Toby Young

The Lockdown Library

Plenty of readers have written in with suggestions of books to add to David McGrogan’s Lockdown Sceptics’ Library. I’m not going to name them because they didn’t say whether they were happy to be identified or not (for the most part). If you have any additional suggestions, please email them to me at and put “Lockdown Library” in the subject header. I’ve added these books below David’s piece.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay, 1841

Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor, 1999

The Black Death by Philip Ziegler, 1969

Scared to Death: From BSE to Coronavirus by Christopher Booker and Richard North, 2020

Live not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher, 2020

A Delusion of Satan: The full story of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill, 1995

Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in 16th and 17th Century England by Keith Thomas, 1971

The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz, 1953

How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century by Frank Furedi, 2018

The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing by Dr. Joost A. M. Meerloo, 1956

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1973

Where Are We Now: The Epidemic as Politics by Giorgio Agamben, 2021

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer, 1951

The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko, 2018

Notes From the Bunderground: Culture in the Time of COVID-19 by Fred Attenborough, 2020

Frustrations of a Sceptic by Jonny Peppiatt, 2021

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault, 1975

Panopticon: The Inspection House by Jeremy Bentham, 1791

What Would a Focused Protection Strategy Have Looked Like?

We’re publishing a new piece by Dr Noah Carl today, this time one looking at ‘Focused Protection’, the strategy recommended in the Great Barrington Declaration. Noah thinks it would have resulted in fewer deaths than locking everybody down. Here’s an extract:

At any point during the pandemic, deciding which measures to implement represents a trade-off between their effects on the epidemic’s trajectory and their effects on society at large. Measures that substantially reduce cases or deaths, while having only a small impact on society, are worth putting in place. By contrast, those that barely reduce cases or deaths, while having a large impact on society, are best avoided. Mounting evidence indicates that measures like stay-at-home orders and closures of non-essential businesses are of the latter kind; they have large costs and relatively small benefits. In just the past week, two new studies casting doubt on the efficacy of lockdowns have been published. Vincent Chin and colleagues analysed data from 14 European countries, and found that “lockdown had no consistent impact”. Likewise, Christopher Berry and colleagues examined shelter-in-place orders in the United States, but did “not find detectable effects of these policies on disease spread or deaths”.

However, this is not to say there aren’t any restrictions worth implementing. One measure whose efficacy is supported by a number of studies, and which makes sense intuitively, is restricting large gatherings. For example, Vincent Chin and colleagues found in one of their analyses that “the simple banning of public events was beneficial”. Nicolas Banholzer and colleagues have reported a similar finding. In an unpublished study, they compared the impact of different non-pharmaceutical interventions, and found that “event bans were most effective… whereas stay-at-home orders and work bans were least effective”. Another measure that makes a great deal of sense is telling symptomatic individuals to self-isolate at home.

Worth reading in full.

Pfizer Vaccine 98% Effective Against Brazilian Variant

A new study – the largest of its kind – has found that the Pfizer vaccine produces an “off the scale” immune response that is likely to protect against the Brazilian variant of COVID-19. The Telegraph has more.

The biggest study on antibody and cellular immune factors to date suggests people are likely to be protected against the Wuhan, Kent and Brazilian types of coronavirus following two doses of the vaccine.

The research, led by the University of Birmingham and including Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory, found 98 per cent of people aged 80 or over who had two doses of the Pfizer jab had a strong antibody immune response.

Professor Paul Moss, from the University of Birmingham and leader of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, told a briefing: “We’ve certainly seen in this paper that the antibody levels are so good, really after the first two weeks, that we are pretty confident that this should be very helpful against the Brazilian variant.”

Worth reading in full.

