Day: 18 July 2021

Vaccine Passports Are Dead – Long Live Vaccine Passports!

We’re publishing an original piece today by Dr. David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia, a member of HART, and a contributor to Collateral Global, about Covid status certificates – or vaccine passports to you and me. He’s not opposed to immigration officers demanding to see evidence that you’ve been double jabbed or tested negative as a condition of entering their country. But he does draw the line at internal use of vaccine passports – as a condition of attending a pop concert, for instance. He’s done a back-of-the-envelope calculation and concluded that admitting the unvaccinated, who will soon make up no more than 10% of the population, won’t pose a major risk and in any event will be outnumbered by the vaccinated who can still transmit the disease.

Suppose a concert is attended by 1,000 people, 900 vaccinated and 100 unvaccinated, which is about the current split. Assume also that vaccines confer around 80% protection – 95% for Pfizer and Moderna and 63-76% for AZ, and that 20% of the unvaccinated are immune through prior infection.

On that basis, the audience will include 80 unvaccinated ‘vulnerables’ and 180 potential vaccine failures. In other words, unvaccinated ‘hazards’ are outnumbered 2:1 by the vaccinated ‘hazards’. ZOE app data, showing that infections in the (large) vaccinated population are beginning to outnumber those in the (small and diminishing) unvaccinated population illustrate how, nationally, we are on track to reach such ratios.

In these circumstances, excluding the unvaccinated won’t dramatically alter the risk to the audience. Rather, the good news is that 740 of the 1000 attendees ([80% x 900]+[20% x 100]) are protected by successful vaccination or prior infection and this proportion, replicated across the population outside, should give sufficient herd immunity to prevent the virus regaining traction. Moreover, it’s generally accepted that vaccination gives better than 80% protection against severe infection, meaning that the vaccinated vulnerables aren’t at much risk.

As for the 80 unvaccinated vulnerables, have we not reached the point where it is their business if they choose to hazard more severe infection? They may also smoke or drink excessively. Or, despite limited mountaineering experience, join a commercial climb of Mt Everest, as promoted by this Everest Expedition service, whose blurb includes the wonderful encouragement: “If you want to experience what it feels like to be on the highest point on the planet and have strong economic background to compensate for your old age and your fear of risks, you can sign up for the VVIP Mount Everest Expedition Service.”

Worth reading in full.

All U.K. Adults Have Been Offered a First Dose of a Covid Vaccine

All U.K. adults have been offered a first dose of a Covid vaccine a day ahead of schedule, the Government has announced. But the success of the national vaccine roll-out has not persuaded the Prime Minister to give back more freedoms on ‘Freedom Day’, with mask-wearing still to be encouraged and the introduction of vaccine passports in a number of domestic settings seemingly imminent. Sky News has the story.

The Department of Health and Social Care said more than 46.2 million people had now had a first dose (87.8% of the [adult] population), while 35.7 million had received both shots (67.8%).

Boris Johnson had set July 19th as the date to offer all over-18s a jab, as well as to fully vaccinate two in three people.

It has been met a day before most existing coronavirus restrictions end in England.

The Prime Minister said today’s milestone was an “extraordinary achievement” and that it comes just eight months after the first shot was administered.

Graphic from Sky News.

“Thank you again to everyone coming forward, and to those helping others to get jabbed,” he said.

“You are the reason we are able to cautiously ease restrictions next week, and return closer towards normal life. Now let’s finish the job. If you’re over 18, book both your jabs today.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who’s isolating after contracting the virus himself, said it was “testament to the sheer dedication of NHS teams and local volunteers” who’ve been giving out the jabs.

Every adult will now have the chance to be double-jabbed by mid-September, added the Department of Health.

However, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, ministers have decided against a mass vaccination of under-18s and will only offer a jab to those who are vulnerable.

Worth reading in full.

Schools Closing Early for the Summer Break Due to Isolation Farce

Isolation rules continue to wreak havoc – though it seemed for a moment that they wouldn’t affect the lives of our leaders. Some parents are taking their children out of school ahead of the summer break so as to remove the risk of the whole family having to quarantine because of a single positive Covid test in the classroom. A number of schools have also decided to take action by closing early or by moving again to online teaching. The Guardian has the story.

“It is an absolutely grim situation and a depressing end to an academic year in which schools and colleges have been fighting to keep education running for their students despite waves of disruption caused by the pandemic,” said Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“Schools are remaining open until the end of term where possible but we are hearing more reports of some having to close because of Covid-related cases and absence among pupils and staff.”

While many independent schools had already closed for the summer break some days ago, some state schools finished their term on July 16th, and others will continue to offer teaching for another week.

Official Government data published last week showed that 840,000 pupils were out of school self-isolating, the highest number since schools fully reopened in March. The figures reflect the continuing surge in infections across the country as well as the policy of sending home entire “bubbles” of children who have been in contact with a positive case, even though they have not tested positive themselves. These bubbles typically consist of either a single class or an entire year group.

The Government has said that from next week bubbles will no longer be required, while responsibility for contact tracing will be handed over to the NHS. However, self-isolation rules for those who are identified as close contacts of a Covid case, as well as those who are ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, will remain in place for another month for the whole population.

School leaders say they are exasperated by a lack of clear guidance from the Department for Education, which they feel shifts responsibility for determining what is best for the school and the local community on to them. Some have reported that parents are angry with approaches from schools which they believe to be inconsistent with the rules.

One headteacher at an infant school told the Observer that three-quarters of pupils and 12 staff members had been sent home over the last four weeks. Nearly a third of pupils who had only just returned to school last Monday after isolation were sent home again on Friday, with six staff members off.

He said 10% of children were currently off school for non-Covid reasons, with many of their parents phoning in to say they were worried about disruption to holiday and social plans, even though this would constitute an unauthorised absence. …

Local news reports showed that schools in Southend, Winchester, Swindon, Pembrokeshire and Salisbury have all been forced to close early and switch to online learning to prevent entire year groups from having to self-isolate and to deal with staff shortages. Meanwhile, findings from the app that surveys parents, Parent Ping, showed that on July 5th 15% were considering taking their children out of school.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak Will Spend “Freedom Day” in Self-Isolation After Speedy U-Turn Due to Backlash Over Quarantine Exemption

When it was first suggested that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak would need to self-isolate after coming into contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid, Downing Street reported that the pair would be exempt from the rule as part of a pilot scheme (how convenient!). They have since been forced to U-turn due to the backlash following the announcement and will spend ‘Freedom Day’ in isolation. Sky News has more.

“The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid,” a spokesperson said.

“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

Mr Sunak tweeted: “Whilst the test and trace pilot is fairly restrictive, allowing only essential Government business, I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong.

“To that end, I’ll be self-isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.” …

Mr Javid revealed on Saturday that he had tested positive for Covid – only a day after the Health Secretary reportedly met with Mr Johnson in Downing Street.

But this morning, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared on Sky News to defend Downing Street’s initial announcement that the PM and chancellor would not be isolating.

He said: “I appreciate the frustration [the public] might feel listening to this.

“They, like me, or other members of the public who are pinged will have to self-isolate in the usual way.”

Having seen Mr Jenrick sent on to the morning politics programmes to defend the original decision, Sky’s Political Correspondent Rob Powell described the situation as “baffling”.

“This is a pretty speedy U-turn,” he said.

While Mr Jenrick referred to being “pinged”, the PM and chancellor were in fact contacted by NHS Test and Trace directly rather than simply being alerted by the NHS Covid app.

That means that there is a legal obligation to self-isolate for 10 days, whereas being pinged by the app is only guidance. …

Mr Jenrick encouraged people to keep the app installed and self-isolate when pinged.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Summit of Experts and Analysts Challenges the Narrative on Lockdowns, Testing, Masks and More

The Question Everything Lockdown Summit took place in London yesterday and featured contributions from many of the lockdown sceptics that have featured prominently on this site over the past year, including Professor David Paton, Professor David Livermore, Dr Clare Craig, Toby and myself. The full video recording (nine hours) is now up on Dan Astin-Gregory’s YouTube channel to watch at leisure. The schedule ran as follows, with time stamps within the links.

Cloth Face Masks Might Make You Feel Better but They Won’t Protect You From Covid

A standard face mask acts as nothing more than a “comfort blanket” and offers little protection against Covid, a scientific adviser to SAGE has said ahead of the partial easing of the mask mandate on Monday. The Telegraph has the story.

Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the Government on minimising the risk of cross-infection in supermarkets, accused medics of presenting a “cartoonish” view of how tiny particles travel through the air.

He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles.

“The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told the Telegraph.

The mask debate has been reignited this week after the Government published “Freedom Day” guidance recommending their continued use. It led to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, enforcing their continued use on the London Underground.

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effectiveness.

“Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the air – it’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is,” he said.

“Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.” …

An Oxford study last summer concluded that masks were “effective” in reducing the spread of the virus.

However, other studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. A subsequent Danish study involving 6,000 people concluded that there was no statistical difference in infection spread in non-wearers, while data on U.S. states with non-mandated usage failed to show a correlated uptick in cases.

“The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour.”

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up