The Telegraph reported yesterday that momentum is gathering behind the rollout of the vaccine.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine roll out is being ramped up across the UK, after Boris Johnson promised vaccines would soon be available to people within 10 miles of their home.
The Prime Minister confirmed that as of January 7th, with the Pfizer and Oxford jabs combined, 1.26 million people in England and over 1.5 million across the UK have been vaccinated.
The latest figures show an increase of 200,000 vaccinations in one day, and includes more than 650,000 people over 80, which is 23% of all the over-80s in England.
As he announced the national lockdown that began on January 5th, the Prime Minister insisted that that there is “one huge difference” compared to the lockdown of last March.
“We are rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history,” he said. “We have vaccinated more people in the UK than in the rest of Europe combined.
“By the middle of February if things go well, and with a wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation.”
595 GP-led sites are already providing vaccines, which should increase to 1,000 by the end of next week according to Mr Johnson. There are also 107 hospital sites with a “further 100 later this week”, he added.
Also contributing to this “unprecedented national effort” will be the armed forces, who are set to be drafted in to help run mass vaccination centres in sports stadiums and public venues.
It is a good thing that those in the priority groups who want it are getting the vaccine, including the Queen and Prince Phillip, not least as this is a form of focused protection as recommended by the authors of the Great Barrington declaration. In the Wall Street Journal last month they wrote:
Given these facts, the Great Barrington Declaration calls for focused protection for the vulnerable. That means directing limited resources, now including vaccines, to shield these people from infection.
Vaccinating vulnerable groups as quickly as possible isn’t just about protecting them – it’s also about protecting the NHS. Writing in the Telegraph yesterday, Juliet Samuel pointed out that the key to lifting restrictions lies with easing the strain on hospitals.
Thankfully, there is a windfall headed our way, in the form of the Covid vaccines. In seven weeks, if all goes to plan, the vast majority of the demographics most likely to die of this disease will be largely immune. That should be more than enough to end the lockdown.
The Government is keen to attach long lists of conditionals to this promise, however. Asked about it, Boris would only say that in the spring, “very much I hope there will be the chance, to look at some relaxations of restrictions”.
The factor to watch is not actually the rollout of the vaccine programme, but the hospitalisation rate and the performance of the NHS. The race is not between death and vaccinations, but between vaccinations and beds.
Organised societies have always had to make trade-offs about the value of human life. What’s so odd about the British approach, however, is that we have replaced the sanctity of human life with the sanctity of the health system. If the NHS had double the capacity, the policy would no doubt be to tolerate twice the death rate. This tells us something about the perceived role of Government. It isn’t there to save lives, as such, but to look like it might be able to save lives. “Our NHS” is an emotional rallying cry not because it is a brilliantly effective system (God knows it’s not) or even because many of its staff work very hard, but because it is a structure we rely upon to hide our vulnerability. It is about the ideal, rather than the grim reality.
The problem with an ideal is that it easily eludes a cost-benefit analysis. Against it, you must raise other ideals: universal education, for example, or freedom. Covid policy tells us that none of these ideals currently have the same power as the promise of a hospital bed staffed by a caring nurse. If the reality falls, the Government gets the blame.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Writing in the Sunday Times, Robert Collville calls for the NHS to be rebuilt to withstand the next crisis.
Stop Press 2: A retired GP has got in touch to point out how difficult it is to volunteer as a vaccinator.
My wife and I and another retired GP here in north east Scotland wanted to volunteer as unpaid vaccinators. As general practices here are not involved in the vaccination programme, the only way to get involved is for us to apply for jobs as grade 5 nurses working for NHS Grampian on a short term contract. We have done so, but interviews are not until after January 17th. Then will come training, so you can see where this is going. Why on Earth did they not have this vaccination workforce ready for the beginning of January?
Christine Padgham has an written an interesting piece for Think Scotland looking into the problems the pandemic response is creating, both now and in the future.
On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon addressed the nation yet again and openly considered the possibility of tightening current Covid restrictions further. Where is Scotland now? How did we get here? Where are we going?
Let me lay my cards on the table: I’m a lockdown sceptic. But like any good scientist/sceptic, I am constantly re-evaluating my position. Every day I ask myself repeatedly: am I wrong?
I’d love to be wrong.
So yesterday, in an act of unusually brave self-flagellation, I listened to BBC News. I was dutifully informed that hospitals are about to collapse in South East England. I am quite familiar with the English hospital data and so I am aware that there are hospitals struggling there, and this is clearly worrying. It makes me wonder if I’m wrong about the situation in Scotland, but then again the statistics were released as usual at 2.00pm. My fear was once again fed that we in Scotland will never get out of this positive feedback loop we are in: our obsessive fear and testing of Covid is creating more of a problem than the disease itself.
The problems we are storing up are: medical, societal, personal, economic, democratic. The present and future damages just go on and on.
Our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, thinks that Covid impact is reduced by limiting social contact. This has become her whole Covid mitigation strategy, along with many other leaders around the world. She has created this idea, which has stuck, that humans generally, and Government specifically, can manage the spread of a virus. She has sold this idea relentlessly, with the help of the media, who have provided her with endless propaganda to help. Now, if she wants to reduce cases, the only tool at her disposal is to further reduce social contact – without regard or respect for the costs of such measures; the costs we know land disproportionately on the most vulnerable: the children, the elderly, the poor.
But many people have had enough and their number is growing. We are heading for a crisis whichever way you look at it and it seems that people are perhaps beginning to understand this.
Put simply, there is no evidence that lockdown works to prevent the spread of a virus.
We know the Government told us this in March and it was correct. Lockdown and the quarantine of the healthy is a bizarre experiment – never tried before but not treated as the experiment it is. We talk as if we have always dealt with viruses this way. There has been no rigorous analysis of the virological results of lockdown at all, much less the societal effects. We haven’t asked what effects this will have on our immunity either. Are we storing up huge health problems for next year and the years beyond?
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: A new data site has been launched called Inform Scotland for those “who share a common concern that contextualised data on Covid in Scotland is not as easily available as it should be, and that Scotland lacks forums where critical and informed discussion of this data and the policies which are claimed to rest on it can take place”. Looks very good.
Stop Press 2: A reminder that Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance is himself a lockdown sceptic – or was. Ahead of the first Lockdown in March, the Evening Standard reported his comments on Sky News:
If you completely locked down absolutely everything, probably for a period of four months or more then you would suppress this virus,
All of the evidence from previous epidemics suggests that when you do that and then you release it, it all comes back again.
The other part of this is to make sure that we don’t end up with a sudden peak again in the winter which is even larger which causes even more problems.
So we want to suppress it, not get rid of it completely which you can’t do anyway, not suppress it so we get the second peak and also allow enough of us who are going to get mild illness to become immune to this to help with the whole population response which would protect everybody.
John P. A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Professor Jay Bhattacharya, a founding signatory of the Great Barrington Declaration, and other colleagues at Stanford University, have published a new, fully peer-reviewed study. Their objective was to assess the impact of the non-pharmaceutical interventions adopted by many countries in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The spread of COVID-19 has led to multiple policy responses that aim to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. The principal goal of these so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) is to reduce transmission in the absence of pharmaceutical options in order to reduce resultant death, disease, and health system overload. Some of the most restrictive NPI policies include mandatory stay-at-home and business closure orders (“lockdowns”). The early adoption of these more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions (mrNPIs) in early 2020 was justified because of the rapid spread of the disease, overwhelmed health systems in some hard-hit places, and substantial uncertainty about the virus’s morbidity and mortality.
Because of the potential harmful health effects of mrNPI, including hunger, opioid-related overdoses, missed vaccinations, increase in non-COVID-19 diseases from missed health services, domestic abuse, mental health and suicidality as well as a host of economic consequences with health implications, it is increasingly recognized that their postulated benefits deserve careful study… We propose an approach that balances the strengths of empirical analyses while taking into consideration underlying epidemic dynamics. We compare epidemic spread in places that implemented mrNPIs to counterfactuals that implemented only less-restrictive NPIs (lrNPIs). In this way, it may be possible to isolate the role of mrNPIs, net of lrNPIs and epidemic dynamics. Here, we use Sweden and South Korea as the counterfactuals to isolate the effects of mrNPIs in countries that implemented mrNPIs as well as lrNPIs. Unlike most of its neighbors that implemented mandatory stay-at-home and business closures, Sweden’s approach in the early stages of the pandemic relied entirely on lrNPIs, including social distancing guidelines, discouraging of international and domestic travel, and a ban on large gatherings. South Korea also did not implement mrNPIs. Its strategy relied on intensive investments in testing, contact tracing, and isolation of infected cases and close contacts.
They describe their methodology as follows:
We estimate the unique effects of mrNPIs on case growth rate during the northern hemispheric spring of 2020 in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States by comparing the effect of NPIs in these countries to those in Sweden and South Korea (separately). The data we use builds on an analysis of NPI effects and consists of daily case numbers in subnational administrative regions of each country (e.g. regions in France, provinces in Iran, states in the US, and counties in Sweden), merged with the type and timing of policies in each administrative region…
It is important to note that because the true number of infections is not visible in any country, it is impossible to assess the impact of national policies on transmission of new infections. Instead, we follow other studies evaluating the effects of NPIs that use case numbers, implicitly assuming that their observed dynamics may represent a consistent shadow of the underlying infection dynamics.
Having set out their method, they say:
In the framework of this analysis, there is no evidence that more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions (“lockdowns”) contributed substantially to bending the curve of new cases in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, or the United States in early 2020. By comparing the effectiveness of NPIs on case growth rates in countries that implemented more restrictive measures with those that implemented less restrictive measures, the evidence points away from indicating that mrNPIs provided additional meaningful benefit above and beyond lrNPIs. While modest decreases in daily growth (under 30%) cannot be excluded in a few countries, the possibility of large decreases in daily growth due to mrNPIs is incompatible with the accumulated data…
They then turn to the winter surge in case numbers.
During the northern hemisphere autumn and winter of 2020, many countries, especially in Europe and the US, experienced a large wave of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Those waves were met with new (or renewed) NPIs, including mrNPIs in some countries (e.g. England) and lrNPIs in others (e.g. Portugal) that had used mrNPIs in the first wave. The spread of infections in countries that were largely spared in the spring (e.g. Austria and Greece) further highlight the challenges and limited ability of NPIs to control the spread of this highly transmissible respiratory virus. Empirical data for the characteristics of fatalities in the later wave before mrNPIs were adopted as compared with the first wave (when mrNPIs had been used) shows that the proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher under mrNPIs rather than under less restrictive measures. This further suggests that restrictive measures do not clearly achieve protection of vulnerable populations. Some evidence also suggests that sometimes under more restrictive measures, infections may be more frequent in settings where vulnerable populations reside relative to the general population.
Finally, they conclude:
In summary, we fail to find strong evidence supporting a role for more restrictive NPIs in the control of COVID-19 in early 2020. We do not question the role of all public health interventions, or of coordinated communications about the epidemic, but we fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures. The data cannot fully exclude the possibility of some benefits. However, even if they exist, these benefits may not match the numerous harms of these aggressive measures. More targeted public health interventions that more effectively reduce transmissions may be important for future epidemic control without the harms of highly restrictive measures.
It’s quite technical, but worth taking the time to read in full.
Stop Press: A new study in Sweden has found that Schoolteachers were no more likely to catch COVID-19 than the rest of the population when Sweden remained open during the first lockdown.
In the round-up, yesterday we linked to video letter from Dr Tess Lawrie of the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy in Bath to the Prime Minister concerning the potential of Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19. The video, as many readers found, swiftly and mysteriously disappeared from YouTube so we’ve moved the story up here to give it greater prominence. Dr Lawrie’s message is still available on the consultancy’s website, together with the report and the related press release (pdf) which provides more detail:
New British research has examined and pooled data from a wide range of international studies – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Spain, Egypt, India and the US – and found that the anti-parasitic medicine Ivermectin not only reduces deaths from COVID-19, but can be used to protect doctors and nurses – as well as others who have had “contacts‟ with ill people – from getting the infection.
The report was published last week by an independent UK-based medical research company, the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd (E-BMC).
The research was conducted to support the recent findings of Dr Pierre Kory and clinical experts of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) in the US. Doctors around the world are now working together to raise awareness of this life-saving medicine which probably reduces the risk of a person dying from COVID-19 by between 65% and 95%.
In addition, the researchers believe that ivermectin should be offered as a prophylactic measure to health care workers as soon as possible because the analysis shows that ivermectin substantially reduces COVID-19 infections in these at risk groups.
The conclusions of the new global research are so clear that it is believed Ivermectin should be viewed as an essential drug to reduce the severity of illness and fatalities caused by the COVID-19 virus.
