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Boris Cancels Christmas

Lord Protector Boris Johnson contemplates what other filthy frivolities might be putting the populace in harm’s way. (Image: The Week)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced his most humiliating U-turn to date, putting London and the South East into a new “Tier 4” (lockdown in all but name), cancelling the Christmas amnesty for those areas and reducing it to just Christmas Day for the rest of the country. The Telegraph has the details.

Boris Johnson was forced to introduce a new tier with tougher restrictions last night as he warned that a new variant of the virus was spreading “significantly more easily” among the population.

The Prime Minister told the nation: “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our methods of defence.”

He placed 18 million people across London, the South East and East of England into new Tier 4 restrictions which closely resemble November’s lockdown.

It came after he received alarming new evidence that a variant strain of COVID-19 – called VUI2020/12/01 – was ripping through areas in Tier 3, where restrictions were failing to control the spread.

For the rest of the country, the five-day window to form a Christmas bubble has been scaled back to just one 24-hour period.

From Sunday, non-essential, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close for two weeks in Tier 4 areas, with people restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

The draconian measures will apply to London, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Gosport, Havan, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire and Essex.

People under the new highest tier will also be banned from leaving their areas, and will no longer be allowed to meet up in Christmas bubbles of up to three households. The tiers will be reviewed at the end of the month.

For people living in Tier 1, 2 and 3 areas, the five-day window has also been drastically cut back to just Christmas Day.

It means millions of people hoping to visit and stay with friends and family now face having to cancel train tickets, flights and other travel plans.

It comes after Mr Johnson held an emergency Cabinet meeting this morning to sign off the changes, after scientists confirmed that the new strain is spreading more quickly and could be driving the surge in cases in the South East. 

What a kick in the baubles, as the Sun says.

Yet even before the announcement yesterday afternoon scientists were pushing back against the Government’s “new mutant strain” scaremongering. Time For Recovery UK released a statement calling on Matt Hancock to release more details about the strain, which it turns out is not new at all but has been around since at least September.

On Tuesday December 15th, Professor Nick Loman of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG UK) consortium, identified the new set of mutations as VUI – 202012/0. He confirmed that it is not new, as COG UK identified it in September, and there is no proof that it is more infectious. As Professor Sharon Peacock, COG Director, pointed out: “We are still dealing with very thin evidence at the moment about this variant.”

Dr Maria van Kerkhove, the technical lead of COVID-19 response and the Head of Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis Unit at WHO, has also confirmed that the strain involved has been circulating for many months, though she referred to it as N501Y.

Recovery is challenging Matt Hancock to answer these key questions:

Why did he announce this as a new strain on the eve of the tier review when it appears to have been circulating for several months (and may have existed for months more before it was identified)?
Why has he made headlines with the news that it’s more infectious when the experts who identified the strain say that we don’t have evidence for that yet?
Will he publish the evidence he has for that so his claims can be independently verified?
In the words of the Washington Post, “At a news conference Monday evening, neither Hancock nor England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, released enough data to help the public understand the significance of the new variant.” Does he now regret the way that this announcement was handled, given that it has attracted international criticism?
With millions of lives and livelihoods at stake, does he now consider that the statement he made to Parliament about the ‘new’ strain may have been misleading?
Does he retain confidence in the Government advisers who briefed him on it?
With even the experts at the WHO who are responsible for tackling the virus apparently confused by the information that the DHSC has provided over the details of the ‘new’ strain, will he remind his department to prioritise accuracy and the clear communication of the known facts over sensationalist language that makes headlines?

“There is a lot of trivial diversity in the spike protein. Over 20000 variants have been reported,” commented Professor David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia. “What is the hard evidence that this new variant really is so different against this background of great diversity? Apparently VUI202012/0 was first found in September. It’s not clear where it came from or how long it had existed previously. The delay before it expanded doesn’t fit with super-infectiousness. Any variant of SAR COV-19 might expand swiftly because it gets into a part of the country which has had a relatively low prior exposure to SARS-CoV2 – like  Kent or East Anglia – rather than because it has any particular biological advantage. As ever, talk of ‘exponential spread’ is misleading. We have now repeatedly seen that as exposure rises, spread slows.”

