Day: 24 March 2021

“As a Scientist, the Most Striking Moment was When Whitty and Vallance Stood in Front of a Graph They Knew To Be Wrong”

A senior research scientist for a pharmaceutical company (who wishes to remain anonymous) writes with his thoughts on where we are now.

1. Assumed solutions

As someone who has spent a career in drug R&D, the thing that led me to lockdown scepticism was the realisation that we had moved from evidence-based medicine to one of “assumed effectiveness”. This is where we are today. Lockdowns (and mask wearing) are assumed to work and all arguments as to the effectiveness start from this point. This means that the “evidence for” is constantly overplayed whilst any “evidence against” is dismissed or explained away. This is why the Swedish or Floridian approach needs to be better than lockdown, it is not simply good enough that it had similar outcomes for a lower price. From a medical intervention perspective this is simply lunacy; why would you give your patient a drug with more side effects than an equally effective one with fewer? 

The most striking moment to me as a scientist was when Whitty and Vallance stood in front of a graph they knew to be wrong in order to justify going into the second lockdown. This was the point they lost any shred of credibility.

The real tragedy is that as a result of assumed effectiveness of lockdowns, Government thinking has never moved on and we have learned nothing. What is there to learn when you already have the best solution to the problem?

2. A disease with no symptoms

The dictionary definition of a disease is: a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury. To have a disease is to be ill, yet the most striking feature of COVID-19 is that apparently one in three people can have this disease but be perfectly healthy or, to use the new vernacular, asymptomatic. Perhaps most of us also have an asymptomatic broken leg too? 

A Dentist Writes…

Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist who’s contributed before to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a guest post about his decision not to have the jab.

At University it was drummed into our heads not to make assumptions. Base clinical decisions on rigorously tested clinical evidence that had endured analysis, audit and surveillance over a sufficiently long duration.

Do you get frustrated when you so often hear assumptions being made that are presented as facts? The Government and MSM frequently refer to the number of Covid cases and deaths plummeting as a result of lockdowns and vaccination – not because this might, much more plausibly, be due to the natural falling from a peak or wave that respiratory viral infections always follow. Do you get frustrated when you hear that the current health, education, justice, social and economic issues (and just about every other dilemma under the sun) are being blamed on the Coronavirus but not on the Government response to it?

Policy makers are guilty, not just of this spin and deceit, but also of carrying out a fatal gambler’s mistake. The punter places a bet which fails, so he optimistically places another to try to at least recoup the value of the last stake. A sensible gambler might stop, pause and re-evaluate the situation and ensure that he or she can afford to pursue a certain strategy financially and healthily. An irresponsible person carries on regardless. The Government’s whole response to the Coronavirus situation smacks of this behaviour: “We’ve gone this far, we must continue to look credible despite the errors and dire consequences – so let’s carry on, keep deceiving and frightening the public until our credibility is restored by eliminating the virus.” The vaccine was the ace in the Government’s pack because a tired public (even ardent lockdown sceptics) were ready to accept anything just to get out of this horrendous mess. I have already mentioned just how unethical this project is in one of my previous articles.

Pubs Can Demand Proof of Covid Vaccination, Says Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister has signalled that he would not prevent pubs from demanding that drinkers prove they have had a Covid vaccine before entering. Such ideas have previously been dismissed by Government officials as “discriminatory”. The Times has the story.

Pub landlords will be able to bar entry to people who have not been vaccinated, Boris Johnson has suggested.

The Prime Minister said that it “may be up to the landlord” to decide whether to require proof of vaccination or a negative test from customers, in a significant change of heart after ruling out the idea last month. …

A month ago Johnson said that while the Government would look at vaccine passports for international travel, “what I don’t think we will have in this country is – as it were – vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that”.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, is now leading a review into the idea. He is due to report by June.

The idea is being opposed by many Tory backbenchers and pressed on whether it went against his liberal instincts, Johnson said that he had been “thinking very, very deeply” about the issue.

“The public have been thinking very deeply about it and my impression is that there is a huge wisdom in the public’s feeling about this and people, human beings, instinctively recognise when something is dangerous, nasty to them, and they can see that Covid is collectively a threat, and they want us as their Government, and me as the Prime Minister, to take all the actions I can to protect them.”

