Month: January 2021

Latest News

Boris in No Rush to Lift Restrictions

The Telegraph reports that Government ministers are in no rush to lift restrictions, believing the public supports going slow and steady (it’s almost as though someone has scared the bejesus out of them). UnHerd in an editorial has had a shot at predicting how the long lockdown of 2021 will pan out.

Vaccination should mean an end to the lockdowns we’ve experienced so far. Step by step, life will return to normal. Households will be allowed to mix again. Schools, shops, pubs and restaurants will re-open. We might even stop wearing masks.

But there’s a catch: the threat of new variants. Even if vaccination stops the spread of Covid in a particular country, there’s the rest of the world to worry about. If the virus continues to spread and mutate elsewhere, there’s a danger that we’ll import a new variant against which our vaccines are less effective.

Therefore, expect massive public pressure for ongoing restrictions on cross-border travel. Australia doesn’t expect to fully reopen its borders this year – not even if most of its population is vaccinated. In the Republic of Ireland, a recent poll found 90% support for quarantining anyone entering the country.

It’s not that we don’t want things to go back to the way they were – in fact, we’re desperate for them to do so. But that’s precisely why we’ll be so protective of the progress that we do make. Hence, the likelihood of long lockdown aimed at locking out any resurgence of the disease.

For most people, the long lockdown will much easier to bear than the crisis lockdowns we’ve come to know and hate. However, there’s one thing that will be worse about the successor regime – it will be more divisive.

Despite Government statements to the contrary, they predict overt vaccination discrimination.

Another divide that the long lockdown might open up is between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. The latter are likely to face restrictions that the former don’t. Indeed, discrimination could be a deliberate instrument of policy if achieving herd immunity is deemed to be compromised by the refuseniks.

This is already happening, with travel operator Saga informing customers yesterday that only those who are “fully vaccinated” may travel.

Depressingly, much of this UnHerd piece rings true in terms of how things are likely to go. Having bet the farm on vaccines and winning (well, kind of), the prevailing sense now seems to be that the vaccines are simply not good enough to let us go back to normal – some people will still get ill and die, and new variants will come along that might get round them. The Government has never carried out a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine what the limits should be on lockdowns, so it’s just muddling along without any proper guide ropes. How effective do vaccines have to be – what level of deaths can we live with? There will be no end of new variants. Does this mean lockdown forever? Patrick Vallance has suggested that Covid jabs will become annual, like flu. The Mail reports:

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Patrick said: “I think it’s quite likely that we are going to need regular vaccination, at least for a few years. And I think it’s quite likely those vaccines may need to change a bit as they do for flu every year.”

But he added that it was not yet certain whether annual vaccinations would be taking place.

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “But that will be planned in the way it is planned for flu as well. This virus has taken us by surprise time and time again and we just don’t know. There are fears mutant strains of the virus could get around immunity triggered by vaccines, although a variant with this ability hasn’t been identified. 

Sir Patrick told Sky the Government’s scientists are now “increasingly of the view” that the Kent variant “will be susceptible to the vaccine and to previous immunity. The studies are all pointing in that direction so I think that’s good in terms of vaccine effect,” he said. “[But] for some of the others that are popping up around the world – and they will continue to pop up – we’ve still got some question marks as to how effective a vaccine will be.”

Boris Johnson imposed demands for everyone arriving in the UK from abroad to have tested negative for coronavirus and quarantine this week, in an attempt to lock out any new variants.

Sir Patrick said he was pushing ministers for a harder approach against the virus, because their experience since March showed that looser measures easily allowed the virus to resurge.

“I think there is a very simple series of recommendations which I’ve been pushing continuously and I’ll continue to do so, which is the lesson is: go earlier than you think you want to, go a bit harder than you think you want to, and go a bit broader than you think you want to, in terms of applying the restrictions. I’m afraid that’s a grim message but that is what the evidence says – you’ve got to go hard, early and broader if you’re going to get on top of this. Waiting and watching simply doesn’t work.”

Except of course every time we’ve locked down – in March, November and January – it can readily be seen from the data that new infections were falling before the restrictions came in. Why does this simple point never break through in the thinking of senior Government advisers like Vallance?

In this evidence-free atmosphere, the calls of those on the extremes of the debate demanding Zero Covid gain an increasingly sympathetic hearing. Professor Devi Sridhar, the social anthropologist, has redoubled her push for an elimination strategy in a series of tweets. The Herald reports:

[Prof Sridhar tweeted]: “Quite simply: as new variants emerge we don’t know whether our vaccines will protect against them or whether having Covid once means you can’t get it again. Not scaremongering but laying out facts and scientific uncertainty. Why wait and watch instead of getting ahead of this?”

She said the good news is that we know how to control Covid through measures including the “buy-in of population that there’s a plan”, robust test/trace/isolate, and very tight border restrictions.

Professor Sridhar, who is an adviser to the Scottish Government, warned that people will not keep complying if they don’t think there’s “light ahead on when life will get back to normal”.

And she said that eliminating the virus should be the goal where possible.

She tweeted: “Countries that have the resources and political will should clearly eliminate COVID-19.”

It’s a topsy-turvy world where this kind of fantasy of eliminating an endemic, highly infectious virus is regarded as a sensible suggestion while sceptics who suggest applying time-honoured public health principles of risk management, heeding the lessons of no-lockdown states like Sweden, are smeared as dangerous enemies of the people.

Stop Press: The Spectator‘s gossip columnist Steerpike quotes Prof Sridhar claiming that an independent Scotland would “definitely” have made different decisions on the pandemic, and that “in the summer, we got the numbers low”. This suggests a failure to understand that COVID-19 is a seasonal respiratory virus and a failure to recognise that most of Europe, including England, had low infections in the warmer months.

Sridhar continues to push Scotland towards a Zero Covid strategy:

So, yeah, I think it is really hard because we’re not getting the support that we require to be able to go the full way we want to go. It’s hard because, I think, you saw in the summer the talks about elimination and zero Covid, clear focus on getting numbers low – we never saw that clarity of vision from England and that’s really hard. We’re still not getting it, and I hope we will get it, but it might take a few more months.

She’s a big fan of Nic Sturge-On:

“I do feel much safer right now being in Scotland, knowing that there’s a leader in charge who takes the health of the public incredibly seriously and takes her job really seriously and is hard-working.”

She contended that “across the political spectrum… in daily life, anyone I speak to, regardless of what they believe or what party they support, has said that she has done a remarkable job”. Professor Sridhar insisted she wasn’t making “a political point” but said she would “take the heat” and “speak what I think is right”.

Worth reading in full.

WHO Updates Guidance on PCR Tests: Recommends Re-Testing to Confirm Positives

The World Health Organisation has updated its guidance on PCR tests to ensure they are used properly.

Target audience: laboratory professionals and users of IVDs.

Purpose of this notice: clarify information previously provided by WHO. This notice supersedes WHO Information Notice for In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device (IVD) Users 2020/05 version 1, issued December 14th 2020.

Description of the problem: WHO requests users to follow the instructions for use (IFU) when interpreting results for specimens tested using PCR methodology.  

Users of IVDs must read and follow the IFU carefully to determine if manual adjustment of the PCR positivity threshold is recommended by the manufacturer.

WHO guidance Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 states that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed. The cycle threshold (Ct) needed to detect virus is inversely proportional to the patient’s viral load. Where test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested using the same or different NAT technology.

WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases. This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.

Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.

For months now, sceptics have been ridiculed for questioning the accuracy of the PCR test, referring to the risk of false positives when prevalence is low and urging the Government to carry out confirmatory second tests on those that test positive. This updated advice from the WHO is a vindication of our position. We look forward to Governments and health authorities bringing their practices into line with it.

Stop Press: George Michael writes that “False-Positives are Crushing the NHS“.

This analysis explores the very likely possibility that staff, patients, and the NHS as a whole are being mismanaged due to the significant proportion of positive COVID-19 cases in Pillar 1 that are false (where Pillar 1 represents the data from tests carried out in Public Health England (PHE) labs and NHS hospital settings).

Worth reading in full.

The Smearing of Sumption

Lord Sumption: the monstering of a lockdown sceptic
Lord Jonathan Sumption

Luke Gittos in spiked comes to the defence of Lord Sumption, whose comments about how lives are valued in public health policy has been wilfully misunderstood by people determined to demonise lockdown sceptics.

There is something really frightening about the unhinged mobbing of retired Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption that has unfolded over the past few days.

Over the weekend, Sumption appeared on BBC One’s The Big Questions to explore whether lockdown was “punishing too many for the greater good”. In the course of the debate, he entered into an exchange with Deborah James, who has stage-four metastatic bowel cancer.

Sumption said that the life of his grandchildren was worth far more than his own because they had “much more of it ahead”. James, who hosts the BBC’s You, Me and the Big C podcast, said Sumption was wrong to say that therefore her life was “not valuable” as she had less life ahead than many others. Sumption responded by saying, “I didn’t say it was not valuable. I said it was less valuable.”

You do not need a medical degree to know what Sumption was saying. In fact, you probably only need an ounce of common sense. Sumption was making a point about how we ascribe moral value to different lives according to their remaining length and quality. He subsequently explained to Good Morning Britain that he was not making any point about James herself. He said “every policymaker has to make difficult choices. Sometimes that involves putting a value on human life. It’s a standard concept in health economics.” He was making the point that healthcare necessarily involves deciding on what, or rather who, to prioritise. Doctors make such difficult judgment calls every day. This is not controversial.

This issue is central to questions related to lockdown. Those who die of Covid are likely to be very old. The difficult moral question posed by the virus, and our response to it, is how to balance the need to protect the vulnerable with the need to ensure that everyone else continues to receive healthcare when they need it. To pretend that this is a non-issue is to fail to engage with one of the central moral questions raised by the pandemic.

I do not think any of this is revelatory. In fact, I believe everyone knows that this is what Sumption was saying.

Yet this hasn’t stopped people twisting his views, calling them “abhorrent” and comparing him to a eugenicist.

Worth reading in full.

Triple Test Challenge

There’s an opportunity for Lockdown Sceptics readers to get involved in important research putting the different types of COVID-19 tests to the test. From the PhysioFunction website:

Testing in the community: would you like to help in the control of COVID-19 with a free same day test result and a free antibody test if you are positive?

PhysioFunction has been providing COVID-19 testing services since June 2020. We offer:

PCR tests that are processed by a UKAS accredited testing laboratory (No.4236), and

Point of Care Lateral Flow Tests (“rapid 30 minute tests”) adhering to ISO 15189 and ISO 22870 standards. 

PhysioFunction has been commissioned to provide supervised PCR sample collection and Lateral Flow Test processing to gather important data on test reliability and accuracy.

We need 1,000 volunteers as soon as possible to take part in the trial – with or without symptoms.

The trial will involve participants taking three coronavirus tests, one after the other:

1.    A PCR test which will be sent to a Government processing centre

2.    A PCR test which will be sent to a certificated private UKAS accredited laboratory

3.    A Lateral Flow test which will produce a result in 30 minutes at the testing site

There is no charge to participants. Participants who test positive will be offered a FREE antibody test after 28 days to confirm the presence or absence of antibodies to the coronavirus. 

There are two testing locations – one in Central London and one in the East Midlands, near junction 18 of the M1, at Spratton. 

The three tests will only take 15 minutes to complete under supervision by trained staff. The results of the Lateral Flow test, positive or negative, will be communicated to you by email after you have left the test site and the result is known. Additionally, the result of the private PCR test will be communicated to you by email as soon as the result is known – most likely within 24 hours.

In order to take part, you will need to have requested a Government PCR home test kit from www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.

Please book an appointment when you have received your kit.

A confirmation email with the date, time and location will be sent to you to confirm your booking. Please bring the unused Government test kit with you, and be on site at the appointed time. This allows all three tests to be completed at the same time. 

We do hope you feel able to do this trial with us, and please do ask some of your friends to do the same. 

Please contact us with any queries at info@physiofunctiontrial.co.uk

Thank you for your consideration and assistance. 

Doctors Ask for National Breast Screening Service to be Paused

A doctor has written to us with some unwelcome news about the prospect of cancer screening being suspended once more.

We have just received notice from the Association of Breast Surgeons who has written to NHS CEO Simon Stevens asking that yet again the National Breast Screening Service is paused (i.e. stopped). You may know that this was stopped between March and July! Apparently in the interest of minimising risks from Covid.

I have absolutely no idea what the so called “risks” there are. I do not think we have had any nosocomial Covid from women attending either screening service or follow up mammograms.

Sure, for some women delaying screening is of little consequence, but for others it can make a big difference. Either way, even if there could be a demonstrable lack of effect of delaying diagnosis (which there is not) ,I would still find it very difficult to justify stopping screening.

I find the fact that we are prioritising Covid over breast cancer utterly disgusting and a failure of the profession to assess real Covid risks vs “presumed” Covid risks. It also takes away the concept of freedom, in that patients can choose whether or not to attend screening mammograms.

Ivermectin Inches Towards Approval

The awaited meta-analysis of trials involving the drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 by Andrew Hill at the University of Liverpool was published as a pre-print on Tuesday.

It concludes: “In six randomised trials of moderate or severe infection, there was a 75% reduction in mortality.”

However, “many studies included were not peer reviewed and meta-analyses are prone to confounding issues. Ivermectin should be validated in larger, appropriately controlled randomised trials before the results are sufficient for review by regulatory authorities.”

A video presentation by Dr Hill was leaked at the end of December. Arab News reported on it earlier this month.

Early-stage trials indicate that a cheap and readily available drug has the potential to make “transformative” changes to COVID-19 mortality rates, according to a leaked presentation by Liverpool University scientists.

Data revealed in the presentation suggested that the drug Ivermectin – normally used to treat lice – could cut deaths in hospitals by as much as 80%.

In 11 trials involving more than 1,000 patients, those who received the drug appeared to clear themselves of the virus in about half the usual time.

Trials of another 5,000 patients have yet to report their results, but Dr. Andrew Hill, the researcher at Liverpool University who gave the leaked presentation, said they are expected soon.

He emphasised that his data looked only at the so-called “gold-standard” randomised controlled trials, in which patients were randomly assigned the drug or a placebo.

“The combined data may be large enough to get to World Health Organization recommendations for treatment being used worldwide,” Hill said.

“If we see these same trends consistently across more studies, then this really is going to be a transformative treatment.”

He said the anti-parasitic drug could be a particularly important weapon against COVID-19 in the developing world because of its low cost. “It’s very attractive because it costs between $1 and $2 for a treatment course,” Hill added.

Dr Sebastian Rushworth has expressed a similarly positive opinion on ivermectin as the meta-analysis in a recent blog post. He goes into some detail about the studies and their shortcomings. He sums up:

Three of the four trials did produce some signal of benefit. However, all four trials had major flaws, and two of the trials that did find a benefit were also giving Doxycycline, which makes it impossible to disentangle whether the potential benefit was coming from Ivermectin or Doxycycline. But these trials were all small, so it’s perfectly possible that there is a benefit but that the trials were just too small to detect it. What we really need now is a big, high quality, double-blind, randomised controlled trial of Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid.

He is hopeful, though:

Do I think the huge reduction in mortality is real? I think it’s very possible. These were after all randomised controlled trials, so the risk of confounding factors is low (with the exception of Doxycycline, which could be responsible for some or even all of the beneficial effect seen). And, as mentioned, the risk of publication bias appears to be pretty low. And the outcome for which there is a big effect size is mortality, which is a hard outcome that is hard for researchers to manipulate.

It’s frustrating that these trials have not been done for a drug so promising. Dr Rushworth suggests a reason why.

If Ivermectin were shown to be effective against Covid, that would be great, because it’s generic, cheap, safe, and widely available, so it would be easy to start treating people quickly. Unfortunately, that also means western pharmaceutical companies have zero interest in doing research on Ivermectin, because there is no way to make a decent profit from it. Who does have an interest? Poorer countries that can’t afford expensive new drugs. That means the research on Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid has been pretty much entirely carried out outside the west.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Robert Clancy, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the University of Newcastle Medical School in Australia, has written a good piece in Quadrant looking at vaccines and treatments.

More Mask Study Problems

Lockdown Sceptics reader Thomas Verduyn has taken a closer look at the Lancet mask study I criticised yesterday the one funded by Google claiming to find that a 10% increase in self-reported mask-wearing was associated with much lower R rate and found more holes. Thomas has a degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto where his focus was aerospace engineering. He says he keeps his brain sharp by reading around 10 textbooks a year across a range of subjects. Over to him.

Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with this study.

1. The study did not include mask use at work as they operated on the assumption that most Americans were not going to work. This is a critical omission as lots of people still went to work and also ate lunch together in lunchrooms.

2. The study ends with a list of other factors they did not take into account. For example, they point out “it is difficult to disentangle individuals’ engagement in mask-wearing from their adoption of other preventive hygiene practices, and mask-wearing might be serving as a proxy for other risk avoidance behaviours not queried (e.g. avoiding crowded spaces…)” Any one of these factors might have shifted the results, especially given the observed change in transmission values was small, the averages varying only between 1.0 and 1.1.

3. The study involved so many variables that when I read the report I imagined someone sitting at his computer and adjusting the parameters until the perfect slope resulted. For example, they used a “smoothing parameter for political party identification”. Elsewhere they say: “The percentage of non-White individuals included in the study was included as a confounder because of the relationship of race with epidemiological indicators of SARS-CoV-2.”

4. The study hinges on R values provided from the web site Rt.live. However, according to that web site, the model used to calculate R was “changed significantly on June 19th”. As this date is right in the middle of the mask study, it calls its results into question.

5. Figure 3 (“Mask wearing, physical distancing, and the predicted probability of Rt being less than 1”) is based on a faulty model. According to the graph, if 70% of people wear masks and observe social distancing there is a 100% probability of community transmission control. Given what happened in the Covid second wave, this is nonsense. Here in Manitoba, for example, where nearly 100% of people wear masks and where social distancing is being rigidly enforced, the case numbers went up significantly in November and December.

6. Figure 4 (“Mask wearing in the 14 days before and after state wide mask mandates”) shows that mask use did not increase noticeably in any of the 12 states that made masks mandatory during the study. This raises questions about the validity of the responses by the participants. For example, in Manitoba mask use rose steadily all summer until about 60% of people were wearing masks. Masks were mandated by the provincial government in late September. Almost instantaneously 100% of Manitobans obeyed the order and started wearing masks. I am, in fact, one of only two people I know refusing to wear a mask. Although Americans are indeed quite different to Canadians, it stretches plausibility that a mandatory mask order in a state would not have had an observable effect on mask use. Worse, the report takes this to imply a need for Government to find means of enforcing mask use: “The absence of a statistically significant change in reported mask-wearing during the two weeks following statewide mandates highlights the point that regulation alone might not drive increased masking behaviour.”

7. The study reports that when mask use went up, transmission went down. This was true. However, a cardinal rule of statistics is that correlation is not causation, e.g. although winter always follows the harvest, harvest does not cause winter. The study does not offer any evidence of causation, which instead appears to be assumed throughout the report. One confounding factor is the seasonality of the virus. The virus was naturally declining in most areas just as mask use was on the rise. A second confounding factor was the summer surge in some southern states where mask use was less common, unrelated to masks but adding to the apparent correlation. It would be interesting to see a similar study that covers November and December, when case numbers were rising significantly.

Finally, is there any significance in the timing? The report was published the day before Biden became President. Biden has said he will make masks mandatory. The report concludes by saying: “Policy makers should consider innovative strategies for evaluating and increasing mask usage to help control the epidemic.” This seems very convenient. In any case, certainly it will be called upon as evidence when Biden pursues his nationwide mask mandates. It is therefore very bad news.

A Pharmacist Writes…

Arise, Sir Toby?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader and pharmacist who works for the NHS in a psychiatric hospital for a large mental health trust in the North has written in with an idea. Why not nominate some sceptic heroes for an honour for their “exceptional contribution to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the UK”? She writes:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for keeping me sane throughout all this. I was a lockdown zealot at first, then in May, a friend showed me a clip of Lord Sumption’s interview by the BBC and I instantly began to question the Government’s course of action. I’d not considered any of the implications on our liberties and I wasn’t aware of any alternative viewpoints or science at this stage. I researched further and further, discovered the likes of Peter Hitchens and the rest of the journalists and scientists questioning the Government narrative. Needless to say I’ve been trying to spread “the word” ever since.

I’ve written to my MP three times, attended a protest and donated money to various crowdfunders. It has been difficult. Family members whom I consider to be highly intelligent with several degrees and MAs between them think I am mad. My mother thinks I need help and has offered the support of a family friend “who sympathises with me on how isolated I might feel right now…” My father thinks Lord Sumption is wrong (what?). My sister disapproves that I have refused the vaccine (it’s my body and it usually takes 10-15 years for a vaccine to be approved so no thank you!).

Anyway, I stumbled across this (see below) and I am contemplating nominating Toby Young or Peter Hitchens. Or perhaps Mike Yeadon or Ivor Cummins or maybe all of them for their continuing dedication to their coronavirus related work! After all it does say you can nominate anyone. Wouldn’t it be great if thousands upon thousands of us nominated Lord Sumption for example.

Nominate someone for coronavirus-related work (GOV.UK): You can nominate someone who has made an exceptional contribution to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the UK. Anyone can make a nomination and there is no deadline. Nominations will be considered by an independent honours committee.”

What I find utterly bewildering is, since when did our freedoms become contingent with the smooth running of the NHS? It really is insane all of this and we will look back and wonder what on earth we were doing and all the zealots will be sheepish and insist they questioned lockdowns all along and masks were never really compulsory. To all you at Lockdown Sceptics and those out there, stay strong and never give up.

Requiem for Universities

We’re publishing a new piece today by regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Sinéad Murphy, a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle University. From the introduction:

Universities have been dying for some time. As their prospectuses have grown glossier, their gateway buildings more spectacular and their accommodation for students more stunningly luxurious, the Humanities subjects have been gradually hollowed out.

Academics’ intellectual work has been streamlined by the auditing procedures of the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ and by growing pressure to bid for outside funding, which is distributed to projects that address a narrow range of approved themes – Sustainability, Ageing, Energy, Inequality…

Student achievement has been dumbed down by the inculcation of a thoughtless relativism – Everybody’s differentThat’s just my interpretation – and by the annual inflation of grades.

The curriculum has begun to be tamed by continual revision – never broad enough, never representative enough – and by the drive for ‘equality and diversity’.

And teaching has been marginalised by the heavy requirements that it represent itself on ever proliferating platforms and review itself in endless feedback loops.

Universities, in short, have been gradually transforming into what they proudly trumpet as a Safe Space, a space that has been cleared at greatest expense to Humanities subjects, a space in which the slightest risk – that a thought might lead nowhere, that a student might be uninterested, that an idea might offend or that a teacher might really persuade – has been mitigated by so many layers of bureaucratic procedure that most of everyone’s time is spent in wading through them.

Covid has brought these developments to a head, she says: “Safe Space universities have come to their culmination. No space is safer than an empty space. And universities are empty at last. The shell has cracked and fallen away. The university is no more.”

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

Spotted by a Lockdown Sceptics reader below Allison Pearson’s column in the Telegraph. By David Jones.

Sorry, short of nurses,
And doctors rather few,
Short a bit of masks and kit
For beds there’s quite a queue!
We’ve Managers and Admin,
And Directors in their hordes,
We’ve nigh on half a million
On Agencies and Boards!
On Trusts and Panels nationwide
We take our pay and pension,
On Senates and Commissions
And Groups we couldn’t mention!
Our new Computer System
Ten billion spent in vain…
By some odd quirk it wouldn’t work,
We’ll have to buy again!
Our En-Aitch-Ess is in a mess
Your taxes keep us going;
Send forty billion every year
And keep that money flowing!

Round-up

https://twitter.com/alexmaccaroon/status/1351981838265438212?s=19

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Ruins” by Cat Stevens, “Better off dead” by Elton John and “I’ll Stay Till the Beer Runs Out” by Ray Sanders.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the turn of the University of Leicester and its proposal to drop Chaucer and other medieval literature from the English syllabus in favour of a full panoply of wokery. The Telegraph has the story.

The University of Leicester will stop teaching Geoffrey Chaucer’s work and other medieval literature in favour of modules on race and sexuality, according to new proposals.

Management told the English department that courses on canonical works will be dropped for modules “students expect” as part of plans now under consultation.

Foundational texts like The Canterbury Tales and Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf would no longer be taught under proposals to scrap medieval literature.  

Instead the English faculty will be refocused to drop centuries of the literary canon and deliver a “decolonised” curriculum devoted to diversity.

Academics now facing redundancy were told via email: “The aim of our proposals (is) to offer a suite of undergraduate degrees that provide modules which students expect of an English degree.”

New modules described as “excitingly innovative” would cover:  “A chronological literary history, a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum, and new employability modules.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Listen to American academic John McWhorter talk about the ideological excesses of the social justice movement on the Quillette podcast.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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: WalesOnline reports on a video of a woman without a mask being escorted from Sainsbury’s while telling police she doesn’t need to wear one. She can be heard arguing the officers had “no right to ask me what my disability is. It’s against the law”. Worth bearing in mind that in our Covid police state officers are empowered to enforce Covid regulations, including mask-wearing, and can issue fines as they see fit, including through determining whether in their view you have a “valid exemption“. Whether it would stand up in court is another matter, but there can be no doubt that police officers have indeed been given frightening powers to issue fines and enforce rules according to their own discretion.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Lockdown Set to Last Beyond Easter

The goalposts are moving yet again, according to reports in the papers today. The Mail has the story.

Lockdown measures could last “beyond Easter” despite the rollout of the Covid vaccine after the deadliest day on record saw 1,610 new victims.

Ministers have been warned that, with the possible exception of schools, there is unlikely to be any relaxation of the lockdown at the first formal “review point” in the middle of next month. 

Reports yesterday claimed that Boris Johnson was targeting Good Friday on April 2nd as the earliest date for a significant lifting of the lockdown.

The PM has started “top secret” planning for millions to meet their families over Easter, according to the Sun.

But several sources told the Mail that even this date could look optimistic if the vaccine rollout ran into difficulties.

One attendee at a Government summit with business leaders on Monday claimed ministers had warned that heavy restrictions could remain until May or even June. 

Concerns yesterday grew that the rollout of the jab had already stalled as the number being vaccinated dropped for the third day in a row.

Around 204,000 people were given their first dose, slumping from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and a high of 324,000 on Friday.  

Meanwhile Britain maintains the worst Covid death rate in the world. Tuesday’s new daily record marked a sharp 30% rise on the 1,243 announced on the same day last week and is almost double the number of victims from a fortnight ago, when there were 860. 

More than 4.26 million people have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine through the NHS programme – one in every 16 people in the UK – which makes it one of the best covered countries in the world. 

But to hit the Government’s target of 13.9 million people by February 15th, which is the threshold at which officials will consider relaxing lockdown, Britain must manage 360,000 jabs per day from today onwards – 2.5million per week.

Last week it averaged 254,000 per day and hit a total 1.77million. The daily requirement will increase for every day that it isn’t hit.

The Covid Recovery Group of anti-lockdown MPs has started upping the pressure to get a move on. The Telegraph has more.

Boris Johnson faces growing pressure from Tory MPs to set out an exit strategy from lockdown based on vaccine rollout forecasts and using March 8th as the target date to start easing the restrictions.

Conservatives in the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG) highlighted scientific suggestions that the most vulnerable Britons will achieve a significant level of immunity from the virus three weeks after receiving their first dose of the jab.

Since the Government has pledged to vaccinate the 14 million most vulnerable Britons by February 15th, ministers should prepare to ease the rules three weeks later on March 8th, the MPs said.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, reiterated this week that the mortality rate is expected to fall by 88% once the most vulnerable cohort, which includes all adults over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable, has received an initial dose of the vaccine by the middle of next month.

What the CRG haven’t factored in are the growing doubts about the efficacy of only one dose of the vaccine (on which more below).

There’s also the question of hospitals. Robert Peston points out in the Spectator that it’s not the over 80s who are filling up the ICUs.

If prioritisation was ordered purely on the basis of reducing pressure on the NHS, yet another ranking of vaccinations might well have been ordered. What’s relevant, for example, is that 52% of coronavirus sufferers in intensive care are aged between 50 and 69, 21.5% are aged 70 to 79 and just 4.6% who are over 80 (according to authoritative data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre). 

If the imperative was to reduce pressure on intensive care, those aged 50 to 69 would be receiving the vaccine now, and those aged 60 to 69 (the age group most likely to be in intensive care) would be right at the front of the queue. In the end, the PM chose his very simple and easy-to-understand instruction, which may well be the best politics. But we won’t know till we are through this crisis whether it is the optimal route back to some semblance of normal life. 

Worth reading Peston’s piece in full.

Stop Press: Sign the petition on the Parliament website: “After the vaccine roll-out to high risk groups, remove all COVID-19 restrictions“.

Lockdowners Should Admit It: There Was No Christmas Surge

The BBC has run an analysis asking whether the much-hyped Christmas surge – supposedly resulting from mass household mixing over the festive season – actually materialised. No sign of it, they say.

It is almost a month since Christmas was ‘downsized’ across the country. But in many parts of the UK, people were allowed to meet in Christmas ‘bubbles’ – if only for just one day. So what impact did this have? The overall picture shows a sharp increase in cases around this time.

However, a closer look at the numbers suggests this trend was already happening and was probably caused by the new, more infectious variant of the virus rather than increased contact between people.

It’s not as though people didn’t mix: “A survey from the Office for National Statistics suggests that roughly half the population in Great Britain who were allowed to hold gatherings did so.”

This tallies with what the BBC found when it examined the question of a supposed Thanksgiving spike in America at the end of November. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (among others) claimed: “We saw in Canada and the US, huge spikes in infections after Thanksgiving.” However, the BBC found: “Looking at the combined data for the whole of the US, there’s no clear indication that infection rates accelerated following the Thanksgiving holiday.”

So, were the lockdowners restrained and accurate in their predictions about the risks of mixing over Christmas, as they are always telling sceptics we must be? Let’s see.

The Health Service Journal ran a joint editorial with the BMJ – the second in their history – outspoken in its political advocacy and unequivocal about the risk of mixing over Christmas:

The Government was too slow to introduce restrictions in the spring and again in the autumn. It should now reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave. 

Anouchka Grose in the Guardian wrote a particularly alarmist piece.

Anybody with any kind of conscience is beating their brain, calculating all eventualities that may result from showing up for lunch in a week’s time – one of which involves inadvertently killing your aged parents… Politicians have the option to look at the numbers, listen to the experts, explain the deadly consequences of big gatherings, develop rules for everyone’s wellbeing and trust that most of us will be happy to go along with them. This is precisely what happened in March, albeit after an extended bout of burbling and bluster. And, as one glance at the graphs shows, it worked. How hard can it be to convince people that the same magic could happen twice? Alongside the roll-out of the vaccine, we would see cases drop, rather than increase, in the new year. If Johnson isn’t prepared to do it, can we just agree among ourselves that Christmas is cancelled?

In the spirit of Ipso demanding a retraction of Toby’s Telegraph article on herd immunity following a complaint for supposed errors of science and failures of foresight, perhaps a complaint is now due to Ipso for this guilt-inducing piece of failed prophecy. How many Guardian readers needlessly sacrificed the chance of seeing their loved ones on Christmas Day after reading Anouchka’s article?

Less hysterical, but no less inaccurate, was this Observer editorial.

The Government was right to immediately impose tougher tier 4 restrictions on these parts of the country and elsewhere to restrict indoors household mixing to Christmas Day only. It is clear that without these measures there would have been a huge risk of a rise in infection and death rates in January and February as a result of intergenerational mixing over Christmas, particularly endangering older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. … The fact that vaccines are being rolled out to high-priority groups, with more comprehensive coverage months away, underlines how ill-judged it would be to trigger a larger-than-necessary spike in the death rate with the end of this period of social restrictions in sight.

But far from a not “larger-than-necessary” spike there was no deadly spike at all.

Perhaps the most egregious offenders were Independent SAGE. According to City AM:

[Independent SAGE] said the new variant requires a “complete rethink of all mitigation strategies”. Independent Sage has said all regions of England should be placed in Tier 4 to suppress the virus “as much as possible”, and Christmas Day mixing should be cancelled, apart from with pre-existing bubbles. … Independent SAGE continued: “Christmas Day mixing of households indoors for prolonged periods of time, as allowed in tiers 1 to 3 in England and across the devolved nations, sets the scene for thousands of super-spreading events. In the context of the new strain, this is incredibly dangerous.

Examples could be multiplied. Lockdowners love to point the finger at the failed predictions of sceptics. But do they check their own rear-view mirror? How much revisiting of their own prognostications have they done to see if they hit the mark? Or is it one rule for the sceptics and another rule for the lockdown zealots?

In truth, Christmas was an important mass experiment that put the claims of lockdowners and sceptics to the test. In the run-up to both Christmas and Thanksgiving lockdowners predicted a death surge following household mixing, larger or smaller depending on how long the mixing lasted. In both cases their predictions failed to materialise at all – even the BBC says so. And that means their theory of what “controls the virus” is faulty. Mass household mingling did not lead to “deadly consequences”. In fact, the infection rate began to slowdown in the week after Christmas, as the graph from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App shows.

This is another strong indication that lockdown is not holding back the flood. Time for the lockdowners to accept it.

