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Wales To Go Into Full Lockdown

The First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford announced yesterday that Wales would be plunged into a full lockdown from this Friday until November 9th. The BBC has more.

People will be told to stay at home, while pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops will shut.

Primary schools will reopen after the half-term break, but only Years 7 and 8 in secondary schools will return at that time under new “firebreak” rules.

Gatherings indoors and outdoors with people not in your household will also be banned.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the “time-limited ‘firebreak'” will be “a short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time”.

Without action the NHS will not be able to look after those falling sick, he told a press conference.

Leisure businesses, community centres, libraries and recycling centres will shut. Places of worship will be closed for normal services, except for funerals and weddings.

The announcement follows rising case numbers in Wales and increasing hospital admissions, and replaces the 17 local lockdowns that had been in place.

Figures now stand at 130 coronavirus cases per 100,000 over seven days – there were 4,127 cases recorded between October 9th and 15th.

Needless to say, daily deaths in Wales are in low single digits and cases are falling.

Daily deaths from Covid peaked at 11 on October 7th and haven’t climbed above single digits since. The cumulative death toll in Wales, as of yesterday, was 1,712, which is about 3.9% of the total in England.

There is absolutely no need for a ‘circuit breaker’. Let’s call this by its proper name, a hospitality industry breaker.

One of the many irritating things about this is that Mark Drakeford can indulge in this pointless virtue-signalling without worrying about the economic impact because the Chancellor has agreed to bung Wales an extra £350 million this year. We’re now facing an untenable situation where Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can all afford to introduce these absurd, economically destructive measures because the English are covering their losses. It is this, more than anything else, that will tear the union apart.

Stop Press: Matthew Lynn has the right idea. He’s written a comment piece for the Telegraph‘s Business section saying that Scotland and Wales should pay for their own lockdowns.

26,000 Excess Deaths in Private Homes, But Not From Covid

According to data released by the ONS yesterday, around 26,000 excess deaths were recorded in private homes in England and Wales between March 14th and September 11th, but only 3% were due to COVID-19. The BBC has more.

More men than normal are dying at home from heart disease in England and Wales, and more women are dying from dementia and Alzheimer’s, figures show.

More than 26,000 extra deaths occurred in private homes this year, an analysis by the Office for National Statistics found.

In contrast, deaths in hospitals from these causes have been lower than usual.

The Covid epidemic may have led to fewer people being treated in hospital…

Between March and September 2020, there were 24,387 more deaths in England than expected in private homes, and 1,644 in Wales. The large majority did not involve COVID-19.

Of these, an extra 1,705 men died from heart disease in their own homes in England compared with the average number over the previous five years.

This is 25% more than normal. In Wales there was a similar rise in male deaths from heart disease, of 22.7%.

Over the same period, deaths in hospitals from heart disease went down by about a quarter in England and Wales.

During the pandemic, about 1,400 more women than usual died at home from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

While deaths from these conditions also increased in care homes, hospital deaths from dementia decreased by 40% in England and 25% in Wales.

Prof David Spiegelhalter, Chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, says that this equates to an extra 100 people dying at home every day between March and September.

“Usually around 300 people die each day in their homes in England and Wales,” he commented.

“The latest ONS analysis confirms that even after the peak of the epidemic this has stayed at around 400 a day and shows no sign of declining. That’s one third extra, very few of which are from Covid.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Mail has also done a story on this.

Manchester’s Hospitals Not Overwhelmed – Andy Burnham

Emergency episodes for respiratory conditions in Manchester are below the five-year average

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of Manchester City Council, issued a joint statement last night in which they expressed their frustration that the Government is continuing to put out fear-mongering stories about hospitals in Greater Manchester being on the verge of collapse. This was in response to Boris’s Downing Street spokesperson claiming Greater Manchester’s hospitals were on track to be overwhelmed by October 28th if the area isn’t immediately placed under a Tier 3 lockdown. Burnham and Leese dispute this:

We are disappointed that the Government has today sought to raise public concern about the NHS in Greater Manchester with selective statistics.

