Day: 13 November 2021

News Round-Up

Protests Erupt in Melbourne to Oppose Government’s Emergency Powers

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, to oppose the unprecedented emergency powers the Victorian Government is trying to grant itself. 7news has more.

Thousands of people gathered in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to rally against the State Government’s new emergency powers and vaccine mandates.

Protesters blocked tram lines as they marched from the State Library to Parliament. One man was seen carrying a homemade gallows with three nooses but there were no reports of unrest.

Former Liberal MP turned United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly addressed the protest, saying mandatory vaccinations were an “abuse of human rights”.

“We are being governed by medical bureaucrats that are part of a mad, insane cult of vaccinists,” he told the rally.

As of Friday, just under 93% of Victorians aged 12 years-old and over had received at least one vaccine dose and 86% both.

The deadline for construction workers to be fully vaccinated to continue working on site has been reached.

The controversial mandate, which sparked violent protests across Melbourne in September, requires all tradies to have had two vaccine doses by Saturday.

Victorian aged care workers must be fully vaccinated by Monday and about one million of the state’s essential workers in total will be required to be double-jabbed by November 26th.

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Tourism Industry Crashing Due to Boris’s Mishandling of Brexit and the Pandemic, says CNN

According to a report for CNN, Britain’s tourism industry is in deep trouble due to a combination of Brexit and Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude to suppressing Covid infections. No mask mandates, no tourists, says CNN.

It’s a country that has just endured national fuel shortages, isolated food shortages, and its government voted this fall to dump untreated sewage onto its famous coastlines. Oh – and it has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.

So who would want to go on vacation in the U.K. at the moment?

Not many, the figures show.

For 2021, national tourist board Visit Britain has forecast that visitor numbers will be lower even than in 2020, when travel restrictions were at their highest.

Visitor numbers to the U.K. plummeted from 40.9 million in 2019 to 11.1 million in 2020 – a dip of 73%.

But 2021 seems to have gone even worse for the U.K.’s inbound tourism sector, with just 7.4 million visitors predicted to visit before the year is out – down 82% on 2019.

And although all destinations, of course, have been devastated by the pandemic, the U.K.’s figures show that travellers aren’t bouncing back as they are in nearby countries, which have seen visitor numbers swell as they loosened restrictions.

Neighbour France, for instance, saw a 34.9% growth of tourists in 2021 from 2020, bringing in an extra $43 billion to the economy; while flights to summer hotspots Spain and Turkey have recovered to 64% and 74% of their 2019 figures, even for flights this winter.

Greece was almost back to pre-pandemic levels over the summer, with 86% of the arrivals of July and August 2019, according to aviation data analysts Forward Keys. The UK, in turn, managed just 14.3% of 2019 levels, according to its data.

Industry insiders describe the UK’s situation as a perfect storm: rocketing Covid rates while European neighbours were stabilising; inconsistent travel rules; and the effects of Brexit, which are finally being felt, both within the UK and by those wishing to travel there.

Add in relatively low government spending on a tourism recovery plan, as other countries go all out to court visitors, and you’re left with plummeting numbers.

“The problems facing the UK are multiple, and not just to do with Covid,” says Tom Jenkins, CEO of the ETOA – the trade association for inbound tourism to Europe.

Kurt Janson, director of the U.K.’s Tourism Alliance, knows who he thinks is to blame. “Some of the problems are government-inflicted as well as Covid-inflicted,” he says.

So what exactly is going on in Blighty?

You can read the rest of this piece here.

Curiously, CNN doesn’t consider the most obvious reason tourism to Britain has failed to recover this year – our absurdly complicated rules for incoming travellers, which, in addition to being borderline incomprehensible, changed from week to week over the summer.

Another shortcoming of CNN’s analysis: if the absence of Covid restrictions in England since July 19th is the main reason tourism to the U.K. has fallen, why has it also fallen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, given that numerous restrictions are still in place in those countries?

