Latest News

Face Mask Hell

I’m still not over yesterday’s announcement that face coverings will become mandatory in shops from July 24th. Apart from everything else, the only coverings the Government is insisting on are cloth ones, which every man and his dog knows are COMPLETELY USELESS. As Allison Pearson says in her excellent comment piece in today’s Telegraph, “anything other than tight-fitting, surgical-grade masks are utterly pointless – like trying to stop a bullet with a chain-link fence”. I mean, the evidence that the gold-standard N95 masks are effective in non-healthcare settings is threadbare at best – and they have to be disposed of after a single use. There is literally no evidence that re-usable cloth masks are effective in community settings. None. It’s like wearing a tin foil hat in case you get struck by lightening – an ineffective way to protect yourself from an almost non-existent risk. What has become of us?

I was busy trying to debunk this nonsense yesterday, doing an interview on TalkRadio with Mark Dolan and Iain Dale on LBC, and writing a piece for the Telegraph entitled “Mandatory masks are a matter of politics, not public health“.

Face nappies were not the main focus of my ire in that article, but the absurd report by the Academy of Medical Sciences that just happened to be published on exactly the same day the Government announced it would be making masks mandatory.

It cannot be a coincidence that on the day the Government announces that face coverings in shops will be mandatory from 24 July, a group of scientists led by Sir Patrick Vallance has issued a dire warning about the risk of a ‘second wave’ unless we “get on top of things”.

According to this group of 37 scientists from the Academy of Medical Sciences, 119,000 people will die from COVID-19 in hospital this winter. In fact, the death toll could be even higher, they warn, because they haven’t factored in likely deaths in care homes. In the executive summary, the list of steps we need to take to “get on top of things” includes “wearing face coverings in settings where physical distancing is not possible”, i.e. shops. You don’t have to be David Icke to wonder if there are signs of collusion here.

Before getting into the shortcomings of this report, I allow that its 37 authors are probably right about one thing: the increase in demand for hospital care this winter resulting from all those patients turned away by the NHS this spring.

Hospitals suspended all surgery that wasn’t “essential” during the crisis – due to fears of “the surge” – which means that millions of scheduled operations have been cancelled in the last four months, as well as screening programmes and outpatient care. Consequently, the NHS will be dealing with a huge backlog of patients this winter as a result of unnecessarily turning all those people away this spring. The Academy of Medical Sciences predicts hospital waiting lists could increase from 4.2 million to 10 million by the end of the year.

The rest of the report, though, is the usual scaremongering balls. For one thing, the scientists assume that between 90 and 95% of the UK population hasn’t yet been exposed to the virus, based on the ONS’s seroprevalence surveys. But as I was at pains to point out in my exchange with Dr Adam Rutherford on Monday, just because a person has no detectable IgG antibodies doesn’t mean they haven’t come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 or, if they haven’t, that they’ll be completely defenceless when they are. In other words, the boffins haven’t taken account of T-cell mediated immunity, which significantly lowers the percentage of the population that’s still vulnerable to the disease. Indeed, we may have achieved herd immunity by the time winter is upon us. (Australia is doing pretty well, in spite of it being winter there.)

Then there’s the fact that the authors of the report have over-estimated the infection fatality rate, which they put at 1.1%. The CDC’s recent “best estimate” was a quarter of that, and it will likely fall even further.

And finally, Sir Patric Vallance’s merry men have inserted a ludicrously pessimistic assumption about the infection fatality rate in the absence of the soul-destroying precautions they’re urging us to take, such as wearing face nappies in supermarkets.

The scientists’ “reasonable worst case scenario” assumes the reproduction rate of the virus, absent special measures, will be 1.7, meaning that 10 people that are infectious with COVID-19 will go on to infect a further 17. But according to Professor Carl Heneghan and others, the R number had fallen to below one in the week leading up to the full lockdown on March 23 because the more modest social distancing measures that had been introduced already, which did not include mandatory face coverings, were effective. So why have these 37 experts assumed that the same more modest measures would mean the R number climbing to 1.7 this winter?

My conclusion is that these “experts” are a group of tame lapdogs doing the bidding of their political masters.

I’m afraid that this report looks suspiciously like a propaganda exercise to try and make compulsory face nappies appear more reasonable. The scientists are right about the stress that’s likely to be placed on the NHS this winter from the backlog of patients who weren’t able to access hospital care this spring. But they would do well to remember that the reason those patients were turned away was because of apocalyptic predictions about the “surge” in demand for critical care that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Let’s not repeat that mistake.

But I regret to say I missed something which a lecturer in mechanical engineering has flagged up to me. Which is that the report’s authors haven’t created their own model, but have relied on the notoriously flawed Imperial College model. Yup, their 119,000 number has been spat out by the same gimcrack computer model held together with sellotape and chewing gum that produced the 510,000 figure back in March.

My eagle-eyed informant writes:

Ignoring appropriate academic practice, the report’s authors are not transparent about how the modelling was carried out. Following up references 42 and 46 on p.12 reveals that it is the Imperial College model, and Ferguson appears in the acknowledgements. A casual reader might assume that the report team did the modelling. They are claiming that “The modelling estimates 119,900… hospital deaths between September 2020 and June 2021” . Have these people learned nothing? Prediction 510k (or 250k, depending), 45k actual (for “with covid” deaths). To suggest that the number of deaths likely to occur is nearly three times greater than shoving the infectious elderly back into care homes is unfathomable. I assume that hospitals will not be repeating that calamity.

Sartre famously said “hell is other people”, but I think I can improve on that. Hell is exactly the same people being wheeled out to provide cover every time the Government wants to take away another of our liberties.

Stop Press: I will keep you posted about the below, spotted on Twitter earlier.

Sceptic of the Week

Sir Desmond Swayne: Not all heroes wear masks

One voice spoke for the nation in the House of Commons yesterday – or, rather, that tiny part of it that is sceptical. And that man was Sir Desmond Swayne, Conservative MP for New Forest West.

“Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping, than the thought of having to mask up!” he bellowed across the chamber when Matt Hancock made his announcement.

I’ll leave it to Michael Deacon, the Telegraph‘s parliamentary sketch writer, to tell the rest.

He was aflame with indignation. It was quite out of character. Normally in the Commons Sir Desmond prides himself on his calm concision, challenging himself to ask questions in the fewest words possible. His record is believed to be three, which he set in May 2018 following a promise by the then Transport Secretary to pursue a “digital railway strategy”. Sir Desmond’s question, in full, was: “What is it?”

Here, however, he was so enraged that he flung brevity to the wind. This was no time for holding back. An Englishman’s face, after all, was his castle.

“Was this consultation with the police force,” he fumed, “and in particular with the chief constable of Hampshire? For it is she who will have to enforce this monstrous imposition” – he spat out this phrase as if it were a maggot in a mouthful of apple – “this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!”

Competition to Find Best Riposte to Crazy Masked Lady

A reader has been in touch with an interesting brain teaser:

I’ve just received a stern telling off for not wearing a mask on the tube by a crazy masked lady with a posh voice telling me she’s lost six (I tell you six!) family members to the “virus”. I must admit I was left a bit lost for words but obviously still mask free. What should my response have been?!

Please email your answers to me here. I’ll publish the best tomorrow.

No Mask Enforcement in Supermarkets

Got an encouraging message from a reader who works for a high street supermarket chain.

This morning (14/07) we were told that employees would not be expected to wear face coverings, but customers would. However, we should also wait for further advice from head office.

This afternoon, further advice came. The present position is that we have been told “under no circumstances to try and enforce this rule on customers and put ourselves at risk”.

I think everyone should be encouraged that enforcement may not occur at all. Certainly, most of my colleagues have said they won’t be wearing one.

One in the Eye for Pravda

The new-look Radio Times

Good spot from regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère yesterday morning:

The BBC’s self-appointed role as the Government’s Pravda slightly backfired this morning when Naga Munchetty interviewed the virologist Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham at about half past eight. Her opening, loaded and leading, question was: “Can you explain why (her emphasis) it is important that face coverings are worn in particular environments such as shops and public transport?”

Ball obligingly explained the theory but went on… “the reality is that we know face coverings trap large droplets and therefore if somebody coughs or sneezes it will reduce the chances of them spreading those droplets but unfortunately when people go about their daily lives they often touch those masks; if they are infected they’ll contaminate their hands and they’ll go on to contaminate surfaces so I think that it’s very important everybody understands that the evidence for mask wearing isn’t great but also it may come with hidden risks that they may help spread the virus.”

As ever the Government trope that somehow scientific opinion is a unitary force was exposed once more as nonsense. So now we face 100 quid fines for wearing things that might, in one scientist’s view at least, actually have the potential to extend the virus’s reach.

What’s next then? Street corner marshalls accosting shoppers to inspect masks and how often they’ve been cleaned? Hazmat suits? Why not just dynamite every high street in the country to protect people from shops altogether?

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here (and he’s launching a crowdfunder to mount a legal challenge against the face mask edict which you can read about here).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done soon.

And Finally…

Arise, Sir Dellers

For those miscreants who haven’t yet subscribed, here’s a link to the latest episode of London Calling, mine and James Delingpole’s weekly podcast. This week we discuss Prince Harry’s hostage video, my looming holiday in Italy and the horror – the absolute horror! – of mandatory face masks.

Latest News

God help us, it’s finally happened. Later today, Matt Hancock – it would be him – is due to announce that face masks will be mandatory in all shops from July 24th, with the police empowered to issue £100 on-the-spot fines to anyone who doesn’t comply.

To coincide with this fresh hell, I’ve posted a round-up of all the evidence concerning face masks by an anonymous contributor on the right-hand side called “Masks: How Effective Are They? An Update“. Most of the evidence suggests the case for mandatory mask wearing outside healthcare settings is weak, particularly the non-surgical, re-usable cloth masks that the Government is insisting on. Here’s a typical paragraph from one of the articles linked to in the new round-up:

Sweeping mask recommendations – as many have proposed – will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

There was a good Newsnight report by health correspondent Deborah Cohen last Friday, which included contributors making the case for and against mandatory face coverings. Making the case for were Oxford Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Royal Society President Sir Venki Ramakrishnan and making the case against were Nottingham Professor Robert Dingwall and Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan. Needless to say, the latter were far more convincing.

Heneghan pointed out that there was little evidence from randomised control trials showing masks were effective and it was odd for the Government to be mandating a public health measure that isn’t based on RCT evidence. He also said that if masks are used repeatedly, rather than disposed of daily, someone with a viral infection can re-infect themselves when they put the mask back on.

Robert Dingwall was even more scathing:

It doesn’t matter whether the evidence is effective or not. The demand is that governments do something and what we’re seeing here I think is the latching on to the idea that masks are something that a government could do which is cheap, which is symbolic, but which is probably not particularly effective.

But the most interesting thing in the report was the following scoop by Deborah Cohen:

The debate is deeply political. Newsnight understands that the World Health Organisation committee that reviewed the evidence for the use of face coverings in public didn’t back them. But after political lobbying, the WHO now recommends them.

After the report was broadcast, Trish Greenhalgh took to Twitter to criticise it. She complained that Newsnight hadn’t used all of her interview (has she never done a pre-record before?) and that interviewing scientists on both sides of the debate, as opposed to just her side, “sows confusion and could cost lives”. “We need responsible journalism or programmes could/will cost lives,” she tweeted.

This is essentially the same argument that Ofcom made when it issued its coronavirus guidance and which the Free Speech Union is seeking to challenge in the High Court. The evidence that a particular Government regulation will be do more good than harm is inconclusive, but nevertheless it’s wrong to allow people to criticise that regulation just in case it is as effective as the Government claims. If it is – even though we don’t know whether it is – then public criticism of it will mean people are less likely to comply and that, in turn, will cause harm. It’s a bad argument because it’s conditional upon taking it for granted that the Government is right and you can’t ask members of the free press to do that.

Deborah Cohen took to Twitter to defend herself and made a good job of it. “She tried to warn me off talking about the evidence saying people would die if I did that,” she said of Professor Greenhalgh. But she pointed out that the Danish Health Authorities do not currently recommend wearing face coverings in non-healthcare settings, pending the outcome of an an ongoing RCT with 6,000 participants. The bottom line is, you’ll only put people at risk by presenting the case against mandatory face masks if they do more good than harm and the evidence for that is threadbare, at best.

Deborah also doubled down on her scoop: “We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny.”

Recommended them due to political lobbying.

