Month: December 2020

Latest News

Government to Close Schools Again

The Government has announced targeted school closures for England in an attempt to control the spread of the virus (though it’s unlikely to help much, as Toby explained yesterday). The Telegraph has the details.

One million primary school pupils will not return to classrooms as planned next term as Boris Johnson unveiled sweeping school closures and warned more could follow.

The Prime Minister said that in order to combat the spread of the new coronavirus variant, the majority of secondary school pupils will now stay at home until “at least” January 18th, two weeks after term was supposed to start. Those in exam years 11 and 13 will return on January 11th.

Only the children of key workers and vulnerable children will go back on January 4th, the scheduled start date. It means the staggered start to term which had previously been announced will be moved back by a week.

Primary schools in “high infection areas”, estimated to affect one million pupils, will also close for the first time since the spring for at least two weeks as Mr Johnson said “even tougher action” was needed because of the “sheer pace” of the rising infections.

The Prime Minister said there was no guarantee that the January 18th return date would not slip further, as the latest data on infection rates would be reviewed at that point.

He added: “I want to stress that, depending on the spread of the disease, it may be necessary to take further action in their cases as well.”

The announcement came as three quarters of the population of England were quarantined in Tier 4 as of this morning, with the rest of the country left in the scarcely less restrictive Tier 3, creating a new national lockdown in all but name.

My own area, Warwick District, was one of those included in Tier 4. Which makes perfect sense when you look at the latest ZOE app data for reported symptomatic Covid.

567 out of a population of 143,753. That’s a burning epidemic right there.

Stop Press: In Sarah Vine’s column in yesterday’s Daily Mail she opposed school closures, saying “it’s madness to treat our schools like nail bars or nightclubs“. Yet her husband Michael Gove is reported to have sided with Matt Hancock and opposed Gavin Williamson’s efforts to keep schools open. Trouble in paradise?

Coronavirus Pandemic Returns UK to Mortality Levels Not Seen Since… er… 2008

2008: The year of the Beijing Olympics, and a worse year for adjusted UK mortality than 2020

The UK reported a further 981 Covid deaths yesterday as the Christmas reporting delay caught up with us. Ross Clark popped up in MailOnline to put the figures into context.

Britain has an elderly population compared with many countries and large numbers of people die every day.

In England and Wales in 2019, for example, 530,841 people died – an average of 1,454 every day or “four jumbo jet” loads, to use the alarmist comparison favoured by much of the pro-lockdown commentariat.

While COVID-19 is, of course, a serious disease, many of those who have died from it were close to the end of their lives in any case. If it hadn’t been COVID-19, it might well have been another infectious disease – flu or pneumonia – which dealt the final blow.

Covid has killed some “healthy” people who did not have underlying conditions, but it has done so in relatively small numbers. Until 4pm on December 23rd, 47,750 people had died of COVID-19 in English hospitals, but fewer than 2,000 of these had no pre-existing medical condition.

These figures, from NHS England, exclude people who have died at home or in nursing homes.

Among those who died, 26% were already suffering from diabetes, 17% had dementia, 16% chronic pulmonary disease, 16% chronic kidney disease and 14% heart disease. Moreover, not all “Covid” deaths were really caused by the disease.

The Government’s definition of a Covid death is someone who has died from any cause within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19.

You could be struck by a bus three weeks after a positive test and still be reported as a Covid death.

Of all deaths, 54% – some 27,000 – were among the over-80s. Only about 3,600 victims were under 60 and just 388 of these had no pre-existing condition.

When looking at overall mortality it’s important to take into account that the population is both growing and ageing.

The Office for National Statistics says that in the week to December 11th there were 12,292 deaths registered in England and Wales – 14% above the five-year average.

Yet the population is growing and ageing – the number of over-70s is increasing by around 2% a year – so, all things being equal, we should expect more people to die. More enlightening is the “Mortality Monitor” published by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which adjusts the mortality rate to take account of a growing and ageing population.

Its figures show that mortality in England and Wales in the first 50 weeks of this year was 12.3% higher than in the same period of 2019, but only 6.9% higher than the average for the past 10 years.

It is only 3% higher than in the worst of those years – 2010 – and it is slightly lower than it was in 2008.

In other words, we have been through a pandemic which has closed down large parts of the economy and led to us being locked down in our homes for weeks on end – and yet, after all that, it has really just returned us to the mortality rate of 12 years ago.

The new ONS figures out yesterday show that excess mortality continued to decrease in the week ending December 18th, down to 12.5%. This is despite the number of deaths and Covid deaths increasing on the previous week, since the five-year average increased by a greater amount (this time of year often sees a surge in deaths).

Ross’s piece appeared as data leaked to the Health Service Journal and reported in the Mail showed that ICUs in London, the South East and the East of England are now operating above maximum capacity, meaning staff must be redeployed to manage demand. Essex declared a “major incident”.

Data from the internal NHS critical care capacity dashboard - leaked to HSJ - showed that London had far surpassed its maximum capacity with intensive care units 114 per cent full on Monday night
Data from the internal NHS critical care capacity dashboard for December 28th leaked to the Health Service Journal

Just over a week ago on December 20th, NHS figures showed ICUs operating below average, as Lockdown Sceptics reported on Monday, meaning this has been a sharp rise, suggesting London and the South East are now experiencing similar outbreaks to those seen in northern areas a few weeks ago. An NHS spokesperson said:

The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to manage significant pressure either from high COVID-19 infection rates or non-Covid winter demands and this has always included mutual aid practices whereby hospitals work together to manage admissions.

While the NHS is opening more beds in places like London to care for the most unwell patients, it is vital that people continue to follow government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.

The Telegraph in an editorial asks why the NHS is not better prepared for this anticipated increase in winter demand.

If the NHS is on the cusp of being overrun, the public is entitled to know why it is not better prepared. Imposing another lockdown, or indeed the burdensome Tier 4 measures much of the country is already labouring under, is not a small matter but an economic and social calamity that will compound the damage already done by months of restrictions. There were no shortage of predictions that the virus would return after the summer. Even the arrival of a new variant of COVID-19 was foreseeable.

Nightingale hospitals, intended to provide extra capacity, stand empty or are being dismantled, supposedly because of a shortage of staff. But if the country faces such an emergency that businesses need to be forcibly closed and individuals stripped of their liberties, why have not more efforts been made to call thousands of retired doctors into service or put student nurses on to wards?

Why indeed. Is lockdown now the preferred Government policy for managing the annual winter beds crisis? Let’s hope not.

Stop Press: A doctor who volunteered to come out of retirement to help explained on Twitter that the NHS asked retirees like her to produce 20 “certificates” that they didn’t have as a condition of hiring them. One of them was proof that they’d received the requisite training in “equality and diversity”. You couldn’t make it up.

Oxford Vaccine Approved

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the MHRA yesterday and will be given to the first patients on Monday. BBC News has more.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday.

There will be 530,000 doses available from next week, and vaccination centres will now start inviting patients to come and get the jab.

Priority groups for immunisation have already been identified, starting with care home residents, the over-80s, and health and care workers.

The Government’s vaccine strategy has shifted in light of the announcement.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has authorised two full doses of the Oxford vaccine, with the second dose to be given four to 12 weeks after the first.

The immunisation campaign will now shift to giving as many people as possible their first dose of vaccine with a second dose following within that period.

When the Pfizer-BioNTech jab rollout began, the aim was to give the second dose after three weeks.

But based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the aim now is to give as many vulnerable people some protection from COVID-19, irrespective of the jab they are given.

The Oxford vaccine is easier to store and distribute, as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab that has to be kept at -70C.

There is also more confidence about supply as it is UK-made, whereas the Pfizer-BioNTech jab has to be shipped in from Belgium.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can now take either of the two approved coronavirus vaccines “when the potential benefits outweigh the risks”, experts said at an MHRA news conference.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to people with a wide range of food and medicine allergies, but people allergic to ingredients in the vaccine should not take it.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, told the briefing that “no corners have been cut” in assessing the safety and effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

The questions about dosage and effectiveness are said to have been resolved, though details are as yet unpublished.

Trials showed two full doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab were 95% effective at preventing infection, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed 62% effectiveness – although even in cases where people were infected, there were no cases of serious illness needing hospital treatment.

Trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine also showed that when people were given a half dose then a full dose, effectiveness hit 90%.

But there was not enough clear data to approve the half-dose, full-dose idea.

However, unpublished data suggests that leaving a longer gap between the first and second doses increases the overall effectiveness of the jab – in the sub-group given the vaccine this way it was found to be 70% effective after the first dose.

All the vaccines are expected to be equally effective against the new variants of the virus that have emerged.

It’s a strange one this Oxford vaccine. First the trial dosages were botched and greater efficacy was claimed for an experimental dose. Then that claim was scrapped but a similar claim is now being made, in retrospect, for a greater gap between doses. How does this pass the strict safety standards for trials for new vaccines and drugs? Perhaps the mystery will be solved when the full data is published.

Also noteworthy is that the greater efficacy of 70% is claimed for 12 week spacing, yet the approval is for four to 12 week spacing, suggesting the increase in efficacy is not regarded as crucial when set against speed of rollout.

Stop Press: The EU has yet to be convinced about the Oxford vaccine. Pharmaceutical Technology has more.

The European Medicines Authority (EMA) has said that the drug maker AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine may not be approved in January next year.

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad quoted the EMA deputy executive director Noel Wathion as saying: “They have not even filed an application with us yet. Not even enough to warrant a conditional marketing licence.

“We need additional data about the quality of the vaccine. And, after that, the company has to formally apply.”

Lest We Forget

We’re publishing another brilliant piece today by Sinead Murphy, a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle University. She looks back at the year gone by and concludes that we’ve lost sight of the difference between life and death – we’ve redefined life as non-death, forgetting all the things that made life worth living. Here is the opening section about one of the most haunting images from 2020.

It’s that time of year when we name the best and worst. Competition is stiff, on one side of the equation at least. How many worsts there have been, each hardly conceivable before it was suddenly real.

But there was a worst of all. In October in Milton Keynes. Two brothers moved to the side of their grieving mother, putting their arms around her shoulders as she sat before the box containing their dead father’s remains, only to be reminded by an official from the crematorium that they were not permitted to be within six feet of their mother during the ceremony – as if she had been lowered into the grave as their father was being raised onto the pyre.

It is the simplest of mourning rituals, a consoling arm around the shoulders. A fragment of a ritual, really. And yet it too has been made to retreat before the march of Health and Safety, those twin murderers of the last vestiges of our arts of living and dying.

Worth reading in full.

“I Work For Test and Trace and I’m Making Just One or Two Calls Per Hour”

After our devastating piece from a Test and Trace contact tracer working for one of Serco’s sub-contractors back in October, another contact tracer has got in touch to tell us how little she has had to do recently despite the surge in “cases”. The following piece is anonymous as contact tracers are required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

When I started working for Test and Trace in May, little did I know I’d end up a ‘lockdown sceptic’.

I think readers would be most interested in recent events in the Test and Trace saga. As a previously written article from one of my colleagues from Tier 3 (nothing to do with lockdown Tiers) has already highlighted, the many problems of contact tracing and the antiquated NHS system seem to be more about confusing and harassing the public with incorrect isolation advice, rather than helping them.

I work as a Tier 2 Contact Tracer; my job is to call people who have tested positive, but have failed to complete the online form that is sent to them by text and email to ask about their contacts.

With 40,000+ people now testing positive every day, you would think I would be very busy, but, in fact, I am making just 1.5 calls per hour – most people don’t answer the phone, so I can go hours without speaking to anyone. This would lead you to believe that all those positive cases must be completing their online forms, but I think that would be highly unlikely, because I’ve also worked on Tier 3 calls and it’s obvious that people can’t be bothered to answer the phone, let alone fill in a lengthy form (which takes about 30 minutes to complete) about all their contacts and activities in the run up to testing positive.

I must question why, on November 24th, Serco employed 500+ more Contact Tracers, when we were so quiet? Did the Government know about the new variant before December and want to be prepared? Does someone in Government have a finger or two in the lucrative Test and Trace programme? Or might a more worrying explanation be that thousands of details of positive cases are being lost in the system somewhere, and not making it on to the call list? The managers don’t seem to know what’s going on, but it’s time to question why billions of pounds are being paid to Serco to employ Contact Tracers, who are only making a handful of calls a day.

In addition to the questions we have over the accuracy of PCR and Lateral flow testing, just where is the data to show that any of this is working? I don’t want to talk myself out of a job because, without it, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills, but I’m starting to feel like a fraud.

Woman Arrested For Filming Inside Empty Hospital

A woman has been arrested for filming inside a hospital to show how empty it is. Summit News has the story.

A woman in the UK was arrested by police after she filmed a video inside an almost completely empty hospital and posted it online.

The clip shows the woman walking through virtually empty corridors and filming empty wards at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

“This is a disgrace… it is so dead… all the people in our country desperately waiting for treatment, cancer treatment, heart disease, honestly this is making me so angry,” she states as she films a row of empty waiting chairs.

The woman expressed shock at how quiet the hospital was, saying she expected there to be “a few more people around, there’s absolutely nobody”.

According to reports, a 46 year-old woman was subsequently arrested by police for filming the video and has been charged on suspicion of a public order offence.

“The woman has been bailed to return to police on January 21st, with conditions that she cannot enter any NHS premises or the grounds of any such premises, unless in the case of an emergency or to attend a pre-arranged NHS appointment,” said a statement by Gloucestershire Police.

UPDATE: A reader whose wife works in the hospital has got in touch to say the area filmed is always empty on a Sunday as it is a “Monday to Friday” area which is nothing to do with Covid – a Physiotherapy outpatients unit or similar.

An NHS Consultant Surgeon Writes…

A consultant surgeon at an NHS trust in the North East has got in touch to say he agrees with yesterday’s analysis by Lockdown Sceptics‘s resident Doctor that this winter is little different to last winter, at least in his hospital.

ITU at the moment is full (10 Covid, six non-Covid). That said, this is not necessarily unusual for this time of the year. ITU was full last year and in previous years.

Daily Covid admissions and discharge rates are pretty much on par (between 10 to 15 in both directions), but Covid inpatients are rising and now occupy 50% of the acute beds.

Of 194 Covid patients, 10 are in ICU and ventilated, 10 on high pressure masks (non-invasive ventilation), and 20 to 30 on oxygen on the wards. The rest are ambulant and don’t require particular care. They either cannot be discharged back to nursing homes as they still test positive, don’t want to go back home for fear of infecting someone else, have social reasons for wanting to stay in hospital, or have been given an in-hospital diagnosis of Covid and don’t want to leave in case they develop respiratory problems, i.e. they came in for something else but have subsequently tested positive while in hospital. Essentially, the bulk of in-hospital beds occupied by “Covid” patients are not there out of medical necessity or a requirement for acute care. They are in hospital due to other factors.

Now this is not necessarily something novel. It happens all the time. Not all patients who are admitted to hospital need to be admitted or need to stay for the length of time they are inpatients for. This is a routine problem, particularly in winter. But the staff are gradually being ground down, both psychologically due to the heightened perception of crisis and physically as more and more staff are self-isolating, catching Covid, etc. In addition, this year a letter was sent to 140ish staff as they were deemed high risk and told to self-isolate. This has exacerbated the staffing problem.

Some of the factors mentioned – such as social care aspects preventing discharge and the lack of care home beds – are chronic issues and unrelated to Covid (we get this every year and it is worse during the winter months). But Covid has added another layer of complexity, leading to “bed blocking”. As your doctor rightly points out, ICU and non-invasive ventilation or oxygen requirements are par for the course and no worse than at the real peak in April.

During the initial spike in April/May, “bed blocking” did not happen as patients were sent back to nursing homes without tests, patients were encouraged to go home and self-isolate, hospitals were generally emptied and much activity had stopped. We also had a lot less nosocomial (hospital acquired) Covid.

I don’t have an explanation as to why hospital acquired infections have increased a lot, as in up to 30% of Covid inpatients at the time of writing. (Thirty per cent of those are said to be “asymptomatic”, but that is another story). But when half the beds are presumably filled with patients who have Covid, this must increase the viral load in the building. That is however an assumption for which I have no proof.

Stop Press: James Melville has produced a great Twitter thread comparing our current NHS crisis with previous years. Turns out, a winter NHS “crisis” is an annual event.

I Remember, I Remember (Updated)

A poem by Lockdown Sceptics reader Adam March.

I remember, I remember,
Once living in a place
Where I could do my weekly shop
Without a covered face
And even share a greeting
With a handshake or a hug
Or have a conversation
With my mates down at the pub.

I remember, I remember,
Those Yuletides and New Years
That glowed with joy and merriment 
And laughter – without Tiers.
We’d mingle free of test-and-trace
Recording where we’ve been 
And see our ageing loved ones
With no window in-between.

I remember, I remember,
How all our leaders lied
And threatened us, and bullied us,
To keep us all inside.
And if we keep complying 
Out of ignorance and fear
We’ll have no more than memories
Of all we once held dear.

Let’s Hear It For The Disruptors

We’re publishing a good piece today by a dairy farmer and former sales director in the food sector who has gone on a journey that’s probably typical of many of the people who end up reading Lockdown Sceptics. Here’s an excerpt.

When the pandemic started, I tuned in religiously to the daily Government briefings, I stuck to the lockdown rules and I logged on to Worldometer and FT Coronavirus websites. But I lost heart as the Government and SAGE released increasingly implausible forecasts and the daily briefings became an utterly pointless exercise in ritual humiliation of the hapless Matt Hancock. Why were the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and Sky’s Beth Rigby obsessing about tactical failings over PPE and contact tracing without challenging the overarching strategy? Hugh Grant, in the days when he was writing for Horse and Hound, would have provided more insight. The Government were being allowed to implement policy without showing their workings. They produced neither analysis of the impact of their interventions nor of the appalling human and economic consequences of lockdown’s collateral damage. I started looking elsewhere.

Freddie Sayer’s fascinating interview with Johan Giesecke (from 1995-2005 the State Epidemiologist for Sweden) on Unherd (“pushing back against the herd mentality” NB not herd immunity) was my first off-piste experience and it gave me a taste for fresh powder. The Spectator’s James Delingpole introduced me to Dr Mike Yeadon in his Delingpod, and Toby Young created an outlet for alternative views in the form of this blog. On talkRADIO, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mike Graham and Dan Wooton gave doubters, including the irrepressible Peter Hitchens, a platform on the airwaves. As a centrist Remainer, these were unexpected bedfellows. My friend, super intelligent and early obsessive, Brian, shared data, video clips and articles. I learnt about SOAs, FPRs and ASMRs; I swotted up on Gompertz curves and “dry tinder”; and… I ventured on to Twitter.

I struck early gold with David Paton (@cricketwyvern). Professor of Industrial Economics at the University of Nottingham, Paton was the first person to re-state deaths by the date they occurred rather than when they were reported – this made a huge difference to the shape of the curves and our understanding of the path of the virus. It was Paton’s analysis that clearly showed that placing Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and other northern towns in tiers in October/November was not responsible for the fall in hospital cases and deaths. I check his numbers every day. I also keep an eye on Pandemics Data Analytics (@PanData19) who provides global in-depth data and graphic analysis, and Dr Clare Craig (@clarecraigpath) of this parish.

But most of my Twitter time goes to Ivor Cummins (@FatEmperor) and Joel Smalley (@RealJoelSmalley). Smalley is a data scientist specialising in multivariate time-series and stochastic analysis; whatever that is, he is brilliant at turning complicated data into clear and intelligible information and it is often his data that Cummins uses. If you do only one thing after reading this article, look at this slide on Smalley’s pinned tweet, which overlays Government interventions against Covid deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Nine today: “I’ll Break Out Again Tonight” by Willie Nelson, “Worst Year Of My Life” by Wild Swans, “Never To Be Forgotten Kinda Year” by Dan Bern, “There Ain’t Gonna Be No Party” by Ronnie Fields, “Tell Me When It’s Over” by The Dream Syndicate, “Something Must Break” by Joy Division,  “You can’t do that” by the Beatles, “I’m going slightly mad” by Queen and “Welcome to my nightmare” by Alice Cooper.

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 as well as post comments below the line, 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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, an entire glossary, courtesy of Victor Davis Hanson in National Review. Here’s a taste.

“Cultural appropriation.” This adjective-noun phrase must include contextualisation to be an effective tool in the anti-racism effort.

