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Government Innumeracy

by James Ferguson

Matt Hancock and his closest advisors receive the latest modelling update from Prof Neil Ferguson

Are you positive you are ‘positive’?

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?” – John Maynard Keynes

The UK has a big problem with the false positive rate (FPR) of its COVID-19 tests. The authorities acknowledge no FPR, so positive test results are not corrected for false positives and that is a big problem.

The standard COVID-19 RT-PCR test results have a consistent positive rate of ≤ 2% which also appears to be the likely false positive rate (FPR), rendering the number of official ‘cases’ virtually meaningless. The likely low virus prevalence (~0.02%) is consistent with as few as 1% of the 6,100+ Brits now testing positive each week in the wider community (pillar 2) tests actually having the disease.

We are now asked to believe that a random, probably asymptomatic member of the public is 5x more likely to test ‘positive’ than someone tested in hospital, which seems preposterous given that ~40% of diagnosed infections originated in hospitals.

The high amplification of PCR tests requires them to be subject to black box software algorithms, which the numbers suggest are preset at a 2% positive rate. If so, we will never get ‘cases’ down until and unless we reduce, or better yet cease altogether, randomized testing. Instead the government plans to ramp them up to 10m a day at a cost of £100bn, equivalent to the entire NHS budget.

Government interventions have seriously negative political, economic and health implications yet are entirely predicated on test results that are almost entirely false. Despite the prevalence of virus in the UK having fallen to about 2-in-10,000, the chances of testing ‘positive’ stubbornly remain ~100x higher than that.

First do no harm

It may surprise you to know that in medicine, a positive test result does not often, or even usually, mean that an asymptomatic patient has the disease. The lower the prevalence of a disease compared to the false positive rate (FPR) of the test, the more inaccurate the results of the test will be. Consequently, it is often advisable that random testing in the absence of corroborating symptoms, for certain types of cancer for example, is avoided and doubly so if the treatment has non-trivial negative side-effects. In Probabilistic Reasoning in Clinical Medicine (1982), edited by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and his long-time collaborator Amos Tversky, David Eddy provided physicians with the following diagnostic puzzle. Women age 40, participate in routine screening for breast cancer which has a prevalence of 1%. The mammogram test has a false negative rate of 20% and a false positive rate of 10%. What is the probability that a woman with a positive test actually has breast cancer? The correct answer in this case is 7.5% but 95/100 doctors in the study gave answers in the range 70-80%, i.e. their estimates were out by an order of magnitude. [The solution: in each batch of 100,000 tests, 800 (80% of the 1,000 women with breast cancer) will be picked up; but so too will 9,920 (10% FPR) of the 99,200 healthy women. Therefore, the chance of actually being positive (800) if tested positive (800 + 9,920 = 10,720) is only 7.46% (800/10,720).]

Conditional probabilities

In the section on conditional probability in their new book Radical Uncertainty, Mervyn King and John Kay quote a similar study by psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute and author of Reckoning with Risk, who illustrated medical experts’ statistical innumeracy with the Haemoccult test for colorectal cancer, a disease with an incidence of 0.3%. The test had a false negative rate of 50% and a false positive rate of 3%. Gigerenzer and co-author Ulrich Hoffrage asked 48 experienced (average 14 years) doctors what the probability was that someone testing positive actually had colorectal cancer. The correct answer in this case is around 5%. However, about half the doctors estimated the probability at either 50% or 47%, i.e. the sensitivity (FNR) or the sensitivity less the specificity (FNR – FPR) respectively. [The solution: from 100,000 test subjects, the test would correctly identify only half of the 300 who had cancer but also falsely identify as positive 2,991 (3%) of the 99,700 healthy subjects. This time the chance of being positive if tested positive (150 + 2,991 = 3,141) is 4.78% (150/3,141).]As Gigerenzer concluded in a subsequent paper in 2003, “many doctors have trouble distinguishing between the sensitivity (FNR), the specificity (FPR), and the positive predictive value (probability that a positive test is a true positive) of test —three conditional probabilities.” Because doctors and patients alike are inclined to believe that almost all ‘positive’ tests indicate the presence of disease, Gigerenzer argues that randomised screening is far too poorly understood and too inaccurate in the case of low incidence diseases and can prove harmful where interventions have non-trivial, negative side-effects. Yet this straightforward lesson in medical statistics from the 1990s has been all but forgotten in the COVID-19 panic of 2020. Whilst false negatives might be the major concern if a disease is rife, when the incidence is low, as with the specific cancers above or COVID-19 PCR test, for example, the overriding problem is the false positive rate (FPR). There have been 17.6m cumulative RT-PCR (antigen) tests in the UK, 350k (2%) of which gave positive results. Westminster assumes this means the prevalence of COVID-19 is about 2% but that conclusion is predicated on the tests being 100% accurate which, as we will see below, is not the case at all.

Positives ≠ cases

One clue is that this 2% positive rate crops up worryingly consistently, even though the vast majority of those tested nowadays are not in hospital, unlike the early days. For example, from the 520k pillar 2 (community) tests in the fortnight around the end of May, there were 10.5k positives (2%), in the week ending June 24th there were 4k positives from 160k pillar 2 tests (2%) and last week about 6k of the 300k pillar 2 tests (2% again) were also ‘positive’. There are two big problems with this. First, medically speaking, a positive test result is not a ‘case’. A ‘case’ is by definition both symptomatic and must be diagnosed by a doctor but few of the pillar 2 positives report any symptoms at all and almost none are seen by doctors. Second, NHS diagnosis, hospital admission and death data have all declined consistently since the peak, by over 99% in the case of deaths, suggesting it is the ‘positive’ test data that have been corrupted. The challenge therefore is to deduce what proportion of the reported ‘positives’ actually have the disease (i.e. what is the FPR)? Bear in mind two things. First, the software that comes with the PCR testing machines states that these machines are not to be used for diagnostics (only screening). Second, the positive test rate can never be lower than the FPR.

Is UK prevalence now 0.02%?

The epidemiological rule-of-thumb for novel viruses is that medical cases can be assumed to be about 10x deaths and infections 10x cases. Note too that by medical cases what is meant is symptomatic hospitalisations not asymptomatic ‘positive’ RT-PCR test results. With no reported FPR to analyse and adjust reported test positives with, but with deaths now averaging 7 per day in the UK, we can backwardly estimate 70 daily symptomatic ‘cases’. This we can roughly corroborate with NHS diagnoses, which average 40 per day in England (let’s say 45 for the UK as a whole). The factor 10 rule-of-thumb therefore implies 450-700 new daily infections. UK government figures differ from the NHS and daily hospital admissions are now 84, after peaking in early April at 3,356 (-97.5%). Since the infection period lasts 22-23 days, the official death and diagnosis data indicate roughly 10-18k current active infections in the UK, 90% of whom feel just fine. Even the 2k daily pillar 1 (in hospital) tests only result in about 80 (0.4%) positives, 40 diagnoses and 20 admissions. Crucially, all these data are an order of magnitude lower than the positive test data and result in an inferred virus prevalence of 0.015%-0.025% (average 0.02%), which is far too low for randomized testing with anything less than a 100% perfect test; and the RT-PCR test is certainly less than 100% perfect.

Only 1% of ‘positives’ are positive

So, how do we reconcile an apparent prevalence of around 0.02% with a consistent positive PCR test rate of around 2%, which is some 100x higher? Because of the low prevalence of the disease, reported UK pillar 2 positives rate and the FPR are both about 2%, meaning almost all ‘positive’ test results are false with an overall error rate of 99:1 (99 errors for each correct answer). In other words, for each 100,000 people tested, we are picking up at least 24 of the 25 (98%) true positives but also falsely identifying 2,000 (2%) of the 99,975 healthy people as positives too. Not only do < 1.2% (24/2024) of pillar 2 ‘positives’ really have COVID-19, of which only 0.1% would be medically defined as symptomatic ‘cases’, but this 2% FPR rate also explains the ~2% (2.02% in this case) positive rate so consistently observed in the official UK data.

The priority now: FPR

This illustrates just how much the FPR matters and how seriously compromised the official data are without it. Carl Mayers, Technical Capability Leader at the Ministry of Defence Science and Technology Laborartory (Dstl) at Porton Down, is just one government scientist who is understandably worried about the undisclosed FPR. Mayers and his co-author Kate Baker submitted a paper at the start of June to the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) noting that the RT-PCR assays used for testing in the UK had been verified by Public Health England (PHE) “and show over 95% sensitivity and specificity” (i.e. a sub-5% false positive rate) in idealized laboratory conditions but that “we have been unable to find any data on the operational false positive rate” (their bold) and “this must be measured as a priority” (my bold). Yet SAGE minutes from the following day’s meeting reveal this paper was not even discussed.

False positives

According to Mayers, an establishment insider, PHE is aware the COVID-19 PCR test false positive rate (FPR) may be as high as 5%, even in idealized ‘analytical’ laboratory environments. Out in the real world though, ‘operational’ false positives are often at least twice as likely to occur: via contamination of equipment (poor manufacturing) or reagents (poor handling), during sampling (poor execution), ‘aerosolization’ during swab extraction (poor luck), cross-reaction with other genetic material during DNA amplification (poor design specification), and contamination of the DNA target (poor lab protocol), all of which are aggravating factors additional to any problems inherent in the analytic sensitivity of the test process itself, which is itself far less binary than the policymakers seem to believe. As if this wasn’t bad enough, over-amplification of viral samples (i.e. a cycle threshold ‘Ct’ > 30) causes old cases to test positive, at least 6 weeks after recovery when people are no longer infectious and the virus in their system is no longer remotely viable, leading Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director to call the current PCR test ‘a bit rubbish.’

Test…


The RT-PCR swab test looks for the existence of viral RNA in infected people. Reverse Transcription (RT) is where viral RNA is converted into DNA, which is then amplified (doubling each cycle) in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A primer is used to select the specific DNA and PCR works on the assumption that only the desired DNA will be duplicated and detected. Whilst each repeat cycle increases the likelihood of detecting viral DNA, it also increases the chances that broken bits of DNA, contaminating DNA or merely similar DNA may be duplicated as well, which increases the chances that any DNA match found is not from the Covid viral sequence. 

…and repeat


Amplification makes it easier to discover virus DNA but too much amplification makes it too easy. In Europe the amplification, or ‘cycle threshold’ (Ct), is limited to 30Ct, i.e. doubling 30x (2 to the power of 30 = 1 billion copies). It has been known since April, that even apparently heavy viral load cases “with Ct above 33-34 using our RT-PCR system are not contagious and can thus be discharged from hospital care or strict confinement for non-hospitalized patients.” A review of 25 related papers by Carl Heneghan at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) also has concluded that any positive result above 30Ct is essentially non-viable even in lab cultures (i.e. in the absence of any functional immune system), let alone in humans. However, in the US, an amplification of 40Ct is common (1 trillion copies) and in the UK, COVID-19 RT-PCR tests are amplified by up to 42Ct. This is 2 to the power of 42 (i.e. 4.4 trillion copies), which is 4,400x the ‘safe’ screening limit. The higher the amplification, the more likely you are to get a ‘positive’ but the more likely it is that this positive will be false. True positives can be confirmed by genetic sequencing, for example at the Sanger Institute, but this check is not made, or at least if it is, the data is also unreported.

The sliding scale

Whatever else you may therefore have previously thought about the PCR COVID-19 test, it should be clear by now that it is far from either fully accurate, objective or binary. Positive results are not black or white but on a sliding scale of grey. This means labs are required to decide, somewhat subjectively, where to draw the line because ultimately, if you run enough cycles, every single sample would eventually turn positive due to amplification, viral breakdown and contamination. As Marianne Jakobsen of Odense University Hospital Denmark puts it on UgenTec’s website: “there is a real risk of errors if you simply accept cycler software calls at face value. You either need to add a time-consuming manual review step, or adopt intelligent software.”

Adjusting Ct test results

Most labs therefore run software to adjust positive results (i.e. decide the threshold) closer to some sort of ‘expected’ rate. However, as we have painfully discovered with Prof. Neil Ferguson’s spectacularly inaccurate epidemiological model (expected UK deaths 510,000; actual deaths 41,537) if the model disagrees with reality, some modelers prefer to adjust reality not their model. Software programming companies are no exception and one of them, diagnostics.ai, is taking another one UgenTec (which won the no-contest bid for setting and interpreting the Lighthouse Labs thresholds), to the High Court on September 23rd apparently claiming UgenTec had no track record, external quality assurance (EQA) or experience in this field. Whilst this case may prove no more than sour grapes on diagnostics.ai’s part, it does show that PCR test result interpretation, whether done by human or computer, is ultimately not only subjective but as such will always effectively bury the FPR.

Increase tests, increase ‘cases’

So, is it the software that is setting the UK positive case rate ≤ 2%? Because if it is, we will never get the positive rate below 2% until we cease testing asymptomatics. Last week (ending August 26th) there were just over 6,122 positives from 316,909 pillar 2 tests (1.93%), as with the week of July 22nd (1.9%). Pillar 2 tests deliver a (suspiciously) stable proportion of positive results, consistently averaging ≤ 2%. As Carl Heneghan at the CEBM in Oxford has explained, the increase in absolute number of pillar 2 positives is nothing more than a function of increased testing, not increased disease as erroneously reported in the media. Heneghan shows that whilst pillar 1 cases per 100,000 tests have been steadily declining for months, pillar 2 cases per 100,000 tests are “flatlining” (at around 2%).

30,000 under house arrest

In the week ending August 26th, there were 1.45m tests processed in the UK across all 4 pillars, though there seem to be no published results for the 1m of these tests that were pillar 3 (antibody tests) or pillar 4 “national surveillance” tests (NB. none of the UK numbers ever seem to match up). But as far as pillar 1 (hospital) cases are concerned, these have fallen by about 90% since the start of June, so almost all positive cases now reported in the UK (> 92% of the total) come from the largely asymptomatic pillar 2 tests in the wider community. Whilst pillar 2 tests were originally intended to be only for the symptomatic (doctor referral etc) the facilities have been swamped with asymptomatics wanting testing, and their numbers are only increasing (+25% over the last two weeks alone) perhaps because there are now very few symptomatics out there. The proportion of pillar 2 tests that that are taken by asymptomatics is yet another figure that is not published but there are 320k pillar 2 tests per week, whilst the weekly rate of COVID-19 diagnoses by NHS England is just 280. Assume that Brits are total hypochrondriacs and only 1% of those reporting respiratory symptoms to their doctor (who sends them out to get a pillar 2 test) end up diagnosed, that still means well over 90% of all pillar 2 tests are taken by the asymptomatic; and asymptomatics taking PCR tests when the FPR is higher than the prevalence (100x higher in this instance) results in a meaningless FPR (of 99% in this instance).Believing six impossible things before breakfast

Whilst the positive rate for pillar 2 is consistently ~2% (with that suspiciously low degree of variability), it is more than possible that the raw data FPR is 5-10% (consistent with the numbers that Carl Mayers referred to) and the only reason we don’t see such high numbers is that the software is adjusting the positive threshold back down to 2%. However, if that is the case, no matter what the true prevalence of the disease, the positive count will always and forever be stuck at ~2% of the number of tests. The only way to ‘eradicate’ COVID-19 in that case would be to cease randomized testing altogether, which Gerd Gigerenzer might tell you wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. Instead, lamentably, the UK government is reportedly doubling down with its ill-informed ‘Operation Moonshot’, an epically misguided plan to increase testing to 10m/day, which would obviously mean almost exclusively asymptomatics, and which we can therefore confidently expect to generate an apparent surge in positive ‘cases’ to 200,000 a day, equivalent to the FPR and proportionate to the increase in the number of tests.

Emperor’s new clothes

Interestingly, though not in a good way, the positive rate seems to differ markedly depending on whether we are talking about pillar 1 tests (mainly NHS labs) or pillar 2 tests, mainly managed by Deloitte (weird but true) which gave the software contract to UgenTec and which between them set the ~2% positive thresholds for the Lighthouse Lab network. This has had the quirky result that a gullible British public is now expected to believe that people in hospital are 4-5x less likely to test positive (0.45%) than fairly randomly selected, largely asymptomatic members of the general public (~2%), despite 40% of transmissions being nosocomial (at hospital). The positive rate, it seems, is not just suspiciously stable but subject to worrying lab-by-lab idiosyncrasies pre-set by management consultants, not doctors. It is little wonder no one is willing to reveal what the FPR is, since there’s a good chance nobody really knows any longer; but that is absolutely no excuse for implying it is zero.

Wave Two or wave goodbye?

The implications of the overt discrepancy between the trajectories of UK positive tests (up) and diagnoses, hospital admissions and deaths (all down) need to be explained. Positives bottomed below 550 per day on July 8th and have since gone up by a factor of three to 1500+ per day. Yet over the same period (shifted forward 12 days to reflect the lag between hospitalisation and death), daily deaths have dropped, also by a factor of three, from 22 to 7, as indeed have admissions, from 62 to 20 (compare the right-hand side of the upper and lower panels in the Chart below). Much more likely, positive but asymptomatic tests are false positives. The Vivaldi 1 study of all UK care home residents found that 81% of positives were asymptomatic, which for this most vulnerable cohort, probably means false positive.

Chart: UK daily & 7-day COVID-19 cases (top) and deaths (below)

This almost tenfold discrepancy between positive test results and the true incidence of the disease also shows up in the NHS data for 9th August (the most recent available), showing daily diagnoses (40) and hospital admissions (33) in England that are way below the Gov.UK positive ‘cases’ (1,351) and admissions (53) data for the same day. Wards are empty and admissions are so low that I know of at least one hospital (Taunton in Devon), for example, which discharged its last COVID-19 patient three weeks ago and hasn’t had a single admission since. Thus the most likely reason < 3% (40/1351) of positive ‘cases’ are confirmed by diagnosis is the ~2% FPR. Hence the FPR needs to be expressly reported and incorporated into an explicit adjustment of the positive data before even more harm is done.

Occam’s Razor

Oxford University’s Sunetra Gupta believes it is entirely possible that the effective herd immunity threshold (HIT) has already been reached, especially given that there hasn’t been a genuine second wave anywhere. The only measure suggesting higher prevalence than 0.025% is the positive test rate but this data is corrupted by the FPR. The very low prevalence of the disease means that the most rational explanation for almost all the positives (2%), at least in the wider community, is the 2% FPR. This benign conclusion is further supported by the ‘case’ fatality rate (CFR), which has declined 40-fold: from 19% of all ‘cases’ at the mid-April peak to just 0.45% of all ‘positives’ now. The official line is that we are getting better at treating the disease and/or it is only healthy young people getting it now; but surely the far simpler explanation is the mathematically supported one that we are wrongly assuming, against all the evidence, that the PCR test results are 100% accurate.

Fear and confusion

Deaths and hospitalizations have always provided a far truer, and harder to misrepresent, profile of the progress of the disease. Happily, hospital wards are empty and deaths had already all but disappeared off the bottom of the chart (lower panel, in the chart above) as long ago as mid/late July; implying the infection was all but gone as long ago as mid-June. So, why are UK businesses still facing restrictions and enduring localized lockdowns and 10pm curfews (Glasgow, Bury, Bolton and Caerphilly)? Why are Brits forced to wear masks, subjected to traveler quarantines and, if randomly tested positive, forced into self-isolation along with their friends and families? Why has the UK government listened to the histrionics of discredited self-publicists like Neil Ferguson (who vaingloriously and quite sickeningly claims to have ‘saved’ 3.1m lives) rather than the calm, quiet and sage interpretations offered by Oxford University’s Sunetra Gupta, Cambridge University’s Sir David Spiegelhalter, the CEBM’s Carl Heneghan or Porton Down’s Carl Mayers? Let’s be clear: it certainly has nothing to do with ‘the science’ (if by science we mean ‘math’); but it has a lot to do with a generally poor grasp of statistics in Westminster; and even more to do with political interference and overreach.

Bad Math II

As an important aside, it appears that the whole global lockdown fiasco might have been caused by another elementary mathematical mistake from the start. The case fatality rate (CFR) is not to be confused with the infection fatality rate (IFR), which is usually 10x smaller. This is epidemiology 101. The epidemiological rule-of-thumb mentioned above is that (mild and therefore unreported) infections can be initially assumed to be approximately 10x cases (hospital admissions) which are in turn about 10x deaths. The initial WHO and CDC guidance following Wuhan back in February was that COVID-19 could be expected to have the same 0.1% CFR as flu. The mistake was that 0.1% was flu’s IFR, not its CFR. Somehow, within days, Congress was then informed on March 11th that the estimated mortality for the novel coronavirus was 10x that of flu and days after that, the lockdowns started.

Neil Ferguson: Covid’s Matthew Hopkins

This slip-of-the-tongue error was, naturally enough, copied, compounded and legitimized by the notorious Prof. Neil Ferguson, who referenced a paper from March 13th he had co-authored with Verity et al. which took “the CFR in China of 1.38% (to) obtain an overall IFR estimate for China of 0.66%”. Not three days later his ICL team’s infamous March 16th paper further bumped up “the IFR estimates from Verity et al… to account for a non-uniform attack rate giving an overall IFR of 0.9%.” Just like magic, the IFR implied by his own CFR estimate of 1.38% had, without cause, justification or excuse, risen 6.5-fold from his peers’ rule-of-thumb of 0.14% to 0.9%, which incidentally meant his mortality forecast would also be similarly multiplied. Not satisfied with that, he then exaggerated terminal herd immunity.

Compounding errors

Because Ferguson’s model simplistically assumed no natural immunity (there is) and that all socialization is homogenous (it isn’t), his model doesn’t anticipate herd immunity until 81% of the population has been infected. All the evidence since as far back as February and the Diamond Princess indicated that effective herd immunity is occurring around a 20-25% infection rate; but the modelers have still not updated their models to any of the real world data yet and I don’t suppose they ever will. This is also why these models continue to report an R of ≥ 1.0 (growth) when the data, at least on hospital admissions and deaths, suggest the R has been 0.3-0.6 (steadily declining) since March. Compound all these errors and Ferguson’s expected UK death toll of 510k has proved to be 12x too high. His forecast of 2.2m US deaths has also, thankfully but no thanks to him, been 11x too high too. The residual problem is that the politicians still believe this is merely Armageddon postponed, not Armageddon averted. “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once” (Shakespeare).

Quality control

It is wholly standard to insist on external quality assurance (EQA) for any test but none such has been provided here. Indeed all information is held back on a need-to-know rather than a free society basis. The UK carried out 1.45m tests last week but published the results for only 452k of them. No pillar 3 (antibody) test results have been published at all, which begs the question: why not (official reason – the data has been anonymized, as if that makes any sense)? The problem is that instead of addressing the FPR, the authorities act as if it is zero, and so assume relatively high virus prevalence. If however, the 2% positive rate is merely a reflection of the FPR, a likely explanation for why pillar 3 results remain unpublished might be that they counterintuitively show a decline in antibody positives. Yet this is only to be expected if the prevalence is both very low and declining. T-cells retain the information to make antibodies but if there is no call for them because people are no longer coming into contact with infections, antibodies present in the blood stream decline. Why there are no published data on pillar 4 (‘national surveillance’ PCR tests remains a mystery).

It’s not difficult

However, it is relatively straightforward to resolve the FPR issue. The Sanger Institute is gene sequencing positive results but will fail to achieve this with any false positives, so publishing the proportion of failed sequencing samples would go a long way to answering the FPR question. Alternatively, we could subject positive PCR tests to a protein test for confirmation. Lab contaminated and/or previously-infected-now-recovered samples would not be able to generate these proteins like a live virus would, so once again, the proportion of positive tests absent protein would give us a reliable indication of the FPR.

Scared to death

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has filtered four facts from the international COVID-19 experience and these are: that the growth in daily deaths declines to zero within 25-30 days, that they then decline, that this profile is ubiquitous and so much so that governmental non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) made little or no difference. The UK government needs to understand that neither assuming that ‘cases’ are growing, without at least first discounting the possibility that what is observed is merely a property of the FPR, nor ordering anti-liberal NPIs, is in any way ‘following the science’. Even a quite simple understanding of statistics indicates that positive test results must be parsed through the filter of the relevant FPR. Fortunately, we can estimate the FPR from what little raw data the government has given us but worryingly, this estimate suggests that ~99% of all positive tests are ‘false’. Meanwhile, increased deaths from drug and alcohol abuse during lockdowns, the inevitable increase in cases of depression and suicide once job losses after furlough, business and marriage failures post loan forbearance become manifest and, most seriously, the missed cancer diagnoses from the 2.1m screenings that have been delayed must be balanced against a government response to COVID-19 that looks increasingly out of all proportion to the hard evidence. The unacknowledged FPR is taking lives, so establishing the FPR, and therefore accurate numbers for the true community prevalence of the virus, is absolutely essential.

James Ferguson is the Founding Partner of MacroStrategy

Latest News

Boris Panicked and U-Turned Over Lockdown After Seeing Neil Ferguson’s Projections

“I see death in your future – a lot of death.”

The Mail on Sunday is serialising an explosive new biography of Boris by Tom Bower that claims Boris was panicked into imposing a full national lockdown after Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance were presented with Neil Ferguson’s apocalyptic predictions at a meeting of SAGE.

Bower tells how a critical meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on February 25th was presented with the ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ from Professor Ferguson under which 80% of Britons would be infected and the death-toll would be 510,000 people.

The author writes: “This was an improvement on Ferguson’s earlier assessment that between 2% and 3% would die – up to 1.5 million deaths. Even with mitigation measures, he said, the death toll could be 250,000 and the existing intensive care units would be overwhelmed eight times over.

“Neither Vallance nor Whitty outrightly challenged Ferguson’s model or predictions. By contrast, in a series of messages from Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who would correctly predict the pandemic’s initial trajectory, Ferguson was warned that he had overestimated the potential death toll by ‘ten to 12 times’….

The book reveals how shortly before the national lockdown, on March 16th, Ferguson forecast that one third of the over-80s who were infected would be hospitalised, of which 71% would need intensive care using ventilators.

This exaggerated prediction – that hospitals would be overwhelmed by at least eight times the usual admittance rate – made the lockdown all but inevitable.

Worth reminding people again that Professor Ferguson’s estimates of the impact of previous viral outbreaks have been almost comically inaccurate. In 2001, he predicted that foot and mouth disease could kill up to 50,000 people. It ended up killing less than 200. In 2005, he told the Guardian that up to 200 million people could die from bird flu. The final death toll from avian flu strain A/H5N1 was 440. And in 2009, a Government estimate based on one of Ferguson’s models estimated the likely death toll from swine flu at 65,000. In fact, it was 457.

Why did Boris take the predictions of this serial doom-monger so seriously?

BBC Not Telling Us Full Story About Covid – Matthew Parris

Lockdown sceptic Matthew Parris has written an excellent column in the Times today in which he berates the BBC for not doing its job properly in covering the coronavirus crisis.

“Coronavirus: GP letter was like a ‘death warrant from grim reaper’ ” (BBC News); “One death every 80 seconds: Brazil reaches a grim milestone as it becomes the third worst-hit country…” (BBC News); “Grim milestone as virus cases top 25m globally” (BBC News).

Grim, grim, grim. There has been a lip-smacking quality, not only in headlines but in the reports that follow from the world’s news media. All of us should be more rigorous in resisting the appeal of a ghoulish turn of phrase. But the BBC has been a serial offender.