In most studies included in the review, the doses of Ivermectin given were similar to those given for common parasitic infections in humans (e.g. 0.2mg/kg orally, equivalent to a 12mg tablet for a 6kg adult).
Commenting on the research, Dr Tess Lawrie of the E-BMC, said, “This is really good news. Ivermectin will have a significant impact on the battle against COVID-19
Meanwhile, over in the USA, Drs Pierre Kory and Paul Marik of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance appeared before the National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to present the latest evidence on ivermectin. The press release (pdf) which followed said:
The doctors explained to the panel that numerous clinical studies, including peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials, showed large magnitude benefits of ivermectin in prophylaxis, early treatment and also in late-stage disease. Taken together, the doctors reported that the dozens of clinical trials that have now emerged from around the world are substantial enough to reliably assess clinical efficacy.
Specifically, the FLCCC physicians and Dr. Hill presented data from 18 randomized controlled trials that included over 2,100 patients. The trial results demonstrated that ivermectin produces faster viral clearance, faster time to hospital discharge, faster time to clinical recovery, and a 75% reduction
in mortality rates.
“In order to save thousands who will die while waiting for their turn to receive the vaccine, it is imperative that treatment guidelines issued by the NIH over four months ago be updated to reflect the strength of the data for ivermectin in prophylaxis, early treatment, and late-stage disease,” said Dr. Kory, FLCCC president, following the hearing.
Ivermectin has not yet been approved by any of the relevant authorities in the UK as a COVID-19 treatment, but with so much emphasis being placed on rollout of the various vaccines it is worth considering that there are other potential drugs that could have been part of the solution.
Charles Holland, a lawyer who writes regularly for the Spectator, has examined the rules of the new Lockdown and he is not impressed:
When Boris Johnson rolled back the legal restrictions over summer as Britain emerged from the first lockdown, he was clear that enough was enough:
“Neither the police themselves, nor the public that they serve, want virtually every aspect of our behaviour to be the subject of the criminal law… After a long period of asking… the British public to follow very strict and complex rules to bring coronavirus under control… we will be asking [people] to follow guidance on limiting their social contact, rather than forcing them to do so through legislation.”
There has obviously been a sharp U-turn in this approach and though previous rule changes have been justified on the basis of making them easier for the public to understand and for the police to enforce it would be hard to mount such a defence now, says Charles Holland.
The law is very complex, the mere 12 pages of regulations for the English Lockdown 1 have been superseded by 120 pages of the (thrice amended) Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020. Intricacy more appropriate to the Dungeons and Dragons’ rulebook has not stopped an accompanying barrage of guidance, ministerial statements, spokespersons’ clarifications, police pronouncements, public information posters and pop-ups…
The circumstances in which a person may leave their Tier 4 home to access childcare services, for example, has been subject to wholesale amendment three times in less than three weeks. Sparing readers the tedious technical ebbs and flows, the current position reserves the use of a particular species of childcare to parents who are “critical workers”, but only where “reasonably necessary” to enable them “to work or search for work, undertake training or education, or to attend a medical appointment or address a medical need'”.
Parking the checklist-style complexity, it is difficult understand the rhyme or reason for this sort of cheese-paring. Why is it reasonable for a critical worker to put their child in childcare in order to attend a job interview, but not to attend a funeral?
Matters are made worse by guidance which overstates the law. The latest lockdown guidance resurrects previously challenged advice that exercise “should be limited to once per day”. The word ‘should’ (not ‘must’) indicates to lawyers that this is non-legally binding advice. Non-lawyers, such as the ambulant constable or PCSO in your local park, may not draw such nice distinctions. The Met’s ominous suggestion that Londoners can “expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about” raises the spectre of al fresco debates on restrictions and exceptions. There is plenty to debate: the regulations now set out 16 non-exhaustive categories of circumstances deemed to be a reasonable excuse to leave the home, with an overlay of non-enforceable guidance to further confuse what is already unclear. Derbyshire Constabulary, in particular, have once more come under the spotlight for what appears to be enforcement of guidance (exercise locally) rather than the law.
The gilding of the law with guidance remains a continuing mystery. If you want exercise to be limited to once per day or to be taken locally, why not legislate for that? Why devalue the legislative currency, already under pressure because of the sheer volume of regulatory output? Press reports suggested that the Government did consider travel restrictions, and even a night-time curfew, but was not prepared to go that far.