Stop Press: A Guardian editorial today continues the increasingly deranged war against sceptics for daring to question the Government line: “A reckoning is due with ‘lockdown sceptics’ in politics and the media, who fomented public distrust of official advice and encouraged dangerous risk-taking.” Yet “official advice” is often wrong and changes all the time. Funny how quick some supposed supporters of free speech are to find reasons why wrongthink must be punished.

New Study Claims to Find Masks Work – Despite All the Evidence they Don’t

A new major study came out yesterday purporting to show that masks reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Published in the Lancet and funded by Google, this is the kind of study that gets listened to. The headline result, reported in the Mail, is that a 10% rise in self-reported mask wearing is associated with a three-fold increase in the odds of keeping R below 1.

How, you might be wondering, can a study show masks are effective when so many other studies show they aren’t? Why is California, with mandatory face masks and a younger population, suffering worse than Florida (which is also more densely populated)? What about the Danmask study which shows that surgical masks give no statistically significant protection to the wearer against infection?

They get round the Danmask study by claiming that the point of masks is to prevent infectious people infecting others, not to protect the wearer.

These masks are intended to serve as a mechanical barrier that prevents the spread of virus-laden droplets expelled by the user. Therefore, their purpose is to reduce transmission events by the individual, rather than to protect the individual from infection. Accordingly, face masks are advocated as a source of collective benefit that is most successful with high amounts of adoption.

There is scant evidence they succeed in that respect either of course. But let’s move on to look at the study.

Figure thumbnail gr2

This is the main results graph showing how R differs by mask use. The first thing that stands out is the variance: each column interval contains a wide distribution of points. A second is that the average R values are within a narrow range: they all lie between 1.0 and 1.1. That’s not exactly a strong impact. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that this graph shows the correlation claimed. Which is surprising because, as the graphs below show, international evidence is that mask mandates did not prevent strong autumn and winter surges, and that comparisons with non-mandate countries show no obvious benefit from masks.

Mask mandates and coronavirus infections (Source: Yinon Weiss)

Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to drill down into the detail of the study to find out how they have come up with the answer they did. It is a model-based study with a large number of assumptions, including an attempt to control for the role of social distancing using mobility data and a “smoothing parameter for political party identification based on aggregates of SurveyMonkey research surveys”. Oddly, R is not treated as a continuous variable but is simplified to be either below 1 or not: “Rt was aggregated to the week and dichotomised as epidemic slowing (1 if Rt<1) or epidemic at maintenance or growing (0 if Rt≥1)”. Anyhow, here’s my take insofar as I can work out what it is they’ve done.

Each point in the above graph is a US county. Individuals across the 50 states were invited to participate in an online poll between June 3rd and July 27th and 11% of those asked chose to do so, amounting to 378,207 people. Only 4·7% of the respondents reported they were “not likely at all” to wear a mask in the two settings considered (grocery store and visiting friends and family), suggesting a strong sample bias towards mask wearers in those who responded to the survey. Each county could have as few as 10 individual responses from it, and it appears only responses within a two week window were split into counties for this purpose: “Survey responses and validation interviews were aggregated by county (restricted to counties with 10 or more observations, n=1055) between July 2nd and July 14th, 2020”. This suggests the sample size for each point in the graph was not large. The study also used raw case data, which isn’t great when testing was being ramped up during the summer.

None of this reassures me that the results are sound. My suspicion is that the study suffers from a number of serious problems hidden among its modelling assumptions and complex statistical techniques. Here’s one that stands out. There may be more – do email us if you spot any.

In July, at the time of the study, the southern United States – where mask mandates and usage are generally less common – was experiencing a summer surge in infections, while other states, with typically higher masks usage, weren’t so much. A snapshot at this point in time would therefore have been likely to find a correlation between not wearing masks and a higher R, but that would just be an artefact of when the survey was done rather than anything universal. Indeed, an earlier study which looked at how masks affected R in different American counties had to be withdrawn shortly after it was published because the beneficial effect it had claimed to find was at that moment being undermined by a new autumn surge.

It’s worth recalling why masks don’t work. Masks are poor at preventing transmission because of the high risk of contamination and because they are often made of cloth (which has poor filtration properties) and not properly fitted. They can prevent some droplets from escaping but not aerosols, so it does not take long for the air in a poorly ventilated space to reach a dangerous viral load if infected persons are present, regardless of any face coverings. This study does nothing to change that underlying problem.

Second Vaccine Doses Cancelled

A reader sent us the email he sent to his MP, Laura Trott, to complain about his mother being denied the second dose of the vaccine as promised.

I am emailing on behalf of my 85 year-old Mother who is a constituent of yours.

My Mum had her first Covid vaccination on December 22nd at the Princess Royal University Hospital at Farnborough. Her second vaccination was scheduled for today and she arrived at the hospital at the scheduled time. She was then told she couldn’t have her vaccination and her appointment had been rescheduled for March 2nd. A delay of 43 days, over six weeks. Apparently a “letter is in the post” informing her of this but it didn’t arrive in time.

We are both furious.

Firstly, it is unconscionable to build up the hopes of an elderly person at times like this and then let them down, especially as she has friends no older than her who live in different postcodes but have now had their second vaccination, given at the originally pre-arranged times.

Secondly, she was told at the time of the first vaccination that she would be having the second 27 days later and gave implied consent for this, knowing that the vaccinations are supposed to be given three weeks apart. She did not consent to having them given 10 weeks apart.

Thirdly, there is no trial data to show what the efficacy of the vaccine is if it is not given three weeks apart. It now feels like she is part of a live experiment.

This is all totally outrageous. Not to mention that she also made an unnecessary journey which we are all supposed to avoid at the moment so that we can protect the NHS, because of a fault by the NHS. And to a hospital too, where her chances of picking up a nosocomial infection may have been non-trivial.

If you are able to tell me why she couldn’t get her second vaccination as originally scheduled (and yet her friends have), I would be grateful.

Stop Press: The Spectator reports on a study by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv that suggests a single dose is not as effective as the Government has been told.

Researchers studied the level of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in the blood of 102 of the first 1,000 staff at the centre to be given both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. While the first dose did produce antibodies, they discovered that levels of antibodies jumped by between six and 12-fold after the second dose. After the second dose, they said, antibodies were higher than in people who had developed immunity by recovering from the virus itself…

Pfizer has warned the UK government that its Phase 3 trials did not provide data for anything other than its recommended regimen of two doses, 21 days apart. The government argues that it can protect more people in a shorter time by delaying the second dose. However, Israel’s COVID-19 tsar has suggested that the first Pfizer dose may be less effective than originally thought, which could potentially complicate the UK’s current strategy of delaying the second dose.

Oddly, delaying doses of the second vaccine is an official policy that the Guardian is happy to publish pieces railing against. I guess some scepticism of the Government line is acceptable in the Guardian provided it enables the writer to signal that he or she is even more pro-vaccinations and pro-lockdown than Matt Hancock.

The Communist Deregulationists

Today we’re publishing a new piece by the academic economist who writes for Lockdown Sceptics. It’s about the unhappy provenance of the Government’s Covid policy and its tragic incoherence with the deregulation agenda.

Now consider the absurdity of the Government’s current deregulation agenda. They are looking at rules around work breaks, while literally closing restaurants and pubs. They think they are actually going to rejuvenate the British economy by closely examining builders’ smoke breaks – while at the same time massively restricting physical movement and banning many services entirely.

The distance between rhetoric and action is so large as to be bizarre. If you took the Johnson government at their word you would assume that Britain was on its way toward some sort of libertarian experiment in free market economics. Yet if you look at what the Government is doing it is far closer to what the Chavez and then Maduro government did to Venezuela.

I do not write this for rhetorical effect. Personally, I think many economists exaggerate the positive impact of deregulation. True, it is sometimes needed, but often it is simply done to check an ideological box; I do not believe that regulations on disabled toilets impact the economy one iota. I do not think, however, that economists exaggerate the negative effects of communistic interventions in the economy. Imposing extreme, top-down controls on how people live, on how they work, on how they buy and sell is a sure path to total impoverishment.

There is simply no analogy outside of communist control economies for what the Johnson Government is doing to this country. Even when the Churchill Government took over the British economy during World War 2, the controls were nowhere near as onerous. Rations were imposed, so that the troops got more, say, petrol than the average British subject, true, but ultimately people could move basically as they pleased and non-rationed goods could be bought and sold freely. The system was also rational: the Government needed to move certain goods from the domestic consumer market to the front and the ration system did that well.

By contrast, the current communistic-style regulations are – as they usually are in communist countries – utterly absurd. They change seemingly with Johnson’s mood. No one knows what they will be tomorrow, much less next week. Business owners and consumers cannot even try to plan around them because they flail around wildly. Better regulations to utterly demolish British living standards could not be dreamed up by the country’s worst enemies.

Worth reading in full.

Burn the Sceptics!

Brendan O’Neill in spiked has written a cracking piece likening the mob justice being meted out to sceptics to the witch hunts of yesteryear.

We have entered a new era of demonology. The hunt is on for heretics and witches who might be held responsible for our current predicament, for the plague of Covid. As in pre-modern times, sinful speakers and thinkers, those who dare to bristle against the political or scientific consensus, are being demonised and publicly shamed as assistants of the plague, as Covid’s willing helpers. They have ‘blood on their hands’, the lockdown fanatics cry, blissfully unaware of how similar they sound to those who in earlier times of disease would drag eccentrics to the stocks in the warped belief that those eccentrics either brought the plague or at least aided its spread.

It is hard to think of any other political constituency in recent times who have been as thoroughly demonised as lockdown sceptics. Climate-change sceptics are up there, of course. Deniers of the cult of genderfluidity have had a severe hammering, too. But that all pales, if not into insignificance then at least into the background, in comparison with the war of barbs and defamation against anyone who questions whether lockdown is the right response to COVID-19.

These people are branded “Covid deniers”. They are “dangerous”. Their words kill. They have blood on their hands. They have a “hell of a lot to answer for”, says chief demonologist Neil O’Brien, Tory MP for Harborough, inflaming the idea that these people and their sinful speech benefit the plague and directly help to cause injury and death.

So successful has been the campaign of demonisation against lockdown sceptics that even that title – lockdown sceptic – has been sullied beyond recognition. It is now taken to include not only thoughtful people who question the policy of complete shutdowns, but also those who doubt the existence of Covid-19 and anti-vaxxers who think the Covid jab will come with a microchip so that Bill Gates can monitor our every move for the rest of time.

This lumping together of everyone from Oxford scientists Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan to the anonymous bloke on Twitter who swears blind he knows five people who have been made gravely ill by the vaccine confirms that the aim here is to vilify scepticism across the board. Raise so much as a peep of criticism of the current Covid strategy and you’re as bad as the morons who say Covid isn’t real.

The demonisation of lockdown sceptics intensifies daily. They are branded “agents of disinformation” (the Observer) who are “dangerous” (the New Statesman). They are killing people, we are told. The reason COVID-19 is spreading again, and killing large numbers, is “because this metropolitan clique of elites put forth falsehoods and misinterpretations”, says one columnist (my italics).

This is, to be frank, unhinged. It is unreasonable in the extreme to blame the spread of Covid on sceptics who have very little influence in public discussion. Virtually the entire political establishment, the vast bulk of the media and every online ‘influencer’ favours lockdown. The message we receive constantly – on TV, online, in the press – is to stay home, be good, don’t kill people. It is a fantasy to believe that the voices of isolated and demonised sceptics are cutting through this conformist fog and inspiring people to recklessly spread the plague.

The crushing of dissent in the dubious name of public health is becoming a major threat to the functioning of a free society, he argues.

This demonisation of sceptics must stop. The majority of us who question the policy of lockdown accept that Covid is real and dangerous. spiked has described the Covid pandemic as a very significant health challenge from the very beginning. We also accept that restrictions on everyday life will be necessary. What we question is the policy of blanket lockdowns, the use of the politics of terror to scare the population into complying, and the war on dissent. It is perfectly legitimate – essential, in fact – to question these things.

You want to talk about sin? Okay. It is a far greater sin to crush dissenting opinion than it is to say things about COVID-19 that later prove to be wrong. The destruction of free discussion harms society far more than incorrect opinion or predictions do, because it limits the space for critical interrogation of public policy and for entertaining the possibility that what we are doing is wrong. That is what spiked wants: the entertainment of possibilities, the cherishing of open and rigorous inquiry, and the flourishing of heresy. Time will tell if lockdown was wrong, but we know right now that the campaign of demonology is wrong.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Freddie Sayers in UnHerd adds his voice to the defence of the lockdown heretics.

As Hume put in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, to be sceptical is “to begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their consequences”. At the time, this was radical. It encompassed everything progressive about the Enlightenment and the emergence of the scientific method. But it also seems eminently sensible. Who wouldn’t want to be a sceptic today?

Apparently, quite a lot of people. Scepticism is suddenly perilously out of fashion. More than that, it is now deemed dangerous. The reason? The rise of the “lockdown sceptics”, who in recent weeks have taken a battering for having made claims about the virus that turned out not to be true.

In a sense, this is what should happen in the scientific method – commentators and experts being held to account for predictions they make. But the ferocity of the attacks has left us at a place where all questioning groups are subjected to the same moral condemnation. Whether they are pundits peddling conspiracies, credentialed scientists recommending alternative approaches, or intellectuals worried about the political implications – “Lockdown sceptics” is used interchangeably for them all. Any dissent will mark you out as part of the global “anti-science” movement. So sceptic has become a dirty word.

Worth reading in full.

Hong Kong Mortality in 2020 Lower Than Previous Two Years

A reader who lives in Hong Kong has sent us this comment that he received in an email from his GP yesterday:

Very early in this process we described the competing epidemics. The epidemic of disease and the epidemic of anxiety. As of today, 0.13% of the Hong Kong population have had a confirmed case of COVID-19. To reframe this data, 99.87% of the population have not been infected. Indeed the combined population mortality from COVID-19 and Influenza was lower in Hong Kong in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 due to the lower death rate last year from influenza. This statement is not in any way intended to belittle the importance of this serious epidemic. Data from other countries shows what happens when health systems are overwhelmed. However, whilst 99.87% of us have not been impacted directly by the disease 100% of our population have been impacted by the psychological and social fallout of the public health measures used to control the disease. As an example of this process our MindWorX team have produced a number of resources including the following articles on the challenges of online learning and the impact of school closures on social development in children.

A Student’s Lockdown Lament

A reader has sent us the following note which her 19 year-old daughter, a student studying history and French at a top UK university, submitted to the House Committee on Human Rights in response to its recent call for submissions about the impact of the lockdown.

So far over half my university teaching has been delivered online and over the course of the pandemic I have seen my mental health decline exponentially. I am someone who would consider themselves pretty politically engaged and I have never felt so let down or angry at politicians of all parties than I do now. During the lockdowns, I have become depressed, anxious and unable to sleep.

I have been completely deprived of a university experience – and by this I do not mean partying, but basic socialising, necessary and important for my growth. On top of this, the teaching I have received online, through no fault of my university, simply does not cut it. The idea that you can have debates or group discussions in the same manner on Zoom is laughable and frankly insulting, especially when it is a tutorial group or class of people you have never met in real life. Yet I am expected to pay the same amount of money for this sub standard education, and have no real choice in the matter as the Government has decreed it an acceptable standard of learning. Presumably because they do not want to bail out the universities.

For the majority of the lockdown, I wake up every day and think: What is the point of me going on? Any enjoyment I might have had in life is gone and my future is undeniably bleak. Armed with my pitifully delivered degree, I will be sent out into what will undoubtedly be one of the toughest job markets in living memory, saddled with record amounts of debt, accrued through any number of Government schemes brought out during the pandemic. It is difficult to talk to my friends about this or support one another, as we all pretty much feel similarly numb and hopeless.

Throughout the pandemic, politicians and the media have made numerous references to the blitz spirit, and the sacrifices made by people my age who went to fight in world wars. I would like to remind them that these people came back mentally scarred, something which resulted in record suicide and domestic violence rates for the time. I do not seek to compare my experience to theirs, but I would expect comparable results. My generation will be mentally scarred from being socially deprived, something not helped by the toxic media narrative that sees us all as selfish. Government policies have consistently been made by the middle class and middle aged for the middle class and middle aged, with no thought to the future economic burden on the young. All this, despite the minute likelihood of any of us becoming seriously ill with Covid.

To summarise, currently I feel hopeless, undervalued and betrayed. Government policy has stripped me of any joy I had for my degree or my future.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound” by Hank Williams Jr, “Look wot you dun” and “Mama weer all crazee now” by Slade, and “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that a Dutch woman has created a gender-neutral deck of cards without any kings, queens or jacks. The Mail has the details.

Card fan Indy Mellink, 23, initially came up with the idea while explaining the rules of a game to her cousins – at which point the “subtle inequality” of having a king be more valuable than a queen dawned on her.

After some encouragement from her father, Indy decided to design her own deck with gold, silver and bronze in place of the King, Queen and Jack cards.  

She said: “If we have this hierarchy that the King is worth more than the Queen then this subtle inequality influences people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying ‘hey, you’re less important’.

“Even subtle inequalities like this do play a big role.”

After tinkering with a traditional deck of cards, Indy eventually produced a system that replaced the traditional King, Queen and Jack with gold, silver and bronze.

The first 50 of her new decks were quickly snapped up by friends and family members.

After the success of her initial packs of cards, Indy then had more of her GSB (Gold, Silver, Bronze) decks created and has been selling them online. 

Within a month she had dispatched around 1,500 of the gender-neutral decks as far as Belgium, Germany, France and the United States. 

Since seeing her decks take off in popularity, Indy has been testing them out on card players who had never been conscious of sexual inequality in cards before. 

Stop Press: Andrew Roberts in the Telegraph signals his approval of Government plans to give the public a say over what happens to statues and monuments.

Stop Press 2: David Davis MP proposed a Freedom of Speech (Universities) Bill yesterday. It’s a 10-minute rule bill so won’t reach the statute books, but his heart is definitely in the right place.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Dr Theodore Noel demonstrates why face masks don’t prevent aerosol transmission

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.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on January 15th

Latest News

Hancock Refuses to Commit to Opening Up After the Most Vulnerable Have Been Vaccinated

Matt Hancock at yesterday’s Covid Briefing

Health Secretary Matt Hancock led yesterday’s Covid press conference from Downing Street and struck a non-committal note regarding any timetable for exit from restrictions. Katy Balls in the Spectator has more.

As ministers voice their hope that the country can start to lift restrictions from early March, questions are being asked as to when restrictions can go altogether and normal life resume. Members of the Tory Covid Recovery Group have argued that most restrictions should go as soon as the vulnerable are protected. While officials remain tight-lipped on the issue, Matt Hancock did offer an insight in today’s press conference as to the key factors the Government will consider when making that decision. Announcing that over four million people have now been vaccinated in the UK, the Health Secretary urged the public not to blow it as the route out was clear. In the Q&A, he pointed to the factors that will decide when restrictions can go.

The first clue came when Josh from Newcastle asked how much it would matter if there were a high surge of cases among young people once the vulnerable were vaccinated. This gets to the crux of the matter: once the most vulnerable are protected (the 20% of the population who account for 90% of Covid deaths) will the government be OK with the virus passing at a fast rate among younger age groups for whom the disease is a lot less serious? 

If the answer is no then social distancing policies are likely to remain until every adult has been vaccinated, which the Government aims to do by September. The first four groups (14 million people) are due to be vaccinated by the middle of next month.

The Health Secretary said that while this is a very important question, as of yet there is no clear answer. Instead, Hancock described it as a “very careful” calibration, which rests on to what extent the vaccine protects the most vulnerable groups from serious disease, as well as the fact that younger people can sometimes need hospital treatment from Covid, even if they are very unlikely to die from the illness. 

If the Health Secretary’s sense of the costs and benefits of the restrictions is so out of whack that the small number of young people requiring hospitalisation from Covid outweighs the damage done by the lockdown, what hope is there?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: MailOnline reports on the Prime Minister’s even greater reluctance to commit to any escape route, amid a dropping infection rate:

Boris Johnson today defied fresh demands from Tory MPs for a ‘road map’ out of lockdown as coronavirus infections tumbled again.

The PM is under pressure to say how and when the brutal restrictions in England will ease after the UK recorded another 37,535 cases – down a fifth from last Monday.

Although deaths rose again to 599 there are increasing signs that the curve is flattening, as it lags weeks behind the new infections. 

Conservatives this evening underlined calls from former Chief Whip Mark Harper, who heads the CRG group of lockdown sceptics, to say what will happen when the Government has vaccinated the four most vulnerable groups – meant to happen by mid-February. The number of people receiving their first jab topped four million today.

The Deputy Chair of the group, Steve Baker, said: “We locked down the country and shut down our schools on the basis of a forecast, so why can’t we open it up on the basis of one too? It is not sustainable to leave the public and British businesses languishing any longer.

“Businesses and individuals desperately need hope and the opportunity to plan our recovery, that’s why we need to know our road to recovery as soon as possible.”

Another Tory backbencher told MailOnline the Government should lay out its plans even if it is like “snakes and ladders” and the arrangements later have to change. 

However, Mr Johnson poured cold water on the idea this afternoon, insisting that it will not be possible to set out the route for unwinding restrictions until February 15th.

Touring the Oxford Biomedica vaccine plant, the PM also warned when the loosening does come it will not be an “open sesame” moment.

“I understand completely that people want to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can. It does depend on things going well,” he said.

“It depends on the vaccination programme going well, it depends on there being no new variants that throw our plans out and we have to mitigate against, and it depends on everybody, all of us, remembering that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

He said: “We’re going as fast as we can but I stress we can do everything we can to open up but when we come to February 15th, and the moment when we have to take stock of what we’ve achieved, that’s the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we’ve had.

“It’s only really then that we can talk about the way ahead and what steps we can take to relax.

“I’m afraid I’ve got to warn people it will be gradual, you can’t just open up in a great open sesame, in a great bang, because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious.”

Stop Press 2: The BBC reports that all travel corridors are confirmed as closed until February 15th at the earliest.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that Public Health England would be stepping up checks on travellers who must self-isolate.

He said enforcement checks at borders would also be “ramped up” and added that asking all arrivals to self-isolate in hotels was a “potential measure” the Government was keeping under review.

However, the Daily Mail reports that the outgoing President Trump is lifting the blanket ban on non-American citizens travelling to the USA from January 26th onwards:

Donald Trump will lift travel bans for most non-U.S. citizens flying from the UK, Brazil and much of Europe starting on January 26th, two officials said on Monday. 

The restrictions are set to end under a new proclamation from the President the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect requiring all international visitors to have a negative result. The White House has not commented. 

It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden will simply re-impose these restrictions or even adds more when he takes office on Wednesday.

Stop Press 3: Schools could be closed until after Easter, reports MailOnline.

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis academy chain, which runs 48 schools, said: “I don’t think schools will reopen until post Easter. I think they will miss the second half of term as well.”  

He said many teachers are very worried about catching Covid in school and that they will feel “safer” and “more confident” when the weather warms up and they can take children out of the classroom more. 

Stop Press 4: Annabel Fenwick-Elliott has written a good piece in the Telegraph bemoaning the folly of needless further destruction of the travel industry, with a strong dose of lockdown scepticism thrown in for good measure.

It is January 2021. A virus which spares the vast majority of victims it infects has been endemic across the world for the best part of a year. There have been many attempts to contain it; almost none have been satisfactory. Most strategies have caused immeasurably more harm than good.

It is a disease that rips through hospitals and care homes, claiming the lives of the elderly and infirm, no matter how many masks or disinfectants we throw at the situation. We accept this as being unavoidable. Like every virus, new strains regularly emerge; crossing borders faster that we can chase them. Inexplicably, this we can not condone. 

Despite the fact that much of the world is under national lockdown and international travel has dwindled to a trickle, the crusade on a largely innocent industry continues. Regardless of the fact that between March and October of 2020, the International Air Travel Association traced just 44 cases of potential coronavirus infections back to flying, out of the 1.2 billion people who boarded planes in the same time period, our assault on free movement only intensifies.

This week, Germany is plotting to repurpose refugee camps to detain quarantine flouters. In Bali, foreigners found to be strolling the beaches without wearing masks are being punished with push-ups. And here in Britain, there is talk of forcing new arrivals into expensive hotel sentences, and checking up on people using GPS data and facial-recognition software. 

I wish all this was, as it sounds, the compelling but implausible plot of a big-budget sci-fi movie. I take comfort only in the fact that given our government has just today, after much delay, finally managed to get its act together on testing overseas visitors upon entry, it will likely be years before our geo-surveillance tactics enter the realm of China’s; by which time, hopefully, COVID-19 will be a distant memory, right?

Don’t bet on it. By mid-March of this year, according to the UK Government’s targets, all over-60s and those with underlying health conditions will have been vaccinated. Of the remaining population, more people died in road accidents last year than of coronavirus

Worth reading in full.

Is the Second Wave Overstated?

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, has produced an in-depth analysis of the statistics around the ‘second wave’. It shows that misunderstood and misrepresented data are leading people to exaggerate the scale of the winter resurgence compared to the first peak last year.

On January 13th, Dr Yvonne Doyle, the Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), issued an alarming statement claiming that Britain had reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths on a single day since the pandemic began.

She also alleged that there have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.

Both these statements were “technically” true. On that day, 1,564 people were added to official mortality figures, the highest number ever, while the 44,198 “second wave” coronavirus deaths passed the 40,563 recorded up to August 31st. 

Yet dig a little deeper and the narrative that the second wave is more deadly than the first begins to unravel. 

I make an early caveat here that I firmly believe we are having a deadly second wave, and thousands more people are dying than would be expected ordinarily at this time of year. But it is not the tens of thousands more PHE would have you believe.

According to some figures, the second wave is five times less deadly than the first wave. This is in spite of the fact we have a new variant which is between 50% and 74% more infectious.

To get a real feel for how the waves compare, it is necessary to look at excess deaths rather than crude reported deaths.

According to the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI), set up by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, there have been 72,900 excess deaths from the start of the pandemic in March to the end of December.

Some 60,800 of those occurred in the first wave, but just 12,100 in the second. It means that, unlike the first wave, huge numbers of people included in the coronavirus death figures would have been expected to die of other causes in the past few months. 

Look at Office for National Statistics (ONS) graphs showing deaths over time and this becomes startlingly clear. While there is a mountainous peak in April as deaths soared over the average, now we are trending a little above the five-year average line. On some days towards the end of December, we were actually below it. 

Dr Jason Oke, of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford, said it was difficult to understand the pandemic from the graphs published on the Government’s daily coronavirus dashboard.

While the “deaths within 28 days” graph appears to show that the second wave is as bad as the first, the “weekly deaths by date registered” shows no such correlation.

“If you look at the 28-day graph and the hospital data you could well believe it is as bad as the first wave,” Dr Oke said. “The first graph suggests we are now at the same place as the first wave (and due for worse) whereas the second graph tells a different story – half the first wave currently and no increase in December.”

The CMI also reported that during week 53, from December 28th to January 3rd, there were 19% fewer deaths registered in England and Wales than would have been expected if Standardised Mortality Rates had been the same as in week one of 2020.

These December figures will undoubtedly rise as more deaths are registered, and have suffered from the Christmas and New Year holidays when fewer deaths than normal were recorded. But they are not likely to rise so significantly as to take us back to the extraordinary excess deaths of April.

This week’s Monthly Mortality Analysis from the ONS also makes this point very well. The report states: “Although mortality rates due to COVID-19 have increased between October and December 2020, these remain significantly lower than in April 2020.” 

In fact, in England, age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR) were 62.5% lower in December than April. They have fallen from 623.2 per 100,000 people in April to 233.6 per 100,000 in December. 

The same is true in Wales, although to a lesser extent. In April the ASMR was 495.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and it was 374.4 per 100,000 in December, a 24.4% decrease.

Worth reading in full.

Lord Sumption in the Dock

Lord Jonathan Sumption took to the airwaves to clarify and defend his comments made on the The Big Questions on Sunday, which we reported on yesterday.

He joined a panel on Good Morning Britain and, with considerable patience, faced a bellowing Piers Morgan who, along with co-presenter Susanna Reid, repeatedly refused to understand the perfectly plain meaning of his words even after several attempts to explain them, ending with Sumption declaring that he had said all he had to say on the matter and would either continue to speak on another topic or leave.

Worth watching in full.

Stop Press: The wilful misunderstanding continued in the Times yesterday courtesy of this piece by Melanie Phillips.

Stop Press 2: Michael Curzon, editor of Bournbrook Magazine and assistant editor of Conservative Woman, has penned this piece in defence of Sumption.

Stop Press 3: Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed Lord Sumption on her talkRADIO show yesterday.

The Threat Lockdowns Pose to Human Rights

Adam Wagner, a legal expert and barrister focused on human rights, and a Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths University, was interviewed by Freddie Sayers for UnHerd‘s Lockdown TV. It’s a shame he joined in the mistaken pile-on against Lord Sumption, but if you can get past that he provided a wide-ranging expert perspective on the legal aspects of the lockdown debate.

Adam Wagner is one of the UK’s highest-profile legal experts on human rights, citing Shami Chakrabati as one of his main influences in the field. He strongly distances himself from “Covid deniers” whose attempt to minimise the threat of the virus he describes as “dangerous nonsense”, and expressed dismay at Lord Sumption’s insensitive phrasing about the value of lives on television yesterday. In other words, he’s about as far from an ideological right-winger as you’ll find in the British media.

So it was especially sobering to hear him set out some of the things he is worried about from a legal and human rights perspective since the pandemic started around 12 months ago. He wondered aloud on Twitter whether, had the virus not originated in China and had the response not been set by their invention of lockdowns, this approach would ever have become the accepted sensible response in liberal Western democracies?

He argues that, while he absolutely accepts that the virus constitutes a threat that justifies emergency action:

– Lockdowns have become a “received wisdom” and that, in due course, a proper inquiry into which components actually were effective, and whether each component passed the proportionality test, is essential.

– The emergency powers taken by the Government have been abused – they were not designed to be used over such a long period of time. He deplores the lack of oversight and due process for these measures that change everybody’s lives.

– The “Napoleonic” principle that everything is illegal unless you are explicitly allowed it is an inversion of the way the law has worked in this country throughout modern times. If you had told a human rights expert or public lawyer this would be the situation 12 months ago they would never have believed you.

– From a Human Rights perspective, balancing the right to life with the right to associate, and the right to a family life, is a precarious act and it is right to scrutinise every measure in that context and be sceptical of them to make sure they are not going too far

– Once restrictions are taken for temporary emergencies, a look at history shows that they tend to become permanent (he cites the terrorism measures in response to 9/11 as an example).

“I think with Covid, the danger is that if it never leaves us, or it mutates or a different virus arrives with a similar dynamic, we’ll be in a semi-permanent state of ‘this is what we do’ – when this happens, we have lockdowns, we have emergency laws, we take away parliamentary niceties like scrutiny, debates, votes, that sort of thing… And I think that is a danger that doesn’t come out of the fringes of the lockdown sceptic movement. That’s the real deal as a worry.”

Worth watching in full.

WHO Inspector Discussed Coronavirus Research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology Weeks Before Outbreak

Vincent Racaniello and Peter Daszak

Further to our headline piece in Lockdown Sceptics on January 17th on the U.S. State Department’s fact sheet about the possible origins of the virus, Taiwan News reports that a WHO Inspector discussed the research of modified coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a video podcast called “This Week In Virology” shortly before the first cases of COVID-19 were declared in Wuhan.

In a video that was originally taken on December 9th, 2019, three weeks before the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced an outbreak of a new form of pneumonia, virologist Vincent Racaniello interviewed British zoologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance Peter Daszak about his work at the nonprofit to protect the world from the emergence of new diseases and predict pandemics. Since 2014, Daszak’s organization has received millions of dollars of funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which it has funneled to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to carry out research on bat coronaviruses.

In the first phase of research, which took place from 2014 to 2019, Daszak coordinated with Shi Zhengli, also known as “Bat Woman”, at the WIV on investigating and cataloging bat coronaviruses across China. EcoHealth Alliance received US$3.7 million in funding from the NIH for this research and 10% was channeled to the WIV, reported NPR.

The second, more dangerous phase, which started in 2019, involved gain-of-function (GoF) research on coronaviruses and chimeras in humanized mice from the lab of Ralph S. Baric of the University of North Carolina. Funding for the program was withdrawn by the NIH under the Trump administration on April 27th amid the pandemic.

At the 28:10 mark of the podcast interview, Daszak states that researchers found that SARS likely originated from bats and then set out to find more SARS-related coronaviruses, eventually finding over 100. He observed that some coronaviruses can “get into human cells in the lab,” and others can cause SARS disease in “humanized mouse models”.

He ominously warned that such coronaviruses are “untreatable with therapeutic monoclonals (antibodies) and you can’t vaccinate against them with a vaccine”. Ironically, he claims that his team’s goal was trying to find the next “spillover event” that could cause the next pandemic, mere weeks before cases of COVID-19 were beginning to be reported in Wuhan.

When Racaniello asks what can be done to deal with coronavirus given that there is no vaccine or therapeutic for them, Daszak at the 29:54 mark appears to reveal that the goal of the GoF experiments was to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine for many different types of coronaviruses.