He said that people having to prove they were not infectious was “the kind of thing that may be up to the individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord”.

It is likely that vaccination will become mandatory for care home staff, along with other healthcare workers. This, alongside the prospect of Covid “certificates“, and the latest suggestion regarding pubs, begs the question: to what extent can the Covid vaccine really be called voluntary? Steve Baker, the Deputy Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, has said that such requirements would create a “two-tier Britain”.

The Prime Minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates. First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.

Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it, the result will be the same – a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the Government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine. We must not fall into this ghastly trap.

The Times report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Toby says a bloke on his street in Acton has already offered to sell him a vaccine passport. It seems a racing certainty that the attitude of the British public – which Boris seems to set so much store by – will be to enthusiastically endorse ‘Passports for Pubs’, then cheat en masse. The man on the Clapham omnibus is a strange hybrid of Captain Mainwaring and Private Walker.

Stop Press 2: Readers can still submit responses to the ‘Covid-Status Certification Review’ until March 29th. Details here.

Submit Your Views to Government’s Review on ‘Covid-Status Certification’

The Government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ to its Covid-Status Certification Review is open for another five days, until March 29th. Anyone can respond as an individual, and although a cynic might suspect that the review is a piece of theatre designed to confer legitimacy on a foregone conclusion, a healthy quantity of negative responses from the public would be no bad thing.

The page states:

The Government is reviewing whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety.

Covid-status certification refers to the use of testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that individuals have a lower risk of getting sick with or transmitting COVID-19 to others. Such certification would be available both to vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people who have been tested.

The Government will assess to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and its potential uses in enabling access to settings or relaxing Covid-secure mitigations.

The government is looking to consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of a potential certification scheme, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.

We are issuing this call for evidence to inform this review into Covid-status certification, to ensure that the recommendations reflect a broad range of interests and concerns. We welcome views from all respondents.

This idea has been gaining a head of steam recently despite ministers initially making noises to the contrary. It is an idea that ought to be anathema to any Western liberal democracy, and which, on the Government’s own terms, makes no sense once at-risk groups have been offered vaccinations, accounting for a vast proportion of potential hospitalisations and deaths.

We would encourage all Lockdown Sceptics readers to make their views known. The ‘Call for Evidence’ can be found here.

British High Street Lost 11,000 Shops in 2020 – and Could Lose a Further 18,000 in 2021, Study Finds

A new study has laid bare the devastating impact of the lockdowns on the British high street. Over 11,000 outlets permanently closed in 2020, and the Local Data Company (LDC) expects that this will be followed by 18,000 more closures in 2021. The Guardian has the story.

More than 11,000 outlets permanently disappeared from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in Great Britain last year, with independent retailers and villages faring far better than chain stores and city centres.

A net total of 9,877 chain outlets and 1,442 independent retail, restaurant and leisure premises closed their doors in England, Wales and Scotland in 2020, according to the LDC. The analysis covered 680,000 outlets in 3,000 shopping locations.

The report highlights that certain Government support measures have helped to slow the impact of lockdown on struggling businesses, but that figures might actually be worse than expected since many outlets which have not been recorded as closures – due to them only being “temporarily” shut – may never reopen.

Government support, including business rates relief, a moratorium on evictions for those unable to pay landlords, support grants and furlough pay for workers, helped slow the pace of closures for independents by 11% compared with 2019.

That help ensured that the pace of closures was not as bad as predicted by LDC, which had expected at least 14,900 outlets to be vacated. However, the true impact of the pandemic has yet to become apparent. Many outlets included in the research were temporarily closed during lockdowns and were not counted as shut but may never reopen after restrictions are relaxed next month.

Up to 18,000 more shops, restaurants and leisure outlets could be vacated as the collapse of major retail groups including Debenhams, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins hits home, according to LDC.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: John Lewis has said it will not reopen eight of its stores once lockdown eases, putting 1,465 jobs at risk.

Sweden Had Lower Excess Mortality Last Year Than Most of Europe

According to new excess mortality data compiled by Eurostat and Reuters, Sweden emerged from 2020 with a smaller increase in its overall mortality rate than most European countries in spite of eschewing the lockdown policy. Reuters has more.

