Refusing to wear a mask in public should become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving or not wearing a seatbelt, the President of the Royal Society has said.
Venki Ramakrishnan called for everyone to be required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, rather than only on public transport, and criticised confused messaging from the Government. This follows the publication of two Royal Society reports, one of which purports to show that wearing masks reduces transmission of the virus, and the other of which documents how far the UK is trailing behind other countries when it comes to face coverings.
Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours; none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic, yet now do so routinely.
So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It is the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.
The message has not been clear enough, so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them. Whatever the reasons, we need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public.
It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today, both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way.
If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.
I’ve had a look at the Royal Society paper that supposedly confirms the effectiveness of masks. It’s unimpressive. Note the threadbare evidence on which it bases its sweeping conclusion:
We have found only two randomised control trials in the primary literature on the use of face masks to reduce onward transmission; one was underpowered, and the other showed significant reduction when adjusted for actual mask usage in a posthoc analysis.
Congratulations Venki Ramakrishnan. You win bedwetter-of-the-week
81% of Care Home Residents Asymptomatic
This is pretty extraordinary. According to a UK Government study, 80.9% of residents in care homes for the over-65s in England who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic.
A reaction to the study in the Science Media Centre contains this gem from Sarah Harper, Clore Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford:
Our early conclusions that younger people were generally asymptomatic, but older adults were less likely to be, has now been questioned. This survey further emphasizes that the disease is complex and its progress and impact still unclear. There has been a general assumption in some media reports that COVID-19 was a death sentence for all older people – this study emphasizes that many older adults as well as younger people can have the disease mildly.
So COVID-19 is not a death sentence for the over-65? Who knew?
Well, Dr Scott Atlas does. The senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center has given an interview to Fox News in which he says that for those under 70, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is lower than it is for seasonal flu.
Meanwhile, Boris has put his foot in it by suggesting care home managers are to blame for the high death toll in the sector. The prime minister said on Monday that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures”.
That’s a bit rich, considering the Chief Executive of the NHS ordered hospitals to discharge as many patients as possible in March without checking first to make sure they weren’t carrying COVID-19. Given the number of infectious people flooding into care homes as a result of that diktat, I’m not sure following more rigorous social distancing policies in these settings would have made any difference.
Latest ONS Data Shows Deaths Below Five-Year Average for Second Week in Row
Readers will recall that last Tuesday the ONS data for Week 25 showed that the number of people dying in England and Wales had fallen below the five-year average, suggesting that some of the people who’ve died from coronavirus would have died later in the year anyway. The same is true for the ONS data for Week 26 (June 20th – 26th).
The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 26 June 2020 (Week 26) was 8,979, this was 360 deaths lower than Week 25.
In Week 26, the number of deaths registered was 3.4% below the five-year average (314 deaths fewer), this is the second consecutive week that deaths have been below the five-year average; the numbers of deaths in care homes and hospitals were also fewer than the five-year average (103 and 815 deaths lower respectively), while the number of deaths in private homes was 745 higher than the five-year average.
Of the deaths registered in Week 26, 606 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the lowest number of deaths involving COVID-19 in the last 13 weeks, accounting for 6.7% of all deaths in England and Wales.
Another notable feature of the latest ONS data is that the number of deaths involving novel coronavirus is falling in every English region save for the North East, with the total declining for the 10th consecutive week.
Bailout For Luvvies
Quite decent of the Government to put a £1.57 billion bailout package in place for theatres, galleries and museums, considering how few people in those institutions vote Conservative.
Will Gompertz, the BBC’s arts correspondent, had this to say about it:
The rescue package has been warmly welcomed by many arts leaders, some of whom said they thought it to be at the upper end of what had been hoped for. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who has been under pressure from the arts and heritage sector to deliver a meaningful funding solution to a crisis brought about by COVID-19, feels vindicated that his behind-closed-doors approach to negotiations with the Treasury has paid off.
As always, the devil will be in the detail. The Government has not specified how the money will be divided between competing art forms or regions, nor how the application process will work. There will be winners and losers.
