Search Results for: Obesity

Stop Worrying About Fat Shaming. We Need to Talk About Obesity

A GP has emailed Lockdown Sceptics with a short piece about obesity, which she calls the elephant in the room. Given its links to susceptibility to COVID-19, we have to start talking about it.

Forgive me if this offends you. For the past 16 months we have an elephant in the (COVID-19) room that we seem to refuse to talk about. As a clinician working in a very large London GP practice, I’ve been wondering if and when patients might spot the elephant and take some action. It hasn’t happened yet.

So what is the elephant you ask? It’s the undeniable fact that a healthy weight and lifestyle which includes regular exercise will (almost definitely) reduce your risk of dying with an infection such as Covid by an enormous amount. To name it and shame it, the elephant’s name is specifically obesity. Yes there are genetics, yes there is age, yes there are the random unlucky ones. But for the vast majority who become seriously ill with COVID-19, obesity is a significant contributory factor. The vast majority of patients who end up in ITU with Covid have a BMI of >25 and it often does’t end well for them.

Now you might think that’s not relevant to you as you have checked out the infection fatality risk in your age group (and hopefully the Covid ship has sailed anyway…) and you know it’s ridiculously low. However, is that really a good excuse? So you might get Covid and not die (I certainly hope you don’t), but what about the increased risks of developing diabetes, cancer, heart disease, strokes, infertility, difficult labours, long Covid (the list goes on and on)?

So, I’ve spent 16 months talking to my patients about this. (Contrary to public perception we have been doing something!) Have they listened? Well, yes, I would say most of them hear me out. However, what has struck me is that a few of them (a generally well educated, affluent bunch) were genuinely surprised by what they heard. They had no idea there was such a strong correlation between obesity and increased risk of dying or being very unwell with Covid. But sadly in the majority of cases I fear I’ve wasted my breath.

So, who’s to blame? SAGE wouldn’t deny it, Boris has mentioned it, the BBC have whispered about it… But the mystery remains as to WHY WE AREN’T SHOUTING ABOUT THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS?!? Is it because the media and the rest of the band wagon are afraid of fat shaming? Or would a massive increase in health promotion distract from all the fear mongering and vaccine obsession? Boris has the perfect platform to mention this every time he does one of his irritating lectures to the nation.

I’m not writing this piece to rant. I’m writing it because maybe this is the forum to speak out and start to create a change that will not only reduce people’s risk of dying from diseases like Covid, but, more importantly, will reduce the risk of them getting innumerable diseases. Maybe what is needed is to separate statement of fact (obesity carries significant health risk) from subjective judgement (it’s your fault you’re obese). If we remove the subjective element, then perhaps we’d be able to talk about it in a more objective and calm way? It would allow us to state plainly the health risks, and (more importantly) facilitate weight loss for those who want to attempt it. It is very sensitive subject and until we stop worrying about causing offence we won’t be able to have a proper grown up discussion.

Update: Gary Johnson, the Managing Director of Inpharmation, has emailed us to correct the impression, given by the author of this piece, that obesity is a more important risk factor than age when it comes to susceptibility to COVID-19.

I know from reading your site regularly that you will be well aware that the risk of increasing age spans several order of magnitude. Whereas the risks from obesity are a fraction of an order of magnitude.

The best data I know of for the demographics and outcomes for patients on critical care is the INARC report on COVID-19 in critical care.

While it is true that around four fifths of the COVID critical care population have a BMI of over 25, this misleads. Firstly, the cut off for obesity is 30 and not 25. Secondly, as we age, we put on weight and the average age for critical care COVID patients is around 60. So we need to compare the critical care COVID population with the sex and age matched general population. You can see this on page 65 of the INARC report. The COVID critical care population is a just a little more overweight/obese than the general population. In earlier INARC reports, the proportions have actually been quite similar.

And, while it is true that it often does not end well for overweight COVID patients on ITU, it is no more true for them than for other COVID patients who end up on ITU. On page 65 of the report you will see that, surprisingly, a lower percentage of obese patients in critical care die (34.6%) than of non-obese patients. The worst outcome is for those patients with a BMI of <25, with 42.2% of those in critical care dying.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating obesity – just fact checking.

Keep up the great work.

Can Lack of Obesity Explain Low COVID-19 Death Rates in East Asia?

An unresolved puzzle of the pandemic is why COVID-19 death rates have been so low in East Asia. We know this can’t be due to different ways of counting COVID-19 deaths because it shows up in comparisons of excess mortality.

The most recent published estimates of excess mortality, taken from a paper in eLife by Ariel Karlinsky and Dmitry Kobak, are shown below. In this analysis, excess deaths since the start of the pandemic are given as a percentage of annual baseline mortality (see grey numbers).

Excess mortality in Europe ranges from –4% in Norway to 43% in North Macedonia, and most countries are in the 10–30% range. In East Asia, by contrast, excess mortality ranges from –11% in Mongolia to 4% in Hong Kong. (Note: excess deaths in East Asia may have increased slightly in more recent months.)

As I’ve argued before, it’s unlikely this difference is due to lockdowns as Japan has seen negative excess mortality despite having some of the least restrictive policies in the world. In 2020, for example, there were zero days of mandatory business closures and zero days of mandatory stay-at-home orders.

So what can explain East Asia’s low COVID death rates? One factor that’s often mentioned on social media is their low rates of obesity. As I’ll explain, however, this can’t explain more than a small part of the difference between East Asia and the rest of the world.

To begin with, obesity’s effect on the risk of death from COVID-19 – conditional upon on infection – is actually quite modest. (By comparison, the effect of age is enormous.)

While it’s often said that most COVID-19 patients in the U.S. are overweight or obese, this is isn’t very surprising. After all, most U.S. adults are overweight or obese. For example, a CDC study published in March found that 50.8% of COVID-19 patients were obese. Yet the figure for adults as a whole is only slightly lower, at 42.4%.

Earlier this year, the BBC radio program More or Less (which deals with statistics in the news) calculated that if the global obesity rate dropped to zero, the total number of COVID-19 deaths would fall by only 7%.

If you look at the chart above, there is no obvious clustering of highly obese countries on the first two rows. For example, the obesity rate in Peru – which has seen excess mortality of 153% – is less than one in five.

What’s more, two recent studies estimated that there have been around 4 million excess deaths in India. This equates to excess mortality of around 40%, which would place India on the top row of the chart above. Yet the country has an obesity rate of only 3.9% – one of the lowest in the world.

All this suggests that something other than lack of obesity explains the low COVID-19 death rates in East Asia.

Stop Press: For an alternative view on the relationship between obesity and COVID mortality, see this post on Swiss Policy Research.

Feudalism’s Revenge: Freudian Phantasies of the Near-Future

by Frederick Attenborough

The U.K. Government’s latest attempt to satiate Boris Johnson’s multiple, complex and apparently chronic penetrative insemination paraphilias will involve the private sector in bribing young people with discounted takeaway food and free taxi rides. Food delivery and taxi-hailing firms including Uber, Bolt, Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims have all been enrolled in this latest psychiatric intervention and are now offering incentives for young people to arouse the Prime Minister’s husband by receiving what he’s taken to referring to during Cabinet meetings as “the pharmaceutical boys’ ejaculate”. “How many disease vectors have the pharmaceutical boys ejaculated into this week?” he’ll ask excitedly, often several times a minute, the words oozing up and out of that capricious little slit in his head like smarmy treacle, mellifluous and full of privilege.

As you might imagine, the BBC got themselves pretty hot and horny about this, the policy’s underlying mix of messianic, full-throttle welfarism and Old Testament-style retributive psychopathy touching a sweet spot for the munificent totalitarians over at New Broadcasting House. Not that they were able to get off as many superlatives as they’d have liked. True, manipulation of the young is as essential to the BBC as it is to every other elite western institution currently waging war on that dangerous, socially harmful pathogen known as “cognitive diversity” – sorry, I mean “Covid misinformation”. But unlike, say, the Guardian, Independent SAGE or Emily Maitlis, the BBC’s efforts to save the povvy proles from wrongthink are forever getting ensnared in all sorts of tiresome, fuddy-duddy, neo-Victorian priggery: here, a Royal Charter blathering on about fairness and due impartiality; there, a Parliamentary Select Committee stuffed to the gills with white men all bloviating away about discredited colonial-era shibboleths like objectivity and truth, and everywhere you look hardworking reporters barely able to take a rhetorical step without some ghastly white supremacist popping out from behind a copy of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and demanding they stop acting like the public relations arm of the global pharmaceutical industry.

So what the BBC gave us instead was outsourced complicity. Subcontracted collusion. Not the direct and immediate backslapping, hip-hip hooraying support of a sycophantic apparatchik, but rather, the dry, Machiavellian inclusion of comparative statistics all too capable of proving the laggardly, anti-social deviance of the young vis-à-vis other jab-happy groups in society. “More than 68% of 18 to 29 year-olds have had a first jab,” Lord Reith’s proselytising neurotics declared, before immediately moving to morally shame those 18 to 29 year-olds with the revelation that: “More than 72% of U.K. adults have had two doses so far, while 88.5% have had one.” So really, when they write, “More than 68% of 18 to 29 year-olds…”, what they actually mean for you to hear is, “Only 68% of 18 to 29 year-olds…,” or perhaps, if you spent long enough rummaging around in your outraged adverbs box, “Disgustingly, only 68% of 18 to 29 year-olds…”. Can you see what they’re doing here? It’s called ‘othering’. Or, if you prefer, ‘seeding stigmatisation into a population’.

Still, if the BBC thinks a game of statistics top-trumps is the best way to nudge the country into accepting the need for specific political, economic and social responses to pressing public health issues, then I’m all for it. I’ve managed to dig up some interesting statistics of my own, you see; statistics pertaining to the economic costs and consequences of overweight and obesity to and for the U.K. Government. “Oh. That’s… good?” you hazard, no doubt hoping to humour me until the police can locate you. “But, uhm, what’s it got to do with the U.K. Government’s response to Covid?” “Plenty,” I respond, suddenly with real menace in my voice; and from somewhere up above, out there in the impenetrable darkness, you catch the unmistakeable sound of a hatch quietly being lowered.

This is, let’s not forget, a Government that’s apparently so desperate – so pitifullyfrantically, hyperventilatingly  desperate – to protect an already overstretched NHS from reaching some kind of ‘breaking point’, that it feels it has no choice but to begin bribing young people into visiting their local jabbatoir. And what do those bribes involve? The provision of discounted, fat-drenched, cholesterol stuffed, artery-clogging fast food with some free exercise cancelling taxi rides thrown in for good measure. Bribes, in other words, that could only ever reinforce bad dietary habits amongst the young, fuel the U.K.’s already alarming obesity epidemic and… yep, you’ve guessed it: push an already overstretched NHS closer towards some kind of ‘breaking point’.

Ah, the NHS. Do you remember those halcyon days back in early-2020 when the authorities actually bothered to articulate a semi-coherent rationale for why we were all being forced to destroy our lives, livelihoods and businesses? The NHS was in grave crisis. It couldn’t cope. Covid had broken the system. The future would be nothing but a faded song of wistful regret, and the time of our deaths would be felt as every fractured, dissociated moment of life, and the withering of withered flowers would not cease, and the wrinkles of our palms would whisper to clairvoyants of tragedy, and when we spoke, our voices, hollow and resigned, would be as rat’s feet over broken glass, and…

Unless…

Unless, that is, we obeyed. Unless we unquestioningly, unthinkingly, obeyed every order we were given. Unless we stayed home. Unless we saved lives. Unless we protected the NHS. If we did exactly as we were told, and if we continued indefinitely to do exactly as we were told, then maybe, just maybe, the authorities might be able to save our poor, ailing NHS from the threat of human sickness. And so it began…

Silence! Stand back! Look at the floor, epidemiological porridge! Declare your pathogens! Confess to your exposures! Did any of you DARE put the NHS at risk during your lunch hour this afternoon? Did you [sharp intake of breath!]… MINGLE?!? Have you [shudders!]… ‘TOUCHED’ one another?!? What’s that – “No,” you say?! Well, we’ll see about that, won’t we? Strip search their thoracic cavities, Sergeant, every hour on the hour. (Oh, and Sergeant? Make it hurt, will you). I said SILENCE! Breathe intermittently, you dogs, and even then only in a shallow manner! Excessive diaphragmatic movements are being monitored from above by drones! We won’t be taking any chances with the NHS’s health, do you hear me, filthy bollock cattle! Put a mask on! And another one! And another! Now put one over your genitalia for good measure! Then another one… over your face this time; over your face! Now put a bag over your head to protect your masks! Then another one! Nice and tight, come on; nice and tight! Now asphyxiate yourself with the plastic bags – reassure the receptionist at your local surgery that you aren’t an asymptomatic spreader! Stay home, protect your tumours! Vacuum your tongue! Pasteurise your carpets! Bleach your disinfectant! Now clap for the NHS, you scum; clap! Smile and gurn, do you hear me; SMILE AND GURN! Whoop and holler! Dribble and burp – like you mean it, parasites; LIKE YOU MEAN IT!! Now repeat after your local celebrity gauleiter, slowly and with an imbecilic smile playing about your lips, “Thank you, NHS; Thank you, N… LOUDER, MITOCHONDRIAL SLUT WHORES; LOUDER… Thank you, NHS; Thank you, NHS; Thank you, N…”

So that was the rationale: the Government asked us to protect ourselves and each other from Covid because to do so would also be to protect the NHS.

But hang on a minute… because if that’s the rationale, then what about overweight and obesity? Doesn’t the NHS need protection from those things too? Aren’t they also putting existential pressure on the NHS?

According to the most recent Health Survey for England in 2019 (published December 2020), 28% of adults in England are obese and a further 36.2% are overweight. Just stop and think about that for a minute. It’s incredible. 64.2% of the U.K. is either overweight or obese. Put another way – and in language that those who are currently having such a jolly time dehumanising the unvaccinated can hardly complain about – two out of every three people you’re likely to meet today will be fat bastards.

A recent Government guidance document, “Health Matters: Obesity and the Food Environment“, also makes clear that “younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese into adulthood”. These “younger generations” are, of course, the generations our Government is seeking to bribe with discounted fatty foods and free taxi rides to get them herded into the sheep dip, rinsed, ear-tagged and then corralled up the exit ramp and out into the pharma’s fields to await subsequent analysis and, as necessary, burial after what the media will no doubt euphemistically describe as “a short illness”. More specifically, we know that 24% of all 16-24 year-olds are “overweight” and 13% are classified as “obese”. That’s 37% of all 16-24 year-olds in the U.K. doing themselves a little too well on the starchy foodstuffs. Sadly, even more belts need letting out a notch or two in the 25-34 year-old category: 35% of this age range are “overweight” whilst another 23% have had to be winched into the “obese” category.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Ours is a culture with a rather romantic view of people at this stage of life. Young thrusters, we often say. The change-makers. Bright young things, dashing about hither and yon like extras trapped in a never-ending episode of Normal People: forming unnecessarily complicated relationships, agonising about how they’d probably rather be having unnecessarily complicated casual sex instead, breaking off unnecessarily complicated relationships in unnecessarily complicated ways, learning absolutely nothing in the process and then dashing off somewhere else to do the whole thing again. But what these stats reveal is that, far from dashing about anywhere, two thirds of them would probably struggle to climb a flight of stairs without pausing for a bit of a breather halfway up. If the world is their oyster, it’s an oyster that’s been topped with butter, spinach and parsley and served up in a Rockefeller sauce.

It’s not like you can even argue that successive Governments have managed to get a grip on the situation and that, as a result, obesity now constitutes less of a health challenge to the U.K. than it once did. Back in 1993, for instance, 53% of people in this country were overweight or obese. In and of itself, of course, that’s a terrible stat and unlikely to have any of us pointing with pride at the abstemiousness of previous generations. But as we’ve already seen, 1993’s “terrible” had gotten much worse by 2019, the percentage of people falling into one or other of these categories having reached 64% (i.e., a 21% increase on 1993). Scarily, the rate of increase in those classifiable as obese was even higher, virtually doubling over that same period, from 15% to 28%. What we also know is that fat is bound up with socio-economic issues like social class. Deprived children and young adults (i.e., precisely the people for whom bribes of free fast-food and discounted taxis might seem particularly appealing) are far more likely to be overweight or obese. That’s why obesity prevalence of the most deprived 10% of children is now approximately twice that of the least deprived 10%.

As this last little factoid suggests, the problem with fat is that it isn’t just a personal trouble. Much like Covid, it’s a complex social, economic, biomedical, psychological, cultural and public health-related issue too. According to Public Health England, for instance, the NHS spends around £6.1 billion every year on the direct consequences of obesity. This spending is “direct” in the sense that people who either are, or who’ve allowed themselves to become, overweight and obese need treatment for health problems caused directly by the excess weight they’re carrying: high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma and so on. But these people also increase their risk of developing a whole host of other diseases. If you’re obese you’re more likely to develop liver and kidney disease; you’re three times more likely than those with a normal Body Mass Index to develop colon cancer; you’re two and a half times more likely to develop high blood pressure (a risk factor for heart disease, by the way); you’re five times more likely to develop type two diabetes; you’re at risk of gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy; you’re more likely to require psychological support from trained healthcare professionals; you’re… well, you get the idea. The list of secondary complications is enormous.

As is the bill.

So whilst the NHS does indeed spend £6.1 billion directly on obesity each year, the total cost of obesity to society has been calculated at a whopping £27 billion. You don’t have to be a right-wing economist to see that individual, lifestyle-related health problems that cost that much are going to have huge political, social and economic consequences in a society like the U.K. where a universal, free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare system is funded through general taxation.

That’s why the Royal Society for Public Health are suggesting that unless actions they describe as “urgent and radical” are taken to tackle the issue, we’re likely to see a 59% rise in the direct costs of obesity to the NHS by 2050. One imagines the “urgent and radical” actions they have in mind probably don’t involve the government in subsidizing young people’s bad dietary and exercise habits. By the way, if we were to see a similar percentage rise in the overall cost of obesity to society across that same period, annual spending would rise to around £46 billion (although, interestingly, Public Health England predict a slightly steeper rise in the overall cost of obesity to society, their estimate coming in at £49.9 billion). To put that into context, it’s more than the U.K. Government currently spends each year on personal social services (£35 billion), transport (£44 billion), public order and safety (£38 billion) and housing and environment (£30 billion), and it’s not that far behind what they spend on national defence either (£55 billion).

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the Government’s decision to bribe vaccine-hesitant kids with fast-food and exercise-cancelling forms of mobility is that they surely must know the sorts of problems these inducements are likely to store up for the medium to long term. There’s a section of a Public Health England report from 2017 entitled, “Factors behind the rise in obesity levels“, in which the authors note that “more than a quarter of adults and one fifth of children eat food from out of home food outlets at least once a week”. They go on to describe that behaviour as “an important factor contributing to rising levels of obesity”, because the meals in question “tend to be associated with higher intakes of sugar, fat, and salt and portion sizes tend to be bigger”. Later, they declare that “we are not burning off enough of the calories that we consume”. But not to worry, everyone. Don’t panic. Public Health England have got a plan, you see. Well go on then, Public Health England, relate your no doubt facile and unnecessarily bureaucratic plan: “Public Health England’s plan to tackle obesity includes looking at behaviour change relating to healthier eating and increasing physical activity.”

So the same people Public Health England have been trying to wean off bad diets and low-exercise lifestyles for the last couple of years are now to be given incentives to eat takeaways and ride around with their feet up in the back of discounted taxis? Hmm.

It’s all pretty cynical, isn’t it? The Government didn’t set about improving vaccination rates amongst the young by offering free fresh fruit and vegetables because they knew full well that that wouldn’t work. Then they remembered:  “The nippers like fast food! It makes them feel good!!” So they set about knowingly exploiting a human weakness to bring about their desired political outcome. In fact, that’s not just cynical. It’s basic human conditioning. Two stimuli are being linked together to produce a new learned response: the actions of eating fast food and not exercising already create positive feelings for many young people [unconditioned stimulus]; Government policy then associates doing the right thing by society with eating fast food and not exercising [conditioned stimulus]; and finally, when the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli have successfully been associated, a new conditioned response is created such that eating fast food and not exercising comes to be associated with doing the right thing by society.

But is this [choke!]… deliberate? Would they [gasp!]… knowingly set out to achieve such a thing? Are they [gulp!]… intentionally fattening up the kids because they’ve got ambitious, non-negotiable net-zero targets to meet by 2035 and the bloke who changes the bins and mops the floors for Professor Ferguson’s team over at Imperial College reckons teenage visceral fat might release fewer harmful emissions than fossil fuels if it’s fed into an internal combustion engine, so Boris has decided to give the thing a whirl with phase one of a mass culling exercise set to commence as soon as the average BMI for 16-21 year-olds hits 25.2?! Or are we to assume that [splutter!]… where Ivan Pavlov spent the 1890s showing that animals could be trained to salivate at the sound of a bell being rung because the ringing of that bell had previously accompanied the arrival of their food, the Government is now actively planning to coax its own livestock into salivating at the thought of falling Covid case numbers because similar declines previously always accompanied them getting on the outside of a double cheeseburger?!?

