On this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I discuss my recent bout of Covid, No-Vaxx Djokovic’s battle with the Australian immigration authorities, the Colston 4, the prospect of two new political parties (Jeremy Corbyn’s and Gina Miller’s), the unvaxxed doctor who confronted Sajid Javid and, in Culture Corner, Don’t Look Up and District 9.
Day: 10 January 2022
A petition signed by more than 1.2 million people, including doctors, nurses and vaccinated citizens, protesting against vaccine passports has been delivered to the National Assembly in France. A Daily Sceptic reader sent us this description:
Mr. Rodolphe Bacquet has been running a campaign protesting against the French vaccine pass. He has created a website campaign with information videos etc. and has recently appeared in a debate on a French TV news channel. This last week, he has handed a petition with just over an incredible 1.2 million signatures to the National Assembly and the Senate of the French Government. Triple-jabbed members of the French public and doctors and nurses are amongst the signatories.
Click here to watch a video of the petition being delivered and find a translated transcript below.
Martine Wonner, Deputy from Bas-Rhin (region) speaking at the Assembly on January 3rd 2022 – “This vaccine passport, tool of stigmatisation and apartheid. The French are against it and signified this in a petition that has reached more than 1.2 million signatures.”
Rodolphe Bacquet – “I am on my way to the Senate to deliver by hand to a ‘Senatrice’, the petition against the vaccine pass. Hello Madame, thank you for your time.”
Senatrice – “You are welcome, you are courageous, I think that all the French and all opinions must all be represented and it is our role to listen to everyone.”
RB – “These are the names of 1.2 million French people, these are all the signatures from last Monday, since then there has been more signatures.”
Senatrice – “Yes you are right, there are a lot of citizens like yourself and it is difficult to be heard.”
RB then enters the building and hands over a petition.
RB – “We have passed 1.2 million signatures in only 10 days, if you open the document to the first page, there’s a text addressed to our ‘elected ‘ asking them solemnly to take into account the interest of their citizens. These people write to me that they are double, triple jabbed so that they are not anti-vaxx.
Woman responds – “It goes beyond the division of vaxx and non-vaxx.”
RB – “Exactly, some media tried to reduce this petition to an anti-vaxx one but this is not it. We attack the vaccine pass.”
RB addresses a crowd – “Hello thank you, [people applaud and thank him] I would like to remind our Deputies that they are not only at the ‘service’ of a political party or general politics. This is not about politics anymore today, it is about our imminent future. We are not illegal by refusing to get vaccinated, we are within our legal rights to make a medical choice and it is this free ‘consent ‘ that we absolutely must preserve and defend in front of the National Assembly.”
RB addresses a man (Deputy Nicolas DuPont-Aignan) – “Can I give you a copy and let you give it to whom it may concern.”
Deputy Dupont – “Would you allow me to present it when I talk… [meaning unclear].”
RB – “Yes of course, and I hope that the Parliament which is the Senate and the National Assembly will open their eyes to the anti-constitutionality of this new law and the social danger that this new law represents and will stop it, and failing that then it will be up to the ‘Conseil Constitutional ‘ to take its responsibility.”
RB then delivers another copy for the Chief of the Parliamentarians.
The study, which began in September 2020, looked at levels of cross-reactive T-cells generated by previous common colds in 52 household contacts of positive COVID-19 cases shortly after exposure, to see if they went on to develop infection.
It found that the 26 who did not develop infection had significantly higher levels of those T-cells than people who did get infected. Imperial did not say how long protection from the T-cells would last.
“We found that high levels of pre-existing T cells, created by the body when infected with other human coronaviruses like the common cold, can protect against COVID-19 infection,” study author Dr Rhia Kundu said.
The researchers suggest vaccines based on imitating the internal virus proteins that T-cells target may be more resilient to mutations and new variants as those proteins, unlike the spike protein targeted by the current vaccines, “mutate much less”.
Cross-immunity to SARS-CoV-2 from other coronaviruses has been proposed since early on in the pandemic as an important element in reaching herd immunity and endemicity (for example, it was mentioned in this Scientist article from March 2020), and became a particular focus of interest in the autumn of 2020 as evidence of it accumulated (see here, here and here). It’s good to have further confirmation of this from Imperial (and also recently from UCL), but it has to be said it’s pretty late to the party, and it’s not clear why a study which began in September 2020 during a public health emergency has taken 16 months to report, particularly when vaccines were brought to market in 10 months. The emphasis of the researchers is on the potential usefulness of the findings for developing new and more resilient vaccines, which contains a tacit admission that the existing vaccines are failing, but also leaves one wondering whether the research has only been published now that it is useful for making new pharmaceutical products. It might be added that the studies on the efficacy of generic off-label medicines against Covid are taking an awfully long time to report.
As Dr. Mike Yeadon explained in his October 2020 piece for the Daily Sceptic, “What SAGE Has Got Wrong“, the assumption of a lack of pre-existing immunity and hence universal susceptibility was one of the great errors made by Government advisers throughout the pandemic and which led to an over-reaction that continues to this day. Now that Imperial researchers have acknowledged the existence of prior immunity, will Neil Ferguson’s modelling team update its assumptions?
In what may be a sign of things to come, arch-lockdown fanatic Michael Gove has begun to pivot, contradicting Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi by refusing to rule out the end of free lateral flow tests and saying the pressure on the NHS is “abating”. “We are moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with Covid,” the Housing Secretary said. Sky News has the story.
But when asked by Kay Burley on Monday for how long the [lateral flow] devices will remain free for all, Mr Gove said: “It is the case that in this country lateral flows are free – unlike in many other jurisdictions – they are a vital tool in making sure that we can curb the spread of the infection and also that people who need to isolate do so.
“But, as you pointed out right at the beginning of our conversation, we are moving to a situation – we are not there yet – but we are moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with Covid and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating.
“But, it is absolutely vital to recognise that we are not there yet. And as the health secretary has reminded us there will be some difficult weeks ahead and that is why we all need to continue to test, continue – if we are positive – to isolate, and continue broadly to support the NHS as it goes through a challenging period but one in which the frontline professionals are doing an amazing job.”
Pressed once more on whether the Government is considering phasing out lateral flow tests but not for the coming weeks, Mr Gove replied: “As the Prime Minister and others have said, we will do whatever it takes.”
Sounds like he may be preparing the ground for the wind-down – and it is being reported that Boris is indeed drawing up plans for “living with Covid”. Let’s hope so. Mass testing has long outlived any usefulness it might have had.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Boris says he’s looking at cutting the self-isolation period to five days, according to MailOnline.
We’re publishing an original essay today by Cory Zue, an American software developer in South Africa, that he posted on his blog last week. This is one of the best pieces I’ve read by someone who has chosen to remain unvaccinated for entirely rational reasons – and it resonated with me because I’ve decided not to get vaccinated after having had the same argument with myself as Cory. Here is an extract from near the beginning:
For most people my vaccination status is surprising. For many, it’s incomprehensible.
How could an MIT-educated, well-meaning, rational (hopefully), Massachusetts-born, Democrat who works in public health still not have a Covid vaccine?
I’ve been asked this question many times – sometimes in good faith and sometimes less so. And each time, I’ve struggled to fully satisfy people with my response. So I thought maybe I’d try writing it down.
This essay is my attempt to explain my vaccination status as best I can. It’s a complicated answer, which touches on family, science, policy, and morality. It’s a topic that is simultaneously very personal and very broad; difficult to talk about, and yet also important – perhaps, now more than ever.
What follows is likely to anger some of you, but I hope that it makes more of you curious, or even empathetic, to my position. We’ll see if I can pull it off.
Not only does Cory pull it off, but he does so with a good deal of humour and panache. This is very much worth reading in full and if, like me, you’ve chosen not to get vaccinated, it’s worth sharing with others who find it hard to understand that decision.
You can find Cory Zue’s blog here.
Men’s No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is allowed to play in the Australian Open again after a judge quashed the decision to cancel his visa – but the Australian Government has issued a new threat to cancel the visa regardless. The Telegraph has the story.
The 20-time grand slam champion will be released within the hour and have his passport returned to him following a dramatic conclusion to a bizarre day in federal court.
However, the fiasco threatens to continue after it was revealed immediately after the verdict that Australia’s immigration minister has retained the right to exercise personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa again.
The tennis star was detained at a Melbourne airport on Thursday after authorities said he did not meet COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
He was subsequently taken to the Park Hotel, a quarantine facility in the city, after being held at the airport overnight and was told he would be removed from the country.
But on Monday a federal judge jumped to Djokovic’s defence and demanded to know what more the tennis star could have done to prove to Australian authorities that he was entitled to enter the country.
Admitting he was “somewhat agitated”, Judge Kelly said the tennis star had provided evidence from “a professor and an eminently qualified physician” about a medical exemption.
“What more could this man have done?” the judge demanded.
After a lengthy adjournment, Judge Kelly read out a minute agreed by both parties to make the ruling, and he also ordered the Government to cover Djokovic’s legal costs.
The world No. 1 can now theoretically begin preparations for defending his title at the Australian Open on Monday but could face another legal battle.
Immediately after the ruling, Christopher Tran, a lawyer representing the Australian Government, informed the court that immigration minister Alex Hawke reserves her personal power to remove Djokovic from Australia and said that they are considering a second notice of cancellation.
Shocking that even when the Government is told it has mistreated a person – who should be an honoured guest in the country – and ordered to pay his legal costs it doubles down by continuing to threaten him with deportation using the Minister’s ‘personal power’. That’s tyranny, right there, folks.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The Spectator‘s Emily Hill says Djokovic has earned the right to have an opinion on whether he would benefit from being vaccinated.
However, what’s going on in Australia? ICU admissions have shot up as Omicron has taken hold (see above), as have deaths (see below). Bear in mind 77% of the population are double-vaccinated and it’s the middle of summer there.
Now, it could be just that there are so many more Omicron infections in the formerly ‘Zero Covid’ country than there were of previous variants, and that despite being milder sheer numbers are causing the spike. Indeed, Delta positivity peaked at 1.3% whereas Omicron positivity is at 22.5% and still rising (see below). With an infection rate up to 20 times higher, the fact that ICU patients are still below the Delta peak (for now) suggests it is milder and there’s just a lot of it.
How deadly is COVID-19? Early last year renowned epidemiologist Professor John Ioannidis published an analysis of seroprevalence (antibody) studies from 2020 which concluded the infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID-19 – the proportion of those infected who die – was around 0.15% globally. It varied significantly by region, up to 0.3%-0.4% in Europe and the Americas and down to 0.05% in Africa and Asia.
Prof. Ioannidis has now published an update, using additional seroprevalence studies, though still based on 2020 data, as “IFRs in 2021 may be further affected by wide implementation of vaccinations that may substantially decrease fatality risk and by other changes (new variants and better treatment)”. The new study has a special focus on the IFR in the elderly, but also includes estimates for all age groups, though not a new overall estimate.
From analysis of 25 seroprevalence surveys across 14 countries, Prof. Ioannidis and his colleague found the IFR varied from 0.0013% in the under-20s (around one in 100,000) to 0.65% in those in their 60s. For those above 70 not in a care home it was 2.9%, rising to 4.9% for all over-70s. This means that even for the elderly, more than 95% of those infected survive – 97.1% when considering those not in a care home. For younger people the mortality risk is orders of magnitude less, with 99.9987% of under-20s surviving a bout of the virus. These survival rates include people with underlying health conditions, so for the healthy the rates will be higher again (and the fatality rates lower).
The authors note that if you allow for antibody waning of 5% per month in the elderly then the IFR reduces to 2.4% for non-care home residents and 4% for all elderly. They add that IFR varies between countries, and this variation correlates with the proportion of the elderly who are over 85, suggesting much of the difference may be accounted for by the age of the population.
