We’re publishing a short piece today by Lockdown Sceptics regular Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, in which she praises a new book by Toby Green. Called The Covid Consensus: The New Politics of Global Inequality, it’s an exploration of why the lockdown policy has commanded such support from people on the left and right of politics, in spite of its catastrophic consequences. In particularly, why has the left been so enthusiastic about lockdowns when it was obvious from the beginning that the world’s poorest people would suffer the most as a result of the policy? Dr Murphy thinks this book is the perfect cure for those who’ve been lobotomised by pro-lockdown propaganda.
We might think that the time is passing for this book; we are on the way out of lockdown, after all. But Boris Johnson’s murmurings last Monday, that the reduction in cases and deaths in the UK since the end of January is due, not to the injections but to the lockdown, surely signal that the likelihood of another lockdown is very high. And we ought not to forget that the conditions of our lives at this moment, even in the midst of the easing, continue to be more restrictive than any in history.
In fact, The Covid Consensus could not be more timely. Its coming out only shortly over a year after the onset of societal and personal conditions deeply erosive of energy and purpose is worthy of our grateful acknowledgment.
Incidentally, Toby Green is a senior lecturer in Lusophone African history and culture at King’s College London and is author of The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300–1589. We will be publishing a piece by him about his new book shortly.
We’re publishing an original piece today by Lockdown Sceptics regular Glen Bishop, a second year maths student at Nottingham University. Glen has read a paper released by the Warwick modelling team that is part of SAGE’s SPI-M group last May and uncovered some interesting facts. Not the least of these is that when the team modelled what the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration refer to as “Focused Protection”, i.e. protecting the elderly and allowing those who aren’t vulnerable to the disease to go about their lives taking sensible precautions, as they would during a normal flu season, the projected loss of life between March 2020 and May 2021 was 138,000, only 11,000 more than the 127,000 that have supposedly died from Covid already, with the Government embracing the suppression strategy endorsed by SPI-M. The modelling team also acknowledges that of all the alternatives to an indiscriminate lockdown, shielding those aged 60 and over would have resulted in the least loss of life as well as the least socio-economic disruption. Here’s the key paragraph from the Warwick paper:
A completely uncontrolled outbreak is predicted to lead to around 200,000 deaths, approximately 2 million QALY losses but no lockdown impacts. If the current controls are maintained until the end of 2020, then we predict 39,000 deaths this year , but a further 159,000 if controls were then completely removed. Regional switching and age-dependent strategies provide alternative exit strategies in the absence of pharmaceutical interventions. Of these, the age-dependent shielding of those age 60 or over generates the lowest mortality and also the lowest lockdown scale, thereby minimising socio-economic disruption. However, it is unclear if a protracted lockdown of this age-group would be practical, ethical or politically acceptable.
We’re publishing an original piece today by Bella Wallersteiner, a Senior Parliamentary Assistant, setting out the case against trying to induce young people to get the jab by making entry to pubs/clubs/festivals conditional on showing a ‘Covid Status Certificate’. Here is an extract:
After a year in which many young people have lost their jobs, missed out great chunks of the curriculum in schools and universities and were forbidden from seeing their friends, coercing them into taking the jab is a perverse strategy. Altruistic young people worked in food banks, collected medicine and went shopping for elderly neighbours who were shielding or, inspired by the example of Captain Tom Moore, raised funds for the NHS. Instead of receiving praise for demonstrating resilience and kindness, young people are now being maligned for showing ambivalence in coming forward to take a vaccine which may do them harm. More needs to be done to convince them that the vaccine is safe and effective and that the eradication of COVID-19 requires all citizens to join together in an act of solidarity.
Once vaccines for under-30s get the green light, the Government needs to come up with a new social contract for young people. What is the duty of a young person to society? Does a young adult have a moral obligation to protect an older one? The message should be that society is the glue which binds us together in a moral compact which transcends self-interest. By getting the vaccine you are helping the community at large. Young people should want to take the vaccine because they have decided that it is the right thing to do for their own health and for the safety of others. They should not be bullied into taking the vaccine out of fear of becoming second-class citizens or because they will be denied the pleasures of techno, house and trance dance music in clubs. The Government must treat young people like grown-ups and be prepared to have an adult conversation with them. The Prime Minister, who is such an effective communicator, particularly when addressing young people, should deliver a special broadcast specifically targeting UK citizens under 30 who have given up so much over the last year. He should thank them for their solidarity and support and exhort them to make one final collective effort to beat COVID-19 by having the vaccine. If this doesn’t happen, the whole project to eradicate the scourge of coronavirus could stumble at the last fence.
