Free Speech Union Asks Ofcom to Withdraw Censorious Coronavirus Guidance or Face Judicial Review
In my capacity as the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, I wrote to the Chief Executive of Ofcom Dame Melanie Dawes on April 24th to complain about its reprimand of Eamonn Holmes. According to the regulator, the breakfast television presenter had said something that “could have undermined people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the Coronavirus and the advice of mainstream sources of public health information“. Holmes’s sin, in Ofcom’s eyes, was to say on ITV’s This Morning on April 13th that any theory running counter to the official Government line – such as the one linking 5G masts to COVID-19 – deserved to be discussed in the mainstream media. This was in spite of him saying the 5G conspiracy was “not true and incredibly stupid”. Ofcom said this view – the view that such theories deserved a public hearing, not that they were in any way right or plausible – was “ill-judged and risked undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence”.
In my letter to Dame Melanie, I pointed out that if Ofcom is going to prohibit views being discussed on television that might risk undermining viewers’ trust in public authorities during this crisis, that could easily be extended to anyone challenging the Government’s official line on a number of issues, not just the link between the virus and 5G masts.
For instance, would Ofcom have reprimanded a broadcaster that challenged the advice of Public Health England, issued on February 25th, that it was “very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected”? That advice was supposedly based on “scientific evidence”, yet as we now know it turned out to be wrong and the fact that hospitals discharged elderly patients back into care homes without first confirming that they were not infected with COVID-19 is one of the reasons that, according to the ONS, as of 1st May, 37.4% of all Covid deaths in England and Wales have occurred in care homes.
As I said in my letter, given that bad advice and misinformation about the virus is being disseminated in the public square, both by Government quangos like Public Health England and conspiracy theorists like David Icke, the best way to minimise harm is not to prohibit public discussion of that advice and information, but to encourage it, so that members of the public (and care home managers) can make informed decisions about what advice to follow and what information to believe.
To take the example of the theory Eamonn Holmes was referring to, if broadcasters aren’t allowed to discuss whether there’s a connection between 5G masts and the symptoms associated with COVID-19 – and present its exponents with the overwhelming evidence that there is no such connection – people are more likely to believe the theory, not less. They will think, “If it’s untrue, why is discussion of it being forbidden by a state regulator?” As the US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said in his famous Whitney v. California opinion in 1927, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies… the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” In other words, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
In addition to Ofcom’s rationale for reprimanding Eamonn Holmes being based on the mistaken belief that the most effective way to persuade people that conspiracy theories and fake news are untrue is to forbid their discussion, there’s a further problem, which is the arbitrariness with which Ofcom applies that principle. If Ofcom is going to provide itself with a license to prohibit discussion among its licensees of anything likely to risk “undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities” then why did it not reprimand those broadcasters who publicised the fact that Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the key scientists advising the Prime Minister on how to respond to the pandemic, broke social distancing rules to spend time with his girlfriend? Surely, that was more likely to undermine “people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the Coronavirus and the advice of mainstream sources of public health information” than any discussion of the theory linking 5G masts to coronavirus?
Of course, no sensible body would seek to restrict the reporting of Professor Ferguson’s breach of the lockdown rules, least of all the Free Speech Union. But that reporting engages precisely the same issue identified by Ofcom, namely, it had the potential to reduce the public’s trust in the Government’s advice.
So how does Ofcom distinguish between matters which, when broadcast, reduce trust but are nonetheless legitimate in its eyes, and those which are not? It does not say. Yet Ofcom hasn’t reprimanded any broadcasters for publicising or discussing Ferguson’s behaviour. Given how arbitrary Ofcom’s application of its own rules is, how can broadcasters reasonably be expected to comply with them? What Lord Sumption said about the law in a Supreme Court judgement issued last year applies to Ofcom’s rule prohibiting discussion of views that could undermine viewers’ trust in public authorities: “The measure must not therefore confer a discretion so broad that its scope is in practice dependent on the will of those who apply it, rather than on the law itself. Nor should it be couched in terms so vague or so general as to produce substantially the same effect in practice.”