And then there’s the elephant in the auditorium: when will the rules around social distancing in performing arts venues be relaxed to allow the show to go on?
Many theatre producers are baffled by what they see as “one rule for them, and one rule for us”, approach by Government, particularly when it comes to travel. Why is it OK for people to sit side-by-side on a train or plane for hours but not in a theatre, which they argue is a much more controllable environment? As far as they are concerned, that is the billion dollar question.
That last point is a good one. Rather than handing out taxpayers money to these folks, wouldn’t it be better to just let theatres, galleries and museums re-open?
Simon Dolan Loses First Round
Disappointing news: Simon Dolan’s attempt to have the Government’s draconian coronavirus restrictions declared unlawful by the High Court has not been successful. Sky News has the story.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Lewis said that the rules in force on 2 July – the day of the hearing in the case – “did involve a restriction on the freedom of assembly and association”.
But he added: “The context in which the restrictions were imposed, however, was of a global pandemic where a novel, highly infectious disease capable of causing death was spreading and was transmissible between humans. There was no known cure and no vaccine.
“There was a legal duty to review the restrictions periodically and to end the restrictions if they were no longer necessary to achieve the aim of reducing the spread and the incidence of coronavirus. The regulations would end after six months in any event.
“In those, possible unique, circumstances, there is no realistic prospect that a court would find that regulations adopted to reduce the opportunity for transmission by limiting contact between individuals was disproportionate.”
Sounds like Mr Justice Lewis has drunk the Covid Kool-Aid.
Simon is considering an appeal. In the meantime, you can visit his Keep Britain Free website here.
National Geographic Says Covid 50 to 100 Times More Deadly Than Flu
There’s an extraordinary piece in the National Geographic – wildly alarmist, even by the standards of the mainstream media. It includes this incredible statement:
Using a more sophisticated calculation called the infection-fatality rate, paired with the past few months’ worth of data, the latest best estimates show that COVID-19 is around 50 to 100 times more lethal than the seasonal flu, on average.
So what exactly is this “more sophisticated” way of calculating the IFR? Apparently, they’re the ones made by University of Wollongong epidemiologist and self-described “health nerd” Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz.
Scientists can use two strategies to estimate the infection-fatality rate, explains Meyerowitz-Katz. They can estimate the number of infections using serology studies, which test people for antibodies against the coronavirus. These tests can reveal whether a person has been infected even if they don’t show symptoms. Or, researchers can use statistical methods to infer the total number of infections based on what’s known about the number of confirmed cases and the estimates for asymptomatic infections.
“Serology studies generally produce lower estimates of infection-fatality rates, and statistical models tend to be higher,” Meyerowitz-Katz says.
Meyerowitz-Katz’s has shown his workings-out in a blog post for Medium.
For my part, I’ll stick with the CDC’s estimate of 0.26%, about 2.5 times higher than the IFR of the average seasonal flu. Here’s how the CDC reached that figure, as summarised in USA Today:
In May, the CDC published a document titled “Pandemic Planning Scenarios,” with estimates about the virus to help modelers and public health officials. It included estimates of the death rate for infected people who show symptoms and of the percentage of people who were infected but asymptomatic.
The CDC document stressed the values are estimates, not predictions of the effects of the virus, and don’t reflect the impact of changes in behavior or social distancing.
“New data on COVID-19 is available daily,” the document said. “Information about its biological and epidemiological characteristics remain limited, and uncertainty remains around nearly all parameter values.”
The document includes five scenarios. The first four are varying estimates of the disease’s severity, from low to high, while the fifth represents the “current best estimate.”
The range of estimates put the fatality rate for those showing symptoms between 0.2%-1%, with a “best estimate” of 0.4%.
It also places the number of asymptomatic cases between 20%-50%, with a “best estimate” of 35%.
By combining the two estimates, the estimated overall fatality rate of those infected with the virus – with and without symptoms – would be 0.26%.
