Day: 14 April 2021

Physical Inactivity Doubles Risk of Covid Death, Study Suggests

US researchers have linked physical inactivity to an increased likelihood of Covid leading to hospitalisation and, ultimately, death. Their study suggests that the odds for death were 2.49 times greater for patients who were consistently inactive compared with patients who were consistently active. The Telegraph has the story.

Inactive coronavirus patients are more than twice as likely to die from the disease compared to people who exercise for the recommended 150 minutes a week, a new study suggests. 

Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, studied the medical records of nearly 50,000 people who were diagnosed with coronavirus between January and October last year.

They found that being consistently inactive more than doubled the odds of hospitalisation compared with being regularly active.

Patients who were consistently inactive were 73% more likely to be admitted to intensive care than fit patients. 

The odds for death were 2.49 times greater for patients who were consistently inactive compared with patients who were consistently active.

The researchers found that inactivity was the biggest risk factor for the disease after age, and having a history of organ transplant. 

Even patients who were inconsistently active had lower odds for severe Covid when compared to those who were consistently inactive, suggesting any amount of physical activity has benefit.

Dr Robert Sallis, a sports medicine physician at the medical centre that conducted this research, said that the findings should act as a “wake-up call”.

This is a wake-up call for the importance of healthy lifestyles and especially physical activity…

People who regularly exercise had the best chance of beating Covid, while people who were inactive did much worse.

Walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week at a moderate pace and that will give you a tremendous protective effect against Covid.

Around half of those studied had no underlying health conditions.

Worth reading in full.

Hospitality Leaders Tell Boris Johnson They Will Not Force Customers to Show Vaccine Passports

The pushback against vaccine passports continues to gather momentum. Earlier, we published a report on an open letter sent to the Prime Minister – signed by over 1,000 of the UK’s Christian leaders – warning against the introduction of “medical apartheid” under a vaccine passport scheme. Now, a new charter, “Open for All“, has been signed by more than 60 restaurant owners and other hospitality figures, telling Boris that they will not force customers to show Covid Status Certificates as a condition of entry. The Telegraph has the story.

In a letter to the Prime Minister… the signatories make clear their opposition to Covid status certification being used in hospitality settings. 

“We will not be forcing our patrons to show us any documentation referring to health status to gain entry,” one line of the letter reads.

The intervention is a shot across the bows of the Government as ministers consider whether to require restaurants and pubs to check the Covid status of customers.

Among the signatories are the CEOs of Rekom UK, which runs 42 nightclubs, and Tokyo Industries, which runs clubs, festivals and bars. Others backing the letter include senior figures at venues such as The Hippodrome Casino, Electric Star Pubs, Bocca de Lupo, Proud Cabaret, Brindisa and Burger&Lobster.

Alan Miller, the co-founder of Night Time Industries Association, who organised the letter, said: “The British people have been diligent and remarkable over this last year, and we’ve all waited for so long to get back to normal.

“We were told in January that vaccines were our way out, and that we were on a one-way road to freedom. It is a far cry from freedom if we are put in the position where pubs, clubs, festivals, shows and venues of any kind are forced to demand health papers. We won’t be doing it.”

The letter congratulates the Government for its successful vaccine rollout but insists that there are many reasons why some people may choose not to get a Covid vaccine, adding that it would be wrong for venues to ask customers to present health-related documents. It reads:

We have no axe to grind politically and many of us think the vaccine rollout has been tremendous for those who wish to take it.

We also know that for many reasons some will not have a vaccine.

Furthermore, we do not believe it is right that we, as premises and promoters, should demand to see proof of medical records or health status. The majority of people in the UK have chosen to be vaccinated.

There are many practical and logistical issues for us alongside civil liberty and discrimination considerations more broadly for society if venues or events insist on seeing any kind of health-related documents.

The Telegraph‘s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Julia Hartley-Brewer has urged all hospitality business owners to sign up to the declaration to “[ensure] vaccine passports never happen”.

EU Commission to End AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Contracts at Expiry

The EU Commission will not renew Covid vaccine contracts with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) when they expire, according to reports. The vaccines produced by both of these companies are facing scrutiny over their links to blood clotting and have been subject to numerous medical reviews. Reuters has the story.

The EU Commission has decided not to renew Covid vaccine contracts next year with AstraZeneca and J&J, Italian daily La Stampa reported on Wednesday, citing a source from the Italian health ministry.

“The European Commission, in agreement with the leaders of many (EU) countries, has decided that the contracts with the companies that produce (viral vector) vaccines that are valid for the current year will not be renewed at their expiry,” the newspaper reported. …

A spokesman for the EU Commission said it was keeping all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond.