The Lockdown Sceptics’ Library

We’re publishing an original piece today by David McGrogan, an Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School, in which he recommends some books that can help us understand how we ended up living under the plimsol of soft totalitarianism. One of his recommendations is The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter:

Tainter’s thesis is relatively straightforward: as societies grow and develop, they become increasingly complex, with new laws and regulations and public services being endlessly created. These increasing layers of complexity cannot be removed once they’ve become entrenched – because we get used to them, and they come to appear essential. This results in a never-ending conglomeration of purportedly necessary government schemes, none of which is ever revoked; in the end, all this stuff becomes a drain, gobbling up resources, until the society is denuded of productivity and becomes brittle, ready to be pushed over as soon as a genuine crisis hits. Some, including Rishi Sunak, entertain the naïve belief that there will be a ‘back to normal’ moment for our economy. Tainter would tell them that the opposite is much more likely: furlough and other forms of government support for businesses, vaccine passports, mass-testing, Covid regulations and ‘guidance’, massive quantitative easing/money printing, quarantine and the like will all become part of the furniture, something we ‘have to do’ indefinitely, draining productivity and constantly increasing public debt, until a real emergency comes along and it all comes falling down like the biggest house of cards in history.

Have a look at David’s piece to discover the other books on his lockdown reading list – and then email us if you can think of books we should add.

What They Don’t Talk About on the BBC

We’re publishing an original post today by Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist and regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. After getting a double-dose of pro-lockdown propaganda on the BBC last week – first on Question Time, then on Any Questions – he was moved to write this piece. He made a list of those questions BBC correspondents and editors should be asking but aren’t:

  • The scandalous failure and cost of NHS Track and Trace and the serious inaccuracies of the PCR and lateral flow tests upon which lockdown strategy were/are based.
  • Why broadcasters have not been reporting over the years how lethal and devastating flu is and how serious its post-viral effects are; and that flu kills far more young people than Covid.
  • Why the BBC is not reporting projections of the non-Covid death toll resulting from lockdown.
  • While I believe informed adults should be able to choose to smoke, why are reporters not drawing attention to the fact that, despite a global annual death toll around three times that of Covid, the Government does not ban tobacco use to “save lives” and “protect the NHS”?
  • Why has the BBC given so little time to discussing lockdown alternatives, the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of lockdowns and mask wearing, the HART Report (“COVID-19: An overview of the evidence”), and the enormous influence and control that SAGE has in Government policy making.
  • Why, in discussing the pros and cons of this particular vaccine rollout, has the BBC submitted nothing but the ‘pros’ and virtually nothing of the risks?
  • Why has there been no comprehensive investigative journalism into the scientific and healthcare authorities that prevent their employees from speaking openly about the effects lockdowns are having on their institutions, their patients and themselves?

Worth reading in full.

We Cannot Afford to Censor Lockdown Sceptics – Professor Martin Kulldorff

We’re publishing an interview today with Martin Kulldorff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the three original signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration. Among other things, he warns of the dangers of censoring dissenting voices during a pandemic, following his own run-in with Twitter a couple of weeks ago.

The media has been very reluctant to report reliable scientific and public health information about the pandemic. Instead they have broadcast unverified information such as the model predictions from Imperial College, they have spread unwarranted fear that undermine people’s trust in public health and they have promoted naïve and inefficient counter measures such as lockdowns, masks and contact tracing.

While I wished that neither SAGE nor anyone else would argue against long-standing principles of public health, the media should not censor such information. During a pandemic, it is more important than ever that media can report freely. There are two major reasons for this: (i) While similar to existing coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus that we are constantly learning more about and because of that, it takes time to reach scientific conclusions. With censorship it takes longer and we cannot afford that during a pandemic. (ii) In order to maintain trust in public health, it is important that any thoughts and ideas about the pandemic can be voiced, debated and either confirmed or debunked.

This is a great interview done by the same journalist who interviewed Jay Bhattacharya for Lockdown Sceptics last week.

Worth reading in full.

UK No Longer Has Highest Covid Death Rate in the World

Remember those headlines saying the UK had the highest number of Covid deaths in the world? Back in January, Sky News reported the UK’s daily Covid death toll was the highest in the world. Some news services went further, saying the UK had the highest number of Covid deaths per capita in the world. But new data published by Statista shows that, in fact, the UK’s deaths-per-million are the sixth-highest in the world.

Some small crumbs of comfort there for the Government.

Worth reading in full.

