Day: 18 March 2021

Here’s the Evidence Lockdowns Do More Harm Than Good

The Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) is a group of highly qualified UK doctors, scientists, economists, psychologists and other academic experts, including sceptical stars whose pieces have been featured or flagged up in Lockdown Sceptics such as Dr John Lee, Dr Clare Craig, Dr Malcolm Kendrick, Joel Smalley, Prof David Livermore, Prof David Seedhouse, Prof David Paton and Dr Gary Sidley.

The team has now produced its most devastating piece of work to date. The new report, entitled “COVID-19: an overview of the evidence“, was sent to MPs today to encourage them to vote against the renewal of the Coronavirus Act in the coming week. With over 50 pages of meticulously referenced evidence from specialists in their fields, it shows beyond doubt why the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been ineffective and disastrous and a new approach is required.

“The data is in,” it declares on the cover. “Lockdowns serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms. They must never be repeated in this country.”

Here’s the full contents to whet your appetite:

  • COVID policies and harm to children – Professor Ellen Townsend; Dr Karen Neil
  • COVID-19 vaccination in children – major ethical concerns – Dr Ros Jones
  • Vaccine passports – an ethical minefield – Dr Malcolm Kendrick
  • Asymptomatic spread – who can really spread COVID-19? – Dr John Lee
  • Economic impacts – the true cost of lockdowns – Professor David Paton; Professor Marilyn James
  • Mutant strains and the futility of border closures – Dr Gerry Quinn
  • ‘Zero Covid’ – an impossible dream – Professor David Livermore
  • Masks – do the benefits outweigh the harms? – Dr Gary Sidley
  • Psychological impact of the Government’s communication style and restrictive measures – Dr Damian Wilde
  • Lockdowns – do they work? – Professor Marilyn James
  • Mortality data and COVID-19 – Joel Smalley
  • The ONS Infection Survey: a re-evaluation of the data – Dr Clare Craig; Dr Paul Cuddon
  • Promising treatment options – Dr Ros Jones; Dr Edmund Fordham
  • Care homes – we must do better for the most vulnerable in society – Dr Ali Haggett
  • Ethical considerations of the COVID-19 response – Professor David Seedhouse

Read it here, share it on social media, and why not send it to your MP? The more who do, the more likely they are to peek inside.

Stop Press: The report has been endorsed by Sir Graham Brady MP, who said:

The World Health Organisation said last year that lockdowns should be seen as a last resort because of the massive harms that they do. This report is a helpful review of the evidence showing the devastating consequences of lockdown in terms of missed diagnoses, deferred treatments and the crisis in mental health, especially for children and young people. It makes grim but important reading.

“No Change” to Roadmap, Prime Minister Says

The Prime Minister has said there is “no change” to the next steps of the roadmap out of lockdown, despite the expected slowdown of the vaccine rollout next month. Sky News has the story.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson said: “Our progress along the road to freedom continues unchecked.

“We remain on track to reclaim the things we love, to see our families and friends again, to return to our local pubs, our gyms and sports facilities and of course our shops.”

Addressing the drop in supply next month, Mr Johnson said: “We’ve always said in a vaccination programme of this pace and scale some interruptions in supply are inevitable and it is true that in the short-term we’re receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for a week ago.”

He added: “We will receive slightly fewer vaccines in April than in March, but that is still more than we received in February.”

In the press conference, Boris Johnson also addressed concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine causing blood clots, quoting the European Medicines Agency’s statement that the vaccine is “safe and effective” to use. He confirmed that he will be getting an AZ jab on Friday.

Given that those most vulnerable to Covid will have already had a jab by the time the rollout slows down next month, would it not be wise to quicken the pace of the Great Reopening, rather than just keep the existing timetable in place?

Worth reading in full.

Edinburgh’s Anti-Tory Covid Cops

We’re publishing an original piece today by a first year student at Edinburgh who was recently chased off a beach by Police Scotland for the crime of drinking beer and listening to music at night. This is the kind of thing students across the country have had to put up with over the past 12 months, although the Scottish authorities have been the most heavy-handed. Here’s an extract in which the author describes what happened when the police appeared:

At 9pm, what looked like a white delivery van wound its way down the road towards us with only its orange sidelights on. When the vehicle came to an abrupt halt on the road above us we turned the music off and watched the vehicle intently. A window was rolled down, and a head popped out and barked in a Glaswegian accent: “Run!” The next second, blue lights and spotlight beams were switched on. Officers waving flashlights leapt out of the van and ran towards us.

“Fucking Tories!” we heard one of them shout. “Get one of them! We only need one!”

