Day: 4 October 2021

News Round-Up

Government Has a Case to Answer on Children’s Vaccination, Says Judge

On Friday I reported on ONS figures which showed a worrying rise in deaths among 15-19 year-olds in summer 2021 compared to summer 2020, a period which coincided with the roll-out of vaccines to that age group. I asked whether the increase of 57%, amounting to 90 deaths, was a signal of deaths from serious vaccine side-effects such as myocarditis, or whether there was another explanation (such as increased road deaths, for example). There were only nine Covid deaths in the age group during the period, and there was no corresponding increase in deaths in 1-14 year-olds, adding to the concern.

I was not the only person to raise these questions. This data was presented, in fuller form and alongside other evidence, at a court hearing on Friday, where the Covid19 Assembly is seeking a judicial review of the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s decision to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in 12-17 year-olds.

Although the Government had asked for the case to be struck out, the judge, Mr. Justice Jay, allowed it to continue, accepting that the claimants had an arguable case. The current position is that the court has adjourned the matter to a further hearing to allow the Government further time to respond to the case. The court has given directions that the Government submit further response and evidence by October 11th, with the claimants having to October 15th to reply. After this the court will reconsider the matter “promptly”. I understand that the vaccination status of the teenagers who died during the period of the rollout is part of the evidence that the Government has been asked to provide.

Britain’s Daily Covid Cases Drop Week-on-Week for Fifth Day in a Row

Covid cases in the U.K. have dropped for a fifth day in a row, official figures revealed today. MailOnline has more.

Another 35,077 positive tests were recorded across Britain, down 7.6% on last Monday.

The decline follows nearly two weeks of rising infections, fuelled by millions of pupils returning to classrooms last month.

Meanwhile, 33 deaths were registered among people who tested positive for the virus in the last 28 days. It marks a week-on-week drop of 17.5%. No Covid hospitalisation figures were provided for the U.K. as a whole – but that trend has also been falling.

The fatality figure lags several weeks behind infections because of how long it can take for infected patients to become seriously ill.

However, the Department of Health warned it did not receive all of the death data for England, which will have a “small impact” on the number of fatalities reported today.

Worth reading in full.

Note: An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed a prediction of 50,000 cases a day by mid-October to Sir Patrick Vallance.

Government’s ‘Winter Plan’ Is Packed with ‘Nudges’ and Will “Confuse People into Compliance”, Says Laura Dodsworth

Laura Dodsworth, author of A State of Fear, has written a good piece for her new Substack account in which she argues that while the Government’s ‘Winter Plan’ contains some welcome news, it is also packed with ‘nudges’ that – alongside the constant threat of another lockdown – are bound to “confuse people into compliance”. Here is an extract.

The contents are freighted with the sunk cost fallacy; we’ve come so far, we mustn’t allow our good work to be undone. This also taps into people’s innate sensitivity to loss.

The trigger from ‘Plan A’ to ‘Plan B’ will be “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS rather than deaths. It’s under serious pressure every winter so consider yourselves to be put on notice. …

There are no quantifiable measures for what justifies each step from Plan A to Plan B. The parameters are fluid, unspecified. This creates confusion and stress, which infantilises people and makes them look to the Government for direction. Essentially, confusion increases compliance.

The threat of lockdown hangs like a Sword of Damocles. Will we, or won’t we? It seems unlikely that the public and businesses could be persuaded again. Regardless, the threat of lockdown might be leveraged to justify the introduction of Covid Passports, in what is known as a “reciprocation nudge” – we appear to be given a concession in return for reduced resistance to another option.

Covid Passports have been vigorously opposed by MPs and civil liberties groups, and there hasn’t been a vote in Parliament yet. Despite this, they squat in Plan B as a fait accompli, in the denouement of the ‘door in the face’ technique. This is when a huge request is made, then refused, to be followed by a second smaller request, in this case relegation to Plan B and for limited venues only. Boris Johnson said that it’s “not sensible to rule out this kind of option now when it might still make the difference between keeping businesses open or not”. But why would it be sensible when the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee produced a damning report against them and found the Government could make no scientific case in their favour?

Covid Passports appear to be a behavioural science tool, used to increase vaccine uptake. This may backfire. ‘A Cross-Sectional Study in the UK and Israel on Willingness to Get Vaccinated against Covid’ found that vaccine passports deter a significant minority of people who want autonomy over their bodies. This also chimes with the research conducted by De Figueiredo and colleagues at the Vaccine Confidence Project. The bullying and resultant mistrust may impact Covid vaccine uptake as well as other public health initiatives.