Greater Manchester’s ICU occupancy rate is not abnormal for this time of year and is comparable to the occupancy rate in October 2019. Also, providing information about individual hospitals does not reflect that our hospitals work as a system to manage demand.

We are not complacent about the position in our hospitals and are monitoring the situation closely. But in the current situation, we believe it is essential that our residents are given clear, accurate information about the state of the NHS in Greater Manchester and that public fears are not raised unnecessarily.

They’re not wrong. The chart above, which Prof Carl Heneghan and colleagues flagged up in the Telegraph on Saturday, shows that emergency episodes for respiratory conditions, including Covid, are well below the five-year average in Manchester University hospitals.

Interestingly, Sir Richard Leese has suggested that a policy of “focused protection”, shielding the elderly and the vulnerable rather than forcing everyone to self-isolate in their homes, would be far more sensible than a Tier 3 lockdown, echoing the strategy laid out in the Great Barrington Declaration – and his proposal has been endorsed by several local Conservative MPs. The Telegraph has more:

He claimed this would be less than a fifth of the cost of the business closures that would happen in Tier 3, enabling businesses to stay open and the majority of people to avoid tougher restrictions.

The plan was backed by senior Conservatives in the area including Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, who said there was no scientific basis for the tier system.

Sir Graham, the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, said the proposal should not be “dismissed out of hand”, adding: “The fundamental point about Tier 3 is the proposals don’t appear to have any evidential basis. There is no reason to think that closing some pubs and bars would have a significant impact on the spread on the virus.”

He was joined by James Daly, the Tory MP for Bury North, who said he was “extremely sympathetic” to Sir Richard’s proposal, and Chris Green, the Tory MP for Bolton West, who said: “I think this is a good direction of travel. Let’s keep our hospitality running up to Christmas and support people at home if they are deemed vulnerable.”

William Wragg, the Tory MP for Hazel Grove, said: “I think Richard Leese’s proposal has merit and should be properly considered.”

Sir Richard said: “Most people who test positive for the virus are not getting particularly ill. They are not the problem”, pointing out that those most at risk of hospitalisation were older people and those with existing underlying conditions, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or respiratory illnesses.

“If this is the evidence, wouldn’t it be much better to have an effective shielding programme for those most at risk, rather than have a blanket business closure policy of dubious efficacy?” he said.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ross Clark has written a piece for the Spectator headlined: “Does Manchester really need tougher restrictions?” I’ll let you guess the answer.

High Noon: Robert Jenrick, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, has given Burnham until Noon today to reach a deal – or else. But can Boris really force the people of Greater Manchester to observe Tier 3 restrictions in the teeth of opposition from the Mayor and the leader of the council?

Why Does Hancock Want to Lock Up the North When Cases Are Falling?

Matt Hancock said in the House of Commons yesterday that talks had begun with local leaders in South and West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teesside about joining Liverpool and Lancashire in the tightest level of lockdown. But why, when infection rates across the North are falling? The Mail has more.

Official data shows Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester are among the cities where cases have started to fall after a surge at the end of September, when thousands of students and staff poured back into universities.

Infection rates in all four cities have been steadily decreasing for several days, suggesting they are on a consistent downward trend rather than a temporary dip. Yet Mr Hancock warned tonight that large parts of the North of England are headed towards a ‘Tier 3’ lockdown.

The Mail then looks in more detail at the infection rate in a number of Northern cities.

In Nottingham the rolling weekly rate of cases peaked at 1,001.2 per 100,000 people for the seven days to October 8th – the highest in England – but since then the number has been falling, currently standing at 787.6.

Manchester’s current rate is 432.5, after peaking at 583.5 in the seven days to October 3rd, while in Sheffield it’s 396.7, down from a high of 500.3 in the week ending October 7th. The rate in Newcastle stands at 371.5, down from 553.8 in the same period.

