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Dead Souls

Marc Chagall’s illustration for Dead Souls

Zugzwang, a reader of Lockdown Sceptics (not his real name, obviously), has written a great essay which I’m publishing today. The opening three paragraphs set the scene:

The anti-hero of Gogol’s Dead Souls, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, had his reasons for cultivating the nobility of a provincial Russian backwater, and buying from them, for a nominal sum, those of their serfs who happened to be dead. This saved the vendors an amount of poll tax (which continued to be payable for some time after death) and transformed Chichikov himself into a gentleman proprietor of some 400 serfs, potentially capable of raising a large loan on these assets and eloping (presumably under another name) with the Governor’s daughter.

When I first read Gogol, I found the whole idea totally obscure and mystifying, and I’m not sure that he ever spells out in words of one syllable how Chichikov’s business model is supposed to work. There’s a highly respectable view that the whole thing was always intended as pure shaggy-dog, and it’s only fitting that it breaks off in mid-sentence, as an act of Shandyean surrealism.

Compared with the COVID-19 mortality statistics, however, Gogol provides us with a paradigm of lucidity. Chichikov had found a way of monetising actual serfs who merely happened to have died. We have a Government agency, Public Health England, which seems to be busy manufacturing statistical deaths, to no purpose that makes even Chichikovian sense.

He then goes on to disect the official Covid death data and can discover little rhyme or reason:

Since July 17th, the daily death statistics from PHE have not been published directly by the Government, which is currently “investigating” them. But they do go on being input into the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, which is fed by PHE. Not only that, they continue to illustrate the official thesis that while the virus may be on its way out, it is going very, very, slowly. The rolling seven-day average number of deaths per day on July 26th was 66, holding its own with 68 the week before. No decline recorded at all – and 444 deaths reported by PHE in the week ending July 24th.

The thing is, though, that it is entirely mysterious where these deaths are occurring. For the week to July 24th there have so far been zero deaths reported in Scotland and Northern Ireland and just one in Wales. In the hospitals of England, the total recorded deaths (according to the NHS) were 67. So we have 376 unaccounted for (85% of them).

I’ve given it pride of place on the right-hand menu under “Are Sceptical Voices Being Suppressed?” Worth reading in full.

America’s Frontline Doctors

A group of sceptical doctors in the US, including Dr Dan Erickson, one of the two Bakersfield doctors, held a press conference on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington yesterday in which they talked a great deal of sense. They pointed out, among other things, that the lockdowns across the US are causing more harm than they’re preventing, that COVID-19 is treatable and that the vast majority of the population, e.g those under 65 without any co-morbidities, aren’t at risk from the disease.

Needless to say, America’s tech giants quickly moved to suppress the information. Breitbart News posted a video to Facebook yesterday which became the top-performing Facebook post in the world before the social media company removed it, and YouTube and Twitter removed footage of the press conference too. You can still view it on Breitbart, however.

The same group organised a second event yesterday at which they sang the praises of Hydroxychloroquine. If YouTube has taken it down by the time you click on this link, you can find the information at

Cat Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Patch feels gloomy after losing her sense of taste and smell

Oh no! Time for another panic. A cat has tested positive for COVID-19. The BBC has the story, although for once the news organisation is trying to tamp down the hysteria.

A pet cat has tested positive in the UK for the strain of coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic.

Experts say it is the first confirmed case of infection in an animal in the UK but does not mean the disease is being spread to people by their pets.

It’s thought the cat caught coronavirus from its owner, who had previously tested positive for the virus. Both have now recovered.

Health officials stress the case is very rare and no cause for alarm.

Reminds me of the story about the goat testing positive in Tanzania. The President, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, promptly sacked his chief health advisor, taking this as evidence that the test being used was unreliable. I wonder if the Covid cat might also be a false positive? The BBC doesn’t record whether the moggy was retested to confirm the initial diagnosis.

Heart-Rending Stories

I’ve been sent a harrowing story by a reader who works for a cancer charity.

I don’t know if this story is helpful to you at all, but I work for a national cancer charity answering support calls. I had an extremely distressing call the other week from an 90 year-old lady whose 69 year-old daughter who was in a hospice due to her advanced cancer.

The lady told me that she hadn’t seen her daughter for months – since lockdown was imposed – and knowing her daughter didn’t have long left she drove to the hospice, desperate to see her, only to be refused at the front door. Worse still, she said she was verbally reprimanded by the manager for trying to come in and told that she was putting herself and everyone else at risk.

Her daughter died a few days later. She never got to say her goodbyes….

On the phone to me, the lady was emotionally distraught, crying inconsolably. She also told me that she lives alone and had been self-isolating herself since February, which she has really struggled with as well. I have been supporting cancer patients for many years and never been lost for words, but on this occasion I was. I just felt so angry inside.

