Day: 4 May 2021

Older Workers Suffer Highest Rate of Redundancy During Lockdowns

Public debate surrounding the impact of lockdown on employment has focussed – where it has taken place at all – on the impact on younger people. Despite this, new data shows that older workers have suffered the highest rate of redundancy over the past year. The Financial Times has the story.

U.K. workers aged over 50 have suffered the highest rate of redundancy of any age group in the latest quarter, and the biggest increase since the start of the pandemic, according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said that, while young people had borne the brunt of the first wave of job losses, and had been hardest hit overall, redundancy rates had also declined earliest for this age group.

In the period from December to February, the redundancy rate for over-50s was highest at 9.7 per 1,000, up from 4.3 per 1,000 a year earlier. 

Over the course of the pandemic, older men had been most likely to lose jobs in manufacturing, while around a third of redundancies among older women were in distribution, hotels and restaurants.

Employees aged 50 and over were also more likely to be working reduced hours in the December-to-February period, with the proportion receiving partial or no pay increasing with age.

Kate Andrews, writing in the Spectator, notes that the job landscape will only get worse as the furlough scheme comes to an end.

It’s inevitable that some people will emerge from furlough to discover their jobs no longer exist. Even if Covid restrictions are fully lifted and society is able to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, substantial shifts in the way we work, shop and live have taken place over the past year – some of which are bound to stay. The concern for older workers, the ONS notes, is that redundancy might mean the end of their time in the workforce altogether. Unlike their younger counterparts, who will suffer setbacks of their own, the pandemic will not have delayed their career progression, but ended it, as some opt for early retirement instead of re-skilling and re-training, or hunting for the next job.

This will pose a series of challenges: to individuals who don’t feel entirely secure in their retirement, to the U.K.’s labour market recovery, and to the public finances as well. Forget the past year’s off-the-chart spending: even before Covid, Britain’s spending pledges were already out of kilter with what it could realistically afford long-term. Pre-pandemic, the Office for Budget Responsibility was projecting that public sector net debt as a proportion of GDP would rise to 283% over the next 50 years: as the country works to make good on significant healthcare and pension pledges, the cost will be shouldered by people in work.

A spike in workers entering early retirement will only accelerate this trend, and increase the burden on the working-age population to cover increasing costs. 

The FT report is worth reading in full.

Covid Vaccine Passports Could Lead to Fewer People Getting Vaccinated, Says SAGE Psychologist

Stephen Reicher, a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews and member of SAGE, has warned that the introduction of vaccine passports could lead to people refusing to get vaccinated against Covid. MailOnline has the story.

Green-lighting domestic Covid vaccine passports would be an admission by ministers that the jab rollout is destined to fail, a Government scientist warned today. 

Professor Stephen Reicher, a top social psychologist who sits on SAGE, said forcing people to produce jab certificates to enjoy their freedoms would only make sense if not enough people were being jabbed.

But uptake of the vaccines has already exceeded the Government’s most ambitious expectations, with more than 90% of people over-50 accepting their invitation. The rollout is going so well it has already moved down to over-40s ahead of schedule.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that almost two-thirds of all adults in England have received one dose of a Covid vaccine. 29.4% are now fully vaccinated.

Professor Reicher told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that the Government would be “setting itself up for failure” if it decided to introduce domestic vaccine passports.

Professor Reicher warned that a really strict jab certification regime could undermine the immunisation programme and lead to more people refusing a jab.

He said it would make voluntary jabs mandatory by proxy and create resentment and anger among the public. 

Professor Reicher warned that compelling people would lead to a significant number turning it down out of protest.  

“There is a very traditional, well-known psychological process called reactance: that if you take away people’s autonomy, if you force them to do something, they will reassert their autonomy, even if that means not doing things that they would otherwise want to do.

“Making something compulsory, or at least doing something which leaves the perception of compulsion can actually undermine activities which otherwise people would do and might even want to do.”

Boris Johnson promised that the vaccine programme alone would be the country’s ticket to freedom and insisted the Government was committed to avoiding a compulsory system.   

Covid vaccine passports have already been confirmed for when foreign travel resumes on May 17th but exactly how they’ll be deployed domestically remains unknown.

The PM has ruled out using them for going to the pub or supermarket but the Government is currently trialling a similar system for larger events such as concerts, sports matches and club nights.

Worth reading in full.

UK Covid Deaths Stay in Single Figures for Second Day Running for First Time Since September

The Department of Health’s daily update showed four more Covid deaths in the UK yesterday, making May 2nd and 3rd the lowest two-day total for eight months. MailOnline has more.

The Department of Health’s daily update showed infections are also down more than a quarter compared to last week after 1,946 positive tests were processed in the past 24 hours.

It comes after just one Covid fatality was recorded yesterday. It is the first time there have been single-digit deaths for two days running since September 14th.

The small number of deaths may be partly explained by the bank holiday, when the figures are often lower to due the way fatalities are logged. The seven-day rolling average number of daily Covid deaths is now 13.

People have also been less likely to come forward for tests on weekends or public holidays and many of the daily swabs are now conducted in schools and workplaces.

Meanwhile, latest figures show another 208,362 second vaccine doses were dished out across the UK on Sunday and 79,304 people were given their first injection.

It means 34.6million Britons — more than half — have been jabbed at least once and 15.6million — nearly a quarter of the population — have been fully vaccinated.

The promising data will be seized upon by MPs, pubs and restaurants, who have called for England’s lockdown to end sooner. One restaurant boss claimed reservations have been cancelled because of the ‘terrible weather’ and hospitality chiefs said it was essential that trading goes back to being “unrestricted” on June 21.

Sir Robert Syms, Tory MP for Poole in Dorset, yesterday said: “We need to push the Government to get on with it. A lot of normal life could be returned.” He said the country would “lose another summer” if rules aren’t eased soon.

The PM has so far refused to budge in the face of calls for more freedom, with restrictions set to stay in place until June 21st — touted as England’s independence day.

Worth reading in full.

Website Launched to Document the Harms of Lockdown

Today marks the official launch of the website Collateral Global, which aims to “to build an evidence-based understanding of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic response measures to inform future policies and strategies for pandemic preparedness”.

The editorial board contains many faces that will be familiar to Lockdown Sceptics readers, including Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldorff (the authors of The Great Barrington Declaration), as well as Oxford’s Carl Heneghan and the LSE’s Paul Dolan.

Through a series of themed editions, the website promises “original content highlighting everything from expert opinion and academic summaries to human stories and video diaries”. The theme of the first edition is introductory. It includes an editor’s note from Jay Bhattacharya, an essay on the ethics of lockdown by Oxford’s Alberto Giubilini, and several other contributions.

Bhattacharya doesn’t pull any punches in his editorial, which begins:

In 1915, chemistry lost its innocence when mustard gas poisoned British troops in Ypres, Belgium. Physics lost its innocence in 1945 amongst the radioactive rubble of Hiroshima, Japan. Public health lost its innocence in March 2020 when the world adopted lockdowns as a primary tool to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though he acknowledges, “As with war, not everything that came out of lockdown was bad and our reporting will reflect that truth.” According to the FAQs, the website “has no political or institutional affiliations” – its only allegiance is to “the enduring principles of scientific inquiry”.

Collateral Global is set to provide a range of interesting content, so do check it out.

Life Will “Feel a Lot More Normal By the Summer”, Says Neil Ferguson

Professor Neil Ferguson says that the success of the U.K.’s vaccine rollout means life will feel more normal by the summer, though we will still “not [be] completely back to normal“. His predictions echo recent reports that while many restrictions will come to an end on June 21st, mask-wearing and caps on numbers attending large events could stay in place past the “end” of lockdown. But with Covid cases and deaths continuing to fall, more MPs – and even papers – are asking why restrictions can’t come to an end now. MailOnline has more.