Zero Transmission in Pubs, Gyms and Restaurants, According to NHS App

“Hello Dido? Is that you? Matt here. If I bung you another £12 billion, do you think you can get NHS Test and Trace working by Christmas?”

Lockdown Sceptic‘s very own NHS Test and Trace correspondent has been combing through the NHSX data to see how many outbreaks have occurred in the businesses that are being forced to close in Tier 3 areas. Answer: almost none.

We are all getting used to seeing QR code check-in posters in shops, gyms, offices and restaurants. Ever wondered how many of those venues have been deemed to have a COVID-19 outbreak? Perhaps that data is driving the decision to shut pubs and gyms?

We can see for ourselves because NHSX publishes the data via its “risky venues API”. It’s easy to see, just click here: If you see something like “{“venues”:[]}” that’s what we techies call an empty list and it means there are no venues listed. Zero.

Of course, the list is constantly being updated and perhaps today is just a good day when nowhere is risky. If only someone were clicking on that link regularly and keeping a track of the results, like the graph at the bottom of this page. Then we could see a grand total of, er, four venues that have been flagged up since the app was released. Yes, four. They were in September. There have been none in October.

Remind me why we’re shutting pubs, gyms and restaurants?

As NHSX say on its website, “The purpose of maintaining records and displaying an official NHS QR poster […] will help to avoid the reintroduction of lockdown measures and support the country to return to, and maintain, a more normal way of life.” In that case, isn’t NHSX’s own data telling us we can all get back to normal?

A Guardian Reader Writes…

I got an email today from a disillusioned Guardian reader. There must be a fair few of those!

As a reader of the Guardian since my early twenties 40 years ago I was willing to believe in the integrity of its journalism. My faith has waned over the years as the paper’s investigative journalism has become more obviously and frequently shallow, and in the last weeks it has become a Government mouthpiece. But I didn’t expect such flagrant falsehoods as the ones I have read today in its coverage of Scott Atlas’s Twitter ban.

In particular: “In a stream of posts, Atlas falsely claimed that several US states and other countries had taken up widespread use of masks without evidence of any positive effect. He also incorrectly said that there were ‘many harms’ to the practice.” To the contrary, there is considerable research to support Atlas, available to anyone with internet access.

The article continued: “Atlas’s views on how to deal with the virus have raised alarm in scientific circles. He has repeatedly cast doubt on masks and social distancing, and suggested people could gain natural self-defenses against the disease even without a vaccine through ‘herd immunity’.” Which “scientific circles”? All of them? And what exactly is “alarming”?

It goes on: “Friday saw the daily number of confirmed cases exceed 70,000 for the first time since July, with almost 900 deaths. In a leaked report, the White House put 26 states in the ‘red zone’ – indicating a dangerous level of new infections – including almost all states in the midwest.” In fact, the rates are falling, even according to the authority the article itself cites. That site says that there there were 393 deaths on Sunday, which supports Trump’s assertion rather more than the Guardian‘s.

Pro-Masking Fanatic Gary Lineker Caught Shopping Without a Mask

Oh, Gary Gary

Gary Lineker has always made his feelings about wearing masks very clear. Back in April, he tweeted: “How can there be any debate about whether we should be wearing a mask? Even if it’s only a one per cent chance of making you safer. Even if it is only a one per cent chance of stopping you giving it to someone else.”

On July 2nd he wrote: “Can’t understand why anyone would object to wearing a mask. Painless gesture to ensure you don’t spread the virus to others, and great for hiding bad breath.”

And on July 14th, he tweeted: “Why would anyone object to wearing a mask in a shop? Not exactly a hardship. What a country of snowflakes we’ve become.”

He then added: “Wearing masks, of all things, is the most obvious thing we can do to help decrease the spread of the virus, and the smallest of all the sacrifices. No brainer.”

