Day: 12 November 2021

News Round-Up

Free Speech Union Lodges Complaint With Downing College About New Snitching Portal

The Free Speech Union has written to Downing College, Cambridge about its new ‘Report Racism Guidance‘, which reproduces many of the legally questionable aspects of the university-wide ‘Report + Support’ policy that was abandoned by the Vice-Chancellor last May after the FSU complained to him about it. The Telegraph‘s Camilla Turner has more about this latest manifestation of Critical Race Theory.

A Cambridge college is encouraging students to report dons for “micro-aggressions”, despite the university’s Vice-Chancellor saying this was a “mistake”.

Downing College has been accused of promoting “highly contestable” and “pernicious” ideas in its new guidance on how to report racism.

The college, which was founded in 1800, counts the actor John Cleese and the illustrator Quentin Blake among its alumni.

Dons fear the guidance will lead to a “culture of fear” within the college, which is “antithetical to free speech”.

The guidance defines racism as “an ideology and a set of practices based on ideas of inherited white ‘racial’ superiority that normalises control, domination and exclusion over people of colour, while legitimating privilege and oppression”.

It goes on to say that: “One of the ways in which racism is perpetuated as a system of oppression is through everyday manifestations and micro-aggressions.

“Micro-aggressions are everyday acts that serve to subjugate people of colour in more or less covert ways.”

The document cites the question: “Where are you really from?” as an example of a “micro-aggression”, saying there are many other instances where “apparently building inclusivity” only serves to “reinforce racialised differences”.

But dons have pointed out that this definition of racism is itself racist, because it implies that it is impossible for anyone who is white – including Jewish, Polish and Irish people, for example – to be a victim of racism.

“The main concern is the definition of racism and the inclusion of micro-aggressions,” one Cambridge academic told the Telegraph.

“These are highly contestable, pernicious ideas about racism and they will generate a horrendous culture of fear within the college.”

Russian Oblast Considers Prohibiting the Unvaccinated From Buying Alcohol

Sverdlovsk Oblast, a province in central Russia, is considering whether to ban the unvaccinated from purchasing alcohol to prevent the spread of Covid in the region. If this was to become law, citizens of Sverdlovsk Oblast will need to provide a valid QR code showing that they have been jabbed (a system that has been put in place elsewhere in Russia) before being allowed to buy alcohol. The MailOnline has the story.

In a new move from local authorities, the nation stereotypically known to enjoy a tipple may have to prove they’ve had a shot of the vaccine before getting a shot of vodka. 

Artyom Bakhterev, the Regional Minister of the Agro-Industrial Complex, announced the update through its Telegram channels.

He said: “We know about the initiative of market participants to enter QR codes for buying alcohol.

“We are ready to discuss this measure with colleagues and experts at the next meeting of the operational headquarters.”

It was originally proposed by restaurateur Yevgeny Uryupin from Yekaterinburg, a city in the oblast, on his Instagram, Vesti.ru reported. 

He said that the initiative could encourage people to get vaccinated and motivate them to consume less alcohol. 

Since October 18th many areas in the country imposed restrictions to deal with a growing Covid crisis through a QR code system. 

In many places public venues are now only open to those who are vaccinated, have a negative coronavirus test or have recently recovered from Covid.

Only those who show a QR code proving they meet the criteria are allowed to enter.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Cases Declining More Steeply Than at Any Time in Last Six Months

According to Government data, Covid cases have been on their steepest decline since May, while hospitalisations and deaths have also been steadily decreasing. The Times has more.

Yesterday a further 42,408 people tested positive for Covid across the UK, with the weekly average down 12%.

There were 195 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and that weekly average was down 4%. And the latest figures on patients admitted to hospital with the virus show 868 admitted on November 7th, with the weekly average down 11%.

Analysis by the Times, looking at the week-on-week change in the rolling seven-day average of case numbers, has found a fall for 16 consecutive days, last seen in May this year.

Julian Hiscox, Professor of Infection and Global Health at Liverpool University, told the Financial Times the downward trend seen in cases was unique because unlike earlier falls it was brought about “almost entirely by the wall of immunity, rather than behavioural changes or restrictions”.

He added: “We could end up in a very nice window thanks to the timing of our booster programme, whereby our peak in population immunity coincides with the winter months when the health service is under most pressure.”

Other experts had cautioned that it was too soon to draw long-term conclusions from case data. Yesterday’s U.K. total was 13% higher than the same day a week earlier.

A separate surveillance report from the U.K. Health Security Agency, the successor agency to Public Health England, also found decreasing Covid activity nationally.

Worth reading in full.

Women Warned Working From Home May Harm Careers

Women who work from home risk seeing their careers stall now that workers are returning to the office, according to Bank of England (BoE) economist Catherine Mann. BBC News has more.

She said office interaction was vital to advance in companies, but many women were still tied to home working.

Ms. Mann said it was a particular issue for mothers facing school disruptions and difficulty accessing childcare.

Earlier this year, Rishi Sunak warned about young people’s careers.

