Day: 11 November 2021

News Round-Up

The Contrarian Prize

I’ve been nominated for the Contrarian Prize which was set up “to recognise individuals in British public life who demonstrate independence, courage and sacrifice”.

I’m on a shortlist of four nominees, the others being Suzanne Moore, Will Knowland and the saintly Sunetra Gupta. You can read about all four of us here.

The winner is due to be announced by Michael Crick at 7.30pm so will update you then.

Stop Press: Toby won!

Just Six Healthy Children Died From Covid in Last 12 Months

New data has emerged that suggests closing schools and imprisoning children in their homes during the pandemic wasn’t necessary as children are at virtually no risk from COVID-19. The Telegraph has more.

Only six healthy children with no underlying health conditions died as a direct result of catching Covid during a 12-month window, NHS analysis has revealed.

Four died from Covid, while two developed a Kawasaki-like inflammatory condition called Pims-TS, caused by the virus.

The data calls into question the wisdom of closing schools and forcing children to spend months at home when the health risk to under-18s is so small.

Experts from NHS England, Public Health England and several universities and hospitals analysed official death figures in England between March last year and this February.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine on Thursday, showed that more than 3,100 children died during the study period, but only 61 had Covid.

Further examination of death certificates and medical records by independent clinical experts revealed that 25 of the 61 died due to the virus, with the six healthy children a sub-cohort of the 25. The infection played no role in 60% of the recorded Covid deaths.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Waiting List Tops 5.8 Million

More than 5.8 million patients were waiting to receive treatment from the NHS in September, the highest reported figure since August 2007. In addition, last month saw a record number of calls to ambulance services, with response times also experiencing a significant increase. The Independent has the story.

The average response time for category two patients who needed emergency, but not life threatening, care such as strokes, was nearly 54 minutes, which is the longest average waiting time since records began in 2017.

Response times for urgent calls, such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes, averaged three hours, nine minutes and 58 seconds. This is up from two hours, 35 minutes and 45 seconds in September, and again is the longest average since current records began.

The Independent has previously revealed ambulance response times doubled during the pandemic, as all 10 ambulance services raised their alert levels to the highest point.

The investigation found a 26% spike in the most serious incidents reported by paramedics so far in 2021 compared to the whole 12 months of 2019, before the Covid pandemic began.

Patients waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E also reached the highest levels ever in October, with 7,059 waits recorded. This is more than five times higher than the number of 12 hour waits recorded in October 2020, which saw 1,268 patients waiting.

Meanwhile there were 121,000 patients waiting over four hours in A&E, following a decision to admit, during the same month, which is the highest number on record.

The number of patients waiting more than year for treatment has also risen for the first time in five months, from 292,138 in August to more than 300,566 in September.

A total of 12,491 people in England were also waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of September 2021.

This is up from 9,754 at the end of August and is more than four times the 2,722 people who were waiting longer than two years in April.

Worth reading in full.

Care Sector Could Lose up to 60,000 Staff Under New Mandatory Vaccination Measures

Starting from today, all care workers that have not been double vaccinated will be sacked. It is estimated that roughly 60,000 will lose their jobs as a result, with 20,000 having already resigned or been fired by their employer before the new law was applied. The Telegraph has more.

Industry leaders have repeatedly urged the Government to consider an “11th-hour reprieve” amid fears that the sector could lose up to 60,000 staff as a direct result of mandatory jabs.

However, a leading membership body has indicated that tens of thousands of staff may have already quit or been sacked as a result of the “chaotic” new rules, as the sector awaits the impact of the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) ‘no jab, no job’ policy on the final number of carers.

The National Care Forum (NCF), representing over 150 leading not-for-profit social care providers, surveyed its members and found that thousands of carers had already quit, and raised fears of the “human costs, financial costs and the loss in trust and goodwill amongst care staff and their employers as a direct result of this policy”.

The response from the member organisations, which support over 11,000 people, operate around 300 services and employ approximately 14,000 staff, found that 3.5% of carers had already left as a result of resignation or dismissal.

The survey, which covers the period between November 2nd to 8th, found that a further 4.4% might yet leave (including those who have self-certified for exemption or are currently seeking medical certification).

An extrapolation of the NCF figures suggests that if 3.5% of the current 550,000 carer workforce have already quit or been sacked, it means that as many as 19,250 may have already quit across the entire sector.

The NCF is not the only group concerned that thousands have already quit. Another leading industry body, which did not want to be identified, said the figure could be “even higher” than 20,000.

The NCF described the national rollout of the mandatory vaccine policy as “chaotic”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Read a heartbreaking story in MailOnline about a care home boss who broke down after having to fire six members of staff today.

10 U.S. States Sue the Federal Government to Block Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers

10 Republican-led U.S. states have challenged the power of the Federal Government to impose a vaccine mandate on the nation’s healthcare workers, with the lawsuit arguing that the policy would put even more pressure on an already understaffed service, particularly in rural areas. Republican-led states have also attempted to block a federal mandate decreeing that all businesses which hire more than 100 staff must ensure that their employees receive the vaccine or face hefty fines. The Guardian has the story.

All of the mandates are scheduled to take effect on January 4th.

The Biden administration contends that the federal rules supersede state policies prohibiting vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic, which has killed more than 755,000 people in the U.S. But the New Orleans-based fifth circuit court of appeals already has temporarily blocked the business vaccine rule, saying it raises “grave statutory and constitutional issues”.

A separate rule issued last week by the federal Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires Covid vaccinations for more than 17 million workers in about 76,000 healthcare facilities and home healthcare providers that get funding from Government health programs.