Ofcom’s reprimand of Eamonn Holmes was based on a guidance note it issued to broadcasters about the coverage of the coronavirus crisis on 23rd March, the same day the Government imposed the lockdown, confining people in their homes unless they had a “reasonable excuse” to be outside. The right to free speech was among the few civil liberties not suspended by the Government that day, but Ofcom took it upon itself to curtail it anyway.
In my letter to Dame Melanie, I asked Ofcom to withdraw its reprimand of Holmes and issue a press release affirming the importance of freedom of expression, and provide assurances that in future it will not seek to stifle the expression of dissenting views about coronavirus or the Government’s response to the pandemic. It has not done so. Therefore, I’ve written a follow-up letter – a letter before claim sent pursuant to the Pre-action Protocol for Judicial Review under the Civil Procedure Rules – asking Ofcom to withdraw its guidance note. If it does not, the Free Speech Union will ask the court for permission to apply for a Judicial Review of the guidance.
The right to free speech is one of our most precious liberties – perhaps the most precious of all – and the fact that we’re in the midst of a public health crisis is a reason to protect it, not curtail it. All of us, whether scientists, politicians or ordinary citizens, are doing our best to understand the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2 and how best to minimise the harm it causes, both directly and indirectly. There are, at present, no settled views about any of these issues, certainly no consensus among scientists that can be described as “the science”. Allowing everyone to express their views on these matters freely, without the threat of being sanctioned by a state regulator if those views happen not to accord with those of the Government or other public authorities, is the best way to achieve that understanding.
This could get expensive. If you want to help by donating to the Free Speech Union, please click here.
Leaked Report by Civil Servant at German Ministry of Interior
Many readers have emailed me to draw my attention to the leaked report by a German civil servant at the Ministry of Interior accusing the German authorities of over-reacting to the pandemic and, in all likelihood, causing more harm than they’ve prevented. Among other things, the report says:
- The dangerousness of COVID-19 was overestimated: probably at no point did the danger posed by the new virus go beyond the normal level.
- The people who die from Corona – and, by extension, those we are supposedly protecting from the virus by locking down whole populations – are predominantly those who would otherwise die later this year, because they have reached the end of their lives and their weakened bodies can no longer cope with any random everyday stress (including the approximately 150 viruses currently in circulation).
- Worldwide, within a quarter of a year, there have been no more than 250,000 deaths from COVID-19, compared to 1.5 million deaths (25,100 in Germany alone) during the influenza wave 2017/18.
- The danger is obviously no greater than that of many other viruses. There is no evidence that this was more than a false alarm.
- A reproach could go along these lines: During the Corona crisis the State has proved itself as one of the biggest producers of fake news.
This is great stuff – there’s lots of strong support here from an authoritative source for the sceptical case. But can I remind those readers who’ve drawn my attention to this document that I covered it – extensively – when it was first leaked some three weeks ago. Indeed, there is an entire page in the right-hand menu entitled “Leaked analysis of the impact of the lockdown by a senior official at the German Ministry of the Interior” that contains a detailed summary of the document.
I don’t mean to sound irritable. The reason readers are flagging this up is because the report is finally beginning to get the kind of traction in the mainstream media that it should have received three weeks ago. I can’t complain about that.
Are Black Lives Matter Activists Guilty of Promoting a Conspiracy Theory?
As readers of this site will know, I resent the fact that dissenters from Covid orthodoxy, including me, are often labelled “conspiracy theorists“. For instance, if we give any credence to the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology as opposed to a wet market, we’re accused of disseminating “fake news” or trafficking in “misinformation” or, to use the WHO’s phrase, contributing to an “infodemic”. And that makes us a danger to the public, apparently. After all, if ordinary citizens begin to doubt the official Covid narrative being pumped out by public authorities across the world, including advice about social distancing, won’t they then put themselves in harm’s way? (As if being imprisoned in their homes hasn’t put them in harm’s way). Indeed, that’s often the rationale doled out by Big Tech companies and the mainstream media for silencing anyone who challenges Covid orthodoxy.
