In this week’s episode of London Calling, James and I talk about Biden’s forthcoming 9/11 moment, whether the clamour for vaccine passports will die down now that we know they’re not as effective at preventing infection and transmission as we thought, the row between Digby Jones and Alex Scott about her Essex accent and my moment of sporting glory, immortalised by legendary darts commentator Sid Waddell, when I rowed my boat to victory in a 2004 BBC reality show called The Other Boat Race.
- “Boris Johnson steps in to save holidays on the Continent” – Reprieve for popular destinations as plans for controversial new ‘amber watchlist’ are shelved following backlash, reports the Telegraph.
- “Tourism bosses call on PM to scrap traffic light system to save summer” – In a letter to the Prime Minister, major airlines and tour operators said simplified rules would help the UK travel sector recover while protecting the country’s health needs, according to the Mail.
- “Amber list marks out border between Johnson and Sunak” – “Thank God for Rishi Sunak,” writes Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail. “I don’t know whether he will be, or should be, Prime Minister. I am just grateful that he displays a reassuringly analytical approach.”
- “Just how bad is the situation in Spain, Italy and Greece?” – Experts say is’s unlikely that the South African ‘Beta’ variant will be able to ‘outrun’ the more transmissible Indian ‘Delta’ strain which is dominant in Europe and the U.K., says MailOnline.
- “Obama’s birthday party sets a terrible example” – Piers Morgan lets fly against President Obama in the Daily Mail, who is planning to invite 500 people to his birthday bash.
- “One AstraZeneca dose gives 82% protection against beta variant hospitalisation or death” – New findings increase pressure on the Government to lift restrictions on people travelling to and from France, reports the Telegraph.
- “Could hidden viruses in your body be causing long Covid?” – A new picture is emerging that links the often debilitating illness to other post-viral syndromes, says the Telegraph.
- “What Were Lockdowners Thinking? A Review of Jeremy Farrar” – Jeffrey A. Tucker, writing for the Brownstone Institute, his new think tank, tries to understand the mind of Jeremy Farrar, who he says was an even more influential advocate for lockdown than Neil Ferguson.
- “Are booster shots necessary?” – Will Britain become the first country in the world to have a large section of its population immunised against COVID-19 three times over, asks Ross Clark in the Spectator. And will that be a worthwhile achievement?
- “Nothing unethical about covert psychological ‘nudges’, says the BPS” – After six months of evasion and obfuscation, the British Psychological Society (BPS) has made its position clear: it sees nothing ethically questionable about deploying covert psychological strategies (often referred to as ‘nudges’) on the British people as a means of increasing compliance with public health restrictions. Gary Sidley is suitably outraged on his blog.
- “As protests grow against health passes, are elites imposing the measures making the same disdainful mistakes Remain did in 2016?” – Right-wing parties have swung behind recent anti-vaxx demos sweeping Europe. It’s a high-risk strategy, but the establishment should not dismiss the protests out of hand, as it may come back to haunt them, as it did with Brexit, writes ex-UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.
- “Neil Oliver: For the sake of freedom – yours and mine – I will cheerfully risk catching COVID-19” – Neil Oliver on GB News says the vast majority of us have nothing to fear from the virus.
- “Twitter Suspends Science Writer After He Posts Results Of Pfizer Clinical Test” – Twitter has suspended ex-New York Times science reporter and anti-lockdown campaigner Alex Berenson.
- “The smear campaign against the Great Barrington Declaration” – Dominic Cummings, scientists and the media successfully demonised anyone who questioned the lockdown, write Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff in Spiked.
- “The rest of the world has shamed Britain’s blasé rejection of liberty” – Our national failure to confront the autocratic implications of Covid rules is a devastating failure, says Sherelle Jacobs in the Telegraph.
- “£100,000-a-year lawyer loses harassment case against boss” – A lawyer who filed 42 discrimination and harassment complaints to a Reading employment tribunal has lost her case, with the judge warning against “a culture of hyper-sensitivity”.
- “Over-75s have plenty of reasons to reject the BBC. Here are a few” – The Corporation faces a funding crisis, and pensioners won’t cough up – but are Britain’s poorest to blame, or the overpaid suits? Hard-hitting stuff from former BBC journalist Robin Aitken in the Telegraph.
