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He Is Risen

When I first heard the news that Trump had caught Covid, I was worried. What if he died? Not only would we have to endure the triumphalist crowing of the lockdown zealots, but his death would become the central plank in the case for maintaining all the current restrictions or making them even more severe. Donald Trump didn’t take the virus seriously and look what happened to him! We’d all be wearing masks in public for the next 10 years.

As if to confirm these fears, the zealots already started making this argument in anticipation of Trump’s demise. Heather Mac Donald makes this point in City Journal.

The media and Democratic establishments are in a frenzy of Schadenfreude over President Trump’s Covid diagnosis. Trump’s contracting the disease, they argue, discredits any coronavirus policy short of lockdowns and mandatory mask-wearing, outdoors as well as in. Trump is now “exhibit No. 1 for the failure of his leadership on coronavirus,” Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told the New York Times. …

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni claims that Trump’s infection proves that the country has been lax in its coronavirus response. “It is time, at long last, to learn. To be smarter. To be safer. To be more responsible, to others as well as to ourselves,” he wrote on Saturday. “We cannot erase the mistakes made in America’s response to the coronavirus, but we can vow not to continue making them.”

But I didn’t think through the alternative scenario that actually helps the sceptics’ cause – he makes a complete recovery within a few days and comes out swinging. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened! Trump left Walter Reed Medical Centre yesterday evening and told his followers on Twitter: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

This tweet was immediately condemned by mainstream media commentators as “dangerous”, “gross”, and “almost impossible to believe”, fearing that if Trump brushes off the virus in such a cavalier fashion it will mean the American people won’t take it seriously. But that’s his intention, obviously. Trump is effectively telling the American people that catching COVID-19 is not a death sentence. We’ve learnt so much about how to treat it, that even an overweight, 74 year-old male can recover within a week. He has now become exhibit No. 1 in the case against needless restrictions on our liberty.

Trump’s reaction to his bout of coronavirus is in stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s, who went from being the biggest beast in the Westminster jungle to a kind of Mowgli figure, leaping in fright at the sight of his own shadow. This, too, has confounded the lockdown zealots, as Heather Mac Donald says in her article.

Lockdown proponents are hoping that Trump will follow the course of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who reversed his position on keeping the economy open after his own hospitalization for coronavirus. Trump should foreswear such a self-involved about-face.

Instead, Trump should tell the American public something that it has needed to hear from a political leader for months: we must go on with our lives. There will be more coronavirus cases; there will be, tragically, more deaths. But we cannot shut down our human interactions in order to prevent one kind of death. We have never done so before, and the consequences of having done so this year will cripple human life for generations to come if we do not overcome fear now.

I’ve had my reservations about Trump in the past, but he’s remained largely faithful to his sceptical instincts about Covid and his reaction to contracting the disease is exactly how Boris should have responded.

Chapeau, Mr President.

Tory MPs May be About to Call Time on the 10pm Curfew

Has the Brexit Party now embraced lockdown scepticism?

According to the Telegraph, there’s a possibility that a sufficient number of Conservative MPs, as well as the Parliamentary Labour Party, will vote against the renewal of the 10pm curfew on Wednesday night when it’s expected to be put before Parliament.

Ministers have to ask MPs to approve coronavirus lockdown measures in simple unamendable “yes/no” votes in the Commons within weeks of them coming into force.

Two votes on lockdown restrictions in England are expected in the next 48 hours – one on Tuesday night on the “rule of six”, which limits gatherings to six people and came into force on September 14th, and a second on Wednesday on the 10pm curfew, which has applied nationally since September 24th.

While only a handful of Tory MPs are likely to rebel on the “rule of six”, dozens more are expected to try to vote down the curfew.

Rebel Conservatives – emboldened after last week forcing the Government to give MPs a veto on all future national lockdowns before they come into force – said on Monday that they could muster the necessary 43 Tory MPs to vote with Labour to overturn the Government’s 85 working majority.

One Tory MP said: “My sense is that a material number of MPs might vote against the 10pm.” Another said: “If it transpires that Labour is going to oppose it, then I would think there would be enough of us who would be inclined to vote against it.”

Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister who last week acted as an unofficial whip for Tory rebels, said: “Very few members of Parliament have constituencies which will bear voting against every infringement of liberty.

“However, there is a growing consensus that neither the 10pm curfew, nor including children in the ‘rule of six’, are well evidenced. I expect quite a few members of Parliament to take issue on those two points.”

Sir Desmond Swayne, a senior Tory MP, said: “The 10pm [curfew] is a huge mistake. The virus can’t tell the time. It is just absurd to impose this across the country.”

Sir Graham Brady, who is expected to rebel, told the BBC that patience with the Government’s local lockdown restrictions is starting to “wear thin”.

On Monday, Mr Sunak said of the 10pm curfew: “Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Harry Lambert has written a long read for the New Statesman speculating about Boris’s future. Entitled “The End of the Affair”, it’s based on searching conversations with 15 Conservative MPs, most of whom are pretty damning. “It is hard to find a Conservative MP who is impressed by the present government,“ he writes. The most telling quote comes from Steve Baker: “If a smash comes, it will come very hard and fast. And the more isolated he is, the more at risk he will be.”

Are the Rising Cases Just An Artefact of Increased Testing?

