Day: 25 June 2021

Schoolchildren Are Using Fruit Juice to Get ‘Positive’ Covid Test Results

Schoolchildren, inspired by videos on social media platforms, have taken to using fruit juice and fizzy drinks to get false positive Covid test results and skip school. A number of videos have been found, with titles including: “Fed up of going to school? Want to get a positive Covid test? Use orange juice.” The MailOnline has the story.

When droplets of orange juice or fizzy drinks like coca-cola are placed on a lateral flow test it can produce a positive result because the acidity of the drink destroys the antibody proteins in the test.

And although it does not work every time, viral videos on TikTok and Instagram have been encouraging children across the U.K. to try the trick to get out of going to school…

Gateacre School in Belle Vale, Liverpool, sent an email to parents yesterday warning them to watch over their children as they take lateral flow Covid tests. 

The school warned parents children around the country had discovered a trick for producing a false positive reading…

The email read: “Nationally, some school students have discovered that placing droplets of orange juice or other fruit juice on an LFD test gets a false ‘positive’ result. 

“In light of this, can you be extra vigilant when your child is doing their LFD tests. Also, remind them that a positive LFD test must be followed by a confirmatory PCR test.” …

A Government spokesman said it is “imperative” lateral flow tests are used in the correct way.

They added: “Around one in three people with Covid experience no symptoms and rapid testing with lateral flow tests helps us track down positive cases that would otherwise go under the radar.”

Worth reading in full.

Just 28 Positive Covid Test Results after Trial Events Involving Almost 60,000 People

A Government scientific adviser says that the European Championship finals can go ahead safely following results from 10 trial events which identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants. The Telegraph has the story.

Between mid-April and mid-May, the Government allowed a number of large gatherings to take place, including the World Snooker Championships, the Brits, the F.A. Cup Final, a 5k fun run and a club night in Liverpool. 

Participants had to test negative to be allowed in, and were asked to take a second test after the event to see if they had caught Covid there.

Results published on Friday show that there were no major outbreaks caused by any of the events and just 28 people tested positive in the days that followed. 

Asked whether it was safe to allow 60,000 people to meet for the European Championship final, Professor Tom Rodden, a Chief Scientific Adviser in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Certainly, those events can go on safely.”

The Events Research Programme was commissioned by the Prime Minister in February 2021 as part of the roadmap out of lockdown, and was designed to explore how reopening of events can be conducted safely whilst limiting the transmission of the virus.

The report found that prevalence within events was no different to that in the wider community, which they said was “reassuring”…

Experts said it was important that people were allowed back to mass events because it was important for mental health and social cohesion.

Professor Iain Buchan, the Chair of Public Health and Clinical Informatics at the University of Liverpool, said: “This is a really important social phenomenon, and the World Health Organisation’s founding principle was health as a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, or the absence of a virus.

“We have to consider society in the round.”

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, added: “The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to step four of the roadmap.”

Worth reading in full.

Seychelles Outbreak: World’s Most Vaccinated Country Extends Restrictions Indefinitely

In a perplexing and worrying development, Seychelles, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, announced today that it was extending restrictions for an indefinite period as infections remain persistently high. Bloomberg has the story.

Seychelles extended curbs imposed on movement and gatherings indefinitely as the world’s most-vaccinated nation fights a persistently high number of coronavirus infections.

The palm-fringed Indian Ocean archipelago has seen a large number of infections since early May even though 70% of it 98,000 people are fully vaccinated with either Sinopharm or AstraZeneca Plc vaccines. It had rushed to conduct an inoculation campaign and reopen to tourism, the lifeblood of its economy.

“In view of the persistent community transmission of COVID-19, the increasing number of deaths, the confirmation of the presence of variants circulating in the population, the Public Health Authority is reinforcing the public health and social measures in place,” the health ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Bars, casinos and shops have to close at 7 p.m., events such as wedding celebrations are banned and gatherings of more than four people, unless it’s for work, are banned indoors and outdoors.

“These measures will remain in force and can only be relaxed when the outbreak is under greater control,” the ministry said.

