Day: 5 January 2022

Novaxx Djokovic: Unjabbed Tennis Champ Threatened With Deportation from Australia

The men’s tennis number one Novak Djokovic has been threatened with deportation back to Serbia after his visa was rejected by Australian officials amid a mix-up with his application. There’s also the small fact that he is unvaccinated and claimed to be exempt from Australia’s rules about unvaccinated visitors, as well as the rule that only vaccinated players can compete in the Australian Open. MailOnline has more.

The No. 1 tennis star, who was left stranded at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport overnight, has been denied entry into Australia after initially being granted a medical exemption for the country’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements so that he could play in the Australian Open.

The 34 year-old was issued a letter by the Australian Government saying his visa had been denied and he would be deported, a source close to the tournament said tonight.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed today that Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled, and Border Force issued a statement to that effect.

“The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements,” a statement read.

“The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.

“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia. The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone.​”

Djokovic’s lawyers are now gearing up to fight the visa cancellation in court, though it is not clear if the star player will stay in Australia during the case.

Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksanda Vucic said on Instagram that he has spoken to Djokovic and added that Serbian authorities are taking measures “so the harassment of the best tennis player in the world be stopped in the shortest possible time”.

The tennis star will now be moved to a hotel in Melbourne under police guard until a deportation flight back to Serbia can be arranged.

Djokovik, who landed in Melbourne on an Emirates flight from Dubai at around 11.15pm, was initially placed in isolation after officials discovered his team had bungled his visa application to play in the Australian Open without being vaccinated.

It came just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison threatened to send the Serb back “on the next plane home” if he could not provide evidence for his vaccine exemption.

Worth reading in full.

Looks like it’s 30-15 to the Covid hysterics. But Djoko is a fighter so the game isn’t over.

Back to Normal by February?

Boris all but ruled out another lockdown in the House of Commons earlier and held out the prospect of a return “closer to normality” within weeks, hinting at the abandonment of ‘Plan B’ by February. MailOnline has more.

As the U.K. recorded another 194,747 cases – up 6.4% on a week ago – the PM cautioned that the growth is “the fastest we have ever known” and older, more vulnerable people are now being affected.

However, he said bluntly that the government “does not believe we need to shut down our country again”. Instead Cabinet has agreed to stick to the existing “balanced and proportionate” Plan B restrictions in England that are “taking the edge off” the Omicron wave.

The obligation to work from home where possible, as well as wear masks in many settings and use Covid passes at large events and nightclubs will be reviewed again before they expire on January 26th – but Mr. Johnson hinted strongly that they will not be renewed.

The premier was congratulated by senior Tories including Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May for holding his nerve despite pressure to clamp down before Christmas. In another boost, Nicola Sturgeon has U-turned by following England and cutting the self-isolation period in Scotland from 10 days to seven.

Challenged by another Conservative former minister, Steve Baker, in the House, Mr Johnson said he hoped that once Omicron “blows through” the country “life will return to something much, much closer to normality” and the current restrictions will “not be necessary”.

Worth reading in full.

Does the Oxford Study on Post-Vaccine Myocarditis Underestimate the Risk?

There follows a guest post by Daily Sceptic reader ‘Amanuensis’, as he’s known in the comments section, who is an ex-academic and senior Government researcher/scientist with experience in the field (find his blog here). He has taken a closer look at the recent papers from Oxford University on post-vaccine myocarditis risk and has some concerns about the methodology they have used which he suspects may underestimate the risk.

A few days ago the Daily Sceptic published an article on the risks of post-vaccination myocarditis, taking data from a recent paper by Julia Hippisley-Cox of Oxford University. This is a hot topic as myocarditis appears to have become the poster-child of vaccine side effects in the young, and any scientific papers that attempt to quantify the risk of myocarditis seem to get rather a lot of attention. Hippisley-Cox’s recent paper is no different.

Unfortunately, Hippisley-Cox et al appears to have used its method of choice, the Self-Controlled Case Series (SCCS), inappropriately. This is a bit of a grand statement given that Julia Hippisley-Cox’s papers are published in Nature Medicine, a very reputable journal – I’ll explain why the method has been used inappropriately and perhaps you might agree with me.

The self-controlled case series experimental design is quite simple in concept – there’s always a risk in experiments that your experimental group (the ones that we did things to) are different from the control group (the ones that were left alone), so in SCCS you simply use the same people for the experiment group and control group. In this particular example the magic happens by allocating a time for the vaccine side effects and stating that outside of this time the vaccine risk was zero – thus each experimental participant automatically sits in both the control group and experimental group.

There’s a nuance in the way SCCS is done for the Covid vaccine trials, in that there’ll often be a period before each treatment that is set aside and not used in the data analysis – the stated reason for this is because ill people are less likely to get vaccinated. I’ll come back to this point later, but for now just remember that there’s a pre-vaccine period that is separated out from the other data.

So, just to get up to speed on the sort of thing that you’d see with SCCS, I’ve made up a ‘perfect example’ of how SCCS might be used. In the following graph the number of side effects are indicated by little red dots – there are a low level of side effects before vaccination which then increase during the week after vaccination and then a gradual return to the baseline:

Government Suspends Access to Confirmatory PCR Tests for Asymptomatic LFT Positives, Raising Fears of False Positives Consigning Thousands to Their Homes

In what was presented as a relaxation of testing requirements, but is in fact a withdrawal of service, the UKHSA has announced that as of January 11th confirmatory PCR tests will no longer be recommended – and thus unavailable – for those who test positive on a lateral flow test (LFT) without symptoms. MailOnline has more.

Confirmatory PCR tests will no longer be needed for people testing positive for Covid on a lateral flow test, health chiefs confirmed today.

Previous guidance to back up positive rapid tests with more accurate lab results will be removed from January 11th.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the move amid sky-high case numbers across England. 

The move will free up capacity in laboratories for PCR tests for those who have Covid symptoms.

People who receive a positive result on a lateral flow device (LFD) will be required to self-isolate immediately for seven days, without requiring PCR confirmation. 

UKHSA said this is a temporary measure while Covid rates remain high across the UK.

Officials said that while levels of Covid are high, the “vast majority” of people with positive LFD results can be confident they have the virus.

They estimated the number of “false positives” results, where people without the virus get a positive LFD result, are as low as three in 10,000.

However with just under 1.5 million of LFD tests being conducted across the UK every day this could lead to thousands of people who don’t have Covid having to isolate. 

People who have Covid symptoms, such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or change in sense of taste and/or smell should still get a PCR test, UKHSA said. 

UKHSA has said that LFTs are 80% effective at finding people with high viral loads of Covid. However, Professor Sheila Bird, a former programme leader of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, said the 80% figure is based on data from the Alpha and Delta waves. “For transparency, results for these Omicron-era dual-testing evaluations should be placed in the public domain at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

Anecdotally I have been told by several people that they tested positive on LFT but then subsequently tested negative on PCR. Some of them were symptomatic. They said the person on the phone at Test and Trace told them this was very common at the moment as the LFTs were cross-reacting with other viruses and producing false positives that the PCR test then overruled.

If this is the case – and I have no reason to doubt it – then despite the change being billed as a solution to the staffing crisis it will only make it worse as thousands of people have to isolate from LFT false positives for which no confirmatory PCR test is available.

Since mass testing of the healthy has clearly failed to contain the virus – with new figures from the ONS today showing that an estimated 6% of the country was infected at the end of December – and with so many protected via natural immunity and vaccination, and with Omicron so mild, the Government needs to end all mass testing without delay and limit testing to contexts, such as hospitals and care homes, where it is needed to diagnose illness and protect the vulnerable.

Stop Press: The Mail is reporting that the Government is set to scrap all pre-departure Covid traveller tests today in a boost for the tourism industry, while the airline industry is demanding the Government goes a step further and axes all travel tests. Good news – but is it not time to accept that mass testing no longer serves any useful purpose (if it ever did) and we need to end this expensive drag on our economy and lives?

President Macron Says He is Introducing Vaccine Passports to “Piss Off” the Unvaccinated

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants to “piss off” the unvaccinated by banning them from public venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas. MailOnline has more.

The cutting remark prompted howls of condemnation from opposition rivals less than four months before the next presidential election.

“The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so, we’re going to continue doing so, until the end. That’s the strategy,” Macron told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published late on Tuesday.

France last year put in place a health pass that prevents people without a PCR test or proof of vaccination from entering restaurants, cafes and other venues. 