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

If like me you’ve argued that the recent increase in daily cases is because we’re testing more people each day, you’ll be used to the standard rejoinder: it isn’t just case numbers that are increasing, it’s the percentage of people testing positive. But is that percentage really going up? Dr Clare Craig, a Consultant Pathologist, has spotted an interesting anomaly in the Government’s treatment of people who’ve been tested repeatedly when it comes to recording their test results in the data and written about this for Lockdown Sceptics. Here’s an extract:

There are two ways to indicate the percentage of positive tests in a coherent and consistent manner. Either a figure could be published giving the number of positive tests and the total number of tests done – but these figures have not been published since August 20th. Alternatively, the percentage could be given by the number of newly diagnosed patients and the total number of patients tested. The difference between the two is that many people are repeatedly tested.

Instead, the Government press briefing on September 30th, published alongside the data, indicates that the official published figures need to be treated with some caution: “The number of people tested in a given week will exclude some people who have been tested in a previous week, so may not be an accurate denominator to use. For example, someone testing negative for the first time in week 1 will be counted in the ‘people tested’ figure for that week. If that same person tests negative again in week 4, they will not be counted in the ‘people tested’ figure for week 4.”

What this means is that for all the people tested more than once, a positive test result will count towards the numerator, but a negative test result will not count towards the denominator. Someone who tested negative in May could be contact traced again now and if they test negative their result would not be included in the official figures but if they test positive it would be. The relevant percentage of positive tests would therefore be falsely elevated.

Brilliant spot by Clare – Carl Heneghan-esque. Worth reading in full. Let’s hope some bigwig at PHE reads Clare’s article and fixes the problem.

Are the Student Drug Deaths Due to the Covid Restrictions?

A reader in Newcastle has made an insightful observation about the deaths of four young people in the North East, including a Newcastle University student.

It – the Corona response, not the disease – is getting rather close to home.

You’ll be aware of the 700 plus students tested positive by RT-PCR and now – tragically – there have been drugs deaths involving students.

The BBC quotes a criminology professor who observers a problem with nightclubs being closed is they offer a somewhat safer environment for partying. Formally organised freshers’ week events also offered a much safer environment for students away from home for the first time, as did the old halls of residence bars – if there are still any left.

Students do fall victim to drugs from time to time, unfortunately, but it’s hard not to see these ones as avoidable deaths of promising young people with their whole lifetimes in front of them, who might still be with us if it wasn’t for the scientifically misguided and futile efforts not to ‘kill granny’ and, in my opinion, the cynical way in which university Vice-Chancellors have behaved towards these young people.

I just checked the NHS dashboard and deaths from COVID yesterday in the entire North East of England were zero. I guess it may go up, but the daily rates are in single figures. COVID-19 – the disease – is not the problem.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Three sceptical public health experts – Professor Martin Kulldorff (Harvard), Professor Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) and Professor Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford) – have come together in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to launch the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition calling on governments around the world to adapt a more proportionate approach to managing the pandemic that they call “Focused Protection”. They are the three main signatories, but the co-signatories include Dr Michael Levitt, Dr Gabriela Gomes and Professor Karol Sikora among others, as well as several scientific contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection. …

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

This is welcome attempt by a group of sensible scientists to try and inject some common sense into the debate about how best to mitigate the impact of the virus. You don’t have to be a public health expert to sign it, either. Members of the public are welcome to do so and I’ve already signed. Over 14,000 so far and I’ve a feeling it’s going to climb very high, very quickly.

Bursting the Bubble

A reader has come up with an excellent argument against the separating of children in bubbles at school.

To make our schools so-called “Covid Safe” many or all of them have developed “bubbles”, where each classroom or year group is kept separate from the others. Separate play areas, separate canteen times and even separate arrival and collection times.

The theory seems sound, even logical – until you realise it isn’t!

I have two grandchildren in one school in Wales and three others in another school in England. The schools both operate on a broadly similar methodology to keep everyone “safe”.

The problem with this theory is that there are many, many siblings (and close out-of-school friends) in each bubble. Inevitably, a family with two kids, three or more will have a child in a different year or classroom bubble. One of my two grandkids caught the snivels and then a day after that his older brother had it. Probably caught in one bubble and then it gets passed to another bubble.

So I reckon this simple fact of life makes the whole “keep ’em separate” effort a waste of everybody’s time.

Poetry Corner

A reader called Veronica Richards has sent me rather a lovely poem about why friendships whither – poignant, given the pressure the lockdown has placed on friendship groups.

RIFTS

And when, my dear, on my death-bed I lie, reflecting back on the ploys of my mind,
the greatest mistake I will see I made
was to allow Opinion which appeared adamantly pressing
to tear our friendship apart,
‘apparently’.

Yet as I lay prone with a cool to my breath,
there will return the Knowing:
that the you that you are, lies also in me,
in all aspects, and primarily Essence.
That what I perceived to be
your manipulation, ignorance, your cowardice,
and you perceived to be my stubbornness, scornfulness, anger
were mere postures we chose to adopt awhile,
occasionally inter-changebly.
Stances which could be,
can be,
dropped at any moment,
so that all that remains is this Innocence recognized by the heart, not the mind
…this Light …of our timeless Existence,
great Healer of rifts.
Prior to thought and to word but not excluding of them.

And the good news, my sweet, is it is never too late for miracles to occur
so long as we are willing to stop
bestowing mind-made fake-power in crazy directions.At least: right now.
And now, and Now again.
Shall we do it?

ALL of us TOGETHER!

Or at least you and me
for seventeen seconds at least?
Shall we? – while smiling and counting to test our resolve.

I’ll start if you like. Or you can.

Round-Up

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.

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.49 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here.

And Finally…

Yesterday, I linked to the trailer for the South Park Pandemic Special – which is packed with anti-lockdown jokes. Today, I’m linking to the whole thing. Guaranteed to raise a laugh from even the most depressed sceptic. Enjoy.