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19,000 Schoolchildren Will Needlessly Self-Isolate Every Week Under Government Mass Testing Scheme

Morten Morland’s cartoon in yesterday’s Times

Yesterday Lockdown Sceptics reported that the Government is planning to require parents to test England’s three million secondary schoolchildren twice a week. I suggested that because lateral flow tests (LFTs) are being used for this intrusive testing regime, the number of false positives (positive test results for people who do not have the disease or are not infectious) would be lower than with PCR tests. A reader got in touch to say, while technically true, we should certainly not underestimate how many false positives will be produced by this frequent mass testing. Lateral Flow Tests have a false positive rate of 0.32%, so if three million secondary school children are tested twice a week, that means 19,200 schoolchildren will get false positives every week, and the – plus their families, classmates, teachers and other contacts – will be forced to self-isolate needlessly. Since there are 3,448 secondary schools in England, that’s five or six children in every school in England every week. I’ll let him explain.

The reality is that LFTs produce very high numbers of false positives when used in the mass screening of asymptomatic populations. To be fair to the companies, these tests were developed, tested and licensed for use in symptomatic patients presenting at hospitals, where they have very high diagnostic value. They are not appropriate for use in asymptomatic patients where a false positive adversely affects numerous family members and other contacts as well.

Of course, PCR tests have their own problems, really are not a gold standard (the way they are used), and are badly abused. But that is a different story. 

The number of false positives depends on the prevalence in the community. Note: False Discovery Rate (FDR) – probability that a positive is not a true positive.

If we assume that all three million schoolchildren are tested twice a week (so six million tests weekly), then even in a population with zero COVID-19 the Innova test will still find 19,200 positives weekly (all false positives, of course, because there is no COVID-19 in the population).  If we use the prevalences specified by the ZOE app (0.334% on February 18th) and the REACT study (0.51% for the period February 4th-13th) we get the following.

Six million tests per week, sensitivity 95%, specificity 99.68%

 Prevalence (%)Number of True Positives (TP)Number of False Positives (FP)Number of False Negatives (FN)False Discovery Rate (FDR)Positive Predictive ValueNegative Predictive Value
Zero Covid-190.0000.0019200.000.00100.00%0.00%100.0000%
ZOE App0.33419038.0019135.871002.0050.13%49.87%99.9832%
REACT study0.51029070.0019102.081530.0039.65%60.35%99.9743%

So, between 40% and 50% testing positive will be false positives (depending on which prevalence you take) – almost half of positives are false positives.

If we use the sensitivity identified in this BMJ article for self-trained members of the public (58%), which is likely to be more accurate/realistic when parents are doing the testing, we get:

Six million tests per week, sensitivity 58%, specificity 99.68%

 Prevalence (%)Number of True Positives (TP)Number of False Positives (FP)Number of False Negatives (FN)False Discovery Rate (FDR)Positive Predictive ValueNegative Predictive Value
Zero COVID-190.0000.0019200.000.00100.00%0.00%100.0000%
ZOE App0.33411623.2019135.878416.8062.21%37.79%99.8590%
REACT study0.51017748.0019102.0812852.0051.84%48.16%99.7845%

So, between 50% and 60% testing positive will be false positives (depending on which prevalence you take) – a majority of positives are false positives.

In summary:

  • False positives in mass screening are not rare – they are very common (relative to the number of true positives). Too much emphasis has been placed on the false negatives in the MSM but, for a disease that is as bad as a bad flu, the false negative rate can be ignored when the prevalence is quite low. This would not be true of Ebola or Smallpox of course, but COVID-19 can hardly be compared with these.
  • Substantial numbers of false positives will be generated as large scale testing of schoolchildren is rolled out. The proportion of false positives to true positives will greatly increase as the community prevalence decreases. 
  • It should be clear that the country will never be able to meet the goal of fewer than 1,000 “new cases” per day in order to remove restrictions.

If only there was another way…

Imperial Credits Lockdown For Drop in Cases, Florida Begs to Differ

Professor Paul Elliot, leader of the REACT study at Imperial College London

Our assiduous maths student, Glen Bishop, has been in touch again to set straight another misleading report from Imperial College. This time it’s the news yesterday from the REACT study that infection rates plummeted by two thirds from January to February – and lockdown is credited. Here he is.

Another day, another misleading headline. LBC titled a piece on yesterday’s update from the Imperial REACT study: “Lockdowns driving down coronavirus rates but they remain high, study finds.”

The (pre-print) study in question is not like the models from the other Imperial team. It is a sensible analysis of the prevalence of coronavirus in the population by randomised testing of large numbers of the community. It is not intended as a study that attributes causation to correlation. Nonetheless, it can’t resist slipping it in there and LBC, like other outlets, found what they needed to fit their confirmation bias. There is one reference directly linking the fall in cases to lockdowns in the paper. It noted that the fall in prevalence in the over-65s was similar to that in other age groups, concluding that any effect of the vaccine reducing cases is not yet a “major driver”. Instead, the paper comments: “The observed falls described here are most likely due to reduced social interactions during lockdown.”

To be fair to this Imperial group, the above comment lies in the discussion part of the paper. Unfortunately, I think it shows how many academics and professors who support the lockdowns have their heads buried in the sand with regard to the realities found in the rest of the world. As Lockdown Sceptics readers will know, the Governor of Florida nullified all public health orders and banned the shutting of businesses or fining of those ignoring mask mandates in September. Their case rates increased over the last five months and peaked in early January, just like in the UK. In the six weeks since January, their case numbers have fallen by about two thirds. The same decrease that the Imperial REACT study found in the UK over the last six weeks.

In the LBC article Professor Paul Elliot, who leads the Imperial REACT study, says easing lockdown restrictions is a “very delicate balance”. Why is it a delicate balance here, when Florida has been fine despite its last five months of complete freedom, and it still has a lower coronavirus death rate than the UK? Florida has also had community spread of the new Kent variant since December, so that cannot be it. If this were the private sector, rather than the public sector, SAGE would be overruled and those advising and running Florida would be poached to lead the UK’s response.

LBC quote another Professor on the REACT team: “This is a better decline than many people would have hoped for, certainly when we were thinking about this at the end of December.” Well, professors, given Florida experienced the same decline with no restrictions and your surprise at the UK decline, maybe you are missing something big.

Why are so many professors now advocating lockdowns and restrictions? The psychological explanation lies partly in “the law of the instrument” first expressed by philosopher Abraham Kaplan in his book The Conduct of Inquiry: “I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

Scientist should never have been given the almighty hammer of lockdowns, but now they have been given the hammer, MPs need to stop them pounding.

Stop Press: Professor Paul Elliott, the director of the study, seems to think it’s his job to tell ministers what they “have” to do. Speaking to Sky News, he said:

At the moment, the prevalence levels are still very, very high. We just have to get them down further. It is really encouraging news, what we’ve seen reported today – that the virus is on the way down, the ‘R’ value is robustly below one, which means that the epidemic is shrinking rather than growing. But we just have to be cautious because at the moment the pressure on the NHS is still severe and there are still very large numbers of patients in hospital with coronavirus, sadly.

Another example of scientists and advisers not respecting the boundary between science and politics, between providing data and weighing up the costs and benefits across the whole of society, which is properly a job for our political leaders.

Stop Press 2: The Mail reports on the moment Joe Biden’s Covid adviser “is unable to explain why lockdown-loving California isn’t doing better than open-all-hours Florida”.

Stop Press 3: Summit News points out that no-lockdown Sweden is seeing Covid deaths plummet quicker than lockdown UK. See this tweet by Dr Eli David for a nice graph illustrating this point.

A Senior Doctor Writes…

The senior former NHS doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics on the situation in hospitals has sent us an update.

Lockdown Sceptics have again kindly asked me to review the medical position now Covid cases are falling in number across the country. Specifically, I will look at some of the predictions and assertions made by media commentators in the past weeks to assess how they compare with the emerging data. The usual caveats apply in relation to data interpretation – one can only comment on information provided by the authorities in the way that they chose to display the figures. The NHS does not permit peer review, so it is not possible to interrogate the raw data in a meaningful way.