Further confusion arises from post-legislative departmental ‘clarification’. Lockdown 3 saw the removal of the express ‘recreation’ exemption from the stay-at-home rule: within two days, representations from angling and shooting organisations had caused Government officials to ‘acknowledge’ that fishing and shooting constitute ‘exercise’, and thus within a permitted exception…
Why does this matter? Because the cost of lockdown will be squandered unless it works. The great unanswered question is this: is the current combination of laws, guidance and enforcement policies the best mechanism to achieve the minimum in social mixing and concomitant reduction in transmission of the virus? I’m not convinced.
No-one would envy Government the task of coming up with the right mixture of rules and imploring people to use their common sense. But constant tweaking of the criminal law to micromanage ways in which people might need to venture out of the front door and interact has produced a mush of overwhelming complexity. This is a gift to both the loophole spotter and the overzealous enforcer. It undermines enforcement against the irresponsible, who can – and do – use complexity of the law as justification for not understanding it. The resurgence of arbitrary lines of fine-tuning also undermines a message that would be more effective if put simply.
So while Boris’s broadcast message to “stay at home” was straightforward, the rules are anything but. There are too many regulations. They are too complicated. And Government advice only adds to this confusion.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The Telegraph is reporting that police will issue fines to rule breakers after one warning.
Stop Press 2: The police do themselves get caught out occasionally. A number of officers were spotted tucking into breakfast inside a café. A clear breach of the rules and the matter is being investigated according to MailOnline.
C2C journal has an interview with David Redmond, the former head of Alberta’s counter-terrorism strategy and an ex-military man. He draws on decades of high-level military experience to offer a robust alternative to Canada’s pandemic response.
C2C Journal: Throughout this crisis we’ve heard plenty from public health officials and doctors, and to a lesser-degree from economists and assorted other public policy experts. But while it’s popular to talk about how we are “at war” with COVID-19, we’ve heard next to nothing from the people who actually know how to win wars. Take us through the military perspective on how we should be battling this disease.
David Redman: The first step to resolving emergencies is to respect the planning process. From the time I was a lieutenant, the army taught me to begin with what we called the Estimate of Situation. Once you have your problem, you analyse the mission: Who is your enemy? Who are your allies? What tasks are given? What tasks are implied? What can go wrong? After many years working with Government and the private sector, I’ve discovered that the knowledge and skills required for this sort of operational planning are severely lacking outside the military.
When an emergency happens, you need a process to create a plan, and then you need to follow that plan. Since the 1950s every Government in this country has had a set of emergency plans: what to do in the case of a forest fire, flood, dangerous goods accident or pandemic etc. These are all updated regularly. Alberta’s pandemic plan was last updated in 2014.
But what happened in the middle of March when COVID-19 appeared on our shores after wreaking havoc in China, Italy, Spain and France? Governments took every plan they’d ever written and threw them all out the window. No one followed the process. They panicked, put the doctors in charge and hid for three months. And now, having made that mistake, we can’t get out of it.
C2C: Why is it a mistake to put doctors in charge of a pandemic?
DR: The short answer is that a pandemic is not a public health emergency. It is a public emergency. These are two very different things. Public health emergencies are best used for local outbreaks of disease. An outbreak of measles in a single community that can be isolated could be considered a public health emergency. A provincewide or nationwide pandemic should never be declared a public health emergency because the powers that you need and the people who are going to be affected go far beyond the health care system. It affects every citizen, every industry, every non-profit organization. Everything.
The problem with our COVID-19 response is that power has been placed in the wrong place. Why? Because Governments adopted the wrong mission statement. The first principle of war is the selection and maintenance of the aim. If you miss on that, things are going to go very poorly. Across the country it appears to me that our aim has been to minimize the number of people who catch COVID-19. That is repeatedly reflected in the media. The daily case count is the most important thing in every daily newscast and every news story. It’s all the politicians seem to talk about. This is wrong…
C2C: Rather than put doctors in charge, what should we have done in response to COVID-19 in those first crucial months last spring?
DR: Since the middle of March, we had access to reliable statistics from China, Spain, Italy, France that showed quite clearly 70% of all deaths arising from Covid-19 were of people over the age of 80. Another 18% were 70 to 79 years old. Only 3.5% were under the age of 60. And less than 1% of the people who’d died up to that point didn’t have at least one pre-existing underlying medical complication. This wasn’t September. This was March. We knew very quickly what Covid-19 was doing – it was killing old people who had severe comorbidities. The immediate response should have been: how do we protect those people?
