Day: 11 June 2021

June 21st “Freedom Day” Called Off for at Least Four Weeks

It is being reported across the media – so it’s clearly been briefed out by Downing Street – that the long-awaited June 21st reopening is to be delayed by at least four weeks because the Prime Minister has been convinced by his scientific advisers that the recent rise in the Delta variant makes reopening too risky. The Telegraph has the story.

June 21st will no longer herald a full return to normality after Boris Johnson resigned himself to a delay of up to four weeks in lifting the remaining Covid restrictions.

The Prime Minister will tell the country on Monday that the latest data on the spread of the Indian or Delta virus variant means it is too risky to go ahead as planned. A four-week delay would mean pushing the date back to July 19th.

It had been hoped that weddings at least would be given a special dispensation after 50,000 couples – many of whom will have cancelled or delayed earlier celebrations – booked ceremonies for the four weeks following what had been billed as “freedom day”.

But senior government sources said that while Mr Johnson might increase the current 30-person limit at weddings, restrictions on numbers would have to remain after officials from Matt Hancock’s health department warned that they could become “super-spreader” events.

The British Medical Association became the latest body to call for a delay after data released on Friday showed the ‘R’ rate at its highest since January – between 1.2 and 1.4 – with daily cases reaching 8,125, the highest number since February.

Figures published by Public Health England showed that 42,323 cases of the Indian variant have been confirmed in the UK – an increase of 240% from last week. PHE estimates that the strain is 60% more transmissible than the Kent or alpha variant, with cases doubling every four and a half days in some parts of England.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is understood to have warned the Government that a third wave of Covid cases could exceed the first wave peak if the June 21st reopening were to go ahead as planned.

Worth reading in full.

Florida has been open since September 2020. Texas reopened in March. But this delay means the U.K. won’t be open until at least July 19th. I’d like to say the Prime Minister will suffer the consequences at the polls for continuing to keep the electorate under extreme restrictions, ignoring the plain evidence from the U.S. that reopening is safe, as well as the overwhelming evidence that lockdowns don’t reduce transmission. But we all know most of our fellow citizens will buy the fear they’re sold and lap up the lockdown, and likely reward the Conservatives at the next election for keeping them “safe”.

The Covid tyranny continues. 😡

Stop Press: The Sun is reporting that there will be a two-week “break clause” on July 5th and if infections are falling and hospitalisations are low, restrictions could be eased. Yeah, right.

FDA Tells People to Throw Innova Lateral Flow Tests in the Bin

The American Food and Drug Agency (FDA) says the performance of the Innova-manufactured lateral flow test – the one in use across Britain, including in schools – has not been proven to be reliable and, for that reason, the test should either be returned to the manufacturer or thrown in the bin. The Guardian has more.

The FDA has raised significant concerns about the rapid Covid test on which the U.K. Government has based its multibillion-pound mass testing programme.

In a scathing review, the US health agency suggested the performance of the test had not been established, presenting a risk to health, and that the tests should be thrown in the bin or returned to the California-based manufacturer Innova.

In the UK, these lateral flow Innova tests form the cornerstone of Operation Moonshot, the mass-testing scheme championed by the prime minister’s former chief adviser. The idea was that the ability to deliver results within 30 minutes – without the need for processing in a laboratory – provided a cheap, pragmatic and efficient way to identify people who had caught the virus but not fallen ill. But critics have raised concerns about accuracy.

Given the tests have been offered free to millions in England, for use at home or at test centres, workplaces and schools, with the aim of detecting more cases, breaking chains of transmission and saving lives since April, the FDA announcement is particularly damning.

The US agency has not authorised the use of the Innova test in the US, although the manufacturer has submitted a request for authorisation. But when the FDA discovered the Innova test was being distributed for US use regardless, it conducted an inspection of Innova’s medical device operations between March and April 2021.

In its report, the agency accused the company of “false or misleading” estimates of the clinical performance of certain configurations of the test, saying the estimates did not accurately reflect the performance of the diagnostic devices during clinical studies.

The FDA also highlighted that the clinical study data submitted by Innova as part of its request for US authorisation was identical to data previously provided by other manufacturers in separate requests.

Worth reading in full.

Stadium Cancels Tickets for June 26th After “Discussions With Government”

A reader contacted us to tell us he just received the email above from the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, cancelling his tickets for the June 26th cricket match between England and Sri Lanka – five days after “Freedom Day”. It reads: “You will be aware of the continuing uncertainty around the return of supporters to sports stadia. In light of this and following discussions with Government and public health agencies, the capacity of the stadium has been restricted for this match.”

The reader comments:

Now, the really telling part of this is where it says “following discussions with Government and public health agencies” because this shows us that the decision to cancel most fans’ tickets hasn’t been made by those at Hampshire County Cricket Club because of what they think is the best approach – it is because of what they have been told to do.

I don’t want to spread fear over a delay to the easing of social distancing while we await Monday’s announcement or confirmation, but it seems incredibly unlikely to me that the Government would tell Hampshire CCC to reduce the capacity for this game if they hadn’t already made up their minds that social distancing will still be in place at least up until June 26th.

The signs are becoming ominous indeed. It will now be a pleasant surprise if Boris comes out on Monday and announces – as he should – that Freedom Day is going ahead as planned. As usual, the doom-mongers around the Prime Minister are winning. Will they ever let us go?

Meanwhile, more than two months ago in Texas

Apr 5, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; A view of the crowd and the fans and the stands during the playing of the Canadian and USA national anthems before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Time to Move on From Focused Protection

There follows a guest post from Steve Sieff, creator of GreenBandRedBand.com.

In June 2020 I launched GreenBandRedBand.com. It is a type of what came to be called focused protection. My system proposed a way of people communicating to others if they wanted to be protected from coronavirus or if they were content to run the risk of contracting the virus. Those who were prepared to take the risk would show others how they felt by wearing a green wrist band or some other garment to communicate their position. Those who wanted to be protected but didn’t want to shield at home would wear a red equivalent. Around those requiring protection it was envisaged that all of us would respectfully adopt the measures that were being recommended to help stop the spread of the virus. Although that would still have been disruptive and unwelcome, it would have been far more palatable than being obliged to take measures around those who did not require them, and infinitely more so than laws which criminalised social interaction. So the system seemed to me to strike the right balance between retaining our personal freedoms and respecting the rights and wishes of others.

I’ll take this opportunity to express my thanks to the large numbers of Lockdown Sceptics readers who contacted me to express their support or who purchased bands and to the editorial team for featuring the site on a number of occasions.

A year down the line LS highlighted a Guardian article reporting on a ‘variant’ of my system being used in some places in the U.S., and other readers may recall Freddie Sayers in UnHerd discussing something similar. You might assume that I would welcome news that a similar system is getting some mainstream attention at last.

But times have moved on and in June 2021 I have slightly mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it is great to see that people are realising that they can manage themselves by communicating with each other rather than needing the Government to micromanage their lives. That should have happened from the outset. On the other hand, in places where the vaccines are available to the vulnerable, there is a strong argument that the time for this system is coming to an end because everyone should be ‘green’.

I proposed the system as an alternative to lockdown and restrictions and to recognise that people would rebound from the fear messaging at different rates. It was designed to be sustainable while large numbers of vulnerable people remained. But it was not envisaged to be permanent. As the numbers of vulnerable reduce, so does the need for specific measures to cater for that vulnerability. There comes a point where the position has moved to the extent that it is no longer kind or helpful to continue to indulge fear. Indeed by continuing to do so one risks perpetuating fear unnecessarily.

When GreenBandRedBand.com was conceived, vaccines seemed a long way off. But a year later they are a reality and the rollout in some parts of the world has been rapid. It may be that we manage to improve their efficacy or that we develop more treatments for people who do contract the virus but essentially the vaccines are our best effort. People who are worried about being vulnerable – or who are actually vulnerable – aren’t going to get a better offer than vaccination. So if you aren’t ready to stop asking for protection after vaccination is available to you then it starts to look like you will never be able to be comfortable with normal social interaction. Or in the terms of my system, you absolutely don’t have to be vaccinated to choose green, but if you were red before and being vaccinated isn’t enough to make you choose green, then what will?

Ministers Considering Delaying Freedom Day by a Month to Give Businesses “Certainty”

“The argument is already over” about there being an extension to lockdown, according to one cabinet source. The real question, then, is “for how long will restrictions continue”. Reports suggest that the Government is considering extending lockdown by a month rather than by two weeks so as to give businesses “certainty” that “Freedom Day” won’t be delayed again. Er, come again?

For many businesses – including those which have yet to reopen since the easing of restrictions last month due to the continuation of social distancing guidelines, and those which are taking in little money compared with pre-lockdown levels for the same reason – a four-week extension to lockdown would provide only the certainty that survival will continue to be a great (and potentially impossible) struggle.

The Times has more.

Plans are being discussed for either a two-week or a four-week delay to the final easing of restrictions on June 21st, if the Indian variant of the coronavirus continues to lead to a significant rise in infections and hospital admissions.

The variant now accounts for nine in 10 cases and health leaders called yesterday for delay to prevent hospitals filling up with unvaccinated patients.

Ministers are concerned that a two-week delay would not give businesses the certainty they need because it might have to be extended. They said a four-week delay would ensure that more people in their forties have received two jabs and that the vaccinations have had time to take effect. “This is about giving people certainty,” the source said. “The worst-case scenario is that we ease restrictions and then have to implement them again. This has to be a one-way ticket.”

The Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi today said that the Government must be “really careful” with reopening, telling Times Radio that officials must “continuously learn about how the virus is behaving”.

“We had a very big opening on May 17th where people could meet friends indoors, in a restaurant, in a pub, and socialise indoors as well,” he added. “And I think it’s important that we look at the data very carefully over this weekend and then share it with the nation.”

Some scientific advisers believe a month-long delay that pushes the end of restrictions into the school holidays will allow vaccination to catch up with the faster-spreading strain.

