No Household Mixing After Lockdown Ends
People from different households won’t be allowed to mix in indoor spaces from December 3rd-24th, at which point the rule will be relaxed for five days before being reimposed, according to some of today’s papers. The Government is trying to spin this as the only way to “save Christmas” – and the Sun has bought that line – but that does beg the question, why prioritise saving Christmas over saving jobs? The Telegraph has more.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised that the national lockdown will be replaced with a “regional tiered approach” when it ends on December 2nd.
But Government sources say default restrictions across the country are likely to include a ban on mixing with other households until close to Christmas.
Ministers intend to announce an “end of lockdown package” next week, including a schedule for Britain’s vaccination programme and an expansion of mass testing, which they hope will soften the blow of further restrictions.
The plans aim to allow a loosening of restrictions for Christmas, with scientists suggesting a number of households might be allowed to “bubble” together for a short period. Christmas bubbles could last for five days.
Members of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), the 70-strong collection of sceptical backbench Conservative MPs, aren’t happy about this, with one member of the group describing it as a continuation of lockdown by other means. Given that any restrictions imposed following the official end of lockdown on December 2nd will have to be approved by the House of Commons, the Government is facing a rebellion.
Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, added fuel to fire on BBC Breakfast yesterday when he indicated a return to a “tiered structure” was planned for after December 2nd and said the Tier 3 restrictions – previously regarded as the most severe level – were just a “baseline”.
“We are reviewing the tiers so that when the national measures come to an end on December 2nd, we’re able to move the country, we hope, back into the tiered structure.
“We will be looking at whether the measures that we had in the old tiers were effective. Remember, they varied quite a bit in different parts of the country because in Tier 3 there was a baseline of measures, which the chief medical officer and others have always said was only the beginning.”
Asked about the introduction of a stricter Tier 4, Mr Jenrick said: “We haven’t come to a decision on that, but the Tier 3 that we had before was just considered a baseline.”
The Government has not yet made clear what Tier 4 might involve, but in Scotland the “level four” restrictions – reserved for areas with “stubbornly high” Covid rates – resemble England’s national lockdown restrictions, with measures including the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops.
Such measures are unlikely to be supported by the CRG, according to the Telegraph.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, the leader of the newly formed Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of around 70 Tory lockdown sceptics warned that any Tier 4 proposal was unlikely to win the support of Conservative MPs.
If all CRG members opposed the plans it would be enough to overhaul the Government’s working majority of 85, taking into account Sinn Fein MPs, who do not vote, the Speaker and the deputy Speaker.
Boris Johnson was forced to give MPs a say on future lockdowns after Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, threatened a rebellion over new coronavirus powers in September.
Mr Harper said: “If the attempt is to put most of England into a Tier 4 that will be seen as lockdown by another name, then I don’t think Conservative MPs will support it.
“The PM has been very clear that the current lockdown will end on December 2nd. Any attempt by Government to effectively continue the lockdown by another means will be very badly received by backbenchers.”
This will be the first real test for the CRG. I hope the MPs won’t compromise and vote for the reintroduction of the “tiered structure” on the condition it doesn’t include a fourth tier. The problem is, once a regionally varied structure has been put in place – even if the most severe restrictions are limited to Tier 3 – the Government won’t need the consent of the House of Commons before imposing new restrictions provided they aren’t imposed nationally. In effect, the CRG has just one bullet. Let’s hope it uses it wisely.
What Was That About Twice as Many Deaths, Sir Patrick?
At the hastily-convened Downing Street press briefing on October 31st, where Boris and his two closest scientific advisors set out the rationale for Lockdown II, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “In terms of deaths over the winter, there’s the potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.”
So how’s that prediction working out for you, Sir Patrick?
The ONS data released yesterday for the w/e November 6th suggests not terribly well. 1,124 people died with Coronavirus in England and Wales on April 8th, the peak of the first wave (1,445 in the whole of the UK), whereas the worst day in this latest data set was November 3rd in which there were 298 deaths in England and Wales. Far from being “twice as bad or more”, that’s roughly 25%.
True, yesterday’s Covid death toll for the whole of the UK was 598 according to PHE, but that’s still only about half of the April peak, and the 7-day moving average is much lower at 425.
The rationale for maintaining the lockdown beyond December 2nd, or putting any regions under Tier 4 restrictions, is looking more and more threadbare.
Stop Press: If you look at the moving seven-day average for cases from October 26th to November 12th, there’s not much sign of the “exponential growth” we heard about on October 31st, either. Chris Whitty’s 50,000 cases a day and 1,000 deaths a day – or was it 4,000? – now look even more embarrassing than Sir Patrick Vallance’s scaremongering.
The Covid Ward
Yesterday, the Times ran a story about Stephen Lavin, a teacher, who caught Covid while awaiting an operation at Glasgow Royal Infirmary as the virus spread through his ward. This caught my eye because Stephen had already reached out to me on Twitter, urging me to tell his story. Consequently, I asked Sandra Barwick, a former Telegraph journalist, to write up his story.