It does not mean, as the ignorant may infer from its dictionary entries, merely “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”

Asian Americans do not appropriate “white” or “European” culture by ballet dancing or playing the violin; “whites” or “Europeans” surely do appropriate Asian culture by using non-Asian actors in Japanese kabuki dance-drama.

For non-African Americans, dreadlocks or playing jazz are cultural appropriations; dying darker hair blond is not. A black opera soprano is hardly a cultural appropriationist. Wearing a poncho, if one is a non-Mexican-American citizen, is cultural theft; a Mexican-American citizen wearing a tuxedo is not.

Only a trained cultural appropriationist can determine such felonies through a variety of benchmarks. Usually the crime is defined as appropriation by a victimising majority from a victimised minority. Acceptable appropriation is a victimised minority appropriating from a victimising majority. A secondary exegesis would add that only the theft of the valuable culture of the minority is a felony, while the occasional use of the dross of the majority is not.

“Diversity.” This term does not include false-consciousness efforts to vary representation by class backgrounds, ideologies, age, or politics. In current Wokespeak, it instead refers mostly to race and sex (see “Race, class, and gender”), or in practical terms, a generic 30% of the population self-identified as non-white – or even 70% if inclusive of non-male non-whites.

“Diversity” has relegated “affirmative action” – the older white/black binary that called for reparatory “action” to redress centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutionalized prejudice against African Americans – to the Wokespoke dustbin.

“Diversity” avoids the complications arising out of past actionable grievances, or worries about the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of particular tribes, or the class or wealth of the victimised non-white.

The recalibrated racially and ethnically victimised have grown from 12% to 30% of the population and need not worry whether they might lose advantageous classifications, should their income and net worth approximate or exceed that of the majority oppressive class.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: At Lockdown Sceptics we have been worried for some time about the lack of certain kinds of expertise on SAGE. But our minds have been put at ease by the discovery that Professor Iyiola Solanke of Leeds University is a member of SPI-B (Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours). Professor Solanke specialises in research into race and racism, anti-discrimination law and intersectional discrimination.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road.

The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. 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 and Runnymede Trust’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.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

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.)

And Finally…

We thought we’d publish a page from Google Analytics showing the steadily rising traffic that Lockdown Sceptics has been attracting since its launch. The early peak in May was due to Mike Hearn’s first Code Review of Ferguson’s model, but we surpassed that in September and peaked for a second time in October, thanks largely to Mike Yeadon’s first pieces for the site. In total, Lockdown Sceptics has had 8,834,733 pageviews since its launch eight months ago. Not too shabby.

Latest News

“If The New COVID-19 Strain is More Transmissible, Why Isn’t It Taking Over in Every Region?”

Joshua Loftus, Assistant Professor of Statistics at New York University (and definitely not a lockdown sceptic), poses this question in the Spectator.

Let’s look at these estimates of the percent of the UK population testing positive, broken down based on whether the test result “is consistent with” the new strain or otherwise. We can download data with estimates of COVID-19 infection rates from the Office of National Statistics. First let’s see the rates in two regions, the one where the new strain grew most rapidly and another region where it hasn’t.

Next, here are all the regions sorted (top left to bottom right) in the order of the maximum estimated prevalence of the new strain.

If the new strain has a biological advantage that makes it more transmissible why isn’t it taking over in every region? 

Loftus stresses this is not a rhetorical question. However it is a real question that needs answering, and one that’s also being asked by Professor Francois Balloux on Twitter:

A number of media outlets have reported on the new technical briefing from Public Health England that shows considerably more being infected by carriers of the new variant than carriers of other variants. Here’s the report in the Times.

Contacts of people with the new coronavirus variant are 54% more likely to develop the disease, according to new analysis from Public Health England.

They found, however, that it did not appear likely to cause more severe disease or higher death rates.

Researchers found the “secondary attack rate”, or proportion of contacts of confirmed cases that develop the disease themselves, was 15.1% for people with a confirmed case of the new variant and 9.8% for people confirmed to have another variant.

The figures were published yesterday in a technical report on the variant, now named VOC (variant of concern) 202012/01.

Ministers pointed to the variant’s increased infectiousness when announcing higher Tier 4 restrictions for much of England earlier this month.

However, the PHE briefing does not draw any conclusions about transmissibility from the data it presents (it doesn’t mention transmissibility at all). Is this because the authors are aware that this may be just coincidence? In other words, that it appears to be more transmissible just because most of the infections with it happen to be in the areas that are currently surging? This by itself would explain why the secondary attack rate (the proportion of contacts who become infected) for the new variant in England is higher in recent weeks – because it happens to be the variant most prevalent in the areas of the country where more people are currently being infected. To know whether it is the new variant itself that is responsible for the higher secondary attack rate, or something else, we would need to see it higher in other regions, not just the one currently surging. And as Loftus and Prof Balloux observe, there is not currently evidence of that.

Stop Press: Nic Lewis has done a thorough analysis of the claims of greater transmissibility for the new variant and shown that despite the growing panic evidence is so far lacking.

Fact Check Fail

“Full Fact” is one of those over-confident websites that claims, unlike all those other websites which peddle mere opinion, to be supplying readers with the pure, unfiltered Facts. It has now brought the weight of its authoritative wisdom to bear on lockdown sceptics, with one Leo Benedictus penning a “fact check” entitled “Can we believe the lockdown sceptics?“. The London Economic claims this piece “definitively discredits lockdown sceptics“.

Unusually, it actually makes some effort to be kind to sceptics and says “we must not dismiss the lockdown sceptics’ claims out of hand… Mr Hitchens, Mr Cummins and Dr Yeadon all say that we should base our views on evidence, and on that we agree with them. However, on the overwhelming balance of the evidence, their claims are wrong”.

Benedictus claims there is much published evidence lockdowns work.

research paper published in June in Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, concludes: “Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions – and lockdowns in particular – have had a large effect on reducing transmission.”

Another in Science in July said: “Focusing on COVID-19 spread in Germany, we detected change points in the effective growth rate that correlate well with the times of publicly announced interventions.”

Another in the BMJ said: “Earlier implementation of lockdown was associated with a larger reduction in the incidence of COVID-19.”

Mr Cummins may have been referring to a research paper in one of the Lancet’s online journals in July, which said that “full lockdowns… were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people”. But so much research is published, especially on Covid, that it is often possible to find at least some evidence in support of almost any view.

For instance, he might instead have referred to a different paper in the same journal eight days earlier, which said: “With a tighter lockdown, mobility decreased enough to bring down transmission promptly below the level needed to sustain the epidemic.”

Some science supports Mr Cummins on some points, in other words, but a great deal – which he does not mention – contradicts him.

Let’s take a closer look at these.

The June Nature paper is by Flaxman et al and is a model-based paper by the same team from Imperial College whose modelling inspired the lockdowns in the first place, so they are not exactly an impartial team. The June paper is notorious for making many dubious assumptions, as documented here by Nicholas Lewis. In fact, so troubling is the paper that last week Nature itself published a “matters arising” paper by Soltesz et al pointing out many of its flaws. It says:

We conclude that the model is in effect too flexible, and therefore allows the data to be explained in various ways. This has led the authors to go beyond the data in reporting that particular interventions are especially effective. This kind of error – mistaking assumptions for conclusions – is easy to make, and not especially easy to catch, in Bayesian analysis.

You can read our own critique of the Flaxman paper here.

The July Science paper, by Dehning et al , focuses only on one country, Germany, so cannot be used to counter international comparison data. In addition, Germany had an atypical spring as it did not experience any excess deaths.

The July BMJ paper is by Islam et al and is also model-based. It suffers from only using “case” data (which is unreliable as it depends on who is being tested and how many tests are being carried out) and does not look at deaths. To measure lockdown strictness it relies on the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker rather than using mobility data, and only considers five broad types of intervention rather than any finer measure of severity. This means it counts Sweden as implementing as many restrictions as many of the other countries because it did something in four out of five categories, despite Sweden’s restrictions being much lighter than others. Then the results are not actually very favourable to lockdowns at all. They show huge variation between countries, with all those with fewer restrictions seeing a reduction in cases over the period at a rate greater than many of those with more restrictions. Overall the study finds restrictions reducing “cases” by just 13% on average, a paltry impact for the immense cost.

On the other hand, the July Lancet paper by Chaudhry et al that Benedictus dismisses as an example of it being “often possible to find at least some evidence in support of almost any view” is in fact the main peer-reviewed article which carries out an international comparison of Covid mortality. It is notable that Benedictus doesn’t even attempt to counter the point that Covid mortality was not associated with lockdown strictness and timing, because he can’t. It is a fact, as Chaudhry et al show.

The Lancet paper by Vinceti et al that he then cites by way of riposte only looks at Italy and only at case numbers, not deaths. It concludes that one lockdown was ineffective while the second one worked, which it attributes to strictness. However, the context to keep in mind is that Italy had one of the worst Covid mortality rates in the world during the spring, and the later lockdown may have “worked” only because it coincided with the change of the season, a possibility the study does not consider. The conclusion that the first lockdown did not work supports the sceptics’ position.

The lack of consideration of “organic” alternatives as explanations for epidemic decline such as warmer weather and rising population immunity is a general failing of many of the coronavirus studies, made more obvious by the fact that the epidemics declined across all contexts regardless of how many or few restrictions were in place. In each region, the lifecycle of the epidemic followed a Gompertz curve.

To back-up his “fact check”, Benedictus claims that the epidemic in all regions in England declined at the same time, suggesting it was a result of lockdown. However, this is not actually true. As the Government dashboard shows, London deaths peaked around April 5th, North West deaths peaked around April 13th, and Yorkshire and Humber deaths peaked almost two weeks after London on April 18th; London’s decline was also steeper. The seasonal effect of course provides an alternative explanation as to why the epidemic declined across the country at around the same time during the warm April weather.

Benedictus makes the mistake of assuming that everyone who’s been infected will test positive for antibodies in order to “prove” the Covid Infection Fatality Rate is higher than many sceptics claim. However, numerous studies have shown that not all people who are infected develop or retain antibodies. For instance, a large Spanish study found that less than 20% of symptomatic cases later had (IgG) antibodies, and a large Italian study similarly found only 25% of symptomatic cases later had (IgG) antibodies. (See here for more on this.) The role of T-cells and pre-existing immunity in the immune response has also been shown by a number of studies. (See this in the BMJ and this pre-print.)

Benedictus says it is “hard to see how banning human contact could fail to reduce the spread”, not recognising that lots of contact isn’t banned – many workplaces continue, supermarkets and other shops remain open, often schools are open, and there are hospitals and care homes. Furthermore, confining people to homes can increase spread within homes.

Benedictus disputes Peter Hitchens’s claim that it was “not possible” for the lockdown announced on March 23rd to have caused the subsequent decline in daily infections and deaths, saying it is not “generally accepted”. But Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty himself stated to MPs in July that new infections were falling before lockdown. Oxford’s Professor Carl Heneghan has pointed out that GP data shows suspected Covid referrals dropped off before lockdown. The standard estimate for the average lag between infection and death is 23-26 days, which is the figure used for example by the Imperial College team in Flaxman et al, which puts peak infection around March 15th, 23 days prior to peak deaths on April 8th and nine days before the lockdown came into effect. London death peak was three days earlier, putting its infection peak on March 12th.

Benedictus claims that the second waves in the autumn disprove sceptics’ claims about herd immunity. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that some of the worst “second waves” have been in countries not badly affected in spring, such as Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia and Czechia.

It’s true that the UK did experience excess mortality in November and December, but only peaking around 20% and declining during December. Other causes of death are running below average, suggesting there is some misattribution going on; the other obvious cause of extra deaths this year is lockdown. It’s not true to say that lockdown sceptics necessarily expected an easy ride for hospitals in the autumn, with many anticipating further Covid deaths during the colder months, particularly in areas not strongly affected in spring. The point about there being no second wave is that this autumn/winter Covid epidemic is much more like an ordinary seasonal viral epidemic than something similar to the spring when the disease was new, and this time round infections seem to be caused by local outbreaks rather than a national tsunami. The point about false positives and pseudo-epidemics is not that there is no Covid around anymore but that problems with the testing regime turn something eminently manageable and basically normal into a crisis that appears much bigger and more disastrous than it really is.

Benedictus claims that lifting the lockdowns explains the resurgence of the virus, but this is untrue as lockdowns were lifted much earlier in the year yet there was no new surge until the autumn. The resurgences, insofar as they are real and not an artefact of increased testing, are much better explained by the onset of colder weather.

A more general criticism of the “fact check” is that it fails to look at the countries and states like Sweden, Belarus, Tanzania, North and South Dakota and others in the autumn such as Switzerland and Spain which did not impose strong restrictions but did not experience higher rates of Covid mortality than those that did. This means it neglects to consider the key question: what would happen without lockdown? Benedictus claims “we will never know the effects of things we did not try”, but of course we can look at other places that didn’t lock down. He quotes a Government report claiming lockdowns saved thousands of lives by preventing hospitals being overwhelmed, but fails to spot that hospitals were not overwhelmed in those regions that forewent lockdowns. Worth remembering that hospital services in the UK and other countries are routinely stretched in the winter, with people often being treated on trolleys in corridors.

In sum, Leo Benedictus’s attempt to “fact check” the lockdown sceptics falls short. He fails to engage our most important points about the countries which show epidemics declining without interventions, dismisses the significance of the main international study comparing different rates of Covid mortality, and makes factually dubious claims himself, such as that the epidemic in England began to decline in all regions simultaneously.

Must try harder.

Five Reasons Not to Close Schools

There follows a guest post by Toby Young.

Can we expect an announcement later today about whether the Government is intending to close schools? Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to deliver the news about which other areas in England are being placed in Tier 4 after the Brexit vote and today is a good day to bury bad news, given that the headlines will be dominated by Brexit. Michael Gove said on Monday that the Government’s intention was to reopen primaries next week and make sure children in Years 11 and 13 returned, but was non-committal about other year groups. The Telegraph seems to think the announcement will be today and will include, among other things, a one-week delay in the return for Years 11 and 13.

In any event, just in case a decision hasn’t yet been made I thought I’d briefly remind the Government why closing schools is a bad idea.

1. Closing schools is regressive in that children from disadvantaged backgrounds pay a higher price than their peers. As Brendan O’Neill pointed out in the Spectator yesterday, this fact seems to have been forgotten by all those well-educated, comfortably-off “experts” recommending the closure of schools in the media this week: “There have been many shocking sights in this cursed year. For me, one of the most shocking has been the sight of comfortably off, Oxbridge-educated experts and journalists agitating for the closure of schools even though they know this will hit poor kids hardest.” He then cites the overwhelming evidence that it’s the poorest children that suffer the most from school closures.

Research by University College London, published in June, following the closure of schools during the first lockdown, found that 71% of state-school pupils had between none and one online lessons a day, while many private schools were providing four or more online lessons a day.

The National Foundation for Educational Research found that 42% of state-school children were not completing their work, and that “pupils in the most disadvantaged schools were the least likely to be engaged with remote learning”.

There were big divides even among comprehensively educated students. The Sutton Trust found that kids in middle-class homes were twice as likely to take part in online lessons as kids in working-class homes. Forty-four per cent of middle-class children had spent four hours or more on schoolwork each day when schools were closed, compared with just 33% of working-class children.

It isn’t hard to see why. The less well-off a child’s family is, the less likely that child is to have a computer, a quiet room to learn in, parents who have the time to assist with learning. When you push education out of the classroom and into the home, it is inevitable that social inequality will rear its ugly head.

And, of course, school closures result in ‘learning loss’ for all children, not just the disadvantaged. From a BBC News report in September:

The National Foundation for Educational Research’s survey questioned a weighted sample of almost 3,000 heads and teachers in about 2,200 primary and secondary schools across England.

The research was carried out just before the end of term in July – and showed how much children had fallen behind by the end of the last school year.

Almost all the teachers questioned (98%) said their pupils were behind the place in the curriculum they would normally expect for the time of year.

Overall, teachers said they had covered just 66% of their usual curriculum by July, putting pupils three months behind in their learning.

2. Paediatricians believe the harm caused by school closures outweighs the harm supposedly prevented by closing them. Dr Danielle Dooley, a Medical Director at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR in October: “As a paediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children. Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course.” A survey published by NHS Digital in October found that one in six children aged five to 16 were likely to have a mental disorder, thanks, in part, to the impact of the first lockdown.

3. The evidence that closing schools reduces virus transmission is threadbare, at best. Research carried out by the World Health Organisation and the Royal College of Paediatricians didn’t turn up a single case of a child under 10 transmitting the virus. Last May, 22 EU member states reopened schools and found no evidence that it posed an increased risk to pupils, teachers or families. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Norway appeared on television to apologise for over-reacting to the crisis and said she regretted closing schools.

4. A large part of the rationale for closing schools again, in spite of the harm caused by closing them in the first lockdown, is that children are more susceptible to the new variant – including primary school children. But there’s little empirical evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, if we look at the ZOE app data showing symptomatic cases in the three regions said to be worst affected by the new variant – London, the South East and the East of England – infections appear to be relatively flat among those aged 0 – 19.

5. We’re often told by the teaching unions that teachers don’t want schools to reopen, but the data suggests otherwise. A Teacher Tap survey of 6,000 teachers in November found that just 39% of teachers thought schools should close during the November lockdown, while 46% believed they should remain open. Among headteachers, 69% were in favour of keeping schools open.

If the NHS is so Overwhelmed, Why is it Dismantling the Nightingales?

The London Nightingale hospital, when it still had something in it

There follows a guest post by regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor David Livermore, Professor in Medical Microbiology at the Norwich Medical School.

I read, fascinated, that the Government is dismantling Nightingale Hospitals.

This is despite rising cases, admissions and, above all, SAGE’s assertions about the hazard posed by the increased transmissibility of the VUI202012/01 variant. Support for the view that the variant really is more transmissible came yesterday from PHE’s finding that it infected 15% of a case’s contacts, as against 9.8% for the classical virus.

We know that, even without VUI202012/01, around 10-20% of reported hospital ‘cases’ with COVID-19 caught it there, whether consequentially or not. Some hospitals have seen much larger outbreaks. The NHS adds these ‘nosocomial’ cases to daily totals as ‘admissions’ even though the patients weren’t admitted with COVID-19.

If this variant is able to spread 50-70% more efficiently, you’d expect it do so in hospitals, even with the best of infection control efforts by front-line staff. Add increased transmissibility to rising Covid admissions and general winter pressures and you’d expect a sharp increase in hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 infection.

I posed the question of whether this was happening in the Daily Mail a week ago along with the now-answered one about household contacts.

Since which answer came there none. Perhaps it has been delayed by Christmas?

Except that, if the Government is dismantling the surge capacity provided by the Nightingales, one can only conclude that they are nothing like as worried about the mutant’s alleged transmissibility as they’ve made out.

This point applies all the more strongly in view of the fact that the NHS has apparently cut many beds in its own hospitals to aid social distancing and to reduce nosocomial transmission. This point, not widely flagged, is made in Sarah Newey’s Telegraph article of December 21st. She quotes Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President of the Royal College for Emergency Medicine, as saying that the numbers of beds per bay have been cut from six to four, and estimates a total loss of 10,000 beds.

The notion that dismantling the Nightingales is just a staffing issue doesn’t really hold water. In the face of a strain that really is more transmissible you’d want – even more strongly – to ‘cohort’ infected patients on separate sites so far as possible, along with dedicated staff to look after them. This is the principle of classical fever hospitals, and should be practicable if there are fewer beds available at NHS sites. Preferably, you’d choose staff with a history of COVID infection and some anticipated immunity. The aim would be thereby to protect non-Covid patients, and staff, at the main NHS sites.

Since this isn’t being done, one can only conclude either that the Government isn’t really so worried about VUI202012/01, that it’s hopelessly confused, or that the cabal of modellers and behaviourists who dominate SAGE don’t have a grasp of basic hospital infection control.

Why Winter is Not Spring

There follows a guest post by the senior doctor – ex-NHS – who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics.

Yesterday we are told that hospitals are treating more Covid patients than at the “peak of the spring”. Professor Andrew Hayward, an official adviser to the Government and a member of NERVTAG, has helpfully shared his advice with the general public that a “national catastrophe” will soon be upon us unless more stringent population control measures are enacted indefinitely.

Toby kindly invited me to analyse the available data and assess to what extent these conclusions are justified. The usual caveats apply – one can only comment on what the NHS permits the public to see, and the granularity of the information, especially around the accuracy of diagnostic recording, is far from satisfactory.

