Day: 18 August 2021

The Decline and Fall of Conservatism

We’re publishing an original essay today by Dr. James Alexander, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey, about the transformation of the Conservatives into the party of the metropolitan elite, after a brief flirtation with populism. Dr. Alexander charts the history of the Party through a succession of crises, with the latest being the global pandemic. Here is his concluding paragraph:

The fifth stage is the crisis which has resulted not so much from Brexit as from Covid. Brexit was a revolt of a new Country party against the Court party of almost all assembled authorities, including both Labour and Conservative authorities. After some dithering, Johnson chose to side with Country. Hence 2016. But Covid has broken all of the traditions of opposition I have sketched thus far. For it is the Conservative Party – no matter how reluctantly – which stands at the head of a unified Court party which has done more than anyone since Walpole has done to ignore the Country, and not only ignore it, but oppress it. Johnson has presided over the establishment of an entirely technocratic politics of problem-and-solution which is, alas, not a politics at all, but the substitution of technique for politics. In this situation, the Government appears to be as committed as the opposition is to a unified politics of Universal Lockdown and Universal Vaccination and Universal Carbon Elimination in which no one is defending any aspect of the old order (including the church or universities) or even liberalism itself. The Conservatives have no longer got anything to defend. They have capitulated to their enemies and done it with a grotesque hyper-Disraelian-Bismarckian-Maoist-Malthusian flourish by way of forcing us to take the knee, take the mask and take the jab. They are not Tory, not liberal, certainly not even ‘austere’. They have found a magic money tree. They are presumably waiting for the seas to turn into lemonade. They are locking us into a magnificently communist-corporate hybrid order which will make the public-private partnerships of Blair and Brown look extremely pallid. If this continues then the only conservative thing about the Conservatives will be their inclination to hold on to their name.

Worth reading in full.

U.S. to Offer Booster Shots From September

The U.S. Government has announced that Americans will be offered booster Covid vaccine doses from September 20th, starting with healthcare workers and older people, saying that the protection from two vaccine doses “decrease[s] over time”. More than a million Americans have already had a booster vaccine, according to federal data, but the roll-out is also being extended due to fears over the Delta variant. The Guardian has more.

The White House is prepared to offer a third booster shot starting on that date to all Americans who completed their initial inoculation at least eight months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The White House pandemic response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said the Covid vaccine booster shots will be free for all Americans. “It will be just as easy and convenient to get a booster shot as it is to get a first shot today,” Zients said.

The booster shots initially will be given primarily to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, all of whom were among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, the department said.

Top U.S. health officials said in a joint statement that they based their decision to offer boosters on data showing that the protectiveness of Covid shots currently authorized in the United States begins to diminish in the months after the shots are given.

The officials included Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, Anthony Fauci, as well as the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time… and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” the officials said.

“We conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability,” they added.

The officials said that they expect that people who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid vaccine will also need boosters. …

In recent weeks, several other countries have also decided to offer booster shots to older adults as well as people with weak immune systems, including Israel, France and Germany.

The decision announced by the U.S. officials represented a shift from the optimism of health authorities in May in curbing the pandemic when Biden set a goal to vaccinate 70% of American adults with at least one dose by July 4th. That goal was achieved about a month late.

Worth reading in full.

Spike in Number of Mental Health Referrals in U.K. After Lockdown

The number of mental health referrals made in the U.K. in March this year is almost a fifth higher than the number made in February 2020, before the imposition of numerous, long-lasting lockdowns. At the same time, the number of patients actually receiving care has fallen. MailOnline has the story.

Around 300,000 Britons were recommended for treatment in March this year, a rise of 18% compared to February 2020…

Referrals more than doubled in hardest-hit areas in England, including Leeds, Redbridge and Greater Preston, according to the analysis by the BBC.

Urgent referrals to crisis care teams – which include suicidal patients – have also risen 15% in the same time period, nationally.

However, the impact of the pandemic on mental health referrals in England seems less clear when looking at the entire year. There were roughly 3 million in the 12 months to March 2021, about the same as the previous year.

Charities fear patients have suffered in silence and put off coming forward for care during the pandemic, and warn there could be huge increases in referrals to come.

Despite the spike referrals this March, the number of patients actually receiving care was 9% below pre-pandemic levels.

Limited capacity due to social distancing is said to be partly to blame, as well as reduced services during lockdowns.

One suicidal mother who tried to take her own life last spring said she felt “abandoned” by the NHS when it shut down services to focus on Covid in the first wave.

Experts have long warned that a silent mental health epidemic has been brewing amid the pandemic, particularly in the young.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passports Are Back in Israel

Vaccine passports are back in Israel, little more than 11 weeks after Jerusalem-based writer Arieh Kovler wrote in the Spectator: “The scaremongers who said that vaccine certificates would be some lasting form of social control were wrong.” From today, Israelis over the age of three must show proof of vaccination against Covid or of a negative test to be allowed into indoor public spaces, except for malls and stores. Mask mandates are also back, including for large outdoor gatherings. Haaretz has the story.

Children between the ages of three and 12 will be entitled to receive free rapid antigen swab tests. Those aged 12 and up who are not vaccinated will have to pay for their own tests. Around 220 testing stations will operate throughout the country to carry out these tests, and more will be added according to demand, the Health Ministry said. Results from the rapid antigen swab tests are available in 15 minutes, and a negative result grants a Green Pass valid for 24 hours.

The requirement to present proof of immunity will be applied in most sectors of the economy and public and private institutions, including swimming pools, gyms, academic institutions, all cultural and sporting events, conferences and exhibitions, museums, libraries, restaurants, and hotels. 

However, the Green Pass will not apply to summer school programs, so that parents will not have to test their children every day as a condition of participation.

Starting Wednesday, the number of participants at events will be limited to 1,000 people in enclosed spaces and 5,000 at outdoor events without assigned seating. At events in private homes, where proof of immunity won’t be required, the attendance limit will be set at 50 in enclosed spaces and at 100 in open ones. There will be no limit on crowd sizes at events with assigned seating, but these events will also require proof of immunity.

The renewed requirement for vaccine passport checks comes amid fears over the Delta Covid variant, reports the Guardian.

After its launch in December, Israel’s widely praised vaccination drive helped to drastically bring down infections. But that trend has since reversed, driven by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, with restrictions that were lifted in June reimposed since July. …

About one million Israelis have not been vaccinated even though they are eligible.

According to the Health Ministry, more than 8,700 people tested positive for Covid on Tuesday, the highest number for a single day since January.

The Haaretz report is worth reading in full.