Day: 20 June 2021

Cry Freedom – and Ditch the Masks

There follows a guest post by Edward Chancellor, a financial journalist and the author of Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation (1998).

“Freedom Day” on 21st June was supposed to be the day when Covid restrictions on the people of England came to an end. Predictably the release from wearing facemasks, social distancing, etc., has been postponed in the face of the ‘Delta’ variant. One member of the government’s scientific advisory group, Susan Michie suggests that we should continue wearing masks “forever”.

Professor Michie must be aware that all the evidence points to the fact that face masks offer little or no protection against the spread of respiratory diseases. The behaviour of the political leaders at the recent G7 meeting in Cornwall – donning masks for photo-ops but later partying together without masks or social distancing – suggests they too understand that masks are unnecessary. Nevertheless, many people, vaccinated or otherwise at no personal risk from COVID-19, continue to wear masks. They do so for no reason other than they are following government orders or are simply imitating the behaviour of their peers.

In his notorious Daily Telegraph article of August 5th 2018, Boris Johnson argued that the burkha was “oppressive” and that it was “weird and bullying” to expect women to cover their faces. He claimed that “human beings must be able to see each other’s faces and read their expressions. It’s how we work.” I agree with those sentiments. Nevertheless, until now I have gone along with the mask mandate in the misplaced hope that Boris would be true to his word and end the restrictions on June 21st.

It should now be clear that if we are to return to normality we must take back control of our destiny. The first and most obvious step is to stop wearing masks in public. In the “war on coronavirus” the mask-refuseniks can be seen not as reckless endangerers of other people’s lives but as conscientious objectors who set an example for the rest of the society to follow. We, the maskless, can show our fellow citizens that we refuse to live in fear and will not be ruled by arbitrary pseudo-scientific diktat. Boris cannot postpone Freedom Day if we have already ditched his oppressive, weird and bullying rules.

Ministers Dithering Over Decision on Whether to Vaccinate Children against Covid

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has “reached some conclusions” on whether to recommend the vaccination children against Covid, with previous reports suggesting that it will advise against this move until there is more safety data. But while JCVI members say they are “perplexed” by the Government stalling on this matter, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman says ministers are waiting for a “formal recommendation” before moving any further. The Telegraph has more.

Senior JCVI members have previously publicly questioned the ethics of vaccinating a population that faces only a tiny risk of serious illness from Covid.

However, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, last week suggested the Government was sympathetic to the idea when he said there was a “wider question” about disruption to schooling.

On Sunday night, a source said: “It is about reconciling the view of the Committee – which of course is evolving over time anyway – and what the politicians are minded to do. I guess that process is taking longer than usual.”

JCVI members were “perplexed” by the delay, the source added, saying: “We’ve deliberated and we’ve reached some conclusions, but the position we’re in is that we’re waiting for a joint communique from DHSC, from Matt Hancock and the whole team.”

On Sunday night, the Department of Health denied that ministers had yet received JCVI’s advice…

JCVI members – most of whom are independent scientists who offer their expertise to the committee – are known to be seeking the assurance of real-world safety data from mass roll-outs in other countries…

A key issue of concern is understanding whether mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer jab increase the risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said there have been more than 300 cases reported among the millions of teens and young adults who have received an mRNA vaccine, but that in the “vast majority” of cases the inflammation went away…

A DHSC spokesman said: “Following a robust review of the evidence, the MHRA concluded the Pfizer Covid vaccine meets the high standards of safety, effectiveness and quality required and has authorised its use for people aged 12 and above.

“Ministers have not received JCVI advice and no decisions have been made on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered Covid vaccines. The Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI and has asked for its formal recommendation. We will update in due course.”

Worth reading in full.

Scientists Find Most PCR Test Results Do Not Indicate Infectious Virus, Question Test’s Status as “Gold Standard”

How often do we hear that the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is the “gold standard” for detecting COVID-19 infection and thus for controlling and containing a COVID-19 epidemic? To question the accuracy of this test is supposedly part of the “misinformation” sceptics spread, which Ofcom, being guided by biased, Big Tech-funded, activist organisation Full Fact, aims to suppress.

In reality, serious questions about the proper use of PCR tests, particularly in mass screening programmes, have been asked since the technique was invented in 1985 and predate the Covid pandemic.

Since early 2020, there have been concerns that defining a “case” of COVID-19 merely in terms of a positive PCR test – with no consideration of clinical symptoms or the cycle threshold (Ct) of the test, which indicates the viral load of the patient – debases the concept of a clinical case and exaggerates the prevalence of the disease, fuelling alarm.

The issue was raised by Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina and colleagues in the Lancet in February 2021, where they concluded that the cycle thresholds in reported test data were such that only a quarter to a half of positive PCR tests were likely to indicate the presence of infectious COVID-19. The rest, they argued, were detecting post-infectious viral particles, meaning relying on PCR testing was overstating the number of infectious cases of COVID-19 by a factor of between two and four.

This conclusion has now been underlined in a research letter in the Journal of Infection by seven scientists from the Universities of Münster and Essen. After analysing the test results from a large laboratory in Münster that amounted to 80% of all Covid PCR tests in the Münster region during March to November 2020, they found that “more than half of individuals with positive PCR test results are unlikely to have been infectious”. They thus conclude: “RT-PCR test positivity should not be taken as an accurate measure of infectious SARS-CoV-2 incidence.”

“You Can’t Ever Say Mission Accomplished”: Minister Doesn’t Rule Out Winter Lockdowns

Whether it takes place on July 5th (unlikely!), July 19th or later, “Freedom Day” is supposed to be irreversible. So why is a senior health official saying we may need to lock down again this winter and why is a Cabinet Minister unable to deny it?

