Day: 31 March 2021

What They Don’t Talk About on the BBC

We’re publishing an original post today by Dr Mark Shaw, a retired dentist and regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics. After getting a double-dose of pro-lockdown propaganda on the BBC last week – first on Question Time, then on Any Questions – he was moved to write this piece. He made a list of those questions BBC correspondents and editors should be asking but aren’t:

  • The scandalous failure and cost of NHS Track and Trace and the serious inaccuracies of the PCR and lateral flow tests upon which lockdown strategy were/are based.
  • Why broadcasters have not been reporting over the years how lethal and devastating flu is and how serious its post-viral effects are; and that flu kills far more young people than Covid.
  • Why the BBC is not reporting projections of the non-Covid death toll resulting from lockdown.
  • While I believe informed adults should be able to choose to smoke, why are reporters not drawing attention to the fact that, despite a global annual death toll around three times that of Covid, the Government does not ban tobacco use to “save lives” and “protect the NHS”?
  • Why has the BBC given so little time to discussing lockdown alternatives, the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of lockdowns and mask wearing, the HART Report (“COVID-19: An overview of the evidence”), and the enormous influence and control that SAGE has in Government policy making.
  • Why, in discussing the pros and cons of this particular vaccine rollout, has the BBC submitted nothing but the ‘pros’ and virtually nothing of the risks?
  • Why has there been no comprehensive investigative journalism into the scientific and healthcare authorities that prevent their employees from speaking openly about the effects lockdowns are having on their institutions, their patients and themselves?

Worth reading in full.

British Variant Not More Deadly, Admits PHE

Contrary to claims since January that the Kent coronavirus variant is “up to 100%” more deadly, a new study from Public Health England has confirmed – as a Lockdown Sceptics‘ analysis showed three weeks ago – that it is no more deadly than the original virus. The study continues to claim it increases the risk of hospitalisation by 30%, but this too seems unlikely to be more than a statistical artefact. As the Swiss Doctor notes, it is based on poor evidence, and “the influence of age, comorbidities and seasonal effects is much larger”.

Lockdown Sceptics noted on Saturday that while the British variant is becoming dominant in many countries, that dominance is often, as in the UK and Denmark, accompanied by infections, hospitalisations and deaths plummeting not surging. President Macron is locking down France again for a month (including closing schools), blaming the surge on the British variant. But is this correct? Here’s the graph plotting the progress of the Kent variant across the channel.

SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalence in France – Kent variant in red (from CoVariant)

Here’s what the positivity rate does at the same time.

We Cannot Afford to Censor Lockdown Sceptics – Professor Martin Kulldorff

We’re publishing an interview today with Martin Kulldorff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the three original signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration. Among other things, he warns of the dangers of censoring dissenting voices during a pandemic, following his own run-in with Twitter a couple of weeks ago.

The media has been very reluctant to report reliable scientific and public health information about the pandemic. Instead they have broadcast unverified information such as the model predictions from Imperial College, they have spread unwarranted fear that undermine people’s trust in public health and they have promoted naïve and inefficient counter measures such as lockdowns, masks and contact tracing.

While I wished that neither SAGE nor anyone else would argue against long-standing principles of public health, the media should not censor such information. During a pandemic, it is more important than ever that media can report freely. There are two major reasons for this: (i) While similar to existing coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus that we are constantly learning more about and because of that, it takes time to reach scientific conclusions. With censorship it takes longer and we cannot afford that during a pandemic. (ii) In order to maintain trust in public health, it is important that any thoughts and ideas about the pandemic can be voiced, debated and either confirmed or debunked.

This is a great interview done by the same journalist who interviewed Jay Bhattacharya for Lockdown Sceptics last week.

Worth reading in full.

Rishi Sunak Confirms His Split From Boris Johnson Over September “Circuit Breaker” Lockdown

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he opposed the imposition of a “circuit breaker” lockdown in September due to the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods, but that the “ultimate” decision was Boris Johnson’s. ITV News has the story.