- “People expect sensible debate about education – not inflammatory rows about ‘decolonising’ the curriculum” – We should perhaps avoid complaining that there are, for example, too many ‘dead white men’ in literature set-text lists – and instead focus on making the canon bigger and more inclusive, writes Ed Dorrell in the Independent.
- “Hungary, Poland and the EU’s ‘diversity’ problem” – For 20 years the EU’s slogan has been ‘Unity in diversity’. But can the bloc cope with Hungary and Poland becoming illiberal democracies, asks Katja Hoyer in the Spectator.
- “If all ‘problematic’ statues have to go, then that includes monuments to Gandhi, Marx, Engels and Che Guevara” – Now that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have been ignominiously defenestrated, it is clear that the iconoclasts really do mean business. But will left-wing icons be held to the same standards as everyone else, asks RT.
- “Destruction and Hope in Portland” – How calls for justice morphed into the violence that struck the city. A harrowing account by ex-Portland resident Nancy Rommelmann for Persuasian.
- “NHS lets trans sex offenders on female wards” – Sex offenders who were born male but identify as female can be placed on women-only NHS wards, according to guidance issued by hospital trusts. The Daily Mail isn’t impressed.
- “Olympic rules for allowing transgender women to compete to be changed” – The Intentional Olympic Committee (IOC) say it will set out a new policy for the participation of transgender women in Olympic sports, following an international outcry over a transwoman being allowed to compete against biological women in the women’s weightlifting at the Olympics.
- “Experts give their verdict on The Firm’s favoured alternative remedies” – Members of the Royal Family have reportedly used homeopathy for their ailments for years – but it’s not the only alternative remedy they’ve favoured. The Daily Mail has got some experts to sort the wheat from the chaff.
A report from Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the U.S. Congress has said the “preponderance of evidence proves” the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “sometime before September 12th, 2019”.
The Telegraph summarises some of the main points of evidence.
The Republican report cited what it called under-reported information about laboratory safety protocols.
It detailed a request in July 2019 for a $1.5million overhaul of a hazardous waste treatment system, which was less than two years old. That request included maintenance on an “environmental air disinfection system”.
It raised questions about how well such systems were working in the months leading up to the outbreak, the report said.
The report said: “Such a significant renovation so soon after the facility began operation appears unusual.”
According to the report, satellite data in October showed a jump in visits to hospitals in Wuhan, along with a rise in people searching the internet for symptoms that could be linked to the virus.
It suggested the virus spread through Wuhan shortly before the Military World Games was held there in late October 2019.
In November, that event became an “international vector spreading the virus to multiple continents around the world” as athletes returned home, the report said.
This is the tenth of the regular round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the ninth one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic we report all the news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as reporting the facts, not advocating for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. (Dr Tess Lawrie recently wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans,” a claim that has been “fact checked” here.) We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.
- There have been international reports of adverse events following COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia (reporting the deaths of 131 health care workers post Sinovac vaccine), India and Canada (reporting 22 cases of heart inflammation).
- Further reports of Bell’s Palsy developing following vaccination, including a featured case report in the BMJ. Immunologist Dr. J. Bart Classen has written in the Journal of Medical – Clinical Research & Reviews on the risk of Parkinson’s disease following Covid vaccination, especially AstraZeneca (summarised here).
- A study in the Lancet suggests that antibody responses wane rapidly and are low within two months of vaccination (though the authors note that protection via cellular immunity may remain).
- A report on ‘breakthrough’ cases from NBC Boston, reporting 5,100 cases in Massachusetts and 80 subsequent deaths.
- The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said that it supports the recommendations of the JCVI on not vaccinating children below the age of 18 unless they have underlying health conditions.
- The inventor of mRNA technology, Dr. Robert Malone, has spoken of his fear that current data shows a worrying trend of possible ADE (Antibody-Dependent Enhancement) as the vaccine may cause the virus to be more dangerous in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
- Lawyers have warned that ‘ethical veganism’ is a protected belief that would be among those that would have to respected in any effort to introduce mandatory vaccination in workplaces, the Telegraph reports.
- Chief Midwife for England, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has penned a letter to midwives, obstetricians and GP practices, asking them to recommend COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women. This follows some surveillance data that suggests some increased risk to pregnant women from the Delta variant. A study interim report published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that while 13% of the 827 vaccinated women in the study suffered a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), this is not an elevated number. Dr. Peter McCullough has written in TrialSiteNews detailing some serious concerns with the study, stating: “The effect of the vaccines on early pregnancy losses (<20 weeks) is concerning and remains to be determined.” To date the Yellow Card system has reported 600 adverse events relating to pregnancy conditions including 10 deaths and 381 spontaneous abortions.
- A Spanish preprint study in the Lancet suggests that the safety profiles of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are similar in terms of blood clotting. It also suggests that the risk of blood clotting is greater for those infected with SARS-CoV-2.
- A preprint study in Medrxiv reports no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated people to those who have ‘breakthrough’ infections post-vaccine, suggesting “that if vaccinated individuals become infected with the Delta variant, they may be sources of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to others”.
- Report in the Telegraph that AstraZeneca may end its future development of vaccines after offering its COVID-19 vaccine at cost to contribute to the pandemic effort. Pfizer, on the other hand, has reported record profits and is discussing increasing the costs of booster shots, according to the Guardian.
- Statistician Mathew Crawford has argued that the CDC’s definition of a safety signal prevents it from picking up safety problems with the Covid vaccines, essentially because it compares the Covid vaccines to one another rather than to an established baseline.
- VAERS – the American version of the Yellow Card reporting system – released new data on July 23rd bringing the total to 518,581 reports of 2,426,531 adverse events following Covid vaccines, including 11,940 deaths.
- EudraVigilance – the equivalent of the Yellow Card reporting system in the EU – has logged (up to July 31st) 779,048 reports of 1,940,012 adverse events, including 20,595 deaths.
- Suspected adverse events in the U.K. as reported in the media: Gemma O’Shea (35); Natalie Simpson (38).
Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.
According to an updated report published on July 21st, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,102,228 events based on 331,240 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,517.
- Pfizer (20.4 million first doses, 12.9 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 215 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 43,777 people vaccinated (466).
- AstraZeneca (24.7 million first doses, 23.2 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 110 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 24,263 people vaccinated (1,018).
- Moderna (1.3 million first doses, 0.3 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 118 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 162,500 people vaccinated (8).
Following reports of the Australian army being deployed to ensure citizens are abiding by strict lockdown rules, an elderly Sydney resident has written to the Australian about being arrested for exercising near her home. Police officers interpreted this as an offence because the resident, a widow, was wearing a sign and walking in an area she rarely visited. Her letter, republished below, highlights the lengths to which the Australian authorities are going to snuff out the faintest flickers of protest.
I am a 78 year-old widow who chose to exercise in the Sydney central business district (CBD) on Saturday. I wore a sign saying: “Not happy, Gladys.” I was alone, I am fully vaccinated and I was wearing a mask.
I was stopped by police and asked what I was doing. I said I was exercising within 10km of my home. They told me I was not allowed to wear a sign while exercising. Both they and I were very respectful but I was arrested on the grounds that, as I did not normally exercise in the CBD, and was wearing a sign, I was protesting and not exercising.
This is not the country that I grew up in. And the really sad thing is that there will be so many who have been intimidated into cringing cowardice and who will just say of me: “Stupid old biddy, serves her right for not just being obedient.”
Mary M. Ancich, Birchgrove, Queensland
There’s a fascinating article in UnHerd by Ashley Rindsberg, author of The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’ Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History. He asks why the New York Times was so quick to dismiss the lab leak theory last year and concludes it may have been because of its Chinese interests.
In the opening months of the pandemic, the lab leak hypothesis was actively discredited by the media and scientific establishment, with anyone associated with it smeared as “racist”. The question we have to ask now is how, and why, did this happen?
