Latest News

It’s Official: UK Plunges into Recession

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed this morning what we already knew: the UK economy suffered its largest contraction in Q2 since records began. (Caveat: the ONS only started keeping records in 1955.) GDP shrank by a whopping 20.4% and, since it’s the second quarter of negative growth in succession, that means the economy is officially in recession. Overall, the British economy has shrunk by 22% since the beginning of the year, reducing output back to the level it was in 2003.

The Government will blame the virus, of course, but that excuse only goes so far because the UK has suffered the worst recession in the G7. GDP shrank by 13.8% in France, 12.4% in Italy, 12% in Canada, 10.1% in Germany, 9.5% in the US and is forecast to shrink by 7.6% in Japan. Lockdown zealots will claim our economic woes have been exacerbated by Boris’s failure to place the country under virtual house arrest even earlier, but one of those countries – Japan, which has fared the best in the G7 if the forecast is accurate – never imposed a full lockdown and Sweden’s economy performed better than most in Europe, only shrinking by 8.6% in Q2.

The truth is that if Boris had stuck to his guns and not imposed a full lockdown Britain’s Covid death toll would be no higher, the collateral death toll would be lower and the economy would be in better shape.

Government by Chaos

One explanation for why Britain has fared the worst in the G7 is that our Government has been so chaotic, destroying what the economist Paul Krugman calls the “confidence fairy”. First we were going to “take in on the chin”, then we weren’t. Testing was scaled back because it was unreliable, then it was scaled back up because it was our best hope of containing new outbreaks. Masks outside healthcare setting weren’t recommended, then they were. Schools would re-open before the summer holidays, then they wouldn’t. The lockdown is over, unless you live in Leicester, Manchester, Bradford, Preston, etc., in which case it isn’t. You can go on holiday to Spain without having to quarantine on your return – oh no you can’t. But Portugal’s off the list, right? Maybe not. France? Who knows.

In his latest essay for Lockdown Sceptics, longstanding contributor Guy de la Bédoyère asks the six million dollar question. Is there any method in the Government’s madness – some diabolical plot orchestrated by Dominic Cummings – or is it just one cock-up after another?

There are plenty of people who think this Government, indeed almost any government, is hell-bent on a systematic plan to destroy individual liberty, force people to be vaccinated, inject them with chips, monitor social media accounts, use algorithms as a mechanism of control and to do it all with the cynical efficiency of a Bond villain.

Others think governments are exercises in accidental chaos, masked by spin, staggering from one crisis to another, fuelled by individual self-interest, opportunism and chronic disorganization.

I’m firmly in the latter camp, but Guy is more ambivalent. This is one of his best essays yet and worth reading in full.

A Musician Writes…

I got a message from a musician who spent some time in mainland Europe recently. Not as awful as she was expecting.

I just read the Postcard from Belgium you published a few days ago. I was in Belgium from July 30th – August 1st, as a musician performing at an event in Brussels. When I arrived – off a train from the airport – I was dismayed to find people wearing masks even in the streets, and signs saying that masks were mandatory outdoors. I thought Belgium had gone mask-mad. However, this impression soon dissipated. We went to rehearse at a studio – no masks in sight. Then at the outdoor event the next day, despite the sign saying masks were mandatory, the organisers were scathing about the public wearing masks and told us we only had to wear them when the audience arrived so we didn’t appear to be breaking the law. Even then, audience members were only required to wear them when moving around and not when at their seats (which were spaced out somewhat but people were free to join each other at different tables). After the gig, another musician was telling me about how lockdown scepticism was growing in Belgium and the Netherlands and starting to get organised, though he emphasised it was still a minority of people.

Next we drove to Zurich, rehearsed, and went to a cafe – only the staff wore masks. Then to a gig in France. Despite a new law being locally introduced that masks are compulsory even on the streets, very few people are following this, though everyone is wearing them in shops, and staff in cafes and kitchens wear them. People are concerned about the virus – they are not “corona deniers” – but they are just using common sense.

I’m from Scotland and was talking to people from Catalonia where the rules are also strict. They, like me, were thrilled to be part of an event where people can mingle freely, play music together, even sit next to each other to eat. I was very worried about travelling in this current super-safety-fear climate but actually it’s been like a coronavirus holiday. I’ve been given handshakes, hugs, even a kiss on the cheek, Belgian-style. I don’t mention this too much to people back home because they tend to react with horror but for me this trip has been a massive relief. The countries of the UK might still be quite fear-ridden (though there have always been the pragmatic folk throughout) but mainland Europe feels like a sensible place. People haven’t forgotten their humanity and want to live what I call the ‘true normal’ not the ‘new normal’.

If only I didn’t have to come home…

Anti-Mask Protests Planned For This Weekend

People listening to speakers at a July protest in Hyde Park organised by Keep Britain Free, Simon Dolan’s group

The anti-lockdown movement is gathering momentum. According to the Mail, anti-mask protests are planned for this weekend in London, Liverpool and Hull. And yesterday, a group calling itself StandUp X invaded a Morrison’s in London and told shoppers to remove their masks.

Worryingly for the Government trying to promote the wearing of masks, the protest group’s public Facebook page shows it is converting other people to its views and cause.

One mother called Gemma Munro told them: “I really want to thank this group for giving me the strength and courage to stop wearing that stupid mask!”

StandUp X is not just opposed to masks. It’s also against vaccinations and 5G masts, which will make some lockdown sceptics understandably wary.

Can’t this movement find a better leader than Piers Corbyn?

Postcard From Brazil

A reader in Brazil – a Canadian married to a Brazilian – has written a corking postcard from the South American country. It’s not the usual griping about how an irresponsible populist leader has ignored the advice of his own scientists and let the virus cut a swathe through the favelas. On the contrary, he thinks Bolsonaro has got it broadly right. He points out that Brazil’s per capita death toll is lower than it is in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, the UK, Sweden, and the United States.

Despite high national case numbers, Brazilian cities that were struck hard early on have now seen new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fall off a cliff around the 20% infected mark, just like clockwork. Of course, we all know that herd immunity cannot be reached and would result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold suffering blah blah blah. So what explains these drops? Will we hear the English language media discussing this? Will pigs fly?

With the numbers now falling in my state as well, I shake my head daily at the bizarro world pronouncements of the state Governor proclaiming that beaches and hiking trails, to which people have been flocking for months, are now open. Restaurants are now allowed to operate until 6pm, despite the swanky spot down the block having been open until 2am every night since the beginning of the pandemic, pumping loud music. I suspect bribery.

This is one of the best postcards we’ve published so far. Well worth reading in full.

Did Re-Opening Schools in Israel Really Cause a Spike in Cases?

Re-opening schools hasn’t caused a rise in cases – but is Israel the exception?

Yesterday, I published a series of graphs showing that re-opening schools in most parts of the world hadn’t caused a rise in cases – with one exception, Israel. Indeed, the apparent link between the decision to re-open schools in Israel and the subsequent rise in cases is one of the most common arguments against re-opening schools in full in England next month.

However, a reader has pointed out that this is a case of correlation not causation.

I would like to comment regarding the graph showing an increase in cases for Israel after school re-opening.
The point is that the event (i.e. schools re-opened) is as relevant as “Full Moon”.

Israel became an anarchy in the sense that the Orthodox population disregard and disobey the guidelines set for social distancing and mask-wearing.

The result is that a huge portion (over 50%) of the cases are in this group, with an order of magnitude lower rates elsewhere.

However, due to the political situation (PM on trial), the law enforcement authorities do nothing at all.

It would be a mistake to link the cases to “schools re-opened”.

Round-Up

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Love in the Time of Covid

If you want to avoid this horror show, head to “Love in a Covid Climate”

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. Indeed, I’ve written about it for the Daily Express today. 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.

Meanwhile, if you want to get a sense of what it would be like to embark on a relationship with a bedwetter, the Terrence Higgins Trust has issued some “safe sex” advice for people worried about catching the virus. You should wash your hands before and after each sexual encounter, avoid kissing and wear a face mask during intercourse. I’m not making that up. The Telegraph & Argus has the story.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 25th to Oct 5th). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 (now over 28,000).

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

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

I have a regular correspondent who suggests theme tunes for this site, but his latest is such a good spot I thought I’d stick it down here rather than throw it away in “Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers”. It’s “Absolute Panic” by Bedwetters Anonymous. Well worth a listen.

Latest News

Three Quarters of a Million Jobs Lost During Lockdown

According to the Office for National Statistics, UK payrolls fell 2.5% from March to July of this year, amounting to the loss of 730,000 jobs. The Telegraph has more.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming benefits climbed to 2.7m in July, up 116.8% since March.

The ONS also found that nominal pay growth – unadjusted for inflation – from April to June was negative for the first time since records began in 2001, weighed down by lower bonuses and furloughed workers on reduced earnings.

However, the official unemployment rate is not rising because to be counted among the unemployed, workers need to be actively looking for a new job, which many have decided not to do yet, the ONS said.

Jonathan Athow of the ONS said there was also a large number of people who said they were working no hours and getting no pay.

“The falls in employment are greatest among the youngest and oldest workers, along with those in lower-skilled jobs,” he added. “Vacancies numbers began to recover in July, especially in small businesses and sectors such as hospitality, but demand for workers remains depressed.”

What Accounts for the UK’s Unusually High Death Toll?

There’s an interesting blog post by Jason Oke and Carl Heneghan on the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine website, speculating as to what could account for the UK’s high Covid death toll over the past three weeks. They note that the UK is an outlier when compared to every other European country.

Analysing deaths since mid-July the UK is a clear outlier with a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 6.57. Every other European country has a CFR for this period less than three, and Spain is as low as 0.15.

Spain has reported over 60,000 cases, but only 94 deaths; Germany has 21,000 cases compared to the UK’s 26,500 cases but reports 93% fewer deaths (129 versus 1,744), and Russia has nearly ten times as many cases as the UK but only twice the deaths.

The difference in the UK is so stark that the primary explanation has to be in the current recording and reporting of deaths. We are expecting the UK numbers to be revised this week to bring them, somewhat, in line with the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph is reporting that the official daily death toll could be scrapped, following an investigation into the reporting anomalies flagged up by Yoon Loke and Carl Heneghan in a CBEM blog post three weeks ago.

Stop Press: Matt Hancock’s crack army of contract tracers are sitting on their hands doing nothing, according to report done by Independent SAGE. The group said the army of up to 25,000 staff had reached 51,524 close contacts of people who’ve tested positive for coronavirus between the end of May and the end of July. That amounts, on average, to two successful contacts per employee across the period. The Telegraph has more:

The criticism chimes with comments from staff employed by NHS Test and Trace which have emerged since its launch at the end of May.

One, a trained clinician, said the job was akin to being “paid to watch Netflix”. Others spoke of being members of a WhatsApp group called the Mouse Movers Club, which they use to remind each other to move their computer mouse every 15 minutes to avoid being locked out of the system.

The latest “fix” of this fiasco is to turn over responsibility for contact tracing to local authorities. What could possibly go wrong?

Does PHE’s New Study Show Schools Are Safe to Re-Open or Not?

The Sunday Times published a leaked report by Public Health England (PHE) two days ago that purportedly shows there is little or no evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools. About 20,000 pupils and teachers in 100 schools across England were tested as part of the study to monitor the spread of the disease up to the end of the summer term.

According to a Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of SAGE: “A new study that has been done in UK schools confirms there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools. This is some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.”

However, the Times has run a story on its front page today saying its sister paper’s summary of the forthcoming report is inaccurate. According to the Times, PHE has studied those aged 10 and under and those over 10 and while there’s little evidence that the first group spreads the virus, the second group doesn’t fare so well.

Secondary school pupils are likely to transmit coronavirus as easily as adults, according to official research used by ministers to argue that it is safe for all children to return to class next month.

Scientists at Public Health England (PHE) believe that tougher rules are likely to be needed for older children, despite finding that primary pupils do not seem to pass the virus to each other.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said yesterday that a study being conducted by PHE of thousands of pupils who returned to schools in June showed that there was little risk in government plans for all children to be back in the classroom for the new academic year next month.

However, the Times understands that researchers working on the study are unhappy with the way ministers have used the findings, which have not been fully analysed. The preliminary results do suggest that primary schools pose little danger, with only six positive tests out of 9,000 tested so far. These cases were not linked to each other and contact tracing suggested that the children had caught the virus from their parents or other carers outside school.

It’s impossible to assess this data without seeing it, but the evidence from European countries that have re-opened schools – including secondary schools – is that doing so has had no discernible impact on the spread of the virus (see graphic above).

Is Boris worried that the PHE data will be used by the teaching unions to justify continuing to obstruct the Government’s attempts to re-open schools next month? Apparently so, because according to the Telegraph he has asked Chris Whitty to carry out a review of the evidence on the transmission of coronavirus in educational settings in an attempt to show schools are safe to re-open.

Professor Chris Whitty is being asked to carry out a rapid evaluation of the research on schools in order to provide parents with more reassurance before the new term starts next month.

One study, to be published later this week, will show that, despite 60 clusters and outbreaks in schools and nurseries during June and July, not a single child has been hospitalised.

Preliminary results from a larger study by Public Health England (PHE) next week are expected to confirm that there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools.

Vicstapo Officer Chokes Woman For Not Wearing Mask

There have been a number of horrific videos in the past 24 hours of police in Melbourne brutally assaulting young women for not wearing masks. Some people naively clung to the hope that the police in Victoria wouldn’t enforce the illiberal policies of state premier Daniel Andrews, known locally as Kim-Jong Dan. But history suggests that if authoritarian, power-crazed leaders ask the police to force people to comply with their loony, draconian diktats they are more than happy to do so. Awful. (If you have the stomach for it, there’s another video here.)

Postcard From Stockholm

Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, is a local hero. One bakery has even named a cake after him

A reader has emailed to let me know about his experience holidaying in Sweden.

I wanted to get in touch with you to tell you about my recent short break to Stockholm, it made a wonderful change from old Blighty.

Stockholm was a marvel to behold – upon arriving we instantly felt transported into another world. It all felt very normal with life carrying on as I remember it. There are some modest precautions in place with sanitiser available (but never forced) and some extent of social distancing. There isn’t a hint of the infantilism we see at home – no markings on the floor, no barked announcements, no yellow and black hazard tape marking social distancing and no marshals outside shops. The population are treated as adults and trusted to behave accordingly. There were plenty of people out and about with many office workers out buying lunch, friends meeting up, business meetings taking place in cafes and restaurants and lots of Swedes on staycations.

One thing I was highly skeptical about has been our media coverage of Anders Tegnell. According to our media, the Swedes all think he’s a raving lunatic. I spoke to about 30 Swedes at our hotel who all agreed with his strategy and felt that he’d made the right choices for Sweden. They were all happy with his leadership and felt he was the right man for the job. This “anger” as I believe the BBC described the feeling towards Tegnell in Sweden is simply non-existent, indeed, we walked past a bakery in Gamla Stan which had named a cake after him!

All in all, it was a lovely break in a beautiful city with wonderful food, hospitable people and endless things to do. I’d highly recommend a holiday in Stockholm to anyone who wants a break from this tyrannical pantomime our country has become. If anyone needs additional persuasion – buffet breakfasts are still very much the order of the day in Sweden!

Postcards From Around England

Tynemouth in Tyne and Wear

Several readers have been in touch to tell me about their staycation experiences. Nearly all were positive.

First, a postcard from the North East.

I’ve just returned home from a few days in the North East, exploring the coastline north between Tynemouth and Bamburgh.

Local families and holidaymakers were enjoying the good weather and the beaches, which were not crowded.

In the streets people were easily able to keep a sensible distance without obsessive two metre paranoia. Dinner in two restaurants was relaxed and pretty normal. Tables were well spaced and sanitiser available. Staff wore no face coverings and there was no pressure on customers to provide contact details.

It was uplifting to see groups of teenagers enjoying swimming, diving, and paddle boarding and two Geordie lasses sitting on a rock with their feet in a rock pool singing their hearts out.

And here’s another happy camper just back from Wales.

We’ve just been to Pembrokeshire for a short family break and the absence of masks and people crab-stepping around one another was a wonderful relief, the most ’normal’ we’ve felt for months.

