Here We Go Again…
Matt Hancock raised the alarm in Parliament yesterday when he said a new variant of Coronavirus was doing the rounds and linked this to the rise in community infections in Kent and London. The press release from Public Health England has the details.
The strain was identified due to Public Health England’s proactive and enhanced monitoring following the increase in cases seen in Kent and London. The variant has been named ‘VUI – 202012/01’ (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020).
As of December 13th, 1,108 cases with this variant have been identified, predominantly in the South and East of England. PHE is working with partners to investigate and plans to share its findings over the next two weeks. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the strain has any impact on disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
High numbers of cases of the variant virus have been observed in some areas where there is also a high incidence of COVID-19. It is not yet known whether the variant is responsible for these increased numbers of cases. PHE will monitor the impact of this in the coming days and weeks.
It is not uncommon for viruses to undergo mutations; seasonal influenza mutates every year. Variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been observed in other countries, such as Spain.
This variant includes a mutation in the ‘spike’ protein. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.
A paper in Nature by François Balloux among others provides some helpful context. He pointed out in a Twitter thread that he and his team had identified 12,000 variants/mutations, none of which increased transmission or led to more severe infections.
At the Number 10 press briefing that followed Matt Hancock’s announcement, Chris Whitty played down potential fears concerning the new variant, as Ross Clark reports in the Spectator:
Mutations are only to be expected, he said, and many have already emerged. It isn’t clear, he added, whether the new variant is more transmissible than previous ones… There is no evidence, he said, that the new variant is more dangerous to humans than previous versions, and no reason to suspect that this would be the case… Nor, said Whitty, is there any reason to imagine that the new variant will be any more resistant to the Pfizer vaccine or any other vaccine, too few people have yet been given the vaccine for the virus to start developing its own immunity to the vaccine.
The sudden appearance of a variant/mutation – LonKent-20? – along with the rising numbers of reported cases has led to speculation about whether we’ll still give five days off over Christmas. Whitty reminded us that “the fact that some relaxations are being made not to the tiering but to people’s ability to meet their families over Christmas does not mean that they should go to the top of the licence of that. The point of this is, under certain circumstances, for families who wish to, to get together, but they really have to be very very careful”. Hancock said:
On the modelling around Christmas, it all depends on people’s behaviour and the most important thing is that people are cautious and careful ahead of Christmas and during Christmas and hence why we’re saying that so clearly.
Back to Ross Clark in the Spectator:
Should we worry about the emergence of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19? As I wrote in May, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has already mutated once into a form that might be more transmissible. This could possibly explain why Europe and North America have found it harder to contain the virus than have Asian countries. Were we fighting a slightly different disease to the one which emerged in Wuhan in January?
In a recent survey of 46,723 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries, researchers identified more than 12,700 mutations. “None of these mutations are making COVID-19 spread more rapidly,” according to Lucy van Dorp, a professor at University College London’s Genetics Institute and one of the co-lead researchers on the study.
But what today’s news has done, in particular the decision to shift the capital into a higher tier, is to change the mood. From a picture of declining infections in late November and early December, we are heading back, once more, into a period of tighter restrictions.
Once again, as throughout this crisis, questions at this evening’s briefing focused on whether tighter lockdowns would be imposed. This time, there were also repeated questions on whether the relaxation of rules on households mixing over Christmas ought now to be revisited. Given that Germany and other countries have started imposing lockdowns across Christmas, I give it until about Thursday until Boris is back at the lectern announcing that, regrettably, it is going to be necessary to cancel Granny’s visit.
Ross Clark’s piece is worth reading in full.
London Placed in Tier 3
The other big story yesterday was that London will be placed in Tier 3 at one minute after midnight on Wednesday morning, along with south and west Essex, and south Hertfordshire. The move means that 34 million people – 61% of the English population – will be living under the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions. It was significant that this was announced by Matt Hancock, not “too busy with Brussels” Boris, presumably because it was such bad news and Boris wanted to avoid the blame. From Hancock’s statement:
Sadly, the news on the spread of the virus is not good. The latest number of cases of coronavirus is rising once more. We’ve seen an increase of 14% in the last week and the number of patients admitted to hospital across the UK has risen again too.
