet others don’t even know they’ve got it?

Besides individual disparity in reactions to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is of course the disparity in how regional variation affects mortality and severe illness. Contrary to most beliefs in an efficient health care system (including preventative care, hygiene, nutrition, immunisation programmes), whereby there should be less illness in those nations that have better and more accessible healthcare provisions, Covid actually seems to be less of a threat to poorer, economically weaker nations which had a lower case fatality rate (meaning fewer deaths per number of infected individuals) than economically stronger countries.
Demographics certainly play a role in this disparity, since older people are more likely to fall victim to Covid than younger, and economically wealthier countries have larger numbers of the old than poorer countries. But other factors, such as the former ‘hygiene hypothesis’, now refined as the ’Old Friends’ hypothesis, and the incidence of autoimmune disorders in higher-income countries have also been advanced. The hygiene hypothesis is well known and argues that the more ‘clean’ we have become, the less chance our immune systems have had to be ‘trained’ in how to ward off pathogens. Hyper-hygienic conditions, which have been advocated in most high-income countries, through things as basic as using anti-bacterial products for everything from chopping boards for food preparation to the now ubiquitous hand sanitisers, have in fact contributed to the lack of training in childhood for most Westerners’ immune systems. Lack of exposure to parasites and other pathogens, which would train the immune system, has been linked to impaired Type 1 interferon activity, which in turn has been linked with susceptibility to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (see Impaired type I interferon activity and inflammatory responses in severe COVID-19 patients). Paradoxically, then, the inhabitants of higher income countries are, despite enjoying overall better health outcomes, at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 than those in lower-income nations.

Worth reading in full.

MP Explains His Vote Against Lockdown Restrictions – Faces Backlash

David Warburton, Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome, whose email to one of his constituents explaining his refusal to vote for the tier system we published last month, has written an explanation on his website of his reasons for voting against lockdown again last Wednesday. Warburton has done his homework, and it’s a comprehensive argument. Here is an extract:

…I have concerns in several areas:

First, the numbers and how they are being reported. Yes, there is no doubt that the new evolving strains of the virus – though thankfully no more virulent – are more easily transmitted between individuals. But our increased rates of infection are more interesting. The mass scale of our PCR testing and self-reporting through the NHS app means that, for example, our case rate appears to be far higher than many European neighbours. And testing also creates some revealing anomalies: the virus seems to understand the soft border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for example, crediting those to the north with a far higher rate of infection. Our mortality rate — dreadful though it is — remains much the same as others’. So either the false-positive incidence of our testing is giving us a bleak picture, or we appear more resilient to the worst effects of the virus, which is obviously unlikely.

Everyone who attends hospital is now tested – itself, of course, a terrifically important step. Those who test positive are reported statistically as hospital Covid patients, whether they were asymptomatic or not; whether they attended hospital for a broken ankle or regular cancer treatment. Naturally, when we then hear of hospitals managing thousands of Covid patients, such reporting will concern us all and lead the Government to seek to act.

Every death, for whatever reason, is tragic and shocking. Even to write about it — and especially to do so in terms of data and numbers — belittles and minimises the personal loss which we all feel. It is important to see, I think though, that excess deaths over the past year have not been statistically higher than the average for previous years. And the ONS reveals that, in terms of deaths per 100,000 of population, since 1993 ten previous years have had higher rates than 2020. But I also understand that, given the infection rates and the new strains, it is the predictions of future mortality which concerns the Government. They do not know what may come.

I will not dwell on the historic predictions of SAGE, but I must draw attention to the missing component in this thought process. At the end of the regulations before us yesterday was the bald admission that “No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.”

That means that we were asked to vote, again, on restrictions which will have unknown effects, both positive and negative. We are not provided with evidence for the efficacy of the lockdown, other than our experience of the mixed results of previous lockdowns, and — crucially — we do not know what is the nature or the extent of the detrimental effects.

As I’ve said before, the ONS have estimated that the restrictions across 2020 will have resulted in 200,000 non-Covid excess deaths. Bristol University put the figure far higher. Whether or not these predictions have any more accuracy than SAGE’s own Covid predictions, these numbers are many times higher than those who tragically will have been lost to the virus.

Many of us have repeatedly asked for the data – a cost benefit analysis – which can allow us to make an informed decision. The crucial question we have to ask ourselves is what is the cost to lives, to livelihoods, to businesses, to mental health, suicides, to all non-Covid related heath. It’s imperative that these factors are weighed in the balance against the likely lives saved from those same restrictions.

Definitely worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A Twitter poll has been started by a local Labour Party activist asking whether people support David’s stance. If you use Twitter, you can make your voice heard here.

