Is the Pfizer Vaccine a Breakthrough?
Much relief could be heard yesterday with the announcement from Pfizer that its vaccine is “more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19”. The press release explains: “The case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90%, at seven days after the second dose.”
But is it all it seems?
Ross Clark in the Spectator sounds a note of caution.
The Pfizer/BioNTech trial began in July, and has involved 43,538 volunteers, half of whom were given the vaccine and half of whom received a placebo. The committee issued its report when 94 of those participants had developed COVID-19 with at least one symptom. What we don’t yet know is how many of the 94 who were infected had been given the vaccine and how many were given the placebo – a vaccine can either stop you getting a virus or can mitigate the symptoms once you have it. Nor do we know how long the effect of this vaccine will last. All we know so far is that the vaccine was found to be effective 28 days after the second of the two doses.
Nor do we yet have much information on possible side-effects among the group given the vaccine. Earlier stages of the trial revealed some side-effects such as fatigue, headache and chills, but no information has yet been released on how widespread these effects were in the larger group. The fact that the trial is still ongoing, and has not been halted as the Oxford/Astra Zeneca trial briefly was in the summer, suggests that no serious illness has been traced to the vaccine.
Although Ross says in the Telegraph that an effective vaccine might be enough to save Boris’s premiership.
How soon will it be available if approved? Ross in the Spectator again:
Ben Osborn, Pfizer’s managing director in the UK said in July that there were 40 million doses sitting in a Belgian warehouse ready to be sent to Britain. That would be enough to treat 20 million people, given that the vaccine requires two doses. Last week, Paul Duffy, Vice President of Pfizer Global Supply, said that there is “very minimal” chance of the vaccine being distributed this year, even if it is approved this month. Distribution is more likely in the first half of next year, he said.
No 10 gave it a cautious welcome.
Speaking this lunchtime, the Prime Minister’s spokesman called the results “promising” but warned “there are no guarantees”. With limited information available in terms of the full results from the trial so far, they went on to say: “We will know if the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data is published, it’s only then that licensing authorities can consider it.”
Barry Norris of Argonaut Capital Partners – an expert on the biotech sector – told Lockdown Sceptics:
As we had expected, the Pfizer/BioNTech trial delivered a positive efficacy result.
There were two surprising elements: The timing of the announcement and the claim of 90% efficacy.
There are 44,000 people in the trial with half in the placebo. They were supposed to read out after just 32 cases in total. It was thought that the trial hadn’t yet read out because they hadn’t yet had enough infections. The trial actually read out after 94 cases, so they delayed it on purpose apparently as a result of “discussions with the FDA”. This smells like they didn’t want to announce it pre-Presidential election in case the ‘good news’ helped the incumbent. Trump must be fuming.
They claim 90% efficacy. What in practice does that mean? When they say efficacy they don’t give us the exact numbers but you should assume around 85 out of the 94 symptomatic cases were in the control group that received the placebo and just nine in the treatment group which received the vaccine. They simply measured symptomatic infection: are you a symptomatic sufferer of COVID-19 or not? They didn’t measure severity. Nearly all the volunteers in the trials are also all healthy adults, under 55 years old. There is no data for the old and already sick, although they will say at 90% efficacy in healthy adults it has a decent chance of working on them too.
It is important to note that the trial does not measure the vaccine’s ability to stop virus transmission between humans which is the supposed rationale for lockdown. The manufacturers and their cheerleaders will say it’s still a lockdown-buster because its failure to interrupt transmission doesn’t matter if the virus doesn’t develop into the disease. But that depends on whether it works for the vulnerable which we don’t know yet.
In terms of timing, they are suggesting mass vaccinations in time for the 2021/2022 coronavirus season which suggests at least another six months of virus suppression policies, including lockdowns.
One final consideration: the Pfizer vaccine won’t work against the ‘mink virus’ or plenty of other strains.
But let’s not be too churlish. If it really is 90% effective, protects the weak as well as the strong, has no major side effects and turns out to be as effective against other strains – all big ifs – it may help to calm everybody down. As Charles Mackay said in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
Stop Press: According to the Times, BioNTech founders Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, a German-Turkish couple, may see their personal fortune reach £3 billion.
Stop Press 2: Sarah Knapton in the Telegraph reports there are fears that, even if an effective vaccine becomes available, many people will refuse it because they feel it has been rushed out in just a few months. The Royal Society is so concerned about uptake that it is calling for anti-vaxxers to be prosecuted if they spread misinformation about the dangers.
More on the Leaked NHS Slide Deck
I asked my doctor friend to take a look at the NHS England slide deck that was leaked to me yesterday. He found the smoking gun that I missed: the overall impression it gives is that the NHS is coping perfectly well with the ‘second wave’, has considerable spare capacity and isn’t anywhere close to being overwhelmed. Why is that significant? Because it was presented to NHS managers on November 2nd, so could have been shown to MPs before the Lockdown 2.0 vote on November 4th. But instead MPs were presented with a completely different data set that gave the opposite impression. In other words, the Government and its scientific advisors knew the NHS was coping perfectly well with rising Covid infections and deliberately misled MPs.
Yesterday Toby wrote an article referring to a leaked set of briefing slides presented to NHS senior managers on November 2nd.
The deck is full of data up to November 1st in relation to the overall activity and capacity within NHS regions. Toby focused yesterday on the extremely high level of absence by NHS staff in the North of England (37%) as a result of a combination of positive Covid tests and being forced to self-isolate due to a Test and Trace contact or having to look after a child sent home from school. For comparison, the normal NHS staff absence rate is approximately 3%.
I have now had a look through the remainder of the information.
The first thing that jumps out is that, with the exception of the North West and North East, the rest of the NHS looked fine as of November 1st – nowhere near capacity and not stressed for this time of year. I have split the information up into separate headings for ease of comprehension.
The North West and North East had needed to reduce the provision of elective surgery by about 50% to manage a Covid surge, but there were still 146 available ICU beds in the North West on November 1st with total ICU bed occupancy running at 78%. A similar picture was reported across the country, with 290 vacant ICU beds in London, 278 vacant in the South East and 296 beds available in the Midlands. So essentially sufficient spare ICU beds to cope with a doubling of Covid critical care numbers while still running routine services in most regions (assuming sufficient staff availability).
Tellingly, the oxygen demands from trusts across England was slightly lower than normal pre-Covid levels – 276 MT compared with 281 MT pre-Covid. For comparison, at the height of the spring oxygen utilisation by Trusts peaked at 431 MT. This is a good surrogate marker of respiratory disease intensity as patients on CPAP masks and mechanical ventilation consume a lot of oxygen.
Total inpatient burden:
The total Covid positive inpatients in England were reported as 8,806 (remember this does not necessarily mean all these patients are suffering from Covid – just that they have tested positive). There were approximately 130-140,000 inpatient beds in Hospitals in England – 6.5% Covid positive bed occupancy across the whole NHS, peaking at 12% in the North.
COVID infections in the community:
The R rate was estimated at 1.1-1.3. The general graph trends were flat lining.
Manchester set to re-open for convalescent patients. Other Northern Nightingales on standby. Kit and equipment fully stocked.
All regional authorities reported that they were managing with no critical capacity problems anticipated in the coming 72 hrs. The North West and North East were the worst affected, but in both regions, Covid stress on beds and ICU occupancy had fallen in the previous 72 hrs. There were plenty of spare beds available. London region remarked that “capacity remains robust” and they were looking at releasing hospital staff to participate in community vaccination programmes. The remaining regions reported no significant risks or capacity problems with bed occupancy rates. We have been told since the middle of September that London was “two weeks behind the North West” and the second wave would arrive soon – no convincing sign of it on November 1st.
As Toby reported yesterday, staff absences seemed to be the critical issue in the North West, North East and the Midlands and are flagged up as risks by regional reporting. It isn’t clear from these slides if all of absentees had actually had a positive Covid test or if they were shielding for another reason. It is interesting that staff absence in the South East was much lower – Hampshire Hospitals reported 1% Covid positive tests among their staff. Absence rates in London peaked at about 18% in the Spring surge and are currently running at approximately 8%, compared to 37% in the North East. How might we explain these discrepancies?
The North of England has recently been experiencing a wave of Covid similar to that which hit London in the spring. I know from a separate source that Covid antibody titres measured in hospital staff in the North West have doubled in the last couple of months (suggesting that a large number of staff have been exposed to the virus, even if they remained asymptomatic).
Further, Test and Trace protocols, which were not active in the spring, now force staff to isolate if they have come into contact with a Covid patient – and there are a lot of those in hospitals. It is possible that some of the difference is a testing artefact – i.e., there might be a lower rate of false positives in Hampshire due to more rigorous laboratory protocols than in the North of England. But if 37% of nurses in the North of England really did have COVID-19 on November 1st then a measurable number of them should by now be ill enough to be admitted to hospital for a few days and noticed in the figures. Anecdotally, I have been informed that a large number of those absences are not due to staff directly testing positive, but as a result of Test and Trace contact tracing – essentially the law of unintended consequences.
I don’t know why these slides were leaked. My guess is that the whistleblower was disturbed by the stark contrast between the alarming public briefings last week and the reassuring information provided to NHS professionals at the same time.
I imagine senior advisors to the Government will argue that if calamity strikes, it would be too late to implement lockdown constraints as it takes two weeks for societal interventions to take effect. So better safe than sorry. But if we accept that argument, then the country is destined to be incarcerated indefinitely for fear of the sky falling in.
In any event, there was clearly a lot of spare capacity still in the system as of November 1st – the vast majority of the NHS was still doing a full schedule of elective activity and we still had spare ICU beds available – a lot more than usual at this time of year.
I was concerned to read in the Sunday Times that Chris Hopson, the Chief executive of NHS Providers, had said: “You can’t stop someone having a heart attack or a stroke… but you can control the volume of COVID-19 patients by using lockdowns to reduce the infection rate… the NHS will certainly be arguing that the Government should be very cautious about coming out of lockdown.”
Does this mean that the NHS now regards societal lockdowns as a legitimate routine medical intervention? Perhaps to be deployed whenever it finds itself incapable of meeting performance targets? Mr Hopson must have missed the WHO guidance about lockdowns being an emergency measure of last resort.
I wonder if those slides were shown to Conservative MPs before last week’s vote? Or even to the Prime Minister? If they had been, would we now be in Lockdown 2.0?
My reading of the information on the slide deck is that as of November 1st the NHS at shop floor level was doing a good job of handling a difficult situation. There was no cause for panic and that the tiered approach seemed to be working pretty well. We don’t know what has happened in the last week of course – maybe things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse – or for the better. With luck, someone will eventually let us know.
Finally, I was greatly encouraged to read the excellent interview with Professor Whitty in the British Medical Journal this week. He makes a good case for his position and states: “I’m very much in favour of transparency in all areas. I do believe that transparency, wherever possible is a good thing.” He goes on to explain that the difficult decisions that policy makers are faced with are all about balance. I found his commentary very reassuring.
I’m hoping that we can now look forward to a balanced public debate on the health downsides of lockdowns versus their benefits and the wider societal implications of the compulsory curtailment of civil rights by unconstrained executive fiat. Perhaps the NHS will be so kind as to include Lockdown Sceptics on the distribution list for the next slide deck so Toby and Will can make the information available to the public, consistent with the spirit of open and transparent governance.
How Will Students Get Home For Christmas?
Are students going to be confined in their halls of residence over Christmas – particularly if the second lockdown hasn’t been lifted by then? Hopefully not, reports the Telegraph. Camilla Turner, the paper’s Education Editor, reveals secret Government plans to roll out mass testing at universities.
The Prime Minister said on Monday that official guidance will shortly be issued on how universities should manage the mass movement of students at the end of term in a way that does not risk spreading the virus around the country.