The Chancellor said he doubted his banking career would have been successful if he had started it in virtual meetings, and that being in the office helped build skills.

Ms Mann, a member of the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee that sets interest rates, said online communication was unable to replicate the spontaneous office conversations that were important for recognition and advancement in many workplaces.

She told an event hosted by Financial News magazine: “Virtual platforms are way better than they were even five years ago. But the extemporaneous, spontaneity – those are hard to replicate in a virtual setting.”

Difficulty accessing childcare and pandemic-related disruption to schooling meant many women were continuing to work from home, while it had been easier for men to return to the office.

“There is the potential for two tracks”, she said. “There’s the people who are on the virtual track and people who are on a physical track. And I do worry that we will see those two tracks develop, and we will pretty much know who’s going to be on which track, unfortunately”, she said.

Ms Mann was an economics professor and chief economist at investment bank Citi and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, before joining the BoE in September.

Worth reading in full.

European Countries Bring Back Winter Lockdowns

Bad news for our continental cousins: lockdowns are returning to various European countries.

The first one to announce a winter lockdown is Holland, where bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will be ordered to close at 7pm for at least three weeks starting tomorrow. The Telegraph has more.

People will be urged to work from home as much as possible, and no audiences will be allowed at sporting events in the coming weeks. Schools, theatres and cinemas would remain open.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet will take a final decision later on Friday, and will announce the new measures during a televised press conference scheduled for 6pm GMT.

New coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have increased rapidly after social distancing measures were dropped late September and hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours on Thursday.

The new wave of infections has put pressure on hospitals throughout the country, forcing them to scale back regular care again to treat Covid patients.

To contain the outbreak, the government’s pandemic advisory panel on Thursday recommended imposing a partial lockdown and to limit entrance to public places to people who have been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection.

A new lockdown would mean a drastic turn in policy for the Dutch government, which until last month thought that a relatively high vaccination rate would mean it could further ease measures towards the end of the year.

Worth reading in full.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education Tells Teachers to Phone the Police if Unvaccinated Staff Show Up to Work

From Monday, all teachers in New Zealand must have received at least the first dose of the Covid vaccine to continue working on school grounds, with unvaccinated staff committing a criminal offence if they try to enter the classroom. In addition, the Ministry of Education has recommended that schools should ring the police if any unvaccinated teacher turns up to work. The Mail Australia has the story.

The advice, published in the Ministry’s gazette on Thursday, tells school leaders that if they, or any education staff, turn up to work on Monday unvaccinated against Covid, they will be committing an offence. 

The advice being given to schools follows the ‘no jab, no job ‘policy that was enacted by the New Zealand Government last month.

“The staff member will be committing an infringement offence if they have not had their first dose of the Covid vaccine and are onsite November 15th. This means they may be liable for a fine”, the advice read.

“If staff do turn up on site after this date, we encourage school leaders to deal with this in the usual manner you would if other inappropriate people were to turn up on site.

“If you feel your safety or the safety of ākonga (pupils or students) or other staff is compromised, you could consider contacting the police”.

The advice also stated that an unvaccinated person could no longer work on-site at a school without a valid medical exemption, or a written letter from a doctor outlining an exemption request has been sought. 

Worth reading in full.

Why Are the UKHSA’s Estimates of Vaccine Effectiveness Consistently Far Higher Than Other Studies?

The latest UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report was released yesterday. It has a new section entitled “Vaccine effectiveness publications” which lists the relevant UKHSA and PHE publications, and which may well have been added in response to the emails of Daily Sceptic readers asking for an update on the UKHSA vaccine effectiveness study.

The top item in the list is the latest from their ongoing test-negative case control study – or rather the update-before-last, as for some reason the link goes to a pre-print from September, which then redirects you to a newer version published on October 6th. In any case, this means I was incorrect to state that there had not been an update using data since May, as these papers had somehow flown under my radar (for which, sincere apologies). In fact, the latest update uses data up to September 3rd, so still two months behind and including nothing from the autumn, but it’s certainly better than stopping in spring.

The chart below shows the estimates over time for the two main vaccines, indicating declining effectiveness.

It is immediately apparent, however that these estimates are significantly above those found in other studies. The new study claims, for example, that the AstraZeneca vaccine remains 47% effective after 20 weeks (five months), when a recent Swedish study found it was down to zero (or lower) after four months. It puts Pfizer at 70% effective after 20 weeks (five months), when the Swedish study put it at 47% after four to six months, and zero after seven months. A Qatari study similarly found the Pfizer vaccine effectiveness down to around zero after five to seven months (these figures are all for symptomatic infection). The UKHSA acknowledges the Qatari study and says it is in line with its own findings in terms of showing decline, but doesn’t discuss why its own study still found substantial protection when the other did not.

The suspicion is that there is something wrong with the design of the UKHSA study that means it is coming up with inflated vaccine effectiveness estimates owing to biases that it is failing to adjust for (and may not be able to). That was certainly the inkling I got in May when I analysed the study design when it first came out with data up to February 19th.