Preliminary data from EU statistics agency Eurostat compiled by Reuters showed Sweden had 7.7% more deaths in 2020 than its average for the preceding four years. Countries that opted for several periods of strict lockdowns, such as Spain and Belgium, had so-called excess mortality of 18.1% and 16.2% respectively.

Twenty-one of the 30 countries with available statistics had higher excess mortality than Sweden. However, Sweden did much worse than its Nordic neighbours, with Denmark registering just 1.5% excess mortality and Finland 1.0%. Norway had no excess mortality at all in 2020.

Sweden’s excess mortality also came out at the low end of the spectrum in a separate tally of Eurostat and other data released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics last week.

That analysis, which included an adjustment to account for differences in both the age structures and seasonal mortality patterns of countries analysed, placed Sweden 18th in a ranking of 26. Poland, Spain and Belgium were at the top.

Lockdown enthusiasts often point to the lower excess mortality in the other Nordic countries, implying that had Sweden locked down it would have had even lower excess mortality. Against this, two things can be said. The first is the point made by Dr Paul Yowell which is that if you include the Baltic states among Sweden’s neighbours – and there is no non-arbitrary reason for not doing so – Sweden’s excess mortality begins to look less atypical for the region. The second is the argument made by Dr Oliver Robinson which is that Finland itself didn’t lock down, so pointing to Finland’s lower excess mortality than Sweden’s is not an argument in favour of lockdown.

The Reuters piece is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: MailOnline has summarised the Reuters story here.

Scottish Church Closure Deemed Unlawful

The Scottish Government acted unlawfully in closing churches under coronavirus regulations, the Court of Sessions has ruled – just two days before communal worship is due to resume. The BBC has the story.

Coronavirus regulations that forced the closure of churches in Scotland have been deemed unlawful.

A group of 27 church leaders launched a judicial review at the Court of Session arguing the Scottish Government acted beyond their powers under emergency legislation.

Lord Braid agreed the regulations went further than was lawfully allowed. 

The Scottish Government said it would carefully consider the findings and its implications.

The ruling comes two days before communal worship is due to resume.

But Lord Braid said those who brought the judicial review were entitled to have the regulations declared unlawful.

He said the Scottish Government regulations disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: “It is impossible to measure the effect of those restrictions on those who hold religious beliefs.

“It goes beyond mere loss of companionship and an inability to attend a lunch club.”

Earlier this month, the QC who raised this judicial review made the point that communal worship is needed now more than ever.

The petitioners would say that faith is a matter of hope in life and in death and it’s more than mere obedience and that it is essential particularly at a time of national crisis.

Lord Braid has emphasised that his ruling has no bearing on whether or not communal worship is safe, but rather is a comment on the legality of the decision made by the Scottish Government.

I have not decided that all churches must immediately open or that it is safe for them to do so, or even that no restrictions at all are justified.

All I have decided is that the regulations which are challenged in this petition went further than they were lawfully able to do, in the circumstances which existed when they were made.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Christian Concern has hailed this victory for Scottish church leaders, noting that the criminalisation of corporate worship must never happen again.

In an historic judgment, today a judge has ruled that the Scottish Ministers’ decision to ban and criminalise gathered church worship during the current lockdown was unconstitutional and a disproportionate interference of Article 9 ECHR rights.

The ruling is believed to be the first successful legal case against Covid regulations in the UK. 

Handing down judgment, Lord Braid also ruled that online worship is not real Christian worship, stating that it is not for the Scottish Ministers to: “Dictate to the petitioners or to the additional party, that, henceforth, or even for the duration of the pandemic, worship is to be conducted online. That might be an alternative to worship but it is not worship. At very best for the respondents, in modern parlance, it is worship-lite.”

Responding to the ruling, Rev. Dr William Philip, Senior Minister at the Tron Church in Glasgow, said: “We are very pleased that Lord Braid has recognised how essential gathered church worship is to our communities and to Scotland as a whole.

“From the outset we have recognised the serious decisions the Scottish Ministers had to take in response to the pandemic. However, its approach to banning and criminalising gathered church worship was clearly an over-reach and disproportionate and if this had gone unchallenged it would have set a very dangerous precedent.

