Day: 15 November 2021

News Round-Up

Boris Says he Can’t Rule Out Xmas Lockdown

Boris Johnson today admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards and made a desperate plea for Britons to get their booster jabs. MailOnline has more.

The PM – who appeared to be suffering from a cold – warned “storm clouds” of infection were gathering over Europe and forcing nations back into restrictions, which highlighted how the UK “cannot afford to be complacent”.

He said people should get a booster if they want to “avoid restrictions on daily lives”, adding that it would be an “utter tragedy” if double-vaccinated people died from Covid because they didn’t get one.

Mr Johnson also admitted people might need proof of a booster jab to be considered “fully vaccinated” in the future, in a move which could cause fresh chaos for Britons’ travel plans.

The warnings came as Britain recorded another 39,705 daily coronavirus infections, which were up nearly a quarter on last Monday’s figure. But deaths and hospital admissions – both lagging indicators – fell week-on-week.

There were 47 Covid victims registered today, down 18% on last week, and latest hospital data shows there were 976 admissions on November 9, down 7.5%.

The PM issued his warning at a Downing Street press conference, where he also confirmed that people in their forties will be offered a booster jab and older teenagers will get second doses.

Asked if a lockdown would be necessary if cases continue to rise, the PM said “clearly we cannot rule anything out” but insisted he didn’t “see anything in the data that says we have to go now”.

The comments came after Austria announced a draconian new lockdown on the unvaccinated, after a dramatic increase in infections, and the Netherlands imposed a curfew on pubs and restaurants to deal with rising cases.

Germany, France and Italy have also been seeing a significant uptick in their outbreaks. The PM was joined today by his chief scientists Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at the Government’s first Covid briefing of the month.

Worth reading in full.

And Finally…

In this week’s London Calling, James and I discuss the COP26 coal deal and wonder whether Greta Thunberg will stage a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm (fat chance); give a shout out to David Perry, the heroic taxi driver whose quick thinking thwarted the terrorist attack in Liverpool; doff our caps to John Cleese, whose self-cancellation forced the President of the Cambridge Union to do a reverse ferret on his proposal to black-list certain speakers in advance; and, in Culture Corner, The Brothers Karimazov, War of the Wolf, American Crime Story: Impeachment, Invasion and Midnight Mass, the new Netflix series which James says has taken a “weird turn”.

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

Are the Lockdown Zealots and Pro-Vaxx Fanatics Part of a Jim Jones-Style Cult?

We’re publishing a guest post by two Registered Nurses – Professor Roger Watson and Dr. Niall McCrae – about the extremism of some supporters of the official Covid narrative, particularly when it comes to the treatment of the unvaccinated. Could Zero Covid zealotry and pro-vaxx fanaticism be symptoms of a cult-like mindset, they wonder? Here is an extract:

Millions have been brought round to unquestioning faith in heroic medicine and herald vaccines as ‘miracles of science’, with slavish adherence to rules and restrictions. Indeed, in their blind obedience to the cause, many appear to have been ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’, a reference to the notorious cult led by Jim Jones. We are not suggesting that vaccine enthusiasts are at the same level of delusion as those of doomsday cults, but some parallels may be drawn. If we consider Jim Jones’s community in the Guyanan jungle as a Platonic pure form of cult behaviour, we can use such an extreme manifestation for comparative purpose.

An idealistic, charismatic figure, Jones was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. He gave his son the middle name of Ghandhi. Decrying social injustice, he recruited hundreds of black Americans, as well as numerous graduates versed in radical ideology. On November 18th 1978 the cult culminated in the murder-suicide of 918 followers, most having drunk cyanide-laced Kool-Aid on Jones’s order. How was such a massacre possible?

Theodore Millon, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, described a personality disorder featuring puritanical compulsion, whereby the world is divided into good and evil with no middle ground. With fanatical zeal, the self-declared good cannot bear to be in the company of the bad, which is why extreme cults take refuge outside normal society. Common to cults is a belief that humanity is in grave danger, and we can see this thinking in the more devout believers in climate change and Covid crises.

Research shows that that contrary evidence strengthens rather than undermines the beliefs of cult followers. The more compelling the facts, the shriller the reaction to the messenger. Cultists struggle to relax, which partly explains why they depend on meditative practices. Indeed, Covid culture has shown a difference in outlooks like that between progressives and conservatives. Converts to the conservative cause from the Left, such as educationalist Katharine Birbalsingh, were initially surprised to find that their erstwhile political opponents were not the ogres that they were portrayed to be. Tammy Bruce, a gay feminist broadcaster in the USA, remarked: “Something had to explain why my left elite allies were generally miserable, angry and paranoid, while the enemy was secure, comfortable, generally happy people.” Bruce came to realise the difference between idealistic engineering and conservative realism.

Covid vaccine absolutism allows no exemptions. Refuseniks will get no sympathy, and it is troubling to see the lack of lines drawn by punitive zealots. If the Government ordered vaccination of newborn babies, if unvaccinated relatives and neighbours were sent into quarantine camps, if hospital treatment were denied to the unvaccinated, would supporters of the regime call for caution? Unlikely, because that is not how cultists behave.

Worth reading in full.

Tesco’s ‘Vaccine Pass’ Christmas Advert Receives over 1,500 Complaints

Tesco’s Christmas advert, which features Father Christmas showing a Covid vaccine passport to border security in order to avoid quarantine when entering the country, has become the most complained about advert of the year. The total number of complaints exceeds 1,500, with the Advertising Standards Authority mentioning that many of the complaints said that the advertisement ‘encourages medical discrimination on vaccine status’. Mailonline has more.

It begins outside of a Tesco store, with a customer set on trying to make sure she has everything prepared for Christmas. The advert then follows her on her journey home where she encounters merrymakers overcoming anything that is thrown at them.

But in one scene a reporter appears on TV with the ‘breaking news’ that Father Christmas could be quarantined. He is then shown presenting his Covid vaccine pass at border control, showing he can be let into the country.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the bulk of complaints were from viewers suggesting the festive ad is ‘coercive’ and ‘encourages medical discrimination on vaccine status’.

The U.K. regulator said it is currently investigating the complaints to decide whether to take further action.

A spokesman for the ASA said: “We’ve received over 1,000 complaints regarding this advert.

“We are currently carefully reviewing these complaints to determine whether there are any grounds for further action.

“The large majority of complaints assert that the ad is coercive, and encourages medical discrimination based on vaccine status.”

Following its release at the weekend, anti-vaxxers, including former I’m A Celebrity star Gillian McKeith, launched a #BoycottTesco campaign on social media over its inclusion of a vaccine pass.

Worth reading in full.

Australian Care Home Residents May Have Died From Neglect After Staff Were Furloughed

St. Basil’s Home for the Age in Melbourne has faced an inquiry to answer why 50 residents of the care home died between July and August 2020. It has been uncovered that the existing staff were furloughed, meaning that the facility could not provide enough personnel to adequately look after the residents, leading to severe cases of neglect, with one resident left unable to speak due to dehydration. The Australian Associated Press has the story.

In an opening statement counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC said staff at the home were deemed ‘close contacts’ and furloughed on July 22nd, with the Commonwealth taking over the home despite multiple warnings that regular staff should not be replaced.

He said one doctor involved in the response, Dr. Rabin Sinnappu, warned that furloughing St. Basil’s staff would result in disaster, while another doctor described it as a “shocking” idea.

Rozen said a lack of care for residents had become apparent by the end of the first day of the takeover, after the Federal Health Department could not find enough new staff.

“There were far too few of these workers at St. Basil’s for them to have provided care at the level the residents deserved and the law required,” he said.

The court heard that by July 23rd, pathology staff visiting to test residents found the conditions “shocking to say the least”.

The Medical Director of Melbourne Pathology, Dr. Ellen Maxwell, alerted the Victorian Health Department in an email that Covid-positive residents were mixing freely with others, bins were overflowing, PPE had not been cleared and medication was on the floor.

She said one staff member was in tears, appalled that a patient who had died was wheeled out of the home with no attempt to clear the corridor of people.

The first witness at the inquest was Christine Golding whose mother Efraxia, 84, caught the virus at the home.

She testified that St. Basil’s had provided good, culturally appropriate care for her mother, but during the outbreak her mother’s treatment was inhumane and degrading.

Although Efraxia could not feed herself, several trays of food were found left in her room, and at one point she was no longer able to talk due to dehydration and lack of food, Golding said.

She recalled the facility manager warning that if staff were furloughed, people would die from neglect rather than Covid.

“That sent a shiver up my spine,” she told the hearing.

During the outbreak a group of residents’ families met outside the home, and when staff would not tell them who was in charge, they began banging on the windows until the police were called, she said.

“It was a state of chaos and desperation… the anger was driven by fear,” she said.

“Australians deserve to know why our aged care Covid preparedness was so poor, why it spectacularly failed my mother and contributed to her premature death.”

Rozen said the inquest would not lay blame on the workers brought in to care for St. Basil’s residents, saying the evidence would show a number of them went “above and beyond”, but the circumstances were impossible.

He also explained that an expert report would show the delay between the notification of the first Covid case at the home on July 9th, and test results becoming available on July 17th, was a root cause of the failure to contain the outbreak, as was a lack of co-ordination between state and federal health departments.

45 residents died from Covid, but the inquest is also covering five other deaths at the home during the same period.

Worth reading in full.