German Leaders to Debate Imposing National Restrictions On The Unvaccinated

On Thursday, German officials are set to debate whether to tighten Covid restrictions after Germany recorded an infection peak on Saturday. One of the measures to be discussed involves banning the unvaccinated from venues such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, with Chancellor Angela Merkel urging members of the public to get jabbed if they haven’t already. The Telegraph has the story.

These rules have been adopted in some states, but as yet have not been enforced nationwide. 

Horst Seehofer, the Interior Minister, on Saturday morning said it was the time to put in place nationally uniform Covid rules.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called upon the country’s unvaccinated to reconsider, hinting that the Government would tighten measures across the country. 

“Difficult weeks lie ahead of us, and you can see that I am very worried,” Merkel warned in her weekly video podcast.

“I urgently ask everyone who has not yet been vaccinated: please reconsider.”

She added: “It has always helped us when states and the Federal Government worked together and committed to uniform rules.”

Germany’s nationwide seven-day Covid incidence rate climbed to 277.4 per 100,000 people on Saturday, the highest on record. The previous mark was 197.6, recorded in December 2020.

Seehofer, said on Saturday that politicians needed to “demonstrate the art of governance” when meeting on Thursday by making one set of rules for the entire country to stop confusing people with changing rules. 

“I very much hope that there will be a nationwide regulation next week. We must no longer confuse the population,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“Vaccination centres open, vaccination centres closed, continued payment of wages in (for people forced to) quarantine yes, then no again, testing free of charge, testing subject to charge.

“In terms of party politics, there is nothing for anyone to gain, but a lot for everyone to lose. There can be no fundamental opposition in such a difficult situation.”

The situation is particularly precarious in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and the country’s former east, where ICU capacity is below 10%.

Worth reading in full.

Professor Neil Ferguson Says Netherlands-Style Lockdown Unlikely in Britain

Professor Neil Ferguson has declared that Britain’s Covid cases and hospitalisations may be “petering out”, adding that the country is unlikely to need a Netherlands-style lockdown because antibody levels are higher in the U.K. population due to higher case numbers earlier in the year. MailOnline has more.

The Professor at Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve had two or three weeks of declining cases and admission to hospitals, that may be petering out, it is too early to say.

“There is a hint of an uptick in the last few days.

“But we are in quite a different situation from those European countries you are talking about (the Netherlands, Germany).

“We’ve had very high case numbers, between 30,000 and 50,000 a day, really for the last four months, since the beginning of July.

“That has obviously had some downsides. It has also paradoxically had an upside of boosting the immunity of the population compared with countries like Germany, the Netherlands and France, which have had much lower case numbers and are only now seeing an uptick.”

The Epidemiologist, whose modelling helped instigate the first lockdown last year, said he hopes the U.K. can “avoid” returning to social distancing restrictions this winter.

He said: “I think it is unlikely we will get anything close to what we had last year, that catastrophic winter wave.

“We might see slow increases as we did in October, for instance, but not anything as rapid as we saw last year.

“We can’t be complacent, but at the moment I don’t think we’ll be in a situation the Netherlands is coming into where they really do need to get on top of rising case numbers using social distancing.

“I very much hope we can avoid that in this country.”

The expert also said modelling from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has indicated that rolling out booster vaccinations to the “younger age groups” once the most vulnerable have been jabbed could help “drive down transmission to low levels” in Britain.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: When lockdown sceptics have suggested that natural immunity can provide you with protection that’s at least as robust as the Covid vaccines – with all the attendant implications for vaccine passports, ‘No Jab, No Job’, etc. – they’ve been branded “anti-vaxxers”. Does this mean Professor Lockdown is now an anti-vaxxer?

Businesses Cancel ‘Super-Spreader’ Christmas Office Parties

Catering services have reported that the demand for office Christmas parties has declined, as businesses want to avoid the risk of spreading Covid to staff. On the other hand, companies which have decided to host a traditional Christmas celebration have implemented safety measures to reduce the risk of contracting Covid, such as requiring attendees to show a negative PCR test. The Times has the story.