Life was already tough for Stephen Lavin on the Friday afternoon after Bonfire Night, when he was admitted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary to have a surgical wound assessed. He and his wife, Bernadette, had been self-isolating together since July last year, after his operation for advanced colorectal cancer and chemotherapy – isolation which turned to full shielding when news of Covid broke.
His mood wasn’t helped when, just as he was going into hospital, he heard that his cousin had caught Covid in the Royal Liverpool Hospital and had subsequently died. On Saturday, because it was then clear that 56 year old Stephen needed an operation, he himself was given a Covid test. Those were only given, he was told, to those over 70, or due for surgery, or showing or admitting to symptoms.
While he waited overnight, a drunk man was admitted at 2am from A&E, without being tested for Covid, although he was coughing and refusing to wear a mask. At one stage he tried to hug Stephen, and even went out to smoke a cigarette, unaccompanied, and then returned and demanded that a relative come and take him away because “these bastards won’t let me out for a fag”. The trained teacher’s anxiety during all this had, not surprisingly, rocketed to a point where he was now thinking of discharging himself too.
The next day Stephen’s Covid test came back negative, and the surgery went ahead. As he lay in a new ward on Tuesday, still worried by the lack of infection control in the hospital and by the implications of the testing regime, a patient from the original ward was admitted. He, it turned out, had had a Covid test on November 5th – being over 70 – but it was not until Wednesday, six days later, that a nurse came onto Stephen’s ward to announce that everyone in it must be also be tested – immediately. Apparently, the new arrival’s test had come back positive.
According to Bernadette, Stephen’s wife, who talked to him on his phone, he was, unsurprisingly, now shaking with anxiety. But his sense of urgency did not seem to be felt within the hospital. On Thursday morning he was told that the test results were not a priority: he must wait in the queue. By 10.20am Stephen’s temperature was raised, whether from his infected wound or Covid he hardly knew. By lunchtime, the staff were in enhanced PPE, taking the ward curtains away in bin bags and washing all surfaces. In the afternoon, two senior managers came and apologised about the situation but insisted that everything was being done to ensure the wards were Covid-free. At 6.22pm the results came back. Every patient in the ward was positive.
By Friday, Stephen’s temperature was 38.5C, and others around him were sweating and coughing. Student nurses and doctors appeared to be filling in for staff who were off. Some staff confided that they were not tested when they displayed symptoms. Rather, they were simply told to go home and isolate. They’re not even tested after dealing with Covid patients. On Saturday, he finally spoke with the Head Nurse, who faithfully promised to raise his many – by then very many – concerns with senior management.
“Due to their protocols, I have gone from being Covid free on Saturday night to Covid positive on Wednesday,” says Stephen. “Their protocols are nonsensical.”
While he waits to hear back from senior management, Bernadette, alone at home, has another, much greater worry. “I haven’t been able to see him since November 6th,” she says. “And I can’t be sure if I will see him again.”
Stephen’s main concern is that he believes the vast majority of people in Glasgow, and indeed the UK, assume that everyone entering hospitals is screened and tested. But sadly, this is not the case. He hopes that this story will, at least, encourage debate about existing testing protocols in order to reduce the amount of in-hospital infections.
Stop Press: A reader has alerted me to the fact that her hospital made her visit conditional upon getting a Covid test, the test result being negative and then agreeing to isolate for five days. I fear this is now the norm in English hospitals.
Today I was referred by my consultant for an endoscopy and a flexible sigmoidoscopy. On arriving home I was telephoned by a hospital appointments clerk and offered an appointment on Saturday for the procedures. After telling me what would happen and where to go she then said that I would have to have a test at their drive through centre the next day and self isolate until Saturday. Sensing my reluctance she asked if that was a problem and I said it was. I then asked if I would be refused the procedures if I didn’t have the test and she said I would be refused them.
Since I will not give in to blackmail I shall be forgoing the investigations.
£18 Billion PPE Scandal
Today’s front pages are dominated by what looks to be a growing scandal: the slipshod manner in which £18 billion worth of PPE contracts were awarded by the Government at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. The hook for the story is a National Audit Office report on the affair, published today. The Daily Mail has more.
Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings were both drawn into the debacle after the spending watchdog said officials failed to consider potential conflicts of interests involving companies linked to them.
The National Audit Office revealed that officials had signed contracts for hundreds of thousands of facemasks which turned out to be unusable – wasting hundreds of millions of pounds.
The bombshell report found:
* Two of the companies named in the report have links to the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser;
* More than 1,300 contracts worth £10.5 billion were awarded by the Government with no competition whatsoever – increasing the chance of money being wasted;
* Ministers set up a separate VIP procurement route which allowed some companies to be fast-tracked for a decision – as long as they had the right connections;
* One in 10 suppliers processed through this high-priority lane (47 out of 493) obtained contracts compared with less than one in 100 suppliers that came through the ordinary lane (104 out of 14,892).
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman, said: “The country deserves to have confidence their money is being spent effectively by the Government – and to know without doubt that friends and donors to the Conservative Party aren’t profiting from this pandemic.”
These were worth £18 billion, of which £17.3 billion were new contracts rather than contract extensions. Most of the money, £12.3 billion, went on PPE, with the remainder going on other equipment and virus testing.
Ministers, MPs and civil servants could refer businesses to a ‘high-priority’ lane and firms which were granted this VIP access were more than 10 times as likely to be awarded a contract as those in the ordinary lane.
Leads came into a dedicated mailbox, but officials only recorded the sources in half of cases, although many were from ministerial offices following tip-offs from MPs about firms in their constituencies.
This will be grist to the mill of the conspiracy theorists, but it looks more a cock-up to me. Nevertheless, this does appear to be an example of “convergent opportunism” (© Mike Yeadon).
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The Mail‘s David Rose has described this scandal as “cynical and brazen cronyism“.
Stop Press 2: A Spanish “go between” who brokered a deal between the Government and an American jewellery designer to supply PPE has pocketed £21 million of taxpayers’ money, according to the BBC.
Police Temporarily Stopped From Imposing £10,000 Fines
There’s good news and bad news in the Guardian. The paper reveals that an emergency order was imposed last Friday, preventing police officers from handing out £10,000 fines – that’s the good news. But the order has now been lifted and the police are back to their old tricks – that’s the bad news.
Police forces can resume handing out £10,000 fines for breaches of coronavirus regulations, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has said following discussions with the Government.
It comes after an emergency order was made to stop officers handing out the fines to Covid rule-breakers, amid concerns the government’s flagship deterrent is unfair.
Officials are scrambling to stop the crackdown on large gatherings in England and Wales, which was announced by the Prime Minister this summer, from imploding after serious problems emerged.
Scores of £10,000 on-the-spot fines have been issued for those organising anti-lockdown protests, student parties, raves and large weddings. The fines are part of measures to enforce rushed-through Covid legislation banning gatherings of more than 30 people.
But many of those who challenged the penalties in court had the penalties reduced to hundreds of pounds instead after judges decided the level of fine should be determined by an individual’s ability to pay, according to a source with knowledge of police discussions.
On Tuesday evening police issued a new statement saying the issue had been resolved after forces had the option of issuing a £10,000 fines again, but would have to explain that people could fight it in court. The NPCC said: “People found to be in breach of the regulations relating to gatherings of over 30 people will be made fully aware of their options when faced with a £10,000 FPN (fixed penalty notice), to ensure fairness.”
On Friday, forces were told of the “urgent” problem in a letter from the NPCC and told to stop issuing the FPNs on those blamed for organising gatherings of more than 30 people.
The letter, seen by the Guardian, said: “With immediate effect we are asking all forces to cease issuing FPNs with a £10,000 fine of enforcement.” It said forces could instead issue court summonses or make arrests.
The letter from the NPCC to all chief constables and heads of criminal justice in England and Wales reveals behind-the-scenes concerns about flaws in the rushed measures.
A joint ethics committee of police, prosecutors and court officials had met and decided to order the halt, it said. “This arises from the issue of a significant inequitable position for those who elect to pay the fine, versus those who do not and progress to the courts and are subject to means-testing on conviction.”
As I revealed on Lockdown Sceptics last week, if you’re issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for breaching one of the coronavirus regulations you should refuse to pay it and instead opt to go to court. If you do that, the charge will either be dropped or the penalty reduced – as confirmed by this story.
Dr Clare Craig: “We Are In A False Positive Pseudo-Epidemic”
Alex: Can we sort of jump straight into the fact that everybody who’s sort of been looking at the data knows that there’s this thing called the casedemic, but your works shows that actually the problems with the casedemic are actually much more profound than people, even us, quite realize. So can you tell us what’s going on?
Dr Craig: I can try. I mean, a lot of people try to find some data point that they can trust because one by one these data points are being questioned. And so people put a lot of faith in COVID death counts. They think, “Well, they must be true because, you know, how on earth can you misdiagnose someone’s death?” But I’m afraid that even the death count, you have to have a bit of scepticism about because of how we are testing and how we are diagnosing. And there’s a phenomenon that’s worth considering when we’re looking at the situation that we’re living through at the moment, which is called a false positive pseudo epidemic.
There are a few key factors to understand about that, one of which is when you’re living through it, everybody involved believes they’re in an epidemic because the data looks like an epidemic, which is why it’s got that name. But there are a few things that start to show up in the data that you can unpick to figure out that actually this isn’t the case. What starts to happen is that because the data points are related to testing and not to each other, they start to do really funny things.
So one of the things that’s a relatively easy image to understand is looking at ITU admissions compared with deaths, and ICNARC which do ITU audits have just published on this. They show a graph with a familiar spike in the upturn of the ITU patients and then coming back down, followed after a period of time by a spike in deaths coming back down. That was in spring. And you see these two lines followed in parallel all the way through. And then they’ve superimposed what’s happening now on this graph, and you can see a much more shallow line of increased patients in ITU, and below that in parallel the increasing number of deaths.
But in the last couple of weeks that line of deaths has done a sharp upturn, and it looks like it’s going to overtake the line of the number of patients in ITU. And so there are other ways to look at the data that back this up as well, but the point is that we’ve got to a situation where the number of people dying per case diagnosed is on the rise compared with the summer, but the number of people with a severe case (being admitted to hospital, being on ITU) has fallen since summer, which is just slightly baffling, you know.
How can you get to a situation where the severity is reducing but the deaths are increasing? That is quite difficult to get your head around. I don’t think we need to go over it again, but there is this discrepancy that doesn’t make sense, and it especially doesn’t make sense when you realize that 80% of the Covid deaths at the moment are in hospital. So if they’re in hospital, they should be in the hospital admission data, they should be on ITU, and they’re not showing up in that data.
Worth reading in full.
I’ve given it pride of place under “Testing: Do You Have the Disease?” on the right hand side.
Hancock’s Willing Executioners
I often receive emails from parents in despair at how their children’s schools have taken it upon themselves to uncritically regurgitate Number 10’s propaganda – and I’m publishing one of them below. There’s something rather odd about this, given that teachers are usually so suspicious of anything the Government says, particularly if they know something about the subject, e.g. education policy. Aren’t these the very people that pride themselves on equipping their students with critical thinking skills? Why the willingness to lap up everything they’re told about “the crisis” by politicians they wouldn’t dream of voting for?
One theory is that it’s an instance of Gell-Mann Amnesia – a phenomenon identified by the physicist Murray Gell-Mann – which his friend the novelist Michael Crichton described as follows:
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward – reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
No doubt there’s an element of this going on, but it doesn’t explain the zeal with which most teachers have taken up the authorities’ Covid narrative and appointed themselves enforcers of “safety” protocols, often going much further than required by their local councils or the Department for Education. And it isn’t just schools, obviously, but any person or institution that enjoys some power or authority – doctors, vicars, counsellors, civil servants, scientists, MPs of all stripes, journalists, broadcasters, etc. Look at Piers Morgan, a man I know and like and whose willingness to call out looney left nonsense I admire. He seems to have been driven quite mad by his desire to enforce Covid orthodoxy.
I’m not sure I understand the psychology here, but I imagine this behaviour – people in authority energetically promoting the narrative that has enabled a group of politicians to suspend civil liberties and assume dictatorial powers – is a common feature of all countries that sink into authoritarianism.
It’s a commonplace of left-wing intellectuals that the greatest danger to liberal democracy is posed by conservative ethno-nationalists – Trump, Orban, Bolsonaro. But even though there’s a right-wing populist in Downing Street and he certainly bears his share of the blame for the ugly turn our society has taken, it’s been the liberal left that has embraced the Covid narrative – and what it regards as the necessary suspension of our liberties – most enthusiastically. Witness the recent call by the Labour Party, along with the Royal Society and the British Academy, to criminalise anti-vaxxers. Who would have thought, prior to the pandemic, that it would be scientists demanding that a Tory Government be empowered to decide what can and can’t be said in the public square? Now that they have tasted the wine of power, they have forgotten themselves.
Which reminds me. I must read Hitler’s Willing Executioners.
Anyway, here is the piece by a concerned mum who, like the rest of us, cannot quite believe that the very same institutions that used to be hotbeds of opposition to Tory policies have become little outposts of Downing Street.
On arriving home from school yesterday, my youngest started with, “Now don’t get mad Mum and fire off loads of emails, but I need to tell you what happened in tutor time today.”
“Okay,” I said.
They had an assembly in which a teacher presented them with a data slide containing the number 51,540.
“What is THIS number children?” she asked.
The pupils dutifully provided the answer they knew was expected: “The number of Covid deaths, Miss.”
Teacher: “That means about a thousand people a week have died, which is about the size of our school! We are in a dangerous pandemic and it’s clearly getting worse!”
There then followed video footage of American doctors attending to critically ill patients at the height of the pandemic. Then another on the vital importance of wearing face masks, with strict instructions not to keep touching them.
At that very moment, according to my child, another teacher entered the classroom, approached the teacher giving the talk, and pushed his mask down to his chin before speaking.
Thankfully, my child was outraged by this blatant propaganda, but the scaremongering went on and on. What right do the staff have to peddle such unbalanced information? Are the teachers now paid to scare children, acting as henchmen for our dysfunctional Government? Are they unable to do their own “self-directed learning” – a cliché I’ve heard them utter so many times my eyes glaze over whenever I hear it? A quick bit of “independent inquiry” involving the websites of the ONS and the NHS would enable them to put those deaths in context – 51,540 is less than 10% of all-cause mortality in the UK in 2019.
Wouldn’t it have been better to encourage children to seek out information about the virus themselves and make up their own minds – a task that would include weighing up apparently contradictory claims made by scientists and doctors, crunching numbers, contextualising data, asking whether apparently objective information being presented by politicians to the public is being distorted to serve their own agendas, and so on? Aren’t these the “life skills” schools are supposed to be equipping children with?
But silly me. It’s been apparent since March that my child’s school is no longer interested in real education or in raising courageous and questioning adults. Instead, they have become willing co-conspirators in Project Fear. It’s all about helping the Government control the behaviour of our children – not just when they’re at school, but in every aspect of their lives. Shame on them.
Stop Press: Headteacher Stuart Lock has written a brilliant piece about why exams shouldn’t be cancelled next year.
Straight Talking by Professor Anthony Brookes
Anthony Brookes, Professor of Genetics at Leicester University, was on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show yesterday and one Lockdown Sceptics reader was so impressed she transcribed some of it for us.
