Boris Johnson’s troubles are far from over as his sceptical backbenchers, emboldened by the concessions won over the Brady amendment, move on to new targets. Their latest is the arbitrary and counterproductive 10pm curfew, which is undermining an already battered hospitality industry. The Telegraph has more.
Boris Johnson is facing a new rebellion on the backbenches, after his Government was accused of presiding over a “nanny state”.
Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, told the Commons the 10pm hospitality curfew was doing untold damage to businesses and prompting “jobs to be lost, all just to see people congregating on the streets again”. “When will the Secretary of State act like a Conservative and stop this arbitrary nanny state socialist approach, which is serving no purpose at all apart from to further collapse the economy and erode our freedoms,” he asked Matt Hancock.
Noting Mr Davies had voted against renewing the Coronavirus Act yesterday, the Health Secretary said the “hundreds of thousands of deaths that would follow is not a price to pay” for his colleague’s preferred option of “just letting it rip”.
He added: “I do believe in individual responsibility and the promotion of freedom – subject to not harming others.”
The belief that ongoing extreme Government restrictions are all that stand between us and “hundreds of thousands of deaths” is the article of faith at the heart of the Covid cult, the fear that drives the dark side of public health policy. Matt Hancock confirmed this week on Twitter that the Government’s strategy is indefinite suppression until a vaccine arrives.
A vaccine is often seen as the holy grail that will end the pandemic. But a report, from researchers brought together by the Royal Society, said we needed to be “realistic” about what a vaccine could achieve and when. They said restrictions may need to be “gradually relaxed” as it could take up to a year to roll the vaccine out.
More than 200 vaccines to protect against the virus are being developed by scientists around the world in a process that is taking place at unprecedented speed.
“A vaccine offers great hope for potentially ending the pandemic, but we do know that the history of vaccine development is littered with lots of failures,” said Dr Fiona Culley, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.
There is optimism, including from the UK government’s scientific advisers, that some people may get a vaccine this year and mass vaccination may start early next year.
However, the Royal Society report warns it will be a long process.
“Even when the vaccine is available it doesn’t mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated, we’re talking about six months, nine months… a year,” said Prof Nilay Shah, head of chemical engineering at Imperial College London. “There’s not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March.”
Dr Andrew Preston from the University of Bath wonders whether compulsion will be required.
“Clearly the vaccine has been portrayed as a silver bullet and ultimately it will be our salvation, but it may not be an immediate process.”
He said there would need to be discussion of whether “vaccine passports” are needed to ensure people coming into the country are immunised.
And Dr Preston warned that vaccine hesitancy seemed to be a growing problem that had become embroiled in anti-mask, anti-lockdown ideologies.
“If cohorts of people refuse to have the vaccine, do we leave them to fend for themselves or have mandatory vaccination for children to go to schools, or for staff in care homes? There are lots of difficult questions.”
Don’t you love how questioning masks is now “ideology”, even though they were opposed by the WHO until June and then recommended despite it being admitted there is “no direct evidence” of the effectiveness of “universal masking of healthy people in the community”?
Defence Select Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood proposed vaccine passports in the Commons this week, worryingly suggesting the idea is gaining ground.
The politician told the House that he has written to Johnson urging him to use the Ministry of Defence and the army to set up regional distribution hubs as well as to develop a “national database to track progress and issue the vaccination certificates.”
Ellwood, who is Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, said that vaccination certificates “will probably have to be internationally recognized in order to allow travel, international travel.”
In further eyebrow raising remarks, Ellwood outlined that life will return to normal for those who get the vaccine, whereas those who don’t will still be “subject to social distancing rules”.
All of which shows it is vain to hope the arrival of a vaccine will make this whole nightmare go away while allowing the Government to save face. Like the rebel MPs, we lockdown sceptics must keep pressing our argument that none of these measures are warranted or proportionate so that extreme public health interventions, compulsorily enforced, don’t become the new normal.
The MPs who voted against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act are a curious bunch and rare bedfellows: all the LibDems (actually being liberal for a change), some hardcore Corbynistas, and some seasoned Tory rebels, with a smattering of others. 26 overall: 11 LibDems, seven Conservatives, six Labour, one Green Party and one Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. (From Hansard, with thanks to the reader who put this together for us.)