Dr Susan Hopkins, the Director for Covid at Public Health England, says “we may have to do further lockdowns this winter” – a claim which Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has refused to deny. So will this ever end?

The Independent has more.

Dr Hopkins… said Britain needed to move to a situation where we can “live with this” in the longer term.

She told the Andrew Marr Show: “I think that means that we wouldn’t normally put people into lockdown for severe cases of influenza.

“We may have to do further lockdowns this winter, I can’t predict the future – it really depends on whether the hospitals start to become overwhelmed at some point.

“But I think we will have alternative ways to manage this through vaccination, through antivirals, through drugs, through testing, that we didn’t have last winter, and all of those things allow us different approaches, rather than restrictions on lives and restrictions on livelihoods, that will move us forward into the next phase of learning to live with this as an endemic, as something that happens as part of the respiratory viruses.”

Asked about her comments, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland declined to rule out more restrictions, telling Times Radio: “The essence of the virus is you can’t ever say mission accomplished.”

Worth reading in full.

“Great Hope” We Could Unlock on July 5th, Says Vaccine Expert – But Will Boris Follow the Data?

When delaying the easing of lockdown restrictions in England last Monday, the Prime Minister signalled that the extension was far more likely to last for four weeks (at least) than two. But Brendan Wren, Professor of Vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the data shows there is “great hope” that “Freedom Day” could occur on July 5th rather than a fortnight later.

He pins this hope to the successful vaccine roll-out, noting also that mass testing probably gives a false impression of the number of actual Covid carriers in the country – and, of course, of the number of people in hospital because of the virus. Sky News has more.

[Professor] Wren… said that having more than 81% of the adult population with a first coronavirus jab, and 59% with both doses is “very encouraging”.

Asked whether the success of the vaccine programme means England will not need to wait until July 19th to fully open up, he said: “We’d still need to be vigilant – but vigilance and vaccination are the two words.

“So, I think if the numbers continue to be promising then I think there’s great hope we could open up on July 5th.” …

Official figures show the U.K. has recorded more than 10,000 daily Covid cases for three consecutive days.

But Professor Wren explained that the rise in cases seems to be “flattening off”, saying: “If you are testing and tracing more, then you are going to find more cases… but if you look at the population as a general cross-section, then the actual numbers proportion-wise might be less.”

The expert said the number of people in hospital with Covid and “certainly the severe cases” have “not crept up in line” with the number of infections.

“There’s clear evidence here that the vaccinations certainly in the older populations are working,” he added.

“Although the number of cases may increase, the number of hospitalisations, or deaths, or expected deaths, is not increasing in line with the previous waves.”

And asked whether the U.K. is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, Professor Wren said: “I don’t think particularly. We expected that there would be an increase as we gradually opened up but I wouldn’t call this a third wave.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Others, including those who are closer to the Government, are more pessimistic. SAGE member Professor Calum Semple says we should expect a fourth wave in the winter due to the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Stop Press 2: A reader spotted a good letter in the Sunday Telegraph.

SIR – What is going on?

On June 23 last year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the previous week was 59, with 353 hospital admissions. On that day the Government announced that restrictions on our freedoms would be eased on July 4.

This year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the first week of June was seven, with 144 hospital admissions.

In contrast to last year, those at high risk have been vaccinated. Yet at the beginning of the week, the Government announced its intention to continue restricting our freedom for at least another five weeks.

Where is the logic? Will restrictions ever end? This disease is endemic. We should stop testing asymptomatic people, accept that “zero Covid” is not achievable and get on with our lives.

Dr Geoffrey Maidment
Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire

Thousands of Women Suffering Period Problems Following Covid Vaccination

Britain’s medicines regulator has received reports from almost 4,000 women, mostly aged between 30 and 49, who have suffered period problems after taking a Covid vaccine. Reports were gathered until the middle of May – before the vaccine rollout opened for the whole adult population – so more up-to-date figures could show a much lower age range for period problems. The Sunday Times has the story.

Official data, obtained by the Sunday Times, show that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 2,734 reports of period problems linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, 1,158 related to the Pfizer jab, and 66 linked to the Moderna vaccine up to May 17th.

The issue, typically involving “heavier than usual” bleeding, could have affected many more women who would not have thought to report their experience. The majority of issues were reported in women aged between 30 and 49.

Asked why the problems had not been added to the official list of possible side effects of the Covid vaccines, the MHRA said a review with experts had found that there was no need to do so. The “current evidence” did not suggest an “increased risk” of period problems after the jab, it said, but it had published information on reports of menstrual disorders in its weekly report on adverse reactions.

Victoria Male, a Reproductive Immunologist at Imperial College London, said more women were likely to have been affected than the number of case reports. “It’s definitely true that not everyone will be reporting any menstrual changes they have noticed to Yellow Card [the MHRA’s scheme for people to report suspected side effects] simply because not everyone knows that it exists and that they can file a report,” she said.

Although a clear link between the Covid jab and menstrual disorders had not been established, “lots of people have contacted me to tell me about changes that they have noticed in their periods following vaccination”, Male said. “The kinds of things they are telling me about, mostly periods that are heavier or later than usual, are very similar to the reports we are seeing in Yellow Card.”

Angharad Planells, 34, from Cheltenham, said her period had been 11 days late after her second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “My whole life I’ve been pretty regular and I track my period on an app. It was super late,” she said. “When it did start, it was one of – if not the – most painful periods I’ve ever had, to the point where I felt a bit nauseous.”

Planells, who reported the suspected adverse reaction to the MHRA, added: “I would still have the vaccine again. I have had family members die from Covid. It’s just the lack of information out there.”

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up