But those same custodians of what is and isn’t acceptable for people to read don’t seem nearly so circumspect when it comes to the claims of Black Lives Matter activists, even though the narrative they’re promoting – in its most extreme form – is a conspiracy theory. I don’t mean the claim that young black men in America (or Britain for that matter) are the victims of racial prejudice – that’s not a conspiracy theory, obviously. I mean the more specific claim that the US criminal-justice system is riddled with systemic, institutional racism. That may have been true 50 years ago, and may have been true in some US states as recently as 25 years ago. But the evidence it is still true today is pretty threadbare.
As the African-American social scientist Roland Fryer has pointed out, when it comes to the extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – blacks and Hispanics are no more likely to be shot than whites in similar circumstances. As for racist white police officers being responsible for the systematic murder of young black men, a 2018 study for the Public Administration Review found that white officers are no more likely to use lethal force on minority suspects than minority officers. In fact, a 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects.
Moreover, there isn’t much evidence that black men are more likely to be convicted of the same crimes or receive tougher sentences for committing those crimes than white defendants when you control for things like previous offences, aggravating circumstances, whether or not they enter into a plea deal, and so forth. And the same is true of the UK, as this article by David Goodhart in ConservativeHome makes clear.
The murder of George Floyd was certainly horrific and the white police officer who killed him may have been racist. But you cannot draw sweeping conclusions about all US police officers or the criminal-justice system in general from the behaviour of one police officer. Nor can you from just looking at other black men who’ve died in similar circumstances or by reviewing video footage on social media of African-Americans being attacked by police officers. Before you come to a conclusion, you have to look at all the evidence in the round. And while much of that evidence is incomplete, and the records that do exist are often contested, no fair-minded person reviewing that evidence would conclude that there is a conspiracy within the US criminal-justice system –whether conscious or unconscious – to murder or imprison young black men.
Yes, a higher percentage of African-American men are arrested and incarcerated than white men, but that’s because they commit a disproportionate amount of crime, not because the criminal-justice system is systemically racist. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, even though they make up just 13% of the population. As the Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald put it in the Wall St Journal:
This charge of systemic police bias was wrong during the Obama years and remains so today. However sickening the video of Floyd’s arrest, it isn’t representative of the 375 million annual contacts that police officers have with civilians. A solid body of evidence finds no structural bias in the criminal-justice system with regard to arrests, prosecution or sentencing. Crime and suspect behavior, not race, determine most police actions.
Yet the same Big Tech companies and mainstream media platforms that have been so quick to jump on “conspiracy theories”, “fake news” and “misinformation” when it comes to COVID-19 haven’t made the slightest attempt to suppress the BLM conspiracy theory. On the contrary, they’ve bent over backwards to lend it credibility, such as Twitter including the words “Black Lives Matter” on its official account.
Anyone challenging the idea that the American police force is riddled with racists intent on killing young black men is immediately targeted by hashtag activists and outrage mobs. More often than not, if you point out that African-Americans aren’t more likely to be the victims of lethal force than whites once the circumstances have been taken into account, you are branded a racist. On Tuesday, an announcer for the NBA who’d worked for the Sacramento Kings for 22 years was fired because at the weekend he tweeted “All lives matter”. Obviously a Klansman in disguise.
If I worked for Google or the New York Times – even, possibly, the BBC – I would in all likelihood lose my job just for writing this post. After all, what possible motive could I have for pointing out the paucity of the evidence underpinning the BLM narrative other than abject racism?
