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Whitty: Lockdown May Still Be Needed Next Winter

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty at the Downing Street briefing yesterday

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said yesterday that as the vaccine is rolled out we might eventually get to a point where we will have “almost no restrictions at all” – until next winter, when we’ll need to look at ramping them up again. The Mail has more.

Office for National Statistics figures show an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in England had COVID-19 between December 27th and January 2nd – equivalent to around 2.06% of the population. 

Professor Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said it was “really quite a large number indeed”, warning people to take the Government’s stay at home message seriously, owing to the new variant as well as winter.

He said the risk level will gradually decrease over time with measures being “lifted by degrees, possibly at different rates in different parts of the country, we’ll have to see”.

“We’ll then get over time to a point where people say this level of risk is something society is prepared to tolerate and lift right down to almost no restrictions at all,” he added.

“We might have to bring in a few in the next winter for example, that’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus.”

Will they ever let us go back to normal?

Oddly, the ZOE app showed only around 1% of the population had Covid on January 2nd. Why the discrepancy with the ONS?

What’s more, according to ZOE data new symptomatic cases have been falling in London since the end of last month.

How can this be when London is dominated by the new variant, said to be 70% more transmissible and said to be uncontainable by lockdown without closing schools by researchers at Imperial College?

It might have something to do with the fact that the new variant has been declining in London and the South East since around Christmas, according to the Government’s own data presented at the press conference yesterday – despite Whitty claiming that the new variant is “taking off” in every part of the country.

Source: HMG

Notice that in the South East, North East and Yorkshire existing variants have recently started outpacing the new variant. Again, how is that possible if it is so much more transmissible?

Once again it appears that the Prime Minister and his colleagues have been bamboozled by dodgy data from doomsayers with their unreliable models and mass testing. Now with the prospect of restrictions that continue indefinitely, regardless of how many people have been vaccinated, the need is more urgent than ever for the Government to look at public health policy in the round and listen to a broader range of voices.

We’re still waiting for that cost-benefit analysis of the impact of lockdowns on quality-adjusted life years…

Stop Press: Boris refused to guarantee that schools will be back before September. Allison Pearson asks in the Telegraph: “With schools closed again, have we written off a generation?

Stop Press 2: Depressingly, a snap poll showed just 9% of the population oppose the lockdown while 79% support it.

CRG Split on New Lockdown

Sir Desmond Swayne MP

Disappointingly, it looks like many from the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of sceptical Conservative MPs have decided to focus their efforts on getting restrictions lifted as quickly as possible as the vaccine rolls out instead of opposing the new lockdown – even though it emerged last night that the legal end date for the new restrictions will be March 31st. The Telegraph has more.

The national lockdown is “too heavy-handed” and a clearer exit strategy linked to the vaccine roll-out is needed to help struggling businesses, a senior Tory rebel has said.

Sir Robert Syms, a leading member of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, on Tuesday confirmed his intention to vote against legislation enshrining the new restrictions when it is brought to the Commons on Wednesday.

A smaller-scale rebellion is expected over the latest measures compared with the revolt against the tougher tiers system last month, which saw 55 Tory MPs vote against the Government.

One former rebel, who plans to abstain on Wednesday, said they felt the emergence of the new, hyper-infectious strain of Covid justified drastic measures. 

The MP called on Boris Johnson to focus on accelerating the vaccine programme so the restrictions could be lifted as quickly as possible.

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson vowed to publish a daily total of vaccine doses administered from next week – a key demand made by members of the CRG. He also scheduled an 11th-hour Zoom call with Tory MPs to answer questions about the lockdown, with both moves likely to help further curb the extent of the rebellion.

However, lockdown sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne said he would vote against the measures and warned: “There will be a chorus who will not put up with this, who will turn up and shout ‘no’ against it.”

Sir Desmond suggested some colleagues had been “overawed by the scale of the great consensus out there”, which he characterised as: “This [new strain] is a terrible thing, and you [sceptics] shut up.”

He added: “I’m appalled that we are where we are. I’m deeply suspicious of the science, and the fact is that we’ve been bounced again. The Government lacks the scientific and statistical expertise to ask the right questions and review the data and modelling.”

His intervention came amid reports of growing backbench frustrations over the Prime Minister’s approach to handling Covid. 

Two members of the 2019 intake of Tories this week submitted letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee that governs leadership contests, according to the Financial Times.

Other members of the newest cohort dismissed claims of escalating discontent, however. Richard Holden, the Tory MP for North West Durham, said: “My constituents recognise the PM and Government as a whole are doing, especially with the vaccine, pretty damn well in an impossible situation.”

Sir Robert, who sits on the steering committee of the CRG, said he thought Mr Johnson was in a “difficult position” and added that he backed schools moving to remote learning in the face of soaring Covid infections caused by the new strain.

Worth reading in full.

Not surprising that the latest Covid hysteria has weakened the resolve of a number of sceptical MPs. All hope now seems to rest with the swift vaccination of the vulnerable.

Where’s the Pandemic?

UK individuals with at least one positive test result. Source: UK Government

Cases are soaring, with a record 60,916 new cases reported yesterday. Hospital admissions for Covid are going up and up. Deaths are in the hundreds per day and increasing. Only an idiot would doubt we’re in the midst of a serious pandemic, right?

Except all these figures that show there’s a deadly pandemic raging are based on mass testing using PCR and more recently lateral flow tests. Cases are just positive tests. Hospital admissions are just people in hospital who test positive (and all patients are tested). Deaths are just people who die of any cause within 28 days of a positive test.

To get a true picture of what’s going on you have to look at data that are independent of PCR tests. So overall hospital and ICU occupancy, excess deaths, emergency calls for flu-like symptoms and so on. Strikingly, these data all speak in unison and tell a very different story.

Look at the graph below of A&E attendances in England for acute respiratory infections (which include COVID-19). It’s trending well below baseline and, save for a September spike leading into elevated winter levels, been almost flat since the spring.

What about flu-like illness? Flat and well below baseline since spring.

Pneumonia? Also flat and well below baseline.

999 calls for Covid-like symptoms? Largely flat since spring, though up a little in the last few weeks.

999 calls for Covid-like symptoms. Source: NHS

Deaths? Nothing out of the ordinary for winter. As PHE state in their most recent report: “In week 52 2020 in England, no statistically significant excess mortality by week of death… was seen overall”.

There are also the reports of Covid-like symptoms that users of the ZOE app send in each day, prior to any PCR tests being carried out. Like the other symptom-based data, these are largely flat since spring.

Much is being made of the current pressure on the NHS, but in reality there is a winter beds crisis in the NHS almost every year, and hospital occupancy rates this winter are similar to previous years. Some areas like London are currently under pressure, but that is mainly due to staff shortages – up to a third are off sick or self-isolating – and additional Covid constraints that have reduced the availability of beds and increased staff workloads.

Lockdown Sceptics regular Dr Clare Craig has gathered all this data together in one place and added a commentary explaining what it means. She says:

One thing that Public Health England has been world beating for before and during this pandemic has been the sharing of data. Data is collected from every aspect of the healthcare system and we now have the full dataset for 2020. The beginning of the graphs therefore give an indication of the levels expected at this time of year.

A selection of this data is presented that tells the story of a Spring pandemic. However, what this data reveals about Autumn and Winter does not fit the hypothesis that there has been a second wave. PCR testing results are an outlier in the data and only data related to PCR test results has led to the impression that there is currently a Covid problem.

Well worth reading and sharing.

talkRADIO’s Youtube Channel Cancelled – Then Reinstated

The talkRADIO team

TalkRADIO’s Youtube channel was abruptly deleted yesterday morning. Guido had the scoop.

Google-owned YouTube in the early hours of this morning removed the TalkRADIO channel from its platform. YouTube had been where TalkRADIO streamed its live video content and kept an archive of old shows. The channel had accumulated tens of millions of views and 250,000 subscribers. YouTube has simply said the account was “terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines”.

The fact that termination came shortly after the UK Government announced a third lockdown is raising eyebrows. TalkRADIO has been exceptionally critical of lockdown policy.

TalkRADIO then released a statement:

YouTube has removed talkRADIO’s channel from its platform. talkRADIO broadcasts specific programmes and a live stream from its studio on its YouTube channel. talkRADIO also broadcasts on DAB and is Ofcom regulated.

A spokesperson for talkRADIO said: “We urgently await a detailed response from Google/YouTube about the nature of the breach that has led to our channel being removed from its platform.

talkRADIO is an Ofcom licensed and regulated broadcaster and has robust editorial controls in place, taking care to balance debate. We regularly interrogate government data and we have controls in place, use verifiable sources and give space to a careful selection of voices and opinions.

Happily, the channel was reinstated later in the day, as Guido reported.

After 19 hours of being declared “Terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines”, the TalkRADIO YouTube channel has been reinstated. A YouTube spokesman said:

“TalkRadio’s YouTube channel was briefly suspended, but upon further review, has now been reinstated. We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including COVID-19 content that explicitly contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. We make exceptions for material posted with an educational, documentary, scientific or artistic purpose, as was deemed in this case.”

A whole working day and declared ‘termination’ doesn’t sound like a ‘brief suspension’ to Guido…

Covid Cynicism

We’re publishing today a new piece by regular contributor Dr Sinéad Murphy, Philosophy Lecturer at Newcastle University. This is her contribution to the discussion about the role of reason and emotion in the lockdown debate initiated by Dr David McGrogan’s piece on “the failed strategy of lockdown sceptics” and continued by Guy de la Bédoyère’s reply. She writes:

I was struck by David’s piece. I believe he is correct. Both sides of the lockdown debate make appeal to scientific facts and statistical analyses. But those who argue in favour of lockdowns have done so and continue to do so with a righteous energy and moral fervour, which those of us who argue against them have tended to steer clear of, on the assumption that such energy and fervour would weaken our arguments rather than make them stronger. This assumption comes naturally to our Enlightenment habits of thinking and acting, which have been formed on the premise that reason and feeling are separate faculties and hardly compatible. The assumption is false and has disabled our position from the outset.

A little while ago, I happened into discussion with a new neighbour, on the matter of Covid and lockdown. When I indicated my support for a Great Barrington-like policy of assistance for the vulnerable who wished to have it, allied with normal life for everyone else, my new neighbour demurred, saying: “That’s very able-ist of you.” Just the kind of name-calling moralism that we sceptics of lockdown have come to expect. And what did I do in return? I drilled further down into calm reason, countering that I was quite content to be an ‘able-ist’ and did not at all require that the whole world alter its course so that the particular needs of particular groups be neutralised by being always already catered to. But my reply was a poor one and seemed to produce no effect. What I ought to have done – what David McGrogan urges us rightly to practise doing – was to play my neighbour at his own ad hominem game: accuse him in return of being an ‘able-ist’ and naming to him with the same outrage that he effortlessly conjured up, some of the infinite number of kinds of people whose lives have been damaged or destroyed by Covid policies – my ‘vulnerable’ if you like: the old, those who live alone, those with cancer, children with special needs, single parents… my list is longer than his by far.

In this context, the New Year’s Day post on Lockdown Sceptics by Freddie Attenborough merits special mention, for its clever and moving turning of the tables against the Covid orthodoxy. Its very title – “The Fallen” – a highly effective appropriation of the language of pathos which those who mourn the Covid dead have this year been allowed to claim as an instrument for their use, and their use alone.

This kind of emotional response does not mean that we must depart from our facts, which we have mustered so carefully and which we justifiably treasure; but we ought to feel freer to infuse them with the moral feeling that we have incorrectly judged it best to put aside for the good of our mission.

And this is all the more vital for the stay it might put upon what I regard as the most significant factor in the success this year of the attack on our ways of life: the cynicism that prevails among the educated classes, those whose voices dominate our mainstream press, and whose readiness to be functionaries in the system of our incarceration is one of the most dispiriting things of all.

Worth reading in full.

Government Snubs Pharmacists in Vaccine Rollout

The urgency of the Government’s vaccine programme was thrown into doubt last night as it emerged that offers from thousands of trained pharmacists to assist in the vaccine rollout have been ignored. The Telegraph has the exclusive.

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, which represents high street pharmacies during talks with the Government, questioned why the NHS was “scrabbling around” for vaccinators when his industry stood ready to help.

He said there were around 11,400 pharmacies across the country that already administer millions of flu jabs every year, with the capability to vaccinate around 1.3 million people against Covid every week.

At the press conference yesterday the Prime Minister said 1.3 million people in the UK have so far been vaccinated. But since that figure was one million on December 27th, this suggests the current rate of vaccinations is only 30,000 a day. It would need to be 10 times bigger to hit the target of 13.4 million by mid-February.

Vaccination is our ticket out of lockdown with all its destructive consequences for lives, livelihoods and mental and physical health. Why is everything not being thrown at it? It’s not even a supply issue, as the Telegraph reports.

Amid increasing questions over the urgency of the UK’s planned rollout, it emerged that there are five million doses of the Pfizer jab yet to be used, despite it being cleared over a month ago, and 3.5 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab held up waiting to pass the regulator’s safety checks.

The pharmacists’ offer of help echoes the situation at the start of the roll-out of testing when private labs were overlooked, leading to months of delays.

Mr Dukes told the Telegraph: “Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.

“We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.

“We’ve got 11,400 pharmacies with at least one trained pharmacist. So if we vaccinated 20 people a day, that would be more than 1.3 million every week. You need the big hubs, of course you do, but we can help in a substantial way.”

It was also being reported yesterday that PHE won’t be delivering vaccines on a Sunday.

Boris has been banking on a vaccine to rescue him from this disaster since March. Time to pull the finger out.

Stop Press: Philip Johnston in the Telegraph says “vaccines won’t rid us of Covid but they must put a stop to lockdowns“, adding “we need a much greater sense of urgency about the roll-out, and then must live with an endemic virus”.

This Morning Doctor’s Pro-Vaxxing Misinformation

Dr Sara Kayat shares a novel fact about the Oxford vaccine

TV Doctor Sara Kayat appeared on This Morning yesterday to tell viewers about the amazing power of the Oxford vaccine:

After 12 days from the first vaccination of the AstraZeneca vaccine you are 100% effective against hospitalisation and death.

The programme tweeted: “@sara_kayat shares this amazing statistic with us, which you may not have heard yet.”

They won’t have heard it, of course, because it’s not true. (It also doesn’t really make sense – what does “you are 100% effective” mean? But we get what she’s trying to say.)

One Twitter user responded with a nicely worded letter and the link to Ofcom’s complaint form.

https://twitter.com/annarayner2020/status/1346444324192587778

The Flu Hypothesis

An academic economist, quite eminent in his field but who wishes to remain anonymous because he doesn’t want to have to contend with lockdown zealots at his university accusing him of “endangering the public”, has written an original piece for Lockdown Sceptics about the the ‘flu hypothesis’. We’ll let him explain what this is.

Most of those sceptical of the Government response to COVID-19 have concluded that the recent uptick in cases is seasonal. COVID-19 appears to recur in winter and seems to have partly replaced the flu this year. We will call this the ‘flu hypothesis’.

If this is correct, then we may be able to make some predictions about what is about to happen in the United Kingdom with respect to Government policy and the public response. Now that the new lockdown is upon us we can use the ‘flu hypothesis’ to imagine two possible outcomes and assess their relative likelihood.

First let us try to get into what passes for the minds of those dealing with the response. The Financial Times, which seems well plugged in to the mindset of the political class, published the following helpful graphic:

Needless to say, our economist isn’t persuaded by these graphs.

What this tries to show is that the lockdown worked. If you glance at the chart and don’t really think about it – you know, like a public official would be inclined to do – it looks like a lockdown was imposed at the beginning of November and cases in the North and the Midlands fell.

Now, lockdown sceptics will say that this was just a coincidence. After all, robust cross-sectional studies – the sort of studies honest scientists use to evaluate these sorts of things – show that there is no correlation between lockdowns and outcomes. And cases in the Northwest clearly peaked around two weeks before the measures were introduced.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Wariness

The “dangerous” anti-vaxxers, spewing their toxic misinformation, don’t appear to be having much impact in the UK

The UK leads the vaccine eagerness polls, but still nearly a third are reticent – and the true figure has to be higher. Forbes reports that in practice over half of front line workers in America have been refusing the vaccine, suggesting the 58% in the poll for the US is likely an upper bound.

With all our eggs in the vaccine basket, this is not encouraging news.

Of course, it doesn’t help when healthy 41 year-olds die two days after receiving a jab – though with millions now being inoculated it remains to be seen whether this is more than coincidence.

Trouble at Tesco

Harry Miller on the steps of the High Court after his victory over Humberside Police

Hero ex-cop Harry Miller, who took Humberside Police to the High Court after they recorded “Non-Crime Hate Incident” against his name and won a stunning victory, had an unpleasant experience in his local branch of Tesco’s yesterday. He was accosted by the store manager for not wearing a mask. Predictably, he didn’t take kindly to this reprimand. We’ll let Harry tell the story.

It’s not everyday that one is given a police escort through the tills at Tesco but that is what happened to me this morning. After sanitising my hands, I entered the store, passing along the vegetable aisle in search of something called “spring greens”. I am a lockdown skeptic, not a covid skeptic, and so was careful to only touch those items which would end up in my trolley.

Pausing to check my shopping list, I was approached by a gentleman who said, without introduction, “Excuse me, Sir. Is there any reason why you are not wearing a mask?”

A badge on his coveralls identified him as being in the service of Tesco.

“Yes, there is a valid reason, as it happens,” I replied, resisting the urge to say, “Lockdown is a scam.” Regardless of whether or not I agree with the law regarding masks (I don’t), I am fully aware of the limitations of enforcement. A firm, but polite, answer did not satisfy.

“What’s your reason?” He pressed. “Because without a valid reason you will either have to put on a mask or leave the shop.”

“I am not required to reveal the details of why I do not wear a mask,” I said, still polite but with a degree of irritation. “I have told you that I have a valid reason and that is enough.”

He pulled rank. “I am the store manager, and unless you have an exemption certificate, you are going to have to leave. Now.”

At this point, it’s fair to say I got stroppy, reminding him that there was no legal basis for his demand to demand evidence of a hidden disability. His response, typical of the bullying coward who finds himself on a high of unexpected power, was to say, “You are being aggressive. Unless you leave the shop immediately, I will call the police. Step away from the trolley. You’re barred.”

I may have laughed. I may have growled. I asked him what he imagined the police would do, given that I have an exemption certificate. “In that case, you should be wearing it on a lanyard around your neck,” he said. I told him to stop behaving like a bargain shelf Nazi and I would not submit to having my papers checked.

Soon enough, a sergeant and constable arrived, prompting the gathered masked mob to bray insults at the live capture of a granny killer. “Why don’t you just obey the law, fucking idiot?”

Defiant more than embarrassed, I stood my ground.

The sergeant suggested that, were I to go quietly, she might be able to persuade the manager to allow me and my half filled basket through the tills. When she left to negotiate the concession, I quizzed the constable on the law I was required to obey, particularly in relation to masks. Puzzled by the request for facts, he side-stepped the issue, insisting that, as Tesco is a private shop, the staff are at liberty to demand and evict as they please. I called bullshit, a word which, when spoken when angry, is so potentially loaded with virus that it caused the constable to take a dramatic step back and to order me to “stop spitting”. He correctly noted that I was agitated, advised me to calm down, and said I should seek advice from a lawyer about my grocery shopping ban. In return, I advised the constable that the actions of the store manager had caused me alarm, harassment and distress, contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and that, as the police were in attendance, I expected them to act on it.

The circular logic with which the officer defied my complaint is worth exploring. According to him, Tesco was only a public space up until the point that the store manager issued his eviction notice, after which I was technically trespassing on private property and therefore the Public Order Act no longer applied.

I informed the constable that the last police force which attempted to blow smoke up my arse ended up being likened by a High Court Judge to the Stasi, the Cheka and the Gestapo. I reminded him of an officer’s sworn duty to serve the public “without fear or favour”. His response is worth quoting in full: “Please don’t use fancy words with me.”

Literally. That’s what he said. A member of Lincolnshire’s finest considers the foundation upon which policing and freedom is built to be nothing more than fancy words. As I was finally given a police escort with my depleted trolley though the Till of Shame, I reminded the officers of their Oath of Attestation. That it was made to the Queen, not Tesco. That the police are obliged to uphold law, not policy. And that to serve all men equally, with diligence and fairness, is the precious bedrock upon which our police service is built. Covid tyranny does not change that one bit.

You can find out more about Harry’s efforts to force the police to remember their oath at Fair Cop.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/susanmichie/status/1346233399837646850?s=21

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “In my hour of darkness” by Gram Parsons, “It’s the same old song” by Four Tops, “Born of Frustration” by James,  “I Predict A Riot” by the Kaiser Chiefs, “Nothing Makes Sense” by Judah Kelly.

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 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.

Stop Press: A reader found an article on the futility of masks from the 2003 SARS outbreak 17 years ago in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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.

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,” MrBell 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 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. But the cause has been taken up by PCR Claims. Check out their website here.

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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pX-TLoZx5s

Toby appeared on BBC Newsnight last night to debate YouTube’s talkRADIO ban with journalist Ian Dunt. You can watch it here.

Flu-Like Illnesses

by Dr Clare Craig FRCPath

How many people with ‘flu-like’ illnesses are being mislabelled as Covid?

Cases of Covid appear to have surged recently. Hospital admissions for Covid are now also starting to rise. To question how much of this rise is genuinely the result of Covid is to challenge the prevailing narrative, but as a scientist it is essential to ask hard questions. It is critical that we understand when someone is ill, but it is not Covid. We have limited resources for ‘Track and Trace’ and it is important that they are used wisely, especially when real outbreaks occur.

Scientists are grappling with what the rate of false positive results are with the current Covid test. The risk of a false positive result comes not only from aspects of the testing process itself but may vary from one population to another. It may even vary over time.

Every country has systems of external quality control for their laboratories. A summary has been published of attempts by these bodies to establish the risk of false positive Covid testing from other coronaviruses (one of the causes of the common cold). They tested against two strains of non-Covid coronaviruses. These showed between 0.58% and 0.96% were false positive with Covid testing. With large numbers of tests each day, this level of false positive cross reactivity could easily mean that screening testing across the UK, and indeed the world, has a high risk of misdiagnoses.

Co-infections are a genuine possibility with respiratory infections and are commonly seen with, say, influenza. A co-infection is where a patient is simultaneously infected with multiple viruses which may or may not include Covid. However, with low levels of Covid, when false positive test results are a real risk, then the possibility of a misdiagnosis of Covid must be considered rather than potentially diagnosing two different viral causes to explain the same symptoms.