Stop Press 2: The Swedish physiologist Johan Hellström has published a historic mortality graph for no-lockdown Sweden up to and including 2020, and as you may expect, there isn’t much to see:

This study provides more detail on the comparison between Norway and Sweden, and also concludes that lockdowns do not explain the differences.


Stop Press 3: Yesterday, we reported on a lockdown enthusiast who has repented and joined the ranks of the lockdown sceptics. Today, we bring you another – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo!

What is Law and What is Guidance? Clarification from a QC

Chris Daw QC, author of Justice on Trial, spoke to Ian Collins at talkRADIO to give his legal expertise on the matter of what exactly police are and aren’t entitled to fine people for, after a few well-publicised instances of members of the public being questioned and even fined by over-zealous police officers.

Stop Press: The two women fined by Derbyshire Police for driving five miles to a local reservoir, whose cups of peppermint tea were described as a ‘picnic’ by the issuing officer, have received an apology and had their fines withdrawn.

A Reader’s Cancer Treatment

Barts Hospital

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has sent us her recent experience being treated for cancer in a private hospital through the NHS, as well as her bafflement at reports in the press about cancelled surgery.

You may be interested in my own recent experience of cancer treatment during this Covid crisis. I was diagnosed with cancer on December 30th following a biopsy on December 16th and advised to have a lumpectomy as initial treatment. This was at Barts NHS Trust. The operation took place on January 4th at a well-known London private hospital, which my surgeon explained was being used by Barts for such surgery during the pandemic. I won’t name the hospital, but as it is known for treating members of the Royal Family I doubt if its facilities usually come cheaply. I was shocked to be given such an early date for surgery, but my surgeon further explained that after January 5th Barts feared being ordered to suspend all such surgery. If this has indeed happened, I was very fortunate with the timing of my diagnosis and feel enormous sympathy for anyone whose surgery has now been delayed.

I was puzzled to see it reported today (the Times: “NHS attacks private hospitals for not cancelling operations”) that the NHS stopped using private hospitals for such surgery some months ago and that “NHS chiefs” were strongly critical of private hospitals for carrying out elective surgery during the present crisis (according to a “leaked” letter from senior NHS figures, including, supposedly, the head of Barts Health Trust!) The Times article states as fact that although the NHS is negotiating to use private hospitals again, this does not include any of the main London private hospitals, since the NHS reportedly balked at their high costs. This is clearly wrong from my own experience and makes me wonder if such “leaks” are inspired by political motives.

The Guardian reports that Barts NHS Trust has suspended all such surgery since December 23rd:

People with advanced cancer have had their urgent surgery cancelled at a leading London hospital trust that is treating the largest number of Covid patients in the NHS.

Patients who were due to undergo an operation to treat their disease at Barts Health NHS trust have been told the pressures the resurgent COVID-19 is putting hospitals under was to blame.

The procedures involved are known in the NHS as “red flag” cancer cases and are classed by the NHS as “priority two” surgery, which means they should be done within 28 days of the decision to operate. Any delay risks the patient’s disease spreading or becoming inoperable.

Barts is the second big hospital trust in London known to have cancelled operations as a result of the strain on the NHS, which led to the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers issuing an unprecedented warning last week that parts of the service were close to collapse.

Staff in Barts’ surgical division approached the Guardian to disclose that cancellations had been happening there since before Christmas after reading a statement in the Observer by Sir David Sloman, the NHS’s Regional Director for the capital, that “urgent cancer surgery is not being cancelled in London”.

One member of staff said last week: “This [statement] is not true. At the Royal London Hospital we have not been able to do any non-emergency surgery since December 23rd. We have not done any cancer surgery, except emergency procedures, since then. [There is] no clarity yet on when or where we can restart our elective surgery.”

Furthermore, The Times reports:

NHS chiefs have criticised private hospitals and doctors in London for performing non-urgent operations despite the “unthinkable pressures” of the pandemic.

A letter leaked to HSJ, the health service journal, asked trusts in the capital “not to support” private work for at least a month.

London’s NHS hospitals have cancelled almost all planned care. At least two have postponed urgent cancer surgery as figures show that treatment levels are failing to keep pace with demand. The NHS has been trying to negotiate use of the capital’s private hospitals for cancer patients.

Our reader is right to be confused.

Was I Just Witness to a Covid Death?

We are reproducing in full this account kindly contributed by Thomas Harrington, Professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, USA of a tragic occurrence last week, which he firmly attributes to the Covid restrictions.

Friday night at 4:45 in the morning my partner, K and I awoke to the flashing lights of police and medical teams outside the house where we are currently staying. It was accompanied by murmured conversations between the uniformed people and one of the men who stays with our landlord, who lives in an adjacent part of the same building. 