Worth reading in full – and it’s worth subscribing to Laura’s new Substack account here.

New Overseas Travel System Comes into Force This Week

The ‘traffic light’ system for overseas travel has been replaced by a two-tiered system containing the (significantly reduced) ‘Red List’ and, in replacement of the ‘Green’ and ‘Amber’ categories, a ‘rest of the world’ list.

The change will only benefit those who have been fully vaccinated, with pre-departure tests no longer required for returning vaccinated travellers from former Amber countries (although they’ll still have to take a day two PCR test until the end of the month). Those who haven’t been double jabbed, by contrast, will still need to take pre-departure tests before returning to the U.K., whether a country is on the ‘Red List’ or not, PCR tests on day two and day eight once back in England, and self-isolate for 10 days. The Guardian has the story.

From 4am on October 4th, there will no longer be a requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a test in the three days before their return from a non-Red List country.

Also, from the end of October, they will no longer be required to take a PCR test on day two of their arrival in England or Scotland – instead they will need to take a lateral flow test. If the lateral flow test is positive, they will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test at no additional cost.

For those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, there are currently no changes to the testing or quarantine requirements. This means if they arrive in the U.K. from any non-Red List country, they will still need to take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight, and quarantine at home for 10 days. If they are arriving in England, they still have the option to use the test-to-release scheme on day five.

Requirements for arrivals in the U.K. from Red List countries remain the same: a pre-departure test and the pre-booking of a mandatory 11-night quarantine hotel package, which will include two PCR tests, taken on day two and day eight, whatever your vaccination status.

All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status and the country they are travelling from, will also still need to complete a passenger locator form any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in the U.K.

The aim of the changes, according to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, is to simplify rules and decrease the burden on people travelling. The new regime is expected to be fully in place in time for people returning from October half-term holidays in England.

The new rules announced apply to England. The devolved administrations are in charge of their own travel rules, but they have typically been mirroring Westminster’s approach.

Worth reading in full.

Government Hides Details of Key Conversation between Leading Scientists on Covid’s Origins

Attempts to see details of a key email conversation between leading scientists – including Sir Patrick Vallance and Anthony Fauci – on the origins of Covid have been quashed by the British Government which has redacted page after page with thick black lines, begging the question: “What are they hiding?” The Mail on Sunday has the story.

[The MoS] used Freedom of Information rules to obtain a cache of 32 emails about a secretive teleconference between British and American health officials held early in the pandemic.

But officials blacked out almost every word before releasing the crucial documents.

Before this discussion, several of the world’s most influential experts believed the new virus most likely came from a laboratory – but days later, the scientists began dismissing such scenarios as “implausible” and branding them conspiracy theories.

The critical call is at the centre of concerns that the scientific establishment tried to stifle debate on the pandemic’s origins, as damning new evidence emerges of U.S. ties to high-risk research on bat viruses in Wuhan, where the first cases emerged in late 2019.

The MoS requested emails, minutes and notes on the call between Sir Patrick Vallance – Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser – and its organisers Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity, and Anthony Fauci, the U.S. infectious diseases expert and presidential adviser.

Yet when the documents were released they had page after page redacted with thick lines of black ink by Whitehall officials. Even the names of experts copied in on discussions were blocked – and exchanges as trivial as one Edinburgh biologist’s “thank you” for being invited – leaving only a few basic details about the call visible.

The lines left intact include a demand for the discussions, involving 13 participants around the world, to be conducted in “total confidence”, and an intriguing email line suggesting “we need to talk about the backbone too, not just the insert”.

That was possibly sent by Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, a member of the World Health Organisation team that produced a widely criticised report into Covid’s origins.

Such absurd state secrecy is highly contemptuous towards taxpayers and to a world that wants to know what caused this devastating pandemic to guard against similar catastrophes in the future.

The response was condemned by Tory MP and freedom of information campaigner David Davis.

“This is a matter of massive public and global importance,” he said. “It is hard to see why there should be such secrecy that it outweighs the immense public interest and requires them to redact this sort of important data.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ian Birrell, who wrote the piece in the Mail on Sunday, has produced a Twitter thread showing some of the redacted documents which you can see here.