“However well intentioned, criminalising corporate worship has been both damaging and dangerous for Scotland, and must never happen again.

Worth reading in full.

Urgent Lung Cancer Referrals Fall by a Third

The “stay at home” message is behind a major fall in urgent lung cancer referrals, according to Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser. Lung cancer is the deadliest type and only 3% of sufferers survive for five years or more if diagnosed at the latest stage. People with symptoms are now being urged to contact their GP, but for many, it is already too late. The Telegraph has the story.

Urgent lung cancer referrals have fallen by a third, as a consultant blames the “stay at home” message.

Some 20,300 fewer people were referred for treatment in England between March 2020 and January 2021 compared with the previous year, according to an analysis by Cancer Research UK. This is a 34% fall in patients.

The charity has now warned that multiple lockdowns have resulted in damaging delays in life-saving treatment, as people are either ignoring symptoms altogether or putting off seeking help in order to comply with Covid rules.

Dr Neil Smith, Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser, said: “It’s incredibly worrying that fewer lung cancer patients have started treatment since the beginning of the pandemic.

“While initial advice to stay at home and isolate if people had a new, continuous cough, could mean some people understandably delayed seeking help, we know delays to potentially life-saving treatment may mean lung cancer could progress.

“Covid has created a perfect storm of problems, but the tide is turning as cases drop and vaccines are rolled out.” …

Lung cancer is the most deadly type but if it is diagnosed early when it is more treatable 57% of people will survive for five years or more. This compares with 3% of people diagnosed at the latest stage.

Some of the main symptoms include a cough which doesn’t go away after two or three weeks, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

News Round Up

BBC Covid ‘Reality Check’ Needs a Fact Check of Its Own

In its latest “reality check” the BBC attempts to rebut seven of the “most frequently-shared” “false and misleading claims”.

It’s written by Jack Goodman, a “producer, newsreader and reporter at BBC Radio Derby”, and Flora Carmichael, a “journalist and producer with a strong track record of developing media partnerships and managing international projects and teams”.

So you can see why they would be well-qualified to set straight Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta, Harvard’s Professor Martin Kulldorff, Stanford’s Professor Jay Bhattacharya and other eminent sceptics.

Let’s take each of the seven “myths” in turn.

1. “Here we are a year later – the world shut down for a 99.97% survival rate”

Verdict: This figure and similar figures being widely shared, are incorrect.

One recent estimate shows that overall, on average, about 99.3% of people who catch coronavirus survive it, according to statistics analysed by University of Cambridge.

That might not seem like a big difference, but it means that about 70 in 10,000 people are expected to die – not three in 10,000.

The death rate is much higher for older and more vulnerable people.

The “fact check” does not cite any sources for the claims it is debunking so it’s hard to know what the full context is. However, a search on Twitter brings up a number of recent tweets claiming that Covid has a 99.97% survival rate. While taken by itself this is not in line with current best estimates, a number of the tweets claim this is the survival rate once the over-65s have been vaccinated, though without citing a source. One tweet uses data from Minnesota to estimate a survival rate for the under-60s of 99.97%.

The BBC quotes 99.3% (IFR 0.7%) from the Cambridge MRC Biostatistics Unit, but it’s worth bearing mind that this is the same modelling team that produced the notorious projection of more than 4,000 deaths a day by the start of December, modelling which was already wrong on the day it was presented to the public by Witless and Unbalanced.

Professor John Ioannidis has estimated the global IFR for the WHO at 0.23% overall (survival rate 99.77%) and, for people under-70, 0.05% (survival rate 99.95%).

The BBC’s “fact-checked” IFR of 0.7% is therefore on the high side, and if the 99.97% claim refers to the under-60s (or to a scenario where all the over-60s have been vaccinated) then it would be within the ballpark of current data.

The wider point though is that the death rate has been greatly exaggerated, especially for those who are young and without underlying conditions. The median age of death with Covid is 83, and only 388 people under 60 with no underlying conditions died with Covid in English hospitals in 2020. Sweden, a country which did not implement strong restrictions (retail, hospitality and most schools remained open, there were no limits on private gatherings and no mask mandate) experienced only 1.5% excess age-adjusted mortality in 2020.