The irony is that unlike some of the wilder shores of Covid dissent, which strike me as pretty harmless, the BLM conspiracy theory really is dangerous, as we can see from the chaos that’s erupted in America’s cities. I know that many of the protests start out peacefully – some of them remain peaceful – and when they do descend into violence it is sometimes due to the involvement of outside agitators pursuing their own anarchic, hard-left agenda. But there can be little doubt that the sense of grievance and injustice linked to the dubious claims pumped out endlessly by BLM activists and their fellow travellers in the media is partly fuelling the unrest.
And, of course, the biggest victims of the chaos unleashed by this conspiracy theory are – and will be – minorities. I don’t just mean that the shops and homes destroyed by the rioters are more likely to be owned or occupied by minorities than whites. I mean that the police will inevitably pull back from trying to maintain law and order in minority neighbourhoods as a result of the protests and the rioting, thereby increasing the likelihood that minorities will be the victims of crimes in the future. (This Milwaukee police officer tells it how it is.)
To give just one example, on May 26th and 27th, Chicago residents surrounded and threw bottles at Chicago Police Department officers trying to arrest two gun suspects. One was the likely perpetrator of a shooting that had just hit a five-year-old girl and two teenage boys. The other had just thrown his gun under a car. The bottle-throwers immediately surrounded the squad car that suspect was in and tried to free him.
In short, Big Tech and the MSM – not to mention all the celebrities, politicians, corporations, academics, journalists, etc. who’ve fallen over themselves to endorse the BLM narrative – have actively promoted a dangerous conspiracy theory, and energetically disseminated fake news and misinformation in support of that theory, even though it has contributed to a wave of violence and civil unrest that has resulted in the immiseration of minorities. All this in the name of being ‘woke’.
I sincerely hope the Black Lives Matter protests currently taking place in London and elsewhere don’t descend into violence and that rioting doesn’t erupt in Britain’s cities over the next few days. But if it does, the virtue-signalling promoters of this conspiracy theory will be partly to blame.
Stop Press: If you want to read a couple of academics fleshing out the idea that the BLM narrative is a conspiracy theory, I recommend this article by M.L.R. Smith and Niall McCrae.
Michael Levitt Interview
Good interview – on YouTube, no less – between the Australian broadcaster John Anderson and Michael Levitt, Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford and joint winner of the 2103 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Levitt does all the talking (sound issues clear up quickly) and explains his involvement, thinking and predictions right through from the beginning of January up to the present day. He talks about his concern with Professor Neil Ferguson’s modelling, as well as his efforts to contact Ferguson to convey those misgivings. Ferguson didn’t return his emails.
He also talks about herd immunity and the fact that some people seem to have a natural immunity to the virus, meaning seroprevalence surveys, which just measure the percentage of the population that has acquired antibodies to the disease, don’t provide an accurate gauge to how close we are to achieving herd immunity. He is sceptical about the overall utility of lockdowns and suspects that the loss of life resulting from them will be greater than any potential saving.
This a good, wide-ranging discussion and a must-see for anyone who wants to familiarise themselves with an analysis of COVID-19 by one of the world’s top scientists.
Is Coronavirus Refusing to Die in Sweden? Fraid not, Vultures!
One of the most unedifying spectacles of this crisis has been watching lockdown zealots gleefully swoop on any news suggesting the death toll in Sweden is higher than its neighbours. This, in spite of the fact that the Norwegian Prime Minister has apologised for not following Sweden’s example and the recent leaked emails showing that Denmark’s most senior public health officials advised the Danish Prime Minister not to impose a lockdown. Even our very own Professor Lockdown – Neil Ferguson – admitted under questioning by a House of Lords Select Committee yesterday that Sweden had achieved the same result as the UK when it comes to suppressing infections, but without a lockdown. (More here and some good stuff here, including a transcript of Matt Ridley cross-examining Ferguson about the wildly inaccurate Swedish projections his model spat out).
