Day: 2 January 2022

No Need for New Restrictions, Says Government Minister

Current Covid data does not indicate a need for new restrictions, a Cabinet minister has said. The Telegraph has more.

Steve Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, indicated that stricter controls were unlikely to be introduced in the coming days, based on the latest hospitalisation and case figures.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson is set to review the Plan B measures brought in last month, including rules mandating masks in almost all indoor public settings and requiring Covid passports for nightclubs and large events.

Government sources told the Telegraph last week that they were not expecting to repeal any of the Plan B restrictions yet, with adults in England set to be told to continue working from home if possible. The measures are set to roll over to the next review point on Jan 26th.

Senior Tories on Sunday said Plan B must not become a new normal, warning Mr Johnson that the Government must push to “get back to Plan A”.

Mr Barclay’s comments come as daily reported infections in England drop by 24% overnight, to 123,547 on January 2nd down from 162,572 on January 1st. Even taking into account it being a Sunday, when there are usually fewer infections reported, it is a considerable drop.

U.K. Temperatures Defy the Doomsday Climate Models and Fail to Rise for 10 Years, Met Office Data Shows

There follows a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison on the latest U.K mean temperature data from the Met Office, where reality is letting the climate doomsters down.

Temperatures across the U.K. have barely moved for over a decade compared to the latest 30-year average. The Met Office has, belatedly, dropped the 1980s from its trend line (unbroken red on graph above) and added in data from the 2010s. As the graph shows, the move helps highlight the flatlining trend that has been evident for some time.

Across the planet, warming ran out of steam some time ago. Both surface and satellite data show no warming for over seven years. In the U.K., last year was 0.34°C colder than 2020 and the coldest year since 2015. The 2010s were colder than the 2000s. In central England, the year was as cool as 1733, 1779 and 1779. This sort of inconvenient data has led the Met Office and most mainstream media to focus on individual weather events. They have promoted the idea that such events suggest humans are changing the climate by burning fossil fuel.

In fact surface records such as those collated by the Met Office could be over-stating temperatures by recording growing urban heat distortions. The Met Office often refers to the temperature at Heathrow airport, while some “records” have come from within cities that have grown substantially over recent times

Yesterday both the Met Office and the BBC were running some climate change guff about two warm winter days. Such stories are given considerable prominence across the BBC, while the recent news about the coldest six month winter on record at the South Pole was ignored. In his recent book Unsettled, Steven Koonin, an Energy Under-Secretary of Science in the Obama Administration, was particularly contemptuous of promoting individual weather events to make political points. Weather, he shouldn’t have needed noting, is not climate.

Because actual temperatures are not playing ball with the Net Zero political agenda, almost all discussion of the subject surrounds the guesses made by always wrong climate models. Many of these forecast dramatic and sudden hikes between 3°C to 6°C in the near future, despite temperatures only rising 1.1C since about 1820. In 2019, the Guardian doubled down on climate change by favouring the term “climate heating” over “global warming”. Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner noted: “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise”. Announcing the move, the Guardian quoted Professor Richard Betts from the Met Office who claimed, “global heating was a more accurate term  than global warming to describe the changes taking place in the world’s climate”. Other housekeeping duties announced by the newspaper included updating the term “climate sceptic” to “climate science denier”.

Despite the immense efforts made to disguise current temperature trends, it will be interesting to see how long the Net Zero political project can survive actual Net Zero global warming, sorry heating.

“Lockdowns Aren’t a Public Health Policy. They Signify a Failure of Public Health Policy,” Says Leading Epidemiologist

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an expert on infectious diseases at Edinburgh University, has a new book out, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir, in which he blasts lockdowns as morally wrong and highly damaging. He writes:

We did serious harm to our children and young adults who were robbed of their education, jobs and normal existence, as well as suffering damage to their future prospects, while they were left to inherit a record-breaking mountain of public debt. All this to protect the NHS from a disease that is a far, far greater threat to the elderly, frail and infirm than to the young and healthy.

The Observer has run a feature on the book this morning.

There was a distinctive moment, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, that neatly encapsulated the mistakes and confusion of Britain’s early efforts to tackle the disease, says Mark Woolhouse. At a No 10 briefing in March 2020, cabinet minister Michael Gove warned the virus did not discriminate. “Everyone is at risk,” he announced.

And nothing could be further from the truth, argues Professor Woolhouse, an expert on infectious diseases at Edinburgh University. “I am afraid Gove’s statement was simply not true,” he says. “In fact, this is a very discriminatory virus. Some people are much more at risk from it than others. People over 75 are an astonishing 10,000 times more at risk than those who are under 15.”

And it was this failure to understand the wide variations in individual responses to COVID-19 that led to Britain’s flawed responses to the disease’s appearance, he argues – errors that included the imposition of a long-lasting, national lockdown. This is a strategy that Woolhouse – one of the country’s leading epidemiologists – describes as morally wrong and highly damaging in his forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir. …

“We were mesmerised by the once-in-a-century scale of the emergency and succeeded only in making a crisis even worse. In short, we panicked. This was an epidemic crying out for a precision public health approach and it got the opposite.”

Prof Woolhouse argues that largely voluntary behaviour changes, as in Sweden, would have been sufficient to limit the impact. But we instead went for an enforced lockdown, in part because because modern technology made it possible.

Letter From a Teacher to the Conservative Party About Mask Mandates in Classrooms

A teacher forwarded this letter he wrote after he read about the decision to make masks compulsory in lessons for all children in English secondary schools. He sent it to the Chairman of his local Conservative Party Association. I’m sure he speaks for many Conservative members this morning.

Dear XXXXX,

If you could forward this to the relevant person, I would be very grateful.

I have always voted Conservative and I have also previously donated but I will never do either again.

This reintroduction of masks in classrooms is the last straw. I simply can’t see any future in which this doesn’t become an annual event, if you believe current conditions require it. As a teacher, I find this intolerable. Our pupils often leave home a little after 7 in the morning to travel by bus and return after 5pm. The winter weather does not often make it desirable to go outside. They will therefore have to wear these things for ten hours at a time, almost continuously. Three of the pupils I teach are partially deaf and they lip read. Their experience for the next few weeks will be awful, as they are denied normal interactions with their friends. More Generally, the effect on morale is draining. We are preparing them for their third winter in what seems deliberately orchestrated to feel like a state of emergency. Pupils who had barely left primary school when all this began are now preparing for GCSEs and this has been their experience for a large proportion of their lives. How are we supposed to motivate them to prepare for exams that they know may not happen? How can we ask them to look forward to a university experience that will most likely turn into a dull and expensive series of online videos? What sort of career can they look forward to if their qualifications may be assigned on the whim of their teachers and lack any credibility? Even the small pleasures and the things that make schools feel like communities are being taken away: discos, film nights, assemblies, carol concerts, expeditions. You won’t even let them see one another smiling. You have turned schools into hygienic factories and prolonged the emergency measures to a point where this feels permanent.

At what point do we accept that this is an endemic disease and that we need to move on from bizarre, largely symbolic, practices that seem disproportionately targeted at those in least danger? When do we acknowledge that we are as safe from this as we can ever be and it is not reasonable to ask people to exist like this?

At no point in my life have the actions of a government so directly affected my life, and in such a negative way. I would never have believed it would be a Conservative Government.

I will not be enforcing any of this in my lessons. Nor can I ever again justify supporting or voting for a candidate representing a party that would allow this to happen. I would appreciate it if you would remove me from your mailing list.

Many thanks,

XXXXXXX

Soon to be a Major Motion Picture…

Somewhere deep in a luxurious underground lair, a hand strokes the fur of a cat. A white cat. Except it’s not Blofeld, it’s Boris. And it’s not a cat: Boris is tousling his hair into that trademark mess.

This is not SPECTRE, it’s COBRA. In attendance around the walnut desk are the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Attorney General and ‘C’, the chief of MI6. They’re meeting in secret – without any other ministers present – in order to concoct a plan to spread a deadly virus around the world, for the public good. (The room should be smoke-filled, but obviously that’d be implausible.)

The background. For a seeming eternity, the country had been locked in repeated cycles of economic catastrophe, deep in the midst of a public health crisis. Death’s younger brother, who’s still awaiting his performance evaluation, has been stalking the land.

On the table they had the outline of the plan, neatly typed-up and bound with red tape, titled “Operation FAILSAFE”. It aimed to solve the crisis and restore the country to normalcy. A plan so audacious that nobody who heard about it could possibly credit it.

Government Forces Schoolchildren to Wear Masks in Classrooms Again Despite Studies Showing No Benefit

Masks are back for schoolchildren in Year 7 and above, who from the start of term will be required to wear them throughout the day including in classrooms. The Telegraph has the story.

Secondary school pupils will be asked to wear face masks in classrooms again as ministers draw up contingency plans to keep schools open amid fears of widespread teacher absences.

The measure will apply to students across the country in Year 7 and above, with the Government issuing new guidance just 48 hours before millions of pupils are due to start returning after the Christmas holidays.

It brings England in line with Wales and Scotland, with mask guidance already in force for staff and pupils when walking through corridors and communal areas.

Defending the decision to reimpose masks in classrooms for the first time since May last year, Nadhim Zahawi said it was designed to help “maximise the number of children in school” and would remain only as long as needed.

Writing for the Telegraph, the Education Secretary said face-to-face teaching would be the “expected norm” heading into the new term, and confirmed that all exams in January would “go ahead as planned”.

“The Prime Minister could not be clearer: education is our number one priority and we will do everything in our power as a government to minimise the disruption to schools,” he said.

However, the Telegraph can also disclose that officials in the Department for Education (DfE) have begun discussing proposals that could see heads asked to prioritise primary, GCSE and A-level pupils for face-to-face teaching should schools be hit by widespread staff absences, with others taught remotely.

Other potential guidance that could be issued in a worst-case scenario includes grouping multiple classes together in sports and assembly halls. The department is also looking at “flexible staff models” should absences hit 10%, 15% or 25%, but insiders say schools are likely to “tip over” at 30%.

Worth reading in full.

The controversial move comes despite the two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for the use of masks against COVID-19 finding no robust evidence of benefit. The Danish Danmask-19 study found no statistically significant reduction in COVID-19 incidence from the use of surgical masks (the study didn’t look at the even less effective cloth masks that are common among school pupils). The Bangladesh mask study also found no benefit from cloth masks and the reported benefit from surgical masks was just 11%, with a 95% confidence interval that included zero (meaning we can’t even be 95% sure there was any benefit at all). The mask intervention in Bangladesh was also accompanied by an awareness raising campaign, among other issues that confounded the findings.

Masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 largely because SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus and cloth and surgical masks do not prevent people breathing, or filter particles small enough to prevent sufficient virus particles passing in and out.

But why let scientific evidence get in the way of a political gesture and a sop to the unions?

News Round-Up