Numerous other respiratory infections have been diagnosed in Covid positive patients. We do not know the risk of these infections causing a false positive Covid result. The majority of viruses that cause flu-like illnesses show a pattern of contagion and, sadly, result in hospital admissions, ITU admissions and deaths. Almost all are more common than Covid at this time of year. There is a real risk of the UK mislabelling these other respiratory infections as Covid and thereby exaggerating the Covid problem – this has not received sufficient scientific attention.

This paper suggests one simple policy takeaway.

Given the risk of false positive results for Covid testing, an outbreak should not be diagnosed in a low prevalence area in the absence of one of two Covid specific indicators: loss of smell or characteristic chest CT findings. Having accurately established outbreaks, it is safe to switch to more sensitive testing of direct contacts.

Identifying every case should not be the aim in areas with low disease prevalence because of the problem of false positive results. Instead, the focus should be on accurate identification of every outbreak of Covid. Loss of smell is seen in around 65% of genuine Covid cases but statistically loss of smell would be seen in 96% of genuine outbreaks with three people or more. Where there is new onset loss of smell (or chest CT evidence) combined with positive testing, the chances of misdiagnosis are vanishingly small.

Covid in young adults

Why are we seeing alleged excess Covid-like cases in people in their 20s. The narrative is the same across Europe: that a new surge in Covid cases is being driven by young adults. This is despite the fact that during the spring epidemic, symptomatic outbreaks were focused on nursing homes and hospitals. Large numbers of symptomatic young people were not observed in the spring. Why are they being seen now? Why would the impact of the virus at a population level be so different now to what it was in the spring?

Real Covid cases lead, after a time, to rising antibody levels. The percentage of 20-29 year olds with antibodies to Covid has not risen between June and 6th September. It has actually fallen, as it has for the rest of the population. There is a serious inconsistency with the widely accepted hypothesis that the recent surge of flu-like illness must be Covid and the steady continued drop in Covid antibody levels throughout the population. The latter is scientifically provable, the former remains only a hypothesis.

Epidemics spread fast and cluster geographically. Where recent epidemic outbreaks of actual Covid have been mapped, such as in Florida and Marseille, the spread from young adults to other age groups happened within a week and within two weeks Covid was detected in every age group. Given that the time from diagnosis to death is approximately 20 days then a rise in deaths was seen approximately 27 days after new cases in young adults.

The UK data demonstrates that the rise in alleged-Covid cases in young people from the beginning of August did not reach other age groups for a full month. Also, the data since mid Sept has not shown the expected consequent increase in deaths in the UK from the August surge. It seems the outcomes from the UK surge in flu-like illnesses in August does not appear to match that seen in recent genuine Covid outbreaks. This is puzzling, and must make us more cautious.

Some might argue that vulnerable groups have been successfully shielded in the UK and this could explain the lack of deaths now in the UK. Are we better at shielding than Florida and Marseille. Have we successfully hermetically sealed 15-25 year olds from vulnerable groups? It is not obvious that we have shielded any more successfully than other countries. If we have not shielded more successfully, then why has our death rate not increase. like other countries? Death rates should have already increased if this outbreak is Covid rather than other flu-like viruses.

The percentage of young people testing positive for Covid remains low, at a few percent of those tested. Although the false positive rate for Covid testing has not been definitively established, the rate we are observing in the young in the UK is low enough that we cannot exclude the possibility that they are almost all Covid false positives. To differentiate real Covid from false positives requires careful thought and more thorough assessment and testing of those cases. It is essential that loss of smell and Chest CT confirmation is used to confirm where there are genuine outbreaks.

Glandular fever: a case study

This short paper suggests that the global focus on Covid may have skewed our diagnostic capabilities. There are many flu-like illnesses that cause similar symptoms. Let us consider one of them, purely as a case study, and explore how difficult it remains for those who are charged with addressing these issues to track what is really going on. I have chosen a common but fairly serious flu-like illness with which many readers will be familiar: glandular fever.

As it happens, the August data in the UK can be read as consistent with an outbreak of glandular fever, although it is far too soon to be remotely definitive. What is striking about the age distribution is that 2-10 yr olds and 15-25 yr olds were being affected at a higher rate than 10-15 year olds. This is a very unusual distribution, but it is the exact same distribution as seen for glandular fever, which is caused by another virus: EBV.

EBV infection is spread by saliva. It affects drooling toddlers sharing their toys. It also spreads by 15 to 25 year olds kissing. Thereafter, the virus can still be detected in the tonsils of older adults but it is kept under control by an active immune system. In those with a compromised immune system, the virus can reactivate and even be lethal.

The symptoms of glandular fever are fatigue, fever, sore throat, nausea and loss of appetite and a dry cough. Enlarged lymph nodes and spleen are also common findings and these distinguishing signs have not been reported in Covid. If the correct diagnosis is EBV, there would be no loss of smell and no characteristic CT chest findings seen in Covid patients. Unfortunately, there is no sign that the outbreaks of patients testing positive for Covid are being consistently cross-checked with loss of smell and CT chest scans across the UK, or indeed globally. Thus, this outbreak could be EBV, it could be some other virus that causes flu-like illness, or it could be Covid. No one knows whilst the risk of false positive testing in the presence of these viruses is still so unexplored.

Importantly, the frequency of glandular fever cases starts increasing in August as it is a seasonal virus. Searches on Google for “Glandular fever” over a number of years show a clear seasonality but fell to a new low in April 2020 since when it seems as though every fever has been considered by the general public searching Google to be Covid unless proven otherwise.

Could EBV cause a positive Covid test?

It is one thing to contemplate the possibility that EBV infections, or other viruses that cause flu-like infections, are being misdiagnosed as Covid because of the similarity of physical symptoms. It is quite another to go further and consider whether EBV, itself, or other viruses, could cause false positive Covid tests.

When a new test is brought to market it has to undergo quality control to ensure it is safe. For Covid, there was huge urgency to make a test available and, through massive effort, a test was worked up and approved rapidly. Manufacturers checked that samples of other non-Covid viruses and bacteria could not produce a positive test. Cross reactivity like this is a known cause of false positive test results and must be eliminated for effective testing. Samples of as many different viruses and bacteria as possible were tested and none gave a false positive result. The efforts of those involved in this work should not be underestimated and testing was invaluable in the early stages of the epidemic to reduce spread.

Having passed the manufacturer’s checks, the laboratories undertaking testing would have repeated this work with their own samples. Again, the aim was to find a range of different samples to check for cross-reactivity. In every case, the Covid test was cross-checked against only one sample of each type of virus or bacteria. In May, the Royal College of Pathologists published guidelines recommending that 30-40 samples of other viruses should be tested by manufacturers to validate the test and 10-20 for the laboratories to verify safety. That is single samples of up to 20 different virus types. If every EBV sample, for example, resulted in a positive Covid test then the test would have to be altered to prevent that risk.

However, the same test is now being used in a totally different way. Rather than testing symptomatic patients at a time of exponential spread, we are screening large swathes of the population who have self-selected based on a huge range of sometimes very mild symptoms. The checks required for mass population screening have been totally bypassed. The crucial point to note is that just because a single sample of EBV does not trigger a false positive result, that does not mean that the EBV virus never triggers a false positive result. An EBV-generated false-positive could happen 5% of the time, 1% of the time or 0.01% of the time. When testing small numbers of symptomatic people this does not matter. When testing 200,000 people every day for Covid, the risk of EBV-generated false positives (or other false positives from other viruses) potentially start to matter a very great deal.

The UK has now done 20 million tests and continues to test over 200,000 a day. It is not known whether there are other viruses that can mistakenly generate a positive Covid test result on rare occasions. When testing at the rate we are, even a 5% chance of producing false positives from other viruses in this way becomes highly significant, especially if there are co-infections. Recall that the EQA studies found 0.6-1% false positives with related coronaviruses. Checking a few samples of EBV when devising a new Covid test only provides reassurance that mistakes will not happen with every case of EBV.

But when you have a national screening programme that tests every cough, splutter or sneeze we need to know what percentage of those cases may test (falsely) positive for Covid. For example, in order to demonstrate that 5% of EBV cases will produce a false positive Covid test, hundreds of EBV samples would need to be checked. If 0.5% of EBV cases cause a false positive Covid result then thousands of samples, not tens of samples, would need to be tested. The original testing was on tens of samples. This is not a criticism of the original testing which was urgent and completed with admirable speed.

Because this work has not been done, we cannot know whether there is a problem with potential EBV false positives (or other viruses circulating in the population) or not. It would be a huge challenge to find adequate numbers of EBV samples in order to check – especially as samples would need to have been taken before Covid to avoid any suggestion that a positive result was in fact a genuine Covid case.

Is there any evidence at all that EBV cases are being wrongly diagnosed as Covid cases? There have been several publications of Covid and EBV ‘co-infections’. These often describe features of EBV infection in young people with no diagnostically specific features of Covid infection but a positive Covid test result is treated as being definitive. (Examples: here, here and here). A study in Wuhan of 67 patients with Covid in January, when disease prevalence was relatively low, found more than half had antibodies demonstrating a recent EBV infection.

Given the difficulty of testing hundreds of EBV samples with the Covid test, we must instead test the EBV-generated false positive hypothesis by examining the patients themselves more closely. Centralised testing results should not prevent doctors from trying to correctly diagnose the patient in front of them. How many of the current population testing Covid positive are also EBV positive? How many have enlarged lymph nodes and spleen characteristic of EBV infection rather than Covid? What proportion of them have lost their sense of smell or have characteristic chest CT findings. How many of them, given time, have detectable antibodies to Covid?

EBV is an easy-to-understand example of an infective agent that could cause false positive results. I must emphasise that the discussion of EBV in this paper is just one example of the type of complicated viral universe in which Covid is operating and making life very difficult for scientists. The UK now has a national screening programme testing every case of glandular fever, every high temperature, every cough, with no understanding of what proportion of these cases will, in the absence of Covid, be a false positive Covid result. When testing more than 200,000 mostly symptomatic patients a day, even a miniscule proportion of EBV or other flu-like illnesses causing a false positive Covid test result could be a very serious problem.

Conclusion

Diagnosis needs to be more specific. During periods of low Covid prevalence, a positive Covid test result should not be enough to diagnose a genuine Covid outbreak unless it is accompanied by loss of smell and/or distinctive Chest CT results in the original patient and at least one of their direct contacts. Using loss of smell as a gateway to testing will free up capacity for intensive Test and Trace work where there are real outbreaks of Covid.

Latest News

The PCR False Positive Pseudo-Epidemic

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance give a Coronavirus Data Briefing in 10 Downing Street on September 21st. Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.

Today, we’re proud to be bringing you a new blockbuster piece by Dr Mike Yeadon in which he debunks the notion that we’re in the midst of a ‘second wave’ – he believes most parts of England reached herd immunity by June of this year – and systematically takes apart the PCR testing data that seems to show daily cases number tens of thousand a day. This is, as he and Dr Clare Craig have said before, a false positive pseudo-epidemic. But Dr Yeadon has never set out his case so clearly, and with such a wealth of evidence, as he has done in this new article. He’s particularly illuminating on the shortcomings of the super-labs set up to process hundreds of thousands of PCR tests every day, drawing on his own 29-year career conducting and supervising laboratory work in UK.

Here’s an extract in which he summarises his argument:

In brief: the pandemic was over by June and herd immunity was the main force which turned the pandemic and pressed it into retreat. In the autumn, the claimed “cases” are an artefact of a deranged testing system, which I explain in detail below. While there is some COVID-19 along the lines of the “secondary ripple” concept explained above, it has occurred primarily in regions, cities and districts that were less hard hit in the spring. Real COVID-19 is self-limiting and may already have peaked in some Northern towns. It will not return in force, and the example again is London. Even here, certain boroughs, e.g. Camden and Sutton, have had minimal positive test results. I’ve explained a number of times how this happened – the prominent role of prior immunity is often ignored or misunderstood. The extent of this was so large that, coupled with the uneven spread of infection, it needed only a low percentage of the population to be infected before herd immunity was reached.

That’s it. All the rest is a PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic. The cure, of course, as it has been in the past when PCR has replaced the pandemic itself as the menace in the land, is to stop PCR mass testing.

Dr Yeadon’s articles have been some of the most read things we’ve published on Lockdown Sceptics and this one will be no exception.

Put the kettle on, make yourself a cup of tea and settle down to read this essential piece. Easily the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today.

The Second Wave Peaked Before Lockdown 2.0

We have previously shared the findings of Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College, London. He is the founder of the ZOE app which over a million people use to report their symptoms every week and which has become a prime source of rapid, near real-time data about COVID-19. He received an OBE for this work, earlier this year. Writing in the Spectator, he explains what the ZOE data shows:

COVID-19 rates for the UK are now falling in nearly all major regions. The Government and the Opposition, who believe in lockdown, will say that the fall in the number of confirmed cases, deaths and hospitalisations proves lockdown 2.0 was a success, regardless of the extra health costs associated with lockdowns.

Looking at our data, I concluded last month that we had passed the peak of new COVID-19 cases before we went into the second English lockdown. Our data has since been backed up by the ONS survey and GP surveillance records that track new consultations. Hospital admissions, which lag new cases, also peaked shortly after the lockdown of November 5th.

This suggests the impact of the tiered system was being felt before the lockdown started. Chris Whitty has said that it takes two to three weeks for the effects of lockdown to appear. Were lockdown essential then we would have expected hospital admissions to peak far later, possibly around now. The below is what the ZOE data suggests:

Areas that were under relatively strict tiered restrictions in October are all seeing a continued drop in the number of new COVID-19 cases after peaking around the second half of October.

He goes on to provide some good news for the NHS.

The higher rates are still among 20 to 39 year-olds, who are probably the most exposed to the virus because they are more likely to be carrying on with their lives; and the lowest is among people over 60… The numbers are still relatively low among those in the older age group who are most likely to become seriously ill or die from the disease.

It is hard to disagree with his conclusion:

Any further restrictions should be based on encouraging voluntary behavioural changes. Persuasion is a far more effective long-term strategy than coercion… The public must be able to see exactly what is happening and be trusted to take the right actions for themselves.

Tim Spector’s analysis is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Tim Spector gave an interview to Freddie Sayers for UnHerd‘s LockdownTV last week. A must watch.

Switzerland: No Lockdown, No Armageddon

We reported last Thursday that Switzerland is one of five places that seem to indicate that lockdowns are not necessary. Today, with thanks to the reader who flagged it in the comments, a report from Focus Online that bears this out:

Switzerland was, not long ago, considered one of biggest COVID-19 hotspots in Europe. Now, though, the curve is pointing sharply downwards, despite no major new measures being adopted. Even the experts are stumped.

Switzerland opted for a middle course in its COVID-19 policy, between Sweden’s laissez-faire model and a hard lockdown strategy. Up until the middle of November, it looked as though the policy would fail miserably.

But, since then, the curve has shown a clear downwards trend, dropping from 10,000 new infections per day at the beginning of the month to 4,500. And that is without any containment measures being implemented. The Swiss Federal Council has not tightened measures since October 29th.

The report continues:

Why did the numbers fall so rapidly, despite the open restaurants and shops and the loose contact restrictions? The experts don’t quite know. At the moment, “from a scientific point of view it is still too early to judge”, Swiss epidemiologist Marcel Salathé tells FOCUS Online. Antje Heise, an intensive care doctor and President of the Swiss Institute for Intensive Care added: “We can only speculate on what led to the turnaround in infection numbers.”

Whether it was the Swiss middle-course COVID-19 policy that led to the reduction in numbers is therefore unknown. The strategy was criticised by many. There were grave doubts as to whether the measures were sufficient to save the health system from collapse.

Worth reading in full (if you speak German). It goes on to note that the numbers are still very high and that the country has only recently seen its highest daily death toll, and says that caution is still required.

The Rush to Publish COVID-19 Research Saw Errors Triple

New research published today in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)  has thrown some light on the compromises made in the publication processes of medical journals, a consequence of the rush for new research on COVID-19. 9 News has more:  

The research examined five medical journals considered to be the most critical to informing global health policy and clinical practices: the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the British Medical Journal and the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The analysis compared 134 research papers published between January 1st and May 31st this year to 54 published during the same period in 2019.

The research found that:

  • One in five COVID-19 studies published by the journals during the first five months of the pandemic had corrections issued after publication. This compares to 7.4% of published during the same period last year
  • Three studies had to be retracted altogether, including a highly publicised hydroxychloroquine trial published in the Lancet. This led to a temporary cessation of the WHO trial into hydroxychloroquine. No such retractions were made in 2019.
  • Just 5% of the coronavirus trials were randomised controlled trials – considered the “gold standard” of medical research – compared to 35% of the 2019 trials.  
  • The timeframe given to review, approve and publish trials was drastically reduced. In the case of JAMA, the only journal to release data for this, the average timeframe from first submission to publication fell from 139 days to just 23.
  • Close to half of the COVID-19 studies did not explicitly state that consent was obtained from trial participants. A number of articles also stated that they were granted exemptions from the requirement for ethical review due to the nature of the pandemic.

The study’s lead author, Professor Michael Reade of the University of Queensland, said:

In the new information age, it’s a great thing that people can disseminate information really quickly. You can put a paper up online, you can read these things really quickly, but the other side of that is that by the time it gets into a journal, if journals are going to add anything to this process, it needs to be that they give the stamp of approval that it’s true.

Quite. And it is surely during such times as the last few months that the reliability of papers published in prestigious medical journals matters most. The 9 News article is worth reading in full.

The MJA article has a number of suggestions for facilitating the rapid dissemination of information, without compromising its quality, ethical standards or oversight, including:

A two-track review process for pandemic and non-pandemic research, rapid preliminary assessment of research methodology by skilled in-house reviewers before deciding whether to send for peer review, sharing of peer-reviews between reviewers and journals, and mentored peer reviewing by research trainees.

The MJA article is also worth reading in full.

Dear Commissioner…

Police academy: Cressida Dick at the Met’s specialist training centre in Gravesend, Kent, last month; Andrew Testa, the Sunday Times

A member of the Free Speech Union, Dominic Martin, has written to Cressida Dick the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to complain about the heavy-handed policing of Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in central London. Hard to disagree with anything he says.

I am writing to express my disgust at how your police force handled the anti-lockdown protest in central London, and indeed how it has handled several previous demonstrations. They have been suppressed in an overly zealous and excessively forceful manner which brings shame upon the force and is chillingly reminiscent of scenes we have scene in recent months in Belarus and Hong Kong. The right to challenge authority by peaceful protest is a centuries-old British liberty and, moreover, a liberty enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was signed by Britain in 1948 (Article 20(1): “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association“). It is a cornerstone of liberal democracy, and can only be rightfully suspended in the most extreme of circumstances, such as war, invasion, or social breakdown. A virus with a 99%+ survival rate – and of the 1% or less who sadly die the overwhelming majority are of a very advanced age with existing health conditions – is no justification for enacting such draconian measures and stripping citizens of their basic rights. It is a highly worrying development. As we saw with the anti-terror laws rushed through in the aftermath of the September 11th and July 7th attacks, powers once gained are rarely surrendered, and are often used in a manner which far exceeds their original remit and purpose.

As bad as the over-reaction is, it is made far worse by the complete inaction shown this summer in regards to other protests, such as when far larger crowds were allowed to gather under the banner of Black Lives Matter (BLM) at the height of the first lockdown. Not only were these demonstrations given sanction to go ahead, they were lightly policed and indeed several police officers were seen running away when provoked, with protestors given free rein to vandalise public statuary. Furthermore, several police officers were filmed “taking the knee”, which, given that BLM is at heart a political lobby group, was a clear violation of police neutrality. A later FOI response by your force (ref. 01.FOI.20.014886) states clearly that “Officers were briefed to use enforcement powers as a last resort”, and the protests were also enthusiastically endorsed by Mayor Sadiq Khan. The contrast with Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest could not be more stark; it was met with a huge police presence and ordered to disperse immediately, with protestors then being arrested seemingly at random and in large numbers. The organisers of such demonstrations in the past have also been issued with exorbitant fines (again, not issued against BLM organisers).

Having a police force that is seen to be fair and impartial is of fundamental importance if public trust and support for law enforcement is to be maintained. I suspect that the real reason for the selective policing this year is that your organisation is still reeling from the impact of the MacPherson Report, and prioritises being seen as “not racist” above enforcing the law in a fair and equitable manner. I for one have lost all faith in the Metropolitan Police as an unbiased and apolitical force, and I suspect that I am far from alone. The damage caused has been enormous and the repercussions will be felt for many years to come.

Stop Press: Sky New Australia has a great report on the protests. They call them “riots”.

Stop Press: It is also worth reading Matthew Scott’s piece in the Telegraph – “Lockdown is being policed in an entirely disproportionate way” and Dr Jade Norris’s article in the Spectator about why she has resigned as a Special Constable – “Why I can no longer police the coronavirus restrictions“.

A Festive Protest Suggestion

Would TSG goons thrown these three to the ground, kneel on their heads and then pepper spray them?

After reading the accounts of Saturday’s protests on the news and in yesterday’s update, a reader has got in touch with a suggestion for an alternative form of protest:

How about organising large gatherings to sing Christmas carols as a form of protest – and a nice way to spread some Christmas cheer.

The problem with the brave protests that have taken place so far is that the media spins it as a few conspiracy theorist nuts protesting against vaccinations, 5G and so on. Much of the population consequently has little sympathy for the victims of heavy-handed policing. I read the comments section on the article in the Sun about Saturday’s protest and although there were plenty of people on our side there were also lots of comments to the effect that the protesters deserved all they were getting. There was even one comment that suggested they be denied a vaccine, which seems an odd punishment.

The police would surely be more reluctant to start brutalising a large crowd of peaceful carol singers. Even our media would struggle to present that as a proportionate response. Perhaps the general public who saw these protests would be more likely to come over to our cause.

Not a bad idea.

“Back Me or Face Lockdown 3”

Morten Morland’s cartoon in yesterday’s Sunday Times

The MailOnline has the latest on the Prime Minister’s battle to squash the rebellion last night:

“The country will face another national lockdown if MPs reject new local limits,” Boris Johnson warned tonight. The Prime Minister was battling to quell a Tory revolt as he unveiled a series of concessions in a bid to persuade backbenchers to back a tougher tier system. But ahead of a critical vote Tuesday, the rebels tonight demanded “hard evidence” to convince them that the crackdown will save more lives than it costs.

Tomorrow Downing Street will publish an analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19 and the measures taken to suppress it. The move is an attempt to limit the scale of a rebellion which has been growing since last week. The document will include forecasts from the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility. Mr Johnson yesterday dangled the prospect that some areas facing the harshest curbs in Tier 3 could see them eased as part of a review before Christmas.

Mr Johnson insisted “no Prime Minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people’s mental health”. He warned that the “tougher tiers” are needed “if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either overwhelming the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers”.

Parliament is due to vote on Lockdown 3.0 on Tuesday. There is no time like the present to join Peter Hitchens’ campaign for a mass write-in to MPs. Numbers count.