Roads, beaches, shops and restaurants were busy and the atmosphere generally very relaxed. Indeed, we only had one restaurant stipulate that masks were to be worn on entering the building, which could then be removed at the table. Needless to say, we ate elsewhere.

Has Northern Ireland Created a New Criminal Offence by Accident?

“This is the Northern Irish Department of Health. Can I help you?”

An eagle-eyed reader has spotted that the Northern Ireland Executive may have created a new, wide-ranging criminal offence by accident in its rush to push through new regulations making the wearing of face coverings in shops compulsory.

I believe that the Northern Irish Department of Health has accidentally created a criminal offence, using essentially the same regulation-making power which has been used in England to enforce the shutdown and wearing of face coverings.

Yesterday, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 (SR 2020 No. 164) came into effect. They amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 (SR 2020 No. 151).

The intended purpose of the Regulations is to make it an offence to fail without reasonable excuse to wear a face covering in a relevant place (i.e. shops, etc.)

They do this by providing, in regulation 4A(1), “A person shall not, without reasonable excuse, enter or remain within a relevant place without wearing a face covering.”

Regulation 7(1) then provides, “A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a requirement in regulation 4 or 4A commits an offence.”

However, paragraph (3) of regulation 4A states: “A person shall temporarily remove a face covering when requested to do so for identification purposes by a relevant person, a person responsible for a relevant place or an employee of that person acting in the course of their employment.”

This is a requirement – the use of the word “shall” is unequivocal and identical to the use of the word in paragraph (1). Therefore, in my view, regulation 7(1) makes it an offence to fail to comply with it.

In other words, the Regulations (apparently accidentally) mean that, if a person tries to buy a 6 pack of beer and is asked to remove his face covering so that the shop assistant can check his ID, he commits a criminal offence if he refuses to do so. There is not even a “reasonable excuse” exception, as there is with regulation 4A(1).

Further evidence is that regulation 5, which gives some examples of reasonable excuses not to wear a face covering, gives the following as such an example: “where a person responsible for a relevant place or an employee of that person acting in the course of their employment, has asked that the face covering be removed for identification purposes.”

It appears that this is a mistake, but it appears nonetheless that sloppy drafting has meant that a new, wide-ranging criminal offence has been created by accident and is currently in force in Northern Ireland.

I have brought this to the attention of Francis Hoar, who is involved with Simon Dolan’s judicial review of some of the UK Government’s “health protection” regulations, and he agrees with me about my interpretation of the apparent effect of the Regulations.

Sounds like my correspondent should bring a Judicial Review. If he decides to do that, I’ll link to the crowdfunder here.

New Zealand Prime Minister Orders Second Lockdown

Jacinda Ardern has ordered a second lockdown in New Zealand after… four new cases in 102 days

A reader in New Zealand has been in touch to let me know that Jacinda Arden has decided to impose a second lockdown.

It pains me to write this, but Queen Covid – she of the illustrious teeth, who shall be revered across the world as an example of leadership – has just announced Auckland will be going back into Level 3 restrictions tomorrow (schools closed, etc.), and the rest of NZ into Level 2.

Yep, we have cases! All four of them. Who’d have predicted that maintaining pristine isolation of NZ from the rest of the world couldn’t be maintained forever? Announced at 9pm tonight and enacted by midday tomorrow. Precisely and exactly as bizarre and arbitrary as the recent flip-flops in UK policy.

My correspondent isn’t exaggerating when he says this has been prompted by four new cases. Not deaths, cases, the country’s first in 102 days. And remember Jacinda Arden is held up by woke nincompoops as an example of how female leaders have managed the coronavirus crisis more effectively than male leaders! FOUR NEW CASES!

The second lockdown should give added urgency to the one-day conference organised by Plan B, a group of lockdown sceptics in New Zealand. It has lined up a stellar array of speakers, including Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta and Standford’s Professor Jay Battacharya. It’s scheduled to be broadcast live from the NZ Parliament on August 17th. If you’d like a free ticket, you can RSVP here, although they may all be gone by now.

Round-Up

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Love in the Time of Covid

Julia Stephenson, a Brexiteer and lockdown sceptic, says she’s “thrilled” we’ve started a new dating forum

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. 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.

Julia Stephenson, a Brexiteer and lockdown Sceptic, has written a piece in the Telegraph today saying she’s “thrilled” we’ve started a new dating forum.

I’m thrilled to hear that Toby Young has added a new dating thread to the forum on his ‘Lockdown Sceptics’ website. I have long thought a Brexit dating bureau was long overdue. If you are a Brexiteer you are often on the same page regarding many other issues, including lockdown, so it is a shortcut to finding someone with whom you’re compatible.

Brexiteers make up the majority of this country (51.89 per cent, to be precise) but you’d never know this to look at most dating sites which are rampant with virtue-signalling latte drinkers. It’s as if only left-wingers deserve to find love.

Welcome to the forum, Julia. Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 25th to Oct 5th). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 (now almost 28,000). If you need an additional incentive to sign, check out this study from Duke University which shows that some masks increase the risk of transmission.

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

And if you want a laugh, take a look at this skit from a satirical Indian TV show showing self-appointed mask-enforcers becoming a little too enthusiastic.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

You can listen to the latest episode of London Calling, my weekly podcast with James Delingpole, here. This week we discuss the need to re-open schools and whether Boris can “do a Ronald Reagan” and fire teachers who don’t show up for work (he can’t), as well as the new Lockdown Sceptics dating site and Dawn Butler’s unconvincing attempt to cast herself as the victim of racial profiling. If you enjoy our weekly whinges, don’t forget to subscribe to London Calling on Apple Podcasts.

Latest News

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans, the TV show about two undercover Soviet agents living in America in the 1980s, posing as a suburban couple. That’s what it’s like being a lockdown sceptic in a nation of bedwetters.

Well, that set the cat among the pigeons. Yesterday, I launched a dating section in the Forums called “Love in a Covid Climate” and within hours it had been invaded by trolls posting satirical comments. Some of them were quite funny, although they took it for granted that lockdown sceptics are all Brexit-backing Tories. (Evidently haven’t read “The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown“.) The National – the SNP-supporting online newspaper that never misses a chance to have a pop at me – published a selection of them within hours of the forum going live. Here are a couple of my favourites.

After a demoralising divorce I was, like many, reinvigorated by the Brexit movement only to be let down by Boris in this mask debacle. Looking for Albion-loving lady 35-50 who would be open to dressing up as Winston Churchill and spanking me with a cricket bat while I sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. No snowflakes need apply.

Hi my name is Miles.

I live in North London and I’m looking for a patriotic lady for lasting friendship and to settle down with.

I am financially stable with my own house, car and am mortgage free.

I am 47 years old and my interests are politics, Brexit, cars, holidays in the English countryside. My musical and film tastes are very wide so there should be something we have in common.

I am totally against all the masks/muzzle nonsense and feel that it is unnecessary scaremongering.

I also like watching animals make love (mainly dogs, foxes and wolves) but other animals as well. If that is not a thing you can get into it is a deal breaker I’m afraid.

There were plenty more in that vein – and wags on Twitter came up with some amusing alternative names for the site, including “Two Meeters”, “Spreadr” and “Hydroxychloroquindr”.

After I was contacted by the Evening Standard asking me to comment on the “adverse reaction online”, I had a chat with the Forum moderators. Should we abandon the whole idea? Would it be too much work to constantly weed out the pranksters, particularly if “Love in a Covid Climate” attracts a bit of publicity? They heroically concluded it would not and set to work tidying it up. I can’t promise that no hoaxers will get through from now on, but we should be able to spot them fairly quickly.

Since we cleaned it up “Love in a Covid Climate” appears to have taken off, with plenty of legitimate users now posting messages. And I’m happy to weather the Twitter storm if readers think it’s a useful service. The most common barbs revolve around the fact that lockdown sceptics are more likely to have the virus than other people, making them extremely unappealing as potential romantic partners. I even got an email from a reporter at the Guardian asking me to respond to the charge that the forum could spread coronavirus and harm the individuals involved. In fact, almost no one has the virus any more, including those who refuse to wear face nappies. (0.05% of the population, according the latest ONS infection survey and many of them may be false positives.) If the idea of going out on a date with a sceptic scares the living daylights out of you because you’re incapable of assessing risk, fine, don’t use the service. Indeed, the rationale for setting it up is so sceptical singles can avoid inadvertently going out with a bedwetter. As I said in my reply to the Guardian reporter:

Most people wildly exaggerate the risk posed by the virus. For instance, a poll published a couple of weeks ago found that British women think that 10% of the UK population has already died of COVID-19. That’s about 6.7 million people. In fact, the real figure is less than 1% of that – about 45,000. According to John Ioannidis, the Stanford Professor of Medicine, you’re more likely to die in a road traffic accident if you’re under-65. I’ve created “Love in a Covid Climate” for people who are properly informed about the risk, realise how small it is and want to meet other scientifically literate people who haven’t succumbed to what Bernard Henri-Levy calls “psychotic delirium”.

No doubt the forum will evolve, as most things do on this site. For the time being, the experiment continues.

Cases Increasing, Hospitalisations Falling

Data from Public Health England and NHSX

Yesterday, 1,062 people tested positive for COVID-19, up from 758 cases in the previous 24 hours. Anything to worry about? No. According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has fallen by 94% since the peak of the pandemic. Hospital staff are treating about 1,067 coronavirus patients a day in England, compared with about 17,000 a day in the middle of April, says NHS England. The Times has more.

Ron Daniels, an intensive care consultant in Birmingham, one of the worst-hit areas, told the Sunday Times there had been a big fall in admissions.

Last Thursday, across three hospitals that serve more than 50 per cent of Birmingham’s population, there were three critically ill COVID-19 patients.

“Compare that to where we were a couple of months ago, when we had almost 200 patients ventilated at any one given time, and this is a huge downturn,” Dr Daniels said.

He said the figures showed there was cause to be optimistic, even with the recent rise in cases in some areas such as Aberdeen and Preston.

He added that he didn’t expect an increase in hospital admissions. “I think that’s highly unlikely, because the pubs have been open for over a month [and] people have been socially interacting heavily during that time and the natural history of this disease is that if you contract the virus and you’re going to end up in hospital, you’re pretty much in hospital within 15 days,” he said.

Gobal Lockdowns Will Plunge 100 Million into Extreme Poverty

Today sees the publication of a disturbing report by the Associated Press’s Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. It purports to be an investigation into the devastating impact of “the virus” on the developing world, but, of course, what it’s really talking about is “the lockdowns”. Here’s an extract:

With the virus and its restrictions, up to 100 million more people globally could fall into the bitter existence of living on just $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. That’s “well below any reasonable conception of a life with dignity,” the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty wrote this year. And it comes on top of the 736 million people already there, half of them in just five countries: Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Congo and Bangladesh.

India is struggling with one of the world’s largest virus caseloads and the effects of a lockdown so abrupt and punishing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the poor to forgive him. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has surpassed India with the most people in extreme poverty — roughly half its citizens. And Congo remains one of the world’s most crisis-ridden countries, with outbreaks of Ebola and measles smoldering.

Even China, Indonesia and South Africa are expected to have more than 1 million people each fall into extreme poverty, the World Bank says.

“It’s a huge, huge setback for the entire world,” Gayle Smith, president of the ONE Campaign to end extreme poverty, told The Associated Press. Smith, a former administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, called the global response to the crisis “stunningly meager.”

Most of the millions newly at risk are in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that against countless odds had some of the world’s fastest growing economies in recent years.

It’s a timely reminder that the the main cost of the lockdowns favoured by liberal policy-makers across the world will not be people in the West, but those hovering just above the poverty line in the developing world. Thanks to the misguided enthusiasm of Western governments for imprisoning entire populations in their homes, thereby triggering a global recession, tens of millions of people will die of starvation in low-income countries. Worth reading in full.

Postcard Request

Michael Rhodes in Menston Park CREDIT: Charlotte Graham

Are there any readers in the West Yorkshire village of Menston Park? If so, could we have a “Postcard From Menston Park” please? According to the Telegraph, the village is split between the Bradford half, with villagers occupying an area governed by Bradford City Council, and the Leeds half, which falls within Leeds City Council. The Telegraph has more.

Historically, it is not a division that causes serious problems, but since the Government’s partial lockdown of the Bradford council area, however, Menston has effectively been cut in two.

The Leeds half has the same liberties most of the country enjoys, while the Bradford half is living under tight restrictions.

“It’s crazy, Menston’s been split down the middle,” villager Michael Rhodes, 66, told the Telegraph.

“My house is right on the border. I can literally walk out, go 20 metres across the road into the park, and that apparently gives me different freedoms. So which do we abide by?”

Philip Davies, the local MP, is not happy about this state of affairs.

Mr Davies has had a “very robust conversation” with both the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, about the matter. The Prime Minister, he says, “listened, and said I made a very strong case”.

Matt Hancock told him the line had to be drawn somewhere.

If you’re a Menston Park resident and fancy writing something for Lockdown Sceptics, whether a full postcard or just a paragraph or two, please email me here.

A reader has been in touch to say he’s very happy with his choice of holiday destination: Vallon Pont D’Arc.

After ‘surviving’ the flight to Nice on a well known low-cost carrier, our first full day in the Ardeche has been wonderful. The French (please note we are the only Brits in the entire campsite or indeed possibly in the whole town) here on holiday are clearly up for a good time and whilst mask wearing was observed in the local supermarket it’s pretty much ignored or paid lip service to elsewhere. There’s zero social distancing in the streets, bars, restaurants, Ice-cream parlours – there’s even a funfair where the kids don’t have to wear masks on rides. It’s obvious to us that the French leave their snowflakes where they belong, on the ski slopes. Vive la France 🇫🇷 We’re super glad we made the effort and are happily keeping the French economy going.

I took this one in the Black Mountains

I’m just back from a lovely three-day family holiday in the Brecon Beacons. We went hiking in the Black Mountains, did the four waterfalls walk and visited Carreg Cennen Castle. No one seemed bothered about social distancing, we didn’t encounter a single leaper and – best of all – the Welsh Government hasn’t made face nappies mandatory in shops. Almost normal, save for the fact that there were very few tourists around.

Best bit about it was the wonderful bed and breakfast we stayed in – Ty Newydd in Llangadog, Carmarthenshire. Run by a lovely couple called Lesley and Derick, it’s just one mile outside the Brecon Beacons National Park and about two miles off the A40. Dogs welcome. In addition to bed and breakfast, it also has a caravan site and ample parking space. Worked out at £36 per person per night, which included a full English every morning. For couples who’ve just met on “Love in a Covid Climate”, this is perfect for a weekend getaway. Booking website is here.

Postcard From Latvia

Riga, Latvia

I’ve published a new Postcard today, this one from Latvia. Our correspondent’s trip did not start well.

My trip got off to an inauspicious start when the person next to me on the plane was a young female who sat down and immediately requested I made sure my mask was covering my nose. I readjusted it and uttered words along the lines of, “Of course. I’ll make myself feel unwell just to please you.” (I have lung scarring from an illness 19 years ago). Perhaps I should have been nicer. But she was a mask militant. After the flight I saw her in the airport’s outside car park, still fully masked up, getting picked up by her (what I presumed to be) dad, who was also fully masked up. Neuroticism must run in the family.

Happily, it got better after that. Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils” by Morrissey.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. And we’ve added a new dating section – “Love in a Covid Climate” (see above). Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 24th to Oct 3rd). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 (now over 27,500).

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

But what if you’re travelling on public transport without a lanyard and you’re stopped by the British Transport Police? According to today’s Times, 28,964 people without a face covering were questioned by the Transport Police between July 13th and 25th. However, just 1,605 were told to leave the network and only 33 penalty notices were issued.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Not a parody – at least, I don’t think it is

A Cambridge professor sent me this advertisement for a new book called Is Free Speech Racist? by Gavan Titley. We’ve been puzzling over it, but have decided it’s not a parody. We could be wrong, of course, but it’s on sale on Amazon here and Titley has written at least one other book – although, that, too, could be a parody. According to the Guardian, where Titley was a contributor until 2014, he is a lecturer in media studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

IS FREE SPEECH RACIST?
by Gavan Titley

Following the killing of George Floyd, thousands have taken to the streets across the world under the banner of a simple message: Black Lives Matter.