Laura Dodsworth’s Art Project
Artist and photographer Laura Dodsworth has started documenting the impact of the lockdown through a variety of different mediums. She’s written about the project in Spiked:
A choir of lockdown luvvies bemoan the demise of the arts, while arguing that lockdown didn’t start early enough, wasn’t strict enough, and shouldn’t be ending now. Of course lockdown was going to kill the arts, along with many other industries and livelihoods. In the end, if we want to resurrect the arts world, the only hope is to depart the Theatre of Death, staggering, blinking, into the daylight. It was quite a show, but it’s almost over – daily deaths are now in the double figures in the UK.
You can visit her website here.
Why Aren’t More People Going to the Pub?
According to a poll, only 5% of Britons have visited a pub since they re-opened. Why so few? Presumably because the above Times cartoon sums up how many Britons are feeling, having been subjected to months of unrelenting ‘death porn’ by The BBC.
But this email from a reader also contains a clue. Going to the pub is actually a miserable experience, given all the pointless rules that have put been in place.
Just back from a very unpleasant experience this evening, meeting old friends at my local pub in Kingston, the Druid’s Head. As I entered the pub, a young girl aged about 20 insisted I “scan the QR code” or text my details to their mobile number for “NHS track and trace”. It was farcical! When I explained I was joining a group of friends, she took ages looking on her iPad to confirm the booking before I was allowed entry.
As I joined my old friends (sadly all of them are hugely pro-lockdown), they would not shake my hand and my mate’s gf would not do a usual hug to greet me. She was paranoid I might touch her beer and infect it
I was allowed to order drinks at the bar, but could not carry them to our table. Only bar staff were authorised to do this. As if in some way, this increases the risk of spreading Covid. Of course, they had the obligatory Perspex screens on the bar (with massive gaps to pay through).
As you can imagine conversation was riveting. My friends blamed Boris for not locking down earlier. My mate’s gf said very defiantly, “We are going to be living like this for a VERY LONG TIME!” Almost as if she wanted to live this way forever.
My mate and his gf had a bottle of antibacterial spray on the table. I’m not exaggerating when I say they must have used this about ten times in the space of an hour. Constantly, obsessively spraying and rubbing their hands with it. I joked and said, “Careful, you‘ll run out in an hour!” They weren’t amused.
As we left the pub, they would not touch any door handles and only used their elbows to open doors. As we said our goodbyes outside, they offered me some of their hand spray. When I said no, they looked shocked. “But you’ve touched things!” they exclaimed. Then they tried to forcibly spray my hands! WTF! The look of horror on their faces because I refused their spray. They could not believe I would dare refuse it. It was neurotic behaviour to the nth degree. I despair.
Feeling thoroughly depressed now. My mental health has taken a battering for what should have been a fun catch up. I won’t be seeing them again in a hurry. Please tell me this is just a nightmare and not real.
Meanwhile, the poor residents of Leicester are being grassed up by the locals when they sneak out to pubs in neighbouring areas. Apparently, the giveaway is when they cheer Jamie Vardy scoring a goal.
The Barrel of a Gun
On Saturday night, when I’d had a few too many, I produced a slightly unhinged Twitter thread about the Cultural Revolution. Here it is for those who missed it.
1/ Thought I’d do a thread about reasons to be cheerful about the Cultural Revolution. All of these are variations on the same theme: the Red Guards have seized cultural power, but not political power.
2/ It’s a coup in which the revolutionaries have secured the public broadcaster, but not the military. They don’t have a monopoly over the legitimate use of force – they can’t murder or imprison counter-revolutionaries, just cancel them – and that means the coup will fail.
3/ Take universities, art schools, dance schools, drama schools, colleges of further education, etc. The coup has been 100% successful in those institutions. There’s literally zero tolerance for any dissent from Woke orthodoxy across the HE sector.
4/ But the timing of the revolutionaries isn’t great. >50% of those institutions will shortly be facing an existential crisis because of Covid. Travel restrictions will mean fewer non-British students, exacerbated by the fact that EU nationals will no longer get the fee break.