Deliberate intent, preparedness, meticulous planning… and Boris Johnson? One smiles. An administration led by Carrie’s parliamentary envoy could no more design and implement a policy capable of achieving its stated objectives than the man himself could organise a bukkake party in a Turkish brothel notorious even amongst its local competitors for operating rather a lax moral code.

But just because this eccentric little homage to human conditioning is the accidental side-effect of a poorly designed initiative, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we should immediately dismiss it as meaningless or politically insignificant. Too often in life, we demarcate the deliberate from the accidental on the basis of intentionality. Deliberate acts, we say to ourselves, must mean something, must knowingly have been undertaken and must therefore reveal something of a person’s intentions. Accidents, on the other hand, we determine to be meaningless simply because they weren’t performed intentionally: “I’m sorry,” as the exculpatory saying so beloved of all recently exposed philanderers has it. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” But what if meaningful phenomena sometimes leaked out unknowingly when people caused accidents? What if slip-ups, stumbles, mispronunciations, repeated patterns of odd behaviour (etc.) could reveal someone’s intentions, motivations or desires without that person ever realising that that was the case?

Certainly that well-known white supremacist, Sigmund Freud, believed that these apparently trivial moments – what he referred to as ‘parapraxes’ but that we know simply as ‘Freudian slips’ – had the power to reveal the unconscious; those deepest, darkest, most powerful ideas that prey on a person’s mind, influencing their actions and their lives. Freud’s claim was that a person’s superego, normally so capable of repression, sometimes flickered momentarily, like a current switched off and on; and in those moments our actions would often betray us: grief still too raw to be processed after half a century, caught in the slip of a tongue; libidinal attachments to a particular prohibition, petrified in the repeated and apparently accidental mispronunciation of a word; or sadistic impulses embedded within a predictive computer model that consistently over-exaggerates epidemiological risk.

That’s not to say that all accidents constitute parapraxes. Naturally, there are events that are accidental in the original meaning of that word and are brought about by chance or fate. Where a government rarely if ever ends up salving one crisis by generating another, for instance, we may feel confident in describing those rare instances as “accidents”. But where that same government repeatedly responds to crises with initiatives that cannot help but generate other crises, we are perhaps entitled to consider whether something a little more parapraxis-like than chance might lie at the root of the problem…

…which is exactly the issue we need to consider here, because although the Government’s attempt to bribe kids into taking a jab today on the promise of flab tomorrow is indeed “accidental”, it can hardly be dismissed as a one-off. On the contrary, it provides further, highly suggestive empirical evidence that something akin to a Freudian “repetition compulsion” has recently taken hold across Government departments and the civil service more generally. Consider the highlights reel from this burgeoning dataset:

The Government bribes young people with fast-food and free taxi rides to coax them into taking a vaccine capable of reducing Covid-related pressure on the NHS… only to “accidentally” generate increased obesity-related pressure on the NHS; they mandate the wearing of single-use plastic masks in all public places to save the NHS from Covid-related pressure in the here-and-now… only to “accidentally” end up generating multiple and complex environmental and climate-related crises for the future; they force people to stay at home through lockdown policies designed to save the NHS from what they claim would otherwise have been unmanageable numbers of Covid-related hospitalisations in the here-and-now… only to “accidentally” end up generating unmanageable numbers of mental-health-related referrals and hospitalisations for the NHS in the future; they order the cancellation of many standard and pre-booked NHS appointments and operations to free up hospital beds during a global pandemic… only to “accidentally” generate a different type of health crisis as the NHS starts to come under pressure from conditions left untreated during lockdown, including cirrhosis, heart disease and diabetes; they order… and so it goes, policy after policy, month after month; a Government now so lost amidst the rubble of its own electoral mandate that it’s forgotten why or even when it started gambling away the country’s future in this giant, seemingly endless game of bureaucratic Whack-a-Mole.

Writing about the psychoanalytic import of parapraxes in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud likened them to “unnoticed openings which let a penetrating eye at once into a man’s soul”. I wonder. Could it be that the Government’s crisis-generative behaviour represents just such an unnoticed opening? Is what we’re seeing when we peer at these accidents with a “penetrating eye” not incompetence, but the very soul of power? Do these repeated Governmental slip-ups, in which crises proliferate rather than dwindle, mark the irruption into political life of power’s deepest, darkest unconscious desire; a desire to ‘take care of people’?

Now at this juncture, it’s likely that that part of us which still believes in the importance of welfarism to any civilised society might interject with a curt, “Yes; and what of it?” “True,” our better selves might concede: “It’s a little odd that bunglers like Johnson and Javid can’t seem to look at a crisis without about half a dozen others popping up all around them. But if these peculiar little fellows mean well; if their hearts are in the right place and all they’re trying to do is look out for us, then what’s the problem? It’s alright for the Toby Youngs and James Delingpoles of this world, isn’t it,” we’d continue. “Muscle-bound young Adonises that they are, roaming the countryside in unnecessarily tight-fitting loincloths, hunting wild boar with their bare hands and shagging all the birds in sight. They can take care of themselves, can’t they? But what about the rest of us, staggering from one hospital appointment to the next, hawking our irritable bowels, chronic gout and erectile dysfunction around what few clinicians remain who can still bear to look at our corpusculent bodies without retching involuntarily? Don’t we need a bit of support every now and then? Don’t we deserve a government that’s eager and willing to… take care of us?”

All true, no doubt. But the phrase, “to take care of someone” is peculiarly polysemic. It is of course easy to imagine it falling from the lips of a slightly plump, middle-aged adult care nurse named Bev, as she seeks to reassure a group of anxious parents that their sons and daughters are going to be just fine on their first-ever day-trip outside the confines of the institution. “Don’t worry,” one pictures this buxom Beveridgeian paternalist cooing, perhaps even lightly touching the elbow of the parent closest to her with her palm as she does so; “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of them.” But it’s just as easy to imagine the phrase cropping up in conversation between a gangland boss who feels he’s exhausted every means of mediation available to him during a protracted legal dispute with two entirely refractory business rivals, and a man known only as “Bang Bang Tony” whom he’s employed to break the impasse and bring negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. “Don’t worry,” Bang Bang Tony murmurs, his voice echoing around a disused warehouse as they both stare dispassionately at two gagged, bound and badly beaten bodies in the boot of a car. “I’ll take care of them.”

Governments have been attempting to ‘take care of us’ (a la Bev), and at the same time ‘take care of us‘ (a la Bang Bang Tony) since the birth of modernity. Everywhere you look, you see the same benevolent illiberalism baked-into the very fabric of our social system, from the psychological sciences (“We want to know what makes citizens tick so that we might help them better adjust to social life [Bev]… and then manipulate them into doing what we want them to do” [Bang Bang Tony]), the spectre of vaccine mandates (“We want our citizens to be kept as safe as possible… which also means culling any undesirables who won’t allow us to force our vaccine into their bodies”) and the pension system (“We want our citizens to have the best quality of life possible in their old-age… which means that they’re going to have to do exactly as they’re told in the workplace until they reach the age of 67”), through to mortgages (“We’re committed to building a global, credit-based financial architecture capable of empowering all citizens to own their own home… which means they’ll have to behave like good little boys and girls, maintaining excellent credit scores throughout their lives and never, ever stepping out of paid employment and into those spaces of self-employment where we can’t so easily discipline them”), national curricula (“We want our young citizens to learn the skills necessary to succeed in a global, complex and increasingly interdependent world… so we’re going to indoctrinate them with all the globalist values and beliefs that we, and not you – their parents – believe to be the right – indeed the only – values and beliefs to hold in the 21st century”), and, well… just about every other structure, process or institution you care to think of, really.

The only thing that’s ever stood between this desire to ‘take care’ of people and the governmental colonisation of every aspect of everyday life has been a democratic system of government that, frankly, the British establishment has had buyer’s remorse about ever since Lord Grey, in a typically Whiggish moment of fat-headedness, signed them up to the blasted thing on an unbreakable, long-term leasehold contract. A nice sense of the proprieties of modern, egalitarian living prevents those who move within the rarefied upper echelons of our society from publicly endorsing the concept of feudalism, but one can’t help picturing them sighing a little wistfully whenever the topic of their forebears crops up over the breakfast table: Masters slaughtering Serfs, Serfs cowering in fear of Masters, and everything so arranged as to make for the best of all possible worlds.

It’s easy to celebrate democracy from below, isn’t it? Chartism, Peterloo, the Suffragettes – all that Ken Loach-y stuff where it never stops raining and everyone’s forever popping off home to die of consumption. Viewed from the perspective of those it dispossessed, however, it’s a total car crash. Not only does it render feudalism’s hitherto unbounded Masters into electorally ensnared Politicians, but then, as if that weren’t bad enough, it transforms their hitherto docile and unquestioningly obedient Serfs into ‘The Masses’, that is, a semi-literate, prematurely enfranchised rabble who’re always too busy rutting, boozing and fighting for you to ever properly be able to catch their attentions and persuade them that their interests would actually best be served by voting for you – as a Politician now, of course – and letting you ‘take care of them’, for the duration of a short Parliamentary term.

Can you even begin to imagine how maddening that must be for our contemporary elites, harbouring all the same urges as the Masters of old [You will be taken care of, scum, or you will die…”], but now forced to parade about like a lot of silly asses in the garb of a Politician [“Hello madam, we’re from the government… would it be possible, do you think, for us to talk with you abou… oh yes… yes; yes of course… no… no, no… only for a few minutes, of course… yes, you’re very busy… yes, I understand entirely … well I’ll try and keep this short, then… ahem… so what we were hoping to talk to you about today was how – only with your permission, you understand – we’d like to bring some proposals before Parliament that have the express aim of taking care of you…”]?

Think about it counterfactually for a moment. Picture yourself as the scion of an immensely wealthy, privileged and well-connected British family. You were educated at Eton and Oxford. True, you only graduated with a third in PPE, and, in all honesty, you’d probably struggle to pour piss out of a boot even if someone told you there were instructions printed on the sole. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that while you were there you spent a goodish chunk of time hanging out with other, similarly vapid scions from other similarly wealthy, privileged and well-connected families, all of whom were just as keen as you to develop answers to all the world’s most pressing problems…

… Vegan electricity! Organic quantitative easing! Compostable concrete! Recycled pilchards! Genetically modified haemorrhoids capturing and storing methane gas!…

Entering the labour market soon thereafter, you swerve any actual engagement with the actual world, leveraging your family’s connections to secure a string of well-paid advisory positions with various, high-ranking government ministers. Working behind the scenes in Whitehall, you connect with many other likeminded morons, all of whom are just as keen as you to develop answers to the world’s most pressing problems…

… Babies made out of falafel! Carbon credits for non-binary parrakeets! Digital runner beans! Eco homes built from quinoa and soy wax!…

Before long, Conservative Party H.Q. are paying for you to have your head varnished in media-friendly light teak waterproof gloss, an important rite of passage that can only mean one thing: the Prime Minister feels you’re ready to appear on TV as a government spokesperson, no doubt because he’s heard you’re as keen as he is to develop answers to the world’s most pressing problems…

… Meat that photosynthesises! Windmills threshing greenhouse gases into rye flour! Solar-powered gas boilers!…

You become a regular at Davos. Klaus Schwab looks upon you as one of his closest friends and allies. Whenever your respective people can make it work diary-wise, you wrestle with Tony Blair on a specially designed, massage oil resistant foam crash mat in his private gymnasium. Bono sometimes pops by, just to watch (although sometimes you play “winner stays on”). In a sure sign, you’re being groomed to take over a major ministerial portfolio, the Conservative Party select you as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for a safe Conservative seat (CON +16,547) in a part of England that, apparently, the locals refer to as “South Yorkshire” (“Look it up,” you tell your special advisor during an early general election campaign strategy meeting,. “It might be significant”).

At last, you say to yourself. A chance to persuade the great unwashed that you’re ready, willing and able to take care of them. You’re excited, rightly so, and you turn up to your first hustings event prepped and ready to deliver a two-hour PowerPoint presentation. It’s your hope – indeed, your expectation – that its contents will inspire The Masses to become as keen as you are to develop answers to the world’s most pressing problems…

… Farms repurposed as nature reserves! Sex factories harnessing renewable energy from the force of thousands of incarcerated testicles slapping against thousands of gap-year volunteering arse-cheeks!…

Oh yes. You’ve got all the answers haven’t you, smarty pants. But do The Masses care? Not one bit. Society, the climate… planet Earth: they’re all dying, right now, right this minute, and you’ve only got about four minutes and 23 seconds to save everyone from disaster. And what do The Masses plan on doing about it? Nothing, that’s what. It’s almost as if they aren’t actually bothered about developing answers to the world’s most pressing problems. Certainly, all they seem to want to heckle you about, slide after slide, are laughably inconsequential local issues like mass unemployment, rising levels of homelessness, hyperinflation, widespread food shortages, children starving to death on the streets, civil war and a state-sponsored pogrom against the unvaccinated; issues which, in any case, are more properly addressed to their respective parish councils, town clerks or the organisers of their local Neighbourhood Watch schemes. Spiritually bloodied yet intellectually unbowed, you continue to lecture them right through to your final PowerPoint slide – slide number 152, to be precise – not because the audience is captivated – they aren’t – but because you enjoy the sound of your own voice; it is, after all, the voice of the only person in the room who appears keen to develop answers to all the world’s most pressing problems…

… Wheelchair friendly political re-education camps! Sustainable snuff films planting a tree for every corpse they generate! Post-colonial cucumbers!…

“Oi, mate,” one of these provincial inadequates – white, of course – interrupts just as you’re discoursing on the environmental harm caused by salaried jobs and how the government intends to replace them by 2030 with a state-sponsored programme of stay-at-home knitting, sourdough bread making and online pottery classes; “Oi, mate,” he micro-aggresses, “I’ve got to be able to pay my bills; I’ve got to be able to survive, haven’t I?” Enraged at his impudence, you feel like pointing out that there are more important things in life than survival, particularly his, but thankfully, wiser counsels prevail.

And why must you be thankful?

Because as amazing as it would no doubt seem to your feudal ancestors, you depend on these people. Once every four years or so democracy requires that you, the scion of an immensely wealthy, privileged and well-connected British family who, lest we forget, is already in receipt of pretty much all of the answers to pretty much all of the world’s most pressing problems, must chase around after these ill-bred peasants and plead with them to lend you their votes so you might then take care of them properly.

…and it’s at that moment, just as you’re reflecting on the unfairness of it all, that you realise the truth: democracy’s nothing but a tawdry pantomime; a tawdry pantomime in which people with appalling names, like Karen – white, of course – from ghastly sounding places you’ve never heard of, like Doncaster, who claim to own things you don’t even believe exist, like Nail Bars, get the opportunity to stand up at hustings events and call people such as yourself names, like “shithouse”…

…and just as Karen’s unexpectedly standing up and calling you a shithouse, you realise that democracy also involves the local South Yorkshire media standing about, tittering away to themselves and filming the whole debacle for the nightly news…

…and as you’re stood there watching the media tittering away to themselves and filming the whole debacle for the nightly news, you realise that democracy also involves women like Karen doing other, similarly unexpected things, like climbing up onto stage, grabbing a microphone and then not asking the question a member of your campaign team had pre-prepared for her – “Why are you so amazingly, awe-inspiringly keen to develop answers to the world’s most pressing problems? P.S. You’re well hunky, can I have your autograph?” – but instead recounting a story that everyone in your campaign team had expressly warned her not to recount; a story about how her 92 year-old grandma – white, of course – died of hyperthermia last winter because the government – “your c*** of a f***ing government,” as she puts it – took away her gas boiler and replaced it with a giant hamster wheel, which the local council told her she’d have to start running around in if she wanted to keep warm; and besides, even if she didn’t want to keep warm, they added, the only way she’d be able to generate enough electricity to power that environmentally harmful toaster she seemed so fond of would be for her to run around in that hamster wheel all night for at least eight hours, they stipulated, at high-speed, they insisted, probably just as fast as Usain Bolt, they speculated, and if she managed to do all of that, they continued, she might be able to generate just enough electricity to lightly toast one side of a bagel come the morning, not that they were going to guarantee it, they hedged, certainly not in writing, they shrieked, are you mad, they asked, that was more than their jobs were worth, they laughed, and so it was left that they’d come back in a week or two to see if her corpse were ready to be composted and its carbon resources harvested to pay back all of that costly environmental debt she’d gotten herself into with the council on account of her having insisted on being able to use an environmentally harmful toaster whilst she were still alive, and apparently Karen had found her grandma only the next morning, and…

…and although you’re not really listening to her, because she’s called Karen, and she’s from Doncaster, and she owns something you don’t really believe exists called a Nail Bar, you suddenly realise that democracy also involves the scions of immensely wealthy, privileged and well-connected British families in thinking on their feet and spotting opportunities to slip media-friendly sound-bites into hustings events regarding the government’s “build back better” campaign; so you cut into her incessant, self-pitying babble just as she’s starting to cry for what seems like the umpteenth time, and you start off by giving her a bit of the old flannel about how hard it must’ve been to find her grandma dead in a giant hamster wheel like that, what with her half-frozen body still spinning around and around, almost as if, you add, in an attempt to lighten the mood and draw a laugh from the rest of the audience, her spirit had lingered in the room and was still hellbent on having that toasted bagel for breakfast, haha, but no, you go on, suddenly serious again; no Karen, if you were to be as honest as everyone here tonight would want their local constituency MP to be, you say, throwing a coquettish look out towards the audience as you do so, you’d have to say that it was actually quite selfish of her grandma to have been asking for luxuries like heating in the first place, particularly given how hard the government’s been working to [ever-so-slight pause for effect] … ‘Build Back Better’ ever since last year’s 11-month long climate change lockdown; but if it’s any consolation, you go on, the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive – a good friend of mine, you remark chattily; we often play squash together, you add – has been saying for years now that the delicate ecosystem of Shropshire’s great crested yellow newt is under threat from climate change, so surely, you go on, throwing that same coquettish look as before, only now towards the media, and thinking as you do so that if this next little soundbite doesn’t make the local evening news and seal the deal on Karen’s ballot paper then you’re not the politician you thought you were; surely, you say, the death of a selfish old grandma who insisted on running around in a giant hamster wheel all the time just to avoid spending a little bit of her citizen’s wage on an extra jumper or two is “a price worth paying” if it saves the life of even one Shropshire great crested yellow toad…

…and then you realise that democracy also means learning to cope when The Masses react in unexpected ways, because for some unfathomable reason, your little sliver of ad-libbed brilliance hasn’t calmed Karen down at all; quite the opposite, in fact, because now she’s calling you a c*** and a w***** as well as a shithouse; and then, just as you’re looking around the room a little nervously, unsure how to react because Karen’s shouting incoherently, you suddenly realise that she isn’t actually shouting incoherently at all, but in fact asking you a question, specifically, whether it would interest you to learn that that 11-month climate lockdown you seem to be so f***ing proud of cost her and her family – white, of course – their home, because thanks to t***s like you in your little b****** sucking c*** bubble down in Westminster, her husband – white, of course – and her were forcibly stopped from going out to work by the army, and all because the temperature of the f***ing country had apparently risen 0.3 Celsius above what those sanctimonious, salaried c***s in SAGE deemed to be safe for human existence – 0.37 Celsius, Karen, you try to interject with all the prim, iconoclastic righteousness of a BBC fact checker, but she’s not interested in the truth; sadly, you remind yourself, people like her never are – and now they’re having to live in their car, she says, and there’s not a night that goes by without her wishing she had the mental courage to f***ing hang herself…

…scarcely feasible in the make and type of car you’re likely to be able to afford, you find yourself thinking; and just as you’re about to put that point to her, you remember that democracy’s also about communication and dialogue and nudging people like Karen into understanding that our collective, democratic ability to find answers to the world’s most pressing problems is far more important than her footling little personal tragedies, so instead, you try to coax some tenderness into a voice that, frankly, has had just about enough of Karen for one lifetime, and you reach out to put a compassionate hand on her vulnerable arm, hoping that at least some of the media’s cameras caught the fleeting moment of attempted tenderness that ensued before Karen backed away, her face registering utter revulsion, and then you put your hand back down by your side and you quietly remind her that she’s only angry about losing her home because she owned one in the first place, and if she votes for you in the upcoming election, you promise that you’ll fight as hard as any local constituency MP the length and breadth of the country in order to ensure that people like her will never, ever have to worry about owning anything ever again, and what’s more, you add with a flourish, you can guarantee that she’ll be happier because of it…

…but then she starts crying again, and calling you a c*** again, and, frankly, you start to wonder whether she might not have a learning difficulty, but before you have a chance to pursue the implications of that thought and whether it might or might not help your media relations team to smear Karen as an anti-vaxxer, you suddenly realise that democracy doesn’t just involve the local media in standing at the back of a hustings event and tittering away to themselves, because apparently it also involves them in starting to cluster around you, invading your personal space with cameras, microphones, booms and all sorts of other recording devices and letting plain but sensible-looking female political correspondents, all of whom seem to be sporting unnecessarily low-cut tops, ask you all sorts of impertinent questions, like whether you’re planning to stand aside from the election contest what with having been so insensitive to a recently bereaved daughter, and, more generally, having made such a colossal ass of yourself…