A Message from a Donor

We received a generous donation yesterday, and thought it worth sharing the message that came with it:

My part of the Civil Service all received a £100 bonus for adjusting well to working from home. This is possibly one of the most tone-deaf actions I have ever seen, given the state of the nation’s finances and the prospects of those working in the private sector – not to mention a complete waste of taxpayers’ money as there was not a single group of people who had easier during the lockdown. I donate it to a worthier cause.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “Kingdom of Madness” by Magnum and “Inject the Venom” by AC/DC.

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.

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we were intending to highlight the plight of Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, who has recently come under attack from students and postdocs in his Department for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.

In these videos, since taken down, Prof. Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions”. The slides for each of Prof. Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof. Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable observer would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter containing the claim that Prof. Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities.

The letter also issued 11 demands, many of which would serve to ostracize and shame Prof. Abbot, while stripping him of departmental titles, courses, and privileges. The signatories further demand that the Department of Geophysical Sciences formally and publicly denounce Prof. Abbot’s views, and change hiring and promotion procedures so as to prioritise DEI.

That’s what we were intending to highlight. Indeed, we were going to ask you to sign a Free Speech Union petition launched a few days ago urging the President of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer, to issue a statement reiterating his support for the Chicago Principles and affirming that Prof. Abbot will not be reprimanded, will not be subject to any departmentally imposed punishments and humiliations, and will not be stripped of any departmental titles, courses, or privileges, or have his tenure put in jeopardy.

But there is no need because the petition has achieved its objective. Yesterday, just three days after the petition’s launch, President Zimmer issued a statement saying he had no intention of watering down the Chicago Principles and affirming the right of Chicago’s academic staff to express their views on controversial topics, however unorthodox, without fear of being penalised by their employer in any way:

From time to time, faculty members at the University share opinions and scholarship that provoke spirited debate and disagreement, and in some cases offend members of the University community.

As articulated in the Chicago Principles, the University of Chicago is deeply committed to the values of academic freedom and the free expression of ideas, and these values have been consistent throughout our history. We believe universities have an important role as places where novel and even controversial ideas can be proposed, tested and debated. For this reason, the University does not limit the comments of faculty members, mandate apologies, or impose other disciplinary consequences for such comments, unless there has been a violation of University policy or the law. Faculty are free to agree or disagree with any policy or approach of the University, its departments, schools or divisions without being subject to discipline, reprimand or other form of punishment.

This is exactly what the FSU was asking for and it is now confident that Prof Abbot is no longer in any danger from the outrage mob that targeted him for cancellation. Thanks to the actions of its President, the University of Chicago has confirmed its status as a beacon of academic free speech that universities around the world can look to for leadership on this critical issue.

But this is no time for complacency. Help the FSU secure more victories like this by joining today.

The enemies of free speech hunt in packs; its defenders must band together too.

“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.

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.

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 last month 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 700,000 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.

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.

Quotation Corner

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.

Aleksandr 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

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…

Blower’s Cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Latest News

Tories Rebel and Labour Abstains

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Parliament will vote today on the Government’s new tier system and Labour will abstain. The Independent has more.

Labour will abstain in a key vote on Boris Johnson’s new COVID-19 tiers. Speaking on Monday night, Sir Keir Starmer said his party was “acting in the national interest” by not opposing the regulations but he said that he had reservations about them. The move is significant because it represents the first time the opposition has failed to back the Government in a vote on COVID-19 regulations.

“Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow… However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place. We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months. It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.”

Don’t get too excited. With the Labour party abstaining, rather than voting no, the tier system will still pass. But with a prospect of up to 100 Tory MPs rebelling, the legitimacy of the new COVID-19 regime is shaky at best. How can you reasonably ask people to obey all the new draconian restrictions, particularly those that live in Tier 3 areas, if only a minority of MPs have voted for them?

In the hope of appeasing mutinous Tory backbenchers, Downing Street published a long-awaited ‘impact assessment’ yesterday, but it did little good. Details from the MailOnline:

The Government released its assessment of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and its response this evening. But the document made clear that it is not possible to say exactly how the tiers will hit local areas – a key demand of Conservative MPs. It also insisted there was no way of imposing looser curbs and instead merely argued that it would be “intolerable” to allow the NHS to be overwhelmed.

The assessment said it was “clear that restrictions to contain COVID-19 have had major impacts on the economy and public finances, even if it is not possible to forecast with confidence the precise impact of a specific change to a specific restriction”.

Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper complained that the information was being released too late, just 24 hours before MPS are due to make their decision. “This information is what Ministers should have been insisting on before they make their decisions so it surely could have been made available earlier,” he said…

Mel Stride, the Tory Chairman of the Treasury Committee, criticised the documents, saying:

“On a number of occasions, I’ve requested from the Chancellor and Treasury officials that they publish an analysis of the economic impacts of the three tiers. With little over 24 hours until MPs vote on the new tiered system, this rehashed document offers very little further in economic terms other than that which the OBR published last week. It is frustrating that there is little here that sets out how the different tiers might impact on the specific sectors and regions across the country. Those looking for additional economic analysis of the new tiered system will struggle to find it in this document.”

Perhaps, in the rush, the Government did not give them the right file. The Times has discovered that the Government has in fact produced impact assessment that includes an analysis of the effect of various restrictions on different sectors of the economy. This gives the lie to the Government’s claim that such an analysis isn’t possible, due to the fiendish complexity of disentangling the effects of the restrictions from the effects of the pandemic. Couldn’t it just have released this internal assessment instead?

The Government has drawn up a secret dossier detailing the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, with a dozen sectors rated “red” and facing significant job cuts and revenue losses, the Times has been told.

The COVID-19 sectoral impacts dashboard, which is prepared by officials from across Whitehall and frequently updated, gives “granular” detail on the effect of coronavirus on nearly 40 areas of the economy.

Among the sectors with a red rating are aerospace, the automotive industry, retail, hospitality and tourism, arts and heritage, maritime, including ferries and cruises, and sport.

Worth reading in full.

At least MPs and decision makers are beginning to think about a cost-benefit analysis. Long-time readers may recall the COBR meeting of March 23rd, when Michael Gove, who was chairing, surprised those present by announcing the Government was planning the country into a national lockdown, effective immediately.

Only Jesse Norman, a Treasury minister, raised any doubts, asking whether there had been any cost-benefit analysis of the economic and health impacts of lockdown or consideration of less onerous alternatives. Around the room there were blank looks: the decision had been taken.

The absence of any such analysis was, notorious, confirmed by the last line of “the Lockdown Regulations”, a statutory instrument enacted at 1pm on March 26th by Matt Hancock:

No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.

Stop Press: Christopher Snowden has done a good thread on the failings of the Government’s cost-benefit analysis document

The Astronomical Cost of Lockdown

For a much more robust assessment of the cost of the lockdown and associated restrictions, we recommend this new report by Tim Knox and Jim McConalogue for Civitas called The Cost of the Cure. The report is worth reading in full, but the short version is that the Government has spent a minimum of £96,000 for each QALY saved, which is over three times the figure that the NHS routinely uses of £30,000 when assessing whether a particular course of action is worthwhile.

Tim Knox has kindly written an 800-word article summarising the report for Lockdown Sceptics that you can read here. He is predictably scathing about the impact assessment published by the Government yesterday. Here is an extract.

If you wanted a chuckle, then imagine you had the job of the unfortunate civil servant who had been given the job of cobbling together this strange hotch-potch of information. The document is clearly a rushed job, published with the political aim of persuading the growing number of Conservative MPs who are sceptical about the need for tighter restrictions that they are, in fact, necessary. (There was once a time, not so long ago, when the Civil Service would have demurred from being involved in such a blatantly political operation.) A futile effort, for no self-respecting MP could be persuaded by such a flimsy document.

Take its estimates of additional deaths from other diseases. Table 9 of the report looks at the effect on morbidity and mortality of certain conditions – alcohol misuse, road injuries, depressive disorders, and the like. But instead of trying to estimate the actual numbers, the report simply uses up and down arrows to describe the general direction of change that social distancing measures might produce. Is that really the best that our Rolls Royce Civil Service can do?

Or take the report’s attempt to take a sectoral approach of the impact of lockdown on the economy. Here again in some cases, all the report does is provide a pre-COVID-19 assessment of Gross Value Added (GVA) output of each sector – it seems to be afraid of making any calculation of the likely impact. If estimates are made, they are drafted as general changes in GDP, not reported as actual costs on deeply impacted industries.

Very much worth reading in full.

Reviewing Michael Gove’s Dubious Lockdown Claims

Micheal Gove penned an essay in the Times over the weekend, seeking to win round Tory rebels. The Spectator‘s Steerpike has done a cracking fact-check:

Gove: The decision to implement the second lockdown was rushed.

Steerpike: Gove here confirms what has been reported elsewhere. On the Thursday, ministers had been told there might be a bit of tightening to the regime. Then, on Friday, they were blindsided by some supposedly terrifying new information suggesting that the virus was surging and lockdown was needed urgently. The Treasury later admitted it did not even have time to estimate the cost of the second lockdown that the scientific advisers were suddenly urging. So the decision to lockdown was rushed. Which makes it all the more important that scrutiny is applied now.

Gove: Infections were doubling fast. The number of days taken to see that increase was open to question. But the trend was not.

Steerpike: On the day Cabinet met to agree Lockdown 2.0 the seven-day average was just 2% higher week-on-week. It would not have been clear then but it’s hard to talk, now, about a ‘doubling’ rate.

Gove: Sweden, which has always places restrictions on its population, has found that even the battery of measures it adopted was not enough. Infections rose dramatically in October and early this month, and hospitalisations continue to rise as its government has, reluctantly but firmly, introduced new measures to keep households apart, restrict commerce, stop people visiting bars and restaurants and comprehensively reduce the social contact that spreads infection.

Steerpike: Yes, do let’s look at Sweden. Contrary to what Gove claims, it has placed hardly any “restrictions on its population”. The only law it “reluctantly but firmly” introduced was a rule of eight for public places and a 10 pm. limit on serving booze. No tiers. It has not “stopped people visiting bars and restaurants”. No “battery of measures,” just non-binding advice. Sweden believes that people, if treated like adults, tend to heed advice. Compulsion and lockdowns are not needed to control a virus in a mature democracy. Yes, Sweden has taken a similar COVID-19 hit to Britain. But its strategy always was to treat COVID-19 as a manageable risk while minimising collateral damage on society, personal liberty and the economy.

Worth reading in full.

The Mass Write-In

Many readers have taken up Peter Hitchens’s call to write to MPs. Herewith a small selection:

From James Delingpole to Chris Heaton Harris (Conservative):

Dear Chris,

I never imagined that I would have to write to my local Conservative MP politely asking him not to vote to destroy the economy, kill jobs and small businesses and impose unprecedented restrictions on liberty – all in the name of “defeating” a virus no deadlier than bad seasonal flu.

But this is where we are in 2020. Please don’t insult my intelligence by fobbing me off with the official Government line on coronavirus. We know it’s bunk. You’ll know it’s bunk too if, as I hope, you’ve done some rudimentary research on the work of Michael Yeadon, Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta and the myriad other respected scientists around the world who are bemused and frustrated by the increasingly anti-science – and relentlessly anti-human and anti-prosperity – measures being pursued by your Government.

This is not why I voted Conservative. I hereby promise that if you vote for the tier system (Lockdown by any other name) I shall not vote for you in the next General Election. Nor will I vote Conservative on any other occasion. The policies being pursued by this Government are not remotely conservative.

If you believe in conservative values and the wellbeing and livelihoods of the people you represent, then this is the moment to take a principled stand.

Thanks for all the work you have done in the past as an excellent constituency MP.

All best,

 James

And from another reader to Tom Hunt (Conservative):

Just a “short, sharp” email to urge you to vote against these farcical tier restrictions tomorrow. 

Putting aside the monumental assault on our basic civil liberties, we now know that the number of lives lost as a direct result of these restrictions is far higher than the number of lives saved from dying “with” COVID-19.

I’m not going to even go into the absurdity of a Government pretending it can somehow control a sub-microscopic virus. It’s like the Government declaring that they can control the weather. Put simply, it’s pure science fiction. The data is in for all to see and there is no parallel that you can draw between the severity of a country’s lockdown and its overall death rate. None. So let’s stop it. Immediately.

I also hadn’t realised that being born a citizen of the UK meant that my fundamental freedoms are contingent on the smooth running of the NHS. We keep getting told that our freedoms have been removed to protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, as if it’s our national duty, and yet, the Government is spending billions on its “moonshot” testing program, enough to build 200 new hospitals. Surely, that would be a much better use of our money, and would prevent the hospitals getting overwhelmed, now and in the future?

And finally, sent to Angela Richardson (Conservative):

Thank you for your email in response to mine

I fully expect you to continue following the Government line and so in the spirit of the times I am moving you from Tier 1 (a candidate I could not possibly vote for) into Tier 2 (a candidate I shall actively campaign against).

Only Four English NHS Trusts Busier Now Than Last Winter

From MailOnline – Got to take your hat off to whoever is designing these graphs for the Mail

Given that protecting “our NHS” from being “overwhelmed” being one of the Government’s core justifications for continued restrictions, MailOnline has done an analysis showing that – contra Gove – only four hospitals in the whole of England are busier now than last winter:

NHS England figures show that there are thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter. On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7%) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22nd, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.

For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9%, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8th in 2019, which is the most comparable data available for last winter, when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. 

Just four trusts – Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT – are busier now than they were a year ago. 

Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a “brainwashing PR campaign” with “data that doesn’t stack up”. He told MailOnline: “We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with the Government claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with COVID-19 very well indeed. 

“What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for COVID-19 if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Read the story of the NHS call handler who quit claiming she did “f*** all” during the pandemic apart from filming “empty” A&Es in London. Again from MailOnline.

The Vaccine is Not Compulsory but…

AFP/Getty

Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister recently appointed to oversee deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, gave an interview yesterday to BBC Radio 4’s World at One. The Guardian has more:

Nadhim Zahawi said that while having the vaccine would not be compulsory, businesses such as pubs and restaurants might require proof that people have been vaccinated before allowing them in.

Asked whether those who have been inoculated would get would get an immunity passport, Zahawi said: “We are looking at the technology. And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated. But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system, as they have done with the Test-and-Trace app. I think that in many ways, the pressure will come from both ways. From service providers who’ll say, ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated.’ But also we will make the technology as easy and as accessible as possible.”

The Minister said people would have to “make a decision” on whether to get vaccinated, and said if they chose not to they could face severe restrictions.

His remarks were echoed later in the day by Matt Hancock who, in a Downing Street press conference, said:

Firstly, we do not plan to mandate the vaccine. We think that by encouraging the uptake of the vaccine, we will get a very high proportion of the people in this country to take up the vaccine, because of course it protects you but it also helps to protect your loved ones and your community.

Worth reading in full.

The question of mandatory vaccination, is, of course an old one, and it is worth noting that immunity passports are already used in some countries to see whether people have protection against yellow fever and polio. But politics and vaccinations do not mix well and these remarks will not sit well with the 36% of people who, according to research carried out by the British Academy, are either “uncertain” or “very unlikely” to be vaccinated against the virus.

The Guardian also carries a hint of the campaign that is in preparation to persuade people to take the jab.

Ministers and NHS England are drawing up a list of “very sensible” famous faces in the hope that their advice to get immunised would be widely trusted. Health chiefs are particularly worried about the number of people who are still undecided. “There will be a big national campaign,” said one source with knowledge of the plans. “NHS England are looking for famous faces, people who are known and loved. It could be celebrities who are very sensible and have done sensible stuff during the pandemic.”

NHS communications experts suggest privately that the footballer Marcus Rashford, who is widely admired for his child food poverty campaign… and members of the Royal Family. Politicians will not be used.

I wonder if Marcus Rashford and Prince William will go so far as to get vaccinated themselves and then let us monitor them for four weeks to see whether there are any ill effects?

Worth reading in full.

It may take an awful lot of “very sensible” celebrities to overcome some doubters’ uncertainties, and even more as kinks in the plans for the roll-out of the vaccines come to light. The appeal for vaccination volunteers who “under the supervision of healthcare professionals will be trained to deliver a vaccination to a patient” and who “will be ready to act if the patient has an adverse reaction”, prompted this reaction from Mike Yeadon on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/MichaelYeadon3/status/1332989416105775111

Stop Press: For more on the roll-out of vaccines, and the Government’s plans to quell vaccine dissent, watch Toby Young’s recent interview on TalkRADIO

Another Reader Arrested

Nick Harvey. Shutterstock

We’ve been sent another account by a reader who was arrested during Saturday’s protest:

I knew that there would be a lot of police at the anti-lockdown demonstration in London last Saturday, but I wasn’t prepared for the levels of chaos and heavy-handedness on display. It was a style of policing that seemed deliberately designed to create disorder.

The first thing I saw when I got to Marble Arch were about 20 dark blue police vans marked “Territorial Support Group”. Slightly intimidating. I then saw the marchers crossing the road further down Park Lane, so I hurried down there to join in at the back. The march was already pretty busy and full of energy, with people singing and chanting “Freedom.” I waved the placard my daughter and I had drawn in the morning, which said “Freedom. Remember That?” My partner turned up on his bike and we walked along together.

We got as far as Grosvenor Square. At this point, masses of police suddenly surrounded us, running alongside the edge of the marchers and trying to box us in. This was the first of many attempts by the police to split up and separate the group. Whenever the police tried this it led to chaotic scenes – with marchers running around, shouting, and trying to stay together. We managed to regroup and started marching again, but this time quickly reached another police block. More shouting; the crowd suddenly turned back on themselves and down a narrow side street. This was a dead-end, and we were all syphoned down a narrow alleyway – hundreds of us being funnelled down a tiny conduit barely wide enough for two people to walk down.

We marched along another side street, which led us out onto Oxford Street. My partner and I breathed a sigh of relief, and said to each other that this was a better, and safer, place to be. Out in the open, overlooked by other members of the public – there were quite a few families and tourists out walking around, window-shopping. We marched past Bond Street Station, and the atmosphere was calm – the police had seemingly left us alone, and it felt more like a “normal” march. I started to daydream and chat to my partner.

Suddenly a female police officer was standing right in front of me, looking straight at me. “Turn round and go home now, or you risk being arrested”, she said. This took me aback. “No, I don’t think I’m going to turn round, I’m allowed to walk along here”, I said. “Turn around now or I will arrest you”, she said again. And within a couple of seconds two other officers, one on either side of me, took my arms around my back and put me in handcuffs.

I have never been arrested before and the whole thing was pretty rushed and surprising. I guess I didn’t really believe it was happening. It’s uncomfortable being cuffed, and I just stood there dumbly while my partner asked, “Why are you arresting her?” A reasonable question. “Do you want to be arrested too?” was the reply, as if that was a perfectly reasonable response, and then, “She’s an adult, she’ll be allowed a phone-call home.”

I was led off back down Oxford Street, and me, my arresting officer and another policewoman stood around outside Body Shop waiting for a police van to come and pick us up. The van came after about 10 minutes and I got in and sat in the back with one other protestor and six police officers – not the greatest way to travel. We got to King Charles Street, which I’d heard the police describe on their radios as the “Processing Centre”. We were told it was “full”, and sat there in the van for a while, waiting to be let in.

Finally, we walked in. King Charles Street was completely enclosed with makeshift corrugated iron barriers at either end. I joined a long line of “prisoners” who stood at one side, each one guarded by their arresting officer. I stood there for about an hour-and-a-half, during which time I was searched twice. Every now and then, a more senior officer would come along with a clipboard, and check my details, and explain what was going to happen. I’d get to the front, my details would be logged in the computer, and I’d receive a fine. Probably £200, reduced to £100 if I paid quickly.

And that is what happened. I reached the front of the ‘queue’, and my arresting officer was cued to deliver her speech to me: “I’m reporting you for breach of Coronavirus Regulations. You will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice by post in a few working days.” And that was it. I was walked to the corrugated iron gate at the other end of King Charles Street and sent on my way. I’d been arrested for walking down Oxford Street carrying a homemade placard with “freedom” written on it in felt-tipped pen.

If you’re in any doubt that Britain in 2020 has changed beyond all recognition, then you haven’t been paying attention.

We have put her in touch with Richard Parry, Piers Corbyn’s solicitor. When it comes to heavy-handed policing and vexatious arrests, he’s probably the world’s leading expert.

Infection Fatality Rate in Norway: Slightly Worse Than Influenza

Reader Katherine Jebsen Moore – author of the brilliant knitting trilogy in Quillette – has drawn our attention to the latest data on the infection fatality rate in Norway. It is good news.

“The lethality rate for COVID-19 in Norway is 0.12%,” says Norway’s National Institute for Public Health, according to Nettavisen. In its latest report, the Institute has attempted to map Covid-related illness in Norway in the past six months. 73,000 Norwegians had the virus between June 1st and November 30th. 0.12% of those died, while 0.15% needed intensive care, and 1% were admitted to hospital, according to the report. In comparison, the death rate for influenza is around 0.1%, and around 1.5% of patients need hospitalisation. The numbers from Norway, which has a population of 5.4 million, are considerably lower than the best estimates in the rest of the world, which are around 0.4-1 %. So far, almost 90% of deaths have occurred in the over 70s. For people over 80, the illness has a lethality of more than 5%. The country has so far had only 332 deaths from the virus.

Has Lockdown Affected Your Mental Health?

King’s College London is seeking volunteers for online study of personality and mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality profile for all and £10 expenses if you complete the follow-up. Sign up here at measureyourpersonality.com. The study code is 57894876.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/UnmaskedDoco/status/1333542517539819528?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Two Pints of Lager and A Packet Of Crisps Please” by Splodgenessabounds, “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, “I Won’t Back Down” by Johnny Cash and “Banned From The Pubs” by Peter and the Test Tube Babies.

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, from the Telegraph, the story of the students who want the adjective “black” expunged from textbooks and lectures:

University students have demanded the word “black” be banned from lectures and textbooks amid claims it symbolises “negative situations”. Undergraduates from the University of Manchester say the colour’s use as an adjective stems from our “colonial history”, which has become outdated in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Supporters are calling for commonly used phrases such as “black sheep” to be removed from lecture slides and books, while concerns have also been raised about “blackmail” and “black market” during an audit of racism concerns on campus.

The University said it is preparing to roll out new training and research in response to the unease in order to tackle “racist terminology” and “aggressions”.

In documents seen by the Telegraph, students called for: “The University to ban the use of these words listed above and any other use of the word ‘black’ as an adjective to express negative connotations”. This is because black is “linguistically and metaphorically associated with negative situations” and “used for bad and unsavoury situations or objects”.