Firstly, a few graphs showing the hospital situation in England. Graph 1 shows the number of patients designated Covid positive in English Hospitals from the beginning of December. The decline in numbers is clear and we are pretty much back to where we were nearly three months ago.

Graph 1

Graph 2 shows the number of Covid designated patients admitted from the community expressed as a three day moving average to smooth the curve lines. Please note that these figures do not include in-hospital nosocomial Covid infections – I will return to this point later.

Readers will observe that community admissions have fallen dramatically since the peak on January 6th. The recent decline has been particularly steep in London (orange line), consistent with the data from the Imperial College REACT study which estimates the prevalence of Covid in London to have fallen from 2.83% to 0.54% from swabs taken between February 4th and 13th. The feared second peak in the Midlands (grey line) does not appear to have materialised thus far. I have noticed in the media that the fall in cases is being largely attributed to ‘Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions’ (the medical euphemism for lockdown). It is not clear to me why commentators draw that conclusion from this data. It is broadly accepted that NPIs take at least seven to 10 days to show an effect on admissions to hospital. Graph 2 shows that admissions peaked on Jan 6th in all English regions. Given that Lockdown 3 was only announced on Jan 5th, how can lockdown have been responsible for the reduction in admissions commencing on Jan 7th? This data is much more compatible with the Zoe App community infection survey showing peak community infection on or around December 30th.

Graph 2

Graph 3 shows the number of Covid patients in ‘mechanically ventilated beds’ – effectively ICU. Again, the fall in numbers is marked, but the angle of decline is much shallower – which is what one would expect. It will probably take another month for ICU numbers to fall to the levels seen at the beginning of December, as these are the sickest patients who often stay on ICU for extended periods.

Graph 3

I would now like to address a few specific issues.

1. Age stratification of disease with the ‘new variant’

Over the last few weeks there has been much commentary about the new Covid variant being more lethal than the 2020 version and younger patients being more at risk of severe disease. It had been difficult to assess these claims, because the standard data packets put all patients aged 18-64 into the same category. However, someone in the NHS appears to have taken note of the discussions around age stratification and released information with slightly tighter age brackets dating back to October 2020. Table 1 shows a summary of this data from October 2020 – February 7th 2021. Readers will observe that patients between the ages of 18 and 54 made up 20.9% of the total admitted over the period.

Age range of COVID admissions and diagnosesNumber of patientsPercentage of total
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  0-515600.7%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  6-1714840.7%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  18-544623520.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  55-643293414.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  65-744028518.2%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  75-845286523.9%
Total reported admissions and diagnoses  85+4606120.8%
Table 1 – COVID Hospital patients Oct 12th 2020 – Feb 7th 2021

Of course, it is possible that expressing the data as a summary like this, might conceal variable trends over the period – so graph 4 expresses the information on a day by day basis. There does not seem to be a substantial increase in the younger patient group over the study period – hence one can conclude from this information that the ‘new variant’ emerging in December did not cause a disproportionate increase in admissions in younger people than earlier in the year.

Graph 4

Drawing conclusions from just one source of information is highly risky. In Graph 5 I have examined the ONS death figures from week 12 of 2020 to week 4 of 2021 broken down by age bands and expressed as percentages of the total. Again, there seems to be no discernible difference in death rates by age across the period.

Graph 5

Graph 6 expresses Covid deaths in 2021 by age category. The coloured bars represent the first four weeks of the year. It is important to note that death reporting lags hospital admission figures quite substantially, so one would expect reported deaths to rise over January. Further, the beneficial effect of vaccinations is not seen in this graphic. Graph 6 confirms that the new variant of Covid still has disproportionate lethality in older age groups. Deaths in patients under 60 are no more common than in the spring and account for approximately 6% of total deaths. Patients under 55 accounted for 21% of hospital admissions but 3.6% of total deaths. Patients over 55 constituted 78% of admissions and 96% of the deaths.

Graph 6

2. In-hospital infections

A recent paper presented to SAGE written by Public Health England and the LSHTM estimated that 20-25% of hospital cases in the spring wave were acquired in hospital.

