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The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown

George Orwell: Patron saint of left-wing sceptics

It really annoys me that lockdown sceptics are so often dismissed as Tory-voting, Brexit-supporting, libertarian-sympathising, white, middle-class, middle-aged Gammons. Okay, yes, that’s me, but there are plenty of other sceptics out there who don’t fall into any of these categories. And what’s really infuriating is the assumption that anyone on the Left should be a lockdown zealot. Why? As each day passes, more evidence comes to light that the lockdown has caused disproportionate harm to the most vulnerable people in our society – children, the elderly, cancer patients, the BAME community (not all of them are vulnerable, obviously), those suffering from mental illness… the list goes on. And what about the catastrophic effect the Global Economic Recession will have on the world’s poorest people in the developing world, with hundreds of millions now likely to die of starvation, TB, dysentery, etc.? Are left-wing people now just expected to sign up to the mantra of “safety first” and to hell with the consequences?

So it was heartening to get an email yesterday from a woman who started out by explaining she was a Guardian-reading, Remain-voting, Liberal Democrat who voted for Jeremy Corbyn at the last election, but is nonetheless a staunch lockdown sceptic. I’ve published it and it now sits below “The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown” by Alexis Fitzgerald on the left-hand side. Here are a couple of the opening paragraphs:

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories: There was a moon landing. The earth is round. My child is vaccinated. I know there is a virus, unrelated to 5G, whose effects can be severe with tragic consequences. However, I have been sceptical about the official risk assessments since the news footage from Wuhan emerged at the start of the year. And when a global reaction is so over-archingly bewildering that it has “someone like me” thinking there is more to this than meets the eye, something is wrong. I’ve stopped short (just) of believing that China engineered the entire thing to destroy the US economy and take down Trump. I did read the article in The Asia Times that linked to last October’s “Event 201” and find it rather odd this ‘event’ isn’t talked about more in the media. If you watch the video it looks oddly as though some ‘thought leaders’ and TED talk types who had been simulating virus response strategies (perhaps with good enough reason), just couldn’t wait to roll out their global virus-suppression protocol. When Covid came along (Coincidence? We may never know) governments went ahead on the advice of the WHO as if this were ‘the big one’. After Wuhan locked down with a strategy that was fairly alarming even by Chinese standards, our not-so-fearless leaders followed suit around the globe as though it were a game of Simple Simon.

This is not the big one. I say that as a pretty risk-averse person. My young son calls me “over-safety woman”. But as a cautious individual, I also question advice. Education is important in my family. My grandfather was a doctor and a teacher at the ‘Ivy League’ Cornell University medical school, my uncle is a doctor, and two of my cousins have PhDs. I’m half-way through a health-related science PhD myself (I have a long way to go as a researcher, but am trying hard and learning lots). I’m actually only saying that to keep you reading, as personal perspectives and anecdotal evidence sometimes get unfairly dismissed in the current data-obsessed climate. You’ll notice I’ve included no data or stats here. This crisis is about narratives as well as numbers. I’m just a layman (let’s be gender fluid) like many others currently scratching their heads or shouting at the telly in exasperation. All it took was a calculator (the back of an envelope would have done) to divide the number of cases, hospitalisations, or deaths by the population of the UK to realise that the chances of getting or dying from Covid never came close to justifying a full “lockdown” and all the attendant ramifications that you have documented so well on your site. The only positive digits in my calculation were on the right of the decimal point, preceded by a fair number of zeros. It doesn’t take a PhD to work this out.

A luminously intelligent email from a switched-on liberal. Very much worth reading in full.

Cancer Stories

“Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives… particularly if you’ve got cancer because the NHS is no longer treating cancer patients.”

Yesterday, I reported Karol Sikora’s prediction that as many as 30,000 people could die unnecessarily from cancer over the next 10 years as a result of the NHS becoming a Covid-only service during the lockdown and asked for readers to send me their stories about cancer screenings, diagnoses and treatments being cancelled or postponed. Needless to say, I’ve been deluged. Here are a few of the best.

First, a story from an intensive care doctor, just in case you thought it was only civilians who aren’t getting adequate cancer care.

I am a doctor and have been working in ITU.

I am appalled at the current state of the profession, supine in the face of the lack of evidence in all the restrictions currently applied to accessing care. Unfortunately many colleagues appear to have abandoned critical thinking and become zealots.