In what follows I’m aware that, when it comes to panic-spreading, our state broadcasting corporation is only one of many miscreants among print and broadcast media. But that’s because I look to the BBC to help set standards. The corporation has a particular duty to stand a little back from the noise and introduce a note of quiet balance into the national conversation.

When our politicians try to use science as propaganda, broadcasters should be rock-solid in resisting the hype. Instead, they’ve swallowed the government’s line that “the science” is clear and unquestioned, and that the prospects, should we fail to “follow” the science, are apocalyptic.

Both are highly disputable. Science is divided. The most apocalyptic, however, are getting the loudest shout. Neither on how, nor where, nor when the virus spreads most virulently is there consensus among epidemiologists; and even if that consensus existed, broadcasters and journalists would still have a duty to remind politicians and the public that combating an illness should not elbow from national attention the equally honourable goal of saving livelihoods as well as lives.

Worth reading in full.

Unfortunately, Parris neglects to mention Ofcom’s “coronavirus guidance” – published on March 23rd, the same day the full lockdown was imposed – cautioning the BBC and its other licensees to treat with extreme caution anyone criticising the advice of the “public health authorities”, i.e. the NHS, the DHSC, PHE, Witless and Unbalanced and the Government more generally. I don’t think this is the major cause of the BBC’s dereliction of duty, but it was one factor among the others – laziness, innumeracy, group think and a deeply misguided belief that it was their public duty to amplify Downing Street’s scaremongering in order to frighten people into observing the rules because that would save lives.

I don’t need to remind readers of Lockdown Sceptics that the Free Speech Union is seeking the permission of the High Court to Judicially Review Ofcom’s “coronavirus guidance” in the hope of having it declared an unlawful interference in free speech. You can donate to the FSU’s “fighting fund” here.

Stop Press: Charles Moore has ruled himself out of running for the role of BBC Chairman for personal reasons. Shame.

Lord Gumption Says Boris is Behaving Like an Authoritarian Dictator

An original work created by artist and Lockdown Sceptics reader Galina Gardiner

Jonathan Sumption wrote a blistering attack on Boris and his ‘strongman’ Government in the Telegraph yesterday.

Behind the spat about Parliamentary control over the Government’s Covid measures, there is an older and more fundamental divide. It is the divide between an authoritarian model of government and a more deliberative and democratic model.

The authoritarians believe in the “strongman”: the boss who gets things done with the aid of a team of technicians, who surmounts crises by intervening swiftly and decisively, without wasting time in argument or debate. The alternative, according to this view of the world, is a bunch of squabbling politicians picking over the entrails while the sand runs through the hourglass.

There has always been a strand of political masochism in Britain which likes this idea: the sort of people who admire dictators because they make the trains run on time. From time to time there is a more widespread move towards authoritarian government. We are experiencing one of those times now.

Worth reading in full.

Grant Shapps Gets His Sums Wrong

A sharp-eyed reader has spotted a mathematical error in Grant Shapps’s attempt to defend sticking Poland on the quarantine list.

I don’t know whether you picked up on Grant Shapps claiming that Poland had to be put back on the quarantine list because their “test positivity has nearly doubled, increasing from 3.9% to 5.8%”. That is, of course, an increase of only 50%, not 100%.

I believe that Mr Shapps, who was formerly the Chairman of the APPG for General Aviation, still holds a Pilot’s Licence. Let’s hope his navigational skills are as good as his maths and the next time he goes for a flight he gets lost and we never have to see him again. If he could take Mad Boris and Nanny Hancock with him, so much the better!

BBC Reality Check Loses Touch With Reality

There’s a snarky piece about Julia Hartley-Brewer under the BBC’s “Reality Check” banner claiming she got her facts wrong about the False Positive Rate. In fact, the BBC journalists who’ve written the hatchet job – Simon Maybin and Josephine Casserly – are the ones who’ve got their facts wrong.

Julia’s sin was to claim that nine out of 10 “cases” could be false positives. The journalists say that is categorically untrue.

Could it be true that 90% of positive results from tests in the community – that means tests not carried out in hospitals – are false? The answer is “no” – there is no way that so-called false positives have had such an impact on the figures.

Actually, there is a way “so-called false positives” could have had that impact. Suppose the true community case rate is eight in 10,000. If the false positive rate is 0.8% – as estimated by this paper submitted to SAGE – then if you test 10,000 people, you’ll get 88 positive results, of which 80 are false positives and eight are true positives. Perhaps the true community case rate is now slightly higher than eight in 10,000 – the latest ONS infection study puts it at 21 in 10,000 – but even so there is certainly a plausible scenario in which 90% of the positive results from tests in the community are false.

The extraordinary thing is that these reality-checking sleuths then go on to admit this.

If you tested 1,000 people at random for COVID-19 in early September, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection study suggests you should have expected one of them to actually have the virus.

With a false positive rate of 0.8% – a figure used by Ms Hartley-Brewer and within the broad range of what we think might be the actual rate for community testing – you would get eight false positives. So in that context, it’s true that roughly 90% of positives would be false.

But having admitted that there is a scenario in which 90% of positives could be false, they then go on to say that it’s no longer plausible because the people volunteering for community testing, as opposed to the people being sampled at random by the ONS, are much more likely to have the virus – the same point made by Tom Chivers in UnHerd and which James Ferguson comprehensively rebutted on Lockdown Sceptics.

Here’s what the reality checkers think is their killer point:

Figures for late September from Public Health England show that 7% of community tests were positive. That means if 1,000 people were tested with a false positive rate of 0.8%, eight would be false positives, but 70 would be true positives – the vast majority.

But hang on. They’re assuming that PHE’s 7% positive rate doesn’t include any false positives – hence their claim that if you test 1,000 people 70 would be true positives. But given that they’ve accepted there’s a false positive rate of 0.8%, it’s more likely that PHE is counting the false positives alongside the true positives when estimating the current rate of infection. That means that of the 70 people who test positive, eight are false positives, leaving 62 true positives.

Come on, reality checkers. If you’re going to chastise another journalist for not getting her facts right – even though she did – you need to get the facts straight yourself.

Stop Press: There’s an excellent letter in the Lancet by three doctors raising the alarm about false positives. I look forward to the BBC’s reality checkers doing a number on them.

Teeth Deteriorate as Dentists Struggle to Reopen

The lockdown has caused a backlog of 15 million dental appointments, leaving many patients suffering badly. The Sunday Times has more.

Patients may have to wait until next year for dental treatment because 15 million appointments have been delayed by the coronavirus.

With restrictions still in place, some dentists can see only emergency cases and are not doing routine checkups. Many are carrying out only serious procedures on patients whose teeth have deteriorated from problems “stored up” for months during the lockdown.

“I’ve taken more teeth out from the average patient in the past three months than at any point in my career,” said Mark Green, 49, a dentist in Whitby, North Yorkshire, who has been treating patients for 22 years.

“It’s like going back in time. I saw someone the other day in his twenties who needs 12 teeth out. I’ve removed those that are [causing] the most pain and then we’re going to try and get him in again [for another appointment].”

Though surgeries were able to reopen in June, strict infection-control measures imposed by Public Health England (PHE) mean many dentists can see only a few patients a day. Before the pandemic they would see about 30 a day.

Worth reading in full.

Are Some Muslim Deaths Being Falsely Attributed to Coronavirus?

A reader has an interesting theory about why a higher percentage of Muslims have supposedly died of Covid than non-Muslims.

I was speaking with a work colleague who is a Muslim this week and he was telling me about his 85-year-old neighbour who died. His neighbour had congestive heart disease and wasn’t a well man. He caught a cold and thus had to have a COVID-19 test which came back negative. A few weeks later the man died, but the Doctor wanted to perform an autopsy which would take weeks. As per the Muslim faith, his family weren’t happy with this as the burial needs to occur within 24 hours, so the Doctor put COVID-19 on the death certificate so that the man could be buried without his having to do an autopsy even though he had not tested positive.

Now I remember looking back at the COVID-19 deaths by Religious group from the ONS and the COVID-19 deaths for Muslims was significantly higher than any other based on population percentage.

So, could this need for quick burial as required by the Muslim faith, and thus COVID-19 being put down as a cause of death, be an influencing factor into why BAME COVID-19 deaths are considered to be so high?

Sixty-Six GPs Urge Hancock to Do No (More) Harm

We’ve seen a number of anti-lockdown letters signed by doctors and medical professionals, such as this one in the US and this one in Belgium. But as far as I’m aware we haven’t seen one in the UK – until now, that is. Sixty-six GPs have written to Matt Hancock urging him to consider the collateral damage being done by the ongoing restrictions, listing the tens of thousands of non-Covid excess deaths in private homes since March, the spike in cardiovascular deaths, the rise in child suicides and the problems besetting the elderly – depression, anxiety and loneliness. It’s not as forthrightly sceptical as I’d like – the docs say they supported the first lockdown –  but the reasonableness of its tone may end making it more effective. And the message is clear: the harm the restrictions are doing to the public’s health outweighs the harm they are supposedly preventing. full text of the letter below.

And Now For the Less Admirable GPs…

A reader was prompted by a recent GP horror story on Lockdown Sceptics to provide an anecdote of her own.

