Month: August 2020

Latest News

Zero Hospital Deaths in English Hospitals Yesterday

Several people tweeted out this graph yesterday, accompanied by the news that zero deaths were recorded by NHS England on August 19th. While that’s true (I checked the NHS England website this morning), it isn’t the first time that’s happened as I’ve reported on Lockdown Sceptics many times before. In the past, the zero figure has subsequently been updated as recorded deaths for the day in question start trickling in. Will be interesting to see if that happens for August 19th, but I suspect it will.

Hospital Admissions Over-Counted

Must-read story in the Telegraph. According to an analysis done by SAGE, people admitted to hospital in March and April were counted as Covid admissions if they’d ever tested positive for the disease, regardless of how much time had elapsed between the test and the admissions and regardless of the actual reason they were being admitted. Science Editor Sarah Knapton has more.

An investigation for the Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found that people were being counted as Covid hospital admissions if they had ever had the virus, and were added to those being admitted directly due to it.

Government figures show that, at the peak of the pandemic in early April, nearly 20,000 people a week were being admitted to hospital with coronavirus (see graph below), but the true figure is unknown because of the problem with over-counting.

The oversight echoes recent problems with the data for Covid-19 deaths, in which it emerged that thousands of people who died of other causes were being included in coronavirus statistics if they had once tested positive.

Professor Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, asked by Sage to look into the situation, told The Telegraph: “By June, it was becoming clear that people were being admitted to hospital for non-Covid reasons who had tested positive many weeks before”.

“Consequently, the NHS revised its situation report to accommodate this.”

The investigation led to a readjustment of how the figures were compiled at the beginning of July.

On Thursday night, experts warned that the miscalculation was particularly concerning because the number had been used to reflect the current state of the epidemic.

Professor Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “The admissions data is a crucial point. I’d say it is more important than the death data because it is the best marker of the impact of the disease.”

Worth reading in full.

Vicar of Dibley Moment

There’s a nice story in East Anglian Daily Times about a parish council that was forced to hold a meeting in a car park because four of its members can’t use Zoom.

In a situation that could have come straight out of the script from the Vicar of Dibley, Tostock Parish Council decided it had to meet in the car park because four of its nine members don’t have the computer equipment needed to hold a Zoom meeting. There are also fears that the broadband in the village is not good enough to host an online meeting.

Worth reading in full, although the bedwetting comments of councillors worried about catching Covid from standing in a car park for 10 minutes are a bit depressing.

SAGE Advisor Cannot Calculate Risk

This tweet from Catherine Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at the University of Leeds, is revealing. Why? Because she’s a member of SAGE. Surely, as a scientist, she should know that her chances of dying from COVID-19, given that she’s under-65, are lower than dying in a road traffic accident? Indeed, people of all ages are six times more likely to die of flu or pneumonia at the moment, according to the ONS. Did Professor Noakes refuse to go to restaurants during the winter of 2017-18? There were 50,000 excess deaths that winter, likely due to seasonal flu and unusually cold weather. That’s more deaths than there have been from Covid to date.

With bedwetters like this advising the Government, no wonder we’re in such a pickle.

Head Teacher Orders Five Year-Old Children to Wear Masks

A head teacher in Milton Keynes is insisting that all children at his school, including those as young as five, wear masks or face shields when they return in September. The Milton Keynes Citizen has the story.

Warren Harrison, chief executive officer of the Premier Academy’s Eaton Mill primary school in Bletchley, issued the order in a newsletter to parents on Monday.

He had previously warned parents that if they’re not taking Covid-19 seriously they need to find another school, advising them to: “Maybe try Hogwarts”.

In his newsletter, Mr Harrison slams the government for “doing everything on the hoof” and says the Premier Academy is acting with “common sense, logic and reason” in its face mask initiative.

This is against the UK Government’s guidelines. Won’t stop him, of course. Best hope is if a parent brings a lawsuit against the school.

Meanwhile, please sign this ThemForUs petition urging primary and secondary schools not to make face masks mandatory.

Windswept Testing Facilities

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his testing experience when he came back from his hols.

I returned this morning from a holiday in the United States with my family. We’d been staying in Vermont (1,533 total positive tests state-wide since mid-March; 58 deaths with Covid) and on the island of Nantucket (49 positive tests since March 16th; one death) so naturally as likely plague-carriers we’re required to quarantine on our return to the UK.

When we got home I thought we might as well get tested in anticipation of the government finally seeing reason and changing the ludicrous rules currently in place and went online to see what testing options were available. The first search result was a drive-through NHS test down the road, and it said ‘testing for all patients’. Not overly keen on tossing away six hundred quid unnecessarily, I called the number which rang through to a call centre in Northern Ireland. To my astonishment, after asking me why I wanted to test myself and family (I said because we’d been travelling), the operator said it was a waste of time but yes, even if we had no symptoms and were not essential workers we could have one. He then identified 3 drive-in test sites within 11 miles and offered an appointment at any of them for the same day. I chose the nearest, and he said we could have any time slot we wanted the same afternoon (I was calling a little after midday).

We drove to the site, which was the entire car park of a Leisure Centre – closed of course. There were 11 uniformed and nappied NHS-badged staff, two tents and not another soul the whole time we were there. Everything was deeply efficient and the staff were extremely nice – relieved to have something to do. It took about 20 minutes for the whole family to self-administer the tests in the car, and we drove off leaving them to the deserted car park. That’s the way the money goes.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Comedy of Errors” by Joe Saunders.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: Toulouse has become the first French city to insist on mandatory face coverings in all outdoor settings.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

Latest News

Croatia Added to Quarantine List

First it was holidaymakers in Spain who were told they had to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Britain, then France. Now, Croatia has been added to the “red list”. According to The BBC the 20,000 Brits currently holidaying in Croatia have until 4am on Saturday to leave the country or face the consequences. Meanwhile, the Scottish government has added Switzerland to the lists of countries on its quarantine list!

However, there is a scintilla of good news. Portugal has been added to the “green list”, meaning you don’t have to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from the Algarve.

Portugal’s ministry of foreign affairs welcomed the changes as “useful for all those who travel between Portgual and the United Kingdom”.

In a tweet, it added: “This decision is proof of the good outcome of intense bilateral work. It allowed for an understanding that the situation in the country has always been under control, with Portugal standing as one of the European countries with more tests, fewer deaths and fewer hospitalisations.”

A friend of mine returned from the Algarve last week. Does he still have to self-isolate, even though the Government has finally admitted the virus has all but disappeared in Portugal? No doubt he does.

Another Judicial Review

Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred

Another group has applied to the High Court to judicially review the Coronavirus Act 2020, this one led by an outfit called the People’s Brexit. It describes itself as “a legal research and campaign group… fighting for the democracy and rights of the people of the UK”. The solicitor acting for the group is Robin Tilbrook of Tilbrook’s – the same firm I advertise on this site. You can read his excellent pre-action protocol letter here.

Here’s an extract:

In passing the Act complained of, the Government has failed to have any or any adequate regard for the Department of Health’s own report “UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011“.

This report made it clear that the Rule of Law should be upheld and life should carry on as normal for the healthy.

Further, the ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ were measures that were forced upon us and were based upon advice by Government ‘advisors’, from ‘modeling’ estimates and reports not even peer reviewed. These ‘advisors’ included Professor Neil Ferguson who has a track record of failure, including the slaughter of millions of healthy animals and the ruin of livelihoods during the Foot and Mouth debacle.

The World Health Organisation themselves in their report ‘Nonpharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza, National and Community Measures’ from 2006, the writers of which include current members of SAGE, criticises forced isolation and quarantine branding these measures “ineffective and impractical”. It also states that “Legal authority and procedures for implementing interventions should be understood in advance and should respect cultural differences and human rights.”

Crucially, the report states that at Phase 6 of a Pandemic, when it is officially declared, measures such as tracing and quarantine should not be attempted. It states “Patient isolation and tracing and quarantine of contacts should cease, as such measures will no longer be feasible or useful.”

For these reasons, the Act is irrational.

If you want to contribute to the cost of bringing this case, the Crowdjustice fundraiser is here.

New Paper Purporting to Show Lockdowns Were Effective is a Bit Thin

A new paper purporting to show that the lockdowns have been effective in preventing the spread of the virus was published by Plos Medicine last week. I asked Alistair Haimes, a financial analyst and independent researcher, to take a look at it for Lockdown Sceptics. He isn’t very impressed.

For those of us more interested in the “hard” data of covid (triage calls, hospital and ICU admissions and deaths), and less in the haruspex hand-wringing over ‘cases’ (subject to changes in test availability and protocols), the key finding of this paper is: “Statewide social distancing measures were associated with a decrease in the COVID-19-attributed mortality growth rate beginning 7 days after implementation [of statewide social distancing measures], although this decrease was no longer statistically significant by 10 days.”

Is significance that only lasts three days actually significant, or just coincidence? In other words, there is only a statistically significant correlation between implementing social distancing and reducing the growth rate in Covid deaths if the lag period between symptom onset and death is seven days, and this significance evaporates if the interval is longer; but the Lancet paper by Verity et al estimates this gap as 18 days, and the later Zhang/Zhou paper at 15 days, with seven days well outside the confidence intervals of both papers, which raises the question: is there any association at all?

This is a secondary finding of the paper, and is acknowledged slightly sheepishly and a bit awkwardly. The main body of the paper looks at the daily growth rate in cases (i.e. positive tests) before and after the introduction of social distancing measures. Happily, the authors acknowledge that the growth rate in cases was indeed slowing before the introduction of a state’s first social distancing measure (i.e. the growth in cases was not exponential), though they do not seem to have much of a handle on quite how fast it was decelerating. That’s the line of black dots to the left of the dashed green line below – it basically means they aren’t sure what the gradient should be. As such, the central claim that the growth rate in cases decelerated faster after the introduction of social distancing measures (the line of black dots to the right of the dashed green line) is rather holed below the waterline: eyeballing the data, I could just as easily fit a single straight line through the data, or more convincingly a modest curve, which might well make more sense.

The paper is quite open about the “potential confounding by contemporaneous changes (e.g. increases in testing)” although this isn’t expanded upon – rather frustratingly, given it could be all-important for their conclusions. The poor quality and lack of testing in the early days of America’s epidemic are well publicised. Not that I’m here to peer review, not being a peer, but oddly it also doesn’t expand its reach internationally to check its findings against countries that did/didn’t lock down hard (sceptics know that Sweden’s covid report compares well to countries that had far more social distancing), nor check its claims against the less locked-down US states such as South Dakota. Social distancing after all is a gradient rather than a binary switch, and you’d think the authors would check that the relationship they claim is more robust, the stricter a state locked down. The analysis is a bit… thin.

It also doesn’t discuss the most fundamental questions: even if social distancing did modestly reduce the growth rate in cases, which the paper does not convincingly prove, (a) was it worth it, given the other health impacts of social distancing (particularly non-covid excess deaths), and (b) would ‘flattening the curve’, reducing the growth rate in cases, likely reduce the eventual cumulative number of covid infections and deaths (i.e. the area under the curve) anyway? Perhaps these latter questions were simply left for someone else to answer, but they seem the most important questions of all.

Faulty Risk Assessments of COVID-19

I’ve published an interesting piece today by Brian Gedalla, a retired insurance actuary, about how we routinely assess risk and why so many people are exaggerating the risk posed by COVID-19. Here’s an extract;

We assess risks every day of our lives. We learn to do this as very small children and long before we reach adulthood we carry out most of the assessments completely subconsciously.

COVID-19 is forcing us to assess the risks associated with the virus in our conscious minds and we are not very good at it.

This is an illuminating analysis of the problem by someone who’s spent 30 years assessing risk. Worth reading in full.

Sydney Unions Want More Masks on Buses

A guide to Melbourne public transport

A reader in Australia has got in touch about a threatened strike by Sydney bus drivers.

The New South Wales Rail, Tram and Bus Union is threatening a 48-hour strike by Sydney’s 2,300 bus drivers next week unless masks are made compulsory for passengers on crowded buses (when passengers exceed the number of socially-distanced green dots on the bus). It pains me, as a former workplace delegate/shop steward (in the high school teachers’ union and public service workers union), to see teachers and public servants essentially on strike to maintain the lockdown. Sydney’s bus drivers are flexing their union muscle, not to break free of The Mask, but to make the thing mandatory.  All, sadly, part of the Left’s surrender to virus hysteria, policy panic and a faux-radical embrace of the principle of putting ‘lives’ ahead of ‘money’.

Peru: The Country Lockdown Zealots Don’t Want to Talk About

“Don’t repatriate me. Please!”

Jordan Schachtel has a good piece on Substack, the blogging platform, about Peru. The South American country imposed what is arguably the strictest lockdown in the world – masks everywhere, 10pm to 4am curfew, grocery stores close at 3pm, mandatory face shields on public transport… Yet it is about to surpass Belgium to take first place in the league table of Covid deaths per million.

Once hailed as a COVID-19 “success story,” Peru is now the COVID-19 case study that lockdown advocates no longer want to discuss. Lima is on pace to surpass Belgium (another strict lockdown country) sometime next week as having the world’s highest COVID-19 deaths per million. So why is no one talking about it?

Pandemic panic promoters have been quick to criticize neighboring Brazil for its leadership’s more relaxed policies towards the virus, but they’ve been noticeably absent in discussing Peru. That’s because Peru implemented arguably the earliest (for their region) and strictest lockdowns in the entire world, along with several attempted suppression measures with the hopes to contain the virus, and none of it worked.

Has the Peruvian Government now woken up and smelt the coffee? Don’t be silly.

Instead of learning from their mistakes, and admitting that the lockdown failed and the several suppression measures undertaken were a catastrophic error, Peru is doubling down on the madness. Last week, the country reimposed and tightened nationwide curfews. The new curfew prevents any citizen from leaving their home on Sundays.

Worth reading in full.

New Poem From Bent Knee

Bent Knee, a lockdown sceptic poet, has sent me his latest.

The Initiation

Banish your old gods and superstition
Before science shall ye kneel in submission

Why have you forgotten me? Your spirit roars
Remember, religion closed its doors

Abandon all hope of afterlife
Seek only to extend earthly strife

Obediently consent to be baptised
Ablutions performed, hands sanitised

Thou shalt have no other gods before science
Governments will ensure compliance

Thou shalt not covet fleshy delights
Laws must govern all intimate rites

The pleasures of the body forbidden
Heavy breathing masked and hidden

If you must make love, do so through a glory hole
Relinquish the last vestige of your soul

Trust none but the Righteous Book of Face
Sign in to state-approved truth and grace

Adore TikTok’s uniformed nurse angels
Pray for health delivered in syringes and pills

Incanted by broadsheet bourgeoisie
Mask up, love it, demonstrate your piety

It’s just a bit of cloth, this vestiture of faith
Protect others, be reborn a masked wraith

In the long, dark night of lockdown,
Did you forget your soul is your own?

So-Called Second Waves Much Less Lethal Than the First

I’ve published a short article today by a reader who’s spotted a curiosity about the supposedly terrifying “second waves” engulfing Europe and the United States: they’re much less lethal than the first waves.

The second wave of reported Covid infections we have seen across Europe should be neither a surprise nor any great cause for alarm. But instead of a measured response, balancing all considerations and planning for the long term, we’ve been subjected to hasty and high-handed panic-measures. These range from the UK’s ruthless quarantine ambush of those who dared to take a holiday abroad to the Spanish Government’s national edict to wear masks when anywhere outdoors, even when totally alone. Every day we were admonished with the threat of stricter measures unless infections return to somewhere near zero.

What justifies this new approach? Are we seeing a greater proportion of Covid deaths associated with these increases in reported infections?

No, we are not. Quite the reverse in fact. There is something fundamentally less dangerous about the recent waves of reported infections than the first.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has sent me an absurdly alarmist story in the Eastern Daily Press about how Norfolk County Council is preparing for a “second wave” that the Council says will last longer and cause more deaths than the first wave. To be fair, this prediction appears to be based on data that’s been sent to the Council by some organ of the Government, although it doesn’t say which. Can someone please send the leader of the Council the above analysis?

Give Yourselves a Smoked Salmon Treat

Food recommendation for readers of Lockdown Sceptics: a side of smoked salmon from Bleiker’s, a smokey in Yorkshire. I ordered a side of the peat-smoked salmon a couple of months ago and it was so good I’ve just ordered it again – and it arrived this morning, less than 24 hours later! Postage and packing is free. Place your order here. Highly recommended.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Con Trick Of The Century” by Moonlight J and “Up The Creek (Without A Paddle)” by The Temptations

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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. If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Some interesting “Mask Exempt” lanyards created by an enterprising reader

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Oct 5th to Oct 15th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: All the passengers on a JetBlue flight were forced to deplane after two-year old refused to wear mask. Let’s hope the genius who made that risk assessment isn’t flying the plane!

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named. If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

I’m taking a day off tomorrow because I’ve got a bit too much on my plate. Back at the weekend, hopefully.

And Finally…

This year’s cohort of A-level students have been gifted extra places at good universities at the expense of next year’s cohort

In my Spectator column today I’ve written about the impact the Gavin Williamson’s reverse ferret on last week’s A-level results will have on the next cohort of university applicants.

Whatever harm the Government may have prevented by its U-turn will have been more than offset by the harm it has done to next year’s cohort of A-level students, of which my daughter is one. Good universities make many more offers than they have places because they know that not all the applicants will meet those offers. Cambridge, for instance, made 4,500 offers for 3,450 places this year, while Oxford made about 3,900 offers for 3,287 places. Had Williamson stuck with Ofqual’s grades, roughly the same number of children would have been disappointed as in previous years, but now that he’s allowed children to choose between the Ofqual grade and their predicted grade, a far larger number of applicants to good universities will have met their conditional offers. Most universities will honour those offers, which will mean accepting many more students than in a typical year. But they won’t have the space or resources to accommodate them all, so they’ll encourage some to defer until 2021. That will mean fewer places available at good universities next year, when my daughter will be applying.

You might think I’m being pessimistic. After all, won’t the expected decline in foreign students applying this year, thanks to Covid, mean that universities have room to squeeze in all the additional British students? Afraid not. That’s partly because universities have already factored that in, lowering their entry requirements in order to admit more British applicants; and partly because the decline in the number of foreign students isn’t as great as anticipated. And next year they will be back to full strength. Indeed, there may be more than usual because some who would have applied this year if it weren’t for travel restrictions will apply in 2021 instead. In effect, my daughter will be facing a double whammy. Fewer places available for British students overall, and what places there are already part-filled by this year’s overspill.

I conclude by comparing the Government’s A-level climb down to the lockdown – “a quick fix to avoid some bad publicity, even though the unintended consequences are far worse than the problem it was designed to solve”.

Worth reading in fullobviously.

Latest News

Handy Cock’s Brilliant Solution to Ending the Covid Crisis – Even More Tests!

Matt Hancock’s plans for ramped-up COVID-19 testing were soon underway at a brand new world-class facility with members of the public jubilantly lining up

In a move that will surprise no one, Matt Hancock has announced that the Government will carry out even more tests in an attempt to better understand how prevalent the virus is. The BBC has the story.

The Office for National Statistics’ Infection Survey will test 150,000 people a fortnight in England by October, up from 28,000 now.

The survey is separate from the mass testing programme of people with symptoms to diagnose cases.

For the survey, a random sample of the general population is tested.

That means it can provide estimates for the true spread of the virus.

The diagnostic testing programme, which provides daily totals, largely relies on people with symptoms coming forward.

Some people do not display symptoms when they are infected so the daily totals are an underestimate of the amount of infection that is around.
As part of the expansion of the programme, data will also be gathered in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the survey was the “single most important tool” the government had for making policy decisions around coronavirus because it helped it understand how the disease was spreading.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said expanding the ONS survey would allow the government to be “more accurate and more localised” in its response.

He added that it would help the government with its “biggest challenge”, which was finding people who were asymptomatic but could still pass the virus on.

Finding people who are asymptomatic but who can nonetheless pass the virus on may well be a “challenge”. Let’s not forget that at a World Health Organisation (WHO) press conference on June 8th, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic, said the following:

We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare and much of that is not published in the literature.

From the papers that are published there’s one that came out from Singapore looking at a long-term care facility. There are some household transmission studies where you follow individuals over time and you look at the proportion of those that transmit onwards.

We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.

The WHO immediately attempted to “clarify” Dr Van Kerkhove’s comments, saying it simply didn’t know whether asymptomatic people are infectious because not enough studies have been done (even though those that have been done show there’s little or no secondary transmission). And here’s some new evidence – a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on August 13th.

In this study, a team of Chinese researchers looked at 3,410 close contacts between infected and uninfected people that mainly took place in Guangzhou. That is, they looked at the contact that 391 infected people (some symptomatic, some asymptomatic) had had with 3,410 other people. They found that of these 3,410, 127 became infected. But here’s the kicker: 126 of them were infected by symptomatic people and only one by an asymptomatic person. And to infect that one person, the asymptomatic group had to have close contact with 305 other people. So that’s a secondary transmission rate for asymptomatic people of 1:305.

The researchers conclude:

Our results showed that patients with COVID-19 who had more severe symptoms had a higher transmission capacity, whereas transmission capacity from asymptomatic cases was limited. This supports the view of the World Health Organization that asymptomatic cases were not the major drivers of the overall epidemic dynamics.

Limited! That’s one way of putting it. Hat tip to Phil Kerpen, who flagged up this study on Twitter yesterday.

Incidentally, one of the researchers’ findings, duplicated numerous times in other studies, is that the secondary attack rate was highest in household settings. Does this mean that locking people down in their homes, making transmission within households much more likely, may not have been such a good idea? Who would’ve thunk it!

New Zealand Lockdown Unlawful

The Toothy Tyrant wipes away a tear after losing in the High Court to a plucky lockdown sceptic

Congratulations are due to Andrew Borrowdale, a Kiwi lawyer who brought a Judicial Review against the New Zealand Government alleging, among other things, that the restrictions introduced by the Director-General of Health on March 26th were unlawful. The High Court released its judgment today and found that, on that point at least, Borrowdale is correct. Here is the relevant paragraph:

By various public and widely publicised announcements made between March 26th and April 3rd 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, members of the executive branch of the New Zealand Government stated or implied that, for that nine-day period, subject to limited exceptions, all New Zealanders were required by law to stay at home and in their “bubbles” when there was no such requirement. Those announcements had the effect of limiting certain rights and freedoms affirmed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 including, in particular, the rights to freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and association. While there is no question that the requirement was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the COVID-19 crisis at that time, the requirement was not prescribed by law and was therefore contrary to s 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

I like that final sentence – no question indeed! Needless to say, the NZ Government has since passed a law prescribing the draconian rules so any attempt to JR the present restrictions would probably fail. Nonetheless, Borrowdale has scored a significant victory, showing that – for nine days at least – Saint Jacinda was in breach of the NZ Bill of Rights.

Andrew Borrowdale is my Sceptic of the Week.

Ship of Fools

There’s a good piece by the Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner on the hapless fools running the country.

In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates describes a ship on which the sailors mutiny and try to pilot the vessel with no knowledge of “the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his [a pilot’s] art”. Success on this “Ship of Fools” is defined not by having the skills to navigate the vessel but only by the ability to persuade others that such skills aren’t actually necessary and that the job can be done regardless.

The story is intended as an allegory on the downsides of democracy, of the danger that in such a system of government, ignorant fools elect persuasive fools and are then led to ruin. After the Government’s latest shambolic, Covid-related failing, it seems an appropriate description of today’s political leadership.

I’ve used it before, admittedly, but make no apology for repetition; each day brings further confirmation of its legitimacy. No doubt much of the blame for the myriad misjudgments lies with the incompetence of the public sector and its accompanying quangocracy, the latter seemingly deliberately created to absolve the politicians from responsibility for day-to-day management. However, the fish rots from the head. Buck-passing is itself a symptom of poor leadership.

After giving numerous examples of the Government’s financial incontinence and warning of the dire reckoning to come, Warner says we shouldn’t expect a policy shift any time soon.

Ministers cannot bring themselves to admit they got the Covid response wrong. Too many egos, too many careers are now fully invested in the strategy adopted. Rudderless, the ship of fools sails on.

Warner’s piece reminded me of the verdict a reader sent in yesterday, summing up why the Government, its most senior officials and their advisors have made so many mistakes:

It’s what’s to be expected when you place incompetent people in positions where they have authority, but no real responsibility, where there are no sanctions for poor performance and where people do their best rather than doing what they’re best at.

If you think that doesn’t apply to senior civil servants, think again. Today I’ve published a piece by an anonymous senior civil servant on how Whitehall has mismanaged the crisis. Here’s an extract:

There are few among our political elite and the supporting Senior Civil Service who have STEM degrees and the consequence of this narrow pool is a failure to understand basic concepts, e.g. they believe “the science is settled” when it comes to climate change, and that they’re “following the science” regarding COVID-19. What they fail to appreciate is that science is rarely settled. By its nature, it is about investigating and challenging assumptions, collecting and evaluating evidence to test hypotheses, and seeking to avoid bias and misrepresentation of results. The current narrative regarding testing and ‘cases’ is a classic example of this lack of numeracy and statistical knowledge. If you test more you are likely to find more occurrences and they may be actual positives or false positives.

Worth reading in full if you want to understand why the Government has made such a complete hash of everything.

