Day: 30 December 2021

News Round-Up

EFL Stops Match-Day Testing to Prevent Fixture Disruption

The English Football League (EFL), which is composed of all professional football clubs in the Championship, League One, and League Two, has announced that match-day testing will be stopped in order to limit the impact of fixture disruption, which has become a potent problem over the festive period. After receiving advice from medical experts, the EFL will now only conduct match-day tests on players if they express symptoms. The Times has the story.

The EFL has scrapped match-day testing for Covid in an attempt to limit fixture disruption for clubs and supporters.

The decision has been taken after consultation with medical advisers after it became clear that the existing requirement was causing concern and uncertainty at clubs as well as affecting fans.

Cancellations of matches due to the combination of Covid and injuries have been widespread throughout the EFL, with last-minute postponements bringing practical and financial challenges.

Over the past week, EFL chiefs have sought advice from medics and have now decided to remove match-day testing, other than for any symptomatic individuals. Correspondence to clubs was circulated yesterday.

The approach is supported by the league’s board, executive and a significant number of club doctors and fits with the EFL’s commitment to play matches. They insist the health and safety of players is not being compromised.

The decision was also taken in the knowledge that players are effectively in a bubble leading up to a game and, for example, may be with the team in a hotel. They are not out socialising.

An EFL spokesman said: “Over the past week, it has become clear that the requirement for match-day testing has caused significant concern and uncertainty at clubs as well as seriously affecting the supporters of those teams.

“As a result, the League revisited the matter with its Medical Advisors and after careful consideration, which included dialogue with a significant number of club doctors, it was determined that the requirement for matchday testing would be removed, except for those individuals who display Covid symptoms.

Worth reading in full.

Catching Omicron May Protect Against Delta

Catching the Omicron variant of Covid may also help people fend off Delta, new research suggests. MailOnline has more.

Academics took blood samples from people struck down with the ultra-infectious variant and measured their antibody levels. They then looked at how well the virus-fighting proteins reacted to both Omicron and Delta.

Lab tests, conducted two weeks after patients joined the study, showed antibody levels spiked 14-fold in response to Omicron.

But there was also a 4.4-fold increase against Delta, according to the findings which took the researchers by surprise.

Other studies delving into the topic of cross-variant immunity showed antibodies made in response to Delta reacted poorly to Omicron.

Professor Alex Sigal, a virologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa who led the research, said it suggested Omicron could usher in the endemic phase of the pandemic.

He said: “The increase in neutralising immunity against Omicron was expected, that is the virus these individuals were infected with.

“However, we also saw that the same people – especially those who were vaccinated – developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.”

Professor Sigal added: “If, as it currently looks like from the South African experience, Omicron is less pathogenic, then this will help push Delta out.”

He said this was because it should “decrease the likelihood someone infected with Omicron will get re-infected with Delta”.

“If that is true, then the disruption Covid has caused in our lives may become less,” Professor Sigal continued.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Three-quarters of people in the U.K. with Cold-like symptoms are likely to have Covid, according to a new Zoe Covid study. The Guardian has more.

Unvaccinated Sports Stars Now Unable to Play in Italy

Italy has introduced a mandatory vaccination requirement for all outdoor sports competitors, with those entering the country to play in international tournaments also subjected to the same rules. This would mean that any unjabbed English rugby player will be excluded from the squad, which is due to play Italy in the Six Nations on February 13th. MailOnline has more.

Italy has joined France in making vaccination compulsory for anyone wanting to play outdoor team sports, meaning Premier League players will need to be jabbed in order to move to Serie A this January. 

The Italian Government met this week to implement urgent changes to its Covid restrictions, with every sportsperson in the country, from the professional game to the amateur divisions, needing a ‘Green Pass’ in order to take part.

The ‘Green Pass’ is given out 15 days after a person has been vaccinated for the first time, with the Covid passport-style document also needed to enter swimming pools, festivals, religious buildings, hotels and public transport.

It is unlikely to affect Italy’s top football division as it was revealed earlier this month that 98% of all Serie A footballers are double-jabbed in a league that has been unaffected by the Omicron variant so far.

It is not known how many Liverpool players are vaccinated, though the Premier League did reveal that 16% of top-flight footballers are yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been fully supportive of players getting vaccinated and claimed earlier this month that the club would not be signing any new players who have not had both doses. 