The average number of new cases reported each day is 18,023 which is up on last week. Today, there are 16,531 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the UK, which is also up. And sadly, on average each day over the past week 420 deaths have been reported
Once again, the spread of this disease is not even across the country. There have been sharp rises in South Wales, London, Kent, Essex and parts of the East and South East of England. In some areas, the doubling time is now seven days. This rise is amongst people of all age groups, not just school-age children.
I’m particularly concerned by the rising rates amongst the over-60s and the number of people in hospital, which is also rising. That’s even before we factor in the increases in last week’s rates. And we know through painful experience: more cases lead to more hospitalisations and sadly, more deaths.
At this point it is worth turning to Tim Spector, the founder of the ZOE App.
First, he was asked on Twitter whether the rate of infection is increasing:
And his reply:
Secondly, what does the ZOE App tell us about the rising rates among the over-60s?
When Hancock referred to “rising rates amongst the over-60s”, perhaps he meant the rising number of over-60s in hospitals and care homes becoming infected, even though infections among the entire population of over-60s appears to be falling. Tim was asked about this on Twitter and said:
If Tim Spector is right, it points to a problem in hospitals and care homes, i.e. nosocomial infection. It is hard to see how it can be fixed by closing bars and restaurants, and at such short notice that Hancock jumped the gun and announced the new restrictions two days ahead of the “review” scheduled for Wednesday.
To get an idea of what Tier 3 means for the hospitality trade, it’s also worth turning to a recent story in the Manchester Evening News.
Simon Delaney has worked in the pub industry for 30 years. Now he fears his venues won’t make it through to the new year, and believes the coronavirus restrictions placed on the hospitality industry could signal the end for the great British pub.
Simon, who also runs the Little Bee in Sale, has even won awards for his pub’s ability to connect people, including best community pub in Great Britain, the Spirit of Manchester and the Pride of Manchester. But, since the beginning of the pandemic, his local community have been left without the support of one its most cherished institutions. And, now that Greater Manchester is in Tier 3, Simon fears his pub won’t survive past Christmas.
Simon worries that even if the region is moved down to Tier 2, many of his local punters don’t have the income to support buying a ‘substantial meal’ every time they want a drink. And the lack of support for the hospitality industry, he claims, could signal the end for what he describes as the great British pub.
“With the first lockdown everything was okay – we had the furlough and there were grants, loans, and all kinds of support,” Simon said.
“After that, when the new restrictions came in with the curfew and the substantial meal it all just went downhill. When we went into this second lockdown we thought it’s okay, it will only be a couple of weeks, but then we have come out and we are still in lockdown here.”
Over the last five years, Simon, who drank his first ever pint in the Firbank and grew up locally, has repeatedly beaten the odds to keep the pub open. A drug dealer demanded £5,000 from Simon to “make it stop”, before ending up being prosecuted for blackmail. Simon has also fought back from a brain haemorrhage to turn the Firbank into an award-winning pub which employs local people.
Whilst Simon’s staff are on furlough pay, he and his wife Rachel are not receiving an income, and cannot apply for any extra support.
“Tier 3 and Tier 2 is going to be the death of the great British pub. We have already got a situation where people are leaving the industry, and they won’t come back.
“For me this is a lifestyle not a job, but now we are both having to look at taking other employment. It has left me and my wife in tears seeing what is happening to this industry. There aren’t many community centres left in Wythenshawe and that has become the role of the pub. If the pub isn’t here, who will it be?”
Worth reading in full.
Is the Rise in Community Infections an Artefact of Increased Testing and False Positives?