And last weekend brought even more bad news for the Swedish death toll vultures. There were no Covid deaths AT ALL reported in Sweden on Sunday, the first time that’s happened since March 12th.
The epidemic is petering out in Sweden, as it is everywhere else.
Minutes of SAGE 18 on March 23rd
A reader has challenged my blog post on Monday claiming the lockdown was a political decision, saying that if you look at the minutes from SAGE 18, the meeting which took place on March 23rd, the same day the full lockdown was imposed, it’s clear that the Government was “following the science”.
I took a look and don’t agree. As with the meeting of March 18th, there’s more stuff about not yet being able to assess the impact of the social distancing measures announced on March 18th, not much about them being insufficient: “SAGE noted that social distancing behaviours have been adopted by many but there is uncertainty whether they are being observed at the level required to bring the epidemic within NHS capacity.” However, there is some talk of the effectiveness of those measures: “Footfall in London transport hubs reduced by 80-90% over the weekend, but in retail and food outlets has decreased by a smaller margin.”
There is some other interesting stuff in there, however. For one thing, the attendees seem quite worried about the negative impact on public health of the measures already introduced. “Actuarial analysis is required to estimate deaths caused indirectly by COVID-19, including those caused by the social interventions,” says one of the minutes. Another says: “Given the clear links between poverty and long-term ill health, health impacts associated with the economic consequences of interventions also need to be investigated.” And: “In due course, analysis of the effects of the interventions on other causes of death should be undertaken.”
There’s also some evidence that it was beginning to dawn on SAGE that COVID-19 is a predominantly nosocomial disease. There’s a reference to “nosocomial hospital clusters” and one of the action points is “NERVTAG and DSTL to investigate spread of COVID-19 in hospitals”.
Interestingly, the minutes also say that any restrictions on travel into the country “would have a negligible effect on spread”.
On reading that last point, it’s hard not to agree with Allison Pearson, who produced a long list of things she’s sick of in today’s Telegraph. These include: “Sick of a 14-day quarantine for airline passengers, starting next Monday, which is being introduced three months too late as if specifically to lay waste to a £200 billion aviation and tourism industry which provides work for four million men and women.”
Jolyon Maugham Threatens Government With Court Action
Jolyon Maughan, the notorious anti-Brexit campaigner who killed a fox with a baseball bat on Boxing Day, announced yesterday that a solicitor acting for the Good Law Group – his anti-Brexit campaigning organisation – has written to Matt Hancock, challenging the manner in which an emergency parliamentary procedure was used to pass the Lockdown Regulations (and then amend them three times). The solicitor says the Good Law Group is not looking for trouble, but reserves the right to challenge the legislation by way of a Judicial Review if Hancock doesn’t provide him with an adequate justification.
Fortune makes strange bedfellows…
BBC Hit Job on Belarus
Last week, the BBC World Service has broadcast a ridiculously one-sided report about Belarus. The presenter, Lucy Ash, casts doubt on the official statistics, arguing that it cannot possibly be true that 1,000 new people are being infected each day and only five people are dying. In fact, an infection fatality rate of 0.5% would be twice as high as the official estimate of the CDC (0.26%). In shocked tones, she reports that the WHO recommended the Government close non-essential businesses and schools and yet – can you believe it? – the advice has been ignored! Most scandalously of all, she reports, 3,000 soldiers marched “check by jowl, unmasked” to celebrate the defeat of Germany in the Second World War on VE Day. Ash interviews a veteran who describes the President’s cavalier response as “criminally pig-headed”. Another interviewee compares the viral outbreak in Belarus to Chernobyl, suggesting it will be the death-knell of President Lukashenko’s autocratic regime.
The author of the “Postcard From Belarus” which I published on this site last week is not impressed.
