Day: 27 May 2021

Why Are the Teaching Unions Such Lockdown Zealots?

We’re publishing an original article today by two social scientists – Professor Donald S. Siegel and Professor Robert M. Sauer – about the disgraceful behaviour of Britain’s teaching unions over the past 15 months. They have colluded with officials to not only close schools, but keep them closed for as long as possible and, once they reopened, to keep mask mandates in place. At all times they have acted in the interests of their dues-paying members rather than the children those members are supposed to be teaching. Here is an extract:

What motivates local and national politicians to collude with public sector unions to prolong lockdowns and continue the confinement and deformity of the nation’s children? First, trade unions constitute major voting blocs. Second, it is important that politicians keep their trade union friends for political cover. Remember that expert committees, most notably SAGE, have misled the government with their pseudo-scientific ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’, so elected officials are now presiding over the single greatest government failure of all time.

Not only is SAGE a primary cause for COVID-19 policy travesty, credit must also be given to the trade unions for exerting undue influence on politicians charged with deciding how and when to ‘reopen’ schools. Recall that when our state-run Covid religion was established in March 2020, a totalitarian/Orwellian taxonomy of “essential” and “nonessential” workers and industries was developed. Teachers were deemed “essential” workers. Unlike many “nonessential” workers, teachers received full pay during quarantines and lockdowns, with virtually no job losses in the sector, while children remained at home to learn online, often with inferior Internet connections and overwhelmed parents to supervise them.

Unlike almost all other “essential” workers, most teachers have not physically reported to work since March 2020. Also, in some cases, teachers were vaccinated before many others in their age groups. The forced masking of students as young as four for six hours a day is designed to protect teachers, not students.

Worth reading in full.

“We May Need to Wait” before Pushing Ahead with Unlocking, Says Boris

Members of SAGE are out in force today, warning the Prime Minister that Britain should not unlock on June 21st because of the risk posed by the Indian Covid variant. Professor Neil Ferguson said on Wednesday that this strain could result in restrictions needing to be “tightened“, despite the recent increase in Covid cases not being matched by an increase in deaths. Following further pressure from other members of the advisory group today, the Prime Minister has said that Number 10 may have to “wait” for more data before pushing ahead with ending the lockdown. The MailOnline has more.

Top scientists have called for Downing Street to delay next month’s lockdown-easing because of the spread of [the Indian variant], which has been found in half of England’s 300-plus local authorities.

SAGE member Professor John Edmunds said he would advise Boris Johnson not to take the next step as planned because “at the moment it looks a little bit risky”.

Meanwhile, fellow adviser “Professor Lockdown” Neil Ferguson warned the plans to ease restrictions hang “in the balance”. He said the now-dominant strain would trigger a “small third wave” but that the next two or three weeks would be “critical” in deciding whether it was safe to move to step four on the roadmap.

But one of the Government’s top scientists today hailed “encouraging” data that showed hospitalisations remain low despite cases having ticked up in every region except the East Midlands. However, Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s Medical Director, said they have risen slightly and that they were “concerned” about the Indian variant.

Discussing the threat of the Indian variant during a visit to a hospital in Colchester this morning, Mr Johnson said: “As I have said many times I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map. But we may need to wait.

“Don’t forget the important point about the intervals between the steps of the road map, we put that five weeks between those steps to give us time to see what effect the unlockings are having.”

Mr Hancock admitted he “desperately” wanted to proceed with plans to drop the final set of lockdown restrictions next month but ministers would only do that “if it’s safe”. He will address the nation tonight in a 5pm Downing Street press conference.

In a statement that suggested lockdown could continue until every man and his dog has been vaccinated, the Health Secretary said: “Our vaccination programme has reached 73% of the adult population, but that means that more than a quarter still haven’t been jabbed.”

43% of adults have had both jabs, but that means that more than half are yet to get the fullest possible protection that two jabs give.

Worth reading in full.

Facebook Condemned For Trying to Ingratiate Itself With China by Censoring of Lab Leak Theory

Facebook was today accused by a Conservative MP of “showing its true and ugly colours” and smothering free speech to cosy up to China as it did a U-turn on its ban on posts debating whether Covid-19 could be man-made. Following Joe Biden’s call for further investigation of the theory, such speculation is no longer deemed to be “harmful misinformation” by the social media giant. MailOnline has more.