Another cabinet source said that they believed a two-week delay would be sufficient. “By June 21st everyone over 50 who wants a second jab should have had one,” the source said. “You just have to wait another couple of weeks so that they all have full antibody protection. At that point you really have protected the vulnerable.

“Of course there are businesses that want us to stick with June 21st but when Rishi [Sunak, the Chancellor] is letting it be known he’d be happy with a delay you know the argument is already over.”

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Behind Increase in Attempted Suicides Among Australians Aged 5-25, Says Youth Helpline

Lockdown has been a major factor in the increase in attempted suicides among Australians aged 5-25 over the past six months, according to the country’s free helpline for young people. Figures reveal that the area with the longest lockdowns over the last year saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions. The Mail Australia has the story.

Figures released by Kids Helpline has shown there were 862 attempted suicides recorded in people aged 5-25 and that the number of interventions to help vulnerable youngsters had doubled in the space of one year.

The Kids Helpline said heightened levels of despair and depression through the Covid lockdowns was a major contributory factor in the increase. 

A duty of care intervention – in which Kids Helpline make contact with police, child safety or ambulance services because a child or young person is at imminent risk – almost doubled in the same period. 

Such interventions were 99% higher nationally in the period from December 2020 to the end of May this year compared to the same period a year ago. 

Suicide attempts made up 38% of those interventions, and child abuse interventions comprised 35% across Australia.  

“We feared an increase in child vulnerability as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, however the current spike in emergency interventions on behalf of children and young people across Australia is very disturbing,” said YourTown CEO Tracy Adams… 

Victoria, which had the longest lockdowns and most deaths from Covid during 2020, saw the greatest increase in suicide interventions, jumping 189% to 294 incidences

Worth reading in full.

CDC to Hold Emergency Meeting Over 226 Cases of Heart Inflammation in American Teens Who Have Had Pfizer or Moderna Vaccines

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is set to hold an emergency meeting over a greater than expected number of cases of heart inflammation among young Americans who have received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid vaccine. The MailOnline has the story.

[CDC leaders] will gather on June 18th to discuss 226 plausible cases of heart inflammation in young people – mainly affecting teenage boys and young men – after they have received their second doses of the vaccines. 

CDC bosses said Thursday the number of cases is higher than expected, although still rare.

[CNBC reports that, according to the CDC, scientists expected only between 10-102 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis.]

A total of 226 cases have been reported that may meet the CDC’s “working case definition” of myocarditis and pericarditis following the shots, the agency said. 

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

Among the 226, three are in intensive care, 15 are hospitalised, and 41 have ongoing symptoms. The rest – 167 – have recovered.  

It is not clear if either condition is caused by the shots and the reports of cases are extremely rare. 

The CDC continues to urge everyone aged 12 and older to get vaccinated.

These types of heart inflammation can be caused by a variety of infections, including a bout of Covid, as well as certain medications…

Cases are reported through the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

The system accepts reports from everyone regardless of the plausibility of the vaccine causing the symptom.

In total, VAERS received 573 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis after the patient had received their second dose. 

A total of 372 reports were from people who had the Pfizer vaccine, while the remaining 201 had Moderna.

Another 216 cases of the heart inflammation were also reported after dose one of the vaccines. 

More than half of the cases reported after people had received their second dose were in people between the ages of 12 and 24, the CDC said.  

This group accounts for less than nine per cent of doses administered.  

Almost four-fifths of cases were in males. 

The overwhelming majority of the cases have occurred within a week of vaccination. 

Symptoms included chest pain and breathing difficulties. 

This comes just one day after Moderna asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to extend the emergency use of its Covid vaccine to American children aged 12 and over.

The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in British children aged 12-15 earlier this month, though the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that the decision on whether or not to vaccinate children against Covid is down to the Government given that it is a “political” matter. So far, the petition on the Gov.uk website against the vaccination of children has been signed by over 50,000 people.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Watch Tucker Carlson react to this news.

News Round-Up


If the Indian Variant Really is 60% More Infectious, Why is it So Tame in Other Countries?

The Government’s favoured modellers appear to have settled on a figure for the greater infectiousness of the Delta (Indian) variant: a spanking 60%. Reuters reports.

Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told reporters that estimates of Delta’s transmission edge over Alpha had narrowed, and “we think 60% is probably the best estimate”.

Ferguson said that modelling suggested any third wave of infections could rival Britain’s second wave in the winter – which was fuelled by the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, south east England.

But it was unclear how any spike in hospitalisations would translate into a rise in deaths, as more detail was needed on how well the vaccine protects against serious illness from Delta.

“It’s well within possibility that we could see another third wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations,” he said.

“I think deaths probably would be lower, the vaccines are having a highly protective effect… still it could be quite worrying. But there is a lot of uncertainty.”

Ferguson isn’t the only one making such doom-laden predictions. The usually more sanguine Philip Thomas of Bristol University is also predicting an “enormous” third wave in the summer. It will be “far bigger than the second”, he says, because of the Delta variant. “There is no hiding place. Either you’ve had the virus or been vaccinated, or you are pretty likely to get Covid this summer.” Ah, so another model that doesn’t factor in prior immunity or T-cells. Professor Thomas writes: