Below is a guest post by Dr Mike Yeadon in which he urges MPs not to vote for a second lockdown.
Dear Sirs and Madams,
I am an independent scientist of over 30 years experience leading research into new medicines, operating up to Vice President and head of Respiratory Research at Pfizer, a US pharmaceutical company and founder and CEO of Ziarco Ltd a biotechnology company sold to Novartis in 2017.
As an independent I am less constrained than academics and commercial persons. However, I have applied the same rigour to analysing the pandemic since March as with any of my former projects.
- I am certain the pandemic is over and was over before the end of June.
- There was a clear peak of excess deaths in spring. COVID-19 clearly caused many deaths, mostly of the elderly and already ill.
- Turning to late summer and into the autumn – despite exaggerated claims that there is an ongoing full-blown pandemic, there are still FEWER respiratory deaths than at the same time periods in all five of the years since 2015. The below shows monthly deaths with any respiratory primary diagnoses including COVID-19.
There is a small and potentially growing all-causes excess mortality signal. I am working with a pathologist and our evaluation so far shows that these excess deaths are inconsistent with being COVID-19. In short, they are not dying from respiratory illness, but from heart failure and from cerebrovascular accidents such as stroke and diabetes. An awful realisation I have is that these excess deaths are just the sort you would expect if you take a mixed population, deprive them of easy access to the healthcare system for seven months and keep them stressed.
Looking at data obtained from contacts within the NHS, we do not have hospitals full of respiratory patients to any greater extent than usual for November. There are always hotspots and we know Liverpool is one such today. Again, the evidence is against this being due to COVID-19. And to repeat, we have not had excess respiratory deaths since the spring event itself. Liverpool and other cities and towns nearby have additional capacity and ‘surge capacity’, if required. The NHS as a whole is not in crisis and there is nothing to suggest it is about to be. I also checked with a colleague regarding intensive care beds. While an increasing number of their occupants have tested positive for COVID-19, intensive care beds are at exactly normal loadings for the time of year, i.e. 82%. I believe those COVID-19 diagnoses are mostly or all incorrect. We have tested well over 30,000,000 people. It wouldn’t be surprising if lots of people get a false diagnosis from a PCR test.
Antibody prevalence in the blood of those surveyed periodically is falling steadily and has been since its peak in the spring, when the virus was moving very fast through the population, infecting perhaps hundreds of thousands per day at its very peak. That antibodies are falling was last week wrongly touted as problematic and suggested immunity was fading. That’s the wrong interpretation. The human body does not maintain high levels of antibodies which are not needed. Consequently, steady falls in prevalence of antibodies is a clear signal that people are no longer encountering the virus. I believe that insofar as it is still present, it has become endemic at low levels and represents no threat to the health of the nation.
As someone experienced at reading into adjacent areas of science which I have done time without number since obtaining my PhD in respiratory pharmacology in 1988, I was always confident that the population would speedily attain ‘community immunity’. This is what I believe has happened as detailed in my article “What SAGE has got wrong”.
In my view – probably because SAGE lacked cellular and clinical immunologist expertise earlier this year and at no time during this event has it seconded a pathologist or an expert generalist such as myself – they’ve made a series of terrible errors which continue to infect policy to this very day. If such experts had been consulted, our advice would have made a huge difference, not least to the starting assumptions which are widely criticised as outlandish in the scientific community. In addition, we could have “sense checked” some of the more perplexingly unlikely predictions, such as 4,000 deaths per day.
The most fundamental error SAGE has made was to ignore all evidence of the very existence of prior immunity in the population on the spurious grounds that this was a novel virus. This virus is in fact related to four common-cold producing coronaviruses in general circulation and it has been shown unequivocally that a sizeable proportion of the peoples of at least Europe and North America possess T-cells that provide them with some protection against both endemic and novel viruses.
This virus is a serious threat to a low proportion of the elderly, especially if they are already ill. This description of the most vulnerable accounts for the vast majority of Covid deaths and the median age of those who’ve died of COVID-19 is slightly older than the median age of those who died of all other causes. However, the majority even of this elderly group survive infection. Overall, the lethality of the virus is now known to be very close to typical seasonal influenza. Notably, in relation to risks to the working population, the lethality of the virus in those aged 60 and younger is actually less than seasonal flu.
By using several sets of data I have been able to estimate the proportion of the UK population who have been infected. If you add them to the estimated proportion of the population that had prior immunity, and take account of the fact that young children do not often participate in transmission or become very ill, it is clear that there are far too few susceptible people remaining in UK to support an expanding infection as has been suggested. Instead, the evidence is strong from practical, theoretical and observational standpoints that the nation as a whole and probably most if not all regions in the UK are already protected by community immunity as described by many world leading academic epidemiologists in UK.
I heard with disbelief suggestions that surviving infection might not lead to immunity, or that immunity might only last a few months. Let me assure you, we have known for scores of years that surviving simple respiratory viruses which are neither immuno-toxic like HIV or change their appearance yearly like flu, leads as a rule, not an exception, to long-lived and robust T-cell mediated immunity. Antibodies may play a role but they are not central. That this ordinary virus has become a global media event is simply not justified by its profile.