Mark Zuckerberg’s global policy chief Nick Clegg, the former British MP and Liberal Democrat leader, has also been branded “feeble” for allowing months of censorship on the social network.

Critics branded Facebook’s behaviour had been ‘contemptible’ and begged them to respect free speech rather than “ingratiating” themselves with states such as China, which has banned the website but remains a $5billion-a-year ad market.

British Conservative MP Peter Bone told MailOnline: “It does seem to me that Facebook is not an open platform for people to put their views on. It is an open platform for people to put their views on as long as they agree with Facebook.

“Their decisions are based on politics not on principle… if it is fashionable with the liberal elite it can go down. If it is liberal elite say it it must be OK, if it’s President Trump that says it it must be awful.

“The thing that Trump was saying is exactly the same as Biden is saying, but Trump was according to Facebook not allowed to say that. Whereas everyone loves Biden from Facebook therefore it must be right. It is one rule for one political view and another for another.”

And the liberal media in the US, who lampooned Donald Trump when he said a year ago said he had “a high degree of confidence” that the virus escaped from a lab, have finally conceded that he may have been right – after a year ridiculing the suggestion.

Facebook ruled in February it would “remove” any posts that claimed that coronavirus was “man-made” or that the virus was “created by an individual, government or country” – branding it “misinformation” and a “debunked claim” that required “aggressive action” from moderators.

But today the tech giant reversed its ban on its users discussing the theory, just hours after President Biden ordered his intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether it was man-made after all – and report back in 90 days.

Worth reading in full.

“It’s like We’re Constantly in Crisis”: GPs Face Millions of Appointments Due to Lockdown Backlog

More than 28 million people booked appointments with their GP in March making it one of the busiest months ever, and practices expect to remain this busy for many months to come due to the patient backlog caused by lockdowns. The MailOnline has the story.

The figure was five million more than in February – a sudden spike of 20%.

And doctors say they no longer see highs and lows in patient flows throughout the year, and that instead it is like they’re constantly in crisis.

Dr Dean Eggitt, a GP in Doncaster in South Yorkshire, told the broadcaster: “The ability to catch up has gone. That was before Covid. Then Covid hit and then it’s just peak, peak, peak, peak all the time.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic people avoided the NHS – having been advised to except in emergencies during the first wave – and officials fear that many have developed serious illnesses like cancers and not been checked.

The number of people dying at home surged to above average levels while non-Covid hospital deaths were less common, suggesting people were missing out on end-of-life medical care.

A&E visits plummeted while the virus was circulating but they have surged again recently with the “worried well” returning to hospital emergency departments.

Dr Eggitt told the BBC: “We have almost a tsunami of patients coming to us. It feels like the river has flooded the banks.

“I see no end of it stopping. It just keeps coming and coming and coming in this one massive endless wave of patients.”

A Health Foundation analysis of NHS data found that there were around 31 million fewer GP practice appointments between April 2020 and March 2021 than in the previous year – 279 million compared to 310 million.

This was likely not a result of fewer people being ill but of fewer visiting their family doctor, meaning millions may have gone without care they usually would have had.

As a result, the patients now turning up to appointments are sicker than they would have been if they had seen a doctor six months ago.

Worth reading in full.

Why Haven’t We Heard Dominic Cummings’ Shocking Revelations About the Chaos in Downing St Until Now? Was it Because of Ofcom’s 1984-Style Diktat that Muzzled the Broadcast Media?

I’ve written a piece for Mail+ today about one of the overlooked aspects of Dominic Cummings’s testimony. The reason he was able to dominate the news headlines is because the broadcast media hasn’t uncovered most of the scandals he revealed before. We’d heard about a few of these stories, but the sheer depth of incompetence he revealed at the heart of Government last March was genuinely shocking. Okay, he was protected by Parliamentary privilege and it might have been difficult for television journalists to broadcast some of these stories – to accuse Matt Hancock of being a serial liar, for instance – but that’s surely not the main reason we hadn’t heard any of this stuff before. So what is the reason? I think Ofcom has a lot to answer for, as I explain in my article.

