Today’s Update

Sunday, 18th April 2021

Would Cameron Have Handled the Covid Crisis Better Than Boris?

By Toby Young

David Cameron is in the doghouse at the moment, thanks to his lobbying efforts on behalf of Greensill, a company in which he had a commercial interest and which collapsed earlier this year. Many of the commentators writing about Cameron’s current difficulties have presented it as the latest episode in the ongoing psychodrama between him and Boris, seeing in Boris’s reluctance to come to the former Prime Minister’s aid yet more evidence of the long-standing rivalry between the two. I co-produced a docudrama about that subject for Channel 4 in 2009 called When Boris Met Dave that you can watch here. The dramatised bits are rubbish, but the interviews are very good.

Consequently, I was interested to read a blog post by Russell David about how different the past 13 months might have been had Cameron been Prime Minister instead of Boris. His hypothesis – not too far fetched in my view – is that Cameron would have made a better fist of things. In particular, he would have stuck to the UK Government’s Pandemic Preparedness Strategy and not succumbed to the domestic and international pressure to impose a lockdown. He would have kept his head, when all about him were losing theirs. Well, “all” apart from Stefan Löfven, the Swedish Prime Minister.

Russell’s post, published on his Mad World blog, takes the form of a month-by-month diary, chronicling how events might have unfolded had Cameron been in charge. Here are the entries for August, September and October:

August 2020
Covid rates are now very low in the UK but Cameron, advised by medical experts like Sunetra Gupta, John Lee and Carl Heneghan, puts plans in place for the NHS to cope in the coming months for a possible resurgence of what seems, according to worldwide data, to be a virus strongly linked with seasonality. Thousands of nurses are put on training courses for working in ICU wards so the health service will be prepared when winter arrives. Cameron has rejected plans for widespread testing of healthy people as he is aware of a ‘casedemic’ of false positives that will frighten people, and he has not spent £22 billion on a ‘Track and Trace’ system because he has been advised that it would be pointless in a non-totalitarian state and when a virus is endemic. Looking at the government’s own data he sees that international travel and hospitality are responsible for just a tiny fraction of Covid infections, so has no plans to shut either down; he realises in a grim year people still need some pleasures.

September 2020
Just as Cameron raged at “green crap”, he now rages at the “Covid death within 28 days of a positive test crap”, and the time period is reduced to one week. Under his Government, it has remained the case that two doctors have to sign the death certificate, not one, as happened in a loopy alternate reality from March 2020. The government heavily promotes its ‘Myth Buster’ website, which focuses on things like the lack of evidence for Covid being spread by fomite transmission (germs left on objects), to calm the populace.

October 2020
Officials seek to reassure young people worried about the virus. “You are literally at more danger of carking it by putting your trousers on!” goes one light-hearted public health advert with a cartoon of a purple pair of flares. It is criticised for frivolity, but statisticians point out that it is technically correct – more teenagers die every year putting their trousers on (and, presumably, falling over and hitting their head) than would die in the same period from Covid-related illness. When Piers Morgan rages that Covid is like Spanish Flu, new health secretary Iain Duncan Smith calmly comes out with the following: “The median age of victim of the Spanish Flu was 28; with Covid it is 82. Spanish Flu claimed 3% of the world’s population; Covid has claimed around 0.04%, and 94% of those had an average of 2.6 co-morbidities. Covid has an average survival rate of 99.75%, much higher for those under 65.” Such measured words help to reassure the nation and dampen mental health troubles that many had been risk of succumbing to.

Clearly, Russell’s counter-factual history is an idealised version of what might have been – no doubt Cameron wouldn’t have been quite this sensible. But it’s an entertaining read nonetheless.

Worth reading in full.

If Lockdowns are Needed, Why Did More People Die in U.S. States Which Locked Down Than Those Which Did Not?

By Will Jones

One of the great things about America is that it has 50 states that can set their own policy across a broad range of areas, including on public health and lockdowns. This has allowed some to resist the stampede to impose swingeing restrictions on normal life in the hope of limiting transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and this provides us with a valuable control group in the great lockdown experiment that can give us an idea what might have happened if we hadn’t made some intervention or other.