Julia began by asking Prof Brooks about the vaccines.
Prof Brookes: There are still many unknowns about the vaccines and although it’s great the initial data is positive, all the data show is they reduce symptoms in people who are vaccinated. It’s being described as it protects you from disease but what it means is it reduces symptoms. We don’t know if the vaccines reduce your chances of being infected, whether it creates some immunity and whether it makes you less infectious.
He added that it would be a good thing if young people get infected and develop natural immunity because that helps increase herd immunity (4m 3s).
When it comes to vaccinating the elderly and the vulnerable, he thought, best-case scenario, it could be done by spring but he didn’t see it happening (5m 17s). So, what to do in the meantime? More lockdowns or do we switch to mass screening? He saw the “moonshot” as “a problematic concept”.
Prof Brookes: It’s not viable, it’s not effective, it’s not appropriate. It will create hundreds of thousands of false positives each day so people will be isolating unnecessarily. It will create hundreds of thousands of false reassurances each day, people told they’re negative when they’re actually positive… Cost will be the equivalent of about six times the cost of the whole UK police force and almost approaching the cost of the whole NHS. That approach, I think, needs to be paused and re-evaluated.
JHB: This whole idea that the vaccines aren’t a quick solution to this problem – the mass testing isn’t a quick solution to this problem – is this fundamentally because this is a political problem rather than a medical problem?
Prof Brookes: I can’t remember who it was, but someone said this has been a political pandemic, not a medical pandemic and I think there’s a lot of truth in that…
My favourite part of this brilliant interview was when JHB says we’re not seeing the supposed deadliness of this terribly infectious disease being played out in hospitals and in the mortality figures (8m 35s).
Prof Brookes: There’s too much fear around and let me state some very basic facts… I’ll give you the absolute numbers today and people can take that away and make their own decisions about how scared to be. So, in terms of people actually infected today, it’s probably around 1% in the population, but the vast majority of those will have no symptoms and if you’re under about 65 it’s less risk than regular flu. The number of people dying today is the same as it would be any other year in total. People are dying of respiratory diseases today, it’s about the same as it normally would be; the thing is they’d normally die of flu and pneumonia, those diseases are very much reduced this year and it’s been replaced with Covid. The Covid deaths, just predicting from the charts and all other considerations, will continue to go up from here; I actually agree with the Government that it could approach the levels of death we had in wave one, I don’t think it will, I think it’ll top out at about two-thirds of that level in a couple of weeks’ time. The hospitals have increased their capacity beyond normal years, so they are less full in emergency care units than they would normally be, so it’s normally about 90-95, they’re about 85% this year, that’s because they’ve increased the capacity, but they’re in no way struggling to cope… The fact is the prevalence of the virus in terms of people carrying it has plateaued and is now starting to at least run at a flat level, it looks like it may be going down as well… It exists, it’s real, we need to be careful, but we shouldn’t be thinking of this as a major player.
Why Can’t I See My Disabled Son?
Today we’re publishing a heart-breaking piece by Vanessa Gray, the mother of a healthy but severely disabled 20 year-old who was deprived of contact with him throughout the first lockdown and, even now, is only allowed to visit him for an hour a week. Why are the rules that have been put in place to protect elderly care home residents being applied to residential facilities for healthy young adults with disabilities? There’s no rhyme or reason to it – it’s just another example of the lockdown sledgehammer being used indiscriminately, and to hell with the collateral damage.
I have a beautiful, gentle, handsome, fit 20 year-old son called Charlie, with severe mental disabilities, autism and an atypical form of epilepsy. He moved into a care home last July and attends a college locally for special needs autistic students. All was going very well and we used to have him home pretty much every weekend. Never could we have imagined at that time that within a few short months we would not be allowed to see him at all.
Then Lockdown comes in March – “Three weeks, to flatten the curve,” Boris said. Although I admit, despite the uncertainty at the time, the whole thing had a faint stench of bullshit about it, even back then. Information was already coming out from world leading scientists, based on a forensic study of available data, particularly Dr John Ioannidis and Professor Michael Levitt, that lockdowns were pointless and not the way to go. This whole lockdown business sent shivers down my spine because I knew it would have horrible implications for my son.
You see Charlie cannot speak, read or write. His cognitive age is about two-and-a-half. So how do you explain to him in any meaningful way that Mummy and Daddy are not coming to see you anymore and not bringing you home anymore – for what turned out to be months?
We have nightly face time calls organised by a carer – but there is no engagement from Charlie on an iPad. We engage with Charlie by holding his hand, sharing a piece of his favourite cake with him, reading him one of his favourite picture books or watching an episode of Fireman Sam together!
After over two long months, we were allowed to start bringing Charlie home again, as long as we filled out a mountain of paperwork declaring that no one had lost their sense of taste or smell, etc. – before we returned him. At least we could see him again – I wasn’t complaining.
Then along comes Tier two. We are allowed to take him out – but NOT bring him home. Restaurants were open so at least we could get out of the cold with him and go for a pub lunch.
Then five minutes later – Lockdown again! This time – ONE of us is allowed to take Charlie for a walk for ONE hour! So my husband and I tossed a coin as to which of us would be the one allowed to see him last weekend and take him out in the freezing cold. My husband won. I will go next weekend. It’s very silly because Charlie goes to college each day and his carers come and go from his home to their homes.
I don’t blame the care home for any of this. They have been as helpful as they could be and staff are fantastic. But rules are rules and obviously they can’t flout them. I blame the Government.
Worth reading in full.
“The Greatest Hoax Ever Perpetrated on an Unsuspecting Public”
This is glorious. Dr. Roger Hodkinson, ex-Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Examination Committee in General Pathology in Ottawa, former Assistant Professor and now the CEO of a biotech company that manufactures Covid tests, tells Government officials in Alberta (on the Community and Public Services Committee) that the current coronavirus crisis is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public”. These remarks were secretly recorded by one of the people present and uploaded to YouTube, but in case they’re taken down they’ve also been uploaded to BitChute.
The jeremiad only lasts five minutes, but it’s a wonderfully succinct summary of the sceptical position, covering everything from the unreliability of the PCR test – “positive test results do not, underlined in neon, mean a clinical infection” – to the catastrophic consequences of the lockdowns. Here he is on masks:
Masks are utterly useless. There is no evidence base for their effectiveness whatsoever. Paper masks and fabric masks are simply virtue signalling. They’re not even worn effectively most of the time. It’s utterly ridiculous. Seeing these unfortunate, uneducated people – I’m not saying that in a pejorative sense – seeing these people walking around like lemmings obeying without any knowledge base to put the mask on their face.
This deserves the widest possible circulation.
See more on Dr Hodkinson’s credentials here.
Call to Arms
I received the following rallying cry from Geoff Cox, a lockdown sceptic and head of the Back to Normal group who has decided to see what he can do to raise people from their slumber. He’s got a plan and he wants you to be part of it.
Staggered by the falsification of Covid data? Enraged by Police bullying? Depressed by the loss of civil liberties? Frustrated that you can do little except rail and wail in your own bubble? Well, now you can do something – a little something, but something. Back to Normal is a well set up, grass roots organisation which has one goal – to wake up the public. This is a group that likes to get out there and talk to people. Although we have a MeWe page, a Facebook page and a website, these are really backups to support our project of getting to people who have bought into the Government’s message. So far, we have produced and delivered 20,000 postcards door to door or handed them out in the street. We are denting the confidence of those who only get their information from TV. We are edging sceptics towards our point of view and encouraging those who already think like us, but worry they are alone.
There is a proliferation of groups being set up in this country and all over the world to campaign against the current global madness. Back to Normal is just one of them and we understand that, at some point, these groups must come together. If you already have a group and would like to join forces with us or vice versa, we’d be happy to do so. What we need is one ‘Lockdown Sceptic’ to take on the role of coordinator in your area. Then deliver postcards, organise street activities, and get on social media where we don’t have a voice. The Government had first mover advantage, but the fight back has begun.
If you can help with the postcards, or could be a local coordinator, or if you have other skills, please get in touch.
Letter From a Labour Party Member to Jon Ashworth
A reader has sent me an excellent letter he’s written to Jon Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, about why his efforts to censor anti-vaxxers are misguided. He’s given me permission to reprint it in full and attribute it to him by name. He’s called David J. Ferguson.
As a Labour Party member I am concerned about your proposal to urgently bring forward legislation that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act to “stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content”. I am not by any means opposed to vaccination, both my daughters, now in their twenties had the MMR jab and I remember clearly being asked if I had any objections and saying no. I am however concerned about the haste with which the various vaccines for covid-19 are being developed, and the way in which the normal safety protocols are being overruled in this case.
Since the start of the pandemic the government has sought to silence alternative views Ofcom have characterised these as: “Health claims related to the virus which may be harmful. • Medical advice which may be harmful. • Accuracy or material misleadingness in programmes in relation to the virus or public policy regarding it”. This sounds wise, no one wants false or inaccurate information to circulate, but it has led to suppression of alternative perspectives. For example the researchers at Imperial College based the modelling which led the first lockdown on the assumption of an infection fatality rate of 0.9% for COVID-19. They have since revised this to 0.7%. When, on the basis of sound scientific reasoning, the much respected Dr John Ioannidis suggested 0.9% was too high this was censored on YouTube. More recently, former BBC journalist Anna Brees has been told by FaceBook that there are certain issues she is not allowed to discuss on her page, issues relating to the vaccine. This kind of censorship serves no useful purpose. It stifles debate. You may be convinced that the people who raise concerns are wrong but as Noam Chomsky said, “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
It may be said that this is a matter to be decided by the experts but as the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend noted: “The objection that citizens do not have the expertise to judge scientific matters overlooks that important problems often lie across the boundaries of various sciences so that scientists within these sciences don’t have the needed expertise either. Moreover, doubtful cases always produce experts for the one side, experts for the other side, and experts in between. But the competence of the general public could be vastly improved by an education that exposes expert fallibility instead of acting as if it did not exist.”