On March 27, 2020, four days after Boris announced the first lockdown, Ofcom sent some “important guidance” to its licensees, cautioning them to take “particular care” when broadcasting “statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease”.

Was this a shocking attempt to muzzle the free press? Three weeks later, the regulator showed it meant business by reprimanding Eamonn Holmes, presenter of ITV’s This Morning, for breaching this guidance. His sin, according to Ofcom, was to say he didn’t think people expressing unorthodox views about the virus – such as the one linking the symptoms of Covid-19 to 5G masts – should be vilified by the mainstream media. He didn’t say he thought that particular conspiracy theory was true. In fact, he described it as “not true and incredibly stupid”. He merely said it ought to be discussed.

For that heresy, Ofcom gave him a stern ticking-off, telling him he “could have undermined people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the coronavirus”.

After that, we barely heard a squeak of criticism from broadcast journalists about the Government’s handling of the crisis. Whenever a dissenting voice popped up on the BBC, it often felt like a mistake, as though the person had only managed to slip past the official gatekeepers when they were looking the other way.

For instance, on October 14th, 2020, Professor Sunetra Gupta, a prominent critic of the Government’s approach to the pandemic, appeared on BBC News to talk about the local lockdowns that had been imposed in the north of England. It is claimed that just before she went on air, one of the producers told her not to mention the Great Barrington Declaration, a document signed by eminent scientists setting out an alternative policy. Where did that instruction come from?

Another example: At the end of September, Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, tweeted that she’d been invited on to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the lockdown on the understanding that the scientists who opposed it would be portrayed as beyond the pale, only for Prof Gupta, who appeared alongside her, to make a compelling, logical argument. The SAGE panjandrum was furious.

“I’d got prior agreement from R4 about the framing of the item,” she harrumphed. “I was assured that this would not be held as an even-handed debate.”

Luckily for the BBC, it managed to avoid being censured by the state regulator for this momentary lapse.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Lab-Leak Theory Must Be Properly Investigated “If We Are to Avoid Another Pandemic”, Says Matt Ridley

Last year, Matt Ridley – along with “everybody sensible” – believed the idea that the pandemic leaked from a lab was “pseudoscientific nonsense almost on a par with UFOs and the Loch Ness monster”. Now, writing in the latest issue of the Spectator, he says that, “if we are to avoid another pandemic”, the theory – which is looking increasingly plausible – should be taken more seriously and be properly investigated.

The turning point, ironically, was the “press conference” on February 9th in Wuhan where a team of western scientists representing the World Health Organisation (WHO) sat meekly through a three-hour propaganda session at the end of a 12-day study tour. Strictly chaperoned throughout, the western scientists (approved by the Chinese Government) had mainly listened to presentations by their Chinese colleagues during their visit and done no research themselves. Yet the result was presented to the world as if it was the WHO’s conclusion. 

The press conference was told that the lab leak theory was “extremely unlikely” and would not be investigated further, because the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology said so during a three-hour visit by the study team. By contrast, the theory favoured by the Chinese Government – that the virus reached Wuhan on frozen meat from a rabbit or ferret-badger farm in southern China or southeast Asia – was said to be plausible, despite a total lack of evidence. 

So risible was this little stage play that even WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had to backtrack a few days later: “All hypotheses remain open and require further study.” Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who led the study team, added wishfully: “I don’t think the press conference was a PR win for China.” The governments of Britain, America and 12 other countries issued a joint statement expressing “shared concerns” over the study…

The problem is partly that journalists confused two different theories last year: that the virus might have escaped from a laboratory openly doing research that was intended to prevent a pandemic, or that a secret project to create a nasty virus for use as a bioweapon had either gone wrong or succeeded all too well. The latter theory remains implausible; the former has never been so…

The lab that has been assiduously and energetically collecting coronaviruses from horseshoe bats for more than a decade, gathering a far larger collection of samples and genetic sequences than any other lab anywhere in the world, just happens to be in Wuhan, as part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Run by Dr Shi Zhengli, it boasted in 2019 of having at least 100 different Sars-like viruses in its database.