Jon Dobinson, Campaign Director of Recovery, commented, “The evidence suggests that Matt Hancock may have needlessly terrified millions of people by giving misleading information about a variant of the virus which has existed for months. With millions of lives and livelihoods at stake, it is imperative that the Government is seen to be carrying out a balanced and responsible public health campaign. This looks like irresponsible scaremongering. It increasingly seems as though Matt Hancock and his advisors are carrying out an all-out marketing campaign for harsh restrictions rather than taking a balanced and proportionate approach. It is now clear that he and the Government have been guilty of hugely damaging errors in tackling this virus. Are they trying to sustain the panic to avoid being held to account for the damage they have done? That would be criminally irresponsible, given the damage that their actions are causing. But it is increasingly hard to interpret their actions in any other way.”

The main evidence the variant transmits more easily appears to be the shape of the recent surge in London and the South East. But other parts of the country have had surges at other times. Why is it assumed this one must be due to a dangerous new variant? Worth recalling that December is always the busiest month for hospital admissions for respiratory disease and yet hospitals are currently quieter this year than last year.

Patrick O’Flynn in the Telegraph notes that the latest announcement fits a familiar pattern: “Isn’t it odd how these big, cataclysmic Covid U-turns always seem to get announced on a Saturday after the press-ganging of the PM by scientific advisers on a Friday?”

Paul Nuki brings, as ever, the voice of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation global health establishment, arguing, “Boris Johnson had no choice but to tighten restrictions” because “with the R rate above one, hospitals struggling, and a new strain spreading across the South East, the PM’s hands were tied”. Nonsense, of course. But towards the end he inadvertently blurts out a confession.

Almost every year British hospitals fill up in the weeks following Christmas threatening a crisis in the NHS. This is caused by a range of factors – including social care staffing issues – but a large part of it is dictated by Christmas itself and the rules of contagion.

Indeed. So are we going to do this every year now?

Leo McKinstry responds robustly to the latest round of scaremongering.

We have repeatedly heard such alarmist talk throughout the pandemic, and frequently the worst fears have not been realised.  In their notorious press conference in September, used to justify the second lockdown, the Chief Medical Officer Christ Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned that there could be 4,000 Covid deaths-a-day in the autumn. Nothing like that total was ever reached. Nor has there been any fulfilment of the continual forecasts about Covid swamping the NHS. In fact analysis published this morning of NHS data shows that hospitals are actually quieter than they were this time last year, while intensive care units have more room.  

It’s the latest in the Government’s spectacularly incompetent handling of the pandemic, says McKinstry.

The shambolic announcement is part of a pattern of inconsistency and incompetence. From the start of the outbreak, the Government’s approach has been riddled with epic contradictions, sudden reversals, gross mismanagement, spectacular waste and incoherent communications. In the autumn, Boris Johnson denounced Sir Keir Starmer for proposing the so-called “circuit-breaker”, then a fortnight later implement one himself. One week Ministers told us it is was our duty, for the sake of the economy, to get back to work. Soon afterwards they said that we should stay at home if possible. Similarly, Mr Johnson’s Government imposed a curfew on pubs, without providing any convincing evidence to support it, just as the bombast about a “world-beating” testing regime has proved shallow.   

So many of the Government’s restrictive policies – including lockdowns, tiers, and compulsory mask-wearing – do not seem to be working. The failure of Tier 3 is not the cue for an alternative, but its elevation into Tier 4. Yet the evidence for the collateral damage caused by these controls is overwhelming – in economic meltdown, poor mental health, chronic loneliness and social anxiety. Only last week, new figures revealed disturbing rises in both unemployment and domestic violence. 

Brendan O’Neill in spiked is similarly unimpressed.

The neo-Cromwellian edict has been issued. The thing that Boris Johnson said would be “inhuman” just a few days ago has now been done. For the first time in centuries people in vast swathes of England – London and the South East – will be forbidden by law from celebrating Christmas together. The Government’s promise of five days’ relief from the stifling, atomising, soul-destroying lockdown of everyday life has been snatched away from us. It’s too risky, the experts say; the disease will spread and cause great harm. You know what else will cause great harm? This cruel, disproportionate cancellation of Christmas; this decree against family festivities and human engagement.

But will people comply? Brendan doesn’t think so.

I’m hearing from so many people that they intend to go ahead with their Christmas plans. Political leaders and the miserabilist media will no doubt brand them “Covidiots”, thoughtless pricks who don’t care about others. On the contrary, it is precisely because they care for others – for their happiness, their social needs, their thirst for human connection – that they will defy this edict and celebrate Christmas. Our politicians may not understand that the purpose of life is to be with and around and there for other people, but millions of us still do. 

The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman draws attention to the lack of Government accountability in these decisions and the effect this is having on Conservative MPs.

Johnson will not have to face Starmer before the new policy comes into force: the regulations will be published tonight and the Coronavirus Act means Parliament does not need to be recalled to approve them. This will enrage a number of Conservative MPs who are already furious at the way the Government is handling the pandemic and who feel ministers are getting addicted to governing without scrutiny. Mark Harper, Chair of the Covid Recovery Group, has demanded a recall of Parliament, issuing a statement saying: “More immediately, given the three-tier system and the initial Christmas household rules were expressly authorised by the House of Commons, these changes must also be put to a vote in the Commons at the earliest opportunity, even if that means a recall of the House.”

At Lockdown Sceptics we wish the CRG and other conscientious MPs every success in bringing this out-of-control Government to heel.

Stop Press: A reader points out that although Tier 4 is being reported as having become legally enforceable as of midnight last night (Sunday), in fact there is no sign anywhere of a legal instrument, and until that appears Tier 4 rules are wholly advisory and have no legal basis. (You can read the current legal basis for the three-tier system here and it makes no mention of a Tier 4.) This means if the police try to stop you getting on a train you should ask them to specify which law you are breaking.

UPDATE: The new regulations are now published, in effect as of 7am this morning.

Stop Press 2: Boris’s latest flip-flop isn’t playing well in the broadsheets. Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph says he’s been “left with egg nog on his face“, while Tim Shipman in the Sunday Times says “cavalier Boris is now a sad, sober roundhead“.

New “Kent Covid” Variant is Less Deadly, Data Suggest

What follows is a guest post by Anthony J. Brookes, Professor of Genetics at the University of Leicester.

This new variant is most likely just an “asymptomatic variant”, i.e., a strain that causes no or very mild illness. This is exactly what natural selection would throw up and what would have been given a massive advantage when trying to suppress the virus by lockdowns and Test and Trace.

As such, it is likely a good thing, as it will help us achieve herd immunity more quickly, with far less illness. Thereafter, the virus will go away all by itself.

All viruses naturally evolve towards strains that are more transmissible but which cause mild or no disease. By lockdown and Test and Trace we have accelerated that natural process dramatically. One third of detected examples of this strain (or rather its clade) are in Essex, one third in London, and one third elsewhere in the UK. That is not consistent with a new strain with massive transmission advantage arising in one place (such as Essex) and spreading out from there. Hence this first “scary” graph actually proves that the new variant is not the cause of the prevalence increase in the claimed “problem” regions. It had the same percentage representation in three very different regions in early November. Whereas, if it were a new variant with rapid spread advantage it would instead have been ahead in one region and spread to the other regions later on.

In short, the new strain is spreading everywhere, as a background variant that causes no or mild disease, enabled to recently increase its relative abundance on account of lockdown and Test and Trace.

Something else is causing the apparent increase in the claimed “problem” areas. The “surge” in these regions is instead largely an artefact of massively increased testing in those regions – combined with reporting the misleading case rate (i.e., a simple count of detected positives, which consequently doubles if you double the amount of testing undertaken). The proper metric to look at is positivity rate (i.e., the percentage of people tested that got a positive result). And here it all is for Havering, one of the main “problem” regions in London, showing cases increasing with testing, but the positivity rate heading in the opposite direction.   

This final Government “chart of doom”, showing new hospital admissions in the “problem” areas, simply reflects the fact that they have massively increased testing in those parts of the country over the last few weeks – so creating more positives. The “new hospital admissions” measure is simply a count of how many (not what fraction) of new admissions had a positive test within the last 14 days. So it is exactly the same artefact as the case rate artefact. You can see this by comparing the admission curve to the amount of testing done in Havering.

How Deadly is COVID-19?

Stockholm

A new study in the Lancet concludes that COVID-19 is around three times more deadly than flu. This is based on a comparison of in-hospital mortality in France between the 2018-19 flu season and the spring SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. It finds 16.9% (15,104 of 89,530) of Covid patients died vs 5.8% (2,640 of 45,819) of flu patients.

The authors, Professor Lionel Piroth and colleagues, claim the study “highlights the importance of all measures of physical prevention”. But is that so? A disease under three times more deadly than flu would not seem to warrant wrecking the economy for, or demolishing millions of people’s liberties and livelihoods.

And is Covid really three times more deadly than flu? Here are three compelling reasons for thinking the study overestimates the death rate.

First, the in-hospital mortality rate of Covid has already reduced considerably since the spring when there was more uncertainty about how to treat patients and a rush to use ventilators (which often made things worse). It’s also possible hospital admissions were more selective in spring over capacity fears, raising the average severity of Covid illness in hospital and hence the fatality rate. Oddly, Piroth et al do not allow that treatment has improved, claiming that “no treatment has been shown to be effective for the COVID-19 clinical course”. This is a bizarre claim given the large and growing clinical and scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Ivermectin, Vitamin D, HCQ and other treatments.

Second, the flu mortality rate in recent years has been reduced by the annual flu vaccination programme. Without widespread vaccination flu would kill many more, as can be seen from winter mortality before vaccination was common.

Third, and perhaps most tellingly, Sweden had no excess mortality between July 2019 and July 2020, as demonstrated by researchers at the University of Oslo. The excess deaths in the spring epidemic were cancelled out by the mild 2019-20 flu season to leave overall mortality no higher than normal. The only increase was a 1% rise in mortality among the over-80s. If COVID-19 is three times more deadly than flu, how can a country which took only mild precautionary measures end up with deaths no higher than normal? This suggests that the higher estimates for Covid mortality are a result of not taking into account the “dry tinder” or mortality displacement effect of a build-up of the frail elderly population after a mild winter, plus a misclassification of deaths as “due to” COVID-19 when some other cause is primarily responsible.

Sweden, like many other countries, is currently experiencing an autumn surge. However, as elsewhere, its scale is being exaggerated by excessive testing and attention, as Dr Sebastian Rushworth, who is based in Stockholm, explains.

Here in Stockholm, the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid has been stable since late November, with around 800 people being treated simultaneously for Covid in hospitals (in spring around 1,100 people were simultaneously being treated for Covid in Stockholm at the peak).

Since the total number of hospital beds in Stockholm is around 3,850, it should be plain to everyone that the healthcare system has never been close to being overwhelmed, in spite of claims to the contrary in the media. And while it is true that hospitals are currently at 100% capacity, it is false to claim that that situation is in any way unusual. Sweden has among the lowest number of hospital beds per 100,000 population in Europe, and the hospitals are always running at 100% capacity at this time of year.

Despite introducing only light measures compared to other countries, Covid ICU admissions in Sweden have been falling since the end of November.

Excess mortality also began to fall at the end of November – a full week before ICU admissions began to decline.

This scale of mortality hardly seems to warrant closing down a country, which itself causes immense harm. Sadly, as Lockdown Sceptics reported yesterday, the Swedish Government now seems to have decided otherwise and is imposing stronger measures, despite their own example suggesting this is unnecessary.

Sweden is in the odd position of having proved to the world, through its prudent management of the crisis in the spring, that lockdowns aren’t necessary, and has now failed to heed that lesson, along with the rest of the world.

Incidentally, antibodies have been sharply on the rise again in Stockholm, an indication of an active epidemic as immune systems encounter the pathogen and produce the antibodies either for the first time or from T-cell memory (antibodies tend to fade over time when not in use, but the immunity remains in memory T-cells). Dr Sebastian Rushworth again:

One thing that I think is very interesting that has received little mention in the media is that the proportion of people with antibodies has been rising by 2 – 3% every week. In Stockholm, 37% of those tested for antibodies in week 49 were positive (up from 20% six weeks earlier). That suggests that the level of immunity is rising very rapidly in the population, and makes it questionable whether the vaccine will arrive in time to have any meaningful impact on the course of COVID-19 in Sweden, even if people start to get vaccinated shortly after Christmas, as is currently planned.

Stop Press: A recent edition of Julia Hartley-Brewer’s TalkRADIO show was pulled from YouTube because she had claimed that, for healthy people under 70, COVID-19 is less deadly than seasonal influenza. At Lockdown Sceptics, we did a quick fact check and concluded that what Julia had said is true. The most reliable estimate of the Covid IFR for the under-70s appears in Professor John Ioannidis’s recent paper for the World Health Organisation. He looked at 61 studies from around the world that have tried to measure the true prevalence of COVID-19 through serological studies and used that data to calculate the IFR. His estimate is that the IFR for Covid for healthy under-70s is 0.05%, i.e., it kills one in every 2,000 people that catch it. The IFR for seasonal flu is harder to calculate, partly because “flu” is a broad term covering a number of viruses, and partly because its deadliness varies from season to season. But according to Ross Clark in the Spectator, the IFR of the 2016-17 seasonal flu epidemic in the US was between 0.1% and 0.2%.

One of the most comprehensive sources of data is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US. In the season 2016/17 (the last for which full figures are available, more recent figures being provisional) the CDC estimated 29 million cases of flu across the US, resulting in between 29,000 and 61,000 deaths. That gives an IFR of between 0.1% and 0.2%.

WHO Admits Problem With PCR False Positives

Cartoon in the Christmas issue of the Spectator

The World Health Organisation has issued a medical alert drawing attention to the limitations of PCR tests and reminding users that for clinical diagnosis an examination of symptoms is required.

The probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as positivity rate decreases, irrespective of the assay specificity. Therefore, healthcare providers are encouraged to take into consideration testing results along with clinical signs and symptoms, confirmed status of any contacts, etc.

Users of RT-PCR reagents should read the IFU carefully to determine if manual adjustment of the PCR positivity threshold is necessary to account for any background noise which may lead to a specimen with a high cycle threshold (Ct) value result being interpreted as a positive result.  The design principle of RT-PCR means that for patients with high levels of circulating virus (viral load), relatively few cycles will be needed to detect virus and so the Ct value will be low. Conversely, when specimens return a high Ct value, it means that many cycles were required to detect virus. In some circumstances, the distinction between background noise and actual presence of the target virus is difficult to ascertain. Thus, the IFU will state how to interpret specimens at or near the limit for PCR positivity. In some cases, the IFU will state that the cut-off should be manually adjusted to ensure that specimens with high Ct values are not incorrectly assigned SARS-CoV-2 detected due to background noise.

This is an important admission and shows the work of Dr Mike Yeadon, Dr Clare Craig and others is making an impact. John O’Sullivan in Principia Scientific International has done a good write-up of the statement. He comments:

The UN body is now clearly looking to distance itself from the fatally flawed test as a growing number of lawsuits are processing through the courts exposing the insanity of relying on a test that even the inventor, Professor Kary B. Mullis, said was never designed to diagnose diseases. 

Worth reading in full.

Will it make a difference to how the test is used? We’ll have to wait and see.

A Reminder of What Makes Us Human

A reader has written to tell us about how moved he was at a “Covid” funeral recently.

On Thursday this last week the funeral of a neighbour was held in our village. He was 60 and had battled with leukaemia for 18 months, leaving a wife and two children. The last straw for him was being infected with COVID-19 by another patient in his hospital ward. He discharged himself and came home to die in peace from the leukaemia which he did a few days later. Of course it went down as a Covid death. Why wouldn’t it?

The point is that although the normal 30 maximum only were allowed to the church our village was swamped from one end to the other with dozens and dozens of mourners who had turned up to pay their respects by lining the street. They had all dressed as if they had been allowed to enter the church for the service, many arriving an hour or more early to stand in the cold wind. I stood there with them.

It was a remarkable sight and an honourable pay-off to a popular man. It showed me that the powerful human need to participate in important cultural and social rituals is still there, especially those that sit at the heart of our society and community. That’s in spite of the Government’s misguided belief that we can be denied all these without destroying the essence of what we are and for the sake of one very narrow perception of what life amounts to. 

Lord Gumption Strikes Again

Lord Jonathan Sumption

Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Jonathan Sumption has written a searing piece in the Telegraph pointing out what should be obvious by now, but isn’t to our Government and its blinkered scientific advisers: that lockdowns don’t work.

Looking at Europe and North America, two things occur. The first is that the virus has become endemic. The consensus of epidemiologists is that the vaccine will mitigate its impact but will not suppress it. The second is that the progress of the virus once it becomes endemic is broadly the same in populous countries, regardless of the policies of their governments. There have been savage lockdowns, as in Spain, which put the army on the streets to stop people going out, even for exercise. There have been purely advisory regimes, like Sweden’s.

Between these extremes there has been every possible variant. Some people, like the British, are said to be temperamentally resistant to being told what to do while others, like the Swedes or the Germans, are thought to be naturally compliant. The common factor is that they have failed. The Prime Minister’s extravagant rhetoric (“wrestling the disease to the ground”, etc.) sounds increasingly ridiculous.

Even with a vaccine as our exit route, this ought to make us pause before we start calling for more of a policy that has so demonstrably failed. Logically, there are only two possible explanations for its failure.

One is that the virus is more potent than governments. It may be that even the minimum of human interaction is enough to defeat the policy. In London, infections actually went up in the second lockdown. The other is that, whatever we do, the basic instincts of humanity, which is fundamentally sociable, will reassert themselves.

Governments and laws operate in a human environment. A policy that only works by suppressing our humanity is unlikely to work at all. Life is risky. A policy that seeks to eliminate risk ends up trying to eliminate life. We have to re-examine the whole concept that governments can simply turn social existence on and off at will, treating us as passive instruments of state policy.

This is not just a practical problem. It is a moral problem. What moral right does the state have to expect us to forswear our humanity to achieve its objectives, however admirable?

The central problem is expecting the healthy and low-risk majority to sacrifice so much, in many cases even their lives through missed medical care or suicide, for a vulnerable minority who could, if they wished and with some assistance, shield themselves.

COVID-19 is a serious threat to life and health for certain people: those over 65 and/or with identifiable clinical vulnerabilities.

Encouraging the vulnerable to isolate themselves speaks to their instinct for self-preservation. It goes with the grain of human nature. It is also rational – the onus should surely be on those most at risk to modify their way of life so as to limit that risk.

Ordering the young and healthy to isolate so as to avoid infecting the vulnerable, when the great majority of the vulnerable can keep themselves out of harm’s way if they wish, is not rational, conflicts with every instinct of social animals and defies human nature. Worse than that, it is morally disreputable. If you doubt me, then pause to think about the damage all this is inflicting on the young.

They are at virtually no risk of dying or even becoming seriously ill. “Long Covid” affects a small number and is not mortal. Yet the young and economically active are bearing the brunt of the Government’s measures. They are seeing their careers and job prospects destroyed before their eyes. We will get over COVID-19 eventually. Many of them will never get over the long-term effects of the countermeasures.

Some call this approach selfish. But Lord Sumption is having none of it. “The real selfishness,” he says, “is the selfishness of those who are willing to inflict all of these disasters on other people in the hope of enhancing their own security.”

Worth reading in full.

Liars, Fakers, and the Seductive Texture Of Authoritarianism

Matt Hancock Pinocchio

We’re publishing an original article today by philosopher Sean Walsh who thinks the people running the show in the UK are worse than liars – they’re fakers. Here’s the opening section:

In 1986 the philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote an article called ‘On Bullshit‘ in which he pointed out that there is an epistemological and therefore morally significant difference between lying and faking. When you lie, he argued, you inadvertently disclose that you have some concern for the truth. To fake, on the other hand, is to reach for whatever bullshit you can spout in service of your desired end.

This lack of concern for truth is what makes the chancer worse than the liar. The faker, having lost any interest in separating the true from the false, will inevitably end up deceiving himself. He has no skin in the game. The liar is at least theoretically capable of being brought to book; the faker is beyond help. His world is fundamentally distorted.

The histrionic response to COVID-19 has shown that we are presided over by a Lockdown Sanhedrin, the High Priests of which are all fakers. These are not dispassionate and objective observers of “the science”, because science, properly done, eschews fakery. They are people trapped in the addiction of authoritarianism. And self-deception is a driver of that pathology. There is a bewildering disparity between the ‘data’ they offer us and the homily they compose from it. When you acquire the habit of lying to yourself you end up not being able to spot when you look ridiculous to other people.

And this is what’s happened.

Worth reading in full.

Nominate Toby For the Contrarian Prize 2021!

The Contrarian Prize trophy

He didn’t ask me to write this. The Contrarian Prize 2021 will be awarded to a figure in British public life who has demonstrated independence, courage, sacrifice and whose ideas have challenged the status quo. Which has Toby Young written all over it. Nominations close on December 31st. Submit nominations (and find out more) here.

You can also watch the the Contrarian Prize lecture – this year an online conversation between Katharine Birbalsingh and Chairman of the judges panel Ali Miraj – here.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/StokeMatt_/status/1340349431334531074

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “What a Difference a Day Makes” by Dinah Washington, “It’s Freaking Me Out” by Eli Parker, “Free The People” by the Dubliners, “Spreading the disease” by Queensrych, “Christmas is Cancelled” by The Long Blondes, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard and “Lonely This Christmas” by Elvis Presley.

A reader commented: “Sadly, Elvis never recorded ‘When will this f**ing insanity end'”. On the plus side, you can listed to Media Bear singing ‘F@uci the Con-Man’ here.

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.

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the turn of the Dalton School, an exclusive fee-paying establishment in New York which is being eaten by its own woke ideology and the activists it breeds. Scott Johnston on the Naked Dollar blog site has the exclusive. The immediate issue the school’s facing is that the staff have refused to reopen on the grounds that reopening during the pandemic is “racist” – something to do with the black and brown teachers having longer commutes than the white teachers and therefore being more likely to catch the virus. But the problems run much deeper than that.

Over one hundred faculty have taken the opportunity to issue a lengthy set of racially-based demands that are breathtaking in their wokeness. Black students have added their own demands. 

These demands, which have been obtained exclusively by the Naked Dollar, go on for eight pages, and have as their underlying assumption that Dalton is systemically racist. Dalton’s teachers are refusing to come back until they are met. Parents are in an uproar, some threatening to remove their children. Major donors are said to be balking. The board, filled with New York movers and shakers, is in turmoil. The Naked Dollar has learned they have contracted an outside consulting firm to advise on handling the crisis.

Here is a sample of the demands:

  • The hiring of twelve (!) full time diversity officers
  • An additional full time employee whose “entire role is to support Black students who come forward with complaints.”
  • Hiring of multiple psychologists with “specialization on the psychological issues affecting ethnic minority populations.”
  • Pay off student debt of incoming black faculty
  • Re-route 50% of all donations to NYC public schools
  • Elimination of AP courses if black students don’t score as high as white
  • Required courses on “Black liberation”
  • Reduced tuition for black students whose photographs appear in school promotional materials
  • Public “anti-racism” statements required from all employees
  • Mandatory “Community and Diversity Days” to be held “throughout the year”
  • Required anti-bias training to be conducted every year for all staff and parent volunteers
  • Mandatory minority representation in (otherwise elective) student leadership roles
  • Mandatory diversity plot lines in school plays
  • Overhaul of entire curriculum to reflect diversity narratives

These won’t come cheap.

The demands for additional staffers alone would add millions of dollars to Dalton’s annual budget. Siphoning off 50% of donations would dry up funding. Eliminating AP classes (referred to as “levelled courses”) would destroy college admissions. It’s not an exaggeration to say these demands, if implemented, would destroy Dalton altogether. According to insiders, much damage has already been done.

What you may not know is that Dalton has long been one of the most progressive schools in the country. They have actively encouraged the sort of thinking that is now biting them in the ass. And the obvious irony is that if Dalton is “systemically racist,” a belief they themselves promote, it is progressives who bear the responsibility.

Once again: go woke, go broke.

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 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 and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision. Check here for more.

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 number of readers have told us they’re really enjoying Eric Clapton and Van Morrison’s new anti-lockdown song “Stand and Deliver”. Listen to it here. You can also hear Van Morrison’s other lockdown songs “No More Lockdown” here, “As I Walked Out” here and “Born To Be Free” here.