Day: 26 March 2021

Shops Could Stay Open Until 10pm Six Days a Week After Lockdown

In an attempt to boost sales and increase safety after lockdown(s), the Government has announced that retailers will be able to stay open until 10pm six days a week when they reopen. The Guardian has the story.

The Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said extended opening hours from Monday to Saturday will help shoppers return to high streets safely when non-essential shops reopen from April 12th.

Shops will be able to extend their opening hours from 7am to 10pm to help customers avoid peak times and ease transport pressures, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Under the “roadmap” for easing lockdown measures, non-essential retailers could reopen from April 12th at the earliest, provided conditions are met.

Announcing the temporary measures, Jenrick said: “To support businesses to reopen and recover, I’ve extended measures to allow shops to stay open for longer. This is part of a package of support to help reopen our shops and high streets safely – backed by £56 million.”

The Government has announced that it will also extend flexible working hours on construction sites – one among a raft of measures intended to help make up for the losses suffered by retailers over the past year.

Earlier this week, the Local Data Company released a study showing that 11,000 outlets permanently closed in 2020. It expects that this will be followed by 18,000 more closures in 2021. The Guardian highlighted that the real impact of lockdown on businesses may be worse than the current figures indicate.

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.

The report on extended opening times is worth reading in full.

Former CDC Director: SARS-CoV-2 Escaped from Wuhan Institute of Virology

A former director of the CDC in the US – Robert Redfield – has told a CNN interviewer that he believes the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and didn’t originate in the city’s wet market. MailOnline has more.

The former director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, says he believes COVID-19 “escaped” from Wuhan lab in China and may have been circling as early as September 2019.

Redfield made the admission in a CNN interview on Friday but stressed it was his “opinion”.

It is the first time Redfield, who was appointed CDC director by President Trump, has stated publicly that he believes COVID-19 originated in a lab and not in a wet market where an initial cluster of cases was linked to.

“I’m of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory… escaped. Other people don’t believe that, that’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,” he said.

“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in laboratories to infect the laboratory worker.

“That’s not implying any intentionality. It’s my opinion, right? But I am a virologist. I have spent my life in virology.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Readers of Lockdown Sceptics won’t need reminding that this hypothesis used to be dismissed as a “conspiracy theory”. But the theory is gaining more and more traction and is the subject of Matt Ridley’s next book.

Britain’s Looming Cancer Crisis

Professor Karol Sikora has warned that Britain faces “the biggest cancer crisis” he has ever encountered. The Government’s focus on suppressing Covid has “sucked the oxygen away from other pressing health issues” which now require urgent attention, he says in the Spectator.

Cancer, cardiac and countless other patients are crying out for help – but are ministers listening? 

Over the last year, politicians have been adopting untried and untested policies, the consequences of which none of us can yet fully grasp. The main aim, of course, of these extraordinary lockdown measures has been to suppress Covid in order to reduce pressure on our hospitals. That has been the metric on which Government approval has been judged.

Whether or not you agree with every restriction, it is clear that this focus has sucked the oxygen away from other pressing health issues. Covid required a response unlike anything we have seen in modern times. But was it right that this happen at the expense of so many other illnesses which have torn apart millions of families? 

Too often it has been framed as Covid or cancer; it does not need to be like this. We turned the country on its head to deal with this virus; we now need to tackle the non-Covid health crisis with the same vigour.

I’ve been a consultant oncologist for 40 years. I thought I had seen everything but make no mistake: this is the biggest cancer crisis I have ever encountered. While daily updates on Covid case numbers and deaths give a picture of the grim toll of the pandemic, cancer just doesn’t work like that. A delayed diagnosis can turn a 80% survival rate into 20% and that is over a matter of months, not years. At Rutherford, my cancer centre network, we are now seeing far more patients than usual presenting with later-stage cancers. Lives have already been lost and the insidious, relentless nature of cancer will mean that will continue for some time.

Professor Sikora notes that the biggest issue which needs to be overcome if the crisis is to be dealt with is awareness. He suggests a Downing Street press conference dealing with non-Covid health issues as a starting point.

The PM needs to outline the urgency of the situation and stress that help is there for those that need it. It won’t solve everything, but it will at least start a conversation. It would do a lot more good than some of the current scripted attempts.

In a recent pice for Lockdown Sceptics, Dr Ann Bradshaw, a retired senior lecturer in adult nursing at Oxford Brookes, wrote that the Government’s mixed messages about the safety of the NHS could be putting people off using it.

And what of the mammogram? Will I be socially distanced in the waiting room? Will the radiographer have clean hands? Will the equipment carry Covid specks? The Government warnings ring again, loudly in my ears. Hospitals are breeding grounds. How many secret Covid spreaders will I encounter? To put my mind at rest I Googled “mammogram” and “Covid”. Oh no – apparently, mammograms after Covid vaccinations can give false positives. So that’s out. Easy decision this time. Or is it? What if I have a hidden lump?

Professor Sikora’s article is worth reading in full.

