Month: April 2021

Durham University Introduces Covid Status Certificates

A reader has been in touch to tell us that a Covid certification scheme has been introduced at Durham University, where her son is a first-year student. As she asks, is this even legal?

Elder son, First Year student at Durham University, returned on Sunday for summer term. He has been told he needs to do two lateral flow tests per week and must have a negative email confirmation on his phone in order to do “any university activity”. This means that if he wants to participate in the life of the university, as opposed to stay cooped up in his tiny dorm room 24/7, Covid testing is mandatory.

Is this even legal?

He was also told his term has also been extended by one week, into early July, for the “wider university experience”. (Joke.) Is this so the university can broaden its new scheme to include evidence students have been vaccinated in time for when the roll out hits 18 to 30 year-olds? Presumably, the authorities at Durham don’t care that the risks of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks of not being vaccinated for people in his age group.

This academic year he will have had zero face-to-face teaching. There has been no announcement at all about the 2021/22 academic year teaching arrangements, apart from to confirm that maximum fees will be charges, as they were this year. But of course.

I cannot understand why universities, with all their fine minds, are supporting this nonsensical testing regime. Don’t the medical professors read the data on the false positive rates for lateral flow tests? To me, universities have been complicit in damaging UK further education, as well as the health of their communities.

My poor 19 year-old son is desperate to have a more “normal” life again. He could very easily be coerced into doing almost anything to achieve that and will get vaccinated if it means he can get back to university sport and some socialising. This is the second year of woeful education for him, having had his A-levels cancelled in 2020. It fills me with despair.

Why Can’t the Government be More Transparent About the Data Guiding its Decisions?

We’re publishing an original piece today by Dr Anthony Fryer, a Professor of Clinical Biochemistry at the School of Medicine at Keele University and member of HART. He is becoming more and more frustrated that the Government isn’t being more transparent about the data it’s basing its decisions on, its failure to contextualise the data it does release and why, in particular, it has failed to acknowledge the impact false positives have in inflating the number of cases as well as the figures about how many people have supposedly died from COVID-19. Here are the first three paragraphs:

When I look back over the last year or so of the pandemic, I can forgive the first couple of months. We were all finding our feet with a largely unknown entity. However, as a clinical scientist with over 30 years in NHS laboratories and as an academic researcher with over 200 peer-reviewed clinical research articles in scientific and medical journals (including over 130 involving use of the polymerase chain reaction [PCR]), I found my views increasingly divergent from those of the Government and its advisors. Those who know me will know that it takes a lot to get me annoyed, but I could not sit by and do nothing when I could see the immense damage being done to countless lives and businesses in the name of supposedly protecting us from SARS-CoV-2.

But let me say at the start; I am not one to deny the damage that COVID-19 can do. (And I deliberately use that term, rather than SARS-CoV-2. It’s the disease that causes the problems – most people manage the virus without much difficulty.) COVID-19 can be very nasty and my heart goes out to all those affected. But the way in which the Government handled the pandemic has, in my view, been shocking. It’s felt like it has focused blindly on the virus (and not very well at that either – just think about PPE in care homes for a start) and ignored the massive implications on every other level.

So I wrote. I wrote letters to the local paper, emailed the Chief Medical Officer, submitted evidence to a Parliamentary Inquiry, signed the Great Barrington Declaration, published scientific papers on the ineffectiveness of face coverings and on the non-Covid harms to people with diabetes, and wrote to my MP. Several times. I also joined UsforThem and the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART).

This is a brilliant piece by an eminent medical scientist who’s been red-pilled by the Government’s poor handling of the pandemic and is very much worth reading in full.

House of German Judge Who Ruled Against Masks in Schools Raided By Investigators

Earlier this month, we covered the ruling of a court in Weimar, Germany, 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. The judge said: “The state legislature regulating this area has gotten far removed from the facts, which has taken on seemingly historic proportions.” It has since been reported that the house, office and car of this judge have been searched by investigators because his ruling is thought to have violated the law. 2020News has the story.

The judge at the Weimar District Court, Christian Dettmar, had his house searched [on Monday]. His office, private premises and car were searched. The judge’s cell phone was confiscated by the police. The judge had made a sensational decision on April 8th, 2021, which was very inconvenient for the Government’s anti-Covid measures…

The decision… had caused quite a stir. It had been downloaded about two million times from the 2020News website alone.

The house search… took place obviously for political reasons.

According to a t-online report (translated from German by Google Translate), the Weimar judge’s ruling has been accused of being “manifestly unlawful”.

At the beginning of April, the judge ordered that the mask and test requirement for children at two Weimar schools were [to be] suspended because of an alleged risk to the welfare of the children. He had claimed responsibility for the decision. The administrative court, however, declared the mask requirement to be legal last week. The judges there indicated that they considered the family judge’s decision to be “manifestly unlawful”. Family courts are not empowered to issue orders to authorities.