In order to decide whether to take the vaccine people need to be able to make an informed choice and to balance the risks. No one can do that if any contrary views to those of the government are silenced. For some people, considered as individuals, the benefits will easily outweigh the risks; this would be the case with those who are older or more vulnerable. For others, the young and healthy, the risks to them as individuals may outweigh the benefits. However, it may still be that in order to achieve population immunity it would be better for those who are not personally at great risk to be immunised. This means that for the common good many people, not greatly at risk from the virus, are being asked to expose themselves to risk from a largely untested vaccine. If they are being asked to do that then people need to be able to assess the risk they are being asked to take for the sake of others.
There are different views among the experts on how many people would need to be vaccinated to give population immunity. To make a judgment on this we would need to know how many of the population already have immunity. Is it as low as 7% as the calculations made by SAGE often assume or is it as high as 70% as Dr Mike Yeadon has argued? Some weeks ago I watched you on Question Time in discussion with Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist who has been discussing this very issue for several months. It became clear that you had, at that time, a very limited understanding of this key issue, and the best defence of your position you could make was to say that some other (unnamed) epidemiologists might disagree with her. I strongly recommend her lecture, ‘The Uncanny Valley, How to Model a Pandemic’ which is available online. She explains that several different models, with different values for factors like IFR, prevalence and immunity can all fit the current data. If for example the virus arrived in the country earlier than is generally supposed, say in January, then it would have spread further before deaths began to rise significantly above the seasonal average in late March, and this in turn would imply a lower infection fatality rate; changing the estimate of one variable leads to changes in the others. Any cost/benefit analysis regarding how many people will need to take the vaccine to minimise risk for those taking it while achieving population immunity has to be based on an estimate of such factors and the associated modelling. In order to make these judgments there needs to be open discussion of all perspectives and models. Penalising discussion simply creates the impression that the government is trying to hide the risks involved. For these reasons I am very much opposed to your attempts to criminalise diversity of opinion. If there is a good case for your position why be afraid to make it and have it challenged?
As John Stuart Mill said: “The opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility”. It is dangerous for any government to act in this way, and it is dangerous for the opposition to encourage them to do so. As I have often pointed out to my students, if you want to hear the people you agree with, you have to defend the rights of the people you disagree with. This becomes a more important principle when there is as much at stake as there is at present. I believed you when you said on Question Time that you want to save lives, but you have to allow that people may have different views on the best way to do this, and alternative views, especially those of highly qualified experts, cannot and should not be silenced.
David J Ferguson
Stop Press: A reader has pointed out that it’s not completely bonkers to have reservations about a new vaccine that’s been developed at breakneck speed and utilises a new, relatively untested technology.
Like everything, vaccine safety and efficacy is not black and white. To question this does not make one “anti-vaxx”. It shows legitimate (for now, until it’s censored/outlawed) concern for safety and desire for transparent and truthful information and is not unreasonable.
Many years ago, in a different life, I worked for the Courts/Tribunals Service. Hidden away (deliberately!) amongst the myriad of Tribunals was the little known Vaccine Damage Court.
This pseudo-court hears cases for children (or adults) seriously injured or disabled by “perfectly safe and thoroughly tested” vaccines. I believe it is a very difficult process to go through with many obstacles put in place to be successful.
It is, of course, the taxpayer that pays damages given the multi-billion dollar Big Pharma industry is exempt from prosecution. The amounts paid for individual cases are not high when compared to the costs of lifelong physical and mental disability of once healthy people, but the total payout over the years amounts to many millions of pounds, and billions in the USA. The only time I recall seeing much media coverage of this was around 2009 with the Swine Flu vaccine, since withdrawn, which was proved to cause narcolepsy. Payouts are up to £60m so far on this one.
More Entries to the Devil’s Dictionary
Anti-vaxxer, n. Anyone who dies at any time in the next 200 years, having stubbornly refused to get vaccinated.
Collateral damage, n. A blockbuster Hollywood film starring a future governor of California. Also the direct result of irresponsible people catching non-Covid ailments for which the NHS is unable to offer any treatment.
Pandemic, n. A highly contagious variety of group think at government level. The side effects are hugely destructive, but only for the general public. Not to be confused with a viral outbreak.
Herd impunity, n. Going along with the crowd to avoid personal liability, even if you know the decisions being taken are wrong. (See Civil service.)
Covid window, n. (1) A transparent sheet of perspex that miraculously defies the laws of physics and common sense (see below) with regard to its ability to prevent invisible particles circumnavigating its four open sides.
(2) A financially benevolent period of time in which to board the Bisto Express.
Common sense, n. Arguably the most important of senses, much needed yet easily and effortlessly dampened with fear and by withholding, distorting and fabricating data. Currently facing extinction, although Sir David Attenborough is unconcerned.
Ambiguity, n. A job-saving lifeline consisting of words and numbers often delivered with a hint of bovine bouquet. A politician’s best friend.