- Mr Alistair Carmichael (LibDem Orkney and Shetland: Teller)
- Wendy Chamberlain (LibDem North East Fife: Teller)
- Bone, Mr Peter (Conservative Wellingborough)
- Butler, Dawn (Labour Brent)
- Cooper, Daisy (LibDem St Albans)
- Davey, Ed (LibDem Kingston and Surbiton)
- Davies, Philip (Conservative Shipley West Yorkshire)
- Farron, Tim (LibDem Westmoreland and Lonsdale)
- Farry, Stephen (Alliance Party, North Down)
- Hobhouse, Wera (LibDem Bath)
- Hollobone, Mr Philip (Conservative Kettering)
- Jardine, Christine (LibDem Edinburgh West)
- Jones, Kevan (Labour North Durham)
- Long Bailey, Rebecca (Labour Salford and Eccles)
- Lucas, Caroline (Green Party Brighton Pavilion)
- McVey, Esther (Conservative Tatton)
- Moran, Layla (LibDem Oxford West and Abingdon)
- Olney, Sarah (LibDem Richmond Park)
- Spellar, John (Labour Warley)
- Stone, Jamie (LibDem, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)
- Stringer, Graham (Labour Blackley and Broughton)
- Swayne, Sir Desmond (Conservative New Forest West)
- Twigg, Derek (Labour Halton)
- Walker, Sir Charles (Conservative Broxbourne)
- Wilson, Munira (LibDem Twickenham)
- Wragg, Mr William (Conservative Hazel Grove)
We salute you!
Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph points out that the mood in the country is changing, as seen in people’s behaviour if not in what they say.
Shops are just as busy, footfall is no lower since the second wave started – and consumer spending is back to about where it was before the virus. As are seats filled in restaurants. This is not a story of hedonism or recklessness: masks are being dutifully worn, hand sanitiser squirted and elbows bumped everywhere. Even Matt Hancock’s Covid app has been downloaded 14 million times. But there are not many signs that the fear inside No10 – of a second wave even larger than the first – is being shared in the country more widely.
This is what takes us to the politically dangerous territory. People tell opinion pollsters that they like restrictions – but they vote with their feet, and most are making their way to work. With almost a million jobs gone, and perhaps another million about to go, the economy has overtaken health as the subject that most concerns voters. People worry about their friends’ jobs, as well as their own. People who aren’t really fussed about eating out are doing so because they care about the survival of the pubs, restaurants and the local jobs that they wish to support. And if Government imposes another lockdown, while being unable to provide a shred of evidence about the efficacy, things may get tricky.
I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance. I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures. We need to talk to Government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being. We are really disappointed. As things stand, we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.
800 students attended a party in Coventry, with many saying that they just wanted to get Covid over and done with. As Kate Andrews asks in the Spectator, could this be the start of the lockdown rebellion? We certainly hope so.
Stop Press: The latest figures from Imperial’s React study show the “second wave” may already be slowing, with the rate of growth down from 1.7 in late August to 1.1 last week. Oddly, notes Ross Clark in the Speccie, there’s a big unexplained discrepancy between the React figures (which estimates that there were 411,000 “cases” in the week ending September 26th) and the ONS figures (estimated 103,600 in week ending September 19th). Doesn’t this just show how dubious our data and models are? Reported cases fell again yesterday, leaving the last week looking rather flat. In Madrid, hospital occupancy has now been falling continuously for a week. The second ripple is fizzling out, and not because of anything governments have done. When will the Government and their advisers admit it?
Following our story yesterday about the difficulties people are having in getting diagnosed for a serious medical condition in our “world-beating” National Covid Service despite Dr Chris Whitty insisting the NHS is “open for business”, a reader has sent us the letter she wrote to her MP about having the same problem seeing a dentist.
It says in the press and according to the Prime Minister’s press conference that the NHS is open for business.
I don’t think it is. I’ve just called our dentist and my seven year-old can’t be seen unless in extreme pain. She has a filling in a baby tooth and I was told we needed to keep an eye on it and get it checked regularly as the filling has a tendency to fall out. It is currently black and I suspect it has fallen out.
