Day: 18 November 2021

News Round-Up

Lockdown Loneliness Has Cost Australia $2.7 Billion AUD Per Year

Researchers from Curtin University in Perth have uncovered that Covid restrictions have exacerbated feelings of social isolation, leading to negative health outcomes which have cost Australia $2.7 billion AUD per year. This accounts for $1,565 AUD for each person who is lonely, with young people and those living on lower incomes being impacted the most. The Guardian has more.

Report co-author Astghik Mavisakalyan, an Associate Professor at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, said lonely people had worse general and mental health outcomes. “They’re more likely to smoke, more likely to drink more and exercise less,” she said. “They see their GP more frequently, as well as visit hospitals more frequently.”

The report estimates that the overall average cost associated with each person who becomes lonely in Australia is $1,565 AUD a year.

The researchers measured social connectedness based on four key areas: the nature and frequency of people’s social interactions, available social supports, interpersonal trust, and socio-economic advantage.

“In the period from 2010 to 2018, there has been a 10% decline in connectedness,” Mavisakalyan said.

Social isolation was most prevalent among vulnerable populations, including those who are disabled, socio-economically disadvantaged, or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the report found.

There was a worrying link between poverty and loneliness, Mavisakalyan said. The analysis drew comparisons between individuals “who are very, very similar in terms of their host of characteristics but are different in terms of their income”.

Even when all other factors were controlled for, the loneliness gap between the richest and the poorest was significant, suggesting “poverty may also lead to the social exclusion of individuals”, Mavisakalyan said.

Women scored higher than men on social connectedness across all ages, but also reported being lonelier than men, particularly girls under 17 years-old and women older than 65 years-old.

“The figure of up to $2.7 billion AUD per year associated with loneliness provides a strong economic case for investing into initiatives that mitigate loneliness in our society,” Mavisakalyan said. “Participation in activities that create meaningful connection with others and a common purpose should be a priority.”

Unsurprisingly, face-to-face interactions and community participation dropped throughout the pandemic.

That Covid has had an outsize effect on young people “comes out very vividly in our analysis”, Mavisakalyan said.

Worth reading in full.

Austria Poised to Impose Full Lockdown

Shock! The lockdown of the unvaccinated made zero impact on rising case numbers in Austria so now the country is on the brink of imposing a full lockdown – not that that will make the slightest bit of difference either. The Telegraph has more.

Austria could become the first place in Europe to see full Covid lockdowns reintroduced since widespread vaccination campaigns were rolled out as the continent faces a wave of new restrictions amid a winter surge.

The country’s worst-hit provinces said they would adopt the measure for themselves since infections are still rising despite the current controversial lockdown for the unvaccinated.

Roughly 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Its infections are among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people.

As winter approaches, cases have surged across Europe, prompting governments to consider reimposing unpopular lockdowns. The Netherlands has imposed a partial lockdown that applies to all, but Austria has sought not to impose extra restrictions on the fully vaccinated.

Daily infections on Thursday reached a new record of 15,145. The biggest wave before this peaked at 9,586 a year ago, when Austria went into full lockdown. Hospitals in Austria are overloaded and there are unconfirmed reports of bodies being stored in the corridors.

Around Europe, nations are having to take action, including:

* The Netherlands could extend holidays over Christmas to slow a surge in cases among children.
* Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit record highs for the second straight day.
* Belgium has tightened its coronavirus restrictions in a last-ditch effort to avoid a full lockdown.

A German state has been forced to transfer coronavirus patients to Italy.

You can read more news updates on the Telegraph‘s site here.

Stop Press: MailOnline has more about the lockdowns being readied across Europe.

Scotland Urged to Abandon Vaccine Passports After Research Showing Vaccinated Just as Infectious as Unvaccinated

Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney is under pressure to scrap vaccine passports after a new Oxford study found the double-jabbed are just as likely to pass on Covid to unvaccinated people. The Times has more.

The effectiveness of vaccines in curbing transmission – particularly with AstraZeneca doses – wanes over time, according to a study that appears to undermine the reasoning behind new laws requiring proof of vaccination to enter football grounds and nightclubs.