Almost instantaneously came calls to declare that ‘All Lives Matter’ – an undeniably important message, but not the one that needs airspace following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, to name too few. When those who ‘cannot breathe’, literally or figuratively, finally raise their voices to be heard, they are immediately challenged, their speech closely regulated and their demands measured against the pre-existing values of the status quo. Witness Boris Johnson underlining law, order and democratic process as he condemned those who toppled Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.

At the same time, out come the right-wing ‘counter-protestors’ touting either overt racism or else the sacred cow of ‘free speech’, increasingly used as a cover for the former. But we must not let the free speech defence immediately close down anti-racist activism. We must look more closely at the hypocritical use to which it is being put and ask: is free speech just another tool of racism today?

“This is an excellent and urgently needed book that offers a key contribution to both academic and public debate on free speech. In a clear, succinct style, Gavan Titley persuasively argues that free speech is often defended in a superficial way, which focuses on speech as a mere channel of ideas and neglects structural inequalities between different speakers.”
MATTEO BONOTTI, MONASH UNIVERSITY

Stop Press: There’s an amusing story in the Babylon Bee headlined “Riotous BLM Protesters Suddenly Realize They’re All White People”.

Latest News

Another Computer Simulation, Another Alarmist Prediction

A Covid-safe classroom

Last week, a paper was published in the Lancet saying that re-opening schools would cause a tsunami-like second wave of Covid deaths unless the Government improved its test-and-trace programme. Based on a similar computer simulation to that used by Neil Ferguson et al, the paper generated headlines across the mainstream media, such as this one in the Sun: “‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’ Reopening schools in September risks 2nd virus wave unless test & trace improves as ministers say: ‘There’s more to do’.” The story began:

SCHOOL children returning to class in September risks triggering a devastating second wave of COVID-19 unless test and trace improves, a major new study today says.

Scientists said the UK’s test and trace system needed to be drastically improved as ministers today admitted there was “more to do” on making it work better.

IF the low numbers of contact tracing continue, it could result in another peak in December.

The crisis could be avoided, however – with pubs remaining open and no draconian lockdowns needed – if testing is ramped up and the track and trace system is improved.

The study says reopening schools must therefore be combined with a high-coverage test-trace-isolate strategy.

But how reliable is this study? I asked Sue Denim, the Lockdown Sceptics contributor who has written extensively about the flaws in Neil Ferguson’s modelling, to take a look at this paper for us. Regular readers won’t need reminding that Sue Denim is the pseudonym of a senior ex-Google engineer. Not surprisingly, Sue is unimpressed.

The paper argues that the level of testing, tracing and quarantining must be much higher than it is now in order to “avert a large number of COVID-19 cases and deaths” once schools have re-opened. In this case, a “large number” means a second wave of about 2-2.5x the size of the first, ending in about 320,000 cumulative deaths. That’s the worst case they simulate which still assumes a fairly aggressive contact tracing programme.

This number of predicted deaths is in the same sort of range as the ~500,000 predicted by Ferguson et al, which is no surprise given what the model does. The lower value comes from applying a reduction from some fraction of unlucky PCR-positive people being quarantined.

We already know this modelling approach doesn’t work because it failed to predict the course of the epidemic in Sweden. There is no mention in the paper of having identified any flaw in prior models that led to incorrect predictions, or even any recognition that agent-based simulations have yielded incorrect predictions before.

Sweden kept their schools open the entire time and saw no higher rate of infections amongst children than neighbouring Finland.

As we’ve come to expect from a group of epidemiologists, the papers do not perform this kind of cross-check against real world observed outcomes nor attempt to explain prior failures. There is no feedback loop.

I’ve published Sue’s latest article on the right-hand side as another sub-page of “How Reliable is Imperial College’s Modelling?”, beneath the three other pieces he/she’s written for us. Please comment beneath that page, not this one. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: One of the largest studies in the world on coronavirus in schools was carried out in 100 institutions in the UK. According to Professor Russel Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of SAGE. “A new study that has been done in UK schools confirms there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools,” Professor Viner tells the Sunday Times. “This is the some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.” The study, done by Public Health England, is due to be published later this year.

Re-Open Schools, says Harvard Professor of Medicine

The Spectator has published an excellent piece by Martin Kulldorff, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School who studies infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety. He says the way to defeat the virus is to aim for herd immunity and points out that such a strategy poses very little risk to children.

With passionate discussions about opening schools, it is good to step back, take a deep breath, and examine what science tells us. To know the effect of smoking, we study smokers. To know the effects of vaccines, we study those vaccinated. Similarly, to know the effects of keeping schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must study the one place that kept their schools open during the height of the pandemic. That place is Sweden.

Sweden never closed day-care centres or schools for its 1.8 million children ages one to 15. Of these children, zero died from COVID-19. The total number of cases is unknown, but the reported number is 468, which is 25 per 100,000. Of these 468 children, eight were hospitalised in an intensive care unit. This means that, whether schools are open or not, children are less at risk from COVID-19 than from influenza, which kills an average of 40-50 children in England and Wales each year. In contrast to influenza, schools are not driving the Covid-19 pandemic, and in Sweden, teachers had the same COVID-19 risk as the average risk among other professions.

Worth reading in full.

Meanwhile, some bedwetting headteachers are telling parents they’ll only be able to educate their children for half days. Give me strength.

Love in a Covid Climate

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in “The Americans”, the American TV show about two undercover Soviet agents living in America in the 1980s

I got an interesting email from a reader yesterday:

Am thinking of getting back onto the dating apps, having recently become single. It made me realise that a key criterion for meeting someone like-minded is that they absolutely must be a lockdown sceptic. If they are pro-mask or pro-antisocial distancing, they will be instantly binned. As I begin my journey back into the dating pool, I will be expressing openly my lockdown views and Covid scepticism on my dating profile. I genuinely think that if I can find a girl as sceptical as me, she must therefore be marriage material! That’s how important (and sadly divisive) this issue has now become. I could never date (let alone build a relationship) with a lockdown zealot, such is my disdain for these virtue-signalling bedwetters!

That reminded me that I’d flagged up the idea of creating a Lockdown Sceptics dating site a few weeks ago. Well, we haven’t done that exactly, but we have decided to devote a page in the Forums to people looking for romance. It’s called “Love in a Covid Climate” and you can find it at the bottom here.

Postcard From Whitby

A reader has got in touch to say he and his wife had a pleasant stay in Whitby. A beacon of common sense amidst all the hysteria, as you’d expect in North Yorkshire.

Whitby was the last place my wife and I visited pre-lockdown so we were determined to go back as soon as we were able. A few days before we went we came across a photo doing the rounds on social media showing hundreds of people swarming across Whitby’s famous swing bridge accompanied by the now familiar comments – “Covidiots”, “terrified locals”, etc. I admit, it made us a little uneasy and we’re both arch sceptics!

When we arrived at the B&B we were pleased to find sensible but not ridiculous precautions in place: breakfast sittings spread out a little more, trays outside the rooms to replenish anything we’d used, lots of hand sanitiser available, and so on. I asked the owners about the photos we’d seen and they were disgusted. The photo of the bridge had been taken immediately after the bridge had been shut to let a boat pass, giving a false impression of overcrowding. Other photos in circulation were not from this year at all but from busy days on previous years! The B&B had actually had cancellations on the back of this stuff. They assured us that Whitby wasn’t like that and, if anything, was quieter than usual for the time of year.

Venturing into the town, we found that they were right. Yes, there were plenty of people about but it was easy to keep your distance if you felt that way inclined (though it was refreshing to see most people making the eminently sensible judgement that fleeting contact outdoors on a sunny day was fairly low risk). Walking around the town in the morning or late afternoon/evening was fine and at no point did we see locals leaping into the road in terror.

That night we ate at a very famous fish and chip restaurant and found, again, sensible precautions balanced with an awareness that a meal out needs to be at least a vaguely enjoyable customer experience. So – the tables had been spaced out a little more (actually creating a more intimate atmosphere), card payments were preferred but not insisted on, some staff chose to wear masks, others didn’t, and a separate entrance/exit had been set up. Otherwise, everything was very relaxed and laid back. Not so much the ‘new normal’ more the old normal with a few adjustments. And that was the theme of our whole weekend: grown-up people taking grown-up decisions and behaving in a grown-up way. After six months of hysterical death porn it gave me just a flicker of hope that common sense will eventually win out. We even booked again for October. Though given that I turn 50 before then I guess there’s a fair chance that Boris might have me in solitary confinement; still, at least the wife should enjoy herself.

Face Nappies To Become Mandatory in Northern Ireland

Bad news for the people of Northern Ireland: face nappies will become mandatory in shops from tomorrow. A reader has the story:

A few weeks ago, the local Executive said that they wanted to encourage people to wear masks in shops rather than force them to. Their aim was to achieve 80% voluntary compliance. They proposed reviewing the situation on August 20th and if there wasn’t sufficient mask use then they would make it mandatory.

The “take-up” of mask use since the initial announcement has been fairly poor from the Executive‘s point of view. From being out and about I would guess about 10% of people in shops were wearing them.

So the public here have been largely unimpressed with the arguments for mask wearing and decided there’s not much point in doing so.

However, rather than thinking that the judgement of the people is something they should consider, the Executive brought forward the date for re-consideration and announced that due to the poor voluntary use of masks they will become compulsory in shops from this coming Monday August 10th.

Another example of a government in this crisis having tunnel vision about a particular course of action and not being able to contemplate anything different despite what the people think.

Lockdown Protests Across the UK

Two demonstrators at an anti-lockdown protest in Manchester yesterday

Lockdown protests took place in London, Plymouth, Brighton, Norwich, Cardiff, Belfast, Southampton, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Manchester yesterday. They were organised by an outfit called “Save Our Rights UK“.

A reader reports from the protest in Manchester:

Our turnout in Manc was around 200, which was matched or surpassed in most other locations. It was very uplifting to partake in a microcosm of the best bits of the old normal with hugs and handshake physical greetings, no social distancing and looking out to a sea of unmasked friendly faces! We had no problems with the police (in fact they were quite friendly). Some of the public we passed were receptive to our messages, and a couple even joined in the march!

Croatian Advice

A reader has got in touch to reassure the anxious Americans who emailed yesterday, worried about their forthcoming trip to Croatia. Doesn’t sound too bad.

Currently in croatia you have to fill a form in before departure which they don’t check on arrival. Masks worn in shops and public transport but quite lax. Don’t see anyone wearing masks outside those settings.

Another reader points out that Gabriel Traveler, the YouTuber and travel journalist, is currently in Croatia and having a fine time. You can view his daily updates here.

Round-Up

Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers

It’s a beach bonanza today: “Beach Death” by Car Seat Headrest, “Menace Beach” by Dom Kennedy, “On Evil Beach” by Duran Duran, “I Want To Go To The Beach” by Iggy Pop and “The Beach Is Free” by Billy Bragg.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people willing to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. And we’ve added a new dating section – “Love in a Covid Climate”. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 23rd to Oct 2nd). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 (now over 27,000).

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

Meanwhile, the public health authorities in Denmark are maintaining that there’s no need to wear masks. This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain recently that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump”. Danish health officials responded by reminded the paper that there’s little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. Zero Hedge has more.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Latest News

Sunseekers Ignore Official Guidance on Britain’s Hottest Day of the Year

Lifeguards look out over Bournemouth Beach yesterday

Seeing pictures like this of the beach in Bournemouth yesterday, it’s hard to believe the opinion polls about the extent of public support for continuing lockdown restrictions. Looks to me as though the great British public is aware that the virus has all but disappeared and their chances of catching it outside is virtually zero.

The Mail has compiled a handy round-up of comments from paranoid bedwetters.

Beaches across the south coast were already packed by mid-morning on Friday, further stoking fears among police and local councils that tourists will ignore coronavirus social distancing rules and cram onto packed seafronts.

The scenes could be repeated on Saturday and Sunday, with the scorching weather set to continue.

Furious critics took to social media to slam beach-goers and accuse them of ‘undoing the hard work of lockdown’.

One wrote: ‘Here they are again, all the idiots on Brighton beach putting all of us at risk, they just keep on coming.’

A second said: ‘Government: ‘Stay away from beaches today. It’s hot, but no amount of heat is surely enough to risk your health and the health of loved ones by breaking social distancing rules, and undoing all the hard work of the last 4 months of lockdown.’

While a third added: ‘My worst nightmare, even before COVID. Too many people. We will never get over this virus if people are this stupid. Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you should all pack a beach & not socially distance.’

Update of Elusive Government Report on Collateral Lockdown Damage

Story on the front page of today’s Telegraph

Readers will recall that on July 21st I asked them for help in tracking down an elusive Government report. This was the analysis done by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Office for National Statistics (ONS), Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) and the Home Office (HO) of the collateral damage of the lockdown. Eventually, I tracked it down – it was published with absolutely no fanfare here. The only reason it came to public attention is because Sir Patrick Vallance referred to it in passing when testifying before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on July 16th.

Well, yesterday the Government published an update entitled “Direct and Indirect Impacts of COVID-19 on Excess Deaths and Morbidity”– and, thankfully, it was picked up by the Telegraph (see today’s front page above). This update was presented to SAGE on July 23rd, but it was only published yesterday.

The headline news is that the lockdown killed two people for every three that died of COVID-19 by the beginning of May. However, when you take into account the age of those who died from coronavirus, as well as their underlying health conditions, the loss of life as measured in Quality Adjusted Life Years, or Qalys, for those who died as a result of the lockdown was greater than it was for those who died of COVID-19. This is how the authors of the report put it:

The direct COVID-19 deaths account for the majority of all excess deaths. However, when morbidity is taken into account, the estimates for the health impacts from a lockdown and lockdown induced recession are greater in terms of QALYs than the direct
COVID-19 deaths. Much of the health impact, particularly in terms of morbidity, will be felt long after the pandemic is assumed to last…

According to Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor of the Telegraph:

The estimates show that 16,000 people had died through missed medical care by May 1st, while coronavirus killed 25,000 in the same period.

The figures include 6,000 people who did not attend A&E at the height of lockdown because of fears they might catch the virus and the feeling they should remain at home because of the “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” message.

Likewise, 10,000 people are thought to have died in care homes due to early discharge from hospital and not being able to access critical care.

The article includes some choice quotes from the President of the Royal Society of Surgeons:

Professor Neil Mortensen, the President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, warned that the health service “must never again be a coronavirus-only service”.

“We have to deal first with the most clinically urgent patients, and then as soon as possible with those who have been waiting the longest,” he said. “The period through August and September is vitally important in making progress before routine winter pressures emerge.”

Pretty damning, but before you pop the champagne corks with cries of “finally!”, a caveat. The authors of the report claim that the Covid death toll in an “unmitigated scenario”, i.e. a scenario in which the Government did nothing to encourage social distancing and people carried on as normal, would have been a whopping 1.5 million!

It should be noted that the health impacts modelled here represent a scenario with mitigations in place. Without mitigations, a far larger number of people would have died from COVID-19 such that the QALY impact from COVID-19 deaths would be more than three times the total QALY impact of all the categories (mortality and morbidity impacts) for the CSS mitigated scenario presented here. A comparison with an unmitigated scenario 3 is provided in Annex G and shows that mitigation have prevented up to 1.5m direct COVID-19 deaths.

Total balls, obviously. The relevant counter-factual is not this fantastical “unmitigated scenario”, but a continuation of the mitigation strategy put in place by the Government on March 16th in which people were encouraged to observe modest social distancing measures, with quarantining restricted to the infected, the elderly and the vulnerable. As even Chris Whitty now admits, this strategy proved effective and the number of daily cases was falling before the full lockdown was imposed on March 23rd. The real question is “Did the full lockdown prevent more loss of life than it caused?” and, thanks to this report, we can conclude with some confidence that it didn’t.

