Month: November 2021

News Round-Up

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I discuss shooting, hunting – but not fishing; the latest raft of Covid restrictions; whether David Icke is a “visionary genius” (™James Delingpole); the new Beatles movie, and Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film about being brought up in Northern Ireland which is howlingly bad!

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.

Unvaccinated Elderly to Face Monthly €100 Fine in Greece

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced that vaccines will be mandatory for those aged 60 years-old and over, with the unjabbed facing fines of up to €100 per month. Mitosotakis commented that this was the “price to pay for health” and labelled the new law, which will come into force early next year, as “protection, not punishment”. RT has more.

Covid vaccines will be mandatory for individuals aged 60 years-old and over, as Greece seeks to protect its health service from a potential resurgence of the virus throughout the coming winter months.

The Prime Minister’s announcement marks the first measure in the E.U. to target a specific age group with mandatory vaccination, as officials seek to protect at-risk individuals and emergency workers from Covid. 

Defending the decision, Mitsotakis stated that it was “the price to pay for health” and that it was important to make the Covid jab mandatory to protect elderly Greeks who have not yet been vaccinated.

“We are focusing our efforts on protection of our fellow citizens and for this reason their vaccination will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis stated. 

Over 60s who have failed to book their appointment for a first Covid vaccine dose by January 16 will face a monthly recurring fine of €100. Mitsotakis called the penalty a matter of “protection, not punishment“.

By imposing a Covid vaccine mandate, Greece is hoping that it will be able to avoid a lockdown, instead relying on jabs, tests, and social distancing to protect citizens from the virus, which has resulted in around 18,000 fatalities in the country.

Criticizing the Government’s actions, Syriza, the country’s main opposition party, condemned Mitsotakis for taking a step that “hasn’t happened anywhere” in Europe. While it’s not clear how the fine will be enforced, critics highlighted that €100 is a significant proportion of the country’s monthly €730 pension.

Although Greece’s measure is being touted as the first inoculation mandate imposed on a specific age group, it follows the French Government urging all adults to get their booster shots. While France has not made the jabs mandatory, individuals who fail to get their booster will be unable to use their health pass, thereby denying them access to indoor venues such as restaurants and bars.

Worth reading in full.

Coral and the Great Global Warming Lie

We’re publishing a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison about one of the great global warming myths – that coral around the world is rapidly disappearing thanks to man made climate change. In fact, it’s in rude good health.

Corals occupy an exalted place in the climate tablets of doom. These photogenic little critters find themselves on the science obit pages on an almost daily basis. In fact, their demise has been grossly exaggerated for political purposes. There may not be too much certitude in climate projections, but at least we can hang our hat on one scientific prediction – the little fellows will be around for another 500 million years.

Their demise of course is projected from the bleaching that occurs when they expel symbiotic algae in reaction to sudden changes in water temperature. The changes occur due to natural weather oscillations, often around the El Nino event. These occur on a regular basis and once localised conditions have been stabilised, the coral usually recovers. Tropical coral grows in temperatures between 24C and 32C and sometimes grows quicker in warmer waters. Cold water coral is also abundant and grows in latitudes up to 65 degrees above and below the equator, often in deep water and at temperatures as low as 4C. The one event all this coral is unlikely to be affected by is climate warming, or cooling, which occurs over a much longer period.

The mythology around Corals represent one of the more obvious misinterpretations of data that seek to suggest local and temporary weather-related events are connected to long term changes in the climate. Needless to say, there is not a scintilla of scientific proof to make the connection in the case of coral. Professor Peter Ridd, an authority on the Great Barrier Reef who has spent 40 years observing it, noted recently that the reef was in “robust health”. Coral growth rates have, if anything, “increased over the last 100 years”. Fired from his post in 2018 at James Cook University in Queensland for “uncollegial” activities, i.e., questioning global warming dogma, Professor Ridd went on to note that “somehow, our science organisations have convinced the world that the reef is on its last leg”. The BBC rarely needs much convincing of coral catastrophe: “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change”, it reported in October 2020.

Of course, corals need environmental protection. It is not a good idea to drench them in untreated sewage, smash up their habitat with reckless fishing, dump litter on them or douse them with toxic chemicals. But these are mundane planet-keeping measures, nothing like as exciting as ‘save the world’ political posturing in aid of the net zero project.

Why Did Switzerland Vote For Vaccine Passports?

The Swiss have voted to keep vaccine passports by a clear majority. I live in Switzerland (but cannot vote), and in this essay I’ll present some analysis of why this outcome may have occurred.

Firstly, what was the vote actually about? It was a referendum on whether to keep the COVID law, which authorised (among other things) the implementation of the vaccine passport and contact tracing systems. As such, although passports are effectively a form of coercion, this wasn’t directly a vote on mandatory vaccination. There were two sides: ‘No’, meaning scrap the law and end the passports, and ‘Yes’, meaning keep it.

That’s all in theory. In reality, of course, the vote is already being used by politicians to argue for lockdowns for the unvaccinated (about one third of the population).

So – what went wrong for the ‘No’ side? I believe there were at least three factors that fed into each other:

  1. Unlike the British Government, the Swiss government doesn’t release the core data you would need to argue against the vaccine passport policies.
  2. For the second time in a row, the ‘No’ campaign chose its messaging very poorly. The campaign they ran was unconvincing.
  3. Like elsewhere, the news is dominated by the Government’s own narrative-building efforts and uncritically accepted reports – even nonsensical claims. In particular, public health officials have been spreading misinformation by convincing people the unvaccinated are unsafe to be around even if you’re vaccinated (which makes no sense if you also believe the vaccines are highly effective).

I will analyze each factor below.

Despite this, we should recognize the possibility that how people voted had nothing to do with any campaigns or policies, but simply reflects their pre-existing vaccination decisions. As we can safely assume almost nobody voted ‘Yes’ while also choosing to be unvaccinated (as this would simply be a vote to impose expensive and awkward restrictions on themselves indefinitely), we must also assume, given the results, that almost everyone who chose to take the vaccine also chooses to try and force other people to take it.

The psychology of this is probably core to the state of the world right now and deserves a much closer look. However, today I’ll make the simplifying assumption that campaigns and arguments do have at least some impact and analyze it through that lens.

Only the Vaccinated Will Be Allowed Assisted Suicide Services, Says German Euthanasia Association

A German euthanasia group has announced that only the vaccinated will be allowed to access assisted suicide services, as the procedure requires “human closeness” which can allow Covid to spread. The MailOnline has the story.

A German euthanasia group has said clients must be vaccinated against Covid before they can undergo assisted suicide. 

German Euthanasia Association Verein Sterbehilfe has announced prospective clients will have to comply with the country’s 2G rule where premises can choose to deny entry to those who are not vaccinated (‘geimpft‘ in German) or who have recovered (‘genesen‘) from the virus. 

The clinic said euthanasia and preparatory examinations require “human closeness” meaning that under German law everyone involved must comply with the 2G rule.

“Euthanasia and the preparatory examination of the voluntary responsibility of our members willing to die require human closeness,” the Association said in a statement on November 19th. 

“Human closeness, however, is a prerequisite and breeding ground for Covid transmission. As of today, the 2G rule applies in our association, supplemented by situation-related measures, such as quick tests before encounters in closed rooms.”

It explained the decision was based on the “difficult task of balancing the protection of our members, employees and doctors with the practical organization of our everyday life in the association.”

Around 68% of Germany’s 83 million population are full jabbed and about 10% have had a booster dose but officials have branded a recent surge in cases a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. 

The 2G rule has sparked controversy in Germany, where premises are also given the option of following the 3G rule which means those who can present a negative Covid test can also be served.  

The rules apply to leisure, cultural and sporting events, and hospitality venues as well as to body-related services and hotels. It allows premises imposing the rules to drop mask-wearing and social distancing rules.   

Several million German adults are still not yet vaccinated, and authorities have tried to incentivise them to take the jab through punishing measures such as this.

Worth reading in full.

Population Structure and the Cyclical Pattern of Epidemic Waves

Regular readers will remember Philippe Lemoine from my interview with him back in August. For those who missed it: Lemoine is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Cornell with a background in computer science. During the pandemic, he’s written several interesting articles, including a particularly good one titled ‘The Case Against Lockdowns’.

Lemoine’s latest article is a zinger. It begins with the puzzle of why the effective reproduction number often fluctuates wildly in the absence of changes in aggregate behaviour. Or put another way: why do infections sometimes start falling, or start rising, for no apparent reason?

I actually noted this puzzle myself in article back in March (which Lemoine kindly cites). Specifically, I noted that case numbers in South Dakota began falling rapidly in mid November, despite almost no government restrictions and little change in people’s overall mobility.

There are at least two existing explanations for this phenomenon. The first is seasonality: the effective reproduction number may partly depend on variables like temperature, humidity and UV light. Yet as Lemoine points out, there are many examples where case numbers changed suddenly that seasonality can’t explain (like South Dakota).

The second is viral evolution: the effective reproduction number may suddenly rise when a new, more-transmissible variant emerges (such as Delta or Omicron). Once again, however, case numbers have undergone dramatic changes in the absence of new variants. And while viral evolution can explain the rises, it has harder time explaining the falls.

Lemoine’s explanation is different: population structure. Traditional epidemiological models, he notes, assume the population is ‘quasi-homogenous’. This means that your chance of infecting someone of the same age who lives next door is the same as your chance of infecting someone of the same age who lives on the other side of the country.

Not very realistic, of course, but models have to make simplifying assumptions. How much does this one matter? It matters a lot, Lemoine argues.  

Rather than assuming there’s one big quasi-homogenous population, imagine the population is divided into a large number of ‘subnetworks’. These could be based on location, age-group, behaviour or a combination of factors. For example, one subnetwork might be ‘school children and their parents in central London’.

Suppose that transmission occurs frequently within subnetworks but infrequently between them. So when a child within the school subnetwork catches the virus, it quickly spreads to other children and their parents. But what it doesn’t do is quickly spread to those outside the subnetwork.

Test and Trace Boss Tells Public Not to Socialise Unless Necessary

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Dr. Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency as well as the Head of the NHS Test and Trace scheme, said that the public must not attend social gatherings if they “don’t particularly need to” in order to restrict the transmission of the Omicron variant. Harries also called on all those eligible to receive booster jabs to go and get one and play their part in the fight against Covid. WalesOnline has the story.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people could do their bit by reducing the number of social contacts they have.

She said that even if our “vaccines appear to be effective, but we find that the variant is more highly transmissible, having lowish grade infection, but in very large numbers of the population, (it) could still be a significant impact on our hospitals.

“And of course, our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas we tend to socialise more so I think all of those will need to be taken into account.”

Asked about working from home, she said: “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay.

So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jobs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: As of today, the Government has brought back mask mandates to a wide array of public settings. A full list can be found here.

Stop Press 2: The crackdown on non-mask wearers on the London tube has begun. MailOnline has more.

Stop Press 3: The Government has rebuked Dr. Harries and distanced itself from her remarks. According to the Telegraph:

Boris Johnson insisted “we’re not going to change the overall guidance, we don’t think that’s necessary”, when he was asked about comments by Dr. Jenny Harries, the Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, who had urged people to avoid socialising “unless you need to” in the run up to Christmas.

Downing Street also heavily distanced itself from her remarks, with the PM’s official spokesman stressing: “It’s not our advice to the public currently. You’ll know the measures we set out at the weekend. The UK HSA is an arms-length body of Government, and Jenny Harries provides advice to the Government, she is not a Government minister. The public should follow the guidance as set out by the Government and indeed the Prime Minister at the weekend.

News Round-Up

Masks Have Made No Meaningful Difference to Delta – Oxford Professor

Professor Jim Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford, has pointed out that, despite England dropping its mask mandate in July while Scotland kept its one in force, there is no evidence of this policy making any difference in the two countries’ infection rates. He writes:

The ONS survey results on prevalence shows that the Scottish and English approach to masking, although formally different since July, has made no meaningful difference to Delta. In both countries very high levels of prevalence have continued for months. Thus the new changes announced are unlikely to have much of an impact if Omicron does indeed spread rapidly.

You can see the ONS graphs below for yourself, and he’s right. Yet the Government has re-imposed masks in schools, shops and on public transport, despite there being no evidence that they make any significant impact on the spread of disease.