One of the most depressing things about this Government’s diktat is that it will mean people are even less likely to go shopping than they were when non-essential shops were allowed to re-open on July 4th. It’s as if the Government is determined to destroy the high street. First, it insisted on the closure of non-essential shops; then it allowed them to re-open, but only on the proviso that they put ridiculous social distancing measures in place, such as limiting the number of people that can be inside at any one time and insisting that anyone entering use hand sanitiser; now they’ve decided to make the shopping experience even more unpleasant. It’s the final blow, surely? Who will bother to go to a shop when they can get everything delivered to their front door?

The question no one seems to be asking is: Why do we need to worry about interrupting transmission of the virus when almost no one has it any more? The number of new cases in the UK yesterday was 530. People remain infectious for a maximum of 10 days, so that’s 5,300 infectious people in the UK at the moment. If we assume that 60% of them are symptomatic and will stay at home, that’s 2,120 people who could be out shopping, or one person in every 31,604. That’s an infinitesimally small risk.

So what is the bloody point?

Stop Press: David Crowe, who wrote the first round-up of the evidence on mask wearing for Lockdown Sceptics, has died of cancer. RIP David.

Academy of Medical Science Issues Apocalyptic Warning

Sir Patrick Vallance gets his own stamp

This cannot be a coincidence. On the day the Government announces face nappies will be compulsory, the Academy of Medical Science has warned that unless we start making “intense preparations” before next Winter, the NHS will be overwhelmed and up to 120,000 people will die from coronavirus. Sound familiar? The Guardian has the story.

Senior doctors and scientists convened by the Academy of Medical Sciences said on Tuesday that, without urgent action, a resurgence of cases this winter could overwhelm the NHS when services are already stretched because of flu and other seasonal pressures.

The experts were commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, to model a “reasonable worst case scenario” for COVID-19 this winter. Their report, which has been shared with ministers and local health authorities, calls for immediate efforts to prepare for a second wave.

Compiled by 37 experts, the report stresses the worst case scenario is not a prediction of what is likely to happen, but a description of how the outbreak may evolve if infections are allowed to surge and little is done to prepare the NHS and social care services.

“The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of COVID-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately,” said Stephen Holgate, Chair of the expert group and Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton.

“With relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us.”

Take action immediately! Critical window of opportunity! Achtung, achtung! Face masks on, comrades.

Hideous Mask Statue Unveiled in Latvia

Monstrous Project Fear sculpture disfigures Riga Cityscape

This hideous monstrosity was unveiled in Riga, Latvia yesterday, presumably to remind people of the need to be constantly vigilant against the risk of a “second wave”.

Have a guess as to how many people in Latvia have died from COVID-19? 31. And I don’t mean yesterday. I mean in total.

Another Twitter Spat

“Take that, pompous science guy.”

Dr Adam Rutherford, a left-wing science journalist, launched a rather unpleasant attack on me on Twitter on Monday morning, which began: “It is so perpetually exhausting to have to correct these medically and scientifically illiterate pub bores that somehow have national voices gifted to them not by talent or knowledge, but by virtue of nothing other than their volume.” It was a reference to my Telegraph piece on Saturday in which I claimed the population of the UK would soon achieve herd immunity.

He continued:

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge

Herd immunity does not work like this – as we teach in GCSE biology. Individual immunity, typically via vaccination, prevent the spread of a contagious disease through a population when a majority of that population are immunised and this cannot infect others when exposed to it.

We don’t know if this will work for COVID-19, as a) there is no vaccine b) symptomless infection occurs c) we don’t know if having had the disease confers immunity… d) or if it does, with any permanence e) vaccine-less herd immunity (with the previous crippling caveats) will require more people to get the disease, and therefore more people to die f) I believe exposure rates in the U.K. are currently around 5%, 17% in London. Herd immunity requires >80%.

Apologies if I’ve made any errors here, this is not really my area of expertise. Please do correct me below.

What @toadmeister has done here is to confidently and loudly mistake ignorance for knowledge, because the facts don’t fit his preconceived ideology. Dangerously so.

I suppose the broader point is that in science we are trained to and predisposed to perpetually identify where we are wrong. Look at your work and ask ‘how am I wrong about this?’

Without that you are an ideologue.

This is exhausting because of @Painpoint‘a 4th Law of Thermodynamics: ‘The amount of energy required to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than required to create it.’

He then added an “addendum” from someone he described as “m’colleague on immunity” – Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the UCL Genetics Institute – although the word “colleague” is misleading, as are the repeated references to “we” scientists, because Rutherford is a journalist not a scientist. To be precise, he’s a journalist who thinks he’s a scientist. The “addendum” is a twitter thread posted by Professor Balloux on June 30th about the new evidence that’s come to light about Covid immunity, i.e. that being in possession of IgG antibodies is only part of the story. Balloux’s thread is good, although for Rutherford to link to it at the end of his jeremiad against me was odd because it contradicted several of his claims, such as the idea that you can measure “exposure rates” with seroprevalence data.

I wouldn’t normally respond to such sophomoric abuse, but Rutherford is the presenter of Inside Science, Radio 4’s flagship science programme, and many other people on Twitter also took issue with my Telegraph article, accusing me of peddling “dangerous” misinformation based on my poor understanding of COVID-19. Consequently, I did respond. If you’re on Twitter, you can see my response here. If not, I’ve posted it below:

I was preparing a rebuttal Adam, when I saw you’d posted a response from @BallouxFrancois at the end of your thread that rebuts nearly all of the points you’ve made. As he says, surveys that measure the prevalence of IgG antibodies (which you refer to) are an unreliable way of gauging the percentage of a population that has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Seroprevalence surveys are unlikely to detect IgG antibodies for asymptomatic or mild infections.

For instance, a Spanish seroprevalence survey found that 2.5% of asymptomatic patients tested positive for IgG antibodies in a point-of-care test and 2% in an immunoassay; for symptomatic patients, the figure was 16.9% for both tests. See Table 2 here. This and other similar findings are important because if many more people have been infected than seroprevalence surveys indicate that means the infection fatality rate is far lower than originally indicated.

The @WHO initially estimated it at 3.4%; @neilfergie and team estimated it at 0.9% and built that assumption into their modelling; the @CDCgov’s best estimate was 0.26%, and it will likely continue to fall (although the @CDCgov did raise its estimate on July 10th). As Dr John Lee, a former Professor of Pathology, wrote recently in the @spectator: “It could yet settle closer to 0.1 per cent – similar to seasonal flu – once we get a better understanding of milder, undetected cases and how many deaths it actually caused (rather than deaths where the virus was present).”

To properly assess the extent of immunity in any given population, and the continuing threat posed by the virus, we need to take into account T cell immunity mediated by exposure to other coronaviruses, as @BallouxFrancois says.

According to a paper in Cell, ~70% of recovering COVID-19 patients studied had CD8+ T cells and 100% had CD4+ T cells. In addition, the researchers detected SARS-CoV-2-reactive CD4+ T cells in ∼40% – 60% of unexposed individuals, suggesting cross-reactive T cell recognition between circulating “common cold” coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2. See here.

A preprint last month from a team at Oxford came to a similar conclusion.

Of course, we don’t yet know how much protection T cells provide, but the fact that the number of infections and deaths is falling in all European countries that have eased lockdown restrictions, as well as in those European countries that avoided lockdowns altogether, in spite of most seroprevalence surveys showing that <10% of the populations in those countries have IgG antibodies, suggests something is functioning as a prophylactic against the disease – referred to as immunological “dark matter” by Professor Karl Friston at @ucl.

T cell mediated immunity could be that immunological dark matter. It would explain why young people are less susceptible to the virus – the reservoir of programmable T cells declines with age. In a recent article in the @ConversationUK, a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and a Professor of Epidemiology speculate that T cell mediated immunity could mean a “population can achieve some sort of immunity to the virus with as little as 20% infected – a proportion well below the widely accepted herd immunity threshold (60-70%).”

If that’s the case, the UK could have achieved herd immunity already – remember, seroprevalence surveys only measure the percentage of the pop that has developed IgG antibodies, not the percentage that’s been exposed to infection.

Another recent study, this one from the University of Nottingham, estimated the disease-induced herd immunity level is around 43%.

You made the point in your thread that we don’t know if having had the disease confers immunity. True, but the fact that there hasn’t been a single, uncontested case of reinfection is a reason to be optimistic. IgG immunity may fade, but even undetectable levels of IgG antibodies would mean a person who did become reinfected would likely get a milder version of the disease than they had the first time, as @BallouxFrancois says. He also points out that T cell mediated immunity is “extremely long-lived”.

So suggesting that the UK will soon achieve herd immunity, as I did in the @Telegraph, does not make me “scientifically illiterate” or “ignorant” or a “pub bore” or “dangerous”, as you claim. You write as if there is a single scientific consensus on SARS-CoV-2 – “the science” – and anyone who dissents from it is an ideologically-driven purveyor of fake news. In fact, there’s very little about the virus, particularly its prevalence and lethality, that is uncontested. Rather, there’s a wide range of views, each with eminent scientists to back them up, along with plenty of research and data.

You often present yourself as an exemplar of best practice when it comes to scientific debate and inquiry, but then, in the next breath, engage in furious, ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with you. It’s as though your self-important, attention-loving self gets the better of your dispassionate, scientific self. For a journalist claiming to be an advocate for the better public understanding of science, this sophomoric name-calling is counter-productive. Perhaps take a break from Twitter? //ENDS

Nicola Sturgeon: “Write Nothing Down.”

Nic Sturge-un is congratulated by her little brother on her foresight for advising her officials not to write anything down

A reader in Scotland sent three emails to his local MSP, hoping he might throw some light on the dictatorial approach of Nic Sturge-un. Eventually, he got a reply and it contained this jaw-dropping revelation:

It is clear that the Scottish Government have not been transparent with the public as they have implemented new measures as we ease lockdown. The Scottish Government must release the scientific evidence that has been used for the key decision making in Scotland throughout this health crisis and as further measures as relaxed.

Following an FOI request, it was revealed that the First Minister did not have any written scientific advice during the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak, and so none could be made available to the public. Nicola Sturgeon said instead that the scientific advice that she had received had all been orally, by the National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, and the Scottish Chief Medical Officer at the time, Catherine Calderwood, and so there was nothing to be released.

No written scientific advice! That’s incredible. But presumably it will make it easier for the First Minister to dodge the blame when there’s a public inquiry in Scotland about the fact that more people have died from COVID-19 in care homes than in hospitals.

A Death in the Family

A reader writes with some sad news:

I didn’t want to post this on the page, because it feels ghoulish and like an exploitation of the dead, but at the same time, I want people to know that this is happening.

We had a death in the family yesterday morning. My husband’s grandfather. He was 92 but of completely sound mind and health. Never got sick. He has been deeply emotionally affected by Project Fear since the start of the hysteria and lockdown, and despite restrictions being lifted – because of his age group – they remained social isolating. He was not even seeing their daughter (my mother-in-law), because she devised a system of getting them groceries without communicating in person at all by leaving it in a car in the car park! Four months locked away.

We weren’t told this on the phone when we got the news of his death, but we just learned… it was suicide. He was muttering all week that he had “had enough” and he couldn’t take it anymore.

So there we have it… I don’t know a single person who has been sick with Coronavirus. I know one person (who was pregnant) who tested positive but was asymptomatic (and then separated from her newborn baby for two weeks). And we’ve had a suicide from lockdown (and social isolation) in the immediate family.

I’m mad as hell. This can’t go on. How many have we already lost with this cruel torture?

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done soon.

And Finally…

Latest News

Young People Over-Estimate Covid Risk

A new working paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research contains a shocking table (see above). The results are based on an online survey of over 1,500 Americans from May 6th – 13th.

The respondents in the 18-34 year-old age group thought their risk of contracting COVID-19 was about 8.8% and if they caught it their risk of being hospitalised around 7.5% and their risk of dying 2%. If those figures were true, that would mean that 0.176% of 18-34 year-olds would die from coronavirus. There are 76.2 million Americans aged 18-34, so if the respondents’ estimate of the risk was correct that would mean 134,112 people in that age group will die.

Needless to say, the real risk posed to 18-34 year-olds is far lower. The Stanford Professor John Ioannidis co-authored a paper in May entitled “Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters”. It includes the following table showing the total number of under-40 year-olds who’d died from the virus in various countries:

*Data shown for the group with age <45 years (not available for age <40 years)
**Data shown for the group with age <35 years (not available for age <40 years)

Admittedly, this was up to date on April 24th and the numbers will have increased a little since then, but not by much. Ioannidis et al concluded that if you’re under 65 the risk of dying in a road traffic accident is higher than dying from COVID-19.

Herd Immunity

A science professor has got in touch to comment on my piece in the Telegraph on Saturday in which I claimed the UK was well on its way to achieving herd immunity. I cannot be any more specific than that because he doesn’t want to be identified. But he says that, if anything, I understated it.

I note your article today saying “we’re on our way to achieving herd immunity”.

The fact is, however, we already have achieved it!

Once herd immunity has been achieved, the fraction of people infected starts to fall. Since R has been <1 for months now, then by definition, we achieved herd immunity at each point in time over those months for the way society was operating at each of those points in time. This does not prove we have enough immunity in the population to keep R <1 (i.e., to maintain herd immunity) if we (ever) fully release lockdown – but we both know the examples out there that suggest we do have enough immunity.

This is not just an academic point I am making. It is relevant when you look at the Leicester situation. Even in Leicester we still do have herd immunity, i.e., the prevalence of viral infection continues to decline. It is just declining slower here than elsewhere. Nationally it has fallen by >100 fold. It has fallen a few fold less in Leicester, and a few fold more elsewhere. Admittedly there probably were a few weeks bridging May and June when it plateaued or crept up a little in Leicester and elsewhere (i.e., R very slightly exceeded 1), but that has been resolved in the last few weeks.

Although it’s possible that the whole Leicester situation is nothing more than an artefact, due to the fact that PHE do not publish the total number of tests done (i.e., they only release the number of positives). So if a slightly larger fraction of the population in the Leicestershire region were being tested (for whatever reason) compared to other places, then this would give the impression that there is an increased prevalence. Interestingly, just two weeks ago, a PHE report sent to Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, stated: “It is considered likely that a large contribution to the apparent change may be associated with increasing testing…rather than a true increase in the number of new infections occurring” and “Evidence for the scale of the outbreak is limited and may, in part, be artefactually related to growth in availability of testing.”

A Future Oxford Student Writes

A reader who has accepted the offer of a place at Oxford starting in the autumn contacted me a couple of months ago to ask me whether I thought it was worth going or whether they’d be better off deferring if they could. I said the situation might look less glum in a couple of months. Turns out, I was wrong.

You may already be aware of this, but I thought I’d draw your attention to the latest news on the arrangements for students in the autumn – here is an excerpt from the website:

“From the start of the new academic year, face coverings will be required during face-to-face teaching and in indoor shared spaces, with exceptions for both individuals and settings where they are not appropriate (for example on grounds of disability). Details on how this will operate will be consulted on.

“University libraries will operate social distancing through capacity limits, with spacing of reader seats, one-way systems, and enhanced hygiene measures, as well as a ‘seat-finder’ app so that reading room spaces can be easily identified.

“Our spaces – both research and teaching, as well as social spaces, communal areas and areas open to the public – will be adapted to ensure social distancing and appropriate ventilation are maintained in accordance with government and scientific advice. We will be timetabling activities and staggering timings to ensure social distancing measures are as effective as possible. The adaptations to our spaces, supported by clear signage and markings, will enable all to safely enter, move through, work in and exit buildings and facilities.”

All quoted from: the University website.

Lectures will be online for at least the first term. Social distancing will also be in place, so I’m not holding out for much in the way of musical societies, drama or group sport…

I asked the student if they could defer for a year. Answer: probably not. On the University website it says:

Will Oxford let offer holders defer their place to 2021 if they don’t wish to start in October 2020?

Subject to any public health conditions still being in force, we are expecting to welcome a full cohort of new undergraduates in October 2020, so we will not routinely support requests for deferral. Any offer holders with particular, verifiable reasons to wish to defer their place should contact the college which made their offer or open-offer to discuss this.

Swiss Doctor Updates Site

The Swiss Doctor has updated his site and, as always, it contains a brilliant summary of the latest research showing the widespread prevalence of T cell cross immunity, etc., buttressing the view that we’ve nearly achieved herd immunity across Europe and America. Below is an extract from the section on the lethality of the virus:

Most antibody studies have shown a population-based Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.1% to 0.3%. The US health authority CDC published in May was a cautious “best estimate” of 0.26%.

At the end of May, however, an immunological study by the University of Zurich was published, which for the first time showed that the usual antibody tests that measure antibodies in the blood (IgG and IgM) can detect at most about one fifth of all coronavirus infections.

The reason for this is that in most people the new coronavirus is already neutralised by antibodies on the mucous membrane (IgA) or by cellular immunity (T cells) and no symptoms or only mild symptoms develop.

This means that the new coronavirus is probably much more widespread than previously assumed and the lethality per infection is around five times lower than previously estimated. The real lethality could therefore be significantly below 0.1% and thus in the range of influenza.

At the same time, the Swiss study may explain why children usually develop no symptoms (due to frequent contact with previous corona cold viruses), and why even hotspots such as New York City found an antibody prevalence (IgG/IgM) of at most 20% – as this already corresponds to herd immunity.

The Swiss study has in the meantime been confirmed by several more studies:

1. A Swedish study showed that people with mild or asymptomatic disease often neutralised the virus with T cells without the need to produce antibodies. Overall, T cell immunity was about twice as common as antibody immunity.

2. A large Spanish antibody study published in Lancet showed that less than 20% of symptomatic people and about 2% of asymptomatic people had IgG antibodies.

3. A German study (preprint) showed that 81% of the people who had not yet had contact with the new coronavirus already had cross-reactive T cells and thus a certain background immunity (due to contact with previous corona cold viruses).

4. A Chinese study in the Nature showed that in 40% of asymptomatic persons and in 12.9% of symptomatic persons no IgG antibodies are detectable after the recovery phase.

5. Another Chinese study with almost 25,000 clinic employees in Wuhan showed that at most one fifth of the presumably infected employees had IgG antibodies (press article).

6. A small French study (preprint) showed that six of eight infected family members of Covid patients developed a temporary T cell immunity without antibodies.

Video interview: Swedish Doctor: T cell immunity and the truth about COVID-19 in Sweden

In this context, a US study in Science Translational Medicine, using various indicators, concluded that the lethality of COVID-19 was much lower than originally assumed, but that its spread in some hotspots was up to 80 times faster than suspected, which would explain the rapid but short-duration increase in cases in some areas.

Driving Test Misery

A reader has got in touch to tell me about the purgatory her son is in, trying to reschedule his driving test. I confess, I wasn’t aware of this misfortune afflicting young people – yet another to add to the huge number.

Don’t know if you know about the impact Covid is having on driving tests. My son was due to take his practical driving test in April (third time lucky he hopes) but it was cancelled due to Covid. He was given a new date in July but this has also been cancelled. The Government has now announced that practical tests will resume on July 22nd and my son is apparently going to get an email on July 15th inviting him to book a test (no bookings are being taking via the website at the moment). The problem is that his theory test expires in September and despite my pleas to the DVSA and my local MP, the Government has not extended the validity of theory test certificates (though it extended MOTs). So if my son does not get a test before September, he will have to go right to the back of the queue.

That queue is going to be a very long one. Our driving instructor tells me there is currently a backlog of 650,000 people waiting to take their driving tests. So the chances of him passing his test this year are practically zero.

Yet more impact of the lockdown on young people. Especially for those without access to public transport like my son.

Total Number of Covid Deaths in English Hospitals Falls to One

Carl Heneghan, the Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford, tweeted that there were no Covid deaths reported in hospitals in England on July 10th, but perhaps the data source he was checking hadn’t been updated because the NHS England statistics site is now showing six. But for July 11th, the total was just one. Won’t be long now before we do have a day on which no Covid deaths occur in England’s hospitals. I predict it will happen some time in the next seven days.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done on Tuesday.

And Finally…

My sources in Downing Street tell me the red crayon belongs to Boris, the green one to Dominic Cummings and the blue one to Matt Hancock.

Latest News

Confused Man Wears Mask In Spite of Having Had Virus Months Ago

Muzzled sheepdog looks bewildered. Where’s his owner gone?

This picture really does take the biscuit. Why is Boris bothering to wear a mask when he cannot possibly be infectious or catch COVID-19, having had the virus and recovered. Like me, he has the antibodies. Nicola Sturgeon may have made mask wearing in shops mandatory in Scotland on Friday, but no such rule applies in Uxbridge. So what is the big man thinking? Is this a signal that he’s about to follow in Sturgeon’s footsteps? The Mail seems to think so.

In the early days of the outbreak the UK Government argued that scientific evidence that the masks reduced transmission of the airborne virus was “weak”.

But rules requiring people to wear face masks on public transport in England came into effect on 15 June.

On Friday Mr Johnson said “the balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was, and we’re very keen to follow that”.

“I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.

“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission,” he said during a Facebook Q&A.

Gawd help us if he does decide to wet the bed over masks. One reader – let’s call him Tony – has already been in touch to say the very thought of having to wear a nappy on his face every time he leaves the house is making him feel suicidal.

Send Tony some love in the comments.

Stop Press: There seems to be a great deal of confusion about whether face masks should be worn in some of Britain’s most popular galleries and museums. You’ll be required to wear one at the BFI Southbank when it re-opens on September 1st, as well as the Royal Academy, while the National Gallery merely “encourages” visitors to wear one and the Tate doesn’t require them at all. Go figure.

When We Have Herd Immunity, Boris Will Face a Reckoning

I have a piece in the Telegraph today, arguing that the reason the virus is burning itself out in Britain, Europe and parts of America is because we’re on our way to achieving herd immunity in those areas.

At the beginning of March, a lively debate took place about whether Britain should pursue a strategy of “herd immunity” – allowing coronavirus to spread until so many people had developed antibodies that it no longer posed a threat to public health – or place the entire country under lockdown. As is well-known, Boris Johnson initially embraced the former, saying the public needed to take the virus “on the chin”, then performed a U-turn and imposed a full lockdown on March 23.

But recent data coming out of New York reveals that this was a false dichotomy. Sixty-eight per cent of people who took antibody tests at a clinic in the Corona neighbourhood of Queens received positive results, suggesting that, in this area at least, the population is already close to achieving “herd immunity”. This is in spite of the fact that New York imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the United States.

This fits with other data showing that the life cycle of the epidemic in each region or country where there’s been a viral outbreak follows a very similar pattern, regardless of whether or not a lockdown was imposed or how severe it was. For instance, if you plot the rise and fall in the number of new cases in Sweden on a graph, and then compare it to the same data in the UK, the two lines are almost identical, in spite of the fact that Sweden never imposed a lockdown. The same is true if you compare the trajectory of the virus in the 43 US states that locked down with the seven that didn’t.

The Telegraph wasn’t able to reproduce the graph I had in mind because it appeared in the Spectator. But this is the one I was referring to, which was in an article by Lockdown Sceptics contributor Alistair Haimes.

The fact that the pattern is so similar, regardless of which non-pharmaceutical interventions were made, suggests the reason the R rate has fallen to below one in these areas has nothing to do with the lockdowns and everything to do with the fact that a majority of people have now been exposed to the virus and either had natural immunity or caught it and are now immune. As I point out in the article, that’s good news because it means the chances of a ‘second wave’ happening are virtually nil. But it’s bad news for Boris.

As it becomes clearer that the British population will soon achieve herd immunity, just as the population of Corona has, and the lockdown has done nothing to mitigate the impact of the virus, people will begin to ask tough questions of the Government. And Boris won’t be able to say we only know this now with the benefit of hindsight because he recognised the wisdom of the “herd immunity” strategy back in March. Whatever his excuse is, it will have to be better than that if the Conservatives are going to survive the reckoning.

Worth reading in full.

Escape to the Costa Blanca

Just when you think you’ve finally gotten away from Nicola Sturgeon…

A Scottish reader has been in touch about his escape to Spain. Not quite the idyll he was expecting…

I thought I would give you a quick insight into life in the Costa Blanca, Spain. We escaped Nicola (Bane) Sturgeon a few weeks ago, thinking we were smart. We have had a great time here, but there are potential signs of things to come back in the UK:

1. The wearing of masks is obligatory in all shops. I watched a guy getting manhandled out of Lidl yesterday because he was attempting to cover his mouth with his T-shirt. My wife and I were smirking until I was approached by the same hit squad who had so efficiently dispatched him. I was wearing my usual bandanna, but this was obviously not up to the required standard for this supermarket and I was accompanied out faster than a lizard finds the shade. So now it appears masks have to be of a specific type. Could it happen in the UK next?