The Telegraph can reveal that the Government’s strategy involves setting up large scale asymptomatic testing programmes at universities so that students with a negative test result can safely travel home.
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, has written to Vice-Chancellors asking whether they would be prepared to take part in the scheme.
University leaders have been told that they need to register their interest in the scheme and place their order for testing kits by the end of this week. They would then have until the end of the month to prepare test sites and get them ready for operation.
The “pre-end-of-term testing” would take place between November 30 and December 6, according to a timeline prepared by NHS Test and Trace and sent out to Vice-Chancellors.
University leaders were told that one of the key objectives is to “test asymptomatic students before the end of this term” so that they can make “informed decisions regarding their return home for Christmas, minimising the risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable people at their destination”.
The plans are understood to have been warmly received by Vice-Chancellors, who previously rejected proposals from ministers that would see them force students to self-isolate for a fortnight before the end of term.
Reading this, I couldn’t help wondering what would become of those students who test positive. Will they be forced to remain in their cubicles in largely empty buildings while the rest of the country celebrates?
Worth reading in full.
Professor Tim Spector: “Infections Falling”
Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London and Chief Researcher for the Covid Symptom Study, appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show yesterday morning to explain why he thinks cases are beginning to decline, the R value across the country is 1 and in some parts of the country below 1 and why he’d bet money on the daily death totals starting to fall shortly.
Cummings Clashes With Whitty
The Covid self-isolation period is expected to be cut from two weeks to 10 days after a row involving Prof Chris Whitty and Dominic Cummings, who had been pushing for a more drastic change, according to the Guardian.
The reduced quarantine time is to be made possible by increasing the use of rapid tests – for which the UK Government has paid more than £500m, despite the fact that some are not designed to test people without symptoms.
It comes amid growing concerns about compliance, with only 11% of people abiding fully by the current two-week self-isolation rule, according to research by King’s College London in September.
Under the new proposals, people are expected to be allowed to stop self-isolating on the 10th day after coming into contact with an infected person, following a negative test, in the hope this will improve compliance. But if they test positive on that date, they will be asked to continue self-isolating for a further eight days.
The planned change is a compromise hammered out at No 10 after Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, rejected proposals instigated by Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior aide, for a more dramatic cut in the quarantine period, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Downing Street did not deny the claims.
According to the source, Whitty discovered on Tuesday last week that a press release had been drafted to use the rapid tests to halve self-isolation to seven days, with the eventual goal of scrapping the self-isolation period entirely by offering tests to people as soon as they are notified of a contact with an infected person.
Whitty is said to have been implacably opposed on public health grounds, arguing that the incubation period for the virus was too long to allow immediate testing and the rapid tests would fail to detect every infected person.
The proposal to test after eight days, with permission to leave the house on the 10th day, was “cooked up” as a compromise, to placate Cummings, the source said.
Worth reading in full.
A reader thinks he’s found a loophole in the new regulations that enables him to make unlimited trips to Spain.
I thought you might be interested in my long weekend in Spain. I believe I may have exploited a loophole in the legislation…
I travelled to Spain on Friday (during lockdown 2.0) via Liverpool Airport. I was able to fly with no questions asked whatsoever. Had I been asked why I was travelling, my answer would have been that I was visiting Spain to view a property which is for sale. This seems to be allowed under Part 2 of the Coronavirus restrictions, which say you can leave your house to view a property you’re interested in purchasing. There doesn’t seem to be anything saying that the property has to be in the UK.
It seems to be widely understood that you can only fly abroad for work purposes, but I can’t see anything in the rules which explicitly says this. Either way, my work could be as a prospective Spanish property developer!
The 14-day isolation period is obviously restrictive when I return, but there is an exception (section 9) which allows me to leave the house during the isolation period to travel out of England. So I plan to isolate until Friday and then go back to Spain to view another property over the weekend :-).