It comes as the Deputy First Minister said customers may now be required to show a negative Covid test as well as a vaccine certificate before being allowed to attend more indoor venues including pubs, restaurants, gyms and cafés.

However, this “theoretical option” has prompted a backlash from pubs and restaurants who claim they face “an avalanche of cancellations” if approved.

Revelations about the reduced effectiveness of vaccines after 12 weeks was highlighted in research led by the Nuffield Department of Medicine, based at the University of Oxford, which co-developed the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It found vaccinated people were almost as infectious as the unvaccinated 12 weeks after their second AstraZeneca jab.

The paper stated: “Transmission reductions declined over time since second vaccination, for Delta reaching similar levels to unvaccinated individuals by 12 weeks for [AstraZeneca] and attenuating substantially for [Pfizer-BioNTech]. Protection from vaccination in contacts also declined in the three months after second vaccination.”

The paper echoes research in the Lancet last month which found “the vaccine effect on reducing transmission is minimal in the context of Delta variant circulation”.

Swinney acknowledged the research but pledged to press on with vaccine passports in clubs and sports stadiums, and continue to consult businesses on expanding them to other settings.

Worth reading in full.

Fully Vaccinated Gibraltar Cancels Christmas Celebrations

Gibraltar has administered enough doses to have fully vaccinated 140% of its population, but has cancelled Christmas celebrations due to a recent, sharp rise in Covid cases. The Government of Gibraltar has released a statement saying it will cancel its own Christmas parties, and that it “strongly advises against” the public holding any festive activities for the next four weeks. Evening Standard has the story.

The small British territory tightened Covid restrictions over the festive period following a spike in cases.

Residents have been urged to limit mixing as much as possible in new guidelines announced last Friday following a rise in cases.

Officials said they should “exercise their own judgement” on whether to hold Christmas events and it “strongly advises against” doing so in the next four weeks while the Covid booster scheme continues.

Gibraltar has seen cases increase with 66 new daily infections reported on average, an equivalent to 52% of its peak in January.

The Rock has administered at least 94,469 vaccine doses so far which is enough to have fully vaccinated 140.2% of the country’s population.

“Given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the Government for example intends to cancel a number of its own functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings,” its Government said in a statement.

“The public, at this stage, are ultimately called upon to exercise their own judgement in this respect bearing in mind the current advice given.”

The advice also refers to the number of people, whether indoors or outdoors, ventilation and whether guests are vaccinated, elderly or vulnerable.

“It will also become necessary at this point to make sure that the use of official premises is carefully scrutinised and where necessary events are postponed to a later date,” it added.

Official guidance advises Gibraltarians to meet in open outdoor spaces where possible, open windows when indoors, wear face masks where required and maintain some distance when greeting.

Face masks are currently required in all shops and supermarkets, on public transport, in medical centres, at indoor funerals and at Gibraltar International Airport.

Worth reading in full.

Novak Djokovic Continues to Support Freedom of Choice and Hide His Vaccination Status

The Australian Open is due to be held in January next year, but the state of Victoria, where the tournament will take place, has declared that unvaccinated players won’t be allowed to compete. However, world number one player Novak Djokovic risks losing the chance to defend the title by refusing to disclose his vaccination status, continuing to publicly support freedom of choice over vaccine passports. The Independent has more.

World number one Novak Djokovic has reiterated his stand about freedom of choice over taking the Covid vaccine as suspense grows over his participation at the Australian Open in January.

Djokovic has repeatedly declined to disclose his vaccination status and said last month that he was unsure if he would defend his title at Melbourne Park, “things being as they are”. Government officials of the state of Victoria, where the major takes place in Melbourne, have said unvaccinated players will be barred from the tournament.

Tennis maverick Nick Kyrgios said on his podcast this week that he was “double-vaxxed” but did not think it was right to force anyone, let alone athletes, to get vaccinated. Responding to the comments from Kyrgios, who has criticised Djokovic on numerous occasions in the past for various reasons, the Serbian said: “that was unexpected knowing what was coming from him towards me in the last couple of years.