As we say in the military, an 80% solution applied with vigour immediately is better than a 100% solution applied too late. What holds in a battle holds in pandemics too. First, we should have identified every concentration of vulnerable people, including all nursing homes, hospitals and palliative care homes. Then comprehensive options should have been developed to quarantine both the residents of these facilities and the staff who supported them. Support and relief systems for these staff and surge capacity should have been discussed back in March. Instead each new outbreak in a seniors home seemed to come as a surprise.
Can this man please be placed in charge of coordinating Britain’s response to the next pandemic?
Worth reading in full.
- “Rapid rollout of Covid testing blitz for people cannot work at home” – Perhaps in an effort to put people off from venturing out the house, Matt Hancock has announced a new community testing scheme with an article in the Mail on Sunday
- “Spring polls set to be put on hold” – The Sunday Times reports that spring elections may be delayed until autumn. That will mean Sadiq Khan remaining in office for 18 months after his term of office expired
- “Holiday-makers face being trapped abroad under new rules preventing them from travelling home if they fail a Covid test” – Report in the Mail On Sunday. When Grant Shapps makes new rules, travel chaos ensues
- “Telling us our exams have been scrapped is the final straw” – A-level student Beatrice Gove (daughter of Michael and Sarah) describes the impact of the lockdowns on her and her friends in a powerful piece in the Mail on Sunday
- “Neil Ferguson puts his faith in the herd” – An interview with the infamous disease modeller in the Sunday Times. He is “optimistic” about 2021, saying “there is a scenario” in which we have “fewer restrictions than we have now” in the autumn and things are “almost basically back to normal”. God help us
- “OECD: Lockdowns here to stay, even with vaccine plan” – The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development thinks lockdowns will be with us for another six to nine months, according to the BBC
- “Professor Sunetra Gupta, 5th January 2021” – Listen to Professor Sunetra Gupta’s recent appearance on the Today programme on Radio 4
- “Even in a pandemic, citizens should be free to ask difficult questions” – Excellent leader defending lockdown scepticism in yesterday’s Telegraph
- “I am, for the first time, afraid for the future of freedom in my country” – The latest from anti-lockdown stalwart Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday. He feels a dark, oppressive foreboding about the current situation
- “We are the lockdown lab rats” – Provocative piece by Andrew Cadman for the Conservative Woman. COVID-19 offers scientists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to test their theories and he wonders if the scientific quest is skewing the advice they give to Governments
- “It’s vital to inoculate against tunnel vision” – The Government’s decision-making process is not based on science, writes David Seedhouse for the Conservative Woman
- “France’s vaccine chaos will come back to haunt Macron where it hurts” – Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in the Telegraph, offering some insight into French difficulties in rolling out its vaccination programme
- “Chinese capital on alert as cases rise next door in Hebei” – The South China Morning Post reports that Beijing is on alert after 33 new cases were identified in Hubei
- “Majority of Canadians in recent poll support stricter COVID-19 lockdowns, hefty fines for rulebreakers” – The National Post reports on a poll which suggests that Canadians have developed a taste for authoritarian lockdowns. This was brought to our attention by a man in Canada who points out that the country ranks 51st in the world in deaths per million, with 443 compared to the UK’s 1,188
- “False Reports of a New ‘U.S. Variant’ Came From White House Task Force” – “Reports of a highly contagious new coronavirus variant in the United States, published on Friday by multiple news outlets” were “based on speculative statements” by Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Task Force, according to the New York Times. An illustration of the dangers of high-speed syndication
- “The Liberal-Left Has Gone Fully Illiberal” – Jenin Younes, writing for the AIER blog, is astonished at how the liberal-left has embraced authoritarian policies, ostensibly to manage the pandemic
- “Philippe Lemoine on the Case for Lockdown Scepticism” – Listen to Philippe Lemoine speak with Jonathan Key on the Quillette podcast, as they address the risks of forced isolation and discuss how lockdowns are supported by models based on flawed assumptions and how their benefits may well be the result of disease-avoidant behaviour that most of us would engage in anyway
Five today: “Something Better Change” by The Stranglers, “A Winter’s Tale” by David Essex, “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel (featuring Kate Bush), “United We Stand” by Brotherhood of Man and “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones.