My GP surgery is based in a North Wales coastal town. A pharmacy is adjacent to it. I called in to collect a prescription but noticed a queue of six rather dispirited – young and old – people waiting outside the surgery. It was raining, cold and windy. The surgery insists that you don’t turn up for your appointment nowadays until exactly the appointed time. Well, shame on these people for being too punctual. The surgery has two large waiting areas where they could wait seated probably 12 feet apart with no problems whatsoever.

Whilst I was in the pharmacy a member of surgery staff came in, I asked why these poor people were waiting outside in these conditions. She said: “That’s the way it has to be at the moment.” I asked what was going to happen in the winter. Her reply: “They’ll have to get better clothing.” Then she returned to the surgery, and presumably remained snug and dry in her little office.

Disgraceful.

Tory Constituencies Are Being Spared Second Lockdowns

I wonder what genius thought up this wheeze?

The Sunday Times says that leaked emails between health officials reveal that Tory areas, such as the newly-won Red Wall seats, are less likely to have second lockdowns inflicted on them than Labour areas.

Wealthy areas, including the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s parliamentary seat, are avoiding lockdown despite having higher COVID-19 rates than poorer areas that are subject to restrictions, according to leaked emails between health officials.

The Government is under growing pressure to explain why it has placed large parts of the north and Midlands under local lockdowns while overlooking areas with similar infection rates. Asked why the northwest is “treated differently” from areas such as his own seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, Boris Johnson said on Friday: “I appreciate… people want to see an iron consistency applied across the whole country.”

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, decides which areas to place in lockdown during weekly “gold” meetings with advisers. Yesterday, 50 councils were subject to measures such as bans on household mixing. However, there is no official COVID-19 infection rate that triggers a local lockdown.

The Sunday Times has put together a list that illustrates the scandal:

  • NO LOCKDOWN
  • West Lancashire 137 cases per 100,000
  • Barrow-in-Furness 112
  • Darlington 110
  • Craven 109
  • Newark and Sherwood 84
  • IN LOCKDOWN
  • Chorley 73 cases per 100,000
  • Wyre 71
  • Lancaster 66
  • Oadby and Wigston 63
  • Wolverhampton 56

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans. Credit: Jeffrey Neira/FX

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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Update: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the links now come up beside the headlines whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, I want to draw your attention to an excellent piece in UnHerd by Helen Pluckrose entitled “Is Critical Race Theory Racist?” Helen is the co-author of Cynical Theories with James Lyndsay, an excellent primer on the woke cult. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s an extract in which she discusses the ideas of Robin DiAngelo, author of the bestselling White Fragility.

Robin DiAngelo takes a thoroughly postmodern approach. Her belief is that white people are unavoidably racist because of the ways in which they have been socialised in white supremacist countries. DiAngelo identifies America as just such a country but also much of Europe, including the UK.

For DiAngelo, “whiteness” is a system that whites perpetuate with everything they do. In White Fragility, she describes whiteness as a “constellation of processes and practices” consisting of “basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people”. For DiAngelo these processes are “dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels”.

Elsewhere, she sets out a tenet of anti-racism, stating that “The question is not ‘Did racism occur?’ but ‘How did racism manifest in that situation?’” There is no possibility of not being racist and DiAngelo’s training aims to get white people to accept that they are racist — as the Trump memo claims.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, 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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A reader with a Down Syndrome child had a bad experience when visiting the audiologists.

On Thursday my 15 year-old daughter had her long-awaited audiology appointment. She has Down Syndrome and the fact that all the faces are covered is deeply distressing to her – so she was quite stressed by the time we got to the waiting area. Passing through the main entrance we were greeted by a young man who detected our un-masked status (I was wearing my lanyard with the mask-exempt card). He helpfully dipped his hand into a box and extended his hand with two masks, saying, “Can I give you these?” I’m polite, I took them, and thanked him, as my daughter looked from my lanyard to my face with a puzzled expression. I put the masks in my bag. As we walked to the right department, I began to wonder whether the lunacy has extended to the audiologists – they who know that facial expressions as well as lip-reading are vital cues for those of us who are hard of hearing. It had. At least the loudspeaker which was used for one part of the test wasn’t muzzled!

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.

And Finally…

Danielle Matthews, aka the Bin Singer, has written a song about being stuck in Melbourne that’s worth a watch. Some of her complaints will resonate with people still locked down in other parts of the world.

Latest News

Take Back Control

Brendan O’Neill has written a blistering piece for Spiked in which he urges the British people to take back control – not from Brussels, but from Boris and Dom!

We can’t go on like this. We cannot continue to allow the Government to control every aspect of our lives. We cannot idly accept that the state has the right to introduce rules and regulations that dictate everything from how long we can stay in the pub to who we can invite to our weddings. We cannot sit back and watch as government scientists use jumped-up, fact-lite graphs of fear to try to terrify and pacify the populace and prep us for yet another onslaught on our liberties. We cannot just watch and nod as officials shut down more areas of the economy, with a stroke of their pen, plunging Britain further into the worst recession on record. This is not sustainable. Something has to give, something has to break. The only important question right now is this: how can we make sure that happens?

I know exactly how he feels.

Worth reading in full.

A Reply to Tom Chivers

Tom Chivers and James Ferguson disagree about the significance of the false positive rate of the PCR test

Tom Chivers took a pop at Lockdown Sceptics in UnHerd yesterday, arguing that writers on this site were exaggerating the importance of the false positive rate of the PCR test and, contrary to our claims, there really is a second wave hurtling towards us. The subhead was: “Sceptics who talk up ‘false positives’ are engaging in wishful thinking.”

Tom’s piece is worth reading for anyone interested in this debate – he makes some good points, although not all of them land with the same force.

I asked James Ferguson, the financial analyst who wrote about the false positive problem for Lockdown Sceptics on September 12th, to reply to Tom’s piece.

Tom Chivers delivers what he believes to be a series of deathblows to the idea (of which I am an adherent) that most positives are false positives and therefore that the September surge in cases is not necessarily the start of a second wave but potentially a false alarm. It should be noted from the outset that part of the problem here is that the Government has an unfortunate tendency to call positive tests, ‘cases’, when they are not. The PCR machines that the tests are run on come with a big sticker on the side warning that they are not to be used for diagnostics, only for screening. The manufacturers specifically warn against confusing a positive PCR test result with a medical case, the latter requiring both symptoms and a doctor’s diagnosis. This is typical of the slapdash approach that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Department of Health have taken to jeopardising our entire economy.

To return to Chivers’ case, he agrees that if the incidence of COVID-19 is 0.1%, then a false positive rate of 1% will mean that out of every 10,000 people tested, the test will correctly identify all 10 of those with COVID but will also wrongly positively identify 100 of those who don’t have it. In this instance, Chivers writes, it would mean that if you tested positive, you would only have “about a 9% chance of actually having the disease” (10/110). However, he argues, those that then insist that this means “there’s no real reason to believe that there is a second wave, because positive test results hugely overstate the real number of cases, (are) quite crucially wrong.”

Why? First, because the people being tested in Pillar 2 (community) tests are not selected randomly. He presumes that they have some reason to be tested, either symptoms (which they are supposed to have to apply) or at least exposure to another positive test. So, even if most people are breaking the rules and are having tests whilst asymptomatic, we can assume that 10% do have flu-like symptoms. This changes the maths quite a lot. For the 10,000 being tested, their likelihood of having the disease is higher than the 0.1% prevalence in the population as a whole. If the prevalence among test subjects is 1%, equal to the FPR, then the chances of being positive if you get a positive test result shoot up from 9% to 50%.

All well and good. However, Chivers has made his first error. It is true that the crucial relationship is between the incidence and the FPR. So, if Pillar 2 test subjects are not representative of the population, then the incidence within their subset rises and the proportion of false positives declines. At the same time, though, if Pillar 2 subjects have a higher incidence than the general population, they won’t be representative of the general population any longer and so any increase in positives is only relevant to that subset and not of the population as a whole. So, a surge in ‘cases’ would be of limited relevance to the country as a whole and, unless corroborated, certainly no reason to impose restrictions.

Chivers airily suggests that while the incidence in the general population is 0.1%, according to the ONS, “even if the true number (for those being tested) is only 1%, that makes a huge difference.” Maybe so, but this is sleight of hand. There were only 30-40 COVID-19 diagnoses a day throughout August in all of NHS England. Let’s say Brits are a very hypochondriacal bunch and only 1% of all those reporting COVID-type symptoms actually have the disease. That would make about 110,000 subjects (5%), out of the 2.25m tests carried out, symptomatic. This implies 95% of the test subjects had the same incidence as the population as a whole (0.1%) and just 5% were symptomatic with an incidence of 1%. That averages to a subset incidence of 0.145%, not “1%”, which would mean that 145 true positives out of 100,000 tests would combine with 1,000 false positives for a false positive rate, not of 50% as Chivers implies, but 87.3%. We shouldn’t be forgetting that the more hypochondriacal test subjects are, the less truly symptomatic and the more representative of the wider population, so even 87% is probably an overestimate.