Based on his response, it is evident that just before the start of the pandemic, the WIV was modifying coronaviruses in the lab: “You can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily.” What he then mentioned has become the telltale trait of SARS-CoV-2, its spike protein: “Spike protein drives a lot of what happens with the coronavirus, zoonotic risk.”

Worth reading in full.

The full video podcast can be viewed here.

Julia Hartley-Brewer’s Appeal

Readers can either reply to Julia on Twitter or email us here if they want us to pass on their stories and contact details.

A Postcard from New York’s Orthodox Jewish Community

Frieda Vizel, a reader who is a member of the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, New York City, has sent us a description of life there at the moment:

I thought I would share my report of a day in the Jewish Hasidic community of Brooklyn, New York, where everything is completely open and no one is wearing masks. It has been interesting to see that the community can pull this off with the power of the collective. They are able to operate busy weddings and mass celebration of holidays because they have each other’s back. Whenever the media or government gets on their case, they form a network of sorts, sharing information on how to get around inspectors and when journalists are around. And although there have been two or so episodes of intense obsession with them (once in April and once in October), they have held on through it. Months go by where they mostly forget about Covid. By any measure, their death rate is no worse than the general death rate. They had higher case rate in October but the overall highest tallies of New York City deaths were not in the Orthodox sections. The worst affected areas were in the Bronx and Queens. The most interesting thing about all this is that the media here pays no attention to their success story, but the moment they have a blip in rates, they descend on the neighbourhood and twist it all into a tale of primitive idiots committing mass suicide. What a shame!

Frieda also has a longer piece about life in the city on her site here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Beat the Bastards” by The Exploited, “Keeping Two Chevrons Apart” by Half Man Half Biscuit, “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)” by Fun Boy Three, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” by Manic Street Preachers, “What a Waste” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “One Day I’ll Fly Away” by Randy Crawford, “Count Me Out” by New Edition, and “It’s All Too Much” by The Beatles.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 sent us the letter he has written to his local MP Geoffrey Cox, describing the daily ordeal he endures as a mask-exempt person due to his autism.

Dear Mr Cox,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing in the hope that you can help put an end to the madness and division caused by the Government’s un-nuanced public message and the ignorance of a sizeable portion of the public with regard to the face covering guidelines. The guidelines clearly state that there are “face covering exemptions”, and yet whenever I am in a shop unmasked (I am autistic and can experience severe anxiety) I am stared at by a good number of utterly ignorant shoppers, and indeed some staff members. 

Why is this happening? Well, it seems to me that it is because the Government, while consistently emphasing the ‘need’ to wear face coverings, has utterly neglected to consistently stress the need to be mindful of those who for disability/health reasons cannot wear face coverings. The contrast between the message on the Government website – where it is clear about exemptions and on the public’s need “to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering” – and the Government’s message in public: on the news, in briefings, etc. is striking. Does the Government, which constantly infantilises the public with its stupid slogans, expect this same public to read the website? This is not acceptable, and it is causing tensions between citizens.

This brings me to my latest visit to Tesco, Barnstaple. As I approached the store I was greeted by a big sign declaring :”No Mask, No Entry.” I’m a big man, and I am not easily intimidated, but I found this somewhat intimidating. Imagine how others will feel when facing this threatening sign knowing they are legally exempt and have done nothing wrong. Tucked away underneath the large, intimidating/threatening “No Mask, No Entry” sign, in very small letters, were words to the effect of: “See Government website for details on exemptions.” Astonishing. As soon as I walked in I was treated to the usual stares from a large and ignorant portion of shoppers and one or two staff members.

I have spoken to Tesco Customer Servive on the phone and suggested similar sized letters on the same sign or on a separate, equally ‘in your face’ sign asking people to be mindful of those with a disability/health issues who cannot wear a face covering. He seemed to be in agreement and said he will forward the message on, and hopefully Tesco stores everywhere will make this clear from now on. One truly hopes they do.

That’s Tesco. What about all the other shops? What about the inconsistency concerning the Government’s message on its website and its message in public, on the news, in briefings? Surely Government does not want citizens to be suspicious of other citizens. Surely Government does not want an atmosphere of open, self-righteous discrimination where ignorant, bone-idle citizens discriminate against their fellow citizens. 

I hope you can see how dangerous this is, and the evil historical parallels it brings to mind.

I ask and urge you to do something about this, Mr Cox.

Stop Press 2: This is a recent notice sent out by the Royal Courts of Justice – a case of masks for thee, but not for me.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

In the latest episode of London Calling, ⁦‪James Delingpole‬⁩ asks Toby how he copes with all the attacks on him on Twitter. “I try not to look,” he says. In addition, they defend Lord Sumption, discuss the other attacks on lockdown sceptics, argue about whether they’re coordinated (James thinks they are, Toby doesn’t) and sing the praises of the novelist Bernard Cornwell.

Listen to the episode here and subscribe to London Calling on iTunes here.

Latest News

Welcome to the Hotel… Quarantine

The Sunday Times reports that the UK is set to copy countries such as New Zealand and introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals into the country, replacing what has hitherto been a requirement only to go home directly and self-isolate there:

Ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for a fresh crackdown at Britain’s borders to stop new variants of the coronavirus undermining the vaccination effort.

Officials have been told to prepare for the creation of quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain and to use GPS and facial-recognition technology to check that people are staying in isolation.

This is a significant change in policy and comes as the Government is simultaneously downplaying suggestions that the various mutations of the virus may be resistant to the vaccine when talking about their ongoing roll-out of it to millions of Brits, and, at the same time, using precisely those fears to justify more travel restrictions.

Last week officials were ordered to study New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation”, where everyone arriving is charged for a stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks.

In Australia it is between 14 and 24 days, with travellers charged between £1,500 and £2,500. The UK Government is only considering a system where visitors pay the costs themselves.

Civil servants will also examine how to emulate a scheme in Poland, where those told to isolate are subject to “enhanced monitoring”. Each person is contacted once a day and told to send a photograph of themselves at the location where they are confined. These are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software. Those who fail to comply within 20 minutes receive a visit from police.

It is understood that ministers discussed both ideas at a meeting on Thursday. A senior Government source said that, if used, this technology would be confined to new arrivals in the UK, not those told to self-isolate who are already here.

The plans go further than changes announced last week that require everyone coming to the UK to produce a negative Covid test. “Air corridors”, which allowed some people to come in more easily, were scrapped.

Cabinet sources said Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, floated a moratorium on all international travel for a month, to stop new variants in their tracks, but faced resistance from Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, on the grounds it would cripple trade.

Concerns that the pandemic response has been accompanied by a tendency towards China-style surveillance won’t be assuaged by these plans to require a digital ‘minder’ in the room at all times.

If these variants are to be treated with such extreme caution now, for fear that the vaccines provide no immunity to them, how will normal travel ever resume, given that new strains are bound to keep emerging and vaccines can only be developed and manufactured so quickly?

Worth reading in full.

Lord Sumption and Dr John Lee on The Big Questions

Nicky Campbell hosting the BBC’s discussion show

Sunday morning’s edition of The Big Questions, the BBC’s ethical, moral, and religious discussion show, which has returned in a socially distanced format, featured two prominent lockdown sceptics: Lord Jonathan Sumption and Dr John Lee. It was noteworthy for having being one of the first instances of a broadcast debate on lockdowns with participants physically present (although not the audience). The panel included various representatives of the full spectrum of opinion on lockdowns, including Professor Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool, Imam Asada Zaman from the Muslim Youth Foundation, Maddy Mussen, assistant editor at The TAB, as well as a strong ally to the sceptic cause, and Shelagh McNerney from the Academy of Ideas, among others.

Much was made afterwards of Lord Sumption’s remarks about the “value of life”. He made the common-sense observation near the top of the programme that we should attribute less ‘value’ to the life of an older person than a younger one, and made reference to the familiar concept of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) used by health services worldwide.

“All lives are not of equal value because the older you are, the less life you have left,” he said.

He then faced repeated rebukes from other panellists, including from Deborah James, a sufferer from Stage 4 bowel cancer, who claimed Sumption had essentially declared that her own life was worthless.

“I’m the person who you say their life is not valuable,” she said, at which point Lord Sumption interrupted her: “I didn’t say it wasn’t valuable, I said it was less valuable.”

She then responded: “Who are you to put a value on life? In my view and I think in the view of many other people, all life is sacred and I don’t think you should make these judgement calls.”

A torrent of pearl-clutching followed on social media, with a stream of Twitter users sharing edited excerpts from the programme and condemning Sumption as a “fascist” or “eugenicist”. Even the Daily Mail ran a piece claiming “former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption today told a Stage 4 bowel cancer sufferer that her life was ‘less valuable’ than others”.

He did say that, but he was nonetheless misunderstood. The concept of QALYs has been developed so we can make value judgements when facing difficult medical choices in a way which doesn’t commit the cardinal sin Lord Sumption was accused of, namely, making a subjective judgement about how much value to place on a person’s life. Instead, it attaches a value to a unit of a person’s life – a year – and then adjusts that value according to the quality of life that they will have during that year. It doesn’t take into account what sort of person they are, their values, what they do with their time, etc. So he didn’t say Deborah James’s life was “less valuable” in the judgemental sense he was accused of. Rather, he was saying it was only less valuable than, say, a healthy young person because she won’t live as long and her quality of life during her remaining time won’t be very high.

The fact that Lord Sumption’s remarks were greeted with such shock – both on the programme and afterwards – is due to people’s ignorance of health economics. They are apparently unaware that health economists make these sort of calculations all the time – as do the heads of intensive care units in hospitals when they triage a patient. Indeed, the people answering emergency calls make these life-and-death decisions on an hourly basis, dispatching ambulances to some callers but not to others. As Dr John Lee pointed out, “Not making these decisions is a luxury health economists don’t have.”

It was a shame Nicky Campbell, the show’s host, didn’t do more to clarify this misunderstanding.

Nevertheless, the programme is worth watching in full.

One in Six Covid Patients Caught Disease in Hospital

One in six patients have been infected in hospital, according to David Rose and Laura Dodsworth in today’s Daily Mail.

More than 25,000 patients have caught coronavirus in hospital since the second wave of the pandemic began in September.

One in six COVID-19 patients in NHS hospitals in England were infected while being treated for other conditions, according to internal Health Service figures.

So far this month, 5,684 Covid-positive in-patients out of 44,315 – about one in eight – were infected after being admitted for other conditions.

An intensive care consultant in the Midlands said that he took a “snapshot” of all the patients in his unit on one day last month and found that 40% of them had been infected in hospital.

A specialist Covid nurse treating people at home said many of her patients had contracted the virus in hospital and were re-admitted when their conditions worsened.

The nosocomial nature of the disease has been a cause for concern since the start, with such experts as Dr John Ioannidis were making the point as early as March 2020. It’s also been flagged up frequently by the senior doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics.

David Oliver, an NHS Consultant, recently wrote in the BMJ:

Hospitals are currently in the eye of a COVID-19 storm, driven by a rapid rise in community infection rates and more new emergency cases presenting daily. But before the current surge there were concerns about Covid infection acquired or identified during a hospital stay.

In October the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) issued a report on the factors behind hospital acquired COVID-19 infections in England last spring. We now have better access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE). We have better knowledge from research and guidelines. But the rates of Covid infection officially classified as “hospital acquired” have yet to fall.

NHS hospitals are fielding formal complaints from people angry and distressed that they, or a family member, may have contracted infection in what they expect to be a place of safety. Teams battling to deliver clinical care in a highly pressurised environment and at some personal risk will be sent down a distracting, demoralising warren of complaint handling and root cause analysis, for something that can seem inevitable and out of our control.

Sir Simon Stevens’s Interview with Andrew Marr

The senior doctor who regularly contributes to Lockdown Sceptics has given us this reaction to the interview given by NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stephens on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday.

Yesterday, Simon Stevens was interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC. He used two statistics to illustrate the pressure the NHS was under. Firstly, that one Covid patient was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds and that there were 15,000 extra Covid inpatients in English hospitals since Christmas Day.

Is this true?

One patient every 30 seconds is the equivalent of 2,880 Covid patients per 24-hour period. The most recent figures show that the “total reported admissions to hospital” released on the daily hospital situation report have been in excess of 2,880 every day since December 29th.

However, the “admissions from the community” are lower than this figure and have only been above the 2,880 threshold since January 4th. The NHS is typically opaque at defining what these terms mean. I take the difference between the two figures to indicate the number of patients contracting Covid in hospital.

With respect to the statement about the total number of inpatients, it is correct that on Christmas Day there were approximately 17,000 Covid inpatients and that number is now 32,000.

What Simon Stevens forgot to mention was that patients are also being discharged from hospital. The discharge information is only disclosed in the monthly data packet and we only have information up to January 6th.

The problem the NHS has is in managing the flow of patients through the hospital. Simply put, there are more patients coming in or catching Covid in hospital than there are going out. Some of this problem is just bad luck because of the viral spread – some of it is NHS inefficiency.

I have displayed the relevant information in Graph 1 below. This a complicated graphic with two different Y axes, so I will explain:

Firstly, note the orange bars – these are “admissions from the community”. In other words, the patients coming through the doors every day with Covid. The blue bars are “new Covid hospital patients – admissions plus positive tests in hospital”. The NHS does not explicitly acknowledge that there are any patients acquiring Covid in hospital, but I take this to mean that the difference between the orange and the blue bars are the numbers of nosocomial infections every day. Any time the blue line crosses 2,800 on the left-hand side Y axis, the rate of admission per 24 hours is one patient every 30 seconds.

Graph 1.

Next, observe the yellow line. This is the daily rate of hospital discharge of Covid patients. You can see that this is quite a low number over Christmas Day and Boxing Day – patients are very rarely discharged on bank holidays or at weekends. 

In the week before Christmas, discharges were running at about 1,200 per day – or in Simon Stevens soundbite speak, “one discharge every 72 seconds”. The yellow line picks up after Christmas, dips again over new year then rises to 2,400 per day by January 5th – or “one discharge every 36 seconds”.

The problem is that the yellow line is always below the level of the blue bars, so the total number of Covid patients is always rising. Have a look at the gray line using the right-hand Y axis, showing a rise from 17,000 on December 25th to 32,000 by January 16th.

We are not allowed to know where the yellow discharge line currently stands. These figures are available but will not disclosed by the NHS until mid-February.

Patients that have recovered from Covid may not be discharged for a variety of reasons. I have covered these before in previous posts. The principal problems are that care homes are reluctant to take patients back from hospitals because of what happened in the Spring. Some patients do not want to go home as they have vulnerable relatives who are shielding. Some may not have anyone at home and may be too frail to look after themselves. This is a perennial problem in the NHS and is exacerbated every winter. Despite having six months to prepare for an expected winter crisis, the NHS didn’t prepare for this eventuality. I don’t recall Andrew Marr asking Simon Stevens to explain why.

If the yellow discharge line rises above the blue bars, then the total number of inpatients on the gray line would start to fall and the pressure on hospitals would reduce.

For some reason Simon Stevens forgot to mention that – but it’s not a very snappy soundbite. 

More On Harms to Children

Yesterday we flagged up the Sunday Times article by Dr Vanessa Moulton describing the huge increase in mental health issues she is witnessing among children in her clinic. Sadly, news of the mounting impact of lockdowns on children comes thick and fast at the moment. The New York Times has a piece by Matt Richtel on the upward trend in children’s screen addictions, which were already a serious cause for concern among many experts before the Covid crisis.

The day after New Year’s, John Reichert of Boulder, CO, had a heated argument with his 14 year-old son, James. “I’ve failed you as a father,” he told the boy despairingly.

During the long months of lockdowns and shuttered schools, Mr. Reichert, like many parents, overlooked the vastly increasing time that his son was spending on video games and social media. Now, James, who used to focus his free time on mountain biking and playing basketball, devotes nearly all of his leisure hours – about 40 a week – to Xbox and his phone. During their argument, he pleaded with his father not to restrict access, calling his phone his “whole life”.

“That was the tipping point. His whole life?” said Mr. Reichert, a technical administrator in the local sheriff’s office. “I’m not losing my son to this.”

Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, parents across the country – and the world – are watching their children slide down an increasingly slippery path into an all-consuming digital life. When the outbreak hit, many parents relaxed restrictions on screens as a stopgap way to keep frustrated, restless children entertained and engaged. But, often, remaining limits have vaporized as computers, tablets and phones became the centerpiece of school and social life, and weeks of stay-at-home rules bled into nearly a year.

The situation is alarming parents, and scientists too.

“There will be a period of epic withdrawal,” said Keith Humphreys, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, an addiction expert and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama on drug policy. It will, he said, require young people to “sustain attention in normal interactions without getting a reward hit every few seconds”.

Experts voice further concerns about addiction later in the article.

Recent neuroimaging research suggests heavy use of certain video games may cause brain changes linked to addictive behaviors. One of the study’s authors, Christian Montag, a Professor of Molecular Physiology at Ulm University, also co-authored a recent overview of digital use during the COVID-19 pandemic, published last month in Addictive Behavior Reports. It reported that German teens are playing video games with much greater frequency than before lockdown and concluded “that overuse of digital technologies represents a likely phenomenon and outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Dr Humphreys, from Stanford, said he believed that adults and children alike could, with disciplined time away from devices, learn to disconnect. But doing so has become complicated by the fact that the devices now are at once vessels for school, social life, gaming and other activities central to life.

These psychological concerns are not the only ones to have been raised. A paper entitled: “Digital Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Risk for a Further Myopia Boom?” published in the American National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) last summer drew attention to looming problems with eyesight, concluding in its abstract:

Increased digital screen time, near work, and limited outdoor activities were found to be associated with the onset and progression of myopia, and could potentially be aggravated during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak period. While school closures may be short-lived, increased access to, adoption of, and dependence on digital devices could have a long-term negative impact on childhood development. Raising awareness among parents, children, and government agencies is key to mitigating myopigenic behaviors that may become entrenched during this period.

Stop Press: Christina Lamb wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times about the stresses faced by the children of poor families in Tower Hamlets in the East End of London.

When Rekha Begum’s seven year-old son Moussa showed her what he had written on the “hope tree” he was asked to draw for school, she cried. He had written: “A house.” “I felt so bad,” she said. Begum, 40, who is disabled, lives with her four children, aged from seven to 21, in a cramped second-floor flat on a council estate in Tower Hamlets, east London, one of the most deprived – and Covid-infected – parts of Britain.

From the end of the street, past a patch of grass littered with discarded syringes, where Moussa once picked up a condom, the gleaming glass towers of Canary Wharf, the headquarters of leading banks and finance companies, can be seen on the horizon. It seems a world away. More than half of children in Tower Hamlets live in poverty.

A former carer, Begum shares a bed with Moussa. Her two other sons, aged 15 and 19, share a room, and her daughter sleeps on the sofa. “Nobody gets much sleep,” she shrugged.

Apart from Moussa, who is at primary school, one son is doing GCSEs and the two eldest children are university students. They have two laptops in total, including for Begum’s work as virtual assistant for a cab company, and she fears her children are falling behind – disastrous on estates rife with gangs and drugs.

“I asked for another, but the teacher said, ‘You have two and many families don’t have one,’” Begum said.

Lockdown the third time round, with its cold, dark days and return to homeschooling, may feel harder than ever – the novelty of baking sourdough, Yoga with Adriene, or Zoom cocktails long having worn off for many – but for families such as Begum’s and others in London’s poorest borough, it is unimaginable.

I was shocked when I first met these families last April to see how different life was in lockdown from mine, with a garden and plenty of space, and have stayed in touch with them since.

Nine months on – more than half of them spent under lockdown – many households are reaching breaking point. “I feel like a small boat being tossed about with dangerous waters all around,” said Begum. “We’re all feeling suffocated, both physically but also mentally.”

Such is the mental toll that a few months ago her eldest son went to Shadwell Basin and tried to throw himself into the Thames.

Worth reading in full.

Care Home Staff Face Sack After Shunning Vaccine

The Sunday Times reports that:

The National Care Association has taken the unprecedented step of seeking a legal opinion on whether care home workers can be made to accept vaccination after thousands refused. Between 6% and 8% of the 1.5 million adult social care workforce in England are declining jabs, despite the number of coronavirus cases in care homes trebling in the past month, according to industry reporting of uptake across the country.

This is a fairly small proportion compared the general population. With 92-94% declaring themselves willing to get the jab, it could be seen as a rather drastic approach to try to force 100% compliance. If successful, it may also set a worrying precedent for other employers considering a similar approach – the so-called ‘no jab, no job’ policy. The piece continues with poll data:

The development comes as a poll reveals that only 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds say they will “definitely” take the vaccine. In the survey by the research data company Focaldata, the percentage of people who say they will definitely have the jab increases in line with age.

Among 18 to 24-year-olds, just over one in three (36%) say they will definitely be inoculated against the virus, rising to 44% among 25- to 34-year-olds, 56% among 35- to 44-year-olds, 71%- among 45 to 64-year-olds and 90% among those aged 65 and above.

Ethnic minorities are even less likely than young people to say they will take the vaccine, with just a third (33%) committed to having the jab.

Overall, one in six people are opposed to having the jab – with women more hesitant than men. The poll reveals that 60% of women and 69% of men will definitely take the vaccine. The proportion of the population that must be infected or inoculated to achieve “herd immunity” is uncertain, but it is likely to be more than 80%.

People in Greater London are the most cautious about having the vaccine, with just 41% of those asked saying they will definitely have the jab, followed by those in the East Midlands (52%) and West Midlands (56%).

Scotland has the highest percentage of people willing to have the jab, with 78% who will definitely have the vaccine.

The Government may have a challenge on its hands regarding the remarkable vaccine scepticism among ethnic minorities. Having been at pains to emphasise the higher risk faced on average by BAME people during the pandemic, and after a year of heightened tension around Black Lives Matter and race issues, it’s conceivable that a Tory government could find it politically unpalatable to be seen to move in the direction of direct or indirect coercion against the expressed will of two-thirds of the BAME community.

The Chairwoman of the National Care Association, Nadra Ahmed, outlined some of the reasons given by care staff for their reticence:

Ahmed said although the proportion of staff refusing to take the vaccine had fallen since the roll-out began, the figures were still a concern. “I think we started with between 15% and 18% of the workforce, we were being told, who were reluctant to have it, but I think that it’s dropped to about 8%.

“We are also hearing that some of them are based around reasons that are religious, or they’ve got conditions, or it’s a fear… Very few are conspiracy theory types, but there are [some] within the numbers that we’ve been told about.

“Even one [care worker turning down the vaccine] is more than we would want. We’ve asked for a legal opinion on it – we’re just waiting for that legal opinion to come through.”

The poll reveals the two most common reasons people are opposed to the jab is concern the “vaccines have been rushed through” (45%) and “wanting to wait until more people have had it to see if it is safe” (35%).

Lack of trust in institutions and authorities plays a larger part than the more extreme conspiracy theories. One in five (21%) mention a lack of trust in the pharmaceutical companies that made the vaccine as a reason for their opposition, while one in six (16%) “don’t trust the people who want us to take the vaccine”.

One in five (21%) of those sceptical about taking a vaccine say that this because they believe “the side effects and potential risks of the vaccine are worse than the disease itself”, while just over one in 10 (13%) “would rather let nature take its course”.

Worth reading in full.

A Wittgensteinian Writes…

Ludwig Wittgenstein

We are publishing a piece today entitled “Why We Shouldn’t Moralise Means to Moral Ends” by Ben Hawkins, a trainee lawyer with an interest in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

There’s an excellent Mitchell and Webb sketch in which a pair of ministerial aides are reporting back to their minister on potential solutions for dealing with a recession… “raising VAT, cutting VAT, raising interest rates, raising interest rates and VAT, lowering income tax and raising VAT”. But despite their efforts, they haven’t been able to land on anything – when their proposed measures are put through their computer models, none of them seems to work. Suddenly the minister interrupts. “Have you tried ‘kill all the poor’?” When the shocked aides protest the minister replies, “I’m not saying do it, I’m just saying run it through the computer ­– see if it would work.”

Whilst undoubtedly a broadside aimed at the austerity policies of the time, the sketch works as it highlights a feature of our moral reflexes that is often overlooked: for most moral agents with genuinely held moral beliefs, it is not enough to avoid doing wrong; to merely consider doing that wrong action feels like a moral transgression in and of itself. A serious moral agent, believing that killing people is wrong, would never consider running “kill all the poor” through the computer, as doing so would seemingly violate the principle of the sanctity of life which the belief in not killing people upholds. As Robert Webb’s character shrieks exasperatedly when asked why he won’t just give it a go – “Because it’s offensive and evil!”

Worth reading in full.

Telegraph Letter

A reader spotted a good letter that appeared recently in the Telegraph.

SIR – I was recently speaking to a friend in South Africa, who told me that, every day, the government publishes the recovery rate of Covid patients, alongside the data on cases and deaths. This means that South Africans receive some good news – and are reminded that getting the virus is not a death sentence for most healthy citizens.

Our Government, by contrast, seems intent on delivering only the bad news. It’s time that we were given some perspective and hope.

Roger Woodgate
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

NHS Worship: A Doctor Writes…

We are also publishing a piece called “Ruminating About the New Religion” by a medical doctor who writes under the pseudonym Dr J. Here is an excerpt:

In 2020, a new reformation has happened, hastened on by the ‘pandemic’, and credited to the good folk of China. The Church of England, no longer the nation’s moral compass or cultural centre, not only ceased to be the established church, but gladly ceded that title to the NHS, the new established Church in England. Venerable Cathedrals like Salisbury now close their doors to public worship opting for something on the Internet. Yet they open the doors to the new church, the NHS, and allow everyone in to be vaccinated, something that would ostensibly help ‘protect the NHS’. This followed from the example of See of Canterbury which in March first ordered all Churches to close and threatened all pastors with sanctions if they even thought about opening them or stepping inside. All of this was to protect the NHS and save lives. The NHS, the new established religion, must be protected at all costs, especially by the old established religion. No one is permitted to die, or at least not from Covid. And besides, the former CofE never had the time to tell followers how to do that well anyway.

The new head of the Church, our PM, duly appointed its new Archbishop, the Health Secretary, and he appointed and ceded all power to decide how the nation would live its life – or not – to his high priests, the collective heads of the health services and our new prognosticator in chief, Neil Ferguson. A new Parliament was established of course, now called SAGE, appointed to be the new theologians of this religion, instructing us on the reality of certain death if we don’t listen to and heed all they teach and say. In this newly established Church, all other institutions are insignificant – the family, religion, businesses, education, universities – and there will no longer be freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, democracy, or the right to challenge the established orthodoxy. If it’s not the NHS, it’s not important. If all heads of the health service don’t believe and preach it, then neither can you. If they believe and preach it, then you must as well.

The new heads of the newly established Church and its high priests and its theologians have instead decided to preach the doctrines through the pulpit of the BBC, and censor, ridicule, sideline, demonise and use their compliant members to enforce the orthodoxy in the press and on social media.

Worth reading in full.

The Wisdom of Martin Luther King

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States so we thought we’d share a quote from the good reverend.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause.

And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…Y ou refuse to do it because you want to live longer… You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

Ipso Ruling: More Reader Responses

Two more readers with scientific backgrounds have kindly sent in comments about the Ipso ruling against Toby which we reported on two days ago. We published the first set of responses yesterday.

Martin Evison PhD, a retired Science Professor formerly at Sheffield, Toronto, and Northumbria Universities, wrote:

I was disappointed to learn of the IPSO ruling, which I think is mistaken.

With regard to ‘herd immunity’, I refer you to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, whose Q&A would appear to concur specifically with Toby’s comments in the Daily Telegraph regarding herd immunity and the proportion of the population needed to confer it (see the following):

“What is herd immunity?

When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection – or herd immunity (also called herd protection) – to those who are not immune to the disease. For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 50% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity.” (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health)

The term ‘natural immunity’ is a little ambiguous, as it can be used i) to distinguish between pre-existing immunity and immunity conferred only following infection or vaccination; ii) to distinguish between vaccine-acquired immunity and immunity acquired without a vaccine, and iii) to distinguish between innate – including T-cell mediated – immunity and adaptive immunity mediated by antibodies – which I anticipate was Toby’s intended meaning. There is a substantial literature on the latter topic. Here is an accessible recent scientific summary.

If Toby is asserting that natural, T-cell mediated and other innate immunity – including that resulting from prior infection with other coronaviruses, combined with a level – say 17% seroprevalence – of adaptive immunity is probably sufficient to confer herd immunity in London – then this is at least a plausible hypothesis reflecting conventional wisdom.

If scientific uncertainty applies to one claim, then it must equally apply to its opposite – e.g. that natural, T-cell mediated and other innate immunity – including that resulting from prior infection with other coronaviruses, combined with a level – say 17 % seroprevalence – of adaptive immunity is probably insufficient to confer herd immunity in London. 

If Ipso want to preferentially silence one claim over the other, they need to say why and provide evidence supporting that opinion. 

It is at best unethical for the Government or its scientific advisers to pretend they are basing their decisions on certainties, where they do not exist. It seems, furthermore, that they are ignoring a number of certainties – or at any rate preponderance of evidence in their favour – that have become increasingly apparent since March 2020.

Gordon Burns, a retired Professor of Cancer Research who has a BSc in Biochemistry, a Postgraduate Diploma and Primary MRCPath in Microbiology, and a PhD from Cambridge with five years as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Immunology, writes:

The interviews published and the comments provided in the mainstream media on viral replication and the natural immune response are so utterly ignorant and such irresponsible misinformation that I feel obliged to comment. I will try to put things in lay terms.

First – contrary to public belief and propaganda on vaccines – viruses are not killed by antibodies. For the simple reason that – unlike bacteria and other living organisms – they are not living organisms and thus cannot be “killed”, whether by antibodies or anything else within the body.

Infectious respiratory viruses have an RNA core (for replication) and a protein coat. The protein coat consists of invariant structural proteins and the ’spike protein’ that contains within it the small peptide that constitutes the cell-binding domain (CBD).

Most structural proteins are shared by viral groups such as coronaviruses.

Upon primary infection of mucosal and epithelial cells in the bronchial tract, the infected cells in distress display the viral proteins at their cell surface. Structural and spike. Cytotoxic T-cells recognise these foreign proteins and kill the infected cells. These viral proteins (structural or spike) are remembered by the T-cells which survive for (almost) life as memory T-cells.

Killed cells release viral particles that are excreted or infect other cells until the battle is won. Never to progress further.

Thus, in many cases, viral infections never proceed beyond this stage and T-cell immunity is retained. The only antibodies generated at this site are IgM and IgA antibodies.

Immunisation, by contrast, induces IgG antibodies at a distal site. These can be deleterious to primary infections.

If you like, I can extrapolate further on the IgG response, but readers should be aware of the primary response explained above.

We’re grateful for these contributions, and any more expert readers are welcome to email us their responses.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/MaajidNawaz/status/1350903260245323781

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “So Lonely” by The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by Sting, “Throw Away the Key” by Linx, “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson, “Hide Your Face” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Which Side Are You On?” by Pete Seeger, and “A Walk in the Park” by Nick Straker Band.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we have this opinion piece in the Washington Post by Cristina Beltrán entitled “To understand Trump’s support, we must think in terms of multiracial Whiteness”, wherein she burnishes her ‘anti-racist’ credentials by associating everything she dislikes with “whiteness”, which, she argues, is a quality that can be espoused by people who are not actually white. So progressive….

The Trump administration’s anti-immigration, anti-civil rights stance has made it easy to classify the President’s loyalists as a homogenous mob of white nationalists. But take a look at the FBI’s posters showing people wanted in the insurrectionist assault on the US Capitol: Among the many White faces are a few that are clearly Latino or African American.

Such diversity highlights the fact that President Trump’s share of the Latino vote in November actually rose over 2016, notwithstanding years of incendiary rhetoric targeting Mexicans and other Latino communities. Yes, Trump’s voters – and his mob – are disproportionately White, but one of the more unsettling exit-poll data points of the 2020 election was that a quarter to a third of Latino voters voted to reelect Trump.

She continues in a similar vein and adds:

Rooted in America’s ugly history of white supremacy, indigenous dispossession and anti-blackness, multiracial whiteness is an ideology invested in the unequal distribution of land, wealth, power and privilege – a form of hierarchy in which the standing of one section of the population is premised on the debasement of others. Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political colour and not simply a racial identity – a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.

Multiracial whiteness promises Latino Trump supporters freedom from the politics of diversity and recognition. For voters who see the very act of acknowledging one’s racial identity as itself racist, the politics of multiracial whiteness reinforces their desired approach to colorblind individualism. In the politics of multiracial whiteness, anyone can join the MAGA movement and engage in the wild freedom of unbridled rage and conspiracy theories.

Multiracial whiteness offers citizens of every background the freedom to call Muslims terrorists, demand that undocumented immigrants be rounded up and deported, deride BLM as a movement of thugs and criminals, and accuse Democrats of being blood-drinking paedophiles.

Stop Press: Unsurprisingly, Titania McGrath has weighed in:

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Did the Virus Escape From the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China’s central Hubei province (AFP)

In one of his last acts as President of the United States, Donald Trump has directed the US Department of State to issue a fact sheet about the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the pandemic. Suffice to say it’s a marmalade-dropper.

For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation. Nearly two million people have died. Their families deserve to know the truth. Only through transparency can we learn what caused this pandemic and how to prevent the next one.