To a great extent, I believe the answer lies with the world’s most powerful news outlet, the New York Times. At the start of the pandemic, the Times set the news and policy agenda on the lab leak hypothesis, discrediting it and anyone who explored it. The Times did so while taking money from Chinese state-owned propaganda outlets, such as China Daily, and while pursuing long-term investments in China that may have made the paper susceptible to the CCP’s strong-arm propaganda tactics in the first months of the pandemic.
As someone who has spent years researching the history of the Times, I was struck by the paper’s markedly pro-China bent at the start of the pandemic. It opposed Trump’s travel ban to and from China as “isolationist”. It all but ignored the unparalleled success of China’s arch-enemy, Taiwan, in containing the virus. It downplayed China’s economic war against Australia, whose prime minister early on questioned the CCP story on the pandemic’s origins. And it celebrated China’s success in battling COVID-19, taking the CCP’s absurd mortality numbers at face value, reporting in August 2020 that 4,634 Chinese people died from the virus and, six months later, that there were 4,636 total deaths. That in a country of 1.4 billion people only two people died of Covid-19 in the half a year defies logic and common sense. Still, the Times legitimised the CCP numbers by printing them as hard fact.
Of course, over the past year newspapers across the world have fallen for the CCP’s distorted COVID-19 narrative. And there is no evidence to suggest that the CCP did put pressure on the Times. But when it came to the lab leak debate, the Times was relentless. Starting in early 2020, when little was known about the virus – and nothing about its origins – the Times adopted a stridently anti-lab leak stance. In its first report on the topic, a February 17th, 2020 article covering comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the Times stigmatised lab leak as a “fringe theory”. Once the story was published, its reporter took to Twitter to describe it as “the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters”.
Only one week prior, another outlet made strikingly similar claims. In an editorial, the CCP-owned China Daily thundered that Cotton’s decision to spread “malicious rumours” shows “how irresponsible some are in their haste to attack China”. The Times, echoing China Daily, also cast the lab leak hypothesis as a “rumour”.
Over the months, the Times’s coverage grew even more strident – and more in line with Chinese propaganda. In February 2020, it gave a platform to zoologist Peter Daszak, publishing an opinion piece by him which claimed that the pandemic was caused by “road-building, deforestation, land clearing and agricultural development”. Daszak argued that “discovering and sequencing” viruses like COVID-19 in labs like the one in Wuhan should be a priority.
The Times, which used Daszak as a key source in over a dozen articles, has never mentioned that Daszak’s organisation funded the Wuhan lab, in particular research into bats and coronaviruses, a flagrant conflict of interest. Crucially, there was no mention of this when a reporter interviewed Daszak this February, following his return from a heavily criticised WHO investigation into the virus’s origins. (Danszak later recused himself from the investigation because of the conflict of interest.)
But the Times also never revealed that Daszak was a favoured source for another outlet: China Daily. The state-owned media organisation, along with Xinhua and sister outlet Global Times, repeatedly quoted Daszak to assure readers of China’s full cooperation in the search for the virus’s origins — and to discredit the possibility of a lab leak.
Worth reading in full.
The number of new daily Covid cases in the U.K. fell to 21,952 today, the lowest it’s been in five weeks. Meanwhile, deaths are up slightly compared to last Monday and hospitalisations are down. MailOnline has more.
Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29th, according to the official figures released today.
But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.
The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.
Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.
The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12% on seven days earlier.
Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5% compared to the previous week.
Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4% compared to last Monday.
Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.
Updated hospitalisation figures for last Tuesday show a further 911 patients were admitted to hospital who tested positive for the virus, a drop of 1.6% compared to one week earlier.
Worth reading in full.
Australians will soon need to have proof of full vaccination to visit major sporting venues as state premiers prepare the ground for the introduction of vaccine passports. The Premier of New South Wales said in a press conference on Monday: “Any incentives we can provide to encourage people to get vaccinated and stick to the health restrictions, that is our priority.” Mail Australia has the story.
Plans are already underway to make vaccine passports mandatory in New South Wales while a similar approach is being considered in Victoria.
Fans will need to have both Covid jabs to visit a stadium and watch big sporting events like the NRL, AFL, or cricket.
Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd will put forward his proposal to the State Government in the next few weeks and hopes they will be approved by next year.
“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“The venues will have to say you can’t attend. Simple as that.” …[Victoria] Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on July 21st that officials would make an “informed discussion” about reopening games to vaccinated residents.