Firstly, a look at the headline figures for inpatients across English regions (Graph 1). I have expressed these figures as paired data comparing March – April with Nov – December 28th. There are clearly possible errors here in the sense that we know when the spring peak happened and we don’t yet know when the winter peak will occur, or if it has already in some areas. Further, the date selections are arbitrary choices based on the available data, so they may not be directly comparable time series. Nevertheless, observing trends is instructive and does allow us to comment on whether we are in a worse situation now.

The immediately obvious observation is that there has been a recent rapid rise in admissions, particularly in London and the South East. The South East and East of England are currently treating significantly more Covid inpatients than in the spring, while most other areas are on a par with the spring as of the end of December.

The London inpatient figures, which show the most dramatic rise in the last week, are shown in Graph 2. While on a rising trend, the spring peak has not been exceeded as of December 28th. It is still debatable what has caused the sudden acceleration in cases. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the new variant is spreading faster in London, the South East and the East of England than in other areas, but there is insufficient evidence as yet to show causation. A paper published today by NERVTAG contains interesting data suggesting that the “new strain” VOC 202012/01 may be more contagious than the previously established variant. Luckily, the data so far also suggest there is a lower hospitalisation rate with the new variant (0.9% vs 1.5%), but this difference did not achieve statistical significance in view of the limited sample size. We await further analysis with interest.

The London ICU figures show a marked reduction on the spring figures (Graph 3), with current Covid ICU bed occupancy about 50% of the spring peak. Notably, the total available number of ICU beds in the capital is also considerably higher than in the spring, so expressed as a percentage of currently available beds, Covid patients probably account for 30% of the total. Finally, the ratio of Covid inpatients to Covid ICU patients has also changed from the spring. In April, approximately 20% of patients admitted to hospital with acute Covid ended up in ICU. So far this winter, that percentage has fallen to around 13%. So, there may be more patients ending up in hospital, but it appears that either they are proportionately less sick than in the spring, or that the early use of high dose steroids and anticoagulants has a significant beneficial effect on disease progression. Discharge data is not available until the monthly summary on January 14th, which is a shame as this is a useful marker of overall disease stress. Comparison with the recent past suggests that ICU bed occupancy as of December 20th was lower than the average of the previous three years across all English regions and this does not take into account expanded surge capacity in 2020.

Looking at more detailed comparisons from individual hospitals in London, the difference between the spring and the winter so far is clear (Graph 4). Again, it must be borne in mind that we don’t know when the winter peak will arrive, so these are not direct comparisons and the data on Graph 4 only goes up to December 22nd. That said, it is obvious that with the exception of two District General Hospitals (Lewisham in the South East and Barking in the North East sector), London hospitals are nowhere near the spring peak – and these selected units are currently the most hard pressed in the capital. There is no question that things are difficult in some London hospitals right now and things may very well get more difficult before they improve. Nevertheless, the published figures do not support the assertion that the overall situation is as bad as the spring to date.

Graph 5 shows the ONS Death registration data for this year up to Week 50 (w/e December 11th) for deaths where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate. The difference between the spring and the winter is starkly apparent. Readers should bear in mind that there is a lag between the time of a death and its appearance in the statistics, so it is very possible that the numbers for weeks 51, 52 and the initial weeks of 2021 may yet rise, but it’s hard to see how the spring death peak of 2020 will be exceeded in the immediate future. I also observe that the Vallance/Whitty prediction of 4,000 deaths per day (28,000 per week), has not so far materialised.

I should also draw attention to the fact that Covid deaths in patients younger than 65 are too insignificant to be visible on the graph. The vast majority of Covid deaths are in the over-75 age group, and the vast majority of this section of the population have significant pre-existing comorbidities. Readers may wish to remember that the next time Hancock or Gove pronounce on the media that the virus is equally dangerous to all citizens – it clearly isn’t.

So, to what extent is the winter comparable to the spring?

The data above show that the total number of patients in hospital with Covid as the principle diagnosis is approaching the spring peak in some areas, but not all. The percentage of very sick patients needing ICU care is significantly lower than in the spring, so the overall burden of disease in terms of medical and nursing intensity is also lower. This situation may of course deteriorate in the coming weeks, but most hospitals are still managing to provide elective care despite the winter pressures, which is a good indicator that overall stress in the system is still substantially lower than in the spring. On the other hand, although the intensity of care per patient is lower, the organisational friction is substantially higher due to restrictions on cohorting of patients and moving patients around. This adds to the stress on staff who are already tired and demoralised by the constant demands of managers to hit ever more onerous targets.

Apart from the numerical differences visible in the above graphs, there are many organisational disparities between April and December. In the spring, the Covid pandemic hit a completely unprepared health system. Despite a ‘global pandemic’ being at the top of Public Health England’s risk register, there was no warning, no preparation, no effective testing system and no PPE for healthcare workers. Little was known about the disease or how best to treat it. High dose steroids, anti-coagulants and non-invasive ventilation were all unproven and used sporadically. It’s difficult to imagine a worse possible alignment of events such as happened in the spring. Despite that the system did not fail, nor was it ever overwhelmed. There was no “national catastrophe”.

The winter is significantly different to the spring. Most obviously, a winter surge cannot be regarded as a surprise. A casual review of newspaper headlines from any winter in the last 20 years will show the effect of seasonal respiratory disorders on the NHS – a ‘winter beds crisis’ is as much a traditional annual fixture as Christmas Day itself.

So quite clearly, a winter resurgence has been a known risk since May. Many preparations have been made – adequate PPE is available. We have many more ventilators, monitors and CPAP capacity than we did earlier in the year. However, the critical capacity gap in the spring was not equipment – it was suitably trained and experienced staff.

There have been six months to train extra ICU nurses to treat a known disease process. Six months to upskill already trained staff to enhance their capabilities and confidence. Six months to plan redeployment of staff from other duties to Covid wards. Six months to run tabletop exercises, to practice organisational and logistics drills, to stress test contingency plans in the event of predictable problems such as rising staff sickness rates. Six months to expand overall surge capacity. Six months to plan rest and support for our most exposed people, so they are psychologically ready for the winter upsurge.

Surely, our NHS cannot be as poorly prepared for winter Covid as it was in the spring? Surely, with six months to prepare, our experienced NHS managers must be confident in their ability to cope with a predictable risk without the system being ‘overwhelmed’?

Surely, after six months of preparation, the British public has a right to expect that our healthcare system should be in a position to manage winter pressures without constant advocacy of intensified national lockdowns and catastrophic shroud waving in the press from senior Government advisers.

Or maybe not.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Eyes Without a Face” by Billy Idol, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Forgive Our Foolish Ways” sung by The Choir of King’s College Cambridge, “Wake Me Up When It’s All Over” by Aay Zee, “Tyranny 20” by Kit Sebastian and “Let my People Go-Go” by The Rainmakers.

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 as well as post comments below the line, 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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the Taking the Initiative Party and their plans to socially ostracise all who fall foul of the PC thought police. Report from MailOnline.

A leader of a new political party inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement has called for a “race offenders’ register” that would see people barred from jobs based on having been accused of “micro-aggressions” in the workplace.

Sasha Johnson, the self-styled “Black Panther of Oxford”, came to prominence as an organiser of the BLM protests earlier this year, where she was seen addressing crowds while wearing camouflage trousers, a black beret and a stab-proof-style vest.

The 26 year-old, from the Taking the Initiative Party (TTIP) said the racial offenders list would be “similar” to the sex offenders’ register – which is used to bar paedophiles from professions like teaching.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she also called for “Holocaust-style” reparations for black people on the basis that capitalism racially discriminates against them, and called for the “defunding” of Britain’s police forces.

The Oxford Brookes graduate also attacked ethnic minority politicians such as Labour MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbott, saying “as black people… they have been tokenistic”.

Ms Johnson, who is a TTIP executive committee member in charge of activism, said TTIP was “not just a party for black people” and would also represent the working class.

The party operates a system of “coalition leadership” so there is no one specific person in charge and different spokesmen sometimes air views that contradict the official party line. 

Outlining the party’s manifesto in her first interview with a national publication, she called for a national register of alleged racists that would ban them from living near people from ethnic minorities.

This would include people guilty of “micro-aggressions”, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group”.

“It’s similar to the sex offenders register,” she told MailOnline. “If you were to be racially abusive to someone, [the register] would question whether someone is fit enough to hold a particular job where their bias could influence another person’s life.

“A lot of racism happens at work and places of education in a micro-aggressive way. If you exhibit an element of bias at work, you should probably receive a warning first [before later being added to the register] so people know in future that you hold these views.”

Ms Johnson said inclusion on the list would mean you could be excluded from “certain fields” of employment – or even banned from living near people from ethnic minorities.

“If you live in a majority-coloured neighbourhood you shouldn’t reside there because you’re a risk to those people – just like if a sex offender lived next to a school he would be a risk to those children,” she said.

Ms Johnson acknowledged that the idea came as a contribution from Black Lives Matter, and it was presented to TTIP at a party conference where BLM representatives were present.

While the party does not provide a list of specific offences which would warrant inclusion on the register, its manifesto does state that anyone merely “accused” of an offence would be added, as well as anyone “charged” with a race crime.

The Taking the Initiative Party was formed in summer in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Worth reading in full.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road.

The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. 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 and Runnymede Trust’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.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

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.)

And Finally…

This ad for Alaskan Airlines, promoting draconian lockdown policies with happy, smiley faces, feels like a parody – what authoritarian propaganda would look like if America was a Communist country. But it’s real (we think). Breathtakingly awful.

Latest News

Gove: Primary School Children and Years 11 and 13 Will Return to School Next Week, But as For the Rest…

Michael Gove said on the Today programme yesterday that primary schools, along with Year 11s and Year 13s in secondaries, would return to school in the first week of January, although he stopped short of saying other year groups would return later in the month and stressed that this was the Government’s intention, not a cast-iron guarantee. BBC News has more.

“It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible,” he said.

He said that prioritising children’s attendance in school was “the right thing to do” but he acknowledged concerns about the new variant, which scientists believe may be more transmissible.

“We have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant,” Mr Gove said.

“We are confident that we will be able to get schools back in good order. Our plan and our timetable is there, and we are working with teachers to deliver it.”

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast the safe return to school would be built on an effective testing system, with teachers working “incredibly hard” to implement it.

However, it’s not all good news, with the Cabinet Office Minister stressing that re-opening schools involved “trade offs”, i.e. other restrictions would need to be ramped up to compensate.

MailOnline was unimpressed by the announcement.

SAGE scientists have urged Boris Johnson to impose an even tougher third national lockdown including keeping all schools closed throughout January to curb the new mutant coronavirus strain – consigning millions of children to sub-standard online classes for at least a month, it was revealed today.

Michael Gove said today that only children in years 11 and 13, and those with key worker parents, will go to school from Monday – with only primary schools expected to open as usual.

But he has also sparked fears that secondary schools could remain closed for longer than a week after admitting the plan to reopen them all on January 11th is already “under review” amid rumours that students in Tier 4 could be at home until the mid-February half-term.

Worth reading in full.

How Persuasive is the SAGE Argument for Closing Schools?

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on June 25th

According to the Guardian, the Government is split over the issue of whether to re-open secondary schools in full in January, with some ministers proving susceptible to lobbying by SAGE’s lockdown zealots.

Government deliberations are expected to be influenced by two preprint studies that suggest closing schools is inevitable, including an analysis from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers who modelled the impact of the fast-spreading UK variant of Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.

They found that the only scenario that reduced the peak intensive care burden below the levels of the first wave was to impose the Tier 4 system across England after Boxing Day and close schools until the end of January, as well as vaccinating two million people a week.

“If our parameter estimates are correct… it seems like [Tier 4] alone isn’t enough, so something else might need to be done on top of that. And we’ve looked at school closures because that’s sort of the next obvious thing to do on top of those restrictions,” said the lead researcher, Dr Nick Davies, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which feeds into Sage.

Susan Michie, a Professor of Health Psychology at University College London and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavioural Science, a SAGE subcommittee, said emerging data suggested transmission rates were going up everywhere, hospitals were being overwhelmed and thus the only way forward was a national lockdown, including the closure of schools.

The paper referred to by the Guardian has been produced by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and can be read here. The same paper also forms the basis for an alarming headline in a Telegraph piece by Paul Nuki: “Why ministers must ramp up Covid vaccination to 2m a week or face a devastating third wave.

But if you read the paper, the argument for closing schools in January (all schools, not just secondaries, and universities too) isn’t straightforward.

Let’s suppose the two critical assumptions these boffins make are right: (a) the new Covid variant (VOC 202012/01) is significantly more transmissible than preexisting variants; and (b) children are more susceptible. As with the modelling Neil Ferguson presented to NERVTAG earlier this month, the “evidence” for (a) and (b) is that when these researchers create a range of different epidemiological models to explain the recent rise in daily cases, the models into which they plug these assumptions are a better fit with the data than the models into which they plug other assumptions. But, of course, they only consider a very limited number of alternative explanations – greater mobility in London, the South East and the East of England, for instance – so this is a pretty clumsy application of Occam’s Razor.

Nonetheless, let’s park those reservations for a moment and suppose this group of mathematicians are right about the causes of the rise in daily cases. That still doesn’t mean we should close all schools (and universities) in January. Why? Because one of the assumptions the modellers make is that the three NHS regions which haven’t yet seen an uptick in infections – the South West, the Midlands, the North West and the North East and Yorkshire – are 30 days behind the three that have – London, the South East and the East of England. Consequently, if you allow schools (and universities) to reopen in January, the pressure on the NHS as a whole will be lower than if you delay reopening them until February. Better, surely, if the NHS is forced to cope with hospital admissions peaking first in three regions, then in the other four, than in all seven simultaneously?

The authors of the paper acknowledge this in Table 1 on p.10, reproduced below.

As you can see, peak ICU occupancy in 2021 is projected to be 113% of peak ICU occupancy in March/April of this year if schools reopen in January, and 114% if they remain closed. Similarly, the number of ICU beds occupied by Covid patients when infections peak in 2021 is projected to be 3,310 if schools reopen, but 3,360 if they remain closed.

In other words, even the SAGE lockdown zealots grudgingly acknowledge that delaying the reopening of schools (and universities) by a month will put more pressure on the NHS than if you reopen them in January.

Stop Press: Teachers will be added to the priority list when the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved next week. There are fewer than half a million teachers in England. Problem solved, surely?

Nightingales Still Empty

Matt Hancock marvels at his handiwork in London’s ExCel Centre

The Telegraph has a good story in today’s paper about the scandal of the empty Nightingales.

They were opened with great fanfare at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic – vast new facilities designed to save the NHS.

But as the UK is gripped by a second wave of Covid, the £220 million Nightingale hospitals lie empty, with medics warning that, even if they are needed, they do not have the staff to open them.

On Monday, the hospital in London’s Excel centre not only had no patients, it is understood to have been stripped, with beds and ventilators missing. Barriers protecting the facility had been removed, partition boards which separated beds were stacked outside and signs directing ambulances lay on the floor.

A single security guard watched the door, while nearby residents said that they had seen oxygen tanks, previously under 24 hour guard, being removed in November.

A contractor who helped supply and set up the facility told the Telegraph it was “disgusting” that it had been dismantled and a colleague, who was working at the site two weeks ago, said the facilities inside had been “ripped out”.

Meanwhile, the Nightingale at Birmingham’s NEC and the one in Sunderland are also empty but on standby, while Manchester’s is open for “non-Covid care”, with that at Harrogate being used as a “specialist diagnostics centre” and Bristol’s deployed for “local NHS services”.

Birmingham’s Nightingale can be opened in 72 hours if needed, it has been claimed. But Ian Sharp, the clinical lead for elective care at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), said that, with hospitals in the region full, “taking staff out of those organisations to open what is effectively a field hospital fills many of us with dread” and was therefore being treated as a “last resort”.

If it really is impossible to staff the Nightingales – and that’s the reason they’ve been largely unused – why didn’t the Department for Health anticipate that before committing £220 million to building them? Did Matt Hancock just commission them without a thought as to how they’d be staffed? One for the public inquiry.

Stop Press: Perhaps the reason the Nightingales haven’t opened is because the NHS doesn’t need the extra critical care capacity. See the below graph from the Spectator comparing ICU occupancy on Dec 20th with the the three-year average for December.

The Great Preset

Klaus Schwab, the evil Mega-Mind behind the Great Reset

James Alexander, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey, has written a follow-up piece to Cockupspiracy, which Lockdown Sceptics published earlier this month. In this one, he develops the idea that the political situation we find ourselves in is neither cock up nor conspiracy, but something in between. It was made possible by what he calls “the Great Preset”. Here’s an extract:

There is something which has to be said immediately about conspiracy in relation to the current crisis. The current crisis is the twisting of an apparent crisis caused by the disease COVID-19 into a real crisis by the political response which I have called Polis-20. The crisis is a consequence of an unusually intense attempt to combine scientific and political imperatives, as mediated by an agitated press. It is difficult to know how to frame a causal explanation: whether to blame scientists or politicians or those who mediate scientific and political claims and hence sanction them and harden them into public opinion. But we can avoid ascribing exact blame by saying that policy has infected scientific claims just as scientific models have infected political claims. The word ‘infected’ is of course a metaphor, derived from viruses. It should be obvious why it comes to mind.

At every point it is possible to ascribe blame to conspiracy or cock-up, though I prefer cockupspiracy, the view that in any human activity there is no simple competence or incompetence but a thousand combinations of competence and incompetence. In this case, what I think we have seen, since politicians and scientists and the media have been so eager to form an alliance against the people, is that the incompetence of the handling of matters has at every point ratcheted up the despotic tendency of the policies initially supposed to have been legitimated by the competent handling of matters.

Though I suggest that it is wiser to allege cockupspiracy than either conspiracy or cock-up, I think that it is important to say the following. What has happened in 2020 all over the world, in terms of the imposition of a deliberately despotic policy of masks, distancing and lockdown, is so significant that even if it is not a conspiracy (and I am saying it is not) it is on such a scale that we are certainly not wrong to consider it as if it is a conspiracy. The scale of the imposition of controls by states over citizens is so unparalleled outside of conditions of war or revolution that finding of fault is an inevitability, ascription of blame a necessity, resentment a duty. This is because even if through thoughtlessness or local self-interest someone perpetuates the current policies they are guilty of perpetuating one of the most dangerous tendencies of policy I have ever seen in all my years of reading history.

Even if we do not believe in the conspiracy of the World Economic Forum or the Trilateral Commission, I think we should be as vigilant as if there is a conspiracy. One way of being vigilant is to pay some attention to history. Politicians and scientists rarely know much about the great traditions of politics in the West. And I think we can discern in that history some useful suggestions for making sense of our current situation. In particular, I think attention ought to be drawn to what I am going to call the Great Preset.

The Great Reset seeks a world government of extreme competence. If not a conspiracy, it certainly is the desire to have one.

The Great Preset is not an aspiration. It is the world we live in. It is not yet a world of world government. It is a world of states.

Worth reading in full.

When Boris Was a Braver Man

A reader has sent in quite a jolly poem. For understandable reasons, he wishes to remain anonymous. “Just credit it to Wise Doggerel,” he suggested.

When Boris was a braver man,
He faced down Project Fear.
We need the same for COVID now;
From others we should hear.

Try Heneghan, not Vallance, please,
Clare Craig not JVT,
Mike Yeadon over Ferguson,
And see where we could be.

It’s not like there’s no Covid now.
The places spared in Spring
Have suffered in the Autumn gloom.
And yes, it’s still a thing.

But dig down deep and what d’you see?
The 111 calls flat,
Emergency admissions too,
And excess deaths at that.

A plague of “cases” stalks the land:
Disease misdiagnosed.
Our Christmases were ruined and
The little shops are closed.

Please heed the voice of common sense:
Dear Boris, hear our plea –
Be done with tiers, allay our fears,
And set this country free!

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “Climbing Up the Walls” by Radiohead and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” by Maurice Chevalier.

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 as well as post comments below the line, 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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the list of naughty words proscribed by the University of Michigan.

If any readers feel like composing a paragraph or two using as many of the proscribed words as possible, we’ll happily publish the best ones.

Stop Press: Joshua Katz, a Classics Professor at Princeton, has written a piece for Spectator USA about the recent woke nonsense at Dalton School, his alma mater.

Stop Press 2: A high school student in Nevada is suing her school over the “coercive, ideological indoctrination” that is central to its Critical Race Theory-based curriculum that forces students to associate aspects of their identity with oppression.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here.