I find it remarkable that there has been virtual silence on this issue by NHS leadership. In the first decade of the century, when nosocomial infections with MRSA and C. difficile were recognised to be a serious problem, hospitals were obliged to monitor and publicly disclose their infection rates, as this was a matter of considerable public interest. Such measures served to drive up standards of infection control and drive down MRSA rates. Why is Covid any different?

3. Patients with ‘new variant Covid’ are sicker than previously

The February 12th update to the ICNARC report (national ICU audit) shows some interesting figures. Overall age of ICU patients has fallen slightly when comparisons are made between the cohort of patients admitted Sept 1st – Nov 30th and patients admitted after December 1st. The mean age of the first group was 61.1 years and of the second 58.8. Although there was a slight fall in ICU age, this could be an artefact – during periods of high intensity, the admission criteria for ICU do change. For example, ICU patient ages are always skewed to the younger side as older and sicker patients do not meet the criteria for admission to critical care. NHS managers are always very cautious about acknowledging ‘ceiling of care’ criteria in public, but it’s the type of decision that clinical doctors make every day – not just during pandemics. As an example, the over-80 age group account for 25% of total hospital inpatients, but only 5% of ICU patients. Over-80s also account for 60% of Covid deaths.

The ICNARC report also finds that there is evidence that patients admitted to ICU since December 1st are sicker in terms of blood oxygen levels than earlier in the year. We can measure ‘sickness’ in a variety of ways – ICNARC use a ratio called PaO2 / FIO2 – which compares the blood oxygen level of a patient against the percentage of oxygen given to that patient by face mask or intubation. In a nutshell, the lower this number, the worse the lungs are at passing oxygen from the inhaled air into the blood stream. The latest audit shows that there are more patients in ICU with lower PaO2 / FIO2 than previously and that this change is most marked in London and the South East. The numbers of patients involved are quite small in the overall context, but the change is measurable and significant.

Although this is a genuine difference in the data, it is quite possibly a consequence of selection bias in the ICU patient cohort rather than a change in disease severity. Graph 7 shows that the proportion of patients admitted to ICU in January was a smaller percentage of the total (12%) than in the spring peak (17%). Under these circumstances it is possible that while the ICU doctors can detect a change to more serious disease, when the overall hospital patients are considered, there is no actual difference.

Graph 7

The survival curves continue to show a survival advantage of recent patients compared to earlier in the pandemic – this advantage has narrowed in recent months, most probably attributable to the stress of demand and expansion of ICU capacity. But more patients are still surviving than in the spring.

Another interesting finding is that pregnancy or recent pregnancy may be associated with severe Covid. Again, the numbers are small, but in January just over 100 pregnant or recently pregnant patients were admitted to English ICUs with acute Covid compared to about 40 in April.

So, in summary, there does not appear to be an overall change in the age of Covid patients admitted to hospitals, or a change in the age stratified deaths, but among the very sickest patients there is some signal of a higher proportion of more severe illness, which may be a genuine change or reflect selection bias in the ICU figures.

4. The dogs that didn’t bark.

I’ve already mentioned the absence of comment from NHS senior management about the high levels of nosocomial Covid infection, but there are a couple of other strange omissions. The first is the level of Covid Discharges from English Hospitals. Readers may remember Simon Steven’s alarming TV interview when he warned the British public that every 30 seconds a patient was admitted to hospital suffering from acute Covid. I’m a bit surprised that he didn’t mention that on January 26th a recovered Covid patient was also discharged from hospital every 30 seconds. In fact as Graph 8 shows, Covid discharges have exceeded in-hospital diagnoses since mid-January (and this graph includes admissions and nosocomial infections). Readers may wonder why the discharges (blue line) exhibit a regular wave like pattern – this is due to the ‘weekend effect’ where fewer patients are discharged at weekends or bank holidays.

Graph 8

On January 26th at the Downing Street press conference, the Chief Medical Officer commented that the number of daily deaths recorded from Covid in the UK was likely to come down “relatively slowly”. Professor Whitty went on to say: “I think we have to be realistic that the rate of mortality, the number of people dying a day, will come down relatively slowly over the next two weeks – and will probably be flat for a while now.”