Ireland Introduces More Pointless “Containment” Measures

“Yes, this is the Taoiseach. I’m here with my Keystone Kabinet. How can I help?”

The Government of Ireland has announced another raft of measures prompted by an uptick in the number of cases – 533 last week, up from a low of 61.

The measures include:

  • All outdoor events limited to 15 people, down from 200
  • Indoor events limited to six people, reduced from 50
  • All visits to homes limited to six people from no more than three households, whether indoors or outdoors
  • Football matches and other sporting fixtures can only take place behind closed doors
  • Restaurants and bars can remain open, but must close by 11.30pm

Needless to say, the rise in cases is almost certainly due to a rise in the number of PCR tests being done. In the week from August 10th to 16th, more than 50,000 tests were carried out, a significant increase.

As of Noon today, the total number of cases in Ireland is 27,499 and the total number of deaths 1,775.

Stop Press: I suggest the Taoiseach and his Keystone Kabinet read this piece in the Conversation entitled “Seven Ways to Manage Your Coronaphobia“.

Supermarket Sales Decline, Thanks to Mandatory Face Nappies

Colour me shocked. According to Kantar, there were two million fewer supermarket visits after mandatory face coverings were introduced in England and Scotland. The Guardian has the story.

Supermarket sales have begun to slow in Great Britain since the easing of lockdown restrictions, as the introduction of compulsory face coverings in stores in England and Scotland initially deterred some shoppers.

Growth in total take-home grocery sales slowed to 14.4% year-on-year in the three months to August 9th, from 17% in the three months to July 12th. Supermarkets felt the impact as more shops and hospitality venues reopened, making consumers less reliant on food retailers, according to the data analysis firm Kantar, which examined shopping trends in England, Scotland and Wales.

Kantar said there were two million fewer supermarket visits in the week after the face-covering rule was introduced in England than otherwise have been expected.

Meanwhile, online shopping continues its upward trajectory, with a record 13.5% of all grocery sales ordered through the internet.

The online delivery firm Ocado, which will start a new contract supplying Marks & Spencer food instead of Waitrose products from September 1st, has been a significant beneficiary of the switch to online food shopping, according to Kantar.

Ocado had a 1.8% share of the grocery market in the 12 weeks to August 9th, up from 1.4% a year earlier. Its sales were up 45.5%, compared with the same period last year.

False Positives in Care Homes

A reader has made an interesting observation about his mother’s care home.

I want to tell you about the care home my mother lives in. As you know, residents are effectively imprisoned in these for the foreseeable future. The residents undergo Covid tests and my mother was recently tested positive and placed in isolation for 14 days as per PHE’s rules, I am told. She has no symptoms, has not been outside the home, and if she has Covid it can only be through transmission from a member of staff. Under these circumstances one would expect to see a widespread outbreak in that home. There is not.

There have been similar occurrences there recently and the care home has admitted that there has been no Covid outbreak and confessed to a number of false positive test results. It would seem from my simple analysis that at this home the number of positive test results that are actually false positives is 100%, because no one testing positive has had any symptoms of COVID-19.

If this is applied to community testing, what does this say about the apparent increased number of infections (cases)?

The reader may be on to something. I’ve published a piece on false positives today by a Professor of Genetics who believes that about 0.17% of tests yield false positives, almost certainly due to contamination in the PCR testing labs. Here’s his conclusion:

A hidden/ignored contamination positive rate of 0.17% would lead to authorities declaring (on average) a minimum of 170’cases’ per 100,000 tests. Curiously, this is exactly the kind of rate that is being declared in many regions, and is very close to the level at which travel quarantines kick in.

Worth reading in full.

Give Yourselves a Smoked Salmon Treat

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to give my readers a food tip: A side of smoked salmon from Bleiker’s, a family business established in 1993 by Jürg Bleiker, a Swiss chef who settled in the Yorkshire Dales. I ordered a side of the Yorkshire peat-smoked salmon a couple of months ago and it was so good I’ve just ordered it again. Postage and packing is free. Place your order here. Highly recommended.

Postcard From the Algarve

A reader has sent me a short postcard from the Algarve. Sounds heavenly.

We are very lucky to have a property in the Algarve but sadly had to make the decision to come on holiday for the summer without the children and grandchildren as Portugal is still on the naughty list and they are unable to quarantine due to not being able to work from home.

All the cafes, restaurants, shops and beaches are open and dare I say it it but life is so lovely and normal here. People do not jump six feet in the air when you walk past them but are more than happy to pass the time of day.

Sitting down at a cafe you are not presented with a sheet of paper with all the new government restrictions and asked for your name and mobile number. You’re presented with a menu.

The only negative is that you have to pop a mask on in the shops and if you go into a restaurant to pay the bill. But even we have decided that it’s a small price to pay to be treated like a human being again and to have our sanity back.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Lousy Reputation” by We Are Scientists and “No More Waves” by Nigel.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

A reader has made a good suggestion.

I was wondering if your map of businesses who have opened could be expanded to businesses who display “No mask? We won’t ask” sign? That would allow us mask-refusers to know where we are safe to visit without risking a drama with a Covid loon, and also reward those plucky businesses with our custom. It’s been interesting to see how the Covid terror only seems to last as long as financial necessity allows (note previously hysterical pub landlords get much less worried when they are allowed to re-open) so I’d be interested to see if a line of mask free customers outside one shop tempted its neighbours to risk the plague.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: The BBC has flagged up a story of a mask exempt woman with an autistic child being harangued in a supermarket by a mask Nazi in Whitley Bay. She had a panic attack and had to leave the supermarket. The BBC’s advice, echoed by the National Autistic Society, Asthma UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, is to treat non-mask wearers with courtesy and understanding. Meanwhile, in Connecticut, the Governor has signed an order requiring non-mask wearers to get a note from their doctor to prove they should be exempt.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, 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…

Latest News

Bonkers Advisor to Scottish Government Warns of “Stream of Incoming Infections From England and Wales”

Professor Devi Sridhar, Bedwetter-of-the-Week

Apologies for being late on this one. Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, had a piece in the New York Times on Saturday in which she warned of “a stream of incoming infections from England and Wales” and urged Nicola Sturgeon and other European leaders to impose a new quarantine policy whereby all visitors should be tested on arrival, quarantined for five days, and then tested again before being allowed out. “There has to be enforced isolation until two negative tests at least five days apart,” she wrote.

Yes, this will probably interfere with plans to enjoy the beaches of Marbella. But the summer, while infection rates still remain relatively low, is the only time to make this work.

Going into winter with hundreds of cases per day means risking a steep rise once temperatures cool, schools reopen and people head back indoors. It means risking a second round of national lockdowns, which would be catastrophic for mental health and for economies. (And let’s leave aside the question of whether or not it will actually be possible to get people to comply the second time around.)

This is un-evidenced nonsense, even by Prof Sridhar’s standards. She cites rising infections in Spain as a reason English visitors to Scotland could pose a threat, which is odd because any English holidaymakers returning from Spain have to quarantine for 14 days. And how many English people are planning to travel to Scotland for a second summer break, having just returned from a European holiday? She also takes it for granted that if the people of the United Kingdom don’t eliminate the virus in the remaining weeks of summer we face a catastrophic second wave this winter, ignoring the evidence that the virus has largely burnt itself out (and no thanks to the lockdown).

Prof Sridhar’s comments have been condemned by Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for “feeding a divisive nationalist narrative without scientific evidence to back it up”.

“It’s news to me that people from England and Wales were responsible for the outbreaks we’ve seen in Aberdeen, Orkney, Lanarkshire and Glasgow,” he said.

Alan Cochrane in today’s Telegraph also has a pop.

Now as an epidemiologist we must take her view seriously but we are entitled to ask (a) is she right in her assessment if the risk and (b) is she wise in her use of language?

These are fractious times politically and the professor’s last suggestion that English visitors might be quarantined in Scotland led to several SNP demonstrators staging a stupid anti-English stunt at the border after it was backed by Nicola Sturgeon.

The professor has ‘form’ for inflaming feelings and landed in trouble when she said that Unionists were anti-Scottish. She later withdrew that assertion, saying that she had “misspoke” – whatever that means.

Then there was the occasion the professor appeared to be opposing the SNP government over the timing of schools reopening only to fall into line within 24 hours.

Perhaps it’s time to dial in that ego and retreat from the public stage, Prof Sridhar?

What Does the Hydroxychloroquine Controversy Tell Us About Medical Science?

There’s an excellent essay in the Tablet about the politics of hydroxychloroquine by Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and published author. It doesn’t take sides on the issue of whether HCQ is an effective prophylactic or treatment for COVID-19, but explores the question of why the issue has been so controversial and what that tells us about the state of medical science.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, a survey of the world’s frontline physicians showed hydroxychloroquine to be the drug they considered the most effective at treating COVID-19 patients. That was in early April, shortly after a French study showed it was safe and effective in lowering the virus count, at times in combination with azithromycin. Next we were told hydroxychloroquine was likely ineffective, and also dangerous, and that that French study was flawed and the scientist behind it worthy of mockery. More studies followed, with contradictory results, and then out came what was hailed by some as a definitive study of 96,000 patients showing the drug was most certainly dangerous and ineffective, and indeed that it killed 30% more people than those who didn’t take it. Within days, that study was retracted, with the editor of one of the two most respected medical journals in the Western world conceding it was “a monumental fraud.” And on it went.

Not only are lay people confused; professionals are. All that seems certain is that there is something disturbing going on in our science, and that if and when the “perfect study” were to ever come along, many won’t know what to believe.

We live in a culture that has uncritically accepted that every domain of life is political, and that even things we think are not political are so, that all human enterprises are merely power struggles, that even the idea of “truth” is a fantasy, and really a matter of imposing one’s view on others. For a while, some held out hope that science remained an exception to this. That scientists would not bring their personal political biases into their science, and they would not be mobbed if what they said was unwelcome to one faction or another. But the sordid 2020 drama of hydroxychloroquine—which saw scientists routinely attacked for critically evaluating evidence and coming to politically inconvenient conclusions—has, for many, killed those hopes.

Phase 1 of the pandemic saw the near collapse of the credible authority of much of our public health officialdom at the highest levels, led by the exposure of the corruption of the World Health Organization. The crisis was deepened by the numerous reversals on recommendations, which led to the growing belief that too many officials were interpreting, bending, or speaking about the science relevant to the pandemic in a politicized way. Phase 2 is equally dangerous, for it shows that politicization has started to penetrate the peer review process, and how studies are reported in scientific journals, and of course in the press.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From St Tropez

The reader who reported on life at a campsite in France, has a follow-up about staying at another campsite in St Tropez. Doesn’t sound too bad.

Moving on from rural France where life seemed more relaxed and the mood just so, we’ve moved onto a campsite near St Tropez.

We spent the morning at the beach – no masks. The afternoon in the pool – mask free. We popped to a supermarket – masks obligatory. We were refused entry to a small shop because our small child wasn’t wearing a mask (not against the law in France), we walked out in disgust.

We went to see the evening entertainment in the campsite, laughably bad – a Johnny Hallyday impersonator, but that wasn’t the funniest part (although awful, irony lost on the French), the audience in the open air amphitheater were forced to wear masks, yet sitting metres apart. The bar and restaurant area although 20 metres away, no masks required.

The ultra obedient French Poodles had obeyed the rules and we had been sent to Coventry.

To summarise the day:

Beach – no masks
Pool – no masks (yet in close proximity)
Bar and restaurant – no masks
Open air amphitheater – mask up everyone, inc Poodles.

My understanding of the French understanding of the virus seems to be that it avoids beaches, swimming pools and bars but not open air theatres.

It’s one hell of a clever virus.

Melbourne’s Descent into Hellish Dystopia

Members of the Australian Defence Force walk through Fitzroy Gardens on August 10th in Melbourne. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

There’s a good piece in Spiked by James Bolt, a resident of Melbourne about the city’s slide into totalitarianism.

A couple are watching their child play in a playground. They are fined by the police. They are further than five kilometres from their home.

A man leaves his home at 9.30pm to buy some cigarettes. He too is fined: $1,652. He has left his house during the city-wide curfew, which comes in at 8pm.

On Facebook, two men plan a protest against Victoria’s restrictions. Police execute a search warrant and seize their mobile phones and a computer. One is charged with incitement because he wanted to organise a protest – public gatherings are limited to two people and only for exercise (physical, not of our basic rights).

This is the situation in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, right now. In a supposedly liberal democracy.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Jeffrey Tucker, Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research, has written a good article on the “tyranny without limit” in Melbourne.

Is This the World’s Best Broadcaster?

Why don’t we have a British version of Alan Jones on Sky News? The Sky News Australia commentator has been speaking truth to power throughout the pandemic. Here’s his latest jeremiad. Gold, as usual.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has suggested face masks should be mandatory every year to prevent people catching seasonal flu. The Mail has the story.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton indicated on Tuesday elements of the restrictive lockdown protocols could be here to stay well after the state defeats COVID-19.

“The flu isn’t as severe as COVID-19, but it is still deadly because millions and millions of people get infected,” he explained.

About 3,000 Australians usually die every year from the seasonal flu, but infection rates have been trending down since April.

“With all the restrictions put in place because of COVID, it has absolutely brought the flu in check,” Sutton said.

This is what happens if you don’t stand up to the tyrants, folks.

Seafood Restaurant in Whitstable Bans 12-Year-Olds Due to Covid Risk

A reader has written in to tell me about a nasty experience in Whitstable. Sounds completely insane.

Sad scenes in Whitstable, Kent today after my two small kids were turned away from a popular local restaurant.

I don’t usually go in for public shamings, but I was so staggered by this abject idiocy that I felt compelled to write in. I’d booked a table for my father and two children (aged six and four) at Crab & Winkle, a popular seafood restaurant overlooking Whitstable harbour. On arrival, I discovered the previously normal entrance had been converted into the kind of arrangement you might expect to find in a nuclear power station, complete with reinforced door, tiny window and alert buzzer.

After pressing said buzzer, a lady in a face visor swiftly appeared and proceeded to talk to me through the two defensive shields that now separated us. Unfortunately, rather than extending us a warm welcome, she was only able to inform me that children under 12 were not allowed in the restaurant due to the risk of them spreading the virus.

Somewhat taken aback, I asked a) why this rule wasn’t mentioned to me when I’d made my booking on the phone, and b) why it only applies to under 12s, given all the evidence pointing to younger kids being the least likely transmitters.

Her explanation was that children under 12 are often unable to remain seated during a meal, and that they can’t risk having kids running amok, passing on their deadly germs to other diners.

There was little point in me highlighting the absurdity of this policy, so we turned on our heels and took a gamble on another distinguished Whitstable eatery, The Lobster Shack, which I’m pleased to report had a far more relaxed (i.e. not utterly insane) approach to hospitality.

Postcard From Carcassonne

A reader tells me he had a good experience in the medieval town of Carcassonne in France.

We arrived back from Carcassonne yesterday, after an excellent few days pottering around the medieval city, as well as shopping and dining out in the (often overlooked) attractive city of Carcassonne itself. We stayed at the Ibis Styles hotel, which was great. There were masks everywhere – even when getting up from the table to get a fresh croissant – but that was the only irritation. The French public seem to have a much more sane attitude than we do. Yes, they wear masks, but social distancing is completely ignored: the restaurants and streets are rammed; the swimming pool at our hotel was open as normal; nobody veers out of the way to avoid you; there are no ludicrous perspex screens between tables, nor enforced hand-sanitisations. After our visit, we spent a lovely few days at a friend’s house a few hours away, with 20 or so others, at an anniversary celebration. The quarantine announcement came and nobody fled to the border. We simply opened another beer.

I am now deeply irritated to be under house arrest due to an arbitrary diktat of a government that is clearly out of control. I will obviously use my common sense in that regard – but it is worrying that the great British people are still not up in arms.

News From Tanzania

Interesting tidbit from Tanzania from a regular reader.

My wife and I have friends in Tanzania, one of whom is a headteacher at a large city school and who sent the message below, which might interest you. Bear in mind that the classes there are very large, with over 70 children per class, sometimes more than 100, sitting shoulder to shoulder. Facilities at the schools are very basic. Much of the local housing is even more basic and crowded. And Tanzania is one of the few African countries to shun lockdowns. Yet our friend reports not a single Covid case in his school…

Sceptical Covid Painting

‘Sanity, Her Son and the Credulous’ by Jordan Henderson

This painting, ‘Sanity, Her Son and the Credulous’, was done by Jordan Henderson (not the Liverpool midfielder). Jordan is an artist from Washington State in the United States. He works in oil on canvas and charcoal on paper. A portfolio of his works can be viewed at jordanhendersonfineart.com.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Blind Leading the Blind” by Mumford and Sons and “Sleepwalking Past Hope” by HIM

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention (including this piece on Fox News). We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

A reader has put forward a good suggestion.

I was wondering if your map of businesses who have opened could be expanded to businesses who display “No mask? We won’t ask” sign? That would allow us mask-refusers to know where we are safe to visit without risking a drama with a Covid loon, and also reward those plucky businesses with our custom. It’s been interesting to see how the Covid terror only seems to last as long as financial necessity allows (note previously hysterical pub landlords get much less worried when they are allowed to re-open) so I’d be interested to see if a line of mask free customers outside one shop tempted its neighbours to risk the plague.

“Mask Exempt” lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Oct 2nd to Oct 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,000). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

A reader reports that mask-wearing fever in Malvern hasn’t yet reached epidemic proportions.

My wife and I had our first experience of a hotel since lockdown when we visited Malvern and failed to realise that muzzles are compulsory in the communal areas of the hotel. We were told by reception on entering that masks were compulsory and were handed a Ziploc bag with two disposable baby blue face nappies (which remained undisturbed in the Ziploc throughout our stay). The General Manager was a lovely chap and when my wife apologised for forgetting her face mask responded that the whole thing was utterly preposterous.

In the hotel lobby there was a couple having a drink (un-muzzled) and nearby a couple standing up who weren’t having a drink (muzzled). The virus is very clever and only punishes unmuzzled drinkers. We went for a drink at Wetherspoon’s where lip service was being paid to the rules and only one of the serving staff was muzzled (presumably by choice).

Generally, in the street the usual leapers were wearing face coverings but the majority of people were not although there seem to be general obeisance in the shops.

Bedwetters of the week had to be an Anglo-French couple in their early 30s who arrived both with face coverings in the dining room and asked the Romanian waiter (whose muzzle had slipped below his nose) for two kettles of boiling water so that they could sterilise the cutlery…

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, 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 our latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I have our usual moan about the Government’s mishandling of the crisis, focusing on the French quarantine rules this week. Also, we discuss our summer reading and what we’ve been watching recently. Scintillating stuff! You can listen here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Saint Jacinda Postpones General Election

The Toothy Tyrant has postponed the General Election

Remember the outrage on the liberal left last month after Trump raised the possibility of postponing the November election? This was treated as the last word in undemocratic, populist demagoguery. How dare he?!? Well, Jacinda Arden has done precisely that – postponed the New Zealand General Election from September 19th to October 17th. The BBC has more.

Ms Ardern said on Monday that the new date would allow parties “to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under”.

Earlier this week, the country’s largest city went back into lockdown.

“This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead,” Ms Ardern said, adding that she had “absolutely no intention” of allowing any further delays to the vote.

The opposition National Party has argued the election should be delayed as restrictions on campaigning mean Ms Ardern had an unfair advantage.

Restrictions were imposed on Auckland on Wednesday after a number of new infections were identified in the city.

Nine new coronavirus cases were confirmed on Monday, bringing the number of active cases linked to the Auckland cluster to 58.

The outbreak was initially traced back to members of one family, although Ms Ardern later said that subsequent contact-tracing had found an earlier case involving a shop worker who became sick on July 31st.

A health official who knew the family told the New Zealand Herald that the family were “shell-shocked” and “a little embarrassed that it had happened to them”.

The announcement that new cases had been discovered shocked the country, which had recorded no locally transmitted cases for more than three months.

In normal times, this would be greeted with outrage. The Toothy Tyrant is imprisoning New Zealand citizens in secure facilities if they test positive for the virus, along with every member of their household – and in addition to this grotesque violation of civil liberties, she has now postponed the General Election and is planning to remain in office after her three-year term has expired.

But as was pointed out in the recent “Postcard From New Zealand“, she’ll almost certainly win in October in a landslide.

France to Make Face Masks Compulsory at Work

Bad news from across the Channel. According to today’s Telegraph, France is considering whether to make face-masks compulsory in shared workplaces such as open-plan offices, factories and conference rooms.

Elisabeth Borne, the employment minister, is to discuss the proposal with employers and union leaders on Tuesday.

She said scientists unanimously recommended wearing masks “when several people are in a confined space.” They will only be compulsory in individual offices when more than one person is present.

The government is also considering strengthening other workplace precautions such as plastic dividers for open-plan offices. “Taking into account what we have observed in workplace clusters, additional precautions are sometimes worth taking,” Ms Borne said.

She said employers who place seasonal workers such as hotel staff or fruit pickers in shared accommodation may be asked to do more to ensure that social distancing is maintained and masks are worn.

Face-masks are already compulsory in indoor public spaces, but doctors and the government’s scientific advisors have lobbied for the rule to be extended to private companies. Many French cities have made them mandatory in crowded areas.

So what public health “emergency” is this draconian policy based on? You guessed it: a rise in cases with no corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths. France reported 3,310 new cases on Saturday, but only 29 new hospital admissions and just nine ICU patients. You read that right: nine. As the Telegraph reports, many of the new cases are younger people under 45 who tend not to have symptoms.

A Lockdown Sceptics Saint?

A reader has sent me the above quote from St Anthony the Great. Sounds like he’s the Lockdown Sceptics saint we’ve been looking for.

Covid No More Deadly Than Seasonal Flu in Ireland

Yesterday, I wrote about a Twitter thread by financial analyst Graham Neary showing that Neil Ferguson’s estimate of Covid’s IFR was based on an analysis of just six flights out of Wuhan from January 30th to February 1st.

Gordon Hughes, a Professor of Economics at Edinburgh University, has been in touch to point out that Neary produced another thread on August 11th in which he analysed the excess death data for Ireland and concludes that the excess deaths in April 2020, assumed to be partly caused by COVID-19, were no greater than they were in January 2017 and January 2018 (assumed to be partly caused by seasonal flu) and excess deaths in May 2020 were no higher than in a typical April or May. You can see the Twitter thread here and read the unrolled version here.

Here is Professor Hughes’s summary.

In effect he argues, using methods that are pretty robust, that the effect of COVID-19 in Ireland has been no worse than – and probably less bad than – an average flu season. After adjustments for the timing of death registrations, population, etc the cumulative sum of deaths in Ireland from Jan to May 2020 was less than in 3 out of the preceding 5 years. The winter of 2019-20 was a relatively mild flu season so that what COVID-19 has done is to offset the lower number of deaths from flu. On a monthly basis April 2020 was almost the exactly the same as January in two bad flu seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18).

Clearly the situation in the UK has been worse, almost certainly because of a more dense population and larger cities – and possibly because of more people in care homes. If you strip out the care home element I would expect that the figures for most of the UK outside London has been similar to that for Ireland.

To go back to the IFR, nobody really knows what the IFR is for flu because estimates of the number of flu cases is about as unreliable as for the number of COVID-19 cases. It is possible that the IFR for COVID-19 is somewhat higher than than for flu because fewer people in Ireland contracted it but no-one can be confident of that while there is so much uncertainty about the true incidence of either flu or COVID-19 in the population. Even so it is certainly not an order of magnitude higher.

The true lesson of this whole sorry episode is the enormous cost of failing to monitor the incidence of pandemic or other diseases properly in the population. The ONS sample should be far bigger – perhaps 100,000 per week – and should be systematically carried out on a long term basis to monitor other respiratory diseases at short notice, since most widespread pandemics will be respiratory diseases now that we have reasonable control of water-borne diseases.

Professor Hughes made a further point, which I thought was very good.

There is a more general and separate point that I have been thinking about. At the outset COVID-19 was treated as an area for specialists (epidemiologists) but it has become clear that there is a whole group of competent data analysts who have provided new information and better analysis that goes way beyond the stuff produced by insiders. Not only Neary but Nic Lewis and many others from outside epidemiology. In part this is due to the heavy weight of academic convention, so that insiders want to satisfy their peers, whereas outsiders are more likely to be looking for illumination and answers. In part it reflects the fact that epidemiology doesn’t use methods or data that go significantly beyond what economists, statisticians, etc., are used to. There is, for example, nothing in the pandemic models of Ferguson et al that is really different from economic models that I and others have used in the past, while their statistical skills appear to be limited (to put it politely).

The corollary is that a setup by which governments only consult insiders has proved woefully inefficient because it is trapped by the prior assumptions and restricted data and analyses within a small group. This might be forgiven when the crisis first arose but it is inexcusable to persist in that behaviour once the implications and costs of the pandemic became clear. It is easy to recognise the bureaucratic reasons for resisting some kind of open source approach. However, since it has become clear to everyone that the Westminster political/administrative/media elite has failed badly – though there are wide differences on why or how – I would hope that the lesson is learned that things must be handled differently in future. This is nothing to do with conventional politics, since the devolved administrations have performed no better.

He’s not wrong. Many independent researchers, particularly financial analysts, have produced better risk assessments of COVID-19 than the Government’s scientific advisors. Indeed, if SAGE was replaced with a group of independent researchers the Government would probably have been better advised.