Vast Majority of Positives in Schools Likely to be False

The “vast majority” of positives test results in schools are likely to be false, according to Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics and head of the Test Evaluation Research Group at the University of Birmingham. The Telegraph has more.

Official data shows that the positive rate among secondary pupils is around 0.05 per cent, meaning there is a “high risk” that most rapid antigen tests carried out in secondary schools are false positives, according to Professor Jon Deeks.

Of the 3,867,007 lateral flow tests that were carried out on secondary pupils, just 1,805 were positive, according to the latest figures.

Health officials said that less than one in 1,000 results is a false positive overall. However, when the virus is on the wane, there is a higher likelihood of such results, as the number of true cases falls.

The positive case rate in schools equates to one in 2,142. At a rate of one in 1,000 false positives, from 3,867,007 tests you would expect 3,867 false positives.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Department for Education updated its official guidance today to say that all positive lateral flow tests taken in schools should be followed up by a confirmatory PCR test. Previously, this was only the case for tests taken by students at home.

More than Half of Britons Now Immune

According to an Office of National Statistics survey published today, more than half of people in England now have Covid antibodies. MailOnline has more.

A major Office for National Statistics (ONS) testing survey today revealed 54.7 per cent of people in England had the virus-fighting proteins in the week ending March 14, up from 50.8 per cent the week prior.

The figure is likely to be even higher now because millions more have been vaccinated since the blood tests were conducted a fortnight ago, and it takes about two weeks for immunity to kick in.

It highlights the success of the country’s mammoth vaccine roll-out, which has seen 30.5million Brits given their first dose and 3.7m fully vaccinated.

Boris Johnson is now facing demands to lift lockdown faster, with Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths having fallen to their lowest level for six months. People in England have to wait at least another seven weeks before pubs, restaurants and hotels can fully reopen and allow customers inside. Foreign holidays are also banned until at least May 17.

One Tory MP told MailOnline the PM must bring forward the arbitrary dates in order to ‘maintain public confidence that we are getting our freedom as soon as possible’. Steve Baker, of the Covid Recovery Group, called on No10 to ask SAGE to see whether the relaxation of restrictions could be safely brought forward.

Worth reading in full.

In other news, also in MailOnline, public concern about coronavirus has plummeted, with the proportion of Brits who say the disease is a big issue facing the UK having fallen by 23% in one month.

A new survey conducted by IpsosMORI revealed 49% of people view COVID-19 as one of the biggest issues facing the UK.

But that number is down 23% on what was recorded in February – the first significant drop in levels of concern about the disease since June 2020.

The polling firm said the figures suggested the “public may feel the end of the pandemic is in sight”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to Patrick Flynn in the Telegraph, whatever the Government says about its stage-by-stage roadmap it feels like the people have declared lockdown over.

40 MPs Call on Boris to Ease Travel Restrictions

Forty Conservative MPs have written to Boris Johnson urging him to ease travel curbs and bring back foreign holidays as pressure grows to lift the lockdown ahead of schedule as cases, hospitalisations and deaths plummet. The Mail has more.

Boris Johnson faced calls to lift lockdown faster last night as Covid infections, hospital cases and deaths hit a six-month low.

Four NHS regions – covering 29million [sic] people across southern England – reported no deaths on Sunday. Just 23 fatalities were logged elsewhere.

The average daily death toll is now 63 – 95 per cent below January’s peak. It stands at the same level as late last June – shortly before the ban on indoor socialising ended following the first national lockdown.

However, customers must still wait a minimum of seven weeks before pubs, restaurants and hotels can fully reopen. Foreign holidays are also banned until at least May 17.

It came as forty MPs, including former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley, sent the Prime Minister a letter urging him to avoid delaying the ban on travel.

The group of cross-party MPs warned that the country would not fully recover without a thriving tourism, travel and aviation industry and told the PM that foreign holidays were essential for the country’s economic rebound.

They stressed that it was ‘paramount that the restart of international travel provides the opportunity for businesses in the aviation, travel and tourism industries to begin their long journey back to recovery’.

Worth reading in full.