Graph 9 shows what actually happened to daily deaths since January 26th. To help the readers with interpretation, I have highlighted January 26th in red. Since that date, daily recorded deaths have halved. It is important to note that I am not being overly critical of Professor Whitty. After 30 years of practicing clinical medicine I am acutely aware of how easy it is to make a mistake and how vulnerable one is when making prognostic predictions. Nevertheless, it’s important that doctors acknowledge error and correct it when necessary. To be fair, he may already have done so – I rarely watch television these days, so could well have missed an erratum.

Professor Whitty is a highly capable doctor – his errant statement speaks to a wider point about accuracy of projections. No matter how eminent the commentator any prediction is simply an educated guess. We can only be certain about what has actually happened.

Graph 9

Finally, we have heard a lot in the press and from Government spokespeople that Covid is a disease that can affect everyone regardless of age or sex. I now refer to one of the really standout risk factors from the ICNARC database – body mass index (BMI).

In the cohort of patients in English ICUs from September 1st, 36.7% had BMIs between 30 and 40 and 11.5% had a BMI over 40 – so almost half of critically ill patients with COVID were either overweight or grossly obese. For comparison, 3% of the general population have a BMI over 40 and 28.7% have a BMI between 30 and 40. For clarity, I’m not criticising fat people (as I’m also a few pounds over my ‘ideal weight’…) but making the point that Government and the NHS should avoid ‘spinning’ selected statistics to achieve political ends and strive to present a comprehensive and balanced picture. Doing otherwise leads to poor decision making and a damaging loss of trust in our civic institutions.

We’re publishing an original piece today by Lockdown Sceptics contributor and retired dentist Dr Mark Shaw, giving his considered and balanced view of the vaccines from a responsible clinician’s point of view. Here’s a taster:

The problem with the Government’s strategy is that it is rolling out a vaccination programme in a blanket approach that does not allow the public to make a properly informed decision based on evaluating their own relative risk of suffering from the effects of catching Covid. A clinician should only advise a patient to undergo treatment when they have been informed of all the pros and cons – so that the clinician has the patient’s informed consent. Informed consent (in this case of the public) can only have been obtained when the relative risks have been presented in a non-biased way without frightening them.

It would be reasonable to question the speed at which the vaccinations were rolled out (can you really compress time?) and the way the vaccines were administered (strictly as manufacturers recommended or not?) and, in this case particularly, the trial numbers and age range, etc.

If we throw caution to the wind and just accept that we have to get everyone vaccinated willy nilly in order to achieve a speedy end to lockdown, then we have failed as clinicians to act professionally. We run the risk of taking a gamble (again no matter how small) of failing to provide the best care for the public and ( if that “no matter how small” gamble fails in any small way), losing the most precious value that patients place in us – TRUST.

Worth reading in full.

The Hierarchy of Clinical Evidence: of Lockdowns, COVID-19 and Chickens

We’re also publishing an original piece today by a senior scientist working in clinical development about how we can be confident in our scientific findings and the pitfalls to avoid. He introduces it with an entertaining tale about chickens, but with an important point.

A man owned a chicken farm. One day he became concerned that it hadn’t rained for a while and that his crops, which he used to feed his chickens, might fail resulting in lots of chickens dying. So, the man went to the nearby temple to consult the Sage. After performing a complex ritual, the Sage had the answer: “You must sacrifice one of your chickens every week or it will never rain.” The man was upset – he liked his chickens and was always reluctant to kill them. But the Sage was wise and the ritual complex, so he obeyed the command and that evening he killed a chicken. The next day it rained.

We may well laugh at the man’s stupidity. How could he believe that sacrificing a chicken will have any relationship to the weather? But how do we prove that it doesn’t?

Clearly, the first time the man sacrificed a chicken it rained the next day, but this isn’t really evidence of cause and effect. So, rather than just this one case, what if we observed the man for a whole year? If we did this, we’d note that he sacrifices a chicken every week on a Tuesday night and that it rains in the subsequent week 10 times. From these observations we might conclude that chicken sacrifice has an efficacy of about 20% when it comes to making it rain. The problem with this is that because the man sacrifices a chicken every week there is a 100% certainty that he will have sacrificed a bird the week before it rains. So, this doesn’t help us as we are still unable to separate correlation from causality.