The prevention of people being able to say goodbye to their loved ones is, for me, one of the most shockingly under-covered stories throughout this whole lockdown. I’m sure this is not a one off….

And another reader sent me this story. Pretty awful, too.

I have a rather depressing story told to me by a close friend.

Her grandmother died in hospital at the start of lockdown and sadly, having tested positive for COVID-19 and locked in a Covid ward, she was not able to see her family in her final days. As it happens, the cause of death was certainly not Covid as she had been struggling with cancer for some time.

Upon trying to recover the grandmother’s belongings, however, my friend’s family were told that they were missing. The items’ total value was a sizeable four-figure sum as she had been wearing her jewellery at the time of her death. After months of wrangling with the hospitals and fears the items had been stolen, they finally received a concrete response.

The hospital said that at the time of the grandmother’s death, guidance for dealing with Covid patients’ property had not been set up, leading to large build-ups of personal property at the hospital. When guidance did materialise it stated that personal clothing (at the time, it has since changed), were to be disposed of. The hospital admitted that the likely outcome was that, due to the pressure the hospital was facing, the grandmother’s jewellery had been disposed of by mistake along with her clothing.

Of course, this caused great distress to the family in question and it has led me to wonder how many families were similarly affected. It is not inconceivable that due to this absurd guidance, the total value of patients’ lost items could be millions of pounds, and many deeply saddened families.

This whole saga seems typical of the whole national response to Covid, where an easily sterilisable item, such as an engagement ring, is thrown aside in the name of irrational Covid responses. I feel that stories and scandals like these are going to continue surfacing for months to come.

No Second Wave in Spain

Yesterday’s Blower cartoon in the Telegraph

Will Jones, a contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a good piece for Conservative Woman about the needless panic over Spain’s “second wave”.

While there has in the past month been a surge in cases, mainly in Catalonia, there has been no corresponding surge in deaths nor in serious cases, which remain notably flat, indicating a surge so far either among the low risk or in the number of tests only.

Further considerations are that half the new cases in Spain are asymptomatic and we have no reason to believe that the asymptomatic are infectious. In addition, with the number of people being tested so high, and the percentage of cases so low, it’s likely that some of the uptick is due to false positives. The antigen test is notoriously unreliable, as this episode illustrates, when six out of seven staff members at a Scottish football club who’d tested positive turned out to be negative when retested.

In other words, the newly-imposed quarantine for travellers returning from Spain (and the Spanish islands) is completely pointless.

Who would have guessed?

As Alexandra Phillips points out in the Telegraph, the Government’s U-turn on quarantine travel restrictions is straight out of The Thick of It.

Worth reading Will Jones’s piece in full.

Risk of Catching the Virus From Inanimate Surfaces or Objects is Tiny

Turns out, you can’t get Covid from cans of baked beans

A reader has flagged up a recent comment in the Lancet saying the risk of catching COVID-19 from fomites – inanimate surfaces or objects – has been wildly exaggerated. The author – Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the New Jersey Medical School – points out that the studies purporting to show the virus can survive on fomites for up to six days all used huge quantities of live virus that bore no resemblance to real life situations.

In a study in which the authors tried to mimic actual conditions in which a surface might be contaminated by a patient, no viable SARS-CoV was detected on surfaces.

He concludes:

In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze (within 1–2 h).

Phew! This means there’s no need to “quarantine” food deliveries for three days before consuming and no need to remove clothing that’s been touched from rails in shops.

But I think we all knew that anyway.

Examples of Newspeak

I’m thinking about introducing a new regular slot featuring Orwellian use of language by the mainstream media. Here’s a gem: “Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.” (This was tweeted by ABC News in the US.) I don’t suppose I need to spell this out, but if protestors set fire to a courthouse, vandalised a police station and attacked the police, how was the demonstration “peaceful”? It’s reminiscent of that now famous BBC headline about the BLM protest that turned ugly in Whitehall: “27 officers injured in largely peaceful anti-racism protests.”

If readers notice any other examples of Newspeak, email me here.


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:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by the Beatles, “Let’s Not Go Shopping” by Robbie Williams and “House Arrest” by Gorgon City x SOFI TUKKER.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months 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.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard. The one featured above is available for free here and has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here. The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And you can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here.

Although bear in mind that some mask Nazis are so deranged they may just go completely nuts if they see you not wearing one in public. In San Diego, a man having a picnic with his wife in a public park was maced by a woman for not covering his face.

Meanwhile, here’s Peter Hitchens railing against face masks on Mike Graham’s TalkRadio show yesterday.

And you can sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website to end mandatory face nappies in shops here.

Shameless Begging Bit

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. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I talk about being part of the anti-mask rebel alliance, why Covid rule enforcement appeals to aggressive conformists and the unconvincing rhetoric of Sasha, the Oxford BLM rabble rouser. If you enjoy the podcast, please do subscribe.