“We cannot, however, comment on contractual issues,” the spokesman added.

Later on Wednesday the President of the European Commission said the EU was in talks with Pfizer and BionTech for a new contract for 1.8 billion doses, confirming a Reuters report from last week.

“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth. mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point,” she added.

La Stampa reports that Brussels would rather prioritise Covid vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna – both of which use mRNA technology – in the UE’s rollout efforts. Studies from across Europe have shown that many people are refusing the AZ vaccine due to concerns over its link to blood clots (for example, 33% of Danes and up to 80% of Sicilians would reportedly turn the vaccine down). The rollout of J&J Covid vaccines in Europe has also recently been delayed by the company, following reports on its relationship with rare blood clots.

The Reuters report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Danish Health Authority has announced that it will no longer be recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There is a possible link between very rare cases of unusual blood clots, bleeding, low blood platelets counts and the vaccine from AstraZeneca. This, coupled with the fact that the Covid epidemic in Denmark is currently under control and other vaccines are available against Covid, has been instrumental in the Danish Health Authority’s decision to continue its vaccination programme against Covid without the vaccine from AstraZeneca.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Is Wrong: The Lockdown Has Not Been “Overwhelmingly Important”

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the reduction in cases, hospitalisations and deaths “has not been achieved by the vaccination programme”. Rather, he claimed, “it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic and in the figures that we’re seeing”. While the lockdown may have had some impact on the epidemic’s trajectory, we should be very sceptical of the Prime Minister’s claim.

First, as Will Jones pointed out yesterday in Lockdown Sceptics, there are several US states where numbers fell dramatically in the absence of any lockdown: Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina and Mississippi. And to this list, one could add Sweden. As shown below, the trajectory of deaths per million in Sweden is strikingly similar to that in the UK, even though the country has never gone into lockdown. (It should be noted, of course, that measures not based on age-adjusted excess mortality can be misleading.)

These examples do not show that lockdowns have no impact on the epidemic’s trajectory. But they do show that lockdowns are not necessary for case and death numbers to decline. Hence it is wrong to assume that, if numbers decline after a lockdown is introduced, it must have been the lockdown that caused the decline. (It might have been, but this cannot simply be assumed.)

Second, the most convincing study of the UK’s lockdowns of which I am aware (now published in Biometrics) concludes that each one was introduced only after the corresponding peak of fatal infections.

In particular, the statistician Simon Wood sought to reconstruct the actual time course of infections in England, based on available data. He notes that reported case numbers are subject to various forms of bias (e.g. non-representative samples, changes in the amount and type of testing) and that “under normal circumstances” statisticians would not “recommend attempting to estimate the effective reproduction number of the pathogen from such data”.

As an alternative, Wood used hospital death numbers (which, though imperfect, are less comprised than case numbers). In order to reconstruct the time course of infections, he combined these with the distribution of fatal disease durations (i.e., the number of days between infection and death), which he derived from the published literature.

His results are shown in the chart below. The grey dots are hospital deaths; the black line is inferred fatal infections; and the red lines are the lockdowns. As you can see, the peak of fatal infections occurs before the corresponding lockdown in each of the three cases. This finding casts serious doubt on the Prime Minister’s claim that the third lockdown has been “overwhelmingly important”.

Wood’s findings are consistent with those of economist David Paton, who notes that seven separate indicators all appear to show infections declining before the start of January’s lockdown. (Though it should be noted that parts of England were already under quite heavy restrictions when the lockdown began, and these may have contributed to the epidemic’s retreat.)

There is a large amount of evidence that lockdowns are neither necessary nor, in every case, sufficient to bring case and death numbers under control. This does not mean they have no impact on the epidemic’s trajectory, but it does mean that claims of “overwhelming” efficacy should be met with skepticism. And the best available evidence for England suggests that the infections were already declining when the third national lockdown was imposed.

Stop Press: Simon Wood, the author of the Biometrics study mentioned above, has written a piece for the Spectator responding to the Prime Minister’s comments, as well as the claim made by Imperial College that infections were surging right up until the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020.

This post has been updated.

Christian Leaders Warn Against the Introduction of “Medical Apartheid” under a Vaccine Passport Scheme

Over 1,000 of the UK’s Christian leaders have signed an open letter to Boris Johnson warning against the introduction of vaccine passports, which would “risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life”. Its signatories also state that there are “no circumstances” in which they would close their church doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport. The letter has been sent to the Prime Minister, along with all MPs and devolved assembly members, and has been published in today’s Scottish Daily Express. It reads as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

As Christian leaders across a range of denominations, we continue to pray at this time for your Government “and all in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

However, we write to you concerning an area of the most serious concern, namely the potential introduction into our society of so-called “vaccine passports” which have also been referred to as “Covid-status certificates” and “freedom passes”. We are wholly opposed to this suggestion and wish to make three points about the potential consideration of any scheme of this type.

Firstly, to make vaccination the basis of whether someone is allowed entry to a venue, or participation in an activity, makes no logical sense in terms of protecting others. If the vaccines are highly effective in preventing significant disease, as seems to be the evidence from trial results to date, then those who have been vaccinated have already received protection; there is no benefit to them of other people being vaccinated. Further, since vaccines do not prevent infection per se even a vaccinated person could in theory carry and potentially pass on the virus, so to decide someone’s “safe non-spreader” status on the basis of proof of their immunity to disease is spurious.

Secondly, the introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent. People may have various reasons for being unable or unwilling to receive vaccines currently available including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing. We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life. There is also a legitimate fear that this scheme would be the thin end of the wedge leading to a permanent state of affairs in which Covid vaccine status could be expanded to encompass other forms of medical treatment and perhaps even other criteria beyond that. This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives. As such, this constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics.

Finally, as Christian leaders we wish to state that we envisage no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport, negative test certificate, or any other “proof of health”. For the Church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the Gospel. The message we preach is given by God for all people and consists in nothing other than the free gift of grace offered in Christ Jesus, with the universal call to repentance and faith in him. To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel. Sincere Christian churches and organisations could not do this, and as Christian leaders we would be compelled to resist any such Act of Parliament vigorously.

We draw your attention to the recent Judicial Review overturning the Scottish Government’s ban on public worship, which demonstrates that such disproportionate prevention of the right to worship is a clear infringement under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. We cannot see how any attempt to prevent people from gathering for worship on the basis of either testing or non-vaccination would not similarly be ruled to be a breach. We agree with those members of Parliament who have already voiced opposition to this proposal: that it would be divisive, discriminatory and destructive to introduce any such mandatory health certification into British society. We call on the Government to assert strongly and clearly that it will not contemplate this illiberal and dangerous plan, not now and not ever.

Find the full list of signatories – which continues to grow – here.

Stop Press: This open letter has now been signed by over 1,200 of the UK’s Christian leaders.

How Many Covid Deaths Are Really Due to COVID-19?

The Telegraph‘s front page led today with the story that nearly a quarter of deaths (23%) registered “with Covid” in the latest official data for England and Wales were not “due to Covid” but were due to another underlying cause, according to the information entered on the death certificate. This percentage is up on earlier figures. The same figure for the original wave up to August 31st in England and Wales was just 8% (4,159 out of 52,327).

However, there is good reason to think both figures are too low. A Freedom of Information enquiry (pictured below) found that for Northern Ireland, the proportion of deaths that mentioned Covid but identified an antecedent condition (or conditions) as the cause of death for the period March 1st to November 20th was 38% (494 out of 1,301).

Why would Covid be the underlying cause of 62% of Covid deaths in Northern Ireland but 92% in England and Wales for broadly the same period? It wouldn’t, of course. The difference is how the deaths are recorded.

One reason may be because doctors in England and Wales were given a stronger steer to record Covid as the underlying cause of death. The British Medical Association told doctors early in the pandemic:

In those cases where the doctor is confident on medical grounds that a particular cause of death is likely then that should be entered on the MCCD [death certificate]. COVID-19 is an acceptable direct or underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the MCCD, even without the results of a positive test, and it is important that likely COVID-19 deaths are reported as such via the registrar.

No similar guidance appears to exist for Northern Ireland.

Even 38% may be too low, however. A review by a county in Sweden in August found that 85% of the 122 Covid deaths investigated were due to a different underlying cause.

The Östergötland region has examined all deaths that have died at home or in special housing with confirmed COVID-19. Records from 122 people have been reviewed, which is 51% of the 240 people who had died in the county when the review was done.

The cause of death in the cause of death certificate has been COVID-19, but the review shows that other diseases may have contributed or been the decisive cause of death – for example, heart disease, lung disease or dementia.

111 of the deceased outside the hospital had extensive comorbidity and 11 moderate comorbidity. Half were 88 years or older.

COVID-19 was estimated to be the direct cause of death in 15% of deaths. For a majority of the deceased – as many as 70% – COVID-19 was a contributing factor rather than a direct cause. In 15%, the cause of death was judged to be other diseases, then most often heart disease.

The definition of a “Covid death” has been a consistent issue throughout the crisis, with the Government even knocking thousands of deaths off the running total in August after changing the definition following criticism. It has been frequently observed that different standards have been applied to Covid deaths than to other similar diseases – a frail elderly person who died with an acute respiratory condition such as influenza would not, prior to the pandemic, usually have had influenza recorded as the underlying cause of death, whereas Covid will often be recorded as such in similar circumstances. This novel practice has inflated the pandemic death toll and fed the narrative of fear.