I have been active on Twitter rather a lot in recent months. I would suggest that the people of UK are now highly suspicious of what is claimed to be happening. Many is the time people have in exasperation said: “This just doesn’t make any sense.” Indeed, what we are being told (that there is a full blown pandemic still underway) does not make sense and while I have no idea why it is being said, it is doubtless incorrect. Ordinary people know that each season’s flu takes perhaps three-to-four months to pass through the whole population. Knowing that SARS-CoV-2 is more infectious, they know that it would take the same or less time to pass through the UK population, not more. Indeed, we know it was in the UK by February. Adding a generous four months takes us to June, where all clinical signs of COVID-19 has disappeared (ignoring PCR test results, of which more in a moment). The rise and fall of Covid deaths in the UK follows exactly the same curve as that of other, highly seeded/infected countries such as Sweden. There is no doubt that we are in the same position as Sweden and it is only the monstrously error-prone and untrustworthy PCR test that suggests otherwise. What SAGE claims is happening is immunologically implausible in light of other data, specifically the shape of the death versus time curve, which shows beyond all reasonable doubt that the pandemic was self-extinguishing.
The PCR testing machinery is, at best, greatly in error and completely misleading. I have good knowledge of mass testing systems. I have always been deeply worried about polymerase chain reaction (PCR) because of its power, not only to find one molecule as small as a broken fragment of viral RNA and amplify it, sometimes by two to the power of 40, through repeated cycling, but also because it can find something that is not there – it can yield a ‘positive’ result even though the virus is not present. The greater the amplification and the higher the number of tests being done each day day – and the lower the expertise of the staff doing it – the higher the probability of error. I was the person who, with a radio journalist, finally pressed Mr Hancock to disclose the false positive rate of the Pillar 2 test, when it was still measuring far fewer tests per day than now. Having established that false positives exist, it is important to know that the rate of these can be small yet, when the prevalence of the virus is low, many or even all the positive results are false. That’s a practical debate for another time.
Yesterday, in response to a written question, the Government disclosed that while attempts had apparently been made to determine the operational false positive rate, it still doesn’t know it. As an experienced lab scientist, I know that when testing capacity is boosted substantially and the staff recruited have less and less lab experiences, there is only one outcome: errors of handling and of procedure. These in turn destroy the integrity of the testing system. The entire response of the UK depends upon the reliability of these tests. I have to tell you quite firmly: at present, it is practically, logically and legally impossible for anyone to be able to tell you what fraction of the positive tests recently obtained are real and which are not. For a range of reasons related to strong evidence that this virus cannot just hover around as it has been suggested and viruses certainly do not perform waves ever, the most secure conclusion is that these results are not to be trusted and are not reliable in any way.
So what I am saying is this. Despite warnings from all sides over months about this test it has continued to be used with increasing ferocity. It’s a medical diagnostic test. On no occasion would such a diagnostic be put into mass testing – in the NHS, for example – without knowing in advance how reliable it is. In terms of proper characterisation, it has NEVER been measured, despite the war-like impact of the test results on the nation and its people. At a minimum, the charge is reckless endangerment. Given all this information, it is literally impossible to guess whether the FPR is 1% or 10%. If even near the latter, there are no “cases” et seq. And there are other reasons to be very concerned about mass testing which I cannot go into today.
In my view, community mass testing is the pathology in the country now – not the virus. It must cease today. Without the ‘cover’ of mass testing, there is no evidence at all that the health of the nation is under any threat whatsoever. That event occurred in spring and our responses to it have been exaggerated and – what is worse – extraordinarily persistent, even when all the evidence says the pandemic has concluded.
I have a colleague who has a half a dozen sets of data all related to the pandemic. These show clear relationships between the data in the spring, all of which illustrated the impact of the virus. However, time after time, these relationships have broken down. The explanation for this is that at least one of the measurements are wrong, and the culprit is the PCR test. This has happened before. In New Hampshire in the USA there was a hospital that was convinced it had a huge outbreak of whooping cough. Physicians, patients and parents were all very worried about the expected deaths. Eventually, an older physician examined some of the patients and did not agree with the diagnosis. Asking the staff why they were so sure it was whooping cough, the answer was it had been diagnosed by the PCR test, the sole diagnostic tool. A review was ordered and this led to culture of the organism from the suspected patients. There was not a single person who actually had whopping cough. No infectious organism was found. What had happened was a now infamous case of a “PCR False Positive Pseudo-epidemic”. That is what I believe we have now in UK and in many other countries using similar technology.
MPs: If you vote for it now, you will condemn more people to suffering and some to death and the evidence does not support this extreme measure for which, even if the virus was circulating as SAGE claims, there is no evidence of benefit.
I urge you to vote against so we can all disclose our evidence that the pandemic is over and the epidemic of PCR testing can end.
We were sent the below by someone employed at a PCR testing site in Salisbury. We were planning to lead with it tomorrow, but given the importance of today’s vote in the House of Commons, and in combination with the above post by Mike Yeadon, we have decided to publish it today.
Forgive the intrusion but I was given your contact details courtesy of a mutual friend. I realise the gravity of making this information public and genuinely feel that you are best placed to air my concerns about the fundamentally flawed service provided at testing sites. To be specific, the site operating in Salisbury which has been awarded/allocated without tender or public scrutiny to the unlikely coalition of Mitie and Deloitte.
I was accepted for work instantly after applying online at 01.00 in the morning. I filled out a mere two pages of information – no reference checks, no criminal record check, no photographic ID – and started work the following Monday at 08:00. I was deployed into the car park to essentially point and wave at cars for my first two shifts. I was told that we could read books, use our phones and use tablets in our non-customer-facing time. In a 12-hour shift that time could easily be upwards of eight to nine hours. After proving myself with my enthusiastic waving and gesturing to genuinely bemused looking members of the public I was promoted after three days to the PPE team. At this point, I still hadn’t had any non automated contact with the agency which had placed me.
The PPE team as it turned out was indeed a promotion. Along with ensuring the continuous supply of plastic gloves and surgical face masks to staff on site, we were tasked with assembling the MT PCR testing kits. This entailed putting the vials, swabs and instruction leaflets in foil bags. Some bags were sealed if they were for RTS use (mobile units) and others unsealed if for use on the static site. The static site being a special site donated free of charge by Wiltshire Council as it was now redundant as a park-and-ride site. Redundant thanks to lockdown.