In every way possible the reporter painted a picture of doom, strongly implying that everyone here believes that Lukashenko has got it wrong and is risking everyone’s lives with a deadly virus. The programme made out that the Government had taken no action to prevent the spread of the virus when, in fact, it introduced port-of-entry screening on January 23rd, closed museums, theatres and galleries, protected care homes, has introduced a test-and-trace system that actually works and insists that anyone who tests positive, or who’s been in contact with them, self-isolate for 14 days. The presenter failed to interview a single person who believes a full lockdown might not be the best policy, and failed to interview anyone who’s in favour of the action taken here (which I would say is the majority).
Towards the end, Lucy Ash states: “Fox-like cunning may not be able to pull Belarus out of its slump. Higher energy prices and fewer exports to China were already taking their toll before the Coronavirus outbreak. Lukashenko has promised higher salaries to medics tackling the pandemic and tax breaks to affected businesses, but many complain it’s too little too late.”
An interviewee then explained that Belarus’s economy has been fragile for the last 10 years, saying Lukashenko is in trouble economically.
You might think that would be a good moment to speak of the devastating impact a nationwide lockdown would have had on an already fragile economy, but no!
A letter of complaint from my Belarusian correspondent is on its way to the BBC.
Coronaphobia: Anatomy of a New Disease
I spotted an amusing post in the comment thread beneath Monday’s update. The comic motif is that coronaphobia is a clinical condition, much like COVID-19, that scientists are still struggling to understand, and the comment purports to be from a medic summarising what we know about the disease so far. Here’s an extract:
Completely sane individuals typically develop prodromal signs (mild tremor, sweaty palms, nervous laughter, inappropriate public behaviour involving clapping of the hands). We know that about 10% of symptomatic individuals will recover rapidly with a prompt return to sanity and illicit liaisons. But a much greater proportion go on to develop fulminating symptoms of the condition.
Acute symptomatology is variable and generally rapid in onset. Social withdrawal is present in almost all cases, with many sufferers being fearful of leaving the home. Current knowledge indicates that diagnosis can be made in the presence of a triad of symptoms; these are:
– Movement disorder (the swerve phenomenon is most commonly described, which usually affects the individual when attempting to mobilise to local shops but Philips et al. described a subset who leap over walls or fences to escape approaching pedestrians).
– Chronic naso-perioral dysmorphophobia which compels the wearing of a facial covering; early reports indicate that in approximately half of cases the nasal region is spared in which case the mouth alone may be covered, and the nose left uncovered.
– Delusional complex. As yet, this is not well understood, but it is proving fertile ground for research. Montmorency et al. have explored key delusional elements and these are the best available aid to diagnosis. They describe cases exhibiting delusional narratives related to the 14th century period with obsessive elements involving rats (sometimes fleas may be described upon them), itinerant peasants, peak district villages and nursery rhymes. In other cases, affected individuals may describe mushroom shaped clouds rising high into the sky, men riding on white horses, or dragons with four heads emerging from the North Sea.
Worth reading in full.
Welsh Health Minister Warns Lockdown May Have to be Reintroduced
Some lockdown measures may have to be reintroduced in the winter, according to the Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething. Quite surprising, given that he’s also admitted the lockdown itself may be responsible for some deaths. The minister said some people were not getting the medical care they need because they’ve been worried about going to hospital. Although, that can’t be the only reasons since non-urgent surgery and appointments were cancelled in Wales in March to maximise capacity to deal with the expected onrush of COVID-19 patients – who never materialised, obviously.
Mr Gething said daily attendances at A&E departments in Wales are a third lower and the biggest decrease in activity had been among children under 16, where activity had more than halved.
Meanwhile, 11 Conservative MPs in Wales have called on Welsh ministers to explain the “scientific basis” behind the decision to allow more activity outdoors – but only within a five-mile radius of your home. (That’s been possible in Wales since Monday). The Welsh Government said any changes to the lockdown are based on the latest “scientific and medical advice”, but it’s been heavily criticised by Welsh Conservatives, who have accused the Welsh Government of ignoring the needs of rural communities.