- “Is the Government split on shelving free lateral flow tests?” – The Sunday Times has splashed that free lateral flow tests could be on the way out, but with Nadhim Zahawi denying it it’s clear there’s a split in Government over this, writes Angus Colwell in the Spectator.
- “The Government must commit to learning to live with Covid” – The Cabinet concedes that Covid is now a relatively mild endemic disease to which we will have to adapt, but only up to a point, and it needs to go further, says the Telegraph in its leading article.
- “Top Research Chief for India: Merck’s Molnupiravir has ‘Major Safety Concerns’” – The Head of the Indian Council of Medical Research has warned that the approved Covid treatment “can cause teratogenicity and mutagenicity and cause cartilage damage and be damaging to the muscles” and can also harm unborn children, reports TrialSite News.
- “Military steps in to support NHS as staff absences jump 59% in a week” – A system-wide major incident was declared in Northamptonshire by health, public and emergency service leaders due to COVID-19, reports the Evening Standard.
- “‘Follow England!’ Sturgeon furiously blasted for ‘destroying trust’ as businesses turn” – Nicola Sturgeon has been savaged by Scottish trade bodies over Holyrood’s coronavirus restrictions, which impose tougher measures on businesses in Scotland than those in England, reports the Express.
- “New dodgy data row as UKHSA warned over ‘implausible’ Covid statistics” – Public trust ‘at risk’ after officials took days to justify controversial figures quoted by Sajid Javid over the spread of omicron variant, reports the Telegraph.
- “Canadian military officer calls for probe into ground zero outbreak” – The long-serving officer was among the scores of athletes who fell sick with a debilitating illness after attending the World Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019, reports the Mail.
- “The Djokovic story proves just what we’re getting wrong about the unvaccinated” – Rising anger only pushes both sides further to the fringes, as the Djokovic-Australia stalemate shows
- “Dr Steve James: ‘We should not mandate vaccination’” – Listen to Dr Steve James, the Consultant Anaesthetist who challenged Sajid Javid over mandatory vaccination, being interviewed on BBC Radio 4.
- “It’s fun, I know, but baiting the unvaxed will not make them have the jab sooner” – The unjabbed are the focus of our latest Hate Week, worldwide, writes Rod Liddle in the Times.
- “Covid Vaccination and Pregnancy” – According to a preliminary analysis of British data, Covid vaccination during pregnancy might be associated with a 33% increased risk of stillbirth, reports the Swiss Doctor.
- “Has Covid vaccine efficacy turned negative?” – Data from highly vaccinated countries suggests strongly that the answer is yes; vaccinated people are at higher risk of infection from Omicron, writes Alex Berenson on his Substack page.
- “COVID-19 has exposed this country for what it really is” – One sign of immaturity is that we’re not asking key questions about the way we run the country or the NHS, writes Collingwood in Bournbrook.
- “Lab contamination sparks false fears of new ‘Deltacron’ Covid variant” – Academic raised the alarm about a potential new variant after analysis appeared to show patients had been co-infected by Omicron and Delta, reports the Telegraph.
- “Boris Johnson has utterly failed to back up his anti-woke rhetoric with action” – The few bright spots on the Government’s record have not been enough to thwart a woke takeover, says Douglas Murray in the Telegraph.
- “BBC broadcaster Nigel Rees quit after 46 years over ‘diversity drive’” – Presenter of Radio 4 show Quote… Unquote said he felt pressured to invite diverse speakers who were not necessarily most suitable guests, reports the Telegraph.
- “University students given ‘trigger warnings’ for classic literature” – Critics last night described the cautions given to students at Salford University as “absurd”. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said it was ridiculous that adults “have to be protected” from the stories, reports the Mail.
- “What’s the name of the country in yellow? I bet they had very strict lockdowns to achieve this outcome” – Martin Farnell tweets the latest European comparison of excess deaths in 2021, with low-restriction Sweden coming out lowest.