Day: 4 December 2021

News Round-Up

A special bonus video of Boris getting his Booster jab. Enjoy.

Anti-Lockdown Protests Erupt in York, Austria and the Netherlands

Thousands of anti-lockdown protestors have descended on the streets of York, Austria and the Netherlands as new Covid restrictions are imposed across Europe in response to the (seemingly harmless) Omicron variant. MailOnline has more.

No one has died with the new super mutant Omicron Covid variant despite the strain being spotted in 38 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed.

But world leaders have been implementing extra measures including large fines to encourage populations to get fully vaccinated.

In Austria, unvaccinated people who breach lockdown rules – which have been extended to December 11th – face fines of up to €500. Anyone refusing to comply with vaccination status checks could be fined up to €1,450.

In Vienna, thousands protested on Saturday against restrictions on public life designed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in York for a so-called ‘freedom protest’ and took part in musical performances in front of York Minster.

Meanwhile, several thousand people gathered in the central Dutch town of Utrecht on Saturday to criticise new coronavirus restrictions that came into force last weekend.

Protesters walked through the streets carrying banners saying “Medical Freedom Now!” and waving Dutch flags. A heavy police presence was visible along the route of the march.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Government has announced that all travellers to Britain will need to take a lateral flow or PCR Covid test 48 hours before departure from Tuesday. This is in spite of Grant Shapps ruling out pre-departure PCR tests yesterday. MailOnline has more.

Metropolitan Police Considering Labour MPs’ Complaint About Downing Street Christmas Party

The Metropolitan Police is weighing up whether to investigate “retrospective breaches” of Covid laws amid calls for an investigation of a No 10 Christmas party held during 2020’s restrictions. BBC News has more.

The party took place on December 18th, with a source telling the BBC that “several dozen” people attended.

However, Covid restrictions in place at the time banned such events.

The PM, who was not at the party, said no Covid rules were broken but No 10 has not said how party-goers complied.

A source who attended the event told the BBC that party games were played, food and drink were served, and the party went on past midnight.

The Mirror newspaper, which was the first to report the claims, also said Boris Johnson gave a speech at a “packed leaving do” for an aide on November 27th, when the country was in its second lockdown and socialising was banned.

Writing separately to Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Friday, Labour MPs Neil Coyle and Barry Gardiner called for a full investigation into whether or not any laws had been broken.

Sharing his letter on Twitter, Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey and Southwark, in south London, said from reading the guidance, he believed “holding these events was a breach of the rules at the time”.

He said: “Like most constituents, I followed the rules and did not see my own dad last Christmas and, sadly, it was to be his last.

“The sense of outrage from constituents is palpable that they followed the rules whilst those responsible for devising and enforcing them were breaching them at the top of Government.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian has the same story on its live Coronavirus blog.

In the U.K., the Metropolitan Police have said they are considering complaints from Labour MPs that Boris Johnson and his No 10 staff held Christmas parties in breach of Covid regulations.

Labour backbenchers Neil Coyle and Barry Gardiner have each written to Scotland Yard asking police to investigate reports that two parties were held in the run-up to last Christmas at a time when such gatherings were banned.

Johnson has not denied the events took place but said no rules were broken – although he has repeatedly refused to explain how that could be the case.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said that while it did not routinely investigate “retrospective” breaches of the Covid regulations, it was considering the correspondence it had received.

On Wednesday, the Daily Mirror reported the prime minister gave a speech at a packed leaving-do for a senior aide last November when the country was in the midst of the second lockdown.

Only Half of Excess Deaths in England and Wales Since July Linked to Covid

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that 22,000 excess deaths have occurred in England and Wales since the beginning of July, with 56% of the total figure (roughly 12,000) being linked to Covid. However, in some parts of England, Covid has been held responsible for causing only one in five excess deaths, with the Head of Mortality Analysis at the ONS saying that “health service disruption” may have played a key role in bringing this about. The Telegraph has the story.

As few as one in five excess deaths in parts of England can be attributed to Covid, official figures show.

Since the start of July, 22,542 more deaths than usual for this time of year have been recorded across England and Wales.  

Of these deaths just 12,551, about 56%, have been linked to coronavirus, according to the ONS.

However, this figure drops to 19% in West Berkshire, where just 17 of the 90 excess deaths listed Covid as an underlying cause.

Other areas, mainly in the South West and South East of England, have seen just one in three deaths above average linked to Covid, including Somerset, Torbay, Dorset and Herefordshire.

In previous waves, almost all excess deaths could broadly be explained by Covid.

Some 59,324 excess deaths were recorded between March 13th and June 20th last year. In 81% of these, Covid was an underlying cause.

And between September 4th and March 5th this year, there were more Covid deaths than excess deaths. This trend was due to lockdowns offsetting other illnesses common over the winter, including flu.

The reverse in this trend in this most recent wave comes as England and Wales saw its 87th consecutive week of excess deaths in the home.

Since the start of the pandemic, over 78,000 more people than usual have died in a private residence, contributing to more than half of the 125,494 excess deaths recorded across all settings.

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, says reasons for this may include “health service disruption” or “people staying at home rather than being admitted to other settings for end-of-life care”.

Worth reading in full.

New Covid Variant Hits South Park

The TV show South Park has inserted a new Covid variant into its animated universe called the Covid Delta Plus Rewards Programme variant. As expected, word of a new variant spreads through the town like wildfire, and the hysterical residents (of which there are many) immediately begin panicking by bulk buying toilet paper and firing up Zoom for remote work/learning.

Fraudsters Steal £5 Billion By Exploiting Lockdown Loan Scheme

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), fraudsters heavily exploited the Covid Bounce Back Loan scheme, implemented by the Government to help small and medium-sized businesses survive the impact of lockdown restrictions. The project cost roughly £47 billion, with fraudsters pocketing £4.9 billion, or 11% of the total figure. RT has the story.

Established during the pandemic, the scheme offered loans of up to £50,000 to small and medium-sized businesses to help them cope with and recover from the pandemic. Having now closed, it handed out 1.5 million loans to a quarter of U.K. businesses, totalling around £47 billion.

An investigation by the NAO has discovered that “high levels of estimated fraud” was carried out by criminals after anti-fraud measures were “implemented too slowly“.

Out of the loans handed out, 11% have been deemed to be fraudulent, as of March, costing the U.K. Government nearly £4.9 billion.

“The true level of fraud will become clearer over time,” Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, stated, adding “it is clear Government needs to improve on its identification, quantification and recovery of fraudulent loans within the scheme“.

The NAO’s assessment warns the U.K. Government that more than a third of the loans, valued at £17 billion, might never be repaid due to both a combination of criminals fraudulently claiming money and businesses defaulting on their debt.

Worth reading in full.

UKHSA Efficacy Stats Death Watch: Week 48

We’re republishing a post this morning by the German Substacker who calls himself ‘Eugyppius’. Looks like he’s been kicked off Twitter – shock! You can subscribe to his Substack email newsletter here.

Not much has changed in the UKHSA Week 48 Covid vaccine surveillance report. Cases by vaccination status:

We see continued improvement in infection rates in the 80+ vaccinated cohort, extending to the those in their 70s as well. This is very likely down to the booster campaign, and it’s more or less what we’d have expected: the vaccines provide protection that after some months appears to decay to the point of negative efficacy. The boosters then bring you back into positive territory, for a time. 

Of course the offending numbers are still greyed out:

While UKHSA objections to the reliability of the relative rates apply to every second column reporting “rates among persons not vaccinated”, you’ll notice they only grey out the statistics that are unfavourable to the vaccines. The other columns, which according to their own arguments are equally unreliable, can be printed in ordinary typeface. 

The new 60-day death rate by vaccination status also shows a slight improvement in the vaccinated 80+ bracket. They’re now doing slightly better than unvaccinated 70 year-olds: 

Finally, the death numbers: