Day: 6 June 2021

Chief Executive of NHS Providers Criticises Unreliable Covid Modelling

An NHS leader says that the scientific modelling provided to the Government has been “crude” and unreliable through much of the pandemic, warning Boris against relying on it too heavily when he decides whether to extend lockdown past June 21st. The Telegraph has the story.

Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said trusts were “sceptical” about the fitness of models to provide useful forecasts.

It follows heavy criticism of Government modellers, who in February predicted spikes after schools and shops reopened which failed to materialise.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warned on Sunday that the Indian variant appeared to be 40% more transmissible, a figure which Warwick University modelling has previously suggested could overwhelm the NHS.

The Warwick data suggested that if the variant was found to be 30% more transmissible or higher, then hospital admissions would “exceed that observed in the first wave”.

But Mr Hopson said trusts in Indian variant hotspot areas had not seen huge spikes in admissions and deaths, and had coped well, with many now seeing a decline.

“For the record, trust leaders are sceptical of the value of predictive statistical models here, given their performance of the last 15 months,” he said.

“Leaders point to the crude assumptions that have to be made and the huge shifts in outcome if small changes are made to those assumptions.”

Warwick University is expected to present new modelling data on the Indian variant ahead of the Government announcing whether restrictions will be lifted on June 21st.

Mr Hopson said that it was clear that even areas with the variant had been in no danger of being overwhelmed, as predicted in the earlier models, with admissions and deaths never approaching the levels seen in earlier waves.

Worth reading in full.

Time to Unchain the U.K.

We’re publishing an original piece today by Bella Wallersteiner, a Senior Parliamentary Assistant, about why Boris must stop listening to the Cassandras on SAGE – who have nothing to lose from delaying the unlocking and everything to gain – and trust his instincts. Here is an extract:

The fully inoculated Prime Minister is now under growing pressure to delay the lifting England’s remaining Covid restrictions on June 21st. By maintaining a tiered system with varying lockdown levels in different regions, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, is likely to have created a template to be adopted by the whole of the United Kingdom (only the Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles have moved to Level 0). Throughout the pandemic, The First Minister has repeatedly made cautious decisions which Downing Street has slavishly followed.

Now that 75% of adults in the U.K. have received their first jab and more than half the adult population has been fully vaccinated against Covid, the Prime Minister should act independently from Scotland and trust his libertarian instincts. Boris Johnson should ignore Sturgeon’s scheming North of the Border and challenge the Cassandras of SAGE who assert that the U.K. is still at risk from a third wave. Instead, the Government must now do what is right for the economy and prioritise the wellbeing and mental health of the population of England. The willingness to comply may be stretched to breaking point if the Government continues to take on the role of U.K. super-nanny by limiting our freedoms after June 21st.

For most, a delay in the unlocking roadmap would be an inconvenience, but for hospitality, travel and entertainment, the decision could be terminal. I can understand the anguish felt by those working in sectors not yet viable due to Covid restrictions. My brother is a musician and has not been able to play a gig for over 15 months. Worse still, is the feeling of lassitude, torpor and obsolescence which comes with being furloughed as ‘economically unproductive’ during a global pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Hopes U.K. Will Lead the Way on International Vaccine Passport Scheme

Boris Johnson intends to use the G7 summit in Cornwall to “lead the way” on developing an international vaccine passport – much to the delight of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

Boris Johnson has been urged to establish a globally agreed way of recognising whether passengers have been vaccinated and tested so that airlines do not have to spend time verifying their claims…

Proposals being examined by the Cabinet Office and Department for Transport call for “immediate” alignment between countries on health certificates and for the G7 to be used to “agree a common approach to verifying and sharing Covid Health Certificates across borders”.

A globally accepted system needs to be developed to “verify that people have accurate tests or genuine vaccines”, the document seen by the Mail on Sunday adds.

“There does not need to be a single approach, but there need to be recognised acceptable standards.”

It comes as a report by the Tony Blair Institute today calls for people’s vaccine status to be taken into account for testing and quarantine requirements when they travel. 

Worth reading in full.

Majority of Brits “Worried” About Ending of Lockdown Restrictions, According to New Survey

Recent reports on the level of fear over Covid in Britain significantly understate how anxious people feel about returning to life as normal, according to new polling. Over 60% of respondents in a new poll for the Independent say they are worried about the ending of social distancing and mask-wearing. This is far higher than the level reported in recent polling from Ipsos MORI (12% and 21% said they were “not looking forward” to abandoning social distancing and giving up face masks respectively). Perhaps far more are suffering from “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” than we previously thought. The Independent has more.

A large majority of Britons are “worried” about Boris Johnson’s plan to remove all remaining coronavirus rules this month…

Some 65% of people said they are worried about scrapping the “one metre plus” rule, which requires venues to use screens, or seat people facing away from each other, and prevents ordering at bars with table service required instead.

There is similar concern about removing the need to wear masks in many settings (63%) and about allowing unlimited numbers into concerts, theatres and sports stadiums (60%).

Reopening nightclubs alarms 58% of people who responded to pollsters Savanta ComRes, with 49% nervous about scrapping limits on the size of weddings and funerals…

The poll of 2,180 people conducted between May 28th and 30th revealed the Government does not have majority backing for lifting all restrictions, with only 45% in favour and 42% against.

Crucially, when confronted with specific curbs to be removed, a much smaller minority is “not worried” about ending social distancing (33%), mask-wearing (35%) and attendance limits at events (37%).

The greatest public concern centres on lifting all foreign travel restrictions – with 69% of people fearful.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Shame on those peddling fear,” says Co-Founder of Time for Recovery Alan Miller.

End of Lockdown Could be Delayed by at Least Two Weeks so More Over-50s Can Get Second Vaccine Dose

There has been much speculation around whether the Government will lift lockdown restrictions on June 21st. The latest reports suggest that “Freedom Day” could be delayed by at least two weeks. Even after that, it is not guaranteed that guidelines on mask-wearing and social distancing will come to an end.

Some close to the Government have attempted to justify a possible extension by explaining that this would allow time for more adults to receive their second dose of a Covid vaccine – but well over half of the adult population in the U.K. has already had two doses, with over 75% having received at least one. Health Secretary Matt Hancock seemed to suggest last month that the number of people reached by the vaccine roll-out will always fall short of the level required for a full unlock: “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 [now much higher], but that means that more than half are yet to get the fullest possible protection that two jabs give.”

An announcement on the June 21st date is expected on June 14th, but the picture painted by the MailOnline this morning isn’t positive.

According to ITV News, Government sources have said that plans are being made to push the lifting of coronavirus measures back to July 5th to allow more people to get the second dose of Covid vaccinations.

“Government sources have again stressed that no decision has been made but I understand that in private other plans are being drawn up,” ITV’s Correspondent Richard Pallot said on Saturday evening.

“If there was a two-week delay then in theory all over-50s would get a chance of a second vaccine,” he added.

It was reported on Friday that secret plans were being worked on to delay the lifting of measures by two weeks in addition to retaining social distancing and limits of crowds past “Freedom Day”.  

Saturday’s report comes after a Government scientist warned that pushing ahead with a full reopening later this month in England would be “foolish” and a “major risk”, which followed Covid cases jumping by 70% in a week on Saturday, reaching 5,765. However, the health chief insisted vaccines do “break the chain”. 

There is currently enough evidence to say that due to the spread of the Indian variant, one of the Government’s four key tests for its road map out of lockdown has not been met, Professor Stephen Reicher said.

Multiple reports have suggested plans to lift all restrictions on June 21st could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue amid concerns that the variant that originated in India, now known as Delta, is fuelling a surge in cases…

Professor Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) which advises the Government, said the criteria about the current assessment of the risks not being fundamentally changed by new variants of concern is “not upheld”.

“I think by the Government’s own criteria it’s quite clear that it would be foolish to proceed on the data that we’ve got at the moment. The risk would be very great indeed,” the professor told the PA news agency.

“And of course it’s a balance of risks but I think it would be a major risk to go further in opening up.”

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

Why is Ofcom Suppressing Covid Information Based on the Advice of a Biased ‘Fact-Checker’ Funded by Google, Facebook and George Soros?

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has come under fire this week for labelling scepticism of official statistics and statements as “misinformation” during the Covid crisis. The Telegraph has the story.

The broadcasting regulator has been accused of stifling “rational criticism” of the response to Covid by labelling scepticism about Britain’s approach to the pandemic as “misinformation”. 

Amid major controversy over whether official statistics were overstating the prevalence of coronavirus, Ofcom described the idea that there were “a lower number of cases in reality than is being reported” as a “common piece of misinformation”.

It also emerged that the regulator warned broadcasters in the early days of the pandemic that it was prioritising investigations into programmes or news reports featuring advice which “discourages the audience from following official rules and guidance”.

The disclosure will lead to renewed concerns about the approach of the regulator, as the Government seeks a new chairman who can “provide proper scrutiny and challenge”.

Conservative MP Steve Baker described the approach as “dangerous”, stating: “To label any kind of rational criticism as misinformation is unscientific, and a frank rejection of enlightenment values which would catapult us into a new dark age.”

According to the Telegraph, Ofcom has prepared dozens of papers detailing surveys it has carried out relating to Covid, each of which includes a section titled “Misinformation related to Covid”.