I’m writing though about my experience as a patient. Earlier this year I had a standard mole mapping appointment. My back has a number of moles I cannot see and these are checked as part of a cancer surveillance programme. On this occasion a malignant melanoma was detected and removed with commendable speed and efficiency. I was as a result of having this lesion placed on enhanced surveillance so that my back should be checked every three months in case of any new melanoma occurring.

I have to state I’m not personally very worried as the lesion removed was slow growing despite its malignancy.

My follow up appointment was during lockdown. Instead of visiting the clinic and having my back inspected and photographed to check for changes, I had a telephone appointment. An audio call, not even video. I was asked if I had any symptoms. Well as I had no symptoms before the first lesion and symptoms are rare unless the lesion is well advanced I did not expect to have any. The point of surveillance is to catch lesions early before they spread. I did in fact have some itch (a symptom…) But told the clinician it was probably the healing scar from the initial removal causing the itch. I cannot see my back and could not tell if any moles had changed shape, size or colour. Nevertheless despite this pretty inadequate conversation I was deemed fine – next follow up in October.

As I say I’m not personally very worried. But this appointment had literally no value and might as well never have taken place. I feel angry for others for whom this might well have been a missed chance to catch a melanoma early and prevent extended treatment and possibly mortality.

Please retain my anonymity. But this is an example of how even when services for cancer are nominally re-opened, due to the exclusion of patients from attending hospital and being properly examined, they are ineffectual.

Now a story from a patient.

I live in High Peak. I have chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and had a course of chemotherapy at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 2015/16. I was due for my annual check-up at the haematology unit there at 11.30am. on 20th. March. A fortnight prior to that date, with travel and accommodation arrangements in place, I was told by phone that my appointment was postponed for six months.

A couple of weeks ago I was informed by letter that, after a review of cases, it was deemed appropriate to conduct my check-up by phone. This would take place on September 11th “between 9.00am and 1.30pm” and it would help if I could arrange to get my blood sampled and tested in time for then.

So a thorough, hands on (!), physical examination and face-to-face interview by and with the consultant preceded by an in-house blood test (result in c.30 minutes) at the hospital unit which has treated me since my diagnosis has been junked in favour of outsourcing the handling of my blood test to me and to my GP who, in turn, has to rely on the testing service at a hospital in Stockport; and a phone call. My next job will be to ensure the test results reach the RSH and are available for the remote ‘consultation’.

I consider myself very fortunate in not being at imminent risk of my life at this time (I think: if the disease develops as predicted in 2016 I shall not require chemo. to save my life again til 2024/5). I am fortunate in being in good shape, physically and mentally, so can do the necessary running around now required of me. I am also fortunate in being already ‘on the books’ so, even though the previously rigorous protocol for the annual check-up has been dismantled, I am still being monitored after a fashion.

Many of the emails I received were from people who are justifiably angry. Here’s one:

My wife was scheduled for a cancer test, being in a high risk category – family, age and history – three weeks ago. She was understandably becoming increasingly worried as the day approached but was telephoned the day before and told that the appointment has been postponed.

FOR A YEAR.

To say that I am angry would be like calling the Universe big. The whole coronavirus fiasco has cost me my business, the career of my daughter and pretty much everything I have spent my entire life working for, but this is too much. Now these odious selfish… (what? I have no words to describe my feelings toward the perpetrators – cowards, tyrants, murderers?) are prepared to sacrifice my wife (40 years an NHS ITU nurse) on the altar of their imbecility. It is too much, it is intolerable. Can anyone give me a hint as to why? Cui Bono?

I best close before my anger, which I feel rising, takes over.

And many of the emails were very sad, like this one:

This is one of the many heart-breaking stories you will no doubt receive.

A very dear friend of ours, who notwithstanding his age (83) was very fit, walking his dog in hilly terrain at least two hours a day, doing all his own shopping, cooking and gardening, started to have digestive problems around February.

He went to see his GP, who took a blood test, said he was anaemic and prescribed iron tablets, which could (said the GP) lead to some minor digestive problems. I helped our friend to devise small changes in diet to increase his natural iron intake.

Things went from unpleasant, to bad, to worse. In March he tried to see the GP again, but by then the surgery didn’t allow patients in, only telephone consultations.

Other medication was tried, the iron tablets remained mandatory, nothing helped!

Finally, last month, our friend turned as yellow as a lemon. The GP relented, saw him, and referred him to the hospital for tests.

The next week he was admitted to hospital a day after my husband took him there for a Covid-test administered while he sat in our car at the entrance of the hospital.

When he woke up from the anaesthesia administered “for a biopsy” he found out that a duodenal stent had been placed. No explanation of the necessity for this was given, “it was necessary”… He discharged himself next day.

Two days ago he received a letter stating that he had terminal pancreatic cancer, that the GP would telephone to discuss further treatments etc.
He now does not wish to see or hear from another doctor ever again. Yesterday, he has had a very pleasant visit from one of the community nurses who outlined how their service will look after him, and has made his peace with God.

Although he asked us to research “on that internet thing” how long he might still live (according to Pancreatic Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK that is three to six months), having informed him about this, he is now dying before our eyes, and will certainly not make it that long.

An oncologist friend of ours in another town had already warned us 2 months ago about the “tsunami” of cancer cases that would hit the NHS as soon as diagnosis and treatment was “allowed” again…

Our friend will now just be another meaningless number in the NHS statistics. I am disgusted, angry, and terribly sad!

Here’s another sad tale, this time about a reader’s father.

My Father was a 79 year-old retired merchant navy officer who had enjoyed a life of good health until being diagnosed with bowel cancer early in 2019. He underwent the major surgery associated with the condition but responded well to the treatment, a testament to his robust constitution.

Unfortunately in the autumn of 2019 they identified secondary cancers which were only able to be controlled with chemotherapy. However, he responded to the chemotherapy remarkably well, side effects were negligible and the count of cancer cells in his blood dropped to a little above “normal”. He was optimistic and we believed there could be at least a couple of decent enjoyable years left for him. He was benefiting from a costly antibody treatment which was intended to prolong life and I was a little surprised that the NHS were prepared to make such an investment in someone of his age, but we were of course delighted and grateful.

In March his chemotherapy was put on hold, to reduce the “risk” of COVID-19. He was already nervous about infection from the normal flu season so there was little possibility of him being exposed to the virus, except in the NHS!

The lockdown meant he was forbidden from seeing his children or grandchildren, living hundreds of miles away. And his life like everyone else’s was closed down.

In April there was a rapid deterioration in his health, at this stage the symptoms I believed were more due to being confined to the house and a lack of normal exercise. He was hospitalised, with no visitors or even social contact from the nursing staff.

A scan revealed the cancer had spread aggressively and the cell count had risen sharply. It is a fair assumption that three sessions of chemotherapy being denied was the main reason for this.

After a rapid decline my father died in June. Whilst we were lucky to get home home for his final days so he did not die alone, he was largely abandoned by the NHS he paid for over more than 60 years as a taxpayer. He was proud to point out he had paid his taxes every week since 1955.

A GP told him that he would no longer be treated and was only to receive palliative care over Facetime. I cannot believe the religious adulation being heaped on NHS “heroes” when all I have seen evidence of is cowardice.

In summary I believe the arbitrary removal of cancer services dramatically shortened my father’s life. However he was well past his “three score years and ten” and seriously ill so we accept he had to go sooner rather than later. However I know of at least one much younger victim of the cancer scandal.

I have heard countless tales from friends working in the NHS about hospitals being essentially shut and cancer services being withdrawn. I firmly believe my father’s experience will be the tip of a large iceberg, one containing much younger lives which have been unnecessarily lost.

The awful thing is, this crisis in cancer care is far from over. The patient backlog is now greater than it’s ever been and this winter there’s a strong possibility the NHS will return to being a Covid-only service.

There will be a reckoning…

Boris: Schools Must Re-Open Next Month

The Prime Minister is at last doing something right, urging schools to re-open in full next month. “No ifs, not buts,” the Telegraph quotes him as saying.

According to a Whitehall source, Downing Street has made clear there can be “no ifs, no buts” in delivering on the national priority. “Schools not coming back is not an option,” they added. “Failure is not an option.”

Senior Conservative MPs have called for Mr Johnson to take the lead on schools and sideline Mr Williamson, amid fears that widespread anger over this week’s exams about-turn has left him incapable of shaping public opinion positively.

Their concerns have been echoed by several Cabinet ministers, with one saying: “We’ve got to get schools back. That’s the test for him.”

Throughout the pandemic, the prolonged closure of schools has been among the greatest concerns weighing on the minds of Mr Johnson and his most senior aides and ministers.

Meanwhile, all 12 of Britain’s Chief Medical Officers have told parents there is an “exceptionally small risk” of their children succumbing to COVID-19 if they return to school. The Mail has more.

The highly unusual ‘consensus statement’ from the country’s most senior experts removes the final hurdle to the resumption of full-time teaching in September – to the relief of parents who have been forced to home-school the majority of children since March.