This is part of an “accepted consciousness” of using colours as adjectives that is “situated in colonial history”, the student report stated.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The National Trust has hired strategic advisory firm Hanbury Strategy to help it de-woke-ify its image in the wake of the backlash which followed the report addressing its properties’ links with slavery and colonialism. The firm was co-founded by Paul Stephenson, who was formerly a Director of Vote Leave. MailOnline has the details.

“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.

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.

Stop Press: Sometimes academic studies comes up with results that were obvious all along. Researchers from the University of Manchester have investigated the “Impacts of face coverings on communication: an indirect impact of COVID-19“. They conducted an online survey of 460 members of the public, oversampling people with hearing loss. The results, which were published in the International Journal of Audiology, are no great surprise:

With few exceptions, participants reported that face coverings negatively impact on hearing, understanding, engagement and feelings of connection with the speaker. Impacts were greatest when communicating in medical situations. People with hearing loss were significantly more impacted than those without hearing loss. Face coverings impacted communication content, interpersonal connectedness and willingness to engage in conversation. They increased anxiety and stress and made communication fatiguing, frustrating and embarrassing, both as a speaker wearing a face covering and when listening to someone else who is wearing one.

Their research is worth reading in full and the MailOnline has a report which is worth reading too.

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 last month 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 700,000 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.

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.

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 Solschenizyn

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.

Aleksandr 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

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…

Listen to the latest episode of London Calling with Toby and James Delingpole here. This week, the two curmudgeons discuss today’s Parliamentary vote, the attack on free speech at Eton, James’s stubborn insistence that Trump won the US Presidential election, the latest Free Speech Union victory and whether Rogue One is better than the last three Star Wars movies (spoiler alert: yes).

Click here to listen and click here to subscribe on iTunes.

Is the Increase in Cases Just an Artefact of Increased Testing?

by Dr Clare Craig FRCPath

The story of how false positive test results can create the illusion of actual infections in the population will be a familiar one by now for many readers of this site. Assuming that the false positive percentage remains reasonably constant, then increasing numbers of tests inevitably lead to a higher absolute number of false positive test results over time. Uncritical policy decisions made without discounting for this effect have no evidenced-based validity.

One real potential problem as the number of tests increases, however, is that the underlying number of actual cases – and their location – may ironically be somewhat obscured by steadily increasing and randomly distributed false positive results, caused by the higher volume of testing.

By contrast, a rapid rise in the percentage of tests that are returning positive results should normally indicate that the real number of Covid cases is increasing and the false positive results will become less and less important because they are usually constant.

Unfortunately, the acceleration we have seen in the recent case numbers is increasingly out of synch with crucial data from other sources. The ONS random population sampling, Zoe App and NHS triage data all show a slowing and even a plateau in the number of actual cases in the last fortnight.

Either the data in all these alternative sources is wrong, or there is something wrong with the latest official testing data.

To rely on the official testing data as being more accurate than the alternative data sources listed above, it is critical that the increasing percentage of positive test results is a genuine and neutral observation and not skewed for any reason.

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.

The numbers of people being tested repeatedly include more than 400,000 nursing home residents, nursing home staff, hospital staff and many patients. Since we do not know how many tests are not being counted in the denominator, we cannot know to what extent current policy has skewed the results.

Collecting and publishing accurate data is significantly more difficult than it might seem. In the spring, we were told the number of positive tests rather than the number of positive individuals. At the beginning of July a decision was made to change the reporting rules so that data from then onwards was based on the number of positive individuals.

However, a decision must be taken as to the appropriate time frame for adjusting the historical statistics for the individuals who were tested more than once. If patients who have been tested more than once have all but one result disregarded for statistical purposes then the only way to really understand the percentage of positive results accurately is to track the positive rate by test not by individual.

When a current alleged infection is identified through random population screening, including tests increasingly done outside the Government’s official testing programme, these cases are added to the total number of positive test results which is the numerator for percentage purposes. The Government’s COVID-19 testing data methodology note says:

It is a legal requirement that all positive cases for presence of the virus are reported to Public Health England, irrespective of pillar. As such, when pillar 4 research studies (for antigen testing) identify positive cases, Public Health England are notified and this data flows into the Surveillance system. This means that currently all positive cases identified by pillar 4 surveillance studies (for antigen testing) are captured under pillar 1 or 2.

It is not clear whether these positive cases are included in the relevant percentage calculations but if they are then those that tested negative also need to be included in the denominator. It is not clear from the published data whether this is happening.

It is important that there is full, unedited and clear publication not only of all the relevant figures, including their sources, but all the methodologies used to calculate alleged positive test result percentages so that experts can double check the figures and ensure that they are accurate. This is particularly important where the Government’s published figures are increasingly inconsistent with figures from other data sources.

Latest News

Lockdown 3.0 Set to Continue to Summer 2021

Despite all the vaccine optimism and the promise of a relaxation of the rules over Christmas, the dreadful financial forecasts by the OBR yesterday came with some underlying assumptions that appear to foresee restrictions continuing until summer 2021. Guido Fawkes has done the digging.

The Chancellor, in his statement today, used the forecasts from the OBR’s “central scenario” when it comes to Covid complications. So Guido took a look at those underlying assumptions. The OBR assumes, presumably with good reason given how closely it works with the Treasury, widespread deployment of a vaccine by the middle of 2021, not by the Spring, with a high to medium level of restrictions until then. The differences in implied borrowing, growth, and scarring are stark.

The “upside” scenario the Government is clearly not confident of taking place, involves restrictions “broadly equivalent” to October 2020’s tiers 1 and 2. The Government’s modelled upside is the previous tiered system. Meanwhile the “central scenario” expects the whole country to be between tiers 2 and 3 right through until “mid 2021“. No household mixing until June…

As Boris stated earlier this week, his post-lockdown plan is for a “new, stronger and more sustainable tiers framework on December 2nd”, styled as “tougher than in October” – reinforcing the Government’s view that we will find ourselves in the OBR’s “central scenario” where things “may vary regionally and temporally”, however are still predominantly repressive, until the start of summer. Guido can only hope the forecasters are once again wrong.

Read it here.

Hospitals Still Not Protecting Patients From Covid

Professor Carl Heneghan from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has warned that UK hospitals are still failing to prevent the spread of the virus among patients. It comes after outbreaks in cancer wards in Edinburgh’s Western General and Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital left a number of patients dead. The Scottish Sun has the story.

The Oxford University expert spoke out as he said levels of ward-acquired infections in Scotland during the ongoing second wave were a “really serious issue”.

It came as it emerged planned ops, including cancer surgery, have had to be axed in Greater Glasgow and Clyde due to pandemic pressures – and more than 100,000 Scots are waiting on key diagnostic tests.

Prof Heneghan said: “Community admissions are coming down but we are seeing this ongoing problem of hospital- acquired infections. It is a big issue now, as it was in the first wave. Staff are becoming infected and then go back and forward betw­een areas in hospitals. We urgently need to get on top. It’s particularly important as we go into winter, where we’ll have Covid hospital-acquired infections, and potentially other infections like respiratory syncytial virus and influenza in hospitals.

“Where we’ve seen problems, it’s often mixing non-Covid patients and Covid patients, and staff taking the virus between areas. What we need is completely separate entrances, separate staff working on these wards, and the staff need to be quarantined when they’ve been working. No mixing. The PPE reduces your risk but not to zero. The more times you see patients who are symptomatic, the more you are at risk.”

Prof Heneghan said old-style community  hospitals – many of which have shut – could have been used for Covid patients to stop disruption at larger health facilities.

He added: “If we look to places like Germany, they have nearly three times as many beds as we’ve got, and they have many more smaller facilities in the community. That allows Covid patients to be put in those facilities and centralised hospitals to keep running.”

In a nod to the Louisa Jordan field hospital at Glasgow’s SEC campus – which hasn’t treated any Covid patients – he said: “If it was a problem to use Nightingale hospitals or staff them, why  procure and pay for them when you could have been thinking about smaller facilities to separate patients?”

The newspaper notes that the number of patients catching Covid in Scottish hospitals doubled in a week during October to 189 as the virus spread to non-Covid wards.

How tragic that we have spent so much money and imposed so many restrictions on the healthy in experimental and often vain efforts to contain this virus, yet have failed to take the basic steps necessary to protect the vulnerable, such as keeping infectious patients separate from other vulnerable patients.

Worth reading in full.

Oxford Vaccine Red Flags

Hilda Bastian in Wired has looked in detail at the AstraZeneca trial and is extremely unimpressed, arguing the vaccine “isn’t up to snuff”.

Presumably, neither of the two trials from which they combined data could have provided a clear answer on the vaccine’s efficacy on its own. To make things worse, Oxford-AstraZeneca reported only the results for certain subgroups of people within each one. (For perspective on this: The two subgroups chosen leave out perhaps half the people in the Brazilian trial.) Meanwhile, one of their key claims is that giving half a dose of the vaccine on the first injection, followed by a standard dose on the second one, led to better outcomes – but neither of these trials had been designed to test this hypothesis. In fact, it’s since emerged that the half-dose/full-dose option started out as a mistake, and one that was only caught when some people in the study didn’t have the usual high rate of adverse effects.

The problems are legion.

There are other problems, too. In the press release, Oxford-AstraZeneca reports that two of the dosing regimens “demonstrated efficacy.” Presumably, none of the others did, but they didn’t give specifics. Of the only two regimens they reported, one (the mistaken first half-dose, followed by a full dose at least a month later) came in at 90%, and the other (two standard doses at least a month apart) achieved only 62% efficacy. You’ll see reports that the vaccine had 70% efficacy, on average; but that’s un-knowable, because we only have numbers on these two regimens, as opposed to everyone in the trials – and how they arrived at those percentages isn’t explained. As far as we know, some of this analysis could hinge on data from just a few sick people. That means the findings could be a coincidence, or they could be biased by other factors. For example, it has since been revealed that the people who received an initial half-dose – and for whom the vaccine was said to have 90% efficacy – included no one over the age of 55. That was not the case for the standard-dosing group, however, where the reported efficacy was 62%. This demographic difference could be more important than the change to the size of the first dose.

That’s not the end of the problems. Overall, the Oxford-AstraZeneca trials appear to include relatively few participants over the age of 55, even though this group is especially vulnerable to COVID-19. (People over 55 were not originally eligible to join the Brazilian trial at all.) Compare that to BNT-Pfizer’s trial, where 41% of the volunteers were over 55. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine also seems to produce relatively high rates of adverse events. If you want to dig further into this vaccine’s story and issues, I’ve laid out a more detailed rundown of the Oxford-AstraZeneca trials and sources here.

The Oxford vaccine is a more traditional type of vaccine so the lower efficacy and stronger side-effects are more in line with what was originally expected. The concerns do call into question though how political any UK decision to approve the vaccine will be, as well as how many will agree to have it and how far the Government will deem it sufficiently protective to bring the emergency to a close. The Pfizer and Moderna RNA vaccines appear to be more effective (if more expensive and logistically challenging), but we don’t yet know for how long or if they will prevent serious illness or transmission. There are also questions of long-term safety.

Even if a vaccine does enable this crisis to come to an end in the next six months, there is still the problem of what happens next time. We can’t go through this every time a new flu-like pandemic gets going.

Stop Press: A new peer-reviewed article has appeared in Annals of Internal Medicine, “Ethical and Scientific Considerations Regarding the Early Approval and Deployment of a COVID-19 Vaccine“, questioning the ethical basis of the current Covid vaccine trials. Is this the kind of anti-vaxx messaging that Keir Starmer wants banned?

FIVE Places That Prove Lockdowns Aren’t Needed

UK positive tests reported

The foundational myth of 2020’s dangerous new cult of lockdownism is that without severe restrictions on the freedom and movement of the general population COVID-19 will afflict and kill hundreds of thousands of people. That is the only claim that could plausibly justify such extreme infringements of our liberty with all the extraordinary costs and harms that come with them. Disturbingly, its sole basis appears to be a belief in the epidemiological modelling by Imperial College and others which purports to show that this calamity is likely, or at least a reasonable worst case scenario.

Many have pointed out that the Government’s own surveys show that the UK R rate fell below 1 before the recent national lockdown, though this hasn’t stopped the Government claiming it was the lockdown wot done it.

This is far from the only evidence that lockdowns are not necessary for COVID-19 epidemics to slow and decline. Below are the latest graphs from Worldometer for five places (two countries and three US states) which have not imposed a lockdown or many restrictions at all on a national, state or local level this autumn. While most of them have seen a busy autumn in intensive care, hospitals have not been overwhelmed and are operating within normal seasonal bounds. In all of them the epidemic is now (in terms of positive test results) either in decline or plateauing.

Assuming these slowing and declining trends continue, these data will become solid proof that lockdowns and other extreme restrictions on the general population are not necessary to “control” COVID-19 outbreaks, even in winter, and therefore cannot be justified as a matter of proportionate public health policy.

Stop Press: Prof Carl Heneghan has warned that as “cases” plummet, the data the Government will use as the base of its announcement today about which areas will be in which tiers will be out of date by December 2nd.

Scientist Demands Retraction of Original PCR Study

Dr Pieter Borger

A reader writes with news about a challenge being issued by a Dutch scientist to the original paper which underpins the supposed scientific validity of the Covid PCR test.

Today, Dutch scientist sceptic Pieter Borger has issued a paper to journals for publication demanding retraction of the paper with the origin of our PCR test. The original paper was submitted January 21st, and published  January 23rd – the fastest peer review ever! Keep in mind that the virus was only DNA sequenced on January 7th. That paper apparently is the origin of all PCR tests in Europe. Borger says it is dodgy science and should be retracted.

These are his charges from an earlier unofficial publication (translation courtesy of Google translate):

1. Use is made of non-specific primers and probes. This can be established because the letters with which the primer is indicated are not fully stated. This gives the researcher the opportunity to further specify which primer he will eventually use. The researcher may enter the letters left blank himself.

2. The probes must be specific to detect the gene. In the January 2020 article, one probe is said to be specific for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The other probe is common to SARS-CoV viruses. With the group of scientists I work with, we have determined that in reality those probes are the same. Whether those probes are both specific for SARS-CoV-2 or whether they are both more general for SARS-CoV viruses, I don’t know. This test is bad design for this reason alone.

3. I have explained the importance of a correct primer concentration above. We have found that these concentrations are in many cases four to five times too high.

4. There are six primers in total. We found that the GC content was significantly too low for three primers; the correct GC content should be, as I have explained above, between 40% and 60%. Two of the six primers tested were found to have a GC content of 28% and a 34%. This also means that the PCR test is a bad design.

5. Based on the article from January 2020, I investigated which annealing temperature is used in this PCR test. I have explained to you that within a primer pair the temperature difference may be one or at most two degrees. In this test, the temperature difference in one of the important genes turns out to be about 10 degrees in reality.

I have the impression that RIVM itself has also established that something is wrong here and that this was the reason for RIVM to change the protocol and for that reason removed one gene from the test, namely this gene.

6. Insufficient parts of the virus are detected to determine whether one is indeed dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (corona). I am referring to my imagery from above with regard to the auto parts. With the SARS-CoV-2 virus (corona) it is important to examine the entire RNA strand. Otherwise you will not know whether you are dealing with the whole strand or just some fragments.

7. The coronavirus PCR test has no negative control. The aim is therefore not to rule out the possibility that other coronaviruses have been detected.

8. In the PCR test described in the January 2020 protocol, a number of cycles of 45 is assumed. However, it is not indicated at which number of cycles the test should be read as positive or negative. I would like to point out that at 35 cycles you detect almost no infectious virus anymore. Then you will understand that increasing by more than 35 makes no sense anymore. The test does not indicate when you should start reading and that is a major defect in the test. RIVM first used 30 multiplications as a starting point. You cannot just increase the number of cycles to 35 as the RIVM has done. Then you change the rules during the game. Cycles of between 30 and 35 are also a grey area. Again, after 35 cycles, there is no more infectious virus. This applies to 97% of the cases. This has been scientifically proven.

9. The aforementioned January 2020 publication also shows that the test also gives false positive results. Because the result was negative with retesting. This means that you should always re-test if the test is positive. I do not know if this also happens in practice. I do know, for example, that top athletes in case of a positive test often have themselves re-tested and the test then regularly turns out negative. If I tested positive myself, I would insist that I be retested. If that re-test also turned out positive, I would demand a third test. Only if that third test also turned out positive, then I would like to assume that I have indeed tested positive (aside: that does not mean that I am infected with the virus). Only then will you have reduced the uncertainty about the reliability of the result to minimal proportions.

10. My last but by no means least point of criticism is that the article describing the PCR COVID-19 test is not peer reviewed. Why I think this I have explained above. I find that very bad because the test is used for diagnostics.

He adds: “Incidentally, I also notice that two of the authors of this article are also part of the editorial board. In itself there is nothing wrong with that, but it is an extra reason to be careful with the placement of the article.

I presume the actual scientific retraction demand, when we see it, will be more precisely formulated.

This seems like an important developing story, that no doubt will be ignored/censored elsewhere.

“China Is Trolling Us”

Lockdown Sceptics regular contributor Dr Clare Craig has written a scathing Twitter thread about the peer-reviewed study in Nature purporting to show that Wuhan had no infectious virus left at all in May. She calls foul on this highly implausible finding, placing the study alongside the earlier ones from China from which came the asymptomatic transmission myth that has been so effective at shutting down Western societies.

China is trolling us with this and Nature should be embarrassed at having published it. It claims 10 million people were tested in the last two weeks of May in Wuhan. That’s over 700k tests a day. I do not believe that – do you? It then claims that not a single Covid case was found, i.e., Covid disease with symptoms capable of spread – weeks after all the drama. I do not believe that – do you? The ultimate trolling is that what they are claiming to report is a 0.003% false positive rate (all their ‘cases’ were asymptomatic, no viral culture and no transmission). I do not even believe that. It is a total fabrication. What’s the point of peer review if it lets something like this into Nature? Scientists have to start looking more critically at the politics. The studies showing asymptomatic spread were almost all Chinese too with non-Chinese studies observing no spread.

Read it here.

A Vivisection of the Idiocy

We are publishing today Part 3 of Dr Roger Hodkinson’s analysis of the Covid lunacy, written back in the summer but published for the first time on Lockdown Sceptics. Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. From the introduction:

In this Part Three I intend to dismember limb-by-limb virtually every intervention that has been so forcibly foisted on us, using a combination of (largely) common sense and (some) medical knowledge. If my rant seems excessive to sensitive eyes, I urge you to hold your venom until the end, and then compare the utterly indefensible arbitrary measures with the untimely and unnecessary deaths for so many of our loved ones, and the totally unwarranted devastation of the global economy with hundreds of millions (that’s MILLIONS by the way) of people now out of work and facing a highly uncertain future. The manipulated scale of the threat and the inestimable consequences of the so-called ‘control’ measures begs for a vivisection as the beast is still alive. So here it is.

Well worth reading in full.

We hope to publish Part 4 – “The Autopsy” – in a couple of weeks.

Wanted: National Alliance Against Lockdown

The National Alliance Against Lockdown

Kathy Gyngell, editor of the Conservative Woman, has penned an impassioned plea for some properly financed, concerted opposition to the increasingly totalitarian approach of the Government to the pandemic.

It’s crazy. There are several anti-lockdown groups and many brilliantly outspoken critics of lockdown – scientists, businessmen, lawyers and commentators – out there. They include Lord Sumption, Peter Hitchens, Karol Sikora, Carl Heneghan, Luke Johnson, Toby Young and Simon Dolan, to name but a few.

Add to them the 70 MPs of the Covid Recovery Group, led by Graham Brady, Mark Harper and Steve Baker. And also the millions, some 30% of the public, that successive polls show haven’t been roped into the Save Our NHS lockdown mantras.   

Yet despite this evidence of potential dissent, the case against lockdown has had no traction politically – none. Despite the Daily Mail alone of the MSM taking up the cause.

Why? Because beyond following each other on Twitter, publishing and endorsing each other in a new online industry, there’s been no serious or adequately financed, co-ordinated opposition to the Government’s authoritarian diktats. Not that I can see, anyway.

Is it then surprising that however cogent – legally, scientifically and morally – their case is, that these disparate and fragmented groups and individuals have failed to change the conforming mainstream media’s reporting narrative?

Or that, eight months after Britain was turned to the dark side, they’ve failed to prevent a seemingly beleaguered Boris Johnson from entrenching himself in his bunker as the nation’s Big Brother, against whom there is no rising up?

Or, indeed, that we now find ourselves listening to the Prime Minister’s latest and (in true Orwellian style) ever-changing social rules, which he tells us we must endure in the name of this spectral disease through to next October? With every newspaper co-operatively giving its columns over to dutiful explanations of ‘what they mean’ to an already subjugated and compliant public.

Is it surprising that we watch helplessly as Covid-free normality recedes further across the horizon? Or to find that, in this period of restriction, our ‘liberty’ and economic activity is to be conditional on following whatever the latest set of arbitrary rules and/or compliance with vaccination or testing, is chosen for us? 

Kathy goes on to outline nine key points that need to be pressed home to policymakers by this hoped-for alliance, including “how the public have been frightened and misled into supporting lockdown in the deliberate fostering of a climate of fear and hysteria” and “how the populist ‘Save our NHS’ Covid priority policy was misjudged and mismanaged, leaving millions of patients untreated and at risk of illness and death from all other conditions and diseases”.

Worth reading in full.

And any public-spirited philanthropists feeling moved to come to their country’s aid at this time of Government-induced peril, do get in touch.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be” by Max Bygraves.

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, new guidance from Universities UK stating that vice-chancellors and other senior university leaders “should be given anti-racist training on ‘white privilege'”. From the Telegraph:

Institutions must “go beyond” unconscious bias training when it comes to tackling racial harassment on campus, according to new advice from Universities UK (UUK).

University chiefs, staff and students all need to be taught about “racism, racial harassment and microaggressions and white privilege” through training that is drawn up specially form an anti-racism perspective, the guidance says.

UUK, an organisation which represents vice-chancellors, has published recommendations for senior leaders to eradicate racial harassment at universities.

It comes after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission last year found that there was an “alarmingly high rate” of racial harassment on university campuses.

Nearly a quarter of ethnic minority students said they had experienced racial harassment at UK universities, according to the watchdog’s report which concluded that many universities are unaware of the scale of the problem and are overconfident in their ability to respond to it.

The guidance, from the advisory group set up by UUK, calls on senior leaders and governing bodies to acknowledge issues that exist in their universities and acknowledge that higher education “perpetuates institutional racism”.

Universities are also told to review their curricula to ensure that they are teaching students in a way that is “diverse and inclusive”.

The guidance notes that “curricula that are based on Eurocentric, typically white voices will perpetuate existing inequalities”. It adds that teaching courses from such a perspective is “unlikely to reflect the experience or viewpoints of many members of the student and staff body”.

UUK cited a report published last year by the National Union of Students which claimed that a lack of a “sense of belonging” may contribute to the black, Asian and minority ethnic students performing less well academically.

Perhaps UUK would like to explain why “white” children in UK state schools are the least likely racial group to go to university? Where’s the “white privilege” there? And one would have thought that European universities would be entitled to teach their own academic and literary traditions. Are European institutions no longer to be allowed to sustain a distinctive intellectual culture? Is that not why people from all over the world come to study in them?

Stop Press: Seems like a good time to recap this excellent piece from Quillette back in February: “The Misguided Moral Panic About Racism in British Universities” by Wanjiru Njoya and Doug Stokes. As they point out, the notion that British unis are hotbeds of racism is completely bonkers. They are among the least racist institutions in the world.

“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.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want 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.

Stop Press: A famous doctor who demanded a mandatory mask law has been snapped partying maskless on a boat surrounded by bikini-clad women in the latest instance of hypocrisy from one of our self-appointed moral guardians. Mikhail Varshavski (pictured in the blue cap below), known as “Dr Mike” online and dubbed the world’s “hottest doctor”, was celebrating his 31st birthday in flagrant breach of the very rules he has been insisting on for everyone else.

Read the full story in Summit News.

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 last month 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 my 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 700,000 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”.

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.

Quotation Corner

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.

Aleksandr 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

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…

Bob’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Latest News

Steve Baker Demands Boris Publish a Freedom Plan

Steve Baker said the PM's leadership was under threat

Steve Baker, the Deputy Chair of the anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, has issued a rallying cry to the group’s members. The Sun has the story.

In an explosive rallying call to fellow members of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, the ex-minister blasted: “People are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership.”

The group represents dozens of Tory backbenchers who are worried about the side effects of long lockdowns.

Mr Baker urged those colleagues to make their concerns directly to Mr Johnson’s Commons enforcer, Chief Whip Mark Spencer.

In a bombshell note to MPs seen by the Sun, Mr Baker writes: “I am sorry to have to say this again and as bluntly as this: it is imperative you equip the Chief Whip today with your opinion that debate will become about the PM’s leadership if the Government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored.”

He told them to demand “a guarantee that this strategy will not be used again next winter”.

The major intervention reads: “Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again.”

The action appears to have been triggered by key Government advisers going public with their view that lockdowns must continue well into 2021.

Mr Baker broke cover after Government scientist Jonathan Van Tam told this newspaper yesterday that lockdown measures could be in force until late spring.

And today controversial scientist Neil Ferguson said we could still be facing restrictions in the autumn.

Mr Baker raged: “Certain Government scientists have said that the current lockdown could last until late spring. There is no reason to think there will be any real resistance in Cabinet to the argument for greater and longer and more draconian restrictions on the public.

“This could be a disaster. Nothing seems more certain to break the public than giving hope before taking it away, and doing it repeatedly.”

And he signs off with a barely concealed warning shot: “I am sorry to be blunt but if we do not act now, events will become inevitable. For the good of the country please contact the Chief Whip.”

Katy Balls in the Spectator notes that Baker has diluted the implied threat to Johnson since the story broke. She thinks the intervention is more of a warning shot at this point than a full-blown threat.

Since the comments came to light, he has also tried to water down his comments – insisting Johnson still remains the only man for the job.

So, is Johnson’s leadership under threat? No. That seems premature. The third lockdown was overwhelmingly passed by MPs – with a comparatively small Tory rebellion compared to previous votes. The number of MPs willing to oppose the government on its lockdown strategy has in the short-term decreased. With the death toll on Wednesday alone at over 1,500, many lockdown sceptics plan to keep their powder dry for the time being. Rather than oppose immediate lockdown measures, they are turning their attention to the debate on how many need to be vaccinated before restrictions can be lifted.

Here Baker’s concerns are a sign of things to come. While the bulk of Tory MPs support the government’s approach for now – and are relieved there is finally a good news story to tell in the vaccination programme – the bulk are keen for restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible. Boris Johnson insists this is his wish too. 

However, MPs worry that Johnson will be pushed by his scientific advisers and some cabinet ministers to keep restrictions in place for much longer than they believe is reasonable. In the parliamentary party, many see the point by which the vulnerable have been vaccinated as when restrictions go. They see spring as the point when many restrictions ought to be lifted and the summer the point by which there ought to be no restrictions in place. So far, Johnson has been reluctant to give a specific timeline. That position is going to become much harder to maintain as the weeks go on and discontent grows. 

Stop Press: Sherelle Jacobs has a thoughtful piece in the Telegraph, arguing that there’s going to be a lot of moral and emotional pressure to go for Zero Covid over the coming months and lockdown sceptics need to be ready for the battle.

But what the lockdown-sceptics haven’t quite articulated is that, once again, the public has been persuaded into a lockdown based on a delusion. The myth of the first lockdown was that it would only have to last three weeks. The myth of this lockdown is that life can resume in spring. But restrictions are unlikely to be lifted until the summer at the earliest for a simple reason: it is not deaths but media headlines about overwhelmed ICUs that strike fear into the hearts of ministers. A cynic might argue we have just sacrificed half a year of freedom on the NHS altar to save the skin of the Tories. 

Even with the vaccine rollout at full throttle, the risk of an overwhelmed NHS will not abate until the over-50s are vaccinated, ideally by May. Although the over-75s present the greatest mortality risk, Covid patients in intensive care have a median age of just 62, and under a third are aged over 70. So vaccinating those who might die from Covid will not end pressure on the health service. Paradoxically, a big bang reopening of society when the virus is still circulating may increase it. 

But there is a prospect even worse than another six months of lockdown: another year of lockdown in an attempt to eliminate the virus entirely. 

It is not difficult to see how a terrified population that has been fed guff about “defeating” the virus might be swayed by the Zero Covid argument. Particularly once they realise that “learning to live” with the disease once priority groups have been vaccinated still means accepting heightened vulnerability to mutations and Long Covid, with the endemic virus returning each year. It is also not hard to see how the Tories might see Zero Covid as the path of least resistance. Hyperparanoia about being booted out of office for letting the NHS fall over will increase the temptation to stamp out an unpredictable disease. 

Worth reading in full.

A Senior Doctor Writes…

There follows a guest post by the senior doctor who contributes weekly updates on the state of the NHS to Lockdown Sceptics.

Yesterday the NHS Hospital Statistics Website released a large data packet summarising Covid related activity for the preceding month. Once again, Lockdown Sceptics has kindly asked me for an opinion about what we can deduce from the information provided. There is a lot of useful information in this packet – I apologise to readers if some of the following is a bit dense, technical and difficult to follow, but the devil is often buried in the detail – sometimes he is hidden there deliberately.

Before looking at the monthly summary, I will comment on the daily updates. These are less detailed but more up to date than the monthly figures.

Graph 1 shows the daily admission figures from the community for English regions expressed as a three-day moving average to smooth out the curves. It is clear that for the last week, admissions from the community in London, East England and the South East have been falling – very encouraging.

However, there have been recent uptrends in the Midlands and the North West. The falling rate in London and the South East is consistent with the ZOE app data which showed a downtrend in symptomatic people from about December 31st. Readers should note that the current lockdown began on January 6th. By that point admissions had peaked and were already on the downward slope. The effect (if any) of lockdown on hospital admissions will not be observable until at least January 16th. Nevertheless, the reduction in hospital admissions is being reported in the mainstream media as being a consequence of lockdown – I don’t think that view is supported by the evidence.

Next, the overall inpatient situation on Graph 2. Despite falling admissions from the community, the overall number of Covid patients in London remains flat. How can this be? I will explain later with data from the monthly summary packet.

Finally, on the daily figures, the ICU bed occupancy data in Graph 3. This is the graphic of most concern in my opinion. ICU occupancy tends to lag inpatient admission by two to three days – this is the length of time for a patient to become ill enough to require intensive care according to the ICNARC ICU audit. Hence falling admissions do not immediately translate into falling ICU numbers. The angle of slope in London in particular is still on an upward trend. Some of this may be because London Hospitals are soaking up ICU admissions from the South East region, where local hospital capacity has been exceeded. ICU patients tend to stay a long time, so these numbers take a while to subside when the peak is reached. As far as ICU numbers are concerned the peak does not look like it has arrived yet in any English region. In particular the ICU numbers are still on an upward trend.

The monthly data packet contains a lot of information which I will comment on in the next few days. It has been illuminating in shedding light on several questions which were troubling me. I propose to address just two this evening.

Firstly, the issue of discharging Covid patients from Hospital. Discharging elderly patients in winter is an annual problem. Patients who cannot be discharged are unkindly referred to as “bed blockers”. The usual reasons are that they are too frail to be sent home alone if there is no-one to look after them, or not well enough to be accepted back by a care home. This problem is worsened by care homes being reluctant to accept Covid patients in view of what happened in the spring, when large numbers of patients with Covid were discharged into care homes causing several outbreaks of infection. An article in the Financial Times recently highlighted that insurers of care homes were reluctant to cover them for outbreaks of COVID-19 and that this was delaying hospital discharges.

Graph 4 shows the effect that delayed discharge has on total bed occupancy. This is a complicated compound graph with two separate Y axes, so I will explain what it means. First, consider the first part of the X axis Dec 1st to Dec 9th. During this time, the combined daily admissions and hospital Covid diagnoses depicted in the vertical bars was roughly equal to the daily discharges on the blue line (left hand Y axis). Hence the total number of Covid inpatients on the yellow line was roughly stable.

From December 10th onwards, daily admissions started to exceed discharges and this trend has worsened as the graph proceeds through December into January. As a consequence, the total number of inpatients on the yellow line (right hand Y axis) continues to rise. Readers should note that the monthly figures are only presented up to January 6th, so as of this data packet the admissions downturn on January 7th is not yet visible.

This is clearly a major problem. Although admissions may be falling, the total number of inpatients is still rising because of failure to discharge. In London, the Nightingale hospital has reopened for ‘step down’ patients (not ICU patients as in the spring). It remains to be seen how successful that will be, bearing in mind that shortage of staff (not bed capacity) was the rate-limiting problem in the spring. Elsewhere, some imaginative and intelligent steps have been taken such as utilising spare hotel capacity to place convalescent patients – an affordable and practical solution, often used in the United States.

Now here is one devil. We know hospital discharge is always a problem in the winter. It was entirely predictable that this would be an issue in a ‘second surge’ of COVID-19. A predictable risk, with no plan to deal with it. I wonder why there was no plan? And who is taking the responsibility for the lack of one?

Next, I turn to the issue of age stratification of Covid patients. A few days ago, I saw an article on the BBC news by the reporter Hugh Pym. He visited Croydon University Hospital and reported that there were “many more younger patients” affected by Covid in the winter than in the spring. The monthly data packet does contain age stratified figures for hospital admissions. I thought I should examine these.

First, I looked at the data for England as a whole. It is recorded that 37% of the Covid patients admitted from March 20th to April 30th were aged between 18 and 64. Between November 27th and Jan 6th, 39% of patients were in this younger age bracket – a very modest increase and certainly not “many more” younger patients.

The age bracket 18-64 is quite wide and it could be possible that the distribution is skewed to the younger part of that group. Therefore, I looked at the reported death statistics across the spring and the winter up to Jan 1st 2021, which are much more clearly age stratified. Between March and May 2020 there were 45,511 reported deaths from Covid, of which 3,020 were aged between 0 and 59 years (6.64%). In the period November to January 1st, there were 20,370 deaths of which 1,073 were registered as COVID deaths – 5.26%. So, in fact there were proportionally fewer Covid deaths in the younger age group in the winter than in the spring reported up to January 1st.

Bearing in mind that death registration can lag date of death by up to two weeks, I looked at the ICNARC ICU audit data comparing cohorts of patients admitted up to August 31st and after September 1st till January 6th. Age at admission to ICU was actually older in winter than spring: Mean average 60.2 years in the winter, median 62 years, compared to a mean of 57.8 and a median 59 of years in the spring.

How can we explain this discrepancy? There do not appear to be “many more” younger patients suffering from Covid in hospital this winter. In fact, the official figures suggest that there are proportionally fewer very sick younger patients and fewer deaths in this age group than in the spring. If that is correct, why did Hugh Pym report precisely the opposite on the national news?

Perhaps someone from the BBC could contact Lockdown Sceptics to explain what I’m missing in this data? Surely, the lavishly taxpayer funded BBC, with hordes of researchers, fact checkers and expensive journalists, must be more accurate in its interpretation of the data than one private individual with a laptop and an internet connection. Maybe they have access to more up to date information than I can see. I would be most grateful to be shown the errors in my calculations and will be happy to be corrected if I have misinterpreted the figures.

Finally, having looked at the recent past (monthly data summary) and the present (or as close to it as we are permitted to see by the daily figures), I will turn to the future.

The drop off in community symptoms reported on the ZOE app and reflected in the drop in hospital admissions in London, the South East and East of England is certainly welcome. However, it begs the question of why further lockdown restrictions were necessary on January 6th when the community transmission appeared already to have peaked.

On the other hand, the rise in admissions in the Midlands and the North West is of concern. In particular, the rising trend in ICU admissions is worrying. These are likely to continue to rise for several days at least. An issue that may not be obvious to the non-medical reader is that there are substantial differences between the hospital geography of London and the rest of the UK. A densely populated metropolis like London has several large hospitals in close proximity to each other, all with substantial surge capacity to deal with peaks of excessive demand. Mutual support between hospitals is relatively easy to arrange and co-ordinate, so patients can be transferred between hospitals to manage areas of high stress.

Other regions of England are not so fortunate. Even the larger urban areas of the Midlands and Greater Manchester have fewer large hospitals than London. Transfer of patients between hospitals is more problematic. ICU capacity in particular is not rapidly expandable as it is in the capital and surge resilience, particularly in more rural areas, is lower. This could be a serious problem in the coming days. I hope NHS England has a workable plan in place, but I smell sulphur.

What’s Behind the Pressure on Hospitals?

The guys at AdapNation have put together a handy infographic using the information they’ve gathered from NHS insiders and other sources. They explain:

This explains the discordance between the lower-than-normal bed use and ambulance stats vs the NHS alarm bells.

 I had the insightful opportunity to interview an NHS employee involved in the logistics of a busy England hospital today.

 The message was clear – they are insanely busy. It’s a pressure cooker environment beyond the high pressure they experience every winter.

However, the reason is not a single headline. It doesn’t marry with the raw hospital data. And it certainly is not due to an abnormal excess of acute respiratory infections.

Check out the image [above] that summarises the issues NHS Hospitals are currently facing.

This matches the experience and insights we have received directly from Dr. Malcolm KendrickDr, Clare Craig, various anonymous NHS Hospital workers and a couple of GP staff too.

Worth checking out.

Stop Press: Lockdown Sceptics contributor Jonathan Engler has summarised much of the same data in a Twitter thread.

https://twitter.com/jengleruk/status/1349779887238819840?s=20

Government Quietly Admits PCR False Positive Problem

There has been understandable concern about the plans, leaked to the Telegraph, to discharge care home residents from hospitals again without a negative PCR test. But is this in fact a belated admission from the Government that PCR tests keep on giving positive results long after the patient ceases to be unwell or contagious? From the Telegraph:

Coronavirus hospital patients can be discharged into care homes without being tested under draft Government guidelines leaked to the the Telegraph.

Care providers have said they are “deeply worried” about the latest proposed rules, which advise clinicians to release patients without requiring them to have a test 48 hours before discharge if they have no new virus symptoms and have isolated in hospital.

For the first time, the Government appears to acknowledge that people could test positive for Covid but not be infectious, suggesting “it will be appropriate for them to move directly to a care home from hospital… because we now know they do not pose an infection risk to other residents in a care home”.

It describes this sub-group as “immunocompetent and with no new symptoms” even if they are within 90 days of their initial symptoms or positive test result.

The top-rated comment under the Telegraph article, from Stephen Jackson, spotted the significance:

The story is misleading.

The real reason for this policy is that PCR tests will continue returning a positive result for several weeks after a person has recovered from Covid and is no longer infectious. This is because PCR analysis will trigger a positive result even if tiny fragments of dead virus are still present/shedding in the nose or throat. If you have a policy of not discharging patients until they’ve tested negative it traps perfectly well and non-infectious people in hospital for weeks on end. This was well documented in South Korea in April-May.

The NHS has to free up beds without risking a care home debacle but I suspect nobody in the health profession wants to admit that PCR tests give so many false positives. That would obviously undermine public confidence in Covid test results and compliance with self-isolation orders. So they’ve had to come up with an alternative policy involving a two-week isolation period before being discharged and perhaps with a deliberate but hushed-up decision not to re-test the patient at that point (knowing it might give a false positive, trapping the patient in hospital again). 

PHE Study Confirms Infection Gives Immunity

A new study from Public Health England has confirmed that infection with SARS-CoV-2 confers strong immunity to the virus. The Times has the details.

The PHE findings are the result of the most comprehensive study into reinfection rates so far. Previous illness provided about 85% protection against both asymptomatic and symptomatic reinfection, researchers said after following thousands of people who caught the virus in the spring.

Although they found that a small number among the group did get infected twice, typically they suffered a milder form of the disease.

With an estimated one in five having been infected, the findings, based on a study of 21,000 UK healthcare workers, suggested that herd immunity could already be slowing the course of the pandemic. However, scientists warned that they still did not know how long immunity lasted.

“What that’s saying to us is that prior infection looks as good as the vaccine, at least at this time interval, which is very good news for the population,” said Susan Hopkins, Deputy Director of the National Infections Service at PHE. “It will help alongside the vaccine to give a level of immunity and protection that will start to reduce transmission.”

The research by PHE followed 6,600 clinical staff infected in the first wave, along with 14,000 who had remained healthy, regularly testing them to see whether they were subsequently positive.

By late November there were 318 infections among the 14,000 and at most 44 reinfections among the 6,600. Most of those cases were mild and showed no symptoms.

There was some uncertainty about the reinfection number, which may have been even lower. The scientists said they could not exclude the possibility that in some cases they were picking up evidence of the first infection.

Although the Pfizer vaccine has a headline efficacy rate of 95%, that figure is based on symptomatic infections alone, so the mildest cases were ignored.

Professor Hopkins said the best way to think of it was that immunity from infection was as good as, or better than, a vaccine.

“The immunity gives you similar effects to the Pfizer vaccine, and much better effects than the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that is reassuring for people,” she said. Two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offer 62% protection.

However, she said it was not a licence to ignore social distancing. “It does seem that new infections can come. You can definitely get reinfected after primary infection,” she said Even in some of those with asymptomatic infections, they found they were shedding a lot of live virus — implying they were infectious without knowing it. But, she, added: “The risk of severe disease is extremely low… even if you are infectious, it is likely to be for a very short period of time.”

“Overall I think this is good news, it allows people to feel that their prior infection will protect them from future infections, but at the same time it is not complete protection and therefore they still need to be careful when they’re out and about,” she added. “I am strongly encouraged that people have immunity that is lasting much more than the few months that was speculated before the summer.”

Frustratingly, PHE has not yet published the study so we cannot look at the details of how infection was diagnosed and what symptoms they had, though the indications in the reports that reinfections were mild or even false positives (picking up fragments from the previous infection) is in line with other evidence to date.

Stop Press: A Lockdown Sceptics reader emailed PHE to ask some questions and find out where the study was published. They quickly got back to him to say: “The paper will be uploaded to a preprint server and made public in the next day or so. You will be able to find a detailed explanation of the methodology there. Apologies for the delay.”

Toby Replies to Neil O’Brien MP

Everyone’s favourite Lockdown Sceptics pin cushion

There follows a guest post by Toby.

Yesterday, I was attacked on Twitter again by the Conservative MP Neil O’Brien – it’s becoming a daily occurrence. This one involved an obsessive degree of offence archaeology. He even listened to last week’s London Calling podcast, carefully noting down any deviations from Covid orthodoxy. Julia Hartley-Brewer had the temerity to ask him why he was trolling people on Twitter instead of looking after his constituents, at which point he immediately started attacking her. All, it seems, to demonstrate his unwavering loyalty to Tory High Command and their forever lockdown policy. As one regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics observed:

Whatever the era, whatever the epoch, it seems that the Neil O’Brien’s of this world are forever destined to be the first sent into battle. Stolid, inert, expendable; the mediocre soldier, sacrificed in order that the strength of the enemy’s defences might be tested. If he’d have been at Ypres in 1914 you’d have put money on him being the private who’d have been ordered to stick his head up above the trench line just so the commanding officer could get a sense of where the enemy fire was going to come from. He’d have done it eagerly, too, with real patriotic fervour (“How high, Sir! How high!!”).

I decided to respond with a long Twitter thread of my own. For those of you not on Twitter – and who can blame you? – I’ve reproduced it below.

Attacks on Lockdown sceptics – and me in particular – have ratcheted up recently, with one of the most aggressive critics being the Conservative MP @NeilDotObrien. I thought it was time to compose a reply.

On Monday he wrote a piece for @ConHome entitled “Trumpism in Britain. It’s time to call out those in the media who cynically feed the cranks, rioters and conspiracists” in which he compared lockdown sceptics to QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers.

He compared lockdown sceptics to QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers and urged media companies “to practice some basic hygiene about whose views they are promoting”, i.e. no-platform the sceptics.

But arguing that lockdowns cause more harm than they prevent is not comparable to arguing that the US government is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles or that vaccines contain microchips inserted by Bill Gates to control our minds.

In fact, there is a growing body of research showing that quarantining whole populations, the healthy as well as the sick, is a sub-optimal policy response to this pandemic. @AIER published a round up of some of the best here

Yesterday, @the_brumby linked to “30 published papers finding that lockdowns had little or no efficacy (despite unconscionable harms)”

The problem with arguing that lockdown sceptics have “blood on their hands” – an increasingly popular trope – is that it takes it for granted that lockdowns are effective at reducing overall mortality and that is precisely the issue being debated.

This is an important public debate to have, both because it helps us assess the present government’s management of the pandemic and because it will help us prepare better for the next one.

A Conservative MP should not be urging media companies to suppress one side in that debate, particularly as the 2019 Conservative manifesto reaffirmed the party’s commitment to free speech.

In his latest Twitter thread, @NeilDotObrien accuses me of having deleted all my tweets from last year because I’m embarrassed about having got so many things wrong about the virus.

In fact, I installed an app last week that deletes all tweets more than a week old. This was in response to Twitter’s increasing intolerance of people who challenge liberal orthodoxies, including Covid orthodoxy. I would advice other dissenters to do the same.

The app won’t protect you from Twitter’s internal offence archaeologists, but it will make it harder for censorious, left-wing activists to bombard the company with vexatious complaints in the hope of getting you banned. The app is here.

@NeilDotObrien also selectively quoted from various posts I’ve done for the @Telegraph. For instance, he quoted me saying this: “we were told… the number of infected people was on the rise again… the rise was due to a combination of increased testing and false positives.”

Here are the two paragraphs he got that quote from. See what he did there?

Of course, I’ve got some things wrong about the virus, such as predicting there wouldn’t be a resurgence of infections this winter. I put my hands up to that on @Newsnight when @maitlis asked me about it.

But I don’t think lockdown sceptics have been consistently more wrong about the virus than lockdown advocates. For instance, the @WHO initially estimated the IFR of COVID-19 was 3.4%. We now believe it’s ~.25%.

A study by researchers at UCLA and IHME compared the accuracy of various models predicting COVID-19 mortality and the models produced by Imperial were judged to have far higher rates of error than the others — always erring on the side of being too high.

After the government unveiled its “graph of doom” showing deaths could climb to 4,000 a day absent more restrictions, it was reprimanded by the @UKStatsAuth.

And how much trust can you place in the advice of public health authorities to wear masks when the initial advice was that they were ineffective outside healthcare settings?

Yes, lockdown sceptics have got some things wrong, too, but I think we’ve provided an important counterweight to the largely one-sided reporting of the broadcast media, particularly the BBC.

The daily sceptical blog I put together with a team of other, like-minded journalists has published some important stories, such as this one by a Lighthouse Lab whistleblower.

And this one by a disillusioned worker at a pop-up testing facility in Salisbury.

And this review of the code powering Neil Ferguson’s epidemiological model by Mike Hearn, formerly a senior software engineer at @Google.

It’s also published some terrific pieces of writing, such as this piece on conspiracy theories by Sinéad Murphy, a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle.

And this “Postcard From Argentina” by a social science professor.

And this tribute to all those who’ve been laid low by the collateral damage caused by the lockdowns by Freddie Attenborough, a sociology lecturer.

Lockdown Sceptics will continue to publish these dissenting voices and continue to challenge the official narrative being pumped out by the government and the BBC. I don’t think that’s “dangerous”; I think politicians trying to smear and silence dissenting voices is dangerous.

Blaming the high daily death tolls on lockdown sceptics is a variant of blaming the public. If only ordinary people had been more compliant, we wouldn’t be in this pickle. But thanks to lockdown sceptics like @toadmeister, @allisonpearson, @ClarkeMicah, @JuliaHB1 and @LozzaFox…

Nothing to do with the lack of PPE, failure to create dedicated hospitals for Covid patients, spunking tens of billions of pounds on a not-fit-for-purpose Test and Trace programme, building the Nightingales but not recruiting or training enough healthcare workers to staff them…

…decommissioning the Nightingales, failing to eliminate in-hospital infections and the ongoing scandal of secondary transmission in care homes… no. It’s all the fault of the general public and the “conspiracy theorists” who’ve led them astray.

Time to take the mote out of your eye @NeilDotObrien and take a look at the politicians you’re so eager to curry favour with. Lockdown sceptics won’t be your scapegoats. //Ends

Stop Press: Julia H-B did a bit of offence archaeology of her own and discovered that Neil O’Brien wasn’t that keen on lockdown restrictions himself back in July. Fancy that!

https://twitter.com/BellTrend/status/1349820996258291717?s=20

Norway Says Very Frail People Should Not Receive Covid Vaccine: “Side Effects May Have Led to Deaths”

Norwegian Medicines Agency Chief Physician Sigurd Hortemo

Norway has determined that vaccinations may be contributing to deaths in the very frail elderly and changed its advice. Trondheim24 has the story (via Google translate, H/T Alex Berenson).

More than 25,000 Norwegians have been vaccinated with the first dose of the coronary vaccine from Pfizer and Biontech since Christmas. On Friday, the first dose of the new Moderna vaccine will be given.

So far, the Norwegian Medicines Agency has assessed 29 adverse reaction reports after the COVID-19 vaccination. 13 of these had a fatal outcome, shows a new report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

A total of 23 deaths have been reported in connection with vaccination, but so far only 13 of these have been assessed. The other deaths are under treatment. Common side effects may have contributed to a serious course in frail elderly people, the Norwegian Medicines Agency reports.

All the deaths have occurred in frail, old patients in nursing homes. All are over 80 years old and some of them over 90, according to NRK.

The reports may indicate that common side effects from mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have led to deaths in some frail patients, says chief physician Sigurd Hortemo in the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

As a result, both the National Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Medicines Agency have changed the corona vaccination guide with new advice for this group.

If you are very frail, you should probably not be vaccinated, said subject director Steinar Madsen in the Norwegian Medicines Agency at a webinar on coronary vaccine for journalists on Thursday.

He emphasises that these cases are rare, and that many thousands of frail people have been vaccinated without a fatal outcome.

This side-effect of possible hastening of death among the very frail is not welcome news when the Government is relying on vaccination to reduce the death toll from the virus, which is concentrated amongst the frail elderly. It will be interesting to see whether any other health agencies come to similar conclusions and their governments follow suit.

Stop Press: Initial data from vaccination frontrunner Israel suggests that the Pfizer vaccine reduces infections by around 50% 14 days after the first shot. The Times of Israel has more.

Initial data from Israel’s vaccination campaign shows that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine curbs infections by some 50% 14 days after the first of two shots is administered, a top Health Ministry official said Tuesday, as the country’s serious COVID-19 cases, daily infections and total active cases all reach all-time peaks.

Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Department, told Channel 12 News that the data was preliminary, and based on the results of coronavirus tests among both those who’ve received the vaccine and those who haven’t.

Other, somewhat contrary data was released by Israeli health maintenance organizations Tuesday evening. Channel 13 News said that according to figures released by Clalit, Israel’s largest health provider, the chance of a person being infected with the coronavirus dropped by 33% 14 days after they were vaccinated. Separate figures recorded by the Maccabi health provider and aired by Channel 12 showed the vaccine caused a 60% drop in the chances for infection 14 days after taking the first shot.

Each of the HMOs compiled the data from some 400,000 patients they treated (800,000 in total).

The cause for the discrepancy between the studies was not immediately clear.

With Pfizer’s phase 3 trials only checking some 40,000 people, and given Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign, the data could be some of the best on-the-ground indication yet of the vaccine’s efficacy.

Stop Press 2: The Guardian reports that Pimlico Plumbers, a large London plumbing firm, plans to rewrite all of its workers’ contracts to require them to be vaccinated against coronavirus. There may be legal issues, some lawyers have said.

Can Rogue Covid Police Officers be Sued?

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, who were accosted by police and fined £200 for walking five miles from home, have had their penalties cancelled

Our legal eagle, Dr John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Tort Law at the University of Liverpool, answers a Covid legal question posed by a reader.

The myriad incidents of what might charitably be described as ‘police overreach’ are among the most unedifying spectacles of the COVID-19 crisis. The chief constable who threatened to deploy police officers to search people’s shopping trolleys to check that they were purchasing only ‘essential’ items. The man with a legitimate exemption from the requirement to wear a face mask escorted under threat of arrest out of a supermarket in Oldbury. And most recently, Derbyshire Police’s heavy-handed treatment of Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore as they enjoyed a socially-distanced stroll and a cup of tea. A year ago, these incidents would have been the workings of dystopian fantasy or the conceit of black comedy. No longer, it seems. As Lord Sumption pointed out in a recent lecture, the police have, at various points in this crisis, “substantially exceeded even the vast powers that they have received”.

All this raises questions about police liability when they get things wrong. The problem is that successful claims for negligence depend on there being proof of damage, such as personal injury. In a recent Supreme Court decision, police officers who injured a passer-by while effecting the arrest of a suspect were liable for her injuries. In all of the examples given above, however, the police apologised for overstepping the mark and, where relevant, cancelled any fines issued under the Regulations. So, no harm done – or at least not enough to raise a question of negligence.

The most likely source of civil dispute against the police at present probably lies in the tort of false imprisonment. This entails a complete restriction of a person’s freedom of movement without any legal authorisation. To use the reported details of Ms Allen and Ms Moore’s case as an example (although I do so with caution because I am not privy to all the facts), it is arguable that the seven police officers who surrounded the two friends imposed a constraint on their freedom of movement at least for a short period of time. The question is whether they had legal authorisation to do so. According to paragraph 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 3A to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020/1374, a person is permitted to take exercise outside in a public outdoor place with one other person who is not a member of his/her household. By the letter of the law, it seems that Ms Allen and Ms Moore did nothing wrong and the police should have allowed them to continue their walk. 

The reason they did not, it seems, is because the two friends were five miles away from their respective homes (and therefore not “local”) and were each carrying a cup of peppermint tea (and were therefore having a “picnic”). Yet the requirement to “stay local” is mere guidance, not law – it is a product of “legislation-by-press-conference” which has become an enduring theme of this crisis. And the idea that ‘two teas make a picnic’ is worthy of a stage farce. It is true that going for a picnic in the conventional sense does not constitute a “reasonable excuse” to be outside the place where one lives. But there is nothing in the rules which prohibits the consumption of food or drink during the course of legitimate exercise. Presumably, as long as one is doing star jumps at the material time, one can lawfully eat sandwiches, crisps and pork pies in the park while someone who is not a member of the same household swigs lemonade between sit-ups. The problem is that there has been a troubling conflation of legal rules and generalised advice or recommendations in recent weeks which risks undermining the rule of law. Small wonder that police officers, who are not lawyers and must navigate tempestuous legal seas, are struggling at times to delineate the limits of their powers.

A reader of this blog has asked whether a police officer would be personally liable for any harm he/she causes a person to suffer (e.g. through negligence, false imprisonment, and so on) and therefore required to pay damages out of his/her own pocket. In practice, the answer is no: the chief constable of the relevant police force would normally be vicariously liable for the officer’s tortious conduct as his/her “employer”. Vicarious liability is a rule of responsibility by which employers answer and pay for the injury, loss or damage occasioned to third parties by their employees. It is true that the employer can later seek an indemnity from its employee but this rarely happens. The rationale for this is that employers have “deep(er) pockets” – that is, more resources – from which to pay compensation to injured parties. This is not to say that there are no ‘internal’ consequences for individual police officers (such as disciplinary action), nor does it rule out the possibility of prosecution for criminal offences.

Another Lockdown Tragedy

A reader has got in touch to tell us of how lockdown has affected someone they know:

I heard today that my cousin’s 50-something wife – whose chemo for breast cancer was halted during the first lockdown – was reassessed today with a view to starting up the treatment again. They told her that it’s now spread too far and she won’t have long, so there’s no point in restarting the chemo. Still, at least lots of 80-somethings will get a few more years…

What’s more, she felt that she couldn’t tell her mum in person because she didn’t want to get in trouble, so she phoned and I can’t imagine how that call went.

Why is this sort of thing happening? What is the end goal, do you think? Is it about control or to become a communist state? To hit CO2 targets? I just don’t understand how these rules have come to pass that are so ruinous to peoples lives. Why doesn’t anyone listen to what the evidence shows?

Round-up

https://twitter.com/ZNeveri/status/1349460356595376133?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Freedom come, freedom go” by The Fortunes, “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson and “I’m So Tired Of It All” by Merle Haggard.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

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, Janice Turner in the Times contemplates what will become of Sex and the City by the time the activists have finished with it.

Last week, listlessly seeking distraction from doom, I found myself watching the first four episodes of Sex and the City back-to-back in a happy trance. Friends meeting for brunch! Cocktail hour, fancy shops, city streets full of purposeful people, frivolous frocks, dinner reservations, the casual exchange of bodily fluids.

SATC was never a feminist road map. It was a consumerist, hedonist fantasy reflecting the prelapsarian Nineties and its creator Darren Star, a gay man. And unlike women, gay men are enviably unapologetic about how they get their kicks.

Moreover, while straight male escapism like Entourage is seldom parsed for racial or heteronormative wrong-think, anything women love, from Lena Dunham’s Girls to Fifty Shades of Grey, must be dissected and diminished: if it does not somehow encompass every female experience it cannot speak for any women at all.

Now the remaining SATC “girls” are worse than rich, white and horny: they are middle-aged. I hope the new show And Just Like That conveys the filthy laughter in older women’s lives. But I fear, given US cultural mores, it would be better named The Three Karens: jokes will be only at their expense and they will be compelled to “check their privilege” as once they checked their coats.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Macaulay Culkin has thrown his support behind calls to have Donald Trump’s cameo edited out of “Home Alone 2”. Inevitably.

“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 Lockdown Sceptics reader found that although Tesco does still allow exemptions in line with Government guidance, someone needs to tell the staff:

On Tuesday I went into our local Tesco Store without a mask as usual and, having completed my shopping and checked out at the self-service till, I was, for the first time ever, challenged by an employee about not wearing a mask. I told him I was exempt, and he then informed me that from that day (January 12th) Tesco would refuse entry to anyone not wearing a mask or a lanyard. In a polite exchange, I informed him that I had a lanyard but there was no legal requirement under the law for me to wear it or for him to ask me why I was exempt. He nevertheless insisted that I would be refused entry in future if I didn’t comply as that was the policy handed down from Head Office.

I emailed Tesco Head Office to clarify the position and received the following response which is contrary to the employee’s understanding:

“Thank you for your email.

“In line with Government guidelines, customers will need to wear a face covering in our stores. However, if a customer advises they are exempt from wearing a face covering, my store colleagues should not challenge you and not ask or imply you should be wearing a lanyard as this is not the guidance that our Head Office has given them.

“Thank you for your time.”

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…

Toby has a great piece in Die Weltwoche about the Big Tech free speech disaster that has unfolded over the last week or so.

Free speech isn’t having a good year. In the UK, we naively thought we’d won a significant victory on January 5th when Google reinstated the YouTube channel of a right-of-centre, anti-lockdown radio station it had banned 12 hours earlier. This was after a chorus of protest by free speech supporters. But any hope that Big Tech would rein itself in was short-lived. 

The riot in Washington, D.C. 24 hours later, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capital, was the excuse that Facebook and Twitter had been waiting for. Within days, the President of the United States had been suspended from both platforms – permanently in the case of Twitter – as had many of his most passionate supporters.

The rationale for this act of censorship was a familiar one. According to Twitter, Trump had posted two messages that could be “mobilized by different audiences… to incite violence”. 

So what had the President said? Had he called on his supporters to storm the Capital building again? Encouraged people to assassinate Joe Biden? No, the tweets which had incited violence were as follows:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Not much incitement going on there. No, this was an act of censorship, following a demand issued by hundreds of Twitter employees. A private corporation had decided to silence a man to whom 74 million Americans had given their vote. 

But if you thought liberal-left civil rights defenders in the United States would be up in arms about this, you’d be mistaken. On the contrary, this reversal of the usual banana republic pattern, in which a populist President was “disappeared” by a cabal of left-wing agitators, was largely welcomed by the liberal elite and mainstream media. 

Worth reading in full.

Is There a Third Wave in Europe?

Europe shared in the worldwide fall-off in coronavirus infections in January and February but, unlike in the UK, that trend has reversed in the past few weeks and the continent, especially in the east, is beginning to see sharp rises again.

The World Health Organisation’s Emergencies Lead in Europe, Dr Catherine Smallwood, has said she is “particularly worried” about the situation in the Balkans, the Baltic States and Central Europe, where hospitalisation and death rates are now among the highest in the world. The Telegraph has more.

The numbers of new cases per million people are also rising so fast that in some countries – notably Estonia, Bosnia, Hungary and Poland – the graphs tracking the virus point almost vertically upwards. 

Experts said that the combination of the spread of the more transmissible UK variant coupled with slow Government reactions, as well as a lack of vaccinations in some countries, could all be contributing to the spiking numbers and Europe’s looming third wave. 

The jury is still out on how much more transmissible the UK variant really is. As Dr Clare Craig notes in relation to the UK: “The ONS Survey had it falling before Lockdown 3 was announced. At peak cases ONS reckoned 61% of COVID cases in England were new variant, 33% in Northern Ireland, 22% in Scotland and only 5% in Wales – yet all had a winter wave.” The assumption that “slow Government reactions” make a difference is also not in line with the findings of most studies, which find no association between restrictions and spread.

The WHO said that the situation was “most acute” in areas that had been successful “in controlling the disease [sic] in the first six months of 2020”, suggesting for many of the countries this is more an extended first wave than a second or third.

Nonetheless, it looks like the region may be in for a rough ride over the next few weeks.

Positive rates from Our World in Data

Latest News

75,000 Government’s Official Projection of Lockdown Deaths

But does it even save lives?

The Mail has discovered the figure the Government has put on the number of collateral deaths caused by the lockdown buried in a SAGE report.

Nearly 75,000 people could die from non-Covid causes as a result of lockdown, according to a devastating official figures buried in a 188-page document.

The startling research, presented to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), will further increase pressure on Boris Johnson to hold back on introducing further coronavirus restrictions.

The document reveals 16,000 people died as a result of the chaos in hospitals and care homes in March and April alone.

It estimates a further 26,000 will lose their lives within a year if people continue to stay away from A&E and the problems in social care persist.

And an additional 31,900 could die over the next five years as a result of missed cancer diagnoses, cancelled operations and the health impacts of a recession.

The toll of deaths directly linked to the virus last night stood at 41,936.

The estimates, drawn up by civil servants at the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office, were presented to Sage at a meeting on July 15th. The documents stressed that had nothing been done to stop the spread of the virus in March, 400,000 people could have died of Covid.

And if the NHS had been overrun, this figure might have even soared to 1.4 million. But they acknowledged the restrictions had significant unintended consequences.

How can the Government still believe these catastrophic predictions from discredited models when the experience of countries like Sweden, Tanzania and Belarus show the truth about what happens under minimal restrictions? Is it a case of refusing to believe the evidence of one’s own eyes because it is too painful? Certainly, there is some serious corporate groupthink going on.

Incidentally, we can expect the press to periodically discover these reports to Sage. They’re part of a series being done by the Department of Health and Social Care, the Office for National Statistics, the Government Actuary’s Department and the Home Office. The first of these was published in April.

Stop Press: A famous financial journalist who has long been an anonymous contributor to Lockdown Sceptics thinks he knows what the problem is:

Ex Governor of Bank of England Mervyn King has written a book with John Kay recently called Radical Uncertainty. Lots of stuff about the unreliability of models (all models are wrong some are useful). Their simple advice is for people to lay down the model and ask, “What’s going on here?” Boris and his crew in Downing Street don’t have the good sense to do just that. And the cost of their failure in unfathomable.

Economics Prof Replies to More or Less

Take that, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter

More or Less, the Radio 4 stats programme, wheeled out Sir David Spiegelhalter to ridicule those of us who’ve been highlighting the false positive rate this week, claiming it was all a storm in a teacup. The Huffington Post had a go, too, naming Julia Hartley-Brewer and Toby, among the rank amateurs who’ve apparently misunderstood just how insignificant false positives really are.

We couldn’t let that slide, obviously, and today we’re publishing an original piece by Gordon Hughes, a former Professor of Economics at Edinburgh University, rebutting these criticisms. Here’s an extract:

The core problem is that the UK is relying upon a set of policymakers who appear to be neither competent nor willing to be honest about the choices that are being made. Selling policies to credulous journalists is simple. Convincing a wider public that contains a significant number of people who have the expertise and willingness to challenge what appears to be irrational policy is a different matter. The UK Government appears to believe that honesty will further reduce already low levels of willingness to comply with current policies. What they – and their public supporters – should recognize is that the unwillingness to admit and discuss the complexity of the cost-benefit calculations that surround testing merely fuels the lack of trust in current policies. Many of the public statements are so obviously wrong that it is hard to give credit to the more generous view that the policymakers are not really incompetent but merely dealing with a very difficult situation.

That, it seems to me, is the real lesson from Sweden. There were many people in the Swedish medical establishment who profoundly disagreed – and still disagree – with the policies recommended by the State Epidemiologist. There was an open debate and individuals were allowed to make their own choices. The outcome was mixed and the sources of failure have been identified and followed up. In the UK – across all of the nations – the attitude is that we (the “experts”) know better than everyone else and you must just do what we say. That is never a good story in an educated democracy. It is especially weak when the self-declared experts are easily challenged on a string of assumptions and issues so that their credibility cannot be sustained. All that is being achieved is a polarization of trust and belief in the competence of both politicians and those who advise them.

Worth reading in full.

Does Sweden Have Herd Immunity?

Stockholmers soaking up the spring sunshine outside a restaurant on April 22, 2020.
A bustling Stockholm in April

As Sweden comes in from the cold, with its scientific advisers being granted audiences with governments around the world and Dorit Nitzan, the WHO’s Regional Emergency Director for Europe, saying the country can “provide lessons for the global community”, attention has turned to the secret of their success.

Kim Sneppen, professor of biocomplexity at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and a leading virologist, said this week: “There is some evidence that the Swedes have built up a degree of immunity to the virus which, along with what else they are doing to stop the spread, is enough to control the disease… They may now be finished with the epidemic.”

However, the role of immunity in Sweden remains contested. State epidemiologist Dr Anders Tegnell himself has downplayed it, answering a question this week comparing Sweden and Spain by stressing that achieving “herd immunity” had never been a goal of Sweden’s strategy (despite emails surfacing which suggest otherwise). He said:

I’m not sure that the level of immunity in Sweden and in Spain differs very much. I think the main difference between Sweden and many other countries is that we have had the same kind of restrictions and recommendations in place the whole time. And we have a really big adherence from the population to those recommendations. And that makes a difference, that makes us hopefully less susceptible to a second wave.

Maybe we’ll have the same experience in a few weeks’ time, we’ll see, but as I said, I think the big difference is that Spain had a strict lockdown and then opened up again, and then you do get back to quite a lot spread of disease.

Italy currently has even lower “cases” per 100,000 than Sweden (35 vs 37) but it would be hard to argue Italians are a peculiarly compliant people in the way Dorit Nitzan does of Swedes. From the Guardian:

Nitzan stressed that Sweden’s approach may not be applicable everywhere. Other countries should take into account that “in Sweden, the social contract between the government and its population is historically based on a very high level of trust”, she said. “That is the way the Swedish people and the government interact.”

Following the Swedish example, therefore, should not mean “adopting the exact same measures”, she said. “There are lessons to learn from every country. None has done it perfectly; all have made mistakes.

“Each country’s strategy to curb COVID-19 should be based on its specific situation and context, and be both scientifically sound and culturally acceptable. This is Sweden’s approach.”

When Boris Johnson claimed in the Commons that Brits are more freedom-loving than Italians as an explanation for why the UK is now faring worse than Italy he was rebuked by the Italian president, while Corriere della Sera, an Italian national newspaper, wrote on its front page:

Let me get this right – the country that invented queuing and immaculate lawns is not able to obey rules? Instead, group discipline is a trait of the Italians, a people who have a well-deserved reputation for disdain for regulations and individualism verging on anarchy?

There is a danger that the important lessons of the epidemic will be lost in sub-scientific generalisations about supposed national character traits that wrongly imply lockdowns are right for some places but not for others ironically, it appears, the more “freedom-loving” a country is, the greater the need for a firm hand. When Nitzan and Tegnell claim that Swedes have been more compliant than Spaniards, what hard evidence is that based on? The Italians complain about the false stereotypes sent in their direction. We Brits should protest no less loudly about being so supposedly freedom-loving that only a good firm lockdown will break our spirits and keep us in line.

It also needs to be remembered that Spain had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in Europe whereas Sweden never limited the size of gatherings to less than 50, never closed shops, restaurants, night clubs, schools under 16, or anything else, and never imposed or even encouraged face masks. Are we supposed to believe young people in Sweden stopped socialising and stopped going to parties? What basis is there for thinking that? The pictures that went round in April of young people in Stockholm crowding into nightclubs and cafes shows this up for the nonsense it is, while a recent BMJ article quoted Karolinska Institute immunologist Marcus Buggert in August saying that social distancing in Sweden was “always poorly followed, and it’s only become worse”.

Furthermore, even if Swedes were more compliant with their Government’s guidelines, the guidelines were so loose compared with what was imposed elsewhere that it’s hard to see how the mere fact of compliance makes all the difference.

The antibody rates in Sweden are, as Dr Tegnell notes, similar to those found in Spain and Italy. But then maybe that is why Italy also has no second wave, and Spain’s second ripple appears to be peaking, with the Carlos III Health Institute pointing out that the data on PCR tests by date of symptom onset shows the epidemic topping out weeks ago, even before the end of August.

The evidence for the early emergence of collective immunity rooted in T-cell cross-immunity from previous cold viruses continues to mount. Which is why one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta, is convinced it is playing a major role. It may suit the governments of the world to pretend that it’s all about a myth of Swedish stoicism and not about immunity so that they can exculpate themselves for not taking the same path in March.

But the danger is that the reality of immunity, which would allow countries to go back to normal (actual normal, not New Normal) becomes officially denied and buried. Even in Sweden the Government has called a halt to the lifting of restrictions, with a cap of 50 people in a group now set to remain and local lockdowns being threatened should local outbreaks occur. If Sweden can’t learn the lesson of Sweden, what hope is there for the rest of us?

As the autumn ripples in Spain, France and Britain fade, we need to make sure our leaders learn the right lessons, and can’t get away with crediting the new restrictions, the national temperament, the stars, or anything else except the only thing with hard scientific evidence behind it: immunity.

Stop Press: Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph points out that Chris Whitty rejects the immunity idea because, he says, people aren’t immune to colds and so it is probably short-lived. I suggest Professor Whitty urgently needs to widen his pool of advisers, starting with the immunologists and virologists who wrote this STAT article in August.

The experts who spoke with STAT all felt that the immune responses to this virus are exactly what you would expect to see. And the case of the Hong Kong man who appears to have been reinfected underscore that, several said.

“The fact that somebody may get reinfected is not surprising. But the reinfection didn’t cause disease,” said Peiris, who knows about the case but was not one of the authors reporting it.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York who studies human responses to viral infections, said it is hard to be definitive, given the limited human experience with this new coronavirus, but she said she could see no reason to believe the immune system would behave differently to this respiratory virus than to others.

“So far, anyway, the evidence supports functional immunity, but the only way to see how long that will last is to follow people over time and see if those responses diminish,” she said.

“The idea there is that, yes, your antibodies might wane, but your memory responses aren’t absent,” said Menachery, noting that when a primed immune system re-encounters the virus, production of antibodies would kick into gear.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Image
Hat tip UK COVID-19

Is ‘Zero-Covid’ Now a UK-Wide policy?

Readers will recall that we were critical of Prof Devi Sridhar’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy because: (a) the false positive rate means you can never reduce the number of ‘cases’ to zero, so restrictions will never be lifted (see Clare Craig on this); (b) it means quarantining people entering the country in perpetuity; (c) it assumes a vaccine will be be both 100% effective and available soon, neither of which is likely.

However, it looks as though this is now the official policy of the United Kingdom. Yesterday, a joint statement on coronavirus was issued by the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Government that said:

Following our meeting at COBR this week, we therefore reaffirm our shared commitment to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there, while we strive to return life to as normal as possible for as many people as possible. We agree that our policy decisions should be consistent with this objective.

The lowest possible level and keeping it there.

Sounds like a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy to me.

God help us. (H/t Alistair Haimes.)

UsForThem: The Birth of a Movement

We’re publishing an original piece by Molly Kingsley today. Molly is one of the three founders of UsForThem, a grass roots, parent-run organisation that campaigns for schools to re-open in full and without any intrusive social distancing arrangements, and we asked her to write something for us about why she decided to start a campaigning organisation. Turns out, Molly was red-pilled when she saw the above picture. It horrified her at a deep, visceral level and she felt she had to do something – anything – to prevent this becoming the “new normal” for our children.

One Tuesday morning while nonchalantly slurping my coffee and scrolling through social media, that photo popped into my feed and with it an instinctively visceral reaction that propelled me to action. I looked at it. Then stared a while. Then thought – you’ll have to excuse the profanity but there really is no other way to put it:

“WHAT THE F*CK?!”

Because anyone with an ounce of humanity will know that this is no way to treat a child.

The harms of lockdown and social isolation on children are now, sadly, much better understood, having been written about by a growing number of increasingly alarmed child welfare experts. But you don’t need a psychology doctorate to understand that something that restricts young children’s play in such an abrupt and blunt manner is not likely to be positive for educational and social development – you just need to be a parent. And as parent, once you get an idea in your head that something is harming your child, it becomes hard to let it go. I realised it was not only my right, but my duty, to say, “No.”

UsForThem has probably been the most effective of the anti-lockdown campaigning organisations – an inspiration to us all. This piece is well worth reading in full.

Nic Sturge-on’s Student Hostages

Guido’s brilliant graphic

Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph delivers a blistering attack on the First Minister’s callous sacrifice of Scotland’s students in apparent pursuit of one-upmanship and poll ratings.

This is an absolute disgrace: a thousand new students have been imprisoned across Scotland – victims of Nicola Sturgeon’s preoccupation with looking good and fighting propaganda battles with London rather than taking the measures that would really beat Covid.

And now, incredibly, all of Scotland’s students have been hit with a brutal list of restrictions including a ‘stay away from pubs’ order.

The locked-down teenagers, just starting their varsity careers, are not so much prisoners as hostages – held captive until there’s an improvement in the official statistics about which Ms Sturgeon has thus far been only too pleased to boast.

No longer; Scotland’s figures are at least as bad as England’s means she has had to come up with ever-more draconian restrictions.

But the punitive rules being inflicted on all these kids puts everything else in the shade. Students have been told that they can’t do much more than stare at the four blank walls of their tiny flats, with security guards patrolling their halls of residence, they can’t mix with their fellow freshers, and can’t go home or even meet Mum and Dad.

Worse, any infraction of the draconian rules will be breaking the law. Guido summarises the restrictions.

– No parties and no socialising outside households and their accommodation.
– Increased staff presence in student accommodation
– Further engagement with private providers of student accommodation, especially those with significant numbers
– Intensified liaising with Police Scotland to ensure vigilance
– A strict ‘Yellow Card/Red Card’ approach to breaches of student discipline

The raw deal students are getting is unbelievable, told to go to campus they are mostly doing lectures via video conference, not allowed to socialise and being told they can’t go home at Christmas (there will be tears) and paying full fees. Guido for once thinks complaining students may have a point. It’s been pointed out that university staff are still allowed to move freely in and between halls to check compliance, then go to the pub, then go home to their family.

Stop Press: A student at Glasgow University, Harry Butcher, has written in spiked about how his university feels like a prison, while a fresher at Dundee University, Euan Lee, tells his story, “I got Covid and now 500 people in my university accommodation have to self-isolate“, in the Telegraph.

Covid Avoids Swimming Pools

Perhaps scientists can learn to harness the protective power of pools

A reader has got in touch to tell us about the ridiculous rules she now faces when taking her toddler swimming.

What has really sent me over the edge was receiving a text message this morning saying: “Hi, it’s Water Babies. Following the recent tightening of COVID-19 rules, Wyvern are now asking that all adults wear a face covering when coming to the pool, unless you have an exemption. Please remove it just before you get in the pool and replace it when you get out again. Thank you for your help in keeping us all safe.”

What a clever virus this is it can tell the time, it can tell if you are in a party of more than five other people, it can tell whether you are eating or drinking and now, I am told, it can tell whether you are just in or just out of a swimming pool. I am now considering cancelling my son’s swimming lessons.

Later came an update.

I received a reply from Water Babies Dorset and Salisbury:

“Hi, it is each venue’s own decision but due to latest government restrictions it just so happens that is a requirement at all our venues. Some decided before now, and some more recently like Wyvern. Water Babies x”

I have had a very quick scan on Google and can’t find the “requirement” stating that face masks have to be worn immediately before and after swimming! So I replied “Many thanks for your reply, could I trouble you to send me the link which references this requirement?”

I am waiting for a response.

Winter is Coming

Jemima Lewis in the Telegraph , in a piece entitled “Far too many of us have no idea just how bad this is going to get“, delivers some brutal home truths to anyone still in denial about what is about to happen as the long winter of ongoing Covid restrictions starts to bite.

Even now, as Britain stares into the economic abyss, a stubborn myopia persists. When I tell friends what is happening in the hospitality industry right now – the high street names that are preparing to go into administration; the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are about to be lost – they go pale and back away nervously, as if from a madwoman. “The most important thing is to save lives,” they insist. The lives that will be lost, or ruined, through unemployment, poverty, depression, empty public coffers, crime – perhaps even civil unrest – seem to rest bizarrely weightless on the scale.

It is, in any case, a fait accompli. Nothing in Rishi Sunak’s emergency budget can save the day for those businesses that depend on high footfall. City centres are (or were) the coral reefs of the British economy: small but vibrant landscapes supporting a huge array of different businesses, from locksmiths to restaurants. Lockdown was devastating enough; six months of working from home will kill off the reef for good.

The hospitality industry is right at the front of the unemployment tidal wave. From this unhappy vantage point it is easy to see the boarded-up future from which so many – including some in Government – are still averting their eyes. Perhaps the economy can only be properly understood through experience. If so, this is going to be an agonising lesson.

Worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Assembly Update – Get Involved

The good people running the excellent COVID-19 Assembly initiative have been in touch about their new survey that they want readers of Lockdown Sceptics to help with.

The aim of the COVID-19 Assembly is to allow people to discuss and share the information around COVID-19 and the measures in place to “control” it. We want to create content and tools for volunteers to take to non-sceptics and show them why they shouldn’t worry. The SAGE minutes showed just how deliberate the mainstream media fear-mongering was. 

Unfortunately, it worked really well. If polls are to be believed about 85% of people are genuinely scared. To unpick this programming, we are using the same weapons. We have a survey designed by the former lead psychologist of Cambridge Analytica. The results of this survey will inform the production of our content. It will help us understand exactly which points to focus on in order to change opinions.

This is a very complex problem and we need to work together to solve it. We can’t expect non-sceptics to complete the survey without some sort of incentive. We need you, readers of Lockdown Sceptics, to talk to non-sceptics you know (family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc) and ask them to complete the survey as a favour to you or buy them a drink or a coffee!

If you think they’ll do it by themselves then sending a link may do. But if necessary, you could meet them and open the survey on your own phone and ask them the questions. Ask them in the pub, over the phone, at work, over the garden wall, on the street, wherever.

This is extremely important! We need at least 400 non-sceptical people to complete the survey to have a representative sample. Please do your best to target five people each and try to get everyone to share it on social media. The more we get the more we will learn about how to end this nonsense. 

Thanks and good luck!

This is an important and high quality initiative so let’s all get involved and help them reach their 400 target and much more. Find the survey here.

SNP Climbdown On Hate Crime Bill – But Is It Enough?

Scottish justice secretary Humza Yousaf doesn’t appear to grasp that “hate speech” is inimical to free speech

The Times on Thursday devoted an editorial to the small victory north of the border for free speech advocates in getting the SNP’s appalling hate crime bill watered down to make it slightly less appalling.

For months the Scottish justice secretary has defended his hate crime bill against criticism that it is a dangerously illiberal attack on freedom of speech. He appeared undeterred by the lengthening list of critics, who included the Scottish Police Federation, the Law Society of Scotland, the National Secular Society and the Scottish Catholic Church. Concerns focused on a proposal to make “stirring up hatred” a criminal offence, as well as behaviour “likely” to stir up such hatred. Also outlawed would be the possession or communication of “inflammatory material” deemed “likely” to encourage hatred, a measure that could have had implications for bookshops and libraries. A leader column in this newspaper denounced the proposed law as an “act of folly”.

Yesterday, finally, Mr Yousaf admitted defeat and announced that amendments would be brought forward to safeguard rights that should never have been under threat in the first place. His decision is welcome insofar as it goes, although he is not yet off the hook. Critics say the ministerial climbdown, which removed the word “likely”, is a rung or two short of satisfactory.

The Free Speech Union submitted evidence in July to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee opposing the bill.

This definition of “hate crime” is far too broad and will enable groups claiming to speak for people in these protected categories to lobby the authorities to prosecute anyone who challenges their ideology on the grounds that doing so is likely to stir up hatred. Under this new law, not only will those who challenge identitarian dogma be vulnerable to prosecution, but anyone who possesses “inflammatory material” will be too, as will theatre producers who put on plays expressing these forbidden ideas and the actors who perform in them. If the Bill passes, Scotland will become the most aggressive regulator of speech in the United Kingdom and one of the most belligerent in Europe. And it could easily become the basis of a similar law in England and Wales.

The climbdown is a start, but not enough to keep speech free and protected from the constant threat of litigation from the woke and perpetually offended.

If you care about free speech, please join the Free Speech Union.

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.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today we feature a protest statement from students and faculty at Boston University. It’s a cracker if anyone is playing woke bingo this’ll get you a full house.

Institutionalized White Supremacy Culture at BU

BU’s residential reopening policies for Fall 2020 create material damage and risk to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, as well as those most economically marginalized regardless of race. As BU School of Public Health Professor Michael Siegel has recently explained, the “Learn from Anywhere” model negatively impacts disadvantaged and minority students under the guise of choice. By supporting and even encouraging a dense campus and the return of tens of thousands of inter-state and international students, BU also is increasing the health risk not only to its own campus community but also to the Greater Boston area. Pre-existing economic disparities – the result of systemic racism and discrimination – mean that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx communities. Any action which increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19  thus disproportionately affects the health of those communities.

These racially and economically disparate outcomes are not coincidental. They are the natural result of an institutionalized culture of white supremacy at BU which is designed to perpetuate existing inequality. This culture of white supremacy was born from the hierarchical power dynamic between masters and slaves and the legacies of settler colonialism. It is fundamentally threatened by the sharing of power. It maintains its authority by restricting access to knowledge. It disarms critics by making superficial change, but rejects the need for systemic transformation or the redirection of resources. It demands cooperation, obedience, and sacrifice in times of scarcity, while in times of plenty enriching only those at the top. An organization which operates in this way cannot advance the cause of human equality and social justice – whatever it intends.

 In what follows, we draw from the work of many grassroots activists on anti-racism – particularly Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, who identified the characteristics of white supremacy culture – to explain how BU’s white supremacy culture brought us to this point. The characteristics of white supremacy culture include but are not limited to paternalism, either/or thinking, power hoarding, a scarcity worldview, a fear of open conflict and tendency toward secrecy in operations, a preference for quantity (or speed) over quality, and a ‘progress is bigger and more’ attitude.

This list is not exhaustive, but we offer it in the spirit of supporting one of the five major pillars of BU’s new Strategic Plan for 2030 – “to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion.” The work of becoming a fully anti-racist and anti-oppressive institution requires a clear and specific analysis of and accountability for institutionalized white supremacy culture to be successful. We call on BU to begin its anti-racist work on our own campus. We cannot hope to transform the world if we cannot transform our own institution.

Read the whole ludicrous statement here.

Stop Press: Quillette has published an amusing article about Jessica Krug, the ultra-woke, “African-American” academic superstar who turned out to be a white Jewish woman.

“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 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).

Stop Press: A woman was tasered and arrested by police in Ohio on Wednesday after she refused to leave an eighth grade football game for not wearing a mask. The Hill has the story.

Police in Logan, Ohio, who identified the woman as Alecia Kitts, said the officer told Kitts she would be asked to leave because she was not wearing a mask, in violation of school policy. After Kitts refused to leave the stadium, the officer warned she would be cited for trespassing. She was tased after she resisted arrest. …

Police said in a statement that when Smith informed Kitts she needed to wear a mask, she responded she had asthma and would not put it on.

“Officer Smith advised the female several times that she needed to put her mask on, and that if she did not, she would be asked to leave and would have to wait outside the stadium,” the statement reads. “The female continually refused his request and Officer Smith advised her that if she refused to leave, she would be cited for trespassing and escorted off the property.” …

“It is important to note, the female was not arrested for failing to wear a mask, she was asked to leave the premises for continually violating school policy,” the police department said. “Once she refused to leave the premises, she was advised she was under arrest for criminal trespassing, she resisted the arrest, which led to the use of force.”

Watch the video 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

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And Finally…

A poster made by the son of a Lockdown Sceptics reader

Readers’ Exchanges with Professor Neil Ferguson

A reader sent Derek Winton’s article in Lockdown Sceptics criticising Imperial College’s modelling to Professor Neil Ferguson. His remarkable response in turn prompted a lot of responses from our readers. One, a regular contributor to the site, produced a line-by-line analysis which we’re publishing below.

I was interested to see Professor Neil Ferguson’s reply to one of your readers. I was surprised he had replied, but no less surprised that anyone had bothered to write to him.

Now, I think it’s a bit unfair to write to someone and then publish that person’s reply, especially if it hadn’t been made clear the reply would be published. However, it has been, and I suppose anyone in public life would have to be naïve to believe that anything they say is immune to being disseminated more widely.

I thought it would be interesting therefore to analyse the reply.

I presume you sent me this because you feel upset, angry, that no-one is listening, want to hurt me or change my mind. Or all of the above.

Here we have an assumption of motive. The writer, who is a woman, is depicted as having become emotional (“angry, upset”), seeing herself as a frustrated victim (“no-one is listening”), aggressive (“want to hurt me”) and manipulative (“want… to change my mind”). Therefore, the original email is dismissed as having come from someone who is behaving irrationally and antagonistically. This is not an especially surprising opening gambit because it is designed immediately to create the impression that the original writer has lost control in some way and therefore by implication that Professor Ferguson is in contrast a rational being who is still in control of himself.

What is odd is that the email he’s responding to just asked him whether he’d seen Derek Winton’s article, but Professor Ferguson, at this point, makes no mention of that. He has responded initially only by seeking to diminish the sender. However, he has only just started.

I and my colleagues and friends (John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Marc Lipsitch, Christian Drosten, Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty,…) get so many of these sort of emails that we barely notice anymore. Most get dumped into junk mail folders automatically nowadays.

This is an interesting paragraph. Firstly, it involves telling the sender that he, Professor Ferguson, is a member of a strong gang consisting of “colleagues and friends”. This means that the sender is attacking the gang, and here he reinforces the idea that the sender is talking rubbish by referring to the way that such emails normally get “dumped into junk folders”. The implication is therefore that even email client algorithms are able to detect such emails as automatically worthless.

Secondly, the listing of gang members is designed to be intimidating, reminding the writer that her assault is against a powerful cabal of highly-qualified people who by being ‘friends’ will therefore act together to protect each other. Such is their status that they don’t even “notice [these emails] any more”. This is an important way of maximizing the distance between the writer and Professor Ferguson.

But for a change, I thought I would reply to you. Not that I really expect it to change the alternative reality you seem to have got sucked into, but occasionally I feel I should try.

Here we have a paradox. Professor Ferguson has decided, despite having shown in two contexts that the “junk” email he has received has been written by someone who is being over-emotional and antagonistic, that he will reply “for a change”. Actually, we know that it isn’t entirely “for a change”. Professor Ferguson does indeed occasionally reply to some of what he receives, and he concedes this himself. Clearly then he does notice these emails.

Note that the writer is now depicted as someone likely to be dogmatic and intractable. Professor Ferguson states that he does not “expect” his reply to have any effect. Here he introduces the idea that the writer exists in an “alternative reality”. This of course is a vaguely science fiction allusion and suggests that the writer is in a parallel universe, and by using the pejorative term “sucked into” he suggests the writer has effectively been “conned”.

To start with may [sic] want to read this: https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ConspiracyTheoryHandbook.pdf And ask yourself if a loved one started to exhibit those behaviours, would you be worried?

This tactic is immediately reinforced with the next paragraph, which is designed to imply that the writer has fallen under the spell of conspiracy theorists. This subtly therefore positions Professor Ferguson as a reliable voice of legitimacy and reason in contrast. For students of totalitarian regimes, Professor Ferguson’s tactic at this point is reminiscent of scenes from 1984 and also the sort of circumstances enemies of such regimes can find themselves in if they question the official line. It’s a subtle way of suggesting the writer has lost her reason.

Conspiracy theorists of course exist but suggesting that someone is susceptible to conspiracy theories is also a cheap and easy way of making them seem foolish and gullible. This is a useful mechanism for a protagonist who is about to move in with his own attack, and whose definition of rational thought is what he himself and his peer group think.

As to the article you refer to, it recycles the same old, same old misinformation. You may be surprised to learn that the Telegraph and Spectator have published over a dozen corrections in response to complaints from Imperial College about inaccurate articles. For instance, no-one ran the Imperial model for Sweden (other than us).

This is the last stage of the opening attack, with the final salvo being to reinforce the idea that anyone who queries Professor Ferguson and his “friends” is peddling the “same old misinformation”. You’ll note that so far Professor Ferguson has said nothing specifically to address the points raised. Essentially, the position he has adopted is that the emotional and antagonistic writer has forwarded only “misinformation”.

Since some of the points raised in Derek Winton’s article included drawing attention to Professor Ferguson’s apparent lack of relevant qualifications, and previous predictions based on modelling that turned out to be inaccurate (including Sweden), one might have expected at this point a more explicit response. However, by calling the article “misinformation” the suggestion is that everything within the article is by definition incorrect, false, and misleading.

More substantively, the Government never relied on just one model. The models written by LSHTM, Warwick University and Institut Pasteur Paris all agreed with “the” Imperial model. All used different code bases.

This is an interesting tactic. In this paragraph, despite up to this point attacking the writer and then rubbishing the article, Professor Ferguson now introduces the idea of absolving himself and his colleagues from exclusive responsibility for the Government’s actions. The Government, he says, took into account four models which “all agreed” with Imperial. He does not say how they agreed, either in content or recommendation.

And in fact, there was never “one” Imperial model, but several. We now have four different COVID models, again which all agree.