Thousands Wiped Off Official Covid Death Toll

Thousands are likely to be wiped off Public Health England’s official Covid death toll following Yook K Loke and Carl Heneghan’s blog post in which they drew attention to the fact that PHE was counting anyone who’d tested positive for COVID-19 and then died as having died from novel coronavirus, even if their death occurred months afterwards and clearly had no connection to the virus. As they pointed out, this meant that all 290,000+ Britons who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 would eventually be classified as having died from the virus, even if some of them don’t die for another 60 years.

According to the Sun, PHE’s official figures will now be revised downwards.

Matt Hancock will now step in and bring the figures in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, who only count a death as Covid-related if it occurs 28 days after a person tests positive.

A second weekly measure, which records fatalities within 60 days of infection, will also be established.

An official announcement on the new approach is expected by the end of the week.

It could see England’s official coronavirus death toll of 41,686 reduced by around as much as 10 per cent – or 4,170.

Latest ONS Infection Survey Shows Infections Falling

The ONS’s latest weekly infection survey found that just 53 people tested positive in the last week of July, equating to an estimated one in 2,200 people in Wales and one in 1,900 in England. That’s down from one in 1,500 last week. In addition, the number of people estimated to be infected in the community in England last week was 35,700; this week it’s 28,300. So back down to 0.05% of the population, which is where it’s been since June 21st (see above).

Worth remembering that last week’s infection survey was widely cited by members of the Government to justify imposing a second lockdown on four-and-a-half million in the North West and “squeezing the brake” on the easing of restrictions across the rest of the country.

Does the fact that the ONS now thinks infections are back to where they’ve been for the last six weeks mean that the Northern lockdown can now be scrapped and we can get on with re-opening casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks? Didn’t think so.

Stop Press: Preston is the latest victim of the mask-wearing lockdown mob, having been forced to undergo a second lockdown after a “spike” in infections.

Request For Help From Croatia-Bound Yanks

An American reader has asked for advice about a forthcoming visit to Croatia. Can anyone help? If you can, email me here and I’ll pass it on.

Would you or your readers kindly help advise on a possible September trip to Croatia for my husband and me? Trouble is Covidmania. Croatia is currently one of the few countries allowing visitors from the US, sans quarantine. That is, if one can produce a negative PCR test within three days of arrival.

Ideally, we would be tested here in the US the day before we travel, but I’m unsure if we would get the results back in time. Conversely, we could pay to be tested upon arrival in Croatia, but would be under house arrest until results are returned, with the possibility of false positives and enduring two weeks of punishment. Sheesh! Just putting this into words, I’m realizing what a conundrum we’re in.

In addition, can anyone shed light on our likely experiences regarding face masks, Perspex, and NORMALCY! How we crave normalcy. We don’t care about level of cleanliness or frequency of disinfectant procedures. We want real life and dirt. We did read the recent “Postcard from Croatia” in the Telegraph, but it looked slightly heavy on reassurances for those who fear to venture out, and we’re firmly not in that category.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “We Are Normal” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 23rd to Oct 2nd). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 (now over 27,000).

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

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I may not be able to manage an update every day over the next few days as I’m in Wales doing some walking in the Brecon Beacons.

And Finally…

Sky News Australia’s Alan Jones demolishes the case for lockdown in his typically blunt, no-bullshit style. Includes an interview with arch-sceptic Professor James Allan. Watch it here.

Latest News

Yes, Kids Can Get Covid. But They’re More Likely to Die of Flu

Last week, there was a hysterical story in the New York Times about how hundreds of children had become infected at a summer camp in Georgia. It led to crazy, paranoid “guidance” being written by bedwetting journalists, such as this piece for the NPR website advising parents to “look for” things like “consistent, mandatory mask usage for kids and adults” and “6 feet between desks, small class sizes and cohorts”.

As Gummi Bear said on Twitter: “Nobody said children don’t get COVID-19 so not sure what the breaking news is. A 12 year-old child has a 1 in 55,000 chance of dying IF they get it. That same child is 25x more likely to die from other causes. As a society, we have lost all commonsense in terms of risk assessment.”

The above IFR data from the huge seroprevalence survey in Spain – and which almost certainly overstates the IFR in every age category – says children under the age of 10 have an IFR of 0.0029% and those aged 10-18 0.0018%.

The negligible risk to children is also mentioned in this piece in today’s Telegraph by Science Editor Sarah Knapton entitled “How the danger of coronavirus compares with the risks of everyday life”. She writes:

Children have a greater chance of being hit by lightning than dying from coronavirus with the death rate for five to 14-year-olds in England and Wales currently just one in 3.5 million. For under-fives, it is one in 1.17 million.

Not surprisingly, these data cut no mustard with the teaching unions. The Telegraph has obtained a recording of a Zoom meeting with Mary Bousted, joint head of the National Education Union (NEU), in which she advises her lieutenants that the Government “won’t be able to carry out their threats” against schools that refuse to re-open in September.

She said: “The latest iteration of Government guidance is so unworkable that you can’t trust it. Local authorities and schools should take the confidence to do what they can do and that will mean for many schools that they cannot have all children fully back in September.

“Now, the Government’s making threatening noises about that. But in the end, they won’t be able to carry out their threats.”

She said that it might be “simply impossible” to follow the guidance “and have all children back” and schools “should have the confidence to be looking at what is possible in your area and make those arrangements”.

The Government is in a hole of its own making. If it hadn’t insisted schools comply with a plethora of utterly pointless social distancing measures, the teaching unions wouldn’t be in such a powerful position. In effect, the Department for Education has handed its most ruthless enemies a loaded gun. It can’t really complain if that gun is now being pointed at its head.

Did Dominic Cummings Make Second Trip to Durham?

The Dominic Cummings puppet in the new series of Spitting Image

Two of four people who claim to have seen Dominic Cummings on what would have been a second visit to the north-east of England have complained to the police watchdog, accusing the Durham force of not fully probing their claims, according to the Guardian.

Cummings has consistently denied returning to Durham on April 19th, days after he came back to London from a trip that was subsequently exposed in a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror.

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser has said that phone data and potentially CCTV would prove he was in London – and the Guardian has been told of one sighting of him on Hampstead Heath that afternoon.

However, neither he nor Downing Street has gone public with the evidence they say they have – and which Boris Johnson says he has seen – and pressure is mounting again for full transparency to answer lingering questions about his movements.

Apologies if I can’t get too worked up about this. Who gives a stuff if Dominic Cummings broke the lockdown rules? When will the Guardian and Daily Mirror‘s journalists start doing their jobs and ask why Cummings and co placed the entire country under virtual house arrest on March 23rd without having done any due diligence about the damage it was likely to do?

Lockdown Easing Caused a Fall in Infections

“This proves the lockdown was necessary, doesn’t it?”

According to new research done by Imperial College and Ipsos Mori, who carried out the largest swab testing survey in the country, infections fell when lockdown restrictions were eased. The Telegraph has more.

Although there are fears that releasing measures too soon has led to localised spikes in some areas, new data suggests that there was no overall rise after primary schools returned and non-essential shops reopened.

According to Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, community prevalence actually fell after lockdown measures were relaxed, decreasing from 12 infections per 10,000 people in May to eight in 10,000 by mid-June to early July.

Needless to say, Matt Hancock has tried to spin this as proof that the lockdown was effective.

“This research highlights how, thanks to everyone’s efforts and sacrifice, alongside targeted measures to counter the spread of this virus in health and care settings, we were able to keep rates of infection low as some restrictions were lifted.

“However, we must not be complacent. I urge everyone to get a test if you have symptoms, self-isolate and provide your contacts to NHS Test and Trace so we can continue to keep the virus at bay and get back to normal.”

You’ve got to give him points for shamelessness. No matter how conclusive the evidence is that the lockdown was completely ineffective, he’d try and spin it as a vindication of Government policy.

Car Salesman More Trusted Than Prime Minister

Amusing anecdote sent to me by a reader:

Thought I’d share my experience in a car showroom today. I’d already told the saleswoman I wouldn’t be masked and she was absolutely fine with it but there was a steady stream of masked people coming in as they currently have a 0% finance offer on. They all were clearly uncomfortable and took them off as soon as the sales staff told them it was OK. It seems we now live in a country where people trust car salesmen more than they do the Prime Minister!

Breakin’ the Law, Breakin’ the Law – in Melbourne

A spirited resident of Melbourne has got in touch to reveal how often he now finds himself breaking the law in the course of his daily routine.

I’m a 53 year old married father of three, running a small business. In the space of 24 hours my life went from low key, bordering on boring, to law breaking and risky. And I didn’t change a thing I did.

Leaving at 4.20am each morning, I run from my home to the city, about 12-14km (depending on which station I run to), then catch a train to work, getting to work at 6am. This boring routine now violates many new laws in Chairman Dan Andrews’ nightmarish socialist dystopia. By leaving at 4.20am I’m breaking the 8pm-5am curfew, by running for more than an hour I’m breaking the 1 hour exercise a day rule, by running more than 5km from my place of residence, I break the 5km rule, if I forget to carry my mask, that’s another rule broken and if I forget to carry work permit papers, allowing me to travel to work (ludicrously signed by me as a worker & signed again by me as the co-owner of the company), then I’m breaking another edict brought in last Sunday.

I now run at my usual time, but only around my area, still for the same time and distance, with my Garmin switched off, my location services on my phone also switched off, clad entirely in black. The first 40 minutes of my run is spent avoiding main roads (police might find me out before curfew is over), avoiding shopping areas (maybe a camera might catch me), and ducking up peoples driveways, or standing still behind a tree, whenever I see a set of headlights. Maybe it might be the cops?

My formerly law abiding a mild mannered wife and children now also find themselves breaking several laws a day. Maybe we need something at the supermarket, but we’ve already been out once that day for shopping? Go out again and you’re breaking a law. One shopping trip a day is allowed, and only for one hour. Going for a small jog, find yourself out of breath and slow to a walk? Put that mask on! If you’re not actually jogging/running, a mask must be on at all times! There’s suddenly a lot of people going for very slow jogs, looking like it’s the first time they’ve run since school, all for the freedom of not wearing a mask.

Last weekend, I wanted to take my two youngest kids out to get an ice cream. Such frivolity is not a permitted reason to be out. To get around this edict, I asked my 13 year old daughter to write out a fake shopping list, so that if questioned by police on the reason we were out, we could produce the fake shopping list and plead that we were out in order to shop for vital supplies at the supermarket across the road from the ice cream shop. So my daughter is caught up in my law breaking lifestyle too.

I haven’t even mentioned the myriad laws and rules my brother & I must now keep in mind in trying to run a little hardware company with 16 staff. Including who we sell to, when we sell, where we allow goods to be collected from and what the customer is going to do with the goods. I’ll save this saga for another time.

This is life in Melbourne in August 2020.

I had to point out that by taking his two youngest kids out for an ice cream he was almost certainly breaking another law. As I understand it, only two people are allowed out of their house at any one time.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5 and “The Bug” by Paul Weatherhead.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 11th to 22nd). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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 the reader who managed to travel all the way to Corfu without wearing a face nappy, thanks to a “Mask Exempt” lanyard, reports he was able to travel back again too.

Just a quick note to say I used the Lanyard again on the way back from Corfu. No questions asked. The Greeks, who are getting strict on face coverings, clearly appreciate the validity of the lanyards too.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I may not be able to manage an update every day over the next few days as I’m in Wales doing some walking in the Brecon Beacons.

And Finally…

The Boris Johnson puppet in the new series of Spitting Image. Too flattering?

Latest News

How to Keep Pubs and Schools Open? Merge Them

This piece in the Daily Mash is quite funny.

TEACHERS have announced that they would be willing to relocate schools to pubs as a compromise to keep both open.

As scientists warned that curbing coronavirus might mean closing pubs so schools can operate normally, educators have volunteered to teach classes from behind the bar.

Primary teacher Lauren Hewitt said: “The wellbeing of children is at the forefront of everything I do as a teacher, and drinking heavily is at the heart of everything I do out of school.

“It’s a visionary solution. There are blackboards at both, beer gardens can double as playgrounds, dividing up a bill between six is a maths exercise, and the kids can go on Tripadvisor to review the pub for their creative writing.

Worth reading in full.

Victorian Police Chief Threatens to Smash Car Windows and Drag People Out for “Non-Compliance”

This video is pretty shocking. A black-shirted police chief in Victoria threatens to break car windows and drag out the occupants if they refuse to tell police officers why they’re out of their homes. Chilling.

Government’s Test-and-Trace App to be Relaunched

The Government has concluded that the world-beating test-and-trace app it has already spent more than £10 billion on isn’t fit for purpose, something the rest of us concluded long ago. The Times has the story.

Ministers will launch a scaled back version of the coronavirus app this month after accepting that it was not accurate enough to be used for contact tracing.

A version that tells people about infection levels in their area and allows them to use personal information to calculate a risk score will be trialled.

The app was originally developed as an automated form of contact tracing, but is likely to begin instead as an individualised information and advice service informing people about their personal exposure to coronavirus.

The functions being explored include alerting users when they have been in contact with more people than usual.

While Bluetooth signalling showing that phones have been near each other is not yet trusted as a basis for instructing people to self-isolate for two weeks, officials hope that giving people data on how many close contacts they have could encourage them to stick to social distancing guidance.

These new functions are due to be tested in trials in coming weeks with the hope of having an app available nationwide in time for winter. NHS Test and Trace is planning to launch an app with whichever functions prove effective, in the hope of being able to add automated contact tracing later.

The service has previously announced plans to allow people to book coronavirus tests through the app and use it to scan Quick Response codes at pubs and restaurants so patrons can be alerted if other customers test positive. Although contact tracing was the original stated aim of the app, it is now being downplayed by a business plan that refers to the technology as an “app that supports the end-to-end NHS Test and Trace service”.

The revival of the app came as Times Radio uncovered evidence that some contact tracers have done minimal work since the NHS Track and Trace programme was launched three months ago. One said: “Since mid-May I’ve done two calls. I know some people who’ve had no calls in that time and some who’ve had four or five . . . Most of the time you sit around and watch Netflix.”

£10 billion of taxpayers’ money up in flames so tens of thousands of people can sit around watching Netflix all day. Couldn’t they have done that at home?

Worth re-reading yesterday’s magisterial round-up of the failures of trace-and-test apps around the world by our very own test-and-trace app correspondent.

Stop Press: Richard Dobbs, former McKinsey Director, has devised an ingenious way of measuring the effectiveness of the Govt’s test-and-trace app in the Spectator. According to his Harding-Hancock Test, it’s not faring well.

My initial estimate is that at the moment, Harding-Hancock Efficiency is at a potentially catastrophic level of less than 5 per cent for England. That means that for every person successfully isolated, there are around 20 not isolated, potentially spreading the infection.

Ambulances Reluctant to Take People to A&E

A reader with a friend who works in the care department of a Midlands local authority has passed on an alarming bit of intel.

Another reason for increased home deaths I’ve come across is the practices of ambulance crews. I’ve visited people who are having some sort of crisis or relapse and are waiting for an ambulance. The crews are still operating on the basis of treating people at home and only very reluctantly taking them to A&E. This is the policy still, despite the crisis having passed months ago of no critical care beds. Previously the policy was “if in doubt take them to A&E”.

One of the crew members said last month that they haven’t been so unoccupied in his career.

How Reliable is the PCR Test?

I’m using this picture again, even though it isn’t very nice (and neither is the test)

A scientist has got in touch to weigh in on the subject that’s been debated on these pages over the last couple of days: How reliable is the PCR test?

Having read Lockdown Sceptics today, I thought I’d add in a bit more about screening. I’m senior scientist in a biotech company and have been involved in some diagnostic development so have some experience in this area.

This is a useful article that explains some of the issues with the PCR test in relatively understandable language.

Although I don’t think there is much doubt about SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19, your reader is absolutely right to be concerned about false positives in PCR screening.

The main focus on understanding the PCR test’s performance is on the high “false negative”, which means that the test isn’t very sensitive, i.e. many patients with virus don’t test positive. However, what I cannot seem to find within the literature (and maybe another reader can point me in the right direction) is what the “false positive” rate is. All the studies I can find are on patients with COVID-19 and working out how often the test fails to identify them as infected (depending on sample type, between 10 and 70% of the time). But I can’t find a study where a large number of known negatives patient samples have been screened to work out how many would come out as positive. This is assumed, probably reasonably given the nature of the test, to be low and that a positive result probably indicates you have the virus, meaning the test is quite selective. But the actual false positive rate for the test is either not known or is very difficult to find, especially in the context of screening labs where they do handle positive samples and so there is also the risk of cross-contamination.

