The Sunday Times reports that the Strategic Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been told that the British death toll from COVID-19 could climb above 100,000 by the end of the year if Boris Johnson eases the lockdown too much or too fast. These estimates come from researchers at the London School of Tropical Hygiene, the always-reliable Imperial College London and other places that have modelled the likely impact of of different exit policies. (Can we see the code please?) However, the paper doesn’t disclose whether this formed part of the advice given to the Government by SAGE when it last met on Thursday.
Boris Johnson’s address to the nation about “phase two” of the lockdown is expected to be at 7pm this evening. According to the Sunday Times, he will announce that:
- From tomorrow, the limit on one form of exercise a day will be scrapped, allowing people outdoors if they observe the two-metre social distancing rules. Staff at No 10 have been told that Johnson will begin jogging again this week
- Fines will be increased for those failing to abide by the new rules
- From Wednesday, garden centres will re-open
- The public will be advised – but not forced – to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops
- Within two weeks new arrivals in the UK will be required to go into isolation for 14 days, with quarantine centres set up for those who do not have a home where they can self-isolate.
- “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” will be replaced with “Stay alert, save lives”
On that last bullet point, it doesn’t look like Scotland will be ditching the “stay home” slogan. Sturgeon said on Twitter this morning that #StayHomeSaveLives “remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage”. According to the Mail, this has thrown Boris’s planned announcement into chaos.
I thought this would be a good moment to change the slogan of this website. It was: “Stay sane. Protect the economy. Save livelihoods.” However, given that more and more scientists and public health experts are warning that the lockdown will end up causing a greater loss of life than it prevents, I’ve changed it to: “Stay sceptical. End the lockdown. Save lives.”
It looks like Wales isn’t planning to abandon the “stay home” slogan either. Shame, but at least Wales has its very own lockdown sceptics website (no relation) called ‘We The People‘, or, rather, ‘Y Gwir yn Erbyn Y Byd’. Full of useful resources and links. Definitely worth a look.
Many of today’s papers have photographs of people enjoying the sunshine over the bank holiday weekend, suggesting the “stay home” message is beginning to lose some of its power in any event. Here’s one from the Mail:
The Prime Minister has given an interview to the Sun on Sunday‘s David Wooding in which he tries to lower expectations ahead of this evening’s announcement. He told the paper that the “descent” from a mountain is always the riskiest bit. “That’s when you’re liable to be overconfident and make mistakes,” he said. “You have very few options on the climb up – but it’s on the descent you have to make sure you don’t run too fast, lose control and stumble.” He added:
I said that we would turn the tide within three months. I believe we are definitely on course to do that.
The peak could have been colossal, we could have had an absolute disaster. We’re past the peak now but we’ll have to work very hard to get every step right.
We’ve beaten it, we’ve come through it, we can see the sunlight ahead and it is just a question now of making sure, as we come down that mountain, we don’t stumble. We mustn’t throw away the gains that we’ve made.
If everybody works together, we won’t. That’s the message.
Also in today’s Sun on Sunday is a poll revealing that nine in 10 people do not want Boris to ease the lockdown. Only one in 50 believe the restrictions have been in place for too long, with just 4% in favour of a gradual lifting of the lockdown starting this week. Almost a quarter – 24% – don’t want restrictions lifted before the end of July or until the virus has been completely eradicated. A reader has provided me with a quote that seems appropriate here:
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
As usual, the Germans continue to put us to shame. Yesterday brought news of thousands of people protesting on the streets of Munich and thousands more in Stuttgart to demand the lifting of restrictions ordered by the German authorities.
I was taken aback to see a Government-sponsored spread in the Sun advising people to avoid “quack” treatments, such as “UV lights” and chloroquine. Quite surprising, given that there’s now a lot of evidence linking Vitamin D deficiency to an increased risk of death from the virus, as reported in the Sun yesterday, and mounting evidence that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective treatments for COVID-19, as reported in the Sun on April 29th.
As I noted yesterday, the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) has decided to police social media to draw attention to fake news and conspiracy theories – and, embarrassingly, it refers to the hypothesis that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a “right-wing conspiracy theory” even though the same theory is being investigated by a consortium of Western intelligence agencies. Today, I’ve spotted that the ISD has done some work with Carl Miller, an employee of a left-wing think tank, for the BBC’s flagship technology programme, BBC Click, to identify the source of “disinformation and hate” about the pandemic on Facebook. And the culprit is… drum roll… “the global far right”.
If you watch the report Carl Miller has pulled together for the BBC with the help of Chloe Colliver, Head of Digital Policy for the ISD, you’ll see that among the toxic conspiracy theories they’ve identified is the claim that the virus was “engineered” and that chloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. According to Miller, that last theory is “unproven and potentially dangerous”. Another dangerous idea, apparently, is the notion that the risk from the virus has been “overhyped” by governments and the media. Miller says the “disinformation” he and Colliver have uncovered could be “a lot more potent” than the disinformation pumped out by shady, far right organisations during election campaigns because it might “convince people to not listen to government advice about staying at home”. Miller concludes his report by telling us he passed on his findings to Facebook and received the following reply: “We have removed a number of links BBC Click shared with us for violating our policies on hate speech and the spread of harmful misinformation.”
If the BBC is going to employ left-wing busybodies to browbeat social media companies into censoring people who think SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a biolab, that chloroquine is an effective treatment and that the risk posed by the disease has been overhyped, that’s one more reason to stop paying the license fee.
Yesterday, I drew readers’ attention to the robotic dog being used by the authorities in Singapore to make sure people follow the social distancing rules. Today, I bring news of an even more ingenious contraption, this one devised by a police force in India. Thanks to this over-sized pick-up reacher, the police can now arrest Covid dissidents without risking infection:
Good to see not all police officers are simply following orders and fining or arresting people for not complying with lockdown orders. A reader sent me this bitchute video of a US cop advising his colleagues that the constitutional rights of US citizens should not be suspended on the say-so of a mayor or a governor or a chief of police. “That’s not how this country works,” he reminds us. Well said, Officer Anderson.
One of the biggest stories of recent weeks has been the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). But what happens to this life-saving kit after it’s been used? One reader in Lincolnshire has found out:
Every time I go out on my bicycle round here I find bits of PPE scattered by the side of the road, usually the giveaway blue gloves. Here’s today’s find – a PPE mask evidently hurled out of a car window and decorating the verge near the village of Ropsley. Who’s the culprit? No idea, but it’s presumably a health worker of some sort who’s quite happy to chuck used PPE into the general environment rather than dispose of it safely.
And it’s not just here. A reader who lives in Malaga has alerted me to the same problem:
The first day we were allowed out everywhere was nice and clean and tidy. But every morning I go out there are masks and gloves littering the sides of the roads and in the hedgerows. I wonder what on earth goes through these twats’ heads. Clearly not very much.
It seems Lockdown Sceptics is gradually transforming itself from a blog into something more – although quite what that is remains to be seen. Yesterday, I published a follow-up by “Sue Denim” to his/her post about the shortcomings of Professor Ferguson’s code; today, I’m publishing a piece by Rob Lyons – real name this time – entitled ‘Public Health England: A Predictable Failure’. Lyons is scathing about the executive agency of the Department for Health and Social Care. Here’s an extract:
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that PHE is a less-than-dynamic organisation. Far from being staffed by the brightest and the best, innovative and entrepreneurial, PHE is run by the usual quangocrats. These are people whose CVs describe a merry-go-round ride of one job after another for which they are, at best, only moderately qualified. Having delivered uninspiring leadership in one organisation, they move along to ‘lead’ another, accumulating vast pensions and titles along the way.
I was pleased to receive this message from a Labour Party voter. It’s not just the Conservative Party which is causing disillusionment among its most fervent supporters:
I’m an avid reader of your website. I’m not ordinarily someone who would find myself in agreement with you about most things – I’ve always voted Labour and was a Corbyn supporter, voting twice for him as leader. However, I’m appalled by the strategy of ‘lockdown’ and also the supine agreement of the Labour Party to this lunacy. I will also never, ever, buy a copy of the Guardian again.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that coronavirus could kill up to 190,000 in Africa this year if it’s not adequately contained. My friend Aidan Hartley, Kenyan resident and Spectator Wild Life correspondent, points out that this isn’t very many in the grand scheme of things:
You are more likely to die of booze (174,000 cirrhosis) than Covid-19 in Africa (maybe 83,000 – 190,000 says the WHO had no measures been imposed – and some countries have been draconian). Africa’s traffic accidents will kill three times to a third more people than COVID-19. These WHO figures for virus deaths would rank just above “self-harm” in Africa, or at its worst, just above “interpersonal violence”. Africa’s main killers are still HIV, TB, malaria, respiratory diseases and dysentery, which kill 3.5 million combined. Those communicable diseases will now skyrocket as 100 million MORE Africans slide back into poverty due to the economic impacts of lockdown here and in the West.
A round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:
- ‘Statistician accuses ministers of failure to prioritise random COVID-19 testing‘ – Sir David Spiegelhalter has criticised the Government for not prioritising random antibody testing so we can build up a clear picture of how many Britons have had the virus, according to the Sunday Times
- ‘This care home carnage shames the nation‘ – Dominic Lawson berates the Department for Health and Social Care’s murderous policy of encouraging hospitals to discharge elderly patients back into care homes at the beginning of the lockdown, including those who’d tested positive for COVID-19
- ‘The virus that turned up late‘ – Post by Alistair Haimes for Hector Drummond’s blog in which he points out that the only difference between coronavirus and other outbreaks of nasty seasonal flu is that this virus turned up three months later than usual. Includes the great line: “When I complain about people fearfully embracing their incarceration I can no longer use the phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, and that makes me angry.”
- ‘The strange case of the choir that coughed in January‘ – BBC story about a choir in Baildon, a village in West Yorkshire, that experienced a bout of a nasty, flu-like illness back in January that looks awfully like coronavirus. Was it circulating among the general population earlier than has been reported?
- ‘China Asked WHO To Delay Pandemic Announcement, Deny Human-To-Human Transmission: German Intelligence‘ – Zero Hedge on the German intelligence leak purporting to show that Xi Jinping asked WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Thebreyesus to cover up the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in January
- ‘Pandemic of Pillocks‘ – A Comedy Unleashed special devised by comedian Andrew Lawrence. Warning: Contains some smutty gags
- ‘Has our mad mass house arrest during COVID-19 saved even a single life?‘ – Peter Hitchens’ latest column in the Mail on Sunday
- ‘Locking up the elderly until coronavirus is defeated is a cruel mockery of basic human values‘ – Withering critique of the lockdown by Jonathan Sumption in last week’s Mail on Sunday. Can’t believe I missed this one
- ‘Wrecking entire economies: Lockdowns may be causing more harm than good worldwide, and especially in India‘ – Case against locking down India by Professor Ramesh Thakur in the Times of India
- ‘Toby Young on the Failure of the Lockdown‘ – Thought I’d give this a plug. It’s a YouTube video of me talking to the Post-Millennial‘s Nico Johnson about the biggest failure of public policy that’s ever happened during peacetime
Some more suggestions for theme songs from readers: ‘Eve of Destruction‘ by Barry Neil, ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next‘ by the Manic Street Preachers, ‘Steppin’ Out‘ by Joe Jackson (some hope) and, by way of tribute to the recently deceased Little Richard, ‘Whole Lotta Shaking Going On‘.
Thanks as always to those who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of the site. If you feel like donating, you can do so by clicking here. (Every little helps!) And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in tomorrow’s update, you can email me here.
I thought I’d end today’s update with a poem sent to me by Tiree MacGregor. Called ‘The Back-Pedalling Autocratic Functionary’ it was inspired by the words of Chief Constable Nick Alderly of Northamptonshire Police who said on April 9th: “We will not, at this stage, be setting up road blocks. We will not, at this stage, start to marshal supermarkets and be checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it’s a legitimate, necessary item. But again, be under no illusion. If people do not heed the warnings and the pleas I’m making today, we will start to do that.”
Officious fool in uniform, what need
We of your subtle threats and dour commands?
Zealous for order, at whose pleasure do
You think you serve? If it be government’s
Or monarch’s, then think: At whose pleasure theirs?
Who has “illusions”? – And “necessity”?
For you, your weapons formed of Hobbesian dread,
Where is our gentle Shakespeare, whose high art
Demolishes the thoughts that shape your head,
And, brother, what high ardour forms your heart?
In copperspeak, you’re nicked: for threats won’t wash;
The velvet-covered cosh is still a cosh.
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