David Cameron is in the doghouse at the moment, thanks to his lobbying efforts on behalf of Greensill, a company in which he had a commercial interest and which collapsed earlier this year. Many of the commentators writing about Cameron’s current difficulties have presented it as the latest episode in the ongoing psychodrama between him and Boris, seeing in Boris’s reluctance to come to the former Prime Minister’s aid yet more evidence of the long-standing rivalry between the two. I co-produced a docudrama about that subject for Channel 4 in 2009 called When Boris Met Dave that you can watch here. The dramatised bits are rubbish, but the interviews are very good.
Consequently, I was interested to read a blog post by Russell David about how different the past 13 months might have been had Cameron been Prime Minister instead of Boris. His hypothesis – not too far fetched in my view – is that Cameron would have made a better fist of things. In particular, he would have stuck to the UK Government’s Pandemic Preparedness Strategy and not succumbed to the domestic and international pressure to impose a lockdown. He would have kept his head, when all about him were losing theirs. Well, “all” apart from Stefan Löfven, the Swedish Prime Minister.
Russell’s post, published on his Mad World blog, takes the form of a month-by-month diary, chronicling how events might have unfolded had Cameron been in charge. Here are the entries for August, September and October:
August 2020 Covid rates are now very low in the UK but Cameron, advised by medical experts like Sunetra Gupta, John Lee and Carl Heneghan, puts plans in place for the NHS to cope in the coming months for a possible resurgence of what seems, according to worldwide data, to be a virus strongly linked with seasonality. Thousands of nurses are put on training courses for working in ICU wards so the health service will be prepared when winter arrives. Cameron has rejected plans for widespread testing of healthy people as he is aware of a ‘casedemic’ of false positives that will frighten people, and he has not spent £22 billion on a ‘Track and Trace’ system because he has been advised that it would be pointless in a non-totalitarian state and when a virus is endemic. Looking at the government’s own data he sees that international travel and hospitality are responsible for just a tiny fraction of Covid infections, so has no plans to shut either down; he realises in a grim year people still need some pleasures.
September 2020 Just as Cameron raged at “green crap”, he now rages at the “Covid death within 28 days of a positive test crap”, and the time period is reduced to one week. Under his Government, it has remained the case that two doctors have to sign the death certificate, not one, as happened in a loopy alternate reality from March 2020. The government heavily promotes its ‘Myth Buster’ website, which focuses on things like the lack of evidence for Covid being spread by fomite transmission (germs left on objects), to calm the populace.
October 2020 Officials seek to reassure young people worried about the virus. “You are literally at more danger of carking it by putting your trousers on!” goes one light-hearted public health advert with a cartoon of a purple pair of flares. It is criticised for frivolity, but statisticians point out that it is technically correct – more teenagers die every year putting their trousers on (and, presumably, falling over and hitting their head) than would die in the same period from Covid-related illness. When Piers Morgan rages that Covid is like Spanish Flu, new health secretary Iain Duncan Smith calmly comes out with the following: “The median age of victim of the Spanish Flu was 28; with Covid it is 82. Spanish Flu claimed 3% of the world’s population; Covid has claimed around 0.04%, and 94% of those had an average of 2.6 co-morbidities. Covid has an average survival rate of 99.75%, much higher for those under 65.” Such measured words help to reassure the nation and dampen mental health troubles that many had been risk of succumbing to.
Clearly, Russell’s counter-factual history is an idealised version of what might have been – no doubt Cameron wouldn’t have been quite this sensible. But it’s an entertaining read nonetheless.
Yesterday, the Spectatorpublished a piece by me setting out the case against linking the reopening of sports venues to vaccine passports, something I’m particularly concerned about because the one thing I’ve missed more than anything else in the past year is going to QPR games with my son Charlie. Today, I’ve composed a more detailed version of that case. Here’s an extract:
Would it be too much to ask the Government to monitor the risk of allowing sporting venues to reopen in other parts of the world without an accompanying Covid status certification scheme, such as in Texas and Florida?