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.
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We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Department which has just adopted the recommendations of its Racial Justice Task Force. Campus Reform has the story:
The University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Department approved a series of diversity-related recommendations from its “Racial Justice Task Force,” including a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes” which is also open to “allies and non-athletes.”
Director of Penn Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun and the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics unanimously affirmed the task force’s recommendations.
Penn Athletics states that “these recommendations have been created as a beginning, not a conclusion” in the process of making the athletics department into a “more diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organisation.”
The athletics department will create a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes,” which will also be open to “allies and non-athletes.” This centre will also be “open late night and early morning with swipe access,” and include work-study opportunities “funded by the Black Student-Athlete Fund”.
Among the task force’s short-term goals is the hiring of an “Athletic Diversity & Inclusion” designee, who will be “solely dedicated to job responsibilities focusing on diversity and inclusion”. In the long-term, the University is recommended to “secure funding for and hire a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer”.
The task force notes that financial restrictions may apply in the short-term and therefore recommended that an existing staff member serve alongside a “group of diverse staff” which will assist with implementing the task force’s other recommendations…
According to the recommendation, student-athletes will view a one-hour video entitled “Broadening Your Perspectives”. Then, students will be divided into 30-person groups to discuss the video and view additional content.
In the long-term, staff members will undergo training during in-services, as well as implicit bias training for hiring managers “on an ongoing basis”.
Chance Layton, Communications and Membership Coordinator for the National Association of Scholars, told Campus Reform that “the intention of creating a space marketed for ‘Black student-athletes and club sport athletes’ is straightforward neo-segregation. Racially segregated spaces are not ‘separate but equal,’ and they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t exist, period.”
“Had this draft plan stuck with community engagement and enrichment, especially for the community around Penn, it might have served its purpose,” he added. “Instead, the drafters have opted to worsen race relations on campus.”
Stop Press: Over in the Critic, David Scullion has noted that the Germans are rethinking the names they give to weather events.
Before 1998 in Germany cloudy low pressure weather systems used to have female names and sunny highs were male, demonstrating beyond doubt the patriarchal nature of the planet. But now fearless activists [sic] journalists have uncovered another profound injustice in our atmosphere: the fact that German storms are given German names. The group have just started something called #WeatherCorrection, and no, it’s nothing as sinister as the cloud-seeding that tyrants reportedly do to make sure their birthday is sunny, it’s just a harmless plot by the New German Media Makers to re-make the weather in their image. The group have started naming weather fronts foreign-names instead of German ones as an awareness campaign in which they also want the media to impose race quotas when hiring. In Germany anyone can name a weather system; it’s €360 for a sunny high but €240 for a rainy low. Of course, placing a lower value on so-called “worse” weather is problematic, as is the discriminatory practice of only accepting euro payments when placing your political ad in the sky, but it’s progress. The next task will be combatting the white fragility of snowflakes and re-naming the earth’s light-source something a bit less male.
We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And 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.
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 and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.
Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to challenge the perception that the populations of Asian countries have always been enthusiastic mask wearers.
I have lived in Asia for most of the last 20 years (China and Malaysia) and travelled extensively throughout the region during that time.
So it is with absolute authority that I can say that the claim that wearing masks in public in Asian countries was common prior to this Covid crisis is complete and utter rubbish. I have seen this assertion made on numerous occasions by politicians and others here in Britain. It simply isn’t true.
Prior to the Covid crisis, masks could be seen from time to time on a very small proportion of people, primarily as a protection against severe pollution (for which a mask definitely does help). In more recent times I have encountered the odd person with a cold wearing a mask out of consideration but this is something I have encountered perhaps half a dozen times over a period of 20 years.
The idea that mask wearing was widespread prior to the Covid crisis is just not true and the few people that did wear them did so primarily to protect themselves from pollution.
If our hope is a complete return to normality at some point, I think it is essential that this claim of widespread mask wearing in Asia prior to Covid be called out for the misinformation that it is.
Have other readers had a similar experience of mask wearing in the East Asia? Let us know here.
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 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.
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.
Stop Press: A new group called Lawyers for Liberty are supporting the Robin Tilbrook case against the Government examining whether the Government has acted constitutionally in enacting a lockdown. They are asking for witness statements from UK-based business owners, large or small, who have been forced to close, as the group’s spokesperson, Jo Rogers, explains:
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.
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