Tired and not wanting to intrude on the lives of people we knew, but not intimately, we went back to sleep, hoping that nothing really transcendent had occurred. 

By mid-morning those hopes were thoroughly dashed when K returned to our place ashen-faced to tell me that Pete, our 60 year-old weight-lifting landlord, who could have passed for a robust 45, was dead, quite probably by suicide. We just sat there numb for a very, very long time. 

Over the last few months while living in the in-law apartment of his house, K, a woman who naturally invites emotional openness in others, had come to know Pete fairly well. And on my more or less extended visits to the little apartment, I had engaged with him as well. He was extremely bright and gentle, a yacht captain by trade and a romantic adventurer by predilection, who talked longingly and wistfully of lost loves and of business deals gone bad. Speaking to his best friend, Dave, yesterday after the tragedy, we were both confirmed in our suspicion that he was, in many ways, his own worst enemy. 

But a message that came across just as strongly, if not stronger, was that Pete was deeply loved and supported by a network of friends who had remained true to him, and they to him, over a half a century. As Dave explained they had all seen each other through difficult moments, ratifying their support for each other, at times,  through, among other things,  the lending of not insignificant sums of money. 

Indeed, as we spoke, just around the corner in the gorgeous, if decadently unkempt, tropical back yard of the house with its irregularly-shaped pool, the members of that support-crew were sitting together drinking beer while crying and laughing about their friend. This once grand property had, in effect, been their clubhouse, the place was where they had reaffirmed their friendship over and again during 50 years (Pete grew up in the house and had inherited it from his parents) with what he and they, and the women in their lives, liked to call Funday Sundays. 

But over the last several months, that vital social lifeline, along with the possibilities of work in the boating industry, had been, if not wholly severed, severely weakened by the social restrictions imposed by the “fight against Covid”.  

Pete had fallen into a very deep depression,  about which he had spoken pretty openly about with K. Last week, he told her he had finally gone to a mental health professional for  help. 

But last Friday, night, it seems, he decided to end things. As a tragedy, this story requires no adornment. 

But I nonetheless less feel compelled to ask all those out there currently justifying draconian reductions of basic human liberties, and worse yet, human customs of love and caring, on the basis of inflated ‘case’ numbers spawned by a deeply flawed PCR test, as well as a 0.23% IFR, if they might be willing to admit that Pete was also a real Covid fatality? 

And more fundamentally, I’d like to ask all those that constantly tell us about the grave threat posed by Covid — with its 99.77% survival rate and victim cohort tilted overwhelmingly to those at or beyond their normal level of life expectancy — if, after playing profligately and abusively with the threat of death, they have any empathy left for the very real and concrete terminations of life, catalyzed, if not caused, by their serial exaggerations. 

Or do they simply consider such thoughts to be another thing to be mentally “deplatformed”, along with all of those other things that don’t neatly affirm the media’s dominant narrative?

Does Pheasant Shooting Count as Exercise?

A reader got in touch after receiving the following email from Abel & Cole, the organic food delivery company:

Hello there, I’m just getting in touch about the Wild Pheasant on your order. I’m afraid we aren’t able to include the pack in the box as planned this week. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our supplier can’t go out to shoot the game and we don’t have any stock left in at the moment. As the lockdown is due to last roughly until the end of shooting season this year, we might not be able to bring it back again until next season. I’m really sorry for the disappointment.

In fact, there’s nothing to stop Abel & Cole’s supplier from shooting pheasant. You are still allowed to shoot in England, provided you only do it once a day and it’s part of your daily exercise. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has the details:

In light of the government providing greater clarity on its COVID-19 guidance and regulations, BASC is advising that outdoor shooting activities as a form of exercise are permissible once per day in England during the national lockdown, subject to two conditions.

1. You should only travel locally to shoot which is to “stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live” as defined in government guidance.

2. When shooting you should only meet with people you live with, your support bubble; or when on your own, with one person from another household.

If any shooting readers can supply Abel & Cole with a brace or two, please contact us here. We’ll put you in touch.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Drinking in the Day” by Elise LeGrow, “Happenin’ All Over Again” by Lonnie Gordon and “Boris Johnson a Big Bumbahole” by Machyo.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Christopher F. Rufo’s report “Radicals in the Classroom” in City Journal about the hardcore Critical Race Theory indoctrination occurring in the San Diego Unified School District’s new mandatory training sessions for teachers.

The San Diego Unified School District has been radicalized. In recent months, the district has announced mandatory diversity training for teachers, added a new “ethnic studies” curriculum focused on racial grievance, and even abolished the requirement to turn in homework on time – all in the name of becoming, in the words of school board member Richard Barrera, “an anti-racist school district.”

Last month, I reported on one of these training sessions, focused on “white privilege,” in which white teachers were accused of being colonisers on stolen Native American land and told “you are racist” and “you are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies”. The trainers demanded that the teachers “confront and examine [their] white privilege”, “acknowledge when [they] feel white fragility”, and “teach others to see their privilege”. After the story caused an uproar, school officials defended the training as a form of “racial healing”.

Phrases such as “white privilege” and “white fragility” will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the crazier fringes of the woke cult recently, although one of the guest speakers hired by San Diego Unified took the hyperbole to a whole new level.

According to new whistleblower documents, San Diego Unified held an even more radical training program featuring a speaker who believes American schools are guilty of the “spirit murdering of Black children”. The school district hired Bettina Love, a critical race theorist who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, for the keynote address at the August Principal Institute and for an additional district-wide training on how to “challenge the oppressive practices that live within the systems and structures of school organizations”.

Though the school district explicitly forbade attendees from recording the session, one whistleblower took detailed notes of the speech and captured screenshots of the presentation. According to these notes, Love began her presentation by claiming that “racism runs deep” in the United States and that blacks alone “know who America really is”. She argued that public schools in particular “don’t see [blacks] as human”, are guilty of systemic “anti-Blackness”, and “spirit murder babies” in the education system.

Ms Love is associated with the Abolitionist Teaching Network, whose website makes for an interesting browse.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Twitter’s stock has plunged after the social media platform banned Donald Trump.

Twitter’s stock price tumbled Monday as investors appeared to balk at the social network’s decision to ban President Trump from posting.

Shares in the San Francisco-based company tumbled as much as 12% to $45.17 in the first trading session after it booted Trump from the platform on Friday, saying his account posed a “risk of further incitement of violence” after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.

The stock pared the losses through the morning and fell 6.4% to close at $48.18.

Twitter’s move against the outgoing president – whose account had more than 88 million followers – was the first permanent suspension for a head of state, and it’s likely to spark furious debate about the role tech companies play in regulating speech.

It may also hurt Twitter’s user base as Trump supporters and right-wing activists pledge to boycott the company’s blockbuster decision.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Press: A reader has sent us this article in the Sydney Morning Herald from 17 years ago, written during the SARS epidemic.

Health authorities have warned that surgical masks may not be an effective protection against the virus.

“Those masks are only effective so long as they are dry,” said Professor Yvonne Cossart of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney. 

“As soon as they become saturated with the moisture in your breath they stop doing their job and pass on the droplets.”

Professor Cossart said that could take as little as 15 or 20 minutes, after which the mask would need to be changed. But those warnings haven’t stopped people snapping up the masks, with retailers reporting they are having trouble keeping up with demand.

The article continues:

John Bell from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, who owns a pharmacy in Woollahra, Sydney, said mask supplies were running low.

“At the moment we don’t have any because we haven’t been able to get any in the last few days,” Mr Bell said. “In the early stages it was unbelievable; we’d get people coming in all the time.”

Mr Bell agreed with Professor Cossart’s assessment regarding the effectiveness of the masks.

“I think they’re of marginal benefit,” he said. “In a way they give some comfort to people who think they’re doing as much as they can do to prevent the infection.”

The reader who drew our attention to the piece commented:

The first line sums it up – “Retailers who cash in on community fears about SARS by exaggerating the health benefits of surgical masks could face fines of up to $110,000.”

Fast forward 17 years, and currently three Australian states have mask mandates in place, with fines of $200 for non-compliance. Last time I checked (and I do look out for these things) there has been no new significant evidence brought to light since 2003 that general public mask wearing has any effect whatsoever on community transmission of the sort of virus which causes COVID. The absurdity of Australia’s mask mandates is of course compounded by the almost complete absence of COVID in the general community at this time.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Both Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have announced that they will ban anyone who does not wear a mask from entering their shops, reports the BBC. The Government has stated that it is not the responsibility of retailers to enforce the rules, but that of the police, who have also said they don’t intend to enforce mask-wearing in supermarkets.

Morrisons will bar customers who refuse to wear face coverings from its shops amid rising coronavirus infections.

From Monday, shoppers who refuse to wear face masks offered by staff will not be allowed inside, unless they are medically exempt.

Sainsbury’s also said it would challenge those not wearing a mask or who were shopping in groups.

The announcements come amid concerns that social distancing measures are not being adhered to in supermarkets.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government is “concerned” shops are not enforcing rules strictly enough.

“Ultimately, the most important thing to do now is to make sure that actually enforcement – and of course the compliance with the rules – when people are going into supermarkets are being adhered to,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News.

“We need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system,” he said.

The Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW) tweeted the following hand-wringing statement:

Key retail workers deal with hundreds of customers every day as they perform their essential duties. With the #Covid situation developing rapidly, we’re calling for retail workers and delivery drivers to get priority access to vaccinations and mass testing.

We also expect retailers to work with us, urgently, to produce new risk assessments. The new strain of Covid puts our members at increased risk of catching the virus. They need every possible protection, including the following steps:

Limits on customer numbers – back to the earlier levels if necessary – with trained security staff to manage queues. Once inside the store, customers should follow clearly highlighted one-way systems and 2m social distancing markers.

As Ivor Cummins has pointed out on numerous occasions though, and does so again in his recent conversation with James Delingpole on the Delingpod, shop workers worked for four months at the beginning of the pandemic with no masks and experienced no great wave of deaths over and above the rest of the population, even though they encountered the general public every day.

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…

On this week’s episode of London Calling, Toby’s weekly podcast with James Delingpole, they try to avoid getting into an argument about the Great Reset (he’s a believer, Toby’s not) and stick to books and TV shows. But they cannot avoid talking about Trump’s Twitter ban and Big Tech censorship more generally.

Listen to the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.

Latest News

Border Chaos Continues

Peter Schrank’s cartoon in yesterday’s Times

The list of countries restricting or banning travel from the UK today grew to over 40, including much of continental Europe. The international responses to the new ‘variant’ of the virus range from outright bans to new self-isolation requirements regardless of a negative PCR test (as in the case of Greece). The border closures are not all limited to UK travellers either. Sweden has banned visitors from Denmark as well as the UK, and Saudi Arabia has slammed its borders shut completely. The knee-jerk actions are reminiscent of the early phase of the pandemic, where country after country copied each other’s panicky lockdowns. It deals yet another blow to the ailing travel and airline industries, as cancelled flights out of the UK number in the hundreds and climbing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference yesterday and scarcely mentioned the unfolding travel bans. Instead, he focused on the ongoing issues at the Dover-Calais crossing, insisting that the blockade would be resolved in a matter of hours after a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in today’s Telegraph, closing the UK-France border is just another exercise in closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Emmanuel Macron’s ban on lorries entering France wins the prize for the most pointless political gesture since the onset of this pandemic. The mutant strain B.1.1.7 is already all over Europe.

British scientists spotted it early and have tracked it in real-time because the UK has carried out almost as much genome sequencing of COVID-19 as the rest of the world combined. Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage says the UK has the most advanced genomic monitoring regime on the planet.

Denmark is one of the few other states in Europe that also does extensive and rapid sequencing. Lo and behold, the Danes have found the same mutation. Many countries do little or no genomic sequencing at all. 

It stretches credulity to imagine that a variant picked up in samples as far back as September is not already rampant in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and indeed France. It had months to run when borders were wide open, long before the second lockdowns. 

He goes on to quote the German virologist Christian Drosten whose somewhat sceptical comments in a German radio interview were also picked up by the Daily Mail.

Christian Drosten, Angela’s Merkel’s pandemic guru, says the mutation is almost certainly spreading in Germany already and he is sceptical about the data interpretation by Prof Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial. “I am not particularly worried,” he told Deutschlandfunk, taking a gentle swipe at headline bio-hysteria.

Prof Drosten is careful not to violate scientific etiquette but he came as close as you can to rebuking the British Government – and by implication the modellers on the NERVTAG committee – for pushing a conclusion beyond the known evidence. 

He questions the pseudo-quantification behind claims that the new strain is 70% more transmissible. “There are too many unknown strains to say something like that,” he told Covid reporter Kai Kupferschmidt. 

Interesting that Christian Drosten, the lead author on the paper that wrote the rules on mass PCR testing that is currently being challenged by Dr Mike Yeadon and others, is a “mutant strain” sceptic.

Another expert to add a note of moderation was the microbiologist Dr Hugh Pennington, whose comments yesterday were reported in the Press and Journal.

The Aberdeen University Professor said: “The big issue with the variant is that it’s no nastier than the first one that came in March.

“It doesn’t kill people more readily or make them any more unwell but it’s said to be more transmissible. However, that’s what we’re being told. We have not seen any evidence to back that claim up.

“We haven’t seen any data that shows the increase in England is down to the new variant rather than people just not behaving themselves. Politicians won’t want to say that.

“If this virus has mutated to become more transmissible that would be a scientific novelty.

“It could be a coincidence with it getting commoner as the infection rate goes up.”