So what the problem? It is this: we base policy decisions on positive results and not negative ones.

To illustrate the issue, imagine we have a false positive rate of 0.1%, i.e. 1 in 1000 results. Pretty impressive for a test. However, we are screening 10,000s of individuals. If within this screening population there are a lot of infections then the 1 in 1000 false positives is not an issue as it is lost among the multitudes of true positive results. Even the false negatives are not too much of an issue as trends within such an infected population are probably meaningful. However, what if you screened 30,000 individuals without COVID-19? Then you’d get 30 positive results. In fact, at a large population level you can never get to a “0” and COVID-19 will be with us forever!

Given that policy decisions affecting millions of people are being based on small changes in positive results within a large sample size then understanding both your false positive rate and false negative rate is really important in deciding if a trend is real or just statistical noise based on screening artefacts. The errors (over- and under-estimates) are really critical in deciding if there is a trend: is 19 positive tests in 30,000 tests different from 24 positives in 28,000? What are the error bars on the tests? Taking it for granted that all positives are real and that the test is always under-reporting the true figure (based on the false negative rate) is not a safe assumption, especially as we don’t do confirmatory tests in the vast number of cases. However, given Prof. Heneghan’s recent blog regarding the “increase” in COVID-19 cases in England, which was posted earlier in the week, it seems that in England we can’t even normalise data to account for number of screening tests, let alone take a more sophisticated analytical approach which attempts to include an understanding of the analytical error in assessing data trends.

There’s something really dispiriting about his final point. He’s quite right of course. If public health officials can’t even control for increased testing when analysing trends in the testing data, what hope is there of them factoring in something more complicated?

Another reader has got in touch to flag up this letter to the BMJ by Brendan Healey of the Public Health Wales Microbiology Department, warning of the dangers of widespread testing when prevalence is low because of the risk of false negative and false positive results. He concludes that it may cause more harm than good.

The harm afforded by false positive results should not be ignored and the potential for adverse consequences during periods of low prevalence needs to be taken into account when deciding on testing strategies. We recommend that testing strategies need to be more agile and decisions on screening of various populations should be flexible and respond to the changing prevalence in the community/setting that is being investigated. Large volume screening at a time of low prevalence has the potential to do more harm than good and some of these strategies should be temporarily suspended. Some of these strategies are likely to be of greater benefit in interrupting transmission during periods of high prevalence and we propose that they are re-instated when the prevalence in the community or particular settings warrant such an approach.

Finally, a retired Professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology has got in touch with his thoughts on the PCR test. What’s interesting about this email is the detail concerning how false positives might arise.

I’m writing to comment on PCR tests from a forensic science perspective. DNA based PCR tests used in forensic labs are extremely sensitive – like RNA based RT-PCR tests used to detect Covid-19. They will reliably detect in the region of 10 or fewer copies of the source DNA or RNA. Contamination with intrusive DNA or secondary transfer of DNA is widely recognised as a persistent risk in forensic. The tests are so sensitive it is realistically impossible to totally exclude the possibility of contamination – of the source or during the analytical process. Amplified DNA (PCR product) is a particularly potent source of contamination of the next DNA PCR reaction. The use of appropriate controls at all stages is necessary to reduce the risk of contamination and permit its detection. Unfortunately, there are examples of both lab and scene based incidents of contamination that were not detected until rather late in the prosecutorial process. There has also been a big scandal – involving Randox – of drug control tests allegedly being faked (hence compromising the actual results).

I’ve just been looking over the publicly available NHS Guidance and SOP and – while it does emphasise the need for proper viral containment and describes ‘positive control’ RNA to make sure the reaction has worked and reduce the risk of false negatives – the document offers little or no consideration of contamination or cross-contamination as a cause of false positives. These are systemic issues, not just related to the choice of test kit.

I would be reassured to know what measures the NHS have in place to detect false positives via the inclusion of negative ‘blank’ controls 1) at the virus RNA extraction step, 2) in the RT-PCR reaction step and 3) to detect contamination of the RT-PCR reaction with previously amplified DNA (or other measures, where appropriate); and what the rate of contamination of negative extraction and RT-PCR controls has been during testing.

Frankly, if we are doing 100,000 tests a day, I’d be surprised not to see more than a few contaminated blanks and by implication contamination-based false positives of this kind, but this may have more significance to earlier results, as now there seem to be hardly any covid positive cases left to provide a source of cross-contamination (although in certain circumstances the positive control RNA might).

In such situations, complacency can easily arise.

I’ve been in science and technology for 38 of the last 40 years, and if Boris and Chris Whitty et al. are doing anything based on the science, then sadly I’ve learned nothing.

He concluded by pointing me to a commentary on the PCR test in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by Stephen Bustin and Tania Nolan published in April. They conclude:

RT-qPCR testing programmes for SARS-CoV-2 are wholly inadequate, poorly organised and surrounded by confusion and misinformation. Comprehensive testing is not hindered by availability of suitable assays, reagents, equipment or testing capacity. It is delays in the bureaucratic validation and approval process and lack of involvement of the wider research and commercial service provider community by public health laboratories that are at the heart of the testing conundrum.

Ouch!

Could Possession of the Bible Become a Hate Crime in Scotland?

There’s an excellent piece by Andrew Doyle in today’s Spectator about the awful Scottish Hate Crime and Public Order Bill. This dreadful Bill promises to make Scotland the least free-speech friendly country in Europe, including Hungary.

Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill was ostensibly proposed to repeal outdated proscriptions against blasphemy, but will instead usher in a range of new blasphemy laws by stealth. Most controversially, part two of the Bill pertains to the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’, which criminalises anyone who ‘behaves in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner’ or ‘communicates threatening, abusive or insulting material to another person’.

Moreover, the Bill explicitly allows for intention to be put aside. If behaviour or material is ‘likely’ to stir up hatred against any protected groups (defined by age, disability, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, transgender identity or ‘variations in sex characteristics’) then whether or not the perpetrator intended to do so is immaterial. Even an actor playing a bigoted character could be prosecuted under the proposed laws. An entire section of the Bill is devoted to the ‘public performance of a play’, which specifies that actors and directors can be found culpable if members of protected groups find the material offensive. So if you are troubled by the anti-Semitism of Shylock’s detractors, or the Islamophobia of Tamburlaine’s decision to burn the Quran, you can complain to the Scottish police. Next year’s Edinburgh Festival should be interesting.

The implications for stand-up comedy are similarly dire. As practitioners of an art form that often teases the limits of public tolerance, comedians frequently find themselves involved in free speech battles. The dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, has already warned that stand-up would not be exempt from the SNP’s Bill, and that even an old-fashioned ‘Scotsman, Irishman and Englishman’ joke may be perceived as discriminatory. Certainly, some of the more subversive acts that regularly appear at Comedy Unleashed, a night I co-founded in London, would be at risk of prosecution should they venture north of the border.

The Bill even goes as far as to criminalise the possession of ‘inflammatory’ material, which is why senior Catholic bishops have raised concerns that possession of the Bible could become a criminal offence. Let’s not forget that Leviticus 20:13 calls for the execution of gay men.

It won’t surprise you to learn that the Free Speech Union is vigorously opposing this Bill. We have submitted evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament drawing attention to its shortcomings that you can read here.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job)” by Blancmange.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 9th to 18th). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I may not be able to manage an update every day over the next few days as I’m off to Wales today to do some walking in the Brecon Beacons.

And Finally…

In my Spectator column today, I weigh in on the Policy Exchange report laying bear the extent of the Free Speech Crisis in Britain’s universities.

About 18 months ago, I attended a debate at Policy Exchange, the think tank founded by Nick Boles, Francis Maude and Archie Norman, on whether there was a free speech crisis at British universities. One panellist, Professor Jon Wilson of King’s College London, vigorously denied that any such problem existed. Various people pointed to examples of right-of-centre academics being no-platformed — Charles Murray, Amy Wax, Linda Gottfredson — but that was scarcely conclusive. It was anecdotal evidence, not hard data.

The same cannot be said any more. This week, Policy Exchange published a paper by three academics — Remi Adekoya, Eric Kaufmann and Tom Simpson — which proves beyond reasonable doubt that free speech is in trouble in the higher-education sector. They commissioned a YouGov survey involving a randomly-collected sample of more than 800 professors and lecturers, some working, some retired, who represented the 217,000 academic staff in British universities in 2018-9. Surveys of academics have been done before, some involving larger sample sizes, but none as rigorous as this.

Their findings won’t surprise anyone familiar with the sector. For instance, 75 per cent of UK academics voted for left-of-centre parties in the 2017 and 2019 elections, compared with less than 20 per cent who voted right-of-centre. Just over half said they would feel comfortable sitting next to a Leave supporter at lunch, while only 37 per cent said they would risk sharing a table with a dissenter from trans orthodoxy. Among the small minority of academics who identify as ‘right’ or ‘fairly right’, 32 per cent have refrained from airing their views in front of colleagues.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Sceptics

Mumsnet Survey – Quarter of Parents are Bedwetters

Mumsnet published a survey today asking parents how satisfied they were with the arrangement schools put in place to re-admit some children in July. It contains this horrifying finding:

Among parents whose child was offered the opportunity to spend some time in school before the summer holidays, 23% say they did not take up the offer. The top reasons included:

* concern that their child might transmit COVID-19 to family members (48%);
* confidence that homeschooling was working well (39%);
* concern that their child might catch COVID-19 and become ill (38%); and
* worries about the local or regional infection rate (32%).

I don’t suppose I need remind readers that there isn’t a single documented case, anywhere in the world, of a child passing on the virus to an adult and the risk of a child under the age of 15 dying from COVID-19 is lower than the risk of them dying from a lightning strike.

PCR Test

A reader with a background in infectious diseases has emailed me in answer to the question I posed yesterday about the reliability of the PCR test. This won’t surprise anyone.

Your reader’s comments on the PCR test are interesting. It’s worth noting that the test have been in existence for decades but has never been fully tested for efficacy. The manual issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US actually states the following at the very start of the document: “Results are for the identification of 2019-nCoV RNA. The 2019-nCoV RNA is generally detectable in upper and lower respiratory specimens during infection. Positive results are indicative of active infection with 2019-nCoV but do not rule out bacterial infection or co-infection with other viruses. The agent detected may not be the definite cause of disease. Laboratories within the United States and its territories are required to report all positive results to the appropriate public health authorities.”

So it was acknowledged not to be virus-specific reliable but nevertheless made positive PCR results notifiable. Brilliant stroke.

Meanwhile, the reader who posed the original question has followed up with a few more:

There are two other aspects of Government testing I find confusing and misleading

When working with biological and biochemical test data, it is important to understand what the test is measuring. There is a general perception, endorsed by the media and Government spokespeople, that the RT-PCR test detects the presence of the virus in swabs. It does no such thing. It detects a segment of one component of the virus, namely the RNA molecule contained within the virus capsule. The segment detected could have arisen from an intact viable virus particle, from a non-viable virus particle or from residual material or debris from virus particles destroyed or degraded by the host’s immune response.

Where the donor has symptoms and their swabs produce a positive result it is reasonable to conclude that they are probably infected with the virus. On the other hand, where the donor experiences no symptoms at the time of sampling nor within the next few days, most likely a positive test result would be derived from debris of degraded virus particles, in which case the donor would neither be infected nor infectious. This latter point neatly explains how donors can test positive but be asymptomatic: they would have been infected in the days before testing with symptoms unnoticed or inconsequential and which infection their immune system effectively fought off.

Of course, all testing to date assumes that we know what the pathogen causing COVID-19 is. Many years ago, Koch proposed criteria for establishing the causative agent of infectious diseases and these have been adapted to encompass viral diseases. Essentially, they require that the virus be isolated and purified, that it is shown to replicate in relevant host cells and that it demonstrates the symptoms of the disease when dosed to an appropriate animal. In January, RNA from a supposed virus was sequenced, shown to be related to the Sars virus and named SARS-CoV-2. Perhaps your readers may know to what extent the criteria have established that SARS-Cov-2 is the causative pathogen of COVID-19. In particular, I am not aware that any virus has been shown to induce the same symptoms and disease progression in animals.

Back in December and January, when COVID-19 was new and spreading rapidly, assumptions had to be made and shortcuts taken. There was no time to do the basic studies in logical order. We are now 8-9 months into the disease and there has been time to do these studies. Until they are done, we have to take it on faith we are testing for the right causative agent.

Simon Dolan Appeal to be Heard

Good news on the legal front. Simon Dolan’s has been given permission to appeal the High Court’s verdict on his Judicial Review. Here’s what it says on his CrowdJustice page:

Our challenge against the UK Government lockdown will continue to be heard after the Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that the case highlighted ‘fundamental’ concerns over the accountability of Government Ministers.

The Judicial Review will now proceed to a rolled-up hearing expected to be held at the Court of Appeal during the week commencing the 28th September after a ruling was handed down by Lord Justice Hickinbottom.

The hearing will decide on whether the case should progress to a full Appeal which would see the Government once again pressed to defend the introduction of measures which were described by the court as “possibly the most restrictive regime on the public life of persons and businesses ever”.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom said that the legal challenge “potentially raises fundamental issues concerning the proper spheres for democratically-accountable Ministers of the Government and judges”.

Owing to Government restrictions, our first hearing was held virtually. However, Lord Justice Hickinbottom ordered in his review that the case should be “considered by the full court in open court, and the Applicants given any opportunity to make good their case at least on arguability”.

You Think Trying to See a GP is Bad? Try a Dentist!

“Is it safe?” Apparently not!

I got an email from a reader who has been left feeling disheartened after making a dental appointment.

Today I took a call from my dentist about an imminent check-up and filling. Previously I have never had any qualms about going to the dentist but I now confess to twinges of apprehension…

It is not hyperbole to say I felt as though I was being prepared to face an Ebola outbreak or a nuclear leak. First of all I was given an over-the-phone medical. The whole emphasis was on danger: the risk I posed to them and the risk they posed to me and what was being done to mitigate it. I started off getting irritated but by the end of the call I was grinning. Sometimes that’s all the you can do.

In summary: I cannot enter the surgery as it will be locked. I must wait in my car or stay a minimum of 2 meters from the front entrance until called on my mobile. A minimum of two metres? When I’m out on the street? That is beyond ridicule so I won’t even try. On entering I will immediately have my hands sanitised and can bring neither people nor possessions in with me. I will then have a face nappy applied, something which I have successfully avoided until now. I explained that I cannot wear one and have a lanyard. They were clear – no mask, no entry, Again, the emphasis was on the danger I posed to them. Should I have a coughing fit I could endanger the staff, all of whom appear to be my age or younger.

I was advised that my mask would be removed for the actual check-up and work, which was reassuring.

Finally, I was told to use the loo before I left home as the toilet is for staff only. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but it’s a one-and-three-quarter-hour drive for me, time for the treatment, and a one-and-three-quarter-hour drive home. I did say this may be difficult if I was caught short. I was advised that if I absolutely needed it then they would comply – but – their rules state that if I do then no one else may use if for a period of one hour (huh?) and it would then need to be “deep cleaned” (double huh??). So, no pressure then. I’ve no idea what they felt I might do in there but I suddenly felt very grubby. I have decided to change my usual breakfast routine and will instead have some toast and no liquids at all. I can’t put those good people through that.

COVID-19 as a Workplace Hazard (Part 3)

If you’re assessed as having a high “covid age”, chances are you won’t be allowed to return to work

I’ve published the third articl in a series for Lockdown Sceptics written by a senior occupational health therapist about the difficulties the Government and its agencies are creating for businesses that want to re-open, this one pointing out that older workers may not be allowed to return to work when the economy grinds back to life. He sets out the problem in the opening few paragraphs:

Employers are seeking to return staff from shielding, but can only do this where they can demonstrate that the role is “Covid-secure”. Some employers are requesting their occupational health providers assess staff and advise of their “Covid-age”. Covid-age is a scheme that has been developed by occupational health doctors to stratify employees based on their risk of experiencing severe illness or death as a result of COVID-19.