Don’t Go to Dubai

A reader who wrote to me before about the difficulty of obtaining a birth certificate and passport for her newborn has written again, this time about the ludicrous expense of complying with Dubai’s Covid travel guidance.

My brother and his fiancée live in Dubai. My parents regularly visit them and we have had plans for months (pre-Covid) to go and visit them in October half term this year. We had naively assumed that by October things should be getting back to normal travel wise. However, I spoke with my mum and brother yesterday and they had been doing some research into travelling there – my parents are due to go out in mid September.

So… as it currently stands you have to have a COVID-19 test 96 hours before you fly. This must come with a certificate and so an NHS test is not accepted – you need to pay £200 for a private one. For us as a family of five (assuming children need the test also) that’s £1,000 on top of the cost of the holiday. Then, 96 hours before you leave Dubai you need another test to enable you to be allowed to fly home. These tests are £300 per person plus £300 for a doctors fee to give you the test – so £3,000 for us in total. You also need to wait in a room until you have your test results – so on a six-day holiday we would potentially be spending a day sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

Then, if you test positive you are moved to government accommodation and I guess not allowed to fly home although that’s not clear from what I’ve read. If you are negative and can fly home you then must self-isolate/quarantine for 14 days once back in England – not sure why if you have the proof to say you don’t have Covid from the test, but then nothing makes any logical sense anymore does it?

So at an additional cost of £4K it is safe to say we will now cancel our visit to see my brother. I am not bothered about another cancelled holiday – that is now then norm in these times. It is just so worrying and frustrating how incompetent the people are in these positions of authority making the rules (up as they go along).

Postcard From Dartmouth

A reader has sent an account of her recent holiday in Dartmouth. Sounds pretty good.

We were a little nervous for what was our first major stay away since March 20th. This was partly because we had stayed before, fallen in love with the place and did not want to be disappointed. We stayed at the Dart Marina Hotel, right next to the Higher Ferry, a source of endless entertainment for us, as we can see it from our terrace. The hotel is wonderful. The staff there always give top-notch service, and the attention to detail is marvellous. It was a relief to see that most of their excellent staff have weathered the lockdown.

The town was busy, this being the hottest weekend of the year. We walked up to town with the intention of partaking in some retail therapy, and we realised that we had left our exemption lanyards in the boot of the car. We both thought, “stuff it, let’s blag it”, which we did. We visited a lingerie store (no mask, no problem), a men’s outfitters (no mask, no problem), a newsagent (challenged, but no problem when the magic word “exempt” was said) and a liquor store (same as the newsagent). At the latter, the lady customer right behind us, perhaps having heard us, claimed exemption as well.

On Saturday, we dined at Mitch Tonks’ Seahorse Al Mare. Mitch has had to move his operation from his fixed premises, not because of the virus, but because he was flooded out, courtesy of a burst water-main. Very creatively, he got permission for a covered venue right on the waterfront, and it was wonderful. No muzzles, no hassle, just good food and happy people.

We spent an amusing weekend observing the behaviour of other visitors. I imagine that many of them would have gone to Magaluf or Benidorm in more normal times, but the virus has driven them here. We saw numerous people wearing masks on the street (not required) but reassuringly, as the weekend wore on, we saw fewer instances of this.

Round-Up

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

A reader has put forward a good suggestion.

I was wondering if your map of businesses who have opened could be expanded to businesses who display “No mask? We won’t ask” sign? That would allow us mask-refusers to know where we are safe to visit without risking a drama with a Covid loon, and also reward those plucky businesses with our custom. It’s been interesting to see how the Covid terror only seems to last as long as financial necessity allows (note previously hysterical pub landlords get much less worried when they are allowed to re-open) so I’d be interested to see if a line of mask free customers outside one shop tempted its neighbours to risk the plague.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention (including this piece on Fox News). We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Oct 1st to Oct 10th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,000). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

A reader reports on a trip to Alton Towers to celebrate his wife’s birthday. Obtaining a “Mask Exempt” card so face covering didn’t have to be worn on the rides was surprisingly easy.

We arrived at the Towers carpark just about 9.45am. The first thing I noticed was the semi-socially distanced snake of theme park guests walking the mile from the carpark to the park entrance. Previous visitors will know that a series of monorail trains convey guests between these to locations in better times. I assumed that the need to deep-clean and fumigate each 6-person compartment on the monorail after a live human had used it, meant it impractical to run the service. No worry; the wife wants to loose weight so an extra 3,000 steps wouldn’t do any harm. We parked up and joined the throng. What was most disappointing at this point was the number of people already fully muzzled; around 40 to 50% I’d say.

Entry to the park involved having an IR thermometer pointed at your forehead to take your temperature. Saturday morning was blessedly quite cool and my family all passed that test. Given UK obesity levels, I wonder how many guests were rejected for elevated temperatures because they’d just been made to walk a mile for the first time in how long? Particularly earlier in the week when the ambient temperatures were much higher.

Once in, I made my way swiftly to guest services. I joined the shortest queue of the day and soon found myself served. I had the page from .gov.uk that explains the reasons for possible muzzle exemption loaded on my phonee and had it centred on ‘severe distress’. I presented my phone…

“Hi, can I have a face mask exemption card please? I have severe distress.”

“Yeah, sure.”

The happy staff member grabbed one from the pile, wrote my name in the space on the back and and handed it to me. Simplest transaction of the day.

The first few rides we went on I was asked to muzzle up but each time, I just flashed my card and it worked a treat. No further questions, hassles, comments, etc. By the second half of the day, I wasn’t even being asked.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, 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…

Encouraging graphic in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Still a long way to go, but the British public is becoming less sheep-like.

Latest News

Handy Cock Sacrifices Scapegoat in Bid to Save Political Career

Matt Hancock has axed Public Health England! The Telegraph has the story.

Public Health England (PHE) is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body specifically designed to protect the country against a pandemic by early next month, the Telegraph can disclose.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.

The Health Secretary, who returns to work after a UK holiday this week, wants to give PHE’s replacement time to be set up before a feared surge in coronavirus cases this autumn.

That last sentence is ominous. Does the Government really believe there’s a second wave heading our way from across the English Channel? Apparently so.

A senior minister told the Telegraph: “We want to bring together the science and the scale in one new body so we can do all we can to stop a second coronavirus spike this autumn.

“The National Institute for Health Protection’s goal will be simple: to ensure that Britain is one of the best equipped countries in the world to fight the pandemic.”

What is this “senior minister” talking about? The pandemic is as good as over. (See below for a debunking of the ‘second wave’ hypothesis by a Professor of Genetics).

So who will run Britain’s version of the Robert Koch Institute? Carl Heneghan? Karol Sikora? David Spiegelhalter? Don’t be silly. No, the name in the frame is Dido Harding, Conservative life peer and head of England’s disastrous test-and-trace programme.

Mr Hancock is seeking someone with experience of both health policy and the private sector to run it. Baroness Harding, the former chief executive of TalkTalk who heads up NHS Test and Trace, is tipped for the role.

Talk about failing upwards! To date, Harding’s main claims to fame are presiding over a cyber-attack affecting tens of thousands of customers while Chief Executive of TalkTalk and overseeing NHSX’s test-and-trace app which has now been abandoned, costing the taxpayer £10 billion. Her appointment would be controversial since she’s married to Conservative MP John Penrose who sits on the advisory board of the think tank “1828” which has called for PHE to be scrapped.

I published a piece by Rob Lyons calling for PHE to be scrapped on May 10th so I suppose I should be happy. And there’s little doubt it’s done a terrible job of coordinating England’s response to the crisis. But shouldn’t Matt Hancock take responsibility for those failures? According to Nick Davies, programme director at the Institute of Government, PHE has “direct accountability to Matt Hancock”. And how will the new National Institute for Health Protection differ from the National Institute for Health Research, headed by Chris Whitty? Or is that being scrapped as well? Incidentally, PHE replaced an organisation called the Health Protection Agency. Does this mean that when the National Institute for Health Protection is blamed for some other failure in 10 years time it will be replaced with a revamped version of PHE?

Incidentally, if this move does prove to be politically effective, which quango will be next? The Government is spoilt for choice, obviously, but my money’s on Ofqual, the English exams regulator. It isn’t exactly covering itself in glory when it comes to this year’s A-level results and the crisis will only deepen next week with GCSE results due to come out.

According to the Sunday Times:

In an about-turn, Ofqual issued new guidance yesterday allowing schools to use the grades predicted by teachers to appeal against pupils’ results.

However, late Saturday night, Ofqual said the policy was “being reviewed” by its board and that further information would be released “in due course”.

This left Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, exposed because it broke the “triple lock” he had promised A-level and GCSE pupils only 72 hours earlier.

On Wednesday, Williamson said appeals could be made on the basis of mock exams. But under the new rules, mock results cannot trump teachers’ predictions.

Neil Ferguson Based IFR Estimate on Tiny Sample

There’s a fascinating Twitter thread by Graham Neary in which he drills down into how Neil Ferguson and his team came up with an estimated Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.9%. (The real figure is closer to 0.1%). Apparently, it was based on an analysis of the passengers on six flights that departed from Wuhan between January 30th and February 1st. Out of the 689 passengers, only six tested positive for Covid. That – and that alone – was the basis for the initial IFR estimate.

Congratulations to Neary for a sterling bit of detective work. For those who aren’t on Twitter, I’ve unrolled the thread here. Neary concludes: “As we live through the consequences of economic depression and the (hopefully temporary) destruction of our way of life, remember that it all comes back to the belief that finding six people with Covid on six flights was a good way to estimate how many people had the disease.”

Who’s Managing the Covid Crisis?

Is this the head of the new National Institute for Health Protection?

A reader has posed an interesting question.

As a retired manager, one aspect of our current ludicrous actions on Covid that annoys me is that there seems to be no attempt to operate even the most basic principles of project-management. There seems to be no analysis, no plan, no objectives, no identification of options, no targets, no idea of what success looks like, no statement of the ‘endgame’ and no cost benefit analysis.

The original objective of “flatten the curve, protect the NHS and save lives” has clearly now been achieved but we have carried on with a kind of bizarre game of covid ‘ring-a-roses’ as we all panic about test results with no idea what we are trying to achieve?

I just wondered if there might be a Carl Heneghan of the management world who could usefully comment on the Covid hoo-ha from a management perspective?

If a Carl Heneghan of the management world is reading this and would like to write something about the Government’s colossal mismanagement of this crisis, please get in touch. Although the Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner is doing a pretty good job.

Global Law Firms Prepare to Sue UK

Construction workers on Crossrail, in London, in February. Building was halted during the pandemic by the mayor, Sadiq Khan. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty

According to the Guardian, international law firms are lining up to sue the British Government on behalf of clients who’ve lost money as a result of the lockdown.

Governments around the world – including the UK – face a wave of lawsuits from foreign companies who complain that their profits have been hit by the pandemic.

Webinars and presentations shared with clients reveal that leading global law firms anticipate governments around the world will soon face claims over their response to the COVID-19 crisis. The actions are being brought under investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses which are embedded in trade and investment agreements and allow foreign investors and firms to sue other countries’ governments.

The claims are heard in highly secretive ad hoc tribunals before a panel of three judges. Often it is not apparent that a case is being brought until the panel sits.

The law firm Alston & Bird used a recent webinar to predict that the UK will be sued over Sadiq Khan’s decision to close Crossrail construction sites during the pandemic. The decision was at odds with the government’s policy of allowing sites to operate throughout lockdown, an inconsistency that they say opens up the way for a legal challenge.

Law firm Reed Smith has predicted that measures taken by governments to deal with the crisis are affecting investments “directly and significantly and could give rise to substantial claims”.

And Ropes & Gray has issued an alert advising clients to consider actions brought under investment treaties as “a powerful tool to recover or prevent loss resulting from COVID-19-related government actions”.

More power to their elbows.

Three Months to Global Herd Immunity

A Professor of Genetics who’s a regular reader of Lockdown Sceptics has sent me a quick and dirty analysis of when the world is likely to achieve herd immunity.

I’ve looked at how the global prevalence has been changing over the last many months, if one eliminates the influence of massively increased levels of testing. Bottom line – it has been creeping up, but really not changed that much overall (median has risen from just over 2-3% to 3-4%). Declines in some places are matched by increases elsewhere. I suspect we’ve reached the peak though, and the next few weeks and months will see the global curve start to roll over and decline.

Now, given that in the UK the prevalence is falling by ~5% per day, if we assume NO new infections then this means the virus is detectable in a person on average for about 20 days. However, we know some new infections are occurring, and so the virus detection window is probably something more like 10 days (or even less!). Using this 10 day guesstimate, and a steady prevalence of 3-4%, then this means that every 10 days another 3-4% of people are getting infected globally. There are many caveats to this – but these numbers would mean that to get to 30% infected (Carl H’s estimate of what is needed for herd immunity) will take only three months. Or if you want to go with the insanely high pantsdown requirement of 80%, then this will take one year globally. In the UK’s case, we were one of the first countries to see the virus spread widely – and it actually rose to >40% prevalence in both Pillar 1 and 2 datasets late March. So we definitely reach the CH level for herd immunity some time ago, and also the NF required level more recently or soon. This has to be why the virus has been fading away naturally.

And one final line of argumentation for that… assuming a 0.26% IFR, and 41k deaths in the UK, indicates ~16M (41k/0.0026) have been infected, which is 24% of the UK population. Assume a 0.1% IFR and this goes to 61%. And these numbers are absolute minimum values, as the PCR assay has quite a high false negative rate!

Government and the people need to know this, as they are all currently “scared to lose their fear”! Mass hysteria exists in extremis, and will not end until our ‘leaders’ and the people understand reality. That said, most people I talk to think its all a nonsense and a scam of some sort – so there is hope!

Fishy Data

A reader has spotted a curious cause of death.

Having just read in today’s Sunday Telegraph that a man was killed in a boat off Darwin, Australia when a mackerel flew out of the water hitting him in the chest I am left wondering if the fish came in on the second wave will it be reported as a Covid death?

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Stitched Up” by John Mayer and Herbie Hancock, “Dead Souls” by Joy Division and “Don’t Fall” by the Chameleons.

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention (including this piece on Fox News). We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 30th to Oct 9th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,000). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, 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…

A reader has produced this sticker, printed a ton of them and is handing them out to local shops. A surprising number are displaying them in their windows. Congratulations, Sir. You are my Sceptic of the Week.

Latest News

Government Admits it’s been Double Counting Tests

Embarrassing story in the Guardian today. The Government has quietly wiped 1.3 million COVID-19 swabs off the official testing count. This was disclosed on the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) website on Wednesday. Under a section entitled “Adjustments to the historical ‘tests made available’ data” it said:

An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the ‘tests made available’ metric.

The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2 and a subsequent recalibration of the data we reported between 29 March 2020 and 11 August 2020.

These new data processed identified tests that had previously not been readily identifiable at the labs processing stage, and tests that had been sent out by a testing channel on behalf of another channel.

This resulted in a double-counting of test kits that had been dispatched and which had not been removed from the labs processed data.

In identifying this data pillar 2 established that fewer in-person tests had been conducted than originally reported, and more tests had been sent to NHS trusts and care homes than originally reported.

The Guardian has rung up a few of the Government’s criticisms, including a shadow health spokesman, and assembled a choice collection of quotes. Here’s what Allyson Pollock, a Clinical Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said: “The government needs to make clear what they mean by an adjustment and why the change has taken place.”

The MailOnLine has done a follow-up story and asked Carl Heneghan what he thinks caused the error.

He said the issue appears to have come from when the Department of Heath split testing into pillars one and two.

Pillar one refers to tests done in hospitals and medical facilities while pillar two is members of the public who are tested in drive-through, walk-in or home tests.

Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is seemingly a problem when you start to introduce pillar one and pillar two tests – they seemed to be double-counting tests.

‘Somebody would have a pillar two test and then gone into hospital and had a pillar one test, and they thought it was two people.’

He said it was unsurprising that data errors were creeping and that some allowances should be made because of a difficult situation, but that it is ‘vital’ that numbers are correct.

Professor Heneghan said: ‘If the number of cases is wrong, the case fatality rate and everything gets skewed.

‘It is vital they’re correct but, to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me there have been areas where you’ve had discrepancies that need to be corrected.’

He added: ‘It does concern me and I think it’s important that data and epidemiology is transparent and it’s clear that [decisions] actually are based on up to date info.

‘What we’re interested in is understanding trends, and information has to be correct for that.’

If Professor Heneghan is right and the double counting has involved counting a person who tests positive in a pillar two test and then tests positive in a pillar one test after they’re admitted to hospital as two people, that means the DHSC has been over-counting the number of positives.

Fewer Dead Souls

The author of “Dead Souls“, an essay I published a couple of weeks ago comparing the compilers of the Government’s Covid mortality statistics to Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, the anti-hero of Gogol’s Dead Souls, has written an update called “Fewer Dead Souls” that I’ve published today. It’s a response to PHE removing over 5,000 souls from the total number of Covid deaths in England earlier in the week.

In a previous essay, I speculated that somewhere in the bowels of Public Health England (PHE) there was someone who had worked out, like Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, a method of making use of dead souls. At the time, I wondered if these dead, reported daily on the Government’s Covid dashboard, were being created literally out of nothing, as there was no trace of them in the detailed death tabulations produced by the ONS. As it turns out, that part of my speculation was incorrect.

The Chichikov in question was a Professor Newton (John, not Isaac) who had decided at an early stage of the epidemic to define death-by-Covid in such a way that he could borrow genuine deaths that were properly registered as being from other causes and claim them, for the indefinite future, provided the deceased had tested positive at some point for COVID-19. He feared, it seems, that without this resource, PHE might have been “underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages”. This is a very strange explanation, as one thing that was absolutely not achieved was to avoid underestimation in the early stages. You may recall a chart (originated by Carl Heneghan and reproduced in my earlier essay) that showed clearly that PHE had underestimated Covid-related deaths during the peak of the epidemic, but had been making up ground to an ever increasing degree, more or less ever since. Under the special definition adopted, PHE was able to continue combing through registered deaths and matching them up retrospectively with the NHS England numbers of people who had, at some some time in the past, tested positive.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From New Zealand

Saint Jacinda, the Toothy Tyrant

A reader has sent me a depressing “Postcard From New Zealand” that I’ve published today. Saint Jacinda becomes ever more powerful and – bafflingly – ever more popular. Her most recent act has been to decree that anyone testing positive for the virus, as well as all members of the same household, will be interned in “self isolation facilities” – prisons in all but name.

Legally, there is little we can do to challenge this. New Zealand does not have a constitution. Our rights as citizens are described in our Bill of Rights Act, but this is not supreme law and does not override other laws. There is nothing preventing a law that breaches the Bill of Rights Act being passed, even by a simple majority in parliament. The courts are no help, as they usually choose to interpret breaches of the Bill of Rights in other laws according to their perception of Parliament’s intention. That is, an unintentional breach of the Bill of Rights Act may be successfully challenged in the courts, but an intentional one, as shown by the proceedings of parliament, cannot be successfully challenged because Parliament is sovereign and has the power to enact almost any law. In addition, there is only a single chamber of Parliament, so new laws have a relatively low hurdle to get over.

An example of government overreach can be seen in the recently passed COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020. This law provides a ridiculous amount of power to the Government. Under this Act, the Government can order any group of people to do almost anything including compelling people to stay at any location (apart from an actual prison) and undergo “medical testing” of “any kind”. (Isn’t that a breach of medical ethics?) The police have far-reaching powers of enforcement, including the power to enter people’s homes without warrants if they suspect an illegal gathering is taking place.

Worth reading in full.

French Quarantine is Using a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut

I have written an op ed for today’s Telegraph criticising the Government’s decision to add France to the quarantine list.

On July 25, the French Government changed the rules on testing. Hitherto, the only way to avoid paying for a standard PCR test, in which your nose and throat are swabbed, was to get a prescription from your doctor.

But after the rule change, anyone could get a test free of charge. Not surprisingly, the number of people getting tested jumped – more than 600,000 people in the past week – and case numbers duly increased.

We’ve seen exactly the same pattern in parts of the UK: community testing increases and there’s a corresponding rise in recorded infections.

A half-way competent government would look at the testing data and contextualise it. You don’t need a degree in maths to compare the rise in the number of cases with the rise in the number of tests. Is the percentage in both cases the same? If so, you probably don’t have much to worry about.

Unfortunately, the geniuses at the head of our Government seem unable to do this. Instead, they apparently look at the raw case data and fly into a blind panic.

According to ministerial statements, at least, that appears to be what’s behind the last-minute decision to remove France from the “Green List” of countries you’re allowed to visit without having to quarantine on return.

There’s precious little evidence that France is currently in the midst of a “second wave”. On the contrary, if you look at Covid-19 hospitalisations, the number has remained largely stable for the past month.

In the comments beneath the piece, which are generally favourable, some have questioned whether the Government really is failing to contextualise the data. Isn’t it looking at the number of infected people per 100,000 in different countries and basing its decision on that? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s contextualising the data.

Take the data for France from Our World in Data. It has a population: 66.9 million. In the week ending August 7th, there were 539,102 tests of which 9.060 were positive. This gives a positivity rate of 1.7% (539,102 divided by 9,060) and a cases per 100,000 of 13.5 (calculated by dividing 66.9 million by 9,060).

For the week ending August 14th, the number of tests is so far unknown but 13,732 were positive. So the positivity rate is unknown and the cases per 100,000 is 20.5. That’s the number the Government is basing the decision to remove France from the “Green List” on, not the positivity rate. Indeed, if the number of tests last week increased by a greater percentage than the number of positives, the positivity rate will be the same; if the percentage increase in testing was higher, the positivity rate will have declined, indicating a decline in the prevalence of the virus rather than a rise. To assume the number of cases per 100,000 has increased based on positive test results and nothing else is to fail to contextualise the data.

Worth reading in full, obviously, if you can get past the paywall.

Why is Basel Airport on the Quarantine List?

A reader has flagged up the latest bit of lunacy from the Government.

Last night at 23:16, the UK Government advised that effective from today, i.e. 44 minutes warning, anyone arriving from Switzerland’s Basel EuroAirport will have to self-isolate, because “you will transit France and therefore will be required to self-isolate on your return to the UK”.

Clearly, some idiot has just looked at Google Maps and concluded that the airport is physically located in France, which is correct. However, access to the airport terminal from Basel, which in exclusively in Switzerland, is via a fenced-off road corridor, providing Swiss access to the airport without having to enter France.

So when my partner lands here and comes to stay with me, she and I will have to lock ourselves away for two weeks, regardless that I was exposed to the virus in March and still had borderline but significant antibodies in early and late June.

This is good example of what I call the “collapsing skyscraper” syndrome. You’re falling through a collapsing skyscraper and every time you think you’ve finally reached solid ground, the floor gives way again and you start falling again. The Government’s incompetence is bottomless.

Sutton Noo

At Sutton Hoo, you won’t be able to see this mask even if you’re wearing one exactly like it

A reader tells me about an unsatisfactory day trip to Sutton Hoo. Sounds like one to avoid.

I had wanted to go for ages, and did so last weekend with the family while on a pilgrimage to the Adnams brewery. Turned up at the Hoo three minutes after it opened at 10am. Not a soul in sight except for a pair at the gate to the car park in high vizzers. It turned out that it was necessary to prebook to go in, but high-viz-man was helpful and suggested we return at three-ish, ‘because most people book to go in early because they want a full day at it’. I was peeved, but my son is interested in archaeology. So we had a walk and went to the excellent White Lion at Lower Ufford to kill some time before returning.

High Viz man was there again and said we could go in. But I had to switch the car engine off so that he could deliver five minutes on the Covid protocols. Eventually we parked up and got in. NONE OF THE INDOOR EXHIBITIONS ARE OPEN! So you are expected to prebook your entirely outdoor walk around some hummocks, with no glimpse of the artefacts. There were high vizzers every few hundred yards. Each gate had hand sanitiser attached to it. My son asked: “Why are we looking at dirt?” We lasted about 20 minutes.

I cancelled the National Trust membership – I should have done so ages ago.

RIB-Tickling Fun in St David’s? Not Really

Another reader had a disappointing travel experience, this time in St David’s in Pembrokeshire.

On the way there we popped into a petrol station, just over the Welsh border, and it was a relief to see no-one wearing face masks, none required.

In St David’s itself the one supermarket was mask-free and the deli had moved its produce onto tables outdoor so no need to go inside. It was starting to feel like a holiday!

The weather was looking good so I went to book us a boat trip on one of the RIBs that takes visitors around the rocks and offshore islands. Had to wait an age as only one person allowed into the booking office at once, but I finally got in and decided on an evening trip out to Bishop Rock where you get to see shearwaters and puffins skimming the water as they fly home. We’ve done the trip before and I remembered the pod of porpoises we’d seen that time and was feeling pretty excited at going again. I gave my card details and was told to check in the morning of the trip to make sure the weather was ok and it was still going ahead. Bring warm things and waterproofs, they said, it’s always windy on a RIB and there will probably be sea spray. I thanked them and was heading for the door when they called out, Oh, and bring face masks! What? Yes, you have to wear one on the boat. What, on an open inflatable travelling at speed out at sea? Yes. What, for the whole duration of the trip? Yes, you see the boat is classed as public transport. Ah, yes, of course it is. In that case please cancel my booking. It was disappointing. No, actually it was infuriating! Popping up in this most magical of places was the illogical, irrational covid madness I thought we’d escaped from. Still, we went sea-kayaking instead and had a brilliant time paddling under the cliffs and around the rocky coves. Paddle your own boat. It’s the only way through this!

