Day: 21 November 2021

News Round-Up

Stop Press: Funny video in which someone with a Welsh accent has dubbed over Sajid Javid’s comments on Marr.

Poll Finds That 58% of the British Public Back Vaccine Passports

According to a recent poll, if the Government were to introduce ‘Plan B’ restrictions, 58% of the British public would support vaccine passport measures that would prohibit the unvaccinated from attending certain venues, such as restaurants. In addition, 33% back an Austria-style lockdown of the unvaccinated. The Sunday Times has the story.

Perhaps the real question is: has Britain made up its mind? For all the talk of ‘following the data’, Covid curbs are political decisions. And there is growing evidence that tougher Covid rules would not sit comfortably with the public.

At the start of the pandemic just 13% of people would rather protect the economy than limit the spread of the virus. By last week that was 36%.

At the same time, the number wanting to limit the spread has fallen from 74% to 42%. Despite weeks of headlines of NHS pressures, the gap between the two has shrunk since September.

“As Europe brings in Covid restrictions and some argue for the U.K. to follow, the British public are responding with something of a shrug and are broadly content with the status quo,” said James Johnson, who carried out the polling for Kekst CNC.

If Johnson did decide to introduce ‘Plan B’, it might not be unpopular: 58% would support banning unvaccinated people from bars, restaurants and other public venues unless they had a negative test. Yet Britain would draw the line at Austria-style measures, with just 33% wanting to lock down the unjabbed.

Amid rising European rates, the British public remains optimistic: 48% expect the NHS to cope well this winter, compared with 41% who say it will do badly. That could change if admissions surge, but with each booster shot, a winter of discontent becomes less likely.

Worth reading in full.

Directory of Businesses Against Vaccine Passports

Anna Brees, the former BBC journalist and alt media personality, has helped to create a directory of businesses in the U.K. and Ireland opposed to vaccine passports. It’s very easy to use – you just type in your postcode and it brings up a list of businesses near you that are opposed to the introduction of a Covid certification scheme. If you’re a business owner, you can also ask to be included in the directory.

Cinema & Co., the Welsh independent movie theatre that has been ordered to close because it refuses to exclude customers who haven’t been vaccinated, has now raised over £56,000 via a crowdfunder.

Stop Press: The Australian division of ALDI, the German supermarket chain, has sent a letter to all its employees telling them they’ll be fired if they’re not double jabbed by March 1st 2022. Only a matter of time before ALDI does the same in the U.K.?

Government Inquiry Launched Into PPE Supplier Accused of Forced Labour

The Malaysian-based company Supermax, which was handed a £316 million contract to manufacture nearly 90 million rubber gloves for the NHS at the start of the pandemic, is under Government investigation after concerns that the business uses forced labour at its manufacturing plants. Last month, the U.S. banned Supermax imports after a similar inquiry concluded that modern slavery was involved in the making of rubber gloves. The Guardian has the story.

Officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are investigating Supermax, which won a £316 million contract for 88.5 million rubber gloves as the Covid pandemic began to unfold.

Last month the U.S. forbade the Malaysian company from selling its products there after an inquiry found “ample evidence” that it had used forced labour in the manufacture of its rubber gloves. Customs officers were told to seize any disposable gloves made by Supermax as part of a Government order banning the import into the U.S. of any goods made by forced labour.

The U.K. Government has instigated its own inquiry after Jeremy Purvis, a Liberal Democrat peer, demanded scrutiny of Supermax and action to ensure that products made using modern slavery are not used in Britain.

Rubber glove manufacturers in Malaysia have been accused of forcing employees to work long hours, confiscating staff’s passports, paying them derisory sums and ignoring Covid safety protocols in cramped manufacturing sites. Last year Supermax workers claimed they had to work 30 days in a row without a break and had paid high fees in their home countries to get the jobs. The company denied the allegations.

Speaking in the House of Lords on October 21st, a day after U.S. Customs and Border Protection adopted its tough stance, Lord Purvis asked the BEIS minister Gerry Grimstone: “Will the minister instruct an urgent inquiry to ensure that we are not using these products, which are a result of modern slavery in Malaysia?”

Lord Grimstone replied: “I will ensure that that particular company is looked at by my officials.”

Asked by the Guardian for details of the inquiry, a Government spokesperson said: “We take allegations of this nature very seriously and we are investigating the claims made against Supermax. We have made strong commitments to eradicate modern slavery from all contracts in the government supply chain.”

The Government made clear that the investigation could lead to Supermax being banned from supplying the NHS. “A proper due diligence process is carried out for all government contracts and our suppliers are required to follow the highest legal and ethical standards. If they fail to do so we will remove them from current and future contracts,” the spokesperson said.

Sajid Javid Rules Out ‘Plan B’ – For Now

Sajid Javid has said that the Government does not need to trigger ‘Plan B’, which would see the return of mask mandates and the introduction of vaccine passports for certain venues, but instead urged members of the public to take up the offer of a booster jab so the country can “look forward to Christmas together”. However, the Health Secretary insisted that the Government will “take further measures” and implement ‘Plan B’ if it needed to. MailOnline has the story.

The Health Secretary said that the country is “not at that point” of needing restrictions to be re-imposed. 

But he said “if we needed to take further measures with ‘Plan B’ then we would do so” as he stressed the Government is “not complacent in any way”.

Bookings for Covid booster jabs are opening this week for people aged 40 years-old and over. 

Ministers have faced fresh questions over whether they will push the button on ‘Plan B’ after a Covid surge across Europe prompted some countries to return to lockdown measures. 

The Netherlands has confirmed a three-week partial lockdown while Austria is set to impose a lockdown on unvaccinated people.

A further 40,941 Covid cases were confirmed in the UK as of yesterday morning while a further 150 people had died within 28 days of testing positive. 

The Government’s ‘Plan A’ for tackling Covid is to rely on the vaccination programme and testing to limit the spread of the disease. 

‘Plan B’ would see vaccine passports required for attending certain events and the return of face masks being compulsory in certain settings.            

Javid was asked during an interview on Sky News this morning if people should brace themselves for a return of restrictions before Christmas. 

The Health Secretary said: “As we all look forward to Christmas, it is very sad to see cases rising, surging, in certain parts of Europe.

“We have always known that this virus, it loves the winter, it likes the cold, darker days that winter brings and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves against that.

“What has made a real difference here in the UK is our booster programme, our hugely successful booster programme.

“Almost 15 million booster jabs given already, covering some quarter of the population over the age of 12 years-old, almost 400,000 a day across the U.K.

“That is making the difference and we know that because just this week there was more data published after more studies that shows that the protection you get from your booster… it almost doubles from 50% to over 90%

“I will be extending the booster programme starting tomorrow to 40 to 49 year-olds.

“But we have all got a role to play in this, in our national vaccination programme and if you are eligible, whether it is your first shot, second shot or your third shot, please come forward and let’s look forward to Christmas together.”

Worth reading in full.

Europe Erupts in Second Night of Violent Anti-Lockdown Protests

Europe descended into a second night of carnage on Saturday amid the return of strict lockdown rules across the Continent. MailOnline has more.

Thousands of people took to Amsterdam’s central Dam Square and the Hague on Saturday, a day after the “orgy of violence” during the Rotterdam riots that saw seven people injured. Police said seven arrests were made on Sunday after youths set streets ablaze and shot fireworks at officers.

Video footage from the Hague showed motorists sounding their horns in support as a trio of small explosions could be clearly seen on the main road in the background. Elsewhere, protestors were pictured ripping down street signs in chaotic scenes.

Anti-riot police were forced to clear the wreckage of smouldering scooters and burnt-out bicycles that were torched by the anti-vax mob and left to block roads in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country since Covid restrictions were first implemented.

Meanwhile, similar demonstrations against virus restrictions also took place in Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Northern Ireland, Austria and North Macedonia on Saturday, a day after Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in Rotterdam.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: a Crowd of anti-vaccine passport protestors gathered outside the Austrian Embassy in London last night,

Will the U.K. Face a Winter Covid Surge?

I’m slightly surprised to be writing this post as to my mind the answer is obvious – of course the U.K. will face a winter Covid surge. It’s winter. That’s what happens in winter; the dominant respiratory virus surges and, most years, taxes the capacity of the health service. The only question is how big it will be – unusually large like 2020-21, or unusually small like 2019-2020 before Covid hit? It’s worth remembering that more people died in England and Wales per head of population in 2008 (once adjusted for age etc.) and every year prior to it than died in 2020 or 2021, many of them succumbing during the winter flu season, as the chart below from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries shows. In other words, there’s a winter surge in deaths-by-virus every year, and I see no reason why 2021-22 will be any different.

Standardised mortality rates (SMRs) in England and Wales

As I see it, the only realistic way there would not be a Covid surge on some scale is if another influenza-like virus takes over, which seems unlikely right now as flu is almost nowhere to be seen.

Nonetheless, I am writing this post, and that’s because some people seem to think that this year it’s not going to happen. Dr Sebastian Rushworth argues that places hit hard already, such as Sweden, New York and Lombardy, have developed enough immunity to avoid “another big wave” altogether. Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph maintains that owing to “infection saturation” and vaccine third doses, “for us, the Covid crisis is over”. Even the usual doom-mongers at SAGE are predicting a decline in hospitalisations and deaths in December, according to new modelling released on Friday. A decline in flu-like hospitalisations and deaths in December? Whoever heard of such a thing?

I freely admit that the winter surge may, because of acquired immunity, be relatively small in places like the U.K. which have already faced widespread exposure. Perhaps that’s all that Sebastian Rushworth and Andrew Lilico mean, and in which case our positions are not so far apart. But will it really be a non-event, as SAGE at least appears to be implying, so that Covid deaths decline during the winter and don’t put any further pressure on the health service?

Narcissistic Gnosticism: A 21st Century Political Religion

We’re publishing an original essay today by Daily Sceptic regular James Alexander, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey, about the new religious cult that has captured huge swathes of the world’s population: ‘Narcissistic Gnosticism’. Here is an extract:

Narcissism concerns our fear of death, our desire to live, our awkwardness about our bodies, our fear of commitment, our preoccupation with appearing to be what we want ourselves to be, and our veneration of celebrity; it finds its symbolic poles in the objective surface world of television and the subjective inner world requiring therapy. Lasch observed its rise in the 1960s. The narcissist oscillates between the possibility of objective fame and the certainty of inner emptiness. An oscillation which has only swung wider and wider as social media and smart phones, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok, have all encouraged everyone to externalise their own narcissism so that they ape celebrity status and publicise their own continual attempts at therapy. When academics post pictures of themselves with slogans like “I am against authority but I took the vaccine” or write blogs about Heidegger and ‘Long Covid’ we know we are in greater trouble than even Lasch could have anticipated.

Gnosticism is older. It is necessary to briefly refer to the antique gnosticism of the second century, which was a doctrine opposed to, and sometimes confused with, Christianity. It postulated that the world had suffered a catastrophe, that matter was corruption, that the body was corrupt, and that salvation took the form of a secret doctrine, an esoteric truth which was accessible only to an elite. This was an antique doctrine. But Voegelin used the word gnosticism to explain a medley of modern ideologies, including communism and fascism. By modern gnosticism he meant the view that the world is flawed, that some sort of obscure absolute truth exists which can enable us to remove the flaw, and that if we hold this truth then we can be spared responsibility for the flaw, that we can blame others for it, and that we can save ourselves through our own efforts. Spirit can be renewed if we liberate it from material constraints. Reason is no part of this picture. Voegelin spoke of “a purported direct, immediate apprehension or vision of truth without the need for critical reflection; the special gift of a spiritual or cognitive elite”. Most of our activist politics is now based on such a vision, and this vision is necessarily an elite vision.

We are all, most of us, many of us, narcissists. Only some of us are gnostics. But the gnostic elite has managed to convert a significant part of the narcissistic mass to its politics.

Worth reading in full.