During the autumn and winter a new surge in Covid infections prompted most US states, like most Western countries, to reimpose restrictions. But a few resisted. Eleven states did not impose a stay-at-home order and left people at liberty to leave their homes whenever they wished. Of these, four – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota – did not impose any restrictions at all and treated it pretty much like any other winter.

Although there are various differences between states that might have affected Covid outcomes, because they all form part of one country there are enough similarities to make comparisons useful. In particular, if lockdowns are effective and necessary to prevent hundreds of thousands of extra deaths (or the equivalent for the size of the population), then those states which didn’t lock down should have a far worse death toll. If the death tolls are not much worse, but about the same (or better), then lockdowns cannot be having a large impact on preventing Covid deaths.

In the chart above I have used data from Worldometer to plot the current total Covid deaths per million for each state. I have coloured the 11 states which did not lock down (i.e., impose a stay-at-home order) this winter in red. I have also calculated the average for the two groups of states, those which did not lock down over the winter and those which did, and coloured them in yellow.

As you can see, states which did not lock down over the winter, far from having many times more Covid deaths, have actually had fewer – 1,671 vs 1,736 deaths per million. There may be demographic or other reasons that some states have a higher or lower number of deaths than others so we shouldn’t read too much into the precise differences. But even so, if lockdowns are supposed to suppress the virus to low levels and thus prevent ‘hundreds of thousands’ of deaths (or the population equivalent), then how is this possible? The only conclusion is that lockdowns do not work as intended and do not suppress the virus.

This conclusion is reinforced by looking at the death tolls in the four states which imposed no restrictions at all over the winter, the average of which is 1,716 deaths per million, which is still below that of those which imposed lockdowns (1,736). Florida reopened in the autumn, Georgia and South Carolina in the spring of 2020, and South Dakota never closed. Yet overall they have suffered fewer Covid deaths per million than the states which imposed stay-at-home lockdowns this winter.

Those academic teams which produce models predicting doom for places which don’t impose the measures they recommend should be challenged to apply their models to these states and hindcast the last winter. Any model which cannot accurately reproduce the known outcomes for these states should be calibrated until it can. Otherwise, if it can’t get the answer right for the past, why should we trust it for the future?

The modelling teams at Warwick, Imperial and LSHTM can be found on Twitter (as can LSHTM’s Adam Kucharski) if anyone feels like putting these questions to them.

U.S. States Say They Are Running Out of People Willing to Take a Covid Vaccine

By Michael Curzon

Reports of low Covid vaccine uptake have mainly come from the Continent in recent months – largely due to fears about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s links to blood clots. But vaccine hesitancy now seems to be spreading in America, where a number of states say they are running out of people willing to take a Covid vaccine.

On Tuesday, Federal health agencies called for the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine (which has already been given to nearly seven million Americans) to be paused immediately due to some recipients developing rare blood clotting disorders within two weeks of being vaccinated. The vaccine is also under investigation by Europe’s medicines regulator. Cases of blood clotting among those who have received the J&J vaccine are likely to have contributed to vaccination refusal rates in the US, in the same way that similar fears regarding the AZ vaccine have added complications to Europe’s rollout. The Mail has the story.

The U.S. supply of Covid vaccines is beginning to rapidly outpace demand, as appointments remain unfilled across the country and states say they are running out of people willing to get the shots.

As of Friday, 49% of U.S. adults had received at least one vaccine dose…

Health officials have suggested that the country needs to achieve a vaccination rate of 70% to 90% to achieve coronavirus herd immunity, the point at which a virus no longer circulates freely because it cannot find susceptible hosts…

On Friday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a desperate plea for residents to get vaccinated, as clinics in the state reported hundreds, if not thousands, of available appointments that were not being filled each day…

She said the fact that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s nursing home workers have declined the vaccine is further evidence of “how far we have to go and how much of a challenge overcoming this vaccine hesitancy will be in the near future”.

Vaccination rates are so low in some states that their leaders are considering various “creative” ways of increasing uptake.

Louisiana has gotten creative in its vaccine push, with brass bands playing at a 24-hour drive-thru coronavirus vaccine event, and doses delivered to commercial fishermen minutes from the docks…

Alaska’s health department is weighing creating vaccine clinics in airports. 

Ohio’s health agency asked vaccine providers to develop sites near bus stops and to consider offering mobile immunization services. 

In Connecticut, the health department launched an effort to call residents directly to schedule appointments. 

Mississippi is working with local organizations to bring vaccinations directly to homebound elderly people. 

Alabama’s health agency surveyed vaccine reluctance to determine how it should craft messaging to appeal to the hesitant.

Polling in the States suggests that only around 60% of Americans would like to receive a vaccine right away. Others would prefer to “wait and see”.

A recent survey from KFF found that just 61% of adults say they have either received the vaccine or want to as soon as possible.

Another 17% want to “wait and see” while 13% said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated. 7% said they would only get the shot if required.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Immunity “Won’t Just Disappear” in Face Of Covid Variants, Says JCVI Member

By Michael Curzon

A member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says claims that the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown could be “scuppered” by Covid variants are “pessimistic”, saying that the immunity gained from vaccines “won’t just disappear”. The Evening Standard has the story.

Imported coronavirus variants are unlikely to set lockdown easing back to “square one” because immunity from vaccines “won’t just disappear”, according to a key figure on the UK’s immunisation committee.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, said he expected a “gradual erosion” of vaccine protection as the virus evolves but not enough to “scupper” the Prime Minister’s road map, as one leading scientist had predicted.

Imperial College’s Danny Altmann said on Friday that “we should be terribly concerned” about the discovery of 77 cases of the Indian Covid variant in Britain. He is quoted in a Sky News report:

[Covid variants] are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry.

But Professor Finn of the JCVI said he thought the immunology expert’s assessment was “a bit pessimistic”.

We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start.

I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.

It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened.

So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.

He added, however, that “we’re going to need to continue to be really quite careful” and that many aspects of life, including overseas travel, “won’t go back to normal yet” as we need to “avoid moving the virus around”.

The Evening Standard’s report is worth reading in full.

Almost 15% Of English Health Service Workers Remain Unvaccinated

By Michael Curzon

Reports are emerging that many health service workers in England are refusing the vaccine, as the numbers coming forward to receive a Covid jab have fallen significantly over the past couple of weeks. But despite (or, perhaps, because of) an ongoing Government consultation into making Covid vaccinations mandatory for care staff (which would likely extend into other health-related fields), opposition to coercing staff in this manner appears to be growing. The Guardian has the story.

Nearly 15% of health service workers in England remain unvaccinated, and the numbers coming forward for a jab have decreased sharply in the last two weeks, NHS figures have revealed, prompting concerns that many frontline staff are refusing the vaccine.

But health leaders, patients’ groups and unions have been quick to dismiss any suggestion of mandatory vaccinations after it emerged that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, had embarked on a plan before the pandemic to make flu vaccinations compulsory for NHS staff.

The latest figures show that only 6,259 NHS staff in England had their first dose in the seven days before April 11th, down from 11,483 the previous week and substantially lower than the average of 22,985 per week during March. Now 190,697 workers out of 1,378,502 directly employed by the NHS remain unprotected against the coronavirus, four months after they became eligible for vaccination. The figures do not include agency workers, and will include some under-45s who are not frontline staff and are still waiting their turn.

Some NHS trusts would like to introduce mandatory vaccination because they believe efforts to persuade remaining staff are a distraction from other important tasks such as tackling the enormous waiting lists that have grown during the lockdowns.

Lesley Watts, the Chief Executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust, wrote to other NHS trusts with a draft letter to staff saying Covid vaccination would be mandatory. After the letter was leaked, Watts said there was “no intention to mandate vaccination of our staff”, but did not explain why the letter was written or distributed.

Hancock was a strident critic of anti-vaxxer movements before the pandemic, and told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in 2019 that he favoured making vaccinations compulsory for all childhood diseases. He then asked civil servants at the Department of Health and Social Care to work out how to make flu vaccines mandatory for NHS staff. The DHSC did not say if the proposal was still being considered.

In perhaps the biggest intervention on the question of mandatory vaccination for health service workers yet, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) – which has a membership of 450,000 registered nurses – said in a statement released on Friday that health and social care staff should not be “coerced” into having a Covid vaccine.

Like the wider population, health and care staff are a diverse group and there are both physical and societal barriers for some on the take up for the vaccine. 

The RCN do not support staff being made or coerced into having the vaccine. Staff vaccination should not be used as part of staff contracts, it should not be a condition of employment or part of employment contracts, linked to terms and conditions of employment or to pay.

The RCN do not believe that this approach is effective in improving uptake of vaccination in staff. The RCN recommend that all organisations have a proactive approach and make sure their staff have easy access to the vaccine within the working day. Staff should also have access to support with the right information, encouragement and clear explanation of the benefit and value of the vaccine. These measures will help to achieve a high vaccine uptake.

The Guardian’s report is worth reading in full.

Pregnant Women Should Be Offered Covid Vaccine, New Government Advice Says

By Michael Curzon

Pregnant women should be offered a Covid vaccine at any stage of their pregnancy, according to new Government advice. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that it is “preferable” for pregnant women to be “offered” the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines “where available” due to there being more “real-world data” from the US on these vaccines. The AstraZeneca vaccine (the primary Covid vaccine in the Government’s rollout) will, however, still be administered where an alternative is not available, despite the JCVI saying that “more research is needed” on this vaccine because pregnant women were not included in trials. It will “continue to closely monitor” the impact of the AZ vaccine on pregnant women as it is administered. BBC News has the story.

Pregnant women should be offered a Covid jab when other people their age get one, the UK’s vaccine advisers say.

They say the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferable because data from the US in 90,000 pregnant women has not raised any safety concerns.

Up until now, only women with underlying health conditions or those whose risk of exposure to the virus was high were eligible…

The JCVI now advises that pregnant women should all be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available, at the same time as the rest of the population. 

They are encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccines with their doctor before making the appointment, but it is not a requirement.

“There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed,” it added.

Currently, there is a lack of data on the AstraZeneca vaccine in pregnancy because pregnant women were not included in trials, but the JCVI says more evidence may be forthcoming in the near future…

Women who are planning pregnancy or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group, the JCVI said.

It said it would closely monitor the evidence on Covid vaccination in pregnancy and update its advice as required.

Worth reading in full.

Young People Should Not be Strong-Armed Into Getting Vaccinated

By Toby Young

We’re publishing an original piece today by Bella Wallersteiner, a Senior Parliamentary Assistant, setting out the case against trying to induce young people to get the jab by making entry to pubs/clubs/festivals conditional on showing a ‘Covid Status Certificate’. Here is an extract:

After a year in which many young people have lost their jobs, missed out great chunks of the curriculum in schools and universities and were forbidden from seeing their friends, coercing them into taking the jab is a perverse strategy. Altruistic young people worked in food banks, collected medicine and went shopping for elderly neighbours who were shielding or, inspired by the example of Captain Tom Moore, raised funds for the NHS. Instead of receiving praise for demonstrating resilience and kindness, young people are now being maligned for showing ambivalence in coming forward to take a vaccine which may do them harm. More needs to be done to convince them that the vaccine is safe and effective and that the eradication of COVID-19 requires all citizens to join together in an act of solidarity.

Once vaccines for under-30s get the green light, the Government needs to come up with a new social contract for young people. What is the duty of a young person to society? Does a young adult have a moral obligation to protect an older one? The message should be that society is the glue which binds us together in a moral compact which transcends self-interest. By getting the vaccine you are helping the community at large. Young people should want to take the vaccine because they have decided that it is the right thing to do for their own health and for the safety of others. They should not be bullied into taking the vaccine out of fear of becoming second-class citizens or because they will be denied the pleasures of techno, house and trance dance music in clubs. The Government must treat young people like grown-ups and be prepared to have an adult conversation with them. The Prime Minister, who is such an effective communicator, particularly when addressing young people, should deliver a special broadcast specifically targeting UK citizens under 30 who have given up so much over the last year. He should thank them for their solidarity and support and exhort them to make one final collective effort to beat COVID-19 by having the vaccine. If this doesn’t happen, the whole project to eradicate the scourge of coronavirus could stumble at the last fence.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up

By Jonathan Barr

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Thirteen today: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five, “Down on the Street” by the Stooges, “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me” by David Bowie, “Just Breathe” by Willie Nelson, “I’m So Free” by Lou Reed, “That’s the Way” by Led Zeppelin, “Come Together” by the Beatles, “I Want More” by Chumbawamba, “Survivors” by the Levellers, “Getting Better” by Steve Hillage, “I Want My Life To Begin” by Freeborn and “I Feel Free” by Cream.