Better yet, why not just look at the data from the NFL Super Bowl, which took place in Florida on February 7th, at the height of the ‘second wave’? 25,000 fans were admitted, along with 12,000 staff, and even though only a third of fans had been vaccinated at the time, health officials have only found three people who were infected as a result of attending the game. Three in 37,000. Why don’t the clubs tell that to the fans if they’re worried they’ll be too paranoid to come to games if they’re not asked to show vaccine passports at the gate? I reckon most of us will happily take those odds. Three in 37,000 sounds a lot like QPR’s win rate for the last few seasons.
A Lockdown Sceptics reader has emailed all the anti-lockdown candidates in the London mayoral election with a questionnaire, trying to work out just how “anti” they are. They all come out pretty well, although some are more sound than others. Here, for instance, are the answers of Steve Kelleher, the SDP candidate.
Should London be opening quicker than the current roadmap? Yes. On the data there is no reason why we can’t open the economy and society in general immediately. This country has lent immense trust to the Government during this pandemic. That trust is beginning to fray.
What changes would you like to see immediately? London’s economic and social institutions should be reopened. The vaccine programme has successfully protected the overwhelming number of vulnerable citizens. If the Government genuinely backs the vaccine it should re-open society and the economy.
What do you think have been the biggest mistakes of the lockdown? A total failure by the Government to properly assess the social and economic costs of the suppression measures. From the start the Government has failed to acknowledge the cost-benefit trade-offs associated with its lockdown measures. Like Tony Blair and Iraq – this Government will never acknowledge its staggering mistake.
Do you support vaccine passports for international travel? The SDP is not keen on vaccine passports in principle. However, I believe the market will decide. Vaccine passports will emerge for international travel irrespective of UK public policy because airlines, some nation states and other organisations will mandate it. You can’t gain entry to Ghana without a yellow fever certificate.
Do you support vaccine passports for domestic use? In general, a strong no. The idea of having to produce a vaccine certificate to obtain goods and services or to enter public facilities is totally wrong, in principle, in a free society.
When do you think Londoners should return to the office? As soon as possible. Let’s get London buzzing again.
When should international travel be restored? The Government should be very careful in permitting unlimited travel to known pandemic hotspots this summer. Many states in continental Europe are suffering steepening viral curves and while that is the case the UK should act cautiously. It is far better to prioritise and re-open the domestic UK economy than to prioritise international travel.
Read the responses from Lawrence Fox (Reclaim), Dr Peter Gammons (UKIP), Piers Corbyn (Let London Live), Brian Rose (London Real Party) and David Kurten (Heritage) here.
In today’s Spectator, I’ve set out the case against making sports fans produce a ‘Covid Status Certificates’ as a condition of allowing them into stadiums after May 17th. I’m going to set out the case in full for Lockdown Sceptics tomorrow, but in the meantime here’s an extract from the Spectator article:
The first and most obvious objection is that it’s a breach of my liberty. It’s an inversion of the Common Law principle that everything should be permitted unless the law specifically prohibits it. Under this scheme, I am only allowed to do something if permitted to do so by law, which is the principle underlying the Napoleonic Code. As a freeborn Englishman, I prefer the Common Law tradition, which was one of my reasons for supporting Brexit.
It’s also discriminatory. I don’t just mean it will discriminate against those who haven’t been vaccinated or can’t otherwise demonstrate they are ‘safe’, but against those groups more likely to be suspicious of vaccines and who cannot afford alternative forms of certification. We know that vaccine hesitancy is higher among the UK’s black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations. Do we really want to see fewer of these spectators at sporting events? True, there are alternative ways of demonstrating you’re not an infection risk, such as getting a PCR test, but if you don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops they cost a minimum of £120. And an unvaccinated sports fan would have to get it redone before every fixture. For those who’ve had COVID-19, there’s the option of getting an antibody test, but you can’t get those on the NHS unless you work in primary care, social care or education.
In short, if the Government makes entry to sporting venues contingent on having a vaccine passport, it will be discriminating against minorities and the less well-off.
Stop Press: The Guardian had a story on its front page today saying the Equalities and Human Rights Commission thinks a general certification scheme could fall foul of anti-discrimination law because it would restrict access to essential services for those groups less likely to get vaccinated – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and those on low incomes.