…and then you realise that democracy is also about responding nimbly to unexpected questions whenever they’re put to you at hustings events by plain but sensible looking female political correspondents, all of whom seem to be sporting unnecessarily low-cut tops, so in less than ideal circumstances, what with Karen now standing just a few feet away from you, sobbing uncontrollably and, every so often, whimpering that you’re a *****, a **** and a *******, you respond as best you can, and you say, no, not at all, not at all, uhm, the thought has, er, never crossed your, ah, mind, haha, because [“…cold-hearted f***ing c***…”]… er, hmm… ahem, er, because, you see, you’re passionate about, uhm, South Yorkshire and it’s been a, er, long held ambition of yours to, ah, represent a run-down, ex-coal mining community like, um, Liverpool, and that, er, what impresses you most about Geordies, as they like to be known down at the rugger stadium, haha, is that they’re all so, uhm, authentically poor [“…psychopathic sh*t weasel…”] …er, yes, they’re all so authentically poor, uhm, and not just, you know, er, putting it on for a laugh, but, uhm, actually really passionate about being poor, haha, and, ah, you know, despite the many chances that your government has, er, given these people to succeed in life [“…shithouse w***er…”] …er, yes, as you were saying, to, uhm, succeed in life, and, ah, to better themselves, they’ve, uhm, always wanted to honour the memories of their fathers and their fathers before them, all of whom were, ah, desperately poor too [“…delusional f***ing d***head…”] …yes, quite… ahem, so they’ve, um, steadfastly remained in the gutter themselves, and you can, ah, absolutely, wholeheartedly respect that kind of personal [“…heartless b******…”] …uhm, as you were saying, you can absolutely, wholeheartedly respect that, er, kind of integrity, haha, even though you might not be able to understand it yourself, or, you know, haha, even condone it, really…

…and then you realise that democracy is also, in the end, about polling stations, and poll clerks welcoming voters to polling stations, and voters popping ballot papers into boxes, and tellers counting the ballot papers that have been popped into ballot boxes, and presiding officers whispering the likely results into candidates’ ears, and returning officials announcing the actual results… and then it’s also about your campaign team manager sidling up to you to confirm that, yes, the presiding officer was right and that, no, no noughts had been left off your count, and that, yes, you did receive only 367 votes – on a 72% swing away from the Conservative Party, he adds, but without being able to look you in the face at any point – and that, yes, as a result, you’ve lost your deposit. (“Forgive them father,” you plead with a grim-faced Tony Blair later via Zoom. “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do…”)

…and then, in the end, you realise that democracy also means ill-educated, appallingly common women with names like Karen, from ghastly sounding towns like Doncaster who own things that you still, even now, don’t really believe exist, like Nail Bars, being able to thwart the scions of immensely wealthy, privileged and well-connected British families as they attempt to gain democratic office and implement their answers to all of the world’s most pressing questions…

…and it’s only a few days later, as Tony Blair’s throwing you to the massage oil resistant foam crash mat in his private gymnasium and Bono’s rushing over to massage your inner thighs (“But it’s my back that hurts,” you protest), that you realise what should have been obvious to you all along: that democracy isn’t working; that it can’t help you to answer the world’s most pressing problems; that it doesn’t work in the best interests of The Masses; that it doesn’t keep The Masses safe from themselves; that it doesn’t help you to…

take care of them.

Perhaps now we understand why, in the deepest, darkest recesses of these peoples’ souls, there are leftover resides, remnants from a different age; feudal desires that have lingered in the half-light of the unconscious for many centuries, repressed but never forgotten; unconscious, id-like dreams in which democracy’s Masses appear altogether different; in which a succession of crises render them a little more Serf-like, a little more obedient, a little less impudent; a type of democracy in which the Karens of this world are all morbidly obese, vulnerable, bed-bound, diabetic, wheezing asthmatics who’d need a specialised team and a mechanical winch to get up before they could even think about attending hustings events; a type of democracy in which morbidly obese, bed-bound, diabetic, wheezing asthmatic Karens who’d need specialised teams and mechanised winches to get up would no longer call their Masters shithouses, but, on the contrary, would be grateful to them for taking care of their complex medical needs via a free at the point of use healthcare system; a type of democracy in which morbidly obese, bed-bound, diabetic, wheezing asthmatic yet oh-so-grateful Karens would unthinkingly trust their political Masters to take care of their complex medical needs via a free at the point of use healthcare system, and, as a result, would quickly learn to unthinkingly trust those same Masters to implement all of their other answers to all of the world’s other problems; a type of democracy, in fact, that would be almost entirely feudal in its outlook.

Serfs, not citizens. Noblesse oblige, not citizenship. Confession, not debate. Corvee not wages. Lineage, not meritocracy. Outlaws not intellectual dissenters. Dispensations and indulgences for the rich, not equality before the law. The Lord’s bailiffs, not the state’s police. Banalities, not rent. Tithes, not taxes. Forelock tugging, not freedom of assembly.

Sometimes, of course, the details of these Freudian phantasies vary: Karen losing her Nail Bar business during a lockdown crisis; Karen losing her home thanks to an inflation crisis; Karen’s Nail Bar business taxed out of existence due to a climate crisis; and so on and so forth. But however much they vary, these dreams always have the same ending: Karen getting finagled into a position where she can be taken care of by the state… and then taken care of by the state.

That’s why the Government’s recent policy of incentivising young people to take a vaccine by stuffing them full of discounted fast food is about more than just an ill-judged, poorly thought-through initiative. It’s indicative of a wider repetitive compulsion that’s taken hold across Government more generally, wherein the treatment of one crisis via government intervention will always – accidentally, of course – proliferate crises that, in their turn, will require further government intervention that will always – accidentally, of course – proliferate crises that, in their turn, will require government intervention that will always – accidentally, of course – proliferate crises that, in their turn, will require government intervention that will always – accidentally, of course – proliferate crises that, in their turn, will require government intervention that will always… and so on and so forth, the state slowly but surely abrogating to itself ever more of the interventionist powers it regards as necessary to take care of citizens during the course of multiple, unending crises. Thus do we find power’s unconscious desire to ‘take care of people’ slowly leaking into the social realm, each successive crisis taking away just that little bit more of a person’s individual autonomy, independence and self-reliance:

…Karen the Nail Bar owning victim of an obesity crisis, now too fat to move unaided and thus entirely dependent on, and oh-so-grateful for, healthcare that’s paid for by the state…

…Karen the morbidly obese Nail Bar owner, subsequently the victim of a financial crisis, now too indebted to continue running her own business and thus entirely dependent on, and oh-so- grateful for, the state’s largesse…

…Karen the morbidly obese, bankrupted, former Nail Bar owner, subsequently the victim of a climate crisis, now too poor to afford the ground source heat pump her mortgage company insists she must install before agreeing to re-mortgage her home and thus entirely dependent on, and oh-so-grateful for, the state’s sheltered housing programme…

…Karen the homeless, morbidly obese, bankrupted former Nail Bar owner, now so emotionally and psychologically damaged by successive crises that she struggles to get angry about anything and is just oh-so-very-very-grateful to the state for everything it’s done for her…

…“Thank you, NHS,” wheezes Karen, the multiple crisis survivor. “Thank you, Boris; thank you, SAGE; thank you, Professor Neil Ferguson; thank you, Sajid; thank you, Greta; thank you the Bank of England; thank you, AstraZeneca; thank you, the mob that stabbed and then mutilated my selfish, unvaccinated son; thank you, The Samaritans; thank you, Alcoholics Anonymous; thank you, my wonderful pawnbrokers; thank you, mental health crisis intervention teams; thank you, the outreach team that looks after my homeless daughter; thank you, Rishi; thank you… Sire… ☺️☺️☺️…”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Feudalism of our near-future.

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating. So let me finish by asking you this question: If you were an over-centralised governmental apparatus; and if you were sliding ever closer towards a form of benevolent authoritarianism in which Parliamentary democracy was regarded as some kind of luxury; and if you were quietly signing contracts with private tech companies so as to better develop a digital vaccine passport system that could one day segue into a Chinese style social credit system capable of rewarding the compliant and ruining the recalcitrant; and if you had a digital currency to develop so as to better keep tabs on everyone’s spending; and if you had computer automated vehicles to roll out so as to better understand where everyone’s driving, when they’re driving there and what they’re doing when they get there; and if you had a Green Agenda to push that won’t do a single thing to protect the environment but will cause irreparable harm to small and medium-sized homegrown businesses, pushing their bankrupt owners and redundant employees back into the normative disciplinary clutches of salaried jobs at large, bullshit globalist corporations; and if you had unpopular, post-colonial pedagogies to foist on children and students so as to better cultivate their hatred for their own heritage, their own identity, their own success in life; and if you had net-zero Carbon targets to chase so as to better win bragging rights amongst your G20 pals while simultaneously handing every last drop of geo-political power you ever thought you had over to the Chinese: if you were that type of government, then what type of citizen would you rather be dealing with 10-20 years from now: those who were self-reliant, resilient, rebellious, critical, sceptical, truculent, autonomous, individualistic and capable of taking care of themselves… or those who were morbidly obese, bankrupt, ill-educated, dispossessed, broken, ground down, indoctrinated, apathetic and generally incapable of doing anything other than letting the scions of immensely wealthy, privileged and well-connected British families take care of them?

Exactly.

Freddie Attenborough is a former lecturer in sociology. You can find his blog here.

Latest News

Is Obesity to Blame For the High Covid Death Toll?

A number of news outlets carried the story yesterday of the report by the World Obesity Federation which concludes that obesity is responsible for worsening Covid death rates around the world. The Times has more.

Britain’s dire COVID-19 death rate is partly the result of obesity, according to a report that the World Health Organisation says is a “wake-up call” to the overweight West.

Boris Johnson is considering giving out shopping vouchers for losing weight as he accepts the link between obesity and Covid and will promise today £100 million more for slimming schemes. The prime minister’s near-death experience with Covid caused him to reverse his opposition to anti-obesity policies and accept the need to act. This case is underlined in a report by the World Obesity Federation which concludes that thousands of deaths in Britain could have been avoided if “negligent” governments had a grip on the national weight problem.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, said that the link between obesity and Covid deaths was “compelling” as he urged countries to improve public health.

Analysis shows a “dramatic” increase in death rates once more than half a country’s population is overweight, which it says cannot be explained by age, wealth or health systems. In countries where less than half the population is overweight, the risk of death from Covid is a tenth of that in countries above this level, with almost nine in ten Covid deaths in countries with overweight rates above 50%.

No country where less than 40% of the population is overweight has Covid death rates above 10 per 100,000, while no country with death rates above 100 per 100,000 has overweight rates of less than 50%.

The last statement is certainly true – and is another way of saying that the top left of the chart above is empty (i.e., there are no high Covid mortality countries with low obesity). But is this the whole story? For reasons best known to themselves, the Times did not reproduce the full chart from the report, which is shown below.

With the bottom right now filled in with all the countries with high obesity but low Covid mortality, the result looks distinctly less impressive.

Notice in particular that among the countries above 50% obesity (right-hand side) there is no sign of a correlation at all, with more points at the bottom (low Covid mortality) than at the top and no upward slope to speak of. There is no indication of Covid mortality getting worse as a country gets fatter.

Neither is there much correlation in evidence in the bottom left of the chart, among the low obesity countries. As the obesity prevalence increases it remains basically flat. The countries with 20% obesity fare basically the same as those with 40%.

Then suddenly, wham! A tower of Covid appears at just over 50% obesity.

Thus it is a chart of two halves: a flat half below 50% and a strange tall blob above 50%, and no neat slopes upwards in either half or between them.

What explains this curious shape? It may be helpful to realise that the countries in the bottom left consist almost entirely of the African and South East Asian countries, which are already known (for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious) to have had a very different pandemic to the rest of the world.

Obesity is likely to be part of the story. But how big a part? On the evidence of this graph and report, it’s very hard to say.

The Emerging Totalitarian Dystopia: An Interview With Professor Mattias Desmet

Cartoon by Peter Poplaski

We’re publishing today an interview with Mattias Desmet, Psychotherapist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium, who is concerned about the emergence of totalitarian tendencies in the West. The interview was conducted by political philosopher and author Patrick Dewals and first published in Flemish here. It has been translated by a group of Lockdown Sceptics readers and appears here for the first time in English.

Here’s a taster.

Do you recognise totalitarian traits in the current crisis and the government response to it?

Definitely. When one steps away from the virus story, one discovers a totalitarian process par excellence. For example, according to Arendt, a pre-totalitarian state cuts through all social ties of the population. Simple dictatorships do that at the political level – they ensure that the opposition cannot unite – but totalitarian states also do this among the population, in the private sphere. Think of the children who – often unintentionally – reported their parents to the government in the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Totalitarianism is so focused on total control that it automatically creates suspicion among the population, causing people to spy on and denounce each other. People no longer dare to speak out against the majority and are less able to organise themselves due to the restrictions. It is not difficult to recognise such phenomena in today’s situation, in addition to many other features of emerging totalitarianism.

What is it that this totalitarian state ultimately wants to achieve?

At first, it doesn‘t want anything. Its emergence is an automatic process coupled on the one hand with great anxiety on the part of the population and, on the other hand, a naive scientific thinking that considers total knowledge possible. Today there are those who believe that society should no longer be based on political narratives but on scientific facts and figures, thus rolling out the red carpet for rule by technocracy. Their ideal image is what the Dutch philosopher Ad Verbrugge calls “intensive human husbandry”. Within a biological-reductionist, virological ideology, continuous biometric monitoring is indicated and people are subjected to continuous preventive medical interventions, such as vaccination campaigns. All this to supposedly optimise public health. And a whole range of medical hygiene measures must be implemented; avoiding touch, wearing face masks, continuously disinfecting hands, vaccination, etc. For the supporters of this ideology, one can never do enough to achieve the ideal of the greatest possible ‘health’. A newspaper article appeared in which one could read that the population ought to be made even more afraid. Only then would they stick to the measures recommended by the virologists. In their view, stirring up fear will work to produce good. But when drawing up all these draconian measures, the policymakers forget that people cannot be healthy, either physically or mentally, without sufficient freedom, privacy and the right to self-determination, values that this technocratic totalitarian view totally ignores. Although the Government aspires to enormous health improvement for its society, its actions will ruin the health of society. By the way, this is a basic characteristic of totalitarian thinking according to Hannah Arendt: it ends in the exact opposite of what it originally pursued.

Worth reading in full.

COVID-19 Testing and the Workplace

There follows a post from our legal eagle Dr John Fanning, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool, responding to a question posed by a Lockdown Sceptics reader about whether employers can require their employees to be tested for Covid.

For those fed up with working from home or the tedium of life on furlough, the UK Government’s “roadmap” for the easing of lockdown raises the prospect of a welcome (though gradual) return to the workplace over the coming months. Of course, many people – including NHS staff; the police; fire brigade; workers in essential retail, construction and manufacturing; and so on – never left it in the first place. Nevertheless, employers will most likely have to continue to ensure that workplaces are “COVID-secure” for the foreseeable future – with an expanded programme of asymptomatic testing playing a key part in this endeavour. With that comes another interesting question: can your boss demand that you take a test?

This is a tricky one to answer because so much depends on what is “reasonable” in the circumstances. The manager of a nursing home might reasonably require her/his employees to undergo mandatory testing in order to protect its residents from coronavirus disease. In those circumstances, an employee’s failure to comply with such a reasonable instruction might be grounds for disciplinary action. By contrast, it would seem much less reasonable to order an employee who ordinarily works alone in a single-occupancy office, or a warehouse yards away from anyone else, to take a test which she/he has declined. Between these two examples is a broad spectrum of circumstances in which employers’ instructions may, or may not, be reasonable. The context is key.

One thing about which we can be sure is that an employer cannot force an employee to undergo a COVID-19 test without consent. To do so would constitute battery – i.e., “the infliction of unlawful force on another person” (Lord Justice Goff in Collins v Wilcock [1984] 1 WLR 1172) – and a criminal offence. I have written elsewhere that the Coronavirus Act 2020 does contain powers which authorise compulsory testing of potentially infectious persons, but they have remained in reserve up to now and, in any case, they are not for employers to deploy. In its recent guidance on this subject, the Department of Health described the expansion of workplace testing as “crucial” in “breaking chains of COVID-19 transmission”. Yet in the very next paragraph, the guidance states that it is “a voluntary decision for employers to run testing programmes for their staff”. As is often the case where COVID-19 testing is concerned, the sabre-rattling rhetoric is an imperfect reflection of legal reality.

As with many of the measures taken to “stop the spread” of COVID-19 (e.g. face masks, plastic screens, one-way systems, 2-metre (6ft 6ins) social distancing, and so on), asymptomatic workplace testing may have more value as a performative ritual – a reassuring sign for returning staff that something is being done ­– rather than as a necessary condition of the restoration of normality. What remains to be seen is whether any court will find that an employer’s failure to offer workplace COVID-19 testing is negligent. If an employer fails to offer Covid testing and one of its employees contracts the disease and suffers serious complications or dies, could that employee (or her/his estate) claim compensation from her/his bosses?

This is another tricky one. It is true that employers owe a non-delegable duty to provide their employees with a safe place of work (Wilson and Clyde Coal Co v English [1938] AC 57). But whether a failure to offer COVID-19 testing would breach that duty would, again, depend on what was reasonable. My hunch is that an employer’s failure to comply with Government guidelines by not running an inexpensive workplace testing scheme to tackle a foreseeable risk probably would breach her/his duty to her/his staff in some circumstances. This does not mean that employers everywhere are now on the hook for big compensation pay-outs – there is still an obvious causation problem; i.e., can it even be said that an employer’s negligent failure to offer testing caused an employee to fall ill? That employee could just as easily have been exposed to the virus on the bus, in a supermarket, or by another member of her/his household. However, even the potential for liability might prompt many employers to offer testing out of an abundance of caution; indeed, their insurers may insist upon it. Whether an employee would actually have to take a test would depend on that vexed question of reasonableness.

Zero Covid Cultists Target Scotland

A Lockdown Sceptics reader forwarded to us the email he received from the Zero Covid campaign inviting him to the “Launch conference for Zero Covid Scotland”.

Join us on Saturday March 13th for the Zero Covid Scotland launch conference.

There’s a door ajar in Scotland, a door to Zero Covid.

The Scottish Government has been handed a report, by their own Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee, telling them to pursue a virus elimination strategy. With the Scottish elections coming up on May 6th, let’s push that door wide open.

Speakers include:

Science

Dr Philippa Whitford MP, member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that recommended a Zero Covid strategy.
Dr Jeremy Rossman, expert on the international elimination of Covid, University of Kent.
Professor Andrew Watterson, public health expert, Stirling University.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani, epidemiologist and medical statistician, Queen Mary University of London.

Activism

Yvonne Blake, Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment (MORE) 
Tracy Edwards, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union.
Allan Crosbie, Educational Institute of Scotland (personal capacity)
Kathy Jenkins, Scottish Hazards – aiming to reduce injury, ill health and death caused by work/workplaces in Scotland.

Others to be confirmed

The campaign to eliminate the virus – Informed by science – Led by activists

The frightening thing is, they know the Scottish government is open to their barmy ideas.

Why is the Government Ignoring the Evidence on Harms to Schoolchildren of Wearing Masks?

As schools prepare to return for all children on Monday for the first time since December, Government guidance is that masks should be worn by all children in class, though confusion has been created by the Government also stressing they are optional.

Molly Kinglsey from UsForThem has an excellent piece in the Telegraph outlining the dangers for schoolchildren of wearing masks all day and asking why the Government is not, as per WHO guidance, monitoring and evaluating the impact on their health and education.

There are clear and negative implications for teaching; only a few short months ago DfE advice was that “face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching so their use in the classroom should be avoided”; it’s yet again another intervention forced on children to protect adults; and worst of all it appears to be entirely unevaluated for its potential to cause harm and yet capable of causing great harm in a great many cases.

The Covid legislation makes no secret of this fact that harms have not been assessed – each of the Government’s regulations concerning coronavirus restrictions states “No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations”.  Perhaps this is okay for adults.  Is it for children?  

The WHO certainly don’t think so: they say that when authorities recommend masks for children those authorities should monitor and evaluate the impact on their health and education from the outset.  Under a FOI seen in October, both DfE and the Department of Health confirmed they were not collecting this information. 

We are apparently flying blind; and we are doing so in the face of what looks to be potentially serious harm to our children.  In Germany a study  of over 25,000 children wearing masks throughout the school day reports headaches (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), malaise (42%), impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%); in France social media is awash with reports of parents measuring children’s oxygen levels at the end of the school day and finding them to be dangerously low.  