Now I’m told we cannot get an appointment. I have to wait to see if her tooth becomes severely rotten or she has an infection or other serious problem before my seven year-old can be seen by the dentist.
So I beg to differ that the NHS is “open for business”. It seems a child could be at risk of serious illness before they might be seen. I do hope the situation isn’t the same in hospitals. If people are waiting unnecessarily for other treatments then it seems that Covid restrictions are now causing more harm than they are purportedly preventing. I hope the restrictions and consequences of them are not unnecessarily disproportionate, although I’m now concerned they are.
A professor of genetics and data science has been in touch to point us to some new research some people in his field are doing into herd immunity. The professor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is pleased this research is going ahead. He told Lockdown Sceptics:
The idea of collective (or “herd”) immunity and how it might be at play in the Covid pandemic is being increasingly debated. It is very hard to tease this out, not least because the Government still refuses to publish the number of tests performed per day for each different geographical regions, while it simultaneously emphasises counts of ‘cases’ rather than percentages of positive tests. Nevertheless, when one considers the very poor correlation between lockdown severity and the scale of the outbreak in different places around the world, and by noting how secondary waves pretty much everywhere seem relatively short-lived and mild compared to the earlier outbreaks, then one cannot avoid suspecting that collective immunity may be at play.
That said, we must still be cautious. If herd immunity is helpfully doing its best to come to our rescue: (i) we still do not know how long such immunity will last (though SARS T-Cell immunity lasts at least 17 years); (ii) the significance of “Long-COVID” is still to be fully understood (though there is no reliable data today proving it to be a major problem); and (iii) many regions of the UK experienced only a very mild first wave (and so could be at major risk for a very large outbreak this winter).
Therefore, given what we do and do not know about collective immunity at the present time, there is no justification for throwing caution and social distancing measures out of the window. But equally, the evidence does argue that increasingly extreme measures are not merited. Furthermore, there is every reason to intensify research into Covid collective immunity, to compel the Government to release all the data that analysts need to do such research, to universally talk in terms of percentage positivity rates (rather than case counts), and to start focusing more on death rates rather than mainly on levels of infection.
I think many Lockdown Sceptics readers would be more than ready to throw social distancing out the window. But the research is certainly welcome and will, we hope, put herd immunity to COVID-19 on a surer scientific footing.
In a new low, when you didn’t think universities could be any crueller, the University of Southampton has decided to penalise an entire hall of residence, including those asleep at the time of the misdemeanour. A reader writes:
A number of students from Chamberlain halls decided to have a bit of a night out, breaking both Government guidelines and the University’s code of conduct.
Of course, the University condemned this, but what was particularly shocking was the nature of their response. They issued a letter to the entire hall of residence, some 356 bedrooms, stating that all students would be receiving a permanent reference to the event on their disciplinary records, saying that even those who did not attend would still receive one because they failed to snitch on their fellow students. Suffice to say having a disciplinary record is no laughing matter.
The student body is outraged as many residents were completely unaware or even asleep at the time of the gathering as the hall sprawls across five separate blocks.
The student magazine Wessex Scene has the story in more detail as well as a screenshot of the full letter sent to residents.
Nice to see universities demonstrate that given an excuse they really don’t mind doling out a mass punishment to whole sections of their presumably already pretty anxious and frustrated freshers, all while charging them nine grand for the privilege.
Stop Press: Trump and the First Lady have tested positive and are self-isolating.