New Resuscitation Guidance – Call Ambulance Then Suffocate With Towel

If you’re feeling faint, try not to keel over in front of a member of St John Ambulance, particularly if they’re carrying a towel.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Mask of Lies” by MindMaze and and “Nappy Heads” by the Fugees.

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 3rd to Sept 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 28,750). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: Vancouver has made masks mandatory on public transport, although getting hold of a “mask exempt” lanyard turns out to be quite easy. A Canadian reader has the story.

Vancouver is finally making masks mandatory on transit starting on August 24th, though no reason was stated why it’s now happening other than making people feel safer on transit. My guess would be that September typically sees a surge in transit with schools and universities returning and people coming back from vacation so they are worrying about that

The transit authority also said they will be issuing exemption cards, though only at two offices in the entire lower mainland (Metro Vancouver area).

As I happen to work near one of those offices and my commute is 45mins on a bus I decided to go and see what was involved in getting an exemption…

Walked into the office and asked the receptionist: “Is this the place for exemption cards?” to which she answered “yes” and then just handed me one from a pile on the desk and that was it. I now have my exemption card – no forms, no proof, not even a record of issuing me one.

Might also note she wasn’t wearing a mask (but did have a screen on the desk) and wasn’t wearing gloves when she handed me the card, maybe I should complain about their covid standards…

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work. 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…

Latest News

France’s Rise in Infections Due to Increased Testing

The rise in infections in France hasn’t been accompanied by any rise in deaths

Yesterday the Government removed France from the “Green List” of countries you can travel to without having to quarantine on return, along with the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba. From 4am on Saturday, anyone returning from France will have to self-isolate for 14 days. The reason? Rising case numbers. There have been an additional 11,633 positive test results in France in the past week, with approximately 600,000 tests being done, the highest number of tests to date. (On July 25th, the French Government introduced free PCR testing without the need to get a prescription from a doctor.) But in every department the percentage of infected people is still below the 50/100,000 threshold that in France would trigger a local lockdown. In addition, there’s been no corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths (see above). That suggests the rise in cases is an artefact of increased testing and not due to an increase in the percentage of the population that’s infected.

Also worth bearing in mind that, according to Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, the standard PCR test is an unreliable diagnostic tool because of false positives. When the number of tests climbs above a certain threshold, the data becomes very noisy. (See this article by the Bulgarian Pathology Association for a robust denunciation of the PCR test.)

And, to add to the overall picture of incoherence, the Government hasn’t removed Gibraltar from the “Green List” even though the number of infected people per 100,000 is higher in Gib than in France.

I wonder what the Government would do if holidaymakers returning from France just refused to self-isolate en masse? There are approximately half a million Britons currently in France. How many random spot checks can the Government realistically do?

Meanwhile, just to make it crystal clear that Boris doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing, he also announced yesterday that the easing of lockdown restrictions that were delayed 10 days ago will now go ahead, with weddings, sporting events and indoor performances being permitted from tomorrow. Although he also announced that the maximum fine for those breaking the rules would increase to £3,200. No but, yeah but…

As I said about Boris in the Telegraph 10 days ago:

When I think of his handling of the coronavirus crisis I picture a child behind the wheel of a racing car. He’s overwhelmed by the data constantly popping up on his dashboard, has no idea what any of it means, so just randomly presses different levers and pedals, spins the wheel as fast as he can, and hopes for the best.

Government Finally Removes Wrong Data From Dashboard

Yesterday I pointed out that the Government’s coronavirus dashboard was still using the old, flawed method of calculating the daily Covid death count. Today it has finally stopped doing that – some 29 days after Carl Heneghan and Yoon Loke pointed out the statistical flaw in the way that PHE compiles the data and 28 days after Matt Hancock announced an “urgent review” of the anomaly. Instead of the wrong data, the dashboard now says the deaths page is being “redeveloped”.

World Leaders “Copied Each Others’ Lockdown Measures” – New Paper

“Is Macron doing it? Yes, he’s doing it. What about Merkel? She’s doing it too? Okay, let’s do it.”

This will come as no surprise to lockdown sceptics, but a new paper for the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that world leaders simply copied each other’s lockdown policies back in March, without giving any thought to whether those policies were necessary or whether they’d do more harm than good. Yahoo! Finance has more.

Decisions on implementing lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic were based on what neighbouring countries were doing at the time, a new study has suggested.

In research of 36 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – including the UK, US and New Zealand – Swedish researchers examined when world leaders made decisions on issues like school closures and restrictions on internal travel.

They found that despite differences in the spread of the virus, countries mimicked each other in a short space of time, with around 80% of OECD nations implementing multiple measures within a two-week period in March.

The researchers said this was “striking” given the differences in the scale of the pandemic in each country, the preparedness of their healthcare systems and the makeup of their populations.

Author Professor Karl Wennberg, from the Institute for Analytical Sociology at Linkoping University, said: “We found that the decisions were not based on, or had a very weak correlation to, standard epidemiological indicators such as number of infections, number of deaths, intensive care capacity etc.

“A much stronger determinant was whether many neighbouring countries had already implemented measures.”

Worth reading in full.

Annoying Lockdown Experience

A reader in Bradford has been in touch to describe one of the daily annoyances they’re having to put up with.

We’d heard good things about a sweet shop in our village so we took our grandchildren (illegally, as we are part of Bradford District) to choose a milk shake. They each chose a £3 milk shake from the menu. A young lady then appeared at the hatch to inform us that they were only taking online orders for home delivery during the pandemic and gave me a leaflet with the web site. We went home and found the desired milk shakes on the web site. I had to register… that’s bloody annoying in itself. Then I find that the online price was £3.50 each, with a 50p service charge. £7.50 for two £3 milk shakes. But it got worse. On checkout I was informed that the minimum spend for home delivery is £8. So I added a bag of Chilli Chips that I didn’t want for £1. Total £8.50. And finally I discovered a £2 delivery charge. So I paid £10.50 for two £3 milk shakes.

Anyone fancy a bag of Chilli Chips?

Postcard From Thornbury

Thornbury High Street. Unfortunately, it no longer looks like this

A reader has sent a short missive from Thornbury, a beautiful village in South Gloucestershire that the local council is doing its best to ruin with pointless and incomprehensible Covid signage.

I live in South Gloucestershire. Thornbury is a nearby market town about 12 miles north of Bristol, a regular Britain in Bloom winner, home town of the inventor of Ribena and it has a castle which was once visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Thornbury had a reasonably thriving High Street before Covid. Now the council is at loggerheads with local businesses over its agenda to pedestrianise the High Street on the back of the virus and it has been accused of not listening and not consulting before introducing changes.

During a mid-morning visit to Thornbury I found that the High Street looked pretty desolate, spoiled by unsightly barriers, patronising signs and a couple of discarded face masks.

New council signs have been erected which demand that people wear face coverings in shops, yet omit to mention the existence of permitted exemptions. My husband and I went into a shop without facemasks and were treated normally. It’s clear from talking to a couple of locals that people don’t realise that there are exemptions. It’s also apparent that the council would rather people continue to remain unaware of them.

The survival of Thornbury High Street depends on how well shops can attract people whom the Government and council have made irrationally scared of Covid, while not putting off people like me, who want to support them, but find a visit to High Street a pretty dismal experience, thanks to the council.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Giving Up” by the Holiday Plan and “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 30th to Oct 9th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 28,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work. 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…

Is it time to cancel Tony Benn? An eagle-eyed reader was flicking through Benn’s diary from 1968 yesterday and found the above incriminating entry: “I went home, collected Melissa, and took her to the Victoria Palace with Kirillin and most of his delegation to see The Black and White Minstrel Show.”

Time to assemble that pitchfork mob, Owen Jones.

Latest News

The Re-Adjustment Bureau

Hats off to Carl Heneghan and Yoon Loke. Three weeks ago, they wrote a post on the Centre For Evidence-Based Medicine blog drawing attention to a peculiarity in the way Public Health England (PHE) recorded Covid deaths. They discovered that if you’d ever tested positive for COVID-19 and you subsequently died, even if several months had elapsed since the test, your death was recorded as being from coronavirus.

PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community. Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.

By this PHE definition, no one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness. A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.

After their post was published, Matt Hancock announced a review into the way in which PHE collects Covid data and temporarily suspended its publication. Yesterday, that review was concluded and PHE has said that henceforth it will only record a death as being from coronavirus if it occurs within 28 days of a positive test. (Heneghan and Loke suggested 21 days.) As a result, PHE’s Covid death toll has been revised downward by over 5,000. This is more than even I expected. The BBC has the details.

The new methodology for counting deaths means the total number of people in the UK who have died from COVID-19 comes down from 46,706 to 41,329 – a reduction of 12%.

And figures for deaths in England for the most recent week of data – July 18th to 24th – will drop by 75%, from 442 to 111.

That 75% drop for the third week of July is astonishing. As Heneghan and Jason Oke point out in a new blog post, this doesn’t just apply to July 18th to 24th, but to the whole of July.

under the old PHE system, 2,086 deaths were reported in England in July by date of death, with the 28 days cut off this number is 574 – nearly a quarter of what was previously reported.

The same applies to August. For instance, if you look at the last two days, under the old reporting method 100 people were recorded as having died from coronavirus yesterday and 77 today. Under the new method, those numbers are revised downwards to 11 and 15. Heneghan and Oke have illustrated the difference with a graph showing the seven-day moving average for July.

Incidentally, the Government still hasn’t updated its own dashboard. If you look at this page, you’ll see that the number of Covid deaths recorded yesterday was 100 and the number today is 77.

Raise your game, Handy Cock.

British Public More Terrified Than Everyone Else

Does PHE’s over-counting matter? Yes, obviously, not least because it brings the official method of counting deaths in England into line with Scotland’s, making it harder for Nic Sturge-Un to claim she’s handled the crisis better than Boris. (Although she couldn’t have done much worse). More importantly, the over-counting may have contributed to the coronaphobia that has gripped the British public and which may in part account for why the UK has suffered a 22% fall in GDP since the beginning of the year.

The above graphs from the Economist show that the British are more frightened to leave their homes than the citizens of France, Germany, Italy or Spain, particularly when it comes to returning to the workplace. Not the sick man of Europe, exactly, since the UK’s Covid deaths per million are in line with those of France, Italy and Spain. Rather, the hypochondriac of Europe.

Excoriating Op Ed by Editor of Sunday Telegraph

Alastair Heath, the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, has written a damning piece about the Government’s handling of the crisis in today’s Telegraph. Here are the opening two paragraphs:

So now we know: Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.

Our arrogant quangocrats and state “experts” should hang their heads in shame: their reaction to coronavirus was one of the greatest public policy blunders in modern history, more severe even than Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Suez or the ERM fiasco. Millions will lose their jobs when furlough ends; tens of thousands of small businesses are failing; schooling is in chaos, with A-level grades all over the place; vast numbers are likely to die from untreated or undetected illnesses; and we have seen the first exodus of foreigners in years, with the labour market survey suggesting a decline in non-UK born adults.

Alastair has always leant towards scepticism, but this is his most sceptical piece to date. Great stuff. Worth reading in full (if you can get past the paywall).

No ‘Second Wave’ in Europe

We often hear alarmist reports of a ‘second wave’ in Europe, with rumours swirling about which countries are about to be removed from the travel corridor. According to the Telegraph, as many as 14 countries could soon be removed from the list, including the Netherlands, Gibraltar, Monaco, Malta and San Marino. But in the case of every ‘second wave’ country, all we’ve seen is an uptick in the number of people testing positive each day, no corresponding uptick in the number of daily deaths. I’m grateful to the FT for helping to make this point with a couple of graphs.

First the graph showing the increase in daily infections.

And now the graph showing the daily deaths.

In other words, the uptick in infections is almost entirely due to increased testing and nothing to worry about.

My Holiday in the Sun

As readers will know, I spent an enjoyable week with my family in Italy last month – three days in Venice, followed by four in the Dolomites. I’ve now written this up for the Telegraph and, as you’ll see, I wasn’t with my whole family.

After four months of living under virtual house arrest in Acton, I desperately needed a break. I know the lockdown is tough on everyone, but it’s particularly difficult to endure if you think it’s a catastrophic mistake. Since the beginning of April I’ve been running a blog called LockdownSceptics.org, pumping out daily reminders of the harm the lockdown is doing, whether to schoolchildren, cancer patients or elderly care home residents. Not that it makes any impact on public opinion. It’s as if the entire world is suffering from ‘psychotic delirium’, to use the phrase of Bernard Henry-Levi, the French philosopher.

