Day: 8 July 2021

Alarming Number of Brits Want Restrictions to Continue Permanently, According to New Poll

Last month, leading SAGE member and renowned Communist Susan Michie caused a stir (among sceptics, at least) by suggesting that mask-wearing and social distancing should become part of our “normal” routine behaviour and stay in place “forever“. Unfortunately, her view is not quite as fringe as we might hope.

New polling by Ipsos MORI for the Economist suggests that a high percentage of Brits believe a number of lockdown restrictions should stay in place “permanently”, including nighttime curfews (19%), travel quarantine (35%), and face masks (a whopping 40%!). Well over 40% of Brits also believe that only those who have been vaccinated against Covid – and are able to prove it – should be allowed to travel abroad (“permanently”).

Matthew Holehouse, a British Politics Correspondent at the Economist, says this could be an anomalous result because we’re living through a “very strange time for public opinion”: “Do some people struggle to differentiate how they feel now from how they’ll feel once covid is gone?” Either way, the results are alarming.

The write-up from the Economist is worth reading if you can get past the paywall.

Stop Press: There’s bad news from YouGov, too. Its latest polling suggests that more than one-fifth of Brits are “very nervous” about lockdown restrictions ending and more than 50% are either “very nervous” or “fairly nervous”.

What kind of nation have we become?

The YouGov findings are also worth viewing in full.

Lockdown Summit to Take Place on July 17th – Register Now

Toby and I will be joining HART members Professor Karol Sikora, Professor David Paton, Professor Norman Fenton and Dr Clare Craig among a host of other experts at the sceptical Question Everything summit in London on Saturday July 17th. The event, entitled Lockdowns – Is Now the Time for a Better Solution?, will feature panellists and speakers from science, social science, law and industry, including Luke Johnson, Dr Peter McCullough and Francis Hoar. The global response to COVID-19 will be scrutinised and proposals for the future discussed in a one day summit which will be live-streamed to the public. The aim is to explore how the world can responsibly return to normality without further harmful lockdowns.

The event, the first in a series, will consist of a full programme of nine sessions across the morning and afternoon. Some sessions will see expert speakers give short keynote presentations on the scientific, political, legal, economic and social issues, interspersed with longer moderated panel discussions. The main thrust of the day is to critically assess lockdowns and to explore how the world might be better prepared for future pandemics without resorting to extreme measures of unclear efficacy. The format will encourage discussion and there will be two open Q&As which will make for a fascinating and educational day.

More information can be found on the Question Everything website, where you can also register to receive full details about the event and watch the summit via live stream.

The BBC’s Dishonest Attack on Ivermectin

The following article by Dr Edmund Fordham and Dr Tess Lawrie was first published by HART and is reproduced here by kind permission.

The July 3rd episode of Tim Harford’s More or Less: Behind the Stats, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, spread more medical disinformation with a piece entitled “Is ivermectin a Covid wonder drug?” Timed to follow publication of an article in Clinical Infectious Diseases by Roman et al on June 28th, this piece seems a clumsy attempt to discredit the landmark British study of Bryant, Lawrie et al which was published by the American Journal of Therapeutics in June and has recently appeared in the current (July) print edition.

Though published by British authors – based at Dr Tess Lawrie’s Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd in Bath and the University of Newcastle — and despite these authors lacking any conflicts of interest, BBC Radio 4 made no attempt to contact any of the study authors for interview or ‘right of reply’, which is a fairness obligation under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Instead, Harford spoke to one Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

Bryant et al have published the world’s first Cochrane-standards systematic review and meta-analysis of available randomised clinical trials of ivermectin in treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Review of 3,406 patients in 24 randomised trials demonstrated a mortality risk reduction of 62% on ‘moderate certainty’ evidence. The documentation is meticulous and comprehensive. Its restriction was to ‘randomised’ clinical trials because non-randomised studies are typically disregarded by regulatory authorities. There was no ‘cherry picking’: all available trials at the study cut-off date were included.

Meyerowitz-Katz referred to Roman et al, with an almost identical but not the same title, which also claims to be a systematic review and meta-analysis. The study surveys only 1,173 patients over 10 studies, with the remaining known randomised trials arbitrarily excluded. Moreover, the article misreports published clinical trial data in a way that verges on falsification of data, as an Open Letter to the Editor-in-Chief has detailed. The initial misreporting while on the preprint server medRxiv included a farcical reversal of the treatment and control ‘arms’ of the clinical trial of Niaee et al, drawing protest from Dr Niaee himself which can still be found in the comments section of medRxiv. Unfortunately for Clinical Infectious Diseases, further misreporting (undetected by the journal’s peer reviewers) remains, in a way that renders the article worthless. Further background on the sources can be found here.

Scusi? Millions of Pupils Miss Out on Language Learning During Lockdown

Pupils – in Britain and across the world – have missed out on all forms of learning over the past year of lockdowns. A new report by the British Council shows that more than half of primary school pupils didn’t receive any form of language learning in the first national lockdown. The Guardian has the story.

The council’s annual survey of English primary and secondary schools found that more than half of primary school pupils and 40% of those at secondaries did not do any language learning during the first national lockdown. And in January and February’s lockdown, 20% of all pupils had no language education.

This will inevitably affect take-up at GCSE and A-level. The report shows that the Government will fail to meet its target of three-quarters of pupils taking a modern language GCSE by 2022, if current trends continue.

The Government wants 75% of pupils to take a modern language GCSE by 2022 and 90% by 2025, as part of its English baccalaureate. The introduction in 2010 of the EBACC, a group of more traditional subjects at GCSE which includes a compulsory language, was meant to help stem the decline in language learning. But according to the report, published on Thursday, only 53% of Year 10 pupils were studying for a language GCSE in 2020. …

Entries for modern languages continue to fall. Analysis of official figures by the Guardian shows that in schools in England, entries for language GCSEs have dropped by 41% since 2003, the last year that taking a modern foreign language in Year 10 was compulsory..

The position of German is particularly precarious, with only 36% of English secondary schools teaching it. Provisional German GCSE entries for 2021 are down 66% on 2003 levels, while for French they are down 59%. Overall, just 5.8% of GCSE entries in England in summer 2020 were for a modern foreign language, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications.

A-level numbers also continue to dwindle: OFQUAL figures show that provisional entries for modern foreign languages this year are down 17% from 2020 figures. …

Although French and German GCSEs have been marked less severely since 2020, after OFQUAL ruled that there should be an adjustment to grading standards, there are still concerns that students are being put off studying modern foreign languages because it is harder to get top grades.

“On average, the grades obtained by students in modern languages are lower by up to one grade than other EBACC subjects,” said [Julie] McCulloch [the Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders].

Worth reading in full.

“Existing in Lockdown Is Not Enough – Some of Us Want to Live!”

There’s a great letter in the Telegraph today asking where broadcasters find Brits who want to remain in lockdown. These people may be happy to merely “exist”, the author writes, but “some of us want to live”! Judging from England fans filling Wembley Stadium and dancing in streets across the country last night, many more are in the “get back to normal” camp than some reporters suggest.

SIR – Television reporters constantly interview members of the public who claim that they don’t want lockdown to end. Where do they find these people?

If their lives have not been blighted by the lockdowns of the last 16 months, I can only assume that they don’t work or run a business; they don’t go shopping; they never eat out; they don’t have school-age children or students in their family; they don’t know anyone in hospital or a care home; they don’t have health problems or ever need to see a GP; they never go on holiday; they never go to the theatre, a cinema or to a concert; they don’t support a charity; they neither attend nor support nor try to organise a local club or organisation; they don’t go to public talks or meetings; they don’t have or want any social contact; their family never plans an event such as a wedding; they don’t wish to attend any funerals.

This amounts to existing, not living. Some of us want to live!

Valerie Monaghan
Cowbridge, Glamorgan

Vaccination Rates Fall Due to Youth Hesitancy

The number of first vaccinations given in Britain has almost halved in two weeks as take-up among the young dwindles. Polling in May suggested that nearly nine out of 10 young adults want to be vaccinated against Covid, but more recent data shows that around one in seven older teenagers are now sceptical of getting the vaccine.

The Government hopes to offset this hesitancy by widening the gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, such as by ending certain travel quarantine rules and ending self-isolation rules after contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid for those who have had two doses. Last month, it even attempted to incentivise take-up among younger people by partnering with dating apps to create a scheme that rewards vaccinated users with exclusive prizes.

The Times has more.

Government scientists accept that the country is “close to maximum take-up”, with many young people still hesitant about vaccination.

The NHS reported no problems with Pfizer supplies and many vaccination centres are starting to offer early second jabs to young people, saying they would otherwise be sitting idle, but the Government is resisting calls to bring forward second doses.

Ministers appear relaxed about the slowdown, arguing that removal of quarantine for the fully vaccinated when going on holiday or coming into contact with an infected person would act as an incentive to boost take-up. But it will add to concerns about the scale of a summer wave of infections after all restrictions are lifted in 11 days’ time. …

Boris Johnson refused yesterday to say how many daily Covid admissions he was expecting in the summer but sources familiar with internal estimates acknowledged hospitals were likely to struggle, saying: “The tide is coming in and we will have to see how high the water gets before the nerves crack.” …

Men are currently more likely to have Covid than women, researchers said, with indoor gatherings to watch the Euros likely to be driving the trend. The latest round of the React survey from Imperial College London found that about 0.7% of men had the virus between May 20th and June 7th compared with 0.5% of women.

Ministers are expecting cases to peak at about 100,000 a day in August after which they are expected to fall through a combination of vaccination and the virus running out of people to infect.

About 90% of adults in Britain have antibodies to the disease from vaccination or previous infection, the Office for National Statistics said.

In England this includes 60% of those aged 16 to 24 in the week ending June 20th, suggesting previous infection is the main cause. This rises to over 99% in people over 65. …

Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham said there was a “need to increase the messaging around the benefits of vaccination”, citing “very debilitating long Covid” even in the young. Take-up has plateaued at over 95% for over-50s but is under 90% among those aged 45-49.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up