Day: 26 October 2021

News Round-Up

Djokovic’s Vaccine Stance May Cost Him Entry to the Australian Open

We’re publishing a guest post today by David Hansard, a writer who has previous contributed to Quillette, the Conservative Woman and Cumbria magazine. It’s about the principled refusal of Novak Djokovic to refuse to disclose his vaccine status and the risks he’s taking in doing so.

Daniel Andrews, the self-satisfied Premier of Victoria, has said it is doubtful unvaccinated tennis players will be allowed to take part in the Australian Open in January.

Few are surprised by what Andrews said. It is entirely in keeping with his authoritarian response to Covid, which seems to get more dictatorial by the day. He is not alone among politicians. But like others in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, his policies seem to be reaching new heights of illiberalism.

Nine-times Australian Open winner, and world number one, Novak Djokovic, in particular, is not happy.

Djokovic first made his views about vaccinations known some months ago. He believes it should be a personal choice free of any pressure, let alone mandated. Last week, when asked, he refused to say if he has been vaccinated. He added: “It is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry. People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person.” 

I think it safe to say he has not been vaccinated.

SAGE Modelling Predicts That Covid Cases Will Slump Even Without ‘Plan B’

Recent SAGE modelling has predicted that the rate of Covid infections will soon fall, even without the imposition of new restrictions, such as ‘Plan B’ measures which include vaccine passports and mandatory mask wearing. The booster vaccine roll out and an increase in natural immunity within children have been given as reasons for this decline in the number of Covid cases, with the modelling calculated at a time when the Covid case rate is already beginning to flatline. The MailOnline has the story.

While the figures are only based on a few days’ data, they are in line with some of the more optimistic projections from No10′ [sic] scientific advisory panel SAGE.

Modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for SAGE had cases dropping from next month without any additional restrictions, to as low as 5,000 per day through winter.

Scientists said that a combination of booster vaccines, growing natural immunity in children and a reduction in classroom mixing during the October half-term break would drag cases down. 

SAGE has previously been criticised for overegging the scale of the country’s outbreak, but Dr. Simon Clarke, from the University of Reading, said it looked like this time they “had a high chance of being right.”

But the Microbiologist told MailOnline: “Just as people criticised the shortcomings of pessimistic models we have to apply the same scepticism to such optimistic ones. But the team at LSHTM are very good at what they do.”

Professor Paul Hunter, an Epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said he “trusted” the LSHTM model, adding: “Over the next few weeks, we should start seeing a substantial fall in cases followed by hospitalisations.”

But not all scientists advising the Government agree, with many on SAGE publicly lobbying for masks, working from home and vaccine passports to safeguard against rising cases in winter. 

Downing St. was forced to defend its decision not to revert to ‘Plan B’ today after leaked Government documents showed the contingency plans could cost the economy £18billion this winter. The estimate for the damage from reverting to working from home and face masks was produced by the Treasury and Cabinet Office.

A separate paper from the Culture Department has raised concerns vaccine passports could be ‘counter-productive’ and drive people to poorly ventilated pubs.

Worth reading in full.

Now is Not the Time for a U-Turn Prime Minister

I’ve written a piece for Mail+ urging Boris not to waiver in his resistance to the hysterical chorus screaming for more Covid restrictions. Here is an extract:

The drum beat for more Covid restrictions reached a deafening roar last week with the head of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, demanding the government implement ‘Plan B’ to avert a ‘crisis’ within the NHS. That meant mandatory mask wearing, vaccine passports and working from home.

He was soon joined by trade union leaders like Frances O’Grady, scientific advisors like Professor Adam Finn and politicians like Keir Starmer.

All the usual suspects toured the radio and television studios, urging the Prime Minister to spring into action to ‘save the NHS’ ahead of this year’s flu season, expected to be worse than usual.

But Boris Johnson held his nerve. He sent out his Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, to declare there would be no further lockdowns and his Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, held a press conference at Downing Street where he announced the government would be sticking to ‘Plan A’ for the time being.

And, once again, Boris’s instincts have proved correct. He ignored the doomsayers, just as he ignored Professor Neil Ferguson and Independent SAGE when they warned daily Covid cases would increase to 100,000 if ‘Freedom Day’ went ahead on July 19th and could go as high as 200,000. Instead of continuing to rise, cases have now started to fall of their own accord, just as they did over the summer.

Yesterday, the Department of Health reported 36,657 new cases in England in the previous 24 hours, down a quarter on last week’s peak and the second day in a row there’s been a week-on-week drop. The number of registered deaths of people who’d tested positive in the previous 28 days was 38, down 16% on last Monday.

Worth reading in full.

Convicted Rapist Spared Jail Due to Being Vulnerable to Covid

Convicted rapist Cyril Hardy (pictured above) was caught by a paedophile hunter group after believing that he was meeting a fourteen year-old girl, and was then arrested by the police in Manchester in 2017. However, Hardy, who is 80 years-old, is not to serve any time in prison for his crime, as the judge declared that he was too vulnerable to Covid due to a combination of heart disease and diabetes. The MailOnline has the story.

A pensioner with a history of sexual crimes dating back 50 years has been spared jail after trying to meet up with an adult posing as a 14 year-old girl, because he’s vulnerable to Covid.

Convicted rapist Cyril Hardy, who is 80 years-old, was caught red-handed by a paedophile hunter group, Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

Hardy pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to meet a girl under 16 years old for grooming.

He had previously served seven years in prison over a conviction of rape. 

The court heard how Stacey McDonald, 29, a member of paedophile hunter group Parents Standing Together For Our Kids, set up a decoy as a ’14-year-old girl’ called Atara Louise on MeetMe and WhatsApp. 

Alexandra Sutton, prosecuting, said that between October 21st, 2017, and November 20th 2017, Hardy told ‘Atara’ he wanted her to live with him, marry him and have his children.

Ms Sutton said: ‘She said her mother was going away for a week. 

‘He asked her to meet him in the city centre for shopping and said he would take her to buy some new outfits.

‘He asked if she wanted a silver or yellow gold wedding ring.’

The court heard how on November 18th, 2017 Hardy arranged to meet ‘Atara’ at Manchester Victoria station and sent her a photograph of his car registration number.

Once there he was confronted by members of Parents Standing Together For Our Kids, filmed and arrested by police.

A bottle of perfume, an iPhone, and an iTunes gift card were found in his vehicle.

When reprimanded, Ms Sutton said Hardy, who has 16 convictions for 20 offences, said he thought ‘Atara’ was actually older than she was.

Hardy, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said that the talk about marriage and children was ‘just a laugh.’

Daniel Gaskrell, mitigating, described Hardy, who originally pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea, as ‘a lonely old man who was seeking comfort of strangers, and has been in and out of marriages.’

Judge Paul Lawton criticised two-year delays to the case and said he would have had no reservations of sending Hardy to prison, despite his age.

But, due to the length of time it had taken for the case to conclude, Judge Lawton said he now had the problem that Hardy is vulnerable to Covid, due to suffering from ischemic heart disease and being diabetic.

Judge Lawton said: ‘You are a ticking time bomb in custody as far as Covid is concerned.’

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From California

We’re publishing a new addition to our long-running series ‘Around the World in 80 Lockdowns’ today, this one from California. It’s by Clive Pinder, one of the tireless Daily Sceptic moderators who’s been labouring for free for more than a year. Here is an extract:

Today San Francisco feels like a ghost town, highlighting the detritus and misery of a growing homeless population. Businesses are closing not just because people with means are fleeing the city, but because the District Attorney refuses to prosecute any theft of property worth less than $999 or any business that refuses to police the mandatory vaccinations required of customers. (See this article in the Babylon Bee that sums up the absurdity of the situation in San Francisco.)

A visit to see Mickey, Snow White and Goofy at Disneyland is hardly an escape to a magic kingdom. Parades, fireworks and other activities are suspended and while Mickey isn’t wearing a mask, all up-close encounters with him, Minnie, Cinderella and other characters are forbidden.

Vaccinations don’t help either. Despite 61% of Californians being fully vaccinated with many more having antibodies, the mantra of ‘flatten the curve’ has been condemned to the dustbin of broken promises just as it has in the U.K.. In its place California became the first state in the nation to insist school children from five years old and college students are vaccinated. Strangely, in another act of gross hypocrisy, the Governor declined not to mandate vaccines for teachers after the all-powerful unions, who happen to be among his largest donors, objected.

Worth reading in full.

Leaked Government Report Claims That Vaccine Passports Would Fail to Stop Covid Transmission

A Government investigation into the potential impact of a vaccine passport scheme has concluded that the measure would have a negative impact in halting the transmission of Covid. The report has put forward the unintended consequence of those unwilling to comply with the mandate attending more poorly ventilated venues instead of larger, more open space ones. In addition, the report dwells on the economic damage of such a policy, acknowledging that businesses would need to fork out more money into policing the entrance combined with a decrease in the number of customers. The Telegraph has the story.

The Telegraph has seen an internal analysis of the economic and social impact of Covid-19 certification, written by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Across the 13 pages, marked “official sensitive” and dated from early September, are a series of concerns about how the policy would work and its knock-on implications.

One section of the impact assessment responds to whether the policy could have “any displacement effects to other types of venues not included for certification”.

The document reads: “There is potential displacement between live events venues and hospitality venues. A core concern in the sector is that certification could displace activity and business away from music venues to, say, pubs with music and late alcohol licences, etc. which could be counterintuitive and potentially counter-productive.”

It goes on to state: “Similarly, if certification displaces some fans from structured and well ventilated sports stadia, this could lead to them attending unstructured and poorly ventilated pubs instead, where they will have access to more alcohol than if there were in the stadia. Evidence from the Euros showed spikes in cases associated with pubs even when England were playing abroad.”

Worth reading in full.

Study Links Pfizer and Astrazeneca Vaccines to Life Threatening Side Effects

The most comprehensive study into vaccine side effects so far has uncovered that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are linked to serious and potentially life threatening side effects. Although rare, the Pfizer vaccine has been connected to the neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome, which carries symptoms of numbness and muscle weakness, while the AstraZeneca vaccine has been associated with bleeding on the brain and hemorrhagic stroke. The Times has the story.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, from the University of Edinburgh, said that it was possible to identify the adverse events only because they were able to look at so much data. The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, looked at 20 million first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, 12 million of Pfizer and two million infections.

“These are very rare adverse events. They’re so rare that we’re having to report them per million of the population,” Sheikh said. “It’s not what you’d normally see, where it’s per 1,000 people exposed.”

The work is the largest investigation into potential side effects so far, using data from the UK vaccine programme. It involved comparing occurrences of the conditions in the same people prior to vaccination with occurrences after. In this way it attempted to correct for the possibility that those getting the vaccines were different in other ways from those who did not.

To check the findings, the scientists looked first at English data then checked it with that from Scotland. In doing so, they could not find strong enough evidence to be certain the strokes really were associated with the Pfizer vaccine, but they again found the link between the AstraZeneca jab and Guillan-Barré [sic] syndrome. Eighty per cent of people recover completely from Guillain-Barré syndrome, but some can experience long-term ill health.

Sheikh said that it was up to individuals to weigh up the risks, but that in his view the benefits of the vaccines still easily outweighed any potential side effects.

Worth reading in full.

People are Still Pushing ‘Zero Covid’

If there was ever a time that ‘Zero Covid’ – the goal of eliminating Covid altogether – made sense, it was when the virus first appeared in Wuhan. Had the Chinese authorities raised the alarm sooner, and scrambled to contain the virus, perhaps there never would have been a pandemic.

But there was one. Covid has now been with us for two full years (perhaps longer). Hundreds of millions have been infected, and even greater numbers have received the vaccine. At this point, you might say, ‘Zero Covid’ is a non-starter.

Yet people are still pushing the idea. A recent article in the Daily Kos – a left-wing news site in the U.S. – argues that “COVID-19 must be eliminated, not become endemic, if America is to survive”.

Is this just a case where the headline is much more radical than the article itself? No – the one thing of which the author can’t be accused is attempting to downplay his position. “We cannot live with endemic COVID-19,” he writes, “Hang on, let me say that again: We. Cannot. Live. With. Endemic. COVID-19.”

Let’s consider his arguments, one by one. The author begins by comparing Covid to the flu, noting that the former is much more contagious. Whereas seasonal influenza has a basic reproduction number of 1.4, he notes, “COVID-19 has a R0 that is over five. Maybe as high as 10.”

I don’t know where he got the figure of ‘10’ from, but even if you take the higher estimates of Covid’s R0 at face value, they correspond to circumstances in which the population was immunologically naïve.

Once enough people have caught the virus at least once, the number still susceptible to infection will be substantially reduced. Not to zero, of course, as even natural immunity wanes – but enough to forestall the kind of transmission levels we saw in the spring of 2020.

Note: this is evident not just from the protective effect of natural immunity, but also from the declining transmission advantage of new variants. As immunity to each new variant rises (particularly among the subset of individuals who’re most likely to infect others), the effective reproductive number correspondingly declines.

The author then claims that a world with endemic Covid will be one where health care is much more expensive, due to demands placed on the system by constant surges of new Covid patients. Here again, however, he ignores the impact of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

“Endemic COVID-19,” he writes, “would behave exactly the same as epidemic COVID-19: in surges, waves, or spikes.” Would it? What seems far more likely is that endemic Covid would not behave in this way. At the very least, any “surges, waves, or spikes” will be smaller and less deadly than those observed during the epidemic phase of the disease.

The author’s next argument is that, even once Covid becomes endemic, we’ll still see a lot of deaths. But as before, he fails to take account of immunity. “If the level of COVID-19 fatalities could be dropped to just 0.5%,” he writes, “then the rate of deaths would be “just” 160,000 people a year.”

Yet ‘0.5%’ is an implausibly high estimate of the IFR for a world where Covid is endemic. In a recent Twitter thread, Professor Francois Balloux used the figure of 0.1%, adding that even this was “probably far too pessimistic”.

The author then invokes the spectre of long Covid, noting that persistent symptoms “are not rare”. However, if he’d referred to the latest estimates from the ONS, he’d know that only 2–3% of patients still report symptoms after 12 weeks, and this is before you factor in widespread immunity.

Even if ‘Zero Covid’ were achievable, which it almost certainly is not, the costs of getting there would be enormous. We’d not only need a massive annual re-vaccination program, but also constant vigilance at the border, as well as large-scale testing in perpetuity.

“Whatever the price of defeating COVID-19 may be,” the Daily Kos article concludes, “it must be paid.” And that more or less sums up the case for, and against, ‘Zero Covid’. For you can’t take a proposal seriously if there’s no estimate of costs.