“But this time I must agree with him that the freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it’s me or somebody else,” the 34 year-old told reporters in Turin, where he is competing at the season-ending ATP Finals.

“Doesn’t really matter whether it’s vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body.”

Worth reading in full.

Comprehensive Review of Face Mask Studies Finds No Evidence of Benefit

The Cato Institute has published its latest working paper, a critical review of the evidence for face masks to prevent the spread of Covid. Entitled “Evidence for Community Cloth Face Masking to Limit the Spread of SARS‐​CoV‑2: A Critical Review” and written by Ian Liu, Vinay Prasad and Jonathan Darrow, the paper is an admirably thorough and balanced overview of the published evidence on the efficacy of face masks. While even-handedly acknowledging and summarising the studies that show benefit, the authors’ overall conclusion is that: “More than a century after the 1918 influenza pandemic, examination of the efficacy of masks has produced a large volume of mostly low- to moderate-quality evidence that has largely failed to demonstrate their value in most settings.”

At 61 pages in length, however, not everyone will make it through to the end, so here’s a TL;DR, with some key quotes to serve as a handy overview. The paper is, of course, worth reading in full, though.

Here’s the authors’ own summary from the abstract:

The use of cloth facemasks in community settings has become an accepted public policy response to decrease disease transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet evidence of facemask efficacy is based primarily on observational studies that are subject to confounding and on mechanistic studies that rely on surrogate endpoints (such as droplet dispersion) as proxies for disease transmission. The available clinical evidence of facemask efficacy is of low quality and the best available clinical evidence has mostly failed to show efficacy, with fourteen of sixteen identified randomised controlled trials comparing face masks to no mask controls failing to find statistically significant benefit in the intent-to-treat populations. Of sixteen quantitative meta-analyses, eight were equivocal or critical as to whether evidence supports a public recommendation of masks, and the remaining eight supported a public mask intervention on limited evidence primarily on the basis of the precautionary principle. Although weak evidence should not preclude precautionary actions in the face of unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ethical principles require that the strength of the evidence and best estimates of amount of benefit be truthfully communicated to the public.

The authors open by recalling the initial advice on masks from the WHO and others and the pre-Covid evidence it was based on.

Until April 2020, World Health Organization COVID-19 guidelines stated that “[c]loth (e.g. cotton or gauze) masks are not recommended under any circumstance”, which were updated in June 2020 to state that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence”. In the surgical theatre context, a Cochrane review found “no statistically significant difference in infection rates between the masked and unmasked group in any of the trials”. Another Cochrane review, of influenza-like-illness, found “low certainty evidence from nine trials (3,507 participants) that wearing a mask may make little or no difference to the outcome of influenza-like illness (ILI) compared to not wearing a mask (risk ratio 0.99, CI 0.82 to 1.18).”

IPCC Climate Models Keep Failing Because They Don’t Respect Physics

We’re publishing an original piece today by Rudolph Kalveks, a retired executive with a PhD in theoretical physics, about the shortcomings of climate change models. The reason their predictions are so off, according to Dr. Kovacs, is because the modellers don’t know enough about physics. Dr. Kovacs is the author of a series of articles for the Daily Sceptic called “Canaries in the Mine”. (Read the first of those here.) Here is the introduction to his latest piece:

As the media, politicians and climate activists continue to circulate hysterical hot air from the Cop26 conference, the topic of climate change or anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has become an emotional one, increasingly detached from the thoughtful and meticulous process of theory development, calculation and observation that is supposed to characterise scientific endeavour.

It may come as a surprise to some that “The Science”, as expounded in the IPCC Summaries for Policymakers that inform conference participants, is not uncritically accepted by all scientists in the field, and that widely different views are held by a substantial cadre of experienced and eminent researchers. Moreover, a multitude of peer-reviewed papers contradict many aspects of the IPCC’s alarmist narrative. Furthermore, a coherent theory about the impact of changes in greenhouse gases (GHGs) is starting to emerge, one that is built up from the underlying physics, rather than extracted from fanciful computer simulations. My aim here is to highlight some of the relevant papers and to inform any motivated layman who wishes to explore outside the dogmatic strictures of the mainstream narrative.

Worth reading in full.