In a wide-ranging interview with ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, Mr Sunak said in Cabinet he made the case against a circuit-breaking lockdown due to the “impact” it would have on “people’s jobs and livelihoods”, and that he believed it would be “bad for the economy” and “long-term health as well”.

Despite Sage recommending a lockdown in a bid to stop Covid cases increasing, Mr Sunak said it was his “job” to “provide the Prime Minister with the best advice” in his “area of expertise”. 

“In the same way that you’d expect the Education Secretary to feed in about this –the impact on children’s education and learning – you’d expect me in my job to talk about the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods and ultimately things that are bad for the economy are bad for our long term health as well and our ability to fund things like the NHS. 

“And those things have to go into the decision. 

“These are difficult decisions to make, and it’s why we weigh up all those factors.”

Mr Sunak insisted that “at the time it wasn’t a clear-cut case” and that one of the deputy chief medical officers said it would “not be appropriate… for a national intervention”.

He continued that there was a “varied epidemiological picture” across the country so a “national intervention… wasn’t considered one that wouldn’t necessarily make sense”.

“And actually, you know, Wales went down that route and it didn’t in the end stop what needed to happen.”

The 40-year-old continued that while he and other ministers provided “input” from their respective rolls, “ultimately” the decision was made by Boris Johnson who “has to weigh these things up”.

A little later, in November, the Treasury admitted that it produced no forecasts in the run up to the second lockdown. Kate Andrews reported the details in the Spectator.

The impact of the specific restrictions on the economy were not forecast or predicted by the Treasury before they came into force.

Clare Lombardelli, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury, said in November:

As the Chancellor set out in Parliament last week, we haven’t done a specific prediction or forecast of the restrictions… what we do is ongoing policy that feeds into decisions ministers take, which they consider alongside the health impacts, the social impacts, and they also consider the economic impact.

As Kate Andrews commented: “That the institution did not produce any forecasts or predictions also raises serious questions about the extent to which the economic implications of such radical measures were considered before the Government brought them in.”

ITV News’ report is worth reading in full.

“Rule of Six” Almost Unenforceable, Say Police Chiefs

The “Rule of Six” is almost unenforceable because of the Government’s decision to allow two households to meet outside, say police chiefs. The Telegraph has the story.

Policing chiefs have warned ministers that the “Rule of Six” is virtually unenforceable because of the two-household concession.

As councils began a clear-up of litter left in parks and beaches by people enjoying Tuesday’s heatwave, policing sources told the Telegraph that enforcing the rules had been made “very, very difficult” by the decision to also allow two households to meet outside.

Many threw caution to the wind on Tuesday as beaches, seafronts, parks and promenades were packed in Brighton, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and London. In Birmingham, council teams suspended mowing across parks on Wednesday so they could focus on litter picking instead.

“We made it very, very clear to Government that they have made it almost impossible to enforce the ‘Rule of Six’,” said a policing source privy to the discussions.

“It used to be relatively simple. As long as you can count to six, you can enforce it as seven is beyond the rule. Now you could have 26 people in a group, 13 from each household. That makes it very, very difficult. How do you prove that they don’t live in the same house?”

Because of the difficulty of enforcing the “Rule of Six” in light of changes in Government guidelines, police will take a more “permissive” approach than was taken during last year’s lockdowns.

The source said police were taking a more “permissive” approach than in lockdown as more people were vaccinated and infection levels flatlined or fell.

This meant there was less “enforcement” and more “engage, encourage and explain”, although this would revert if infection rates rose again. …

Police chiefs also warned that there were problems over the change in guidance from “Stay Home” to “Stay Local”, which was open to interpretation. “Local to someone with mobility issues is very different to someone who got there in a helicopter,” said a police source. “It becomes an extra element of difficulty when something is subjective.

“We will have people camping out on the Lake District. They will be driving there because it is only a couple of hours to get there. So what do you do?”

