Day: 13 August 2021

Ryanair Apologises for Forcing Autistic Boy, Aged 12, to Have a Covid Test, Despite Him Being Exempt

Ryanair has been forced to apologise for making an autistic child have a Covid test, despite him being exempt. The event was captured in a harrowing video that has been shared online.

MailOnline has the story.

The airline said it “regrets” the “stress” caused to Callum Hollingsworth, 12, when he tried to board a plane from Valencia in Spain to Britain.

Footage shows the “petrified” child… in tears as staff debate which nostril to prod the swab up.

An employee, wearing a face covering, asks him “do you prefer this one” as she points to his left side. He replies: “No, not when it goes all the way up.”

Callum, from Harlow, Essex, then bursts into tears and shouts “no” as he hides his head in his hands.

A man recording the video says: “A child with ADHD and autism refused a Ryanair flight even with a GP letter stating exemption. Not good enough for Ryanair.”

The youngster’s mother Katy later told the BBC: “They said if you don’t have a Covid test you can’t go home, so we had no choice.”

Callum first took a Covid test in January but it was a “nightmare” so he was granted a medical exemption letter by his doctor.

He took another one before he flew out to Spain, but Ms Hollingsworth said it took a two-month build up for him to do it.

She said she had wanted to take his son to his “happy place” in Spain after he struggled during lockdown.

But she said he was horrified when they were told he would have to have another test to get back to England – even though she showed the GP’s letter.

Worth reading in full.

Nearly One Million More People in England Addicted to Alcohol as Result of Lockdowns

Nearly one million people in England became addicted to alcohol as a result of Covid lockdowns, official data suggests. MailOnline has more.

Government polling before the pandemic estimated 1.5 million adults drank at least 50 units every week — the equivalent of three pints or nearly a bottle of wine every night.

But this jumped to just shy of 2.5 million this summer, which experts have blamed on the endless cycle of virus-controlling restrictions.

Dr Tony Rao, a world-renowned expert on alcohol misuse in older people at King’s College London, warned the impact of lockdowns had been “devastating”.

Alcohol charities said the data showed drinking in older people has reached a level of crisis “that is happening now”.

NHS guidelines recommend men and women do not drink more than 14 units a week.

Regularly drinking over the guideline amount can lead to dependence and health problems, including liver disease, heart disease and cancer.

It comes after Public Health England (PHE) figures last month revealed deaths directly caused by alcohol soared by 20% during the first year of the pandemic.

Dr Rao, a clinical research fellow, told MailOnline: “The impact of the Covid pandemic [he means the lockdowns] on alcohol use has been devastating.

“The latest data, taken together with the highest number of alcohol-specific deaths on record, is a stark warning for the Government.”

Worth reading in full.

Threatening the Unvaccinated With Social Penalties Flies in the Face of Informed Consent

We’re publishing an original piece on the Daily Sceptic by a senior executive in a pharmaceutical company about why penalising those who haven’t had a Covid vaccine is contrary to the principle of informed consent. Here is an extract:

Unlike the benefit, the safety risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations are not age dependent and include rare, serious adverse events including death. So, the balance of benefit and risk for their use also varies with age and is vastly different for a diabetic man in his 60s compared to a healthy young woman in her 20s. From the perspective of the benefit to the individual, there is therefore no way we should be considering vaccinating healthy young people using these vaccines. The likelihood of serious adverse effects may be small but then so is the likelihood of avoiding serious COVID-19 and so there is a very real possibility that a mass vaccination campaign of young people will produce more harm than benefit. In fact, the original strategy was to focus COVID-19 vaccinations on the over-50s for precisely this benefit/risk reason.

But somewhere along the way, COVID-19 vaccinations stopped being solely about the benefit to the individual and started to be about the benefit to society (i.e., the goal of achieving herd immunity). A brief reminder: herd immunity occurs when a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to a given pathogen in such a way that the likelihood of encountering an infectious person drops, as does the likelihood of an infectious person being able to pass the infection on to another individual who also becomes infectious. As a result, herd immunity protects individuals who are naïve to an infection simply because they are unlikely to ever encounter an infectious person and at the same time it means that an infection can no longer spread effectively through the population and may even die out.

Vaccinations can produce herd immunity and in the case of smallpox were so effective that they led to the elimination of the disease itself. But from an informed consent perspective there is one huge difference between vaccination campaigns that have historically produced herd immunity and that being pursued for COVID-19 and that is that historically the diseases concerned were of significant risk to those receiving the vaccination. For example, measles is a significant risk for young children and so we vaccinate young children. But young children often grow up to be adults and carry their measles immunity with them and so, as a result, measles herd immunity emerges as a consequence of measles vaccination… it is absolutely not its aim.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: For a diametrically opposite view, see this piece in Salon: “It’s OK to blame the unvaccinated – they are robbing the rest of us of our freedoms.”

Close to A Third of English 18-30 Year-Olds Not Vaccinated Against Covid

The Government is employing all the tricks it can think of to “coax and cajole” young Britons into getting vaccinated against Covid, the threat of vaccine passport checks at nightclubs and other ‘large venues’ being the most notable among these. In its latest ad campaign, which is being shown on billboards, on television and on social media platforms, young people are told they will “miss out on the good times” if they don’t get ‘jabbed’. But the latest figures show that these efforts may not be having as big of an impact as officials had hoped, with almost a third of English adults under the age of 30 still not vaccinated. BBC News has the story.

Three in 10 adults under the age of 30 have not had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, according to NHS England estimates.

Uptake is around 81% for people in their 30s and 89% for those in their 40s. It is 90% in all other age groups.

The lower rate among younger adults persists despite concerted efforts to encourage uptake. Food delivery and ride-hailing firms including Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo have been offering incentives to get people vaccinated. …

Responding to the figures, the Prime Minister tweeted that it was “fantastic” that 70% of adults under 30 “have come forward to get vaccinated”.

But he added: “Please get your jab if you haven’t already. It is our best route to beating the virus and getting back to the things we love.”

Worth reading in full.

Children Born During Lockdown Have Significantly Reduced Verbal, Motor and Overall Cognitive Performance

Children born over the past year of lockdowns – at a time when the Government has prevented babies from seeing elderly relatives and other extended family members, from socialising at parks or with the children of their parent’s friends, and from studying the expressions on the faces behind the masks of locals in indoor public spaces – have significantly reduced verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared to children born before, according to a new U.S. study. Tests on early learning, verbal development and non-verbal development all produced results that were far behind those from the years preceding the lockdowns.

Impact of the Covid Pandemic on Early Child Cognitive Development: Initial Findings in a Longitudinal Observational Study of Child Health.

The Guardian has more.

With limited stimulation at home and less interaction with the world outside, pandemic-era children appear to have scored shockingly low on tests designed to assess cognitive development, said lead study author Sean Deoni, Associate Professor of Paediatrics (Research) at Brown University.

In the decade preceding the pandemic, the mean IQ score on standardised tests for children aged between three months and three years of age hovered around 100, but for children born during the pandemic that number tumbled to 78, according to the analysis, which is yet to be peer-reviewed. …

The study included 672 children from the state of Rhode Island. Of these, 188 were born after July 2020 and 308 were born prior to January 2019, while 176 were born between January 2019 and March 2020. The children included in the study were born full-term, had no developmental disabilities and were mostly white.

Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds fared worse in the tests, the researchers found.

The biggest reason behind the falling scores is likely the lack of stimulation and interaction at home, said Deoni. “Parents are stressed and frazzled… that interaction the child would normally get has decreased substantially.”

Whether these lower cognitive scores will have a long-term impact is unclear. In the first few years of life, the foundations for cognition are laid, much like building a house – it’s easier to add rooms or flourishes when you’re building the foundation, Deoni said. “The ability to course-correct becomes smaller, the older that child gets.”

Given this data comes from a relatively affluent part of the U.S., where social support and unemployment benefits are generous, the fear is that things could be worse in poorer parts of the country and the world, he added.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lockdown enthusiast Stuart Ritchie is sceptical about these findings.

Sunetra Gupta: Lockdown Policy Based on Faith, Not Evidence

Professors Sunetra Gupta and Paul Dolan have written a piece for the Telegraph pointing out that lockdowns were rolled out across the world last March in spite of never having been tried before as a way of mitigating the impact of a pandemic and in spite of no cost-benefit analysis having been done.

As it currently stands, it looks like lockdowns had a small effect but, to some large extent, the path of the virus can be explained by “natural” factors such as the accumulation of herd immunity and seasonal differences in the transmissibility of the virus. Furthermore, while lockdowns may have protected some vulnerable people from exposure to the virus, they may also have placed them at increased risk of future exposure by preventing high levels of herd immunity from establishing broadly across the population.

The profound costs of lockdown have been borne disproportionately by younger people, those with limited social support, those with mental health problems, and those in low-income groups with job insecurity. Some older people have benefitted from lockdown, but perhaps by not as much as would have been hoped for, and without ever inquiring into whether they preferred to be isolated from close family for so long. The most obvious beneficiaries of lockdown, at least insofar as the economic impacts are concerned, are those who can work from home on full pay – such as members of the government and advisory committees like Sage.

There are serious ethical questions about these intergenerational transfers and policies that have served to widen economic inequalities. The public inquiry into Covid must be broad enough to consider the narrowness of the perspectives and experiences involved in making decisions that have had such an unprecedented effect on the economic and emotional wellbeing of the youngest and worst-off members of the population.

The critical question, of course, is whether it would have been possible to reduce the mortality and morbidity risks to the vulnerable population at lower cost than lockdowns? Other options were available, such as focused protection, whereby those most at risk from the virus would have been afforded protection whilst those at low risk would be largely allowed to go about life as normal. But this was dismissed as callous without any evidence to support this claim.

Decision making quickly became more faith based than evidence based. In response to case numbers in the UK falling, Professor Neil Ferguson recently said, “I’m quite happy to be wrong, if it’s wrong in the right direction.” This betrays a complete lack of insight into the welfare consequences of lockdowns. The mainstream advice has been to reduce transmission through lockdowns and if this is wrong, and if lockdowns cause more harm than good, then he is not only wrong, but wrong in the wrong direction so far as human welfare is concerned.

Worth reading in full.

One in Five Adults Experienced Relationship Breakdown During U.K. Lockdowns

More than one in five adults said they experienced a complete breakdown in a relationship at home or at work in the past year, the U.K.’s largest study of social ties during the pandemic has revealed. The Guardian has more.

Younger people were more likely to have their relationships affected, with experts saying it showed the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on this age group. They added that job losses and anxiety over finances could have played a role, as well as the inability to see people outside their household during the lockdown.

A quarter of people reported worsening relationships with their spouse or partner and a quarter reported difficulties with colleagues or co-workers, according to University College London’s COVID-19 Social Study. More than one-fifth (22%) of adults experienced a complete breakdown of a relationship with either family, friends, colleagues or neighbours.

Launched in the week before the first lockdown started, the ongoing study showed that adults aged 18-29 were most likely to report a relationship breakdown – 35% compared with 12% of adults aged 60 and over.

However, it was not all bad news, as nearly half (46%) of young adults said the quality of their relationships with their spouse or partner had been better than usual over the past year. This is a higher proportion than in adults aged 30-59 and those aged 60 and over, with 27% and 21% of these age groups reporting a better relationship with their spouse or partner respectively.

The study is being funded by the Nuffield Foundation, with additional support from Wellcome and U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI). It has had more than 70,000 participants, who have been followed across the past 72 weeks.

The study’s lead author, Dr Elise Paul from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said the report showed “the mixed impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”. She added: “Younger adults reporting a better relationship with their spouse or partner may have benefited from furlough or remote working allowing them to spend more time together.

“On the other hand, the stress of the pandemic and lockdown measures which prevented people from seeing those outside their household may have contributed to the breakdown of other relationships, particularly those with people who do not live close by.”

Worth reading in full.

Belarus: The Country With No Restrictions, and No Disaster

Belarus has finally, after several months of delay, published its overall mortality figures up to March 2021, meaning for the first time we have a plausibly reliable indicator of the true impact of the pandemic in the country famous for refusing to impose even minimal measures.

Few have trusted the official Covid case and death statistics from the authoritarian country, which are implausibly low. However, the overall death statistics are generally thought to be reliable, and indeed by comparing them to neighbouring countries we can see that they are comparable, adding to the sense that they are accurate.

While the country did not impose any Covid restrictions or ‘guidance’ at all, there was some voluntary behaviour change, as mobility data shows, but it was limited compared with other places.