But in spite of this constant finger-wagging, Gary was spotted wandering around Marks and Spencer in Barnes on Sunday night without a mask.

The Express has the story.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Lineker.

Stop Press: There may be an even bigger hypocrite than Lineker in our midst. Matt Hancock was spotted in a chauffeur-driven ministerial car without a mask, forcing Number 10 to issue reminders to ministers about the need to wear masks, even in ministerial cars.

Might Most Positive Test be Wrong?

We’ve devoted a lot of attention to the false positive rate of the PCR test on this site – and even though we haven’t run anything new on it recently don’t assume we think the problem has gone away. That’s why we’re delighted to publish a piece by a maths teacher called David Mackie today highlighting just how much impact a seemingly low false positive rate can have on overall results. Here are the opening four paragraphs:

A lot of people are bad with numbers, and especially so in the area of probability. Earlier this year (with accidental prescience), in the school where I work, as part of our off-curriculum ‘mind-broadening’ provision for sixth-formers, a few of my colleagues and I presented students with a puzzle involving imperfect methods of testing for rare conditions. Such puzzles can yield startling results – ones which even bright students are often reluctant to accept.

For example, if the incidence of a disease in the population is 0.1% and the test has a false positive rate of 5%, the probability that a randomly-selected individual testing positive actually has the disease is approximately one in fifty: about 2%, or a probability of 0.02.

Though this is easy to demonstrate, it is remarkable how resistant many perfectly intelligent people are to the conclusion, even when shown the proof. “But the test is 95% reliable”, they protest. “How can it be that a person with a positive test has anything less than a 95% chance of having the disease?”

That kind of response merits attention. It does so because it is an example of an important failure to understand relevant data (and/or the terminology used to describe those data); and it is a failure that renders people blind (or, worse, resistant) to legitimate concerns about the significance of the published results of recent mass testing – concerns that are still not receiving the wider public attention that they deserve.

This is a very clear explanation of the problem. Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Fool If You Think It’s Over” by Elkie Brooks and “Never Ending Story” by Limahl.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

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

Stop Press: A couple in Milan have been fined £360 for kissing in the street without wearing masks. They should have arranged to meet discreetly via Love in a Covid Climate.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, I’m highlighting the report of Alison Lowe, an historian commissioned by Leeds City Council to review the status of statues in the city in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. She was clearly expecting to find a lot of public unhappiness with the statues, even though none of them were of individuals who were central to the slave trade. But in fact over 90% of the people surveyed said they didn’t have a problem with them and didn’t want them to be taken down. The Yorkshire Evening Post has more.

Ms Lowe said: “I was surprised there were so few people wanted any change. I thought it would be a 30-70 split or 40-60 and I worried about that at the beginning because if there was no clear feeling it would be hard. As a panel we wanted to do the right thing by the majority of people and only 10% wanted some active change. I know thousands did not (respond) but we had to take it that they were happy with the status quo.

“There was a perception that lots of black people would write in and say ‘get rid of statue X or Y’. That was as a result of the Edward Colston toppling in Bristol which was as a result of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. There was a belief, no facts, that lots of black people were angry about statues but I had lots of conversations with Black Lives Matters groups and actually people were not really that interested.”

So there you have it. Almost no one in Leeds wants the Council to take down any statues of the City’s colonial era panjandrums, including the black residents.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

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

The Great Barrington Declaration

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

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last week and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Google it, one of the top hits you get is a smear piece from the obscure Leftist conspiracy website Byline Times, and one from the Guardian headlined: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this hit job the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now shows up in the search results – and my Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is one of 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 550,000 signatures, compared to the John Snow Memorandum’s 4,400. Embarrassing.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

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

And Finally…

Alf Tupper cannot believe he’s done so well – and neither can Keir Starmer?

One of our readers has noticed the uncanny resemblance between Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track, and Labour leader Keir Starmer.