The apparent rise in infections that has prompted moving London into Tier 3 may be due to our old friend the false positive rate of the PCR test. Today, we’re publishing a piece describing in fairly simply language how the test works and why false positives are such a problem. It’s by an eminent research scientist who has a PhD in microbial pathogenicity and has been using RT-PCR for over 30 years. Here’s an extract:
The amazing sensitivity of methods based on PCR is both their exoneration and their potential downfall. Each PCR cycle doubles the amount of material, which may not sound impressive, but it really is. To illustrate this, imagine you were perched on top of the Big Ben tower (96 metres up) and it doubled in length every second. Within 22 seconds (22 doublings), you would be travelling at the speed of light (leaving aside Special Relativity). So if something goes wrong in the PCR, you quickly amplify an aberrant result to staggering proportions.
After outlining the various ways in which the PCR test can generate false positive, he reaches his sobering conclusion.
This is a technical summary stripped of as much jargon as possible. As it relates to COVID-19, it doesn’t cover so-called ‘cold’ positives, in which virus RNA (including RNA fragments) is present in samples that do not contain viable or infectious virus and yet may still may give a positive signal. But it should highlight that although qRT-PCR is immensely powerful in research, its potential pitfalls require punctilious safeguards. In research, each experiment is performed with independent samples on at least two occasions – a minimal requirement for publication by respected journals. Interpreting both positive and negative qRT-PCR results requires experience that is most abundant among molecular biologists working on eukaryotic systems, and one wonders to what extent they have been called upon to advise on COVID-19 testing. There are few technical grounds on which to be confident that qRT-PCR is readily scalable, but doubts about its clinical application could be met squarely, whilst respecting patient anonymity, by complete, contemporaneous and auditable transparency.
This is a great explanation from a scientist who knows everything there is to know about this incredibly complex diagnostic tool.
Worth reading in full.
WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyseus Accused of Aiding Genocide
Tedros Ghebreyseus, Director General of the World Health Organisation, stands accused of aiding genocide during his time as a Government Minister in Ethiopia. MailOnline has the story:
American economist David Steinman has accused WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 55, of aiding genocide in Ethiopia. He accused Tedros of being one of three officials who were in charge of the security services over that period, during which the “killing” and “torturing” of Ethiopians took place.
Tedros was the country’s foreign minister until 2016 when his Tigray People’s Liberation Front party was in power. Raised in Tigray, he also served as Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012 before being elected WHO director-general in 2017, the first African to take the role.
Mr Steinman, who was nominated for the 2019 Nobel peace prize, lodged the complaint calling for Tedros to be prosecuted for genocide at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He claimed that Tedros “was a crucial decision maker in relation to security service actions that included killing, arbitrarily detaining and torturing Ethiopians”.
Mr Steinman also alleged that the WHO chief oversaw the “killing, and causing serious bodily and mental harm to, members of the Amhara, Konso, Oromo and Somali tribes with intent to destroy those tribes in whole or in part”. He claimed that while Tedros “co-led” Ethiopia’s Government for four years, the regime “was marked by widespread or systematic crimes against humanity by subordinates”.
In the filed complaint, Mr Steinman referenced a 2016 US Government report on human rights in Ethiopia that found the “civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces, and local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently”.
Mr Steinman, a former consulting expert to the US National Security Council, accused Tedros of being involved in the “intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters” which included “arbitrary arrest… and lengthy pre-trial detention”.
The complaint can only proceed to the Hague court if it is adopted by prosecutors. It would be the first prosecution of a senior UN figure if it does proceed.
Tedros has denied the allegations and any wrongdoing.
Worth reading in full.