5/ And a lot of students who’ve accepted places will defer for a year, what with lectures and tutorials delivered online, campus social life hampered by stupid social distancing rules, nightlife in university cities non-existent. So most universities are facing a perfect storm.
6/ >50% won’t survive unless they can attract more students in 2021 and persuade the Govt to bail them out. So what do they do? They make it crystal clear that if you’re not a member of a victim group you’ll be demonised from day one. Make a pass at a girl? You’re a rapist.
7/ Voice the mildest dissent from the BLM policy agenda – you think it might not be a great idea to defund the police, for instance – and you’re a racist. Say you think JK Rowling might have a point and you’re a transphobe.
8/ At a time when the sector needs to attract as many new students as it can – and persuade a Conservative Government to bail it out! – it has doubled down on hard Left anti-capitalist gobbledegook and created an aggressively hostile environment for anyone to the right of Corbyn.
9/ So the good news is at least half of these Woke-us Dei religious seminaries will go bankrupt (assuming the Govt holds it nerve). The pipeline the cult has been using to pump lobotomised activists into the workforce is about to be bombed.
10/ The Professor of Whiteness Studies at the University of Central Bedfordshire will lose his £120,000-a-year, taxpayer-subsidised job and end up driving an Uber, where his ability to make converts will be confined to drunk couples snogging on the back seat.
11/ What about schools? The coup has been 100% successful in schools, too. Private and state. So many people have sent me documentary evidence that their children’s schools are now teaching the BLM Gospel, with heretics being burnt at the stake, I’ve stopped collecting it.
12/ So children will be bombarded with anti-British, Neo-Marxist propaganda from 9am to 3.30pm five days a week. They’ll be taught that British history is an unbroken litany of oppression, exploitation and self-deception. The message will be: “Hate your country and yourself.”
13/ But with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet – teachers, comedians, the BBC, the Premier League, Hollywood, etc. – most teenagers are bound to reject this dogma. Counter-cultural revolutionaries like Jordan Peterson will have the added glamour of being outcasts.
14/ And the more Woke the metropolitan elite becomes, the more likely right-wing populists are to win elections. Working class voters see this puritanical self-flagellation (we’re such sinners!) for what it is – a way for high-caste whites to differentiate themselves from them.
15/ It’s an expression of snobbish contempt dressed up as a self-righteous crusade. And the more left-wing parties embrace this nonsense, the more they alienate traditional working class voters. I think Trump will win in November.
16/ So absent an actual coup, the High Priests of the Intersectionality Cult will never obtain political power. And even though the process will be slow, right-wing politicians will gradually turn off the financial faucets that are funding this religious movement.
17/ Another asset for the counter-revolutionary side is that the people the Red Guards go after are often the smartest people in their fields/professions. Brilliant academics, teachers, actors, community organisers, comedians, etc., are being cancelled every day.
18/ And the upshot is that they become highly-motivated Generals in the counter-revolution. In the Soviet Union, picking off the Communist Party’s most gifted opponents worked because they were imprisoned or murdered. But just cancelling people isn’t nearly as effective.
19/ So this Maoist moment in which the Red Guards seem to be sweeping all before them could be a last hurrah. They’ve seized an important bridgehead, but haven’t secured their supply lines. It’s the French Revolution without the guillotine.
20/ I don’t mean to sound glib. I know 100s of good people are being blacklisted every day at the behest of rage mobs. It’s McCarthyism on steroids. But take heart. Join the resistance. Our opponents have immersed themselves in Foucault, but not Machiavelli. We will win.
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:
- ‘We need a cholera-style investigation to fully understand spread of COVID-19‘ – Excellent piece by Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson at Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine arguing that we need a more forensic, on-the-ground investigation of how the virus is transmitted, using John Snow’s investigation of the London cholera outbreak in 1854 as a model
- ‘Coronavirus could cause 35,000 extra UK cancer deaths, experts warn‘ – The BBC reports on the findings of DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for Cancer, but the headline is misleading. It should say “Lockdown could cause 35,000 extra Uk Cancer deaths”
- ‘The New Truth‘ – Great piece in the Tablet about why it’s impossible to debunk the claims of Woke activists with science and reason
- ‘The major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neanderthals‘ – Interesting preprint suggesting a genetic explanation for why BME people are more susceptible to coronavirus. You don’t mean… it can’t be… that it is has nothing to do with ‘systemic racism’?!?