The UK’s Track and Trace System is Causing Misery

A reader has written to us today to draw attention to two bizarre, nonsensical requests to self-isolate from NHS Track and Trace, one comical, the other tragic.

I’ve just witnessed two consequences of the Government’s celebrated interstellar rock-and-roll track-and-trace system.

The first involved my son who had to fly from another part of the UK to attend a family funeral. A lightning eight days later the track and trace thermonuclear processor cranked into action to tell him he’d come close to someone on the journey and needed to self-isolate – two days before the 10 days were up. If this was 1940 then the Luftwaffe raid on the RAF bases would already have been over and the enemy pilots halfway to Stalingrad.

That was just incompetence. The second is tragic. There’s a family near here whom we know where both children are handicapped. On the first day they returned to school this week it turned out that one of their carers had tested ‘positive’. Fantastic. No matter that both children, both parents AND all their carers were vaccinated several weeks ago, now they are back to another 10-day imprisonment and this time with no support or help for the children who need round-the-clock care. The parents are in total despair, out of their minds with the stress and worry of the last year. This is a classic example of a silent, private catastrophe and it makes me furious when one scientist or Government minister after another is wheeled out to tell us how wonderfully the vaccination programme is going but we must all still be subjected to a litany of precautions which even if they were ever necessary (pretty doubtful), now definitely aren’t.

Perhaps we could have one of those television documentaries where Matt Hancock and Dido Harding have to change places with families like this and see just how much havoc their policies have wreaked?

The Case Against the UK’s Lockdowns

We’re publishing an essay today by Dr Noah Carl arguing that the UK’s lockdowns were a mistake. Looking at the Western world, he says, lockdowns have not been associated with substantially fewer deaths from COVID-19, except in geographically peripheral countries that imposed strict border controls at the start. In addition, the increases in mortality associated with COVID-19 – even in the worst-hit Western countries – have been quite small, particularly when compared to the range of mortality between different groups in society. If good governance is about reducing overall mortality, why hasn’t the Government addressed these inequalities? Finally, he argues, the societal costs of lockdowns have been substantial, and preliminary analyses suggest they almost certainly outweighed the benefits.

Here is an extract in which he makes the point about the Government’s inconsistent approach to reducing mortality:

As Simon Wood noted in an article last October, “the gap in life expectancy between the richer and poorer segments of British society amounted to some 200 million life years lost for the current UK population, which is somewhere around 70 times what Covid might have caused”. He added: “Even the firmest believer in laissez-faire would have to concede that some percentage of that loss is preventable.” The fact that the Government never locked down society (or imposed costs of equivalent magnitude) to reduce much larger differences in mortality within Britain calls its coronavirus strategy into serious question.

Lockdown proponents might say this logic doesn’t apply to COVID-19, since lockdowns prevent individuals from harming others, whereas pre-existing differences in mortality are not due to such “externalities”. But I don’t find this argument very convincing. First, it’s not clear that lockdowns do have much impact on mortality over and above that of basic restrictions. Second, some of the pre-existing differences in mortality are caused by other people’s behaviour (e.g. air pollution, road accidents, flu deaths). And third, blanket lockdowns impose costs on people regardless of whether they contribute to the “externalities” of viral transmission (e.g. people who live away from major population centres, those who have already been infected).

Noah is a rigorous, fair-minded analyst who sticks closely to the evidence. His piece is worth reading in full.

History Teaches Us That “Emergency” Measures Could Be in Place for Years, Says Lord Sumption

Lord Sumption said on Good Morning Britain that face masks and social distancing could last for years, saying it is “politically unrealistic” to expect the Government to remove these “emergency” measures anytime soon because the public has become quite fond of them. The Mail has the story.

Face masks and social distancing could be in place for another decade, Lord Sumption has claimed.

The former Supreme Court judge warned restrictions on Britons’ freedoms could last as long as rationing after the Second World War.

He said it was “politically unrealistic” to expect the Government to backtrack on social controls anytime soon because the public had become so used to them.

Lord Sumption suggested Britons had actually started to take comfort in restrictions because they made them feel safe.

Lord Sumption compared the continued enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing to that of wartime food rationing after the Second World War.

An interesting parallel is the continuation of wartime food rationing after the last war. People were in favour of that because they were in favour of social control.

[But] in the 1951 General Election, the Labour Party lost its majority entirely because people with five years more experience of social control got fed up with it. Sooner or later, that will happen in this country.

The Mail’s report points to senior officials who have already hinted that mask mandates and social distancing rules will re-emerge post-lockdown.

SAGE scientists have already hinted that masks and social distancing measures may need to be reinstated in future winters when respiratory viruses like Covid find it easier to spread.

And Mary Ramsay, the Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, admitted that restrictions could stay in place for years on Monday because Britain will need to wait for other countries’ [sic] to catch up with their vaccine programmes. 

Boris Johnson’s roadmap sets no date for the end of using masks and social distancing but the plan is for most legally binding curbs to go by June 21st.

Lord Sumption highlights that some politicians have emailed him privately to say that they agree with what he is saying, but “[don’t] dare to speak out”.

That, I think, is a very serious state of affairs.

Worth reading in full.

Judge Orders Dementia Sufferer Should Have Covid Jab Despite Her Son’s Objections

A judge has ruled that an 83 year-old dementia sufferer should have the Covid vaccine despite her son’s concerns. Her son was given Power of Attorney some years ago, and objected to her having the jab on the grounds that she might feel pain in her last moments if there were any side effects. He said she has “not got that long left anyway”. Cornwall Live has the story.

A Cornish judge has ruled that an elderly woman with dementia will be vaccinated, despite her son’s objections.

Judge Simon Carr, who is based in Truro, concluded that vaccination would be in the 83 year-old’s best interests, at an online hearing in the Court of Protection on Wednesday evening. 

The specialist court hears issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are considered.

The woman, whose identity or location cannot be revealed, is living in a care home and agreed to her son having power of attorney, and making decisions on her behalf, some time ago, the judge heard.

Her son argued that she should not have the coronavirus vaccine as she “had not got that long left anyway”.

He said she should not have to end her life in pain if there were side effects.

The case was brought to court after the woman’s GP thought she should be given the vaccine and asked the judge to consider the case.

The judge concluded that, because the pensioner had been vaccinated against the flu for nearly 20 years, she had no general objection to vaccines.

I have no hesitation in concluding that it is very much in (her) best interests to have the vaccine.

A similar case unfolded last month when a judge ordered that “it is in [the] best interests” of an elderly dementia sufferer living in a care home to receive the vaccine, despite her daughter saying that “my mother wouldn’t want it”.

The Cornwall Live report is worth reading in full.

News Round Up

There were some good speeches made yesterday by the 78 MPs who voted against the extension of the Coronavirus act for a further six months.

They included Sir Graham Brady, who remarked that “This habit for coercion and control has gone too far”

The Liberal Democrats all voted against. Former leader Tim Farron said that for him the greatest concern is that “the Government’s default, knee-jerk attempt to seek these draconian powers for this lengthier period of time is now beginning to fit into a pattern”.

And Finally, Sir Desmond Swayne gave an absolute barnstormer of a speech, saying, “Tyranny is a habit and we haven’t quite kicked it.”

Liberal Britain is the Most Serious Casualty of the Pandemic

Fraser Nelson has been a somewhat fickle friend of sceptics. Broadly sceptical until the autumn, the Spectator editor and Telegraph columnist backed the third lockdown and the Spectator‘s output has been noticeably more pro-lockdown since, though with some welcome exceptions (such as Rod Liddle, who travelled the other way, and Lionel Shriver. And of course, Toby).

His column in today’s Telegraph, though, is a cracker, and more reminiscent of the Nelson of old.

Boris Johnson, he writes, is a man with regrets. He has “started to tell friends that he was let down by his own liberal instincts. That he hoped for too long that Britain could, like Sweden, fight the virus through consent rather than diktat – getting through this without abolishing basic freedoms. His fear at the time was irreversibility. If sacred principles were jettisoned in an emergency, would they ever be restored? Might he end up unleashing something he’d struggle to control?”

Fraser notes that Covid levels are now so low in Britain that the Prime Minister could have declared the emergency over already. Instead, we have the renewal of the Government’s emergency powers in the Coronavirus Act for another six months.

It’s no good looking to Labour for opposition. Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is more keen on the new restrictions than the Tories (though it was good to see a few Labour MPs defying the party whip and voting against the extension yesterday, alongside the Lib Dems).

The Government won the vote easily. But in biosecurity Britain, who’s really in charge? Increasingly it seems the scientists, and then only those willing to parrot the Official Narrative. Even ones we thought were discredited, like Neil Ferguson, seem to retain their place at the table. Fraser writes:

Big announcements continue to come via people like Prof Neil Ferguson, who still seems to have a Rasputin-like hold over the Government. Earlier this week, he said he thought it may be unwise to book any foreign holidays this summer. This is big news, because what he thinks today tends to become Matt Hancock’s policy tomorrow. “We’re run by scientist groupthink,” says one minister. “But that won’t change until the polls change.”

Ah, the polls. Scourge of the sceptics’ cause, the rock on which all our carefully crafted arguments founder. Boris Johnson this week was heard speaking in disturbingly demagogical terms about public sentiment on lockdowns, as though people are doing anything other than reflecting back the fear instilled into them by a year of unremitting pro-lockdown propaganda orchestrated by the Government. He told MPs:

My impression is that there is a huge wisdom in the public’s feeling about this. Human beings instinctively recognise when something is dangerous and nasty to them. They can see, collectively, that Covid is a threat. They want us, as their Government – and me as the Prime Minister – to take all the actions I can to protect them.

These are words that should haunt all who love liberty and who cling desperately to the belief that we still live in a liberal state whose laws safeguard our basic freedoms from Government overreach.