It became apparent to me frighteningly quickly how unstructured and chaotic the processes on the site were across the board. I completed two-and-a-half years of a mental heath nursing degree back in 2013 and I realised, thanks to my prior training, we were preparing these tests in a totally non-sterile environment. A bloody shipping container to be precise! I questioned the practice with site management only to be told that they had no formal written policies in place and so procedures were “fluffy”.
Unlike some of my other colleagues, I decided to read the storage instructions that accompanied the containers of the vials. To my horror, it emerged that the formula needed to be stored at between zero and eight degrees Celsius after a sample is taken and then transported to one of the three testing labs in Milton Keynes, all run by Lighthouse. I have photographic evidence of the temperature in one of the unsanitary shipping containers that the tests were stored in prior to collection – it was not between zero and eight. Furthermore, the instructions stated that the sample must be stored and transported upright. Yet at the Salisbury site, the completed tests were put into medex containers on their side with up to 100 samples crammed in. The aforementioned containers were then collected and transported to Milton Keynes by a combination of Royal Mail vans and privately unmarked and undocumented couriers using their own family saloon cars.
I reported my concerns to management but was told that if I had a problem I should contact the CEO of Mitie. Not unsurprisingly, I declined for fear of the retribution that would almost certainly follow. The testing facility itself never had less than 34 staff on site. That’s one thing Mitie had insisted upon and it was strictly adhered to. Not a single staff member involved at any level had any medical training. Not one! The closest to it was an ex-army nurse who no longer held her pin and was allocated to supervise the car park traffic. The Site Lead and the Deputy Site Manager were an ex-para trooper and a DJ from Ibiza. No disrespect to either DJs or para-troopers as they have been part of some of my best nights out ever. They are not, however, the people I want deciding how we store and handle possible COVID-19 samples on a testing site with “fluffy” procedures. From Dido Harding at the top to the unvetted, poorly-educated minions implimenting policy at the coal face, not one of these people is remotely qualified for the task in hand.
I was also added to a WhatsApp group for the PPE team which was rather unorthodoxly sent to our private phones. I remained part of the group for weeks after I left the site. I have a record of exactly how many tests were performed each day from the July 29th until October 14th. During this time we were told to limit the amount of tests undertaken each day to 145, despite there being ample capacity and stock. The previous daily record of tests undertaken on our site was 459. No reason was given as to why we should limit testing in this way. Without doubt the highlight of the WhatsApp stream is an email shared between G4S and Mitie about a gentlemen in a white van who appeared at the MTU 179 in Lewisham trying to collect tests with a van covered in graffiti that was full of rubbish and contained a large dog. Incredibly, he appeared to have a medex box from another site that he’d already picked up and was taking to a lab when he was turned away from Lewisham.
At the time of writing, it still isn’t clear who has won the US Presidential election. But one thing is very clear. If members of the liberal left want to win elections, censoring your opponents doesn’t work. In spite of the efforts of the mainstream media and Big Tech to suppress dissenting points of view, whether it’s the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration or ordinary people challenging the BLM narrative, it looks like Biden won’t win – at least, not convincingly.
The moral of the story is: if you want to win electoral victories, you need to engage with your political opponents in the public square. Set out your arguments and, if they’re good arguments, you will win the debate.
Refusing to engage and trying to cancel anyone who disagrees with you doesn’t work.
You can silence people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but you can’t silence them at the ballot box.
That’s how democracy works.
Yesterday, Sue Denim “came out”. We can reveal that our brilliant coding analyst, who wrote the devastating critique of Neil Ferguson’s computer model for Lockdown Sceptics under the name of “Sue Denim”, is Mike Hearn, a former Google software engineer. He is named in Steve Baker’s op ed in today’s Telegraph – we put them in touch – and produced a briefing doc for Steve yesterday on the shortcomings of epidemiological computer models. Mike was one of the small group of people who maintained the Bitcoin infrastructure. You can read about him here.
This is his latest post for Lockdown Sceptics.
I’ve been reading the user guides and validation studies for some of the rapid Covid tests the Government is buying. The Government is mounting a large validation effort on a large number of test kits, with 88 in the pipeline as of the time of writing. The rigour of these tests matters and not only to avoid false positives – the Government has spent half a billion pounds on buying tests in the last two weeks alone. As a result of this validation programme the government has bought 20 million rapid antigen tests from Innova. The makers of the test told the Telegraph:
“If you’re talking about doing mass scale testing where you’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of people flooding through – that could be anywhere from theatres, airports, shopping malls, stadiums, anywhere you want to do an awful lot of people at any one time – you’ve got a rapid test that doesn’t need a machine or a lab, and is easy to do, and relatively cheap,” said Thonger.
To meet this promise the test should obviously be capable of at least two things:
Being administered by anyone.
Being used on people who display no symptoms.
Unfortunately, according to the Innova user guide, neither of these things are actually possible. The instruction books for these tests are, it must be said, well written with clear and plentiful information. In this particular guide we see the following:
“The SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test is intended for use by trained clinical laboratory personnel specifically instructed and trained in the techniques of in vitro diagnostic procedures”
That would seem like a difficult requirement to meet at mass scale. But this could be written off as the usual sort of liability reduction disclaimer. More problematic is the following:
“The performance of this test has not been evaluated for use in patients without signs and symptoms of respiratory infection and performance may differ in asymptomatic individuals.”
Rephrased, the manufacturers have no idea what the test does when used in the way it’s about to be used on a massive scale. Just in case there was any doubt about whether what’s about to happen is useful, they helpfully include this statement:
It is possible that the virus can be infectious even during the incubation period, but this has not been proven, and the WHO stated on 1 February 2020 that “transmission from asymptomatic cases is likely not a major driver of transmission at this time.”