A letter penned by Ynys Mon MP Virginia Crosbie, and signed by all Welsh Tory MPs barring the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Wales Office minister David T.C. Davies, asked for the scientific basis for the travel rule and interpretation of it “given that in England there is no restriction on how far you can travel”.
The letter also asked if any assessment had been done of the public health impact of an “overextended lockdown” in Wales, and of any mental health and educational impacts from delaying reopening the economy.
One of my Welsh readers, a lifelong Labour voter, is so impressed by the letter he’s going to be voting Tory from now on.
I have written to my local MP, Sarah Atherton, the Tory who broke down Wrexham’s red wall to congratulate her. As a traditional left-leaning individual, that’s something I thought I’d never do!
“Thank you for challenging this nonsensical ruling, which needlessly shackles Wales and its inhabitants, cripples our economy, and frankly creates antagonism between us Welsh and our English cousins,” he wrote. “As a result of the ridiculous dictates from the Welsh Assembly I will not be voting for Labour again and nor will my wife. I hope that you provide the leadership for Wrexham to help get us out of this mess with minimal damage.”
I voted Corbyn last election, for my sins. Thank God Labour didn’t get into power in England, or you’d be wearing the same shackles as us Welshies.
New Paper by Finnish Epidemiologist Mikko Paunio
Today I’ve published a second paper by the Finish epidemiologist Mikko Paunio, this one pointing out how inaccurate the WHO’s initial analysis of coronavirus was. It’s called: “The WHO’s Erroneous Risk Assessment“. It begins:
At the heart of the WHO’s risk assessment at the start of the pandemic was the assumption that only 1% of those infected would show no symptoms.
The claim that few of the infections would be symptomless – and thus that everyone would become ill and that many people would die – paved the way to weeks of horror stories on the BBC, CNN, and in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian. And even more sober outlets like the Financial Times and the Economist followed suit, with little by way of analysis of what was actually known. In fact, the WHO’s claim was quickly rebutted by a member of its own Infectious Disease Catastrophe Committee, but too late to prevent panic spreading. The result was a lockdown across much of the world, the collateral damage from which will do far more harm than the virus.
A major serological survey from Spain now shows how wrong the initial WHO risk assessment was.
I’ve put this piece, along with Mikko’s earlier piece, in the right-hand menu in a new section called “What is the Infection Fatality Rate”?
French Designer Solves Problem of Social Distancing in Restuarants
A French designer has come up with an innovative solution to the problem of how couples can enjoy romantic dinners while still observing social distancing rules – they can wear giant transparent lampshades on their heads!
This is not a joke. Christophe Gernigon, who invented the device, is calling it the “Plex’Eat”. His design will go into production next week, and he says he’s already received interest from France, Belgium, Canada, Japan and Argentina. Reuters has more.
But perhaps the giant lampshades won’t be necessary. There was a nice comment from a reader in Paris in the comments beneath Monday’s daily update, suggesting things are beginning to return to normal in the world’s most romantic city:
Hello from Paris. Reading the comments here, I get the impression that the UK is perhaps a fortnight or so behind what is happening here. There has been a sea change over the last couple of weeks, which is particularly visible today. I just popped down to my local supermarket to buy a few pints of milk, passing on my way two crowded café terrasses with smiling (unmasked) people enjoying the glorious Spring sunshine and each other’s company. The parks are open again. I strolled through the Tuileries gardens this afternoon and one could almost imagine that this Corona madness had been a bizarre nightmare. There are still masked people in the streets, but their number is diminishing daily as, it appears, the lights are coming on again in people’s minds. There are noisy motorbikes and loud teenagers and fire alarms. I never thought I would appreciate urban noise so much! Hold in there, UK friends, freedom is coming!
A Doctor Writes…
Great comment under Monday’s update from a disillusioned NHS doctor. Here are a couple of paragraphs:
As the first three weeks passed, I saw first hand quite how quiet the hospitals were, and how few non-COVID patients we were seeing. Whole wards were empty. On some days, I saw more suicide attempts than COVID. Combined with this was the growing body of information regarding the lethality of this coronavirus – the likely IFR, the propensity for mortality in high-risk groups, but not in the young, and the clear evidence of the profound and deleterious effects of lockdown on the population. My mindset shifted, and I no longer saw lockdown as a necessary evil, and coronavirus was no longer an existential threat. I naively assumed that society was having the same realisation. This was not the case.
Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly frustrated and horrified by what has occurred. I cannot understand how we can continue such a wholesale curtailment of freedom, without any real backlash. I am livid at the lack of treatment for cancer patients, and quite how little society seems to care about anything other than Covid. I believe that the effects of lockdown will be far, far more significant than Covid. I am also angry about the fetishisation of the NHS, clap for carers, the TikTok videos and all of the nonsense that has taken place around this. I am involved in none of it, and resent my colleagues that are, because they should know how undeserved that praise is, and how much they are letting down patients.
Worth reading in full.
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:
- ‘America Is Unified Only in Its Outrage‘ – Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg asks why Black Lives Matter isn’t up in arms about the 40,000+ deaths in care homes, many of them African-Americans
- ‘The Guardian continues project fear over distancing report‘ – Good post on the Lockdown Truth blog about the Guardian‘s alarmist hand-wringing over reports that the Government may replace the two-metre rule with a one-metre rule
- ‘Tourism bosses warn “catastrophic” quarantine will force them to axe up to 60% of staff‘ – The Telegraph reports that up to 60% of the workers in the travel and hospitality sectors will be laid off if next week’s quarantine goes ahead
- ‘Matt Hancock under fire over incomprehensible testing targets‘ – Hancock has been criticised by the head of the UK Statistics Authority for fiddling the figures
- ‘Boris Johnson’s former prep school shuts permanently because of coronavirus impact‘ – Ashdown House closes its doors, blames the pandemic. Surely the first of many private schools to close, given social distancing rules
- ‘Architect of Sweden’s coronavirus plan warns UK not to hold out for a vaccine‘ – Anders Tegnell cautions that waiting for a vaccine is an unsustainable strategy
- ‘BAME coronavirus patients up to twice as likely to die from coronavirus, according to Public Health England report‘ – Not genetic, says PHE
- ‘I refuse to abide by these bonkers rules any longer‘ – Corking column by Allison Pearson in the Telegraph
- ‘NBA announcer Grant Napear fired over “All Lives Matter” comment‘ – I linked to this story above. Might be a good idea to stay off Twitter until the atmosphere has become a little less febrile
- ‘An interview with Daniel Hannan‘ – The former Conservative MEP makes the case against lockdowns in an interview with Students For Liberty
- ‘Governments and WHO changed COVID-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company‘ – Guardian investigation reveals that some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, including the Lancet, appear to have been duped by a little-known US healthcare analytics company that employs a sci-fi writer and a nude model. This is the company behind the “studies” that led to the WHO calling a halt to its hydroxychloroquine trials
- ‘Child and adolescent mental health in a post-lockdown world: a ticking time bomb?‘ – One of the world’s leading suicide researchers calls for an immediate end to the lockdown
- ‘Is living without risk really living at all?‘ – Excellent column by Lionel Shriver in the Spectator
- ‘Covid has all but left London. Why?‘ – Matthew Parris asks a good question
Small Businesses That Have Reopened
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 reopened, 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. 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.
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 takes me about nine hours a day which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. Alternatively, you can support the site by going to our shop and buying a T-shirt or a mug. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.
I don’t think I’ll have time for an update tomorrow – sorry! – but will post again on Friday.
Do have a listen to the latest episode of London Calling with James Delingpole and me. Among other things, we discuss Nicola Sturgeon’s increasingly authoritarian tone and wonder if Nic Sturge-un is related to Kim Jong-un…