“I think it (being vaccinated) will be influential, definitely, in who clubs sign,” said the Liverpool manager. “If a player is not vaccinated at all, he is a constant threat for all of us.

“He doesn’t want to be a threat, it’s not that he thinks ‘I don’t care about the others’ but he is.”

Meanwhile, the England rugby team go to Italy on February 13th for their Six Nations clash, so any players who are not jabbed will be banned from playing. 

The new restrictions, which will begin on January 6 when Serie A resumes after its winter break, also affect the fans, who will need a ‘Green Pass’ in order to enter stadia at any level. 

Those sports stars who are double-jabbed will also be exempt from any quarantine rules, but are advised to wear a mask for up to a week after their arrival. 

Worth reading in full.

Australian Medical Experts Say Three Booster Jabs Should Be Administered A Year

Analysing data on the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs provided by the U.K Health Security Agency (UKHSA), some Australian medical experts have said that three annual booster jabs will be needed for the foreseeable future. For example, Jaya Dantas, a Professor of International Health, declared that “it appears that there might be a need for regular boosters”. The Guardian has the story.

Australians may have to receive two or even three Covid jabs each year to maintain defences against the virus if early results on the efficacy of booster shots turn out to be a useful guide.

Weekly data published just before Christmas by the U.K.’s Health Security Agency shows the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna boosters against symptomatic diseases is lower for the Omicron than the Delta variant across all periods after the injection.

The analysis included 147,597 Delta and 68,489 Omicron cases in the U.K. The agency stressed the “results should be interpreted with caution due to the low counts and the possible biases related to the populations with highest exposure to Omicron (including travellers and their close contacts) which cannot fully be accounted for”.

The U.K. data showed both Pfizer and Moderna boosters had 90% effectiveness against symptomatic diseases from the Delta variant up to at least nine weeks.

By contrast, efficacy against the Omicron strain was about 30% lower, and appeared to drop away further after nine weeks.

Israel has already begun administering a second booster dose to follow the original three-dose treatment, and at least one U.S. medical centre is considering recommending staff have a second booster.

Medical experts in Australia said results beyond the 12-week dataset would be needed to get a longer term picture.

Jaya Dantas, a Professor of International Health at Curtin University, said it was still early days for the understanding of the efficacy of the vaccinations but “it appears that there might be a need for regular boosters”.

“You might need boosters, say maybe two a year or three a year,” Dantas said, with elderly people more likely to be in line for a triple annual dose…

Michael Lydeamore, an infectious disease modeller at Monash University, said it was reassuring from the U.K. study that “no matter what your initial first two vaccine doses were – so either AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna – you get basically the same protection” from the Pfizer or Moderna booster.

“That’s really important, because we know the AstraZeneca protection is a bit lower to start with than Pfizer,” Lydeamore said “But both go up to about the same level after a booster, so that’s really good.”

Worth reading in full.

Case Rates Are Currently Highest in the Most Vaccinated US States

In the US, Southern states have the lowest vaccination rates, while North Eastern states have the highest vaccination rates. This pattern appears to be largely down to partisanship: Republicans are less likely to be vaccinated than Democrats.

At the end of August, when the Delta variant was dominant, case rates were highest in Southern states like Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Meanwhile, they remained low in North Eastern states like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. This is shown in the map below, which gives the official case curve for each state up to 26 December:

The much higher case rates in the South seemed to provide evidence that the vaccines stop infection (in addition to protecting against serious illness and death). Hence, it was believed, vaccine passports will help to curb transmission.

Fast forward three months, and the situation is rather different. Infections are now surging in the North East. This has led to the somewhat peculiar situation whereby case rates are highest in some of the most vaccinated states. See the chart below, based on data from the CDC:

U.S. Government Drops Requirement to Test at End of Self-Isolation Because PCR Tests Produce So Many False Positives

The U.S. CDC has finally acknowledged that PCR tests produce false or cold positives following infection and dropped the requirement to be tested at the end of self-isolation, bringing American practice in line with the U.K.’s. ABC News has the story.

The newly updated CDC guidelines don’t require testing at the end of isolation because PCR tests can stay positive for up to 12 weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “Good Morning America” Wednesday.

“So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs,” Walensky said.

What’s baffling is that this is only now being acknowledged, when it has been a known issue since the beginning of the pandemic. How many people have had to remain isolated as PCRs have kept coming back positive? How much has this unnecessary isolation cost them and the wider economy?

