Day: 19 October 2021

News Round-Up

More Restrictions May Be Required This Winter, Says Professor Ferguson

Professor Neil Ferguson is at it again. He predicts that a full lockdown will not be necessary this winter, but that the reintroduction of some forms of restrictions will be, warning that “we have currently higher levels of infection in the community than we’ve almost ever had during the pandemic”. The Times has the story.

The Imperial College scientist said that there was no “reason to panic” but urged people to be cautious about social contact.

He said it was “critical we accelerate the booster programme” with millions of eligible older people yet to have a top-up jab despite concerns about waning immunity.

Last year hospital admissions were doubling every 10 days. At present, the rate is about five weeks and some believe outbreaks in schools will burn out before then, causing cases to fall again.

Ferguson told Today on BBC Radio 4: “I think we need to be on the case, and we do need to prioritise the [booster] vaccination programme but we’re not in the same position as last year.”

He added: “I don’t think we’re looking at another lockdown… the worst case here are demands on the NHS… it’s very unlikely we’ll see anything like the levels of deaths we saw last year, for instance.

“Coming into the winter, there may be a plan B which needs to be implemented, which involves some rolling back of measures, but I doubt that we’ll ever get close to the lockdown we were in in January of this year.”

The Government’s official ‘Plan B’ involves the return of working from home and compulsory masks, plus the introduction of vaccine passports. Ministers have been confident that this will not be needed but concern has been mounting as cases rise towards 50,000 a day.

“People need to be aware that we have currently higher levels of infection in the community than we’ve almost ever had during the pandemic – for the last three or four months we’ve been up at well over 1% of the population infected at any point in time,” Ferguson said.

He said the Government was “very clear that it wanted to move away from social distancing measures, but it’s notable, clearly, that most western European countries have kept in place more control measures, vaccine mandates, mask-wearing mandates, and tend to have lower case numbers and certainly not case numbers which are going up as fast as we’ve got”.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said he was not “overly worried” by case numbers, pointing out: “We’re doing far more testing of children than most or all European countries and at least 50% of our cases are in children, mostly teenagers.” …

Modellers are finding it increasingly difficult to know what will happen next, given huge uncertainties about the number of unvaccinated people, how fast immunity wanes and how people will behave over the winter.

Worth reading in full.

Half of Brits Think We Will Be Locked Down Again This Year, According to New Survey

More than half of Brits believe that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, according to a new survey. Despite this, 49% of this survey’s respondents also say they believe there will be further lockdowns. The Telegraph has the story.

The survey, by Savanta ComRes, found that 49% believe there will be further lockdowns, with 74% concerned about another virus wave this winter. Fears are highest amongst those aged over 55, at 78%.

While over half – 55% – think the worst of Covid is behind us, 19% believe the worst is yet to come.

Chris Hopkins, of Savanta ComRes, said: “While it may feel to many that the U.K. is out of the woods with coronavirus, there is still an underlying feeling – or perhaps fear – among the public that there are more restrictions, including lockdowns, to come.

“That, coupled with a small but significant proportion who feel that the worst of the pandemic is still ahead of us, shows that trust in the vaccine roll-out may still be undermined if the U.K. enters further restrictions during a winter that will be inevitably challenging for the NHS.” …

Of the 2,103 U.K. adults interviewed online by Savanta ComRes between October 8th to 10th, three in 10 said another lockdown would show that the vaccine roll-out had been a failure. But three in five believe a firebreak lockdown would be effective at relieving pressure on the NHS.

While half of U.K. adults expect there to be further lockdowns in 2021, 33% think there will be no further restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

Officials Disappointed by Slow Speed of the Booster Vaccine Roll-Out

Government officials aren’t just disappointed by the speed of the Covid vaccine roll-out for healthy 12-15 year-olds. Experts have warned that the booster vaccine roll-out is also moving too slowly and will not be completed until the end of January if it continues at its current pace. The Telegraph has the story.

On Monday, Downing Street promised to “step up communications” as it emerged that only 3.7 million of the 8.5 million at-risk people who had a second jab at least six months ago have had their third dose. It means 4.8 million are in danger from waning immunity.

Currently, people eligible for a third dose must wait until they are contacted by the NHS before booking a jab.

John Roberts, of the respected Covid Actuaries Response Group, who calculated the figures based on the latest NHS England booster figures and historical vaccination data, said: “At the start of the booster campaign, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care stated that the aim was to protect the most vulnerable from Covid as we head into the autumn and winter months.

“But at the current rate, it’s likely to be towards the end of January before the approximately 22 million that fall into the most vulnerable groups receive the booster.

“With case numbers very high and still rising, and admissions to hospital also rising again, it’s clear that accelerating the booster roll-out is vital to reduce the pressure on health services and minimise Covid-related deaths this autumn and winter.”