- “MP under police investigation after taking Covid to the Commons” – Even MPs don’t stick to the rules they say they support
- “The Government has it easy: rising cases, lockdown too slow. Falling cases, lockdown works” – Madeleine Grant in the Telegraph spots the genius of the Government’s lockdown strategy that can never be wrong
- “A falling R number is no justification for further lockdowns” – Ross Clark in the Telegraph counters the inevitable argument, already made by Matt Hancock, that the slowing of infections only shows we need more lockdowns
- “Why Professor Chris Whitty’s pessimism isn’t the full picture” – Ben Spencer in the Mail attempts to bring a bit of sorely lacking proportion to the Witless and Unbalanced show
- “The selfish hypocrisy of champagne lockdownism is demolishing our society” – Another excellent column from Sherelle Jacobs in the Telegraph shining a light on the selfishness and hypocrisy of the lockdown zealots
- “How much does it cost to save lives from Covid?” – Simon Wood in the Spectator says the Government is not getting value for money in its public health interventions
- “Public Health Lessons Learned From Biases in Coronavirus Mortality Overestimation” – Peer-reviewed article in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness by Dr Ronald Brown that shines a spotlight on the biases and errors that led to the fateful presentation on March 11th of a mortality rate to Congress that was ten times too high
- “Why your positive test result is likely wrong” – Good summary of the problems with tests and “cases” from Rob Verkerk at the ANH
- “Our MPs have no conscience – so we must supply one” – Kathy Gyngell in the Conservative Woman is unimpressed with the way MPs are holding the Government to account and calls on sceptics everywhere to keep the pressure on
- “Echoes of Brexit in the ridiculing of lockdown protesters” – Richard Ings in the Conservative Woman spies the same dismissive elitism at work
- “What Iceland’s volcano chaos teaches us about our Covid mistakes” – The latest from Dr Waqar Rashid in the Spectator who sees important parallels with other over-reactions to pandemics based on faulty models and poor data
We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. 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.
Update: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.
We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, Tom Slater in the Spectator explains what is so galling about the latest utterance from the Prince and Princess of Woke.
Hot on the heels of their thinly-veiled intervention in the US election, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have called for an “end to structural racism” in the UK, via a new initiative they’ve launched in collaboration with the Evening Standard.
To mark the beginning of Black History Month in the UK, Harry and Meghan have unveiled a list of “BHM Next Gen Trailblazers”– that is, black Brits who are making a difference in arts, politics and culture, chosen in turn by some of the Sussexes’ favourite black British artists, politicians and cultural figures.
Scratch beneath the surface, though, and this initiative seems as much about celebrating black British talent as it is about “educating” the supposedly uneducated population, who the royal couple seem to think are insufficiently aware of the contributions made by Brits of African and Caribbean backgrounds.
The couple gave a Zoom interview to the Standard from their £11m mansion in California, all in the cringeworthy style to which we’ve become accustomed: Harry recites tired talking points in the manner of a man reading a hostage letter, while Meghan stares at him, smiling.
The list, Harry says, is an “opportunity to introduce Brits to other Brits that they might not know about”, adding that even in London “if you actually get out on the streets and talk to people… it doesn’t feel as diverse as it actually is”. Meghan goes on to defend Black Lives Matter against accusations it is “inflammatory”.
I must have missed all the times BLM condemned unequivocally the violence and rioting being carried out in its name. Perhaps this is why, according to YouGov, 48% of Brits want Harry and Meghan stripped of their royal titles, while just 27% think they should keep them.
We’ve created a one-stop shop 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 (takes a while to arrive). 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 £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it 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.
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: A new scientific preprint exposes yet another health problem with habitual mask wearing: all the loose material on them that will be inhaled and create “potential pathological consequences of foreign bodies in the lungs”.
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Toby had lunch with Laurence Fox on Monday and talked about his new party, Reclaim. Here’s an excerpt from his Spectator column this week.
More importantly, Reclaim doesn’t have to win anywhere in order to make a difference. Ukip only managed to win a single parliamentary seat, yet it achieved its main political objective. All Laurence needs to do is persuade the Conservative party that if it doesn’t become more robust on culture war issues it will lose votes to him in Red Wall seats. Not enough for Reclaim to win, but enough for Labour to come up through the middle.
And Laurence’s initiative has already had a backbone-stiffening effect on No. 10, with its comms team frantically briefing out that Boris was planning to appoint Charles Moore to run the BBC and Paul Dacre to run Ofcom at the same time that the story broke about the new party. With his backbenchers growing restive, Boris is particularly vulnerable to the charge that he hasn’t done enough to protect Britain’s statues and monuments from marauding gangs of Black Lives Matter protestors or to defend Britain’s history from those who portray it as an unending litany of exploitation and oppression. If the new party starts creeping up in the polls, Boris will have to do something to shoot Reclaim’s Fox.
Worth reading in full.