There are lists of studies, many now peer reviewed, identifying other proven harms which are extensive and serious – communication issueseye issues and difficulty breathing.  If these aren’t clear red flags, what are? 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Judith Woods, also in the Telegraph, evidently does not agree – and felt no restraint in expressing that disagreement, calling parents opposed to their child wearing a mask “brainwashed”, “cretinous Covid-deniers”, “selfish nutters”, “criminally loopy” and implying their child will kill their teacher. Of course, no self-respecting newspaper would publish a sceptic writing in this rude and inflammatory way about lockdowners or mask-lovers. But as so often, it’s the double standards that show you who’s currently in charge.

Masks are horrible, unnatural and reduce communication, which is crucial in any classroom. I hate them. Everybody hates them.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that we must wear the wretched things now in order to eventually never wear them ever again in the future.

If a school asks students to wear masks in class, then so be it. Unless there is a bona fide medical reason not to cover their face, there’s no valid reason to refuse, other than truculence or terror instilled in them by bloody-minded parents who should be ashamed of themselves for putting my child and other children at risk.

The brainwashed anti-vax brigade and the cretinous Covid-deniers can do one, as far as I’m concerned. No jab, no job? Fine by me. Even the Queen thinks you’re selfish nutters (I paraphrase, Ma’am).

Classroom apartheid, with masks refuseniks made to sit at the back, and kids segregated at lunchtime? If that’s what it takes, Mr Chips. Knock yourself out, Miss Jean Brodie.

I gather some parents have been bleating on about the outrage of this “coercion” and cavilling at the stigma their child will suffer. It will be a far bigger stigma if Milo kills Miss.

Maybe you can tell, but I’m bone-weary of exceptionalism. Yes, every child is a special poppet (particularly mine), but learning to conform is a life skill too. In this case, a life-or-death skill.

Kids have more than enough on their plates come Monday without being inculcated with criminally loopy theories about protective facemasks being a vector of disease.

Really not worth reading in full, unless you like to enrage yourself by being exposed to the intemperate rantings of people who think the findings of infectious disease specialists are “criminally loopy”.

Now Granny is Safe, Are We Killing Our Children?

Today we’re publishing an original piece by Emma Hine, who asks whether we have considered the enormity of what we have imposed on our children in the name of preventing a disease that barely affects them.

By keeping our teens out of school for almost a whole year, we have already deprived them of one of their fundamental, instinctive needs and now, when they can finally feel hope at restoring these connections, we are asking them not only to continue not to physically connect with their peers but also to hide half of their face, in effect removing every tool they have in their communicative toolbox. A Gallup Youth Survey in 2001 found that, unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human needs that places food and water at the base of its triangle and self-fulfilment at the pinnacle, 13-17 year olds responded with their most important needs being “need to be trusted” (78%), “need to be understood and loved” (77%) and “need to feel safe and secure where I live and go to school” (77%). I don’t believe there is a single psychologist who would agree that a sea of masked faces, devoid of expression gives the feeling of either safety or security.

When you consider that 46% of suicides occur in people with mental health conditions, these increases in mental health disorders in adolescents are alarming. If we do not start giving young people back their lives, then we have lost our fundamental instinct as parents. We are no longer prepared to die for our children. We are literally asking our children to die for us.

Worth reading in full.

What is Happening With Mortality in Israel?

Dr Hervé Seligmann of Aix-Marseille University’s Faculty of Medicine Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit

A story has been doing the rounds in the past few weeks that the mainstream media are understandably nervous to touch. At Lockdown Sceptics we have been keeping an eye on it to see how it develops. It began with an article published on February 11th (with an update on March 2nd) that asks why mortality in Israel appears, on official data, to be so much higher among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated in the first few weeks after the first vaccine dose.

Israel National News explains further.

A front-page article appeared in the FranceSoir newspaper about findings on the Nakim website regarding what some experts are calling “the high mortality caused by the vaccine.”

The paper interviews Aix-Marseille University Faculty of Medicine Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit’s Dr. Hervé Seligmann and engineer Haim Yativ about their research and data analysis. They claim that Pfizer’s shot causes “mortality hundreds of times greater in young people compared to mortality from coronavirus without the vaccine, and dozens of times more in the elderly, when the documented mortality from coronavirus is in the vicinity of the vaccine dose, thus adding greater mortality from heart attack, stroke, etc.”

Dr Hervé Seligmann works at the Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille, France. He is of Israeli-Luxembourg nationality. He has a B.Sc. In Biology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has written over 100 scientific publications.

Dr Niall McCrae has written about the story in Unity News Network.

More evidence of iatrogenic harm came from Israel, which started vaccinating on December 19th. As reported by former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson, while COVID-19 mortality escalated among Israelis throughout January, in Palestine it declined steeply after a surge in December. Yet the Palestinians had no vaccine. 

This correlation is more than coincidental. Analysis of Israeli health ministry data by Hervé Seligmann at Aix-Marseilles University indicates that about 40 times more elderly people died of COVID-19 in the three weeks between their first and second doses than among those who were not vaccinated. … Deaths in Israel are now falling, which politicians and media attribute to the vaccine, although there is a global trend of the virus becoming less deadly.

There has not yet been any official response to this analysis from the Israeli Government or Health Ministry, though they were contacted by FranceSoir.

Why is SAGE Still Advising Government?

The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland

There follows a guest post by Lockdown Sceptics contributor and former parliamentary researcher Dr James Moreton Wakeley, questioning why SAGE, contrary to its original design, seems to have become a permanent fixture in political life.

SAGE is designed to be an ad hoc, temporary body summoned when emergency circumstances persuade government that they need particular expertise. It has been called eight times since 2009, for events like Swine Flu, floods and the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption. Its formation and role guiding government policy for almost a year is entirely unprecedented, and entirely contrary to how it has been used in the past.

SAGE’s mandate is interesting. It emphasises timeliness and consensus: even though the Enhanced SAGE Guidance does note that SAGE representatives should tell ministers the degrees of consensus around the issues they consider, other guidance explicitly states that SAGE’s key sub-committees, like NERVTAG, “provide (their) consensus conclusions to SAGE”, strongly implying that the system risks supplying ministers with too small a degree of perspective. This risk of course increases when those looking at the evidence do not change, and become professionally invested in maintaining a certain set of conclusions or more interested in certain types of data.

The need for government to receive clear, unified scientific advice is perhaps understandable in a short-term, emergency situation when information is slight and uncertain.  Almost a year into the Covid pandemic, however, when so much more is known, and when it is clear that equally qualified experts have entirely different perspectives on the issue, why is a temporary, emergency committee – comprised of the same 20 leading figures who now have public reputations to defend – still advising government? SAGE was not designed to monopolise or replace normal governmental decision-making, but to be one source of advice among others in exceptional circumstances. Yet it seems to have morphed into some kind of dominant Committee of Public Safety, with ironic and deleterious consequences recalling its namesake in the darkest days of the French Revolution.

“Every Crisis Becomes a Religion If it Lasts Long Enough”

Journalist John Hayward has a Twitter thread on the cultic enchantment of the Covid crisis that we thought was so good we would reproduce it here in full.

Every crisis becomes a religion if it lasts long enough.

One factor in that transformation is the Beautiful Theory phenomenon: the power elite insists its remedies are logical and politically correct so they MUST work, even if the actual evidence shows they obviously don’t.

When Beautiful Theories crash into hard, cold reality and shatter, faith is the glue used by the elites to put their precious ideas back together. They need MILITANT faith to get the job done: true believers eager to crush doubt and compel obedience by making war on the infidels.

Some are swept into the faith because they desperately crave a sense of control over the crisis. They need to believe Something Can Be Done, and they’d rather invest their faith in debunked Beautiful Theories than have no faith at all. Faith is a coin that demands to be spent.

Some crave social approval, and the purveyors of Beautiful Theories have immense political, economic, and cultural power to make their faith seem fashionable. Virtue signalling is such a plague in modern society because the signals are pre-packaged and made very easy to send.

Some aren’t even hoping they can assert control over a crisis by converting to its religion. They’ll settle for just having some MEANING, some simplicity, a sense that the righteous will fare better than the unbelievers, that virtue will be rewarded while sin is punished.

That’s a very common impulse with the Church of Covid, since the Beautiful Theories were so very obviously wrong. There isn’t much left of the faith except the visceral communal satisfaction of hoping unbelievers will be punished for their blasphemies with sickness and death.

That sort of thing happens with all of the crisis religions, although not usually as quickly and obviously as with the Church of Covid. Look at the endless stream of movies about how the world became an apocalyptic hellscape because people didn’t believe in global warming.

The last resort of every crisis religion, the last thing that puts asses in the pews, is that addiction to misery porn, the collective hope that unbelievers will suffer someday, and everyone will admit the True Faith was right all along as Judgement Day crashes down upon them.

The elite will never have the humility to admit they were wrong, and they’ll never give up on politically or financially profitable “solutions” even when they obviously don’t solve the problem. Founding a crisis religion means they never have to say they’re sorry.

That applies to some very longstanding crises, like the War on Poverty, whose nostrums long ago transformed into fantastically expensive articles of religious faith even as mountains of data accumulated that proved they were utter failures, and often made the problems WORSE.

You can look for some telltale signs of a crisis transforming into a religion. The most obvious one is when the high priests tell you the “war” you’ve been drafted into will never end. They become very angry when asked to define success or failure, or lay out exit strategies.

Watch for the moment when you’re told “science” means not asking questions, defying dogma, or challenging “consensus.” That is the literal definition of faith, not science.

Always keep an eye out for Moving Goalposts, which are the signature miracle of crisis religions, their version of parting the waters or loaves and fishes. Crisis religions work very hard to make their faith unfalsifiable by constantly changing the standards of evidence.

Check to see if certain people are accumulating huge amounts of money and power from a crisis. That’s a pretty good sign it’s turning into a religion. A crisis should be solved as quickly and efficiently as possible. Don’t let it fester long enough to become a special interest.

Above all, look for the whiff of ARROGANCE to develop around a crisis. Wise religions and effective crisis managers have something in common: a sense of humility. Crisis religions are militant faiths that quickly become arrogant, smug, and totalitarian.

Dedicated people who truly want to solve a problem will look for evidence their analysis is wrong, or their policies aren’t working, and make adjustments as quickly as possible, no matter the cost or embarrassment to themselves. This is humility.

Crisis religions are arrogant. They reject criticism, insist their Beautiful Theories MUST be right because they’re ideologically pure – they fit snugly into a worldview that must not be challenged. Their plans only fail because their commands were disobeyed or sabotaged.

The high priests of a crisis religion see devils everywhere, leering at them from the rubble of every failure. Only sin can explain why their Beautiful Theories are tarnished. Failure never THEIR fault, so it must be YOURS. They find your lack of faith disturbing.

And you know what? A LOT of people want to see the world that way, including a great many self-described atheists. They hunger for the comfort of faith and the vibrant energy of militancy. They want to be right, and they want the wrong to suffer for their folly.

Conservatives think religious faith in the State is terrifying and wonder why so many embrace it. It’s because uncertainty is much more frightening. A simple false story is better than a complex true one, and with enough faith, maybe we can force the simple story to be true. 

Poetry Corner

Diary of a (Vaccine) Church Mouse
by Kate Williams

Imagine being a church mouse hauled in for vaccine trials whilst you’re busy munching through the Book of Revelation

The Antichrist and Armageddon
formed my fulsome bite,
When upon me swiftly whished a swoop
And knocked me into flight. 

He towered over, giving chase,
A small cage in his grab,
“Come ‘ere you wretched long tailed squeak!”
“You’re wanted in the lab!” 

I skidded through curled edges,
Of Apocalypse Horsemen Four,
He hurled the cage in front to catch
Me heading for the door.

Three squeaks abound, I lay there flat
Wedged underneath the pew,
Then came a pencil, lead end first
At Matthew Twenty Two.

A hobnail boot, a sighing captor
Shuffling to and fro,
It’s death by jab or hunger lest  
I took my chance he’d go.

A chink of light through vestry door
Showed fair chance to a dash
I scrambled over Ephesus
And just escaped his lash. 

The cage came down, a crash! A clink!
But narrowly I fled,
“Test your vaccine on your kind! 
And leave me be!” I said. 

“Damn your eyes ya pesky brute!
I’ll ‘ave ya next time, look!”
And off he went, with empty cage,
And I back to my book.

Rising From the Ashes

Lockdown Sceptics reader Scott Fennell has written to tell us about his new business venture after lockdown cost him his job.

I normally work on a cruise ship, but this industry has been really hard hit as you can imagine. With no help from the Government, I decided to set up my own supplement company without the nasty ingredients you see in nearly all other companies.

It’s only small at the moment with just one product, Vitamin C 1000mg, but I’m hoping to add some more soon. LS readers can get a 15% discount using code LSVITC15.

I don’t have a website at the moment, but you can order from Amazon UK here.

If you have a similar story to share then email us here and we’ll try to give your new venture a boost.

COVID-1984

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on September 24th

Three more Party slogans today:

BANALITY IS REALITY
PANIC IS PEACE
OUR MODEL IS YOUR MASTER, YOUR FREEDOM OUR DISASTER

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Eight today: “You Are Killing Me” by The Dandy Warhols, “No More Lies” by Cardboard Foxes, “No Justice” by Jimmy Cliff, “Strange Times Are Coming” by the Meteors, “I Can’t Be With You” by the Cranberries, “Lonely Day” by System Of A Down, “Life Worth Living” by The Spitfires and “My Resistance Is Low” by Robin Sarstedt.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email Lockdown Sceptics here.

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, Joshua T. Katz, Professor of Humanities at Princeton University, writes in the New Criterion on the sheer madness of cancelling Dr Seuss.

Just last week, a wonderful cabinetmaker spent two days at my house installing shelves in a room where I have long intended to display my collection of alphabet books. Once he’d left, I put them up one by one—alphabetically, of course—stopping now and again to leaf through some I particularly like. One of these was Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra!, first published in 1955, in which Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell draws letters

            he never had dreamed of before!
And I said, “You can stop, if you want, with the Z
“Because most people stop with the Z
But not me!

I did not imagine then that on the 117th birthday of Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss Enterprises would announce that six of his books, including On Beyond Zebra!, would no longer be published or licensed because “they portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Or that President Biden in his proclamation for Read Across America Day (which takes place on March 2 specifically in honour of Dr. Seuss) would, unlike his predecessors Presidents Obama and Trump, fail to mention one of the country’s best-loved children’s authors.

This is madness.

When the morning news broke, I took On Beyond Zebra! back off its new shelf and tried to discern the problem. It is true that there is mention of a man Americans (still) celebrate with a federal holiday:

So, on beyond Zebra!
Explore!
Like Columbus!
Discover new letters!

A friend more attuned to the zeitgeist than I am suggests, however, that at issue are the orientalizing depictions of one Nazzim of Bazzim, who rides a camel-like beast called a Spazzim (spelled with the Seussian letter spazz), and possibly also of Flunnel (spelled with flunn), a “softish nice fellow who hides in a tunnel.”

Let me repeat: this is madness.

That Dr Seuss, a man of the Left, can be cancelled shows that no one is safe from the woke revolutionaries, Katz writes.

It is true that Theodor Geisel was an imperfect man. For example, he supported the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. That said, he was a liberal Democrat who despised Richard Nixon and whose widow gave money from his estate to Planned Parenthood. If Seuss is canceled, anyone can be canceled—as, indeed, we are seeing day after day in this year of mayhem.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Paul E. Alexander and colleagues have written a detailed debunking of the CDC’s “Mask Mandate Study” for AIER. Read it here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

The easing of lockdown, Boris style

Chronic Disease: Still no Cures in Sight

by Dr. Rachel Nicoll

The developed world doesn’t just have to cope with a Covid pandemic – we also have a pandemic of chronic disease (defined as a condition which is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects and for which there is no cure). A rough rule of thumb is to treat a condition as chronic if it lasts longer than three months; in 2012 this amounted to around 15 million sufferers in the U.K. and will be higher now. Examples of chronic conditions include Type 2 diabetes (T2D), obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, dementia, lung disease, cancer… the list is endless.

Not only have many of these patients been effectively abandoned during the Covid crisis, with appointments cancelled, scans postponed and patients dying at home because they are discouraged from going to hospital, but if they do contract Covid they are likely to fare worse. All the chronic conditions listed above are Covid risk factors, making patients more susceptible to severe Covid and death. Furthermore, many of them are risk factors for other chronic conditions: T2D for cardiovascular disease, obesity for T2D, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, musculoskeletal disorders, mental health disorders and many more.

Why is there still no cure for chronic diseases? By ‘cure’, I am not referring to medical management through drugs that have to be taken for the remainder of life, I mean a complete reversal of the disease, so that the patient can say, for example, that they no longer have Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes. With the trillions poured into medical research over the last several decades, we can be forgiven for asking what scientists have been doing all this time, as there seems to be very little to show for it in terms of reducing chronic disease. Furthermore, part of the definition of chronic disease includes the damning fact that it has no cure. So according to the current medical model, we apparently cannot prevent chronic disease and nor can we cure it; instead we must take ever-increasing numbers of drugs for the rest of our lives. In 2021, after decades of highly funded research, this is truly shocking. Not only is conventional medicine failing to cure chronic disease but the incidence of all chronic diseases is increasing dramatically.

Let me provide some examples:

Obesity
In the U.K., 2019 figures show that 28% of adults are obese and a further 36.2% are overweight. Obesity incidence is now occurring at considerably younger ages, with 2019 data showing that 10% of children aged 4-10 are obese and 21% at age 10-11. The incidence of obesity is rising rapidly: there were four times as many hospital admissions with a diagnosis of obesity in 2016/17 compared with 2009/10.

Diabetes
Ten per cent of all people aged over 40 in the UK are now living with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes; this amounts to 4.7 million of us, expected to reach 5.5 million by 2030. This compares to 1.4 million in 1996. The problem is global; the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. Between 2000 and 2016, there was a 5% increase in premature mortality from diabetes.

Autoimmune conditions
Many autoimmune conditions are becoming more common, with some increasing in incidence by as much as 9% each year. In the U.K., four million people are known to be living with at least one autoimmune condition, and many with several autoimmune conditions at the same time. Rheumatoid arthritis is increasing at 7% per year, Type 1 diabetes by 6.3%, coeliac disease by up to 9% per year.

Cancer
According to Cancer Research U.K., there are over 164,000 cancer deaths in the U.K. each year, which is about 450 each day. One in two people in the U.K. born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the U.S., cancer incidence increased by 12% between 1994 and 2016; in the 1940s, one in sixteen had a cancer diagnosis; this had increased to one in three by 2018.

Dementia
There are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the U.K. but this is projected to reach 1.6 million people in the U.K. by 2040. The global number of people living with dementia more than doubled from 1990 to 2016, while in the U.S., deaths from AD have risen 145% between 2000 and 2017. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the number of people living with the disease doubles every five years beyond the age of 65. Most worryingly, those with early onset dementia have increased by 200% since 2013.

Cardiovascular disease
For some years cardiovascular disease mortality has been declining, despite increasing incidence of disease. However, in recent years, the rate of decline in CVD mortality has slowed in most developed countries, particularly at ages 35-74 years, and is now rising in 12 out of the 23 nations studied in 2017, including the U.K., the U.S. and Germany.

Autism
In the U.K., there was a sharp increase in the prevalence rates of autism in U.K. schools between 2010 and 2019. Autism currently affects 1–2% of the UK population – that is one per 100 children and two per 100 adults. According to the U.S. CDC, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing developmental disability, affecting one in 59 children (1970s: one in 5000). Prevalence has increased 10-17% each year over the last several years. It has been described as an ‘autism tsunami’.

Prior to COVID-19, according to the Kings Fund, people with long-term conditions accounted for about 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all outpatient appointments and over 70% of all inpatient bed days. Of course, we have far fewer GP appointments now as a result, so this figure for the last couple of years will be artificially lowered and will not represent the true needs of patients with chronic conditions.

The U.S. is so concerned about the ‘pandemic of chronic disease’ that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has recently undertaken a new initiative focusing on the increasing number of patients with multiple chronic conditions, estimated to affect more than 25% of Americans and consume 66% of US healthcare costs. The objective is to use evidence-based research to improve the care offered to these patients. It is notable that there is no objective to prevent or cure these multiple chronic diseases.

So what is going on? Even allowing for improved diagnostic techniques possibly increasing incidence rates, it is perfectly clear that there is no decline in incidence of these chronic diseases through provision of improved prevention and treatment. Chronic disease used to be something one accepted in old age, but this summer saw the publication of the 1970 British Cohort Study, which periodically tracks the lives of about 17,000 people. This showed that around one in three people in their late 40s has multiple chronic health issues.

Yet during the Second World War, we were apparently extremely healthy, despite rigorous food rationing. So what has changed over the last 70 years? Certainly not our genes, because although genes do evolve, they do not evolve to this extent in such a short period of time. Instead, we have introduced many more highly toxic chemicals into our food, our water and our air. We eat more, we eat more unhealthy foods and we have become ‘couch potatoes’.

Surely it is time for our Government and National Health Service to address the elephant in the room and acknowledge the extent to which our health is being damaged? Introducing a sugar tax and similar measures is just fiddling on the margins, playing lip service to improving health without actually tackling the issue head on. It is also time for the U.K. population to demand better from their government and healthcare providers? Without a complete reset of the medical model, we do not have ‘health care’, we have ‘disease care’.