2. A new hotel and restaurant opened up on the waterfront in our town. Lovely job. Three days later it was closed down. All the furniture was removed and it was completely de-fumigated. Apparently, the owner was suspected of having Covid. Turned out, he didn’t. He had had a car accident two days before and wasn’t feeling too well. He got a complete decontamination exercise for his trouble. Hysterical. Not seen anyone in it since!

3. It’s great that the shops are open, but it’s becoming a health hazard for your hands. You have to disinfect on entry and exit. Visit five shops and that’s a lot of chemicals. And how my hands are suffering. Dry and itchy. I tried to pretend to have a squirt on them the other day and the “doorman” reprimanded me for it. Scary…

4. It is becoming increasingly bizarre to see waiters having to wear masks in restaurants while the customers don’t. In this heat (up to 40 degrees) it’s downright dangerous. Most of them look completely pissed off wearing them. Will there be a health fallout from such intense mask wearing?

5. When we did a runner a few weeks ago we just about had the plane to ourselves flying out of Glasgow. We thought we were the smart ones. But Nicola’s decided that we have to serve two weeks solitary when we return, e.g. quarantine. She can’t be beaten, but we won’t give up trying!

Perhaps it isn’t all Wee Krankie’s fault. One of her public health advisers, Professor Devi Sridhar, is a bedwetter par excellence. She took to Twitter recently to warn of “constant outbreaks” as lockdown restrictions ease across the country. She said the virus was likely to be present in the UK until at least the spring of 2021 and that if people returned to their normal patterns of behaviour “we will get an uptick for sure”.

I know the economy is suffering and jobs are being lost. I recognise the toll that lockdown has taken and I’m not ‘pro-lockdown’ at all.

In fact my worry is about a second lockdown and how to avoid this happening. Lockdown/release cycles will destroy society and the economy.

That’s a new one on me: I’m so worried about the toll the lockdown is taking that I think we should continue to strictly maintain it to avoid having to re-impose it.

Canaries in the Mine Update

I’m publishing a third article in Dr Rudolph Kalveks ‘Canaries in the Mine’ series today. Dr Kalveks, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, has used a standard tool in epidemiology – the Susceptible–Infected–Recovered/Resolved or (“SIR”) model – to analyse the lifecycle of the virus in different countries and he concluded in the first article in the series that in Europe and America the pandemic was approaching the end of its life and a “second wave” was unlikely. He looked at the data again in the second article in the series and saw nothing to change his mind, and he’s done the same in the third. Again, the data confirms his initial hypothesis:

Notwithstanding that populations are not homogeneous, so that there may remain local groups of vulnerable individuals who may continue to benefit from continued sheltering, the simple message for UK policymakers is that the historic data from the Coronavirus pandemic does not at present provide evidence to support the continuation of substantial restrictions on the normal functioning of our society and economy.

Worth reading in full.

Letter in Harpers Raising Alarm About the Intolerant Left Makes it Harder to Deny Cancel Culture

I appeared on Sky News earlier to debate Guardian columnist Owen Jones about cancel culture, following the letter that appeared in Harpers last week signed by 153 left-wing writers and intellectuals. Owen tweeted on July 5th that he didn’t think cancel culture existed, in spite of the fact that a couple of weeks ago he led demands for Oxford University’s Deputy Director of External Affairs to be fired “by the end of the day” because he’d tweeted something disobliging about Owen’s friend Ash Sarkar.

It’s like the leader of the Red Guards at the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution saying, “Struggle sessions? What struggle sessions?”

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Tuesday.

And Finally…

Latest News

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30 billion mini-budget on Wednesday to supposedly kickstart the economic recovery.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of his initiatives was a scheme designed to get people eating out again – “eat out to help out”. Participating restaurants will be able to offer half price meals every Monday to Wednesday throughout August, and be reimbursed by the Government within five working days. Although before you get your hopes up, there’s a cap of £10 on the amount you can be reimbursed for.

Not sure it’ll do much to halt the devastation unleashed in the hospitality sector by the lockdown. Even Burger King has announced closures and redundancies.

Stop Press: If you put on even more pounds as a result of Rishi’s meal deals, you can at least now go to the gym.

Couples Told to Wear Face Masks During Sex

Love is in the air – but so is something else!

According to the New York Post, a new study out of Harvard recommends couples should mask-up before having sex – and not for kinky pleasure.

Safe sex during the coronavirus pandemic might soon require protection beyond just the nether regions.

A new study from researchers at Harvard University says that hooking up carries some risk for transmitting COVID-19 from one partner to the other and recommends — among other practices — wearing a face mask while doin’ it.

The research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ranked frisky situations based on how likely it is to catch coronavirus while in the act. Researchers recommend wearing a mask for the riskiest sexual scenario: sex with people other than those with whom one is quarantined.

Meanwhile, American DJ Dan Bongino reacts to mandatory mask wearing in Martin County, Florida by saying: “You can take your mask mandate and shove it right up your ass.”

Is that after or before the mask-wearing sex?

Government Spent £10 Billion on Bungled Track-and-Trace Scheme

“Check out my new phone. Only cost £10 billion.”

Blimey! Wondering where all that Government money has gone? Now we know.

Documents released on Tuesday revealed that the Treasury has spent an extra £48.5 billion on public services since the coronavirus outbreak. Of this, £31.9 billion went to the NHS – including the £15 billion for PPE and £10 billion on Matt Hancock’s failed track-and-trace scheme.

The Mail has the story:

Ministers spent an astonishing £10 billion on the bungled test and trace programme as part of an extra £48 billion of spending on public services during the coronavirus crisis, it has emerged.

The programme was championed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock when introduced at the end of May but, as of last week, it is still failing to track a quarter of patients who test positive for the illness.

Scientists have warned contact tracing programmes need to catch at least 80 per cent of infections to ensure the spread of the virus is contained.

Earlier this week, Baroness Dido Harding, who is charge of the programme, admitted it is still is not hitting Government targets – but claimed it is ‘not far away’.

She said more work needs to be done to build up public confidence in the tracing system and the expected app, because neither will work without people’s co-operation. She said people’s trust must be earned rather than expected.

Every time you think the Government couldn’t have bungled its handling of this crisis more badly, there’s another shocking revelation. This one will be hard to top though.

Bad Luck Zealots: Sweden is Virtually Covid Free

These three graphs tell a story lockdown zealots don’t want to hear: Covid has all but disappeared in Sweden.

Covid Catch-22

John Waters, the Simon Dolan of Ireland, has written a great piece for Lockdown Sceptics about the difficulty he and Simon have faced in challenging the constitutionality of the suspension of our liberties. In both cases, the judge shot them down on the grounds that there was nothing disproportionate about the laws and regulations introduced to minimise the loss of life likely to be caused by the virus because, at the time, the Government didn’t know how virulent and deadly COVID-19 was. In other words, so long as a government is able to show that there is some possibility, however slight, that its draconian restrictions will save lives, they there is nothing unconstitutional about suspending our liberties.

Since before the present Irish Constitution was framed in 1937, and right up to a Supreme Court ruling as recently as 2011, the courts were adamant that an emergency, with or without a capital E, could only be declared in the circumstances set out in Article 28 of that Constitution. The lockdown legislation therefore created all kinds of new precedents, which, if left to lie, would in effect allow the Constitution of Ireland to be suspended for almost any kind of crisis, thereby transforming said Constitution from a Bill of Rights to a Charter for Occasional Totalitarianism. As far as I know, Japan is the only place where fundamental constitutional rights have prevailed in the face of COVID-19-related attacks, though Sweden’s robust constitutional principles, too, may have contributed to the more relaxed approach to managing the virus there.

Depressing, but worth reading in full.

Passport Misery

I haven’t been able to renew my 15 year-old son’s passport, so have had to arrange for him to stay with a friend while the Young family heads off to the Dolomites next week. Before you think “what a bastard!” I should point out that he’s extracted a heavy price for allowing us to go – a brand new desktop computer. He’s as happy as Larry. Thank you HM Passport Office.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère has had a hard time trying to get a passport for his grandson.

My grandson was born in Hanoi in December. My son and his wife are both British-born citizens and are employed by the British Council. In Vietnam such a baby is classified as a foreigner and is not entitled to Vietnamese citizenship by birth. Nor do his parents want that. In January they applied for the British passport to which he is entitled. The cumbersome process has to be conducted through the Visa Application Centre in Hanoi to which the UK Passport Office has subcontracted the administration of such applications in cities abroad.

The piles of supporting documents, including my grandson’s vital birth certificate, were all gathered up and sent by courier to the UK. Once those were scrutinized an online interview was booked for late March which my son would have had to attend in Hanoi in order to speak to a passport officer in the UK. This was the process he went through for his daughter two years previously.

Guess what? The interview was cancelled along with all other such interviews. Here we are now more than three months later and although the Visa Application Centre has re-opened in Hanoi these interviews have still not been reinstated (as they have not for applicants in the UK). It has taken my son weeks and weeks to get hold of a passport officer in the UK on the phone in order to find a way to get the documents returned. By law in Vietnam they are not supposed to travel anywhere with the baby without those documents – or a passport! With any luck those might turn up in a few weeks now. But of the passport – apparently for the moment: no chance.

I used a Twitter account to send a direct message on his account to the Passport Office. It took over a week to reply and added nothing.

The result is that my grandson who is entitled by right of his parents to UK citizenship is presently stateless. The Passport Office’s failure to use any common sense at least to instigate the return of documents that have been checked have placed him and his parents in a precarious position.

How many other children born abroad to UK citizen parents in the last seven months are in the same situation? There must be older children whose applications were also only made in the first quarter of this year who are similarly rendered stateless.

It hardly needs adding that of course the Passport Office is in possession of the application fees paid. Yet another example of the countless services that have been suspended since the crisis broke, leaving clients effectively robbed of the money on the nebulous promise that things will return to normal at some unspecified point in the future.

Here’s the real and truly idiotic irony. At no point in the process would it ever have been necessary for my son to be in the same room as a UK passport officer. Since Vietnam is entirely back to normal, and has been for several weeks, all he needed to do was to attend the Hanoi Centre and be shown into a room with a computer.

What’s going on? The answer seems to be a shortage of UK Passport Office staff who have been hived off to deal with matters like universal credit applications. Perhaps that’s more important, but I find the sheer stupidity and negligence of holding on to vital personal documents indefinitely almost unbelievable. It’s a whole new facet of the mounting backlog of administration and frustrated impotent anxiety this ludicrous self-inflicted crisis is generating.

And it’s not just Guy and me, obviously. Check out the comments in this forum – it’s an unending stream of passport misery.

Stop Press: Guy has been back in touch with some good news – sort of.

Incredibly, my son reports to me to today that HM Passport Office is now accepting new applications through the Hanoi Visa Application Centre, despite the unfulfilled existing pile of applications which must be the size of a small mountain and which they have no current plans to deal with.

Hugo Rifkind’s Bedwetting Column

Hugo Rifkind reacts to a member of the public breaking the two-metre rule

Times “humourist” Hugo Rifkind has made a strong bid for the Bedwettter-of-the-week award in his latest column entitled “In your face rulebreakers are out of control”. Here’s a taster:

Looking at those pictures of the Soho crowds, however nationally atypical they may have been, I found myself wondering how it happens. Is it like the wisdom of crowds, but the opposite? As in, is there a threshold of non-observance you need to reach before everybody else just thinks, “ah, screw it, why be different, I’ll have another drink and worry about potentially killing hundreds of people including my own grandmother tomorrow”?

We are all free to risk our own health by overdrinking or overeating or overscubadiving, or whatever, but responsible behaviour in a pandemic is not just about us. It speaks to a sort of social responsibility that is, or at least should be, literally step one in civilised behaviour.

Thankfully, there are some sceptics in the comments below Hugo’s piece:

The bottom line Hugo is that most people now know that Covid doesn’t threaten them. They’re not that worried if they get it. And they’re right to think that because the truth (that the Government doesn’t like to publicise) is that your chances of dying from Covid or even being seriously ill from it are minuscule unless you are in a very small subset of the population that is vulnerable. And it’s that dawning realisation that coronavirus isn’t Ebola or Smallpox or Bubonic Plague, combined with an increasing suspicion that the authorities have both overreacted and been incompetent, that leads to a little rebellion, an urge to regain control of your own decisions and risk assessment. And my guess is that the more the busybodies exhort people to wear a mask or keep you distance or keep working from home, the more likely it is they won’t.

I like the word “busybodies”. Hugo is a bit of a busybody.