Covert Strategies – A Letter to the British Psychological Society
The compliant attitude of the British public to the Government’s heavy-heavy handed restrictions – the lockdowns, mask-wearing, travel restrictions, and so on – has been a notable feature of the COVID-19 crisis. Dr Gary Sidley, a Lockdown Sceptics reader and a psychologist, says that this has much to do with the fear engendered by the psychologists employed in the Behavioural Insights Team. Their approach to terrifying the public is based on the acronym MINDSPACE, according to Dr Sidley, which he summed up in a blogpost here. In brief:
- MESSENGER – We are influenced by the source of the information
- INCENTIVES – We employ predictable shortcuts such as strongly avoiding losses
- NORMS – We are strongly influenced by what others do
- DEFAULTS – We ‘go with the flow’ of pre-set options
- SALIENCE – Our attention is drawn to what is novel and seems personally relevant
- PRIMING – Our acts are often influenced by subconscious cues
- AFFECT – Our emotions powerfully shape our actions
- COMMITMENTS – We seek to be consistent with our public promises
- EGO – We act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves
He has written a letter to British Psychological Society highlighting the ethical implications of the strategy, which believes may constitute a breach of psychologists’ professional code of ethics:
A comprehensive account of the psychological approaches deployed by the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) is provided in the document, “MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy” (available here). The authors describe how their behavioural strategies provide “low cost, low pain ways of ‘nudging’ citizens… into new ways of acting by going with the grain of how we think and act“…
Many of the nudges developed and put forward by the BIT psychologists are, to various degrees, acting upon us automatically, below the level of conscious thought and reason. Although we accept there may be legitimate reasons for utilising covert psychological strategies within our communities, perhaps as a marketing tool to shape opinion about a consumer product or as part of, for example, Government campaigns to discourage vandalism or to prevent young men stabbing each other, in the sphere of individual health decisions we believe transparency is required.
In order to inform and direct the Government’s communication strategy aimed at achieving the public’s compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, it is apparent that the BIT psychologists have promoted a range of covert psychological interventions. For example, our inherent need to preserve a positive self-image has been exploited by the incessant slogans and mantras insisting that compliance with the Government’s coronavirus diktats is akin to the altruism of helping others, a focus on ‘ego’, to use the MINDSPACE terminology. Another example has been the use of peer pressure (‘norms’) on the non-compliers by casting these supposed miscreants in the uncomfortable bracket of a deviant minority. But the most potent, and most ethically dubious, strategy has been the inflation of fear (‘affect’) as a means of coercing people into obedience.
The decision to inflate the levels of fear among the British public was a strategic one, as indicated by the minutes of the SAGE meeting of March 22nd, 2020. Clearly, the BIT psychologists recommended scaring people as an effective way of maximising compliance with the coronavirus restrictions. Consequently, the general population has had to endure a media onslaught primarily aimed at inflating perceived threat levels that has included: the daily announcement of coronavirus-death statistics, displayed without context; repeated footage of people dying in Intensive Care Units; scary slogans and the promotion of face coverings, a potent symbol of danger, despite there being little evidence for their effectiveness in reducing viral spread.
The authors of MINDSPACE recognised the significant ethical dilemmas arising from the use of influencing strategies that impact subconsciously on the country’s citizens. They acknowledged that the deployment of covert methods to change behaviour “has implications for consent and freedom of choice” and offers people “little opportunity to opt out”. Furthermore, it is conceded that “policymakers wishing to use these tools… need the approval of the public to do so”. So have the British people been consulted about whether they agree to Government using covert psychological techniques to promote compliance with contentious public health policies? We suspect not. It seems the BIT psychologists are operating in ethically murky waters in implementing their nudges, without our consent, to promote mass acceptance of infringements on basic human freedoms.
In the British Psychological Society Code of Ethics & Conduct one of the ‘Statement of Values’ is: “Psychologists value the dignity and worth of all persons, with sensitivity to the dynamics of perceived authority or influence over persons and peoples and with particular regard to people’s rights. In applying these values, Psychologists should consider consent and self-determination.“
We believe that the BIT psychologists, in their deployment of covert strategies to achieve compliance with unprecedented lockdowns, travel restrictions and mask mandates, have blatantly failed to practice in a way that is consistent with the ethics of the British Psychological Society.
Worth reading in full.
Dr Gary Sidley, is looking for co-signatories. If you are UK based psychologist or therapist and would like to support the letter, do get in touch with him by email or on twitter.
Wetherspoons Strikes Back
A branch of Spoons down in Faversham caused a bit of stir yesterday after putting up some posters in one of its windows. KentOnline has the story:
Pub chain giant Wetherspoon has been branded “socially irresponsible” for displaying anti-lockdown messages from its newsletter in the window of one of its outlets. The move has angered a town councillor who says the posters “play down” the seriousness of the infection when Swale is suffering especially high numbers of cases.
Cllr Hannah Perkin spotted the newsletter pages posted in the window of the Leading Light Wetherspoon in Faversham today and posted her anger on Twitter. “This is especially dangerous in Swale where we have some of the highest rates in the country,” she wrote. “This is socially irresponsible and not the way out of Tier 3. Speaking to KentOnline, she said: “Swale’s rates are still quite high and I think its concerning when public health experts are telling us that we really should be abiding with Government guidelines.”
The subversive pages come from the latest edition of the Wetherspoon News, which focusses on COVID-19 and features among others, Lord Jonathan Sumption, Dr Johan Giesecke and Dr Mike Yeadon. The online edition is available here, but look out for 120-page edition of the print magazine which should be available in your local Spoons and would make a good accompaniment to a substantial meal.
Documentary About Sweden
Lockdown Sceptics reader Sean Spencer went to Stockholm in August to make a zero budget documentary with BAFTA nominated filmmaker Claudia Nye about the Swedish approach to Coronavirus. They were so impressed by Anders Tegnell’s steely determination under intense scrutiny and worldwide pressure, they arranged an interview with him and produced a film about Sweden’s unique approach to managing the virus.
Sean has posted a couple of clips on YouTube: How novel is COVID-19, and is population density one reason the Swedish approach seems to have largely worked?
Both worth checking out.
Free Speech Union Vows to Take Will Knowland Fight to Parliament
Alas, Will Knowland has failed to overturn his dismissal on appeal. Will is the Eton teacher – and Free Speech Union member – who was sacked for refusing to delete his video-lecture challenging radical feminist orthodoxy. The Telegraph‘s Camilla Turner has the story.
Eton College’s dismissal of a Master was justified, an appeal panel has ruled as free speech activists pledge to elevate the case to the Attorney General.
The Head Master of the 580-year-old institution said that intellectual freedom “lies at the heart” of an Eton education but added that there are “limits to the freedoms that teachers have”.
Simon Henderson told parents that there must now be a period of reflection on recent events and that the school will need to “consider how we continue to maintain a positive dialogue between those who hold opposing views”. He urged both parents and Eton Masters to “move forward together for the benefit of the boys”.
Will Knowland, an English teacher at Eton, was sacked earlier this year for gross misconduct after recording a lecture which questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy” and then refusing to remove it from his YouTube channel.
The Free Speech Union has vowed to take the case up with the Charity Commission and the Attorney General, as well as get its friends in Parliament to amend the Equality Act. You can read its response here and in this Twitter thread.
- “COVID-19 PPE: Hospital gowns that cost £122 million never used” – An update from the BBC on the 25 million gowns ordered from PPE Medpro back in June at a cost to the taxpayer of £122 million
- “Family kicked off plane for authoritarian mask rules” – Two stories in one video from Sky News Australia. First the news that Italy has approved hydroxychloroquine, and then an item on the American couple kicked off a plane after their two year-old wouldn’t wear a mask
- “Sturgeon urged to publish exit timeline amid fears vaccine could lull public into flouting rules” – Scottish Government advisors want the First Minister to put an end date on restrictions, says the Scottish Sun. What a good idea
- “Mandating vaccinations is discriminatory and wrong” – A welcome statement from the Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for vaccinations. No plans for vaccine passports
- “Solvang openly defies state COVID-19 order” – Solvang in California is keeping its bars and restaurants open despite the state edict requiring their closure, reports the Santa Barbara Independent
- “How Wales’ COVID-19 outbreak spiralled out of control” – Dr Waqar Rashid takes a look at the situation in Wales for the Spectator. The problem lies, he suggests, with an under-resourced health service
- “Chris Whitty rejects viral claims about coronavirus vaccine causing infertility” – The Mirror reports on Chris Whitty’s response to one of the fears around the vaccine
- “Common Cold Coronaviruses Tied to Less Severe COVID-19 Cases” – Report in the Scientist. Could this be Matt Hancock’s new highly-infectious strain?