The Times approached every company in the FTSE 100 to ask whether they were organising an office Christmas party this year. Of those that responded there was an even split between cancelling and proceeding, although most of those that were going ahead said they would be hosting multiple smaller events rather than one big party.

Evraz, the mining group, said that it was cancelling festivities in order to “keep our people safe”. Anglo American, another mining group, and IAG, which owns British Airways, chose to cancel.

Experian, the credit reference agency, said that it was not having one big staff party but that employees would be offered “smaller group get-togethers” if they felt comfortable doing so.

Aviva, the insurance company, said that it was going ahead. A spokesman said: “we want everyone at Aviva to have the chance to celebrate the festive period with their colleagues. This will be a mix of events at our offices and at other locations. We are encouraging all colleagues to do everything they can to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, including taking a lateral flow test before and after the event and following external venues’ Covid measures.”

Hospitality businesses that rely on the Christmas season fear they will struggle this year. Philip Inzani, who owns the Polo Bar near Liverpool Street in the City of London, said that Christmas party bookings were down 30% on a normal year and that the bookings he had taken were for smaller groups on average.

“We’re finding that there are inquiries but for a lot less people. So where we would have had an inquiry for 30 people previously, we’re now finding that it’s 10 people or something like that”, he said. “One issue is that a lot of staff are flexi-working so fewer are in central London offices, and of course some people are still nervous about gatherings because of Covid”.

Inzani, 50, also offers catering for office-based Christmas parties but demand for that has slumped even further. He said: “We’d probably end up doing about 15 to 20 events throughout the pre-Christmas period normally. But so far this year we’ve just got two inquiries.”

Worth reading in full.

The Flaw at the Heart of the UKHSA’s Vaccine Effectiveness Study

There follows a guest post by Daily Sceptic reader ‘Amanuensis’, as he is known in the comments section below the line. He is an ex-academic and senior Government researcher/scientist with experience in the field, who says he is “a bit cross about how science has been killed by Covid”. It was originally posted on his Substack page, but I thought it was such an excellent analysis of the UKHSA’s favoured test-negative case-control approach and its problems – especially why it seems consistently to exaggerate vaccine effectiveness – that Daily Sceptic readers should be treated to it too.

There has been much consideration in recent months about the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines, and this leads to thoughts about how vaccine effectiveness is calculated in the first place. The trouble with any attempt to calculate vaccine effectiveness is bias – that is, are the vaccinated and unvaccinated similar enough to make the calculation, or, rather, can we remove any bias to get an unbiased estimate.

As an example of bias, in the early days of the Covid vaccinations the majority of the vaccinated were old, and the unvaccinated were young – so if there was an effect of age then we’d get a biased result simply by comparing overall case rates (per 100,000) in the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated groups. In this case the bias might be resolved by splitting the analysis into different age groups, but what about other factors? Most of all, what is the bias associated with willingness to become vaccinated (maybe the vaccinated are in general more likely to be the healthy ones, say)?

Some time ago, statisticians came up with a really great way to remove rather a lot of the ‘difficult’ bias – it is called the Test Negative Case Control approach (TNCC).  With this approach you don’t simply count infections, but compare the rates of infections amongst those who get tested – more specifically, you compare the ratio of positive to negative results in the vaccinated against the positive-to-negative ratio in the unvaccinated groups.

The great thing about this method is that it automatically compensates for many behavioural effects in the vaccinated compared with unvaccinated groups – so, say the unvaccinated are half as likely to go and get tested compared with the vaccinated, the TNCC should remove most of this effect. Of course, many demographic things are of interest (particularly the impact of age and gender), so you’ll usually separate out these variables, but the advantages of the TNCC method remain.

Anyway, pretty much every study on Covid vaccine effectiveness makes use of TNCC – it gives such a powerful and unbiased estimate.  You can read more about it in this review article.

Oh, but what’s this I see in that paper?