Maybe it is also time to accept that the vast majority of medical research has not provided, and is not going to provide, a cure for chronic diseases. All it has achieved is improved patient ‘management’, usually drug-induced symptom suppression. This is a far cry from Sir William Osler’s precept: “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.”

While it is true that most of the medical research is carried out in the U.S., nevertheless, the U.K. does undertake some research of its own. Expenditure on research in 2018/19 amounted to just over £1.6 billion, while overall healthcare spending in 2019 was £225 billion. In 2011, 70% of the U.K. healthcare budget was spent on chronic disease; it is likely that by 2019 that percentage would have increased but even if it has not this means that around £160 billion is devoted to ‘managing’ chronic disease. So using the most recent figures available before distortion by Covid, we spend £1.6 billion on medical research, only a proportion of which relates to chronic disease, compared to the current chronic disease care costs of £160 billion, i.e., just 1%. Furthermore, evidence suggests that less than 1% of high quality medical research is translated into clinical practice, meaning that only 0.01% of the £1.6 billion spent on medical research could actually be impacting clinical practice (i.e., £160,000). Surely our research budget could be better spent?

As I was writing this article, a timely email arrived informing me about Public Health Collaboration, a group of doctors and other health professionals, headed by Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who have launched a rival to Public Health England (PHE) and its successor, the U.K. Health Security Agency, to help combat obesity, poor diet and medical misinformation. The founders claim that PHE has failed in its responsibilities to the public, while the NHS can no longer cope with the demands placed on it by chronic disease. They point out that the two major industries, food and pharmaceuticals, mislead for profit and are the major root of our healthcare crisis. Unhealthy food and toxic chemicals – I rest my case!

Rachel Nicoll PhD is a Medical Researcher

Vitamin D: Did a Prescribing Ban in Care Homes Contribute to Fatalities?

Smoked Salmon: A great source of Vitamin D. Order from Bleiker’s Smokehouse in Yorkshire

Key points

Vitamin D, contrary to popular thought, is not a vitamin. It is an inflammation-regulating steroid hormone involved in many of the body’s essential processes.1 Leaked NHS internal guidance, issued in June 2020, states that “evidence supports a causal role in Vitamin D status and COVID-19 outcomes”, and urges clinicians to “monitor, report and treat”.2

Meanwhile, a NICE rapid evidence review also published in June, states “there is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to specifically prevent or treat COVID‑19.” However, it does re-enforce its September 2018 advice that at-risk groups should take a 10µg supplement all year round.3

Rewind to March 2018: the ‘world’s biggest quango’ NHS England, released new guidance not to issue Vitamin D and many other commonly available over-the-counter (OTC) medicines on prescription, which was intended to save NHS costs by promoting patient self-care.4

Vulnerable elderly care home residents, many of whom lack mental capacity, are unable to obtain Vitamin D without a prescription, as Care and Quality Commission (CQC) regulations prevent tablets being given by care staff without GP Guidance.5

This logistical deadlock has not been resolved, and Vitamin D deficiency has long been known to be widespread in care homes.6 Over 19,000 care home residents in England have died with COVID-19, representing at least 36% of all COVID-19 fatalities in England and Wales.7 8

Defining evidence: why the different guidelines?

Evidence is increasing that Vitamin D deficiency is causally linked to both likelihood of contracting COVID-19, and severity of infection.9

The NICE rapid evidence review,3 which states there is “no specific evidence” for Vitamin D in COVID-19, is heavily focused on the outcomes of the eight included studies, without corroborating this with the known physiological mechanism for how Vitamin D attenuates the inflammatory cascade in the lungs with coronaviruses.10 The physiology surely somewhat dispels the caution that NICE have that the correlation between low Vitamin D and severe COVID-19 may be incidental, or weakened by potential ‘confounders’. Confounders are factors which account for, or mask, an association. However, the confounders that the NICE review3 claim weaken three of the included studies could may actually strengthen when causal inference is considered. These confounders mentioned by NICE for Covid-19 severity included obesity, high blood pressure and socio-economic status: these are all independently linked to low vitamin D status.11 12 13 Could Vitamin D status, therefore, be the common link? The physiological mechanism would support this. The NICE rapid evidence has excluded relevant data on countries affected by COVID-19 and their latitude, showing countries such as the UK, who are above the 30 ̊north latitude line, meaning there is not enough light for the skin to make Vitamin D all year round. Interestingly, in the UK, there is not enough sunlight between October and March, 6 meaning deficiency would be at its peak in the population at the end of March.

In short, the leaked report, now a published study,2 is more comprehensive and credible than the NICE rapid evidence review, as it includes all the circumstantial as well as the forensic evidence.

Figure 1: SARS-CoV-2 enters the cell via the ACE-2 receptors within the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). Image courtesy of R&D systems.10

How vitamin D protects against COVID-19

Vitamin D acts to re-balance the renin angiotensin system (RAS). This is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure, fluid balance and vascular resistance. It is the dysregulation of the RAS that creates the pro-inflammatory cytokine storm in COVID-19, triggering the potentially fatal severe acute respiratory infection. Vitamin D moderates the RAS by binding to the ACE 2 receptor cells, attenuating the inflammatory response and lung injury. 9 10

Known risk factors and vitamin D status

Well-known risk factors for COVID-19 have been well publicised to be age, obesity, ethnicity and socio-economic status. While there are social factors at play that increase risk for some groups, could Vitamin D also provide a physiological reason these groups are also at risk of severe COVID-19 infection? A very interesting study conducted in Israel showed that COVID-19 outcomes were worse in communities where traditional dress was worn, and where individuals had poor vitamin D status. This took into account and adjusted for baseline characteristics such as age.14

Table 1: Some better known risk factors for Covid-19 and their known link to Vitamin D deficiency

Risk FactorLinked to low Vitamin D?Linked to Covid-19?
EthnicityDarker skin less able to absorb. If cultural clothing covers skin, UV light cannot be absorbed 14BAME communities identified in UK as more susceptible
ObesityVitamin D is fat soluble, and dilutes into fat cells, making it less available13Obese identified as more likely to require ICU admission for COVID-19
Socio-economic statusAn independent risk factor for Vitamin D deficiency11Thought to be due to social factors such as working in hospitality and living in densely populated areas.
Type II Diabetes
VD protects against T2 diabetes by reducing parathyroid levels1 6NHS trusts reported in spring that type II diabetics were more likely to require ICU treatment
Older ageSkin is less able to absorb with age3 6The majority (estimated 74%) of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in over 70s.

Death stats for nerds

The evidence is increasingly undeniable that Vitamin D is linked to COVID-19. We also know that Vitamin D is not routinely given to residents in care homes,5 and in general, the guidance to take supplements is not widely promoted. Could this be partly to blame of the shockingly large number of deaths this year in England’s care homes?

The following data have been compiled by this author from the published ONS Excel spreadsheets on deaths in care homes,7 and total deaths attributed to COVID-19 in England and Wales8 with some totals and percentages worked out, so they can be viewed in a context that wouldn’t be seen on the BBC news.

Table 2: Covid-19 Death statistics for care homes in England

Percentage of all COVID-19 deaths (England and Wales) who are care home residents in England*36% (19,726 of 54,678)
Percentage of deaths of all causes (England and Wales) who were care home residents in England17% (84,740 of 494,975)
Percentage of care home COVID-19 deaths that occurred in the care home and not in hospital (indicating only palliative treatment offered)75% (14,722 of 19,726)
Percentage of all England and Wales COVID-19 fatalities over 80 years of age61% (33,352 of 54,678)
Percentage of all England and Wales COVID-19 fatalities over 70 years of age74% (40,696 of 54,678)

*This is likely to be an underestimate, as ONS state that deaths recorded early in the pandemic were not attributed to COVID-19. 8

A shocking 36% of all deaths in England and Wales attributed to COVID-19 have been of care home residents under NHS England. These are the most vulnerable in our society, and have already been failed in many respects through the pandemic, as limited resources and PPE were prioritised for the NHS.

Ambiguity and conflicting guidelines preventing treatment

Before Vitamin D was linked to COVID-19, there was already an inequality with Vitamin D provision, detailed in this study. A Catch-22 between the NHS England prescribing ban, the CQC strict policing of supplement administration, and a failure of Local Authority Public Health promotion of existing guidelines (10µg per day), meant that giving much-needed Vitamin D supplementation to care home residents fell through a large but unnoticed gap between different agencies’ responsibilities, rules and regulations.4 5

Given that most of the deaths from COVID-19 occurred in care homes and not in hospital, we may never know how many of these were vitamin D deficient, as recent blood tests are less likely to be available. However, the circumstantial evidence is stacking up well that this failure may have contributed to the care home death toll.

The million dollar question is, was NHS England’s do not prescribe guidance ever intended for care home residents in the first place? The document describes items not to be routinely prescribed in primary care. Primary care by definition, is ‘first’ point of contact care, e.g. an independent person rocking up to their GP and requesting a prescription. Quite rightly, if this prescription request is for something cheaply and easily available at the pharmacist, that person should go straight there. However, it could be argued that care home residents are not directly linking in with primary care, but their main source of care is in the tertiary/social care sector. Therefore, the NHS England prescribing guidance is arguably not applicable to them. Were local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) ever intended to issue guidance that a care home resident with limited capacity should be responsible for their own Vitamin D as ‘self-care’, when all their other medications would be controlled on their prescription? Or was this a tragic error of interpretation by CCG’s of what is actually shockingly ambiguous guidance?

We don’t have the answer to that now, but this author has submitted a Freedom of Information request to obtain it. So within 20 days, we may have.

If the answer is no, then vulnerable care and nursing home residents have been left without a simple and cheap treatment that could have protected them from COVID-19 because of a misinterpretation of an ambiguous guideline, and because no-one along the chain of events sought to clarify it. If the answer is yes, it was intended for care home residents, then the next question is – why?

That answer is in the guidance – it’s to reduce NHS prescribing costs. But by now much? The recommended dose required to maintain good blood vitamin D levels and to prevent deficiency is 10µg, equivalent to 400 International Units (IU’s).6 Two months’ supply of a 100IU tablet (taken every other day, giving 12.5µg/500IU’s per day) can be obtained for as little as 59p by the NHS. That’s a cost of 30p per patient per month.15

Conclusion

The combination of loneliness, lockdown, and denial of a cheap and evidence-based treatment amounts to an abysmal failure of the most vulnerable members of our society. As we are locked down again, and the economy left to likely ruin, why is this safe, well-evidenced and ridiculously cheap treatment being ignored? This has to stop now. NHS England must review their position, and allow for and actively promote prescribing to those who cannot buy Vitamin D. If this Government really cared, instead of ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’, they would stay ‘stay sane, take vitamin D, you could survive’.

References

1 Bilke, D.et al.: Vitamin D, an ancient hormone. Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1562/2005-02-02-IR-430. Accessed 5th November 2020.

2 Davies, G. et al.: Covid-19 and Vitamin D information. Available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jffdZOSuIA64L_Eur8qyCQ12T7NXrHSKPxtMe134C0Y/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR0lYaw5dKPFd-vUmvTm5GD8uZYZ_E6Hl9SSj32FjuuCkJBy-YB6heKy30w. Accessed 4th November 2020.

3 National Institute of Clinical Excellence: COVID-19 rapid evidence summary: Vitamin D for COVID-19. Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/advice/es28/evidence. Accessed 4th November 2020.

4 NHS England: Conditions for which over the counter items should not be routinely prescribed in primary care. March 2018. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/otc-guidance-for-ccgs.pdf. Accessed 4th November 2020.

5 Williams, J et al.: Responsibility for vitamin D supplementation of elderly care home residents in England: falling through the gap between medicine and food. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.21.20136697v1. Accessed 5th November 2020.

6 SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition). Vitamin D and health. London, 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report

7 Office for National Statistics: Number of deaths in care homes reported to the Care Quality Commission. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/numberofdeathsincarehomesnotifiedtothecarequalitycommissionengland. Accessed 4th November 2020.

8 Office for National Statistics: Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales. Accessed 4th November 2020.

9 Davies, G. et al: Evidence supports a causal role for Vitamin D status and Covid-19 outcomes. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.01.20087965v3. Accessed 4th November 2020.

10 R&D systems: ACE-2: The Receptor for SARS-Cov-2.AVilale at https://www.rndsystems.com/resources/articles/ace-2-sars-receptor-identified. Accessed 4th November 2020.

11 J Léger-Guist’hau et al. Low socio-economic status is a newly identified independent risk factor for poor vitamin D status in severely obese adults. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27524803/. Accessed 4th November 2020.

12 Pils, S. et al.: Vitamin D status and arterial hypertension: a systematic review. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrcardio.2009.135. (Abstract). Accessed 4th November 2020

13 Walsh, J. et al.: Vitamin D in obesity. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28915134/. Accessed 4th November 2020.

14 Israel, A. et al.: The link between vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 in a large population. September 2020. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.04.20188268v1.full.pdf. Accessed 4th November 2020

15 drugtarriff.co.uk: https://www.drugtariff.co.uk/DrugInfo/drugdetails.aspx?doseid=580784. Accessed4th November 2020.

Covid, Hyper-Medicalisation and Virus Interference

By Dr Irina Metzler, FRHistS

One of the puzzles in the Covid story is how different the effect of SARS-CoV-2 can be from person to person. If we accept the notion of ‘asymptomatic transmission’, then Covid is inconsequential for such a large number of apparently infected people that they notice no symptoms whatsoever, while others have symptoms so mild they are comparable to the common cold, yet a minority of infected people suffer very severe reactions and unfortunately sometimes lethal outcomes. This very wide variance in how individuals’ bodies react to the virus makes COVID-19 a most unusual illness. What follows are some speculative musings on potential factors influencing individual variance, in other words, asking the question: Have we missed something that could explain why some people fall very ill and even die, yet others don’t even know they’ve got it?

Besides individual disparity in reactions to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is of course the disparity in how regional variation affects mortality and severe illness. Contrary to most beliefs in an efficient health care system (including preventative care, hygiene, nutrition, immunisation programmes), whereby there should be less illness in those nations that have better and more accessible healthcare provisions, Covid actually seems to be less of a threat to poorer, economically weaker nations which had a lower case fatality rate (meaning fewer deaths per number of infected individuals) than economically stronger countries).
Demographics certainly play a role in this disparity, since older people are more likely to fall victim to Covid than younger, and economically wealthier countries have larger numbers of the old than poorer countries. But other factors, such as the former ‘hygiene hypothesis’, now refined as the ’Old Friends’ hypothesis, and the incidence of autoimmune disorders in higher-income countries have also been advanced. The hygiene hypothesis is well known and argues that the more ‘clean’ we have become, the less chance our immune systems have had to be ‘trained’ in how to ward off pathogens. Hyper-hygienic conditions, which have been advocated in most high-income countries, through things as basic as using anti-bacterial products for everything from chopping boards for food preparation to the now ubiquitous hand sanitisers, have in fact contributed to the lack of training in childhood for most Westerners’ immune systems. Lack of exposure to parasites and other pathogens, which would train the immune system, has been linked to impaired Type1 interferon activity, which in turn has been linked with susceptibility to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (see Impaired type I interferon activity and inflammatory responses in severe COVID-19 patients). Paradoxically, then, the inhabitants of higher income countries are, despite enjoying overall better health outcomes, at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 than those in lower-income nations.

With the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ in mind, let me now develop a related hypothesis further, namely the idea of hyper-medicalisation. Hyper-medicalisation describes the increasing use of medical services, medical treatments and medicines in a given society. In the Western world, we have seen an exponential growth in the use of pharmaceuticals, treatments and services. This has come about due to more and more diseases being treatable (which in ethical terms is good, obviously), but also due to more and more diseases being discovered and identified. In fact, there is a whole catalogue of conditions, mainly on the neurological and developmental disorder side, that apparently did simply not exist three or four decades ago, Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder being the one best known, but also more exotic conditions such as Brugada Syndrome (a very rare genetic heart condition first described in 1998). And just to emphasise how recent our knowledge on viral diseases actually is, two of the four coronaviruses that infect humans with usually mild symptoms, namely human coronaviruses HKU1 and NL63, were both only discovered in 2004. But discovery does not mean a virus or disease did not exist prior to discovery; NL63 is estimated to have diverged from another coronavirus HCoV-229E around a millenium ago, and therefore likely to have circulated in humans world-wide for centuries (see Mosaic Structure of Human Coronavirus NL63, One Thousand Years of Evolution). The date of that discovery in 2004 is probably connected with the fact that because of the much more serious outbreak of yet another coronavirus, the ‘original’ SARS in 2002, by 2003 scientists were actively hunting for similar viruses – a case of seek and thou shalt find. Or to put it another way, you can only ask the right questions from an informed standpoint, which implies that if you know (or think you know) what you are looking for you are much more likely to find it than by chance alone.

We know more as a society about diseases, as well as having higher expectations for our health, but we are also far more worried to the point of acting like collective valetudinarians. One side-effect of this is that, as many more people now compared to the past will seek medical advice and treatment, and receive such treatment, the number and variety of pharmaceuticals (‘drugs’) we take is also on the up. Yet again demography is a contributing factor. Older people are basically more likely to require (and want) medication to deal with the ‘niggles’ of getting older. This is all well and good for the more-or-less standard diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol drugs that most people over a certain age seem to be on simultaneously. But keep adding to the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, for more and more conditions and diseases and the chances of cross-reactivity increases. As they say in mechanics, the greater the number of moving parts, the greater the risk of breakdown.

Now consider what the mix of hyper-medicalisation, low levels of innate immunity and demographics may contribute to the susceptibility to COVID-19 and the severity of the disease in an individual. Here we need to turn to two pieces of observed reactions in COVID-19 patients: cytokine storm and antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ‘Cytokine storm’ has been the term used for an immune response that has gone into overdrive, when proteins in a person’s blood called cytokines reach such a high level that the body does not just fight off invading pathogens but starts to attack its own cells (see Cytokine Storms May Be Fueling Some COVID Deaths). Cytokine storms are known to be related to autoimmune disorders but also to inflammation more generally. Obesity is one of the leading causes for higher levels of cytokines, because body fat stores large quantities of cytokines, which when released leads to higher levels of inflammation. In Europe, around 30-70% of adults are overweight, with 10-30% in the obese category, and as has been noted time and again, being overweight let alone obese is one of the major risk factors in developing severe Covid (see Covid-19: Why are age and obesity risk factors for serious disease?).

Let me recap: we have, in high income countries generally, but especially in the UK, quite a few sections of a population with a reservoir of highly susceptible people for developing more severe reactions to SARS-CoV-2: relatively low innate immunity due to lifestyle and lack of exposure to microbial pathogens, a weighting toward an elderly demographic which in addition to age as a risk-factor is also a demographic commonly taking a cocktail of potentially counter-indicative medications, and a large proportion of the population who are overweight or obese and thereby at risk of a cytokine storm reaction.

And so to the final consideration: antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ADE occurs when so-called non-neutralising antibodies are present in a person, rather than neutralising antibodies,  which actually make the susceptibility to some viral diseases worse. The immune system works by producing a neutralising antibody which can recognise and bind to the correct epitope of a virus, which then either stops the virus entering the body’s cells or stops it replicating in those cells. A non-neutralising antibody still binds to a virus, but fails to ‘neutralise’ the effect of the virus, in other words leaves the virus still capable of infecting body cells. If an individual has non-neutralising antibodies, derived perhaps from initial immunity after a previous infection or a vaccine, but whose immune efficiency is wearing off, then a subsequent infection by the virus can lead to a more severe reaction. It is important to note here that this ADE reaction is not a behaviour typical of all viruses, but only particular ‘families’ of viruses, of which, no surprises, coronaviruses are a part (dengue, ebola, HIV and RSV are others). It seems that the presence of non-neutralising antibodies actually enables the virus to gain easier access to infect immune cells, which then in turn elicits a hyper-inflammatory response, namely the cytokine storm mentioned above. To repeat, this is not the case for all viruses, but it does seem to be a persistent problem for coronaviruses generally and in particular with SARS-related viruses (see Immunization with SARS Coronavirus Vaccines Leads to Pulmonary Immunopathology on Challenge with the SARS Virus). The genetic and structural similarities between SARS-CoV-2, causing Covid, and the other coronaviruses suggest strongly that ADE is a real risk.

Unfortunately this connection between coronaviruses and ADE has also been observed in a study looking at influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference. The research wanted to establish if receiving the seasonal influenza vaccination might increase the risk of other respiratory viruses, a phenomenon known as virus interference. The conclusions of this piece of research showed very mixed results and were rather interesting, since they indicated that while virus interference was absent for most respiratory viruses, vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus and human metapneumovirus.

While influenza vaccination offers protection against influenza, natural influenza infection may reduce the risk of non-influenza respiratory viruses by providing temporary, non-specific immunity against these viruses. On the other hand, recently published studies have described the phenomenon of vaccine-associated virus interference; that is, vaccinated individuals may be at increased risk for other respiratory viruses because they do not receive the non-specific immunity associated with natural infection.