I may be wrong about the above. I’m no legal expert, but it certainly seems worth giving it a go to escape the madness and have a few beers and nice lunches on the beaches in Spain.
Stop Press: Lottie Gross in the Telegraph says there’s nothing to stop people flying abroad at Heathrow – no one asked her if she was travelling for “business reasons” when she headed off to Gibraltar. As far as she can tell, there’s no enforcement of the rules whatsoever.
A Legal Caveat
A lawyer has sent me some words of caution about flouting the lockdown rules. Best not to be too cavalier about it, he says, or take it for granted that the rules are unenforceable in the courts.
This is the second day where the daily update has given the impression that the current lockdown rules (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations) are unenforceable in some way or another.
While the SI is ambiguous in parts and while I am sure the CPS are not particularly keen to use it to prosecute, I think one should be careful about giving readers the impression that any excuse for breaking the regs would be legally acceptable.
As with any law, tantalising loopholes appear due to the way the various parts of the statute are structured. Will and I have had exchanges about the feasibility of communal worship where it forms part of a broadcast service and I have been asked separately about whether there is a way to keep a stables open for private lessons. In both cases one can stretch to finding a way to make it ‘legal’, but in both cases I am quite sure that the intention of the law is not to allow it. Courts are supposed to interpret statute to give effect to the intention of Parliament, so intention of law can matter where the words are ambiguous.
Notwithstanding that loopholes can be found, the basic structure of the SI is that no person can be outside the place they are living without reasonable excuse. It’s true that this is not defined as such, but we are told that:
“the circumstances in which a person has a reasonable excuse include where one of the exceptions set out in regulation 6 applies”
Reg 6 goes on to list the various exceptions, many of which are quite wide, and some of which are quite narrow. We aren’t told if “include” means that the list of exceptions in reg 6 is comprehensive or if there could be other reasonable excuses. If the list is comprehensive (as I suspect is the intention) then other ‘reasonable’ excuses would not give one legal permission to depart from one’s house.
Assuming the list is not comprehensive, we also aren’t told if the “reasonable excuse” is subjective or objective. An objective standard of “reasonableness” would tend to be higher/less permissive than a subjective one, although not always.
So while I agree that there’s room to challenge lots of the restrictions, and I personally would like to see people doing so, people have to appreciate that they might end up losing the argument if it gets as far as court.
Thanks as always for the hard and frankly amazing work.
NCIS: New Orleans: Pro-Masking Propaganda
A reader is unimpressed by the new season of NCIS: New Orleans.
Just watched the first episode of the new season of NCIS: New Orleans and a more blatant message that COVID-19 is the new plague couldn’t be put forward. Within the first two minutes the lead character had masked up in the street despite there being no one else around. Within five minutes he was quoting Boris’s “hands face space” – and this is an American show! Numerous times mask-wearing was portrayed as if it was compulsory with nearly every character wearing one. Is this what we’re up against now, television shows being used to promote how dangerous this virus is without any question? No mention of how unproven any of the science or data behind mask wearing is.
Liverpool Council Officer’s Rude Email
Ros Maidment, a retired paediatrician and member of UsForThem, emailed Steve Reddy, Liverpool Council’s Director of Children’s Services, on Sunday to express her concern about a number of letters which had gone out to parents on Friday from Liverpool schools, including primaries, informing them that their kids were going to be given a rapid Covid test on Monday. Like the Broadgreen International School, these schools don’t appear to grasp that informed consent is required before a school can carry out a medical procedure on a child – which means the parent has to opt in. The school cannot take a failure to opt out as tantamount to consent. In her email to Mr Reddy, Ros politely called this a “misunderstanding”.
“Sorry if this sounds confrontational but it really is a matter of urgency, given the testing in schools is due to start tomorrow,” she wrote.
This was the reply she received from Mr Reddy:
The only “misunderstanding” would be you thinking we are taking any notice of your emails.
You have apologised in your emails for sounding confrontational, so let me do the same.
Tomorrow morning I will request the council ICT team to put a block on so we won’t receive them anymore, it’s not great use of our time, we’ve got work to do.
Take care, stay safe and well.
What a charmer!
Stop Press: Almost as rude has been the response of various professors of public health at Liverpool University involved in the mass testing programme to the queries of Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, who has some well-founded reservations about the £100 billion + “Moonshot”. You can read Allyson’s exchanges with the tetchy boffins on her website.
Stop Press: Read this excellent letter in the BMJ by Angela E. Raffle, a distinguished public health consultant, about the risks of rolling out a mass screening programme without adequate preparation.
Christmas Shop in Ipswich Stays Open by Selling Toilet Paper
An enterprising shop manager in Ipswich has managed to get around lockdown restrictions and remain open by adding some “essential” items to his shop’s shelves. Neighbouring traders, who’ve slavishly complied with the guidance, are incandescent. The East Anglian Daily Times has more.
“Furious” traders have complained that a temporary Christmas shop is staying open in Ipswich during lockdown – despite its owners saying they are selling essential items.
All non-essential stores have been ordered to close as part of the second national shutdown, which began last week.
However, certain stores selling essential items – such as food – are allowed to remain open.
The store in Tavern Street predominantly sells Christmas cards, wrapping paper and toys and gadgets – but also has a small stock of canned goods, toilet roll and cleaning items.
According to the shop’s manager, this allows them to stay open as an essential store.
The manager said: “We took the shop on in August, we’ve got a contract with the landlord that we can sell essential goods.
“We are selling essential items, so we are no different to other shops in Ipswich like B&M or Wilkos.
“If you go into those shops, they have got a load of Christmas stuff as well.
“We have got paperwork from the landlord from when we got it and we can sell essential goods, Christmas, novelty and gadgets.
“We’ve got food, disinfectants and PPE, so no different to Wilkos or B&M.”
Staff from Ipswich Borough Council visited the shop on Monday, November 9th but are yet to make a decision on the store’s future.
The shop’s manager is hereby crowned Sceptic of the Week.
In this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I talk about vaccines, Trump’s cold dead hands, Biden’s pro-mask fanaticism and my hunt for a new helper on Lockdown Sceptics (see job ad below). The thing James is riding in the above picture is supposed to be an opinion poll (or something) because, according to James, Trump identified him as “Britain’s best pollster” in a Tweet on Sunday afternoon, even though James isn’t a pollster. Seems like wishful thinking to me. Listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.
Stop Press: My friend Michael Wolff has written an insightful piece about Trump and what’s likely to be going through his mind, as well as that of his family and closest advisors, for the Daily Mail. Michael’s written two books about the Trump Presidency that are flat-out hilarious. Highly recommended.
Thank the MPs Who Voted Against Lockdown 2.0
A reader has provided a helpful list of all 39 MPs who voted against the second lockdown and their email addresses so you can write to thank them.
Adam Afriyie – firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Bone – email@example.com
Sir Graham Brady – firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Brine – email@example.com
Christopher Chope – firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip Davies – email@example.com
Jonathan Djanogly – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackie Doyle-Price – Jackie.email@example.com
Richard Drax – Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
Sir Iain Duncan Smith – email@example.com
Marcus Fysh – firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Green – email@example.com
James Grundy – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Harper – email@example.com
Gordon Henderson – firstname.lastname@example.org
David Jones – email@example.com
Tim Loughton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Mackinlay – email@example.com
Stephen Mcpartland – Stephen@stephenmcpartland.co.uk
Esther Mcvey – firstname.lastname@example.org
Huw Merriman – email@example.com
Anne Marie Morris – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sir Mike Penning – email@example.com
John Redwood – firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Rosindell – email@example.com
Henry Smith – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sir Desmond Swayne – email@example.com
Sir Charles Walker – firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Whittaker – email@example.com
William Wragg – firstname.lastname@example.org
Julian Lewis – email@example.com
Paul Girvan – firstname.lastname@example.org
Carla Lockhart – email@example.com
Ian Paisley – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sammy Wilson – email@example.com
Sir Robert Syms – firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek Thomas – email@example.com
Phillip Hollobone – firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Baker – email@example.com
Postcard From Sicily
We’ve received a postcard from a reader who’d just got back from Sicily with his wife. Sounds alright – provided you ignore the pointless red tape while travelling. Here’s an extract:
Masks stayed on, for two hours of waiting at the terminal and for the three hours’ duration of the flight. It was the first time I had been obliged to wear a mask for this length of time. The psychological effect is disturbing. It makes you feel cut off, hampered in your ability to make yourself heard, disempowered. And of course it is more difficult to hear what other people are saying to you – especially in a foreign language. Given that the WHO did not advise mask-wearing for months, and only grudgingly conceded that masks might be a good thing (while pointing out that there was no scientific evidence for it), one can only wonder whether this sense of disempowerment is precisely the effect that governments wish to achieve. My own mask has a printed text on it: MASKS ARE DEHUMANISING, DEGRADING AND INEFFECTIVE.