The new lawsuit contends that the CMS vaccine requirement is unprecedented and unreasonably broad, affecting even volunteers and staff who don’t typically work with patients.

“The mandate is a blatant attempt to federalize public health issues involving vaccination that belong within the States’ police power”, said the suit filed by Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate.

Joining the lawsuit were the attorney generals of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. All are Republicans except for Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, whose state is led by Republican governor Kim Reynolds.

A CMS spokesperson declined to comment about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit points to concerns from rural hospital administrators in Missouri and Nebraska. For example, it says that Great Plains Health in North Platte, Nebraska, is able to staff only about 70 of its 116 beds because of workforce shortages and has received notice from a majority of personnel in its behavioural health unit that they would resign rather than be vaccinated.

Worth reading in full.

What’s Wrong With ‘Woke’?

Last week, Republican Glenn Youngkin won a surprise victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, edging out the Democrat Terry McAuliffe by two points. A key issue dividing the two candidates was education.

McAuliffe had promised to “diversify” the teaching profession, noting that “50% of the students … are students of colour and yet 80% of the teachers are white”. Youngkin, by contrast, had vowed to ban Critical Race Theory. Under his administration, the Republican said, children would not be taught “to view everything through a lens of race”.

Youngkin’s victory has sparked renewed debate over the term ‘woke’. And passions are running high. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the feisty Congresswoman from New York, said it’s “a term pundits are now using as a derogatory euphemism for civil rights & justice.”

Likewise, The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer claimed that the term “expresses sentiments the people using it would be uncomfortable articulating directly” (by which he presumably meant bigotry).

And the Slate writer Joel Anderson went so far as to call it a “racial slur”. He then followed this up with the rather ominous statement, “It doesn’t mean I’m gonna do anything to you, or that anyone else will. But it doesn’t mean I won’t either.” That escalated quickly…

Should the word ‘woke’ be retired? I would argue: no. Although the term can be used derisively, this is true of many political terms that are not insults (e.g., “you’re just a bunch of Tories!”). What’s more, ‘woke’ isn’t used exclusively by people on the right; until quite recently, in fact, many leftists openly identified as woke.

They key issue is this: over the last 10 years, a new strand of leftism has emerged, which has been incredibly influential, and precisely because it’s been so influential, we need a simple way of referring to it.

Existing terms like ‘left-wing’, ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ won’t do. And that’s because this new strand of leftism is, in some respects, directly opposed to traditional leftism (as frustrated leftists keep pointing out). For example, traditional leftism says, “judge people based on character, not skin colour”. This new strand of leftism says the reverse.

‘Woke’ seems like a perfectly good label. So why all the hostility from left-wing activists? One possibility is that ‘woke’ no longer has a clear meaning. But that’s just not true. As I myself have noted, the term refers to:

a specific ideology which sees identity groups like sex and race as the primary units of society; which attributes to some groups the status of victims and to others the status of oppressors; and which posits that various ‘structural’ and ‘systemic’ forces stymie members of the former groups while conferring ‘privilege’ on members of the latter.

And if you consider my definition too vague, try defining the term ‘liberalism’, or ‘conservatism’ for that matter.

Various alternatives to ‘woke’ had been put forward: left-wing identity politics; left-wing identarian; regressive left; postmodern neo-Marxist; cultural Marxist; cultural socialist; left modernist; social justice warrior; political correctness. But none of them has quite the same resonance as ‘woke’.

The best alternative is probably ‘left-wing identity politics’. However, it’s a mouthful, and it has no straightforward adjectival form. One solution might be to use ‘left-wing identity politics’ as the noun, and ‘woke’ as the adjective. (After all, ‘wokeness’, ‘wokeism’ and ‘wokery’ sound a bit odd.)

One suspects the real reason that activists like AOC want to do away with ‘woke’ is that it’s much harder to fight something if you don’t have a name for it. They want us to believe that woke politics is just traditional leftism: you know, helping poor people and that sort of thing. But that’s not what it is at all.

The woke recognise the power of language better than anyone, which is why you might have seen medical journals referring to “bodies with vaginas”, rather than “women”. Note: this is a clear attempt to change reality through language. And pretending that ‘woke’ doesn’t have a clear meaning stems from the same impulse.

In a recent article, the non-woke leftist commentator Freddie deBoer wrote, “please just fucking tell me what term I am allowed to use for the sweeping social and political changes you demand”. Notwithstanding the profanity, deBoer was sincerely asking for a better term than ‘woke’, and said he’d “happily use one if offered”.

If the woke do want to come up with a better term, here are the rules. It can’t be ‘left-wing’, ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ (those are already taken). And it can’t be too cumbersome (‘person who believes in social justice’ isn’t going to fly). So why not just ‘woke’?

Stop Press: Watch a Free Speech Union discussion about wokeness with Professor Frank Furedi.

Covid Infections Surge in Europe

A late autumn surge in reported Covid infections is underway in Europe, with spikes in Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Norway, and the possible beginnings of one in France, Portugal and Italy. This is despite high vaccine coverage and the heavy use of vaccine passports in most of these countries including Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France.

Some of this is at least partly a result of ramping up testing, especially in Austria and Denmark.

Denmark’s positive test rate is currently flat (see below). This is despite the country declaring the pandemic over and abandoning vaccine passports in September. However, due to the climbing reported infection rate, the country’s Parliament is now said to be preparing to return to a state of emergency and reactivate the vaccine pass scheme, despite the rise being so far largely an artefact of increased testing.

Elsewhere, however, the positive rate is also rising, suggesting real Covid and not just a testing artefact.