This seems to have been the case with the coronavirus investigated in this study – which was published in January 2020, so before the SARS-CoV-2 virus had been identified.

Therefore I return to my original question: Have we missed something that could explain why some people fall very ill and even die, yet others don’t even know they’ve got it? If one takes a possible link between influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference seriously, as well as considers the high-risk factors of much of the Western, never mind UK population (older demographic, low innate immunity, hyper-medicalised, obese) then the following questions need to be asked:

1. Is there a possibility that those people who received the seasonal influenza vaccine in autumn 2019 were then in spring 2020 more disposed to respiratory virus interference from one of the coronaviruses (which obviously includes the novel SARS-CoV-2)? And could the same be the situation now, with individuals having received the ‘flu vaccine in autumn 2020 suffering virus interference in January 2021? A simple trawl through medical records cross-referenced with individual fatality or severe illness requiring hospitalisation should provide the answer.

2. If there is a correlation between receipt of ‘flu vaccine and developing severe Covid, what mitigating factors could be considered? Should there be a more nuanced application of vaccination programmes? Would it be beneficial to look at individually-tailored risk assessments, given that Covid is presumed to be ‘far worse than the flu’, so that the cost of susceptibility to Covid (age, low innate immunity, obesity, multi-medicine reliant) is weighed up against the benefits of influenza vaccination?

These are not questions that can be dismissed out of hand. Certainly the potential linkage between flu vaccination and respiratory virus interference from SARS-CoV-2 needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency. What actions are then taken is a debate to be held when the results come in. For the time being I can only conclude, taking the ‘long view’ of a medical historian, that while in many ways our collective health has improved vastly over the past century, improvements come at the cost of hyper-medicalisation. The more we medicalise, the more illness we have. Build a better mouse trap and the mice get smarter. Medical history is replete with iatrogenic illness, caused by the well-intentioned but hasty and over-zealous actions of physicians in an attempt to cure. One may think of the mercury poisoning resulting from curative regimes for syphilis applied by eighteenth-century doctors, or the infamous Thalidomide-related birth defects resulting in the mid-twentieth century from something as innocuous as a pill prescribed against ‘morning sickness’, to cite just two of the better known instances. History will tell if the current approaches taken toward SARS-CoV-2 were justified.

Dr Irina Metzler FRHistS is a medical historian and former lecturer at the University of Swansea, as well as a Wellcome Trust University Award Fellow

The Real Science of Covid

Government policy is not based on science

This research was compiled by a financial researcher and fund manager who wishes to remain anonymous.

There are a few main reasons to be optimistic we should end lockdowns and get back to normal. 

  1. We know who this coronavirus affects. The median age of death in almost all countries is over 80 with multiple existing conditions. We are failing to protect old people and are locking up the young and imposing social distancing when they have no risk of death. We can protect the vulnerable more intelligently.
  2. Most people have immunity due to cross reactivity and cross immunization. The human immune system is not completely helpless against this virus. 
  3. Herd immunity levels are much lower than people think and the virus appears to follow a Gompertz curve, which correctly anticipates the virus fizzling out.
  4. In most countries, Covid deaths were 40-100% higher than a bad flu year.

The virus is bad but it is not the Spanish Flu and is most like the Hong Kong flu of 1968 and the Asian flu of 1957.  They were bad, but we never shut the entire world down for those. Flus are deadly, the world is dangerous, and we will all eventually die. But we won’t all die form Covid.   

Here is the complete collection of research and links categorized by subject. Examine the evidence for yourself.  

Lockdowns are Terrible Ideas and Not Standard Practice

Those in favor of lockdown present a false dichotomy. Either we have a hard lockdown or we let the virus rip and kill everyone. That is hardly the case.  Lockdowns and business closures are a sledgehammer that had no precedent in history and are not the way we have ever treated any virus or pandemic before.  The costs are out of all proportion to the benefits. Many other strategies would be far better. 

Here is a great case against lockdowns. How a Free Society Deals with Pandemics, According to Legendary Epidemiologist and Smallpox Eradicator Donald Henderson.

It concluded with this important paper.

There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. A World Health Organization (WHO) Writing Group, after reviewing the literature and considering contemporary international experience, concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical”. Despite this recommendation by experts, mandatory large-scale quarantine continues to be considered as an option by some authorities and government officials.

The interest in quarantine reflects the views and conditions prevalent more than 50 years ago, when much less was known about the epidemiology of infectious diseases and when there was far less international and domestic travel in a less densely populated world. It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease. 

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

No country had lockdowns in their playbook. 

  • For example, Canada’s pandemic guidelines concluded that restrictions on movement were “impractical if not impossible.” 
  • Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its 2017 community mitigation guidelines for pandemic flu, didn’t recommend stay-at-home orders or closing nonessential businesses even for a flu as severe as the one a century ago.” Lockdowns were never part of the US response
  • Lockdowns were never part of the WHO standard responses for pandemics. You can read here all their policies and how they rated the evidence for various measures.
  • Most Asian countries like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea didn’t have lockdowns and had far better experiences than the European countries that did. Those who are sick are not sent home to infect family members and are separated, which is the exact opposite of European lockdowns.

Here is a very good read on the arguments against lockdowns. In most European countries, cases were already falling before the lockdowns as people were voluntarily taking preventive measures: social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks. 

Many epidemiologists have been completely opposed to government plans and have in fact been right.  

Only pro-lockdown scientists are amplified. Here is a good read on “the science“.

Here is Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, who opposed lockdowns are gave a great interview on UnHerd. Likewise, Martin Kuldorff, a Harvard epidemiologist who has been ignored. He’s argued in favor an age and risk-based approach.

But what do these people know about science? They’re only epidemiologists at Oxford and Harvard. 

Lockdowns Were Not Needed or Effective

Lockdowns had almost no effect and the main determinants of death across countries was the percentage of people who were over 80, particularly men, and the % of people who are obese.

Here is a study in The Lancet showing lockdowns had no effect. The primary factors explaining deaths are obesity and age structure.

Here is a detailed study showing the virus behaved the same everywhere regardless of policy

Same is true on a county by county basis in the US, as you can read from this study. Whether a county had a lockdown has no effect on COVID-19 deaths; a non-effect that persists over time.

One of the biggest determinant of deaths from Covid related to the share of the population that was over 80, not to lockdowns. “Population age structures alone may account for four-fold variation in average regional infection-fatality ratios across Europe.”

and a useful visualization showing the high correlation between men over 80 as a percentage of the population vs death rates.

The other explainers for death rates are percentage of the population with hypertension:

and percentage of population with obesity/diabetes:

And a global look at obesity and death rates:

Deaths were falling before the lockdowns were imposed, as this study shows:

This is confirmed by many other papers, here and here. Here is a good article discussing these studies.

The same is true in other European countries. The decline in infections started before Germany even instituted lockdowns.

Bloomberg also found little correlation between severity of measures and death rates.  

The Collateral Damage From Lockdowns is Vast and Will Kill Millions

Lockdowns are the moral equivalent of carpet bombing, ineffective with vast collateral damage. 

Disruptions to food due to lockdowns may kill more from hunger than Covid.

Covid is not the only illness in the world and millions will die from interrupted care, for example from tuberculosis and HIV, as the New York Times reports.

“COVID-19 risks derailing all our efforts and taking us back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Dr. Pedro L. Alonso, the director of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program.

It’s not just that the coronavirus has diverted scientific attention from TB, H.I.V. and malaria. The lockdowns, particularly across parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, have raised insurmountable barriers to patients who must travel to obtain diagnoses or drugs, according to interviews with more than two dozen public health officials, doctors and patients worldwide.

Unicef warns on the consequences of poverty and malnutrition for kids could harm millions

According to a stark report published in Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday, almost 1.2 million children could die in the next six months due to the disruption to health services and food supplies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The first famines of the coronavirus era are at the world’s doorstep, the UN warns.

COVID-19 could reverse decades of progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths, the WHO warns.

The Gates Foundation estimates that the response to Covid has set back vaccination 25 years.

Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that lockdowns increased deaths of the vulnerable and elderly. 

This is true in much of the world. Here is a study looking at how lockdowns drove excess deaths for non-Covid illnesses.

Interrupting medical care kills people.  More people died in Denver of unattended heart attacks during lockdown than from Covid.

New cancer diagnoses collapsed in the United States as the coronavirus pandemic first hit. Almost all diagnoses collapsed in the UK as well. 

And same was true for heart attacks and strokes in the NHS in the UK.

Analysis of NHS data reveals the deadly consequences of the government’s messaging to “stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS”. During the lockdown, there was a near 50 per cent decline in admissions for heart attacks. The risks of COVID-19 outweighed the risk of seeking NHS care despite worsening symptoms for many people: 40 per cent more people died from lower-risk treatable heart attacks than usual. For strokes, the situation is further exacerbated by living alone and not having visitors as 98% of emergency calls for strokes are made by someone else.

The economic damage is also horrific.

The World Bank estimates over 71 million will be plunged into extreme poverty due to lockdowns/quarantines

The United Nations has warned that response to Covid is reversing decades of gains in poverty, healthcare and disease

More Than Half of US Business Closures Permanent, Yelp Says. Half of black businesses in the US have been wiped out

The Virus is Not at all Deadly For Those Under 55

One paper looking at Infection fatality rates by age summarized it well. 

“The estimated IFR is close to zero for younger adults but rises exponentially with age, reaching about 0.3% for ages 50-59, 1.3% for ages 60-69, 4% for ages 70-79, 10% for ages 80-89.” 

In fact, the distribution of risk matches “normal” risk of death by age.

The Infection Fatality Rate is far lower than initially estimated.  

Here is the link to all the studies on infection fatality rates for Covid.  The evidence is overwhelming.

The virus is not at all deadly to younger people.  Here are death breakdowns by age group in the US and Europe

https://twitter.com/MLevitt_NP2013/status/1286177208583815168?s=20

and another visualization.

And from the Oxford for Evidence Based Medicine (scroll to bottom).

The median age for death in most countries is over 80 and the average person has multiple pre-existing conditions.

In Italy the median age was over 80 and 96% of people had existing conditions.

Spain showed exactly the same pattern.

Ireland is the same.

US – Median death age from Covid in the US was 80 years.  

That is slightly above the average life expectancy overall

In many countries the median age of death is above life expectancy, i.e. people had already lived longer than the average person. 

Covid is not at all deadly for those without significant co-morbidities.

Table 3 of the CDC’s data on deaths between 2/1 and 8/22 2020 says directly that only 6% of the 161,392 reported COVID deaths were listed as COVID-19 alone, just 9,684. All other US deaths had, on average, 2.6 additional conditions. 

Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters was very low.

The COVID-19 mortality rate in people <65 years old during the period of fatalities from the epidemic was equivalent to the mortality rate from driving between 4 and 82 miles per day for 13 countries and 5 states, and was higher (equivalent to the mortality rate from driving 106–483 miles per day) for 8 other states and the UK. People <65 years old without underlying predisposing conditions accounted for only 0.7–3.6% of all COVID-19 deaths in France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Georgia, and New York City and 17.7% in Mexico.

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

Most people had hypertension as a co-morbidity. People with hypertension have a lower life expectancy with or without Covid

Irrespective of sex 50-year-old hypertensives compared with normotensives had a shorter life expectancy a shorter life expectancy free of cardiovascular disease myocardial infarction and stroke and a longer life expectancy lived with these diseases. Normotensive men (22% of men) survived 7.2 years (95% confidence interval, 5.6 to 9.0) longer without cardiovascular disease compared with hypertensives and spent 2.1 (0.9 to 3.4) fewer years of life with cardiovascular disease. Similar differences were observed in women…. Compared with hypertensives total life expectancy was 5.1 and 4.9 years longer for normotensive men and women respectively. Increased blood pressure in adulthood is associated with large reductions in life expectancy and more years lived with cardiovascular disease. This effect is larger than estimated previously and affects both sexes similarly. Our findings underline the tremendous importance of preventing high blood pressure and its consequences in the population.

The same is true for diabetes. Diabetes significantly shortens people’s lives with or without Covid.

According to the reports of Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA); men with type 1 diabetes have a shortened lifespan of 11 years than normal men. Women with the condition have their lives cut short by 13 years.

A 2010 report by the Diabetes UK claims that type 2 diabetes reduces the lifespan by 10 years. A 2012 Canadian study claimed that women aged over 55 years with type 2 diabetes lost on an average of 6 years while men lost 5.

The probability of dying under 65 without co-morbidities is extremely low to non-existent.  

It is far more sensible to protect the vulnerable than close society.

Children Do Not Spread the Virus and are Not at Risk

Sweden kept their schools open and not a single child died from Covid of over 1.8 million kids

Closure or not of schools has had little if any impact on the number of laboratory confirmed cases in school aged children in Finland and Sweden. Children are more likely to die from flu than Covid. 

https://twitter.com/gummibear737/status/1291399160827125762

No transmission from children in Greece. Transmission dynamics of SARS‐CoV‐2 within families with children in Greece: a study of 23 clusters.

From the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame.

No evidence of secondary transmission of COVID-19 from children attending school in Ireland 2020.  

German study shows low coronavirus infection rates in schools.

Children are not COVID-19 super spreaders: time to go back to school, from the BMJ.

The Royal College of Paediatricans and Child Health review of the evidence shows children don’t transmit the virus.

A CDC study showed very limited transmission in childcare settings.

Here are government reports all showing children are not the main source of transmission from the EU and Norway and Netherlands. In fact, children are more likely to be hit by lightning than die from Covid. The evidence is overwhelming.

Public Policy Response to Age Differences

Strategies targeted by age are likely to be much more useful at reaching herd immunity with less damage.

An age and risk based approach is by far the most sensible and what is advocated by epidemiologists like Martin Kulldorff from Harvard. Here is an article he wrote in The Spectator and LinkedIn. Here is a podcast he did. And here is another article in Contagion. In fact, he argues that delaying herd immunity is costing lives. The current lockdown is protecting the healthy instead of the vulnerable. He also wrote a very good piece on the proper response. Given the age differences in risk, policy responses should be age-specific.

The irony of shutting schools and universities and creating unemployment is that the very young and very old mix more than ever before. That is the unintended consequence of the response to the virus. We have the worst of all worlds. 

Elderly are Most Vulnerable, 50–60% of All Deaths Were Care Home Deaths

In most countries between 50-60% of deaths from Covid are from care homes. In some countries and states it is as high as 80%. What is extraordinary, though, is that this is largely a self-inflicted wound. Many infected old people were sent away from hospitals to care homes to infect others. This is true in the UK, NY and California.

This is by far the best site on all issues relating to care homes internationally. It shows percentage of all Covid deaths are 50-60% for almost all countries. Here is their main report with extensive data by country and 50-60% of deaths on average

In the first few months of the pandemic, 42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population in Care homes. As of September, according to the New York Times, 40% of US deaths were in care homes.

And you can read more here. The Real Pandemic Was a Nursing Home Problem. Here is a Wall Street Journal article with more data from US nursing homes regarding deaths

Some countries and states have 70-80% of all deaths in care homes. 

This is an extraordinary resource that shows care home deaths in the US. In some states up to 10% of all nursing home residents died. It is likely care home deaths are understated and hospital overstated.  For example, 15% of hospital deaths in the UK were actually care home patients who went to the hospital according to the ONS. While Covid deaths are horrible, it is worth considering what life expectancy without Covid would be in care homes. Even without Covid, life expectancy is extremely short in care homes. You can read here and here. The length of stay data are striking:

  • The median length of stay in a nursing home before death was 5 months 
  • 65% died within 1 year of nursing home admission 
  • 53% died within 6 months of nursing home admission 

The finding of median death in nursing homes being less than one year is confirmed in other studies. Those placed in care homes are often in worse health. Caregivers who institutionalise their relatives are substantially more likely to become bereaved than those whose relatives continue to reside at home. The zero-order odds of patient death more than double following admission to a nursing home. Instead of locking down children and young people, it might make more sense to protect the elderly.

Politicians Caused Care Home Deaths Through Bad Policy

In many states, infected old people were sent into care homes to infect others. Here was New York in April. Here is New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Here is the United Kingdom. This was not only done early in the crisis but as late as May when it was clear that care homes were hotspots. Governor Gavin Newsom ordered care homes take in infected residents in May. This is packed with links and further reading.  

The only correct historical analogy is the Siege of Caffa where Tartars threw infected bodies of the dead over city walls to spread the disease. 

Why Herd Immunity Thresholds Are Lower Than Assumed

It is highly likely that herd immunity for Covid is at much lower levels than people think. The main reasons are 1) populations are not homogenous i.e. we have different age groups with different susceptibilities, and 2) we all don’t mix randomly, i.e. most people live boring lives and see the same people every day.  Simply put, heterogeneity and non-random mixing massively reduce the threshold for herd immunity.

  • Here is a good accessible explanation of why herd immunity levels are much lower than expected for many diseases.
  • Here is an accessible introduction to the question of why estimating herd immunity isn’t straightforward or high as many articles claim.
  • Here is a detailed blog post with links to studies on how the herd immunity threshold is lower than people think.  And a slightly more technical explanation and another one
  • Here is a discussion of why immunity levels are lower than assumed.
  • Here is a very good read from the British Medical Journal making the case. 
  • Here is an academic paper on why Covid will have lower herd immunity thresholds. Here is a great podcast with the author who specializes in modeling herd immunity.  She wrote a paper arguing that herd immunity is closer to 20% for Covid due to high heterogeneity of population and low susceptibility.  So far, given how the virus is fizzling out almost everywhere there is a first wave, and the results of antibody tests, it looks like she’s right.  It is worth a listen.
  • Here is a paper noting that Herd Immunity Thresholds are much lower in Sweden.  Given they had no lockdown and now have zero deaths or people in ICUs, this is the explanation.
  • Another paper arguing, the disease-induced herd immunity level for COVID-19 is substantially lower than assumed
  • Another paper showing that most first wave Covid locations are at herd immunity based on heterogeneous susceptibility
  • Heterogenous transmission is likely why we have more cases with lower deaths, as this paper shows. The virus spreads in less susceptible people
  • The reason care homes are so vulnerable is that populations are not heterogenous, as this paper shows. 
  • Here is a broader read on heterogeneity of populations and the effectiveness of vaccines, which touches on the same issues of heterogeneity of susceptibility.
  • Here is a discussion of the role of non-random mixing from a few months ago, which was much more accurate than the early estimates of vast deaths.

It is highly unlikely a majority of a population will not get Covid. Much lower effective herd immunization thresholds fit what we see every year with flus, even bad ones. 

  • According to the WHO about 15% of people get flu a year.
  • According to the CDC about 3-11%% of the population gets the flu any year, and that includes asymptomatic people.
  • A 2018 CDC study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases looked at the percentage of the U.S. population who were sickened by flu using two different methods and compared the findings. Both methods had similar findings, which suggested that on average, about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from flu each season, with a range of between 3% and 11%, depending on the season.

The last pandemic was H1N1 and that peaked at 20-24% of the global population during the first year. That is one the very high end.  

If you want further background reading, here is a terrific overview of herd immunity.

Most People Have Immunity and a Defence Response T-Cell Cross Reactivity and Cross Immunization

Early on, many politicians and scientists assumed Covid was very deadly because we had no existing immunity to Covid. This is not true. Many people do have some existing immunity to Covid. This comes from T-cells, which provide us with an immune response.

Cross reactivity is likely to come from other vaccines people already have. There is a strong relationship between MMR vaccine and age-stratified COVID fatality rates. Here is the study. MMR Vaccine Appears to Confer Strong Protection from COVID-19: Few Deaths from SARS-CoV-2 in Highly Vaccinated Populations.

Here is good summary of the issue of existing immunity and cross-reactivity for non-scientists in the Guardian and American Conservative.

In this interview, Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University hits on cross reactivity but doesn’t go into technical details. As she sees it, the antibody studies, although useful, do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity. First, many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable” and rely on hard-to-achieve representative groups. But more important, many people who have been exposed to the virus will have other kinds of immunity that don’t show up on antibody tests – either for genetic reasons or the result of pre-existing immunities to related coronaviruses such as the common cold. 

Karl Friston has noted that up to 80% not even susceptible to COVID-19.

The Virus Naturally Fizzles Out and Most States/Regions Follow the Gompertz Curve 

We know that the virus naturally fizzles out because we have Sweden and Manaus in Brazil and other natural experiments where there were no lockdowns. In Manaus, there were no distancing measures either, and the virus fizzled out. 

In Sweden you can see deaths and ICU cases are in the single digits They had 5,800 deaths (70% in care homes, which they could have handled better) and today deaths and hospitalizations are in the single digits and zero most days. Their policy worked.  

Believe it or not, Sweden, where everyone was supposed to die due to no lockdowns, has had worse months of deaths from flu in the last 30 years in 1993 and 2000.    

All of this explains stories like this where experts wonder about why the virus fizzles out at a certain point. A curious pattern in coronavirus infection rate emerges, hinting it can ‘burn out’ at a certain point.

Farr’s law explains why viruses don’t grow exponentially and infect everyone. 

Nobel prize winner Michael Levitt has written a paper on the math behind how viruses fizzle out, which fits much lower herd immunity levels. Here is an explanation in plain English. 

Interestingly, there were a few papers from China and Spain (in Spanish, but you can use Google or Bing translator) that correctly predicted the peaks and end of the virus and number of deaths using Gompertz curves as far back as March. There are specific reasons why the virus follows a Gompertz function.

While some countries look like they’re having second waves or not following the Gompertz curve, the truth is they are. For example, Brazil is actually many big cities that have their own curves.

And deaths are following the Gompertz curve by city, so see Rio, for example.

All European cases are now close to zero and all curves look the same by country, and for Europe as a whole.

UK is at zero and looks exactly the same:

https://twitter.com/AlistairHaimes/status/1296477016531886080?s=20

The same is true in the US. Early states like NY and NJ have almost no deaths and look like Europe. Later states that had no first wave looked like Eastern Europe. It is now peaking and turning down.  

The Virus is Fizzling Out

Notice in every single Western European country the virus has fizzled out and deaths are running below one per million per day and in most countries are near zero. 

Here is Europe’s aggregate chart:

Today everyone is worried about cases, but there are almost no deaths and it is all due to more testing.  

Despite the media’s breathless reporting of deaths, in most European countries, Covid deaths were 40-100% worse than a bad flu year (see below on all links for data).  

The hotspots in the sunbelt saw deaths peak in July.  Hospitalisations peaked in mid-July in all hotspots as well as visits for influenza, pneumonia and Covid according to CDC:  

You can see the trend in deaths has been falling:

Here is Arizona with all trends in the right direction with fall in hospitalizations, ICUs and even deaths:

Florida is the same.

Texas is the same.

Believe it or not, in the US excess mortality is now almost back to normal. 

While some countries look like they’re having second waves or not following the Gompertz curve and fizzling out, the truth is they are.  For example, Brazil is actually many big cities that have their own curves.  And deaths are following the Gompertz curve by city, so see Rio de Janeiro, for example.

Putting Covid in Perspective vs the Flu Globally

Currently, global deaths are 800,000 from Covid

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year.  

So Covid is running a little over the upper end of world flu deaths annually. 

Europe

180,000 people have died in all of Western Europe from Covid. Here is a study of 2017/18 season. It states that 152,000 people died during flu season from flu and unknown pathogens. 

The impact of the 2017/18 influenza epidemic on mortality was similar to that of the previous influenza A(H3N2) dominated seasons in 2014/15 and 2016/17. The European number of deaths attributable to influenza was estimated to be 152 thousand persons. We found a lower influenza-attributable mortality compared to excess mortality, which may indicated that other circulating pathogens might also have contributed to the all-cause excess mortality.

See the European flu monitoring site showing flu vs Covid.  It isn’t twice as bad as previous bad flu seasons 2014/15 and 2017/18

Italy had 35,000 Covid deaths

But Italy always has more deaths from influenza than other European countries. 

It had excess deaths of 7,027 20,259 15,801 and 24,981 attributable to influenza epidemics in the 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 and 2016/17 respectively.

That means Covid was only 40% worse than their worst flu year in the last five years.  

The UK has had ~46,000 deaths from Covid.

For some perspective, there were 28,000 and 26,000 deaths from influenza in the UK in 2014 and 2017.   

So the end result is the virus is about 40% worse than a bad flu year.

France has had 30,000 Covid deaths.

That is only 60% worse than the 2014/15 flu season in France with 18,300 deaths

Spain has had 28,000 Covid deaths.

But it has had about 15,000 deaths from flu in previous flu seasons, notably 2014/15. ”Using population models, it has been estimated that in the last two seasons, the flu may have been responsible for up to 15,000 deaths attributable to this disease.”

The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica says 15,000 for last two seasons, so that is a bad year. 

So Covid is basically twice as bad as a bad flu season in Spain. 

The US has had 190,000 deaths.

The flu season in 2017-18 had a median estimate of 61,000 deaths, but upper bound of the estimate is 95,000 deaths.  

The 2014-15 had 64,000 as top estimate for flu deaths. 

So Covid is roughly 60%-100% worse than the worst flu season we’ve had in the US.  

Another issue that is rarely mentioned is that Covid deaths and hospitalizations have been inflated. Here is the Irish Government’s analysis of Covid deaths.  Many people had the virus but did not die of Covid. 

Likewise, Britain’s official death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic was lowered by over 5,000.

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Civil Disobedience Growing Among OAPs

Cartoon by Bob Moran

This coming Monday, March 8th, is the first key date in Boris’s roadmap. It is the date schools across England will reopen and university students can return – albeit just those doing practical courses. It is the date when one person can visit someone else in a care home – albeit in PPE and clutching a recent negative test result. It is the date people will be permitted to meet outside in public spaces to socialise and not just to exercise – albeit only in pairs.

Unsurprisingly, however, the already vaccinated are beginning to ignore this glacial, excessively cautious reopening. They are already meeting up with people, even indoors, as Guido notes, commenting on a recent data release from the ONS.

Buried in the latest ONS data dump of Covid research is a remarkable – if logical – statistic. Just 33% of over 80s have not met with anyone indoors since having their jab, with 43% admitting to meeting with people other than their carers or support bubble after receiving the first dose. After two jabs, this explicit rule-breaking rises to 48%. Despite the widespread rule-breaking, hospitalisation and death rates amongst the age group are tumbling…

Cheeky octogenarians are not alone – spritely 72-year-old Lord Sumption yesterday made a splash by telling UnHerd that “sometimes the most public-spirited thing that you can do with despotic laws like these is to ignore them” – even claiming that a quiet campaign of “civil disobedience” has already begun. At least among the elderly, the data does seem to agree with him…

The ONS data release provides further details.

Of over 80s-who had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a total of 67% reported that they had met somebody they do not live with, indoors, since being vaccinated.

More than a third (37%) had met with a member of their support bubble, indoors, since being vaccinated, and 23% had met with their child or children indoors.

It would appear that their perception of risk has altered fundamentally, as the ONS statistician comments:

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination is, no doubt, a huge relief to many people aged over 80, as we can see that almost half of all them, when asked, considered COVID-19 to be a major or significant personal risk before receiving the vaccination – this decreases to just 5% having the same concern after hypothetically receiving both doses of the vaccine.

Boris has appealed for vaccinated octogenarians to abide by the rules, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

More Than Half of Positive Test Results in Schools Likely to be False Positives

Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Children returning to school on Monday face being subjected to extensive rules and guidance designed to make the school ‘Covid-secure’. This includes frequent and regular testing of all students and staff. One mother, healthcare professional and reader of Lockdown Sceptics wrote in to tell us why her children will not be taking part.

Mass testing using lateral flow tests will be rolled out across all secondary schools across England from Monday March 8th as all pupils are [deep breath] going back to school. A test is required before each child is allowed to return followed by two further tests between three and five days apart in school. So, three tests in the first week. This is then followed by biweekly testing at home from thereon. “Testing remains voluntary but highly advised” (Department of Health, NHS Test and Trace). I have two children who attend a large comprehensive secondary school. There are just under 1,500 students in the school – if each child takes the three tests in the first week that amounts to 4,500 tests (plus the teachers). If my research tells me right there are just under 3.5 million pupils in state funded secondary schools in England so that is 10.5 million swabs in week one alone, plus the teachers (and plus all the other swabs that are being done elsewhere). Each lateral flow test is a single use disposable plastic swab. I am not sure how the swabs are disposed of but I can be certain they are not recycled – I expect they are incinerated as clinical waste.

My husband and I are both ‘front line’ health care professionals and have opted our children out of testing in key worker school and have indeed opted out for the next phase of testing starting next week. Indeed we have also opted ourselves out of testing at work (also not mandatory). This is because we have many concerns about the flaws of mass testing asymptomatic people. 

Bear with me here. The lateral flow tests have been reported to have a specificity of 99.6% (Preliminary report from the joint PHE Porton Down and University of Oxford SARS-CoV-2 LFD test development and validation cell, 2020). That is to say that if you use a lateral flow test on 1,000 people *known to definitely not have Covid* then it will test negative in 996 of them. Meanwhile the sensitivity of lateral flow is variable depending on the person administering it, ranging from 76% when trained healthcare staff are the operators but falling to 58% when used by self-trained members of the public. Put another way: if 100 people who are *known to definitely have Covid* are tested with lateral flow, the result will be positive in somewhere between 58 and 76 of them. However this is only half the story when it comes to screening a population that has no symptoms. To understand the value of lateral flow when it’s used in this way, we need to understand the idea of Positive Predictive Value (PPV) and Negative Predictive Value (NPV). These are the values that answer the questions “I’ve tested positive, so what are the chances I actually have Covid?” and “I’ve tested negative, so what are the chances I really don’t have Covid?”. The trouble is that the PPV and NPV vary depending on the prevalence of the condition you’re testing for – if the condition you’re hunting for (in this case Covid) by using a given screening test (in this case lateral flow) is rare, then the PPV of the test will drop while the NPV improves – in other words a positive test is less likely to mean you really do have the disease, while a negative test is more likely to mean you don’t have the disease. Conversely if the condition is common then a positive test is more likely to mean you really do have the disease (i.e., the PPV increases) whilst the NPV drops.

Take my children’s school as an example: approximately 1,450 pupils. Let’s say six of them have Covid (based on the current estimated national average of 1 infection per 230 people – although in fact the estimated prevalence in my local area is even lower). Let’s also say that 66% of those will test positive (as per the stated sensitivity of lateral flow). That’s four positive tests and two negative tests amongst the children with actual Covid. This leaves 1,444 without Covid. 99.6% of them (i.e., 1438 pupils) will correctly test negative, so six will test positive. Therefore there are ten positive tests amongst the whole school, of whom four actually have Covid and six actually don’t. Some rudimentary maths will show that this equates to a PPV of 40%. In other words any pupil receiving a positive test has a less than 50/50 chance of actually having Covid. The reassuring thing is that based on these numbers a negative test is 99.9% likely to mean a child truly doesn’t have Covid, but the price of this ‘reassurance’ is a few unlucky children being removed from school (again) and put through another unpleasant and invasive test, not to mention the possible risk of anxiety, the impact on their family having to isolate whilst the PCR test results are awaited, but also the environmental impact. This is one of my main concerns – the environmental impact of using millions of disposable plastic swabs each week (gov.uk has a daily/weekly count available – at the time of writing there were 4,513,953 tests carried out over the last 7 days. This is a combination of lateral flow and PCR tests). The number of tests is going to rise dramatically over the next week and this is of huge concern to us as a family. I have raised this as a concern in a recent medical webinar. I was not completely alone however I genuinely think not many people have thought about this issue (someone did raise concern related to the types of plastics used in the swabs). This is at complete odds with the environmental campaign against single use plastic and the effects on our planet. Even more ironically children are taught extensively at school about protection of the planet and individual responsibility. What are we teaching them now?… I will leave the PPE and wipes and disposable masks and plastic EVERYWHERE for now as I am starting to sweat … and the children want to watch David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet

Stop Press: Covid Testing in school has been recommended by the Government, but is not mandatory, as we have previously reported. Nevertheless, most schools are doing their best to test all their pupils and according to a survey conducted by ITV this is eating up huge amounts of time that will take away from teaching time in many schools. Only 9% of schools have consent for the tests from all parents, and a majority are struggling to get consent from more than half. Perhaps because it would have teachers lives easier, 80% of them believe that testing should have been made compulsory by the Government.

Stop Press 2: The other core component of the guidance is on mask-wearing in the classroom. The Telegraph reports on the UsForThem letter to Gavin Williamson asking him to publish the evidence showing that masks interrupt transmission or abandon the measure. Meanwhile, 32 Tory MPs have demanded that the measure be dropped after Easter.

Stop Press 3: A teacher has written in to describe an unanticipated difficulty with ‘remote learning’.

My head of department went AWOL the other day at one point because she fell victim to a sophisticated online scam while teaching online. The scammers purported to be from her internet service provider fixing an issue with her connection (which they simulated) and sneaked into her phone by the back door, emptying her bank account in the process. Had she not been trying to teach an online lesson at the time it wouldn’t have happened – she of course was desperate to get ‘the problem’ sorted as fast as possible. Luckily she got the money back from the bank but it’s a mark of how vulnerable relying on multiple internet access can be with all the distractions of trying to manage online teaching, to say nothing of the potential for far more sinister hacking impacting on the children involved. For this teacher going back to ‘real’ teaching can’t come soon enough.

Another Foreign Travel Ban

In case anyone is tempted to sneak off for an Easter break to one of the countries that have declared themselves open to vaccinated Brits, the Government has made it illegal to leave the country for non-work reasons from March 8th. In guidance published yesterday, it states:

From March 8th 2021, you must complete this form to declare the reason that you need to travel abroad.

You must complete this form if you are travelling outside the UK from England. Different rules apply for international travel from Northern IrelandScotland and Wales.

You don’t need to complete the form for travel within the UK, to Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

You should print a copy of the completed form or save it to a mobile phone or other device.

You may be asked to show this declaration form at the port of departure. You may carry evidence to support your reason for travel.

Entering a port of departure to travel internationally without a completed form is a criminal offence, for which you could be fined.

If you try to travel abroad without a legally permitted reason, you may also be fined for breaching the stay at home requirements

Writing in the Telegraph, Chris Leadbeater is not impressed.

There is a definite element of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to today’s announcement of a new “Declaration to Travel” – which will come into force on Monday (March 8th).

At first glance, it might seem as innovative and attractive – to that section of the electorate which wants even tougher restrictions, at all costs – as an Everlasting Gobstopper, or a stick of chewing gum which runs through the flavours of a three-course dinner, including the pudding.

But on closer inspection, it is revealed to be as pointless and impractical as, well, a piece of confectionery that turns the consumer into a big blueberry – or a Fizzy Lifting Drink where the imbiber has to burp to stay grounded.

As with much that has come out of Downing Street and the offices of state around it during the pandemic, the Declaration to Travel is fantasy thinking. But not in a good way.

Let us look, first of all, at what it is meant to do. Officially, it is designed to ensure that anyone attempting to leave the UK in the coming weeks has good reason to do so –and can demonstrate as such by typing their details into a three-page document that can be waved at the airport or ferry terminal, at anybody shoving their beak into your business.

But what will it actually achieve? Nothing – beyond scaring any lingering urge to go anywhere out of the citizens of a country who have been locked down, threatened with quarantine, and gaslit with the prospect of fines for all manner of minor offences for the best part of the last year.

Worth reading in full.

An Update From the Lockdown Sceptics Senior Doctor

Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

We have an update today on the latest NHS data from the Senior Doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics. Good news, but with a few oddities.

At the risk of testing readers patience for graphics, I’m firstly going to have a look at the regular hospital statistics to assess what has changed in the last couple of weeks and compare the information with where we were last year. Then I will raise a few issues that have been puzzling me for some time – essentially discrepancies between what I hear in the media and what I see in the data. I apologise in advance for having more questions than answers in this update. Much of the data I have looked at this week does not seem to fit together with official pronouncements and I don’t have ready explanations for why that might be.

Here is the chart for COVID-19 inpatients in English Hospitals (Graph 1). Readers will observe that the number of inpatients is now lower than at the beginning of December. In fact, the inpatient numbers are equivalent to where they were in October. Importantly, they continue to fall at an impressive rate – approximately 2,500 – 3,000 per week and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. To put it another way, the numbers of COVID-19 patients in English hospitals has fallen from about 30% of available beds to under 10% in six weeks. I will discuss possible reasons for this reduction later in the piece. Readers will also note that the trend is uniform across all geographic regions, with a slight lag between the curves for London and the South East and the rest of the country. This has been attributed to the transit of the so called ‘Kent variant’ strain. The same trends are seen in ICU numbers, albeit with a lag due to longer lengths of stay.

Graph 1

I find Graph 2 interesting. This is a comparison of the spring 2020 inpatient curve with the recent winter one. Readers should be aware that this chart is derivative. I have taken two time series by identifying the peak dates of COVID-19 inpatients, then worked back and forward for a few weeks either side of the peak to compare the curves. The graph shows that the peak number of COVID-19 inpatients was higher in the winter than the spring, but that the decline from the peak has been more rapid – the grey line is almost at the same level as the blue line on the right-hand side. ‘Day 70’ in the spring series represents May 31st, so in terms of COVID-19 inpatients we are already where we were at the beginning of summer last year. This observation fits with the community testing data which shows a significant reduction in positive cases in recent weeks.

There are several possibilities to explain the observable difference, and they may all be playing a part – one is the vaccination effect. Another is the intensity of testing – we may have been under recording COVID-19 patients in the spring and possibly over recording them in the winter. Advocates of ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’ will probably attribute the difference to societal lockdown. Adherents to the other side of the argument may claim this is a consequence of ‘herd immunity’. It may even be that the virus recedes in warmer weather. Whatever the reason, the burden of COVID-19 in hospitals is falling faster now than in the spring last year.

Graph 2

Next, I examine admissions to hospital from the community in Graph 3. This looks a bit confusing as all the lines converge on the right-hand side, but it’s an important graphic because the downward trend of falling admissions implies that the number of inpatients is likely to continue to fall in the next few weeks. Simply put, if the number of patients coming into the funnel is lower than the numbers being discharged, then the overall hospital numbers will go down quite quickly. We don’t have access to rolling discharge figures as these are only released on a monthly basis, but I think it’s reasonable to infer that hospital discharges have increased substantially in the last few weeks and lengths of stay have fallen.

For a non-graphical comparison which might be easier to understand, the three-day average admissions in London have dropped from nearly 800 a day in London to about 70 per day now. Across the whole of England, one patient with COVID-19 is admitted from the community every 150 seconds, compared to one every 30 seconds in mid-January.  On March 3rd there were 478 COVID-19 patients admitted to English Hospitals – similar levels to the first part of October. I haven’t heard Simon Stevens updating the nation with those particular statistics, but then I don’t watch much TV and he’s a busy person. I also find it strange that my colleagues who were so keen to appear in the media emphasising how awful things were in January have been more reticent in informing the public that matters are now largely under control. Why is that?

Graph 3

I now want to look at some data on deaths, which I find puzzling for a variety of reasons. Graph 4 shows ONS recorded COVID-19 deaths in December and January. I have not included deaths in people under 60 years of age because they are so low as to be statistically irrelevant. Graph 4 is interesting because it clearly shows the age stratification of COVID deaths – the older you are, the more likely you are to die with the virus. This graphic contradicts much of what I have heard in the press about the new variant being more deadly in younger age groups. All the data I have seen from hospital admissions, ICU audits and death figures show that there is no difference in age-related mortality or disease severity between Spring 2020 and this Winter. I don’t understand why this is being reported differently in the media – am I missing something? Do the experts have access to information that I can’t see? If so, I would be grateful if this data could be made available because I find cognitive dissonance uncomfortable.

Graph 4

Graph 4 also shows that COVID-19 deaths peaked at the end of January and are on a clear declining trend. I observed in a previous piece that on January 26th at the Downing Street press conference, Professor Whitty said: “I think we have to be realistic that the rate of mortality, the number of people dying a day, will come down relatively slowly over the next two weeks – and will probably be flat for a while now.” Graph 4 clearly refutes that prediction. In fact, all the predictions around deaths have been wildly inaccurate. PHE predicted a peak of 4,070 COVID-19 deaths per day which would occur at the beginning of December. Imperial College said COVID-19 deaths would peak at 2,170 per day on 30th December. Warwick University were the closest predicting 1,700 deaths per day on 23rd December. The real daily peak of recorded COVID-19 deaths was 1,249 on January 19th.

Chart 1 shows all cause deaths recorded in England and Wales as a Nightingale plot. Readers can clearly see the peak excess deaths in the spring. Note that these figures are all-cause deaths, not just COVID-19 deaths. What puzzles me about this data is the lower number of overall deaths in the recent winter compared to last spring. Graph 5 below shows that the number of COVID-19 recorded deaths is much the same as the spring, so it appears that non COVID-19 deaths are considerably lower than usual. How can that be? Could it be due to the complete absence of influenza deaths this winter? Or did the 2020 epidemic burn through the ‘dry stubble’, killing people that would have died in the first two months of 2021 willy nilly?

Chart 1

In Graph 5 I have plotted weekly deaths recorded by the ONS where ‘COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate’ according to location of death. It suggests that COVID-19 related deaths were similar in number in the Winter compared to the Spring and that most COVID-19 deaths were recorded in hospitals. This observation begs several questions. We know from the hospital admissions data that there were approximately 75% more patients hospitalised with COVID-19 in the Winter compared to the Spring, but there were roughly the same number of deaths. Hence as a percentage, the in-hospital mortality was substantially lower in the Winter than in the Spring. If the new variant really is more deadly, how can this be? It is possible that the hospital admission criteria may have been lower in the winter, so there may have been more patients, but they were less ill (relatively speaking) than in the Spring. Or maybe they really were sicker, but treatment has improved very substantially. The vaccine effect might explain some of the reduced mortality in the last few weeks: SPI-M (one of the Government’s advisory bodies) has recently released data showing that the rate of COVID-19 deaths has fallen faster than its modelling from the beginning of February. However, I think it’s unlikely that vaccines alone can explain the lower overall peak deaths in January. Whatever the reason, it appears to me that the cohort of COVID-19 patients in the Winter were much less likely to die than those admitted in the Spring.

