Day: 14 March 2021

More Countries Halt Rollout of AstraZeneca Vaccine

Ireland and the Netherlands have joined the list of countries that have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine because of fears over blood clotting. The Dutch Government has announced a suspension until at least March 29th. Both countries have paused their rollout efforts due to reports of “bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets” in health workers who had recently received the vaccine.

The Republic of Ireland’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer acknowledged in a statement that “it has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases [of clotting]”.

However, acting on the precautionary principal, and pending receipt of further information, the NIAC (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.

The NIAC is due to meet again this morning. A further statement will follow thereafter.

AstraZeneca addressed these safety concerns in a statement issued at 6pm last night.

A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with Covid Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.

So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, based on the number of cases the Company has received as of 8 March. This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. …

Furthermore, in clinical trials, even though the number of thrombotic events was small, these were lower in the vaccinated group. There has also been no evidence of increased bleeding in over 60,000 participants enrolled.

One particular batch of AstraZeneca vaccines (which is involved in reports of a death) was sent to 17 countries, an increasing number of which are putting the rollout of this vaccine on hold.

Stop Press: Health officials in Northern Ireland have announced that they will continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after its suspension in the Republic of Ireland.

The Rise of the Expertocracy

At the beginning of the first lockdown, some vapid newspaper columnists welcomed it as an opportunity to spend more “quality time” with our families. But as Dr Sinéad Murphy points out in an original essay for Lockdown Sceptics, families had long been eroded by the expertise of institutions of care and education. So much so that many were unable to function when those institutions closed and the experts withdrew. Many families, particularly those living cheek by jowl in social housing, found it very difficult to cope. Here’s an extract from Sinéad’s piece:

If we have marvelled this year at the indifference of expert advisers to the Government towards the conditions they have consigned the UK population to, conditions in which the only options are to cope or not to cope, we may now cease to marvel. Experts in any field of human interest inevitably lose sight of the subjects of their enterprise, for the sake of faster results, latest methods and higher, or lower, numbers.

Experts have staged something of a political coup this year. We are addressed by them with pomp and ceremony, and we live by their guidelines as though they were carved into stone. But if this coup has been spectacular, it has long been prepared for behind the scenes, where even very intimate aspects of our personal lives have been gradually and quietly taken over by expertise.

Well before their armies took to our streets, the experts had already won our hearts that care and our minds that educate.

Dr Murphy is a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University and her essays are always worth reading in full.

Legal Action Launched Over Indoor Hospitality Reopening Date

The Government is facing yet another legal challenge over its lockdown restrictions – this time on the plan to keep hospitality venues closed for weeks longer than “non-essential” shops. The Express and Star has the story.

Plans to keep indoor hospitality venues closed for weeks longer than non-essential shops in England are facing a legal challenge from a leading restaurateur and night tsar.

Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and a former director of Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, have submitted a claim for a judicial review to the Government.

They believe there is “no evidence or justification for the prioritisation” of non-essential retail over hospitality, and said it could have a “potentially indirectly discriminatory effect” on young people and people from BAME backgrounds working in hospitality.

Under the Prime Minister’s road map for unlocking restrictions in England, non-essential retail will open no earlier than April 12th. But indoor hospitality venues will not open until at least May 17th.

Mr Osmond, director of Various Eateries, said the Government must base its decisions on “evidence not prejudice” when taking “momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens”.

“I believe we can show that discrimination and unsubstantiated beliefs, rather than facts, science and evidence, lie at the heart of much of the Government’s approach to hospitality, and these wrongs need to be righted…

“We won’t ever be able to repair our health, recover our social lives or rebuild our economy if we allow our Government to lock us up and shut down the economy on the basis of such flawed logic, little justification or evidence.”

Many pubs – including the Turk’s Head Inn in Gloucester city centre – will not be able to open for outdoor service in May due to a lack of outdoor space and worries about the weather, highlighting the significance of this legal challenge.

Worth reading in full.

When Will Government Reject the Failed Lockdown Models?

The crew at the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) have done an analysis of excess mortality for 2020 across 32 countries to get a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns. They used excess mortality instead of “Covid deaths”, they explain, to avoid problems with recording and classification of deaths and include any impact of anti-Covid measures. They used age-adjusted mortality to take into account differences in the average age of populations. They compared 2020’s figures to the average of the previous five years to give a percentage increase or excess during the pandemic year (they have made the tool they used to analyse the data publicly available).