My wife and I booked a family getaway, but we hit a lockdown-related snag two weeks before departure. No, our chosen destination wasn’t removed from the travel corridor – we’d arranged to go to Italy not Spain or the Bahamas, thank God. Rather, we discovered our 15-year-old son’s passport was about to expire. Normally, you can pay extra to fast-track the application or, failing that, stand in a queue for a few hours at the Passport Office. But not at the moment.

I sat down with Ludo and told him he had a choice: we could either scrap the holiday, or he could stay with a friend and I’d buy him a new gaming desktop. It took him all of two seconds to make up his mind.

There’s plenty more in this vein.

Alarmist ITV News Report About “Lingering” Effects of the Virus

A reader has written to object to a report on ITV News yesterday evening.

This is (honestly) the first time I have felt moved complain about a news report, but Emily Morgan’s piece on tonight’s ITV News at 6.30pm was a textbook example of the exaggeration, scaremongering and frankly, crap reporting that seems to have swept through the media in recent times.

The report was supposedly highlighting how several people who had recovered from COVID-19 were still experiencing negative health issues and implied that these were somehow unique to the virus and constitute a ‘hidden cost’ of the disease that is now now becoming apparent.

EVERYBODY PANIC!

These symptoms included chronic fatigue, an inability to concentrate and constant muscular pain. Exactly the symptoms of Post Viral Fatigue in fact – a condition known about for over 40 years (known in the 80s as ‘yuppie flu’).

The clue is in the title – a syndrome that you tend to get after fighting off a debilitating virus (usually the flu). There is plenty of information on the web should anyone at ITN bother to fact check (Hint: it’s usually better to do this before you broadcast the report).

I’d love to know what qualifications Ms. Morgan has relating to Heath/Science? I suspect the answer will be none, just like her equivalent at the BBC, Hugh Pym, who has a degree in PPE. How are these people supposed to critically report on their briefs when they don’t appear to have even a basic understanding of subject they are reporting on? Deborah Cohen (Newsnight) has a background in medicine and boy does it show – her reports are always excellent, balanced, never alarmist and because of this interesting and informative. Sadly, she’s one of the few.

Keep Two Sheep Apart

A reader gets in touch after spotting an unlikely sign in Folkestone.

I’m on holiday in Kent this week and whilst walking along coast path at Folkestone yesterday I couldn’t believe this sign was for real. Now they’re just trolling us.

Socially Distanced Cars

Another reader reports more madness: socially distanced cars.

I was chatting this morning to a neighbour whose wife is currently working from home.

I have no idea what she does, but he told me that her firm has said no one will be going back to the office until at least January and even then they will only allow 40% of the staff back. This is, according to the firm, because “the rules” say that not only must staff socially distance in the office, but cars must be socially distanced in the car park with only alternate spaces used!

As I’ve said many times in the past five months, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Failed Exams” by Laxcity and “Ventilator Blues” by the Rolling Stones

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 26th to Oct 6th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 28,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

Meanwhile, probably not a good idea to wear unusual face coverings as an expression of your resistance to mask fascism. The Standard reports that the tech millionaire John McAffee was arrested in Norway for wearing a thong on his face.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours 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 my Spectator column this week, I’ve written about why I started “Love in a Covid Climate”.

It all began in April when I started a blog called Lockdown Sceptics. I wanted to create a clubhouse for that small band of dissenters who think that locking down the entire population, the healthy as well as the sick, is a violation of our civil liberties, particularly when our scientific understanding of how the virus is transmitted is so incomplete. It quickly started getting a lot of traffic, suggesting we aren’t such a tiny minority after all. On an average day, the site gets 25,000 visitors and to date it’s had more than 2.5 million page views.

The idea is that if you’re a Covid realist you don’t want to go out with a hysteric who frets about a ‘second wave’
Last week I got an email from one of my regular correspondents saying he was newly divorced and thinking of signing up with a dating agency. ‘It made me realise that a key criterion for meeting someone is that they absolutely must be a lockdown sceptic,’ he wrote. ‘I genuinely think that if I can find a girl as sceptical as me, she must therefore be marriage material. That’s how important (and sadly divisive) this issue has now become. I could never date (let alone build a relationship with) a lockdown zealot.’

That’s when the lightbulb appeared above my head. Why not start a dating site myself? My tech-savvy collaborator, Ian Rons, had already created some discussion forums on the website, so all he needed to do was add a new page where users could post their lonely hearts messages. We decided to call it ‘Love in a Covid climate’.

Worth reading in full.

Latest News

It’s Official: UK Plunges into Recession

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed this morning what we already knew: the UK economy suffered its largest contraction in Q2 since records began. (Caveat: the ONS only started keeping records in 1955.) GDP shrank by a whopping 20.4% and, since it’s the second quarter of negative growth in succession, that means the economy is officially in recession. Overall, the British economy has shrunk by 22% since the beginning of the year, reducing output back to the level it was in 2003.

The Government will blame the virus, of course, but that excuse only goes so far because the UK has suffered the worst recession in the G7. GDP shrank by 13.8% in France, 12.4% in Italy, 12% in Canada, 10.1% in Germany, 9.5% in the US and is forecast to shrink by 7.6% in Japan. Lockdown zealots will claim our economic woes have been exacerbated by Boris’s failure to place the country under virtual house arrest even earlier, but one of those countries – Japan, which has fared the best in the G7 if the forecast is accurate – never imposed a full lockdown and Sweden’s economy performed better than most in Europe, only shrinking by 8.6% in Q2.

The truth is that if Boris had stuck to his guns and not imposed a full lockdown Britain’s Covid death toll would be no higher, the collateral death toll would be lower and the economy would be in better shape.

Government by Chaos

One explanation for why Britain has fared the worst in the G7 is that our Government has been so chaotic, destroying what the economist Paul Krugman calls the “confidence fairy”. First we were going to “take in on the chin”, then we weren’t. Testing was scaled back because it was unreliable, then it was scaled back up because it was our best hope of containing new outbreaks. Masks outside healthcare setting weren’t recommended, then they were. Schools would re-open before the summer holidays, then they wouldn’t. The lockdown is over, unless you live in Leicester, Manchester, Bradford, Preston, etc., in which case it isn’t. You can go on holiday to Spain without having to quarantine on your return – oh no you can’t. But Portugal’s off the list, right? Maybe not. France? Who knows.

In his latest essay for Lockdown Sceptics, longstanding contributor Guy de la Bédoyère asks the six million dollar question. Is there any method in the Government’s madness – some diabolical plot orchestrated by Dominic Cummings – or is it just one cock-up after another?

There are plenty of people who think this Government, indeed almost any government, is hell-bent on a systematic plan to destroy individual liberty, force people to be vaccinated, inject them with chips, monitor social media accounts, use algorithms as a mechanism of control and to do it all with the cynical efficiency of a Bond villain.

Others think governments are exercises in accidental chaos, masked by spin, staggering from one crisis to another, fuelled by individual self-interest, opportunism and chronic disorganization.

I’m firmly in the latter camp, but Guy is more ambivalent. This is one of his best essays yet and worth reading in full.

A Musician Writes…

I got a message from a musician who spent some time in mainland Europe recently. Not as awful as she was expecting.

I just read the Postcard from Belgium you published a few days ago. I was in Belgium from July 30th – August 1st, as a musician performing at an event in Brussels. When I arrived – off a train from the airport – I was dismayed to find people wearing masks even in the streets, and signs saying that masks were mandatory outdoors. I thought Belgium had gone mask-mad. However, this impression soon dissipated. We went to rehearse at a studio – no masks in sight. Then at the outdoor event the next day, despite the sign saying masks were mandatory, the organisers were scathing about the public wearing masks and told us we only had to wear them when the audience arrived so we didn’t appear to be breaking the law. Even then, audience members were only required to wear them when moving around and not when at their seats (which were spaced out somewhat but people were free to join each other at different tables). After the gig, another musician was telling me about how lockdown scepticism was growing in Belgium and the Netherlands and starting to get organised, though he emphasised it was still a minority of people.

Next we drove to Zurich, rehearsed, and went to a cafe – only the staff wore masks. Then to a gig in France. Despite a new law being locally introduced that masks are compulsory even on the streets, very few people are following this, though everyone is wearing them in shops, and staff in cafes and kitchens wear them. People are concerned about the virus – they are not “corona deniers” – but they are just using common sense.

I’m from Scotland and was talking to people from Catalonia where the rules are also strict. They, like me, were thrilled to be part of an event where people can mingle freely, play music together, even sit next to each other to eat. I was very worried about travelling in this current super-safety-fear climate but actually it’s been like a coronavirus holiday. I’ve been given handshakes, hugs, even a kiss on the cheek, Belgian-style. I don’t mention this too much to people back home because they tend to react with horror but for me this trip has been a massive relief. The countries of the UK might still be quite fear-ridden (though there have always been the pragmatic folk throughout) but mainland Europe feels like a sensible place. People haven’t forgotten their humanity and want to live what I call the ‘true normal’ not the ‘new normal’.

If only I didn’t have to come home…

Anti-Mask Protests Planned For This Weekend

People listening to speakers at a July protest in Hyde Park organised by Keep Britain Free, Simon Dolan’s group

The anti-lockdown movement is gathering momentum. According to the Mail, anti-mask protests are planned for this weekend in London, Liverpool and Hull. And yesterday, a group calling itself StandUp X invaded a Morrison’s in London and told shoppers to remove their masks.

Worryingly for the Government trying to promote the wearing of masks, the protest group’s public Facebook page shows it is converting other people to its views and cause.

One mother called Gemma Munro told them: “I really want to thank this group for giving me the strength and courage to stop wearing that stupid mask!”

StandUp X is not just opposed to masks. It’s also against vaccinations and 5G masts, which will make some lockdown sceptics understandably wary.

Can’t this movement find a better leader than Piers Corbyn?

Postcard From Brazil

A reader in Brazil – a Canadian married to a Brazilian – has written a corking postcard from the South American country. It’s not the usual griping about how an irresponsible populist leader has ignored the advice of his own scientists and let the virus cut a swathe through the favelas. On the contrary, he thinks Bolsonaro has got it broadly right. He points out that Brazil’s per capita death toll is lower than it is in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, the UK, Sweden, and the United States.

Despite high national case numbers, Brazilian cities that were struck hard early on have now seen new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fall off a cliff around the 20% infected mark, just like clockwork. Of course, we all know that herd immunity cannot be reached and would result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and untold suffering blah blah blah. So what explains these drops? Will we hear the English language media discussing this? Will pigs fly?

With the numbers now falling in my state as well, I shake my head daily at the bizarro world pronouncements of the state Governor proclaiming that beaches and hiking trails, to which people have been flocking for months, are now open. Restaurants are now allowed to operate until 6pm, despite the swanky spot down the block having been open until 2am every night since the beginning of the pandemic, pumping loud music. I suspect bribery.

This is one of the best postcards we’ve published so far. Well worth reading in full.

Did Re-Opening Schools in Israel Really Cause a Spike in Cases?

Re-opening schools hasn’t caused a rise in cases – but is Israel the exception?

Yesterday, I published a series of graphs showing that re-opening schools in most parts of the world hadn’t caused a rise in cases – with one exception, Israel. Indeed, the apparent link between the decision to re-open schools in Israel and the subsequent rise in cases is one of the most common arguments against re-opening schools in full in England next month.

However, a reader has pointed out that this is a case of correlation not causation.

I would like to comment regarding the graph showing an increase in cases for Israel after school re-opening.
The point is that the event (i.e. schools re-opened) is as relevant as “Full Moon”.

Israel became an anarchy in the sense that the Orthodox population disregard and disobey the guidelines set for social distancing and mask-wearing.

The result is that a huge portion (over 50%) of the cases are in this group, with an order of magnitude lower rates elsewhere.

However, due to the political situation (PM on trial), the law enforcement authorities do nothing at all.

It would be a mistake to link the cases to “schools re-opened”.

Round-Up

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

If you want to avoid this horror show, head to “Love in a Covid Climate”

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. Indeed, I’ve written about it for the Daily Express today. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Meanwhile, if you want to get a sense of what it would be like to embark on a relationship with a bedwetter, the Terrence Higgins Trust has issued some “safe sex” advice for people worried about catching the virus. You should wash your hands before and after each sexual encounter, avoid kissing and wear a face mask during intercourse. I’m not making that up. The Telegraph & Argus has the story.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it 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 (now showing it will arrive between Sept 25th to Oct 5th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here and an “exempt” card that looks like as if it’s been issued by the NHS for just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 28,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours 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…

I have a regular correspondent who suggests theme tunes for this site, but his latest is such a good spot I thought I’d stick it down here rather than throw it away in “Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers”. It’s “Absolute Panic” by Bedwetters Anonymous. Well worth a listen.