Day: 27 October 2021

News Round-Up

Covid Test Swabs Found Contaminated With Aluminium, Silicon and Dangerous Chemicals

A public sector trade union in Cyprus has called for the suspension of rapid lateral flow tests after analysis found multiple times the permissible trace level of ethylene oxide.

The analysis by Cyprus-based Food Allergens Lab found 0.36 mg/kg of ethylene oxide in one swab, over seven times the limit of 0.05 mg/kg imposed by E.U. regulations.

According to the European Chemicals Agency, ethylene oxide is toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic, including when inhaled. It is used to coat and sterilise PCR and rapid test nasal swabs.

A separate analysis by A-D Research Foundation in California found aluminum and silicon at concentrations as high as 7.25% and 14.06% respectively in some spots on PCR test swabs. The author, Peter Grandics, explains that aluminum and silicon can both be hazardous to health, and suggests this may explain the “rapid-onset nasal bleed and strong and lasting adverse reactions reported by the tested individuals”.

It follows concerns about why the bristles in LFT swabs so easily break away and remain in the body, as shown in this video.

As reported in the Daily Sceptic in August, Professor Anthony Brookes and Dr Kees Straatman from the University of Leicester put some material from a LFT swab under a powerful laser microscope and sent us the videos showing what they found. They explained:

Is it Really True, as Climate Change Activists Claim, That 97% of Scientists Agree With Them?

We’re publishing a guest post today by David Craig, author of There Is No Climate Crisis. This is the first of a number of guest posts we’ll be running about global warming and net zero in the run up to and during COP26.

Our Government is imposing draconian limitations on our lifestyles, our economy and our finances in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions to supposedly save the planet from catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW), now renamed as climate change. Probably one of the most repeated arguments you’ll hear, over and over again, in support of the need to achieve net zero is that “97% of scientists agree CAGW is happening”.

Former President Barack Obama is just one of many who have made this claim: “97% percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

So did President Joe Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, when he warned of the “crippling consequences” of climate change and that: “97% percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent.”

This claim is widely accepted. Yet, in spite of the damaging effects reaching net zero will have on Western economies, not a single politician or journalist seems to have made the effort to find out where this ‘97%’ figure came from and how accurate it actually is.

Unvaccinated Set to Be Banned from Berlin Christmas Market

German officials have given the green light to prohibit the unvaccinated public from attending the Berlin Christmas Market. Those looking to gain access will have to provide proof that they are double-jabbed or have recovered from Covid, with the only exception being children under the age of 12, who have not been offered the vaccination. Although venues can set their own rules, thereby permitting the unvaccinated to enter (albeit with a negative Covid test), a number of Berlin Christmas Markets have already pledged to bar the unvaccinated from the premises. The MailOnline has the story.

Under a strict ‘2G’ model, those over the age of 12 must be double vaccinated or recovered from the virus and would be denied entry even if they have a negative Covid test, reports German newspaper Tagesspiegel.  

But organisers of the markets, which return on November 22nd would be able to opt for a less strict ‘3G’ model which would allow unvaccinated people to attend – but only if they show proof of a negative test.

Yet with the more lenient rules, visitors to the Christmas markets in Berlin must wear face masks and social distancing will be enforced. 

A number of the German capital’s famous Christmas markets – including the WeihnachtsZauber market at Gendarmenmarkt – have confirmed that only vaccinated people over the age of 12, or those who have recovered from Covid, will be allowed entry, reports the Local

The only exception to the rules is for children under the age of 12, who are currently unable to get vaccinated. But the youngsters will still have to show a negatives [sic] test, although children under the age of six will not have to provide proof.   

The move is the latest example of countries in Europe banning unvaccinated people from public events. 

Last week, Austria’s Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that the country is considering a Covid lockdown which would only restrict those who are not fully jabbed. 

Schallenberg announced that if the number of Covid patients in intensive-care units reaches 500, or 25% of the country’s total ICU capacity, entrance into businesses such as restaurants and hotels will be limited to those who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus.    

If the number reaches 600, or one-third of total ICU capacity, the Government plans to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people. In this case, they would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons. Currently, the number of Covid patients in ICUs stands at 220. 

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the French Government announced it would be extending the requirement for a ‘health pass’ for people to access restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums and tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower. 

The pass means that only those who are fully vaccinated, recovered from the virus in the last six months, or a negative test result in the past 48 hours are allowed to visit the public venues or access long-distance transport.

The Government also announced that for those who are unvaccinated, Covid tests will no longer be free and those who have not been jabbed will have to pay for a test each time they want to travel to the venues.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Test and Trace Was a £37 Billion Failure, Report Finds

A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has concluded that the Test and Trace scheme, implemented to track and control the spread of Covid, failed in its original purpose at a cost of £37 billion to the taxpayer. Of the 2,000 consultants hired to manage the scheme, it has been uncovered that no more than 50% were working directly on the Test and Trace project at any time, with one call handler claiming to have received £4,500 without picking up the phone once. The Telegraph has the story.

MPs said billions had been squandered on a failed promise to “enable people to return towards a more normal way of life”, that instead saw two national lockdowns and a rise in case numbers.

The excoriating report, published just before the Chancellor sets out details of a £5.9 billion funding boost for the NHS, details a host of missed targets and a lack of control over spending on consultants…

The publication marks a major blow for a programme, which was championed by then Health Secretary Matt Hancock and hailed by Boris Johnson as “world-beating”.

When it was launched last May, Hancock said it would enable the Government to replace national lockdowns with “individual isolation” for contacts of Covid cases. 

Dame Meg Hillier, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The national Test & Trace programme was allocated eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ money in the midst of a global health and economic crisis.”

“It set out bold ambitions but has failed to achieve them despite the vast sums thrown at it”.

The report shows how the performance of the system deteriorated just when it was needed most, despite spare capacity in laboratories. Meanwhile, less than half of the contact tracing staff hired were ever in use at any one time.

While the country was in lockdown in February, just 11% of contact tracers were working. 

Worth reading in full.

U.S. Vaccine Panels Approve The Pfizer Vaccine For Five-to-Eleven Year-Olds.

Advisory boards working in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved the use of the Pfizer jab for five to 11-year olds, outlining that the benefits outweigh the potential risks posed to this age demographic. Although the decision now awaits formal approval from the FDA and CDC as a whole, it is expected that both organisations will confirm the original verdict, meaning that 28 million U.S. schoolchildren will soon be eligible for the vaccine. BBC NEWS has the story.

Following the FDA independent advisory committee’s green light on Tuesday, the CDC is expected to follow suit on November 2nd, meaning jabs for five-year olds could begin as soon as a day later.

The Pfizer vaccine is already approved for American adults and adolescents, but it has not yet been fully approved for most school-aged children.

Among those between five and 11 years-old, there have been about 1.8 million Covid cases confirmed in the US, according to the CDC. Fewer than 200 have died, and most of those had underlying medical conditions.

Some medical experts say that, given the persistence of the Delta variant and the return to in-person schooling, vaccinating children is a crucial next step in fighting the pandemic.

“Parents need to understand the urgency of vaccination because the pandemic is not over”, said Dr. James Versalovic, pathologist in chief at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH)…

Vaccine hesitancy remains a challenge for US medical authorities. Uptake in the adult population has stalled below 60% over the past several months.

Only a third of parents in a poll last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they would get their children vaccinated ‘right away’. Another third said they would like to ‘wait and see’.

Some parents have expressed concern about hundreds of cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, that have been reported predominantly in young adults who took the vaccine, mostly after the second jab.

Worth reading in full.

Experts Are Worse Than Non-experts at Forecasting Cases and Deaths, Study Finds

‘Experts’ haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory during the pandemic. Their pronouncements concerning things like lockdowns, masks and herd immunity seem to be more correlated with swings in Twitter sentiment than with any fundamental changes in scientific evidence.

We’re used to seeing graphs like this one, which show the actual course of the epidemic deviating rather substantially from what was predicted. And where there is some correspondence between data and forecasts, this is usually because the forecasts included so many different ‘scenarios’ that one of them had to be right.

Famously, Neil Ferguson said it was “almost inevitable” that cases would reach 100,000 per day after some restrictions were removed on 19th July. What cases actually did over the next 10 days was fall by nearly 50%.

(If Ferguson tells you it’s “almost inevitable” that he’ll meet you on time, it’s probably best to bring a book, or delay your own arrival by half an hour.)

Okay, so the ‘experts’ aren’t very good at predicting where cases or deaths will be a few weeks hence. But they’re surely better than the rest of us. And since some information is better than no information, we shouldn’t dismiss them entirely – right?

A study published earlier this year did find that experts (defined as “epidemiologists, statisticians, mathematical modelers, virologists, and clinicians”) were more accurate at forecasting the UK’s death toll in 2020 than were random members of the public.

In April of 2020, Gabriel Recchia and colleagues asked 140 experts, as well as 2,000 members of the public, to guess how many people in the UK would die of COVID by 31st December. Each participant was asked to give a ‘75% confidence interval’ for their guess.

The correct answer (which can be debated, of course) fell within the 75% confidence interval for 10% of non-experts and 36% of experts. So the experts did better, but less than half of them were even close.

A more recent study reached slightly different conclusions. Earlier this year, the epiforecast group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine hosted a forecasting competition in which they invited members of the public to predict weekly case and death numbers in the U.K.

The competition ran from 24th May to 16th August. Both experts and non-experts were eligible to compete, experts being those who declared themselves as such when they signed up (so we’re presumably talking about epidemiologists and people with a background in forecasting).

What did the researchers find? In this case, the self-declared experts performed slightly worse than the non-experts, although neither group did especially well.

Why did the two studies reach different conclusions? I suspect the answer lies in the composition of each study’s non-expert group. In the first study, the non-experts were random members of the public, whereas in the second, they were laymen who chose to take part in a forecasting tournament.

The psychologist Philip Tetlock has gathered a large amount of evidence that, when it comes to quantitative forecasting, experts aren’t any better than well-informed laymen (even if they do have an edge over the man on the street).

I suspect the non-experts who took part in the Covid forecasting tournament were the kind of well-informed laymen that Tetlock identified in his research. After all, you’d have to be pretty geeky to find out about such a tournament in the first place.

Overall, the evidence suggests that no one’s particularly good at forecasting the epidemic. Where the ‘experts’ do have an advantage is in making their predictions appear scientific. 

Pressure Mounts on the UKHSA to Stop Publishing Data Showing Infection Rates Higher in the Vaccinated

The Prime Minister may have acknowledged reality and stated that being double vaccinated “doesn’t protect you against catching the disease, and it doesn’t protect you against passing it on” but others appear to remain in denial.

On Sunday I asked whether now that the PM had let the cat out of the bag the media would start reporting properly on the UKHSA data showing higher infection rates in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. It appears the answer is no, at least if the Times‘s Tom Whipple is any indication.

In a typically mean-spirited piece – in which anyone who doesn’t agree with his favoured scientist of the hour is smeared as a conspiracy theorist and purveyor of misinformation – Whipple quotes Cambridge statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter, who heaps opprobrium on the U.K. Health Security Agency (the successor to PHE) for daring to publish data that contradicts the official vaccine narrative. Spiegelhalter says of the UKHSA vaccine surveillance reports:

This presentation of statistics is deeply untrustworthy and completely unacceptable… I cannot believe that UKHSA is putting out graphics showing higher infection rates in vaccinated than unvaccinated groups, when this is simply an artefact due to using clearly inappropriate estimates of the population. This has been repeatedly pointed out to them, and yet they continue to provide material for conspiracy theorists around the world.

This is the graphic he is presumably referring to.

If Professor Spiegelhalter has a source for his claim that higher infection rates in the vaccinated are “simply an artefact” of erroneous population estimates then he doesn’t provide it.