- “Tyranny during its reign is unrecognized by its victims” – An interesting perspective on our current predicament from Donald J. Boudreaux on the AIER blog
- “Vote for political cartoon of the year” – It’s not to late to vote. Bob’s is good, obviously, and I like Dave Brown’s too. You can vote in three categories in total and Bob has cartoons in two of them
- “Father who ‘begged’ GP for an MRI scan dies from cancer after COVID-19 backlog” – The Telegraph reports on the sad case of Sherwin Hall, 27, who died waiting for an MRI scan
- “Government wants to ‘keep schools open’ as London mayor calls to shut them” – The Telegraph reports on the mad argument over schools
- “Michigan Catholic schools sue state to be able to stay open” – Meanwhile in the US, a school is fighting to stay open
- “SARS-CoV-2 RNA reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome” – A study, yet to be peer-reviewed, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be reverse-transcribed and integrated into the human genome
- “Fact check: Inventor of method used to test for COVID-19 didn’t say it can’t be used in virus detection” – A fact check on the quote “PCR tests cannot detect free infectious viruses at all” often attributed to the test’s inventor Kary Mullis. He didn’t say those words but it a fair reflection of his views, according to Reuters
- “How race politics liberated the elites” – If society is inherently oppressive there can be no room for the common good, asks philosopher Matthew B. Crawford in UnHerd
Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers
Five today: “London Blues” by David Koven, “Here Comes Another Wave” by Legs11, “White China” by Ultravox, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera” also by Doris Day
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.
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, from Leo Terrel, a new story from liberal academia. In this case the Harvard Medical School:
In the English language, there are tons of words used interchangeably for female: woman, lady, girl, gal, even damsel, to name but a few. Harvard Medical School just used a new one: “birthing people”.
“Globally, ethnic minority pregnant and birthing people suffer worse outcomes and experiences during and after pregnancy and childbirth,” a tweet said.
Shortly after, the institution shared a follow-up.
“The webinar panellists used the term ‘birthing person’ to include those who identify as non-binary or transgender because not all who give birth identify as ‘women’ or ‘girls’,” they said.
They added that the terminology was not meant to “dehumanize” or “erase” women, however it seems to do exactly that by reducing women to their organs.
To sum it up, this statement is neither progressive nor inclusive. When talking about those who give birth, women should ideally be first on the list.
For a side that argues in favour of science, the hypocrisy is astounding.
Stop Press: On the subject of liberal academia, we’ve had a couple more entries to our contest for a Woke-English translation of this tweet from the Rhodes Trust.
Here’s the first entry:
Billy-Ray works at the University of British Columbia imagining what new letters can be added to LGBTQ+ in the future
And here’s the second:
Billy and Ray are modern alchemists. They can make gold from anything. Or less. Undaunted by empirical evidence that older alchemical methods had failed because the real elemental nature of the target metal resisted synthesis, Billy and Ray pursue, instead, a dog-legged, two-stage, approach. First, an entirely fictional, idealised, currency is created by combining precise quantities of self-importance, outrage, and fashionable abstract nouns. This mind-dependent currency is then exchanged, in meticulously concocted conditions of academic credulity and fear, for the real thing. It is to be noted that the idealised substance has a highly unstable ontological nature, depending as it does on the maintenance of a complex illusion on the part of both its creators and market-makers in the academic community. This would be threatened if Billy or Ray were ever to develop any real creative output; hence their employment roles. Billy and Ray used to worry that their fraud was too transparent. But not these days.
Stop Press 2: The Telegraph has news of a rare victory for common sense. Unconscious Bias Training will be scrapped for all civil servants after a Government review found little evidence that it works. Toby is taking the credit for this because the Free Speech Union published a comprehensive briefing paper debunking UBT a couple of months ago. You can read that paper here.
“Mask Exempt” Lanyards
We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.
Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.
A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.
If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you 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
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 last week, but the FSU may appeal the decision. Check here for updates.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.
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
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Lockdown Sceptics’ favourite comedian, JP, has a new YouTube video out. This one’s about the “bravery” people are showing in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Very funny.
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