You’re supposed to start with the person’s actual age and then add additional years for various reasons, e.g. high BMI, ethnicity, gender, medical conditions. This then results in the individual’s Covid-age. There is then a ‘traffic light system‘ that applies to you depending on your Covid-age – green, yellow, orange, red

It is immediately apparent that the higher your age, the more likely you are to fall into a higher risk category.

Don’t imagine that if you’re prepared to take the risk – or even sign a waiver, absolving your employer of any legal liability should you die of COVID-19 – it will make any difference. That doesn’t apply to normal workplace hazards – employers cannot escape liability that way – and it won’t apply to Covid.

I have no doubt that employers will err on the side of caution and prevent employees with a high Covid-age back to the workplace. Doesn’t matter how prepared the employee is to take the risk. As long as COVID-19 is regarded as a workplace hazard in the conventional sense, employers will not be able to take the employee’s own view into account. This will lead to individuals who are quite prepared to risk catching Covid losing their employment on medical capability grounds.

As usual, the Government appears to be aware that it has dug itself into a god almighty hole, but hasn’t a clue how to get out of it and the measures it’s taking to “restart” the economy will inevitably make things worse.

All three “workplace hazard” articles are in the right-hand menu under “What is the Exit Strategy?” This one is worth reading in full.

Beware the Bedwetters – They Can Now Demolish Your House

There was an extraordinary story in the Telegraph yesterday. The Prime Minister has given a broad range of powers to local authorities to contain outbreaks, including getting a magistrate to order the demolition of your home!

Councils will be able to draw on six separate Acts of Parliament to impose lightning closures of public buildings, order mass testing, ban events or shut down whole sectors of the economy.

They will also be able to limit school openings to set year groups and restrict travel to key workers only.

The power to demolish buildings, however, is perhaps the most striking inclusion in the Government’s Covid-19 Contain Framework.

The document, published by the Department of Health and Social Care, advises councils that, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, they can apply to a magistrate “to impose restrictions or requirements to close contaminated premises; close public spaces in the area of the local authority; detain a conveyance or movable structure; disinfect or decontaminate premises; or order that a building, conveyance or structure be destroyed”.

It raises the possibility that care homes, factories, offices or even private homes could be bulldozed as a last resort if the virus starts to run out of control, although such measures have not been considered necessary during the outbreak.

Downing Street regards local or regional lockdowns as the way forward in containing coronavirus.

Given that the UK Government is unable to properly interpret the data about the prevalence of infections, what hope is there that Town Hall Sir Humphries will get it right?

When will this madness end?

Has Any Country Developed an Effective Covid Tracing App?

“Is that you Boris? It’s Matt! Can you believe this? I knew technology would come to our rescue!”

Lockdown Sceptic‘s Covid tracing app correspondent – an experienced techie – has been in touch to point out that the apps don’t appear to be working anywhere. It’s not just our app that’s practically useless – they all are. Here’s his round-up.

When pressed over the lack of a UK contract tracing app at PMQs, Boris claimed that no country has a working coronavirus app. What about Germany with 12m downloads, replied Sir Keir Starmer, brilliantly skewering him over his bizarre claim, said the Independent.

Germany and many other countries do have some software you can put on your phone. Indeed, there are so many of them that MIT Technology Review has a Covid Tracing Tracker currently listing 46 of them. But do they work, as in stop the spread of corona virus, and would they be legal or socially acceptable in the UK? How many people have to download the app for them to be effective? An Oxford University study claimed that such apps would have an effect at all levels of uptake, not just the widely reported 60%. That’s what the modellers say, so what happened in practice and was Boris or Keir correct?

Singapore’s TraceTogether was the first major Bluetooth-based app, downloaded by 2.1m Singaporeans or 35% of the population. Unfortunately, that didn’t include the migrant workers living in dorms who account for the majority of Singapore’s 44,000 infections. The Government admitted its tech wasn’t ideal because the phone has to be unlocked with the app running in the foreground for it to work, a problem that other countries releasing apps later should have heeded. The app also drained the phone’s battery, so people removed it. The Singaporean Government is now pinning its hopes – and a whopping $73m – on a wearable device instead.

Australia was quick off the mark in April with its Covidsafe app. It only detected 1 in 4 encounters during testing, with phones having to be unlocked and running the app in the foreground, but that didn’t stop Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, promising Australians in lockdown: “It will help us as we seek to return to normal and the Australian way of life.” He reckoned 40% of Australians needed to be using it for it to be effective. Three months later, only 24% of Australians had downloaded it. Was it helping return Australia to normal life? ABC reported its impact was hard to measure. In Victoria, authorities have yet to point to a single COVID-19 exposure that was not picked up by manual contact tracing. In New South Wales, there’s only a single instance of a person being contacted using app data. Was it worth the $2.75M?

Germany’s app was built by the software giant SAP and Deutsche Telekom, and launched in mid-June along with a massive advertising campaign involving leading DAX companies and the German Football Association, the DFB, according to the Guardian. Helge Braun, the head of Angela Merkel’s office, said downloading the app amounted to “one small step for us, but a giant step in our fight against the pandemic”. That resulted in 6.5m downloads on the first day alone. One month later, the Government was boasting 16.2m downloads, 20% of Germany’s 83 million population. Because of the decentralised, privacy-respecting nature of the tech, we don’t know how many people were alerted by the German app. Well that’s the theory, anyway. In practice, we know that by July 20th a grand total of 660 Germans had been alerted by their app. Perhaps something to do with it not working unless –you guessed it – the phone is unlocked and the app is running in the foreground? Small step or giant leap? It was certainly a giant bill: €20M. And they open sourced it, so if you want €20M of software for free you can download it here.

In Ireland their bill was only €850k and 1.4m people – 28% of the population – downloaded it, 91 of whom received an exposure alert. What about France? It was launched in June, with the digital affairs minister Cédric O proclaiming: “From the first downloads the app helps avoid contamination, illness and so deaths.” Two million people were moved by that appeal to download le app. The headline on the MIT Technology Review article about it sums up what happened next: “Eight million people, 14 alerts: Why some COVID-19 apps are staying silent.”

Are there any apps that work? It seems unlikely given that the underlying physics of radio signal propagation does not work as the technocrats think it does. As I pointed out in Lockdown Sceptics back in June, Trinity College Dublin researchers found that signal strength could not be relied on outside of the lab as a proxy for proximity. China has a different approach, which may work, but given that it depends on handing over so much personal data, such as all your bank transactions, it would not be legal or even socially acceptable outside of China. And of course there is no sign of the Chinese app being withdrawn now the infection has passed, reports the New York Times.

So it appears that Boris was right snd Oxford’s modellers were wrong. No country has a working corona tracing app. Lockdowns don’t work and neither do the apps. Does that make Boris sceptic of the week?

Dr David Nabarro, Special Envoy to the WHO on COVID-19 and Lockdown Sceptic

Dr David Nabarro, a Special Envoy to the WHO on COVID-19, gave an interview to Mark Dolan on TalkRadio yesterday in which he made some sceptical noises.

“I don’t think that British society can tolerate more lockdowns and economic deprivation,” he said. “I think it’s wrong for children not to be going to school. What are we able to do as a society in order to push this virus back and get on with our lives?”

The interview begins at the 21 minute mark.

Government Refuses to Disclose When Mask Diktat Will be Reviewed and Admits Evidence is Weak

Matt Hancock responds to a Parliamentary question about masks, pointing to an urn containing the ashes of the previous questioner

Sir Graham Brady, the Chair of the 1922 Committee, submitted a written Parliamentary Question asking the following on July 17th:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the efficacy of routinely available, non-clinical face masks in preventing aerosol spread of viruses.

The answer he received – which only arrived today – is unintentionally hilarious:

In June 2020 Public Health England conducted a rapid evidence review on the efficacy of different types of face coverings designed for use in community settings, and the effectiveness of face coverings to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV2 in the community.

The review found evidence from eight laboratory studies that materials commonly used in non-medical masks such as cotton and polyester may block droplets with a filtering efficiency similar to medical masks when folded in two or three layers. This evidence was limited by variations in materials, study design and testing methods, and judged to be weak.

The review identified evidence from epidemiological and modelling studies that mask wearing in the community may contribute to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but again the evidence was limited by study design and quality.

‘Face coverings in the community and COVID-19: a rapid review’ is available to view at the following link.

So the evidence that routinely available, non-clinical face masks are effective at preventing aerosol spread of viruses is… “weak” and “limited”. Shock!

Why the insistence that we wear them, then?

He also submitted another question on July 17th, quite reasonably asking when this absurd, un-evidenced policy will be reviewed:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish the criteria according to which the legal requirement to wear face masks in retail settings will be ended; and how frequently a review of that policy will take place.

He got the following response, again not received until today:

As of Friday July 24th, members of the public must wear a face covering when visiting a shop or supermarket in England.

In addition, the Government is running a major proactive communications campaign on face coverings to alert the public where they are now required to wear face coverings and educate the public on how to correctly wear one.

The Government will keep the regulations under review and will continue assessing if measures need to be put in place for other settings going forward.

So a Conservative MP had to wait three weeks to receive a non-answer to his question.

If the Chair of the most influential backbench committee in the Conservative party cannot hold the Government to account, what hope do the rest of us have?

The Insanity of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020

A reader who runs a small business has flagged up something that passed me by, but which sounds deeply alarming.

Are you aware of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 which was sneaked into law on June 30th?

This bit of legislation effectively does, amongst other things, the following:

* Shuts down the ability for small businesses to serve statutory demands for non-payment of invoices.
* Absolves every director of any company operating in this country of responsibility for their actions between March 1st and September 30th. Meaning the usual claw-back under the wrongful trading laws and fraud is suspended.
* Creates an impossible situation where Coronavirus can be blamed for anything and everything – regardless of truth.
* Compels small companies to continue supplying non-paying companies with good and services.

There’s been nothing about this in the press at all – which is a surprise to me as it effectively means any commercial contract entered into this year is void. This has been confirmed to me by a solicitor – who told me that it is so badly drafted that it could cover anything.

I run a small design business in London which has been effectively destroyed by this lockdown. As you would expect, nobody is paying any invoices, and we are now owed £60,000+ with no prospect of ever getting it back. We will be closing our company and losing our livelihoods because of this.

We’ve received essentially zero help from the government. All that is on offer is a vague promise of a grant for between £1000 to £5000 – which nobody can seem to tell me how to apply for.

This all means that it’s impossible to run a small business in this country as contract law has been effectively suspended – the larger zombie company will always win by default, as it is so expensive and risky to take them to court now – which no-doubt is the intention…

I’d appreciate it if you could raise a bit of awareness of this – as I’m sure there a lot of people who will be negatively affected.

Irish Health Authorities May Be Over-Counting Covid Deaths by 60%

A report was published last month by the Health Information and Quality Authority, a statutory, government-funded agency in Ireland which monitors the safety and quality of the healthcare and social care systems, drawing attention to possible errors in the Covid death count in the Emerald Isle. Here’s the killer bullet point:

The officially reported COVID-19 deaths may overestimate the true burden of excess mortality specifically caused by COVID-19. This may be due to the likely inclusion within official COVID-19 figures of people who were known to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) at the time of death who were at or close to end-of–life independently of COVID-19 or whose cause of death may have been predominantly due to other factors.

How long before our own authorities admit the same error? (Hat tip to InProportion2 for flagging this up on Twitter.)

Dispatch From the Melbourne Gulag

A watchtower on the outskirts of the Melbourne metropolitan area

The Lockdown Sceptic reader who penned the “Postcard From Melbourne” I published last week has added a P.S. following the imposition of an even more draconian lockdown by Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews, known to disgruntled locals as Kim Jong Dan. Here’s an extract:

A beautiful winter Sunday afternoon was ruined by our hapless (or is that hopeless?) state Premier announcing in his gravest tones that Lockdown 2.0 and mandatory face nappies just aren’t doing the trick. We are all being very naughty and not doing as we’re told and so the ‘State of Emergency’ is being upgraded to a ‘State of Disaster’. This involves a near total shutdown of non-essential businesses, an 8pm-5am curfew, no travel further than 5km from your home and you’re only allowed out for one hour of exercise per day. Schools are closed, weddings banned and numbers at funerals are limited. Welcome to Lockdown 3.0.

Within minutes of the announcement, queues were forming outside supermarkets and by the end of the day the shelves had been stripped of fruit, veg and fresh meat by panic buying locusts. They obviously stopped listening to Kim Jong Dan’s doom-mongering before he got to the bit where he said supermarkets would remain open.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers

Just one today: “You Got it All Wrong” by the Hives.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 8th to 19th). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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.

Meanwhile, there is a land, far away, where the mask-wearing lunatics haven’t yet taken over the asylum. It’s called Holland. More here.

Stop Press: No, wait. From 9am this morning face nappies have been made mandatory in parts of Amsterdam.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

The weekly London Calling podcast that I do with James Delingpole is a day late this week because when we recorded it on Monday I forgot to press the record button! Needless to say, it was the best one we’ve ever done. Anyway, we re-recorded it yesterday and you can listen to it here. Quite a lot of the discussion is devoted to asking whether we should formally apologise for so enthusiastically backing Boris. I imagine a scene in which I’m standing outside the Pearly Gates, pleading for admission, and God says to me: “Well, you helped set up four schools, you founded the Free Speech Union, you’re devoted husband and loving father, you give money to beggars, you’ve done a certain amount for charity… but you did write this 5,000 panegyric about Boris Johnson. Sorry, that’s a dealbreaker. Down you go.”

You can listen to it here. And if you enjoy it, please do subscribe.

Latest News

Deaths Below Five-Year Average for Sixth Week in a Row – ONS

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Today’s ONS release has deaths from novel coronavirus in England and Wales continuing to fall. Here’s PA’s summary:

There were a total of 8,891 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to July 24th, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 161 fewer than the five-year average of 9,052, PA reports.

This is the sixth week in a row that deaths have been below the five-year average.

Of the deaths registered in the week to July 24th, 217 mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate – the lowest number of deaths involving COVID-19 since the week ending March 20th, when there was 103 deaths.

What was all that about a “second wave” Boris?

The ONS has published a chart showing, among other things, that the number of people dying from influenza and pneumonia has been below the five-year average (the dotted lines) since mid-April. Could it be that deaths from respiratory failure that would normally be attributed to influenza and pneumonia are being falsely attributed to COVID-19? Dr John Lee warned of that risk in his first article for the Spectator. “It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded,” he wrote.

Postcard From Aldeburgh

A reader is just back from a break in the Suffolk seaside town of Aldeburgh. He didn’t have a very nice time.

Stayed a couple of days with friends (ex-Londoners) who moved full time to Aldeburgh about four years ago.

On the day I arrived, I strolled down the sea front in search of some smoked or potted fish to take home as the fishermen’s huts there have a great offering direct to the public.

Saw a hut with smoked fish and joined the queue. The man ahead of me was asked on the threshold of the hut if he had a mask. When he answered in the negative the fisherman (!) told him to stay on the edge of the door. I turned on my heel and abandoned the quest.

Locals in the town seem to be giving any visitors a wide berth, not to mention the cold shoulder. I heard a lot of grumbling about people coming in and using the beach. No thought for the fact that it is a public space, that the visitors presumably don’t live in such open surroundings and need a rest from being locked in.

First local I engaged with – middle aged chap watering his window box – immediately asked if I was visiting for the day…

Apparently, back in March a “Londoner’’ visited the newsagent and supposedly infected the newsagent, causing him and his family to shut the shop and self-isolate for two weeks. I have no idea how they knew it was this poor Londoner who infected him. Strikes me as being just as likely that it was a local returning from skiing in Italy.

Lots of locals stepping ostentatiously out into the road at the approach of an “outsider” on the (pretty wide) pavement… all very depressing.

Only mitigation was the lady in a card shop who didn’t bat an eyelid when I went in without a face nappy to buy my cards. Couldn’t have been pleasanter. But I won’t name the shop as she will probably be boycotted!