Florida Governor Calls Special Legislative Session to Defeat Vaccine Mandates

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (pictured) has called a special legislative session in which lawmakers will try to effectively outlaw vaccine mandates (whether they are imposed by private businesses or local governments) throughout the state. In particular, the session will likely revolve around the discussion of four bills that would increase the fines on companies and government agencies which introduce mandatory vaccination measures. The Guardian has more.

The special legislative session will be about “a combination of policy and politics”, said Aubrey Jewett, a Political Science Professor at the University of Central Florida, adding that DeSantis is following Trump’s lead in being staunchly against mask and vaccine mandates.

According to an agenda released by the Governor’s office, a body of legislators dominated by Republicans will consider four bills to impose penalties on businesses and local governments that require workers to be vaccinated against Covid.

“No cop, no firefighter, no nurse, nobody should be losing their job because of these jabs,” DeSantis said in a media release, echoing a previous plea for first responders from other states to relocate to Florida if they do not wish to be vaccinated by mandate.

“We’re going to be striking a blow for freedom,” DeSantis said.

Resistance to vaccine mandates and other public health measures to combat Covid has spread in Republican states and among Republican politicians using it to buttress their pro-Trump bona fides and attack the Biden administration.

By Sunday, the U.S. had recorded nearly 763,000 deaths from Covid, out of more than 47 million cases. Florida has recorded the third-highest state death toll, with more than 62,600, behind only California and Texas. Around 58% of the population is fully vaccinated.

On Friday, a conservative federal court in New Orleans refused to lift a stay it imposed on a Biden administration rule which says businesses with 100 or more employees must insist on vaccinations or masks and regular testing from January 4th.

The administration has said it is confident the rule is legal and will ultimately prevail.

DeSantis has railed against vaccine mandates but is vaccinated himself, according to media reports.

Worth reading in full.

Negative Vaccine Effectiveness Isn’t a New Phenomenon – It Turned Up in the Swine Flu Vaccine

This is a guest post by Mike Hearn, a software engineer who between 2006-2014 worked at Google in roles involving data analysis.

The Daily Sceptic has for some time been reporting on the apparent negative vaccine effectiveness visible in raw U.K. health data. Despite some age ranges now showing that the vaccinated are more than twice as likely to get Covid as the unvaccinated, this is routinely adjusted out, leading UKHSA to un-intuitively claim that the vaccines are still highly effective even against symptomatic disease. A recent post by new contributor Amaneunsis explains the Test Negative Case Control approach (TNCC) used by authorities and researchers to adjust the data, and demonstrates that while a theoretically powerful way to remove some possible confounders, it rests on an initially reasonable-sounding assumption that vaccines don’t make your susceptibility to infection worse:

A situation where this assumption may be violated is the presence of viral interference, where vaccinated individuals may be more likely to be infected by alternative pathogens.

Chua et al, Epidemiology, 2020

Amanuensis then compares results between the two different statistical approaches in a Qatari study to explore whether violation of this assumption is a realistic possibility and concludes that the multi-variate logistic regression found in their appendix supports the idea that viral interference can start happening a few months after initial vaccination.

What other angles can we explore this idea through? One way is to read the literature on prior epidemics.

Neil Ferguson Makes the Case for Focused Protection

Neil Ferguson, a.k.a. ‘Professor Lockdown’, isn’t the first person you’d expect to be making the case for focused protection. But that’s more or less what he did in a BBC interview last week.

Britain, the professor noted, is in a “quite different position” from countries like the Netherlands and Germany – both of which recently posted their highest infection rates since the pandemic began (despite the presence of mask mandates and vaccine passports).

“We’ve had very high case numbers,” Ferguson continued, “between 30,000 and 50,000 a day – really for the last four months.” And this has “paradoxically” had the effect of “boosting” population immunity.

I’m no expert in epidemiology, but I don’t really see the “paradox” here. If you have large numbers of infections, and they’re heavily concentrated in low-risk groups, then – yes – population immunity will be boosted.

(I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised. As Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya note, many scientists who should know better have downplayed or even denied the existence of natural immunity to Covid.)

Anyway, back to Neil Ferguson. Whether he realised it or not (and I’m leaning towards not), he was making the case for focused protection.

The whole point of that strategy is to protect high-risk groups, while allowing immunity to build in the rest of the population. “As immunity builds,” to quote the Great Barrington Declaration, “the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls.”

Given that the vaccines don’t provide lasting protection against infection, they’re best seen as a way to protect the most vulnerable. And even before the vaccines arrived, building population immunity in low-risk groups made sense, as a way to minimise the time that high-risk groups would have to spend shielding.

More than a month ago, I asked whether we should encourage young people to get the virus, so as to build up more immunity before the winter? If the latest data are anything to go by, it seems the answer to my question was “yes”.