Day: 9 November 2021

News Round-Up

ONS Reported to U.K. Statistics Authority by Former Senior Employee For Misleading Claim That “Risk of Death is 32 Times Higher in the Unvaccinated”

A former senior figure at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has criticised his old employer for breaching the Code of Practice for Statistics over its biased presentation of data relating to the vaccines.

James Wells, a statistician who served as head of the ONS UK trade team until 2019, has written to the UK Statistics Authority objecting to a new report, published November 1st, which leads with the statistic that “the age-adjusted risk of deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) was 32 times greater in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated individuals”.

However, as James points out, this statistic uses data from January 2nd to September 24th 2021, which includes the bulk of the winter deaths at a time when almost no one was vaccinated. This massively skews the implied vaccine effectiveness, as a fair comparison would only include periods when a significant proportion of the country was vaccinated.

An earlier version of the same report was released in September using data from January 2nd to July 2nd, which I criticised at the time. It made a similarly sensational claim about the high number of deaths in the unvaccinated compared to the vaccinated, garnering headlines that just 1% of deaths in the first six months of 2021 (640 out of over 50,000) were in fully vaccinated people. This was technically true, but completely misleading in terms of what it appeared to tell us about the effectiveness of the vaccines. Neither the ONS nor the journalists reporting on the data took care to make this clear.

Big Brother Watch Launches Legal Challenge Against Covid Passports in Wales

The campaign group Big Brother Watch has launched a legal challenge against mandatory Covid passes in Wales, calling for the “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced” scheme to be scrapped. The group’s website has more.

The non-profit group’s legal challenge comes as the Welsh government is extending domestic requirements for Covid passes for people to access cinemas and theatres, as well as nightclubs, concerts, and larger events. Big Brother Watch joined local businesses in criticising the expansion, calling it “safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens”.

Big Brother Watch’s pre-action letter, sent to the Welsh government today, maintains that no evidence has been provided that the mandatory use of Covid passes will benefit the public health and that the “disproportionate” scheme breaches the right to privacy, protected by the Human Rights Act.

In particular, Big Brother Watch draws attention to advice from SAGE and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell issued before the introduction of mandatory Covid passes to Wales, which outlined risks of the scheme causing ethical issues and unintended harms such as vaccine distrust and warned that there may be no net benefit to a scheme. Furthermore, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Westminster analysed Covid certification in detail and concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford pushed ahead with the scheme following a snap vote in October, which was narrowly won despite unanimous rejection by opposition parties.

Big Brother Watch is leading the campaign against mandatory Covid passes across the UK, and is backed by thousands of members of the public who have collectively raised over £170,000 via Crowdfunder to support the campaign. 83 MPs and 11 rights groups have signed Big Brother Watch’s pledge against mandatory Covid passes to date.

Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch’s Director, says: “Covid passes are internal health passports that are authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced.

“Covid IDs don’t tell you that a person doesn’t have Covid or can’t spread Covid, but do make society less free and less accessible for people.

“Within weeks, this mandatory health ID scheme has already been significantly expanded in absence of an evidence base. This is safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens.

“There are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures to keep people safe and get the country back to normal than excluding healthy people without the right health papers from society. But we can never get back to anything like normal with health ID checks that will inevitably continue to expand.

“We urge the Welsh government to scrap these divisive and discriminatory Covid passes. If they don’t, we will seek to make our case in court.”

Worth reading in full.

Singapore to Deny Free Covid Healthcare to the Unvaccinated

Starting from December 8th, the city-state of Singapore will deny access to free Covid healthcare to those who refuse to get vaccinated. The Government will continue to cover the cost of treatment for those who have received the jab or those unable to, such as children under 12 years-old. The MailOnline has the story.

The Government had always covered the medical bills of those who are fully vaccinated, under 12, or medically ineligible for the jab. 

Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with more than 85% of the population fully vaccinated. 

But the city-state’s healthcare system is struggling under the strain of a fierce outbreak, reporting around 2,000 to 3,000 cases a day and a handful of deaths.

Those affected will still be able to use regular financing arrangements to cover the cost, such as private insurance…

The Health Minister said partially vaccinated residents will not be charged for hospital care until after December 31st, giving them enough time to get the second jab. 

And medically ineligible patients can from November 15th visit any certified medical practitioner to get an exemption card to prove why they have not had the vaccine.

The Government is also working on an automated system to streamline checks for medically ineligible residents to enter venues without having to show paper documentation.

But the Health Ministry warned unvaccinated residents to minimise their time in the community to avoid catching or spreading Covid.   

The Ministry said: “While we have extended a concession to those who are medically ineligible to be able to dine-in, enter malls and participate in activities where required, they remain unvaccinated and their risk of becoming infected with Covid and/or becoming severely ill remains real and very high.

“We strongly encourage these individuals to minimise such activities and to use this concession judiciously.”

Worth reading in full.

Awkward! Meltdown at the UK Health Security Agency Over Data Showing Infection Rate Higher in Vaccinated than Unvaccinated

We’re publishing a guest post by a blogger calling himself “eugyppius” about the frantic attempts by the UKHSA to renounce its own data showing infection rates are higher in the vaccinated than they are in the unvaccinated. This post was originally published on eugyppius’s Substack account, which you can subscribe to here. Highly recommended.

Vaccinated vs. unvaccinated case rates in the United Kingdom, from the latest U.K. Health Security Agency vaccine surveillance report:

Yet again I had to draw this graph myself, and yet again, the U.K. Health Security Agency wants you to know that these rates are extremely, totally, absolutely unadjusted. They just don’t know precisely why or how.

As I noted on Twitter, it’s emerged that UKHSA inserted all of their ill-advised disclaimers after coming under fire from the Office of Statistics Regulation, a regulatory body which periodically complains about statistics published by the British Government.

OSR director Ed Humpherson met with UKHSA hours before they published their Week 43 report, demanding they do something about these awkward graphs. They responded by ditching the graphs altogether and calling every last number unadjusted. This failed to satisfy him, so in the days afterwards he issued this unbelievable open letter.

Dear Jenny,

COVID-19 vaccine surveillance statistics

Thank you for the constructive meeting on Thursday October 28th to discuss the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) COVID-19 vaccine surveillance statistics. We focused on the risk that the data presented on rates of positive cases for those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated have the potential to mislead – and indeed we noted that these data have been used to argue that vaccines are ineffective.

We welcome the changes you have made to the Week 43 surveillance report, published on October 28th. It is also very good that you are working closely with my team and with the relevant teams in the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Mandatory Vaccination Will Cause One in 10 Care Workers to Lose Their Jobs

The Government is set to introduce a mandatory vaccination requirement for all care home staff this Thursday, with one in 10 employees facing the sack because they haven’t received both doses of a Covid vaccine. In addition, the General Secretary of Unison, a trade union which represents public sector workers, has called on the Government to scrap the vaccine mandate as it will “cause more harm than good”. The Times has the story.

The Government’s policy requiring all care home staff to have had two doses of the vaccine comes into force on Thursday, and the Care Quality Commission said it would take action if necessary to ensure people’s safety.

Social care experts warned that the measure was likely to exacerbate existing staff shortages, leaving people without the care they needed, and one of the biggest trade unions urged the Government to reconsider its position.

In 76 out of 151 upper-tier local authorities in England, more than 10% of staff in care homes for older adults were not fully vaccinated, according to NHS England statistics up to the end of last month.

Nationally, 89.4% of the almost 462,000 staff working in older adult care homes were double-jabbed.

The lowest rates were in Thurrock, Essex, and Manchester, where only 79.1% and 79.4% of staff were double-jabbed. The highest rates were in York, where 94.8% of staff were double-vaccinated, and Rutland, where the figure was 95.6%.

Some of those who are unvaccinated will have medical exemptions, whereas others may not have recorded their vaccination properly.

Simon Bottery, the Senior Fellow in Social Care at the King’s Fund think tank, said the sector would lose workers, with the only question being how many. The Government’s own estimate is that about 40,000 staff could leave as a result of the policy.

Bottery said: “In the last full year for which we’ve got statistics, there were over 100,000 vacancies at any one time. We also know that although the vacancies fell in the initial stages of the pandemic, they’ve since been increasing, and they’re now almost certainly higher than they were before the pandemic started.

“There’s a chronic problem with recruiting into adult social care, and that problem is becoming really acute. And the moment the sector loses a significant number of staff on top of the existing problem, then it creates really significant serious problems for the providers but also crucially for people who rely on adult social care services.”

Mike Padgham, Chairman of the Independent Care Group, who has worked in the sector for 30 years, said at the weekend that the deadline could mean up to 500 homes across England having to close their doors.

Worth reading in full.

More than 25,000 Tonnes of Covid-Related PPE and Plastic Waste has Been Thrown in the Sea

More than 25,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment and other types of Covid-related plastic waste has entered Earth’s oceans, a new study estimates – and 71% of this is due to wash up on beaches by the end of the year. MailOnline has more.

Researchers in California have developed a computer model simulating the fate of plastic waste as it leaves beaches, drifts along the water and fragments into pieces.

They estimate that 8.4 million tons of pandemic-related plastic waste has been generated by 193 countries, from the start of the pandemic to August 2021.

Almost three quarters – 71% – is likely to wash up on beaches by the end of the year, the model suggests.

Most of the offending Covid-related plastic is from medical waste generated by hospitals, the researchers say, which “dwarfs” the contribution from PPE and packaging from online shopping giant like Amazon and eBay.

PPE includes masks, face shields disposable gloves and surgical gowns. The term “Covid-related plastic”, meanwhile, includes PPE and any plastic packaging used to contain these items, as well as plastic from test kits.

All can enter rivers and eventually travel into the world’s oceans if not disposed of properly.

The new study was led by a team of researchers at Nanjing University’s School of Atmospheric Sciences and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who used data from the start of the pandemic in 2020 through to August 2021.

“Plastic waste causes harm to marine life and has become a major global environmental concern,” they say in their paper.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastic, intensifying pressure on this already out-of-control problem.

“This work shows that more than eight million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated globally, with more than 25,000 tons entering the global ocean.

“This poses a long-lasting problem for the ocean environment and is mainly accumulated on beaches and coastal sediments.”

Worth reading in full.

More Than 11,000 Contracted Covid and Died after Being Admitted to Hospital

Hospital data shows that nearly 12,000 patients who were admitted to hospitals for other illnesses probably caught Covid while there and died shortly afterwards. This finding has boosted calls to implement mandatory vaccination measures for all NHS staff, with the policy becoming enforced sometime during the spring – although why, exactly, is unclear, given that the vaccinated can still catch the disease and infect others. The Telegraph has the story.

On Monday night, MPs condemned the figures as a “scandal”. 

The revelation has prompted fresh calls for vaccinations for NHS staff to become compulsory, amid fears that hospitals could struggle to cope during the winter.

It is expected that the Government will announce mandatory vaccination for NHS staff this week, but give them until spring to get the jab.

Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Chairman of the Health and Social Care select committee, said: “These numbers are truly shocking… hospital infections have been the deadliest silent killer of the pandemic… It surely strengthens the case for mandatory vaccination for frontline healthcare staff.”

Using Freedom of Information laws, the Telegraph obtained data from NHS Trusts around England showing the numbers of Covid cases that were likely caught in hospital, known as nosocomial infections, and subsequent deaths.

The disclosures reveal that 11,688 people who died in hospital after testing positive for Covid likely caught the virus there, accounting for one in eight Covid deaths in hospital.

One trust recorded as many as 484 deaths of patients who were thought to have caught the virus on wards during the pandemic. In some trusts, around a third of the patients who had died with Covid had caught the virus in hospital.

The revelations will raise concerns that hospitals have become a breeding ground for the virus and that the NHS has not taken adequate measures to stop it from spreading.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Our in-house doctor pointed out the danger of in-hospital infections in October, 2020. As with most big Covid news stories, you read it here first.

Stop Press 2: Boris Johnson visited a hospital in the North East yesterday without wearing a mask. The Guardian has more.

Boris Johnson with Marion Dickson, the executive director of nursing and other specialisms for Northumbria Healthcare, during a visit to Hexham general hospital in Northumberland on Monday. Photograph: Peter Summers/AP

You Are Magical, Extraordinary, Cool and Beautiful

We’re publishing a new piece today by Dr. Sinéad Murphy, an Associate Researcher in Philosophy at Newcastle University and Daily Sceptic regular. In this article, she responds to Dr. Will Jones’s essay about the unholy trinity – Covid, Climate Change and Critical Theory – that is being used by governments around the world to exert more and more control over their populations. Here is an extract:

There is a shop on the high street of one of Newcastle’s suburbs. On the window is emblazoned: “YOU ARE MAGICAL, EXTRAORDINARY, COOL AND BEAUTIFUL.”

To whom is the statement addressed? According to a 2019 study, over half of adults in this country are overweight or obese; up to 2018 at least, more were repeat users of opioid painkillers than in any other country in the EU; and during three months last summer, six million people in England were prescribed anti-depressants just to get through the day.

Whoever the shop’s sign is describing, it is not likely to be any of the beings of flesh and blood who daily pass it by.

Worth reading in full.

Why Are We Still Talking About Infection Rates?

Covid’s now been with us for almost two full years. Here in the UK, we’ve had three separate lockdowns. And as of Monday, two thirds of the entire population has been fully vaccinated.

Yet people are still fretting over infection rates. Last week, the New York Times published an absurd article titled ‘Needless Suffering: Britain offers a warning of what happens when a country ignores Covid.’

If three separate lockdowns and a mass vaccination program qualifies as “ignoring” Covid, I’d hate to see what “addressing” it looks like. Spending 90% of GDP on suppression and renaming the Health Secretary ‘Minister for Covid’, perhaps?

“Cases have surged this fall,” the authors write, “more so than in the rest of Europe, the U.S. or many other countries.” So? Covid’s rapidly becoming an endemic disease, and infections will creep up from time to time. But there’s no evidence that lots of people are getting seriously ill or dying.

What’s more, infections have actually been falling for the past three weeks. Indeed, they’d already started falling when the Times article was published – a reminder that, in the era of Covid, life comes at you fast.

Given that natural immunity confers stronger protection against infection than the vaccines, case numbers are likely to remain elevated until enough people have had the virus at least once. I’m not sure what fraction of people are currently in this category, but it might be about a third.

That means we’ve got a few months to go before the disease becomes truly endemic. And as vaccine-induced immunity wanes, there are going to be more infections. Why not just get them out of the way now?

Rather than being concerned about Britain’s moderately high infection rate, maybe we should be happy about it. The more people who get infected now, the less who’ll get infected a few months hence – when the NHS comes under greater pressure.

We’ve already offered the vaccine to all over 50s – three times over in some cases. Why should it matter if another ten thousand 20 year olds catch the virus? Aside from remaining vigilant in hospitals and care homes, there’s really nothing left to do.

I’ve made an alternative headline for the New York Times: ‘Needless Panic: Britain offers an illustration of what happens as Covid becomes endemic’.