The U.S. Government does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, was transmitted initially to humans. We have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The virus could have emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with a natural epidemic. Alternatively, a laboratory accident could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure included only a few individuals and was compounded by asymptomatic infection. Scientists in China have researched animal-derived coronaviruses under conditions that increased the risk for accidental and potentially unwitting exposure.

The CCP’s deadly obsession with secrecy and control comes at the expense of public health in China and around the world. The previously undisclosed information in this fact sheet, combined with open-source reporting, highlights three elements about COVID-19’s origin that deserve greater scrutiny:

1. Illnesses inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV):

The U.S. Government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV Senior Researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was “zero infection” among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.

Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one.

The CCP has prevented independent journalists, investigators, and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019. Any credible inquiry into the origin of the virus must include interviews with these researchers and a full accounting of their previously unreported illness.

2. Research at the WIV:

Starting in at least 2016, and with no indication of a stop prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, WIV researchers conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar). The WIV became a focal point for international coronavirus research after the 2003 SARS outbreak and has since studied animals including mice, bats, and pangolins.

The WIV has a published record of conducting “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses. But the WIV has not been transparent or consistent about its record of studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, including “RaTG13,” which it sampled from a cave in Yunnan Province in 2013 after several miners died of SARS-like illness.

WHO investigators must have access to the records of the WIV’s work on bat and other coronaviruses before the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of a thorough inquiry, they must have a full accounting of why the WIV altered and then removed online records of its work with RaTG13 and other viruses.

3. Secret military activity at the WIV:

Secrecy and non-disclosure are standard practice for Beijing. For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.

Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.

The United States and other donors who funded or collaborated on civilian research at the WIV have a right and obligation to determine whether any of our research funding was diverted to secret Chinese military projects at the WIV.

Today’s revelations just scratch the surface of what is still hidden about COVID-19’s origin in China. Any credible investigation into the origin of COVID-19 demands complete, transparent access to the research labs in Wuhan, including their facilities, samples, personnel, and records.

As the world continues to battle this pandemic, and as WHO investigators begin their work, after more than a year of delays, the virus’s origin remains uncertain. The United States will continue to do everything it can to support a credible and thorough investigation, including by continuing to demand transparency on the part of Chinese authorities.

Stop Press: A World Health Organisation team is currently in China to investigate the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Matt Ridley co-authored a piece with Alina Chan about this in the Wall Street Journal on Jan 15th pointing out that the investigation is tainted from the outset because the WHO will not be looking into the possibility that the coronavirus originated in a lab.

Stop Press 2: China is currently seeing a new surge in cases and is reported to have built a new hospital in Nangong in Hebei province in just five days.

Stop Press 3: If you want to look more closely into the theory that the pandemic began with a leak from the WIV – still regarded as a “conspiracy theory” by Facebook’s “independent fact checkers” – we recommend this piece by Nicholson Baker in New York magazine.

Lockdown? What Lockdown?

MailOnline reports that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was seen out and about yesterday, seemingly enjoying life:

Matt Hancock was seen “covered in mud” while carrying a rugby ball through a London park this afternoon the day after Boris Johnson pleaded with the nation to “stay at home this weekend”. 

The Prime Minister yesterday released a video calling on the public to ‘think twice’ before leaving the house as he moved to cool rising optimism amid a drop in daily infections and the vaccination of more than 3.5 million people.

He urged everyone to behave as if they have coronavirus, warning that asymptomatic “silent spreaders” are unwittingly fuelling the crisis and the next person infected “could be you”.

But his sobering clarion call did little to put off crowds who headed to busy parks – including the Health Secretary who was filmed by a passerby casually walking through Queen’s Park in North London while clutching a rugby ball.

In the clip, Mr Hancock, who is not wearing a mask, smiles as a member of the public who remarks at how “muddy” he is.  

The witness told MailOnline: “I was there at about 3.30 this afternoon… Suddenly I saw Matt Hancock, he was there playing rugby with his son I think. He walked right up to me and I saw he was covered head to toe in mud.”

While rugby is a favourite of his boss, the Prime Minister, father-of-three Mr Hancock is instead known for his cricketing prowess and plays for the parliamentary side. 

Lockdown rules state that people can leave their homes for exercise by themselves, with the people they live with or with a legally-permitted support bubble. Official guidance does not rule out ball sports. 

Ministers are launching an advertising blitz to hammer home the importance of sticking to lockdown rules while the biggest vaccination drive in British history paves a path out of the pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

Are COVID-19 Patients in Hospital Really Getting Younger?

PA Media

Are Covid patients getting younger? The senior doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics has taken a look at the data and thinks not.

Recently there have been a series of claims in the media that patients in hospital with COVID-19 are younger than they were in the spring. These assertions have been vigorously contested or supported by contributors to social media, feeding an unhelpful coarsening of debate and distasteful ad hominem attacks.

In my last post I examined one of these claims made by BBC reporter Hugh Pym after a visit to Croydon Hospital. I was unable to find any significant increase in younger patients, either from the latest NHS Hospital data, the ONS death data or the ICNARC ICU audit data to support his assertion.

Having had time to look into the monthly packet from January 14th in more detail, I now examine three other specific claims. Readers may find this information a bit dense and technical, but it’s important to establish whether claims made in the media, which have a substantial impact on public opinion, are backed up by officially published figures. It is only by careful analysis and honest transparent discussion that we can arrive at the truth. No one is infallible, which is why peer review is important.

The usual caveats apply: We can only assess the information the NHS allows us to see in the form in which they present it (which leaves a lot to be desired) – and we have to assume it is accurate.

  1. On December 31st, a nurse at King’s College Hospital gave an interview to Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 live in which she said there were many more children affected by COVID-19 in the winter compared to the spring. She said there was a “whole ward” of sick children in her hospital and many of her colleagues in other trusts had the same problem.
  2. An ICU consultant at Queen Mary University, London has said there are more younger people in ICU with COVID-19 compared to the spring.
  3. In an interview on Sky TV, a doctor from the Royal Surrey county hospital said that the patients with COVID-19 were sicker and younger in the winter than in the spring.

I have examined the available data to see what quantitative evidence from the official figures there is to support these assertions.

Table 1 shows the total number of COVID-19 diagnoses made on children at Kings College Hospital in two comparable six week periods from the spring and the winter. There is no significant difference between the two periods. Twenty four patients admitted over six weeks with short lengths of stay does not constitute a “ward full” of patients.

Table 1

Graph 1 shows the number of COVID-19 inpatients at two leading children’s hospitals. Great Ormond St in London and Alder Hey in Liverpool. The graph shows that there are fewer children in both hospitals in the winter than in the spring. The overall numbers are low, fewer than 30 at the spring peak, fewer than 20 in the winter. Great Ormond Street in particular has seen very low numbers of children ill enough with COVID-19 to warrant admission this winter.

Graph 1

So, I don’t think the data published by the NHS supports the assertion that there is an increased proportion of children sick with COVID-19 compared to the spring. This begs the question, why did the nurse make such a statement, and does she have convincing evidence to back it up which contradicts the officially published figures?

I did notice that the teaching unions retweeted the interview immediately after it was broadcast. It was around the time when they were agitating for the Government to close schools. Correlation does not imply causation of course, but it does seem a curious temporal juxtaposition.

ICU COVID-19 Age Profiles

Table 2 shows age stratification data from 14,710 patients admitted to ICU in England between Sept 1st and January 14th published in the most recent ICNARC audit. It shows that 8.2% of admissions to ICU in the period were under 40. That doesn’t seem to be an excessive proportion of younger people.

Table 2

Unfortunately, the raw data for the period up to August 31st is not available on the ICNARC site. However, the same information was used in a recently published paper in Intensive Care Medicine called “COVID-19 in critical care: epidemiology of the first epidemic wave across England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

In the paper the age groupings were quoted slightly differently to the raw data from the cohort of patients from September to January, so I have aligned the information enabling a direct comparison between the ages of ICU patients in the spring and the winter in Table 3. The only difference is a skew to the older age group in the winter. The data reported in the literature from ICUs in other European countries are broadly comparable with the UK ICNARC figures.

Table 3

I have not been able to find detailed information as to the age profile of patients in ICU at Barts and the Royal London to compare with the national figures, so it is entirely possible that their local population differs significantly from the national case mix. On a national level there appears to be no significant difference between the age profiles of ICU patients between spring and winter in the figures I have access to.

Searching the published literature on PubMed I can find a couple of relevant papers. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore noted in the Lancet in April that clinical obesity was associated with younger patients being admitted to ICU.

Another study looked at increasing proportions of younger American patients testing positive for COVID-19 in the community and concluded this was a consequence of increased testing rather than a change in the demographics of the disease.

I wondered whether there might be a difference between age mixes in London compared to the whole of England. Table 4 suggests not. There is a slight skew towards the middle 18-64 band in London compared with the national figures, but London figures comparing spring to winter show the same percentages within each age band; nothing to indicate a major shift to younger people. Readers should note that the lower total numbers of patients in the spring is probably a testing artefact; much more testing is being done now than earlier in 2020, but the age stratified percentages are remarkably stable.

Table 4

Table 5 is a comparison of the age stratified COVID-19 diagnoses at the Royal Surrey Hospital between comparable six week periods in the spring and winter. The data is contained in the monthly summary of NHS COVID-19 activity published on January 14th. The figures show a slight increase in the percentage of patients over 85 years in the winter compared to the spring. There is no significant increase in patients in the younger cohort 18-64. Unfortunately, the NHS figures do not allow a more detailed analysis of this wide age band, so it is possible that within the 18-64 cohort, the numbers could be skewed to the younger side. Publication of local audit figures would be informative.

The NHS could also be more helpful in their presentation of the numbers. Simon Stevens reportedly told MP’s last week that under 55 year-olds made up 25% of hospital admissions.

That is consistent with the data presented in the 18-64 age group discussed above. He did not comment on whether the proportion of younger patients had changed since the spring. The NHS clearly has the granular figures on age stratification; it would be useful if they could present the data more precisely so the public had accurate figures to compare against media reporting.

Table 5

Why does any of this matter? If there are a larger number of younger patients in hospital with COVID-19, does that really make any difference, as long as the mortality rate remains low?

From the broader medical perspective it probably doesn’t matter at all, unless there is a significant change in the way younger people need to be managed to achieve better outcomes. If there is new clinical information relevant to treatment, that needs to be disseminated rapidly in the online medical press. I can’t find any such reports in the medical literature over the last two months in relation to younger age groups being affected more by COVID-19 in the winter compared to the spring.

On the other hand, doctors making claims in the media about COVID-19 which cannot be supported by published evidence does matter. In the current febrile climate, where alarmist reporting generates excessive public anxiety and increased social antagonism, it is important that medical professionals are careful only to report matters in the media that can be substantiated – and the plural of anecdote is not data.

Reporting that COVID-19 patients are younger and sicker than in the spring implies that the ‘new variant’ attacks younger people more readily than the previous manifestation of the virus and this clearly generates alarm in the population at large.

If doctors have evidence that COVID-19 is affecting a disproportionate number of young people, then that evidence should be published in the peer reviewed journals via online portals so the whole profession can have a look at it – not issued as ad hoc sound bites to reporters panting for a sensational story or as Twitter clickbait. If the publicly available information does not support the assertion, the suspicion will be that the thrill of being in the media spotlight has got the better of sound clinical judgement.

Confessions of a Psychologist: “I’m Having to Turn Away Grieving Teenagers”

The Sunday Telegraph has published an article today by psychologist Dr Vanessa Moulton who has seen an explosion in mental health problems among teenagers.

For the first time ever in my 10 years of working as a psychologist, the number of people coming to me for help has surpassed anything I am capable of coping with. I am turning people away every week, something I’ve never done before, because I’m at capacity. I hate doing it, because there are so many who need help, and mental health provision across the NHS and private sector is bursting at the seams, but often all I can do is give them a list of names and wish them well. The worst thing is that so many of them are parents of teenagers who are dangerously unhappy. 

Compared to the atrocities people across the country are facing at the moment, not being able to go to school or see your friends might sound like small fry, but it isn’t. I have seen a huge spike in the numbers of teenagers seeking mental health support, and if lockdown goes on much longer, I fear it will only get worse

We talk about loss a lot at the moment – for teenagers, the loss of social interaction is profound, and for many it is having a huge developmental impact. The teens coming through my (virtual) doors these past months have been suffering with loneliness, a sense of crippling helplessness, and a total lack of motivation. All of which adds up to make life feel pretty relentlessly bleak. For many of these young people, what I’m helping them with is a form of grief. 

The parents who contact me are so worried, because it can be hard to tell if your 14 year-old is just “being a teenager” or if they are particularly, notably low. They don’t know what to do, and in lockdown there isn’t a lot they can do. They can’t fashion a social life and a sense of structure and purpose where there isn’t one. What worries me is that the teens I see have at least taken that step, or a parent or carer has, of seeking help. 

There will be many, many children out there suffering in silence. In many families the adults are having such a difficult time of it that they may not be fully cognisant of how quiet their teenager has become. In many cases a child doesn’t feel able to tell someone they are so low, perhaps because they don’t understand it themselves or feel ashamed. I am currently helping one teenager who had never suffered mental health problems before this past year, but with the loss of his social group, the sense of disempowerment and helplessness, they became so low they started self-harming. It is so devastating to see the effects of this pandemic on young people like them. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Observer reports that a coalition of child experts are pressing for an inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 response on children’s education, development and mental health.

The World’s Most Powerful Passport

Credit: AlexLMX/Getty Images

Euronews reports that the World Health Organisation has, for the moment, recommended against vaccine passports.

The World Health Organisation said on Friday it was opposed “for the time being’ to the introduction of certificates of vaccination – so-called “vaccine passports” – against COVID-19 as a condition for allowing international travellers into other countries.

Several countries have already signalled their interest in producing vaccine passports in some form, including Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Estonia, and Denmark.

“There are still too many fundamental unknowns in terms of the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing (virus) transmission and vaccines are still only available in limited quantities,” the committee said in its recommendations…

Nonetheless, the WHO may in time need to change its advice in order to keep up with the politics, according to the Euronews report. Last Thursday, Poland announced that it was going to introduce passports:

The country’s Deputy Health Minister Anna Golawska said Poles would be able able to access certification in the form of a downloadable QR code after they received the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The code would then allow the recipient to “use the rights to which vaccinated people are entitled”.

Worth reading in full.

We reported on January 13th that companies MVine and iProov have designed a digital passport app set to undergo a Government-funded trial. Across the pond meanwhile, CTVNews reports that a number of tech giants are joining together to create something called the Vaccine Credential Initiative.

With coronavirus vaccines now rolling out across the United States, businesses and schools are considering how, and what it will take, to safely resume in-person operations.

Some of the country’s biggest tech firms and health care organizations have joined together to help facilitate that return to “normal”. The group, called the Vaccine Credential Initiative, wants to ensure that everyone has access to a secure, digital record of their COVID-19 vaccination – like a digital vaccine passport – that can be stored in people’s smartphones. The records could be used for everything from airline travel to entering concert venues.

The coalition comprises a broad range of health care and tech leaders including Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, Cerner, Cigna’s Evernorth, health care software firm Epic and the Mayo Clinic, among others…

The Vaccine Credential Initiative wants to create an open-source, standard model for how hospitals, pharmacies and clinics administering COVID-19 vaccines make digital records of immunizations, which can be provided to patients who want them.

Immunizations are typically tracked by writing them down on a paper card for people to store with their important records, and are also kept track of in a patient’s electronic medical records.

But for a number of reasons, the COVID-19 vaccination required developing a different system. For one thing, coronavirus vaccination records will need to be more easily transported if people have to use them to access schools, offices and event venues, making a digital record more practical. They also need to be “interoperable”, meaning all organizations administering the shots should use the same model for recording vaccine credentials.

“It’s not just for health care purposes that you will need this health data,” Paul Meyer, CEO of non-profit The Commons Project, told CNN Business. The Commons Project created an app called Common Pass, where people can store digital records of their COVID-19 test results and, eventually, their COVID-19 vaccination record.

“Now you are going to need either your lab results or vaccination data to get on an airplane, to go to school, go to work, real life, non-health-care use cases,” Meyer said. “And it needs to be in a standard form so when you’re presenting it, people actually understand, ‘Oh, it was the Pfizer vaccine that you got.'”

The COVID-19 vaccination record also needs to be verifiable and secure in a way that was less important for past vaccination records, otherwise, a person could try to fake having gotten the COVID-19 vaccine by using someone else’s record, Meyer said.

Worth reading in full.

Large tech companies storing the private medical data of many thousands of people. What could possibly go wrong? Read more about the Vaccination Credential Initiative on their website here.

Stop Press: Reuters reports that the European Commission is working on a certificate dubbed “Vaxproof”. It looks like they will have until 2022 to get it done, judging from this tweet by journalist Bruno Maçães.

Scottish Churches Fight to Re-Open

CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters

A group of church leaders in Scotland, from a range of denominations, have submitted a pre-action letter to the Scottish Government, calling on it to reverse the rules which require their closure. A press release from Christian advocacy group Christian Concern has the details:

Restrictions outlined by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Friday January 8th, without debate, have made it a criminal offence for churches to hold services in-person and, for example, to conduct baptisms in the highest tiers.

The closure of churches in Scotland is unprecedented, with no attempt to close them since the Stuart kings made it a capital offence to meet for worship and listen to preaching other than that of the established church in the 17th century.

The pre-action letter states that the church leaders wish to emphasise that they “fully understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and they appreciate that the Scottish Government is required to make difficult decisions as it seeks to take steps to decrease the spread of the virus“.

However, the leaders say that they believe the Scottish Ministers’ have “failed to appreciate that the closure of places of worship is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion“.

The letter contends that the regulations that came into force on January 8th 2021 are in violation of Article 9, read with Article 11, of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The letter identifies that with suitable restrictions in place, public transport, essential shops, professional sport, and the court system continue to function. Yet, places of worship are closed.

It states that this closure is: “arbitrary, inconsistent and disproportionate when looked at in light of the Convention. The closure of places of worship and the criminalisation of collective manifestation of religion which takes place under carefully and responsibly controlled conditions goes too far.

Outlining the position of the church leaders on how the separation of church and state is a fundamental feature of the constitution of Scotland, the letter argues that the current restrictions on church activity violates the Act of 1592.

This Act, which gave authority to the church over all matters ecclesiastical, also gave the elders of each church a specific legal responsibility to ensure that regular worship continued.

The press release goes on to describe the dangerous precedent set by the state closing churches.

The Scottish pre-action letter comes as leaders in England and Wales continue to pursue a judicial review over their respective Government’s decision to close churches during the November 2020 Lockdown.

An oral permission hearing is set for Monday January 25th at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, which will decide whether the case will go to full judicial review.

During a parliamentary debate ahead of the November 2020 lockdown in England, former Prime Minister Theresa May said of the English Government’s decision to close places of worship:

“My concern is the Government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a Government in the future with the worst of intentions. It has unintended consequences.”

When asked in November 2020 how the English Government had justified closing places of worship, chief scientific advisors, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “We haven’t got good evidence”, “this is not a very exact science at all” and “we don’t have good data to answer that with any degree of certainty”.

Similarly, the Scottish Government has failed to present any scientific evidence to justify church closures.

Worth reading in full.

The Church leaders’ pre-action letter can be read in full here (pdf).

Stop Press: Mayor Sadiq Kahn has called for places of worship in London to be closed, a call which religious leaders have rejected.

Stop Press 2: Christian Concern responded to the Government’s recent call for evidence about the Human Rights impact of lockdown with a submission highlighting the cost to religious freedom.

Back to Normal

The Back to Normal postcard being delivered across the country

Back to Normal, is a public-facing, grass roots group, campaigning to end the lockdown and they are looking for volunteers. It’s spokesman, Geoff Cox, has written the guest post below.

Back to Normal is a growing band of lockdown sceptics from all walks of life who are determined to counter the tidal wave of hysterical pronouncements from the Government and the media. Through small groups of sceptics across the UK, we are delivering our message outside the control of the Government or Twitter or the BBC.

Although we have a website and a presence on social media, we have a deliberately low tech operation and have produced a simple, well worded postcard-sized leaflet, to be hand-delivered by volunteers. Our aim is to distribute one million to houses all over the country. We are on our way and at the last count had reached 235,000.

Currently we also have 100 small, loosely affiliated groups operating at constituency level. We’ve chosen to work in constituencies, mainly because they are well defined and a manageable size, but also because they are the heart of the political process. In time, our volunteers may choose to take a more active role politically – a letter writing campaign to the local press or perhaps supporting one of the new political parties who are making sceptic noises; even possibly standing for election as independents.

Doing something is better than doing nothing: it raises our morale and annoys the Government. Please become a postman and deliver some postcards and let’s get Back to Normal.

You can follow us on Facebook here, on MeWe here, or get in touch by email.

Readers Respond to Ipso’s Ruling Against Toby

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are currently heading in one direction

As we reported yesterday, Ipso, the independent press regulator, upheld a complaint against the Telegraph for publishing a “misleading” opinion piece by Toby. Ipso objected to his claim that the population of London was approaching herd immunity in July, in spite of the fact that seroprevalence surveys indicated only 17% of Londoners had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, and dismissed the idea that T Cells could provide comparable immunity to antibodies. It also dismissed as “inaccurate” his claim that exposure to those coronavirus that cause some varieties of the common cold will provide some people with immunity to COVID-19.

Toby thinks Ipso has got this one wrong and yesterday we invited readers, particularly those with a scientific background, to send in their comments.

Dr Rachel Nicholl, a Researcher in the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umea University, Sweden, who recently had a rapid response published in the BMJ in which she hypothesised “that exposure to some of the common cold viruses can induce immunity to other coronaviruses”, sent this response.

Herd immunity is a concept. It has never been proven to exist and there has been no outbreak where scientists definitively concluded that herd immunity was reached. In fact, the sheer logic of it suggests that it is a moveable feast and if we did achieve it one day, we would have likely lost it the next.

Some scientists equate herd immunity with whether R0 (the ‘R number’) is below 1 – see this article in Nature. I believe R0 was <1 over the summer.

My article in the BMJ highlighted the fact that we have some pre-existing immunity (coronaviruses make up around 1/3 of all common cold viruses) and the problems with relying merely on IgG antibodies.

So yes, you got some things wrong in your article, notably your prediction that there wouldn’t be a second wave, but arguably the lockdown and intensive sanitisation contributed to the second wave. Immune systems need to be challenged to be healthy. We need to circulate among people, picking up the odd virus here and there, and collecting bacteria from unsanitised surfaces. This is healthy. Also ‘stay home’ meant we were not going out and topping up our vitamin D from the sun. So our immune systems faced the autumn in a poorer state than usual. I’m not suggesting the second wave would not have occurred without lockdown (there is too much else wrong with our immune systems!) but it might not have been so severe.

Here’s what another senior scientist wrote:

Viruses are killed by T cells. That is what T cells are for. What the hell do they think T cells are for? Antibodies are just markers.

There has been an erroneous assumption that 100% of the population were susceptible to Covid at the beginning of the pandemic. We know this is not true, in part because during outbreaks in spring, when thorough testing was carried out, 50% of people demonstrated immunity by testing positive in the absence of symptoms.

The 17% figure for London discounts all prior immunity. Adding in the 50% figure above gets you to 67% = herd immunity.

Antibodies and T cell responses are wonderfully flexible. They both notice shapes rather than specific amino acids or letters of genetic sequence. When you are matching shapes you get plenty of overlap. Also, our responses to one virus are hugely diverse. We make antibodies to every corner and crevice of the shapes. These shapes will overlap with things we have seen before. They need not only overlap with other coronaviruses. In fact there is excellent evidence that prior immunity came largely from our immune responses to mumps.

Viv Evans, a retired zoologist with a Phd in Cell Biology, sent the following comment:

I’m sure other scientists contributing regularly to Lockdown Sceptics will have pointed out that ‘science’ and scientific research results are not carved in stone, that they change with research and are not meant to be adhered to, like immutable laws, in perpetuity.

It is impossible to predict research results from ongoing, properly scientific studies and it often turns out that an opinion by a lay person is in fact supported by later research.

If an opinion piece can be criticised retroactively, the author admonished, the publication made to retract during an ongoing scientific debate, then that ‘judgement’ can equally be questioned, a retraction of it can equally be demanded based on more recent scientific developments. [Dr Evans then included a link to the rapid response in the BMJ written by Dr Nicholl.]

A reader sent in this:

Surely the constant claim from SAGE and Government that having had Covid does not confer immunity is grossly misleading. IPSO says nothing.

As is the claim that people can have Covid many times – without qualifying it by saying if this has happened at all it has been very rare.

A GP in Hereford sent these encouraging words:

Knowing how hard it is to stand up against the orthodoxy I just wanted to encourage Toby not to stop his excellent and brave work on behalf of all free people. I really admire what he is doing.

And regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Neville Hodgkinson, a former medical and science correspondent of the Daily Mail and Sunday Times, and the author of AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science (Fourth Estate, 1996), sent in this comment:

With regard to the Ipso ruling: leaving aside uncertainties around the science, I’d like to comment on the huge public importance of Lockdown Sceptics in countering the fear about COVID that has been induced by Government policies, a majority of politicians on both left and right, and much of the mainstream media.

It seems to me that “attack dogs” of fear have been let loose in the belief that this is the best way to counter the epidemic. In particular, I have been dismayed at seeing the BBC abandoning its much prized impartiality to become an unquestioning mouthpiece for official policy. The contrast with talkRADIO’s performance is immense.

Of course, people need to know that a nasty and potentially lethal infection is circulating. But exaggerated forecasts, misleading description of PCR test results as “cases”, panic over “new variants”, global death statistics, mask-wearing, social distancing, job losses, relatives dying alone, businesses failing, operations postponed, and almost daily changes of the rules on travel and even going for a walk, all carry a price in terms of increased susceptibility to infectious disease.

Decades of work by Professor Sheldon Cohen’s team at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA has highlighted the effect of social support systems in strengthening immunity to disease, and of stress in reducing it (as a Lockdown Sceptics contributor has previously reported). The team has performed laboratory as well as field work to gain detailed understanding of pathways that link stress, personality, and social networks, to disease susceptibility. Many of these insights arose from Sheldon’s classic work on the role of psychosocial factors in susceptibility to the common cold, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It would be hugely helpful to us all, including the hard-pressed NHS, if government advisors would reconsider current strategy completely. We need measures to enable us to feel more in charge of our own destinies, instead of being herded around – and in some cases frightened to death – like timid sheep.

Stop Press: Mike Robinson and Patrick Henningsen at UK Column devoted some time to defending Toby yesterday. The relevant bit starts at the six minute mark.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/city_affairs/status/1349982707829321728

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Schweizerpsalm” by Alberich Zwyssig performed by the National Anthem of Switzerland, “Wake Up and Live” by Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley, “Help!” by The Beatles and “Standin’ in the Rain” by the Electric Light Orchestra.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans. Credit: Jeffrey Neira/FX

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Green Unpleasant Land, a recently published work by the Professor of Post Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester who worked on the National Trust report addressing the historic links of its properties with colonialism and slavery, and who is presently in charge of the Colonial Countryside Project at the National Trust. The Daily Mail has the story:

Last week Corinne Fowler, Professor of Post-Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester, published a sprawling 316-page work examining the links between the British countryside, racism, slavery and our colonial past.

Among her startling conclusions? Our cherished national pastime, gardening, has its roots in racial injustice.

Should we be surprised? Perhaps not. The book’s title, Green Unpleasant Land, gives us an indication of Professor Fowler’s thoughts on the countryside…

Professor Fowler insists that our “green and pleasant land”, as the poet William Blake put it, is anything but. Our countryside, she suggests, is a hotbed of oppression, racism and exploitation, and it is time for its dark history to be exposed.

Intriguingly, Fowler acknowledges that her own family had long-standing connections to slavery and colonialism, through sugar plantations in the Caribbean. As she says in the book on this issue: “I make no claim to neutrality… Our relatives either profited from empire, or were impoverished by it.”

The professor also writes that her parents gave her a love of country walking.

She appears to have rambled tirelessly along country lanes finding evidence to prove her central premise: that the British countryside is linked inexorably to racism and colonialism.

“The countryside is a terrain of inequalities,” she writes, “so it should not surprise us that it should be seen as a place of particular hostility to those who are seen as not to belong, principally black and Asian Britons.”

Many great estates were financed by slavery and colonialism, and the origins of gardening were fundamentally elitist: “Knowledge about gardens and plants, in particular botany, has had deep colonial resonances,” she says.

“The scientific categorisation of plants has at times engaged in the same hierarchies of race that justified empire and slave and slavery…”

“Inevitably, then,” she adds, “gardens are matters of class and privilege.”

Racism is ingrained not just in gardening, she believes, but in many of our rural traditions. She cites as an example our nation’s approach to that symbol of rural Britain, the pheasant.

She says that the bird’s heritage has effectively been hijacked by the indigenous white population. We are all in denial, apparently, about its Asian origins.

“This bird,” she writes, “is habitually represented as native to England’s fields, hedgerows and woodlands…” But, she stresses, it “is a global not a local bird”. A clear case of cultural appropriation.

Morris dancing is another source of controversy. “The face-blackening practised by the dancers has become a potent symbol of rural racism.” And, to be fair, many Morris dancing groups have now abandoned the practice.

She is unimpressed by former Tory Prime Minister John Major’s evocative prediction in 1993 that “50 years from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and, as George Orwell said, old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist.” “Rural Britain,” she counters dismissively “…is rarely peaceful. The elderliness of the maids is incongruous with the many itinerant female East Europeans who, before Brexit, picked the fruit and vegetables that grace our tables.”

And there is more, much more, in the same vein running through her book.

As she says, she makes no claim to neutrality.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Spectator US has initiated a new column called Wokeyleaks. It’s anonymous author (pronouns they/them) starts off with a piece on the blurring of the boundaries between social media and social justice.

Stop Press 2: In an article for the Telegraph, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that he is changing the law in order to “protect Britain’s statues from the woke militants who want to censor our past”.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 new piece of research has come up with an old answer: masks could lead to more Covid spread. Medical Xpress reports:

A novel new study suggests that the behaviour public officials are now mandating or recommending unequivocally to slow the spread of surging COVID-19 – wearing a face covering – should come with a caveat. If not accompanied by proper public education, the practice could lead to more infections.

The finding is part of an unique study, just published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, that was conducted by a team of health economists and public health faculty at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine in partnership with public health officials for the state of Vermont.

The study combines survey data gathered from adults living in north-western Vermont with test results that showed whether a subset of them had contracted COVID-19, a dual research approach that few COVID studies have employed. By correlating the two data sets, researchers were able to determine what behaviours and circumstances increased respondents’ risk of becoming sick.

The key risk factor driving transmission of the disease, the study found, was the number of daily contacts participants had with other adults and seniors.

That had relevance for two other findings.

Those who wore masks had more of these daily contacts compared with those who didn’t, and a higher proportion contracted the virus as a result.

Basic human psychology could be at work, said Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, an Assistant Professor and Vice Chair for Population Health Science in the Department of Radiology at the Larner College of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator.

“When you wear a mask, you may have a deceptive sense of being protected and have more interactions with other people,” she said.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Stop Press: Prof Martin Kulldorff has reminded people on Twitter that the lockdown strategy is a form of focused protection – “of affluent professionals, while letting it rip among the working class, hitting inner cities the hardest”.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Bob Moran’s cartoon in today’s Sunday Telegraph

Latest News

New Travel Ban

Reuters

Another day, another press conference. This time the Prime Minister announced the closure of all travel corridors in order to shut out new Covid strains. The BBC has the details.

The UK is to close all travel corridors from Monday morning to “protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of Covid, the PM has said.

Anyone flying into the country from overseas will have to show proof of a negative Covid test before setting off.

It comes as a ban on travellers from South America and Portugal came into force on Friday over concerns about a new variant identified in Brazil.

Boris Johnson said the new rules would be in place until at least February 15th.

A further 1,280 people with coronavirus have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total to 87,291.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said it was “vital” to take extra measures now “when day by day we are making such strides in protecting the population”.

“It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country.”

All travel corridors will close from 04:00 GMT on Monday. After that, arrivals to the UK will need to quarantine for up to 10 days, unless they test negative after five days.

Mr Johnson, who said the rules would apply across the UK after talks with the devolved administrations, added that the Government would be stepping up enforcement at the border and in the country.

Travel corridors were introduced in the summer to allow people travelling from some countries with low numbers of Covid cases to come to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival.

Trade body Airlines UK said it supported the latest restrictions “on the assumption” that the Government would remove them “when it is safe to do so”.

Chief executive Tim Alderslade said travel corridors were “a lifeline for the industry” last summer but “things change and there’s no doubting this is a serious health emergency”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was the “right step” but called the timing of the decision “slow again”, adding that the public would be thinking “why on earth didn’t this happen before”.

Aside from the inevitable chaos to come as Brits abroad rush home, one might be forgiven for wondering what substantive difference the rules will make. The UK is in lockdown for who knows how long, a key element of which is a moratorium on international travel, except for “work purposes”. The vast majority are not travelling, and won’t be affected by the imposition of a travel ban, and it comes weeks after numerous countries closed their border to us in any case.