How has it come to pass that a pleasant seaside town like Aldeburgh now regards itself as a fortress to repel outsiders, rather than welcome them for the trade and money they generate?

I won’t be going back in a hurry.

Never Mind Squeezing the Brakes – Boris’s Lockdown Strategy is a Car Crash

Boris: “Voting Conservative will increase your chances of owning a BMW M3. But don’t lend it to me because I’ll write it off.”

I wrote a piece for the Telegraph yesterday trying to capture the madness of the last few days.

I’ve lost count of the number of U-turns the Government has done. First we were told that masks were unnecessary. Now they’re mandatory in indoor public spaces. Primary schools were supposed to re-open weeks before the summer holidays. Then they weren’t. You are absolutely, positively allowed to go to Spain on your summer holidays – oh no, wait a minute, you’re not. It’s hardly surprising that even members of the Cabinet are being caught out by last-minute policy shifts.

But in the last 48 hours the Government’s handling of the ongoing crisis has reached a new pitch of incoherence. August 1st was supposed to be the day that another raft of restrictions were lifted, with bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos all allowed to re-open. Live sporting events were due to resume and weddings of up to 30 people would be permitted. It was time to turbo-boost the economy.

But on Friday Boris announced he was going to “squeeze the brake pedal” in response to a “surge” in infections across England, which meant none of these things would happen. Worse, a local lockdown was imposed in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, thanks to a fresh “outbreak” in the northwest. Matt Hancock helpfully unveiled this hodgepodge of new restrictions at 9.16pm on Twitter, less than three hours before they came into force.

So what’s the message coming out of Downing Street? That the crisis is far from over and we need to be super-vigilant if we’re to avoid a second wave? Apparently not, because the government has stuck to its plan to launch Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, with diners in over 72,000 cafes, pubs and restaurants getting 50% off for the month of August.

In addition, the ‘shielding guidance’, whereby the elderly and the vulnerable were advised to take extra steps to protect themselves, was ‘paused’ on Saturday. That’s encouraging. Virus almost gone, then? Er, no. Less than 24 hours later we learned that Boris is considering extending the ‘shielding’ policy to everyone over 50.

So the Prime Minister has simultaneously slammed on the brakes, executed a U-turn and pressed the accelerator. No wonder the government appears to be drifting.

I summarised the evidence that infections have not increased, either in England as a whole or in the North West that readers of this site will be familiar with. Unfortunately, most of that didn’t make it into the piece – too much detail? – so here’s what I wrote.

The Office for National Statistics published its latest infection survey data on Friday, supposedly showing an increase in the number of infected people across England from 0.05 percent of the population to 0.09% if you compare the period June 29th to July 12th with the period July 13th to July 26th. But if you drill down into the data, you discover this is based on just a handful of people.

In the penultimate two-week period, 31,542 people were given a nose and throat swab, of whom 19 tested positive, whereas in the more recent period 28,325 people were tested, of whom 24 were positive. So the alarming “surge” in infections across the whole country amounted to a grand total of five more people testing positive. Never in the field of public policy has so much been owed by so many to so few.

Okay, there was also an uptick in the number of cases in the community over the course of July as revealed by Pillar 2 testing. But according to Carl Heneghan, the Oxford Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine, that’s entirely due to the fact that the number of people being tested has ramped up significantly in the past four weeks.

On July 1st, 43,161 Pillar 2 tests were done compared to 78,522 on July 31st, an increase of 82%. If you look at the number of people per 100,000 testing positive as opposed to the raw data, there’s no increase.

What about the alarming “outbreak” in the northwest that prompted Matt Hancock to place four-and-a-half million people under virtual house arrest on Thursday evening? That, too, is a figment of the government’s imagination, says Prof Heneghan.

In an interview in The Telegraph yesterday, he said the apparent increase in cases in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire disappears if you control for: (a) the date the tests were taken rather than when the results came through; and (b) the increase in Pillar 2 testing.

My conclusion – and this will surprise no one – is that Boris doesn’t know what he’s doing.

It seems the Prime Minister was too busy conjugating Greek and Latin verbs at Eton to pay any attention in maths. When I think of his handling of the coronavirus crisis I picture a child behind the wheel of a racing car. He’s overwhelmed by the data constantly popping up on his dashboard, has no idea what any of it means, so just randomly presses different levers and pedals, spins the wheel as fast as he can, and hopes for the best.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: For digital subscribers to the Telegraph, the comments below my piece make for entertaining reading. Here’s one of the highest-rated:

In company with many I was prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately the virus has exposed what many of us suspected. The overeducated career politicians with no business or life experience are just as ineffectual, as the overpaid, over promoted seat polishers in the civil service, NHS and PHE.

How Accurate is the Government’s PCR Test?

A reader has posed some good questions about the accuracy of the PCR test the Government is using, and wonders whether the new, much-ballyhooed 90-minute test will be any more reliable.

In your blog of August 2nd you quote ONS data which show there were 19 and 24 positive test results for two concurrent 14-day periods within sample populations of roughly 30,000 each. What surprises me about these results is how can the number of samples testing positive be so low. I am not implying that there should be more positive samples from genuinely infected donors. Rather, I refer to the number of false positives among uninfected donors one would expect from such a test

I saw this quote in an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail reporting two 90 minute turnaround tests soon to be deployed:

“The Government has never disclosed how accurate its current [slow turnaround] tests are, but studies have indicated they give the correct diagnosis about 80% of the time”

The test used to determine presence of virus is the RT-PCR test. I have looked long and hard but unsuccessfully for a Government statement on how accurate their tests are. Do you or any of your readers have knowledge of the accuracy of these tests? I have seen others quote 30% for false negatives among those genuinely infected and 1-5% for false positives among those genuinely uninfected. Incidentally, to find just 20 (false) positives in a sample of 30,000 would require a specificity of 99.93%. The RT-PCR is nowhere near that accurate and indicates the numbers quoted by ONS are just noise and as such meaningless.

It would be reprehensible if such inaccurate data were used to justify further lockdowns where positive test numbers are low.

Holidaymakers – Beware False Advertising

The scene that greeted eager holidaymakers when they arrived at their four-star, luxury hotel in Carry on Abroad

A reader has alerted me to the fact that he wasn’t told about the appalling, North Korean-style restrictions being imposed in his Greek resort until after he’d booked the holiday. You have been warned.

Every year my partner and I who happens to be of Portuguese descent travel to her home in the Algarve to see family and friends and enjoy what I’ve come to know as a wonderful part of the world. This year it won’t be feasible due to this air bridge scheme which seems to be a randomly selected group of countries rather than those with the least infections, etc. It’s an expensive trip and to be honest neither my partner nor I want to see the Algarve a shadow of what it is every other year we visit.

Therefore, we decided we’d try Greece instead. After some research, it appeared that this is one of the only places without the bed wetting rituals in many other parts of the world, they also happen to have an air bridge.

We booked an all inclusive family resort with multiple bars and restaurants, with baby sitters on site and a children’s play area which would give us some respite from our two year old twin boys who have vast amounts of stored energy having been prevented from visiting our local parks, play areas, soft play, etc.

I’ve since discovered more details which made me wretch. Only one restaurant is open, the kids areas are shut, no babysitters, staff in PPE and forced hand sanitation on entry, among many other ridiculous measures including restricted pool access. I can’t even serve myself at the buffet. I consider it abhorrent that a man of 27 with two kids will be charged hard-earned money to go to a resort where I can’t even be trusted to serve myself my own dinner, let alone be given free reign of the pool, gym and kids areas. etc. that were all listed in the booking.com advert.

I had hoped for a break from this nonsense but it appears that’s not possible and that holidays in 2020 are merely an expensive stay in a hotel.

Diversity Training Horror Story

“Diversity training” horror stories have become a thriving genre. But this is the only one I’ve come across in which the trainer was actually Robin D’Angelo, author of White Fragility and America’s leading shill for this snake-oil – the PT Barnum of the $8 billion-a-year “diversity training” industry. You can hear the entire story in this podcast, but here is a summary sent to me by a reader.

Overview of the diversity sensitivity training

* Each training session was 4 hours long, and the program went on for over a year(!).

* All staff members took part, no exceptions, with mandatory attendance.

* The course was led by DiAngelo (who many people seem to assume is black, but is actually white) and a black co-presenter.

* Participants were told by DiAngelo that the more they tried to resist what she was saying, the more it was evidence she was doing the right thing.

* If anything she said made participants feel uncomfortable, that was just proof of their fragility.

* If people denied they were racist, that was simply more proof of their racism.

The net effect was that anything DiAngelo said was, by her own ground rules, unfalsifiable.

* The goal of the training seemed to be to get white people to admit they were racist.

* In terms of helping people of different colour get along better, the training may actually have been counter productive.

The organization the woman worked for

The woman worked at a non-profit theatre company. As such, most of the staff were already progressive liberals who generally believed in racial equality. But the employees were predominantly white and therefore, according to DiAngelo, guilty of systemic racism.

The incident that led to the need for diversity training

The company was rehearsing a play about the African-American experience in New York neighbourhoods. It included several black actors, perhaps a sign in itself the company was already towards the less racist end of the spectrum. At one point, a stagehand who was miked into the backstage sound system wasn’t sure what an actor had said. He therefore asked in his headset “Did he just say ‘n-word’?”, except he actually said the word out loud. This caused much internal turmoil, eventually leading the company to launch the sensitivity training program. As was explained to everyone, whatever the stagehand’s intent had been when saying the word didn’t matter – apparently it was the moral equivalent of having actually directed the word at someone. The dollar cost of the program is unknown, but presumably wasn’t cheap, and presumably a significant burden for a non-profit company.

The moment when the woman being interviewed started to turn on the presenters

The woman being interviewed was a designer and had created a poster for The Odyssey. As part of her research, she found an interlocking geometric pattern on some ancient Greek pottery that she decided to incorporate that into her poster. After about 30,000 copies of the poster were printed, an anonymous co-worker pointed out that the intersections of the pattern, which was continuous, looked like swastikas. There was much internal consultation before it finally made its way up the chain of command to the Executive Director. As it turned out he was Jewish, and he was fine with it.

News of the incident got to DiAngelo, though, who made it the subject of one of her training sessions. At the beginning of the session, she specifically asked participants to refrain from making any comments and just to practice listening. She then went on to describe the incident and called the “Nazi imagery” a great example of sub-conscious racism. The woman who designed the poster knew otherwise, but the rules of the session were such that she wasn’t allowed to say anything.

The woman was upset on several levels. For a start, she knew there was no unconscious racism involved since she was just trying to be culturally authentic in her design. And although she wasn’t identified as the person who designed the poster (and DiAngelo made a point of saying it wasn’t important who did), she felt that most of her co-workers knew it must have been her. The whole thing was therefore very embarrassing without the opportunity to defend herself.

After this, she started to question other aspects of the training as well.

An anecdote from the training

At one point, DiAngelo took a moment to apologize to her co-presenter. Apparently she’d interrupted her earlier, and whenever this is done by a white person to a black person, it’s a way of perpetuating racism by reinforcing traditional power relationships. It presumably didn’t matter that the two knew each other well, or that interruption is a normal part of human relationships.

In the process, DiAngelo also gave advice on the proper way to apologize to a black person. For example, it should be done unemotionally, otherwise it would place too much of a burden on the black person.

There’s a companion podcast in which the pure hokum of White Fragility is laid bare. And in case you missed it, Matt Taibbi took the book apart in this entertainingly furious review.

Answers to Questions About Legality of Remote GP Appointments

The doctor will hear you now

I have received a very thorough, comprehensive answer to the questions posed by a reader yesterday about the legality of her local GP practice refusing to book a face-to-face appointment with her 85 year-old father suffering from memory loss. Probably not what she wanted to hear, I’m afraid.

I’m ex-Dept of Health, 30 years including Head of GP Training, GP access, etc. and had therefore a fair amount to do with GP provision over the years. Retired 2017. Unfortunately, the system probably allows for all this. We did have a detailed GP contract but that was got rid of in 2003 in favour of a much more general arrangement that incidentally handed GPs tons more money for doing much less work. That contract was the one that removed the need for GPs to provide “out-of -hours” care for patients, amongst other things.

By and large the system exists to promote conformity in services. There is still huge variation in both the quality of care and the patient experience. Many practices are very good, especially in the country and small towns: London is generally poorly served and there are a number of very bad practices which perform poorly on all measures.

Your GP is not obliged to offer you an appointment just because you want one. The GP is supposed to give appointments to the practice’s patients where there is a clinical necessity. The GP judges what is clinically necessary. In practice these decisions are usually delegated to receptionists working to a script.

Telephone appointments have been in use for years and are often convenient for patients alongside standard face to face appointments. Things such as “opening times” of the practice are not mandated – I can bitterly recall the huge problem it was to get even some practices to open in the early mornings, evenings and weekends so that working commuters could see a GP.

So the question is whether all this shutdown of local primary care services, taken to these extremes, is “reasonable” in current circumstances. The first and most important arbiter will be the local Primary Care group – made up of the local GPs plus a few others, so if they’re all doing it there is no possibility they’ll criticise themselves. NHS England is next in line and I am assuming that they have sanctioned all this, so they won’t cut their own throats. The Department of Health has no longer any real say in what GPs do. Simply put, Hancock can’t make it stop or change.

The General Medical Council would be a possibility to look into a specific accusation that a doctor has failed to deliver an adequate standard of care. The GMC has a booklet called “Duties of a Doctor” but this is also non-specific – it talks in terms of principles rather than separate actions. I don’t know if the GMC has issued any guidance in the current nonsense amounting to a blanket absolution in advance.

Sorry not to be more helpful. You might find individual variations between GPs saying different things about what happens in different practices – this is perfectly normal. But the short answer is that there isn’t a prescribed form of “how a GP practice shall be run” and if they all do it and follow the guidance they will be officially in the clear.

A GP has written to me, saying she believes that refusing to make a face-to-face patient with an 85 year-old man suffering from dementia could be unlawful and suggests complaining to the practice and the GMC:

I am a GP and have been seeing patients face to face throughout this whole time, as has the rest of the practice team. There has been a big shift to dealing with a lot of problems remotely where possible/even preferable for some patients, but there are some situations which can only be dealt with via a face-to-face appointment and the GP is obliged to do this under the contract. Failure to offer this is in my opinion not only grounds to make a formal complaint to the practice but may also warrant a referral to the GMC.

However, one reader did precisely that – complained to the GMC – and got back this rather discouraging response.

The General Medical Council regulates doctors and provides ethical guidance on a range of issues. However, we are not responsible for guidance on personal protective equipment, social distancing or the provision of services – which are managed by the Government. The Department of Health and Social Care would be best placed to answer most of your questions.

Another GP has written to say it isn’t the fault of GPs, although the medical profession has the same share of bedwetters as most others. Rather, it’s the fault of the ridiculous rules GP practices have been forced to comply with since March.

The problem for General Practice since March 2020 has at its centre the fear engendered by the Government.

GPs were told to do telephone consults at the same time as hospital consultants were instructed only to do telephone consultations. We were told that any contact with a stranger could spread the deadly virus.

To start seeing patients face-to-face we had to follow the guidelines which are policed by the CQC. Here are the guidelines.

The waiting room had to be “COVID-secure, using social distancing, optimal hand hygiene, frequent surface decontamination, ventilation and other measures where appropriate”, everyone has to wear a muzzle, etc., etc.

I have between 50 and 60 patient telephone contacts of which I see face-to-face about 15 in the surgery. I would much rather see 36 patients a day in the surgery and have only 15 phone calls.

Some GP surgeries especially those in London have been reluctant to see patients face-to-face; there are as many bedwetters among GPs as any other profession. As regards video consults and patients sending in a picture of their rash I think they can be quite useful. I have seen thousands of rashes in my career and will tell you what it is from a clear photo just as easily as seeing the patient in the surgery.

For the gentleman with dementia he would need a quick consultation with a mini mental test along with a few blood tests. He would then be referred to the Psychiatric Dementia Service. Unfortunately, the Dementia Service, along with the whole of the UK psychiatric service, has been missing in action since March. Psychiatrists are rivalling teachers and podiatrists in their aversion to returning to work.