The SAGE Adviser and Imperial College London Epidemiologist, whose sobering death toll predictions led Britain into its first lockdown last year, said today that he expects the vaccine rollout to help keep the U.K. out of lockdown for good. 

His comments will be seized upon by the Tory MPs calling for the roadmap to normality to be sped up…

Sir Robert Syms, Tory MP for Poole in Dorset, yesterday said: “We need to push the Government to get on with it. A lot of normal life could be returned.” He said the country would “lose another summer” if rules aren’t eased soon. 

The PM has so far refused to budge in the face of calls for more freedom. Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning dodged questions about whether she thought it should be sped up and told talkRADIO: “We do need to make sure any opening up is irreversible.”

… Professor Ferguson said that jabs appear to work so well that they may hold the virus at bay even in the autumn and winter, when experts fear it will make a comeback like flu. 

He added that the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around and it was unlikely there will be any danger of the NHS getting overwhelmed.

He admitted “we do expect transmission” when society fully reopens in June but suggested vaccination should replace the need for lockdowns and the U.K. is “in a very good position” to stick to plans for June 21st.

Professor Ferguson’s main fear now is the threat of Covid variants, against which he believes “booster [vaccine] doses” should be administered.

Other advisers to SAGE last week published a study showing that Pfizer’s jab protects well against the South African variant after people have had both doses.

Professor Ferguson said: “The risk from variants, where vaccines are less effective is the major concern. That’s the one thing that could still lead to a very major third wave in the autumn.

“So I think it’s essential that we roll out booster doses which can protect against that as soon as we finish vaccinating the adult population which should finish by the summer…

“It’s much better to be vaccinating people than shutting down the whole of society. 

“So I think, with that one caveat, I am feeling fairly optimistic that we will be – not completely back to normal – but something that feels a lot more normal by the summer.”

Worth reading in full.

U.S. Regulators Expected to Approve Pfizer Vaccine for Use in 12 to 15 Year-Olds in Coming Days

Not impressed enough by the success of their vaccine rollouts, the U.K. and the U.S. – among other countries – are increasingly looking to vaccinate children against Covid. In the U.S., health regulators are expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use in those aged 12-15 in the coming days. The Financial Times has the story.

The U.S. is set to approve BioNTech and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use in 12 to 15 year-olds in the coming days, according to people involved in the regulatory process.

The pharmaceutical companies applied for authorisation to begin vaccinating adolescents last month after trials suggested the inoculations were 100% effective at preventing symptomatic disease among the age group.

Two people close to the process said they expected the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give its green light next week, a move that could help bring the U.S. closer to “herd immunity” and prove vital for reopening schools full-time in the autumn.

The FDA and Pfizer declined to comment.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which was approved for those aged 16 and over last year, has been administered 131 million times, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has helped the U.S. vaccinate more than 50% of its adult population with one dose, making it one of the largest Covid inoculation campaigns in the world.

The vaccination drive has helped reduce cases and deaths in the U.S. in recent weeks. According to the latest figures compiled by the FT, the country is reporting about 50,000 cases and 700 deaths per day – roughly the rates it experienced in October last year.

Scientists have said that to reach herd immunity… however, the U.S. would need to vaccinate more than three-quarters of its population. That would be difficult unless children were vaccinated as well.

In March, Pfizer reported the results of phase 3 clinical trials in people aged 12-15, which showed better results than for those aged 16-25. Out of 2,260 adolescents who took part in the trial, 18 were infected with Covid – all in the placebo group.

In the U.K., children as young as 12 could be vaccinated when the new school year begins in September. The fact that only very low numbers of children tested positive for Covid after schools reopened in March – many of them falsely – has not stopped the NHS from preparing to extend the vaccine rollout to schoolchildren.

The FT report on vaccine efforts in the U.S. is worth reading in full.

News Round Up