Overall death totals (from all causes) are generally a much better guide to the impact of the pandemic – though even there deaths due to interventions become mixed up with the Covid deaths. Trying to get to the bottom of the true Covid death toll will not be an easy task at all.

Weimar Court Prohibits Mask-Wearing, Distancing Measures and Rapid Testing At Schools

A court in Weimar, Germany, has ruled that two schools should be prevented – with immediate effect – from forcing their pupils to wear masks, along with imposing social distancing measures and insisting on SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests, saying that “the state legislature regulating this area has gotten far removed from the facts, which has taken on seemingly historic proportions”. On mask-wearing, the court ruled that “the risk of infection is not only not reduced by wearing the mask, but is increased by [the widespread] incorrect handling of the mask”. The court also said “there is no evidence that compliance with distance regulations can reduce the risk of infection” and that “the regular compulsion to take a test puts the children under psychological pressure, because their ability to go to school is constantly put to the test”. The case was brought to court by a mother on child protection grounds.

There follows the text of an article published by 2020 News on this ruling – translated from German to English by Google. We think it’s so good we are reproducing it in full.

On April 8th, 2021, the Weimar Family Court decided in an urgent procedure (Az .: 9 F 148/21 – available in English here) that two schools in Weimar are prohibited with immediate effect from prescribing pupils to have mouth and nose coverings of all kinds (in particular wearing qualified masks such as FFP2 masks), complying with AHA minimum distances and/or taking part in SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests. At the same time, the court ruled that face-to-face teaching must be maintained.

For the first time, evidence has now been taken before a German court regarding the scientific meaningfulness and necessity of the prescribed anti-Covid measures. Hygiene doctor Professor Dr med Ines Kappstein, the psychologist Professor Dr Christof Kuhbandner and the biologist Professor Dr of Human Biology Ulrike Kämmerer have been heard.

The court proceedings are so-called child protection proceedings in accordance with Section 1666 Paragraphs 1 and 4 of the German Civil Code (BGB), which a mother had initiated for her two sons at the age of 14 and eight at the local court – the family court. She had argued that her children would be harmed physically, psychologically and educationally without any benefit to the children or third parties. This would also violate numerous rights of children and their parents under the law, the constitution and international conventions.

The proceedings according to § 1666 BGB can be initiated ex officio, either at the suggestion of any person or without such a person, if the court considers intervention to be necessary for reasons of the child’s best interests, § 1697a BGB.

After examining the factual and legal situation and evaluating the reports, the Weimar Family Court came to the conclusion that the now prohibited measures represent a current risk to the mental, physical or emotional well-being of the child to such an extent that further development without intervention is reasonably likely to foresee significant harm.

The judge stated:

…children are not only endangered in their mental, physical and spiritual well-being but are also currently damaged by the obligation to wear face masks during school time and to keep their distance from one another and from other people. This violates numerous rights of children and their parents under the law, the constitution and international conventions. This applies in particular to the right to free development of personality and to physical integrity from Article 2 of the Basic Law as well as to the right from Article 6 of the Basic Law to education and care by parents (also with regard to health care measures and ‘objects’ to be carried by children)…

With his judgment, the judge confirms the mother’s assessment:

The children are damaged physically, psychologically and educationally and their rights are violated, without any benefit for the children themselves or for third parties.

According to the conviction of the court, school administrators, teachers and others could not invoke the state legal provisions on which the measures are based, because they are unconstitutional and therefore null and void. Reason: You violate the principle of proportionality rooted in the rule of law (Articles 20, 28 of the Basic Law).

[The judge stated]:

According to this principle, which is also known as the prohibition of excess, the measures envisaged to achieve a legitimate purpose must be suitable, necessary and proportionate in the narrower sense – that is, when weighing the advantages and disadvantages achieved with them. The measures that are not evidence-based, contrary to Section 1 (2) IfSG, are already unsuitable for achieving the fundamentally legitimate purpose they pursue, namely to avoid overloading the health system or to reduce the rate of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In any case, however, they are disproportionate in the narrower sense, because the considerable disadvantages/collateral damage they cause are not offset by any discernible benefit for the children themselves or for third parties.

He clarifies:

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that it is not the participants who have to justify the unconstitutionality of the interference with their rights, but rather the Free State of Thuringia, which encroaches on the rights of those involved with its state regulations, has to prove with the necessary scientific evidence that the measures prescribed… are suitable to achieve the intended purposes, and that they, if necessary, are proportionate. So far, that has not yet happened.

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