We cannot check these samples because the database went offline on September 12th, 2019, just before the pandemic began, and Dr Shi persistently refuses to reopen it, arguing that it’s been subject to “hacking attempts”. Right… in September 2019? And there’s no other way to show the data? Dr Daszak says he knows what is in the database and that it is of no relevance, which is why he has not asked his friend Dr Shi to share it. Right. When I raised this lack of transparency with a senior British scientist, he said: ‘They are communists, what do you expect?’ It is not clear why that should be reassuring.

Matt highlights the letter recently published in the academic journal Science, in which 18 scientists from around the world criticise the WHO over its failure to properly investigate the lab leak theory, and say: “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover [from animals to humans] both remain viable.”

His article is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Conservative MP Bob Seely has told MailOnline that Facebook’s censoring of posts debating whether Covid could be man-made is “contemptible”.

I think it is absolutely contemptible and it shows their commitment to democracy is an incredibly thin veneer over their commercial interests. So many big tech firms are showing their true and frankly really ugly colours…

This is not a conspiracy theory. There is a genuine debate about where the Wuhan virus came from.

For Facebook to be shutting that conversation down is absolutely appalling.

Also worth reading in full.

Northern Ireland’s Vaccine Rollout Now Open for Everyone Over 18

Northern Ireland has become the first part of the U.K. to offer appointments for Covid vaccines to its entire adult population. People aged 18-39 will have the option to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite its potential links to blood clotting (particularly in younger people) and, now, strokes. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said earlier this month that Brits below the age of 40 should only be offered alternatives to this vaccine “where possible“. BBC News has more.

More than one million people in Northern Ireland have received a first dose of a Covid vaccine.

The Department of Health said vaccine supplies had become limited and 20,000 slots would be available each week.

The limit is to help manage the availability of the Pfizer vaccine after regulators said under 40s should be given an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the department said.

However, it said anyone aged between 18 and 39 years old could still choose to have AstraZeneca jab…

Walk-in vaccination centres are open to over-18s in some parts of Wales, while in Scotland 18-to-29 year-olds can register for a text or email when they become eligible for an appointment.

A total of 1,6460,981 vaccines have been given so far in Northern Ireland…

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said Northern Ireland was “dealing with the emergence of new variants” and that everyone had “a part to play in keeping each other safe”.

He said: “I know that many young people will be very keen to book their jab now that they’re eligible for vaccination.

“It’s important to understand that while the risk of severe disease is lower in young people, some may become very ill and, of course, they can pass on the virus to others who may be more vulnerable.”

He urged everyone aged 18 and over to book a slot for vaccination, including those in older age-groups who have yet had a jab.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

“The NHS is Going to be Smashed in Weeks”, Cummings’s Data Geek Told Boris – on the Day Infections Peaked in London

Lockdown Sceptics‘ readers have had their fill of Dominic Cummings stories in the last 24 hours. However, his claim, repeated yesterday in front of MPs, that without a lockdown last March “the NHS is going to be smashed in weeks” cannot go unanswered.

These are the words that, according to Cummings, data analyst Ben Warner said to Boris Johnson when he confronted him with “evidence” on Friday March 13th 2020 that a lockdown was necessary to prevent the NHS being imminently overwhelmed.

March 12th and 13th 2020 are notable for being the days when various Government advisers did the media rounds to sell to the public the idea of “building up some kind of herd immunity“, as Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance put it on Radio 4’s Today programme. Prior to this, the Government had been sticking to the script of their action plan and pandemic preparedness strategy that did not talk about herd immunity (even if it implied it) but about mitigation of the impact of the disease.

Whose idea it was to start talking about building up herd immunity by infection is not clear, and, despite pontificating for seven hours yesterday, Dominic Cummings did not enlighten us on that point. The move was, however, disastrous for Government public relations, as the concept jarred with the public. Worse, it was criticised by scientists and health care professionals, who argued that herd immunity through infection was not a sound policy aim even if it would be the inevitable result of the mitigation strategy. Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine put the matter succinctly on Twitter: