Day: 7 August 2021

The Figures Don’t Match Up To the Fear, a Doctor Writes

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who says the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not only failed to arrive after ‘Freedom Day’, but we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once remarked: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I have been reflecting on that comment, now we are three weeks since the inappropriately named July 19th ‘Freedom Day’. Readers will remember the cacophony of shrieking from assorted ‘health experts’ prophesying certain doom and a tidal wave of acute Covid admissions that would overwhelm our beleaguered NHS within a fortnight. Representatives from the World Health Organisation described the approach as “epidemiologically stupid”. A letter signed by 1,200 self-defined experts was published in the Lancet predicting imminent catastrophe.

Accordingly, this week I thought I should take a look at how the apocalypse is developing and then make some general observations on the centrality of trust and honesty in medical matters.

Let’s start with daily admissions to hospitals from the community in Graph One. Daily totals on the blue bars, seven-day rolling average on the orange line. Surprisingly the numbers are lower than on July 19th. How can that be?

Perhaps there are more patients stacking up in hospitals – sicker patients tend to stay longer and are hard to discharge, so the overall numbers can build up rather quickly. So, Graph Two shows Covid inpatients up to August 5th. Readers should note that Graph Two includes patients suffering from acute Covid (about 75% of the total) plus patients in hospital for non-Covid related illness, but testing positive for Covid (the remaining 25%). How strange – numbers seem to be falling, not rising. This does not fit with the hypothesis – what might explain this anomalous finding?

Maybe the numbers of patients in ICU might be on the increase – after all, both the Beta variant and the Delta variant were said to be both more transmissible and more deadly than the Alpha variant. Graph Three shows patients in ICU in English Hospitals up to August 5th. It shows a similar pattern to Graph Two – a small fall in overall patient numbers in the last two weeks. I looked into the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre ICU audit report up to July 30th. This confirms the overall impression from the top line figures. Older patients do not seem to be getting ill with Covid. Over half the admissions to ICU with Covid have body mass indices over 30. Severe illness is heavily skewed to patients with co-morbidities and the unvaccinated. Generally speaking, the patients have slightly less severe illness, shorter stays and lower mortality so far.

Finally, we look at Covid related deaths since January 1st, 2021, in Graph Four. A barely discernable increase since the beginning of April.

So, whatever is going on with respect to the progress of the pandemic, the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not arrived yet – in fact, we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

University Attempts to Lure Young Into Getting ‘Jabbed’ With £5,000 Prize

The tactics being employed to persuade young Brits to get vaccinated against Covid are being ramped up, much to the joy of – and, at times, thanks to the work of – the Government. The latest effort comes from the University of Sussex, which is offering fully vaccinated students the chance to win a £5,000 prize. BBC News has the story.

All students are being entered into the draw, with 10 winners able to claim a £5,000 prize each, if they can prove they are double-jabbed or exempt. …

Professor Adam Tickell, the Vice-Chancellor at Sussex, said the prize raffle was worth it if the numbers being vaccinated could be boosted even slightly.

“We know take-up among young people is patchy,” he said. “We know they’re not against the vaccine, they’re just not getting round to it.”

He added the financial cost to the university of the scheme was small compared to the human and social cost of potential disruption to students. 

“We know transmission rates are lower with vaccination, and the risk of serious illness for our staff and students is much lower in people who’ve been vaccinated.”

Vaccination remains voluntary for students, and there has been growing concern about the relatively low take-up by young adults. …

The university says its scheme is designed to provide an incentive for students to have both doses. …

Professor Tickell got the idea after hearing on a BBC programme that universities in the U.S. were offering incentives for vaccination. …

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “Vaccines are the surest way to put Covid behind us and for students to reclaim the freedoms that enrich university life. 

“The department is encouraging universities to look at creative ways to boost uptake, and to discuss the possibility of pop-up centres with local health partners – making it quick and easy for students to grab a jab.” 

Worth reading in full.

The Covid Witch-Hunts

We’re publishing an original article today by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, about the parallels between the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries and the move today to discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated against Covid. She begins by denouncing the introduction of vaccine passports in the Republic of Ireland.

In the Republic of Ireland as of July 26th, only those who have accepted two jabs are allowed to go inside the pub – that den of such life and good cheer that there is an Irish Pub to be found in the remotest corners of the globe.

On va à l’Irish? a French friend of mine used to say to his college mates, when they had a free afternoon in Poitiers.

Can this really be happening? Can the people of my native land really be refusing entry at pub doors to friends and neighbours who have not agreed to receive a particular medical treatment? I’ve been gone for over a decade – have things really changed that much?

What of the good-humoured scepticism that used to mitigate every piece of Irish officialdom? I know someone who lost his Irish passport while living and working illegally in the U.S., and who managed to have it replaced via a network of ex-patriots in the police and the passport office there. Years ago, I was stopped by the Gardai for exceeding the speed limit on a stretch of road approaching Cork city – “You were travelling quickly there, do you know that?” asked the garda. “God, I’m sorry,” I said. “Watch yourself next time, girl,” he said. That was it.

And what of the courage that used to lie beneath these soft to-and-fros of Irish life? …

The two have gone hand-in-hand – the courage and the craic, the friendliness and the fight. A verve for life and for people and for talk will tend to draw a person into whatever news is abroad and whatever struggle is afoot.

But now they’ve disappeared hand-in-hand, it looks like. Irish men and women sit well apart from other Irish men and women because their Government has ruled that they must or because they’re afraid of getting sick, or both.

The words of W.B. Yeats resound in my despondency: “Was it for this the wild geese spread? For this that all the blood was shed?”

Worth reading in full.

Subscribe to My QPR Substack Account

I’m a QPR fan and have decided to create a substack blog about following the team this season. After 16 months of writing about COVID-19, I thought it would be a blessed relief to write about football for a change. Although having said that, no aspect of our lives is unaffected by the virus and the English Football League may well insist on vaccine passports as a condition of going to games. On London Calling a few weeks ago, James Delingpole and I had a discussion about what would persuade us to get jabbed. He said he wouldn’t do it for £50 million, whereas I said I’d do it if it was the only way I could go to QPR games. I’ve had COVID-19 (been there, got the antibodies) so pose less infection risk to other football fans than someone who’s been double-jabbed. But if the EFL, in its wisdom, decides that a recent antibody test or a recent negative test isn’t sufficient and only those who’ve been fully vaccinated will be admitted, I’m still not 100% sure what I’ll do.

The blog is free to subscribe to, although if you become a premium subscriber you can access the full archive – and if you become a founding member I’ll take you to a QPR game. Way-hay!

I wrote the first post last night, which you can read here. Here’s an extract:

England’s three lockdowns didn’t cause me much suffering. I don’t have a shop selling ‘non-essential’ goods (e.g. books) that has now gone out of business. As a freelance journalist, I was never at risk of losing my job and didn’t need to take any hand-outs from the Treasury. I don’t have a life-threatening disease so I was never going to die because my local hospital wouldn’t admit me. I only have one elderly relative and she was in our ‘support bubble’. The biggest downside was the intermittent closure of schools, not least because one of my children was doing her A levels and another his GCSEs. No end-of-exams celebrations for them. But I was probably better off than 95% of the population.

The one thing I really missed was going to the football, which I had naively thought might be possible in the 2020-21 season. I even bought two season tickets to my beloved QPR – one for me, one for my 13 year-old son Charlie – and nonchalantly ignored the deadline for applying for a refund. At one point, the club announced that a few hundred fans would be allowed into the ground and Charlie and I eagerly put our names in the hat, only for the offer to be withdrawn when the ‘rule of six’ was introduced. The next best thing was going to the stadium’s posh restaurant on match day – which the club made possible for our game against Cardiff on October 31st. But it was £60 a head and we were told we wouldn’t be able to go over to the window to look out over the pitch. We would have to make do with a big screen. That sounded even more frustrating than watching the match at home, knowing the ground is only a mile away. (Although we did beat Cardiff 3-2.)

It was only when football started being played behind closed doors that I realised how much I valued the weekly ritual. And I say ‘weekly’ because Charlie and I had taken to going to away games, too, criss-crossing England by train. QPR’s away record isn’t great, so more often than not we’d find ourselves on Saturday evening in a carriage strewn with empty beer cans and KFC boxes, listening to middle-aged men in QPR shirts grumbling about missed chances and poor substitutions. Before the second half of the 2020-21 season, our home record wasn’t great either. We finished 13th in the table in the 2019-20 season and 19th in the season before that. Why, then, did I miss it so much?

Worth reading in full.

JCVI Remains Opposed to Vaccination of Younger Teenagers

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) may have changed its mind on the vaccination of healthy 16 and 17 year-olds but reports suggest that it remains largely opposed to the vaccination of non-clinically vulnerable younger teenagers and children. The Guardian has the story.

Several members of the JCVI said the mainstream sentiment on the body is still extremely cautious about expanding the programme to 12 to 15 year-olds, even though a Deputy Chief Medical Officer has suggested that outcome is high [sic] probable and politicians have said they would like the issue to remain under review.

The JCVI recommended on Wednesday that all over-16s be offered jabs, just two weeks after saying children should not routinely be given Covid vaccinations. The U-turn provoked alarm at what was described as a “shambolic” vaccine roll-out for older teenagers, with doctors saying they were being “left in the dark” about the details of the roll-out to younger people.

The JCVI has moved to “refresh” the membership of its Covid subcommittee in recent weeks, with one prominent critic of Covid jabs for children, Professor Robert Dingwall, leaving the body.

Dingwall and others on the committee said his views were not the reason for the shake-up, and that sentiment on the body is still that the risks outweigh the benefits for 12 to 15 year-olds. …

Jonathan Van-Tam, a Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has said it was “more likely than less likely” that the list of eligible children would be broadened.

However, one expert who remains a member of the JCVI said the overriding opinion of the body was still against expanding vaccinations to 12 to 15 year-olds and argued that the committee was more likely to recommend removing categories of vulnerable children who are currently offered vaccines.

Committee members said they had not felt political pressure to change their views when it came to changing its advice on 16 and 17 year-olds. However, two members on the committee said there had been a fear that Scotland could go its own way on vaccinating older teenagers, even though the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has consistently said her Government will follow JCVI advice.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up