- “Scottish Tories fear for Union after Boris Johnson brands devolution a disaster” – Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the Prime Minister…
- “Cummings deserved better than being dumped on the whim of an unelected consort” – Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail says Boris’s dismissal of his loyal servant proves he’s lost the plot
- “End of the road for petrol and diesel cars in just nine years” – Boris is due to announce a £12 billon green investment plan today, including banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Looks like Carrie really has got him by the short and curlies
- “Stamping on the ‘anti-vaxxers’ – a very stupid idea” – Dr Malcolm Kendrick explains why criminalising anti-vaccination content would be self-defeating
- “‘Boris Johnson is supposed to have had Covid… so why is he isolating?’” – Professor Karol Sikora appeared on Mike Graham’s show on talkRADIO yesterday and posed the obvious question. Became even more puzzling when Boris revealed later in the day that he’d tested negative… but was still self-isolating
- “James Delingpole: Government handling of Covid ‘is the biggest scam in the history of the world’” – My podcast buddy on Ian Collins’s show on talkRADIO
- “Coronavirus: Dr Mike Yeadon claims 50% of UK was already immune by June” – Dr Mike Yeadon was also on Ian Collins’s show
- “Does Science Really Demand that Bars and Restaurants Close?” – Micha Gartz in the AIER blog says if you’re going to slowly strangle an entire industry to death in the name of public health you need some scientific basis for your policy – but there ain’t any
- “Anti-vaxxers ‘could be banned’ from going into work if they refuse Covid jab” – Odd story in the Metro. What if they’re not “anti-vaxxers” but still refuse the jab?
- “New stats reveal massive NYC exodus amid coronavirus, crime” – According to the New York Post, more than 300,000 New Yorkers have bailed from the Big Apple in the last eight months
- “Belarus: the land Covid forgot” – Good piece in Spiked about how Belarus remains immune to Coronaphobia
- “Hungary’s war on woke” – Frank Furedi thinks the reason Western elites hate Victor Orbán is because he’s waging a war on woke values
- “Lockdowns and libertarianism” – George Dance points out that many, if not most lockdown opponents are not libertarians
- “Where on earth is the common sense among the chaos?” – Allison Pearson says never mind Christmas. At this rate Boris Johnson will have us all in a perpetual purgatory of pointless lockdown
- “Switzerland dubbed ‘the new Sweden’ as government resists lockdown despite soaring caseload” – Go Switzerland!
- “Britain: Two-Stepping Toward Totalitarianism” – Excellent piece by Andrew Ash for the Gatestone Institute blog
- “Let’s make the next lockdown useful” – Dr Hugh Willbourn has come up with an interesting use for docked cruise ships
- Beda M. Stadler, the former Director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern, on the PCR Test – The arch-sceptic lets rip about the inadequacy of the PCR test
Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers
Just one today: “We Are the Pigs” by Suede.
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 bringing you the story of a Christian actress who was sacked from her role in the musical of The Color Purple for expressing her religious belief that homosexuality is wrong. The Times has more.
Seyi Omooba, described as a devout Christian, was fired from the adaptation of the Alice Walker novel last year after she was cast to play the lead character of Celie at the Curve in Leicester and Birmingham Hippodrome.
The production company dismissed her after Aaron Lee Lambert, an actor in Hamilton, shared a Facebook post she wrote in 2014, that said she did “not believe homosexuality is right”.
The character of Celie is normally read as having a gay relationship.
However, Omooba, 26, has denied that the character is a lesbian. She said last year that the theatre company and her agents told her to apologise but she refused, claiming that her Facebook comments merely quoted the Bible.
The actress launched legal actions against both the company and her agents. Her legal team claimed that she had been abused on social media since the row broke out, and had been “called a n***er for citing the Bible”.
Later this week, an employment appeal tribunal in London will consider the appeals against several decisions made at earlier hearings, including one to reject expert evidence on the grounds that it was irrelevant and potentially biased.
Lloyd Evans, the theatre critic for The Spectator, said that “it is not of any importance for an actor to agree with the ethical views or the feelings of a character in a play”. Evans said that “were that necessary, the art of drama would not exist, and many of the plays we regard as classics would be impossible to stage”.
In a witness statement, Evans cites Shakespeare’s Othello in which the lead character murders his faithful wife, Desdemona, after being tricked into believing she is an adulteress.
“It would take a superhuman effort,” Evans said, “to cast Othello in this play if the search were restricted to actors who sympathise with Othello’s jealous feelings and who believe that he is justified in murdering his wife.”
Top stuff from Lloyd Evans, whom I co-authored an award-winning play with called Who’s The Daddy? I’ll be rooting for Seyi when her case comes before the Employment Tribunal.
Stop Press: The Mail has more on Suzanne Moore’s departure from the Guardian. The headline says it all: “Comment is free (unless you’re a ‘transphobe’): Death of free speech at the Guardian as columnist Suzanne Moore quits after 300 staff sign petition against her claim that gender is more than a ‘feeling’.”
Stop Press 2: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men have all been banned from schools in California for being “racist”.
“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.
If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.
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.
Stop Press: The rise of cases in Maine has been linked to face mask mandates, according to 21st Century Wire.
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 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”.
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.
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.
It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.Mark Twain
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, one by one.Charles Mackay
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.Benjamin Franklin
To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…
Ideology – that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury
Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.Sir Winston Churchill
If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.Richard Feynman
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.C.S. Lewis
The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.Albert Camus
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.Carl Sagan
Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.George Orwell
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.)