The Weimar decision has also been heavily criticised… by other courts… The public prosecutor’s office is now investigating the initial suspicion that the judge could have “consciously and seriously distanced himself from the law” and made a decision that is not supported by the statutory provisions.

A demonstration against the treatment of the Weimar judge has been announced.

The 2020News report is worth reading in full.

Number of Weekly Covid Deaths in England and Wales at Lowest Level in Six Months

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of weekly Covid-related deaths has fallen to the lowest level since last October. There has been a particular fall in Covid deaths in the 70-and-over age group, a large proportion of whom have been fully vaccinated. Sky News has the story.

A total of 362 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 16th mentioned Covid on the death certificate, according to the ONS.

This is the lowest number since the week ending October 2nd, 2020.

The figure is also down by 4% on the previous week’s total, although the ONS said the number of deaths registered is likely to have been affected by the recent Easter bank holidays.

Around one in 29 (3.5%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to April 16th mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate.

The latest data also showed a massive 97% fall in Covid deaths in the 70-and-over age group, with 196 virus-related fatalities registered in the week ending April 9th compared with 7,049 in the week ending January 22nd.

Deaths for those aged 65 to 69 decreased by 96% during the same period, with drops of 95% for those aged 60 to 64, 94% for those aged 55 to 59, and 96% for those aged 50 to 54.

Overall, Covid deaths were down by at least 95% since the second-wave peak among people in all 50-and-over age groups, the ONS said.

Worth reading in full.

The ONS also found that almost as many people are now dying from flu and pneumonia as they are from Covid. The Mail has the story.

Flu and pneumonia are now killing almost as many people as coronavirus, official figures revealed today as the outbreak continues to fade away.

ONS analysis showed the illnesses were listed as the underlying cause of death for 265 victims in England and Wales in the week ending April 16th.

For comparison, Covid was blamed for 275 deaths.

Also worth reading in full.

New Paper Argues the Costs of Canada’s Lockdown Far Outweighed the Benefits

The Canadian economist Douglas Allen has written a paper reviewing the literature on the costs and benefits of lockdown. Early studies, he argues, made a number of erroneous assumptions, which led them to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs.

Such studies overestimated the benefits of lockdowns insofar as they used overly pessimistic values of key epidemiological parameters; they assumed people would not change their behaviour voluntarily in response to the pandemic; and they assumed the “value of a statistical life” is independent of age. And they underestimated the costs of lockdowns insofar as they only took into account the effects on GDP.

The “value of a statistical life” is a concept used by economists and political scientists to compare the impact of different policies. It is calculated by observing how much individuals are willing to pay to avoid a given level of risk. For example, researchers can examine the relationship between wages and fatality rates across occupations, while holding other factors constant. (Crab fishermen get paid a lot more than fruit pickers, in part because their work is more risky.)  

However, the “value of a statistical life” is lower at older ages, particularly above age 65. Since the vast majority of those who die of COVID-19 are older than 65, assuming the “value of a statistical life” is independent of age will lead one to overestimate the benefits of policies that aim to reduce mortality from COVID-19. 

Allen then reviews studies that have attempted to disentangle the impacts of lockdowns versus voluntary changes in behaviour. He concludes, “all of them find that mandated lockdowns have only marginal effects and that voluntary changes in behavior explain large parts of the changes in cases, transmissions, and deaths.”

Finally, Allen undertakes his own cost-benefit analysis of Canada’s lockdowns. Following the economist Bryan Caplan, he assumes that the average Canadian valued life under lockdown 5/6ths as much as the alternative, which implies that Canadians lost 6.3 million life years in total. Allen claims that this figure exceeds any plausible estimate of the number of life years saved. 

Even if you don’t agree with his assumptions, Allen’s paper is worth reading in full.

Bars and Nightclubs to Reopen in Hong Kong – But Only For Those Who Have Been Vaccinated Against Covid

Hong Kong is moving ahead with a vaccine passport scheme under which only those who have been vaccinated against Covid and who use a Government mobile phone app will be able to go to bars and nightclubs when they reopen on Thursday. All staff will also be required to have received at least one dose of a vaccine. The scheme will, according to a Government official, enable life in Hong Kong to “return to normal” – despite breaking from all that has previously been considered “normal”. Reuters has the story.

Hong Kong will reopen bars and nightclubs from April 29th for people who have been vaccinated and who use a Government mobile phone application, the Asian financial hub’s Health Secretary said on Tuesday.

Sophia Chan told a press briefing the measures extended to bathhouses and karaoke lounges and would enable the venues to stay open until 2 am. All staff and customers must have received at least one vaccine dose for the venue to be operational and they must operate at half capacity, she said.