- ‘England & Wales 2020 Mortality Statistics in Context‘ – Excellent analysis of the 2020 excess deaths data for Weeks 1- 25 by Robert Wilson for Hector Drummond Magazine. He finds that of the 54,365 total, 9,463 were not due to COVID-19, but due to the effective closure of the NHS to non-Covid patients
- ‘Three pubs are forced to close because customers test positive for coronavirus‘ – The Mail reports that three pubs have had to close after customers tested positive for the virus
- ‘Pupils shun extra wellbeing lessons‘ – Quite right, too. They get enough touchy-feely gobbledegook on the BBC
- ‘Cash crisis leaves 13 universities on brink of collapse‘ – Story in the Times based on a report by the IFS. Only 13? I think it’ll be closer to half the total (see my Twitter thread above)
- ‘Revealed: the high-risk COVID-19 cities where going out is on the rise‘ – Handy guide to those cities where it’s still possible to have fun, based on requests to iPhones for walking directions. Top of the list is Bradford, followed by Portsmouth, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester
- ‘The tyranny of cancel culture‘ – Good piece by Brendan O’Neill in Spiked saying Trump is right about the “political weapon” of “cancel culture” – the totalitarian thirst for “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees”.
- ‘Predicting the Trajectory of Any COVID-19 Epidemic From the Best Straight Line‘ – Interesting paper from Professor Michael Levitt, among others, confirming that the rise and fall of infections and deaths follows the same pattern wherever the virus breaks out
- ‘Letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University‘ – Read a letter the Free Speech Union has written to Professor Stephen Toope, V-C of Cambridge, asking for clarification about what speech is protected under the University’s free speech policy, given that it appears to be one rule for Dr Gopal and another for Dr Starkey
Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened
A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.
Note to the Good Folk Below the Line
I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.
Shameless Begging Bit
Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Thursday.
You can listen to James Delingpole and me putting the world to rights in the latest episode of London Calling. I spend the first few minutes enthusing about Hamilton, having seen it for the first time on Sunday night. This was the filmed version of the Broadway production on Disney+, obviously, not the actual musical.
When Hamilton made its debut in 2015, it was considered a liberal work of art and enthusiastically celebrated by President Obama. But given the escalation of hostilities in the culture war since George Floyd’s death and the leftwards shift of the Overton Window, it now plays like a pointed rebuttal of the BLM narrative.
Part of that narrative, don’t forget, is that American history began in 1619, not 1776, and the Revolution was fought not to throw off the yoke of colonial oppression but so rich Southern landowners could continue to profit from the slave trade, given its imminent abolition in the British Empire. According to this version of US history – the one institutionalised by the text books of Howard Zinn and taught in every American high school – African-Americans were never participants in America’s story, only its victims. The Founding was not a huge step forward in the recognition of the universal rights of man, but a lynchpin in the system of white supremacy. The Founding Fathers were not philosopher-kings, but evil capitalist slave-owners.
How refreshing, therefore, to watch a musical in which the Founding is portrayed as the beginning of American history and celebrated as an event in which Americans of all different races participated. In Hamilton, the African-American cast members aren’t victims; rather, they are leading participants in America’s origin story. It’s a recasting of that story to make it fully inclusive and multicultural, which is the opposite of the white supremacist script that BLM activists want everyone to stick to. And the central character is the First Secretary of the US Treasury, the engine of American capitalism.
Needless to say, Lyn-Manuel Miranda, the wunderkind impresario who wrote Hamilton, is already coming under fire from Woke activists. You can read a summary of this attempt to cancel Hamilton here. I fear it won’t be long before Disney+ withdraws the film and issues a grovelling apology. Watch it while you can.