This is tantamount to an admission by the CDC of gross incompetence, as the agency doesn’t even claim anything has changed or been newly discovered. Its experts either knew this information previously and didn’t act on it or didn’t know and have only just come across it even though it’s been highlighted as an issue for over 18 months. Either way, it is incompetence.

Is Tony Blair the Real Idiot Here?

There follows a guest post by retired dentist Dr. Mark Shaw, who is unimpressed with former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent pillorying of the unvaccinated.

Tony Blair was quoted recently as saying: “If you’re not vaccinated at the moment you’re not just irresponsible, you’re an idiot.”

Before the Covid vaccine was rolled out PHE published data that showed those aged 80 years or over were seventy times more likely to die than those under 40. Earlier this year, before young adults and children were vaccinated, the JVCI said that the incidence of severe outcomes from Covid in children and young people was very low and that Covid disease in children was typically mild or asymptomatic. COVID-19 has killed fewer children than seasonal flu in a normal year according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data was clear even in 2020 that if you were under 50 and in good health your risk of serious harm or death from the disease was vanishingly small.

For valid consent to be obtained for vaccination, not only would it be necessary to have a good perspective of Covid risk for that particular individual, it would also be essential to know whether naturally acquired immunity conferred as good or better protection and if remaining unvaccinated increased the risk to others. A former vaccine taskforce chief and many scientists involved in the Covid vaccine manufacture have stated that they were never designed to end transmission and this has now become clear for all to see. A recent Danish study confirms natural immunity is better.

For the above reasons it was refreshing to hear the Japanese Government declare: “Do not discriminate against the unvaccinated.”

Why Have Our Points Landed After All?

We’re publishing a guest post today by Dr. David McGrogan, a Professor at Northumbria Law School, about why the consensus in favour of Covid Restrictions seems to have collapsed almost overnight. David wrote a piece last January entitled “The Failed Strategy of Lockdown Sceptics: We Appealed to Reason, Not Emotion” which gave rise to a long-running debate on the right-hand menu (“Why Have Our Points Failed to Land?”). But almost a year later, our points are landing like Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy. Or are they? Here is an extract.

Since it’s mostly just about feelings, does this mean that the efforts of Toby, Lord Sumption, Peter Hitchens, Neil Oliver, Brendan O’Neill and the like have had no effect at all? Would the madness all have ended in the fullness of time anyway?

I’m not so sure. Milton Friedman once said that he thought his basic function was to “develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.” In other words, yes, public opinion is led by emotion, but this makes it fickle. It can shift, and shift quickly. The trick is to make sure that, when this happens, it is your ideas that are the ones “lying around” (to use Milton’s phrase) for them to seize up.

People in other words, will increasingly start to feel that this lockdown nonsense has to stop. As they do, they will start to look for evidence and arguments to support that view. Thanks to the efforts of Toby and those like him, they will find a huge wealth of this in the public domain. Lockdown sceptics, in other words, probably haven’t been very persuasive or influential when it comes to the broad swathe of the population. But that hasn’t been the point. We’ve been keeping the alternative view alive, so that when eventually public opinion shifts, it is our ideas that they will pick up, and which will increasingly therefore begin to drive the agenda.

Worth reading in full.

We Need More CO2 In The Atmosphere, Not Less

We’re publishing a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison questioning whether rising CO2 levels really will lead to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. Should we instead be worrying about the risks of falling levels of CO2?

Phew what a relief – along came humans just in time to rescue planet Earth by releasing a portion of carbon sequestered in the ground to finally put the brake on the carbon dioxide famine that was threatening to wipe out all living life forms.

Implausible? Well, the hypothesis is unproven, although it is promoted by many eminent scientists. But then the suggestion that small increases in atmospheric CO2 are leading to runaway global heating and climate breakdown is also an unproven scientific hypothesis supported by many eminent scientists.

What is certain is that the science is not yet settled, despite the increasingly successful efforts of neo-Marxist green activists, useful idiot journalists, here today-gone tomorrow politicians and grant-hungry, self-identifying ‘scientists’ to whip up a ‘climate emergency’ that can only be addressed by a massive increase in state intervention, control and power.

Earlier this year Steven Koonin, an Under-Secretary of Science in the Obama Administration, published a book titled Unsettled in which he noted that “the science is insufficient to make useful projections about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what our actions will have on it”.

He also noted that “rigidly promulgating the idea that climate change is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head on.”