The party dispersed instantly, most breaking left inland, while I and 10 others foolishly ran towards a pier on the right. Hysterical laughter and drunken waddling ensued as we fled, with some struggling to shoulder boxes of rescued Budweiser. As we reached the pier, a second van screeched up from another direction and several more officers disembarked. The sea was behind us and the police were closing in, executing a pincer movement.

The laughter stopped and all of us began frantically burying booze and speakers in the sand, or concealing belongings under seaweed. We then made a dash inland between what was now a narrowing gap between two van-loads of police.

Click here to find out what happened next.

EU Medicines Agency Says AstraZeneca Vaccine is “Safe and Effective”

The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is “safe and effective” to use, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Many European countries suspended use of the vaccine pending a review by the agency into concerns about it causing blood clots. Italy and France said on Tuesday that they would “quickly resume” their countries’ rollouts once the green light was given. Sky News has the story.

The European Union’s medicines agency has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is “safe and effective” to use following an investigation into reports of blood clots in a small number of recipients.

The decision by the EMA comes after more than a dozen European countries – including Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Sweden – halted the vaccine’s rollout over fears regarding the claims.

The EMA said the benefits outweigh the risks – and the vaccine is not linked to an overall risk of blood clots.

However, the agency’s safety committee has also said it can’t rule out a “small number of cases” of a rare clotting disorder that have occurred after vaccination. …

The WHO added its weight behind the debate ahead of the EMA’s announcement, urging countries to continue using the jab.

“As of now, we do not know whether some or all of the conditions have been caused by the vaccine or by other coincidental factors,” said Hans Kluge, the WHO’s European director.

“At this point in time, however, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh its risks – and its use should continue, to save lives.”

The agency has said that it cannot “rule out definitively” the vaccine’s link to a rare clotting disorder. The Telegraph reports:

The European Medicine’s Agency has said they “cannot rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

The agency will update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks on both the patient leaflet and in the information for healthcare professionals, the chief of the EMA said.

But Emer Cooke said in a briefing the “clear” conclusion of the review was that the vaccine “benefits in protecting people from Covid with the associated risk of death or hospitalisation outweighs the possible risks.”

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has also today stressed the safety of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, pointing to the fact that just five cases of a rare blood clot on the brain have occurred among the 11 million people in the UK who have taken it.

Worth reading in full.

Indian Government Halting Vaccine Exports is the Cause of UK’s Rollout Slowdown

The approaching “significant reduction” in the UK’s supply of Covid vaccines is a result of a temporary export ban by the Indian Government, according to the Indian manufacturer of the AstraZeneca jab. The Telegraph has the story.

The United Kingdom’s vaccination efforts will be paralysed from next month because the Indian government is temporarily holding exports, according to the CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla, whose company is manufacturing the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

“It is solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with the SII. It is to do with the Indian Government allowing more doses to the UK,” Mr Poonawalla told the Telegraph, who confirmed that five million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine had already been delivered to the UK in early March.

The second batch of five million further doses that the SII has pledged to the UK will only be delivered once the company is given the green light by New Delhi, which is deliberating how to slow a concerning resurgence in new daily Covid cases, according to a source.

In addition to debating whether to implement new localised lockdowns, the Indian Government is considering whether it needs to stockpile more vaccines to expand its vaccination programme, which has so far been limited to those over the age of 60 and those over the age of 45 with comorbidities.

British MPs’ criticism of the Indian Government’s alleged use of force against peacefully protesting farmers was not behind the delay, according to a source, with exports to other countries also being held.

The SII would still commit to delivering the remaining five million doses as soon as possible, a source told the Telegraph, and this commitment would not “take months”.

“There was never a commitment to supplying doses to the UK in any stipulated time. We just said we will offer our help,” said Mr Poonawalla.

Mr Poonawalla earlier this year warned that the SII’s vaccine exports would depend on its evolving domestic commitments in India.

Some are already warning that Britain’s return to freedom could be delayed by the slowdown of the vaccine rollout, but the case against this is strong.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: One in five over-80s in England are likely to have had both vaccine doses as of March 14th, according to NHS figures. Some 1.6% of people aged 75 to 79 are also estimated to have had both doses, as well as 0.8% of people aged 70 to 74.

0.06% of School Covid Tests Positive Last Week

In the week that all students returned to school, only 0.06% of rapid Covid tests produced positive results. The TES has the story.

Only 0.06% of the rapid Covid tests carried out in schools in the week that all pupils returned were positive, new statistics reveal.

More than 4.5 million lateral flow tests were taken in schools and colleges in the week between March 4th and March 10th according to Department of Heath statistics. 

But they only picked up 2796 positive cases.

The question is, how many of these positive results really were positive? Earlier this month, Will Jones wrote here that “mass testing in schools was always a bad idea – cruel, intrusive, pointless. The high proportion of false positives, with their needless and disruptive requirement to self-isolate, only underlines that fact”. A report in the Telegraph also explained that infection levels are now so low that the majority of positive results could be false.

Biostaticians are concerned that infections in the community are now so low, that false positives and negatives are vastly outnumbering true cases, leading to real cases being missed and families needlessly being asked to isolate.

Pupils are currently being tested twice a week for coronavirus using lateral flow devices, but real-world data has shown they miss positive cases around 50% of the time.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Figures show that children returning to school has not led to a rise in Covid infections. The Telegraph has the story.

A detailed analysis by Prof Jon Deeks, an expert in biostatistics at Birmingham University, has found that the number of positive cases among pupils are far lower than ministers expected.

“The big question is why is that happening? There are two explanations,” he said. “The first is that this test doesn’t work very well in children and it doesn’t detect the cases. And the other is that asymptomatic infection is much less common in children.

“If the reason is that there aren’t many cases, then this is good news. But if the reason is that the tests are missing cases this is bad news. And if we don’t know – that is very bad news.”

Worth reading in full.

Jab Setback Must Not Delay Freedom By a Single Day

Britain’s return to freedom could be delayed by the slowdown of the vaccine rollout. A leaked NHS letter suggests that the rollout – the success of which is key to the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown – could be approaching a setback in the form of a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of Covid vaccines next month. But by this point, all over-50s – that is, the most vulnerable to Covid – will likely have been offered a vaccination anyway. The Sun has the story.

Brits’ return to freedom could be delayed due to “significant” Covid vaccine shortages, an expert has warned.

Currently, Boris Johnson’s roadmap of lockdown will see all Covid restrictions lifted by June 21st – with Brits eagerly awaiting the chance to see their mates and head back to the pub.

But most Brits in their 40s were warned they will have to wait until May for their first Covid jab due to the drop in supply.

And experts have since cautioned of the “ripple effects” that the supply delay could cause.

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said: “It will undoubtedly make the meeting of the target dates for lifting restrictions more difficult than they otherwise would have been.

“By pushing back the under-50s first doses, their second doses are also being pushed back.

“If full vaccination becomes required for holidays abroad or even more mundane things like going to the cinema, millions of younger people may end up being excluded from participating for the whole summer.”

Stephen Glover has written in the Mail that “last night’s revelations about postponing jabs for the under-50s do not provide the PM with any justification for dragging his feet”.

Back in February, when the timetable for getting out of lockdown was conceived, no one can have had any idea how effective the vaccination programme would be. The facts have changed, and the Prime Minister’s – and the scientists’ – views should change with them.

This week alone over four million jabs are expected to be administered in the UK – almost half of all the vaccines that have been received so far in either Germany or Italy.

It’s true, following last night’s concerning revelation, that there will be a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of vaccines during April, which will delay the jab for the under-50s. But it remains likely that all over-50s will have been offered a vaccination by the end of this month.

According to the Office for National Statistics last year, only two people in every 100 who die from Covid are below the age of 50, and some of these will have underlying health conditions. The short postponement of vaccines for the under-50s does not give the Prime Minister any excuse to stick stubbornly to his dates.

Granted, one jab doesn’t provide complete protection. Nevertheless, we will soon be able to say that the vast majority of people at greatest danger from Covid have a significant measure of protection – provided, of course, that they have been vaccinated.

In January, Matt Hancock told the Spectator that when all of the most vulnerable had been vaccinated, he would “cry freedom”.

The goal is not to ensure that we vaccinate the whole population before that point, it is to vaccinate those who are vulnerable. Then that’s the moment at which we can carefully start to lift the restrictions.

Where are his cries now?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Prime Minister has said there is no change to the next steps of the “roadmap” out of lockdown despite the approaching vaccine shortage.

Stop Press 2: The following is an unpublished letter sent to the Times from a Lockdown Sceptics reader and Professor of Law at Lancaster University Law School.

Dear Sir

The difficulties encountered by the vaccine roll-out are avoidable.

The Government is prolonging lockdown in order to limit infection. But, as a general proposition, the infection of those not yet vaccinated would cause no or minor symptoms and would lead to the acquisition of immunity. And this is precisely the situation the Government is trying to produce through vaccination! But vaccination must encounter immense logistical problems, which certainly will worsen given the nature of the segments of the population yet to be reached, and must create additional medical risk.

There is no rational case for not now abandoning lockdown and radically revising vaccination targets. The Government’s not doing so is further, supererogatory, evidence of the irrationality it has displayed throughout this episode.

Yours sincerely

David Campbell.

News Round Up