The Telegraph points out:

More than 50 countries deemed to have a low Covid risk are currently on the travel corridor list. However, all but nine (seven islands in the Caribbean, plus the Maldives and Bahrain) are not welcoming British holidaymakers, and most have closed their borders to all UK arrivals. 

Since last month those returning from non-corridor countries have had the option of cutting their quarantine period if they take a Covid test five days after they return. From Monday, all arrivals will need to carry evidence of a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before departure, or face a £500 fine.  

The Guardian has more.

Travel corridors will be axed in effect from Monday morning. The corridors, which exempted inbound travellers from the requirement to quarantine for 10 days, may make little practical difference to the airline and travel industry in the current context.

Schedules have been slashed and comparatively few people are likely to have travelled to or from the majority of the few dozen destinations remaining on the corridor list: some obscure, some no longer linked by flights to the UK, others barring British travellers. Holidays are banned; a few Caribbean destinations with longer-staying visitors are the most likely to have affected travellers, with the likes of Dubai already recently removed from the list…

While the Government will point to the emergence of new variants, questions will again be asked on the timing, coherence and implementation of the rules. Boris Johnson imposed a ban on flights from Brazil this week, almost three weeks after UK flights were barred by Brazil.

Needless to say, the travel ban isn’t sufficient for Independent Sage, which recently wrote a report calling for internal travel to be restricted.

Each part of the UK should develop regional or local zones which can be used to restrict travel if required. In some parts of the UK, this can be instituted, in most cases, by using existing county boundaries.

Meanwhile, prepare for the announcement that the unwanted strains are already here.

Stop Press: The Independent reports France is outlawing the use of rapid COVID-19 tests, raising the prospect of a return of border problems in Kent. Grant Shapps said he believed there would be an exemption for lorry drivers, but only “for the time being”.

Stop Press 2: Guy de la Bédoyère, a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, is gloomy, fearing that we may be stuck with travel restrictions for years.

Stop Press 3: The Spectator’s Steerpike points out that it might just be possible to get a two-day break without needing to get a test overseas:

Has Shapps missed a trick when it comes to the new testing regime? According to the rules, travellers will have to present a negative Covid test which has been taken three days before they arrive at the border.

But what happens if you go on a three- or two-day break? From Mr Steerpike’s reading of the guidance, there is nothing to stop a traveller being tested in the UK, travelling for a weekend break, and then returning to the country using the negative result they obtained in England less than three days earlier. Which means anyone on a short break doesn’t really need to provide a negative Covid test abroad at all. Anyone travelling to Belgium, for example, could pick up a test on Friday morning, travel to Brussels, and return by Monday morning without a need for another test.

While this may cut down on some of the bureaucracy currently involved with travelling, Mr S suspects that this isn’t exactly what those pushing for tougher border controls had in mind. Could it possibly be that Mr Shapps’ new travel rules weren’t properly thought through?

That is, of course, assuming you can find a country to let you in without the need to quarantine.

Do You Know How Covid Spreads?

Writing for Unherd, King’s College London lecturer Stuart Richie says that Government messaging has been too slow to squash a popular misconception on the transmission of COVID-19. According to a recent poll, 16% of the population think the main way the virus spreads is by “fomite” transmission – the technical term for touching objects or surfaces with the virus on them. But this is wrong, says Ritchie.

Dangerously wrong because, amid much uncertainty, and despite the relentless messaging on handwashing, one thing that’s become very clear about the coronavirus is that it doesn’t spread much by fomites. Researchers have been hard-pressed to find many examples of outbreaks that can be traced to a contaminated surface (there are only a couple of possible exceptions). The Centres for Disease Control in the US have relegated this type of transmission to near the bottom of the list on their “How Covid Spreads” page – just above “catching it from your pet”.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the UK Government took up handwashing in a big way (you’ll recall all the exhortations to sing Happy Birthday twice while scrubbing away). Back then, it was understandable: we were completely in the dark on how the virus spreads, and were modelling our response on diseases we knew better, like the flu. But nearly a year later, handwashing and hand sanitiser are still at the forefront of the advice, and “hands” is still the first item on Government broadcasts on posters and elsewhere. Science has downgraded the importance of fomites, so why does our messaging still feature them so prominently?…

There’s still debate over the proportion of Covid cases that are due to larger droplets versus smaller, floating airborne particles (also known as “aerosols”). But the scientific consensus, and it’s really been quite clear since early 2020, is that the majority of Covid cases are spread in these two ways, not by touching things. If the virus is airborne, it could defeat the strategy of staying two metres apart, since it can waft through the air to infect people much further away. Keeping rooms well-ventilated seems, in theory and in practice, to be a way to reduce risk; but the polling, as well as lots of anecdotal evidence about office workers still sitting in closed rooms with their colleagues all day, suggests that much more work is needed to get this message across.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown sceptics won’t like his comments on masks, but they’ll be able to refer people to this piece who still insist on spraying their weekly shop with disinfectant.

Another Cancer Story

Responding to the cancer story we published yesterday, a reader has written in with another sad story:

The story about the woman whose cancer treatment was halted and now cannot be resumed is desperate. But sometimes the madness comes from the patients themselves, thanks to the impossible dilemma created by their condition weighed up against the risk in hospitals and the Government propaganda that has informed everyone the only risk they face is Covid. I learned yesterday that one of my daughters-in-law, a GP, spent a day earlier this week desperately trying to persuade a middle-aged female patient to agree to go to hospital to have an operation without which she will certainly die from a fatal, but currently still treatable, condition. 

The patient was refusing, terrified that if she goes to hospital she will catch Covid and die from it. This epitomized to me the extent of the lunacy which has consumed us. It illustrated how the fear of Covid as the only meaningful hazard we face has become so great that it can push a person to the point where it has become impossible for them to contextualize that risk, even when their life is at stake from a more serious hazard. That patient has a legitimate concern about catching Covid in hospital, because that’s a obviously a real and serious threat, but it’s a bit like being on the point of drowning in the sea and refusing to get in a lifeboat in case it sinks. I feel sorry for the patient. Barracked night and day to be terrified of Covid, and egged on to avoid hospital by her equally terrified family, is it any wonder she and they have gone beyond the point of being able to deal with her crisis? Tragic. The situation remains unresolved.

Can You Sue GPs Who Refuse to Treat Patients

Dominic Ford, an experienced litigator, with a degree from the UCL Faculty of Law, has written in with an alternative view to the legal answer we published a few days ago in response to the question about the liability of GPs who aren’t providing adequate care to their patients. Not legal advice, he stresses, but interesting nonetheless

On the question, “If basic care is to be curtailed to promote vaccination programmes, can I sue the GP practice if my elderly mum doesn’t get the care she needs and then goes on to be hospitalised unnecessarily?

I respectfully, but strongly disagree with the two previous responses posted so far.

From the outset I must state that people should never be dissuaded from bringing valid claims against the NHS. This is often the only way to achieve truth, justice and accountability – all of which are essential now more than ever. Your readers ought to be aware that evidential burdens aside, the law of negligence is decidedly pro-claimant. The objective is to compensate those who have suffered an avoidable loss. Potential claimants should also be aware that it is insurance companies, not the NHS itself, which pay the costs of such claims therefore the alleged ‘hero’ status should not be a deterrent. Against that background, I would like to add the following:

1. Unfortunately, Dr Fanning appears to overlook a fundamental tenet of the law of negligence: that a duty of care is owed to a particular claimant rather than to a class of individuals at large. A doctor does not owe a duty of care to her ‘patients’ as a collective; she owes a separate duty of care to each of her patients as individuals. It would be nonsense to say: “I treated most of my patients just not Alex, therefore I could not have been negligent towards Alex.”

2. The scope of a doctor’s duty of care will vary patient-to-patient, but only to the extent that her duty is more demanding, not less (cf Paris v Stepney). If Alex is having a heart attack and Beth has a bad cough, Alex will require more intensive care than Beth. However, if Beth is ignored and later dies, the doctor (or more appropriately, the hospital) will still be liable for Beth’s death. My right to receive adequate medical treatment is entirely different in substance to, and is not conditional upon, yours or anyone else’s. (“Stay home, protect the NHS… [from liability]”)

3. The standard to which a defendant is held is notoriously strict. In Roberts v Ramsbottom, a driver who suffered a random stroke at the wheel and had injured a pedestrian was still liable to compensate the pedestrian. The distinction between ‘ordinary,’ ‘professional’ and ‘clinical’ negligence is merely the standard of care expected from the defendant. This standard will depend on the particular profession at hand, eg doctor, accountant, solicitor etc. We certainly do not make allowances for defendants who are inexperienced or ‘busy.’

4. The two previous answers point to the so-called ‘Bolam test.’ This states that a doctor is not liable in negligence if she “acted in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical men skilled in that particular art” provided that her actions were ‘logically defensible.’

This ‘test’ is widely misapplied in practice. Strictly speaking, it should only be used in situations which involve medical uncertainty, i.e., where a doctor had to make a difficult decision about how best to treat a patient. (For example: if Treatment 1 is recommended by Journal A, but Treatment 2 is recommended by Journal B, a doctor will not be liable just because she chose Treatment 2 over Treatment 1, even though it might have been the incorrect decision in hindsight.) More fundamentally though, given that a doctor is already under a duty to act in the manner described above, the Bolam test arguably amounts to little more than a tautology. It does not operate as a defence.

Applying these principles to our current scenario, if the Surgery’s failure to provide basic care has caused the Claimant’s (i.e., the mother’s) injury, then it is highly likely that the Surgery has been negligent. The administration of a vaccine is not a medical emergency – at best, it inoculates a particular recipient against a risk of harm which may occur to that individual in future – nor is this even capable of overriding the duty of care owed to the Claimant. Inasmuch as an official policy prioritises the treatment of some patients over others irrespective of circumstance, adherence to that policy is likely negligent. I would even go as far to contend that the GP Surgery and the policy’s original proponent could be additionally liable for breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

On the broader implications

On a separate note, Dr Fanning makes an interesting point about the relationship between risk and the cost of precautions which we are all now expected to take. Contrary to popular belief, judges have always been cognizant of the need to constrain the scope of liability in order to forestall the development of ‘compensation culture’ (the ‘floodgates’ or public policy argument). In Latimer v AEC, it was disproportionate to expect a factory to shut down completely just because the floor was wet. In Tomlinson v Congleton BC, a young man who ignored the signs and dived head-first into a shallow lake was denied a claim against the council landowner.

Now imagine the following scenario: a person (A), who is an asymptomatic carrier of a virus, passes that virus onto another person (X); X then passes the virus onto someone in their ‘bubble’ (B); B, who is an immunocompromised centenarian, later dies or becomes ill. If at the time of transmission to X, A had been outside ‘without reasonable excuse’, had not been wearing a mask in a shop or on public transport, or had not been following the ever-changing guidance to the letter; then A may well be liable in negligence for B’s illness or death, and possibly for X’s losses too.

It is impossible that the courts would have allowed such a claim to succeed pre-2020. I fear that now there is a very real possibility that such a precedent might be set which would fundamentally alter our sensible legal system forever. Regardless of the particular virus in question.

Of course, this artificial expansion of responsibility may well backfire on the Government and public authorities catastrophically. It is basic law that if X harms B, A is not liable to compensate B for X’s actions – except where A has assumed a responsibility to protect B from the very harm X has inflicted. This Government has taken it upon itself to ‘protect’ us from this virus with extreme zeal, via interventions that are unprecedented. (Indeed, the message to those who do not submit to the decrees has been that these deviants “have blood on their hands.”) The implication is clear: infection from a respiratory virus is a harm to the citizen which the Government can and should readily prevent and control.

If by not wearing a mask in Tesco I may now owe a duty of care to a pensioner in the Hebrides, then surely it is only fair that my Government should also be liable for failing to protect me from any and all viruses now or in the future? After all, its interference with my constitutional freedoms is supposedly justified by the pursuit of this particular aim, so why should I not have the right to hold my interferer to account when it fails to achieve that aim?Traditionally, the courts have been slow to impose a duty of care in negligence upon public authorities. Fortunately there exists a similar alternative: ‘positive duties’ in human rights law (cf Metropolitan Police v DSD). The irony of being able to sue the Government for breach of human rights upon receiving a positive test result because lockdown had not been ‘hard enough,’ or because masks were not made mandatory outside and at home, or because police did not use enough force to ensure compliance; would be resounding.

I shall sign off with the prescient words of the late, great Lord Hobhouse in Congleton:

“The pursuit of an unrestrained culture of blame and compensation has many evil consequences and one is certainly the interference with the liberty of the citizen. Of course there is some risk of accidents arising out of the joie de vivre of the young, but that is no reason for imposing a grey and dull safety regime on everyone.”

Israel: The Canary in the Vaccine Mine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on January 9th. Miriam Alster/AFP/Getty Images

With Israel steaming ahead in the race to vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19, it has become the country to watch. To date, ~25% of the population has had at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It is early days, but a Lockdown Sceptics reader and former scientist has written in with some observations.

A chart showing the percentage of vaccinations completed (light green two doses, dark green one) shows a high level of coverage, especially across the elderly age groups in Israel, and a large proportion of those over 60 received their first and second doses before the end of 2020, well over two weeks ago. 

Percentage of different age cohorts who’ve had either a single dose or both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

And yet a chart of the daily death statistics (Worldometer) and a chart showing daily hospital data of patients severely ill with COVID-19 show levels at an all time high and still growing. Which begs the question: at what point should we start seeing some benefit of this comprehensive vaccination programme on the actual numbers of sick or dying elderly people.

Number of patients severely ill with COVID-19

Stop Press: The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a 33% fall in infection rates among those who have been vaccinated compared with those who haven’t.

Stop Press 2: The Times of Israel reports that the first Pfizer shot curbs infections by 50% after 14 days

Stop Press 3: Politico reveals that the secret behind their success in procuring the vaccine lies in the Israeli Government agreeing to hand over citizens’ data to Pfizer.

Switzerland Holding Referendum on Lockdown

Giving the world an example of its famous tradition of direct democracy, Switzerland is to hold a referendum next month on stripping the Government of its legal powers to impose lockdowns. The Financial Times has the details.

Campaign group Friends of the Constitution on Wednesday handed in a petition of 86,000 signatures collected over the past three months, well in excess of the 50,000 required, to formally initiate a nationwide vote to repeal the 2020 COVID-19 Act under Switzerland’s highly devolved democratic system. 

The outcome will be legally binding, with a vote scheduled for as early as June. 

While the pandemic has exposed social and political fractures across Europe over the rights of citizens, in Switzerland, where individuals’ rights are often treated as culturally sacrosanct and Government powers are sharply proscribed by law, the strains have become particularly evident.

“In our opinion, the [Government] is taking advantage of the pandemic to introduce more control and less democracy,” Christoph Pfluger, a board member of Friends of the Constitution, told the Financial Times.

He added: “The long-term problems that will arise from this kind of approach will be grave. We are a movement that says crisis management cannot be done without the will of the sovereign, the people. You cannot govern without the people.” 

Mr Pfluger said Switzerland would be the first and perhaps the only country to give its citizens a direct vote on coronavirus restrictions.

Until late December, Bern’s governing Federal Council had been reluctant to impose restrictions during the second wave of the pandemic. 

Staunch opposition from many Swiss to further curbs and dire warnings from several of the country’s most powerful and influential lobbying groups about the economic consequences of another shutdown forestalled action in the run-up to Christmas, even as case numbers rocketed. 

A poll conducted by Switzerland’s Sotomo Research Institute for state broadcaster SRF in November found that 55% of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by Government measures. The same survey found that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was considered too restrictive by a third of Swiss respondents. 

Worth reading in full.

A statement on the Friends of the Constitution’s website reads:

The sovereign people will be able to decide whether to legitimise the Government’s management of the pandemic. Their decision will be decisive for dangerous viruses will continue to spread in Switzerland in the future. Shall we, by accepting the COVID-19 law, signal to the Government that it should react to future pandemics by destroying our livelihoods? Or shall we, by rejecting this bad law, show the Government that the sovereign people reject disproportionate and reckless management of the pandemic?

We hope that a successful referendum will enable an evidence-based debate which takes account of the devastating damage caused by measures taken by the Government. For a truly united and free Switzerland worth living in.

Bravo Friends of the Constitution.

Stop Press: Off Guardian reports on the #IOAPRO (I Am Open) campaign, which is set to see 50,000 Italian restaurant owners defy restrictions and open their restaurants in an act of civil disobedience. The #IOAPRO movement is already spreading into Poland and parts of Switzerland. Come on, England. What are you waiting for?

His Covid Materials

A reader has an interesting observation about the similarity between the current state of the United Kingdom and the universe of a well-known children’s book.

I’ve just binge watched Season 2 of His Dark Materials and couldn’t help noticing the similarities with living in the UK in 2021. We are being governed by The Magisterium, a quasi-religious cult with a strictly defined belief system dissent from which is severely dealt with. It also appears that SAGE are using an alethiometer to predict the future.

The War On Covid

Illustration by Nathalie Lees

Today we are publishing a piece by a reader who has adopted the pseudonym Michael Antony about the Prime Minister’s attempt to invoke the Second World War to rally the people behind his war on the virus.

All the way through the first weeks of the Covid pandemic, in March 2020, seeing himself perhaps as a Winston Churchill figure, the Prime Minister referred to – and conducted business on the basis of – Wartime. He talked about the pandemic in terms of a war that we would win, and I think saw the NHS – doctors, nurses and health workers of all kinds – as soldiers in that war.

The metaphor of the pandemic as a war has certainly been one which has struck a chord with many. A work colleague said ruefully to me in March “this is our War” – and his meaning, that we are the baby boom generation who have never had to go through deprivation as our parents did, seemed fair. For the first time in our lives we experienced deprivation in a national effort, as schools and shops closed and we all stood together.

And just as in the Second and indeed First World war, the sun shone brightly during the ‘phoney war’ period. Alan Bennett remarks in Forty Years On how the sun always shines at the start of a war, and so it was.

The similarities keep coming: sobering reports of casualties and the ebb and flow of success, of course. And the data! Just as schools and families are said to have listened intently to radio broadcasts in the 1940s and stuck pins on maps, so the daily data on the Government dashboard is greedily consumed, or has been until recently.

But I’d like to suggest a different angle to the metaphor, one that draws more on World War 1. Alan Clark’s infamous The Donkeys was the first historical analysis to seriously criticise British war tactics. Bluntly put, our Generals only had one idea: trench warfare, inch-by-inch defence and offence, built on the premise of manpower. Men – young men – were piled to the Front, sent over the top, lost in ghastly numbers for no or little gain, then the process repeated. Just keep on doing this one thing – the only thing we know how to do – and it will work eventually.

Which it did. Eventually.  As logically it must: pile enough men over the top and in the end numbers win.

In this war we have, too, made sacrifices. I believe the biggest of these has been our young people’s lives. School children and students, not to mention young workers, largely unconsulted, largely willingly, but to their huge detriment, have been deprived of schooling, education and work. Each lockdown has been like another Somme: throw more livelihoods at Covid and we will eventually win.

Which I imagine we will.

No, noble though they are, the doctors and nurses are not the army: our young are. Our politicians and medical leaders, like the “gentlemen of England now a-bed” (or rather happily Working From Home) are sending the young to damage, injury and sacrifice in pursuit of victory. It may come in some form, but (to quote Bennett again) will we really know what we were fighting for?

And will we, like WW1 generals, face future criticism for bone-headed obstinacy? I fear we will. 

Toby Reprimanded by Ipso

Toby debating the lockdown policy on Kevin O’Sullivan’s show on talkRADIO last night

The BBC reported yesterday that a complaint to Ipso, the press regulator, about an article Toby wrote in the Telegraph in July, was upheld.

The Daily Telegraph must publish a correction over a “significantly misleading” column written by Toby Young, press regulator Ipso has ruled.

The July 2020 article claimed the common cold could provide “natural immunity” to Covid-19 and London was “probably approaching herd immunity”.

But on Thursday Ipso found the paper had “failed to take care not to publish inaccurate and misleading information”.

Ipso said the paper “did not accept it has breached the [Editors] Code”.

It said the newspaper said that Young’s comments on immunity referred to “cross-reactive T-cells” that work to combat the virus.

Immunity ‘misrepresented’

However, the media watchdog sided with the complainant, James Whitehead, in its decision, who said that while these cells “may lessen the impact of COVID-19” after infection, they “would not confer ‘natural immunity'”

The ruling added Young’s statement “misrepresented the nature of immunity”.

Ipso also found Young’s suggestion that “London is probably approaching herd immunity, even though only 17% tested positive [for antibodies] in the most recent seroprevalence survey” could be misleading.

The Telegraph referred to surveys listed in an article on Young’s own Lockdown Sceptics website in its defence, but the Ipso committee judged these did not accurately reflect “how herd immunity is reached and whether it exists in London”.

The ruling concluded that the paper had breached accuracy standards on a topic of “public importance”, but deemed a correction an appropriate sanction, given the level of “significant scientific uncertainty” at the time of publication.

Young told the BBC: “I think Ipso has been put in a difficult position because our scientific understanding of the virus is constantly evolving and there is a great deal about it that scientists still disagree about.

‘Over-emphatic’

“While some of the things I wrote in that article would be contested by some scientists, they would be confirmed by others… Have we achieved herd immunity in London? I think that’s an open question and the ‘case’ data is unreliable because of the well-documented shortcomings of the PCR test.

“I may have been over-emphatic in putting the anti-lockdown case, but it’s not as if the advocates of a pro-lockdown position are any less emphatic.

“Don’t forget the WHO initially estimated the global IFR [infection fatality rate] of Covid-19 at 3.4%. The consensus now is that it’s less than 1% and almost certainly a lot less. Lots of journalists faithfully reported that alarmist figure. Why hasn’t Ipso reprimanded them?”

Last week Young told BBC Newsnight that some of his claims from an article he wrote in June had been “wrong”, where he had said a second spike of COVID-19 had “refused to materialise” and that one-metre rule is “unnecessary”.

Tweets deleted ‘not related to ruling’

At the start of the year, Young, an associate editor at the Spectator and general secretary of the Free Speech Union, installed an app that auto-deletes tweets more than a week old.

He said he did so to protect against “politically-motivated offence archaeologists” – a move unrelated to the Ipso ruling.

Reacting to criticism of his past comments on coronavirus from Neil O’Brien, Conservative MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, after the deletion, Young then tweeted a defence of his stance against lockdowns.

“This is an important public debate to have,” he wrote, “both because it helps us assess the present government’s management of the pandemic and because it will help us prepare better for the next one.”

The UK entered a second national lockdown last week in a bid to control spiralling virus infection rates. On Wednesday, the UK saw its biggest daily death figure since the start of the pandemic, with 1,564 deaths.

Toby says: “I think IPSO has got this one wrong. I didn’t misrepresent the nature of immunity. Viruses are killed by T cells – antibodies are just markers. Some varieties of the common cold are caused by coronaviruses and having had these may provide people with some protection from SARS-CoV-2. There might not be a scientific consensus about that, but that doesn’t make my article ‘inaccurate’ or ‘misleading’.”

Tomorrow we’ll be publishing some defences of Toby’s article by a few of the scientists who contribute regularly to Lockdown Sceptics – and if any readers with a scientific backgrounds would like to contribute their own defences, please email us here, indicating whether we can name you or you’d like your comment to be anonymous. The Telegraph has taken down the original piece, but it was summarised in Lockdown Sceptics here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Yer Blues” by John Lennon & Plastic Ono Band, “Get Me Out” by the New Model Army, “The Coffee Song” by Frank Sinatra, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” by Louis Armstrong, “My Ever Changing Moods” by the Style Council, “No Escape from the Blues” by Muddy Waters, and “Could It Be Forever” by David Cassidy.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Sciences Po University in Paris where a student has spoken out against the woke ideologies that are taking hold. Breitbart has the story which they picked up from Le Figaro.

Students at France’s prestigious Sciences Po University have expressed concern over the growth of radical, woke, anti-white ideologies largely imported from the United States.

Romain, a student at Sciences Po Paris, said that he and others have noticed a surge of people at the university backing… ideologies which oppose both “white supremacy” and criticise “white fragility”.

“There is such a clamour on the subject that one even wonders if it is not dangerous to talk about it, to alert people to what is going on,” he told French newspaper Le Figaro.

The university has also caused controversy on the issue after releasing a suggested list of 10 books that included How to Become Anti-Racist, by Ibrahim X. Kendi, an American author who claimed that white people who adopt black children might be “racist”.

“Some White colonisers ‘adopted” Black children. They ‘civilised’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity,” he said.

Another book suggested by Sciences Po was White Fragility, by white American author Robin DiAngelo. Last month it was revealed that DiAngelo was paid nearly double that of a black keynote speaker when she delivered her keynote speech at a diversity event hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A group of students at Sciences Po called Beingblackatsciencespo made several demands last month, including mandatory courses for all students on “racial intersectionality, critical race theory, and decolonial thinking”.

According to Antonin Ferreira, a finance student and member of the University’s council, more and more teachers and students have recently promoted and defended woke ideologies.

Thomas Le Corre, the president of the Unef (National Union of Students of France) at Sciences Po, went even further, saying: “How can you want to work with people who tell you that because you are white, you do not have the right to participate in the discussion? That you cannot understand what black people are going through or those who have immigrant parents?”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Pub Group Greene King has announced that it is changing the names of four of its pubs, three called ‘The Black Boy’, in Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Shinfield, as well as the ‘Black’s Head’ in Wirksworth. The CEO said:

We have looked at pub deeds, consulted with colleagues and while the origins of these pub names are obscure what is clear is that there is a perception that they are linked with racism today and we want to make this positive change for the better.

“We know this is a decision that will attract a range of views and we’re conscious of the history and heritage of pub names. We’ve thought long and hard and feel this is the right thing to do as it is incredibly important to us that our pubs are warm and welcoming places for everyone as we continue on our journey to become a truly anti-racist organisation.

Stop Press 2: Writing in UnHerd, Douglas Murray has criticised Antifa and their efforts to get Andy NGO cancelled.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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: Believe it or not, people are now wondering if two masks should be worn rather than one. Witness this recent story in the New York Times:

Football coaches do it. Presidents-elect do it. Even science-savvy senators do it. As cases of the coronavirus continue to surge on a global scale, some of the nation’s most prominent people have begun to double up on masks, a move that researchers say is increasingly being backed up by data.

Double-masking isn’t necessary for everyone. But for people with thin or flimsy face coverings, “if you combine multiple layers, you start achieving pretty high efficiencies” of blocking viruses from exiting and entering the airway, said Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech and an author on a recent commentary laying out the science behind mask-wearing.

Stop Press 2: The first case of face mask discrimination was resolved with £7,000 being paid to the claimant. Kester Disability Rights has the details.

A disabled woman assisted by Kester Disability Rights has been paid £7,000 in compensation by a service provider who refused her access to a service because she was unable to wear a face mask.

The pay-out was achieved through negotiation as there was no dispute that access had been denied, or that the Claimant had a disability exemption. The only thing to be agreed was the amount of compensation, not whether it was due or not. 

Refusing access to people unable to wear face coverings due to disability is direct discrimination – no different to denying access to a black or gay person for example.

Disabled people are now routinely harassed in public for not wearing face coverings – frequently given the impression that confidential medical information must be publicly disclosed to justify exemption. The fact that shops and hospitality businesses routinely display “no mask no entry” signs shows how deeply disablist attitudes are embedded in society. If premises displayed “no blacks” or “no gays” notices there would be outrage.

Fortunately the official Government position does not endorse any of this as nobody exempt from wearing a mask is expected to go around justifying themselves. Saying “I’m exempt” is enough. If the response to that can be proved to be discriminatory then compensation is due. 

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

iStock

In Toby’s latest column in the Spectator he talks about his culinary problems. When schools closed last year, wife Caroline made sure the children were given lunch as well as supper, but she told Toby that in Lockdown 3 things would have to be different. Toby and his three sons have turned to meal kits from Gousto.

Caroline was pretty heroic during the first lockdown. She’s used to having no children to deal with between the hours of 8am and 4pm, into which she crams her part-time job, food shopping, exercise classes, tennis lessons, dog walks and a hundred other things. But during our children’s three-month break from school they would appear in the kitchen at 1pm and ask what was for lunch and, in spite of her other commitments, Caroline would always do her best to rustle something up. “I’m like Nigella Lawson on steroids,” she said at the time.

But she has drawn the line at repeating this Stakhanovite labour during the third lockdown. “I can handle everything, but not the cooking,” she said on the day that Boris announced it, with an air of finality. So the kids have been instructed to fend for themselves at lunchtime, with packets of bagels, ham, salami, lettuce and cheese left on the kitchen table, and we’re all mucking in when it comes to supper.

Not that we’re actually cooking anything from scratch. Rather, my three sons and I have become customers of Gousto, a company that delivers the raw ingredients for several meals in a box, complete with detailed instructions. It’s like a halfway house between a recipe book and a ready meal. You still have to cook everything, but there’s no weighing of ingredients and the fiddly bits for each meal are bundled together in a brown paper bag. It costs about £50 for four meals, which is pretty reasonable given that they can stretch to six people.

The instructions are supposed to be idiot-proof, but the company clearly didn’t envisage that anyone could be quite as incompetent as me. I have yet to cook a single Gousto meal correctly. One difficulty is that the recipes aren’t always in chronological order and you start off meticulously following the first instruction, only to discover when you get to the second that you should have begun with that one. So the chicken is already frying in the pan before you realise you should have marinated it first. The solution is to read the recipe in its entirety before you start – and to be fair, it tells you to do that at the top of the instructions. But obviously the Galloping Gourmet here imagines he’s above having to do that, hence the culinary car crashes.

Worth reading in full

Latest News

Steve Baker Demands Boris Publish a Freedom Plan

Steve Baker said the PM's leadership was under threat

Steve Baker, the Deputy Chair of the anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, has issued a rallying cry to the group’s members. The Sun has the story.

In an explosive rallying call to fellow members of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, the ex-minister blasted: “People are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership.”

The group represents dozens of Tory backbenchers who are worried about the side effects of long lockdowns.

Mr Baker urged those colleagues to make their concerns directly to Mr Johnson’s Commons enforcer, Chief Whip Mark Spencer.

In a bombshell note to MPs seen by the Sun, Mr Baker writes: “I am sorry to have to say this again and as bluntly as this: it is imperative you equip the Chief Whip today with your opinion that debate will become about the PM’s leadership if the Government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored.”

He told them to demand “a guarantee that this strategy will not be used again next winter”.

The major intervention reads: “Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again.”

The action appears to have been triggered by key Government advisers going public with their view that lockdowns must continue well into 2021.

Mr Baker broke cover after Government scientist Jonathan Van Tam told this newspaper yesterday that lockdown measures could be in force until late spring.

And today controversial scientist Neil Ferguson said we could still be facing restrictions in the autumn.

Mr Baker raged: “Certain Government scientists have said that the current lockdown could last until late spring. There is no reason to think there will be any real resistance in Cabinet to the argument for greater and longer and more draconian restrictions on the public.

“This could be a disaster. Nothing seems more certain to break the public than giving hope before taking it away, and doing it repeatedly.”

And he signs off with a barely concealed warning shot: “I am sorry to be blunt but if we do not act now, events will become inevitable. For the good of the country please contact the Chief Whip.”

Katy Balls in the Spectator notes that Baker has diluted the implied threat to Johnson since the story broke. She thinks the intervention is more of a warning shot at this point than a full-blown threat.

Since the comments came to light, he has also tried to water down his comments – insisting Johnson still remains the only man for the job.

So, is Johnson’s leadership under threat? No. That seems premature. The third lockdown was overwhelmingly passed by MPs – with a comparatively small Tory rebellion compared to previous votes. The number of MPs willing to oppose the government on its lockdown strategy has in the short-term decreased. With the death toll on Wednesday alone at over 1,500, many lockdown sceptics plan to keep their powder dry for the time being. Rather than oppose immediate lockdown measures, they are turning their attention to the debate on how many need to be vaccinated before restrictions can be lifted.

Here Baker’s concerns are a sign of things to come. While the bulk of Tory MPs support the government’s approach for now – and are relieved there is finally a good news story to tell in the vaccination programme – the bulk are keen for restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible. Boris Johnson insists this is his wish too. 

However, MPs worry that Johnson will be pushed by his scientific advisers and some cabinet ministers to keep restrictions in place for much longer than they believe is reasonable. In the parliamentary party, many see the point by which the vulnerable have been vaccinated as when restrictions go. They see spring as the point when many restrictions ought to be lifted and the summer the point by which there ought to be no restrictions in place. So far, Johnson has been reluctant to give a specific timeline. That position is going to become much harder to maintain as the weeks go on and discontent grows. 

Stop Press: Sherelle Jacobs has a thoughtful piece in the Telegraph, arguing that there’s going to be a lot of moral and emotional pressure to go for Zero Covid over the coming months and lockdown sceptics need to be ready for the battle.

But what the lockdown-sceptics haven’t quite articulated is that, once again, the public has been persuaded into a lockdown based on a delusion. The myth of the first lockdown was that it would only have to last three weeks. The myth of this lockdown is that life can resume in spring. But restrictions are unlikely to be lifted until the summer at the earliest for a simple reason: it is not deaths but media headlines about overwhelmed ICUs that strike fear into the hearts of ministers. A cynic might argue we have just sacrificed half a year of freedom on the NHS altar to save the skin of the Tories. 