The results are plotted in the graph below. Perhaps the most telling result is that Sweden, which did not impose strict lockdown measures throughout the year (it kept all retail and hospitality and most schools open and imposed no restrictions on private gatherings) saw only a 1.5% increase in age-adjusted mortality. Surely no one can argue that such a small increase in mortality (and almost entirely among the elderly and already unwell) can justify the severe and harmful suspensions of civil liberties we have endured over the past year?

Which country didn’t impose lockdown? Data from CEBM

Tory Rebellion Over Extension of Lockdown Regulations Looms

The Government faces a growing rebellion from Tory MPs over the extension of lockdown laws in England. The rebellion will no doubt get added impetus from the brutal behaviour of the Metropolitan Police last night. The Telegraph has the story.

Boris Johnson faces a major rebellion next week from dozens of Conservative MPs over extending lockdown laws in England.

The Coronavirus Act has to be extended for another six months from March 25th while other lockdown measures are due to expire on March 31st.

Downing Street sources indicated that MPs will be given votes on both early next week before Parliament is due to rise for the Easter recess.

Speaking in the Commons on February 21st Mr Johnson told MPs that “yes indeed… there will of course be another vote in this House about these measures before Easter”.

The measures are not amendable so MPs will be faced with having to extend the Coronavirus Act powers by six months until September, even though the PM wants to lift lockdown restrictions in England in June.

The votes come within days of Mr Johnson’s expected meeting with the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs in which he is expected to come under pressure over the lockdowns.

Senior Conservatives… said they expected “dozens” of Tories will vote against the extensions or abstain if the infection rate continues to fall.

On Thursday, Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, said that lockdown rules will look “silly” if Covid cases continue to fall – to which readers inevitably responded, “They already do look silly?”

Worth reading in full.

Half of Bosses Won’t Allow Unvaccinated Staff Back into Offices, Survey Finds

A survey of more than 300 business owners indicates that a significant proportion of unvaccinated workers will not be allowed to return to their workplaces, even when lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Mail has the story.

Half of business owners say they won’t allow their staff to return to offices if they haven’t had a Covid vaccine.

A survey of more than 300 bosses found that 51% would allow only those who had been jabbed to visit company premises.

The study, which covered firms that employ fewer than 250 staff, comes as more companies prepare for a return to workplaces as lockdown eases…

Tycoon Charlie Mullins, who founded Pimlico Plumbers, has already said he will introduce a “no jab, no job” policy for new employees

Meanwhile, other employers are considering using health passports so that only vaccinated staff or those who have tested negative for Covid can enter their offices.

The results of this survey – conducted by Yonder on behalf of Cignpost ExpressTest – suggest that even “hybrid working” (working from home some of the time) won’t be allowed by over half of Britain’s bosses for those who decide against taking the vaccine.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: We ran a post about the legality of ‘No Jab, No Job’ and whether employees could refuse to comply and keep their jobs here.

News Round-Up

First They Came For the Anti-Lockdown Protestors…

Twitter was aflame last night with prominent politicians and journalists condemning the Metropolitan Police’s heavy-handed treatment of women gathering on Clapham Common at a vigil to mourn the death of Sarah Everard and calling for the resignation of Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. The irony, of course, is that these are the very same people who’ve enthusiastically supported the lockdowns, including the suspension of the right to protest, and who’ve condemned anti-lockdown protestors for being “selfish” and “irresponsible”.

I’m sorry, but if you didn’t object to the Metropolitan Police’s brutal tactics in dispersing anti-lockdown protestors in Trafalgar Square last September, you cannot condemn their employment of identical tactics last night. Either you defend the right to protest for everyone, or you defend it for no one. You cannot just get worked up about it when it affects those whose cause you approve of.

You cheered when our Government suspended our civil liberties, claiming it was “necessary” to contain a virus that kills 0.25% of those who catch it and which, if you’re under-65, is less deadly than an average bout of seasonal flu. You cheered when our Government continued to pursue its reckless lockdown policy in the face of mounting evidence that it causes more harm than it prevents, destroying hospitality and retail businesses, wreaking havoc with children’s mental health and separating people from their loved ones. You cheered when the tiny handful of people who took to our streets to demonstrate against the suspension of our liberties were led away in handcuffs, branding them “Covid deniers” and “conspiracy theorists”.

This is on you.

This is what an authoritarian state looks like.