Like the previous paragraph, a claim without any specific explanation or substantiation but composed essentially to say he was right, not once but four times in order to reinforce his position. However, in what ways he was right he keeps to himself.

Government responses were never dependent on one model. They were driven by the reality that any disease which generates epidemics which double every 3-4 days and for which over 2% of those infected require hospitalisation will overwhelm any health system that exists.

In fact, a case could be made that the UK government took too little notice of our (not just Imperial – all the SAGE groups) modelling. In that they basically only acted when they saw hospitalisations and deaths growing exponentially.

I’ll treat these two paragraphs together. Here the purpose is to distance Imperial College, and therefore by implication Professor Ferguson himself, from the outcome of Government action by passing all responsibility to the Government. Now, in the strict sense of how a nation is ruled that is as it should be.

But note how Professor Ferguson says a case could be made that the Government took “too little notice” of the modelling. Had the Government done exactly what Professor Ferguson says it should have, then the situation he claims to have predicted would never have arisen, thereby exempting him for all time from ever having his predictions tested while he basked in praise for having been right. This is similar to Homer Simpson and his anti-tiger rock.

Of course, that didn’t happen. This enables Professor Ferguson to imply that Government incompetence is to blame for the actual numbers of hospitalisations and deaths because they “only acted” when they saw them rising “exponentially”. The tactic is of course a perfect one. “If only they had done as we said”, then we wouldn’t be in this mess.

In summary, Professor Ferguson’s reply to the writer of the email is as follows:

  • You’re being emotional
  • You’ve lost control of yourself
  • You’re being aggressive
  • You’re attacking me and my powerful and well-qualified friends, so watch out
  • Your email is electronic junk and the article you sent me is also junk
  • I and my friends are all correct, because we all added up the figures and got the same answer (whatever that was)
  • I’m right because if the Government had done as we had said things would have been different, and because the Government didn’t do as we said things have turned out as they have
  • Nothing that has happened is my fault or the fault of my friends, and we didn’t get anything wrong

It’s an enviable position to be in. Professor Ferguson has built himself an impregnable bunker in which by predicting a scenario that would never have happened (and did not happen) he can never be proved wrong. His reply essentially amounts to a declamation of how nothing he has said or done in connection with this matter can be queried. Anyone who does so must have something wrong with them or be troubled in some way. That he bothered to reply shows that it is important to him to assert this position.

Clearly, there’ll never be any dialogue or debate with him, and he will probably go to his grave with his certainty undented. In some professions, certainty is useful. In this one I am not so sure. The lack of humility is to be expected, but even if he does in quieter and private moments question himself, his reply proves that he is unlikely to admit it.

However, in science the only route to progress is doubt, not certainty. One cannot help but muse on scientific certainties of the past that were brushed aside when someone with the wit and imagination to see beyond came up with another solution or explanation. It would be very rare in history if anyone was to look back at this time and regard the certainties of, in this instance, our current epidemiological modelling as definitive, unequivocal, and cast-iron.


Neil Ferguson’s Original Correspondent Responds – and He Responds Again!

The Lockdown Sceptics reader’s response to Professor Ferguson was powerful

Dear Professor Ferguson,

I was surprised to get a reply to my email – but frankly amazed to read the content of the link you sent me.  Is that really the best you can do? Do you respond to other scientists’ theories by shutting them down by yelling ‘conspiracy theorist’? Instead of engaging with the central tenet of the argument, that your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris model might be wrong, you call me a conspiracy theorist. That is very odd and suggests to me it’s you that have developed a very warped sense of reality and that maybe you do not understand what is going on in people’s lives. We look at ONS/NHS data every day on cases/hospitalisations/deaths, not wild theories.

So let me speak from personal experience. I have 21 year-old twins, studying at Bristol (Economics) and Montpellier (Year abroad) respectively. Their lives are relatively rubbish at the moment, no enjoyment of the university life for which my daughter at Bristol is paying £18K a year. My son is living under a curfew. But I accept, not a disaster. Their friend killed himself while incarcerated as a student last year. He was in despair.

Just this week we heard of the suicide of a lovely man my husband met at the gym, a Tunisian. He worked as a waiter, so I guess he had financial worries.

We help a Syrian Refugee family in the town. Two children, aged six and 12. In the summer we realised that all the progress they had made at their excellent primary school was slipping away and that the 12 year-old was losing his English (they speak Arabic at home) so we started doing lessons at our house for the mum and the two children. We realised that the boy was virtually illiterate. His parents had been so terrorised by the fear porn churned out by the government (acting on your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris models) that they would not send the children back to school even though they were ‘allowed’, being in Years 1 and 6. He then started at the local High school, has got into fights, been bullied and I fear for his future. His life chances have been damaged by having his education denied to him by this government relying on the models mentioned above. Of course our weekly lessons had to stop. Online learning started. The family did not have a laptop. The Government agencies that get paid handsomely to do so could not provide a laptop, so we set up a charity to recycle laptops to deprived children.

We’ve helped him and 178 other children in our nice leafy middle-class Stratford-on-Avon. I wonder what it’s like in Middlesborough, Fleetwood, Great Yarmouth? Multiply my young Syrian friend’s experience by literally millions and you start to approach the truth (not a conspiracy theory!) of the world that you have been key in ushering in (and of course LSHTM, Warwick University and the Institut Pasteur Paris). So many young people’s lives will be poorer, in so many ways. My point is this is real world stuff, not theory (either your theory or a conspiracy theory)..

Me and my husband both have widowed mothers. His mum is 94 – one of the last years of her life has been lived in almost total isolation. She has 14 grandchildren who are (should read, were) very involved in her life, regularly travelling 2.5 hours+ to visit her in Suffolk. All stopped. She’s living life as a husk. Both her and my mother’s mobility have seriously declined, because they do not go out any more, due to lockdown (not the virus). My mum is I’d say typical of a lot of 87 year-olds. She’s reasonably intelligent, used to be a teacher. She lives alone in the house she’s lived in for the last 63 years. It is completely in the ‘back of beyond’.  The house sits atop a sea wall and the nearest land mass looking west is Ireland. The Irish Sea hits the house at high tide. She is miles from anywhere and has no part of community life. She isn’t online and gets all her news from the BBC (refusing a newspaper in case “it’s on it”– the virus). The house is for sale as it’s a mad place for an 87 year-old to live in but she won’t allow any viewings – you can guess why. Her mobility is also much reduced and she is desperately lonely. I haven’t seen her in over a year. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s my mum’s life. She lives like this because of the messaging from the Government, acting as a result of modelling by you/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris. The aim of the Government was to terrify the population. I do hope you of all people do not think that this is a conspiracy theory.  I’ve read the relevant minutes from Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) on March 22nd 2020 which says among other things: 

A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent using hard-hitting emotional messaging

Use media to increase sense of personal threat

Perhaps you think the 47 signatories to this petition are also conspiracy theorists? The BIT feeds into SAGE – so count yourself as part of all this – and together they have set out to terrorise us – and you’ve done such a brilliant job that people like my mum (who has had her first vaccine) is unlikely ever to resume normal life again. Her house won’t sell and we’ll have the same horrendous problems trying to get carers for her as we did for my dad four years ago – except that unlike him, he had mum, she’ll be alone. Just telling you what real life looks like.

Do you get it? You might live a nice comfortable life as an academic. I too want for nothing (apart from normality). I am sufficiently well off to shield my three children from the coming, shall we call them, difficulties.  It’s the ‘left behind’, the marginalised, the poor, the lonely elderly, the millions upon millions of dirt poor people in the developing world that keeps me awake at night. So yes, I’m angry. But you call me the conspiracy theorist! Do you not see reports like this: 270 million marching towards starvation (perhaps they too are infected with conspiracy theories?). This isn’t the virus that’s caused this, it’s lockdowns. First World lockdowns have a terrible impact on the the Third/Developing world – I don’t think that’s in contention.  Surely you can see that? Even if you didn’t foresee it as a consequence.

Or this in the Lancet: 94 million children at risk of not getting their measles vaccine (perhaps the Lancet is in on the conspiracy?)

Maybe if you, Whitty, Valance, Drosten, Farrar and Edmunds are all merrily putting communications in your junk folder you really are totally unaware of what is happening in the real world? Pause: think: what if they are right? What if only half of what I say is right? I thought scientists were supposed to welcome their theories being challenged? I thought that’s how they are tested. You describe me as being “sucked into” an “alternate reality” – and that is precisely my beef – you are the one living in a land of modelled theories – I am the one asking you to look at my reality – the ‘on the ground Real World’ data. What has happened in countries which didn’t/couldn’t lock down? Yes, look at Sweden, though it obviously pains you do to do so. How to explain its death rate? Or Texas? Or Brazil? Or Belarus? How is that a conspiracy? Is the FT in on the conspiracy? Worldometers? Perhaps the health reporting agencies are in on it too! 

I might not be an epidemiologist but it’s fairly obvious to me that your model (and that of Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris) is out by several orders of magnitude and the fact that you resort to calling people who disagree with it “conspiracy theorists” only serves to illustrate how far down the rabbit hole you have fallen. Oh, and what is wrong in pointing out that you have made the self-same error with Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Foot and Mouth? Or do you dispute those figures when you say I’m quoting the “same old misinformation”? Are all those reporting your past predictions v the actuality also in on the conspiracy?

I loathe this Government and its key players in this, the worst mistake the world has ever made. You – I would say that you are obviously a decent human being and I wonder if you do not see that you are going to be hung out to dry by those chancers running this operation.  Just look at their record – the failed Test and Trace, the corruption, the care home deaths, the infection rate in hospitals – you have hitched your star to the worst Government we have ever had but unfortunately it will forever be your name attached to ‘The Science’ that drove them. If you can’t see that then you are not as clever as we all were led to believe. You and Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris have made the biggest mistake of all time and in my view the sooner you accept it and try and proffer some sort of explanation the better. The truth might be able to be suppressed in our society now so bereft of free speech, but it will come out – starting in other countries.

I find it unfathomable that you/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris were listened to, the Pandemic Preparedness Plan thrown away and we embarked on lockdowns, with the rest of the world following. Perhaps you could do some good at this late stage by trying to get the mass-testing/False Positive Rate sorted out (by following the WHO’s guidelines, for instance) otherwise we are never going to get out of this mess. My husband drew this up – from Government data.

Sorry for the long email. The conclusion I’ve reached that it’s you that is living in some parallel universe if you think that I am the conspiracy theorist. The world lies in tatters because of your/Imperial/LSHTM/Warwick University/Institut Pasteur Paris theory.

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading

XXXX


Professor Ferguson’s second answer to the Lockdown Sceptics reader was more conciliatory than his first

Dear XXXX

I would start by asking whether you really think I and my colleagues are unaware of the social and economic consequences of societal restrictions? Every life lost is a tragedy, whatever the cause. And I absolutely agree that this pandemic – and the measures adopted – have hit the poorest hardest.

But I wonder what you think motivates me and my (many hundreds of) fellow scientists who have been working on this pandemic for over a year? It certainly isn’t publicity or a desire to impose draconian rules on society. Nor do I have any love of lockdown restrictions myself, personally or ideologically. I don’t know anyone who does. Rather, we are trying to learn as much as possible about the epidemiology of this virus and how best to limit its health impacts.

The judgement call on the balance between compulsory measures and voluntary recommendations is a political one, but the effectiveness of each is likely culturally specific. Sweden made one set of choices, Denmark and Norway another. The result is that Sweden has had fewer restrictions overall, but has had 3-4x the per capita death toll of its neighbours. Our death toll is higher still not because we over-reacted, but because we introduced measures too late last March, and then repeated the mistake last autumn. And because of factors which were just bad luck – the level of seeding last February and the new variant last November.

As for the UK, what are you really suggesting the Government should have done back in December in response to the new variant and the overwhelming levels of hospital demand seen in London and elsewhere? Let people continue to go about their normal business as thousands died at home or on hospital corridors, as is happening in Mexico? 

And to reassure you, we track the pandemic globally. And have a significant research programme comparing how different countries have responded. I am a bit surprised you point to Brazil as a success story though. And if you highlight Belarus, why not China?

I am also aware that there is a continuum between scepticism and outright conspiracy theory craziness. But some of the “facts” you and the lockdown sceptics throw out are tending towards the latter category. Remember the claims that there would be no second wave and that we were just experiencing a “casedemic”?

False positive rates are not a major issue at present. We are aware they will need to be accounted for more in future though. Also, while every suicide is tragic, there is no evidence that the suicide rate has increased in the last year. I am actually much more worried about all the cancer diagnoses and treatments which were postponed in the last few months due to Covid-related NHS demand.

I certainly agree there are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic – including regarding test and trace (especially early on) and care homes. I do not see myself as a Government cheerleader. Indeed, one of the depressing aspects of the discourse around this pandemic is the politicisation of science.

Best,

Neil


The reader replied.

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your considered response.

I suspect you epidemiologists are told that there will be economic and other consequences of the lockdowns but I, and many others, think you have got the balance wrong. The precautionary principle has overtaken acceptable risk. I was quite taken aback by your link to the conspiracy theory website, which does make me worry that reasonable suggestions are being rebuffed by you and people like you as “crazy conspiracy theories”. I hope you would concede that I have made some valid points to you about the outcomes of lockdowns.

You asked in your first reply what would I have done, dealing with a disease that would see 2% in hospital. Nowhere in the world have cases continued to grow “exponentially”, regardless of the level of NPIs imposed.  My point is (and I rely on real world data to support it) that you and your colleagues have concentrated on the 2% to the enormous disbenefit of the other 98% and society in general. We might argue what the IFR is but whether it’s 10 in a 1,000 or two in a 1,000, the BBC and government ministers have focused too much on the (let’s settle for four in 1,000) fatalities rather than 996 recoveries. The result is a terrorised population, lacking the ability to get the risks into perspective and the very real long term threat that people will never get back to normal for fear of flu or other seasonal illnesses. We can’t all live forever.

How can you argue against the fact that other countries do illuminate what could happen if a different approach to NPIs were taken? That NPIs (or lack thereof) made very little difference to Covid health outcomes and that the disease didn’t grow exponentially in those countries, such as Vietnam, India and Japan? Are you suggesting all the data I’ve been looking at – Euromomo, the FT, Worldometers – are somehow presenting false information? How does that make me and other sceptics (not deniers, obviously!) conspiracy theorists? It does rather suggest an over sensitivity on your part. 

Yes, I overlooked the cancers/other missed health treatments (so many other horrors to mention). A year down the line, do you not consider that the cure is going to be worse than the disease, in cancer/missed treatments alone, quite apart from the other societal/economic/libertarian damage

By the way, which ‘fact’ in my email makes you think I am on the side of conspiracy theory craziness?  I think that we should have lived with a greater degree of risk and that in fact you have opened a Pandora’s Box of fear and risk aversion which is going to be a constant plague. Though with a trashed economy, I’m not sure how it’s going to be paid for, if we are to have annual lockdowns. I think that we should have dealt with it differently, by following the Pandemic Preparedness Plan, by shielding the vulnerable (think: Great Barrington Declaration). It might have seemed an impossible task but it is nothing compared to what we have done. We’ll never agree that the NPIs delivered a step change in outcome – but as I said, those who disagree with you can point to countries which didn’t use them/used them lightly and observe that the death rates were much the same as those who did lock down. I guess my point is that if your (and all the other institutions you mention) model were to be tested against these countries, your modelled response would be very far apart from what actually happened. Is that calling it wrong? Or just out by several factors. 

We’ve infantilised the population, created an enormous health crisis and trashed the economy. We’ve turned a once-in-40-years health crisis into a cataclysmic health/economic/political/societal disaster. I agree I don’t know what part your input played in these decisions, but I know that you are so frequently on our airwaves some people think you were pretty instrumental.

But thank you for your time in engaging with me.

Best wishes

XXXX


Niall Ferguson’s Second Correspondent from Lockdown Sceptics!

Following the exchange above, another reader sent an email to Professor Neil Ferguson. And, again, he replied. Here is their exchange in full.

Neil,

Someone sent you an article written by Derek Winton and you replied to that person by sending him/her a handbook about conspiracy theories.

So – anyone who disagrees with you must be a conspiracy theorist? Is that it?

But the Derek Winton article made no reference at all to any conspiracy or conspiracy theory. 

It is possible you know to take a different view from you without thinking that you are part of some conspiracy. 

Your reply referred to above doesn’t come across at all well. You might want to consider proffering an apology for it. 

All the best,

XXXX


The Professor replied, with a couple of references that suggest he may have Googled “Lockdown Scepticsand “no Second Wave” or “Casedemic” before replying.

Dear XXXX,

Reductionist rhetoric such as “anyone who disagrees with you must be a conspiracy theorist?” rather makes my point. It is not just anyone.

Science is about alternative perspectives, debate and being prepared to change ones view. My views are driven by the data and analysis of it – not just that from Imperial, but from researchers globally. Like most other people working on the virus, I learn new things every week, and that sometime involves rejecting previous beliefs.

However, the Winton piece was an ideologically motivated rhetorical rant, not a serious scientific discussion. Criticising 15 year-old C code is never going to be scientifically persuasive, because the science never depended on that (or any other) code. Never mind the bizarre but persistent minority belief that the world locked down because of the results from one modelling study.

That post came from a mindset that has predetermined what the truth is, feels that the “mainstream” world is not listening, and seeks to use polemic rather than actual scientific research to change others’ minds. That ticks quite a few of the conspiratorial thinking boxes. Admittedly not to the same degree as the emails I receive accusing me of being a minion of Bill Gates in wanting to implant microchips in people. But that is not saying much.

That is not to say I don’t think it’s legitimate to disagree about whether the social and economic costs of Covid measures are “worth it”. Or indeed about whether compulsory measures or recommendations should have been adopted. Neither of those issues are fundamentally scientific ones. 

What is dangerous “alternate reality” nonsense is using rhetoric and cherry-picking of the science to try to deny the threat posed by the virus. To give a couple of not too historic examples:

https://lockdownsceptics.org/2020/09/01/latest-news-121/

https://lockdownsceptics.org/dr-clare-craig-false-positive-pseudo-epidemic-coronavirus-testing-pcr-lateral-flow/

This last year has been a tragedy for the world, and the consequences will be with us for decades. The response of the scientific community has been a silver lining though. We have learned more about this virus in a shorter time than I could have conceived would be possible. That we have multiple vaccines now available is a remarkable achievement – and one which will benefit the control of many other diseases. And, unlike much of the rest of the response to the pandemic, that research has been a truly global and co-operative effort.

Instead of futilely trying to undermine the work of thousands here and abroad, perhaps try celebrating  human ingenuity in the face of adversity. The pandemic has been a random, terrible event. It is no-one’s fault – and while every country has made mistakes, most decision-makers (and the doctors and scientists behind them) have been trying to do the best they can, faced with very difficult decisions.

Best,

Neil


Our reader then replied to him.

Dear Neil,

Thanks for your email in reply to mine. I am grateful to you for taking the time. I know you are busy. 

Some lockdown sceptics have made predictions that haven’t come to pass. But is that not also true of Imperial College modelling as Derek Winton has said?

You may say that the reason your team’s BSE projection on which he comments never came to pass is because the Government of the day took the projections of that team seriously and took drastic measures to mitigate the disease’s impact.

But what about your telling the Guardian in 2005 that up to 200 million people could be killed by bird flu? Few precautionary measures were taken to mitigate the impact of Avian Flu and yet the number of deaths is a tiny fraction of that figure. 

And in 2009 an Imperial College modelling team of which you were a member significantly over-estimated the likely death toll from Swine Flu.

Again nothing approaching a lockdown was imposed. I accept these things don’t mean your subsequent work should be dismissed, but by the same token I don’t think you can dismiss the central arguments of the lockdown sceptics – that the lockdown policy will ultimately do more harm than it prevents – just because some of their predictions turned out to be inaccurate. 

Correct me if I have this wrong but I don’t think that the adverse health/educational/social/political/other effects of lockdown have featured in modelling with which you have been involved. Could be your view is that that’s not your bailiwick – is that how you see it?

(In fairness to you, I do see on looking again at your email to me that –  whatever your modelling work says – you accept that there is room for debate on the question of the social and economic harms that Lockdown might cause – though you don’t refer to the harm to health it might/does cause.)

If you have a moment I’d love to know how you respond to the evidence that the most severe policies – such as stay-at-home orders and business closures – are not more effective at reducing overall transmission than the more modest policies put in place in countries like Sweden and South Korea. I’m thinking of the work of John Ioannidis and his colleagues at Stanford in particular:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eci.13484

In addition, there is the evidence that laypersons like me can see with our own eyes.

Such as the fact that Florida which didn’t lockdown again in the autumn/winter has a lower Covid death toll than some states that did and overall the average number of Covid deaths in those US states that haven’t issued stay-at-home orders is lower than in those that did.

Isn’t it at least arguable that had we kept to our Pandemic Preparedness Strategy we wouldn’t have significantly more Covid deaths than we’ve had in England after three lockdowns? And that we’d have far lower levels of collateral damage? 

Some of the criticism directed at you is deplorable, vitriolic stuff which I find utterly unacceptable. Reprehensible in fact. I am not with the people who put out that kind of material. 

I would like to see reasoned debate instead. 

I would like to see you talking to Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan and John Ioannidis for example.

In fact, I would love to see a proper grown up debate between the leading scientists on both sides of this issue on the BBC or Channel 4.

I bet if you proposed it to the Beeb they’d have a good look at putting it on. (I can’t know whether any of the people I refer to above would want to show up – don’t know them.) 

Take it easy. 

Many thanks. 

Cheers,

XXXX


Professor Ferguson, who must, by this stage, have had a fairly good idea of where his response was going to end up, replied:

Dear XXX,

Can I point out that I never “predicted” 200m would be killed by bird flu. The Guardian article you refer to was reporting this Nature paper – https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04017

What we looked at was what might unfold if bird flu (H5N1) gained the ability to spread from person to person. A threat which still exists, but not something we can predict the likelihood of happening (or ever tried). As I explained to journalists at the time. 

That paper was a small part of a global research effort to improve preparations for a novel influenza pandemic which was stimulated by the emergence of H5N1. Pandemic planning has been a top priority for the UK Government since that time, with a novel pandemic being top of the UK Government risk register.

In relation to Swine flu, I think you are referring to the Dept. of Health reasonable worst case planning scenario which was agreed by SAGE in 2009. Multiple groups input into that, and it was never a prediction (rather it was closer to the upper bound of a confidence interval) – as the name implies – given the data available in April 2009, it quantified the worst case the UK Government might need to plan for. As more data became available, the uncertainty range narrowed and the upper bound on the confidence interval came down, leading the RWC to be revised down. That is how science works. 

I would also note that SAGE has never revised the RWC for Covid agreed last March, largely because the severity we estimated for the virus turned out, unfortunately, to be basically spot on.

Best,

Neil