He said the only way to be sure, ahead of waiting on retrospective studies, would be to find out if the variant is more transmissible by checking what the infected dose is of one person to compare.

Mr Pennington added: “Is it more transmissible because you only have to breathe in a smaller dose of it? Or does somebody infected with it breathe out more virus?

“That’s what they need to find out.

The only other way to find out if people were more susceptible to this variant was through a volunteer study where you’d “pump the virus” into a room full of people… “and that’s unethical”, he added.

“It’s very hard to prove whether something is more transmissible or less. I’m not saying it’s not possible… but I would like to see more evidence.”

The Telegraph also reports that the ‘variant’ was spotted in Brazil eight months ago, adding weight to the idea that the strain has been circulating much longer than was thought to be the case – much like the ‘original’ strain for which patients in Italy had developed antibodies as early as September 2019, months before there was an official case recorded anywhere.

It’s even possible that the increased transmissibility could be a good thing, and an inevitable step in the well-established evolutionary process by which viruses become more infectious and less deadly, as the long-standing sceptic and retired NHS Consultant Dr John Lee writes in The Daily Mail.

Mutation of this (and every other virus) is inevitable – and, in fact, it needn’t always be a bad thing.

As new strains of a virus emerge, they naturally evolve towards variants that may be more transmissible but which cause mild or no disease.

Why should this be so? Because it actually benefits the virus – it is more likely to survive, reproduce and spread to ever increasing numbers of individuals if it doesn’t kill its hosts.

Crucially for us, if the new strain isn’t as virulent, its spread among Britain’s healthy populace could even be advantageous. 

Exposure to it would stimulate the immune system to produce a response against it, so providing future protection as we move to a general level of immunity in the population.

So why don’t Johnson or Hancock publicly acknowledge this? Why do they persist instead with terrifying rhetoric of a ‘mutant’ virus spreading out of control?

Dr Lee’s piece is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Dr Clare Craig gave a comprehensive interview to talkRADIO yesterday morning with Mark Dolan, covering topics including the new ‘variant’. Worth watching.

Stop Press 2: At the time of writing, the complete list of 42 countries which has banned travel from the UK is: Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, South Africa, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, France, Malta, Sweden, Turkey, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Russia, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, El Salvador, Ireland, Czech Republic, Colombia, Morocco, Chile, Finland and Argentina.

Stop Press 3: Boris Johnson has agreed to set up testing facilities to allow stranded hauliers to enter France, conditional on a negative test.

Scientific Advisers Clamouring for New National Lockdown

Prof Chris Whitty can detect the new ‘mutant’ strain with his naked eye

The Government’s scientific advisers have been clamouring for even more restrictions – Tiers 5, 6 and 7. The Guardian has more.

Andrew Hayward, a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London and a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the new variant had the potential to spread around the UK and overseas.

“I recognise that we have restricted travel from the Tier 4 areas… but this transmission is not only in those Tier 4 areas, it’s there at some level across the country,” he said. “We’re just entering a really critical phase of this pandemic, and it makes absolute sense… to act decisively I would say across the country, as many other countries have done, despite them not as far as we know being affected by this strain.”

Asked if it would be advisable to have a national lockdown, Hayward said: “Personally, I think it’s clearer to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk are different in different parts of the country, they’re still there and they’re still substantial.”

Personally?!? Does that mean he doesn’t mean “objectively” – it’s just his opinion? Rare candour, if so.

Hayward was not the only SAGE member to do an impression of a headless chicken.

Robert West, a Professor of Health psychology at University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, who sits on the advisory group on behavioural science for SAGE, said his personal opinion was that the current system was “unlikely” to contain the spread of the virus.

He said: “We need to reset our strategy and move rapidly to a zero Covid strategy of the kind that many have been proposing. This will involve stricter but more rational social distancing rules across the country, and finally doing what we should have done from the start – to build the kind of test, travel, isolate and support programmes they have in countries in the far east.

“It sounds expensive but the alternative could well be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus and the economic, human and social disaster that would follow.”

Human and social disaster?!? If the Government is hearing this kind of hyperbolic language from its scientific advisors on a daily basis, it’s no wonder Boris is constantly being bounced into ever more hysterical policy announcements.

CDC Reports on Post-Vaccine Health Outcomes

The CDC has produced a document documenting the side effects of the mRNA Covid vaccines. Infrequent cases of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) have been reported already. However, a more interesting figure is to be found further down in the presentation, in a table entitled “V-Safe Active Surveillance for COVID-19 Vaccines”.

Page 6 of the CDC’s document.

