Greetings From Venice
I’m in Venice where today is supposed to be the climax of Il Redentore, an annual festival held on the third weekend in July celebrating the end of the plague in 1576 that killed 50,000 people. In 1576, the Senat decided to build a small wooden church on Giudecca Island, now known as the Redentore Church (Church of the Redeemer). It’s actually opposite the hotel I’m staying in on the main island and I can see it out of my window as I write. If things were unfolding as planned, a temporary bridge would be built out of barges across the Grand Canal and thousands of people would cross to the Church and give thanks to God for ending the plague.
But of course it’s been cancelled. The local authorities took that decision on July 10th, just one week before the festival was due to begin, delivering yet another blow to the local businesses that depend on tourism, which is the vast majority. Tourism is the city’s main source of income, with 23 million people visiting in a normal year, but that’s dwindled to almost nothing during the pandemic. The cancellation of the Festival of the Redeemer follows the cancellation of the last two days of the Venice Festival in March, as well as the postponement of the next Venice Biennale from 2021 to 2022. The hotels, museums, restaurants, bars, cafes, water taxis and gondoliers are all struggling to stay in business.
The irony is that the absence of tourists makes this the perfect time to visit. Normally in July, the old city is like Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, with the main thoroughfares becoming virtually impassable, let alone the narrow streets. But now, almost the only people here are Italians, either the local residents, or visitors for the day from nearby areas. I’m having a lovely time wandering around museums and churches with my family, and eating at the city’s finest restaurants. You have to wear face coverings in shops and all the visitor attractions, as well as the communal areas of the hotels, but apart from that it’s heavenly. Or it would be if I wasn’t constantly being reminded that without a massive bailout a lot of these businesses will go bust. Not only will that mean tens of thousands of people losing their livelihoods, but also less tax revenue to spend on the city’s crumbling buildings and infrastructure. Not that the Italian Government will be in a position to plug that hole. The entire Italian economy has been propped up by tourism for years and the ongoing travel restrictions around the world, as well as the public’s irrational fear of the virus, will mean a huge black hole in the country’s finances this year. I fear for the future of this beautiful city.
Must-See Interview With Professor Carl Heneghan
Freddie Sayers, the Editor of UnHerd, has done another of his interviews with high-level lockdown sceptics, this time Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson from Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. And it’s a blockbuster. Both pour scorn on the conventional wisdom about the virus. Here are some of the highlights of Professor Heneghan’s contributions:
- On the effectiveness of masks: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence.”
- On whether this a proper pandemic or just a bad bout of seasonal infection: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory.”
- On the lockdown strategy: “Many people said that we should have locked down earlier, but 50% of care homes developed outbreaks during the lockdown period so there are issues within the transmission of this virus that are not clear… Lockdown is a blunt tool and there needs to be intelligent conversations about what mitigation strategies can keep society functioning while we keep the most vulnerable shielded.”
- On whether trying to suppress the spread of the virus is a good idea: “The benefits of the current strategy are outweighed by the harms…When it comes to suppression, only the virus will have a determination in that. If you follow the New Zealand policy of suppressing it to zero and locking down the country forever, then you’re going to have a problem… This virus is so out there now, I cannot see a strategy that makes suppression the viable option. The strategy right now should be how we learn to live with this virus.”
- On the infection fatality rate: “We will be down about where we were with the swine flu: around 0.1-0.3% which is much lower than what we think because at the moment we are seeing the case fatality.”
Worth watching in full.
DHSC Has No Fear of Winter Surge
A reader with a relative who’s quite high up in the Department of Health and Social Care has some inside dope about the “second wave”:
A very close family relative who works in the DHSC turned up today with some interesting information. Apparently, there is in reality within the Department’s walls no current expectation whatsoever of any big health crisis in the winter to come, regardless of the current propaganda campaign telling us we face catastrophe. “How so?” I hear you cry. The reason is simple. They’ve twigged, as has anyone else with half a brain, that a large number of the people who might be susceptible to to the so-called second COVID-19 wave or an outbreak of influenza have – wait for it – already died.
No time for a proper update today, but here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours (and a special thanks to Mitesh Kariah who has been tirelessly flagging stories up for me for months):
- ‘Stop pretending the BLM protests were peaceful‘ – Micheal Tracy points out in UnHerd that the BLM protests were far from peaceful
- ‘The COVID Coup‘ – Good essay by Angelo Codevilla in the American Mind. He’s one of us
- ‘“Take it or leave it” deals put rail on track for nationalisation‘ – Looks like re-nationalisation of the railways is looming in spite of the fact that Labour lost the last election
- ‘Scientists criticise modelling that predicted 120,000 winter deaths‘ – Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on NERVTAG, says the projections are based on “flawed” mathematical modelling
- ‘Extra cancer victims may reach 35,000 after screening and treatment missed‘ – That’s 35,000 in the next 12 months, as estimated by Cancer Research UK. The charity warns that deaths caused by delays in care will exceed coronavirus casualties
- ‘Government suspends publication of daily UK-wide death toll over accuracy concerns‘ – About bloody time
- ‘Here’s why BLM protests, crowded beaches and eased lockdown have not caused a second wave‘ – The Telegraph‘s Paul Nuki, usually a lockdown defender, puzzles over why mass events don’t seem to have resulted in an uptick in infections
- ‘Rouhani says 25 million Iranians may have been infected with coronavirus‘ – Given that only ~14,000 Iranians have died of COVID-19, that’s a very low IFR (if true)
- ‘Impose sanctions on China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims‘ – UK Government petition objecting to China’s appalling treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Sign it to show solidarity with Maajid Nawaz who has gone on hunger strike to draw attention to this abuse of human rights
- ‘Face Masks Mandated by UK Government Specifically Say They Don’t Protect Against COVID-19‘ – Anything other than tight-fitting, surgical-grade masks are utterly pointless, and the evidence that even they are effective outside healthcare settings is threadbare
- ‘The mask slips‘ – Listen to Brendan O’Neill, Tom Slater, Fraser Myers, and special guest Lee Jones pour scorn on mandatory face coverings in the Spiked podcast
- ‘London ponders its future as pandemic turns capital into a ghost town‘ – Depressing article in the Telegraph‘s business section
- ‘The most logical explanation is that it comes from a laboratory‘ – Well-known Norwegian virologist Birger Sørensen and his colleagues have examined the virus and concluded it cannot have evolved naturally
Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers
Only one today: “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” by Heaven 17.
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 – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! 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 Folks 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.
I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to our new Lockdown Sceptics Forums, which webmaster Ian Rons has just created. (You’ll need to verify your email address before you can start posting.) Apologies for not creating them sooner. Any problems, email Ian here. Or just email him to thank him for creating such a great website. (For some reason, the Forums have become a spam magnet so we’ve closed them temporarily while Ian writes some code to stop that happening.)
Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. But I’m on holiday until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing much work on this site for a week. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.
I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m on holiday: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.