Thinking on this, it is clear we need to compare chicken killing with not chicken killing. Luckily, his neighbour is a turnip farmer and does not sacrifice chickens and when we compare them, we see that it rains regardless of whether a chicken is killed or not. But what if turnip farming and chicken farming are not comparable when it comes to sacrifices and rainfall? To remove this as a possibility, we go and find lots of chicken farmers and randomly assign some of them to chicken sacrifice and others not. This way we are comparing like with like. Now we observe that there is no difference between these two groups with respect to whether it rains or not, and we’re really getting convinced that chicken killing is not making it rain. In the end we pull all of our observations together and publish them in CLUCK! (The magazine for Chicken Farmers) where we consider all of the evidence in the round and conclude firmly that there is no relationship between sacrificing chickens and whether it rains.

The points of this story are twofold. Firstly, it can be very difficult to disprove an assumed relationship between an intervention and an outcome once it is established as ‘truth’; and secondly, the only way we can do this is through building a case of ever higher quality evidence.

Putting aside poultricide, this kind of “hierarchy of evidence” is well established in clinical science. It recognises that not all data is equal, and that the strength of conclusions are different depending on the data used to underpin them.

Worth reading in full.

How to Spread the Virus in Hospital

Where was Hattie Jacques when we needed her?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader who lived for a while with an NHS nurse has written with some observations on one way the virus might be spreading in hospitals.

I am writing this not as a biologist or epidemiologist, but as a lockdown sceptic who was living with an NHS worker from March to November. I had always noticed that my flatmate would launder her uniforms at home in 30°C water, which irked me prior to the lockdown, but I said nothing. When lockdown 1.0 was enforced, she continued to bring home her uniforms and at this point, I had to question this. I had become a prisoner in my home to ‘keep the NHS safe’ and she was allowed to bring dirty uniforms from the hospital into my home? I queried about a hospital laundry service which would thus ensure that all uniforms would be sterilised. She told me it was “too complicated”. I could not help but wonder what was so complicated about using a laundry service so I wrote to the hospital to probe further. I received the following response:

“All our staff have been provided with information in line with our Infection and Prevention policy. This has been around laundering their uniform at work if they wish to or alternatively, taking their uniform home in a bag and washing at 60 degrees. We have advised staff that they are not to travel in uniform or scrubs and there are shower facilities at work for staff who wish to shower and change into their own clothes before going home.”

If they wish?! These lockdowns have all been about erring on the extreme side of caution and we are happy to let the NHS do whatever they wish? And who is to say that hospital workers are following such guidelines? I have read that in many countries in Europe, including Germany and Austria, it is forbidden for healthcare workers to bring home their uniforms because not only does it elevate the risk of infection to other members of households, but it can also introduce infections back in the hospital which would have been picked up at home.

Studies have been conducted on cross-contamination: “In a study from 2015, the following was discovered: In total, 265 healthcare staff from a range of disciplines including nurses, healthcare assistants, ward clerks, housekeepers, physiotherapists responded to the study questionnaire; 43.7% laundered their uniforms below the 60°C recommended by the DH; 33% washed them at 40°C and 5% at 30°C.” (Fig 1) (Riley et al, 2015).

The following concluding points were made:

– Uniforms, which are washed by staff at home, could be potential sources of bacterial contamination
– Trusts’ home laundering policies can be unclear, and inconsistent
– Not all staff wash their uniforms at the recommended temperature
– Guidance needs to be standardised and staff provided with better changing facilities and enough uniforms
– A radical solution would be to move from home laundering to in-house industrial laundering of uniforms

I am thoroughly disgusted and always scoff at the message, “Protect the NHS”. Perhaps a more appropriate message would be “Protect the public from the NHS”. From what I have witnessed, sloppiness could have easily caused such a high percentage of hospital-acquired Covid infection.