The Government wants to turn it into a vaccine passport that means only the vaccinated can have a health pass.

The legislation will remove the option of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.

The plans have faced fierce resistance from anti-vaccination campaigners and far-right and far-left groups, but is backed by the Government which has a majority in parliament.

In a particularly snarky interview, the French President said he aims to irritate the unvaccinated into submission, rather than round them up and prosecute them. 

“I won’t send (the unvaccinated) to prison, I won’t vaccinate by force. So we need to tell them, from Jan. 15th, you won’t be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won’t be able to down one, won’t be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema…”

Macron’s use of a very informal French phrase, which can be translated as “to piss them off”, prompted immediate criticism by rivals on social media.

Disgraceful, obviously. On the other hand, refreshing to have some candour for change from a politician on their real motives. It also makes much more sense than the usual reason given for vaccine passports, that they will prevent the spread of coronavirus, as evidently they do no such thing.

Worth reading in full.

Most Democrats Wrongly Believe That Vaccines Provide More Protection Than Natural Immunity

I’ve written before about people’s skewed perceptions of the risks of Covid. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, perceptions are more skewed among Democrats than they are among Republicans.

As recently as September of this year – that is, more than a year and a half into the pandemic – 41% of Democrats said the risk of hospitalisation if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%! (The true figure is at least ten times lower.)

A new survey reveals another fallacy that’s widespread among Democrats. On 15–16th December, Rasmussen Reports put the following question to a representative sample of Americans:

Which is more effective in preventing COVID-19 — natural immunity from prior infection with the virus, or getting vaccinated against the virus? Or are both natural immunity and vaccination equally effective?

The correct answer, according to the polling company, is that they’re “equally effective”. I’d beg to differ – several studies have found that natural immunity provides more protection. However, the correct answer surely isn’t “getting vaccinated”.

Among Republicans, 43% gave what I regard as the correct answer of “natural immunity”, and only 25% said “getting vaccinated”. Yet among Democrats, a sizeable majority of 61% said “getting vaccinated”, while only 17% said “natural immunity”.

There is one caveat. Some respondents may have interpreted “Which is more effective” to mean “Which is a better way of acquiring immunity to Covid”. And at least for the elderly and clinically vulnerable, the correct answer to this question may well be “getting vaccinated”.

Having said that, the most natural interpretation of “Which is more effective” is clearly the one the polling company intended, namely “Which protects better against infection”.

So, why does such a large percentage of the US population – 41% overall – wrongly believe that vaccines provide more protection than natural immunity?

Well, it’s actually not surprising when you consider how many scientists have denied or downplayed natural immunity to Covid. Recall last year’s John Snow Memorandum, which stated, “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”. (The Memorandum was co-signed by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.)

People can hardly be expected to have accurate beliefs when scientists aren’t giving them accurate information. At this point, a correction is surely in order: ‘We got it wrong: there is evidence for lasting protective immunity following natural infection’.

Covid Testing Rules to Be Relaxed to Address Staff Shortages

Covid testing rules are to be relaxed as part of efforts to shorten isolation periods and ease staffing shortages, according to the Telegraph.

Fears are growing that staff absences have become as big a problem as Covid itself, with bin collections delayedtrains cancelled and 17 hospitals in Greater Manchester announcing on Tuesday that they would be suspending some non-urgent surgery, with 15% of staff off sick.

Millions of people who test positive on lateral flow devices will be told they do not need to take follow-up PCR tests, which currently delay the official start of isolation for hundreds of thousands.

Health officials have drawn up plans to limit PCR tests to those with Covid symptoms, allowing people who are asymptomatic – around 40% of cases – to return to work more quickly. More than 1.2 million people are isolating after testing positive in the last week, with hundreds of thousands more waiting for tests or results.

The changes, expected on Wednesday, come as more than half a dozen NHS hospital trusts have declared critical incidents. Call handlers at North East Ambulance Service were told in an internal memo to advise heart attack patients to get a lift to hospital, rather than wait for a 999 response.

Meanwhile, offices remained largely empty on the first working day of the new year. Schools said staff shortages in coming days could further damage children’s education, with as many as one in five staff missing at the start of the term.

The question is though, given that the virus is clearly everywhere and none of the measures have succeeded in containing it, why continue with mass testing of the healthy at all?

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up