We can see the problem in this presentation by “tried and tested tech”, the UK distributor. All samples used for validation by the manufacturer were from patients with pneumonia, and there weren’t that many which leads to fairly wide confidence bounds (FPs = zero but CI = 98.3%-100%). The Government has done larger scale tests with 1,200 samples, many of which were negative, but no information is provided about whether they came from asymptomatic individuals and the actual observed FP/FN rates also were not published. Still, it’s good to see that the Government is doing stronger validation than the manufacturers themselves and they refer to comparing tests done “in the field” rather than just under lab conditions, albeit without explaining what that really means.
What might the actual FP rates and their confidence intervals be? It’s important due to the massive scale of the planned deployment. The bounds on the FP rate allow us to calculate the size of the resulting pseudo-epidemic. Although the material on gov.uk doesn’t say, from the Times article yesterday:
One senior figure involved in the programme said the aspiration was to offer all Britons a test in time for Christmas. Sir John said he and other scientists had examined around 70 of the so-called lateral flow Covid tests… Of these he said six “look really good” with only one in a thousand false positives… One source said that the UK was hoping to emulate Slovakia, which began testing its entire population last weekend… “We could possibly be going door-to-door, or offering tests to those who want to see vulnerable elderly relatives.”
Consider a conservative estimate that 50% of Britons want to see elderly relatives at Christmas and get tested. Then using Sir John’s figure we would expect to see 66.7 million/0.5 (x 0.001) = 33,350 false positive results for each ’round’ of testing people subject themselves to. For context, yesterday about 20,000 positive results were reported. If this mass testing programme were run over the 24 days of December before Christmas then we’d see about 1,400 FPs per day added to the total case count.
This is assuming the 0.1% FP figure is credible. Unfortunately what we’ve seen with Covid testing so far is that validation studies frequently claim no false positives whatsoever, and then reports come in of rapid toggling, people swabbing nothing and still getting a positive result, etc. Lab conditions often don’t match real world conditions, especially given the biotech industry’s focus on rapid turnaround times, and FPs probably come in lab-localised “spikes” rather than being a constant background rate, making them harder to measure.
An example of this problem might be a different rapid test, the CovidNudge test by DNA Nudge. The user guide is here. Unlike the Innova test, this one is basically a portable PCR machine. Again, the tech is impressive and the user guide well written.
The validation study – which reports no false positives relative to PCR lab tests – mentions that the machine was cleaned regularly with 10% bleach followed by isopropyl alcohol. This is to damage RNA or DNA that might contaminate the work areas. We can see why when reading the WHO’s advice for molecular PCR testing. Written for malaria tests, it comes from a simpler time: advice is earnestly given for how to avoid false positives. The advice includes things like having four separate rooms with rules about not walking “backwards” through them, regularly wiping everything with bleach and waiting ten minutes, irradiating the lab with UV light and even using special air handling systems to avoid external air entering the lab (for cases where labs are detecting “very low levels of DNA or RNA in clinical samples”). This article recommends spraying bleach generously and waiting 15-30 minutes both before and after every single test, as otherwise “the technique [is] prone to producing false-positives”.
In contrast the CovidNudge user guide doesn’t mention regular cleaning anywhere. Advice to use isopropyl alcohol is given but only if fluid literally leaks all over the equipment. Bleach isn’t mentioned, let alone waiting for 15 minutes after applying it. Given the point of the test is rapid turnaround, it’s impossible to believe users will regularly clean the device when nothing is advising them to do so. So how can this sort of test designed for untrained amateurs have identical reliability to the kind of testing setup the WHO describe? Yet the health establishment is effectively claiming it does.
The final problem we may observe is that the CovidNudge study was performed by the people who make it, plus some scientists from Imperial College London (DNA Nudge being a spinout of ICL). There was no need for this obvious conflict of interest – although the validation study is well written and contains a lot of useful information, realistically any lab or university could have done such work.
In the midst of the clamour for a new lockdown with frantic warnings of the NHS being overrun and MPs voting later today, a bombshell dropped last night: leaked NHS documents that show hospital and ICU occupancy are normal for the time of year. The Telegraph has the details.
Hospital intensive care is no busier than normal for the majority of trusts, leaked documents show, raising more questions about whether a national lockdown is justifiable.
An update from the NHS Secondary Uses Services (SUS) seen by the Telegraph shows that capacity is tracking as normal in October with the usual numbers of beds available that would be expected at this time of year – even without extra surge capacity.
An NHS source said: “As you can see, our current position in October is exactly where we have been over the last five years.”
The new data shows that even in the peak in April, critical care beds were never more than 80% full.
Although there has been a reduction in surge capacity since the first wave, with the closure of the emergency Nightingale Hospitals, there is still 15% spare capacity across the country – which is fairly normal for this time of year.
The documents show there were 9,138 patients in hospital in England as of 8am on November 2nd, although had since fallen to 9,077.
It means COVID-19 patients are accounting for around 10% of general and acute beds in hospitals. But there are still more than 13,000 beds available.
In critical care, around 18% of beds are still unoccupied, although it varies between regions.
But even in the worst affected areas such as North West, only 92.9% of critical care beds are currently occupied.
How welcome – finally – to have this information in the public domain, and just in time for MPs to vote (not that it is likely to make much difference with Labour pledged to support the lockdown and few Tories looking like rebelling). But why did it have to be leaked? Why is this crucial data not routinely made public? Why have all requests to release it from journalists and researchers been turned down or pointed towards making an FOI request (which takes weeks)?
Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, told the Telegraph:
This is completely in line with what is normally available at this time of year. What I don’t understand is that I seem to be looking at a different dataset to what the Government is presenting. Everything is looking at normal levels, and free bed capacity is still significant, even in high dependency units and intensive care, even though we have a very small number across the board. We are starting to see a drop in people in hospitals.
Alongside this good news, Professor Tim Spector yesterday tweeted that King’s College’s ZOE Covid survey app was showing that R had fallen to 1 nationwide. “More good news as the Zoe CSS app survey continues to show a plateauing and slight fall in new cases in England, Wales and Scotland with an R of 1.0.”
This is in line with what the current daily “case” data suggests – though I’m unable to show you today because, with impeccable timing, the Government Covid dashboard went down at 4pm yesterday (let’s assume cock-up).
Many are quick to credit the current three-tier system with bringing the spread down. But is that what the data says? Hardly. Recall it was the areas under local lockdowns that saw the greatest rise in positive tests in September. Ah, you say, but then Tier 3 was imposed and that brought the rate down? Not at all. In Liverpool “cases” peaked around October 7th and have been declining since, but the city was only put into Tier 3 on October 14th. Similarly in Manchester, local restrictions were first imposed on August 15th, which didn’t prevent positive tests surging in September. But then they peaked on Sept 30th and have been largely flat since, slightly declining – yet the city was only put in Tier 3 on October 23rd. Tell me again how this shows the tier system working? What it shows me is we’re more likely seeing the autumn surge among those who were spared in spring when the epidemic was curtailed by the warmer weather.
Despite the encouraging data, Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before MPs yesterday and were emphatic that the epidemic is on a devastating trajectory which only radical intervention will forestall.
Vallance told the Science and Technology select committee: “The R remains above one everywhere, the epidemic continues to grow.” Whitty added: “You don’t need that much modelling to show you that we are on an exponential rise” – with deaths, hospitalisations and cases already rising rapidly. He conceded there is some evidence of a slowing epidemic, particularly in the North East and to some extent the North West. But – “the trouble about things doubling is you move from a few to many cases very quickly.” Vallance said there is a serious risk of hospitals being overrun “if nothing is done”.
One issue, it appears, is that the R is mainly levelling off in younger age groups. “My hope is that it is levelling off in older ages as well,” Whitty said, but added there is no data to confirm this hope and it would be “very imprudent” to act on this since it is this group who will need hospital care. Spot the insidious precautionary principle again. And why would it fall among younger people and not, sooner or later, among the older? Besides, there is no particular reason that this winter should be any less deadly for older people than earlier winters. Recall that 2020 has so far seen fewer deaths than each of the years between 1993 and 2000.
Oddly, Whitty claimed that lockdowns mean people will be more likely to be treated for other health conditions rather than less. “The way you prevent those services from being impinged on or in some cases cancelled is by keeping Covid cases down,” he told MPs.
Whitty and Vallance defended their models and the graphs they had displayed on Saturday, denying they were trying to frighten people. Whitty said: “There is a danger with these extreme forward projections that people misinterpret them as ‘this is going to happen’ and get unduly worried about something that is not intended to happen. The whole point of a reasonable worst case scenario is to say, ‘Right, we’re going to do something to stop this happening.'”
Vallance added: “We went through this a bit on the September 20th, when we said we thought we could be heading to 50,000 cases a day if we had a doubling and that deaths might reach 200. It was there to give a scenario. As it happened, the numbers turned out to be pretty close by the time we got there, so it’s very difficult to project forwards in a way that doesn’t inevitably lead to a problem of ‘Is that real?’ No, it’s not real, it’s a model… These are not forecasts, they are models that tell you how things should look.”
This is drivel, not least because it seems to define the purpose of a model as making unreal predictions of the future (which may in fact explain a lot). But if, as Whitty says, a model scenario is something about which something must be done to prevent it from happening then it is unavoidably a prediction, otherwise why must something be done? And if nothing is done and it does not come to pass then the prediction is flatly wrong.
Vallance is also being misleading to claim his 50,000 “cases” by October 13th was “pretty close”: the seven-day average on that day was 16,228, less than a third of the prediction, which no action had been taken to avert (switching to another measure of “cases” such as the ONS survey is an invalid move as it was clear at the time he was talking about the daily reported “cases”). Likewise, Saturday’s 4,000 deaths scenario which included 1,000 deaths by the start of November, but for which averting action obviously had not have been taken, was demonstrably a failure.
Tom Goodenough in the Spectator says the pair’s defence “makes sense”. I can only think we must have been listening to different people. But it shows how easily people can be convinced by fine-sounding words even when they are nonsense.
MPs pressed the scientists on publishing the models. Vallance said: “The assumptions underlying the models will be published in full,” adding that the intention is to publish all the data as soon as possible. How far in advance of the vote, though? Defending the model, he said: “It’s not at all fair to say it’s discredited. I think the right graphs to focus on in terms of forward projections are the six-week forward projections and to base it on the data today which shows where things are in hospitals at the moment which are filling up.” Indeed, just like they do every October. And as we now know, not any worse than normal.
Whitty conceded test and trace only really works for smaller outbreaks: “Even under optimal conditions, test and trace will do much better in lower conditions.” The lockdown will allow the test and trace system to work more effectively, he argued. Though even then, test and trace is just one element that needs to be in place, he says – though didn’t specify what else was required. Some sort of ongoing restrictions, presumably, somewhat undermining the Government’s latest line that mass testing will let us get back to normal.
On whether SAGE looks at economic questions, Vallance was blunt: “We don’t. That’s not the role of SAGE. We have been very clear that this sits in the Treasury. We do not look at the economic impacts and we are not mandated to do so.” Odd that this was having to be clarified to MPs in November, showing again the opacity in the way Government has operated during the pandemic. It also exposes why it is such a problem for Government to be committed to following “the science” when scientific advisers are taking a deliberately narrow view. We also need to ask why the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is not looking at public health more widely instead of only one factor.
MPs asked about the aim of the lockdown, to which Whitty gave a vague and circular answer that it is to ensure there is a “realistic possibility” that restrictions can be lifted on December 2nd and that England will move to a “different state of play”. He later added the Government’s primary strategic goal is to reduce mortality, though said this is one of many, including protecting the economy. So that’s clear then. No criteria of success were given, or any sense of how it will be assessed.
Vallance called lockdown a “blunt instrument” and admitted they “do not have good evidence on the exact value of each intervention on R”. Pressed about church closures in particular, Whitty bizarrely argued that although churches may be following social distancing guidelines, the problem is when people congregate outside after a service. Ah yes, a known hotbed of Covid super-spreading.
Whitty and Vallance both laid into the Great Barrington Declaration. Whitty said he means “no disrespect” to the experts involved (and not forgetting Vallance was an enthusiastic advocate in March) but he considers the plans to be “dangerously flawed, impractical and ethically really difficult”. The biggest weakness, he says, is the starting point that herd immunity will inevitably be acquired if you leave it long enough. This, he says, is not the case for most of the diseases he has worked on, including malaria, HIV and Ebola. Surely he knows that these are completely different kinds of disease and malaria isn’t even a virus? Herd immunity “never occurs” he says. “The idea that this is a fundamental thing is simply incorrect.” I somehow think three of the world’s leading epidemiologists know what they’re talking about better than Chris “herd immunity never occurs” Whitty.
The second problem, he says, is it is “practically not possible” to identify and shield the vulnerable population. “Theoretically that is attractive, but the idea you can do that and for year after year is simply impractical. We have looked at this, everyone says what a great idea until you look at the practicalities.” (Er, the NHS identified those most at risk in March and they were told to self-isolate.) But no one is saying you should do it “year after year”, just until the epidemic passes, say around two-three months, until there is widespread immunity.
His third reason, he says, is that very large numbers of people would die if you had any hope of achieving some sort of herd immunity, as this would require up 70 per cent of the population to contract Covid. This once again shows an ignorance or rejection of the evidence for pre-existing T–cell immunity.
Vallance added that even if you were able to totally shield those at most risk, you would still see a significant number of deaths in younger people. This seems to suggest he is unaware that the death rate in younger people is miniscule, less than 0.05%. He threw in the “long Covid” argument too, for good measure. He also said multi-generational households are common in the UK, especially in some of the communities hardest hit by Covid, making it hard for the young and old to remain separate. This seems pure defeatism, as solving this problem would surely be far cheaper and easier than everything else we’ve been doing.
Most disappointing, I think, was the lack of any challenge from MPs about putting the current situation in the context of hospital capacity and a normal autumn and winter. MPs should be demanding these figures be published routinely so the full picture can be known and scrutinised. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks – that’s no way to run a democracy.
A reader has sent us the following excerpt from Hans Zinsser’s “Rats, Lice and History”, published in 1935.
Maybe we should send a copy to Witless and Unbalanced. Help them to swot up on the basics.
Post from Toby, who has been talking to people close to Downing Street, trying to figure out why Boris is railroading the country into a second lockdown in spite of the data suggesting it’s completely unnecessary. This is what he’s been able to find out.
No one in Downing Street – or, rather, the Quad (Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock), since they’re making all the big political calls – is pretending the data hasn’t been deliberately skewed to create a rationale for Lockdown 2.0, which is why we’ve all been asking what the hell is going on – how on Earth a daily death rate of 4,000 could possibly be achieved without the entire population being simultaneously infected (in which case it would be all over in a few weeks anyway)? But the Quad is worried that in certain northern cities, e.g. Leeds, where post-lockdown disobedience has combined with urban lifestyles (blame the plebs, etc.), there is a prospect of hospitals becoming overwhelmed and that has got them rattled. (We don’t think there is, obviously.)
Note, this anxiety isn’t primarily due to Covid admissions, which aren’t expected to be higher than they were at the spring peak. Rather, this time round NHS Trusts have been ordered not to turn away non-Covid patients if they can accommodate them so some hotspot hospitals are having to cope with operating at their usual winter capacity levels alongside an influx of Covid patients. They’re not at breaking point yet, in part because the influx of Covid patients is being compensated for by a lower-than-usual number of patients being admitted for other respiratory infections. But because the reasons for that aren’t understood, the at-risk hospitals can’t count on respiratory infections not increasing, alongside rising Covid admissions, which could push them over the edge. Could the system flex to accommodate any overspill, with patients being admitted to neighbouring ICUs? Probably (this is normal), but another difficulty is that there are fewer specialist intensive care nurses than there were in March/April, partly because some of them have asked to be reassigned to other departments after the stress of the first wave and partly because hospitals are obsessively testing all their staff using the unreliable PCR kit because they’re terrified of “healthcare-associated infections” (nosocomial transmission of the virus). The upshot is there are fewer intensive care nurses and some of those that are still around have been sent home and told to self-isolate for 10 days. Another issue is that those with young children who’ve been sent home from school and told to self-isolate – because a child in their bubble has tested positive – are having to stay at home to care for their kids. And yet another issue is that some schools and NHS trusts are telling nurses to self-isolate for 14 days if one of their children has been identified as a “contact” of an infected person, even though that’s not something NHS Test and Trace are insisting upon.