At the end of his column, Hugo says the public’s failure to comply with every jot and tittle of the advice of finger-wagging scolds like him has left him worried that they may not comply when it comes to the advice of other metropolitan busybodies concerning things like global warming.

Covid is a unique crisis but it is also the template for every crisis, from tax avoidance, to funding health and social care, to the big looming horror of environmental collapse. Over and again, I read that this crisis was a dress rehearsal and a test, and that humanity was on a learning curve. We are all each other, all intertwined, all responsible for attuning our own behaviour for the greater good. What a shame, though, that we keep forgetting.

Not sure that’s quite the “shame” you think it is Hugo.

Fancy a Beer? Go to Marston’s

Top tip from a reader in Upminster about his experience at his local, a Marston’s pub.

I arrived at the pub at 11am to find that it was opening an hour later at midday. As a result, I walked to a pub a fair distance away – The Huntsman – which had a large banner up saying “WE ARE OPEN”. They lied – they weren’t.

I walked back and as it was 11.40am had to do something I’d never done before in my life and bought a can of beer in a shop and sat in the park across from the pub until I could get a beer.

When the pub opened up the awful experience that I was expecting never occurred. Sharon the pub manager and all the staff were unmasked, unafraid and had the pub running with the common sense lacking in most parts of this country at the moment.

Apart from a few tables being removed from the centre of the pub and a couple of arrows on the floor, you got your beer at the bar.

The people serving were friendly not jobsworths and they were having conversations with the customers that had been put on hold for three months for no good reason other than state-induced fear and global mass hysteria.

I would say to any pub man or woman who doesn’t wish to be treated like a leper while having a beer, find your nearest Marston’s. Stuff the abnormal New Normal and enjoy a beer in a real pub atmosphere. And they haven’t put the price up!

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And Finally…

In my Spectator column this week I’ve asked whether the curriculum in English schools really needs “decolonising”. Here’s an extract:

Listening to the politicians and activists urging schools to “decolonise the curriculum”, you’d think children were being taught about the “white man’s burden” and re-enacting Gordon of Khartoum’s defence of Sudan in the playground. Even in the Tom Brown’s School Days era, I doubt the curriculum was ever as pro-Empire as these people would have us believe. At the last general election, 85 per cent of teachers voted for left-of-centre parties. Do the Black Lives Matter protestors really think these hand-wringing liberals are getting children to measure skulls in biology classes?

You think I’m exaggerating? A whistleblower sent me a memo on “decolonising the curriculum” that had been distributed to all the teachers at a secondary school in Haringey. The headteacher asked them to ensure that “the curriculum diet offered our students in terms of anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-prejudice, is broad, thorough, comprehensive across year groups, faculty areas and times of the year”. And woe betide any member of staff who challenges the idea that schools are perpetuating a system of white supremacy. A teacher at an academy in south-east London has got in touch with the Free Speech Union because he’s being put through a ‘disciplinary’ after writing a blog post criticising the violence of some of the BLM protestors.

Worth reading in full, obviously.

Latest News

Going Underground: A woman prepares to enter the Ninth Circle of Hell that is the London Underground

Refusing to wear a mask in public should become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving or not wearing a seatbelt, the President of the Royal Society has said.

Venki Ramakrishnan called for everyone to be required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, rather than only on public transport, and criticised confused messaging from the Government. This follows the publication of two Royal Society reports, one of which purports to show that wearing masks reduces transmission of the virus, and the other of which documents how far the UK is trailing behind other countries when it comes to face coverings.

Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours; none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic, yet now do so routinely.

So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It is the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.

The message has not been clear enough, so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them. Whatever the reasons, we need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public.

It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today, both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way.

If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.

I’ve had a look at the Royal Society paper that supposedly confirms the effectiveness of masks. It’s unimpressive. Note the threadbare evidence on which it bases its sweeping conclusion:

We have found only two randomised control trials in the primary literature on the use of face masks to reduce onward transmission; one was underpowered, and the other showed significant reduction when adjusted for actual mask usage in a posthoc analysis.

Congratulations Venki Ramakrishnan. You win bedwetter-of-the-week

81% of Care Home Residents Asymptomatic

This is pretty extraordinary. According to a UK Government study, 80.9% of residents in care homes for the over-65s in England who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic.

A reaction to the study in the Science Media Centre contains this gem from Sarah Harper, Clore Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford:

Our early conclusions that younger people were generally asymptomatic, but older adults were less likely to be, has now been questioned. This survey further emphasizes that the disease is complex and its progress and impact still unclear. There has been a general assumption in some media reports that COVID-19 was a death sentence for all older people – this study emphasizes that many older adults as well as younger people can have the disease mildly.

So COVID-19 is not a death sentence for the over-65? Who knew?

Well, Dr Scott Atlas does. The senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center has given an interview to Fox News in which he says that for those under 70, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is lower than it is for seasonal flu.

Meanwhile, Boris has put his foot in it by suggesting care home managers are to blame for the high death toll in the sector. The prime minister said on Monday that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures”.

That’s a bit rich, considering the Chief Executive of the NHS ordered hospitals to discharge as many patients as possible in March without checking first to make sure they weren’t carrying COVID-19. Given the number of infectious people flooding into care homes as a result of that diktat, I’m not sure following more rigorous social distancing policies in these settings would have made any difference.

Latest ONS Data Shows Deaths Below Five-Year Average for Second Week in Row

Readers will recall that last Tuesday the ONS data for Week 25 showed that the number of people dying in England and Wales had fallen below the five-year average, suggesting that some of the people who’ve died from coronavirus would have died later in the year anyway. The same is true for the ONS data for Week 26 (June 20th – 26th).

The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 26 June 2020 (Week 26) was 8,979, this was 360 deaths lower than Week 25.

In Week 26, the number of deaths registered was 3.4% below the five-year average (314 deaths fewer), this is the second consecutive week that deaths have been below the five-year average; the numbers of deaths in care homes and hospitals were also fewer than the five-year average (103 and 815 deaths lower respectively), while the number of deaths in private homes was 745 higher than the five-year average.

Of the deaths registered in Week 26, 606 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the lowest number of deaths involving COVID-19 in the last 13 weeks, accounting for 6.7% of all deaths in England and Wales.

Another notable feature of the latest ONS data is that the number of deaths involving novel coronavirus is falling in every English region save for the North East, with the total declining for the 10th consecutive week.

Bailout For Luvvies

Nigel Planer sends up members of his own profession in The Naked Actor

Quite decent of the Government to put a £1.57 billion bailout package in place for theatres, galleries and museums, considering how few people in those institutions vote Conservative.

Will Gompertz, the BBC’s arts correspondent, had this to say about it:

The rescue package has been warmly welcomed by many arts leaders, some of whom said they thought it to be at the upper end of what had been hoped for. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who has been under pressure from the arts and heritage sector to deliver a meaningful funding solution to a crisis brought about by COVID-19, feels vindicated that his behind-closed-doors approach to negotiations with the Treasury has paid off.

As always, the devil will be in the detail. The Government has not specified how the money will be divided between competing art forms or regions, nor how the application process will work. There will be winners and losers.

And then there’s the elephant in the auditorium: when will the rules around social distancing in performing arts venues be relaxed to allow the show to go on?

Many theatre producers are baffled by what they see as “one rule for them, and one rule for us”, approach by Government, particularly when it comes to travel. Why is it OK for people to sit side-by-side on a train or plane for hours but not in a theatre, which they argue is a much more controllable environment? As far as they are concerned, that is the billion dollar question.

That last point is a good one. Rather than handing out taxpayers money to these folks, wouldn’t it be better to just let theatres, galleries and museums re-open?

Simon Dolan Loses First Round

Simon Dolan

Disappointing news: Simon Dolan’s attempt to have the Government’s draconian coronavirus restrictions declared unlawful by the High Court has not been successful. Sky News has the story.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Lewis said that the rules in force on 2 July – the day of the hearing in the case – “did involve a restriction on the freedom of assembly and association”.

But he added: “The context in which the restrictions were imposed, however, was of a global pandemic where a novel, highly infectious disease capable of causing death was spreading and was transmissible between humans. There was no known cure and no vaccine.

“There was a legal duty to review the restrictions periodically and to end the restrictions if they were no longer necessary to achieve the aim of reducing the spread and the incidence of coronavirus. The regulations would end after six months in any event.

“In those, possible unique, circumstances, there is no realistic prospect that a court would find that regulations adopted to reduce the opportunity for transmission by limiting contact between individuals was disproportionate.”

Sounds like Mr Justice Lewis has drunk the Covid Kool-Aid.

Simon is considering an appeal. In the meantime, you can visit his Keep Britain Free website here.

National Geographic Says Covid 50 to 100 Times More Deadly Than Flu

There’s an extraordinary piece in the National Geographic – wildly alarmist, even by the standards of the mainstream media. It includes this incredible statement:

Using a more sophisticated calculation called the infection-fatality rate, paired with the past few months’ worth of data, the latest best estimates show that COVID-19 is around 50 to 100 times more lethal than the seasonal flu, on average.

So what exactly is this “more sophisticated” way of calculating the IFR? Apparently, they’re the ones made by University of Wollongong epidemiologist and self-described “health nerd” Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz.

Scientists can use two strategies to estimate the infection-fatality rate, explains Meyerowitz-Katz. They can estimate the number of infections using serology studies, which test people for antibodies against the coronavirus. These tests can reveal whether a person has been infected even if they don’t show symptoms. Or, researchers can use statistical methods to infer the total number of infections based on what’s known about the number of confirmed cases and the estimates for asymptomatic infections.

“Serology studies generally produce lower estimates of infection-fatality rates, and statistical models tend to be higher,” Meyerowitz-Katz says.

Meyerowitz-Katz’s has shown his workings-out in a blog post for Medium.

For my part, I’ll stick with the CDC’s estimate of 0.26%, about 2.5 times higher than the IFR of the average seasonal flu. Here’s how the CDC reached that figure, as summarised in USA Today:

In May, the CDC published a document titled “Pandemic Planning Scenarios,” with estimates about the virus to help modelers and public health officials. It included estimates of the death rate for infected people who show symptoms and of the percentage of people who were infected but asymptomatic.

The CDC document stressed the values are estimates, not predictions of the effects of the virus, and don’t reflect the impact of changes in behavior or social distancing.

“New data on COVID-19 is available daily,” the document said. “Information about its biological and epidemiological characteristics remain limited, and uncertainty remains around nearly all parameter values.”

The document includes five scenarios. The first four are varying estimates of the disease’s severity, from low to high, while the fifth represents the “current best estimate.”

The range of estimates put the fatality rate for those showing symptoms between 0.2%-1%, with a “best estimate” of 0.4%.

It also places the number of asymptomatic cases between 20%-50%, with a “best estimate” of 35%.

By combining the two estimates, the estimated overall fatality rate of those infected with the virus – with and without symptoms – would be 0.26%.

Laura Dodsworth’s Art Project

A priest standing in his empty church

Artist and photographer Laura Dodsworth has started documenting the impact of the lockdown through a variety of different mediums. She’s written about the project in Spiked:

A choir of lockdown luvvies bemoan the demise of the arts, while arguing that lockdown didn’t start early enough, wasn’t strict enough, and shouldn’t be ending now. Of course lockdown was going to kill the arts, along with many other industries and livelihoods. In the end, if we want to resurrect the arts world, the only hope is to depart the Theatre of Death, staggering, blinking, into the daylight. It was quite a show, but it’s almost over – daily deaths are now in the double figures in the UK.

You can visit her website here.

Why Aren’t More People Going to the Pub?

According to a poll, only 5% of Britons have visited a pub since they re-opened. Why so few? Presumably because the above Times cartoon sums up how many Britons are feeling, having been subjected to months of unrelenting ‘death porn’ by The BBC.

But this email from a reader also contains a clue. Going to the pub is actually a miserable experience, given all the pointless rules that have put been in place.

Just back from a very unpleasant experience this evening, meeting old friends at my local pub in Kingston, the Druid’s Head. As I entered the pub, a young girl aged about 20 insisted I “scan the QR code” or text my details to their mobile number for “NHS track and trace”. It was farcical! When I explained I was joining a group of friends, she took ages looking on her iPad to confirm the booking before I was allowed entry.

As I joined my old friends (sadly all of them are hugely pro-lockdown), they would not shake my hand and my mate’s gf would not do a usual hug to greet me. She was paranoid I might touch her beer and infect it

I was allowed to order drinks at the bar, but could not carry them to our table. Only bar staff were authorised to do this. As if in some way, this increases the risk of spreading Covid. Of course, they had the obligatory Perspex screens on the bar (with massive gaps to pay through).

As you can imagine conversation was riveting. My friends blamed Boris for not locking down earlier. My mate’s gf said very defiantly, “We are going to be living like this for a VERY LONG TIME!” Almost as if she wanted to live this way forever.

My mate and his gf had a bottle of antibacterial spray on the table. I’m not exaggerating when I say they must have used this about ten times in the space of an hour. Constantly, obsessively spraying and rubbing their hands with it. I joked and said, “Careful, you‘ll run out in an hour!” They weren’t amused.

As we left the pub, they would not touch any door handles and only used their elbows to open doors. As we said our goodbyes outside, they offered me some of their hand spray. When I said no, they looked shocked. “But you’ve touched things!” they exclaimed. Then they tried to forcibly spray my hands! WTF! The look of horror on their faces because I refused their spray. They could not believe I would dare refuse it. It was neurotic behaviour to the nth degree. I despair.

Feeling thoroughly depressed now. My mental health has taken a battering for what should have been a fun catch up. I won’t be seeing them again in a hurry. Please tell me this is just a nightmare and not real.

Meanwhile, the poor residents of Leicester are being grassed up by the locals when they sneak out to pubs in neighbouring areas. Apparently, the giveaway is when they cheer Jamie Vardy scoring a goal.

The Barrel of a Gun

On Saturday night, when I’d had a few too many, I produced a slightly unhinged Twitter thread about the Cultural Revolution. Here it is for those who missed it.

1/ Thought I’d do a thread about reasons to be cheerful about the Cultural Revolution. All of these are variations on the same theme: the Red Guards have seized cultural power, but not political power.

2/ It’s a coup in which the revolutionaries have secured the public broadcaster, but not the military. They don’t have a monopoly over the legitimate use of force – they can’t murder or imprison counter-revolutionaries, just cancel them – and that means the coup will fail.

3/ Take universities, art schools, dance schools, drama schools, colleges of further education, etc. The coup has been 100% successful in those institutions. There’s literally zero tolerance for any dissent from Woke orthodoxy across the HE sector.

4/ But the timing of the revolutionaries isn’t great. >50% of those institutions will shortly be facing an existential crisis because of Covid. Travel restrictions will mean fewer non-British students, exacerbated by the fact that EU nationals will no longer get the fee break.

5/ And a lot of students who’ve accepted places will defer for a year, what with lectures and tutorials delivered online, campus social life hampered by stupid social distancing rules, nightlife in university cities non-existent. So most universities are facing a perfect storm.

6/ >50% won’t survive unless they can attract more students in 2021 and persuade the Govt to bail them out. So what do they do? They make it crystal clear that if you’re not a member of a victim group you’ll be demonised from day one. Make a pass at a girl? You’re a rapist.

7/ Voice the mildest dissent from the BLM policy agenda – you think it might not be a great idea to defund the police, for instance – and you’re a racist. Say you think JK Rowling might have a point and you’re a transphobe.

8/ At a time when the sector needs to attract as many new students as it can – and persuade a Conservative Government to bail it out! – it has doubled down on hard Left anti-capitalist gobbledegook and created an aggressively hostile environment for anyone to the right of Corbyn.

9/ So the good news is at least half of these Woke-us Dei religious seminaries will go bankrupt (assuming the Govt holds it nerve). The pipeline the cult has been using to pump lobotomised activists into the workforce is about to be bombed.

10/ The Professor of Whiteness Studies at the University of Central Bedfordshire will lose his £120,000-a-year, taxpayer-subsidised job and end up driving an Uber, where his ability to make converts will be confined to drunk couples snogging on the back seat.

11/ What about schools? The coup has been 100% successful in schools, too. Private and state. So many people have sent me documentary evidence that their children’s schools are now teaching the BLM Gospel, with heretics being burnt at the stake, I’ve stopped collecting it.

12/ So children will be bombarded with anti-British, Neo-Marxist propaganda from 9am to 3.30pm five days a week. They’ll be taught that British history is an unbroken litany of oppression, exploitation and self-deception. The message will be: “Hate your country and yourself.”

13/ But with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet – teachers, comedians, the BBC, the Premier League, Hollywood, etc. – most teenagers are bound to reject this dogma. Counter-cultural revolutionaries like Jordan Peterson will have the added glamour of being outcasts.

14/ And the more Woke the metropolitan elite becomes, the more likely right-wing populists are to win elections. Working class voters see this puritanical self-flagellation (we’re such sinners!) for what it is – a way for high-caste whites to differentiate themselves from them.

15/ It’s an expression of snobbish contempt dressed up as a self-righteous crusade. And the more left-wing parties embrace this nonsense, the more they alienate traditional working class voters. I think Trump will win in November.

16/ So absent an actual coup, the High Priests of the Intersectionality Cult will never obtain political power. And even though the process will be slow, right-wing politicians will gradually turn off the financial faucets that are funding this religious movement.

17/ Another asset for the counter-revolutionary side is that the people the Red Guards go after are often the smartest people in their fields/professions. Brilliant academics, teachers, actors, community organisers, comedians, etc., are being cancelled every day.

18/ And the upshot is that they become highly-motivated Generals in the counter-revolution. In the Soviet Union, picking off the Communist Party’s most gifted opponents worked because they were imprisoned or murdered. But just cancelling people isn’t nearly as effective.

19/ So this Maoist moment in which the Red Guards seem to be sweeping all before them could be a last hurrah. They’ve seized an important bridgehead, but haven’t secured their supply lines. It’s the French Revolution without the guillotine.

20/ I don’t mean to sound glib. I know 100s of good people are being blacklisted every day at the behest of rage mobs. It’s McCarthyism on steroids. But take heart. Join the resistance. Our opponents have immersed themselves in Foucault, but not Machiavelli. We will win.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Thursday.

And Finally…

Me as the heroic Hamilton and James Delingpole as the weasely opportunist Aaron Burr

You can listen to James Delingpole and me putting the world to rights in the latest episode of London Calling. I spend the first few minutes enthusing about Hamilton, having seen it for the first time on Sunday night. This was the filmed version of the Broadway production on Disney+, obviously, not the actual musical.

When Hamilton made its debut in 2015, it was considered a liberal work of art and enthusiastically celebrated by President Obama. But given the escalation of hostilities in the culture war since George Floyd’s death and the leftwards shift of the Overton Window, it now plays like a pointed rebuttal of the BLM narrative.

Part of that narrative, don’t forget, is that American history began in 1619, not 1776, and the Revolution was fought not to throw off the yoke of colonial oppression but so rich Southern landowners could continue to profit from the slave trade, given its imminent abolition in the British Empire. According to this version of US history – the one institutionalised by the text books of Howard Zinn and taught in every American high school – African-Americans were never participants in America’s story, only its victims. The Founding was not a huge step forward in the recognition of the universal rights of man, but a lynchpin in the system of white supremacy. The Founding Fathers were not philosopher-kings, but evil capitalist slave-owners.

How refreshing, therefore, to watch a musical in which the Founding is portrayed as the beginning of American history and celebrated as an event in which Americans of all different races participated. In Hamilton, the African-American cast members aren’t victims; rather, they are leading participants in America’s origin story. It’s a recasting of that story to make it fully inclusive and multicultural, which is the opposite of the white supremacist script that BLM activists want everyone to stick to. And the central character is the First Secretary of the US Treasury, the engine of American capitalism.

Needless to say, Lyn-Manuel Miranda, the wunderkind impresario who wrote Hamilton, is already coming under fire from Woke activists. You can read a summary of this attempt to cancel Hamilton here. I fear it won’t be long before Disney+ withdraws the film and issues a grovelling apology. Watch it while you can.

Latest News

Having fun in Soho on Super Saturday

Some people had fun in Soho last night. But crowded streets inevitably led to a lot of alarmist nonesense. The story in the Mail about last night’s revels is headlined: “‘A second wave won’t be long in the making!’ Exhausted police officer predicts fresh Covid spike after ‘long late shift peppered with pub fights, drunken violence and drunken, drugged-up fools’.

A senior police officer has predicted a fresh coronavirus onslaught after confronted with “pub fights, drunken violence and drunken, drugged-up fools” last night.

Social distancing was declared to be in tatters today after jubilant drinkers called time on lockdown and descended on the nation’s pubs.

Cities across Britain were heaving last night on a scale not seen since Boris Johnson ordered bars to shutter over a hundred days ago.

Yeah, that won’t happen. Everything will be completely fine.

They Seek It Here, They Seek It There

Good piece by Professor David Spiegelhalter in the Observer about how misleading some of the headline figures are. This bit in particular Jumped out:

The Office for National Statistics has just reported that the number of people in England testing positive was previously decreasing but has now levelled off. There was some additional modelling, but the raw data comprised “swab tests collected from 23,203 participants, of which 12 individuals tested positive for COVID-19”. This small number of positive tests means there is great uncertainty as to current infection levels.

In other words, the virus has nigh on disappeared – that’s what “levelled off” means – particularly when you factor in the high number of false positives.

Is Merthyr Tydfil the Next Leicester?

Is the caged Welsh dragon’s imminent release about to be delayed?

My heart goes out to the residents of Merthyr Tydfil. According to the Telegraph, Covid cases have increased from 10 to 179 per 100,000, overtaking Leicester. Does this mean a local lockdown is imminent?

Probably not.

Health chiefs in Wales have said there is no evidence that the infections – linked to an outbreak at a meat plant – have spread to the community.

As a result, there are currently no plans to extend lockdown measures in the Merthyr Tydfil.

Public Health Wales has said the surge in cases stems from increased testing, after a cluster of 130 cases at the Kepak meat plant. Most of the positive cases were uncovered on the same day, leaving health chiefs hopeful that the outbreak can be stamped out.

Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are due to re-open in Wales on July 13th. Let’s hope this doesn’t cause any delays.

Up the Junction

The cheery site that greets people as they emerge from Clapham Junction station

A reader tells me about the miserable experience of using Clapham Junction mainline station:

I just wanted to drop you a line to ask if you were aware of the passenger “new normal” experience that is now Clapham Junction railway station? Notwithstanding the face masks mandatory rule, which makes no scientific sense especially as the general masks act as an aerosol, when we alighted at Clapham Junction yesterday afternoon the scene was Dystopian with circa one hundred members of staff, all wearing masks and looking agitated herding passengers through the station. My partner and I are in our 40s and felt stressed and alarmed. For a child, the experience would have been frightening. I feel it’s got nothing to do with safety but Orwellian control – there’s an illogical one way system which means there’s only one exit which is the Grant Road end (if you know the area) which in the winter months is not well lit and funnels people under bridges to get round to St John’s Road.

The inconvenience of a detour I can live with but it was the experience of so many “officials” wearing masks and herding passengers through narrow underground walkways that was disturbing. And for who’s benefit? I wonder how the decision to enforce wearing of facemasks came about. If it was to encourage the use of public transport it will do the opposite. As with much of the last four months debacle the decisions are laced with political games, as we’ve seen with Sturgeon ordering masks to be worn in shops. The rate she’s going Scotland will be a third world country when this is over if making transport and the retail sector so unpleasant people keep their wallets firmly shut.

Once we finally got round to the station exit (as it was in saner times) we were faced with the view in the attached photo. Although Debs were in trouble Before Coronavirus, it just about summed up the calamity of this Government’s creation.

Double-Counting

A reader in Toronto has been in touch to flag up a possible explanation for the rising case numbers in southern and southwestern US states.

Your recent post about double counting of Pillar 2 tests in Leicestershire got me thinking whether that could be a factor in the recent spike in cases in the U.S.

So here’s a link to, for example, Johns Hopkins data for Arizona.

Among other things, the percentage of positive tests has been growing steadily and now stands at 25%. On the face of it, this is very alarming. It also doesn’t seem to pass the sniff test, as hospitals should theoretically be overwhelmed.

So here’s an interesting disclaimer on the same page: “When states report the number of COVID-19 tests performed, this should include the number of viral tests performed and the number of patients for which these tests were performed. Currently, states may not be distinguishing overall tests administered from the number of individuals who have been tested. This is an important limitation to the data that is available to track testing in the U.S., and states should work to address it.”

So they’re as much as saying there’s double counting going on. And if people who test positive get retested until they’re negative, that would have the effect of artificially increasing both the number of “cases” and the “percent positive”.

The same page also has an admonition for states not to include antibody tests in their reporting. So if some states are doing that, that could also help to explain the rise in “cases” and “positive tests”.

Arizona is a more extreme example, but Texas and Florida are also showing strong increases in “percent positive” to 14% and 18% respectively.

Another problem with the data, in addition to double counting, is that not all of it is up-to-date. This story in azcentral has a rather bed-wetting headline, but contains this gem towards the end:

Arizonans have reported delays in getting tested and waits of as long as three weeks to get results. The daily cases reported are not all from the previous day’s results — they could have been tests conducted weeks ago

A Publican Speaks

There was a great interview with Hugh Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns, one of the UK’s largest pub chains, on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House this morning. Hugh is an arch-sceptic who regularly passes on his latest findings to me and which I reproduce in the daily updates.

I was alerted to this by a reader:

It was a breath of fresh air to hear the views of an intelligent Lockdown Sceptic being broadcast on the BBC – he says some pretty powerful stuff and is direct, well-informed and authoritative.

Somewhat amusingly, the host Paddy O’Connell starts to sound rather concerned, maybe even mildly flustered, that the clear and direct messages being transmitted by Osmond are flying in the face of the Received Wisdom of the bed-wetters at the BBC and so he tries to interrupt Osmond on a number of occasions to stop the flow of pointed remarks! But Osmond definitely succeeds in getting his message across.

If you haven’t heard it, then I am sure you will enjoy it and I am also sure your Lock-Down Sceptics audience will love listening to it.

You can listen to Hugh on Broadcasting House by clicking here and going to the 17 minute 54 second mark. The interview lasts about nine minutes.

Venetian Advice

After my request for travel advice yesterday – the Young family is heading to Venice in a couple of weeks – I’ve had a lot of emails like this one:

The thought of going on a flight dressed for a Russian chemical attack fills me with horror, I’m due to go to Venice in September and am thinking of driving, it’s a couple of days, but that can be part of the holiday, You can park in/near Venice, carry all the junk you want. And no masks! And all those French and Italian wine regions to stop in.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Tuesday.

And Finally…

Will snorkels soon be mandatory on Transport for London?

Good satirical piece in the always amusing Babylon Bee. The headline reads: “State Governor Mandates Everyone Wear Snorkels In Case They Fall In A Pool.”

U.S.—As governors clamor to follow the ways of SCIENCE and save lives in their state, one state Governor has read some very scary statistics from SCIENCE and decided to go the extra mile to protect the safety of his citizens. “Starting today,” he said, “All citizens of my state will be required to wear a snorkel at all times, both indoors and out. This will prevent thousands of tragic deaths resulting from people falling in their backyard pools. SCIENCE says we must do this.”

Every person in the state will be required to wear a snorkel, preferably paired with goggles, 24 hours a day. When pressed as to why they were necessary indoors, the Governor replied, “Hello! Sinks? Bathtubs? Showers? There are water hazards everywhere inside the house! We can’t be too careful! SCIENCE!”

According to the order, anyone caught without a snorkel will be required to pay a $15,000 fine or face eight years of jail time. Second offenders will be shot on sight. “We must do this to save lives and obey SCIENCE!! We are in this together,” the state Governor exclaimed before tripping on a microphone chord and falling headfirst into the press pool.

Latest News

Borough Market in London, normally a busy hot-spot for food lovers and those in search of a pint, was packed today as people gathered in their numbers for the first time since lockdown began

The re-opening of England’s pubs has rendered me, ahem, unable to do a proper update today but will do one tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a post from regular contributor Guy de la Bédoyère that will, I imagine, strike a chord with many.

Sky News this morning featured another of those bizarro-world reports the broadcast media seems to be fixated about pushing out. This one, by Alex Crawford in Houston, was about the dramatic increase in infections in Texas. It was straight back to the Good Old Days of Covid Death Porn – except that there didn’t seem to be much death. But Ms Crawford had clearly been watching back through the Death Porn archives to make sure it ticked all the boxes. But somehow it just didn’t work out like that.

Needless to say, the item began with a patient having a tube stuffed down his nose – the usual opening scene in any self-respecting Covid hospital report. “The awful reality of Coronavirus,” said Alex Crawford, who moved on to a hospitalised patient whom she reported as saying that “Coronavirus kills you”. That he seemed to be alive, conscious and on the way to recovery had apparently passed both him and Crawford by.

“Even survival feels like death,” Crawford opined, perhaps frustrated by the lack of body bags on hand. This was a faintly peculiar thing to say since it appeared to suggest it isn’t worth surviving the virus anyway.

Crawford hunted on through the wards. We were treated to another victim who had a mask on but was otherwise sitting up and able to bang on about the governor’s irresponsibility for lifting the lockdown. Crawford added the revelation and dark warning “it only takes one infected person” to catch the virus. She’s obviously been reading the Noddy in Toyland Guide to Epidemiology.

The numbers of cases have “tripled” (no numbers provided). The doctors are “frantic” about how they’ll be able to cope. One told Crawford “if you go out on July 4th you have the potential of dying or killing someone else”.

I’m not sure why that makes this year’s July 4th especially or unusually dangerous since unless I’m missing something there’s been no July 4th in history in which zero risk was an option, either from a car crash, catching an infection or being mugged, or not going out and falling downstairs.

“There’s no shortage of protective equipment here,” said Crawford, which seemed to suggest along with the systems in placed that everything was under control. Nonetheless the doctor in charge of the unit shook his head and said there were still some people out there and he just didn’t know how they could still be alive. How indeed?

But it turned out that a cocktail of steroids, vitamins and anti-coagulants costing $100 per day per patient has resulted in a 96% success rate of those hospitalised. “The infections in Texas have spiked but the mortality rate is much lower… and they’re getting results.”

Crawford was quick to quash any sense that might be good news.

Crawford interviewed a nurse who was keen to warn her “that a lot of people are going to die being ignorant and ignorance is never a defence… and they’re going to be an example to the rest of the country” as well as countries like Britain. “If they don’t take this serious [sic] they’re gonna die… point blank.” Then bizarrely the nurse added “and they’re gone get sick”, but presumably not necessarily in that order prior to the inevitable death she was promising, apparently not being aware of the 96% survival rate of those who were bad enough to go to hospital in the first place.

Just in case you hadn’t realized how serious she was she threw in “and it’s gonna be bad”.

For good measure the piece finished up with a nurse who had been infected because after all no hospital piece is complete without a health worker hero hanging off the barbed wire in No-Man’s Land. She too was sitting up in bed and was able to warn anyone who had mistaken her for someone still alive, conscious and in a reasonable state, that if you didn’t hug your loved ones they you might never do so again.

The entire premise of the piece seemed to be that catching COVID-19 is invariably a catastrophe and that death follows as night follows day. That this was not corroborated by any of the content of the piece did not bother the fearless reporter or the people she spoke to. Nor did it match the news that the surge in infections in Texas seems to be partly due to much younger people getting COVID-19 who, as we all know, are far less likely either to get sick or to die.

Presumably even now the BBC’s battle-seasoned Covid hacks are on their way to Texas for a slice of the action.

Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers

One suggestion today: “Compete Control” by the Clash.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates (although not today), which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And Finally…

Not-so-easyJet?

Can I ask for advice regarding the Young family holiday? We want to go to Venice and then on to the Dolemites in the last week of July or thereabouts and have found some nice places to stay. However, I’m worried about booking an airline ticket, only for the flight to be cancelled. How risky do people think that is? Are some airlines more reliable than others? And if they think it’s very risky, would they recommend going by train instead? Please email me here with any advice. Thank you.

Latest News

Got a good piece for you today. It’s by a doctor who works for the hospital trust in Leicester. They’ve called themselves “Dr Q” because doctors are under strict instructions not to talk to the media, but Dr Q has provided me with proof that they are who they say they are. Here are the opening three paragraphs:

I’m a doctor at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust. We have about 2000 inpatient beds across three main sites and serve roughly 1 million people in Leicester city, Leicestershire county and Rutland. Leicester is a multi-cultural city and 36% of our 16,000 health care workers are from BAME backgrounds.

Many of my colleagues are angry and confused about what is happening nationally and particularly in Leicester and Leicestershire. We are reminded daily that we are not allowed to speak to journalists or on social media, which is why I am stringently anonymous and more vague than I’d like to be here. I love being a doctor, and I risk suspension for speaking out.

I’m going to use Public Health England’s own numbers for this analysis (found here) and I’m going to explain why I think the conclusions they (and the politicians) have drawn are wrong.

Dr Q goes on to explain that there is no evidence of any increase in the rate of infection in Leicester based on Pillar 1 data – tests administered to inpatients by hospital staff.

By May, positive cases averaged around 10 a day and deaths were continuing to fall. In late May, we started swabbing every single admission to the hospitals, and this is where things get interesting. I work in a department that isn’t respiratory medicine. This means that the patients who are in our area are there for other health issues that are not caused by COVID-19 (think surgery or mental health). Of those we swabbed, just 1% tested positive and all of them were asymptomatic. That rate has been steady since May 23rd. I believe that our patients are representative of the rate in the UK population and, for what it’s worth, it’s the same story in Manchester, Leeds and Guildford, where I’ve been comparing notes with colleagues. Unpublished data shared on an open forum from Leeds, Manchester, Sussex also confirms this – 1%, all asymptomatic when testing positive. These patients have, almost without exception, not developed any symptoms, although some have had household members with a cough.

So why the panic? Pillar 2 data. But there’s a problem with Pillar 2 data.

The point of “Lockdown” has always been to ‘flatten the curve’ in order to ‘Protect the NHS’. Given we were coping on March 31st, when we had nearly ten times the number of positive cases in hospitals, with relatively little access to testing, we are certainly coping now. The issue and alleged cause of the “Local Lockdown” is our Pillar 2 numbers. These are the community tests outsourced to private companies. There is no guarantee that these tests are all taken from different people (unlike the Pillar 1 data, which is cross checked against a unique patient identifier). In fact, the Government accepts that the number of Pillar 2 cases is not the same as the number of people with COVID-19 because Pillar 2 data includes people who’ve been tested more than once – often because they have to re-test before they’re allowed back to work.

In other words, the “evidence” that cases are increasing at a dangerous rate in Leicester – or were, since even the Government acknowledges that even Pillar 2 data show the number of cases is falling now – is unreliable. And Dr Q doesn’t even get into the problem of false positives with PCR tests.

Dr Q points out that even if we decide to accept the Pillar 2 data at face value it shows the average age of all these newly infected people is 39, so there’s almost zero risk of them dying from COVID-19 anyway. And he/she highlights the sheer lunacy of closing schools, given that almost no children have died of COVID-19 across the United Kingdom.

But here’s the best part – or, rather, the worst part. Matt Hancock’s track-and-trace Johnnies have only managed to track 11 of the estimated 900 new cases in Leicester. Eleven! I’m fairly cynical when it comes to the DHSC’s track-and-trace capacity, but 11? That’s quite something.

Anyway, this is great whistleblowing piece which this courageous doctor has written at some personal risk. I’ve given it a slot on the right-hand side under “What Percentage of the Population Has Been Infected?”

Worth reading in full.

Postcard from Salzburg

A message from a reader who’s just returned from Austria:

I just read today’s letter and noted the letter from a reader who has gone to Switzerland to get away. We have just returned – accepting a totally unjustified 14 day self-quarantine on return in order to do so – from 10 days in Salzburg.

I cannot begin to describe what it felt like to be in a sane country. We met friends, we went to restaurants. we shopped (and nobody took away anything we touched for 72 hours sanitisation), we enjoyed room service (room service!) and we lived like normal people. I even had a dental appointment – something that has been impossible in the UK unless you want to practice 18th century dentistry. I can’t tell you how good for the soul it was to feel again among normal people – we humans are social animals and this abnormal social distancing has been one of the key dehumanising factors in the whole Covid lockdown debacle.

Returning to the UK, we find that little seems to have changed, despite the fact that July 4th is supposed to be the UK’s Independence Day.

Spot the Difference

A psychotic anti-capitalist prepares to unleash hell. But who’s the gentleman on the left?

A Scottish reader points out the uncanny similarity between Bane, the psychotic super-villain in Batman Rises, and Nicola Sturgeon.

The peg, of course, is that Scotland’s First Minister has just announced that face coverings will be mandatory in shops.

This is how my reader put it:

In Scotland, we’ve just had the bad news that Nicola Sturgeon, aka “The Mad Wee Krankie”, now wants to force us all, via legal threats, to wear face masks in shops. I spoke to the owner of the new Spar corner shop that’s just opened in our village and she was in tears, as she fears that’ll destroy her business just as it’s started — people will vote with their feet and just order online.

So to lighten the mood, I just noticed a strange likeness between our Farce Minister and, well, you’ll see …

Lockdown: Conspiracy or Cock-Up?

Got an email from a reader who was slightly taken aback to discover some of his friends – educated professionals, like him – are now entertaining conspiracy theories about the lockdown.

Lockdown: Conspiracy or Cock-Up?Just been away for a couple of days to stay with some of our oldest friends. They threw the lockdown out of the window weeks ago. It was interesting to hear them say how the lockdown has been such a fiasco, such a pointless farce, etc., etc., that therefore there must be a cynical government subtext going on such as a pretext to amass data about people, personal details, and so on as the only possible explanation for the greatest example of peacetime self-destruction in British history. Their adult sons share these views. They’re all educated professionals. I wonder how much this will evolve in people’s minds as the basis for resistance and subversion? Personally, I prefer the thesis that it’s entirely based on total incompetence, but the outcome may well be the same.

For what it’s worth, my 35-year career in journalism has left me a strong believer in the cock-up theory.

Sea Wolf

Email from a reader who’s found a nice way to get away from all the madness:

I have been feeling very angry and sad with the constant bedwetting decrees but more so by my parents’ curtain-twitching neighbours. This outbreak of authoritarianism and snitching is so dispiriting. So I’ve done what all good sailors do – sailed my boat (alone) from Scotland to the Scilly Isles. It has been wonderful to be out at sea and remembering what it’s like to be a free person who weighs risk and makes judgments all the time. I can’t imagine that loathsome creature Hancock has ever had to decide whether to take in an extra reef when the seas are getting up and the gunwales are dipping from the excess heel!

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers

One suggestion today: “Paracetamoxyfrusebendroneomycin” by Amateur Transplants.

Small Businesses That Have Re-opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, along with everything else, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And Finally…

In homage to Dr Q’s revelation that Matt Hancock’s track-and-trace team have so far managed to locate just 11 of the 900 new cases in Leicester, I am reproducing the cover of the latest Ladybird book. Slightly misleading though because a couple of tin cans and a piece of string would actually be much more effective than anything the NHSX has come up with so far.

Latest News

“Okay children, let’s all pretend to be kamikaze pilots as a homage to my political career.”

First the good news. All schools will re-open in full in September, the Government has declared. No, really. They will.

Now the bad news. They won’t. At least, not if all schools are expected to comply with the voluminous and entirely pointless guidance the Government has issued today. The BBC has a summary and we’re talking about a veritable forest of red tape. All entirely pointless, of course.

  • Grouping children together in groups or “bubbles”, one per class in primaries and one per year group in secondaries
  • Avoiding contact in school between these groups, with separate starting, finishing, lunch and break times
  • Attendance compulsory with the threat of penalty fines
  • Test and trace in place for schools
  • Regular cleaning of hands, but masks not expected for pupils or staff
  • Those with symptoms told to stay out of school
  • No big group events like school assemblies and arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
  • Separate groups on school buses and discouraging the use of public transport
  • Pupils will be expected to continue with all their GCSEs and A-levels
  • Emphasis on Maths and English in primaries and in Year 7 of secondaries

Readers of lockdown sceptics may not know this, but I co-founded four schools and have been a Chair of Governors, a Chair of a multi-academy trust and CEO of a multi-academy trust. So I know a thing or two about running schools. And believe me when I tell you that complying with some of these “safety measures” will be flat out impossible.

Take the guideline about lunch and break times. Staggered break times are notoriously difficult to manage, but staggered lunch times? Forget it. Suppose the school in question is a two-form entry primary. That means 14 different classes or “bubbles”. How on earth can you have 14 different lunch sittings over the course of an hour? Just managing it with two separate sittings is a logistical nightmare and often means lunch over-runs, thereby eating into the first period of the afternoon. But 14? Cloud cuckoo land. Even doing that over the entire school day would be a logistical nightmare. These guidelines, like so much that comes out of the Department for Education, have been written by a group of bureaucrats who have never set foot in a school and haven’t a clue about how to run one.

The teaching unions have already said the guidelines are going to be “enormously challenging” to implement, i.e. impossible. So “Down tools, comrades” as per usual. Or rather, “Don’t bother picking up your tools until you’re satisfied that your school is going to comply with every jot and tittle of this guidance, comrades.” Not much hope of headteachers getting behind them either – they’ve described them as “mind-boggling“.

Back to watching The Last Dance on Netflix for teachers, in other words.

And even if a school somehow manages to hack its way through this red tape, there’s the ridiculous rule that if two or more children test positive for the virus, the entire school will probably have to close! What a complete nonsense.

In the Telegraph, Angela Epstein asks, what is the point of Gavin Williamson? Incredibly, she manages to spend 1,000 words answering this question.

If I was the Education Secretary I’d scrap all the guidance and replace it with four words: Use your common sense.

Prague Throws End-of-Lockdown Party

Residents dine at a 500-metre-long table spanning across the length of the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague (David W Cerny/Reuters)

Inspiring story in today’s Independent about Prague.

Prague has celebrated a self-proclaimed end to its coronavirus epidemic – by throwing a massive party attended by thousands of people all sharing food and without any social distancing.

The Czech capital held the unorthodox gathering to say a “symbolic farewell” to the infection and to show residents should no longer be scared to meet with friends or visit local businesses.

A 500 metre table was set up on the famous Charles Bridge with people packed along it swapping snacks and drinks brought from home.

Dancing and singing were enjoyed as local musicians played in the open streets.

The event was held despite some 260 new COVID-19 cases being found in the country last week. Fears that such an event could become a super-spreader if just a few undiagnosed sufferers turned up were apparently dismissed.

I like that note of alarmism at the end. Two hundred and sixty news cases in a week out of a population of 10.7 million. Ooh, mother!

People of Leicester, I look forward to you following suit.

World At One – and Matthew Parris – Embraces Scepticism!

Matthew Parris: Born Again Lockdown Sceptic

It seems as if the sleeping broadcasters are finally waking up to the fact that the lockdown may – just may – have been a mistake.

Matthew Parris was interviewed on the World at One today and said he’s changed his mind and now thinks we should have stuck with herd immunity.

Matthew Parris: I think the herd immunity idea was right, right from the start and I think in the end the whole world is going to develop some kind of immunity from this and it won’t mean some people won’t still get it but its not going to rage through the population as it has been doing.

Sarah Montague: So ultimately do you think we’ll look at Sweden with envy?

MP: I think it’s going to be a very long time before anybody admits that they were wrong and I suppose I should include people like me in that analysis. But I think the Swedes who stuck to the course on which we started out and then lost our nerve will turn out to have done at least no more harm to their population than the Norwegians or the Danes have.

That was refreshing enough, but the Parris interview was immediately followed by one with Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford and longstanding lockdown sceptic. He was even better!

Carl Heneghan: The death rates as they currently stand have diminished. This is a radically different disease than what it was a few months ago. About six per cent of all people in hospital were dying then. Now it’s down to about one per cent. So the key about lockdown is that it’s a very blunt tool and it should be used for one reason and one reason only because the health system is becoming overwhelmed. What we see in Leicester is an increase in the number of people coming forward for testing and a small increase of the number of people with Covid. I would say right now it’s a very blunt tool and a mistake for us to be locking down in Leicester. It’s a perfect opportunity to let the test-and-trace system start working and in fact we’ve seen a 30% reduction in cases in the last week already so it is having an effect.

The next interviewee was with Allyson Pollock, former Director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle. She too was a sceptic!

Last up was Professor Julien Legrande – also sceptical.

Julian Le Grand: You have to be careful about applying the precautionary principle. Epidemiologists tend to operate very much on the precautionary principle, which basically says, “Look if you’ve got no data, no information, if you’ve got a dreadful risk of some calamity, better to be safe than sorry.” Which makes a great deal of sense at the first stages, but of course what it doesn’t take account of are the costs involved and what you do when you’ve got a little more data. We’re now in a situation where actually we do have a little more data. Your previous speakers have been talking about the Leicester situation. Well, we do now know that infection rate in Leicester is incredibly low it has to be said. It’s something like 140 out of 100,000 which is 0.14%. I mean this is a tiny risk and I, in agreement with your previous speakers, think it’s certainly not worth the costs involved in locking down the entire city.

Le Grand went on to say the fatality risk for under-45s was “virtually zero”.

You can listen to the entire parade of sceptics from the 20 minute mark here.

What a pleasant change.

The Ethics of Lockdown

Good post in Hector Drummond Magazine on the ethics of lockdown by Tim James. Here’s a taster:

Deaths from COVID-19 are deaths from natural causes, wherever you believe the virus originated. The Government does not have a responsibility to prevent these at any cost, despite their repeated pledges to do “whatever it takes” to beat the virus.

Conversely, deaths resulting from the lockdown will be deaths resulting from reckless human intervention. Those deaths are their moral responsibility. The Government has no moral authority to sacrifice the lives of those at little or no risk in the uncertain hope of saving the lives of those who are.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Comedy

What’s the difference between COVID-19 and Romeo and Juliet? One’s a coronavirus and the other is a Verona crisis.

Getting Away From It All

I got an email from a reader who has escaped Britain for Switzerland and is relieved to somewhere comparatively sane.

Having got thoroughly fed up with the ongoing government insanity, my wife and I decided last week to escape Stalagluft UK and booked up flights to Switzerland. We managed to get some travel insurance despite the blanket FCO “advice” and are spending a couple of days in Geneva. Then we are moving on to the German speaking area in the Bernese Oberland and then Berne itself. While Terminal 5 and the BA flight this morning gave us our first experience of having to wear masks for hours, Geneva is a revelation. The hotel has taken away the mini bar, but otherwise it all feels blissfully normal. The streets are full of shoppers, the bars and restaurants are full and relaxed. Friends greet each other in the streets with hugs and kisses. Hard to imagine anything similar at home. It feels surreally different from the UK – the thought of 10 days away from Matt Hancock and the rest of the gang is more relaxing than an all-inclusive spa break.

Sounds quite tempting. However, I think Mrs Young has settled on the Dolemites. Just a bit nervy about the EasyJet flights being cancelled 24 hours beforehand…

Great Quote

A reader has pointed out that I included a great quote from Richard Klein in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. That book, about my misadventures in New York, was published in 2001 (and made into a film in 2008). But this quote could not be more relevant.

We are in the midst of one of those periodic moments of repression, when the culture, descended from Puritans, imposes its hysterical visions and enforces its guilty constraints on society, legislating moral judgements under the guise of public health, all the while enlarging the power of surveillance and the reach of censorship to achieve a general restriction of freedom.

Richard Klein

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tune Suggestions From Readers

Two suggestions today: “Stay Free” by The Clash and “Mad World” by Tears for Fears.

Small Businesses That Have Re-opened

A few weeks 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. 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. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, along with everything else, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And if you’d like to join the Free Speech Union, please click here. I’ve talked about the tsunami of censorship we’re facing in my Spectator column today.

And Finally…

In my monthly column for Spectator USA, I’ve documented some of the people who’ve been cancelled in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Never in the field of human conflict has so much misery been caused to so many by so few.

I’m thinking of the hard-left rage mobs that have been policing the public square since the beginning of June — quite literally in the case of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle. I’ve been keeping a list of all the people who have suffered catastrophic career damage because they’ve fallen foul of the Red Guards — and it’s growing ‘exponentially’, as a virologist might say. Like the COVID illness at its peak, it has been doubling every two to three days.

Some of the victims have been people you’d expect to lose their heads in this cultural revolution. Nigel Farage, for instance, the former leader of the Brexit party, who lost his job as a radio presenter in London within 48 hours of comparing statue-destroying protesters to the Taliban.

Others have been canceled, not for anything they’ve said, but because those close to them have breached a taboo — like the LA Galaxy midfielder Aleksandar Katai, who was ‘released’ by the club after his wife captioned a photo on Instagram of a looter carrying boxes out of a shoe store with the words ‘Black Nikes Matter’.

But by far the largest group of victims have been white liberals in their forties or fifties who have made the mistake of genuflecting to the BLM protesters. They’ve issued pro forma statements of solidarity that have been judged insufficiently pious by their more enlightened peers. They took a knee, as it were, when what they should have done was throw themselves to the ground and beg for forgiveness.

And if you want a longer list, there’s always the one I’ve been compiling for the Free Speech Union’s Twitter feed. Now up to 50…