“We all hope life can return to normal but we need to allow some time for everyone to adapt to these new measures,” Chan said.

The former British colony has recorded over 11,700 total coronavirus cases, far lower than other developed cities…

Chan’s announcement comes as authorities try to incentivise residents to get vaccinated with only around 11% of the city’s 7.5 million population having received their first vaccine dose.

The take up of vaccines has been sluggish since the scheme began in the Chinese special administrative region in February due to a lack of confidence in China’s Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions.

Hong Kong began vaccinating residents with doses from Sinovac in February and started offering a vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech in March.

Under the new scheme, restaurant-goers who have not been vaccinated will have to sit in designated areas, away from those who have received a vaccine.

Restaurants will set up different areas for customers who are not vaccinated and for those who choose to write their contact details down on paper rather than registering with the government app. This segment will only be allowed to dine up to four people to a table [whereas the “vaccinated zone” will be permitted to dine up to six customers per table].

Worth reading in full.

“The UK Currently Operates a System of Informed Consent for Vaccinations.” Currently, Minister?

Dr Helen Westwood, a GP whose previous letters and comments have appeared on Lockdown Sceptics, wrote to her MP Sir Graham Brady in March with some concerns about the vaccines and the potential for coercion. She has now received a reply from Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi that is far from reassuring.

Here’s what she wrote.

Dear Sir Graham, 

Firstly I wish to thank you again for your ongoing hard work in arguing for a more proportionate response to dealing with COVID-19.  The concerns I wish to raise with you today relate to the vaccination program and the proposition of vaccination certificates.

As you know I am a GP. I am horrified by the talk of ‘No Jab, No Job’ policies and vaccination certificates.

The GMC are very clear that “all patients have the right to be involved in decisions about their treatment and care” and that “doctors must be satisfied that they have a patient’s consent… before providing treatment or care”. They also state “doctors must… share relevant information about the benefits and harms of proposed options and reasonable alternatives, including the option to take no action”.

Following interim analysis of the ongoing clinical trials, emergency use authorisation has been granted by the MHRA for both the Pfizer BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines. They are as yet unlicensed. The clinical trials are due to continue until 2023. I find it alarming that much attention is paid to the headline figures of relative risk reduction (RRR) with no mention of the absolute risk reduction (ARR). The RRR of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 95.1% (CI 90.0%-97.6%, p=0.016). Dig a little deeper into the data and you learn that the ARR is only 0.7% (CI 0.59%-0.83%, p<0.001) and the number needed to vaccinate in order to prevent one infection is 142 (CI 122-170).

The WHO published a bulletin written by John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, in October 2020. He quotes an infection fatality rate (IFR) for Covid of 0.00-0.57% and in those under the age of 70 it stands at 0.05%.

Given the minimal risk healthy people under the age of 70 face, and the very small absolute risk reductions noted in the clinical trials, I have to ask why are we so desperate to vaccinate the whole population? For healthy, working age people Covid poses less of a risk than seasonal flu. It has never been proposed that we vaccinate the entire adult population against flu; we target the populations most at risk.

The speed at which these vaccines have been developed is truly remarkable. However, I have grave concerns that they are being rolled out on such a scale and at such pace. I am not sure whether you are familiar with the work of Joel Smalley MBA (a member of HART) but he has done some very interesting analysis of mortality data. Whilst correlation (between vaccination administration and rises in mortality) absolutely does not mean causation, the striking patterns he has highlighted suggest to me that now is the time to pause and reflect on the data we have so far. We know from the clinical trials that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine causes a drop in lymphocytes around seven days post administration; theoretically at least this could pose a risk of intercurrent infection, especially in frail patients. 

Both vaccines in current use in England employ novel technology, namely mRNA (Pfizer BioNTech) and Adenovirus vector (AZ). Human challenge studies have only recently begun. We do not currently know anything about the medium and long term safety of these vaccines. There are concerns about Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) reactions whereby vaccinated individuals may develop more severe disease upon exposure to the wild virus. Theoretical concerns have also been raised about potential cross reactivity with Syncytin-1 which could have effects on placental development and therefore fertility. Until these areas have been studied we cannot advise patients fully. This has significant implications for the informed consent process.

There seems to be some enthusiasm for “vaccination passports” among the population, whether for domestic use or international travel. These have been compared to Yellow Fever certificates that are required for individuals travelling to certain destinations. In reality there is no comparison. The mortality rate for Yellow Fever is in the region of 30%, transmission of Yellow Fever is confined to a relatively small number of countries and there are long term safety data available regarding the licensed vaccine.

Uptake of the Covid vaccine has been notably lower amongst certain ethnic minorities. The reasons for this are as yet unclear, but any policy requiring proof of vaccination has the potential to lead to indirect discrimination.