It continues:

All 12 Chief and Deputy Chief Medical Officers agree that “very few, if any, teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school”.

And they say that small risk has to be offset against “a certainty of long-term harm to many children from not attending school”.

The experts also conclude that “teachers are not at increased risk of dying from COVID-19” compared to other workers, and say that the evidence from other countries is that reopening schools is not linked to a surge in cases.

When it comes to the evidence from other countries, English parents don’t have to look very far. Schools have re-opened in full in Scotland and there has been no resurgence in cases north of the border.

It’s not all good news, though. Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, gave an interview to BBC Breakfast yesterday in which he said that opening schools would likely cause a rise in infections and to compensate the Government may have to increase restrictions elsewhere.

A Doctor Writes

A doctor has emailed me to draw my attention to a recent editorial in the BMJ.

I am a practising General Practitioner. I wholeheartedly support your efforts to draw attention to the actual facts surrounding the current SARS CoV-2 pandemic.

I follow your Lockdown Sceptics blog almost daily!

I would like to draw your attention to the editorial in this week’s BMJ which expounds the benefits and virtues of T-Cell immunity which you have pointed out for months .

I read the first paper on this subject shortly after I had recovered from COVID-19 myself. This was from a group in Tubingen in Germany back in April or May. There have been multiple papers confirming these findings since as you know.

It has taken the medical establishment three months to even start discussing this evidence!

Meanwhile, a Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard says parts of New York and London have already achieved herd immunity. According to the Telegraph:

“It’s reasonable to think that some local areas have a substantial amount of immunity. I think there are parts of New York and London which are there,” said Professor Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s really noticeable in certain pockets, but it varies city block to block and we have to be careful when interpreting what it means.”

Experts point to new modelling which has used data on the spread of Covid-19 to suggest herd immunity – previously estimated to be upwards of 70 per cent – could be as low as 50 per cent, or even 43 per cent, as one study found.

Make that 19%. A new German study found that 81% of pre-Covid blood donors had T-cell cross immunity to SARS-CoV-2. From the abstract:

SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell epitopes enabled detection of post-infectious T-cell immunity, even in seronegative convalescents. Cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T-cell epitopes revealed preexisting T-cell responses in 81% of unexposed individuals, and validation of similarity to common cold human coronaviruses provided a functional basis for postulated heterologous immunity in SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Worth reading the study in full if the technical language doesn’t put you off.

Postcard From Bogota

A reader has sent me a “Postcard From Bogota“, which I’ve published today. Here’s the opening paragraph:

For the first time in my life I fled from the Police. Running at 7am in my local park all by myself and with a mask over my face, a motorcycle with two policemen approaching on the narrow trail. I saw them early enough and was able to sprint away from the path and hide until they were out of sight. Exercising outdoors is again forbidden, and violation costs a hefty fine (equivalent to $300). My neighbourhood Chapinero was forced into strict lockdown again for two weeks on August 16th. All shops and businesses had to close again (except those which sell food or medicine) and citizens are only allowed outside for emergencies or to buy these products. Colombians have been in lockdown since March 20th and compete with other Latin American countries for the longest lockdown in the world award.

Life in Bogota sounds significantly worse than in England – even Oldham! I was particularly horrified to read that children aren’t expected to return to school until 2021, with predictably catastrophic consequences for the least well off.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Scared Of You” by Nelly Furtado, “Scared of Everything” by Chris Leggett, “We Like to be Frightened” by Vanik and “Bedwetters of the World Unite” by Frankie China.

Love in the Time of Covid

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 attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“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 Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 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 29,500).

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

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

Meanwhile, Joan Collins has written a diary for the Spectator in which she recounts her fight with an officious French police officer.

On a shopping trip to Ikea I wore a new plastic face visor, which I had seen being worn by London hairdressers. As it’s less stifling than a ‘muzzle’ mask, I could breathe more easily. However, an officious gendarme became deeply offended by it, and while I was mulling over the benefits of Ikea’s gravadlax vs its smoked salmon, he pounced. Gesticulating in Gallic fashion, he yelled at me to put on a proper mask, because visors aren’t legal. Chastised, I slunk away, muttering an Anglo-Saxon expletive under my breath, which, as he glared at me, I feared he might have understood.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

I linked to Yoram Hazony’s piece in Quillette last week in which he tried to get to grips with why so many seemingly robust liberal institutions, like the New York Times, have proved vulnerable to capture by hard Left Neo-Marxists. I edited that piece and a couple of days ago I spoke to Hazony for the Quillette Podcast. You can listed to that conversation here.