Yet perhaps realising this flaw, Chivers goes on to assert that “it doesn’t really matter” because, as long as the testing hasn’t got any worse, any increase in the number of positives must logically reflect an increase in incidence. This is true enough. If the false positives stay roughly the same – for example, 1,000 out of every 100,000 – and the incidence rises from 100 (0.1%) to 1000 (1%) say, then the FPR drops to 50% and all the new positives might be assumed to be new cases. However, it is equally true that if the positives start to surge almost back to old highs, like they have in September, and yet the number of hospitalisations is no higher than the end of June, then some might think this is prima facie evidence that the tests might well have changed and that possibility should be investigated with as much vigour and speed as possible (think contaminated test kits).

Ah, I hear you say, but we don’t need to do that because the ONS tells us that the incidence is now 0.11% (as at 10th September) which is 3x higher than the 25th August trough. However, what the ONS doesn’t tell you is that they derive incidence in a very basic way from… you guessed it, positives per 10,000. So if there are 11/10,000 that means 73,700 in the whole country. But if instead we take hospitalisations (204 in England on 19th September, so assume about 225 for the UK), multiply by a factor of 10 for asymptomatics and multiply by 21 days for infectious period, we get a far more up-to-date estimate of 47k infectious cases, or an incidence of 0.07%, about 4x higher than the August lows admittedly but still down 93% from the peak rates of incidence we saw back in early April.

Patients can ask their doctors for a second opinion. I think it is only fair that lockdown Britain should be allowed the same courtesy.

James Ferguson’s Parliamentary Briefing

The top graph shows the number of cases rising, whereas the middle one shows hospitalisations and the bottom one deaths.

In addition to the above, James Ferguson has written another piece on the false positive rate, this time at the request of a Parliamentarian (whom he hasn’t named). So not an original piece for Lockdown Sceptics, but he has given us permission to publish it nonetheless.

Some of it will already be familiar to people who’ve been following the coverage of the false positives rate on this site, but some of it won’t. For instance, I wasn’t aware of this tidbit about Dr Susan Hopkins, one of Dido Harding’s scientific advisors.

PHE consultant Dr Susan Hopkins provided Baroness Dido Harding with a “rapid off my head [sic] response that could be used” clearly intended to dismiss the warnings about false positives out of hand, rather than invite further informative discussion. Hopkins confirmed a “population prevalence < 0.02%” whilst insisting that all serological tests (Pillars 1, 2 and 4) had FPRs that are “definitely less than 1 in 100 and… more likely 1 in 1000.” Yet she did not seem to understand the mathematical implications. With 0.02% incidence, a FPR of “1 in 1000” means 83% of positives are false, whilst “1 in 100” means 98% would be. Does H3 (Hancock, Harding and Hopkins) seriously not know this?

Worth reading in full.

Sir Graham Brady Tells Freddie Sayers Mood Among Tory MPs is Changing

Sir Graham Brady, the Conservative MP and Chairman of the 1922 Committee, has given an interview to Freddie Sayers for UnHerd in which he says he thinks the Government will not force a vote on his amendment – calling for a Parliamentary vote on all future coronavirus measures – but will concede the point. He also says backbench Conservative MPs are becoming increasingly sceptical.

I think like most people in the country my colleagues were pretty apprehensive then. We were facing a new virus, nobody knew how it would behave. There was plausible speculation that it could rapidly overwhelm intensive care capacity in the NHS, and of course the House of Commons was about to go off for an Easter recess. So it did seem reasonable at that point to grant emergency powers to ministers to be able to do what needed to be done if there were terrible pressures with which the NHS couldn’t cope.

We did that, perhaps some of us with a heavier heart than others, but were prepared to accept it as a set of temporary measures.

I think the mood has changed over time. Many of us have been making the case for sensible, cautious opening, since April. Certainly it was pretty obvious back then that you could allow open air markets to operate, and garden centres, all things that could have reduced the economic damage and also helped to give people who have been locked away in their houses for too long a little bit of interest and some fresh air. So all of that could have been done much more quickly than it was.

But increasingly, some sectors like aviation and the events sector have been completely put out of business by the restrictions. As that has become apparent, and sections of the economy have been shut down for a very long period of time, more and more of my colleagues are spending time in their constituencies talking to constituents who are losing their jobs, losing their livelihoods, people who have built up businesses over many years and are seeing them failing, and that is changing the mood. People are recognising that there is a balance to be struck here. We all want to encourage the safest approach in terms of hand hygiene and social distancing (most people have shown they’re quite willing to do their bit) but it’s got to be balanced with the recognition that there are other downsides if you overdo the restrictions.

Worth watching in full.

Ofcom Judicial Review Update

The Free Speech Union has just updated the GoFundMe it launched to cover its legal costs in the Judicial Review it is bringing against Ofcom with respect to the “coronavirus guidance” the regulator published on March 23rd, the same day the full lockdown was imposed. As I’ve written about before, this “guidance” has contributed to the suppression of dissenting views about Covid in the mainstream media, particularly the BBC.

When, on April 20th, Ofcom slapped down Eamonn Holmes, an ITV presenter, for arguing in favour of always maintaining an open mind with respect to different theories about the coronavirus crisis and the Government’s response to it, the FSU believed this was an action of considerable consequence for free speech in the media.

The FSU decided it ought to take action. If a small public interest group dedicated to free speech stood for anything, it should stand for upholding the rights of broadcasters and journalists to discuss matters of considerable public interest without fear of censure by a state regulator. Given that it is likely that Ofcom will become the regulator of the internet in due course, we considered it vitally important that Ofcom should pay proper attention to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act that states that we all have the right to free expression. Ofcom should encourage – rather than discourage – open-mindedness, open debate and tolerance for dissenting views. Ofcom was establishing a worryingly bad precedent.

We made a complaint to Ofcom in the hope that it would realise the error of its ways if we brought the conflict between what it had done and its duties under the Human Rights Act to its attention. However, when Ofcom refused to budge on the issue, the FSU decided to initiate litigation to make the case for open-mindedness and free inquiry.

A judge will shortly be deciding whether to allow us to proceed with a Judicial Review of Ofcom’s censorious behaviour. We think we have a strong case but litigation is never certain so we have asked the judge for a “Protective Costs Order” which would place a limit on the liability faced by the FSU should we lose the case. Given that Ofcom claim already to have spent over £16,000 just responding to our application for a court hearing, the amount at risk could be considerable. The bigger the size of this fund the more likely that the action will go ahead and we will have the opportunity to strike a major blow in favour of free speech and the right to challenge the Government’s narrative.

If things go our way and we defeat Ofcom in court, the money in this fund will be held over and used to support other litigation to protect free speech.

Thanks again for all your support, which has already helped us a great deal. If we can ask just one more thing, it’s that you share this GoFundMe on social media. The more the word gets out, the better our chances of being able to fight these and similar battles in future.

Please donate to the Free Speech Union’s “Fighting Fund” GoFundMe here so we can take Ofcom to the High Court and, if you can, share the link with others. This is a vitally important case.

Global Panic and Mass Hysteria

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.” – Hamlet

We’re publishing another original piece today, this one by Manfred Horst, a a senior consultant to pharma and biotech companies. It’s a rueful reflection on how the world responded with mass hysteria to what is, essentially, just another virus, no worse than a bad flu.

None of the governments which imposed societal lockdowns and deprived their populations of most of their fundamental liberties seems to have done so on the basis of any kind of benefit/risk analysis. They all followed the advice of some very peculiar “experts” – mostly virologists and epidemiological model builders. They all seem to fear that they could be held to account for an exponential number of deaths resulting from this “new” disease. They all seem to however completely disregard the enormous damage which their measures are inflicting on their citizens, their societies and the world at large. None of them listened to – let alone stimulated – contrarian opinions from other experts, who often had to accept an appearance in alternative media outlets in order to make their views known. Hopefully, the cautionary tale of the current hysteria will serve as a lesson for the future. Science is not monolithic dogma, but continuous hypothesis testing and falsification. Supposedly scientific models predicting the future can be as awfully wrong as any oracle or prophecy.

Worth reading in full.

A Solicitor Writes…

A solicitor who is very well-informed about the impact of the coronavirus guidance on businesses – particularly small businesses – heard something quite ominous in Boris’s 8pm statement last night that less eagle-eared viewers will have missed.

You have probably spotted the worrying sentence in the PM’s address today “in retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations”. As ever, we await the actual law, but it sounds very much as if the Government is planning to give the guidance legal force. This will presumably take precedent over the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 so that risk assessment for COVID-19 would become incidental. We have already seen steps towards that approach in 5G(b)(ii) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020 but it sounds like the plan is now to force businesses to take measures to protect against transmission which would not be warranted by a risk assessment.

In other words, businesses will be forced to jump through even more hoops before staff can return to work, having to comply with volumes of pointless red tape instead of using their common sense. Is Jeff Bezos a donor to the Conservative Party?

Government “Pauses” Plans to Allow Fans Back in to Stadiums

For me, this was the worst piece of news yesterday: the Government has changed its mind about letting fans back into sports stadiums from October 1st. As a QPR season ticket holder, I miss going to see my team play more than anything else and was so confident that things would soon return to normal – after all, outdoor transmission of the virus is almost unheard of – that I renewed my season tickets for me and my son a few weeks ago. I didn’t factor in the idiocy of this Government.

Even the bedwetting Guardian thinks this measure is completely unnecessary.