The weather has drawn Brits to the beach this week, as well as the slight relaxation of lockdown rules allowing people to travel out of their local areas. The Mail said that the British public “think it’s all over”.

UK No Longer Has Highest Covid Death Rate in the World

Remember those headlines saying the UK had the highest number of Covid deaths in the world? Back in January, Sky News reported the UK’s daily Covid death toll was the highest in the world. Some news services went further, saying the UK had the highest number of Covid deaths per capita in the world. But new data published by Statista shows that, in fact, the UK’s deaths-per-million are the sixth-highest in the world.

Some small crumbs of comfort there for the Government.

Worth reading in full.

Shielding Coming to an End in England and Wales

The four million people in England and Wales who have been told to shield during lockdown will no longer have to do so from Thursday, but are still being advised by the Government to keep social contacts at low levels. BBC News has the story.

Wednesday marks the last day that about four million of the most clinically vulnerable people in England and Wales are advised to shield at home.

Letters have been sent out to the group in the last few weeks. 

They are still being advised to keep social contacts at low levels, work from home where possible and stay at a distance from other people.

The change comes amid falling Covid cases and hospital admissions.

According to NHS Digital, there are 3.8 million shielded patients in England and 130,000 in Wales.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to lift their restrictions later in April.

In the UK about 90,000 people shielding are under 18. Once they are no longer advised to shield, they can return to school.

Worth reading in full.

Hospital Covid Outbreaks Caused in Part by Wrong Staff Getting PPE

Covid outbreaks in hospitals have been caused in part by the wrong staff receiving full personal protective equipment (PPE), a new study suggests. Official guidelines have dictated that the best PPE should be given to doctors and nurses treating patients who require medical oxygen, but new research shows that less severely ill patients are more likely to infect people around them. The Telegraph has the story.

An international team of researchers has established that less severely ill patients are far more likely to infect people around them than those critical enough to require oxygen.

The findings appear to contradict official guidelines, which ration the best PPE to doctors and nurses treating patients who require medical oxygen, on the basis that doing so requires the performance of “aerosol-generating procedures”.

Often working in intensive care units, these staff are given eye protection, a tight fitting particle respirator mask, long-sleeved fluid-repellent gowns and gloves.

Those working with less ill Covid patients had to go without eye protection, were given only a standard surgical mask, as well as a disposable apron and gloves.

However, the new findings show that the typical activities of less severely ill Covid patients – breathing, talking, shouting, coughing and exercising – actually generated 100 times more aerosol particles than those receiving oxygen.

The study found that oxygen therapies – officially considered the most high-risk for infection – actually reduced the amount of aerosols.

It was carried out after figures emerged showing that staff working on wards who wear only standard surgical masks have around two to three times higher rates of infection than those working in ICU.

One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Euan Tovey, said that less severely ill Covid patients – who have been treated by doctors and nurses with less effective PPE – posed a great risk.

The coughing and laboured breathing common in patients with Covid produces a lot more droplets and aerosols than is produced by patients being treated with oxygen therapies.

Surgical facemasks provide inadequate protection against aerosols and staff safety can only be increased by more widespread use of specialised tight-fitting respirators – N95 or FFP3 masks – and increased indoor ventilation.

Also, as the respiratory therapies did not significantly increase aerosols, these treatments should be made widely available to patients with Covid who need them.

Another researcher, Professor Tim Cook, suggested that these findings warrant a change in policy regarding the rationing of PPE.

Our findings strongly support the re-evaluation of guidelines to better protect hospital staff, patients and all those on the front line who are dealing with people who have, or are suspected of having, Covid.

Worth reading in full.

News Round Up

“If You Were to Release at this Point in Time, it Would Lead to a Lot of Death.” Texas, Florida and Mississippi Would Beg to Differ, Professor

There follows a guest post by second year maths student and Lockdown Sceptics contributor Glen Bishop.