Graph 5

Graph 6 reinforces the point. It shows all-cause recorded deaths by week of the year and location of death. The care home spike in the Spring is visible (yellow bars in weeks 15 – 19). Overall, the proportions of deaths in hospital and at home are about the same and the total number of deaths is significantly lower this Winter than last Spring.

Graph 6

Finally, an article in the Financial Times caught my eye this morning – it was reported in detail in yesterday’s edition of Lockdown Sceptics, but I think it bears repetition. The World Obesity Federation has published a study purporting to show mortality rates from COVID-19 are 10 times higher in countries where 50% of the population are overweight (Chart 2). At first glance there are some problems with this study – correlation does not imply causation, and one is always suspicious of PR manipulation when a report on obesity deaths is released to coincide with ‘World Obesity Day’. The charts presented seem to have curious distinct separations of mortality rates without any intermediate grading – one obvious potential error could be that in developing countries the number of COVID-19 deaths may be under-recorded. Nevertheless, the basic conclusion does fit with multiple other reputable published sources.

Once again, I experience uncomfortable cognitive dissonance when the press, including the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, repeatedly emphasise the uncommon tragedy of young healthy people dying from COVID-19, but omit reference to the far greater numbers of very old or very fat people falling victim to the disease. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s comment to the effect that: “If you don’t read the news you’re uninformed. If you do read the news you’re misinformed.”

Chart 2

I remarked at the top of the article that I have many more questions than answers. My root cause for bewilderment is this. Reading the published data over the last 12 months leads me to believe that COVID-19 is mainly dangerous to specific segments of the population – principally the over-65s and the overweight. I have not seen any convincing evidence that people under 60 are seriously at risk unless they have pre-existing significant medical problems or are very unlucky – there is emerging evidence of specific underlying genetic susceptibilities to COVID-19 which might explain some of the deaths in younger age groups.

The latest figures show community cases falling, hospital occupancy dropping and vaccination rates soaring, particularly among the vulnerable older age groups.

Therefore, why is it necessary to deprive the vast majority of the population of their civil liberties until June 21st for an infection which poses minimal risk to their health?

The economic damage of lockdown has been starkly revealed by the Chancellor in his recent budget. The relationship between public health and national prosperity is widely accepted. Despite obvious collateral harms, no ‘cost-benefit’ analysis has been provided to justify unprecedented governmental actions implemented on the advice of unelected public health academics. Can anyone explain to me why this is a rational position for our parliamentary representatives to adopt?

Isle of Man Locks Down Again – So Much For Zero Covid!

Lockdown was lifted on the Isle of Man recently, with borders closures, tough rules backed by prison sentences and a supportive population all credited with bringing the infection rate down to zero. Today, the island is back in lockdown. Our regular contributor, Guy de la Bédoyère, is unimpressed.

The Isle of Man has announced a three-week lockdown and school closures. Chief Minister Howard Quayle has his finger on the pulse:

The virus spreads when people mix and so we need to do all we can to minimise that mixing … In the interests of children and broader society, we need to prevent children from mixing.

There you have it. It’s in the Isle of Man children’s best interests to be prevented from mixing. I thought we’d all begun to understand that the exact opposite is true, but in this Orwellian era Quayle’s pronouncement should occasion no surprise.

The tragedy for the Isle of Man’s politicians in the House of Keys is that just like the Land of St Jacinda they thought their lockdowns had the power to annihilate the disease. And still do. The island has reported 58 cases, most of which are linked to an infected ferry crew member. That’s unfortunate because the only option really then would be to ban ferries too. The culprit is the ‘Kent’ variant spreading rapidly among the island’s young people.

The most recent bout of restrictions had only been lifted as recently as the end of January, and last year there was a taste of normality with seven months of no restrictions.

The best quote of all comes once more from Howard Quayle:

I do believe though that if we get this right one more time – if we stamp out once and for all the transmission that has been sitting under the surface for some time now –and in parallel if we protect our vaccination programme – this could hopefully be the last time.

If all is well, as we progress over the next 21 days, I sincerely hope that we will not have to tighten up further. It has worked before. We know what to do.

He hopes to “get this right one more time” because “it has worked before”. Except that it obviously didn’t work before because if it had there’d be no need for another time. But he is confident that with this latest lockdown the virus will be stamped out for good. Yes, Mr Quayle, just like all the other viruses that human beings have stamped out ‘for good’ so easily.

I don’t know what’s more incredible: that politicians can continue to come out with these insane promises, or that so many people are continuing to believe them. How can it be that one of the most invasive, volatile, and contagious viruses ever to afflict mankind is also the one uniquely susceptible to permanent eradication with the simple measure of a lockdown – especially if two previous lockdowns demonstrably didn’t get rid of it?

The Isle of Man was already pioneering our local version of the New Zealand prison island model. Only residents and key workers were allowed in. But since it was one of the latter who brought Covid back, how long before even they are consigned to guarded compounds? Or just banned outright? Perhaps the island could be supplied by helicopter drops?

It’s at times like this you really do start to get a picture of the hideous rabbit hole this crisis is starting to go down. But there is one small glimmer of hope. Quayle seems to be intimating that the vaccines might be the way out. Let’s hope so, because right now there seems to be absolutely nothing else in sight that is going to stop this relentless march towards a lifetime of endless lockdowns, incarcerated communities, and a society where the only means of interaction is within a Zoom screen.

Follow The Politics, Not The Science

We must be “guided by the science” was an oft-repeated refrain in the early days of the Covid crisis – except we weren’t guided by the science, at least not after March 23rd, as we abandoned Pandemic Preparedness Plan and followed other countries around the world, not least the People’s Republic of China, into lockdown. Our Government was making political decisions, not scientific ones, as this superb original article that we’re publishing today makes clear. It’s an exhaustive analysis of the careful preparation that went into pandemic planning and why abandoning that approach had nothing to do with science and everything to do with political expediency. It also documents in meticulous detail how the political approach ended up causing more harm than good. It’s by an epidemiologist with a PhD from a Russel Group university and a retired Professor of Forensic Science and Biological Anthropology (whom Toby put in touch when they both contacted Lockdown Sceptics asking if he could introduce them to someone with the other’s expertise). Here is the executive summary:

This article contrasts the policies pursued by the UK Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with prior national and international preparedness guidelines. It begins with illustrative reference to Popper’s criteria defining the scientific method and to seven foundational ethical principles proposed for use in public health education. It then examines scientific evidence for the value of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) in the mitigation of respiratory virus outbreaks.

It finds that, until mid-March 2020, the UK Government followed existing national and international guidelines recommending low stringency NPIs – such as hand hygiene, social distancing and isolating when sick – to slow the spread of infections. There was some scientific evidence these measures were beneficial and accompanying harms limited. Government advisers assessed SARS-CoV-2 disease characteristics and risks realistically, incorporating known behaviour of similar respiratory viruses.

However, on March 23rd, 2020, an unprecedented lockdown – involving travel bans, stay at home orders and mandatory business closures – was implemented in the absence of empirical evidence for their utility. As well as contravening the existing pandemic preparedness guidelines, this violated key principles of public health ethics and human rights.

Many scientific studies have since shown lockdowns cause considerable harm for minimal benefit and the error has been compounded by a failure to abandon these policies as confounding evidence has accumulated.

These harms could have been avoided if the UK Government had respected the pandemic preparedness guidelines and the scientific and ethical principles underpinning them, and resisted media pressure – or coercion – to behave like ‘many other Governments’. Instead, lockdowns have been extended and repeated, and vindictive suppression of scepticism has increased – including that based on accepted principles of law, ethics and scientific inquiry.

Politics – not the science – caused the UK to become a ‘lockdown autocracy’ with one of the worst pandemic outcomes in the world. An inept but unchallenged administration arose, funded by borrowing and fiscal easing, supported by an acquiescent public highly dependent on Government subsidies, and led by media fear mongering with the manufacturing of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, vilification of dissent and condemnation of rational and viable alternatives.

The article concludes that an absence of leadership in the UK allowed human rights law and the ethics and principles of evidence-based public health to be disregarded, precipitating economic and social devastation and excess mortality. If a future such occurrence is to be avoided, new legislation and formal censure of those responsible – whether from politics, media, medicine, science or the judiciary – will be necessary

It’s a long one, so grab a coffee, but very much worth reading in full.

COVID-1984

 Credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP

Party slogans continue to roll in:

LOCKDOWN ENDS WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES 13
TODAY’S HISTORY WAS WRITTEN LAST WEEK
LOCKDOWN IS LIBERTY
VACCINATION IS VALIDATION
CONFINEMENT IS SAFETY
FEAR IS FREEDOM
LOGIC IS ILLOGICAL
TODAY’S LIES ARE TOMORROW’S TRUTHS
HATING OTHERS IS LOVING THE PARTY
ROOM 101 IS IN EVERY HOUSE
NHS ABOVE ALL

One reader spied Orwell’s pen in the name given to Israel’s tracking bracelets which permit new arrivals to isolate at home rather than in a quarantine hotel. These are known as ‘freedom bracelets‘.

Another offered a quote from the novel itself:

“YOU ARE THE DEAD. … REMAIN EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE. MAKE NO MOVEMENT UNTIL YOU ARE ORDERED.”

Poetry Corner

Today’s poem is from a reader who calls herself Liberty Walker.

Lazy, Lardy, Lethal Lockdown

Britain’s getting fatter,
We’ve given up the gym,
We’re eating up our take-aways,
It’s harder to stay trim. 

Boris closed the swimming pools,
And told us ‘stay at home,
Don’t go out unless you must,
But you can pick up the phone.’ 

You can dial out for pizza,
The Chinese opens late,
If you’re looking for a change,
Get curry for your date.

You’ll have to date on Zoom,
And eat curry while you chat,
No one sees your bottom half,
They cannot see the fat.

This lockdown is quite deadly,
As we eat in great excess,
We’re storing up a crisis  
For our precious NHS. 

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Twelve today: “Columbia” by Oasis, “Hanging On” by Ellie Goulding, “Lie To Me” by Tom Waits, “How Long” by Ace, “The Future” by Leonard Cohen, “Reason Is Treason” by Kasabian, “The New Pollution” by Beck, “Alienated” by Urban Dance Squad, “It’s Not Funny Anymore” by Babybird, “I Don’t Worry About It” by the Meteors, “Rage Hard” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and “Trouble Every Day” by Frank Zappa.

Love in the Time of Covid

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email Lockdown Sceptics here.

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the woke makeover of the military-industrial complex, where NATO, the CIA and the US Army are all bending over backwards to emphasis how diverse and inclusive they are while spending eye-watering sums of money on new and better ways to kill people. Paddy Hannam sums it up for Spiked.

This week, the world’s most powerful military alliance tweeted, “Diversity is our strength.” The tweet featured a video of employees of various ethnic backgrounds, including both men and women, telling viewers to “respect our needs” and “embrace our differences”. NATO encouraged Twitter users to share the tweet – which was in honour of #ZeroDiscriminationDay – “to join us in celebrating the differences that make us stronger”. The organisation which bombed Iraq and Libya back to the dark ages is diverse. How nice.

It’s not just NATO that has leapt on the woke bandwagon. Former CIA boss John Brennan – the ‘principal coordinator’ of a US anti-terror ‘kill list’, who also oversaw American drone strikes – revealed his white guilt this week. “I’m increasingly embarrassed to be a white male these days with what I see other white males say,” he told MSNBC.

The US Army is in on the fun, too. It has its own “Equity and Inclusion Agency”, which launched ‘Project Inclusion’ last year. This operation included “listening sessions with soldiers and civilians worldwide to converse on race, diversity, equity and inclusion”. General James C McConville, Chief of Staff of the US Army, said on the army’s website that it “must continue to put People First by fostering a culture of trust that accepts the experiences and backgrounds of every soldier and civilian”. I wonder what the citizens of the many countries the US has attacked in recent years would have to say about that.

The military is signed up to the environmentalist agenda, too. Both the US and British armies are pursuing ‘Net Zero’ emissions targets. The army needs to be “on the right side of the environmental argument, especially in the eyes of that next generation of recruits that increasingly make career decisions based on a prospective employer’s environmental credentials”, according to senior British general Sir Mark Carleton Smith. The military, with its gas-guzzling tanks and fighter jets, is a significant emitter of CO2. So apparently, in order to attract recruits for the next foreign war, we need eco-friendly death machines. …

Raytheon, a defence and intelligence company which makes, among other things, aircraft engines, missiles and drones for the US military, partnered with the Girl Scouts in 2019 in order to promote a feminist message. A company representative said on Raytheon’s website, “we are all about using innovation to make the world a safer place, and we need engineers, especially female engineers, to drive diversity and innovation for the future of our technology”. It seems Raytheon wants more diversity in its bomb-making department.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Soft Power is going woke too, writes Bruce Newsome in the Critic‘s Artillery Row, commenting on the recent Global Soft Power Summit 2021:

How do you turn “soft power” into an anti-racist, anti-Western, pro-China, neoliberal, anti-Brexit aspiration? You partner with the BBC to host a soft power conference. You invite Hillary Clinton to headline it. You introduce her as “the best President we never had”. You put David Miliband on one panel. On another panel, you put David Heymann (the Labour Government’s Chairman of what is now Public Health England). You invite Carl Bildt to represent continental progressives. You invite Tom Tugendhat as your sole “conservative”; a Remainer who won’t disagree with your handwringing about Brexit.

The nominal host of Thursday’s four-hour conference was Zeinab Badawi of BBC World News, who repeated her favourite self-identification as “someone who was born under the African sun”. Clearly unprepared, out of her depth, and star struck, she kept fluffing her lines and circling back to criticism of the West.

Joe Nye, the author of the term “soft power”, was there too, to remind us inadvertently that the wokeness of “soft power” begins with its vagueness

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: MailOnline reports on a study which found that the growing trend for double-masking, practised by President Biden and many others, might well be pointless.

Double-masking is only slightly better at stopping the spread of coronavirus than wearing one face covering, a study has suggested.

Japanese researchers said wearing one surgical mask that is fitted correctly could stop up to 85% of viral particles from passing through.

Doubling up on surgical masks offers no benefit because air resistance builds up and causes leakage around the edges of the mask, they claimed.

The study found there was some benefit in wearing a tight-fitting reusable mask on top of a surgical one, but it was marginal, offering up to 89% protection.

The experts, who used a super-computer simulation to test different face covering combinations, said ‘the performance of double masking simply does not add up’.

Their findings contradict recent recommendations from health experts in the UK and US, who have claimed it’s ‘common sense’ two masks are better than one.

Stop Press 2: Those amusing folks at the Babylon Bee have written a spoof article about a progressive who’s pleasantly surprised to discover he can still double mask even when mask mandates have been lifted.

https://twitter.com/thebabylonbee/status/1367927492720218113?s=21

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Latest News

Fatties – You Don’t Need to Worry About Dying From Coronavirus

Shall I have just one more wafer thin mint?

Matt Hancock has written an article for the Telegraph today in which he warns people who are “morbidly obese” that they are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Obesity is one of the greatest long term health challenges that we face as a country.

It not only puts a strain on our NHS and care system, but it also piles pressure on our bodies, making us more vulnerable to many diseases, including of course coronavirus.

The latest research shows that if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 your risk of death from coronavirus goes up by at least a quarter.

And that nearly 8 per cent of critically ill patients with coronavirus in intensive care are morbidly obese compared at around 3 per cent of the country as a whole.

He concludes:

If everyone who is overweight lost five pounds it could save the NHS over £100 million over the next five years. And more importantly, given the link between obesity and coronavirus, losing weight could be lifesaving.

So just how great is the risk of dying from coronavirus if you’re a fatty?

According to the latest ONS infection survey data, about one in 2,300 people had COVID-19 in England in the week of July 6th to 12th. Now, that’s not very reliable because the false positive rate for the antigen test could easily be one in 2,300, so to confirm this the ONS would need to re-test anyone testing positive to confirm the result – which it hasn’t done, obviously. Nevertheless, let’s assume that’s correct – that the number of people infected with coronavirus in England is 1/2,300 or about 24,350 (56,000,000/2,300). We know that the number of new cases is declining because the R is less than one, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that after 14 days, when those 24,350 people have either died or recovered, they’ve each passed it on to one other person. So that means the total number of people infected in England over the course of a year is ~633,100 (24,350 x 26). Again, a huge overestimate, but let’s give the bed-wetters the benefit of the doubt. So if you’re an Englishman, your chances of contracting the virus over the course of the next 12 months is 633,100 in 56,000,000 or 1.13%.

Now what are your chances of dying from COVID-19 if you’re unlucky enough to get it? It varies with age, obviously, but let’s assume an IFR of 0.26%, the last-but-one CDC estimate which I suspect was a little high. Again, benefit of the doubt. That means the average chance of an Englishman catching and then succumbing to the virus are ~0.0029%. Let’s add Matt Hancock’s 25% – the increase in your chances of catching COVID-19 and dying if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 – and it comes to ~0.0036% or one in ~27,777.78. That’s remarkably similar to your chances of dying in a road traffic accident in the UK – and remember, that’s all ages, so if you just look at under-65 year-olds your chances of dying from COVID-19 are far, far lower than your chances of dying in a road traffic accident, even if you’re morbidly obese.

Don’t worry, Mr Creosote. I think you’ve got room for one more wafer thin mint.

Teaching Unions Demand Compulsory Muzzles in Schools

A scene from Good Omens

It was inevitable. The General Secretary of the National Union of Bed-Wetters – I mean, the NASUWT – has called for face coverings to be mandatory in schools and colleges. The Telegraph has the story.

Patrick Roach, the General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “The Government’s guidance for schools is now out of step with wider public health guidance and guidance to other employers where it is recognised that, where physical distancing cannot be assured, face masks should be worn.

“Teachers and other staff working in schools also want to be assured that, when they return to the workplace in September, they will be afforded the same level of protection as other workers, and that the guidance for schools will be brought into line with guidance for other workplaces.”

Mr Roach noted that Government advice means children over the age of 11 are required to wear coverings when they visit “a range” of facilities such as shops and banks. He said: “So there is a strong argument that face masks should also be made compulsory for children when they return to secondary schools in September.”

The teaching unions must know that only four children under the age of 15 have died from COVID-19 in the whole of the UK and no one has been able to document a single case of a child infecting an adult anywhere in the world. So why the insistence of face nappies? I can only assume it is to make it even harder for schools to re-open in September so the unions’ dues-paying members can extend their six-month holiday.

Stand firm on this one, Gavin Williamson. Make it clear that face masks won’t be required in schools and any teacher refusing to turn up for work in September will be sacked.

In the meantime, you can sign this petition started by Them For Us.

Stop Press: Some US colleges are insisting on painful nasal swab tests for all students every other day.

Track and Trace Programme is Unlawful

“Matt, is that really you? What? Say it again? What?”

Lockdown Sceptics has a special correspondent who’s been following the slow-motion car crash that is Matt Hancock’s track-and-trace programme since it was first unveiled. Here’s his latest report.

The UK Government has conceded that its flagship contact tracing programme has been operating unlawfully since its May 28th launch.

Digital rights campaigners at the Open Rights Group (ORG) have forced the Government to admit that its track-and-trace programme has been operating unlawfully. The programme was not subject to a full Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) as required under GDPR. If only they had paid attention to Lockdown Sceptics on May 28th, when we warned of precisely this risk. Apparently, the Government developed the scheme “at such pace and scale” that it was not a primary focus. So going at things in a rush is now a defence?

But who cares about DPIAs and GDPR? It’s not as if contact tracers are sharing patients’ data on social media. Oh wait, what’s this? Coronavirus contact tracers have been sharing patients’ data on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Where is our indomitable UK regulator in all this? It appears the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) see themselves as “a critical friend” of the Government providing guidance and advice. Well that’s nice, but if it is not too much trouble could they please do their job and take meaningful action on behalf of UK citizens?

Cut-Out-And-Keep “Mask Exempt” Cards

A reader has got in touch to point out that “Mask Exempt” cards are available for free from this medical centre’s website. Just download the PDF and print it out. The site even provides a handy dotted line so you can cut out the card and laminate it yourself. And the upside is, you are only claiming you have a “reasonable excuse” for not wearing a face nappy and not falsely claiming to have a specific disability.

Further to your post on lanyards today, I would like to contribute my experience.

I have so far been in three big chain shops since Friday, including Co-op, Waitrose and Currys. In each case I was, depressingly, the only mask dissenter.

I am uneasy with claiming a disability when there is no such reason at all for me to not wear a mask. I was therefore pleased to find the this PDF which I printed out and placed in a holder I had in a drawer. The wording of the dark blue ones is wonderfully appropriate – I have many very reasonable excuses! And my conscience is clear in not claiming disability. Perhaps it’s worth drawing this link to the attention of our friends?

Round-Up

Here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “No More Heroes” by the Stranglers.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

Handy guide to what wearing a mask says about you, as compiled by American cartoonist Ben Garrison.