Professor Chris Whitty has said that doctors and care workers have a “professional responsibility” to get vaccinated. Given that reduction of transmission is not an outcome that is being measured in the clinical trials that are still ongoing, I do not agree with him. Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states: “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”

On November 4th 2020 Theresa May MP made a speech in the House of Commons. She was referring to the closure of places of worship when she said, “My concern is that the Government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship, for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused by a Government in future with the worst of intentions, and that has unintended consequences.” I fear the same could be said for the introduction of vaccination passports.

Personally I have declined this vaccine because of the concerns outlined above. I hope this decision does not mean I am unable to work, visit a restaurant or travel.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Helen Westwood

Here is Nadhim Zahawi’s response, passed on to Dr Westood by Sir Graham Brady.

News Round Up

£35 Million Test and Trace App Only Contacts Half of People Who Need to Self-Isolate

A recent survey suggested that more Brits are now willing to follow self-isolation rules after coming into contact with someone with Covid (90%) than in early March (84%). But how important are compliance rates if people don’t know they are required to isolate? The Test and Trace app – which has cost the taxpayer at least £35 million – is contacting fewer than half of its users who need to self-isolate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The Telegraph has the story.

The NHS Test and Trace app is contacting people who need to self-isolate in fewer than half of coronavirus cases, new data show.

A survey by the ONS found that in early April, only 48% of those who had downloaded the app and were required to self-isolate received a notification.

Of these, just 15% received the app notification at least a day before any other source, such as a phone call from a contact tracer.

The figures are the latest indication of the extremely limited impact the technology has played in reducing the spread of cases, despite costing at least £35 million.

They follow the delay of a software update earlier this month after a new check-in feature was found to violate Apple and Google’s privacy rules.

The ONS figures also found that nine out of 10 people required to self-isolate after being in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus said they fully adhered to the rules.

However, of the respondents who did not follow self-isolation requirements, 78% reported they left the house for non-permitted reasons during their 10-day isolation period, the ONS said.

Of those who left their homes, 27% said they had gone to the shops, while 13% went out for outdoor recreation or exercise.

Worth reading in full.

Registered Suicides in England Fell in 2020 Because Inquests Were Delayed During Lockdowns

It was reported last week that despite fears of the mental health crisis prompted by the lockdowns leading to a spike in suicides in 2020, the number of people committing suicide in the U.K. did not rise after the first lockdown. While the provisional rate of suicides for 2020 is lower than that of 2019, this may be due to delays to coroner inquests, meaning the actual figure could be much higher, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The Mail has the story.

Registered suicides in England fell in 2020 as inquests were delayed during the coronavirus pandemic, official data shows.

Some 4,902 suicides were registered across the country last year – giving a provisional rate of 9.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, the ONS said.

That represents a fall from 2019, when the rate was 10.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.

The ONS said the fall “most likely reflects delays to coroner inquests, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as opposed to a genuine decrease in suicide”.

The 2020 figures are provisional and will be finalised by the ONS in late 2021.

All deaths by suicide are investigated by coroners, with deaths usually registered around five to six months after they occur due to the length of time it takes to hold an inquest.

Of the suicides registered in 2020, more than half (51.2%) occurred that year. Some 3,674 involved males, and 1,228 females.

Between April and June 2020, during the first national lockdown, the provisional suicide rate fell by 36.1% compared with the same period in 2019.

The number of registered suicides in this quarter was the lowest since 2001.

This is most likely to be due to the impact of the pandemic on the coroner’s service, such as delays to inquests as the service adapted to social distancing measures, the ONS said.

The number of registered suicides increased in the second half of 2020, most likely due to inquests resuming, the ONS said. 

In November, the charity Rethink Mental Illness said the number of people turning to its website for support with suicidal thoughts had tripled in the first six months of lockdown. A new study also found that the lack of in-person treatments – because of lockdowns – has made mental health patients feel as though they “were missing out on care”.

The Mail’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a decrease in U.S. suicides in 2020 by 2,700, from 47,500 to 44,800. But, at the same time, there was a substantial increase in the number of “unintended injury” deaths (an increase of 19,000 from 2019) which was “largely driven by drug overdose[s]”.

Dr Gary Ordog, MD, from the Department of Health Services in the County of Los Angeles (retired) said:

I was surprised by the suicide rate reported to have a major decrease in 2020. It seems from most other reports that the suicide rate has increased since the pandemic began. This may be explained by the fact that the category of “Unintentional Injury” had a major increase at the same time, and the fact that this category includes drug overdoses. As there is often inadequate history in a fatal drug overdose case, many of these may be purposeful and so suicidal. This would explain the perceived increase in suicide rate since the current pandemic began. Perhaps further analysis of the data would elucidate this incongruity.