Worth reading in full.
- “As the case for lockdown crumbles, No 10 doesn’t seem to grasp the damage it has done” – Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph regrets that the Government lacks the stomach for the impact assessment the country so urgently needs
- “Does lockdown prevent covid deaths?” – Sebastian Rushworth MD discusses the Lancet study that seems to show lockdowns have little impact on Covid mortality
- “SAGE conflicts of interest” – Dr Zoe Harcombe PhD discusses the shortcomings of SAGE, including the fact that many of its members have a vested interest in seeing vaccines being rolled out
- “Pupils forget how to spell after months out of school” – School and nursery closures have led to children regressing in basic learning and social skills, with some toddlers back in nappies and primary school pupils forgetting how to spell, Ofsted has warned.
- “Hope of quarantine-free travel after city-wide trial, says Shapps” – According to the Times, the rapid testing being trialed in Liverpool could be used to cut quarantine times in half
- “Biden urges caution despite worldwide excitement at Pfizer vaccine” – As the world celebrated Pfizer’s breakthrough, Biden unveiled his plans for mandatory outdoor masking in every state
- “Free at last! Welsh revellers hit the town” – Welsh party-goers went out for the first time in 17 days last night to celebrate the end of the ‘fire break’ lockdown
- “Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine results could be available within weeks” – Sarah Knapton in the Telegraph says the Oxford team may be ready to release results of its trials soon
- “UK vaccine taskforce chief Kate Bingham expected to quit” – According to the Guardian, the beleaguered Vaccine Taskforce Chief is about to resign after a succession of scandals
- “Peter Hitchens: ‘In 1776 America declared independence and they are jolly well entitled to it’” – Peter Hitchens on his regular slot with Mike Graham on talkRADIO
- “‘Boris Johnson subcontracted to Whitty and Vallance’” – David Mellor fleshes out his thesis in the Mail on Sunday with Dan Wootton
- “‘Lockdowns don’t work’ Former Head of Diseases, Public Health Wales Dr Roland Salmon” – Anna Brees interviews Dr Roland Salmon, who has little time for lockdowns
- “The Covid Cult” – Another talk from Thomas E. Woods Jr. Scathing
- “Call to give Scottish care home residents vitamin D” – The average care home resident in Scotland has less vitamin D than is required for normal bodily functioning, according to the Times
- “Doctors raise questions over Stormont restrictions policy” – A group of doctors in Northern Ireland have raised questions over Stormont Covid restrictions and warned that policies are being formulated on the back of modelling that has “repeatedly been proven to be incorrect”
- “Patients pay an unforgivable price for ‘saving the NHS’” – Kate Andrews in the Telegraph says the NHS has started cancelling surgeries for serious conditions again
- “If the models were wrong, why are we in lockdown?” – Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan ask the obvious question on their Planet Normal podcast
- “Sweden’s ‘Dry Tinder’ Accounts for Many COVID-19-deaths” – Jonas Harvey on the the AIER blog says the reason Sweden had a higher Covid death toll than neighbouring countries is because it had two mild flu seasons on the trot, meaning many vulnerable souls who normally would have died of the flu survived to April 2020 and, then, sadly died from COVID-19 instead
- The Zero Covid Campaign – A group of hard leftists and militant trade unionists have launched the “Zero Covid” campaign, arguing for even stricter, more draconian lockdowns until the virus has been completely eliminated – which, now that it’s endemic, is impossible, obviously. Given that it’s the most disadvantaged who suffer during lockdowns, and their’s will go on forever, the Left’s ongoing support for this bonkers strategy is a head-scratcher
- “High prevalence of pre-existing serological cross-reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 in sub-Sahara Africa” – Important new paper in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases showing that exposure to other coronaviruses may induce cross-reactive antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in sub-Sahara Africa
Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers
Just one today: “The Coronavirus Song” performed by an unknown due in an Irish bar. Lockdown Sceptics readers will enjoy this one.