Even with the vaccine rollout at full throttle, the risk of an overwhelmed NHS will not abate until the over-50s are vaccinated, ideally by May. Although the over-75s present the greatest mortality risk, Covid patients in intensive care have a median age of just 62, and under a third are aged over 70. So vaccinating those who might die from Covid will not end pressure on the health service. Paradoxically, a big bang reopening of society when the virus is still circulating may increase it. 

But there is a prospect even worse than another six months of lockdown: another year of lockdown in an attempt to eliminate the virus entirely. 

It is not difficult to see how a terrified population that has been fed guff about “defeating” the virus might be swayed by the Zero Covid argument. Particularly once they realise that “learning to live” with the disease once priority groups have been vaccinated still means accepting heightened vulnerability to mutations and Long Covid, with the endemic virus returning each year. It is also not hard to see how the Tories might see Zero Covid as the path of least resistance. Hyperparanoia about being booted out of office for letting the NHS fall over will increase the temptation to stamp out an unpredictable disease. 

Worth reading in full.

A Senior Doctor Writes…

There follows a guest post by the senior doctor who contributes weekly updates on the state of the NHS to Lockdown Sceptics.

Yesterday the NHS Hospital Statistics Website released a large data packet summarising Covid related activity for the preceding month. Once again, Lockdown Sceptics has kindly asked me for an opinion about what we can deduce from the information provided. There is a lot of useful information in this packet – I apologise to readers if some of the following is a bit dense, technical and difficult to follow, but the devil is often buried in the detail – sometimes he is hidden there deliberately.

Before looking at the monthly summary, I will comment on the daily updates. These are less detailed but more up to date than the monthly figures.

Graph 1 shows the daily admission figures from the community for English regions expressed as a three-day moving average to smooth out the curves. It is clear that for the last week, admissions from the community in London, East England and the South East have been falling – very encouraging.

However, there have been recent uptrends in the Midlands and the North West. The falling rate in London and the South East is consistent with the ZOE app data which showed a downtrend in symptomatic people from about December 31st. Readers should note that the current lockdown began on January 6th. By that point admissions had peaked and were already on the downward slope. The effect (if any) of lockdown on hospital admissions will not be observable until at least January 16th. Nevertheless, the reduction in hospital admissions is being reported in the mainstream media as being a consequence of lockdown – I don’t think that view is supported by the evidence.

Next, the overall inpatient situation on Graph 2. Despite falling admissions from the community, the overall number of Covid patients in London remains flat. How can this be? I will explain later with data from the monthly summary packet.

Finally, on the daily figures, the ICU bed occupancy data in Graph 3. This is the graphic of most concern in my opinion. ICU occupancy tends to lag inpatient admission by two to three days – this is the length of time for a patient to become ill enough to require intensive care according to the ICNARC ICU audit. Hence falling admissions do not immediately translate into falling ICU numbers. The angle of slope in London in particular is still on an upward trend. Some of this may be because London Hospitals are soaking up ICU admissions from the South East region, where local hospital capacity has been exceeded. ICU patients tend to stay a long time, so these numbers take a while to subside when the peak is reached. As far as ICU numbers are concerned the peak does not look like it has arrived yet in any English region. In particular the ICU numbers are still on an upward trend.

The monthly data packet contains a lot of information which I will comment on in the next few days. It has been illuminating in shedding light on several questions which were troubling me. I propose to address just two this evening.

Firstly, the issue of discharging Covid patients from Hospital. Discharging elderly patients in winter is an annual problem. Patients who cannot be discharged are unkindly referred to as “bed blockers”. The usual reasons are that they are too frail to be sent home alone if there is no-one to look after them, or not well enough to be accepted back by a care home. This problem is worsened by care homes being reluctant to accept Covid patients in view of what happened in the spring, when large numbers of patients with Covid were discharged into care homes causing several outbreaks of infection. An article in the Financial Times recently highlighted that insurers of care homes were reluctant to cover them for outbreaks of COVID-19 and that this was delaying hospital discharges.

Graph 4 shows the effect that delayed discharge has on total bed occupancy. This is a complicated compound graph with two separate Y axes, so I will explain what it means. First, consider the first part of the X axis Dec 1st to Dec 9th. During this time, the combined daily admissions and hospital Covid diagnoses depicted in the vertical bars was roughly equal to the daily discharges on the blue line (left hand Y axis). Hence the total number of Covid inpatients on the yellow line was roughly stable.

From December 10th onwards, daily admissions started to exceed discharges and this trend has worsened as the graph proceeds through December into January. As a consequence, the total number of inpatients on the yellow line (right hand Y axis) continues to rise. Readers should note that the monthly figures are only presented up to January 6th, so as of this data packet the admissions downturn on January 7th is not yet visible.

This is clearly a major problem. Although admissions may be falling, the total number of inpatients is still rising because of failure to discharge. In London, the Nightingale hospital has reopened for ‘step down’ patients (not ICU patients as in the spring). It remains to be seen how successful that will be, bearing in mind that shortage of staff (not bed capacity) was the rate-limiting problem in the spring. Elsewhere, some imaginative and intelligent steps have been taken such as utilising spare hotel capacity to place convalescent patients – an affordable and practical solution, often used in the United States.

Now here is one devil. We know hospital discharge is always a problem in the winter. It was entirely predictable that this would be an issue in a ‘second surge’ of COVID-19. A predictable risk, with no plan to deal with it. I wonder why there was no plan? And who is taking the responsibility for the lack of one?

Next, I turn to the issue of age stratification of Covid patients. A few days ago, I saw an article on the BBC news by the reporter Hugh Pym. He visited Croydon University Hospital and reported that there were “many more younger patients” affected by Covid in the winter than in the spring. The monthly data packet does contain age stratified figures for hospital admissions. I thought I should examine these.

First, I looked at the data for England as a whole. It is recorded that 37% of the Covid patients admitted from March 20th to April 30th were aged between 18 and 64. Between November 27th and Jan 6th, 39% of patients were in this younger age bracket – a very modest increase and certainly not “many more” younger patients.

The age bracket 18-64 is quite wide and it could be possible that the distribution is skewed to the younger part of that group. Therefore, I looked at the reported death statistics across the spring and the winter up to Jan 1st 2021, which are much more clearly age stratified. Between March and May 2020 there were 45,511 reported deaths from Covid, of which 3,020 were aged between 0 and 59 years (6.64%). In the period November to January 1st, there were 20,370 deaths of which 1,073 were registered as COVID deaths – 5.26%. So, in fact there were proportionally fewer Covid deaths in the younger age group in the winter than in the spring reported up to January 1st.

Bearing in mind that death registration can lag date of death by up to two weeks, I looked at the ICNARC ICU audit data comparing cohorts of patients admitted up to August 31st and after September 1st till January 6th. Age at admission to ICU was actually older in winter than spring: Mean average 60.2 years in the winter, median 62 years, compared to a mean of 57.8 and a median 59 of years in the spring.

How can we explain this discrepancy? There do not appear to be “many more” younger patients suffering from Covid in hospital this winter. In fact, the official figures suggest that there are proportionally fewer very sick younger patients and fewer deaths in this age group than in the spring. If that is correct, why did Hugh Pym report precisely the opposite on the national news?

Perhaps someone from the BBC could contact Lockdown Sceptics to explain what I’m missing in this data? Surely, the lavishly taxpayer funded BBC, with hordes of researchers, fact checkers and expensive journalists, must be more accurate in its interpretation of the data than one private individual with a laptop and an internet connection. Maybe they have access to more up to date information than I can see. I would be most grateful to be shown the errors in my calculations and will be happy to be corrected if I have misinterpreted the figures.

Finally, having looked at the recent past (monthly data summary) and the present (or as close to it as we are permitted to see by the daily figures), I will turn to the future.

The drop off in community symptoms reported on the ZOE app and reflected in the drop in hospital admissions in London, the South East and East of England is certainly welcome. However, it begs the question of why further lockdown restrictions were necessary on January 6th when the community transmission appeared already to have peaked.

On the other hand, the rise in admissions in the Midlands and the North West is of concern. In particular, the rising trend in ICU admissions is worrying. These are likely to continue to rise for several days at least. An issue that may not be obvious to the non-medical reader is that there are substantial differences between the hospital geography of London and the rest of the UK. A densely populated metropolis like London has several large hospitals in close proximity to each other, all with substantial surge capacity to deal with peaks of excessive demand. Mutual support between hospitals is relatively easy to arrange and co-ordinate, so patients can be transferred between hospitals to manage areas of high stress.

Other regions of England are not so fortunate. Even the larger urban areas of the Midlands and Greater Manchester have fewer large hospitals than London. Transfer of patients between hospitals is more problematic. ICU capacity in particular is not rapidly expandable as it is in the capital and surge resilience, particularly in more rural areas, is lower. This could be a serious problem in the coming days. I hope NHS England has a workable plan in place, but I smell sulphur.

What’s Behind the Pressure on Hospitals?

The guys at AdapNation have put together a handy infographic using the information they’ve gathered from NHS insiders and other sources. They explain:

This explains the discordance between the lower-than-normal bed use and ambulance stats vs the NHS alarm bells.

 I had the insightful opportunity to interview an NHS employee involved in the logistics of a busy England hospital today.

 The message was clear – they are insanely busy. It’s a pressure cooker environment beyond the high pressure they experience every winter.

However, the reason is not a single headline. It doesn’t marry with the raw hospital data. And it certainly is not due to an abnormal excess of acute respiratory infections.

Check out the image [above] that summarises the issues NHS Hospitals are currently facing.

This matches the experience and insights we have received directly from Dr. Malcolm KendrickDr, Clare Craig, various anonymous NHS Hospital workers and a couple of GP staff too.

Worth checking out.

Stop Press: Lockdown Sceptics contributor Jonathan Engler has summarised much of the same data in a Twitter thread.

Government Quietly Admits PCR False Positive Problem

There has been understandable concern about the plans, leaked to the Telegraph, to discharge care home residents from hospitals again without a negative PCR test. But is this in fact a belated admission from the Government that PCR tests keep on giving positive results long after the patient ceases to be unwell or contagious? From the Telegraph:

Coronavirus hospital patients can be discharged into care homes without being tested under draft Government guidelines leaked to the the Telegraph.

Care providers have said they are “deeply worried” about the latest proposed rules, which advise clinicians to release patients without requiring them to have a test 48 hours before discharge if they have no new virus symptoms and have isolated in hospital.

For the first time, the Government appears to acknowledge that people could test positive for Covid but not be infectious, suggesting “it will be appropriate for them to move directly to a care home from hospital… because we now know they do not pose an infection risk to other residents in a care home”.

It describes this sub-group as “immunocompetent and with no new symptoms” even if they are within 90 days of their initial symptoms or positive test result.

The top-rated comment under the Telegraph article, from Stephen Jackson, spotted the significance:

The story is misleading.

The real reason for this policy is that PCR tests will continue returning a positive result for several weeks after a person has recovered from Covid and is no longer infectious. This is because PCR analysis will trigger a positive result even if tiny fragments of dead virus are still present/shedding in the nose or throat. If you have a policy of not discharging patients until they’ve tested negative it traps perfectly well and non-infectious people in hospital for weeks on end. This was well documented in South Korea in April-May.

The NHS has to free up beds without risking a care home debacle but I suspect nobody in the health profession wants to admit that PCR tests give so many false positives. That would obviously undermine public confidence in Covid test results and compliance with self-isolation orders. So they’ve had to come up with an alternative policy involving a two-week isolation period before being discharged and perhaps with a deliberate but hushed-up decision not to re-test the patient at that point (knowing it might give a false positive, trapping the patient in hospital again). 

PHE Study Confirms Infection Gives Immunity

A new study from Public Health England has confirmed that infection with SARS-CoV-2 confers strong immunity to the virus. The Times has the details.

The PHE findings are the result of the most comprehensive study into reinfection rates so far. Previous illness provided about 85% protection against both asymptomatic and symptomatic reinfection, researchers said after following thousands of people who caught the virus in the spring.

Although they found that a small number among the group did get infected twice, typically they suffered a milder form of the disease.

With an estimated one in five having been infected, the findings, based on a study of 21,000 UK healthcare workers, suggested that herd immunity could already be slowing the course of the pandemic. However, scientists warned that they still did not know how long immunity lasted.

“What that’s saying to us is that prior infection looks as good as the vaccine, at least at this time interval, which is very good news for the population,” said Susan Hopkins, Deputy Director of the National Infections Service at PHE. “It will help alongside the vaccine to give a level of immunity and protection that will start to reduce transmission.”

The research by PHE followed 6,600 clinical staff infected in the first wave, along with 14,000 who had remained healthy, regularly testing them to see whether they were subsequently positive.

By late November there were 318 infections among the 14,000 and at most 44 reinfections among the 6,600. Most of those cases were mild and showed no symptoms.

There was some uncertainty about the reinfection number, which may have been even lower. The scientists said they could not exclude the possibility that in some cases they were picking up evidence of the first infection.

Although the Pfizer vaccine has a headline efficacy rate of 95%, that figure is based on symptomatic infections alone, so the mildest cases were ignored.

Professor Hopkins said the best way to think of it was that immunity from infection was as good as, or better than, a vaccine.

“The immunity gives you similar effects to the Pfizer vaccine, and much better effects than the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that is reassuring for people,” she said. Two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offer 62% protection.

However, she said it was not a licence to ignore social distancing. “It does seem that new infections can come. You can definitely get reinfected after primary infection,” she said Even in some of those with asymptomatic infections, they found they were shedding a lot of live virus — implying they were infectious without knowing it. But, she, added: “The risk of severe disease is extremely low… even if you are infectious, it is likely to be for a very short period of time.”

“Overall I think this is good news, it allows people to feel that their prior infection will protect them from future infections, but at the same time it is not complete protection and therefore they still need to be careful when they’re out and about,” she added. “I am strongly encouraged that people have immunity that is lasting much more than the few months that was speculated before the summer.”

Frustratingly, PHE has not yet published the study so we cannot look at the details of how infection was diagnosed and what symptoms they had, though the indications in the reports that reinfections were mild or even false positives (picking up fragments from the previous infection) is in line with other evidence to date.

Stop Press: A Lockdown Sceptics reader emailed PHE to ask some questions and find out where the study was published. They quickly got back to him to say: “The paper will be uploaded to a preprint server and made public in the next day or so. You will be able to find a detailed explanation of the methodology there. Apologies for the delay.”

Toby Replies to Neil O’Brien MP

Everyone’s favourite Lockdown Sceptics pin cushion

There follows a guest post by Toby.

Yesterday, I was attacked on Twitter again by the Conservative MP Neil O’Brien – it’s becoming a daily occurrence. This one involved an obsessive degree of offence archaeology. He even listened to last week’s London Calling podcast, carefully noting down any deviations from Covid orthodoxy. Julia Hartley-Brewer had the temerity to ask him why he was trolling people on Twitter instead of looking after his constituents, at which point he immediately started attacking her. All, it seems, to demonstrate his unwavering loyalty to Tory High Command and their forever lockdown policy. As one regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics observed:

Whatever the era, whatever the epoch, it seems that the Neil O’Brien’s of this world are forever destined to be the first sent into battle. Stolid, inert, expendable; the mediocre soldier, sacrificed in order that the strength of the enemy’s defences might be tested. If he’d have been at Ypres in 1914 you’d have put money on him being the private who’d have been ordered to stick his head up above the trench line just so the commanding officer could get a sense of where the enemy fire was going to come from. He’d have done it eagerly, too, with real patriotic fervour (“How high, Sir! How high!!”).

I decided to respond with a long Twitter thread of my own. For those of you not on Twitter – and who can blame you? – I’ve reproduced it below.

Attacks on Lockdown sceptics – and me in particular – have ratcheted up recently, with one of the most aggressive critics being the Conservative MP @NeilDotObrien. I thought it was time to compose a reply.

On Monday he wrote a piece for @ConHome entitled “Trumpism in Britain. It’s time to call out those in the media who cynically feed the cranks, rioters and conspiracists” in which he compared lockdown sceptics to QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers.

He compared lockdown sceptics to QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers and urged media companies “to practice some basic hygiene about whose views they are promoting”, i.e. no-platform the sceptics.

But arguing that lockdowns cause more harm than they prevent is not comparable to arguing that the US government is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles or that vaccines contain microchips inserted by Bill Gates to control our minds.

In fact, there is a growing body of research showing that quarantining whole populations, the healthy as well as the sick, is a sub-optimal policy response to this pandemic. @AIER published a round up of some of the best here

Yesterday, @the_brumby linked to “30 published papers finding that lockdowns had little or no efficacy (despite unconscionable harms)”

The problem with arguing that lockdown sceptics have “blood on their hands” – an increasingly popular trope – is that it takes it for granted that lockdowns are effective at reducing overall mortality and that is precisely the issue being debated.

This is an important public debate to have, both because it helps us assess the present government’s management of the pandemic and because it will help us prepare better for the next one.

A Conservative MP should not be urging media companies to suppress one side in that debate, particularly as the 2019 Conservative manifesto reaffirmed the party’s commitment to free speech.

In his latest Twitter thread, @NeilDotObrien accuses me of having deleted all my tweets from last year because I’m embarrassed about having got so many things wrong about the virus.

In fact, I installed an app last week that deletes all tweets more than a week old. This was in response to Twitter’s increasing intolerance of people who challenge liberal orthodoxies, including Covid orthodoxy. I would advice other dissenters to do the same.

The app won’t protect you from Twitter’s internal offence archaeologists, but it will make it harder for censorious, left-wing activists to bombard the company with vexatious complaints in the hope of getting you banned. The app is here.

@NeilDotObrien also selectively quoted from various posts I’ve done for the @Telegraph. For instance, he quoted me saying this: “we were told… the number of infected people was on the rise again… the rise was due to a combination of increased testing and false positives.”

Here are the two paragraphs he got that quote from. See what he did there?

Of course, I’ve got some things wrong about the virus, such as predicting there wouldn’t be a resurgence of infections this winter. I put my hands up to that on @Newsnight when @maitlis asked me about it.

But I don’t think lockdown sceptics have been consistently more wrong about the virus than lockdown advocates. For instance, the @WHO initially estimated the IFR of COVID-19 was 3.4%. We now believe it’s ~.25%.

A study by researchers at UCLA and IHME compared the accuracy of various models predicting COVID-19 mortality and the models produced by Imperial were judged to have far higher rates of error than the others — always erring on the side of being too high.

After the government unveiled its “graph of doom” showing deaths could climb to 4,000 a day absent more restrictions, it was reprimanded by the @UKStatsAuth.

And how much trust can you place in the advice of public health authorities to wear masks when the initial advice was that they were ineffective outside healthcare settings?

Yes, lockdown sceptics have got some things wrong, too, but I think we’ve provided an important counterweight to the largely one-sided reporting of the broadcast media, particularly the BBC.

The daily sceptical blog I put together with a team of other, like-minded journalists has published some important stories, such as this one by a Lighthouse Lab whistleblower.

And this one by a disillusioned worker at a pop-up testing facility in Salisbury.

And this review of the code powering Neil Ferguson’s epidemiological model by Mike Hearn, formerly a senior software engineer at @Google.

It’s also published some terrific pieces of writing, such as this piece on conspiracy theories by Sinéad Murphy, a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle.

And this “Postcard From Argentina” by a social science professor.

And this tribute to all those who’ve been laid low by the collateral damage caused by the lockdowns by Freddie Attenborough, a sociology lecturer.

Lockdown Sceptics will continue to publish these dissenting voices and continue to challenge the official narrative being pumped out by the government and the BBC. I don’t think that’s “dangerous”; I think politicians trying to smear and silence dissenting voices is dangerous.

Blaming the high daily death tolls on lockdown sceptics is a variant of blaming the public. If only ordinary people had been more compliant, we wouldn’t be in this pickle. But thanks to lockdown sceptics like @toadmeister, @allisonpearson, @ClarkeMicah, @JuliaHB1 and @LozzaFox…

Nothing to do with the lack of PPE, failure to create dedicated hospitals for Covid patients, spunking tens of billions of pounds on a not-fit-for-purpose Test and Trace programme, building the Nightingales but not recruiting or training enough healthcare workers to staff them…

…decommissioning the Nightingales, failing to eliminate in-hospital infections and the ongoing scandal of secondary transmission in care homes… no. It’s all the fault of the general public and the “conspiracy theorists” who’ve led them astray.

Time to take the mote out of your eye @NeilDotObrien and take a look at the politicians you’re so eager to curry favour with. Lockdown sceptics won’t be your scapegoats. //Ends

Stop Press: Julia H-B did a bit of offence archaeology of her own and discovered that Neil O’Brien wasn’t that keen on lockdown restrictions himself back in July. Fancy that!

https://twitter.com/BellTrend/status/1349820996258291717?s=20

Norway Says Very Frail People Should Not Receive Covid Vaccine: “Side Effects May Have Led to Deaths”

Norwegian Medicines Agency Chief Physician Sigurd Hortemo

Norway has determined that vaccinations may be contributing to deaths in the very frail elderly and changed its advice. Trondheim24 has the story (via Google translate, H/T Alex Berenson).

More than 25,000 Norwegians have been vaccinated with the first dose of the coronary vaccine from Pfizer and Biontech since Christmas. On Friday, the first dose of the new Moderna vaccine will be given.

So far, the Norwegian Medicines Agency has assessed 29 adverse reaction reports after the COVID-19 vaccination. 13 of these had a fatal outcome, shows a new report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

A total of 23 deaths have been reported in connection with vaccination, but so far only 13 of these have been assessed. The other deaths are under treatment. Common side effects may have contributed to a serious course in frail elderly people, the Norwegian Medicines Agency reports.

All the deaths have occurred in frail, old patients in nursing homes. All are over 80 years old and some of them over 90, according to NRK.

The reports may indicate that common side effects from mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have led to deaths in some frail patients, says chief physician Sigurd Hortemo in the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

As a result, both the National Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Medicines Agency have changed the corona vaccination guide with new advice for this group.

If you are very frail, you should probably not be vaccinated, said subject director Steinar Madsen in the Norwegian Medicines Agency at a webinar on coronary vaccine for journalists on Thursday.

He emphasises that these cases are rare, and that many thousands of frail people have been vaccinated without a fatal outcome.

This side-effect of possible hastening of death among the very frail is not welcome news when the Government is relying on vaccination to reduce the death toll from the virus, which is concentrated amongst the frail elderly. It will be interesting to see whether any other health agencies come to similar conclusions and their governments follow suit.

Stop Press: Initial data from vaccination frontrunner Israel suggests that the Pfizer vaccine reduces infections by around 50% 14 days after the first shot. The Times of Israel has more.

Initial data from Israel’s vaccination campaign shows that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine curbs infections by some 50% 14 days after the first of two shots is administered, a top Health Ministry official said Tuesday, as the country’s serious COVID-19 cases, daily infections and total active cases all reach all-time peaks.

Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Department, told Channel 12 News that the data was preliminary, and based on the results of coronavirus tests among both those who’ve received the vaccine and those who haven’t.

Other, somewhat contrary data was released by Israeli health maintenance organizations Tuesday evening. Channel 13 News said that according to figures released by Clalit, Israel’s largest health provider, the chance of a person being infected with the coronavirus dropped by 33% 14 days after they were vaccinated. Separate figures recorded by the Maccabi health provider and aired by Channel 12 showed the vaccine caused a 60% drop in the chances for infection 14 days after taking the first shot.

Each of the HMOs compiled the data from some 400,000 patients they treated (800,000 in total).

The cause for the discrepancy between the studies was not immediately clear.

With Pfizer’s phase 3 trials only checking some 40,000 people, and given Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign, the data could be some of the best on-the-ground indication yet of the vaccine’s efficacy.

Stop Press 2: The Guardian reports that Pimlico Plumbers, a large London plumbing firm, plans to rewrite all of its workers’ contracts to require them to be vaccinated against coronavirus. There may be legal issues, some lawyers have said.

Can Rogue Covid Police Officers be Sued?

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, who were accosted by police and fined £200 for walking five miles from home, have had their penalties cancelled

Our legal eagle, Dr John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Tort Law at the University of Liverpool, answers a Covid legal question posed by a reader.

The myriad incidents of what might charitably be described as ‘police overreach’ are among the most unedifying spectacles of the COVID-19 crisis. The chief constable who threatened to deploy police officers to search people’s shopping trolleys to check that they were purchasing only ‘essential’ items. The man with a legitimate exemption from the requirement to wear a face mask escorted under threat of arrest out of a supermarket in Oldbury. And most recently, Derbyshire Police’s heavy-handed treatment of Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore as they enjoyed a socially-distanced stroll and a cup of tea. A year ago, these incidents would have been the workings of dystopian fantasy or the conceit of black comedy. No longer, it seems. As Lord Sumption pointed out in a recent lecture, the police have, at various points in this crisis, “substantially exceeded even the vast powers that they have received”.

All this raises questions about police liability when they get things wrong. The problem is that successful claims for negligence depend on there being proof of damage, such as personal injury. In a recent Supreme Court decision, police officers who injured a passer-by while effecting the arrest of a suspect were liable for her injuries. In all of the examples given above, however, the police apologised for overstepping the mark and, where relevant, cancelled any fines issued under the Regulations. So, no harm done – or at least not enough to raise a question of negligence.

The most likely source of civil dispute against the police at present probably lies in the tort of false imprisonment. This entails a complete restriction of a person’s freedom of movement without any legal authorisation. To use the reported details of Ms Allen and Ms Moore’s case as an example (although I do so with caution because I am not privy to all the facts), it is arguable that the seven police officers who surrounded the two friends imposed a constraint on their freedom of movement at least for a short period of time. The question is whether they had legal authorisation to do so. According to paragraph 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 3A to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020/1374, a person is permitted to take exercise outside in a public outdoor place with one other person who is not a member of his/her household. By the letter of the law, it seems that Ms Allen and Ms Moore did nothing wrong and the police should have allowed them to continue their walk. 

The reason they did not, it seems, is because the two friends were five miles away from their respective homes (and therefore not “local”) and were each carrying a cup of peppermint tea (and were therefore having a “picnic”). Yet the requirement to “stay local” is mere guidance, not law – it is a product of “legislation-by-press-conference” which has become an enduring theme of this crisis. And the idea that ‘two teas make a picnic’ is worthy of a stage farce. It is true that going for a picnic in the conventional sense does not constitute a “reasonable excuse” to be outside the place where one lives. But there is nothing in the rules which prohibits the consumption of food or drink during the course of legitimate exercise. Presumably, as long as one is doing star jumps at the material time, one can lawfully eat sandwiches, crisps and pork pies in the park while someone who is not a member of the same household swigs lemonade between sit-ups. The problem is that there has been a troubling conflation of legal rules and generalised advice or recommendations in recent weeks which risks undermining the rule of law. Small wonder that police officers, who are not lawyers and must navigate tempestuous legal seas, are struggling at times to delineate the limits of their powers.

A reader of this blog has asked whether a police officer would be personally liable for any harm he/she causes a person to suffer (e.g. through negligence, false imprisonment, and so on) and therefore required to pay damages out of his/her own pocket. In practice, the answer is no: the chief constable of the relevant police force would normally be vicariously liable for the officer’s tortious conduct as his/her “employer”. Vicarious liability is a rule of responsibility by which employers answer and pay for the injury, loss or damage occasioned to third parties by their employees. It is true that the employer can later seek an indemnity from its employee but this rarely happens. The rationale for this is that employers have “deep(er) pockets” – that is, more resources – from which to pay compensation to injured parties. This is not to say that there are no ‘internal’ consequences for individual police officers (such as disciplinary action), nor does it rule out the possibility of prosecution for criminal offences.

Another Lockdown Tragedy

A reader has got in touch to tell us of how lockdown has affected someone they know:

I heard today that my cousin’s 50-something wife – whose chemo for breast cancer was halted during the first lockdown – was reassessed today with a view to starting up the treatment again. They told her that it’s now spread too far and she won’t have long, so there’s no point in restarting the chemo. Still, at least lots of 80-somethings will get a few more years…

What’s more, she felt that she couldn’t tell her mum in person because she didn’t want to get in trouble, so she phoned and I can’t imagine how that call went.

Why is this sort of thing happening? What is the end goal, do you think? Is it about control or to become a communist state? To hit CO2 targets? I just don’t understand how these rules have come to pass that are so ruinous to peoples lives. Why doesn’t anyone listen to what the evidence shows?

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Freedom come, freedom go” by The Fortunes, “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson and “I’m So Tired Of It All” by Merle Haggard.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, Janice Turner in the Times contemplates what will become of Sex and the City by the time the activists have finished with it.

Last week, listlessly seeking distraction from doom, I found myself watching the first four episodes of Sex and the City back-to-back in a happy trance. Friends meeting for brunch! Cocktail hour, fancy shops, city streets full of purposeful people, frivolous frocks, dinner reservations, the casual exchange of bodily fluids.

SATC was never a feminist road map. It was a consumerist, hedonist fantasy reflecting the prelapsarian Nineties and its creator Darren Star, a gay man. And unlike women, gay men are enviably unapologetic about how they get their kicks.

Moreover, while straight male escapism like Entourage is seldom parsed for racial or heteronormative wrong-think, anything women love, from Lena Dunham’s Girls to Fifty Shades of Grey, must be dissected and diminished: if it does not somehow encompass every female experience it cannot speak for any women at all.

Now the remaining SATC “girls” are worse than rich, white and horny: they are middle-aged. I hope the new show And Just Like That conveys the filthy laughter in older women’s lives. But I fear, given US cultural mores, it would be better named The Three Karens: jokes will be only at their expense and they will be compelled to “check their privilege” as once they checked their coats.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Macaulay Culkin has thrown his support behind calls to have Donald Trump’s cameo edited out of “Home Alone 2”. Inevitably.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 Lockdown Sceptics reader found that although Tesco does still allow exemptions in line with Government guidance, someone needs to tell the staff:

On Tuesday I went into our local Tesco Store without a mask as usual and, having completed my shopping and checked out at the self-service till, I was, for the first time ever, challenged by an employee about not wearing a mask. I told him I was exempt, and he then informed me that from that day (January 12th) Tesco would refuse entry to anyone not wearing a mask or a lanyard. In a polite exchange, I informed him that I had a lanyard but there was no legal requirement under the law for me to wear it or for him to ask me why I was exempt. He nevertheless insisted that I would be refused entry in future if I didn’t comply as that was the policy handed down from Head Office.

I emailed Tesco Head Office to clarify the position and received the following response which is contrary to the employee’s understanding:

“Thank you for your email.

“In line with Government guidelines, customers will need to wear a face covering in our stores. However, if a customer advises they are exempt from wearing a face covering, my store colleagues should not challenge you and not ask or imply you should be wearing a lanyard as this is not the guidance that our Head Office has given them.

“Thank you for your time.”

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Toby has a great piece in Die Weltwoche about the Big Tech free speech disaster that has unfolded over the last week or so.

Free speech isn’t having a good year. In the UK, we naively thought we’d won a significant victory on January 5th when Google reinstated the YouTube channel of a right-of-centre, anti-lockdown radio station it had banned 12 hours earlier. This was after a chorus of protest by free speech supporters. But any hope that Big Tech would rein itself in was short-lived. 

The riot in Washington, D.C. 24 hours later, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capital, was the excuse that Facebook and Twitter had been waiting for. Within days, the President of the United States had been suspended from both platforms – permanently in the case of Twitter – as had many of his most passionate supporters.

The rationale for this act of censorship was a familiar one. According to Twitter, Trump had posted two messages that could be “mobilized by different audiences… to incite violence”. 

So what had the President said? Had he called on his supporters to storm the Capital building again? Encouraged people to assassinate Joe Biden? No, the tweets which had incited violence were as follows:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Not much incitement going on there. No, this was an act of censorship, following a demand issued by hundreds of Twitter employees. A private corporation had decided to silence a man to whom 74 million Americans had given their vote. 

But if you thought liberal-left civil rights defenders in the United States would be up in arms about this, you’d be mistaken. On the contrary, this reversal of the usual banana republic pattern, in which a populist President was “disappeared” by a cabal of left-wing agitators, was largely welcomed by the liberal elite and mainstream media. 

Worth reading in full.

Latest News

Boris Claims Lockdown Is Working Despite Infections Peaking Before It Began

“The thing I just did last is definitely what made the thing happening now happen… if it’s good, that is, otherwise, it’s got nothing to do with me, obviously.”

Do the facts matter anymore, or is it just about spinning a narrative that justifies politicians’ latest radical intervention? The Prime Minister has claimed the fall in infections across England is all thanks to his latest school-closing, enforcement-heavy, virus-busting quarantine, despite the data showing the decline was already underway before the third lockdown was imposed. The Mail tries to bring some facts to bear on the matter.

Despite the latest huge death toll, Mr Johnson sounded a notably optimistic tone about the emerging impact of the restrictions. He said the country was “now starting to see the beginnings of some signs” that the crackdown was having an effect in parts of the country, while stressing it was “early days” and urged people to “keep their discipline”.

MailOnline analysis suggests the outbreak in England may have started slowing before the blanket lockdown on January 4th, with infection numbers peaking in the worst-hit regions at the start of the year. The tide appears to have turned in parts of the country experiencing the worst outbreaks  London, the South East and the East of England – in the first week of 2021, with cases coming down since then. 

Coronavirus hospital admissions have also started to fall in London and the South East, although the numbers of patients are still rising on wards after surging above the peaks recorded in the first wave.

The figures bolster claims that Tier 4 which kept schools open thwarted the spread of the super-infectious mutant strain of the virus. But it appears the measure did not drive down infections fast enough for ministers, who instead opted for further curbs to daily life.

Here’s the latest graph from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App showing infections peaking at the start of the year.

Stop Press: Nic Sturge-On has brought in even more restrictions in Scotland. Heed well, England – Boris will soon be copying her. From the BBC:

Only shops selling essential items – such as clothing, footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books – will be allowed to offer click and collect.

Collections must also be outdoors, with appointments staggered to avoid queuing.

And takeaways can no longer allow customers indoors, and must instead operate from a hatch or doorway.

Yet according to the ZOE App Scotland infections appear to have peaked in the middle of last week.

Someone should tell Nicola.

Stop Press 2: Recovery carried out a Twitter poll on the BBC’s coverage of the crisis and got an impressive 20,336 responses. The results make for grim reading for the Beeb.

How to Respond to a GP Survey…

When Lockdown Sceptics reader Tracy van den Broek’s GP surgery sent her their patient survey, it’s probably safe to say they weren’t prepared for the robust response they got back. Here’s what she sent them instead of the completed questionnaire.

Thank you for sending the questionnaire. I see the questions are framed in such a way that you will be able to give information to the Government and media which will be used to assure “the public” that all is well at the GP surgery level for most people.  

I am appalled by the fact that the NHS has become our “master” in the past year and has become essentially a Covid-only service for much of the year. The distortions of the situation shown on the BBC have implied that insufficient capacity for annual seasonal demand is a new thing. Because of my connection with the hospital as a volunteer on the chaplaincy team for the past 10 years I happen to know that treating patients in the corridors and bed shortage are annual events.

That the measures designed to “protect the NHS” are actually causing incalculable misery amongst carers, disabled people, dementia sufferers, and even otherwise healthy widows and others who live alone, is entirely overlooked.

That in order to “protect the NHS” normal development of children of all ages is distorted is reprehensible. We are raising a generation who will see themselves and others as a bio-hazard. The thwarting of normal social development of teenagers (raising suicidal ideation amongst countless individuals) is nothing short of a disaster the consequences of these measure will be evident in the lives of this generation long after most SAGE scientists are dead.

I am a carer for my 15 year-old with Down’s Syndrome. All our normal social events have been denied us, putting us under immense psychological pressure and we are by no means unique. Amongst my wide circle of friends up and down the country and random people I have engaged in conversation I only know of one person under 80 who has died of Covid (and he had chronic heart-disease and was morbidly obese). I know fewer than 10 people who have had Covid but they all recovered.

The NHS, in its inception, was designed to serve people. As a master it is tyrannical (controlling and coercive) and has devastated our nation in too many ways to calculate. We are all the subjects of a huge psychological experiment and we didn’t give our informed consent. This has to be illegal and I hope that someone will show it to be so in due course.

I’m similarly unimpressed with my GP surgery though as I stood in the airlock outside the empty waiting room in November, sobbing, the receptionist took pity on me and helped by getting a prescription for anti-depressants (which I’d requested a month earlier) signed by the GP who was sitting in his office somewhere in the building.

It all makes me more determined to do my best to take care of my own health through diet/exercise and alternative measures than follow the diktats of the pharmaceutical industry and its minions.

I most certainly do not have sufficient faith in this system to roll up my sleeve and become a guinea pig for a product which hasn’t passed through the normal, lengthy safety tests, and where the suppliers are indemnified.

Tracy isn’t having a good week. She adds:

Having been marched out of Costco last week (wearing my lanyard and in the company of my distressed 15 year-old daughter) because I wasn’t wearing a mask, I’m going to write to them too. I was told by the employee that it doesn’t matter that there is “exemption” allowed out there in the rest of the country, this was a privately owned company and this was their policy. I wondered whether I was on American territory when I was in there – and whether if they chose to require shoppers to stand on their heads, that would also be similarly enforceable.

What a China-style Zero Covid Strategy Would Really Mean

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to us deeply concerned about the adulation and copying of China’s handling of the coronavirus by Western Governments. He should know. He has lived in China on and off since 2002 and owns a home and company there. While he has been shut out of the country since the start of the crisis, he is frequently in touch with people there and has a good idea what it is like right now.

Some politicians and journalists like to hold China up as a success story of the handling of the coronavirus crisis. They point to its low reported deaths, its almost non-existent cases and the impression that life is seemingly back to normal.

That is an incomplete picture. Life in China is not normal and the fight against Covid is not over by a long way. 

The reality is that life in China has changed dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis, in three very significant ways.

1. Surveillance. Prior to the crisis, the population could move around freely without restriction. Now, you cannot enter most major public places like a station, an airport, a mall or any government building, without scanning a tracking app on your phone that clears you for entry with a green smiley face. Most residential compounds also require scanning to enter. So after you leave your home, you need to pass a scan to come back in.

This surveillance has been added to the financial surveillance that has been in place for the last few years. Every money transaction takes place with one of the two giant payment platforms, WePay or Alipay, and is linked to your ID number which the government tracks. 

So the surveillance of the population is now total and absolute. The government knows everything that everyone is doing. 

2. Face masks. Contrary to beliefs in the west, prior to the coronavirus crisis face masks were virtually non-existent. The few people that did wear them might have done so on bad pollution days and even then it would have been a rare sight. Masks are now ubiquitous. There is supposedly no coronavirus in China but you need to wear a mask in airports, stations, malls, large public gatherings, taxis and all government buildings.

3. Closed borders. China has for all intents and purposes shut its borders and closed itself from the world indefinitely. Permits to enter China are hard to obtain. For those who obtain one, on arrival they must pass a quarantine of three weeks in isolation in a government assigned hotel room.

Like every nation that has opted for a Zero Covid approach, China’s fight against Covid isn’t over by reaching zero cases. With coronavirus continuing to spread to hundreds of millions around the world, China’s fight to keep the virus away is ongoing, relentless and, in the absence of a vaccine that provides 100% immunity, permanent.

Even with closed borders, strict entry protocols and the most far-reaching surveillance on the planet, outbreaks occur from time to time at which point entire cities are severely locked down, and their entire populations forced to pass a test.

So when politicians fantasise about Zero Covid and try to promote it pointing to China’s success they should be clear, honest and open about what it would really mean.

It would mean closing borders indefinitely, putting in place a system of surveillance of the population and executing severe targeted lockdowns and compulsory testing at the first sign of an infection in the community. It would also probably mean on-going wearing of masks in numerous settings like public transport or any large gatherings of crowds.

Zero Covid is not a strategy for eliminating Covid, it is a plan to reorganise society permanently in the image created by the Chinese Communist Party.

More on Pre-Existing Immunity

The failure of epidemiological models such as Neil Ferguson’s to incorporate pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 was one of the two basic errors Dr Mike Yeadon identified in SAGE’s advice throughout the pandemic. A new rapid response has now appeared in the BMJ by a researcher at Umea University in Sweden, Rachel F. Nicoll, to highlight further recent findings on this important topic.

Since Peter Doshi’s excellent feature in the BMJ in September, entitled “COVID-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity?“, further studies on unexposed subjects have now been undertaken. Although all studies so far are small, they indicate that a significant proportion of individuals globally entered the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with some pre-existing immunity. This is true of studies of IgG antibodies, memory B cells and T cells.

The pre-existing immunity makes a difference to clinical outcomes.

Patients with a previously detected human coronavirus had less severe COVID-19; despite a similar rate of infection, hospitalisation and viral burden, the milder disease seemed to be due to more subdued inflammatory responses, leading to lower ICU admission and death.

As Peter Doshi points out, the WHO and CDC acknowledged the existence of pre-existing immunity to the 2009 swine flu epidemic but then ignored the evidence 11 years later. Furthermore, cross-reactive immunity to influenza strains has been modelled to be a critical influencer of susceptibility to newly emerging, potentially pandemic, influenza strains.

Epidemiologists have been calling SARS-CoV-2 a ‘novel virus’, implying no pre-existing immunity. Nevertheless, it is clear that some considerable pre-existing immunity is present but has not been incorporated into the modelling. Furthermore, Government policy decisions are being made based on the number of positive PCR tests (indicating the presence of a viral RNA fragment rather than current infection) instead of investigating the proportion of the population that has developed antibody, B cell or T cell immunity.

Worth reading in full.

Don’t Bet On It

While bookies are famed for giving you odds on any outcome you can imagine, it seems when it comes to Covid some things are out of play, as one Lockdown Sceptics reader discovered.

I am not a betting man by nature but prior to the third lockdown the bookies were one of the few places of entertainment still open to the public. So on Christmas Eve I decided to amuse myself by placing a bet.

Paddy Power have a reputation of being able to give odds on anything you care to bet on so I wandered into one of their Glasgow branches, approached the counter and said that I wanted to place the following bet:

“I bet that 10 years from today Boris Johnson, Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon will have been sent to jail for the restrictions and other actions they took to impose lockdown.”

Apparently this was something of a deviation from the usual bets placed in the establishment and the guy and girl behind the counter were intrigued to know more (“what the f**k’s that all about?” as the girl put it).

I explained that two or three years from now very few people in the country will personally know someone that died of COVID-19 in the pandemic but that absolutely everyone will know someone who was financially ruined, committed suicide, developed mental health problems or died of cancer or other survivable illnesses that were not diagnosed or treated due to the lockdown restrictions.

By that time there will have been a full-scale enquiry. Rather than the outcome politicians are expecting at the moment (that the lockdown should have been earlier, harder, longer) the enquiry will show that the lockdown failed in its delusional objective of preventing the spread of an airborne respiratory virus and inflicted devastating economic and physical and mental health damage on the population that ultimately killed more people than COVID-19.

On the subject of Covid deaths the enquiry will also find that the tens of thousands of people claimed to have died “with Covid” is an outrageous distortion of the actual number of people whose deaths were genuinely due to the virus which will be a fraction of the Project Fear number being bandied about at present.

The enquiry will conclude that the real disaster in terms of lives and human misery was not COVID-19 but lockdown.

Then the blame begins.

Who is to blame for the coronavirus? Was it an act of God? A wet market culinary adventure too far? A bad day at the office for a Wuhan lab technician? We may never know.

Who is to blame for lockdown? Easy. Politicians. (And those “expert” SAGE members and broadcast media hacks but they are likely to wriggle off the hook. Not so the politicians – for a start people hate them already.)

The media will switch effortlessly from tear jerking “Covidiots Killed my Granny” stories to “Lockdown Let My Angel Boy Die of Cancer” front pages. People will be angry. People will want revenge. The clamour will grow. The process will be put in place.

The Paddy Power staff were very receptive to this reasoning but said they would have to phone “head office down south” to get the odds and that I should come back in an hour or so. So off I went for a wander round the shops that were open (normally I would have gone for a pint but hey, cretins).

When I returned the guy behind the counter looked up but seeing me his face fell. He said he thought it was a fun bet and he really wanted to know what odds it would get but that he had been told on the phone by his superiors that they “were not allowed to take any coronavirus related bets”.

So there you have it. Covid restrictions extend to Covid bets. I may not be able to put my money where my mouth is but in predicting that the lockdown criminals will end up behind bars I think I have picked a winner. Time will tell.

Postcard From Japan

Lockdown Sceptics reader Philip Patrick has written to us from Japan to say that Covidmania has begun to grip the country and push it towards the lockdown precipice despite the low death toll to date.

Japan is often cited as a Covid success story. Officially we are at 4,100 deaths now, which given a population of 126 million and densely packed cities, is, on the face of it, remarkable. There has been endless speculation as to why we’ve got off so lightly, with my favourite being the wacky idea that the lack of sibilant sounds in the language means less saliva is transferred during conversation. But it’s the more robust overall health, especially of seniors, and possible greater immunity from prior exposure to other Corona viruses that are the most plausible explanations.

If visitors were allowed into the country, they would probably be surprised by how normally life seems to be continuing. There is no heavy-handed police enforcement of a bewildering array of ever-changing micro-regulations, and no signs of panic. Schools are operating as normal, and universities, most of them, going back to face-to-face tuition from next term. Masks, fetishised by the Japanese at the best of times, are ubiquitous and de rigueur, but only a few of the bigger department stores such as Isetan (the Japanese Harrods) insist on them, and the one time I forgot I was reminded with such exquisite gentleness it was almost charming.

However, all of the above good news could be caveated with that very useful Japanese phrase ‘toriaezu’ (for the time being).

For, just as in the UK, there is a steady drumbeat of despair from the media, with a daily fusillade of uncontextualised statistics, and reports of hospitals on the brink, always on the brink, of being overwhelmed. The media are shrieking about the ‘case’ numbers with a sort of demented zeal (NHK is exactly the same as the BBC in its coverage) and there is no reporting of lockdown scepticism – which does exist. A few on-the-make politicians are trying their best to scare everyone – most prominently Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, whose daily gloom laden briefings are very similar to those of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Worth reading in full.

Common Challenges Impeding Debate

A Lockdown Sceptics reader – a PhD student in Australia – has sent us a list of the ways public debate over COVID-19 and lockdowns often generate more heat than light.

  • The statement used frequently to silence questions – that there is “no evidence to support xyz” – is disingenuous, nor is this actually a rebuttal of a question. As researchers know, the absence of evidence does not prove the evidence of absence.
  • ‘Cherry picking’ data (only using data that supports pre-determined conclusions) is another frequent issue and one of the more insidious methods of skewing findings or debates while appearing reasonable at first glance.
  • Another tactic, playing the person not the issue – through labels of ‘Covid-denier’, ‘conspiracy-theorist’ or ‘anti-vaxxer’ if a person diverges from the ‘official’ line or asks questions – serves no one except authoritarian bullies and their side-kicks. It belongs with cancel culture and does not allow for questions to be raised (however well- or ill-informed), soundly debated, and concerns either validated or laid to rest rationally.
  • That a ‘fact’ or ‘view’ has come from an authority should never place it above debate and discussion, as all researchers know. Indeed, authorities can (and have historically) sometimes been wrong, ‘got at’ or otherwise become unreliable. ‘Official’ does not automatically equal ‘reliable’, valid or true.
  • By extension, so-called ‘fact-check’ (e.g. provided by major media sources including AP and Reuters) undertaken through appeal to official sources, or to experts who fail to substantiate their opinions, or through appeal to consensus, or other media reports, is inappropriate and substandard. Irrespective of whether it is an attempt at socially-responsible reporting, such methods of fact-checking fail miserably to meet the well-established academic standards of inquiry and discussion, crucial to informed discussion and arriving at valid findings.
  • It is only through considering conflicting, knowledgeable and substantiated viewpoints from an objective, informed, unimpassioned perspective that we can hope to arrive at a worthwhile level of understanding. Without such discussion, statements like ‘following the science’ are not merely a nonsense, they’re misleading and dangerous.
  • None of this would matter if, and this is the point, much of the mainstream media had not effectively positioned itself as an authority competent to judge the content, rather than engaging in investigating and reporting on the debates raging (and I do mean raging) among scientists over COVID-19.
  • Furthermore, it is not necessarily that data or facts should be questioned (though often they should) but rather the interpretation should always be questioned.

Update From the Retired Detective Jailed For Painting a Pub

An English pub – shortly only to be found in museums

Paul (not his real name), the retired detective jailed and fined for painting a pub in July, has been back in touch with an update on his fine.

You previously published an item about my Covid arrest for painting the walls of a pub.

The incident occurred on July 3rd and the police issued a fixed penalty notice on October 3rd.

I refused to pay the fine.

The next step should have been for the police to lay information before a court so a summons could be issued and the matter proceed to a court hearing.

Well, what happened next?

You may be aware that there is a “limitation on proceedings” of six months for “summary” offences heard in the magistrates court.

The police let the time limit expire to prevent the case reaching court. The “fine” is therefore void.

How many more of these “fines” have been “disappeared” in this fashion?

With 45,000 lockdown fines reported now to have been issued by the police, how many others have gone (or will go) the same way?

The Free Speech Union is Hiring

The Free Speech Union

The Free Speech Union, founded by Toby last year, is looking for a Website and IT Manager. Contract: 80-100%. Salary: up to £42,000 (pro rated). More info here.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Policy of Truth” by Depeche Mode, “Everything But The Truth” by Lucinda Williams, “When Will We All Be Free?” By Karan Casey, “You can’t do that” by The Beatles, “Tricked and trapped” by The Chairman of the Board, “There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner” by Noel Coward and “The New Normals” by Hot Beer (a Lockdown Sceptics reader – check it out).

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that Powell’s bookshop in Portland, Oregon has succumbed to Antifa demonstrators outside and pulled Andy Ngo’s anti-Antifa book from its shelves. Ella Whelan in the Telegraph is not impressed.

In his work, Ngo claims that Antifa protests, riots and public performances are responsible for the rising political violence in America. On the other hand, Ngo stands accused of “doxxing” Antifa activists (revealing their real names online) and stirring up Right-wing hatred of them on Twitter. 

Last year, footage of Ngo, recorded by an undercover Left-wing activist, showed him present at a discussion among the Proud Boys, the far-Right group, about an upcoming fight with Antifa. Ngo strongly denied any links to such groups, calling himself an independent journalist, but while reporting on one such protest battle, he was attacked by Antifa activists who threw a milkshake on him, egged him and beat him up.

Critics claim that the issue is a journalistic one, too, and that Ngo plays fast and loose with the facts. For an 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, he went to Whitechapel and portrayed a council sign banning alcohol consumption as evidence of “Islamic England”. (The Tower Hamlets authorities said that they were targeting anti-social behaviour.)

But even if Antifa were right, when they allege that Ngo is protected by the Proud Boys when reporting on demonstrations (which his lawyer has described as “absolutely false”), or that his work is mean or misleading, it’s irrelevant. Trying to get his book banned is wrong. 

If we start banning books on the basis that their authors have disagreeable views or a penchant for exaggeration, half the shelves in the politics aisles would be empty.

It’s the latest in a long string of demands for censorship, and yet again the noisy activists have won.

Powell’s could do with the defiant attitude of the many radical Left-wing bookshops that went before it. It has succumbed to the pressure of a handful of young Antifa activists, brandishing their angry Tweets, and has announced that it will not stock Ngo’s book on its shelves and “will not promote it”. Whether you’re Ngo’s biggest fan or think he’s an opportunist with dodgy politics, you should be worried about these attacks. 

Bookshops are independent businesses, and can stock whatever they like – but when angry mobs call the shots about what we are and aren’t allowed to read, we have a problem.

Stop Press: A row has broken out in Southall over the decision to rename Havelock Road “Guru Nanak Road” after the founder of Sikhism. Apparently, Sir Major General Henry Havelock, whom the road was named after, is steeped in the sins of British colonialism.

Stop Press 2: Gay roles should be given to gay actors, says Russell T. Davies. Does that mean straight roles have to be given to straight actors too?

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 who is a health sciences researcher has done a handy summary of the conclusion of the study we linked to on Tuesday: “Effects of mask-wearing on the inhalability and deposition of airborne SARS-CoV-2 aerosols in human upper airway”.

Whilst the size of the majority of respiratory particles are ≈5 to 10 micrometers, the study by Xi et al found a typical 3-layer surgical mask or a zero filtration mask (e.g cloth mask) does not prevent inhalation of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles ≤3 micrometers in size, which is equivalent to ≤3000 nanometers in sizeAs the size of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles are approximately only 100 nanometers, use of surgical face masks cannot protect an individual from inhaling SARS-CoV-2 virus and therefore, it is unlikely that masks protect the wearer against aerosol infection from SARS-CoV-2. Worryingly, zero filtration (cloth) masks were found to increase deposits of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the face and upper airway. Given that the Xi et al study was conducted as a tightly controlled experiment and the mask “etiquette” of the general population is sub-optimal at best, it is almost impossible to conclude that surgical masks, particularly ‘trendy’, patterned zero filtration cloth masks, have any benefit as part of the suite of Covid policy measures currently being inflicted on the public by the UK government. If Boris Johnson was actually following the science he would withdraw the mask mandate immediately. It’s particularly galling with the news that all major supermarkets are now enforcing a mask mandate for shoppers and social media appears to have gone wild with delight, with the few who object to this new ‘happy shoppers policy’, being told by the gleeful masses that they should stay at home if they are unable to wear a mask. I can only conclude on that point that we have reached new, unparalleled levels of discrimination of people with illness or disability who are unable/struggle to wear a mask.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Stop Press: Dr Ramsey, PHE’s Head of Immunisation, was asked by the Science and Technology Committee what Britain should do if the vaccines proved ineffective. Her answer? Focused protection.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

“Time to go. The hills are closed.”

Latest News

Rules “Tough Enough” As Infections Fall

Home Secretary Priti Patel

The Government appears to have noticed that infections are on the decline and pulled back from threats of stricter measures. The Telegraph has the details.

Priti Patel said on Tuesday night that the lockdown rules are tough enough as it emerged that the weekly number of people testing positive for Covid had fallen for the first time in two months.

The Home Secretary said ministers and police were focused on improving public compliance with the regulations rather than any immediate toughening of measures. It comes amid signs of lockdown fatigue and concerns about people exploiting loopholes over exercise.

A new analysis revealed that lockdown laws have changed 65 times since March, prompting warnings by lawyers and police of confusion among the public and even officers charged with enforcement.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Ms Patel said police had ramped up enforcement in the current lockdown with 1,000 people a day being fined since December 30th, bringing the total to 45,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Asked why the rules were not as tough as they had been in the March lockdown, the Home Secretary said: “The rules are clear, the rules are firm in terms of staying at home.

“The rules are tough enough – you’ve already heard 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued just in the recent time since we’ve been in this pandemic. All rules are under review constantly within Government, but currently we are focusing very much on compliance and enforcement.” 

The Department for Education has also confirmed face masks will not be compulsory in classrooms.

Fears about NHS pressure appear to have shifted away from London now, with Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, saying yesterday that pressure on the NHS is unlikely to peak until the middle of February, with problems likely to be particularly acute in the Midlands, North West and South West. One hospital in Birmingham has cancelled all elective surgery and moved 200 doctors to intensive care duties in anticipation of an influx.

Lockdown Sceptics‘ senior doctor, who reports on the state of play in hospitals, sent this missive:

1. Admissions from community falling over last four days. NB this cannot be attributed to lockdown starting on January 5th more consistent with ZOE app data [see below].
2. Total inpatients falling less implies they can’t discharge effectively to home/care home (see FT article the other day) or the in-hospital infection rate is higher than they are admitting (or both). Consistent patterns across all regions not just London.
3. ICU numbers still rising a little (but virtually flat) expected as there is a 48 hour lag between admission and need for ICU, and ICU patients stay longer so the curve takes longer to come down.
4. I expect the thing that is stressing them most now is the non-Covid stuff, which is always higher at this time of year anyway.

999 Covid triages/journeys in the capital were also down to just 12 on Monday.

The Daily Mail asks “Did England pass its peak before lockdown?” That’s certainly the impression the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App gives, with the peaks in the UK and England around January 2nd and in London around December 28th.

Stop Press: A reader with a background in submarines sent in a neat observation about the importance of looking at all the available data not just a part.

Looking at some of the recent comment, and especially the latest update to the Florence Nightingale plot, considered against the daily ‘Covid death’ figures reminds me of one of the most basic principles of navigation we were taught in the Navy. Typically you look at several different data sources to help locate your position: compass bearing fixes, echo sounder depth etc. compared with the information on your chart. You’re always looking for the different information to agree. The moment something doesn’t tie in with other information you need to have an immediate look to make sure that you are correct  in your assessment of your position. These days with permanent GPS plots on electronic charts, there is probably less emphasis on the old fashioned ways, but the parallels with the data hurled at us everyday at the moment is striking. One of the most obvious being the mismatch between deaths declared as Covid and the number of excess deaths based on previous years. Other much more knowledgeable commentators are focused on this of course, but there seems to be a lack of any higher level ‘navigator’ ready to step in and ask why the data isn’t tying together. The suspicion remains, of course, that whoever is being the navigator isn’t sure quite where we are, nor what effect wind and tide are having, never mind the various steering directions and engine orders, and is simply offering data that supports a particular narrative. 

2020 saw most deaths since 1918 2008

Chart showing death rates

Many outlets including the BBC ran with the headline: “2020 saw most excess deaths since World War Two“. The Guardian went even further: “2020 was deadliest year in a century in England and Wales, says ONS.” This, of course, is just one way of presenting the figures published yesterday, but for some reason it’s the one most of our crisis-loving media put front and centre.

In fact, as Lockdown Sceptics has previously reported, last year was less deadly than 2008 and most years before that. The BBC actually reported this fact, but made sure it was buried beneath the hysteria.

The Covid pandemic has caused excess deaths to rise to their highest level in the UK since World War Two.

There were close to 697,000 deaths in 2020 – nearly 85,000 more than would be expected based on the average in the previous five years.

This represents an increase of 14% – making it the largest rise in excess deaths for more than 75 years.

When the age and size of the population is taken into account, 2020 saw the worst death rates since the 2000s.

This measure – known as age-standardised mortality – takes into account population growth and age.

The data is only available until November – so the impact of deaths in December have not yet been taken into account – but it shows the death rate at that stage was at its highest in England since 2008.

Lockdown Sceptics reader Mark Ellse rewrote this report for the BBC to show what it should have said.

When the age and size of the population is taken into account, despite Covid, the death rate in 2020 is below average for the last 20 years. 

This measure known as age-standardised mortality takes into account population growth and age.

On one hand, excess deaths are at their highest since World War Two, but once age and size of population are taken into account, 2020 death rates are similar to those in the last 10 years.  

Raw death rates, with 697,000 deaths in 2020 seem alarming but our population is larger and older on average and death rates continue to be much less than they were only a decade or so ago. 

Death rates fluctuate significantly from year to year. With 2019 having an unusually low rate, a significant increase in 2020 was expected. The ONS figures help put the Covid death toll over the past 12 months in a wider context.

What is clear is that 2020 was not a year in which the death rate was exceptionally large and that public panic over Covid has been misplaced. 

The (real) BBC went for comment to King’s Fund Chief Executive Richard Murray:

The UK has one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world, with more excess deaths per million people than most other European countries or the US. It will take a public inquiry to determine exactly what went wrong, but mistakes have been made. In a pandemic, mistakes cost lives. Decisions to enter lockdown have consistently come late, with the Government failing to learn from past mistakes or the experiences of other countries. The promised ‘protective ring’ around social care in the first wave was slow to materialise and often inadequate, a contributing factor to the excess deaths among care home residents last year. Like many countries, the UK was poorly prepared for this type of pandemic.

Mr Murray appears to be unaware of the peer-reviewed research published in the Lancet showing that lockdown timing was “not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people“. As for learning from other countries, perhaps we should have learned from hard lockdown countries such as Italy, France and Spain, with Covid mortality scarcely better than ours? Or alternatively from Sweden, which didn’t lock down and kept restaurants, bars, shops, leisure facilities and most schools open throughout the year.

As Lockdown Sceptics reported yesterday, 2020 in Sweden was scarcely more deadly than 2017 or 2018. Furthermore, 2019 was so mild that 2019 and 2020 added together had fewer deaths than 2017 and 2018 added together – and this is before any adjustments for age or population size. In other words, no real excess deaths at all, as this study from the University of Oslo concluded, putting the 2020 extra deaths primarily down to “mortality displacement” or “dry tinder” from 2019.

How can this be when Sweden remained largely open while the UK can’t kick its lockdown habit? Perhaps the answer is that lockdown itself kills people, as Recovery explained yesterday in a press release.

Recovery has been warning of this tsunami of excess deaths from Covid policies for months. It’s caused a deadly cocktail of fear, mental health problems, and the denial of vital services to patients in urgent need of life-saving care. For example:

  • One in three cancer patients says their treatment has been affected and 70% say their mental health has suffered in consequence. Cancer Research UK says cancer screening was cancelled for three million people and there has been a 39% drop in the seven key diagnostic tests for cancer between March and July – equivalent to 3.2m fewer tests in England alone.
  • British Heart Foundation says that excess death from heart disease has risen with a disturbing 13% rise amongst those under 60 even as Covid was declining in May and June. “We believe that delays in people seeking care, coupled with a reduced access to routine tests and treatments during the pandemic, have likely contributed to the rise in excess deaths.”
  • A Yonder poll in December revealed that seven out of 10 people in the UK are now seriously worried about the mental health of themselves or someone close. Problem drinking – a killer – has doubled and now affects around 9 million people. Experts report that suicide amongst young people is rising. Rising domestic abuse during the Spring lockdown offences rise by 18,000 between March and June 2020 (ONS 24.11.20).
  • Bristol University’s risk experts say that the lockdowns of 2020 will cost 560,000 lives in the UK “because of the deep and prolonged recession they will cause”. The Government’s own prediction last summer was that more than 200,000 will die as a result of the first lockdown alone (ONS July 2020). It has refused to provide an update showing the additional impact of the tiers and lockdowns since.
  • Government figures show that even during the Spring peak, restrictions played a huge role in excess deaths. Covid killed 25,000 people but restrictions caused at least 16,000 unnecessary deaths, as 6,000 people died because they didn’t attend A&E through fear and 10,000 people died in care homes because they could not access critical care in hospitals (ONS, August 2020).
  • The UN World Food Programme has warned that 270,000,000 people face starvation as a result of the global impact of lockdowns and restrictions. This alone makes the response to Covid the single most lethal policy that Governments have ever adopted, potentially killing many times more than Mao, Stalin and Hitler combined.

Now we can see the combined impact of all this: it’s clear in the figures today and it’s a timebomb – the excess death from fear and restrictions will only grow while current policies continue.

  • Before the lockdowns, 9,000 people had waited more than a year for operations. Now it’s close to 200,000. These are not life-threatening conditions, but cause huge pain and misery. Worse, routine problems become life-threatening if left untreated. The problems we already have mean that the NHS will be in crisis for years.
  • Each of these people is suffering: so many are in pain, misery, and worse. For many, there is no hope to an end: no indication of a way out. The spiralling backlog of undiagnosed and untreated conditions will see the NHS in crisis for years.

Recovery Campaign Director Jon Dobinson warned that tougher lockdowns, as many are calling for, would only make things worse:

The shocking excess death figures released today have seen hysterical calls for even tougher lockdowns. But that would only make these problems worse. As experts have been warning from the outset, these toxic lockdowns merely kick the can down the road – they postpone problems, they don’t fix them. By prolonging the crisis and extending the period over which deaths take place, they are creating a disaster. We’ll see another easing over the summer, but that will be blamed for worse problems in the NHS by the autumn. As Government experts are already warning, vaccination will not end this – new strains and new pressures will see the deadly cycle continue for years unless we find a better way. Even now, the problems are getting worse. We have to recognise the issue and take urgent action before it spirals even further out of control. The latest NHS data shows even fewer non-Covid patients are now being treated. We’re spending billions on failed policies which have only made the pandemic worse. It’s time for our leaders to acknowledge and address the timebomb of untreated conditions and economic devastation. They are now a terrifying threat to the health and welfare of the UK in themselves. Otherwise, the excess deaths of 2021 and beyond will dwarf even these.

Censorship is Never the Answer

Toby debating the Trump Twitter ban with Patrick Harvie, Co-Leader of the Scottish Greens

Toby has written a rejoinder to a piece by Conservative MP Neil O’Brien in ConservativeHome calling for the no-platforming of lockdown sceptics.

O’Brien says he’s concerned that British politics will become as polarised and venomous as American politics if the media doesn’t behave more responsibly, by which he means excluding people who express views he considers false and dangerous.

However, there are numerous problems with this censorious attitude, starting with the first question that defenders of free speech always ask: who decides? After all, one man’s conspiracy theory is another man’s inconvenient truth. It’s all very well saying we should ban ‘misinformation’, but these days that’s just a euphemism for ‘a point of view I disagree with’.

Sometimes, the would-be Lord Chamberlains use the phrase ‘hate speech’ to describe the views they think should be censored, but defining which opinions are ‘hateful’ and which merely controversial is notoriously difficult. Last year, I started an organisation called the Free Speech Union, and many of our members have been kicked off social media platforms for breaching anti-hate speech rules, even though their views would be considered perfectly reasonable by ConservativeHome readers.

To give just one example: a trans activist started a petition on Change.org last year demanding that the OED change its definition of woman from “adult human female” to something less “exclusionary” – i.e. delete the word “female”. The feminist campaigner Posie Parker responded by launching a counter-petition on the same platform, asking the OED to retain its definition. Change.org took it down, explaining to Posie that defining a woman as an “adult human female” was “hate speech”.

Lockdown Sceptics – and Toby – are in the Conservative MP’s sights.

In his article, he smears me and the contributors to the sceptical website I run as cranks and conspiracy theorists, lumping us together with Covid-deniers and anti-vaxxers. He even puts inverted commas around the word “scientists”, as if no respectable scientist could be anything other than four square behind the lockdown policy.

This is plainly ludicrous. There are plenty of mainstream scientists, not to mention psychologists, sociologists, economists, historians, philosophers, statisticians, actuaries, financial analysts and novelists – even some Conservative MPs – who believe the harm caused by the lockdowns outweighs the harms they prevent.

They’re not Covid deniers or anti-vaxxers – just people who are sceptical about prioritising saving people from COVID-19 at the expense of everything else, including other deadly diseases, mental health, children’s education, the economy and our civil liberties. Many of them are contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.

O’Brien is perfectly entitled to think this is a dangerous, irrational point of view, just as most of us think his fanatical support for lockdowns is dangerous and irrational. The difference is that we don’t think he should be kicked off Twitter or no-platformed by the mainstream media. We believe in free speech, which means we think the best way to determine when the current restrictions should be lifted – and weigh up the costs and benefits of the lockdown approach more generally – is through vigorous, open debate.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passports On the Way?

The Telegraph reports on a Government-funded trial being run for an app that allows users to prove they have had the vaccine.

Thousands of Britons who have received their coronavirus vaccine are set to be offered a health passport as part of a government-funded trial taking place this month. 

The passport, created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity firm Mvine, will be issued in the form of a free app allowing users to digitally prove if they have received the vaccine. 

The trial will be overseen by two directors of public health in local authorities and will be complete in March. However, the locations have yet to be agreed.

Innovate UK, the Government’s science and research funding agency, has pumped £75,000 into the project. 

The aim of the trial is to show how the passports can be used to help the NHS keep track of the number of people that have received the first or second dose of the vaccine.

Frank Joshi, director and founder of Mvine, said the company first began working on the passes to demonstrate test results but had since acquired more funding to pivot into vaccination passports.

There are further signs the technology may be in development.

The trials come as the Ada Lovelace Institute launched an evidence review into the use of vaccination passports. The review, which is being chaired by Sir Jonathan Montgomery, will look at the ethics, science, law, and precedence of such passports.

Some fear the passports could discriminate against people who must not be vaccinated, such as pregnant women, who have been advised to date against taking the vaccine. The NHS has said that more evidence was needed on the jabs before they were offered to pregnant women. As a result, women could be restricted from travelling if the passports were to become mandatory. 

United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Swiss International AirLines, and JetBlue, have all said they would begin offering a health passport system to customers this year. BA-owner IAG is also working on its own healthpass that’s due to launch early this year.​

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Responding to the story, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi sent a reassuring tweet.

How Lockdowns Damage our Immunity

Today we’re publishing a piece by pharmacist and author of Stop Feeding Us Lies Charlie Spedding on the research that shows psychological stress from panic and lockdowns makes viral respiratory diseases worse. Charlie writes:

The advice of Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and their team has been consistent. They want to prevent or slow down the spread of the virus with social distancing, closures, restrictions and lockdowns. They originally said there was only very weak evidence for wearing masks but in June, when the virus was at its seasonal low point, face coverings became mandatory. We are now in January, and despite strict lockdowns or tiers since early November, Chris Whitty is telling us that hospitals are about to be overrun with surging COVID-19 cases. He and other members of SAGE are blaming the public for not being fully compliant with the restrictions. We are also told that a mutation of the virus is much more transmissible, and we need harder and longer lockdowns.

A world-wide search of relevant scientific literature paints a different picture. Dr Sheldon Cohen is a Professor of Psychology at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He has spent over three decades studying the connection between psychological stress and its impact on viral respiratory diseases.1 His research involves a thorough psychological assessment of his volunteers before they are placed in quarantine and exposed to viruses causing influenza or the common cold. The severity of the symptoms suffered by each individual are measured and compared with their pre-infection status. Professor Cohen consistently finds that people with the highest levels of long-term stress suffer more extreme symptoms than those with low levels of stress. He also finds that smoking and low vitamin levels are linked to poor outcomes. Factors associated with decreased risk included social integration, social support, physical activity, adequate and efficient sleep, and moderate alcohol intake. 

Worth reading in full.

A Brief Pageant of English Verse

A reader sent us the following poem by an unknown author, which we thought we’d share with you.

I won’t arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
I’ll sanitize the door-knob and make a cup of tea.
I won’t go down to the sea again; I won’t go out at all,
I’ll wander lonely as a cloud from the kitchen to the hall.
There’s a green-eyed yellow monster to the north of Kathmandu
But I shan’t be seeing him just yet and nor, I think, will you.
While the dawn comes up like thunder on the road to Mandalay,
I’ll make my bit of supper and eat it off a tray.
I shall not speed my bonnie boat across the seas to Skye
Or take the rolling English road from Birmingham to Rye.
About the woodlands just right now, I am not free to go
To see the “Keep Out” posters or the cherry hung with snow
And no, I won’t be travelling much within the realms of gold
Or get me to Milford Haven. All that’s been put on hold.
Give me your hand, I shan’t request, albeit we are friends
Nor come within a mile of you, until this trial ends.

Should a factory be closed until no one is at risk of slipping over?

What follows is a guest post by Dr John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Tort law at the University of Liverpool.

I write with regard to the ‘Question for the Legal Eagles’ you posted on Friday January 8th (‘If basic care is to be curtailed to promote vaccination programmes, can I sue the GP practice if my elderly mum doesn’t get the care she needs and then goes on to be hospitalised unnecessarily?’). I regret that the author of the anonymous reply posted on Saturday January 9th was quicker off the mark than I was. I agree with that person’s conclusions, although would like to add a few further points which may interest your readers.

One of the big unanswered questions of this crisis is whether doctors would be liable in negligence for the injury or damage they may cause by prioritising COVID-19 over everything else. The law has long held that a doctor is not liable if he/she acts “in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical [practitioners] skilled in that particular art”. This so-called “Bolam test” has always been overwhelmingly pro-doctor: as long as a doctor acts in a way which a responsible body of professional opinion would endorse, he/she is unlikely to lose. Barring instances of obvious “barn-door” negligence (the surgeon who carelessly leaves his scalpel inside the patient’s body, for example), the injured claimant has it all to do in proving that his/her doctor was negligent. The odds are already stacked against anyone who alleges that he/she was harmed by negligent medical care or treatment.

What is fascinating (and deeply troubling) about the COVID-19 crisis is the extent to which it may have shifted the dial on what “responsible” bodies of medical opinion might endorse as acceptable practice. Horror stories of delayed diagnoses and referrals and inadequate care and treatment for non-Covid conditions abound and yet all this would appear to be, by the logic of a strategy endorsed by the Chief Medical Officer, a by-product of acceptable clinical practice in extraordinary times. It is true that the courts can conclude that a particular practice endorsed by a responsible body of medical opinion is nevertheless ‘illogical’ and, therefore, negligent. But given how little appetite there is to question the logic of lockdown more broadly, this seems unlikely to be a fruitful line of argument. One need only think of the astonishing interview that Hugh Montgomery, an eminent professor of medicine, gave to the BBC – in which he said that people who fail to wear masks and observe social distancing have “blood on their hands” – to appreciate just how far beyond the realm of logic we have travelled over the last 10 months.

This “shifting of the dial” has broader implications for the law’s response to risk. I am reminded of the Latimer case, which was decided in 1953. Exceptionally heavy rains flooded a factory and formed an oily residue on the shopfloor. Faced with what one of the judges later described as an “unprecedented situation” after a “phenomenal storm”, the factory’s owners treated the worst affected areas with their finite supply of sawdust and instructed a team of staff to clean the floor. They followed, in other words, a strategy of “focused protection”. The factory’s owners did not close the factory, preferring instead to continue its operations after taking steps to reduce the risks to its staff. A few hours later, Mr Latimer, a factory employee, slipped on a greasy, untreated surface and suffered injury. He sued the factory owners and argued that a reasonably prudent employer would have closed the entire 15-acre factory site until the risk from the slippery shopfloor was eliminated. Mr Latimer’s claim failed. The court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the floor was so slippery that a reasonably prudent employer would have closed the factory.

The parallels with COVID-19 and lockdowns are obvious: at the core of the lockdown sceptics’ argument is the same principle that there is insufficient evidence to prove that lockdown is commensurate with the risks posed by COVID-19. Mr Latimer’s case has long been authority for the proposition that defendants in negligence cases can escape liability if they show that they took reasonable steps to minimise risk. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that an entirely different calculus now informs our public policy and that, against that backdrop, Latimer is wrong. By the logic of the post-COVID era, the factory should have been closed and perhaps extensively remodelled with drainage designed to cope with extraordinary rainfall and new, non-slip flooring. The factory’s workforce should have been laid off or furloughed until such time as any risk of a slipping injury was eliminated and only allowed to return if they attended work in suitable protective gear. The factory owners should have taken extensive and exhaustive steps, risking bankruptcy for themselves and redundancy for their staff, to eliminate the risk entirely. Until recently, this degree of risk-aversion would rightly have been regarded as overkill; in 2021, it appears to have been recast as the hallmark of reasonable prudence.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Back in the USSR”, by the Beatles, “Don’t Believe Everything You Read” by Eve Arden and “Stop The World, I Want To Get Off” by Millicent Martin.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 reminded us of this letter in the BMJ in April from UCL epidemiologist Antonio I. Lazzarino and colleagues headed “Important potential side effects of wearing face masks that we should bear in mind“. It includes: “If face masks determine a humid habitat where the SARS-CoV-2 can remain active due to the water vapour continuously provided by breathing and captured by the mask fabric, they determine an increase in viral load and therefore they can cause a defeat of the innate immunity and an increase in infections.” The same reader also sent us an interesting study from 2018 on the dangers of masks, entitled: “Surgical masks as source of bacterial contamination during operative procedures.”

Stop Press 2: If you’re accosted by a member of the public asking why you’re not wearing a mask, you should point out that the Government has issued official advice telling people not to challenge non-maskers.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Watch Episode 1 of the new Common Sanity podcast with Andrew Doyle, Simon Evans, Giles Fraser and Konstantin Kisin, filmed pre-lockdown in Il Portico Restaurant in Kensington High Street.

Latest News

Hancock Sets Out Vaccination Plan

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

The Government has published its ‘UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan‘ and the Health Secretary gave a press conference alongside Professor Stephen Powis on Monday stating that 2.3 million people have been given at least one dose of a vaccine so far and explaining his plan to continue rolling out the biggest mass vaccination programme in history. The BBC reports:

The vaccine delivery plan says it is expected to take until spring to give a first dose to all 32 million people in the UK’s priority groups, including everyone over 55 and those who are clinically vulnerable.

Under the plan, the government has pledged to carry out at least two million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January, which it says will be made possible by rolling out jabs at 206 hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and around 1,200 local vaccination sites. 

It also reiterates the government’s aim of offering vaccinations to around 15 million people in the UK – the over-70s, older care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable – by mid-February.

According to Mr Hancock, two fifths of over-80s have now received their first dose, and almost a quarter of care home residents have received theirs.

Ministers have stopped short so far of introducing yet stricter measures, and Hancock ruled out scrapping support ‘bubbles’, though several newspapers have run fairly hysterical finger-wagging front pages:

A glaring Chris Whitty is pictured next to an instruction not to “stop for a chat” despite his having repeated yesterday on Radio 4 that fleeting outdoor contact was not a risk.

The Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, meanwhile, has written in The Times:

It is preposterous to me that anyone could be unaware of our duty to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus. We have been clear that those who breach COVID-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines.

The article continues:

Officers are now stopping people on the street and requiring them to explain why they are outside. They will also routinely hand out fines to anyone at illegal gatherings. Enforcement was previously limited to the organisers.

Another force is using surveillance cameras to track down motorists breaching lockdown rules. Devon and Cornwall is deploying automatic number-plate recognition technology, which identifies vehicles on the roads, to monitor vehicle movements.

Despite the doom-laden tone from Number 10, the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App calculated that the R rate in London was 0.9 as recently as January 7th, with infections falling:

The R rate was calculated just barely higher at 1 for the rest of the UK:

On Yer Bike! Did PM’s Journey Contravene His Own Guidance?

Boris Johnson cycles past an aptly-positioned truck

The Prime Minister was accused of making a journey which wasn’t in the spirit of the Government’s guidance after being spotted cycling seven miles from Downing Street. The Evening Standard reports:

The Prime Minister was wearing his TfL hat and a face mask when he was seen cycling with his security detail in Stratford, east London, at around 2pm.

Official Government guidance on exercise says it should be limited to once a day and “you should not travel outside your local area”.

The park has been noticeably busy with families exercising and the PM is said to have been concerned by what he saw in the area.  

Lockdown sceptics will be less concerned by the length of his journey than the existence of such absurd guidance in the first place, although it did give the Health Secretary Matt Hancock an opportunity to clarify that:

“It is OK to go, if you went for a long walk, and ended up seven miles away from home – that is OK but you should stay local. You should not go from one side of the country to another potentially taking the virus with you.

“Remember one in three people who have the virus don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms and yet still pass it on.”

He added: “It is OK to go for a long walk or a cycle ride or exercise – but stay local.”

Steerpike commented in The Spectator:

The guidance on exercise says “you should not travel outside your local area”. So, what does the Prime Minister say? While there’s no official response, a Downing Street source confirmed that the Prime Minister was exercising — but failed to say whether he was driven there to exercise or had cycled the whole way. The former would likely be classed as a rule breach.

They did, however, voice the PM’s concern at the other people using the park at that time: “He did note how busy the park was and he commented on it at the meeting last night. He was concerned about if people were following the rules and was concerned after his cycle ride around the park.”

While going somewhere and then complaining about how many other people have done the same is an unwelcome trend of the pandemic, Mr S had hoped Johnson would know better. After all, if someone should have refrained from showing up there, surely it’s the person who lives seven miles away? 

The Daily Star’s front cover today

Covid, Hyper-Medicalisation, and Viral Interference

We are publishing a guest piece today by Dr Irina Metzler FRHistS, medical historian and former lecturer at the University of Swansea, as well as a Wellcome Trust University Award Fellow. Here is a short extract:

One of the puzzles in the Covid story is how different the effect of SARS-CoV-2 can be from person to person. If we accept the notion of ‘asymptomatic transmission’, then Covid is inconsequential for such a large number of apparently infected people that they notice no symptoms whatsoever, while others have symptoms so mild they are comparable to the common cold, yet a minority of infected people suffer very severe reactions and unfortunately sometimes lethal outcomes. This very wide variance in how individuals’ bodies react to the virus makes COVID-19 a most unusual illness. What follows are some speculative musings on potential factors influencing individual variance, in other words, asking the question: Have we missed something that could explain why some people fall very ill and even die, yet others don’t even know they’ve got it?

Besides individual disparity in reactions to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is of course the disparity in how regional variation affects mortality and severe illness. Contrary to most beliefs in an efficient health care system (including preventative care, hygiene, nutrition, immunisation programmes), whereby there should be less illness in those nations that have better and more accessible healthcare provisions, Covid actually seems to be less of a threat to poorer, economically weaker nations which had a lower case fatality rate (meaning fewer deaths per number of infected individuals) than economically stronger countries.
Demographics certainly play a role in this disparity, since older people are more likely to fall victim to Covid than younger, and economically wealthier countries have larger numbers of the old than poorer countries. But other factors, such as the former ‘hygiene hypothesis’, now refined as the ’Old Friends’ hypothesis, and the incidence of autoimmune disorders in higher-income countries have also been advanced. The hygiene hypothesis is well known and argues that the more ‘clean’ we have become, the less chance our immune systems have had to be ‘trained’ in how to ward off pathogens. Hyper-hygienic conditions, which have been advocated in most high-income countries, through things as basic as using anti-bacterial products for everything from chopping boards for food preparation to the now ubiquitous hand sanitisers, have in fact contributed to the lack of training in childhood for most Westerners’ immune systems. Lack of exposure to parasites and other pathogens, which would train the immune system, has been linked to impaired Type 1 interferon activity, which in turn has been linked with susceptibility to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (see Impaired type I interferon activity and inflammatory responses in severe COVID-19 patients). Paradoxically, then, the inhabitants of higher income countries are, despite enjoying overall better health outcomes, at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 than those in lower-income nations.

Worth reading in full.

MP Explains His Vote Against Lockdown Restrictions – Faces Backlash

David Warburton, Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome, whose email to one of his constituents explaining his refusal to vote for the tier system we published last month, has written an explanation on his website of his reasons for voting against lockdown again last Wednesday. Warburton has done his homework, and it’s a comprehensive argument. Here is an extract:

…I have concerns in several areas:

First, the numbers and how they are being reported. Yes, there is no doubt that the new evolving strains of the virus – though thankfully no more virulent – are more easily transmitted between individuals. But our increased rates of infection are more interesting. The mass scale of our PCR testing and self-reporting through the NHS app means that, for example, our case rate appears to be far higher than many European neighbours. And testing also creates some revealing anomalies: the virus seems to understand the soft border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for example, crediting those to the north with a far higher rate of infection. Our mortality rate — dreadful though it is — remains much the same as others’. So either the false-positive incidence of our testing is giving us a bleak picture, or we appear more resilient to the worst effects of the virus, which is obviously unlikely.

Everyone who attends hospital is now tested – itself, of course, a terrifically important step. Those who test positive are reported statistically as hospital Covid patients, whether they were asymptomatic or not; whether they attended hospital for a broken ankle or regular cancer treatment. Naturally, when we then hear of hospitals managing thousands of Covid patients, such reporting will concern us all and lead the Government to seek to act.

Every death, for whatever reason, is tragic and shocking. Even to write about it — and especially to do so in terms of data and numbers — belittles and minimises the personal loss which we all feel. It is important to see, I think though, that excess deaths over the past year have not been statistically higher than the average for previous years. And the ONS reveals that, in terms of deaths per 100,000 of population, since 1993 ten previous years have had higher rates than 2020. But I also understand that, given the infection rates and the new strains, it is the predictions of future mortality which concerns the Government. They do not know what may come.

I will not dwell on the historic predictions of SAGE, but I must draw attention to the missing component in this thought process. At the end of the regulations before us yesterday was the bald admission that “No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.”

That means that we were asked to vote, again, on restrictions which will have unknown effects, both positive and negative. We are not provided with evidence for the efficacy of the lockdown, other than our experience of the mixed results of previous lockdowns, and — crucially — we do not know what is the nature or the extent of the detrimental effects.

As I’ve said before, the ONS have estimated that the restrictions across 2020 will have resulted in 200,000 non-Covid excess deaths. Bristol University put the figure far higher. Whether or not these predictions have any more accuracy than SAGE’s own Covid predictions, these numbers are many times higher than those who tragically will have been lost to the virus.

Many of us have repeatedly asked for the data – a cost benefit analysis – which can allow us to make an informed decision. The crucial question we have to ask ourselves is what is the cost to lives, to livelihoods, to businesses, to mental health, suicides, to all non-Covid related heath. It’s imperative that these factors are weighed in the balance against the likely lives saved from those same restrictions.

Definitely worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A Twitter poll has been started by a local Labour Party activist asking whether people support David’s stance. If you use Twitter, you can make your voice heard here.

Stop Press 2: The Swedish physiologist Johan Hellström has published a historic mortality graph for no-lockdown Sweden up to and including 2020, and as you may expect, there isn’t much to see:

This study provides more detail on the comparison between Norway and Sweden, and also concludes that lockdowns do not explain the differences.


Stop Press 3: Yesterday, we reported on a lockdown enthusiast who has repented and joined the ranks of the lockdown sceptics. Today, we bring you another – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo!

What is Law and What is Guidance? Clarification from a QC

Chris Daw QC, author of Justice on Trial, spoke to Ian Collins at talkRADIO to give his legal expertise on the matter of what exactly police are and aren’t entitled to fine people for, after a few well-publicised instances of members of the public being questioned and even fined by over-zealous police officers.

Stop Press: The two women fined by Derbyshire Police for driving five miles to a local reservoir, whose cups of peppermint tea were described as a ‘picnic’ by the issuing officer, have received an apology and had their fines withdrawn.

A Reader’s Cancer Treatment

Barts Hospital

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has sent us her recent experience being treated for cancer in a private hospital through the NHS, as well as her bafflement at reports in the press about cancelled surgery.

You may be interested in my own recent experience of cancer treatment during this Covid crisis. I was diagnosed with cancer on December 30th following a biopsy on December 16th and advised to have a lumpectomy as initial treatment. This was at Barts NHS Trust. The operation took place on January 4th at a well-known London private hospital, which my surgeon explained was being used by Barts for such surgery during the pandemic. I won’t name the hospital, but as it is known for treating members of the Royal Family I doubt if its facilities usually come cheaply. I was shocked to be given such an early date for surgery, but my surgeon further explained that after January 5th Barts feared being ordered to suspend all such surgery. If this has indeed happened, I was very fortunate with the timing of my diagnosis and feel enormous sympathy for anyone whose surgery has now been delayed.

I was puzzled to see it reported today (the Times: “NHS attacks private hospitals for not cancelling operations”) that the NHS stopped using private hospitals for such surgery some months ago and that “NHS chiefs” were strongly critical of private hospitals for carrying out elective surgery during the present crisis (according to a “leaked” letter from senior NHS figures, including, supposedly, the head of Barts Health Trust!) The Times article states as fact that although the NHS is negotiating to use private hospitals again, this does not include any of the main London private hospitals, since the NHS reportedly balked at their high costs. This is clearly wrong from my own experience and makes me wonder if such “leaks” are inspired by political motives.

The Guardian reports that Barts NHS Trust has suspended all such surgery since December 23rd:

People with advanced cancer have had their urgent surgery cancelled at a leading London hospital trust that is treating the largest number of Covid patients in the NHS.

Patients who were due to undergo an operation to treat their disease at Barts Health NHS trust have been told the pressures the resurgent COVID-19 is putting hospitals under was to blame.

The procedures involved are known in the NHS as “red flag” cancer cases and are classed by the NHS as “priority two” surgery, which means they should be done within 28 days of the decision to operate. Any delay risks the patient’s disease spreading or becoming inoperable.

Barts is the second big hospital trust in London known to have cancelled operations as a result of the strain on the NHS, which led to the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers issuing an unprecedented warning last week that parts of the service were close to collapse.

Staff in Barts’ surgical division approached the Guardian to disclose that cancellations had been happening there since before Christmas after reading a statement in the Observer by Sir David Sloman, the NHS’s Regional Director for the capital, that “urgent cancer surgery is not being cancelled in London”.

One member of staff said last week: “This [statement] is not true. At the Royal London Hospital we have not been able to do any non-emergency surgery since December 23rd. We have not done any cancer surgery, except emergency procedures, since then. [There is] no clarity yet on when or where we can restart our elective surgery.”

Furthermore, The Times reports:

NHS chiefs have criticised private hospitals and doctors in London for performing non-urgent operations despite the “unthinkable pressures” of the pandemic.

A letter leaked to HSJ, the health service journal, asked trusts in the capital “not to support” private work for at least a month.

London’s NHS hospitals have cancelled almost all planned care. At least two have postponed urgent cancer surgery as figures show that treatment levels are failing to keep pace with demand. The NHS has been trying to negotiate use of the capital’s private hospitals for cancer patients.

Our reader is right to be confused.

Was I Just Witness to a Covid Death?

We are reproducing in full this account kindly contributed by Thomas Harrington, Professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, USA of a tragic occurrence last week, which he firmly attributes to the Covid restrictions.

Friday night at 4:45 in the morning my partner, K and I awoke to the flashing lights of police and medical teams outside the house where we are currently staying. It was accompanied by murmured conversations between the uniformed people and one of the men who stays with our landlord, who lives in an adjacent part of the same building. 

Tired and not wanting to intrude on the lives of people we knew, but not intimately, we went back to sleep, hoping that nothing really transcendent had occurred. 

By mid-morning those hopes were thoroughly dashed when K returned to our place ashen-faced to tell me that Pete, our 60 year-old weight-lifting landlord, who could have passed for a robust 45, was dead, quite probably by suicide. We just sat there numb for a very, very long time. 

Over the last few months while living in the in-law apartment of his house, K, a woman who naturally invites emotional openness in others, had come to know Pete fairly well. And on my more or less extended visits to the little apartment, I had engaged with him as well. He was extremely bright and gentle, a yacht captain by trade and a romantic adventurer by predilection, who talked longingly and wistfully of lost loves and of business deals gone bad. Speaking to his best friend, Dave, yesterday after the tragedy, we were both confirmed in our suspicion that he was, in many ways, his own worst enemy. 

But a message that came across just as strongly, if not stronger, was that Pete was deeply loved and supported by a network of friends who had remained true to him, and they to him, over a half a century. As Dave explained they had all seen each other through difficult moments, ratifying their support for each other, at times,  through, among other things,  the lending of not insignificant sums of money. 

Indeed, as we spoke, just around the corner in the gorgeous, if decadently unkempt, tropical back yard of the house with its irregularly-shaped pool, the members of that support-crew were sitting together drinking beer while crying and laughing about their friend. This once grand property had, in effect, been their clubhouse, the place was where they had reaffirmed their friendship over and again during 50 years (Pete grew up in the house and had inherited it from his parents) with what he and they, and the women in their lives, liked to call Funday Sundays. 

But over the last several months, that vital social lifeline, along with the possibilities of work in the boating industry, had been, if not wholly severed, severely weakened by the social restrictions imposed by the “fight against Covid”.  

Pete had fallen into a very deep depression,  about which he had spoken pretty openly about with K. Last week, he told her he had finally gone to a mental health professional for  help. 

But last Friday, night, it seems, he decided to end things. As a tragedy, this story requires no adornment. 

But I nonetheless less feel compelled to ask all those out there currently justifying draconian reductions of basic human liberties, and worse yet, human customs of love and caring, on the basis of inflated ‘case’ numbers spawned by a deeply flawed PCR test, as well as a 0.23% IFR, if they might be willing to admit that Pete was also a real Covid fatality? 

And more fundamentally, I’d like to ask all those that constantly tell us about the grave threat posed by Covid — with its 99.77% survival rate and victim cohort tilted overwhelmingly to those at or beyond their normal level of life expectancy — if, after playing profligately and abusively with the threat of death, they have any empathy left for the very real and concrete terminations of life, catalyzed, if not caused, by their serial exaggerations. 

Or do they simply consider such thoughts to be another thing to be mentally “deplatformed”, along with all of those other things that don’t neatly affirm the media’s dominant narrative?

Does Pheasant Shooting Count as Exercise?

A reader got in touch after receiving the following email from Abel & Cole, the organic food delivery company:

Hello there, I’m just getting in touch about the Wild Pheasant on your order. I’m afraid we aren’t able to include the pack in the box as planned this week. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our supplier can’t go out to shoot the game and we don’t have any stock left in at the moment. As the lockdown is due to last roughly until the end of shooting season this year, we might not be able to bring it back again until next season. I’m really sorry for the disappointment.

In fact, there’s nothing to stop Abel & Cole’s supplier from shooting pheasant. You are still allowed to shoot in England, provided you only do it once a day and it’s part of your daily exercise. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has the details:

In light of the government providing greater clarity on its COVID-19 guidance and regulations, BASC is advising that outdoor shooting activities as a form of exercise are permissible once per day in England during the national lockdown, subject to two conditions.

1. You should only travel locally to shoot which is to “stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live” as defined in government guidance.

2. When shooting you should only meet with people you live with, your support bubble; or when on your own, with one person from another household.

If any shooting readers can supply Abel & Cole with a brace or two, please contact us here. We’ll put you in touch.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Drinking in the Day” by Elise LeGrow, “Happenin’ All Over Again” by Lonnie Gordon and “Boris Johnson a Big Bumbahole” by Machyo.

https://twitter.com/officialmachyo/status/1345647097161412608?s=20

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Christopher F. Rufo’s report “Radicals in the Classroom” in City Journal about the hardcore Critical Race Theory indoctrination occurring in the San Diego Unified School District’s new mandatory training sessions for teachers.

The San Diego Unified School District has been radicalized. In recent months, the district has announced mandatory diversity training for teachers, added a new “ethnic studies” curriculum focused on racial grievance, and even abolished the requirement to turn in homework on time – all in the name of becoming, in the words of school board member Richard Barrera, “an anti-racist school district.”

Last month, I reported on one of these training sessions, focused on “white privilege,” in which white teachers were accused of being colonisers on stolen Native American land and told “you are racist” and “you are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies”. The trainers demanded that the teachers “confront and examine [their] white privilege”, “acknowledge when [they] feel white fragility”, and “teach others to see their privilege”. After the story caused an uproar, school officials defended the training as a form of “racial healing”.

Phrases such as “white privilege” and “white fragility” will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the crazier fringes of the woke cult recently, although one of the guest speakers hired by San Diego Unified took the hyperbole to a whole new level.

According to new whistleblower documents, San Diego Unified held an even more radical training program featuring a speaker who believes American schools are guilty of the “spirit murdering of Black children”. The school district hired Bettina Love, a critical race theorist who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, for the keynote address at the August Principal Institute and for an additional district-wide training on how to “challenge the oppressive practices that live within the systems and structures of school organizations”.

Though the school district explicitly forbade attendees from recording the session, one whistleblower took detailed notes of the speech and captured screenshots of the presentation. According to these notes, Love began her presentation by claiming that “racism runs deep” in the United States and that blacks alone “know who America really is”. She argued that public schools in particular “don’t see [blacks] as human”, are guilty of systemic “anti-Blackness”, and “spirit murder babies” in the education system.

Ms Love is associated with the Abolitionist Teaching Network, whose website makes for an interesting browse.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Twitter’s stock has plunged after the social media platform banned Donald Trump.

Twitter’s stock price tumbled Monday as investors appeared to balk at the social network’s decision to ban President Trump from posting.

Shares in the San Francisco-based company tumbled as much as 12% to $45.17 in the first trading session after it booted Trump from the platform on Friday, saying his account posed a “risk of further incitement of violence” after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.

The stock pared the losses through the morning and fell 6.4% to close at $48.18.

Twitter’s move against the outgoing president – whose account had more than 88 million followers – was the first permanent suspension for a head of state, and it’s likely to spark furious debate about the role tech companies play in regulating speech.

It may also hurt Twitter’s user base as Trump supporters and right-wing activists pledge to boycott the company’s blockbuster decision.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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 sent us this article in the Sydney Morning Herald from 17 years ago, written during the SARS epidemic.

Health authorities have warned that surgical masks may not be an effective protection against the virus.

“Those masks are only effective so long as they are dry,” said Professor Yvonne Cossart of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney. 

“As soon as they become saturated with the moisture in your breath they stop doing their job and pass on the droplets.”

Professor Cossart said that could take as little as 15 or 20 minutes, after which the mask would need to be changed. But those warnings haven’t stopped people snapping up the masks, with retailers reporting they are having trouble keeping up with demand.

The article continues:

John Bell from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, who owns a pharmacy in Woollahra, Sydney, said mask supplies were running low.

“At the moment we don’t have any because we haven’t been able to get any in the last few days,” Mr Bell said. “In the early stages it was unbelievable; we’d get people coming in all the time.”

Mr Bell agreed with Professor Cossart’s assessment regarding the effectiveness of the masks.

“I think they’re of marginal benefit,” he said. “In a way they give some comfort to people who think they’re doing as much as they can do to prevent the infection.”

The reader who drew our attention to the piece commented:

The first line sums it up – “Retailers who cash in on community fears about SARS by exaggerating the health benefits of surgical masks could face fines of up to $110,000.”

Fast forward 17 years, and currently three Australian states have mask mandates in place, with fines of $200 for non-compliance. Last time I checked (and I do look out for these things) there has been no new significant evidence brought to light since 2003 that general public mask wearing has any effect whatsoever on community transmission of the sort of virus which causes COVID. The absurdity of Australia’s mask mandates is of course compounded by the almost complete absence of COVID in the general community at this time.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Both Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have announced that they will ban anyone who does not wear a mask from entering their shops, reports the BBC. The Government has stated that it is not the responsibility of retailers to enforce the rules, but that of the police, who have also said they don’t intend to enforce mask-wearing in supermarkets.

Morrisons will bar customers who refuse to wear face coverings from its shops amid rising coronavirus infections.

From Monday, shoppers who refuse to wear face masks offered by staff will not be allowed inside, unless they are medically exempt.

Sainsbury’s also said it would challenge those not wearing a mask or who were shopping in groups.

The announcements come amid concerns that social distancing measures are not being adhered to in supermarkets.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government is “concerned” shops are not enforcing rules strictly enough.

“Ultimately, the most important thing to do now is to make sure that actually enforcement – and of course the compliance with the rules – when people are going into supermarkets are being adhered to,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News.

“We need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system,” he said.

The Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW) tweeted the following hand-wringing statement:

Key retail workers deal with hundreds of customers every day as they perform their essential duties. With the #Covid situation developing rapidly, we’re calling for retail workers and delivery drivers to get priority access to vaccinations and mass testing.

We also expect retailers to work with us, urgently, to produce new risk assessments. The new strain of Covid puts our members at increased risk of catching the virus. They need every possible protection, including the following steps:

Limits on customer numbers – back to the earlier levels if necessary – with trained security staff to manage queues. Once inside the store, customers should follow clearly highlighted one-way systems and 2m social distancing markers.

As Ivor Cummins has pointed out on numerous occasions though, and does so again in his recent conversation with James Delingpole on the Delingpod, shop workers worked for four months at the beginning of the pandemic with no masks and experienced no great wave of deaths over and above the rest of the population, even though they encountered the general public every day.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

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

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

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

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

On this week’s episode of London Calling, Toby’s weekly podcast with James Delingpole, they try to avoid getting into an argument about the Great Reset (he’s a believer, Toby’s not) and stick to books and TV shows. But they cannot avoid talking about Trump’s Twitter ban and Big Tech censorship more generally.

Listen to the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.