Day: 17 July 2021

Infections in the Vaccinated Overtake Those in the Unvaccinated For the First Time – But the Graph is Removed From the ZOE App Report

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, despite being vaccinated – and he is far from alone. The latest ZOE data shows that, as of July 12th, infections in the vaccinated (with at least one dose) in the U.K. now outnumber those in the unvaccinated for the first time, as the former continue to surge while the latter plummet (see above). (Note that 68% of the population has had at least one vaccine dose, so there are still at this stage disproportionately more new infections in the unvaccinated, though on current trends that may soon change.)

At what point will the Government accept that these vaccines have limited efficacy in preventing infection and transmission, and thus the whole rationale of being vaccinated to protect others – vaccine passports, compulsory vaccination, and so on – is suspect?

The above graph was in yesterday’s report, so I downloaded today’s report (you can get it by signing up to the app and reporting your symptoms) to get the new update. I was dismayed to find the graph was gone. At the bottom, a note explains:

Removed incidence graph by vaccination status from the report as there are very few unvaccinated users in the infection survey, the Confidence Intervals are very wide and the trend for unvaccinated people is no longer representative.

Which I would say is very convenient, just as infections in the vaccinated became the majority. Perhaps ZOE should try to recruit some more unvaccinated people for its survey, so it can continue to report on this as well as have a control group for its vaccine data? That would seem the scientific thing to do, rather than just stop reporting it because it is suddenly “no longer representative”.

It’s doubly odd because Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE app, made the decline among the unvaccinated a feature of his video this week. So the realisation that the trend is “no longer representative” appears to have been rather sudden, even invalidating the contents of a ZOE ‘data release‘ two days earlier.

It seems we will never know how the story ends, which is a shame and a missed opportunity for ZOE.

Is it ‘Freedom Day’ Already?

Sun-starved Britons flocked to beaches and parks today causing miles-long tailbacks on the hottest day of the year so far as temperatures hit 88F (31C), making parts of the U.K. warmer than the Caribbean. MailOnline has more.

The warmest parts of England today were Yorkshire, the Midlands and Bristol – and conditions could be even hotter tomorrow with the Met Office warning of 91F (33C) highs as the summer heatwave continues.

The balmy weather, driven by a blast of warm air coming in from the Azores in the North Atlantic, has prompted health officials to issue warnings about the dangers of extreme heat – especially to the elderly and vulnerable.

The sunshine is due to last until so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, the day when the last of the Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when thunderstorms could arrive.

Thousands of people have flocked to beaches across the country, with London and the South East seeing clear skies and highs of 84F (29C) today – with the mercury climbing to between 88F (30C) and 90F (32C) tomorrow.

And, for a change, the heat is being shared across the country – with the North Midlands and South Yorkshire hottest today, followed by the South East tomorrow.

Monday is expected to see the highest temperatures shift to the West Country. But we are still a long way off record temperatures – with the all-time UK record of 101.7F (38.7C) being set in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

Tom Morgan, meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “We have got quite an extended hot spell of weather to come through the next several days lasting much of this week, nighttime temperatures will be in the high teens Celsius and daytime temperatures will be in the high twenties or low thirties.

“It’s going to mean that people are really going to feel the effects of the heat as we go through this week.”

Worth reading in full – not least for the gallery of photographs showing people relaxing and enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

Thousands March Against Vaccine Passports in France

Thousands have taken to the streets in France to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s extreme plans to force all health workers to get vaccinated against Covid and to prevent the unvaccinated from visiting restaurants, shopping malls and hospitals, and from using trains and planes. Unmoved by these demonstrations, French Prime Minister Jean Castex says people should be “convinced” to take the vaccine “at all costs”. Reuters has the story.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in coronavirus infections, which protesters say infringe the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccination.

The measures had already prompted demonstrations earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters.

“Everyone is sovereign in his own body. In no way does a president of the Republic have the right to decide on my individual health,” said one protester in Paris who identified herself as Chrystelle.

Marches, which also took place in France’s largest cities such as Marseille, Lyon and Lille as well as many smaller centres, also included “yellow vest” protesters seeking to revive the anti-Government movement curbed by coronavirus lockdowns.

Visiting a centre in Anglet in southwestern France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said vaccination, which is not mandatory for the general public for now, is the only way to fight the virus.

“I hear the reluctance that arises but I think that we must at all costs convince all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated, it is the best way to cope to this health crisis,” Castex said.

Despite the strength of the protests, an Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll released on Friday found more than 60% of French people agree with mandatory vaccination for health workers, as well as a requirement for a health pass in some public places.

Worth reading in full.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid Tests Positive for Covid

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has had two doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, is self-isolating with his family after he tested positive for the virus. Javid says his symptoms are “very mild” and has urged unvaccinated Brits to get ‘jabbed’ “as soon as you can”.

BBC News has the story.

Mr Javid, who became Health Secretary in June, said he had taken a lateral flow test after feeling a “bit groggy” on Friday night and it was positive. 

He said he was now self-isolating until he got the results of a PCR test. …

In a video posted on his Twitter feed, Mr Javid said: “I was feeling a bit groggy last night, so I took a lateral flow test this morning and it’s come out positive, so I’m now self-isolating at home with my family until I get the results of a PCR test.” 

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine and so far my symptoms are very mild.” 

He urged people who had not been vaccinated yet to “get out there and get them as soon as you can”.

Mr Javid also said people who feel groggy or come into contact with someone who is positive should take a lateral flow test.

“If everyone plays their part, you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones but you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping to preserve our way of life,” the Health Secretary added.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Half the Cabinet could be pinged within a few days, according to MailOnline, including Boris.

Britain Set to Carry Out Largest Flu Vaccine Roll-Out in Its History This Winter

Encouraged by its large Covid vaccine programme, Britain will carry out the largest flu vaccine roll-out in its history this winter, with all secondary school pupils and children aged two and three set to be offered vaccines. Officials expect that, altogether, 35 million people could be vaccinated against seasonal flu this year and that Covid and flu vaccines will continue to be given for “years to come”. MailOnline has the story.

NHS England and Improvement, and Public Health England have issued the 2021-2022 annual flu letter to providers, outlining their plans for this year’s expanded programme.

From September, 35 million people including all secondary school students up to Year 11, children aged two and three on August 31st, all primary school children, people aged 50 and over, pregnant women, unpaid carers, and frontline health and adult social care staff will be eligible for the free jab.

The drive will build on last year’s expanded flu programme, which saw a record 19 million jabs being administered.

[Health Secretary Sajid] Javid encouraged all those eligible to get their flu jab when they are called.

“Flu can be a serious illness and we want to build a wall of protection by immunising a record number of people,” he said. 

“With the nation getting closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid alongside other viruses and we’re offering the free flu jab to millions more people to help keep them safe this winter.

“The phenomenal scale of the Covid vaccination programme is a clear demonstration of the positive impact vaccination can make and I encourage all those eligible to get their flu jab when called forward.”

Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said the upcoming flu season will be “highly unpredictable” combined with “the likelihood that Covid will still be circulating”.

The flu programme is expected to be delivered alongside any booster programme for Covid vaccinations.  

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is expected to publish its final advice on the Covid booster jab programme later this summer. …

In a letter sent to senior leaders, GPs and hospital bosses earlier this month, NHS England said health systems should be preparing to deliver booster doses of the coronavirus vaccination between September 6th and December 17th. 

NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson said people will [need] to be vaccinated for flu and coronavirus for “years to come”.     

“Rolling out a flu programme of this scale alongside a Covid booster campaign will take a huge amount of planning, collaboration and commitment, particularly from primary care,” he said.  

“It is incredibly ambitious in its scale and complexity, and while we have no doubt the NHS can meet this challenge, we do need to think about how we enable NHS staff to carry out this programme while meeting the other pressures they face.

“We’ll be vaccinating against flu and Covid for years to come so let’s put our approach on a sustainable footing as soon as possible.”

Worth reading in full.

A Response to Scott Alexander on Lockdowns

The prolific blogger Scott Alexander has written a long post about lockdowns. It’s not too objectionable from a lockdown sceptic’s point of view. For example, he concedes that “lockdowns weren’t necessary to prevent uncontrolled spread” and says that it’s “harder to justify strict lockdowns in terms of the non-economic suffering produced”.

Nonetheless, I do disagree with him on several points, which I will highlight here.

First, he ignores most of the academic studies that have found little or no effect of lockdowns on mortality. For example, he doesn’t mention Simon Wood’s studies finding that infections were in decline before all three U.K. lockdowns. Nor does he mention the paper by Christopher Berry and colleagues which observed “no detectable health benefits” of shelter-in-place orders in the United States.

Despite ignoring these studies, he dedicates a whole section of his post to something called CoronaGame, which he oddly classifies as “Actual Evidence”.

Second, he compares the official COVID-19 death rate up to August 2020 in Sweden with various other countries, and claims that “Sweden comes out looking very bad, but not the literal worst”. He then claims that “it looks even worse when you compare Sweden to other Scandinavian/Nordic countries”.

However, if he had used age-adjusted excess mortality, and had extended his window of analysis up to the end of 2020, Sweden would not have come out “looking very bad”. As I’ve noted several times, Sweden saw age-adjusted excess mortality up to week 51 of just 1.7% – placing it 14 out of 22 European countries.

And there are several reasons why the “neighbour argument” – the argument that we have to compare Sweden to its immediate neighbours rather than the rest of Europe – isn’t very convincing. Sweden saw unusually low mortality in 2019; border controls (not lockdowns) made the difference in the first wave; and once you include the Baltics, Sweden no longer stands out.

Third, he claims the cost of lockdown “is measured in psychological suffering and economic decline”, noting that in order to do a cost-benefit analysis “we should figure out how much stricter lockdowns affected the economy”.

While the economic impact of lockdown certainly constitutes a major entry on the costs side of the ledger, Alexander neglects to mention another negative impact of lockdown, namely the switch to remote learning. As several studies have shown, this resulted in sizeable learning losses, which were concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Alexander’s post offers a decent overview of the debate, but he’s too charitable to the lockdown side, leading him to overstate the benefits of lockdown and understate the costs. Not his best piece of work, in other words.

Australia’s Loony Zero Covid Policy Gradually Drives Entire Country Mad

In Australia, the state of Victoria, with more than six million people, has been put into lockdown because of 18 cases. Yes, you read that correctly. There are now 12 million Australians confined to their homes due to fewer infections than you’d find in the average British pub.

We’re publishing a guest post today by Steve Waterson, the Commercial Editor of the Australian. This piece originally appeared in the Weekend Australian, but Steve has given us permission to republish it.

So away we go again, hunting to ground the absolute beast, the out-of-control killer virus that runs rampant at light speed, vaulting from customer to customer in a fleeting cafe encounter.

Contact tracers scramble tirelessly to chase down the asymptomatic covidiots, while their masters, responding to the hour-by-hour health advice, are forced against their will to impose a snap lockdown, perhaps a circuit-breaker, to flatten the curve towards zero transmission, but for no longer than necessary.

Regrettably, they may have to slam their state borders shut (only as a last resort) so medical facilities will not be overwhelmed, to save lives and keep people out of harm’s way in this unprecedented, existential war. After all, they’re simply following the science, and they make no apology for that.

Hasn’t it been illuminating, these past 18 months, watching the verbal gymnastics of our politicians and their supporting cast of advisers and enablers, as they contort language and meaning to support their twisted edifice of hysterical illogic? The banal retreat into cliche, exaggeration, oxymoron and jargon, all wind and no substance, largely unchallenged, it’s sad to say, by a media pack trying to outdo each other with doom-laden headlines.

BBC Offers Lanyards to Staff Wanting to Continue Social Distancing When Returning to the Office

Having recognised that a sizeable proportion of its workforce does not want to return to normality just yet, the BBC is offering white lanyards to staff who are returning to the office but would like to continue ‘social distancing’. Employees are also being asked to disclose their vaccination status, but they have been told they will still be able to come to offices if they have not been vaccinated against Covid. The Telegraph has the story.

A memo sent to BBC employees on Friday by Bob Shennan, the BBC’s Managing Director, said the organisation “knows that some of you are anxious about returning to the office” in September.

“To address this, we are introducing a new white BBC lanyard to indicate that the wearer wishes to be given extra space. If you see a colleague wearing this lanyard then please respect their position,” he wrote.

He told staff the white lanyards would co-exist with their “sunflower” equivalents used by people with hidden disabilities. 

BBC staff were also informed that the number of people allowed to use office lifts simultaneously would rise as more employees return to the office. 

Some signs restricting the amount of toilet facilities that can be used would also be removed, Mr Shennan wrote.

A BBC spokesman said: “We’re taking some simple and effective steps for staff safety and to ensure that critical public services remain on air.”

The Government has endorsed homemade badges made by the “Distance Aware” initiative that read “please give me space” and encouraged people to print them out at home if they were worried about a lack of social distancing.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has been in touch with details of an email sent to the staff at his local gym containing instructions from the Government to “set a good example” by continuing to wear face masks.

Just been to my Nuffield gym in Kingston, chatting to the trainer and he showed me the email to all staff from the CEO. Apparently, all the big health clubs and gyms were ordered in to see the Government and were told they must “do their bit” from July 19th. That means all staff carrying on wearing masks in order to “set a good example”. So, this is coming from the Government, not the health clubs and you can bet if gyms were ordered in so were supermarkets, etc. Say no more. Not really freedom is it?

News Round-Up

What SAGE Gets Wrong: The Evidence that Almost Everyone is Exposed During a Surge and Most Are Immune

During a Covid surge, what proportion of the population is exposed to an infective dose of the virus, which they either fight off with no or minimal symptoms or are infected by? This is one of the most important questions scientists need to answer.

It’s closely related to the question of whether lockdowns work. If lockdowns work then, as per SAGE and Imperial orthodoxy, the restrictions successfully prevent the virus from reaching most people, who remain unexposed and susceptible – and hence in need of vaccination to protect them when the protective restrictions are lifted. If lockdowns don’t work, however, then they don’t prevent the virus spreading, and thus the majority of people will be exposed to it as it spreads around unimpeded by ineffectual restrictions.

Another related question is: What proportion of exposed people are infected? Using ONS data we can estimate that around 10-15% of the country tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 over the autumn and winter. How many were exposed to the virus to produce this number of infections? Was it, say, 10-20%, with half to all of them catching the virus? Or was it more like 80-90%, with around 10% being infected? It’s a question that makes all the difference in our understanding of the virus and how to respond to it.

If almost all are exposed during a surge, and relatively few of them are infected, then a number of things follow. First, most people have enough immunity to fight off the virus when exposed to it, and only a small minority become infected. Second, the surge ends when enough of that small minority who are particularly susceptible to this virus or variant acquire immunity through infection, i.e., when herd immunity is reached. Third, there won’t be another surge or wave until there is a new virus or variant which evades enough of the existing population immunity to require herd immunity to be topped up via a further spread of infections.

If, on the other hand, very few are exposed during a surge, and most of them are infected, none of these things is true. It means: Most people have little immunity and are highly susceptible. A surge which infects 10-20% of the population has exposed not much more than that. The surge does not end because of herd immunity but because of restrictions. And there will be another surge as soon as restrictions are eased or behaviour changes and the unexposed begin to be exposed again. SAGE orthodoxy, in other words.

The evidence, however, is strongly supportive of the first position – ubiquitous exposure – not the second, limited exposure.