Love in the Time of Covid

Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd in They Came Together

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email Lockdown Sceptics here.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we draw your attention to Michigan State University’s forthcoming Spring Conference on how teachers can get the most out of their students. According to the invitation it is offering something new this year: racially segregated break-out sessions.

We invite attendees to participate in an affinity group during the Student Success Spring Conference. Affinity (or caucus) groups provide spaces for people to work within their own identity groups. To advance racial equity, there is work for white people and people of colour to do separately and together. For white people, an affinity group provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. For people of colour, a caucus is a place to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalised racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation.

There will be an affinity group for white folx and an affinity group for people of colour. The focus of the affinity groups will align with the theme of our featured keynote speakers listed below. Each group will be led by trained facilitators to engage in dialogue utilising a set of prompts.

If you are interested in participating in an affinity group, please complete the interest form below. You will receive Zoom information and additional details in the immediate future. When you receive the Zoom information, we are asking participants to opt into the affinity group that aligns with their racial identity. This is not the opportunity for white folx to engage in the POC affinity space and vice versa.

Stop Press: Brearley, an exclusive private school in Manhattan that charges parents upwards of $50,000 a year to educate their daughters, lost one of its pupils recently after her father decided he’d had enough. He set out his reasons for withdrawing his daughter from the school in a letter to his fellow parents that’s been published on Bari Weis’s substack blog.

Dear Fellow Brearley Parents, 

Our family recently made the decision not to reenroll our daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. She has been at Brearley for seven years, beginning in kindergarten. In short, we no longer believe that Brearley’s administration and Board of Trustees have any of our children’s best interests at heart. Moreover, we no longer have confidence that our daughter will receive the quality of education necessary to further her development into a critically thinking, responsible, enlightened, and civic minded adult. I write to you, as a fellow parent, to share our reasons for leaving the Brearley community but also to urge you to act before the damage to the school, to its community, and to your own child’s education is irreparable. 

It cannot be stated strongly enough that Brearley’s obsession with race must stop. It should be abundantly clear to any thinking parent that Brearley has completely lost its way. The administration and the Board of Trustees have displayed a cowardly and appalling lack of leadership by appeasing an anti-intellectual, illiberal mob, and then allowing the school to be captured by that same mob. What follows are my own personal views on Brearley’s antiracism initiatives, but these are just a handful of the criticisms that I know other parents have expressed. 

I object to the view that I should be judged by the colour of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the colour of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin colour and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died. 

 I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. Ask any girl, of any race, if they have ever experienced insults from friends, have ever felt slighted by teachers or have ever suffered the occasional injustice from a school at which they have spent up to 13 years of their life, and you are bound to hear grievances, some petty, some not. We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today’s societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: The New York Times published a guide last week to ‘neopronouns’ – the gender-neutral pronouns that young enlightened people are using to signal how woke they are.

A personal pronoun is a form of speech that stands in for a person or group of people. She is having opinions online; they are fighting in the comments; and, of course, as in the Prince song made famous by Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

Nonbinary pronouns, as well – often the singular “they” and “them” – have become widespread. A 2019 Pew Research study found already that one in five Americans knew someone who uses nonbinary pronouns.

And then there are neopronouns.

A neopronoun can be a word a created to serve as pronoun without expressing gender, like “ze” and “zir.”

A neopronoun can also be a so-called “noun-self pronoun”, in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns can refer to animals – so your pronouns can be “bun/bunself” and “kitten/kittenself”. Others refer to fantasy characters – “vamp/vampself”, “prin/cess/princesself”, “fae/faer/faeself” – or even just common slang, like “Innit/Innits/Innitself”.

Worth reading in full so you understand the gibberish your children are talking at the kitchen table.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

A paper by Baruch Vainshelboim, published in Medical Hypotheses, argues that neither medical nor non-medical facemasks are effective in blocking human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2, and that in the long run, and that they are likely to damage individual health.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: The Covid Clarity twitter account makes a pertinent point: There doesn’t appear to be any correlation between mask mandates and Covid infection rates.

Stop Press 2: A new podcast from Deutsche Welle examines whether, given that the chance of infection outdoors is 1 in 1,000, wearing masks outdoors does more harm than good.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here.

Covid19 Assembly Launches Investigation into the Attribution of Covid Deaths

Covid19 Assembly has announced that it is setting up a national audit with the goal of investigating every official UK Covid death. The audit will be overseen by pathologist Dr Clare Craig. The initiative has been launched in the wake of increasing reports from family members of their loved ones’ deaths being recorded as due to Covid when they hadn’t tested positive, had no symptoms or had a terminal illness.

With the Coronavirus Act sidelining inquests, testing inefficiencies and pressure on medical staff – as well as the Government’s policy of counting any death as a Covid death if it occurred within 28 days of a positive test – people have raised concerns that the official Covid death toll of over 120,000 could be incorrect.

The issue hit the headlines recently when the Daily Mail’s Bel Mooney wrote about the death of her father, prompting many others to speak out. The Covid19 Assembly’s team will comprise experienced health professionals, researchers, data analysts and legal experts. They will be collecting and analysing evidence with the aim of ascertaining to what extent (if any) official figures have been skewed.

Bereaved family members, medical professionals, registrars, funeral directors and anyone else who has information which may be relevant are invited to get in touch in confidence via the organization’s website at www.covid19assembly.org/covid-deaths-audit. Since launching, the Audit has proven popular with the public. A large amount of information and many personal stories have poured in and Twitter users around the world have called for similar schemes to be launched as far afield as Ireland, Canada and the USA.

Covid19 Assembly was founded in September 2020 to provide accurate data to the public and to serve as a centrepoint for groups requiring neutral, evidence-based information on a wide range of matters concerning the Covid crisis. The Assembly’s advisors include Dr Craig, Harvard Professor of Medicine Dr. Martin Kulldorff, barrister Francis Hoar, and Lockdown Sceptics’ editor Toby Young. Any Lockdown Sceptics readers and BTL commenters are welcome to volunteer to help. Please contact them via their website.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s nightlife tsar, who, along with Hugh Osmond, is bringing a Judicial Review against the Government for letting non-essential businesses open on April 12th, but not hospitality

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. However, the High Court has now scheduled an oral permissions hearing – the last throw of the dice. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Lawyers for more than 2,000 families who lost loved ones during the pandemic are taking legal action to try to force the Prime Minister to hold an immediate public inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis. The group, called COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, is seeking permission for a Judicial Review. The group’s lawyers are arguing that the Government has a duty under human rights law to hold an urgent judge-led statutory inquiry, because there is evidence that thousands of people died needlessly as a result of decisions taken by ministers. You can read more about that group and contribute to the fundraiser here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Read more about that here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations judicially reviewed the decision of the Scottish Government to close churches, supported by the Christian Legal Centre. The church leaders argued that it was a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion. The review was upheld, with the judge ruling on March 23rd, 2021 that that the Scottish Ministers’ decision to ban and criminalise gathered worship was unconstitutional and a disproportionate interference in worshippers Article 9 ECHR rights. Read more about the victory here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request which has now been rejected. The Jerm Warfare blog has published an interview with Reiner Fuellmich about his plans to take the World Health Organisation, and others, to court for “crimes against humanity”.

Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and a former director of Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, have submitted a claim for a Judicial Review about the fact that indoor hospitality venues have to remain closed for weeks longer than non-essential shops in England. The Government’s attempts to stall until pubs, restaurants and cafés are scheduled to reopen in full have proved unsuccessful.

Lawyers from the Law or Fiction group have launched a legal challenge to stop children having to wear masks at school. It was served alongside evidence indicating that masks and social distancing requirements are likely to be causing psychological harm to children and to be interfering with their development. You can read more here and you can support the case and get updates from the Crowdjustice page here.

The Law or Fiction group is also bring a case against coerced vaccination. It relates to Barchester Healthcare which is planning to impose a ‘no jab, no job’ policy on its 17,000 staff. Read more about that case and support it here.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Dr Jay Bhattacharya has done an interview for the ZDoggMD channel run by Dr Zubin Damania. In a 90-minute conversation they talk vaccine passports, fear-driven policy, the new variants and misguided public health messaging. Watch it before YouTube takes it down.

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