So the Quad is terrified that some hospital trusts in northern areas will become overwhelmed and the BBC will start broadcasting pictures of people dying in corridors on the nightly news – which is political Kryptonite, according to the Rasputin-like figure of Dom Cummings. People will ask, “What was the point of Lockdown 1.0 if the precise thing it was designed to avoid is now happening?” Forget about protecting the NHS. It’s all about protecting the Conservative Party’s brand with an eye on the next General Election.
But the Quad is terrified that if they only clamp down on northern cities, as they’ve sort of being trying to do up to now, then the myth of a disease-laden, persecuted and under-funded North, already being wailed about by Messrs Burnham et al, will take even more root. Boris and his top team are paralysed with fear of being accused of abandoning their new friends in the North. So a national lockdown, even though it’s completely unnecessary and they all privately accept that, is a desperate propaganda exercise intended, in a rather futile and half-baked manner, to restore the national Blitz spirit of the spring, even if it means a one-man shop in Penzance and a gift shop in Guildford have to shut their doors forever. They’re also concerned that without said Blitz bollocks, the ornery northerners, whipped up by Burnham’s rhetoric, won’t comply with any new regulations.
Boris is desperate not to go down in history as the Prime Minister who cancelled Christmas, hence the promise about December 2nd, although that’s also because Rishi insisted on making any extension of the Furlough scheme time-limited because HM Treasury long ago ran out of cash and the staff of the Debt Management Office are having a collective nervous breakdown. Seriously – some of the staff in that office are off with stress. At some point, the tap has to be turned off or no one will take our paper.
In effect, they are caught in a trap of their own making. Lockdown 2.0 is another needless measure designed to minimise the political fall-out from the countless other pointless measures they’ve taken. The economy has been thrown to the wolves in order to buy yet more time for the Conservatives to save face. In reality, the Quad know there’s no better than a modest chance of a vaccine existing or working in anything like an effective enough way to make a difference any time soon. Indeed, it might never come, and the four horsemen know that, too. And everyone in the Government knows that the PCR test is hopelessly shonky and NHS Test and Trace, which was only ever a £12 billion PR exercise, is a slow motion car crash that, thanks to false positives and the staggering incompetence of the various companies Hancock has outsourced delivery to, creates as many problems as it solves. But at least it’s one of the few ways the Government can be seen to be doing something – anything – even if it’s a shitshow. According to one insider, it’s the equivalent of juggling plates in an effort to stop a rainstorm.
In short, they’re at a loss to know what to do. Lockdown 2.0 is a last roll of the dice. They’ve run out of ideas, although they never really had any to begin with.
One final point: this isn’t a case of SAGE pulling the strings, browbeating Boris and co into doing their bidding via its envoys Witless and Unbalanced. Rather, the CMO and the CSO are doing the bidding of the Quad, slavishly pumping out propaganda in order to justify Lockdown 2.0. Dom has the two dupes by the short and curlies. They love the power and the spotlight and will say anything, even if it’s transparent balls, to keep it. They’re also worried about the coming reckoning, with lawsuits, etc. heading down the pike, so they want to be able to say, “We were just following orders, your Honour.”
David Mackie, the Head of Philosophy at d’Overbroeck’s independent school, Oxford, has written a piece for us on why there is no good alternative to restoring exams in 2021. Here’s how he concludes.
The cancellation of summer exams and their replacement by centre-assessed grades (CAGs) did students a grotesque disservice, and it would have done so with or without Williamson’s U-turn. The decision negatively affected not just the cohort of 2020 students, but those in other years, as well as universities. It was an error which must not be repeated. No plausible alternative system of moderated CAGs is likely to be possible; nor is continuous assessment a reasonable solution.
In making the case for exams to be held in 2021, and to be run according to 2019 standards, I do not wish to downplay the unfairness that has already been created by the closure of schools and by the continuing and unnecessary measures requiring healthy students to miss face-to-face schooling for prolonged periods in self-isolation.
But the cancellation of exams, and/or a deliberate downgrading of standards, is not the solution. The sole solution is to insist on proper assessment via exams, and thereby give certainty to students, schools, universities, and employers, and to protect the national and international reputation of our education system as a whole. I do not oppose certain adjustments to examinations, such as the availability of choice, which could mitigate the effects of the loss of schooling suffered disproportionately by some students. But we must have exams.
Worth reading in full.
A reader who receives support from her local mental health team writes about what she learned from her support worker about what’s been going on behind the scenes.
What I’d like to bring to your attention is that many of the other staff and support workers at the mental health unit are telling patients that they are not able to visit, even though they have been allowed, and many of the patients with problems haven’t been seen since the first lockdown started. Despite Matt Hancock keep telling everyone that mental health issues will be a priority this is not being adhered to by our local teams. Some of the staff working there are just so happy to be sat around all day chatting on the phone and drinking coffee and agreeing that it’s great not to have to go out and see patients any more – wrong people in wrong jobs! One senior member of staff even refused to go into work as she was afraid she would catch the virus. Her patients have had no visits as no one else covers anyone any more for holidays, sick leave etc. Amazingly though these very people who won’t go out to visit patients will still go off on holiday, go for meals, go to the cinema, the pub etc. just not to people whose lives do depend on a visit from a health professional. This is just how life seems to be now and I really feel for anyone who needs help even to get into the system. It does not get any better at all once you are in it and I really do fear for the future. As this second lockdown approaches my care will now be stopped again and I will be left to cope on my own.
The BMJ carries a worrying letter this week.
From Australia, I’m watching the fast-tracked development of coronavirus vaccines with mounting concern.
Under the Australian Biosecurity Act 2015, refusers of coronavirus vaccination in Australia could be at risk of five years imprisonment and/or a $66,600 fine.
This emergency power has been active since March 2020, and has been extended to December 2020 , with the potential for unlimited extensions.
It’s possible this emergency power could be extended until a coronavirus vaccine is available, and that people in Australia could be under duress to have coronavirus vaccination, i.e. at risk of imprisonment and/or a huge fine, for a virus which is not a threat to most people under 70.
A number of Lockdown Sceptics readers have also flagged up a paper entitled “Compulsory vaccination for COVID-19 and human rights law” by a group of academics from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics that argues: “As and when a vaccine becomes available at scale, the Government should give serious consideration to compulsory immunisation as a means of reducing the impacts of COVID-19.”
With the Westminster Government proposing to close churches for the lockdown in England, Christian Concern have turned their legal guns, previously pointed at the Welsh Government, on the UK Government. From the press release.
The new restrictions, announced on 31 October and set to come into force from Thursday 5 November, state that “places of worship will be closed” with exceptions for funerals, broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, essential voluntary public services, formal childcare, and some other exempted activities.
These restrictions will once again make it a criminal offence for Christians to gather for worship or prayer, or to go to church on Sunday.
The group of church leaders includes 25 leaders who initiated legal action against the government against the closure of churches in the first lockdown.
Following the application for judicial review, which received favourable comments from the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Swift, the government backed down and allowed churches to meet, providing guidance with virtually no legal restrictions.
In a separate judicial review of lockdown restrictions, the judge, Mr Justice Lewis, singled out the closure of churches as arguably unlawful and a breach of freedom of religion.
Separately the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops have spearheaded a letter from the leaders of many of the UK’s faith communities to the Government calling on them not to suspend public worship again. They write:
We strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time. We have had reaffirmed, through the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship is essential. We set out below why we believe it is essential, and we ask you to allow public worship, when fully compliant with the existing covid-19 secure guidance, to continue.
Good to see a bit of backbone emerging among faith leaders who usually like to toe the line.
A Lockdown Sceptics reader has sent us the response they received from their MP, Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative member for Stratford-on-Avon. Depressing to see the pro-lockdown propaganda regurgitated without a hint it isn’t fully believed.
Unfortunately, we are now seeing rapidly increasing rates of Covid transmission across the country. This is already being reflected in hospital admissions and sadly deaths. On our current trajectory, the NHS will be overwhelmed in the run up to Christmas, inhibiting its ability not only to treat Covid patients but all patients. I do not believe that any responsible Government could ignore this evidence and effectively gamble with people’s lives, forcing hospital staff to choose who should be treated and who should be turned away. Therefore, with a very heavy heart, and despite never having wanted to see anything similar to this year’s earlier lockdown repeated, I do support these new measures and the imposition of a second national lockdown.
I am under no illusions whatsoever about the consequences this will entail. I know the economic costs will be huge and that businesses will suffer, again. I am truly sorry for this. But I do believe that more people will die, more jobs will be lost, and more economic damage will be done if we delay acting now. I welcome the immediate announcement from the Chancellor that the furlough scheme will be extended to protect jobs and businesses during this period, and I anticipate that further measures from the Treasury will be announced in due course.
These new restrictions will last until December 2nd, after which the intention is to return to the tiered system of restrictions introduced over recent weeks. Parliament will be fully engaged at all stages and will be voting on all new restrictions.
Once again, I am extremely sorry that these restrictions are now being imposed and also for the hardship they will cause. However, as I have said, I do believe the costs of inaction to be far greater than those of action.
- “My letter to Michael Gove” – Brilliant missive from Kathy Gyngell sent to Gove and other MPs and posted on Conservative Woman
- “Test and Trace ‘struggling’ as public don’t answer phone to unknown callers, adviser says” – Another reason test and trace isn’t working
- “Oxford’s Sir John Bell: city-wide Covid testing could allow people to ‘go about their business’” – Telegraph report on how we will all be able to go back to normal as long as we all have a Covid test several times a week. Because that’s normal
- “We’re a nation sick of being lied to – and it is breeding a dangerous mistrust in our leaders” – Another great piece from Allison Pearson in the Telegraph
- “Recovery’s Jon Dobinson speaks to Anna Brees” – New interview from the ex-BBC journalist, in which it is revealed that Facebook has not allowed Recovery to have a page
- “Priti Patel wants police to stop protests of more than two” – Protests are to be banned during the lockdown, reports the Times. Farewell, democratic freedoms
- “Boris loves liberty? Pull the other one, Jacob” – Michael Curzon in Bournbrook says Jacob Rees-Mogg has got Boris all wrong
- “Care home deaths double but ‘visits need to continue’” – Is this a new outlook emerging as groups such as Age UK campaign for easing access to care homes despite rising deaths? From the Times
- “The psychological devastation of a second lockdown will be too much for many to bear” – Consultant forensic psychologist Dr Keri Nixon pens a warning in the Mail
- “Julia asks housing secretary Robert Jenrick four times if the government have carried out an impact assessment of the cost of the second lockdown, which the MP says is ‘an unreasonable question.’” – JHB on talkRADIO gets the minister to all but admit there isn’t one
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.
Sharing stories: 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 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 masks in shops here.
A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.
And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.
Mask Censorship: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.
The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last month and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it. If you Googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this hit job the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)
You can find it here. Please sign it. Now well over 600,000 signatures.
Update: The authors of the GDB have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.
Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.
There are now so many JRs being brought against the Government and its ministers, we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.
First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.
Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.
Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.
There’s the GoodLawProject’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.
The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.
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 hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)
Toby and his friend James Delingpole have recorded a new episode of London Calling. Main topic is the US Presidential election and the bets they’ve put on the result – looks like they might be in the money. But they also discuss Lockdown 2.0 and the insane clown posse that’s running the country. James and Toby know them all because they were at Oxford together. James is thinking of writing a book called: My Generation: The Worst in History.