Love in the Time of Covid
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 decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, I’m highlighting a Harvard University advertisement for an Associate University Librarian for Antiracism.
The Harvard Library seeks a collaborative, strategic, and results-oriented leader for the newly created position of Associate University Librarian for Antiracism.
The ideal candidate for this position will have a broad vision for the role of antiracism in shaping the future of research libraries and achieving institutional excellence, as well as a strong track record in managing change, building and supporting initiatives that promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and a sophisticated understanding of anti-racism philosophy and resources. With strong support of the library’s senior leadership, the AUL for Antiracism will help synthesize, integrate and further catalyze the library’s equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging, and antiracism efforts across all aspects of the library’s mission…
Reporting to the Vice President (VP) for the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Associate University Librarian (AUL) for Antiracism is a collaborative leader whose primary focus is the development of the Harvard Library as an exemplary antiracist research library. The AUL serves as an active member of the VP’s senior team, sharing in responsibility for library-wide planning and resource allocation, and providing vision and advice on organizational development, diversity and social justice matters, communication strategies, and crisis management. The AUL engages as a thought-leader with colleagues across the Harvard Library and faculty, students and staff across the university in advancing strategies for an inclusive library climate and all aspects of equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging and antiracism in the library’s workforce, services, collections and spaces. This includes developing and implementing measurable goals and metrics, and using data, research and evidence-based practice to identify and change systems, structures, policies, practices and individual behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism. The AUL’s direct reports are individuals on the library’s new antiracism team, which will include librarians with roles such as collection development and research services as well as the Harvard Library Human Resources team’s diversity specialist. The AUL builds collaborative relationships with diversity leaders across the university and represents the library on related university councils, and coordinates library responses to emerging local, national, or global events that affect the experience of students, faculty and/or staff from historically marginalized groups and populations.
You have until December 13th to apply.
Stop Press: More nonsense from Harvard.
“Mask Exempt” Lanyards
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
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 ever since. 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 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 my 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 over 650,000 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.
Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.
Judicial Reviews Against the Government
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.
Christian Concern is JR-ing the Government over its insistence on closing churches during the lockdowns. Read about it here.
And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Lockdown Sceptics is looking to hire someone to help us write the daily update. This will involve producing a daily update yourself two or three times a week – so a page exactly like this one – under your own byline. The ideal candidate will have some journalistic background, be able to work quickly under pressure and know their way around WordPress. We can pay you £75 for each update. If you’re interested, email us here and put “Job Application” in the subject line.
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 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.)
This routine from comedian the late George Carlin about our neurotic fear of germs is right on the money. Incredibly, it was recorded in 1999.
Stop Press: James Herriot makes exactly the same point as Carlin in All Creatures Great and Small. He writes about a knacker’s yard, where the family recycled dead livestock into soap and glue…
There were eight young Mallocks and they had spent their lifetimes playing among tuberculous lungs and a vast spectrum of bacteria from Salmonella to Anthrax. They were the healthiest children in the district.
Profanity and abuse will be removed and may lead to a permanent ban.