Here is their cases curve with a comparison to the U.K.

U.K. Tourists Who Are Not Fully Vaccinated against Covid Will Have to Quarantine upon Arrival in Malta

Brits who travel to Malta, which has just been added to the “Green List“, will have to show a vaccine passport upon arrival in the country or else be forced to quarantine. Those who have received one or no doses of a Covid vaccine will also have to self-isolate – at their own expense. The number of days tourists will have to quarantine for has not yet been announced, but the standard period on the island is currently two weeks. Malta is the only new addition to the Government’s Green List which is not yet classified as “at risk” of being pushed back down onto the “Amber List”. Sky News has more.

Malta is one of 14 countries and territories added to England’s travel Green List, meaning tourists heading there after 4am on June 30th will not have to quarantine on their return.

However, the Maltese Government has said anyone arriving from the U.K. from that date will need to present a Covid vaccine certificate which is recognised by the country’s authorities.

Those without a recognised vaccine certificate will have to quarantine on their arrival in Malta at their own expense, it said…

The Maltese Government said the decision had been taken due to the “situation of variant cases reported in the United Kingdom”.

The NHS Covid pass, which can be used by U.K. holidaymakers to show their vaccine status, is only available to people who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

It is yet to be confirmed whether the NHS app will be accepted in Malta…

Malta is the only new addition to England’s Green List not to have been put on a watchlist, meaning the others are at risk of returning to the Amber List.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian also reports that authorities in the Balearic Islands are calling on the central Spanish Government to tighten controls for holidaymakers arriving from the U.K..

Matt Hancock Caught Snogging Aide

The Sun has an old fashioned ‘minister-caught-having-an-affair’ scoop on its front page today – and the politician in the frame is Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

He cheated on his wife with Gina Coladangelo, 43, who he hired last year with taxpayers’ money, as Covid gripped Britain.

Mr Hancock, 42, and millionaire lobbyist Gina were caught on camera in a steamy clinch at his Whitehall office.

Whistleblowers revealed the Health Secretary had been ­spotted cheating on his wife of 15 years with married Ms ­Coladangelo.

He was seen kissing her at the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours last month as the mutant strain began spreading.

A Whitehall whistleblower told The Sun it was “shocking that Mr Hancock was having an affair in the middle of a pandemic with an adviser and friend he used public money to hire”.

Last night, a friend of the Health Secretary said: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.”

Mr Hancock was pictured embracing his aide. The image was from just after 3pm on May 6 — as the rest of Westminster was engrossed by the local elections.

He is seen in his distinctive ninth-floor office inside the sprawling Department of Health building, which is a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament.

During the pandemic, the office has provided the backdrop to his Zoom appearances on TV — including the Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Hancock is seen checking the corridor is clear before closing the door and then leaning on it to ensure he cannot be disturbed.

Ms Coladangelo then walks towards him and the pair begin their passionate embrace.

According to a whistleblower, who used to work at the department, the pair have regularly been caught in clinches together.

The source said: “They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that.

“I’m just amazed he was so brazen about it as he was the Secretary of State.

“It has also shocked people because he put her in such an important, publicly-funded role and this is what they get up to in office hours when everyone else is working hard.”

Worth reading in full.

On the face of it, this actually strengthens Hancock’s position – already pretty strong after Dominic Cummings’ singled him out for criticism. After all, Boris can hardly sack a Cabinet minister for having an affair without looking like a complete hypocrite. Nevertheless, there are some questions that Hancock will have to answer.

  • Was the Health Secretary having an affair with Gina Coladangelo before she became a paid, non-executive director at the DHSS?
  • Were the correct procedures followed before she was hired? Non-exec positions at Government departments aren’t usually advertised and Hancock wouldn’t be the first Secretary of State to appoint a crony to the board of his department. But they do have to be properly vetted – and interviewed – by the Civil Service. Did that happen in this case?

I expect the answer to the second question is probably “yes”, so Hancock’s fate will turn on the answer to the first. If the affair predated the job, that doesn’t look good. It feeds into the “One rule for them” theme which could end up being a problem for the Government. As a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics put it to me in an email this morning:

It looks to me that this might be another case of one rule for you and another for me. Seems suspicious that MH’s mistress was hired as an aide going into lockdown last year, while hundreds of thousands of other people were separated from their lovers for months on end. Also note that Hancock and mistress are seen social distancing in public and embracing in private.

Did Gina’s husband come home at the last minute?

Stop Press: MailOnline has a good selection of Hancock memes here.

Stop Press 2: Hancock condemned Neil Ferguson for breaking lockdown rules to see his lover last year.

Stop Press 3: Roberto Coladangelo, Gina Coladangelo’s brother, is an executive at a healthcare company that has won a string of NHS contracts. Sky News has more.

Countries Could Be Pushed Back onto the “Amber List” at Short Notice, Says Transport Secretary

Overseas travel appears to be just as difficult today as it was before the Government’s “Green List” was updated. That all but one of the new quarantine-free Green countries also feature on the “Green Watchlist” means they are “at risk” of being pushed back onto the “Amber List” at any time. One holiday company has already ruled out taking new bookings for July and August due to the uncertainty, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says that changes that occur “with quite a lot of regularity” will likely result in Green countries being demoted to Amber at short notice.

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Shapps dodged a question on whether or not he would book a foreign holiday for himself and his family given that the rules could be changed with very little notice, merely saying: “Sadly, I don’t think I’ve got time at the moment to take a holiday.”

The Guardian has more.

Grant Shapps warned anyone looking to travel abroad that the rules could change at short notice after Malta, Madeira and the Balearic islands, among others, were added to the list of countries from which travellers could return without having to quarantine.

But there was concern across the beleaguered travel sector, with one prominent figure accusing the Government of being “overly cautious”.

Shapps said: “People will have to come to their own decisions… If people are in a situation where, from next week, they wanted to get away then these are the places where you can go for the purposes of holiday, of course, being aware of all the caveats about the risk of things changing because… that happens with quite a lot of regularity.”

And he acknowledged that the ongoing pandemic meant the status of any country could change with no notice, with those on the “Green Watchlist” most likely to see harsher restrictions reimposed.

“Whoever is booking to go anywhere this summer, travel insurance, making sure your flights are changeable and making sure the accommodation is changeable – all those things are going to be very, very important this year. And I think people need to weigh up whether that is going to work for them or not,” he told Sky News…

The holiday company On the Beach said it would not be taking new bookings for July and August while so much uncertainty remained about countries on the watchlist.

Criticising ministers’ caution, the Airport Operators Association Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “Any extension of the Green List is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.” …

The lists are reviewed every three weeks, meaning that the next announcement will be on Thursday, July 15th.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

Lockdowns “Did Not Lead to Reductions in Excess Deaths” – Study

A new study, published as a working paper for the leading U.S. think tank National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), has shown (once again) that lockdown policies produced no discernible reduction of the pandemic death toll. If anything, they increased it.

The study uses excess deaths rather than Covid deaths to avoid the problems of different ways of counting Covid deaths, and also to capture policy deaths from lockdowns and other Government responses. It looks at the death tolls in 43 countries and all U.S. states to see how they varied with the length and timeliness of lockdown “shelter-in-place” (SIP) orders.

The authors find that longer lockdowns led to more excess deaths: “Countries with a longer duration of SIP [shelter in place] policies are the ones with higher excess deaths per 100,000 residents.” For U.S. states the finding was similar but less pronounced.

In U.S. states, earlier lockdowns were associated with slightly higher excess deaths rather than lower as lockdown theory would predict. In the comparison of countries, on the other hand, the predicted relationship was found.

To account for differences between countries and states (such as demographics) the authors carried out “event studies” to see how much each country or state’s excess deaths changed following lockdown from its pre-lockdown trend. This analysis showed that, prior to implementing lockdown policies, the trend of lockdown countries was towards having lower excess deaths than countries that didn’t implement lockdowns. However, after lockdown those trends were reversed so that lockdown countries started to have progressively worse excess deaths compared to no-lockdown countries.