Democrats Still Dramatically Overestimate the Risks of COVID-19

In a previous post, I noted that people tend to overestimate the risks of Covid, especially the risks to young people – which are vanishingly small.

In a Gallup poll last year, 41% of Democrat voters in the U.S. said that the risk of hospitalisation is at least 50%! (And Republicans didn’t do much better). However, that poll was taken in December. Has people’s understanding improved since then?

According to a new poll, the answer is ‘not at all’. Gallup posed a similar question as before, only this time they asked about vaccinated and unvaccinated people separately.

Note: the questions were not identical. In last year’s poll, they asked, “What percentage of people who have been infected by the coronavirus needed to be hospitalised?” In the recent poll, they asked, “What percentage of people have been hospitalised due to the coronavirus?”

The denominator for the first question is ‘people who have been infected’, while the denominator for the second is ‘everyone’. However, many respondents may have assumed that the second question was referring to ‘people who have been infected’. This should be kept in mind when interpreting the results.

The chart below shows results for the version of the second question that asked about unvaccinated people:

Once again, 41% of Democrats (and 22% of Republicans) said that the risk of hospitalisation for those who aren’t vaccinated is at least 50%. The correct answer is less than 5%, so these respondents were off by a factor of more than 10. Only 42% of Republicans – and just 18% of Democrats – were in the right ball-park.

Democrats did do substantially better when asked about the risk to vaccinated people, as the chart below indicates. In this case, the majority of both groups were in the right ball-park. However, more than one in five respondents still gave an answer of 10% or more.

As I mentioned last time, part of this overestimation may reflect a general psychological tendency to overestimate small quantities; though I should stress, only part. After all, Republicans were much less likely to answer “50%” when the question referred to unvaccinated people.

It’s staggering that 18 months after the start of the pandemic, almost one third of Americans say the risk of being hospitalised from Covid if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%. Clearly there has been a failure of communication on the part of public health authorities.

This finding may help to explain bizarre phenomena like the fact that young, fully vaccinated Americans are still wearing face masks outdoors.

One Stanford student, Maxwell Meyer, spent an hour ‘bike-spotting’ on a popular campus thoroughfare. For each bike that went past, he recorded whether the rider was wearing a helmet, a face mask, or both. Of the 400 cyclists that he observed, 34% were wearing a mask but no helmet! (And 7% were wearing both.)

Aside from some people simply being clueless about the risks, Meyer notes that wearing a mask has become a form of social signalling (‘I’m the sort of person who cares about doing his part’). Though of course, wearing a mask under such circumstances does approximately nothing – other than raise the question of how on earth you got into Stanford.

Even after lockdowns ended, various types of ‘Covid theatre’ have dragged on for months. This isn’t so surprising when you consider people’s skewed perceptions of the risks.

U.K. Suffers High Death Toll Despite Massive Spending to Combat Covid

There follows a guest post by a subeditor and long-time Daily Sceptic reader who is keeping his identity anonymous. He has spotted that spectacular healthcare spending and impressive vaccination rates have not brought the U.K. obvious rewards against Covid. (Sweden is highlighted in the graph above because, by imposing the fewest restrictions, it is the closest Europe has to a control.)

Recent figures for European countries from the World Mortality Dataset, depicted in the graph above, reveal that island nations have fared particularly well during the pandemic: Iceland, Cyprus, Ireland and Malta have all recorded low levels of excess deaths. However, there is one noteworthy exception – the U.K.

In fact, even the third poorest country in Europe, Kosovo, riven by war in the late 1990s, and only an independent state since 2008, has performed better. This is despite the Balkan country having, per capita, a fraction of our health service facilities, staff and expertise.

The double-vaccination rate in Kosovo, currently 30% of the population, is a long way behind the U.K. on 66%.

Excess mortality is widely regarded as the best measure of a country’s success in coping with a prolonged health crisis, such as a bad flu season, as it allows for differing evaluations of the causes of death, notably whether they have been ‘with’ or ‘of’ Covid, and disregards arbitrary time limits, such as within 28 days of a positive PCR test. All other deaths, such as those brought on by lockdown measures, are also, of course, included in these statistics.

This evidence shows that spending billions of pounds above normal on health services and staff, and enticing a large proportion of a population to get vaccinated, do not necessarily correlate with a lower number of deaths.