“[The vaccine] will be here September, October, November… then I think we can have an informed discussion and say: ‘Right, we’re at X%, here’s all the benefits that might flow from that’,” he said.
The Premier said vaccinated fans being able to attend games would be part of a wider attempt to incentivise people to get the jab.
Worth reading in full.
The NHS is looking to redistribute thousands of Covid vaccine doses as slowing take-up rates among young Britons, who don’t appear to be moved by petty bribes, could result in doses being thrown away after reaching their expiry dates. The Guardian has the story.
An internal email seen by the Guardian warned of 170,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at risk of expiry within the next fortnight, as doctors across England have raised alarm at the unpredictability of vaccine take-up among young people meaning more doses will go to waste.
The Government is to unveil a raft of new initiatives to increase vaccine uptake among young people, including discounts on car-hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt, as well as the delivery service Deliveroo.
It is understood the NHS has managed to redistribute 40,000 of the spare Moderna jabs. However, concerns have been raised about the number of jabs wasted as uptake slows among younger people eligible for the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses, initially as a way to offer more people first doses because of limited supply, but studies have since shown that the larger gap could give longer protection.
One NHS doctor in the north-east, Dr Alison George, said colleagues had been forced to routinely discard Pfizer doses, rather than give second shots early to people who requested them. “We have very high rates of infection here and the local hospital is already under significant pressure with some elective surgery cancelled,” the GP said. …
Beccy Baird, a Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said it was getting more difficult to predict vaccine uptake.
“Uptake is getting lower as the cohorts get younger and matching the supply of vaccines to demand will get harder as demand becomes less predictable. This is made all the harder as the vaccines have a limited shelf life,” she said. …
“In the early stages of the rollout, you could be confident that wherever vaccines were delivered there would be sufficient demand for them. Now that a majority of adults have been vaccinated, and with uptake getting lower as the cohorts become younger, demand for the vaccine is more unpredictable, making it harder to know exactly where the doses are needed.” …
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now mostly distributed to the under-40s, who cannot receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those vaccines have a shorter shelf life of up to one month in the fridge, compared with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can last for up to six months.
Worth reading in full.
Hospitality venues were relying on the easing of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ to make up for their lockdown losses, but they’ve found that one set of restrictions has simply been replaced by another. The Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality reports that one in 10 pubs and restaurants have been forced to close over the past month because of staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘. One in five venues has also had to “significantly adjust their offer or services” to cope with the continued disruption to business. MailOnline has the story.
The ‘pingdemic’ has seen record numbers of people being alerted by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate in recent weeks, including 700,000 for the week to July 21st.
The Government rolled out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, transport and waste collection.
Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace as Covid contacts to continue working.
Kate Nicholls [of U.K. Hospitality] told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the last month one in 10 of our businesses have had to close their sites and more importantly one in five have had to significantly adjust their offer or services in order to cope with the pandemic.”
She added: “The ‘pingdemic’ has hit at the same time as the reopening, they haven’t had time to rebuild cash reserves and so they are in quite a fragile state and the hit to revenues as a result of the pingdemic is running at about 15 to 20% of revenues for those businesses that are affected.
“So it is a significant suppression just at the point in time when these businesses needed to start recovering from about 16 months worth of closure and restrictions.” …
It comes as desperate councils are offering lorry drivers bonuses of £3,000 in a bid to clear the backlog of bin collections caused by the ‘pingdemic’.
Rubbish has piled up in many areas in recent weeks – with up to 40% of some local authority workforces having to isolate.
Some residents have been told to cut down on the amount of food that they throw out as piles of uncollected waste grow.
Others have been asked not to put their bins out unless they are full, with collection services in dozens of areas running significantly behind schedule.
Separately, a new report has warned more than 1.1 million jobs remain unfilled as the pingdemic crisis worsens the shortage of workers.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The Health Secretary has finally agreed to make the NHS Covid-tracking app less sensitive. Until now, it pinged people who’d been in contact with an infected person at any point during a five-day period before they tested positive; henceforth, that will be reduced to two days. MailOnline has the story.