The reader wrote to her MP, Rupa Huq, about this matter. Rupa responded:

You have raised some very salient points in your correspondence and I am concerned at what you have highlighted to me. It is worrying that there could be a considerable risk of health and social care workers across the UK potentially bringing coronavirus back into their household bubbles if uniforms are not being treated properly or washed thoroughly.

As is such, I have now made formal enquiries on your behalf to the UK Government in order to clarify their understanding of the risks involved and whether a change in policy could be needed in order to minimise the risk of intra-household infection given the sacrifices everyone is making to try and prevent a second wave of infections.

I will be in touch with you as soon as I have received a response from the Government that I can share with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me again should you require any additional support. Thank you for raising your concerns with me – they are important and I hope to receive a substantive reply from the Government shortly.

No update, however, ever came.

Discriminating Against People With No Mask or Vaccination May Contravene Equality Law

Robin Tilbrook from Lawyers for Liberty sent a letter to the Telegraph yesterday pointing out that if employers or service providers start requiring things like masks or vaccines which disabilities prevent some people from using or having, it could quickly get very expensive for them.

Re: Philip Johnston’s Article, Telegraph February 17th 2021 “Vaccine passports will be difficult to resist, whether we like them or not”

Philip Johnston’s otherwise excellent article about the looming threat to our liberties of vaccine passports does however miss the point that there are many people who have genuine medical reasons for not being vaccinated (or wearing masks).

These reasons are, by definition in the Equality Act 2010, “Disabilities.” It therefore is not merely illegal, but also potentially expensive to require something that cannot be easily complied with by people with disabilities.

A single ordinary incident of discrimination, such as a refusal of service to someone without a vaccine passport (or mask), will incur liability for Damages of up to £8,400. If it is a more serious incident then Damages will be up to £25,200. Such claims are already being made and are impossible to resist!

Yours faithfully

R C W Tilbrook
Director & Solicitor
Lawyers for Liberty

A Victim of Lockdown

A Lockdown Sceptics reader copied us into the email she sent to her MP, Pete Wishart, about the challenges a friend with learning difficulties is experiencing in lockdown. A stark reminded of how badly lockdown and public health panic can impact people.

Lisa (not her real name for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand) has been in our lives since her birth 45 years ago when she was born with a learning disability. Her parents have since separated and moved on but Lisa has remained as a family friend.

Life has been hard for her. She’s managed to live independently but not without a struggle. In the absence of her parents, her sister and brother have been thrown into the role of reluctant carers. She could never cope with paid employment so volunteering has been her lifeline as has her love of filling empty days by travelling to Edinburgh and Glasgow by bus, often just to buy shampoo or have a coffee in a different place. She’s blossomed and flourished in a volunteer placement where wonderful people value her contribution.

Over the last year, Lisa’s life has shrunk to virtually nothing. Her ‘bubble’ is her sister and family but both she and her brother and their spouses are mainly self-employed and struggling to manage floundering businesses; alongside the pressures of home schooling. At Christmas they had been made too terrified of ‘infecting’ Lisa with Covid they decided not to risk having her to the house. I’ll leave it to you to guess how this was humanely managed.

Lisa’s life has shrunk to virtually nothing other than limited contact with her support worker. Volunteer work is cancelled and bus travel forbidden. Mask wearing leaves her panicked and breathless – of course she’d be exempt but try telling her that when she’s terrified of rebuke for not wearing one. So she stopped going out on her own, something she did relatively confidently previously. The treat of a Costa coffee is gone, even when it was allowed last summer because she feared being asked for her name and didn’t know at what point her mask could come off to drink it.

So, what does her life look like during these lockdown days on her own in a small flat? Some days she doesn’t even dress because there’s no point. She eats and watches DVDs. Her weight has increased, she’s breathless and her blood pressure has increased but still the nurse merely phones and checks that she’s wearing her mask and washing her hands which are red raw from over washing.

Normality for Lisa is not a holiday abroad or a trip to the pub. It’s meaningful occupation with her friends at the farm, it’s a trip in the bus for a coffee, hopefully with the friendly driver who knows her name. She doesn’t ask for much but what little she needs and wants is denied to her. This life is no life. She sees so few people it’s unlikely that Covid will kill her but I fear that lockdown certainly could.

Please think about Lisa and her family and the many others like her when you add your support for continuing lockdowns.


Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Leave The Children Alone” by Steve Tolluch, “Maybe Tomorrow” by Stereophonics, “Something Changed” by Pulp, “I Fought the Law” by Dead Kennedys and “I don’t live today” by Jimi Hendrix.

Love in the Time of Covid

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the outlaws 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 Lockdown Sceptics 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

Proud Puffs is a chocolate-flavored, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a Black fist

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you Proud Puffs: a chocolate-flavoured, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a black fist from a black-owned breakfast food company. The Huffington Post has the details.

On one particular night last summer, Nic King had trouble sleeping. There was a lot on his mind.

The 34 year-old had recently left his corporate job. The Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd had just begun to spread nationwide. 

It was out of this moment, one that he calls “divine inspiration”, that he came up with the idea for Proud Puffs, a chocolate-flavoured, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a Black fist. 

“I woke out of my sleep. It was a random idea that was on my mind,” King told HuffPost. “I’m thinking, where is cereal coming from? Starting a cereal company is a super bizarre idea to think about at 3am but as a man of faith, I’ve always believed if you get a random idea, God gives you an idea and you look into it.” 

From there, King, who lives in Darien, Connecticut, spent the next several months conducting research on how to pursue his vision. He officially announced the launch of Legacy Cereal in December, which he says may be the only Black-owned business of its kind. 

While the majority of businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected due to the lack of support and resources. Yet, King pushed forward with his idea, even after losing his commercial kitchen in December because of COVID-19 restrictions slowed down the production launch of the cereal.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the sheer lunacy of the woke cultists, they do something even more bonkers. Check out this video in which a wokester explains what the “fraysexual” flag is.

“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.

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: Listen to the Daily Wrap Up from the Last American Vagabond on how “Masks Lead To Bacterial Pneumonia, Oral Thrush, Systemic Inflammation and May Be The Cause Of ‘Long-Haul’ COVID”. Nothing to worry about then.

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. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. 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, “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, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. 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.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

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.


If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email 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 his latest Spectator column Toby has some words of wisdom for the next person to be made the ‘Free Speech Champion’ on the board of the Office for Students. It didn’t work out so well for him three years ago.

I was delighted to hear the Government plans to appoint a ‘Free Speech Champion’ to the board of the Office for Students. His or her responsibility will be to make sure universities in England and Wales do everything that is reasonably practicable to uphold freedom of speech within the law, including preventing external speakers from being no-platformed by student activists. This legal duty has been on the statute books since 1986, but there is no enforcement mechanism. That’s why this announcement is so important. The new free speech tsar will have the power to fine universities that don’t uphold the law.

Theresa May’s government took a dummy run at this when it appointed me to the board of the Office for Students in 2018. I wasn’t billed as a free speech champion, but the minister who oversaw my appointment — Jo Johnson — made it clear that my track record of defending freedom of expression was why he wanted me.

Unfortunately, my appointment was derailed after the combined forces of the regressive left, including numerous woke academics who believe free speech is an “alt right” hobby horse, started petitioning the Government to change its mind. I mean that literally. A petition on calling for the Prime Minister to sack me got more than 220,000 signatures. In the course of prosecuting their case, my detractors trawled through everything I’d ever said or written, dating back more than 30 years, looking for evidence that I was an unsuitable person to serve in public office. At one point, the 10 most searched-for articles in the Spectator’s digital archive dating back to 1828 were all by me, as the offence archaeologists went about their work. Needless to say, it didn’t take them long to strike gold. Someone found an article I’d written in 2001 headlined: “Confessions of a porn addict.”

The sleuth who’d found this bragged about it on social media and hours later the Evening Standard ran a story: “New pressure on Theresa May to sack ‘porn addict’ Toby Young from watchdog role.” I naively thought this couldn’t possibly damage me — it was a self-deprecating piece about trying to watch a late-night show on a satellite channel called Men & Motors without Caroline finding out — but the Times went big on the story the following day: “‘Porn addict’ Toby Young fights to keep role as student watchdog.”

Worth reading in full.

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