Out of the 112,807 doses administered, 3,150 experienced a “Health Impact Event”, described above by the CDC as “unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work, required care from doctor or health care professional”. That’s about 2.8% of recipients, although it does not mention the severity or duration of those events. If the UK Government’s declared target of vaccinating approximately 25 million people in “priority groups” is met, and the proportion remains stable, that could mean around 700,000 people potentially requiring some kind of medical care post-vaccination.

Isn’t mass vaccination supposed to protect the NHS?

Ferguson: Forgotten But Not Gone

Professor Neil Ferguson, who sceptics may also know better as Professor Lockdown or Professor Pantsdown

In a development we mentioned in passing yesterday, which will raise the hackles of any sceptic who has kept a close eye on developments since March, the man behind the notorious model which panicked governments into lockdowns at the beginning of the year, and stepped down from SAGE after flouting his own rules, is back in the Strangelove hot seat.

Robert Mendick in The Telegraph has more.

Professor Lockdown is back. Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist widely credited as the architect of the first national lockdown in the spring, has emerged once again as the most influential adviser to the Government during the current coronavirus wave.

For more than six months, Prof Ferguson has remained largely in the shadows, the result of his own indiscretion that forced him to take a backseat.

He continues:

Now, it has emerged Prof Ferguson – if he did go away – wasn’t gone all that long. His name appears on the list of 15 members of NERVTAG who met for two hours on Friday December 18th – between 11am and 1pm – that concluded the new variant of COVID-19, named VUI 2020 12/01 “demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility compared to other variants”.

A day later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on television to perform a spectacular U-turn, effectively cancelling Christmas for millions of people across London and the South East caused by the rise in infections by the COVID-19 mutation.

The Spectator‘s gossip columnist Steerpike also picked up on the indefatigable professor’s reappearance.

In sum, it appears that far from quitting following his lockdown breach, the Professor stopped his membership of NERVTAG for fewer than two months, and became a regular advisor once again in August.

Mr S would not, of course, be in favour of anyone being driven out of public life for a single transgression. But it is worth noting that Prof Ferguson was happy to receive praise in May for quickly stepping down to protect the Government’s credibility during lockdown. If these minutes are correct, it appears that his sacrifice was rather smaller than the public were led to believe. It also calls into question the Government’s own assertions in May that Ferguson had stepped down from his NERVTAG role. The Department for Health has been contacted for comment.

Ferguson himself told MPs in June that he was still a member of the SPI-M group, which advises the Government on coronavirus modelling, but did not mention returning to NERVTAG. Ferguson added that he was only attending other meetings on an “ad hoc” basis. 

Since then, those “ad hoc” meetings appear to have morphed into full-time membership of another committee.

To Mr Steerpike at least, it looks very much like Neil Ferguson never stopped being a Government advisor, after all…

Worth reading in full.

Correction: Excess Deaths in the US

Yesterday’s item in Lockdown Sceptics about the retraction by the Johns Hopkins News-Letter of Genevieve Briand’s suggestion that Covid wasn’t causing any excess deaths in the US contained some bad sums from a commenter we quoted. Our own Will Jones took another look at the CDC Data and figured out that at the current rate there would indeed be higher mortality this year than last – and more than the 1.2% increase in mortality that typically happens year-on-year. Although, as ever, how much of that can be attributed to the disease itself is an unanswered question. There have been concerns about lockdown-induced deaths in the US for months, not least from drug overdoses as the existing opioid crisis was worsened during lockdowns.

Using the data available here, Will concluded that the increase in total deaths this year compared to last year would be about 12.6%.

However, a reader who wrote in to prompt us about our maths slip-up also pointed out that the figures contain evidence of the so-called ‘Dry Tinder’ effect since the percentage increases for 2018 and 2019 (0.91% and 0.56% respectively) were low compared to previous years, suggesting mild flu seasons.

In case you’re not familiar with the ‘Dry Tinder’ effect, this article in the AIER discusses it in relation to Sweden and the Nordics and Ivor Cummins’ has produced several videos on the topic.

Bob Moran Gets It

One of Bob’s recent sketches

Our favourite political cartoonist Bob Moran composed a reassuring tweet thread about the realistic risks of Christmas gatherings (though they could equally apply to any social occasion). Unfortunately, Twitter’s thought-police decided to delete the first tweet on the grounds that it “violated their rules”, though the meaning is still clear. Reproduced in full here, minus the offending first tweet:

First of all, given that you have no symptoms, what are the chances that you are infected with SARS-CoV-2? The ONS estimates this to be 1 in 115, or 0.87%.

Now, imagining you are infected, but you don’t have any symptoms, what is the probability that you will infect somebody else with SARS-CoV-2? Recent studies show this is around 0.7%.