Anyway Toby give GPs a break as most of us are seeing and examining patients in the surgery. I would love to not wear a face nappy, bin bag, face visor and rubber gloves, but there are Stasi-like martinets enforcing the rules in every surgery.

I think you should aim towards secondary care and ask why hospital consultants are still reluctant to see patients face to face.

One reader has referred the complainant to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau:

A good place to start is the NHS Constitution that sets out patients and professional rights and duties. A very useful and informative source that is well explained and tabulated is via Citizens Advice website. I think that you may find most of the info that you require to form a basis of complaint.

Another thinks there’s no point in challenging this guidance in the courts, even if remote appointments are unlawful.

Not being a lawyer, I cannot help out as to what the statute books and case law suggest. What I DO know, based on watching how the courts have operated over the past twenty years or so, is that whatever the law says, even if it is crystal clear, judges will hand down the politically correct decision, justifying it with references either to nebulous law such as the Human Rights Act, or previous, highly dubious, legal judgements.

And finally a reader has a suggestion that just might work:

Regarding GPs, I don’t have the answers but I do have a suggestion. If everyone who needs a GP just goes straight to A&E (they are apparently quiet anyway) and sees a doctor there, surely the Government will get the message? And a great media story “A&E’s Overwhelmed by Patients Wanting to See a GP.” Handcock might get the message then.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Society Is Brainwashed” by Ill Bill.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Get your face nappies here, sheeple

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 9th to 18th). 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 that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy 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.

Meanwhile, mandatory face nappies have unfairly placed supermarket workers in the firing line, according to the Telegraph.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

This is brilliant. It’s a trailer for a new horror movie called Corona Zombies. No need to hold the Oscars next year. We already know which film is going to win Best Picture. (Warning: contains gory imagery some readers may find upsetting.)

Latest News

8pm Curfew Imposed in Melbourne by Power-Crazed Premier

Deserted Bourke Street after a citywide curfew was introduced in Melbourne, Victoria. Photograph: Erik Anderson/EPA

After reading yesterday’s “Postcard From Melbourne” I didn’t think things could get any worse in the capital of Victoria. But yesterday the power-crazed Premier of the state – Daniel Andrews, known as Kim Jong Dan – announced tough new “Stage 4” restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, including an 8pm curfew. This looks like another instance of what I’ll call the “collapsing skyscraper” rule of this unending catastrophe. Being in lockdown is like falling through a collapsing skyscraper. Every time you think you’ve come to the bottom and your feet have found solid ground, the floor gives way again.

Here is a list of the “Stage 4” measures introduced from 6pm yesterday and due to last for six weeks:

  • The “state of emergency” in Victoria has been upgraded to a “state of disaster”, meaning police can now enter your home to carry out spot checks even if you don’t give them permission and they don’t have a warrant.
  • Between the hours of 8pm and 5am, you’re not allowed to leave your homes except for work, medical care and caregiving.
  • Outside those hours, you may only leave your home for four reasons: shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise and work. “We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever,” said Kim Jong Dan.
  • Daily exercise can only take place within a 5km radius of your home and cannot last longer than an hour.
  • You cannot exercise in groups of more than two, even if they’re members of the same household.
  • Apart from daily exercise, you are only allowed to leave your home once a day for essential supplies and food.
  • In the whole of Victoria, you cannot buy more than two of certain essential items, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fish and toilet paper.
  • Schools have closed again, with all Victoria school students returning to remote learning from Wednesday (except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers). Childcare and kindergarten will be closed from Thursday.
  • Golf and tennis venues, which were open, have now been closed.
  • Weddings will no longer be allowed from Thursday, and funerals will be limited to 10 people.
  • Face nappies anywhere outside your home have been mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne since July 22nd, but that rule has now been extended to the entire state of Victoria.
  • You cannot have visitors or go to another person’s house unless it is for the purpose of giving or receiving care. However, you can leave your house to visit a person if you are in an “intimate personal relationship” with them, even during curfew hours. So no “bonk ban”.
  • If you have a holiday home or were planning a holiday outside Melbourne, tough cheese. You must remain in the city for the next six weeks.
  • The maximum fine for breaching a health order currently stands at $1,652, but Kim Jong Dan said he would have more to say about penalties later today, i.e. he’s going to increase them.

These measures were prompted by 671 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven more deaths. That’s up from 295 new cases last Wednesday, but down from 723 on Friday. It was that spike on Friday – the highest daily total in Victoria to date – that prompted Kim Jong Dan to unveil the new restrictions yesterday.

But could the increase be due to a corresponding increase in testing? It certainly looks that way.

Victoria tested almost 43,000 on Sunday, July 26th, twice as many as on normal days, and the peak on Wednesday could be due to the few days delay before the results come through. In addition, a percentage of the positive results are likely due to the extensive contact tracing introduced in the past few weeks, with targeted testing of those who’ve been in contact with other infected people.

It looks like a familiar pattern: on the advice of public health officials, a political leader ramps up testing and introduces a track-and-trace programme, then, when the number of cases inevitably increases, the leader panics and introduces draconian new measures.

How long before bungling Boris introduces another new set of random restrictions here?

Stop Press: A “Major Incident” was declared in Greater Manchester yesterday in response to alleged increases in coronavirus infection rates across “multiple localities”. (Almost certainly an artefact of increased testing, as explained below.) Major Incidents are typically declared after a terror attack or natural disaster and mean a region can access extra national resources if necessary, with the police able to draft in the army if they need support. Looks like Manchester is in the frame to be the Melbourne of the UK.

Oxford Professor: Covid Cases in England Are Not Rising

Morten Morland’s cartoon in today’s Times

Carl Heneghan has struck again. The Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford wrote a blog post yesterday in which he showed that the alleged increase in the number of infected people in England – the pretext for locking down four-and-a-half million people last week – is an artefact of increased testing.

First, he looks at the raw data which seems to show the number of positive cases in Pillar 1 (testing in healthcare settings) trending down and the number in Pillar 2 (community settings) trending up.

That alone is sufficient to demolish the case for imposing more restrictions – if an uptick in community cases isn’t resulting in an uptick in healthcare cases, then it’s nothing to worry about. But Prof Heneghan then goes on to show that the increase in the number of Pillar 2 positives is entirely a function of increased Pillar 2 testing.

However, what happens if you adjust for any change in testing over time? On July 1st – the seven day moving average of testing was 41,109 for Pillar 1 and 43,161 in Pillar 2. By July 31st, the Pillar, 1 seven day average for testing had increased to 49,543 (a 20% increase); while the Pillar 2 had risen by much more – by 82% to 78,522 tests.

The next graph shows what happens when you adjust for the number of tests done and then standardise to per 100,000 tests. Pillar 1 is seen to be still trending down, but Pillar 2 is now flatlining. The increase in the number of cases detected is likely due to the increase in testing in Pillar 2.

Prof Heneghan’s conclusion – typically understated – is that the Government doesn’t know its arse from its elbow.

Inaccuracies in the data and poor interpretation will often lead to errors in decisions about imposing restrictions, particularly if these decisions are done in haste and the interpretation does not account for fluctuations in the rates of testing.

Heneghan also gave an interview to the Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton yesterday in which he said the apparent increase in cases in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire disappears if you control for: (a) the date the tests were taken rather than when the results came through; and (b) the increase in Pillar 2 testing.

“The northern lockdown was a rash decision,” he said. “Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.

“As areas are tested, like Oldham, then there’s a slight rise in detected cases, asymptomatics.

“It’s not clear if these are false positives, or if these folk have viable virus or just RNA fragments detected by a test threshold that picks up minute traces of RNA.

“While you get these small clusters, which will have been occurring for some time, they have not led to an overall increase in cases

“The Government needs to allow the local public health teams to do their job when localised clusters emerge.”

Mapping the coronavirus trend by result date appears to show a slight increase in cases over the past few weeks, but based on specimen date – a more reliable measure – cases appear to have plateaued and may even be falling.

Between July 22nd and July 29th the seven day rolling average of reported cases jumped between those two dates from 659 to 753 – 16.7%.

However, when judged by specimen date the seven day rolling average actually dropped from 641 to 442, a 31% decrease.

Any rise is also being skewed by a general increase in testing. The seven-day rolling average for tests carried out between July 22nd and July 29th jumped from 137,427 to 153,252 – an 11.5% increase, wiping out much of the increase.

“Why is no one checking this out at Government level?” added Prof Heneghan

“The specimen date is more reliable as the reporting data will be skewed by the delay in Pillar 2 testing reporting.”

Northern Lockdown Going Down Like Bucket of Cold Sick

Monty Python’s four Yorkshiremen would not be impressed by the Northern lockdown

A reader in one of the areas flattened by Boris’s “whack-a-mole” hammer has got in touch. Not quite as bleak as you’d think.

I’m in one of the areas recently “locked down” (BD20). We’re actually nowhere near the city of Bradford, but presumably the Government couldn’t be bothered to plot accurate maps so just lazily locked down the whole council tax area.

Some good news. Matt Hancock’s plea for household distancing has gone down like a bucket of cold sick! Everyone I know – and I mean everyone – intends to take no notice of the new rules. Crucially, unlike in March, even the previous lockdown zealots are now jumping ship. I visited my mother-in-law’s today with three generations of my family and it was totally different to March. No “sneaking around” needed. Gardens were full and people were happy to park cars outside and mingle freely as if nothing had been said. I think the penny is finally dropping. This will be forever if people go along with it this time.

The same can’t be said for local businesses, unfortunately, who have one again been thrown under a bus by these measures.

Anti-Mask Protest in Central London

Missed this yesterday, but there was an anti-mask protest in Central London on Saturday. Russia Today has the story.

Activists took to the streets of London a day after the UK cabinet expanded its guidelines for mandatory face coverings. The demonstration comes amid growing skepticism worldwide over the efficacy of such policies.

A large group of demonstrators assembled in Hyde Park on Saturday, where they listened to speeches denouncing the government’s anti-coronavirus measures. Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was among the speakers.

Carrying placards reading “Stop the new normal, save lives,”“Freedom over fear,” and “Masks are muzzles,” the protesters then marched towards Downing Street, stopping outside BBC headquarters along the way.

Question From Reader About Legality of Remote GP Appointments

The doctor will hear you now

Can anyone answer these questions from a reader about the legality of restricting NHS care?

The Government revoked and replaced the Coronavirus Act 2020 with a pared down Part 2 on July 3rd. Matt Hancock announced that healthcare appointments would remain virtual/remote for the foreseeable future. I wondered if one of your clever readers might be able to explain what is and is not a legal requirement when it comes to the provision of NHS care? After all, when challenged, the Government said it never ordered schools to close, merely recommended it. Is this is a similar situation?

I ask because my elderly dad is 85 and his memory loss has rapidly accelerated under lockdown which is really affecting quality of life. He gets very flustered with technology – even phone calls make him anxious. We’ve had a specialist second opinion and the consultant wrote to the GP asking him to carry out some tests and to support my dad. His GP will not see him in person, only remotely, and only then when you’ve run the gauntlet of the terrifying receptionists to get a phone slot. We are in a small rural market town and in our county Covid cases and deaths have remained incredibly low – you’re more likely to be trampled to death by a herd of escaped cattle.

It seems extraordinary to me that a 20 GP mega-practice which serves the town and its huge hinterland can just close its doors, and ration and suspend services in this way. I’ve heard anecdotally of patients being asked to take photos of body parts and email or text them to the surgery, as they can’t be seen in person. Surely, that cannot be good medical practice, let along consistent with GDPR, or patients’ rights to confidentiality, privacy and dignity? One would hope that the Public Sector Equality Duty still applies, and GP practices are obliged to properly equality impact assess any provision. One would assume they have to properly risk assess it too (Covid not being the only risk!). If your GP practice is over-reaching and presenting guidance as law, what recourse do patients have? I know we were told we had to protect the NHS, but my dad has paid his taxes all his life. It seems really unjust that he’s getting such threadbare care.

If anyone knows the answers to any of these questions, please email here and I’ll publish them in due course.

News From Cornwall

I may have taken news reports of locals reacting badly to tourists in Cornwall too seriously yesterday. One reader currently on holiday in Cornwall with her 14 year-old daughter and partner says it’s actually not too bad.

In St Mawes all the guests, pubs and restaurants seem pretty sensible/chilled. We just had beers and chips at a pub and it was a mask-free zone even among staff, refreshingly. Posher joints such as Hotel Tresanton and the Idle Rocks are closing their restaurants to non-residents in the evenings, however… 🤷‍♀️

New Report Lays Bear Extent of Free Speech Crisis in Universities

Policy Exchange has published a report today, written by three members of the Free Speech Union’s Advisory Council, making clear the extent of the free speech crisis in Britain’s universities. Among the findings, based on extensive polling, are:

  • Fewer than 20% of UK academics voted for right-leaning parties and about 75% voted for the Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green parties in 2017 and 2019.
  • Only 54% of academics said that they would feel comfortable sitting next to a known Leave supporter at lunch.
  • Just 37% would feel comfortable sitting next to someone who, in relation to transgender rights, advocates gender-critical feminist views.
  • A third of academics would seek to avoid hiring a known Leave supporter, and between a third and a half of those reviewing a grant bid would mark it lower if it took a right-wing perspective.
  • Among the small minority of academics who identify as “fairly right” or “right”, 32% have refrained from airing their views in teaching and research.

Having identified the problem – structural discrimination against academics with right-of-centre views – the authors propose a solution: an Academic Freedom Bill. This would provide for the following:

  • Establish the position of a Director for Academic Freedom as a member of the senior team of the Office for Students, reporting to the Board of the OfS and appointed by the Education Secretary.
  • Establish that universities and other Higher Education Providers (HEPs) have a direct duty to protect academic freedom.
  • Establish that breaches of the duty of freedom of speech or of academic freedom are a tort in breach of a statutory duty, with HEPs being liable for damages for violating these duties.
  • Expand the scope of activities which are protected beyond those specified by existing academic freedom legislation.
  • Make it explicit in law that, in fulfilling both the public sector equality duty and the harassment provisions of the Equality Act 2010, HEPs are to have particular regard to the need to ensure academic freedom and freedom of speech.
  • Extend the existing statutory duty to ensure freedom of speech to include Student Unions.

There’s much more in this excellent report. Worth reading in full.

And in case you’re worried about your own speech rights being violated, you can join the Free Speech Union here.

Postcard From Belgium

Chefs stage protest about the lockdown in Belgium by laying down their whites

The postcards are coming in thick and fast. Yesterday, I published one from Melbourne – probably the bleakest yet, although it was written before the latest horrific “Stage 4” restrictions were imposed – and today I’m publishing one from Belgium. Sounds like it could give Melbourne a run for its money in the draconian lockdown stakes. Here’s an extract:

The madness was ratcheted up even further on July 28th. Initially, a group of 100 town mayors ganged up to impose mandatory mask wearing for pedestrians within their town centres. On the street, walking alone, or in a park within their jurisdictions, masks are now mandatory. Doubtless, the remaining 200 town mayors will follow with breathless urgency to keep everyone “safe”. Masks are now mandatory on beaches along the Belgian coast. And this, in a country that banned total or partial “face coverings” in 2011, the legality of which was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights when two Muslim women claimed it breached their “human rights”. The irony is stark.

There is zero pushback to this nonsense in Belgium. The news is dominated by rising rates of infection in Antwerp and other hot spots, without any data on hospital admissions, or the condition or age profile of the “infected”. A chemist, whom I had regarded as a sensible woman for over 20 years, told me mask wearing was important to “discipline the people”. A night out with a banker friend, who could usually be relied on as a comrade in arms, made me realise Belgium is lost. He was genuinely concerned for his personal safety, believed what he was being told by the media, and happily complied with his overlords. The guy I had known for decades was no more.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Sons of Liberty” by Frank Turner and “Don’t Believe a Word” by Thin Lizzy.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Forums Back Up and Running

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot 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 (a bit like the one above) 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 (now showing it will arrive between August 20th and 29th). 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (although when I last checked, it was no longer available).

And 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.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

There’s time and then there’s Covid time