Almost a quarter of registered Covid deaths are people dying ‘with’ Covid rather than ‘from’ it, new official figures show. The Telegraphhas more.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 23% of coronavirus deaths registered are now people who have died “with” the virus rather than “from” an infection.
This means that, while the person who died will have tested positive for Covid, that was not the primary cause of their death recorded on the death certificate.
Other data also shows an increasingly positive picture of the state of the pandemic in the UK.
Daily death figures by “date of death” reveal that Britain has had no more than 28 deaths a day since the beginning of April, even though the government-announced deaths have been as high as 60.
This is because the Government gives a daily update on deaths based on the number reported that day, which can include deaths from days or weeks previously and therefore may not reflect the true decline in deaths. On Tuesday, the Government announced that there had been 23 further deaths.
A number of famous musicians have nailed their colours to the good ship lockdown sceptics in the past 12 months, including Van Morrison and Eric Clapton, but none quite as illustrious as the latest addition to our ranks: Sir Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones frontman has released a song today called “Eazy Sleazy“, a collaboration with David Grohl of the Foo Fighters. “It’s a song that I wrote about coming out of lockdown, with some much needed optimism,” says Jagger.
We took it on the chin The numbers were so grim Bossed around by pricks Stiffen upper lips Yeah
Pacing in the yard You’re trying to take the Mick You must think I’m really thick Looking at the graphs With a magnifying glass Cancel all the tours Football’s fake applause Yeah
No more travel brochures Virtual premiers I’ve got nothing left to wear
Looking out from these prison walls You got to rob Peter if you’re paying Paul But it’s easy, easy Everything’s going to get really freaky Alright, on the night
Soon it’ll be a memory you’re trying to remember to forget…
That’s a pretty mask But never take a chance Tik Tok stupid dance Took a Samba class Yeah
I landed on my ass Trying to write a tune You better hook me up to Zoom See my poncey books Teach myself to cook Way too much TV It’s lobotomising me Yeah
Think I’ve put on weight I’ll have another drink Then I’ll clean the kitchen sink
We’ll escape from these prison walls Open the windows and open the doors But it’s easy, easy Everything’s going to get really freaky Alright, on the night It’s gonna be a garden of earthly delights Yeah it’s easy, sleazy Everything’s smooth and greasy Yeah
Easy, believe me It’ll only be a memory you’re trying to remember to forget
However, lest you think Jagger has become a full-blown conspiracy theorist, there’s a swipe at some of the crazier fringes of lockdown scepticism in the final verse:
Shooting the vaccine Bill Gates is in my blood stream It’s mind control The earth is flat and cold It’s never warming up The Arctic’s turned to slush The second’s coming late And there’s aliens in the deep state
According to a retail analyst Springboard, shopping activity didn’t return to pre-pandemic levels yesterday thanks to the cold weather. Meanwhile, only two in five pubs opened in England due to the lack of suitable outside space. The Timeshas more.
Britain’s notoriously fickle spring weather dampened the high street’s recovery yesterday as lockdown restrictions were eased.
People going to shops, pubs and restaurants for the first time in more than three months endured cold conditions and even snow. On the south coast, temperatures were as low as 5C, half the usual average for the time of year. Little Rissington in Gloucestershire recorded 4cm of snow.
Shoppers who braved the cold appeared to be preparing to party. John Lewis reported that decanters, tumblers and highball glasses were “by far” the most popular purchases yesterday morning, with champagne and gift bags the two next most popular categories.
Some stores, such as Primark and Ikea, had queues first thing, but the number of people visiting high streets overall was a quarter lower than the equivalent day two years ago.
The retail analyst Springboard said that shopping centres had fared better, although they were still down on a normal day, suggesting that the weather had been a deterrent for many people.
Clive Black, a retail analyst at Shore Capital, said: “The cold and snow will have kept an awful lot of people at home, particularly older people. That said, the pandemic is still casting a long shadow over retail.
“Shoppers are more cautious and the shift online represents a big structural challenge to high street stores.”
The British Beer and Pub Association estimated that only two in five pubs reopened yesterday because most venues lack a big enough outdoor space to trade profitably. It acknowledged that the cold weather would have deterred some customers.