Experts blamed the slowdown on the growing complexity of the Covid vaccination programme, which is now dealing with schoolchildren, extra doses for immunocompromised people and rolling out the flu jab.

At the peak of England’s vaccine roll-out, more than 500,000 doses were being given a day – but just 99,000 booster shots were reported in England on Monday, and the current daily average for other jabs has fallen to around 50,000.

The booster programme is working its way through nine priority groups, starting with the over-80s, care home residents, frontline health workers and the clinically vulnerable.

The Covid Actuaries Response Group warned that there are two million people becoming eligible each week but just 1.3 million weekly jabs being carried out, meaning the backlog is growing. The gap between a second jab and booster is concerning, because studies have shown that immunity continues to drop over time. …

Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist and government adviser of University College London,  said the situation was “concerning” and there was “huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure”.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Made Prevention of Terrorism Harder

Lockdowns have made the fight against terrorism even harder, according to Raffaello Pantucci, a Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI. The Telegraph has more.

Countering radicalisation is a social activity. Most anti-extremism programmes are based on engagement with individuals, seeking to steer them back onto a path away from extremist ideas. This also applies to the efforts to get people to the attention of authorities.

The system relies on contacts and people noticing those who might be going in the wrong direction. So if human contact falls, the number of opportunities to notice radicalisation also declines. In the first months of lockdown, counter-terrorism police raised the alarm, noting that Prevent referrals had dropped by as much as 50%. There seems little question that the pandemic and lockdown have made the fight against terror and extremism that much harder.

Prevent referrals are a random bunch, but the majority (according to the Home Office for the last available year) were either from police or the education sector. This is police officers, teachers or others who, in the course of their work, come across people who are exhibiting some sort of behaviour which might be indicative of radicalisation. Having noticed this, they flag it up and then an investigation is done to understand if the concern merits further attention. In the last year of reported data, 6,287 referrals were made, 1,424 merited deeper engagement, and 697 were adopted as part of a programme called Channel.

We have no idea where the suspect in the murder of Sir David Amess may have come on this spectrum after his Prevent referral five years ago. But we can be sure that many of the other societal contact points which are usually relied upon to generate these referrals disappeared during the pandemic. Repeated lockdowns, school and youth centre closures, and other restrictions will have made it harder for those watching out for these potential problems to come into contact with those veering in the wrong direction.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown: Where Did ‘The Science’ Come From?

In a previous post, I looked at where ‘The Science’ of community masking came from. Here I’ll do the same thing for lockdowns.

As many lockdown sceptics (including myself) have noted, lockdowns represent a radical departure from conventional forms of pandemic management. There is no evidence that, before 2020, they were considered an effective way to deal with influenza pandemics.

In a 2006 paper, four leading scientists (including Donald Henderson, who led the effort to eradicate smallpox) examined measures for controlling pandemic influenza. Regarding “large-scale quarantine”, they wrote, “The negative consequences… are so extreme” that this measure “should be eliminated from serious consideration”.

Likewise, a WHO report published mere months before the COVID-19 pandemic classified “quarantine of exposed individuals” as “not recommended under any circumstances”. The report noted that “there is no obvious rationale for this measure”.

And we all know what the U.K.’s own ‘Pandemic Preparedness Strategy’ said, namely: “It will not be possible to halt the spread of a new pandemic influenza virus, and it would be a waste of public health resources and capacity to attempt to do so.”

As an additional exercise, I searched the pandemic preparedness plans of all the English-speaking Western countries (U.K., Ireland, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand) for mentions of ‘lockdown’, ‘lock-down’ ‘lock down’ or ‘curfew’.

Only ‘curfew’ was mentioned, and only once – in Ireland’s plan. The relevant sentence was: “Mandatory quarantine and curfews are not considered necessary.” None of the lockdown strings was mentioned in any of the countries’ plans.

So where did ‘The Science’ of controlling Covid using lockdowns come from? As everyone knows, China implemented the first lockdown (of Hubei province) in January of 2020. Yet it wasn’t until March that lockdowns became part of ‘The Science’.

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 14th of the round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the 13th one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic we report all the news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as reporting the facts, not advocating for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. (Dr Tess Lawrie in June wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans,” a claim that has been ‘fact checked’ here.) We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on October 14th, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,228,991 events based on 372,878 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,719.

  • Pfizer (22.7 million first doses, 19.8 million second doses) now has one Yellow Card in 188 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 40,391 people vaccinated (562).
  • AstraZeneca (24.9 million first doses, 24 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 106 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 22,514 people vaccinated (1,106).
  • Moderna (1.5 million first doses, 1.2 million second doses) has one Yellow Card in 90 people vaccinated. Deaths: 1 in 75,000 people vaccinated (20).

Overall, one in every 132 people vaccinated (0.76%) have experienced a Yellow Card adverse event. The MHRA has previously estimated that the Yellow Card reporting rate may be approximately 10% of actual figures.