Having listened to an interview on talkRadio with Professor Jeremy Brown of the National Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises SAGE, I thought I would offer a critique of some of the points he made. 

Firstly, Professor Brown stated: “If you were to release at this point in time, that is a mistake, and it would lead to a lot of death and illness.” This has not been the experience elsewhere and so as far as I am concerned is an unscientific claim. Florida released all restrictions in September and still has a significantly lower death toll than the UK. Texas released all restrictions over three weeks ago and cases have continued to fall sharply. In Mississippi, all restrictions were lifted four weeks ago. In the subsequent four weeks, the seven-day average case numbers have more than halved. This is despite these states being behind the UK on vaccines and the Kent variant making up a significant proportion of cases. If it has not happened elsewhere in the world, in places with lower population immunity from prior infection and worse vaccine progress, what makes Professor Brown so sure it will happen here?  

What is happening in Europe now is not relevant to the UK as, judging from our death rate, we have built up more population immunity from prior infection than most of Europe and are miles ahead with inoculations. 

Secondly, Professor Brown enlightened listeners with his thinking on the pandemic’s path, albeit conceding it is “a little simplistic”. He describes how the pandemic has hit in three waves, each causing 50,000 deaths and suggests another wave – a fourth wave – could lead to a similar death toll and scenes akin to the January wave. This is a poor representation of the epidemic to put it mildly, but I will run with this logic. Assume a fourth wave hits that, without vaccinations, would kill another 50,000 people. Around 95% of vulnerable people – the people who would be killed in Brown’s scenario – have actually had a vaccine, which trials show reduces deaths by 95%. That means a fourth wave would in theory claim, not 50,000, but 4,875 deaths. How do I get that figure? First, it would infect 5% of the vulnerable who haven’t been vaccinated and 5% of 50,000 is 2,500. Second, it would still kill 5% of the remaining 95% of the vulnerable population who would have died but have been vaccinated, since the vaccines only reduce death by 95% – so 0.05 x 0.95 x 50,000 = 2,375. 2,500 + 2,375 = 4,875.

So 2,375 will die in the fourth wave in spite of not being vaccinated – roughly 10% of the number of the 22,000 influenza deaths during the 2017 to 2018 winter. Certainly not a number worthy of any response beyond sensible advice. Anyone advocating anything other than sensible public health advice for this scale of viral death is just being hysterical and illogical. If they haven’t been advocating the same things for influenza every previous winter, what makes them do it now? Is it because they are caught up in the hysteria and groupthink gripping SAGE and the country? Why treat this differently just because the media enjoy talking about it? 

Of the other group in this hypothetical scenario of Professor Brown’s – the 2,500 unvaccinated deaths – it is their choice not to take a vaccine and they should accept the consequences.

Professor Brown should feel free to lock himself away for the rest of time if he wants to make sure he isn’t putting the ‘vaccine hesitant’ community at risk, but he shouldn’t advocate forcing the rest of sane society to do so. What next? A ban on car travel because some people refuse to wear seat belts and it puts them at risk of dying? A ban on ‘do not resuscitate’ wishes from patients? Do SAGE want to ban sex outside of committed relationships because some people do not use condoms and could spread STDs? What about “a circuit breaker on sex” whilst we do mass testing for STDs and make everyone get a “coitus passport”, so the plebs can only fornicate if they have tested negative for chlamydia, herpes, and HIV? If Professor Brown insists on advocating one set of restrictions, it is illogical not to advocate the others.  

If it is acceptable to restrict other people’s civil liberties because some people aren’t sensible with their own health, then I suppose Professor Brown will be getting to work advocating the banning of cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, and junk food. Eradicating them from society may lead to a far greater increase in QALYs than eradicating Covid will, now that we have very effective vaccines. 78,000 die from smoking each year alone. Perhaps I ought not be giving Professor Brown these ideas. If you read this Professor, please don’t suggest them in your next JCVI meeting. You’ve done enough damage to civil liberties as it is.