If we multiply the probability of these two events, we can calculate the likelihood of you a) being infected & b) passing that infection on without symptoms. This gives a figure of 0.006%.

To put that figure in context, it’s roughly the same as your chance of dying in a car crash over the course of any given year.

But if you infect someone, this doesn’t mean that they are going to end up dying of Covid pneumonia. Far from it, in fact. There is a lot of debate regarding the IFR of SARS-CoV-2, but the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine puts it at roughly 0.5%.

Now, if we multiply the chance of infecting another person (without symptoms) by the fatality rate, we can estimate that the risk of “killing” one of your relatives is roughly 0.00003%, or 1 in 3 million.

Obviously there are a lot of caveats. If one of your relatives is very old and very ill, then the IFR is going to be higher. If they are relatively healthy, it’s going to be lower.

But there’s another caveat. PCR tests. The first number we used (the number of infected individuals in the UK) is based on positive PCR results. It is possible that only 3% of these positive results are accurate.

Which means that the risk of a person “killing” a relative without any discernible coronavirus symptoms may well be as low as 1 in 30 million – the same sort of likelihood of you winning the National Lottery.

Clearly, it is for individuals to assess risks for themselves and make decisions accordingly. But they should do so in the knowledge of how big those risks actually are. And nobody should be calling others “irresponsible” for taking a risk this minuscule.

Finally, this risk isn’t just the justification for ‘cancelling Christmas’, it’s the justification for all of it. Lockdowns, masks, school closures, undiagnosed cancers, suicides, stillbirths, unemployment. All done because we were told this specific risk was just too high.

Hear, hear, Bob.

Statisticians Ask Questions of Government

Stats experts’ new report

Quantitative Analyst Joel Smalley and Statistician Marie Oldfield have produced a new document containing a series of clincher questions for the UK Government. Smalley commented, upon its publication:

Updated report on England COVID. Focused on clinical data and classical surveillance systems. It’s pretty conclusive that the epidemic was over in Spring, probably made worse by interventions, and most of Autumn COVID is wrongly attributed. Can the Government disprove any of this?

One page of the compendium of inconvenient data.

It is 19 pages long, replete with graphs of official data, and might even be worth sending to your MP. The full document can be found here.

How to Defeat Cancel Culture

Check out Toby’s conversation with Angelo Isidorou of The Post-Millennial on cancel culture and how to defeat it. Toby talks about being on the receiving end of the social media mob, as well as the efforts of the Free Speech Union to protect other people who find themselves in the same predicament.

Worth watching.

Stop Press: Listen to Toby and James Delingpole have their usual argument about whether the Covid crisis is cock up or conspiracy in the latest episode of London Calling.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Driving Home for Christmas” by Chris Rea, “On the Border” by Al Stewart, “I‘ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby, and “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” by The Blizzards.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the heartwarming news that singer Sam Smith has announced that they wants [sic] to “be a mummy” by the age of 35. The Mirror has more.

Broody Sam Smith “wants to be a mummy” and have children by the age of 35.

The music superstar has opened up about their desire to become a parent in the years ahead.

Sam is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns – and can’t wait to start a family.

The 28-year-old, though, admits the struggle to find a boyfriend is real – and joked that that special someone is nowhere to be found in London.

Time is on Sam’s side of course and they said in an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that kids are a must in the future.

Sam said: “I want kids. I want all of it. I want all of it. I want to have kids.”

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

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.

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 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December 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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

The smells of Britain, available to purchase.

Trapped abroad or stuck in Tier 4 over Christmas? We may have found just the thing to ease your homesickness.

Bottles of fresh air from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are being marketed as the perfect gift for homesick Britons living overseas this Christmas.‏‏ ‏‏Relocation website‏ ‏My Baggage‏ ‏is offering‏ ‏fresh air bottled from the four home nations‏ ‏for £25 each and claim the bottles are already being snapped up by families with loved ones living abroad – in a bid to remind them of home and possibly tempt them back to our shores.‏

The company is also offering special limited edition bottles featuring air captured on the London Underground and air from the inside of a busy Norfolk fish and chip shop.‏‏ ‏‏Each ‏ ‏500ml ‏of air comes with a cork stopper so the owners can open for a moment, take a breath and quickly close again, allowing many weeks or even months of use.‏‏ ‏‏My Baggage‏ is also willing to fulfil special customer requests by bottling air from any UK location, and have already fulfilled an order of air from the misty summit of Snowdonia for a homesick Welshman living down under.

Sounds made up, but it’s actually real. For £25, residents of Tier 4 areas can get an authentic blast of what it smells like to be outside the home you’re imprisoned in.

Alternatively, you could donate to Lockdown Sceptics.