Stop Press: A reader has emailed me to ask why it is that the “Focused Protection” proposed by the authors of the GBD is so often dismissed as far too difficult to achieve?

I am puzzled by the typical pushback against the ideas in the Great Barrington Declaration – that we should protect the elderly and vulnerable while the rest get on with life and supporting the economy.

I read arguments such as “it isn’t practical”, “some communities have older folk living with them”, and “school kids are sometimes looked after by grandparents”. This leaves two questions.

The first question is what proportion of the population would find it totally impractical to protect their elderly relatives while life goes on as normal? If, as I suspect, it is a relatively small proportion then why are we not looking for ways to do so to let the majority out of lockdown?

The second question concerns how we would achieve this. I don’t know the answer, but I look around me and see vaccines developed in a very short time; I see innovations in technology; I see Nightingale hospitals up and running in a few weeks; I see, or saw because I am of that age, man land on the moon.

So why is the Great Barrington idea dismissed out of hand as too hard so we won’t even bother to try?

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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

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.)

And Finally…

In this week’s ⁦episode of London Calling⁩, ⁦James Delingpole⁩ and I manage to stay off the subject of the Great Reset – mostly – and instead talk about our best Christmas presents, Boris’s Brexit deal and Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell’s cracking historical novel. Listen here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

ICU Occupancy in English Hospitals No Higher Than Last December

This is stock photo, not a photo of an empty ICU ward in an English hospital

The media is full of alarming reports of NHS hospitals being on the brink of armageddon, such is the surge in coronavirus patients. “As we head into the new year we are seeing a real rise in the pressure on NHS services, particularly across London and the south-east,” Saffron Cordery, the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers told the Guardian.

A letter from NHS chiefs sent to the chief executives of all NHS trust and foundation trusts on December 23rd contained this alarming paragraph:

With COVID-19 inpatient numbers rising in almost all parts of the country, and the new risk presented by the variant strain of the virus, you should continue to plan on the basis that we will remain in a level 4 incident for at least the rest of this financial year and NHS trusts should continue to safely mobilise all of their available surge capacity over the coming weeks. This should include maximising use of the independent sector, providing mutual aid, making use of specialist hospitals and hubs to protect urgent cancer and elective activity and planning for use of funded additional facilities such as the Nightingale hospitals, Seacole services and other community capacity. Timely and safe discharge should be prioritised, including making full use of hospices. Support for staff over this period will need to remain at the heart of our response, particularly as flexible redeployment may again be required.

And the Independent reports that the London Ambulance Service has issued a warning saying it can no longer guarantee an ambulance will turn up if women giving birth at home require emergency care.

Sounds like a major crisis, right? Better move the rest of England into Tier 4, make mask-wearing mandatory in all settings and close schools until Easter.

Or is it?

If you look at ICU occupancy in NHS hospitals across England on December 20th it was lower than the December average in 2019 in most of the country – and it’s worth remembering that the 2019-20 flu season was unusually mild.

Admittedly, the total number of ICU beds occupied in London on Dec 20th was quite a bit higher than the average for December 2019, but according to the ZOE app daily symptomatic cases in London are falling. The ZOE data in the graph below shows rising and falling daily symptomatic cases up to December 27th.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are more ICU beds this year than last year, so if you calculate the percentage of ICU beds occupied in NHS hospitals across England and compare that to the average percentage in December 2019 the picture looks even less bleak. In every region, including London, the percentage of ICU beds occupied at the moment is lower than it was this time last year.

East:
Dec 2019 average: 76.3%
On Dec 20th 2020: 74.0%

London:
Dec 2019 average: 88.7%
On Dec 20th 2020: 86.3%

Midlands:
Dec 2019 average: 82.2%
On Dec 20th 2020: 67.0%

North East and Yorkshire:
Dec 2019 average: 78.4%
On Dec 20th 2020: 69.8%

North West:
Dec 2019 average: 82.6%
On Dec 20th 2020: 68.7%

South East:
Dec 2019 average: 83.7%
On Dec 20th 2020: 75.4%

South West:
Dec 2019 average: 79.5%
On Dec 20th 2020: 73.3%

I’m not suggesting that NHS hospitals aren’t under pressure – nor even that they aren’t under more pressure than they were this time last year. But the issue isn’t a lack of ICU beds and it doesn’t appear to be a surging number of patients admitted to ICU beds with COVID-19. After all, if those numbers were surging on top of the usual December admissions for respiratory diseases you’d expect the total number of ICU beds occupied to be much higher this year than last and, as you can see from the Spectator data, the totals are lower in four of England’s seven NHS regions.

The reason for the crisis – if indeed there is a crisis – must lie elsewhere.

My money’s on a combination of higher-than-average staff absences and poor management. Disappointing, considering the NHS has had over six months to prepare for this “crisis”.

Lockdowns Pose Greatest Threat to Mental Health Since Second World War

According to the country’s leading psychiatrist, the ongoing restrictions pose the greatest threat to mental health since the Second World War. The Guardian has more.

Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a combination of the disease, its social consequences and the economic fallout were having a profound effect on mental health that would continue long after the epidemic is reined in.

As many as 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are thought to need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the crisis.

“This is going to have a profound effect on mental health,” James said. “It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.”

Demand for mental health services dropped at the start of the pandemic as people stayed away from GP surgeries and hospitals, or thought treatment was unavailable. But the dip was followed by a surge in people seeking help that shows no sign of abating.

Data from NHS Digital reveals that the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher, and some hospital trusts report that their mental health wards are at capacity. “The whole system is clearly under pressure,” James said.

Modelling by the Centre for Mental Health forecasts that as many as 10 million people will need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the coronavirus epidemic. About 1.3 million people who have not had mental health problems before are expected to need treatment for moderate to severe anxiety, and 1.8 million treatment for moderate to severe depression, it found.

The overall figure includes 1.5 million children at risk of anxiety and depression brought about or aggravated by social isolation, quarantine or the hospitalisation or death of family members. The numbers may rise as the full impact becomes clear on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, care homes and people with disabilities.

Worth reading in full.

Conservative MPs Urge Boris to Keep Schools Open

A number of Conservative MPs have pleaded with Boris not to close schools in January even if it increases the R number. Camilla Turner in today’s Telegraph has more.

Their intervention comes ahead of crunch talks due to take place today between Number 10 and Department for Education officials about whether to delay the return to the classroom in January.

Downing Street has repeatedly said that keeping schools open is a “national priority” but scientists are warning that closures may be necessary to slow the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG ), which advises the Government, has said that the new variant of the virus may spread far more effectively in children than the original strain.

They said that might explain why the rate of the virus continued to increase in some areas during the second lockdown, when schools were open but more adults stayed at home.

Prof Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist who became known as “Professor Lockdown” due to his instrumental role in pressing the Government into the first lockdown in March, has raised similar concerns.

He said data so far suggested that the new variant “has a higher propensity to infect children” with “statistically significantly higher” rates found among under-15s compared with those of the standard virus.

But Conservative MPs have told the Prime Minister that schools must be kept open even if it means a rise in the R number. “The view of most Tory MPs is that schools do need to stay open,” one backbencher said.

“It is the health people who are saying ‘oh gosh, the hospitals will be full’. We know that schools being open does increase the R rate. The question is, is that a price we are willing to pay and in my view it should be. Frankly, children don’t get harmed so why on earth should we punish them?”

Another senior Tory MP said it is regrettable that closing schools is now “on the table” but added that many MPs would oppose this.

“Until the Chief Medical Officer gets up and says ‘this is a disaster if we keep schools open because the new strain will threaten parents’, then fine, even I would accept that,” he said.

He added that “Professor Lockdown” is a “fanatic who wants to shut down everything” adding: “I think it’s absolutely wrong for him to start scaring parents and children without actually having the scientific evidence.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In the US, school administrators are rethinking quarantine rules, according to the Wall St Journal.

Ten More Reasons to be Anti-Lockdown

An anti-lockdown protest in Queen’s Park on April 25th

A reader has sent us a good piece setting out 10 reasons to be opposed to lockdowns which we’re publishing today. Here are the first three:

The research: While those who oppose lockdowns have rigorously sought to justify their position with research – and can reference tens of studies as to the lack of efficacy of lockdowns (or stringent measures under different names) – the Government has been capable only of publishing one graph in their cost-benefit analysis of the tiers which appeared to show a correlation between Tier 3 measures and a reduction in cases (since discredited).

The use of data: While those who oppose lockdowns have analysed all data in as close to real time as possible, the ‘data’ used to justify lockdowns have been cherry-picked and often predictive, while being based on spurious assumptions that have repeatedly been proved inaccurate.

The source and balance of information: While those who oppose lockdowns possess no bias in obtaining their information, the Government is informed on the risks by a number of committees (SAGE NERVTAG, SPI-M) whose sole responsibility is to consider the virus and present the risks of that virus.

Then there’s my favourite, number 9:

Censorship and debate: While those who oppose lockdowns are constantly appealing for open debate and free speech, the Government avoids open debate, seeking instead to censor dissenting voices. Further, as there is a push to censor any “misinformation”, one can quite easily conclude that the mass of information available, and uncensored, from dissenting voices must therefore be much closer to irrefutable having had to pass a much higher standard in order to simply be available.

Worth reading in full.

BBC’s Alarmist Report on Fake News Contains Fake News

A report by the BBC’s “disinformation reporter” raises the alarm about the dangers of fake news. According to Marianna Spring, the “flurry of online falsehoods about coronavirus” are “destroying relationships and endangering lives”.

But what sort of deadly misinformation is the reporter talking about? Scroll down and you find this paragraph:

We catalogued mass poisonings and overdoses of hydroxychloroquine – a drug that world leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro falsely claimed cures or prevents COVID-19.

Hang on a second. The claim that HCQ cures or prevents COVID-19 is false?

I’m afraid that doesn’t pass the fact-checking test, Ms Spring. Over 200 studies have shown HCQ is an effective treatment for Covid. Trump and Bolsonaro may have exaggerated the preventative and curative properties of HCQ, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective and anyone taking it is likely to poison themselves. On the contrary, it’s almost certainly no more dangerous than any of the Covid vaccines.

Stop Press: David Goodhart wrote an excellent piece for the Telegraph yesterday about the moment he lost his faith in television news.

I believe it was on Monday April 20th that it struck me most forcefully: that day, a grim milestone was reached, with 100 health and social care workers reported to have died from COVID-19 – and I was witnessing a national panic. I realised then that we can no longer do television news for grown-ups.

For the preceding three weeks, I had been watching the same thing every night on the BBC Ten O’Clock News: here is a shocking statistic about Covid, here’s someone who died, here’s a sobbing relative or frontline hero telling you to stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS.

The coverage was relentlessly emotional and infantilising, lacking explanation and context. Was the 100-plus NHS staff deaths from Covid a lot, or a little? There are 600,000 patient-facing staff in the NHS, so a few probably die from infections they catch from patients every month in normal times. Was 100 deaths since the start of the crisis, about a month earlier, twice the normal rate or 50 times? How did it compare to other countries?

Not a word. In Britain, we are supposed to be good at media. And no doubt in some niches we still are. But at the start of the crisis, our main channels of electronic communication became showcases for our contemporary vices: emotionalism, virtue-signalling and a querulously adolescent attitude to authority.

At the same time, I was keeping an eye on the main TV bulletins in Germany and France and while, reassuringly, they were having exactly the same debates as us about inadequate PPE supplies and the disease ravaging old peoples’ homes, the news seemed to be delivered with more rigour and authority and without the British reflex of blaming the Government for everything that was going wrong.

Worth reading in full.

Is Public Opinion Finally Beginning to Turn Against Lockdowns?

Hancock keeps selling, but fewer people are buying

According to a poll in yesterday’s Sunday Express, millions of Britons want the Tiers to be scrapped.

With much of Britain stuck in Tier 4 rules, an exclusive survey for the Sunday Express showed more than half of people do not want to wait for the whole ­population to be vaccinated. The One Poll survey revealed one in five people (21%) want the tiers to be ended when MPs have the chance to vote on them at the end of January. Three in 10 believe that ­restrictions should end when all the over-60s and people in ­vulnerable groups have had the chance to have the vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have suggested restrictions should remain for most of next year until the whole population has had the chance to have the vaccine.

However, only 32% of the 1,013 people, surveyed in the week before Christmas, support this position which some MPs have already branded extreme.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey, the founder of the ­powerful Blue Collar Conservatism movement of more than 120 Tory MPs, said that the poll shows the Prime Minister cannot keep forcing restrictions on an unwilling country.

She said: “As on every issue the public are way ahead of ­politicians. We cannot keep these restrictions and lockdowns in ­perpetuity and the Government needs to take heed and ensure a new strategy is developed ASAP which returns our freedoms and allows the economy to reopen.”

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Fear” by Pulp, “Stuck in a Bubble” by George Alice and NASAYA, “Going Out of My Head” by Dodie West and “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley.

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 as well as post comments below the line, 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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the tragic story of a young American girl who lost her college place when a vengeful classmate released an embarrassing SnapChat video she’d posted when she was 15 in which she used a racial epithet. The New York Times has more.

Jimmy Galligan was in history class last school year when his phone buzzed with a message. Once he clicked on it, he found a three-second video of a white classmate looking into the camera and uttering an anti-Black racial slur.

The slur, he said, was regularly hurled in classrooms and hallways throughout his years in the Loudoun County school district. He had brought the issue up to teachers and administrators but, much to his anger and frustration, his complaints had gone nowhere.

So he held on to the video, which was sent to him by a friend, and made a decision that would ricochet across Leesburg, Va., a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee and whose school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.

“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur, Mimi Groves. He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right.

Ms. Groves had originally sent the video, in which she looked into the camera and said, “I can drive,” followed by the slur, to a friend on Snapchat in 2016, when she was a freshman and had just gotten her learner’s permit. It later circulated among some students at Heritage High School, which she and Mr. Galligan attended, but did not cause much of a stir.

Mr. Galligan had not seen the video before receiving it last school year, when he and Ms. Groves were seniors. By then, she was a varsity cheer captain who dreamed of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, whose cheer team was the reigning national champion. When she made the team in May, her parents celebrated with a cake and orange balloons, the university’s official colour.

The next month, as protests were sweeping the nation after the police killing of George Floyd, Ms. Groves, in a public Instagram post, urged people to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” responded someone whom Ms. Groves said she did not know.

Her alarm at the stranger’s comment turned to panic as friends began calling, directing her to the source of a brewing social media furor. Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer.

By that June evening, about a week after Mr. Floyd’s killing, teenagers across the country had begun leveraging social media to call out their peers for racist behavior. Some students set up anonymous pages on Instagram devoted to holding classmates accountable, including in Loudoun County.

The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. Groves was removed from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.

This is an appalling story, revealing just how petty and spiteful the woke can be. Worth reading in full – although bear in mind that the New York Times calls what happened to this teenage girl “a reckoning”, as though she got her just deserts. Chilling.

Stop Press: Rakib Ehsan in the Telegraph says he hopes we can ditch the concept of “white privilege” in 2021

Stop Press 2: In the latest twist in the free speech scandal at Eton, the Telegraph‘s Camilla Turner reveals the Head Master referred English teacher Will Knowland to the Local Authority because of his concerns that his lecture challenging radical feminist orthodoxy was a breach the Prevent Duty, as set out in the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: The constitutional court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared that the forced wearing of masks is a violation of basic human rights.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Stop Press: An Italian court has declared lockdowns illegal.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

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.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Happy Christmas

The third of three Christmas cartoons Bob Moran has done for Lockdown Sceptics

For the past three days we’ve published a pared down version of Lockdown Sceptics so we can have a bit of time off over Christmas. Cartoonist Bob Moran has very kindly given us three original cartoons which we’re running on consecutive days.

Happy Christmas to all our readers. Thanks for all your links, stories and suggestions, as well as your comments below the line and in the forums. Lockdown Sceptics is a collaboration between our small team, the writers who contribute original material, and the readers who post comments or send emails to us at lockdownsceptics@gmail.com. To date, we’ve had over 21,000 emails and we do our best to read them all.

Back in April, when I set up this blog, I imagined I’d be signing off about now. Turns out, that was naive. God knows when this madness will end, but at least there are some comforts in this digital camaraderie. Readers often get in touch to say Lockdown Sceptics has kept them sane. The feeling’s mutual.

Neil Ferguson: I was inspired by Communist China

Neil Ferguson seeking inspiration for the lockdown policy

Professor Lockdown gave an interview to yesterday’s Times in which he revealed that China’s lockdowns in January inspired him to push for more draconian measures in the UK than he had initially thought possible. Freddie Sayers in UnHerd has more.

Professor Neil Ferguson has given an extraordinary interview to Tom Whipple at The Times, in which he confirms the degree to which he believes that imitating China’s lockdown policies at the start of 2020 changed the parameters of what Western societies consider acceptable.

“I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March,” Professor Ferguson says. When SAGE observed the “innovative intervention” out of China, of locking entire communities down and not permitting them to leave their homes, they initially presumed it would not be an available option in a liberal Western democracy: “It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.”

He almost seems at pains to emphasise the Chinese derivation of the lockdown concept, returning to it later in the interview:

“These days, lockdown feels inevitable. It was, he reminds me, anything but. ‘If China had not done it,’ he says, ‘the year would have been very different.’”

To those people who, still now, object to lockdowns on civil liberties principles, this will be a chilling reminder of the centrality of the authoritarian Chinese model in influencing global policy in this historic year.

When lockdown critics like Dan Hannan claimed that the lockdown policies of Western governments were inspired by China’s illiberal response he was accused of political point-scoring. So it’s good to have it from the horse’s mouth.

Stop Press: A joint investigation by the New York Times and Politico has revealed the extent of China’s efforts to censor social media at the beginning of the pandemic, hoping to conceal its role in triggering the global crisis. Were the architects of the West’s lockdowns inspired by that policy too?

Stop Press 2: We’re publishing an original piece today entitled “When Did Scientists Turn Into Lobbyists?” about the ‘open letter’ that circulated in mid-March, supposedly by scientists (but mainly signed by mathematicians), urging the Government to go for a full lockdown. The author is an academic scientist who doesn’t want his name to be published.

Another Dodgy PCR Test Result

We get a lot of these stories at Lockdown Sceptics. As this reader says, whether you get a positive or a negative result from a PCR test is a bit of a coin toss.

Over Christmas, a family friend told me that he had recently been offered two tests – one for himself and one for his severely disabled son.

The son will not brush his own teeth without a fight, let alone accept a nasal swab, so our friend decided to take both tests himself. He took one test immediately after the other, and sent the tests off under the separate names.

Can you guess the results? One test was negative and the other test was positive! A 50:50 split from the same sample. Go figure.

Neither party had shown any symptoms of course. The son required a negative result to be allowed back into his special care facility after the holidays. Worryingly, it was ‘his’ test that was positive.

Our friend cannot work full time and/or look after his son 24/7 without specialist support, which has now been totally withdrawn for two weeks.

Not only is this PCR test completely arbitrary (it’s essentially a coin toss), it is actively putting vulnerable lives at risk.

We Fought the Law and the Law… Didn’t Win

A heart-warming Christmas story from a reader about how he and his family managed to celebrate in spite of all the restrictions.

Despite the insanity we managed to have a fairly normal Christmas with our family, who live 180 miles away, simply by ignoring all of it. We loaded up the car on Wednesday with dogs, presents and luggage and set out from our Welsh detention camp to my brother-in-law’s house in Suffolk. Once there we had dinner with them and their friends, spent Christmas Eve at our niece’s house and spent Christmas Day with the entire extended family. Meanwhile Suffolk was placed into Tier 4 but we returned home on Boxing Day with no sign of the police trying to enforce non-existent borders. I wonder if we are actually winning?

Stop Press: This reader’s behaviour was quite unusual. According to a Daily Mail poll, 85% of Britons complied with the rules.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “War on Freedom” by Killing Joke and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” by Merle Haggard.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the ‘Wokies’ – the 10 most egregious examples of corporations pandering to identity politics. Not our idea, but RT‘s. Here are numbers 10, nine and eight.

10. Boeing

Perhaps attempting to distract from the revelation that management knew about the shortcomings in the 737 MAX’s onboard computer that killed hundreds of passengers in two crashes within six months, Boeing was quick to embark on an internal witch hunt as Black Lives Matter took over the sociopolitical discourse this summer, wielding the big stick of cancel culture against its own employees. Communications chief Niel Golightly resigned after just six months with the company over a 33 year-old article he’d written arguing against women serving in the military. While he claimed the piece no longer reflected his views, it was nevertheless “embarrassingly wrong and offensive”, Golightly said – to applause from the CEO, who boasted about the company’s “unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions”.

Boeing’s planes may still be horrifically unsafe, but at least doomed passengers can die content that the airplane manufacturer has “zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind”.

9. SAS

Not to be outdone by the Americans, top Scandinavian airline SAS let its customers know in February that “nothing is truly Scandinavian”. Releasing a commercial claiming that cultural touchstones from Norway, Sweden and Denmark had actually come from elsewhere and declaring those countries’ residents were “no better than our Viking ancestors” in terms of (metaphorical) pillaging, the company seemed surprised when Scandinavians didn’t take kindly to being told they had no culture of their own. SAS ultimately removed the spot – though not before blaming the backlash on “right-wingers” and “hate groups”.

8. Penguin Random House

Publishing giant Penguin Random House in partnership with Barnes & Noble planned to celebrate Black History Month in February by changing the races of iconic literary characters for 12 re-released editions of young adult classics – confusing those they were trying to pander to (who asked why the publisher hadn’t just featured works written by actual black authors) and alienating others with the cheap stunt. At the eleventh hour, the “culturally diverse” book launch was shelved.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lewis Hamilton credits the “inspiration” provided by Black Lives Matter for his seventh Grand Prix win. I wonder how much of his £210 million fortune Hamilton will be allowed to keep if the “trained Marxists” who run BLM ever succeed in overthrowing the capitalist system?

Stop Press 2: Watch Tucker Carlson’s interview with Heather Mac Donald about how identity politics has destroyed the state of California.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: Austria’s constitutional court has ruled that compulsory mask wearing in schools is illegal, according to Agence France-Presse.

Stop Press 2: Baroness Nicholson tweeted a great video in which portraits of various famous Britons have been adapted so they’re all wearing masks. Not pretty.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent… It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science… Let us not be deceived by phrases about “Man taking charge of his own destiny.” All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others.

C.S. Lewis

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.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Happy Boxing Day!

The second of three Christmas cartoons Bob Moran has done for Lockdown Sceptics

For the three days over Christmas – starting yesterday – we’re publishing a pared down version of Lockdown Sceptics so we can have a bit of time off over Christmas. Cartoonist Bob Moran has very kindly given us three original cartoons which we’re running on consecutive days and, below them, we’re including a round-up, as well as an And Finally…, but little else.

Happy Christmas to all our readers. Thanks for all your links, stories and suggestions, as well as your comments below the line and in the forums. Lockdown Sceptics is really a collaboration between our small team, the writers who contribute original material, and the readers who post comments or email us at lockdownsceptics@gmail.com. To date, we’ve had over 21,000 emails and we do our best to read them all.

Back in April, when I set up this blog, I imagined I’d be signing off about now. Turns out, that was a bit naive. God knows when this madness will end, but at least there are some comforts in this digital camaraderie. Readers often get in touch to say Lockdown Sceptics has kept them sane. The feeling’s mutual.

Trouble Down Lab

The Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab has been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus, according to Sky News.

Positive cases have been reported in three of the four scientific teams at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory, as well as among administrative and warehouse staff at the site.

It is not known how many people have been affected by the outbreak, but around 20 people in one 70-person lab team are currently isolating, according to a worker at the laboratory who asked to remain anonymous.

The outbreak has placed considerable strain on the lab, which has been asked to process 70,000 tests a day in order to keep up with rising demand.

The source said that 47,000 were processed on Tuesday, adding: “No chance we’ll ever hit 70,000 a day the way we’re going.”

The lab worker also raised concerns about the safety of the lab, saying that rules put in place to keep staff safe were being broken in order to meet targets – a claim the Department of Health and Social Care denied.

Sky News understands the Lighthouse Lab is supposed to have a bubble system in place in order to keep staff separate, following a recommendation from the Health and Safety Executive, which visited the site recently.

Yet according to the source, the bubble system is not being respected with workers at the short-staffed lab being moved between groups, risking further cross-contamination.

The lab worker said there had also been mixing in the building’s lobbies and at the canteen.

Staff at the laboratory have been offered an unlimited number of tests and new staff are tested when they arrive.

The lab worker said that new recruits had been sitting in the canteen while they waited for their test results.

According to the lab worker, one new warehouse staff member received a positive test result after they had sat in the canteen during a period when a whole lab team had been in there for a break.

“The whole thing’s a joke,” they said.

Worth reading in full.

This outbreak won’t come as news to readers of Lockdown Sceptics. Last month we ran a piece by Lighthouse Lab whistleblower Dr Julian Harris flagging up health and safety breaches at the Milton Keynes facility.

Read that piece again here.

The Queen Lifts Our Spirits

No, she didn’t say that. In fact, this year’s Christmas message from the Queen was another triumph. Robert Hardman in today’s Daily Mail has more.

Even for the most experienced monarch in history, this was a tall order: how do you sum up the worst year in living memory without leaving the nation in floods of tears or reaching for the Off switch?

The only solution, therefore, was to accentuate the positives. And that is what the Queen did yesterday in an exceptionally upbeat Christmas message – one which also turned out to be the most multicultural of all time.

From beginning to end, here was a montage of warm-hearted or inspirational scenes, many of them illustrated by images from the Duchess of Cambridge’s Hold Still photography campaign. The only mournful moment consisted of the Queen herself paying homage at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

What began with the magnificent sight of the Band of the Household Cavalry playing the National Anthem on horseback outside St George’s Chapel concluded with the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir belting out one of the jauntiest numbers in their Christmas repertoire: “Joy To The World”.

Running through it all was the theme of selflessness, of what the Queen called ‘the kindness of strangers’.

Worth reading in full.

And in case you missed it, you can watch it again here.

A Hospital Worker Writes…

A hospital employee has sent us an email that contains an interesting detail about the PPE he and his colleagues are expected to wear.

I work at one of the main hospitals in Oxford, and the vast majority of the people that I work with just blindly believe everything they hear from the media. It’s so frustrating and annoying.

I along with everyone else who works at the hospital continued to work right through the peak of the pandemic (no social distancing, no face masks) with not so much as a sniffle.

I do know a couple of people who died during that time, whose deaths were almost certainly because of Covid. However, as you and others have pointed out, the vast majority of people either don’t know that they’ve had it, or, if they did have it, they lived to tell the tale. A few of my close work colleagues did have the virus, and the were knocked for six because of it, but they’re now back at work.

Anyway, aside from writing to you to say: thank you for all your hard work, I wanted to let you know if you didn’t already, that all of the masks, gloves and gowns that we are using and have been using for most of the pandemic come from… China 🇨🇳

Just thought how crazy it is that the very country where the virus came from is where so many millions of pounds of tax payers money is going to pay for the PPE.

As one of my Northern colleagues (who is also a fellow no masker) said, “They’re really rubbing our faces in it. Literally.”

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd, “Where’s the Revolution?” by Depeche Mode and “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by the Beastie Boys.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Alternatively, you could just promote the site in the way this enterprising reader has done: a decal in his front window.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the turn of June Sarpong, the BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity, who is interviewed in the Telegraph.

From humble beginnings, and via a career as a TV presenter, Sarpong, 43, has earned a place on the BBC executive board and the power to ring-fence £100 million of licence fee money for “diverse and inclusive content”.

When she was appointed in October 2019, diversity was a buzzword. A year later, it’s at the centre of the culture wars. Ms Sarpong has just released her third book, The Power of Privilege: How White People Can Challenge Racism.

White privilege is a hot button issue recently, and the women and equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, claimed it was a “dangerous trend” in race relations and said any school that teaches it as fact is breaking the law.

But Ms Sarpong is in no doubt that white privilege is a fact of life. “There is unfairness baked into our system,” she says, and while the “elite white male” is at the top of the tree, even the white working class has an advantage over people from black and Asian backgrounds.

To be fair to Sarpong, she says she supported the BBC’s reverse ferret on not singing “Rule Britannia” at this year’s Proms and claims not to know what the word “woke” means, which is quite endearing.

But there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a bit galling to be lectured on “privilege” by an ex-children’s television presenter who now earns £75,000 a year for working three days a week.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

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.)

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQO2YKfAlfk&feature=emb_logo

You may have seen this already, but if not you’re in for a treat. Translator Peter Prowse created a very funny skit about more and more consonants being banned as the tiers ratcheted up, and in this version two American listeners have recorded their reactions. Top satire from Prowse.

Latest News

Happy Christmas!

The first of three Christmas Bob Moran cartoons exclusive to Lockdown Sceptics

For the three days over Christmas – starting today – we’re publishing a pared down version of Lockdown Sceptics so we can have a bit of time off over Christmas. Cartoonist Bob Moran has very kindly given us three original cartoons which we’re running on consecutive days and, below them, we’re including a round-up, as well as an And Finally…, but little else.

Happy Christmas to all our readers. Thanks for all your links, stories and suggestions, as well as your comments below the line and in the forums. Lockdown Sceptics is really a collaboration between our small team, the commenters and the people who email us at lockdownsceptics@gmail.com – like Mitesh B. Karia, who sends us dozens of links to interesting articles every day. To date, we’ve had over 21,000 emails and we do our best to read every one.

Back in April, when Toby set up this blog, he imagined he’d be signing off about now. Turns out, that was a bit naive. God knows when this madness will end, but at least there are some comforts in this digital camaraderie. Readers often get in touch to say Lockdown Sceptics has kept them sane. The feeling’s mutual.

Is the London surge ending already?

From the ZOE Covid App report on December 24th

The percentage of London ZOE Covid app users reporting feeling unwell has plummeted in the last two days. A blip or sign of things to come?

And Stockholm, too?

Covid ICU admissions in Stockholm (where there’s still no lockdown) halved last week compared to the week before, according to official figures released yesterday. A Christmas reporting delay or the fizzling out of the autumn surge? Watch this space.

Round-up

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today,

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

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.)

And Finally…

Listen to Toby on the latest Quillette podcast talking about his start-up year at the Free Speech Union, his campaign against cancel culture and the fine line between journalism and activism. Well worth a listen.

Latest News

Happy Christmas!

For the next three days – starting tomorrow – I’ll be publishing a pared down version of Lockdown Sceptics so I can have a bit of time off over Christmas. Cartoonist Bob Moran has very kindly given me three original cartoons which I’m going to run on consecutive days and, below them, I’ll include a round-up, as well as an And Finally…, but little else.

Happy Christmas to all our readers. Thanks for all your links, stories and suggestions, as well as your comments below the line and in the forums. Lockdown Sceptics is really a collaboration between our small team, the commenters and the people who email us at lockdownsceptics@gmail.com – like Mitesh B. Karia, who sends us dozens of links to interesting articles every day. To date, we’ve had over 21,000 emails and we do our best to read every one.

Back in April, when I set up this blog, I imagined I’d be signing off about now. Turns out, that was a bit naive. God knows when this madness will end, but at least there are some comforts in this digital camaraderie. Readers often get in touch to say Lockdown Sceptics has kept them sane. The feeling’s mutual.

Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk join London and Kent in Tier 4

In a last-minute Christmas gift, Matt Hancock announced yesterday that West Sussex and those parts of East Sussex, Essex, Surrey and Hampshire not already in the top tier will enter Tier 4 from one minute after midnight on Boxing Day, along with Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. That’s 24 million people in total – 43% of England’s population. Not that other parts of the country have got off scot free. MailOnline has more.

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire will go from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as will Cheshire and Warrington.

And Cornwall and Herefordshire will enter Tier 2, meaning only the Isles of Scilly remains in the lowest Tier 1.

An extra 50,000 business premises, including non-essential retailers, hairdressers and gyms, will be forced to close, according to new data from real estate adviser Altus Group.

A total of 168,448 businesses are already closed in Tier 4 areas, according to the data.

Additionally, a second new strain linked to South African arrivals has been identified in the UK, and Mr Hancock said all flights from the nation had been halted.

However, there are fears that a new nationwide lockdown for England is inevitable in January – when children are due to return to school.

In spite of these increased restrictions, a third national lockdown in the New Year looks all but inevitable, with various SAGE members lobbying the Government via the media with that object in mind.

SAGE experts have repeated their calls for tougher action, with behavioural psychologist Professor Robert West warning the Government’s current curbs were unlikely to contain the spread of Covid.

He argued the UK needed to bolster social distancing rules and build a test, travel, isolate and support programme similar to ones used in East Asia.

And the Mail understands that Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned the Prime Minister that the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus is on course to match the April peak by New Year’s Eve – and will continue increasing in January.

Downing Street yesterday tried to play down suggestions that a third national lockdown was imminent, but Sir Patrick said the new strain, which is thought to spread up to 70% more easily, was already present ‘around the country’.

Worth reading in full.

More Evidence Lockdowns Don’t Work

According to an end-of-year report by Neil Ferguson et al, introducing the first national lockdown a week earlier than March 23rd would have saved 21,000 lives. But would it? As we’ve documented many times on Lockdown Sceptics, the evidence that lockdowns significantly reduce virus transmission – or mortality – is threadbare at best. Which makes the Government’s strategy of constantly ratcheting up restrictions rather nonsensical.

I’ll give three examples to illustrate the point.

First, let’s look at the rise and fall in daily cases in North and South Dakota. Both states have imposed some of the least severe restrictions in the US, according to the Blavatnik School of Government’s stringency index. Yet in both states, daily cases have begun to decline organically as we head towards Christmas.

Next up is Switzerland, which has imposed fewer restrictions in 2020 than anywhere else in Europe, save for Sweden and Belarus.

The Swiss Doctor has provided a summary of this year’s mortality data in Switzerland compared to previous years and the overall picture suggests it has fared a good deal better than most of its European neighbours.

The 2020 annual all-cause mortality rate of just under 0.86% was last reached during the flu and heat year of 2003 and the flu year of 2000. The median age of corona deaths in Switzerland is 86 years, that of hospitalized patients 74 years. Approximately 50% of the deaths occurred in nursing homes, which comprise 1% of the population. In the age group below 65 years, no excess mortality is apparent – in contrast to severe flu outbreaks.

As for Switzerland’s ‘second wave’, daily cases are declining in spite of minimal restrictions. For instance, restaurants and bars, as well as sports, cultural and leisure facilities, were only closed on December 22nd.

Finally, there’s Spain. Admittedly, Spain imposed some of the most severe restrictions in the spring, but the Spanish Government has been much more lackadaisical this winter. Its current restrictions resemble those of a Tier 1 area. Yet in spite of this, daily cases have declined in Spain, too. (Although, there has been an uptick in the last week or so.)

In short, daily cases in all three regions have begun to decline quite naturally in spite of the relatively modest social distancing measures in place.

Stop Press: The staff of the American Institute for Economic Research have pulled together a compilation of the best studies showing how ineffective lockdowns are. Viewers of Ivor Cummins’ YouTube videos will be familiar with most of them, but it’s useful to have them all in one place.

Canaries in the Mine: Seasonal Peaks

And God said, “Let there be lockdowns.”

Today, we’re publishing the latest instalment in the ongoing series by Dr Rudolph Kalveks, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, in which he uses a simple epidemiological model (an SIR model) to look at Covid mortality across the globe in an attempt to isolate the factors causing deaths to rise and fall. His conclusion is that lockdowns don’t have a big impact. Here’s an extract:

It is notable that Sweden, which introduced few lockdown restrictions, enjoyed a summer lull followed by a small autumn peak, while other European countries, which implemented many and varying lockdown restrictions during the year, have found themselves faced by larger autumn peaks. The models indicate that the overall susceptibility in Sweden, taking spring and autumn together, may end up relatively low within Europe.

The key question is what has driven the summer lull followed by the autumn peaks in Europe. It is implausible that lockdowns were responsible for the summer lull, since the subsequent tightening of lockdown policies has not prevented the autumn peaks. Is there any plausible mechanism other than the commonplace observation that there is a high level of natural seasonal variation in (the susceptibility to and transmission of) respiratory infections? As Prof. Ioannidis notes, “Seasonality may also play a role in the dissipation of the epidemic wave.”

We should recall the findings in the Lancet,1 that even the most draconian (and impractical) combinations of lockdown policies only reduce R to around 65% of its initial R0 value after seven days, and to around 48% if continued for a month. Once lockdown restrictions are limited, the R values revert.

Coronaviruses can start with an R0 in the range of five to ten times, so that a much greater reduction of 80% – 90% would be necessary to reduce R to below one. Simple arithmetic shows that for readily transmissible viruses, lockdown restrictions are insufficient, and that the spread of infections can only be halted by some combination of herd immunity (whether by vaccination or by recovery following infection) and seasonality.

Worth reading in full.

Triple Strength Super Mutant Ninja South African Virus Found in UK

If you thought our “mutant super strain” was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. At yesterday’s Downing Street presser, Matt Hancock upped the ante once again by revealing that a new even scarier variant originating in South Africa had been detected in the UK. Ooh, mother! Better shove some more areas into Tier 4, eh?

But this does beg the question: Is Hancock going to conjure up a new strain every time he wants to tighten the lockdown ratchet?

Needless to say, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps shut the stable door as soon as he discovered the horse had bolted. The Mail has more.

In a series of tweets described as an “urgent update”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote: “I’ve taken the decision to temporarily stop flights and arrivals entering England from SOUTH AFRICA from 9am tomorrow following an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus.

“British & Irish Nationals, visa holders and permanent residents arriving from South Africa will be able to enter but are required to self-isolate for ten days along with their household.

“Visitors from South Africa will not be permitted to enter, to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Worth reading in full – unless you were planning to go to Cape Town this Christmas, in which case I suggest you lie down with a wet towel over your head.

Stop Press: A Philosophy Professor who has written for Lockdown Sceptics before has written a short squib about the mutant Covid strain.

The former Covidian Cult, known globally for its practice of worshipping a respiratory virus by shutting down entire countries and making their populations wear face coverings, has mutated into a more dangerous form. The Newstrainian Cult emerged remarkably quickly in December 2020, shortly after the Covidians had locked down the entire English population for four weeks. Several cult members had noted that, although cases of the virus had plummeted in the North of England during their lockdown, cases had continued to rise exponentially in parts of the South. Faced with this striking contrast, the Covidians proved constitutionally incapable of entertaining the possibility that lockdowns are not only destructive but also ineffective and that other factors, such as differing levels of prior exposure and immunity within populations, have considerably more influence on the trajectory of the virus. Instead, so as to preserve their belief system, they seized upon a “new strain” (one that has in fact been around for some time), which has now become the principal focus for their various bizarre rituals.

Having projected magical powers upon this strain of the virus, the “Newstrainians”, as they are now known, have started to advocate even more extreme and harmful measures. Worryingly, they are increasingly turning their attention to children, who their Imperial Priest has declared to be more susceptible to the new strain. Concerns have been raised by opponents of the cult that this will further fuel earlier Covidian demands to conduct mass virus testing in England’s schools by poorly trained volunteers recruited at random without adequate background checks, inflict numerous other psychological harms on children, and ultimately ruin the education and life chances of an entire generation. When these concerns were put to cult leaders, they refused to comment and instead chanted the words “protect the NHS” and “the third wave is coming”.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Headline in the Mail above Dr John Lee’s piece a couple of days ago

Today we’re publishing another original article by veteran journalist Neville Hodgkinson, a former medical and science correspondent of the Daily Mail and Sunday Times and the author of AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science. When he heard Boris talk about the new variant on Saturday, it reminded him of something. The AIDS pandemic occurred on his beat and he covered it extensively for the Sunday Times. Turns out, scientists warned of a deadly new HIV strain too. I’ll let Neville take up the story.

An awesome, sinister sense of déjà vu grows by the day. Suddenly, a second variant of the COVID-19 virus is said to be rampaging across Britain, just in time to create utter seasonal chaos and ensure that the loving spirit of Christmas does not obscure the fear we are all supposed to be experiencing.

It was much the same 35 years ago, when a panic over AIDS was being talked up by scientists to global proportions and an HIV variant, HIV-2, suddenly caught the headlines. The new purported villain added to the fear and led to an era in which any ideas or evidence as to the cause of AIDS that did not keep HIV centre stage were ruled out of order.

That was despite some experts, including top-ranking Nobel prize-winning scientists at the heart of the fight against AIDS, trying to let us know that HIV had never been established as the cause of the syndrome. They showed that both predictions of spread, and tests claiming to show infection with the virus, were invalid.

As now, an epidemic of inappropriate testing led to a false impression of a pandemic. Models predicting near-universal spread bore no relation to actual illness and death, which remained confined to relatively small sections of the population who had other risks in their lives.

The illusion was boosted by widespread use in “HIV-positive” patients of lethally high doses of a toxic drug, AZT, at a time when no other approach to treating AIDS was permitted. Doctors who dared challenge the zeitgeist were struck off the medical register.

After several years, AZT was proved useless, at best, in a major Anglo-French trial. It fell out of favour, and AIDS deaths dropped dramatically.

Yet a generation of young people was falsely led to equate sex with death by Health Department propaganda, supported to the hilt by mainstream media (with the notable exception of the Sunday Times under the editorship of Andrew Neil).

Billions of dollars (mainly American taxpayers’ money) went on a fruitless search for a vaccine, still, incredibly, continuing to this day.

Having reported AIDS conventionally for several years, in the 1980s, before realising the virus theory was fundamentally flawed, I know from experience how hard it can be to change direction. It is as though a kind of “herd insanity” takes a grip on one’s mind.

Worth reading in full.

Is the BBC Making People Ill?

A reader has followed up on our post from yesterday about a doctor suggesting to a reader that if he wanted his tummy ache to get better he should stop listening to the Today programme in the morning and read Lockdown Sceptics instead.

I just read your Gaviscon item, which reminded me of my experience.

My Chiropractor advised me if I wanted to cure my neck problems I needed to stop listening to the BBC and shaking my head in disbelief.

Ode to a Nightingale

Matt Hancock surveys the interior of the London Nightingale

According to the Telegraph, London’s Nightingale Hospital has no intensive care beds. And not much else, either.

Staff shortages have left London’s flagship Nightingale hospital empty without any equipment or its 4,000 intensive care beds, despite Covid cases doubling in the capital.

One of seven built at the start of the pandemic at a cost of £220 million, the Nightingale hospital, at the ExCel Centre, was shut and placed on standby soon after, although 90% of the building has returned to how it was previously.

The Nightingale at Birmingham’s NEC and the one in Sunderland are also empty but on standby, while Manchester’s was open for “non-Covid care”, with those at Exeter and Harrogate being used as “specialist diagnostics centres” and Bristol’s deployed for “local NHS services”.

The Royal College of Emergency medicine said: “With regard to the Nightingale Hospitals, the challenge is safely staffing them. A bed requires nurses, doctors, pharmacists, anaesthetists in some cases, porters, cleaners.

“The health service already faces staff shortages in many hospitals and some staff are also self-isolating or off sick due to COVID-19.”

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The Nightingales are on standby as a last resort. They do not have the same resources and facilities as purpose built hospitals so can’t provide the same comprehensive care in every circumstance.

“They would also draw on the staff who are currently working in NHS trusts, so diverting them would also impact on the standard of care patients would receive.

“The fact that the Nightingales have not yet been deployed does not mean they are being ‘wasted’. They are there as a backup, and that’s how they will and should be used.”

Not as useful as “purpose built hospitals”?!?

Weren’t the Nightingales built with the express purpose of providing critical care to Covid patients to relieve the NHS?

Twitter’s New Censorship Rules

On December 21st, Twitter announced it had tightened restrictions on what people are permitted to say on the social media platform. To date, it hasn’t been quite as censorious as YouTube and Facebook, but it sounds like that’s about to change.

Our expanded approach

In the context of a global pandemic, vaccine misinformation presents a significant and growing public health challenge – and we all have a role to play. We are focused on mitigating misleading information that presents the biggest potential harm to people’s health and wellbeing. Twitter has an important role to play as a place for good faith public debate and discussion around these critical public health matters.

Under our current policy, we already require the removal of Tweets that include false or misleading information about:

  • The nature of the virus, such as how it spreads within communities;
  • The efficacy and/or safety of preventative measures, treatments, or other precautions to mitigate or treat the disease;
  • Official regulations, restrictions, or exemptions pertaining to health advisories; and
  • The prevalence or risk of infection or death.

Moving forward and beginning next week, we are expanding the policy and may require people to remove Tweets which advance harmful, false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations, including:

  • False claims that suggest immunisations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations, including statements about vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy;
  • False claims which have been widely debunked about the adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations; or
  • False claims that COVID-19 is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary.

Starting in early 2021, we may label or place a warning on Tweets that advance unsubstantiated rumours, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines. Tweets that are labelled under this expanded guidance may link to authoritative public health information or the Twitter Rules to provide people with additional context and authoritative information about COVID-19.

What’s next

Using a combination of technology and human review, we will begin enforcing this updated policy on December 21st, and expanding our actions during the following weeks. We will enforce this policy in close consultation with local, national and global public health authorities around the world, and will strive to be iterative and transparent in our approach. We remained focused on helping people find credible health information, verifying public health experts, and updating our policies in an iterative and transparent approach.

The best way to avoid being censored on Twitter, according to my sources, is to always include one of the following along with your tweet: (a) a link to a scientific paper in a respectable journal like Nature or the New England Journal of Medicine; (b) a graph/chart from a reputable source, such the WHO, CDC, Johns Hopkins, PHE or the ONS; (c) a link to an MSM news article. This should fool Twitter’s AI into thinking you’re a Covid conformist and, hopefully, your dissident Tweet won’t be flagged for “human review”.

Big Tech’s justification for censoring scientific debate about the virus and the vaccines is that “misinformation”, by which they mean any dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy, can be harmful to public health. But that is tantamount to taking sides in the ongoing scientific debate about everything to do with COVID-19, rather than acting as the keeper of the ring. After all, it’s only if you take it for granted that, say, mask wearing reduces transmission that it makes sense to claim that any information casting doubt on the effectiveness of masks is potentially harmful. Which begs the question, why has Big Tech decided to side with government officials and public health panjandrums instead of remaining neutral? James Delingpole would say it’s because they’ve been enlisted by the architects of the Great Reset (see today’s And Finally…), but my view is it’s probably just a combination of rank opportunism (governments are less likely to regulate the Big Tech companies or look into their creative tax arrangements if they behave “responsibly”, i.e. toe the line) and status signalling (among the Silicon Valley Brahmin caste, being a lockdown zealot is a high-status indicator).

Stop Press: Whatever you do, don’t Tweet about this FDA investigation into allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The Travel Ban Myth

Signs attached to a steel fence of a NO ENTRY zone on a ONE WAY street.

David Mackie, Head of Philosophy at d’Overbroeck’s, Oxford, has written a guest post for today’s update about the travel ban – or lack of it, even in Tier 4 areas.

Every weekday morning, between 7 and 7.30am, I cycle along Cornmarket Street in Oxford on my way to work. On most but not all days, I am shouted at by at least one enthusiast for law and order. The personnel detailed to harass me in this way changes from day to day, but the selection criteria seem to demand that all candidates for the role be male and obese. ‘No cycling!’ they don’t shout. The meaning of what is shouted is nonetheless clear enough. I’m breaking the law.

Except that I’m not. Cycling is banned on Cornmarket only between 10am and 6pm. But, of course, these people think that cycling ought not to be allowed there at 7am; and they are aware that there is some sort of legal restriction on cycling there. And so, understandably enough, they invent, and seek to enforce, a law that does not exist.

The situation has a close parallel in the world of lockdown. On weekends, I often drive to London to pick up my children. ‘Essential travel only’, say the motorway signs. Every day, virtually every newspaper refers to the ban on travel to and from Tier 4 areas. Social media are littered with apparently sincere assertions to the effect that travel into and out of Tier 4 is forbidden, in reply to queries about the legality of travelling for purposes such as renewing passports, transferring children between separated parents, and taking exercise.

Nonsense. All of it. The legislation concerning tiers makes no provision at all concerning travel between areas in different tiers. The imagined travel ban is as unreal as the non-existent local cycling prohibition.

The mechanism that the Government has chosen to limit movement is simply to restrict the right to be outside one’s home (for residents of Tier 4 areas), to restrict the right to attend ‘gatherings’ (for residents of all areas). and of course, to reduce the attraction of leaving home by requiring (differentially, depending on tiers) the closure of many of the businesses that people might have wanted to go out to visit.

But where a legally permitted reason for being outside one’s home exists, which may take the form of any reasonable excuse, or where a legally permitted reason for attending a gathering exists, the location is irrelevant.

Oxford will be in Tier 4 from Boxing Day; but if I could not work from home and my work required me to be in, say, Penzance, then travel to Penzance would be entirely legal. Similarly, I am permitted to travel wherever necessary for the purposes of contact arrangements with my children, to view a residential property, to attend a place of worship, and so on. The law does not care where. Nor does it require my reason to be ‘essential’.

But the Government has chosen, disgracefully in my view, to supplement the law that it has actually introduced by means of unenforceable ‘guidance’ that goes far beyond the legal restrictions, and by means of well-publicised criticism of free citizens (such as Matt Hancock’s condemnation of the recent exodus from London) for doing things that they are perfectly legally entitled to do.

Depressingly, the public and much of the media, in misrepresenting the law as restricting behaviour that is perfectly legal, have become complicit in the dirty work of constraining people’s behaviour still further than the Government has so far dared to do by means of secondary legislation.

As the Government is doubtless aware, and as it presumably foresaw, the dishonest policy of misrepresenting to the public the content of the laws that bind them is now being furthered by the millions of well-meaning lockdown zealots who don’t bother to consult the legislation any more than the rest of us routinely do. Such people reason that, ‘surely’, the whole point of a system of assigning regions to different tiers ‘must’ involve restriction of movement between regions in different tiers. And so they invent, publicise, and seek to enforce supposed laws that simply do not exist, just like the fat wannabe policemen who confront me every other weekday morning.

When our liberty is being stolen, we owe it to ourselves and others to be informed, and to refuse to be bound by restrictions of our own invention.

Read the law.

South Western Railway Hits New Low

A reader has been in touch to reveal the latest horror that South Western Reailway inflicted on her today.

I have just caught a train from Clapham Junction Station to make an ‘illegal’ journey out of Tier 4 London to, soon to be but not quite Tier 4 Hampshire. I have got used to the usual station Covid propaganda that gets blasted out, but am used to zoning out while waiting mask free on the platform. However today there was a new announcement, one I haven’t heard before and one that really hits a new low on the propaganda levels.

The new announcement is done using a kids voice, and went something along the lines of, “Hi I am Evie, my mum, dad and grandad work for South Western Railway. Please socially distance and wear your face masks so they stay safe and I can hug them soon.”

Pass the sickbag.

Free Speech Union Uncancels Julie Burchill’s Book

Julie Burchill’s book on cancel culture – Welcome to the Woke Trials – was cancelled by its publisher last week after she got into a Twitter spat with Ash Sarkar. But it has now been uncancelled, thanks to the Free Speech Union. Guido Fawkes has the story.

Julie Burchill’s publisher has agreed to pay her in full and relinquished all rights to her manuscript, following an intervention by the Free Speech Union. Last week, Little, Brown announced it would not be publishing Burchill’s book, Welcome to the Woke Trials, after she got into a Twitter spat with literal communist Ash Sarkar. The hard left pundit had attacked Rod Liddle for making light of child rape, having dug up an eight-year-old Spectator article in which he said he had avoided becoming a teacher because he couldn’t trust himself not to try and have sex with his teenage pupils. Burchill told her that was a little rich coming from a Muslim, given that Mohammad’s wife Aisha was a child when he married her. “I don’t WORSHIP a paedophile,” she said. “Lecturer, lecture thyself!” Little, Brown promptly cancelled the book.

As Brendan O’Neill commented: “Julie Burchill was hired for being Julie Burchill – and then Julie Burchill was fired for being Julie Burchill.”

Guido doesn’t like to criticise other people’s faiths, however it should not be an offence to be blasphemous…

Luckily for her, Burchill is a member of the Free Speech Union and reached out for help. Following an intervention by the FSU’s legal team, Little, Brown has now agreed to pay Julie’s advance in full and returned all the rights in the book to her so she can take it elsewhere. According to her agent Matthew Hamilton, several publishers have contacted him expressing an interest in the book.

Toby Young, FSU General Secretary, says: “For a publisher to cancel a book on cancel culture because a self-proclaimed communist has denounced the author is completely unacceptable. This is Great Britain, not Stalin’s Russia. I’m glad we were able to help.” Julie is unrepentant. “I’ve been upsetting bourgeoise bed-wetters since I was 17 – now I’m 61 and nothing has changed. Last time I checked, that wasn’t against the law. I am indebted to the Free Speech Union for stepping in to protect my rights.”

They would have got away with if it weren’t for that pesky Free Speech Union…

Anything thinking of joining can do so by clicking here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Christmas Convoy” by Paul Brandt, “Cross the Border” by Marlon Asher, “Let Me Be Free” by Yvonne Chaka Chaka, “New Age” by Softer Still and “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” by Handel.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the story of Steve Finn, a Coronation Street director who has been dropped by ITV for wrongthink. The Huffington Post has more.

ITV has dumped a regular Coronation Street director following a series of online posts rubbishing concerns of racism in the media industry, HuffPost UK can reveal.

The broadcaster said Steve Finn, a freelancer who has worked on the soap over the last two years, made social media posts that were “inconsistent with the values of both Coronation Street and ITV”.

In one of the posts, all of which are public and still available to view, Finn poked fun at David Olusoga after the TV historian told the Edinburgh TV Festival that being marginalised in his career had left him feeling “crushed, isolated” and “disempowered”.

Finn wrote in response on his Facebook page: “Oh poor dear, so crushed by his success on the unenlightened British media. Could I get just a tenth of his salary for making programmes which people actually watch, as he is so crushed.”

Around this time the historian also delivered a lecture on his own experiences of racism.

Finn claimed that he had never seen any racism during his four decades working in TV and dismissed concerns as the “fabrication of fashionable claims”.

He said: “I have worked in this business for over 40 years and I have not seen one instance of racism. I’m afraid I find people like him [Olusoga] beyond contempt because he has made a very nice earner out of his niche abilities, but now wants to ride the racism high-horse to maximum effect.

“I am a product of the white working-class, and have often felt alone and isolated, and yes unwanted, especially in the BBC, but I would never have made such a shameful parody of myself just to further my career.”

In a separate comment, he said: “People like Olusaga [sic] are victim-making frauds and need to be called out.”

When BBC Bitesize published an interview about white privilege with psychologist and author John Amaechi in August, Finn wrote on Facebook: “This is on a BBC ‘Education’ website. Is it not ‘re-education’, a la Soviet Union or China?”

The same month, actor and director Noel Clarke told BBC Radio 5 Live about what happened when he asked for a more diverse production crew when shooting a TV show. Finn branded Clarke a “fucktard” and said: “You got some white people ‘let go’ to assuage your own agenda”.

There’s more in this vein. Sounds like a case for the Free Speech Union.

Steve Finn, if you’re reading this, contact me on info@freespeechunion.org and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do. I imagine some Red Wall Tory MPs might want to take up your cause.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: The Mexican authorities have started employing wrestlers to enforce outdoor mask wearing. RT has more.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here.

Stop Press: Great Twitter thread by El Gato about the heavy price paid by Covid dissidents – and why it’s worth it anyway.

https://twitter.com/boriquagato/status/1341747532192382976?s=21

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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

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.)

And Finally…

In case you missed it, James Delingpole and I recorded a final episode of London Calling before Christmas earlier this week. Some listeners don’t like it when we fight – “It’s like listening to your parents arguing,” said one – so this may not be to everyone’s taste. We have our usual argument about whether the Covid-fuelled dystopia we’re living in is cock-up or conspiracy, but James is more than usually annoyed with me for refusing to take the Great Reset seriously. Happily, we do discuss some other, less fractious topics, such as what we’ve got our wives for Christmas.

Listen to it here and subscribe to London Calling on iTunes here.

Latest News

“High Chance” of Lockdown 3 in New Year

Bob’s cartoon from the Telegraph ahead of Lockdown II

With full-on panic setting in within Government over the new “mutant super-strain” of coronavirus, sources have been briefing that new lockdowns are coming to the UK. The Telegraph has the details.

A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday. 

Ministers are expected to sign off plans for tougher measures for many areas at a meeting of the Covid-O operations committee as concern grows about the virus mutation spreading from the South-East.

Government sources have warned that there is a “high chance” of a full national lockdown in the New Year.

On Tuesday, Britain recorded 691 Covid deaths – the second highest daily toll since last May and a jump of 20% in one week – while daily cases reached 36,804, the highest number recorded yet.

Under the Boxing Day measures, the worst-hit places will be plunged into Tier 4 – a “stay home” measure akin to lockdown that was introduced in London and much of the South-East earlier this week – and many areas in the lower tiers could be moved to Tier 3, forcing the closure of all pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops.

It’s not clear whether the reference to non-essential shops closing is an editorial mistake or a change in policy that’s been briefed out to the Telegraph, as non-essential shops are not currently closed in Tier 3.

Health officials have blamed the pre-Tier 4 exodus for the spread – odd as the “new” mutant strain has been found all over the country (and world) for several months.

Health officials are concerned that the exodus of large numbers of people from Tier 4 areas into the Midlands and the North has fuelled the spread. On Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said cases were “everywhere” and signalled that restrictions are set to increase.

A Government source said: “Changes are expected, including in some areas that are currently on the margins and edges of Tier 4 areas. We’re concerned that some areas have had significant increases in case numbers as a result of the mutation.”

Whitehall sources said there was now “a high chance” that the country would be placed into a third lockdown after Christmas. One said: “The expectation now is that we can get through Christmas, but after that the chances of a full lockdown in the New Year look pretty high.”

The source added that while ministers were reluctant to announce such measures and would prefer to extend the use of Tier 4, “there comes a point where it doesn’t make much sense to stick with it”.

“If the new variant continues to bleed across the country, and we see more cases of it in the North, then there isn’t much of a case for keeping anyone out of Tier 4, so it amounts to a national lockdown, whether it is called it or not,” the source said.

“No decision has been taken, but the numbers look awful – everything is going the wrong way, and the numbers are worse than those that triggered the December lockdown.”

The Mail wonders why PHE only alerted Government scientists to the new variant in December when they had known about it since October, and why the scientists didn’t then pass the information on to ministers for several weeks.

Online records show the first case of the mutated strain was identified in mid-October at Public Health England’s laboratory in Milton Keynes, where experts are studying random samples from Covid-positive Brits to keep track of the virus as it evolves. 

The new variant – named VUI-202012/01 – was detected in a positive swab taken from a patient in Kent on September 20th, when the country was recording just 3,700 daily cases. 

Despite an explosion in infections in October, PHE did not alert the Government or its scientists to the mutated strain’s existence until December, by which point more than 1,100 people were confirmed to have had the new version of the virus. 

At the start of the month information about VUI-202012/01 was passed to the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Advisory Group (NERVTAG) committee, which advises England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty. The group first discussed the strain at a December 11th meeting and began modelling its severity on the UK’s epidemic.

Ministers were not made aware of the variant until last Monday, almost two months after its initial discovery, when they were told it was more infectious and probably behind the continued rise in cases in London and the South East. Even with that information, the Prime Minister insisted on Wednesday that lockdown loosening plans for Christmas would still go ahead, saying it would be “frankly inhuman” to scrap them just days before they came into effect. 

But on Friday, NERVTAG told Professor Whitty that the VUI 202012/01 strain was spreading more quickly and could be up to 70% more infectious than the normal version of the virus. The PM was then presented with the gloomy data the following morning, which led to the screeching Christmas U-turn on Saturday night.  

Independent scientists have also expressed criticisms about the 70% figure after minutes from NERVTAG’s meeting on Friday revealed the expert committee had in fact only “moderate confidence” that the new strain was more transmissible than other variants.   

The return of children to school particularly in Tier 4 areas is now in doubt, says the Times.

Boris Johnson acknowledged for the first time that there were doubts over the planned return of schools in the new term. Asked whether he could guarantee that pupils would go back next month, the Prime Minister said that a staggered return would take place “if we possibly can”. He cautioned that it was common sense to “follow the path of the epidemic” and said that the issue was under constant review.

It’s “too early” for any guarantees, reports the Mail.

Schools could be closed for all of January amid fears that the mutant coronavirus strain spreads more easily among children.

With cases surging in many parts of the country, Downing Street sources admitted yesterday that it was “too early” to guarantee all pupils would be back in their classrooms by January 11.

Officials told the Mail that the reopening of schools was now “all down to the science” surrounding the new strain’s behaviour and its infectiousness in young people.

Should We Be Worried About “Kent Covid”?

Vincent Racaniello, who is Professor of Virology at Columbia University and co-author of the textbook Principles of Virology, explains in a new video why he is not worried about the new virus variant.

The Government’s evidence, he says, is all “circumstantial”, being based in poor epidemiological data rather than biological data, and beset with problems of relying on PCR testing, which “does not detect infectious virus”. The argument of NERVTAG is “completely flawed”, he thinks, and he sees no reason to think this mutation is any more concerning than any of the others that have been identified. “If anything this variant is going to cause less severe disease,” he says.

Well worth a watch.

Ross Clark in the Spectator has crunched the numbers and found there seems no reason to think the new variant is any more virulent (deadly).

If there were a dramatic difference between the death rate between the old and new strains, however, it would presumably start to show up in the regional data given that the variant strain is much more prevalent in London and the South East. Around 60% of new cases in London are now the new variant. So does London have a higher or lower death rate than other parts of the country? One way to get a rough idea is to compare the number of deaths in each region with the ONS data on the prevalence of COVID-19 two weeks earlier – two weeks being the typical delay between a positive test and death, where that occurs.

The results?

For every 1,000 cases in London in the week to November 25th, there were approximately 3.5 deaths in the week to December 11th. The corresponding figure for the South East was 5.3. In the North West, where the new variant was a lot less common, the figure was 3.9. It was 3.5 for the North East, 4.3 for Yorkshire and the Humber, 3.5 for the North East, 6.2 for the West Midlands and 5.1 for the East Midlands.

In other words, no sign of a swelling infection fatality rate. Just swelling panic and hype.

Stop Press: Listen to Professor Angus Dalgleish talking to Ian Collins on talkRADIO about the nonsense of worrying about a “new” variant that has been found all over the world. Prof Dalgleish says he agrees with Matt Ridley in the Telegraph that lockdowns may actually prevent a natural weakening of the disease.

Stop Press 2: David Bonsal of Oxford Viromics wrote a Twitter thread yesterday that essentially cast doubt on NERVTAG’s conclusion that the new variant is more infectious. His conclusion: “Further work is needed to investigate any potential causal link between infection with this new variant and higher viral loads, and whether this results in higher transmissibility, severity of infection, or affects relative rates of symptomatic and asymptomatic infection.”

The bottom line is that the alleged higher transmissibility of the new variant is an inference from Neil Ferguson’s epidemiological modelling and not based on any biological data. It’s just one theory among many as to why cases are increasing in London’s outer boroughs and Kent and far from the most plausible.

Professor Lockdown strikes again!

40,000 Retailers On Brink Even Before Latest Lockdown

Almost 40,000 retail companies in the UK were in “significant financial distress” even before the latest measures in London and the South East forced non-essential shops to shut once again. The Guardian reports.

Research by the insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor found that 39,232 retailers – both online and bricks and mortar operations – were experiencing severe financial problems in the three months to December 9th. This was up 11% on the previous three months and 24% higher than the same period a year earlier.

Julie Palmer, a partner at Begbies Traynor, said the retail sector had been shaken to its foundations and she expected more chains to follow Arcadia Group and Debenhams into administration. “Without doubt this has been one of the toughest years ever experienced in the retail sector,” she said.

The research found that while the worst of the problems have focused on the high street, almost 11,500 online-only retailers were also facing financial difficulties.

Palmer said: “While many industries have been hit hard, retail, which was already suffering a crisis of confidence, has been shaken to its foundations. High-profile administrations such as Arcadia Group and Debenhams not only threaten thousands of jobs, they also raise questions over the future of the high street as we know it, and I expect there to be more as we enter the new year.”

Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses are also struggling to keep going through the rolling coronavirus lockdowns. The research found that more than 7,500 such businesses were in significant distress, a rise of 34% on this time last year and up 20% on the previous quarter of 2020.

Industry leaders sounded the alarm and called on the Government to provide more support as the pound slid and the stock market tumbled over fears over a double dip recession. The Times has more.

The economic support being offered by the government to businesses is “simply not enough” to save thousands from collapse this Christmas in the face of tough new COVID-19 restrictions and disruption at ports, industry leaders have warned.

Sterling endured its steepest daily fall in more than three months yesterday and the FTSE 100 fell 1.73% as dozens of nations shut their borders to Britain after it revealed a mutated strain of COVID-19. Economists warned that the country faces a double-dip recession because of new lockdowns and deadlocked Brexit talks.

In a letter to the prime minister last night, Baroness McGregor-Smith, the president of the British Chambers of Commerce, cautioned that many businesses were “on their knees” and criticised the “constantly shifting goalposts” they are having to navigate as the government changes COVID-19 rules.

She called on Downing Street to offer greater cash grants to businesses hit by restrictions, expand business rates relief across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, extend VAT referrals and fill a “huge hole” in support which has left owner-directors, freelancers and others without financial support.

Update from the Senior Doctor…

Barts Health NHS Trust

What follows is a guest post from our doctor friend and regular contributor who used to be a senior NHS panjandrum.

As the COVID miasma thickens and national speculation becomes ever more shrill, Toby has kindly asked me to write an update about what we can actually measure and see in relation to COVID Hospital cases with particular reference to London and the tightening Tier 4 restrictions.

Firstly, the published figures.

Graph 1 shows Covid inpatients in London Hospitals on the brown line and Covid ICU patients in the blue columns. There is a clear long period of stability with an inflexion point upwards, on or around December 13th, which appears to be accelerating into Christmas week.

Graph 1

The pan London figures conceal important regional variations. The North East sector and to a lesser extent the South East have seen relatively greater rises than most other areas. This has been consistent for several weeks. Graph 2 shows the figures for two hospitals in the North East (Barts Health and Barking) and two in the South East (Guys and St Thomas’s and Lewisham and Greenwich). Again, there seems to be an inflexion point around December 13th – 15th. The ICU bed numbers in Graph 3 mirror the increase in patients from the North East with a lag in the South East curves.

Graph 2
Graph 3

Since these figures were published, I’m told that Covid admissions in North East and South East London have continued to increase, particularly in the last 48 hrs, to the point where several hospitals are now implementing plans to stop elective work and redeploy staff to Covid wards. Arrangements for ‘mutual aid’ between hospitals are also being discussed.

This all sounds alarming and reminiscent of Michael Gove’s apocalyptic warnings in the Sunday Times recently. Does it mean the NHS will collapse and dead bodies will pile up in the streets if the entire population does not immediately hide under the bed until next Christmas and Britain turns the clock back to the 14th century?

No, it does not. There is no doubt that pressure on London Hospitals has increased in the last week and that a substantial proportion of that pressure is due to increased Covid admissions from the community. I suspect the next two or three weeks are going to be pretty intense for the NHS in London. Elective work will probably have to stop and patients may need to be moved around the capital to areas of less intense activity. Some staff will need to work outside their comfort zones, which is always stressful. Specialist staff will be spread more thinly than usual and have to shoulder more responsibility than normal. Hospitals will need to pool resources, help each other out and everyone is going to have an uncomfortable time – but the system will not collapse.

The big difference between this year and previous winter ‘crises’ is that Hospital staff are now being repeatedly tested for Covid, regardless of whether they’re symptomatic. I understand that approximately 5% of asymptomatic staff are picked up as positive and then sent home from work. Added to the absence of staff who do have symptoms, or who have been told to self-isolate because some other close contact has tested positive, and this creates a major workforce problem. If we routinely tested staff for influenza or any other common seasonal respiratory disease, we would probably end up with the same problem every year. Under normal circumstances of course we do not test asymptomatic staff for coughs and colds – leaving it up to their own judgement to decide whether they are well enough to come to work. The staff testing programme has been implemented for a perfectly sound reason – to reduce the incidence of in-hospital infections. However, in addressing one risk, the NHS has created another, arguably just as serious. I will return to this point later.

The second big difference between 2020 and previous years is the segregation of patients into colour coded cohorts within the hospital and the overall reduction in available beds due to increased spacing for social distancing – in some hospitals this has reduced bed numbers by up to 9%.

Green Beds are routine patients who have self-isolated prior to admission and have negative tests. Amber are patients awaiting swab results and Red are patients with positive Covid tests. On the face of it, this system sounds quite sensible. In practice, it creates immense organisational friction. For example, a hospital may have plenty of Green beds, but have Amber patients queuing up in A&E, who cannot be placed in any of them. Patients may move from Amber to Red if they become Covid positive, but when they are fit to be discharged, they may occupy an acute Covid bed for days as there is no ‘home’ to send them to. Care homes are particularly reluctant to accept discharged patients after Covid care because of their experience in the spring. Discharge delays happen every year with influenza too, but the problem is worse this winter. As a result, the same burden of clinical care becomes proportionately harder to manage.

So, what has caused the increase in Covid patient numbers? The straight answer is I don’t know. It could be as simple as a change in the weather. Covid is a temperature dependent virus – it dropped off rapidly in late spring. During the summer there were localised outbreaks in isolated cold places, such as meat packing plants (and the first cases have just been detected in Antarctica) so it is not surprising that as the temperature falls we are likely to see more outbreaks and more transmission as people congregate inside and spend less time outdoors.

The burning question in the light of the revelations about the ‘new variant’ VUI-202012/01 is what role, if any, does this play in the observed tightening situation? Hard to say. It’s certainly possible that a new variant could spread with greater speed. In itself that doesn’t matter very much as long as the disease it causes is at least no worse than the old type – in general evolutionary biology one would expect a faster spreading variant to cause a milder illness. If the new variant is spreading significantly faster, the medical problem would not be a greater severity of disease but a more concentrated spike of hospitalisations.

The NERVTAG meeting notes of December 18th which seem to have sparked off the latest panic are relatively cautious about the transmissibility of the new variant, but do record:”It was noted that VUI-202012/01 has demonstrated exponential growth during a period when national lockdown measures were in place.”

This brings me to my key point: the illusion of control. In the spring, the rationale for lockdown was to “flatten the sombrero” – a temporary measure to delay viral transmission and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed by a sudden surge in cases. Since the autumn, that message has mutated to a new variant – the Government and its associated advisers have become obsessed with the need to “control the virus” – yet the evidence shows that they have about as much chance of controlling the weather. Far too many “experts” have invested their entire professional credibility on the premise that more stringent lockdowns are the only way to “beat the virus” and to achieve “zero Covid”. Yet both of these goals are manifestly unattainable.

The Covid admissions curves in London have steepened despite increasing societal restrictions. If it is true that VUI-202012/01 has demonstrated exponential growth during this time, why are we doubling down on a failed strategy?

Stop Press: Dr Mike Yeadon is, not surprisingly, sceptical about the “mutant” strain being responsible for the NHS’s capacity problems.

It is my personal opinion that the only way to rescue UK quickly and in one step is to turn off the un-inspected, un-audited, non-accredited, private Lighthouse Labs, now conducting 90% of UK PCR tests. They are producing deficient product: untrustworthy results from PCR mass testing.

I learned earlier today from an impeccable source within the NHS that:

“Management has become totally frustrated by the unmanageable impact of staff falsely told to self isolate following Pillar 2 testing via Lighthouse Labs. Fully 10% of NHS staff are missing. They’re not ill. But having had a positive PCR test they’ve been told to “self isolate” (another made up phrase from the school of misinformation). As from eight days ago, they’ve cut over to self screening using lateral flow tests for viral proteins. Staff have been sent 200 each. If they’re positive they come into to an NHS facility, get swabbed for confirmatory tests by in-house PCR, run in NHS path Labs. Management expects self isolation absence to halve in January”.

If confirmed, that kills confidence of the public in relation to Lighthouse Labs screening stone dead.

Watch the ‘self-isolation’ absence statistics closely over the next four to six weeks.

Stop Press 2: The NHS whistleblower who leaked the slides from an internal Power Point Presentation given to senior managers has provided a snippet of info that corroborates our doctor’s analysis.

Hospital transmission is a major problem and asymptomatic testing has reduced the number of staff available to work. Perhaps we should test for other respiratory viruses? Bath RUH has 233 staff isolating due to Covid. A FOI request for information on the number of staff number isolating across the NHS should be available.

Hospital bed numbers have reduced by 9% to help introduce social distancing. Some new build facilities, e.g North Bristol Trust have reduced bed numbers more than Trusts, e.g. UHB&W, with older hospitals.

Nightingale hospitals are of little value. They need clinical and other support services, e.g. X-ray, blood bank, kitchen – and staff. Would have made more sense to increase capacity at existing hospital sites. For example, portacabin wards in hospital car parks.

No Qualifications or Safeguarding Required for Testing Children

A Lockdown Sceptics reader was alarmed by a letter she received from a recruiting agency this week. She explains why.

I would like to draw your attention to the following matter. I am qualified teacher (MA.Ed) with some 26 years experience in the state, independent and international sectors. I now work wth vulnerable young people who do not attend school. I received the email below from one of the agencies I am registered with. I am deeply concerned about this, both as a teacher and as a mother of teenagers. This suggests that ‘anyone’ can apply for the post of tester. Most professionals would not accept £10 – £12 an hour as pay (teachers regularly get between £25 – £30 from an agency per hour). I am also very concerned about the training, as there are other sources suggesting this will be online. There were also quotes (attached) saying DBS checks will not be required for these people who will perform intrusive, potentially dangerous tests on children (also without social distancing).

There seems to be no safeguarding and I am appalled. I imagine if people refuse to allow ‘anyone’ to test their child, the child will not be able to attend school.

The letter reads:

Apologies if you are not looking for work however I wanted to email in case you were or knew of anyone who was who would be interested in the below in order to help with the new requirements for Covid testing in schools.

As I am sure you are aware, schools and colleges are to start offering testing to all staff and students after the Christmas break. In order to facilitate this, they require assistance in administering these tests and also process some of the administrative work.

The pay for this is £10 – 12 per hour. The hours may vary depending on the school however they will not be less than four hours per day and usually will be more. Training will be arranged as per Government guidance so anyone can apply, if you have a Health and Social Care background or experience in such roles this is advantageous but not compulsory.

Is this something you would be interested in? If so, please reply to this email in the first instance to express your interest and state what experience you have, why you feel you will be good at this type of work, as well as your availability for work from 4th January to carry out these assignments.

If you know of anyone else looking for work who would be interested please ask them to email me.

Another similar letter says recruits will receive “online training” followed by an “on site walk through” on the first day before starting work.

What could go wrong?

Dr Clare Craig with Mark Dolan on talkRADIO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlxLwS1sqw8

A Lockdown Sceptics reader kindly transcribed Dr Clare Craig’s appearance on talk RADIO on Sunday. Here it is.

Mark Dolan: What’s your view about the suggestion this new strain of COVID-19 – and we know that viruses mutate, that’s what they do, multiple times – do you think it’s possible that it’s 70% more transmissible?

Dr Clare Craig: No, I don’t think it is. I think we have to wait for more evidence. So, there are over 3,000 different strains that we’ve seen since the beginning, and people have been working really hard trying to see if any of these differences are meaningful; and what they’ve actually found now is that there’s a strain that’s been around since September, actually, and they’ve started to see an increase in positivity in the lab for this strain but what they reported recently… So they’ve got this new committee called NERVTAG who are looking into it and NERVTAG have said that the positive samples for this new strain are weak positives, are hard to sequence, and have a much lower death rate. Actually the death figures are quite small, so it’s not reliable, but you’d have expected to have seen 20 deaths and they’ve only seen four. So what that looks like to me is they’ve got a problem in the labs. That’s the kind of scenario you would see if one of the lab techs had Covid and was accidentally shedding RNA into the samples that they were testing.

Dolan: Might that explain for the isolated nature of this new outbreak and that it hasn’t manifested globally?

Dr Craig: It would explain that. It would also explain the situation you were just talking about with Grant Shapps, of weddings where there’s an apparent outbreak but nobody has any symptoms.

Dolan: It does seem a little absurd too that Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, yesterday said that we should go around pretending we’ve got the virus. We’ve reached a new level of sort of, what can you call it? Sort of surreal theatre now around this pandemic.

Dr Craig: Yes. I mean, the crazy situation seems to be that: they have one hypothesis about what’s causing all the test positivity, and it’s the most obvious hypothesis, you know, that we still have some Covid out there; but they don’t seem to have the imagination to think about every other possibility and to check it. And they had one strategy, which was lockdown.  Now these people are meant to be scientists, and when you do a lockdown – and it’s the first time that we’ve ever done this – it’s essentially an experiment. So having done it, you have to take a look at the results, and I don’t think any of these scientists have been looking at the results; they just keep repeating the experiment. And we’ve seen, again and again, that these lockdowns do not have the impact that they’re meant to be having. So I think in the very first lockdown – and I would say actually that I wasn’t a lockdown sceptic for the first one; I think I probably should have been, but I was wrong, and I learned from what we found in the first lockdown: which was that the virus kept spreading; that it was weeks later, four or five weeks later, before we had the last peaks and deaths in certain pockets of the country. And it was those pockets of the country that peaked last and had the least deaths that did see a bit of an autumn outbreak of Covid, so it was like the tail end of the first wave, what you saw in the autumn.

We’ve had lockdowns in Wales, we’ve had the lockdowns in the north-west, and every time there’s a lockdown, the case rates increased, and there’s nobody seems to be able to put an answer to that, except for the fact that, when you have a lockdown, you maximise the testing, and, when there’s a testing problem, you’re going to get the maximum error rates from maximum testing.

Dolan: I must say that, you know, I’ve been a stuck record about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any focus on the human impact of these Covid measures. The debate around the science of lockdowns is certainly a vigorous one to be had, but what we can say, and we can be definitive about this, is that businesses are closing, lives are being ruined, for a population that, by-and-large, are not under any kind of mortal threat from COVID-19; the death rate from this awful virus is mercifully low. However, something of a slam-dunk argument is surely the notion of overflowing hospitals. What is the answer to that, because it does seem like an ace card to be played by the Government?

Dr Craig: I would agree; however, the data does not back that up. So, while we have seen increased numbers of people labelled with Covid in the hospitals, the number of people in the hospital in total isn’t changing, and that’s what you see when you’ve got a labelling problem. You can increase and increase the number of Covid patients, but if that isn’t affecting the total number of patients, then it looks like you’re just misdiagnosing the people that would be in hospital anyway, and that does seem to be the situation we’re in.

But I will say that I think a lot of doctors have got themselves… not just doctors, actually, people who work in hospitals – some of them are coming away fearful that they’re being overwhelmed, and that kind of fear comes from a situation where the flow of the hospital breaks.

So, when you’re trying to keep people separate because they’re Covid positive, or Covid negative and vulnerable or whatever, you stop the bed management being smooth, and that means you can’t get people from A&E into a bed. So A&E can back up, and it can look like the hospital is being overwhelmed, when actually the data shows that it isn’t; it’s just a management problem, because we’re testing all of these people. And, added to it, we’re testing all the staff, and we have mass staff absences from all the testing which obviously does overwhelm the NHS. That’s a real problem.

And we have to get this testing right, because people will die if you don’t staff the hospitals properly. And if you’re sending asymptomatic people home who should be staffing the hospitals on the basis of a potentially wrong test result then, you know, we’re going to end up killing people.

And that’s just a UK problem. I think it’s really important to emphasise that, although the government predicted two hundred thousand deaths from the first lockdown alone in this country, so, absolutely, there are massive, massive implications of all of the interventions we’ve had, even the small interventions; but, on a global scale, what’s happening is horrific. The World Bank reckon there’ll be 150 million in new, extreme poverty. The World Food Programme reckon 217 million people will be starving. And that is because we’re not showing the proper leadership. Our country used to show world leadership and, now, we’re just behaving like a sheep, like all of the other countries, instead of trying to sort this problem out properly.

Poll Positioning

A reader has had a bright idea how lockdown sceptics can make their voices heard a little bit louder: by taking part in opinion polls.

Since the YouGov polls are always showing the public support measures, lockdown sceptics could complete each new poll. I have signed up to YouGov chat polls and get new polls related to Covid into my inbox each week and sometimes multiple times each week. If all of us filled them in, it could have an effect.

Lockdown Sceptics: A Cure For What Ails You

Or just read Lockdown Sceptics

A reader was given an unusual prescription by her GP and wrote in to tell us about it.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. My GP suggested that I stop listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme over breakfast and read your website instead. It worked. The symptoms have eased and what I was hitherto spending on Gaviscon, I’m now more than happy to donate to Lockdown Sceptics. Thank you.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/simondolan/status/1341306917076021248?s=21

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Long Way To The Light” by Mike Scott, “On My Own (Les Misérables)” by Lea Salonga, and “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

Ming the Merciless, from the Planet Mongo, not China

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that the British Board of Film Classification has declared Ming the Merciless, the archvillain in Flash Gordon, to be a “discriminatory stereotype” and slapped a warning on the 1980 film that the casting of a white actor in the role could be considered “dubious if not outright offensive”. So it’s better if “discriminatory stereotypes” are played by actors of the right background? The Telegraph has the story.

To the generation that grew up watching Flash Gordon, Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless was one of the great screen villains.

He was also a “discriminatory stereotype”, according to the British Board of Film Classification. The censor has added the warning to its rating for Flash Gordon, saying the casting of a white actor in the role could be considered “dubious if not outright offensive”.

Ming hailed from the Planet Mongo but, the BBFC said, was clearly of East Asian origin.

The organisation will conduct research in the New Year to establish if other old films contain racial stereotypes that need to be caveated for modern audiences.

In a newly-released podcast, the BBFC explained why the stereotype warning had been added.

Matt Tindall, senior policy officer, said: “Flash’s arch-nemesis, Ming the Merciless, is coded as an East Asian character due to his hair and make-up but he’s played by the Swedish actor, Max von Sydow, which I don’t think is something that would happen if this were a modern production and is something we’re also aware that viewers may find dubious, if not outright offensive.

“The character of Ming himself comes from the Flash Gordon comic strips of the 1930s and let’s just say that attitudes towards the acceptability of discriminatory racial stereotypes have moved on considerably since then, and rightly so, of course.

“While the presentation of Ming in Flash Gordon, the 1980s film, isn’t what we would consider a category-defining issue, we’re sensitive to the potential it has to cause offence. So we’ve highlighted it [to ensure] audiences are aware it’s there, and can make an informed decision about whether to watch the film themselves or to show it to their children.”

He added: “This is something we have bear in mind often when we see older films coming in for re-classification: films that might contain discriminatory depictions or stereotypes that are not acceptable to modern audiences, including films where discrimination wasn’t the work’s intent, just a reflection of the period in which it was made.

“This is an issue that we’re currently planning to explore more through research next year, speaking to the public to check that they’re happy with the ways that we’re classifying such films and the way that we classify each use of discrimination more generally.”

Nice to hear they’re thinking of checking with the public for a change, though are likely to regret it when they hear what the public actually thinks.

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: Costco has announced it has removed the medical exemption from its mask policy. A reader has forwarded us the notice.

Face covering requirements with added face shield requirement for exempt members

Effective 23.12.20, we will require all members, guests and employees to wear a face covering (that covers the nose and mouth) at all Costco warehouse locations. Entry to Costco will only be granted to those wearing a face mask or a face shield. Children under the age of 11 are exempt. Please note that the additional requirement to wear a face shield for children over the age of 11 does not affect the requirement in Scotland for children age five and over to wear a face covering

Costco has had a face covering policy in effect since 24.04.20, but members who could not wear a face mask due to a medical condition were exempt. This is no longer the case. If a member/guest has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must instead wear a face shield. The use of a face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing. Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises.

Whilst this updated policy may seem inconvenient for some, we believe that the added safety is worth any inconvenience. Our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests, and to provide a safe work environment
for our employees.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Louie Silveira
Vice President and Country Manager
Costco UK & Iceland

Suffice to say a “face shield” is even less effective at preventing infection or transmission than a cloth mask, though it does at least have fewer drawbacks.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

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.)

And Finally…

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has created a highly amusing X-Factor parody of The Fear Factor featuring Matt “Tiny Tears” Hancock and Bojo the Clown. Watch it here.

Latest News

Border Chaos Continues

Peter Schrank’s cartoon in yesterday’s Times

The list of countries restricting or banning travel from the UK today grew to over 40, including much of continental Europe. The international responses to the new ‘variant’ of the virus range from outright bans to new self-isolation requirements regardless of a negative PCR test (as in the case of Greece). The border closures are not all limited to UK travellers either. Sweden has banned visitors from Denmark as well as the UK, and Saudi Arabia has slammed its borders shut completely. The knee-jerk actions are reminiscent of the early phase of the pandemic, where country after country copied each other’s panicky lockdowns. It deals yet another blow to the ailing travel and airline industries, as cancelled flights out of the UK number in the hundreds and climbing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference yesterday and scarcely mentioned the unfolding travel bans. Instead, he focused on the ongoing issues at the Dover-Calais crossing, insisting that the blockade would be resolved in a matter of hours after a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in today’s Telegraph, closing the UK-France border is just another exercise in closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Emmanuel Macron’s ban on lorries entering France wins the prize for the most pointless political gesture since the onset of this pandemic. The mutant strain B.1.1.7 is already all over Europe.

British scientists spotted it early and have tracked it in real-time because the UK has carried out almost as much genome sequencing of COVID-19 as the rest of the world combined. Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage says the UK has the most advanced genomic monitoring regime on the planet.

Denmark is one of the few other states in Europe that also does extensive and rapid sequencing. Lo and behold, the Danes have found the same mutation. Many countries do little or no genomic sequencing at all. 

It stretches credulity to imagine that a variant picked up in samples as far back as September is not already rampant in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and indeed France. It had months to run when borders were wide open, long before the second lockdowns. 

He goes on to quote the German virologist Christian Drosten whose somewhat sceptical comments in a German radio interview were also picked up by the Daily Mail.

Christian Drosten, Angela’s Merkel’s pandemic guru, says the mutation is almost certainly spreading in Germany already and he is sceptical about the data interpretation by Prof Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial. “I am not particularly worried,” he told Deutschlandfunk, taking a gentle swipe at headline bio-hysteria.

Prof Drosten is careful not to violate scientific etiquette but he came as close as you can to rebuking the British Government – and by implication the modellers on the NERVTAG committee – for pushing a conclusion beyond the known evidence. 

He questions the pseudo-quantification behind claims that the new strain is 70% more transmissible. “There are too many unknown strains to say something like that,” he told Covid reporter Kai Kupferschmidt. 

Interesting that Christian Drosten, the lead author on the paper that wrote the rules on mass PCR testing that is currently being challenged by Dr Mike Yeadon and others, is a “mutant strain” sceptic.

Another expert to add a note of moderation was the microbiologist Dr Hugh Pennington, whose comments yesterday were reported in the Press and Journal.

The Aberdeen University Professor said: “The big issue with the variant is that it’s no nastier than the first one that came in March.

“It doesn’t kill people more readily or make them any more unwell but it’s said to be more transmissible. However, that’s what we’re being told. We have not seen any evidence to back that claim up.

“We haven’t seen any data that shows the increase in England is down to the new variant rather than people just not behaving themselves. Politicians won’t want to say that.

“If this virus has mutated to become more transmissible that would be a scientific novelty.

“It could be a coincidence with it getting commoner as the infection rate goes up.”

He said the only way to be sure, ahead of waiting on retrospective studies, would be to find out if the variant is more transmissible by checking what the infected dose is of one person to compare.

Mr Pennington added: “Is it more transmissible because you only have to breathe in a smaller dose of it? Or does somebody infected with it breathe out more virus?

“That’s what they need to find out.

The only other way to find out if people were more susceptible to this variant was through a volunteer study where you’d “pump the virus” into a room full of people… “and that’s unethical”, he added.

“It’s very hard to prove whether something is more transmissible or less. I’m not saying it’s not possible… but I would like to see more evidence.”

The Telegraph also reports that the ‘variant’ was spotted in Brazil eight months ago, adding weight to the idea that the strain has been circulating much longer than was thought to be the case – much like the ‘original’ strain for which patients in Italy had developed antibodies as early as September 2019, months before there was an official case recorded anywhere.

It’s even possible that the increased transmissibility could be a good thing, and an inevitable step in the well-established evolutionary process by which viruses become more infectious and less deadly, as the long-standing sceptic and retired NHS Consultant Dr John Lee writes in The Daily Mail.

Mutation of this (and every other virus) is inevitable – and, in fact, it needn’t always be a bad thing.

As new strains of a virus emerge, they naturally evolve towards variants that may be more transmissible but which cause mild or no disease.

Why should this be so? Because it actually benefits the virus – it is more likely to survive, reproduce and spread to ever increasing numbers of individuals if it doesn’t kill its hosts.

Crucially for us, if the new strain isn’t as virulent, its spread among Britain’s healthy populace could even be advantageous. 

Exposure to it would stimulate the immune system to produce a response against it, so providing future protection as we move to a general level of immunity in the population.

So why don’t Johnson or Hancock publicly acknowledge this? Why do they persist instead with terrifying rhetoric of a ‘mutant’ virus spreading out of control?

Dr Lee’s piece is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Dr Clare Craig gave a comprehensive interview to talkRADIO yesterday morning with Mark Dolan, covering topics including the new ‘variant’. Worth watching.

Stop Press 2: At the time of writing, the complete list of 42 countries which has banned travel from the UK is: Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, South Africa, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, France, Malta, Sweden, Turkey, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Russia, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, El Salvador, Ireland, Czech Republic, Colombia, Morocco, Chile, Finland and Argentina.

Stop Press 3: Boris Johnson has agreed to set up testing facilities to allow stranded hauliers to enter France, conditional on a negative test.

Scientific Advisers Clamouring for New National Lockdown

Prof Chris Whitty can detect the new ‘mutant’ strain with his naked eye

The Government’s scientific advisers have been clamouring for even more restrictions – Tiers 5, 6 and 7. The Guardian has more.

Andrew Hayward, a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London and a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the new variant had the potential to spread around the UK and overseas.

“I recognise that we have restricted travel from the Tier 4 areas… but this transmission is not only in those Tier 4 areas, it’s there at some level across the country,” he said. “We’re just entering a really critical phase of this pandemic, and it makes absolute sense… to act decisively I would say across the country, as many other countries have done, despite them not as far as we know being affected by this strain.”

Asked if it would be advisable to have a national lockdown, Hayward said: “Personally, I think it’s clearer to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk are different in different parts of the country, they’re still there and they’re still substantial.”

Personally?!? Does that mean he doesn’t mean “objectively” – it’s just his opinion? Rare candour, if so.

Hayward was not the only SAGE member to do an impression of a headless chicken.

Robert West, a Professor of Health psychology at University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, who sits on the advisory group on behavioural science for SAGE, said his personal opinion was that the current system was “unlikely” to contain the spread of the virus.

He said: “We need to reset our strategy and move rapidly to a zero Covid strategy of the kind that many have been proposing. This will involve stricter but more rational social distancing rules across the country, and finally doing what we should have done from the start – to build the kind of test, travel, isolate and support programmes they have in countries in the far east.

“It sounds expensive but the alternative could well be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus and the economic, human and social disaster that would follow.”

Human and social disaster?!? If the Government is hearing this kind of hyperbolic language from its scientific advisors on a daily basis, it’s no wonder Boris is constantly being bounced into ever more hysterical policy announcements.

CDC Reports on Post-Vaccine Health Outcomes

The CDC has produced a document documenting the side effects of the mRNA Covid vaccines. Infrequent cases of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) have been reported already. However, a more interesting figure is to be found further down in the presentation, in a table entitled “V-Safe Active Surveillance for COVID-19 Vaccines”.

Page 6 of the CDC’s document.

Out of the 112,807 doses administered, 3,150 experienced a “Health Impact Event”, described above by the CDC as “unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work, required care from doctor or health care professional”. That’s about 2.8% of recipients, although it does not mention the severity or duration of those events. If the UK Government’s declared target of vaccinating approximately 25 million people in “priority groups” is met, and the proportion remains stable, that could mean around 700,000 people potentially requiring some kind of medical care post-vaccination.

Isn’t mass vaccination supposed to protect the NHS?

Ferguson: Forgotten But Not Gone

Professor Neil Ferguson, who sceptics may also know better as Professor Lockdown or Professor Pantsdown

In a development we mentioned in passing yesterday, which will raise the hackles of any sceptic who has kept a close eye on developments since March, the man behind the notorious model which panicked governments into lockdowns at the beginning of the year, and stepped down from SAGE after flouting his own rules, is back in the Strangelove hot seat.

Robert Mendick in The Telegraph has more.

Professor Lockdown is back. Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist widely credited as the architect of the first national lockdown in the spring, has emerged once again as the most influential adviser to the Government during the current coronavirus wave.

For more than six months, Prof Ferguson has remained largely in the shadows, the result of his own indiscretion that forced him to take a backseat.

He continues:

Now, it has emerged Prof Ferguson – if he did go away – wasn’t gone all that long. His name appears on the list of 15 members of NERVTAG who met for two hours on Friday December 18th – between 11am and 1pm – that concluded the new variant of COVID-19, named VUI 2020 12/01 “demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility compared to other variants”.

A day later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on television to perform a spectacular U-turn, effectively cancelling Christmas for millions of people across London and the South East caused by the rise in infections by the COVID-19 mutation.

The Spectator‘s gossip columnist Steerpike also picked up on the indefatigable professor’s reappearance.

In sum, it appears that far from quitting following his lockdown breach, the Professor stopped his membership of NERVTAG for fewer than two months, and became a regular advisor once again in August.

Mr S would not, of course, be in favour of anyone being driven out of public life for a single transgression. But it is worth noting that Prof Ferguson was happy to receive praise in May for quickly stepping down to protect the Government’s credibility during lockdown. If these minutes are correct, it appears that his sacrifice was rather smaller than the public were led to believe. It also calls into question the Government’s own assertions in May that Ferguson had stepped down from his NERVTAG role. The Department for Health has been contacted for comment.

Ferguson himself told MPs in June that he was still a member of the SPI-M group, which advises the Government on coronavirus modelling, but did not mention returning to NERVTAG. Ferguson added that he was only attending other meetings on an “ad hoc” basis. 

Since then, those “ad hoc” meetings appear to have morphed into full-time membership of another committee.

To Mr Steerpike at least, it looks very much like Neil Ferguson never stopped being a Government advisor, after all…

Worth reading in full.

Correction: Excess Deaths in the US

Yesterday’s item in Lockdown Sceptics about the retraction by the Johns Hopkins News-Letter of Genevieve Briand’s suggestion that Covid wasn’t causing any excess deaths in the US contained some bad sums from a commenter we quoted. Our own Will Jones took another look at the CDC Data and figured out that at the current rate there would indeed be higher mortality this year than last – and more than the 1.2% increase in mortality that typically happens year-on-year. Although, as ever, how much of that can be attributed to the disease itself is an unanswered question. There have been concerns about lockdown-induced deaths in the US for months, not least from drug overdoses as the existing opioid crisis was worsened during lockdowns.

Using the data available here, Will concluded that the increase in total deaths this year compared to last year would be about 12.6%.

However, a reader who wrote in to prompt us about our maths slip-up also pointed out that the figures contain evidence of the so-called ‘Dry Tinder’ effect since the percentage increases for 2018 and 2019 (0.91% and 0.56% respectively) were low compared to previous years, suggesting mild flu seasons.

In case you’re not familiar with the ‘Dry Tinder’ effect, this article in the AIER discusses it in relation to Sweden and the Nordics and Ivor Cummins’ has produced several videos on the topic.

Bob Moran Gets It

One of Bob’s recent sketches

Our favourite political cartoonist Bob Moran composed a reassuring tweet thread about the realistic risks of Christmas gatherings (though they could equally apply to any social occasion). Unfortunately, Twitter’s thought-police decided to delete the first tweet on the grounds that it “violated their rules”, though the meaning is still clear. Reproduced in full here, minus the offending first tweet:

First of all, given that you have no symptoms, what are the chances that you are infected with SARS-CoV-2? The ONS estimates this to be 1 in 115, or 0.87%.

Now, imagining you are infected, but you don’t have any symptoms, what is the probability that you will infect somebody else with SARS-CoV-2? Recent studies show this is around 0.7%.

If we multiply the probability of these two events, we can calculate the likelihood of you a) being infected & b) passing that infection on without symptoms. This gives a figure of 0.006%.

To put that figure in context, it’s roughly the same as your chance of dying in a car crash over the course of any given year.

But if you infect someone, this doesn’t mean that they are going to end up dying of Covid pneumonia. Far from it, in fact. There is a lot of debate regarding the IFR of SARS-CoV-2, but the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine puts it at roughly 0.5%.

Now, if we multiply the chance of infecting another person (without symptoms) by the fatality rate, we can estimate that the risk of “killing” one of your relatives is roughly 0.00003%, or 1 in 3 million.

Obviously there are a lot of caveats. If one of your relatives is very old and very ill, then the IFR is going to be higher. If they are relatively healthy, it’s going to be lower.

But there’s another caveat. PCR tests. The first number we used (the number of infected individuals in the UK) is based on positive PCR results. It is possible that only 3% of these positive results are accurate.

Which means that the risk of a person “killing” a relative without any discernible coronavirus symptoms may well be as low as 1 in 30 million – the same sort of likelihood of you winning the National Lottery.

Clearly, it is for individuals to assess risks for themselves and make decisions accordingly. But they should do so in the knowledge of how big those risks actually are. And nobody should be calling others “irresponsible” for taking a risk this minuscule.

Finally, this risk isn’t just the justification for ‘cancelling Christmas’, it’s the justification for all of it. Lockdowns, masks, school closures, undiagnosed cancers, suicides, stillbirths, unemployment. All done because we were told this specific risk was just too high.

Hear, hear, Bob.

Statisticians Ask Questions of Government

Stats experts’ new report

Quantitative Analyst Joel Smalley and Statistician Marie Oldfield have produced a new document containing a series of clincher questions for the UK Government. Smalley commented, upon its publication:

Updated report on England COVID. Focused on clinical data and classical surveillance systems. It’s pretty conclusive that the epidemic was over in Spring, probably made worse by interventions, and most of Autumn COVID is wrongly attributed. Can the Government disprove any of this?

One page of the compendium of inconvenient data.

It is 19 pages long, replete with graphs of official data, and might even be worth sending to your MP. The full document can be found here.

How to Defeat Cancel Culture

Check out Toby’s conversation with Angelo Isidorou of The Post-Millennial on cancel culture and how to defeat it. Toby talks about being on the receiving end of the social media mob, as well as the efforts of the Free Speech Union to protect other people who find themselves in the same predicament.

Worth watching.

Stop Press: Listen to Toby and James Delingpole have their usual argument about whether the Covid crisis is cock up or conspiracy in the latest episode of London Calling.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Driving Home for Christmas” by Chris Rea, “On the Border” by Al Stewart, “I‘ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby, and “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” by The Blizzards.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the heartwarming news that singer Sam Smith has announced that they wants [sic] to “be a mummy” by the age of 35. The Mirror has more.

Broody Sam Smith “wants to be a mummy” and have children by the age of 35.

The music superstar has opened up about their desire to become a parent in the years ahead.

Sam is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns – and can’t wait to start a family.

The 28-year-old, though, admits the struggle to find a boyfriend is real – and joked that that special someone is nowhere to be found in London.

Time is on Sam’s side of course and they said in an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that kids are a must in the future.

Sam said: “I want kids. I want all of it. I want all of it. I want to have kids.”

“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. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not 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. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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 in October 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 Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million 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.

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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

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.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review in December and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.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.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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.

Alexander 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

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.)

And Finally…

The smells of Britain, available to purchase.

Trapped abroad or stuck in Tier 4 over Christmas? We may have found just the thing to ease your homesickness.

Bottles of fresh air from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are being marketed as the perfect gift for homesick Britons living overseas this Christmas.‏‏ ‏‏Relocation website‏ ‏My Baggage‏ ‏is offering‏ ‏fresh air bottled from the four home nations‏ ‏for £25 each and claim the bottles are already being snapped up by families with loved ones living abroad – in a bid to remind them of home and possibly tempt them back to our shores.‏

The company is also offering special limited edition bottles featuring air captured on the London Underground and air from the inside of a busy Norfolk fish and chip shop.‏‏ ‏‏Each ‏ ‏500ml ‏of air comes with a cork stopper so the owners can open for a moment, take a breath and quickly close again, allowing many weeks or even months of use.‏‏ ‏‏My Baggage‏ is also willing to fulfil special customer requests by bottling air from any UK location, and have already fulfilled an order of air from the misty summit of Snowdonia for a homesick Welshman living down under.

Sounds made up, but it’s actually real. For £25, residents of Tier 4 areas can get an authentic blast of what it smells like to be outside the home you’re imprisoned in.

Alternatively, you could donate to Lockdown Sceptics.