The government has dealt a devastating blow to sport by pausing its plans for the partial return of fans to stadiums on 1 October because of the rapid spike in Covid-19 cases. It will add to growing fears that clubs could go out of business due to lack of gate receipts for potentially months more to come.

The decision, which was first reported by the Guardian on Monday, was confirmed by Michael Gove, who told BBC Breakfast: “We do want to, in due course, allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events but it is the case that we just need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate,” the Cabinet Office minister said.

I’m sorry to report that Michael Gove is himself a Ranger.

Letter to an MP

A reader has sent us the letter she wrote yesterday to her MP, Stuart Anderson. This one’s a doozy.

Dear Stuart,

I’d appreciate your response to the questions below:

As the number of PCR tests being done has increased massively over the course of the summer, why are the case numbers consistently presented to the public without a clear framework of percentages of the tests done?

Why is a positive test now automatically called a ‘case’?

Why is the fatally flawed PCR test still being used to measure cases when the only statistics of any real importance are deaths and hospitalisations?

Does Matt Hancock understand that ‘less than 1%’ false positives when a virus is circulating at such low levels means that most positive cases are in fact false positives? Does he even care?

Why does he insist that the case numbers are doubling every seven days when they’re clearly not? Is he just really thick? Is he blatantly dishonest? Is he both?

If it’s down to dishonesty, why is he lying to the public?

Why was yesterday’s television briefing by Whitty and Vallance concentrating on a potential 49,000 ‘cases’? Is this because they really like big, scary numbers?

Why are they being encouraged to extrapolate the currently non-existent doubling as part of a worst case scenario?

Have they been told to do this by Hancock? By Johnson? Is this why they cover their backs with the repeated use of words such as ‘if’ and ‘could’?

Why is everyone so keen to use the word ‘exponential’ when any increase (I include France and Spain in this) has been nothing of the sort?

Why is everyone so keen to use France and Spain as examples, but not Germany, Sweden, etc.?

Why are scientific advisors being wheeled out to smooth the path for further restrictions with their doom-laden scaremongering?

If the ‘worst case scenario’ of 200 deaths a day from Covid by Hallowe’en is true, is that really enough reason to lock down the country again?

If 200 people died a day of flu, would it be front page news? Would it lead to a tv address by the PM outlining yet more restrictions on civil liberties?

If masks and social distancing work, then why no discernible impact on flu and pneumonia deaths?

As the pool of people vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from Covid is limited and shares many of the criteria of the pool of those vulnerable to serious illness from other respiratory ailments, what is the likelihood of them dying of both, twice?

Why did we not lock down the country in the winter of 1999-2000, when (off the top of my head) 50,000 died? See also (again off the top of my head) the bad flu seasons of 2014-2015/2017-2018?

Is the ongoing issue of casually assigning Covid deaths to those who died with, rather than of Covid being properly addressed?

Are you surprised to discover that keeping work colleagues, schoolchildren and families apart for months and then allowing them to meet again has resulted in an uptick in infections of all kinds?

If the government hadn’t locked the country down over the summer, do you think more people might have developed immunity to the virus by now?

Why does Patrick Vallance keep insisting that immunity in the population is at such low levels? Has he not heard of T cell immunity?

If the majority of new cases are in care homes, followed by workplaces and schools, how will closing pubs early or preventing people meeting socially in groups of seven have any effect on these?

Why do the latest restrictions treat outdoor spaces as though they were indoor spaces?

Why is the government paying any attention whatsoever to what Neil Ferguson has to say?

Why does the government think it’s in any way appropriate to rush through a vaccine, and then start by injecting the most vulnerable people in the population with it?

Seeing as bad flu seasons are often the result of ineffective vaccines, why would even a safe Covid vaccine be any more successful, particularly as there is no coronavirus vaccine in existence as yet?

If the NHS is in imminent danger of being overwhelmed, why have the Nightingale hospitals been mothballed?

If the NHS isn’t in imminent danger of being overwhelmed, why do we need another lockdown?

As the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed in the Spring, why does the government assume it will be now – or is that no longer the primary reason for imposing further restrictions on the public?

If ‘protecting the NHS’ is no longer the primary reason for imposing further restrictions on the public, then what is the reason?

And finally…

When is this Government going to take responsibility for its poor decisions and stop blaming, threatening, and punishing the British public for a catastrophe of its own making? And when are you going to stop defending its actions?

Postcard From Istanbul

We’ve received a “Postcard” from a reader who’s just back from Istanbul. Doesn’t sound too bad, once you realise the rules aren’t being enforced.

Unfortunately, the “city of mosques” has become “the city of maskes” as Istanbul pretends to play its part in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. But before fellow sceptics stop reading or cross Istanbul off their Covid bucket list, there is good news. Despite fairly rigid enforcement of “maske, maske!” in shops, public transport and museums, we walked the streets naked – except for our clothes – without challenge or even a second look from the Istanbulis. The face mask here is not considered a virtue signal, rather it is considered a talisman. It does not matter where it is worn, so long as it is worn. Under the nose, under the chin, on the elbow (yes!) and I even saw one person with a mask on the back of his neck. These all seemed acceptable and, in fact, there were plenty of people who, like us, had simply abandoned them. The police were not enforcing mask wearing and were among the worst offenders for not doing so. Our hotel was next to the Karakoy Police station where Istanbul’s finest sat sunning themselves daily, ready to fall asleep at a minute’s notice. They watched us walk past several times a day without comment.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” by the Pet Shop Boys, “How Long” by Charlie Puth, “Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen and “Banned From the Pubs” by Peter and the Test Tube Babies.

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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot here for woke gobbledegook.

Monday saw the publication of a report by the National Trust on the links between various National Trust properties and slavery and colonialism. This is from the introduction to the report:

The National Trust has made a commitment to research, interpret and share the histories of slavery and the legacies of colonialism at the places we care for. Those histories are deeply interwoven into the material fabric of the British Isles; a significant number of the collections, houses, gardens and parklands in our care were created or remodelled as expressions of the taste and wealth, as well as power and privilege, that derived from colonial connections and in some cases from the trade in enslaved people. We believe that only by honestly and openly acknowledging and sharing those stories can we do justice to the true complexity of past, present and future, and the sometimes-uncomfortable role that Britain, and Britons, have played in global history since the sixteenth century or even earlier.

Slavery is “deeply interwoven into the material fabric of the British Isles”?

Come off it.

The Telegraph has more.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, 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 (see above).

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A German children’s charity got laboratory tests done on one of the masks typically sold in shops after it had been worn by a child in school for eight hours. Eight hours! Result: 82 bacterial colonies and four mould (fungoid) colonies. More here.

The Care Home Scandal – A Call For Evidence

Lockdown Sceptics has asked an award-winning investigative journalist, David Rose, to investigate the high death toll in Britain’s care homes. Did 20,000+ elderly people really die of COVID-19 between March and July or were many of them just collateral lockdown damage? With lots of care homes short-staffed because employees were self-isolating at home, and with relatives and partners unable to visit to check up on their loved ones because of restrictions, how many elderly residents died of neglect, not Covid? How many succumbed to other conditions, untreated because they weren’t able to access hospitals or their local GP? After doctors were told by care home managers that the cause of death of a deceased resident was “novel coronavirus”, how many bothered to check before signing the death certificate? The risk of doctors misdiagnosing the cause of death is particularly high, given that various safeguards to minimise the risk of that happening were suspended in March.

David Rose would like Lockdown Sceptics readers to share any information they have that could help in this investigation. Here is his request:

We are receiving reports that some residents of care homes who died from causes other than Covid may have had their deaths ascribed to it – even though they never had the disease at all, and never tested positive. Readers will already be familiar with the pioneering work by Carl Heneghan and his colleagues at the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, which forced the Government to change its death toll counting method. Previously, it will be recalled, people who died of, say, a road accident, were being counted as Covid deaths if they had tested positive at any time, perhaps months earlier. But here we are talking of something different – Covid “deaths” among people who never had the virus at all.

In one case, where a family is deciding whether to grant permission for Lockdown Sceptics to publicise it, an elderly lady in reasonable health was locked in her room for many hours each day in a care home on the south coast, refused all visitors, deprived of contact with other residents, and eventually went on hunger strike, refusing even to drink water. She died in the most wretched circumstances which were only indirectly a product of the virus – and yet, her death certificate reportedly claims she had Covid.

I’m looking for further examples of 1) elderly people who died as a result of the lockdown and associated measures, but whose deaths were wrongly attributed to “novel coronavirus”, and 2) those elderly people who clearly died from other causes but whose deaths were still formally ascribed to Covid because they once tested positive for it, even after the counting method change.

If you have relevant information, please email Lockdown Sceptics or David directly on david@davidroseuk.com.

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.

And Finally…

In the latest episode of ⁦our London Calling podcast, James Delingpole⁩ and I commiserate with each other over our mutual heartbreak regarding the PM. Send in the army to make sure people drink up by 10pm?!? It’s as if he’s reading from a script written by his enemies. Has a Marxist terrorist cell kidnapped his baby? “Wreck the economy or the kid gets it.”

Listen to our ramblings here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Emperor Boris Spies Second Wave; Declares War on Neptune

Today we wake with the depressing news that the Government doesn’t appear to have learnt a thing from the past six months. Here’s the Mail.

Boris Johnson last night warned that Britain was “seeing a second wave coming in” as he contemplated six months of “on-off” restrictions to tackle the upsurge in coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister, who fears the country is six weeks behind Spain and France, said it was “inevitable” that a second wave would reach the UK.

He is now looking at six months of “on-off” nationwide restrictions amid concerns in Downing Street that the public is ignoring rules on social gatherings.

The new approach to get the country through winter would see it alternate periods of stricter measures with intervals of relaxation. 

Fortnight-long “circuit breakers” would see tough restrictions introduced temporarily across the whole country to suppress the virus, before they would be lifted for a time and then re-introduced if necessary.

Measures could include bans on social contact between households, shutting down hospitality and leisure venues such as bars and restaurants, or restricting their opening hours…

Mr Johnson said last night said he was considering whether the Government needed to “go further” than the current national restrictions.

He said: “We’re looking very carefully at the spread of the pandemic as it evolves over the last few days and there’s no question, as I’ve said for several weeks now, that we could expect [and] are now seeing a second wave coming in. We are seeing it in France, in Spain, across Europe – it has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.” Spain recorded 239 deaths in a single day this week. [They did not occur on a single day though; the maximum so far reported occurring on a single day is 81.]

The Prime Minister insisted a second lockdown was the “last thing anybody wants” but said the current measures would need to be kept “under review”.

He added: “On Monday, we brought in the measures that we did, the ‘rule of six’, to really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer. But the crucial thing is at the same time to observe the basic rules on social distancing – hands, face, space – that is what everybody has got to do if we want to continue to beat this thing.

“But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all – it is the last thing anybody wants…

Earlier in the day, Matt Hancock suggested measures would need to be in place into next year.

The Health Secretary said: “The strategy is to keep the virus down as much as is possible whilst protecting education and the economy. And doing everything we possibly can for the cavalry that’s on the horizon – the vaccine and mass testing, and the treatments that, frankly, this country has done more than any other around the world to develop.”

That’s the Covid cult: an endless cycle of restrictions followed by relaxations followed by restrictions as we wait for the vaccine Messiah who never quite comes. Fraser Nelson in the Spectator suggests Boris gets on the phone to Anders Tegnell and gets some proper advice on how to handle an epidemic from someone whose results speak for themselves. As Tegnell told Andrew Neil for the all-new Spectator TV:

We looked at the [Imperial] model and we could see that the variables put into the model were quite extreme… Why did they choose variables that gave extreme results? So we were always quite doubtful. We did some work on our own that pointed in quite a different direction. In the end, it proved that our prognosis was much closer to the real situation. Probably because we used data that was coming from the actual situation, and not from some kind of theoretical model.

We used data that was coming from the actual situation, and not from some kind of theoretical model.

Someone needs to put that on a coin with Tegnell’s head on it and give it to Boris. It sums up perfectly the difference between Sweden and most of the rest of the world.

Matt Hancock: Obstinate or Innumerate?

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Mike Yeadon, formerly head of R&D at Pfizer, told Julia Hartley-Brewer on Wednesday that she should ask Matt Hancock what the false positive rate is next time he’s on her show. Well, Hancock appeared on her show yesterday morning and she put the question to him. His answer was “less than one percent”.

As Julia pointed out on Twitter, that wasn’t as reassuring as he hoped.

Matt Hancock told me on @talkRADIO that the False Positive Rate of Covid tests in the community is “under 1%”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? WRONG!

An FPR of 0.8% when the virus prevalence is so low means that at least 91% of “Covid cases” are FALSE POSITIVES.

This FPR means that thousands of the people testing positive for coronavirus in the community are NOT in fact currently infected with Covid and they CANNOT infect others with the virus. That’s why the “rising Covid cases” is not translating into mass deaths.

Oxford Uni Prof @carlheneghan has already shown that, even an FPR as low as 0.1% in community testing returns over 55% false positives.

The Government is planning to lockdown our country again when there is no evidence of a second wave.

We cannot allow this to happen.

You can read Julia’s Twitter thread here.

One alarming thing about Matt’s reply to Julia’s question is that he appears to think the false positive rate, or FPR, is the percentage of people among those who’ve tested positive who are, in fact, negative. After telling Julia that the FPR was “less than one per cent”, he went on to say: “Under one percent means that for all the positive cases the likelihood of one being a false positive is very small.” No, Health Secretary. The FPR is the percentage of all the people you’ve tested who are found, falsely, to be positive. And when the prevalence of infection is low, that means that the likelihood of a positive test result being a false positive is very high.

To illustrate this, let’s suppose that 11 in 10,000 people in England have the virus, which is what the latest ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey estimates (week of Sept 4th to Sept 10th). So according to the Health Secretary’s understanding, if the PCR test has an FPR of 0.8% and you test 10,000 people and 91 test positive, that means that 0.8% x 91 are false positives, i.e. less than one person in the 10,000 is a false positive; one out of the 91 who tested positive. But in fact the numerator is all the people you’ve tested – that’s who the FPR applies to – not just those who’ve tested positive. So the number of false positives is 0.8% x 10,000, i.e. 80 people. To be clear, 80 of the 91, not one out of the 91, are recorded as positive WHEN THEY ARE NOT. Which leaves exactly 11 ‘true’ positives. Just one in 9 of those getting a positive result actually carry the virus! In other words, because the Health Secretary appears not to understand what an FPR is, he’s over-estimating the number of true positives by ~700%.

But the number of people who should self-isolate – and hand over the details of those they’ve been in contact with to NHS Test and Trace – is actually much lower than 11 in 10,000 because about half of those 11 will be ‘cold positives’, i.e. people who test positive because they have fragments of the virus still in their systems even though they’ve long since ceased to be infectious. And 40% of the remainder will be asymptomatic – and, as we know, cases of asymptomatic secondary transmission are extremely rare. That brings the total of people who should be self-isolating per 10,000 to about three. That’s a far cry from the 91/10,000 Hancock thinks should be self-isolating. Scaling that up by the population of England, that’s about 16,800 people, or 0.03%.

Some people reading this will think the Health Secretary knows exactly how many of the people testing positive each day are false or cold positives, but is keeping this knowledge from the public for nefarious reasons. After all, it’s easier to dismiss concerns about false positives if you pretend the numerator is just those people who’ve tested positive rather than everyone you’ve tested. But what would be his motive for dismissing those concerns if he knows they’re well-founded? Might it be because it would discredit his whole approach to managing the pandemic, which is test, test and test again, and make his landmark achievement of carrying out 100,000 tests in one day a few months ago – the achievement which saved him from Boris’s axe – seem less impressive? Because he doesn’t want to undermine public confidence in the Government? Because he’s hoping to get a job with AstraZeneca when he leaves office?

I suspect his answer to Julia Hartley-Brewer wasn’t deliberately misleading; rather, he has misled himself because actually getting to grips with the FPR and thinking through its implications is much more politically perilous that saying things like, “Under one percent means that for all the positive cases the likelihood of one being a false positive is very small.”

As I’ve said before on Lockdown Sceptics, the fact that senior politicians and public health panjandrums say things that we know not to be true doesn’t mean they’re lying to us. Rather, they’re lying to themselves because it’s in their interests to do so. And the root cause of this self-deception isn’t stupidity – or innumeracy, as in this case. On the contrary, the smarter a person is, the more effortlessly they are able to persuade themselves to believe whatever it is that’s in their best interests to believe. Hancock is one of Robert Musil’s “rightly blended personalities” as described in The Man Without Qualities:

And indeed the most coldly calculating people do not have half the success in life that comes to those rightly blended personalities who are capable of feeling a really deep attachment to such persons and conditions as will advance their own interests.

The tragedy of our age is that these “rightly blended personalities” are the ones that rise to the top in politics.

More University Diktats

“Achtung! Achtung! Having fun at university is strictly verboten.”

A reader has flagged up a story in the Nottingham Post about a joint statement issued by the vice-chancellors of the universities of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent. I guess expecting a scientifically-informed, evidence-based response to the Government’s constantly changing coronavirus guidance is too much to expect from university vice-chancellors!

In a joint statement, the vice-chancellors from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, Professors Shearer West and Edward Peck, said: “Both of Nottingham’s universities welcome students to our city and invite them to be an integral part of the communities in which they live.

“This year we recognise that the coronavirus presents exceptional and individual challenges to every Nottingham citizen and that any incident of antisocial behaviour, such as not respecting the latest Government guidance on social distancing measures, has the potential to put lives at risk.

“All of our students will be required to sign and adhere to updated Codes of Conduct which include these guidelines.

“In the most serious of cases, students can find themselves removed from their accommodation, suspended from their course, and/or with a criminal record.”

It could be worse, I suppose. At least they’re not threatening to expel any students who break the rules and keep their first-year tuition fees, as Northeastern University in the United States has done.

Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to tell us about the lockdown imposed yesterday evening at St Andrew’s University.

I have a relative at St. Andrews University and the rules and regulations there are, well, draconian at best and cruel at worst. The halls residents have to wear a mask in their hall even though it is effectively their home. All lectures are done in your room via Zoom even though open lectures were promised right up until the students took up residence in their rooms (funny that). There is not enough room in the various hall canteens due to social distancing so most eat in the bedrooms. They must not stop in any corridor and must not talk to each other on pain of warnings and eventually being sent down. They are allowed no visitors (boyfriends or girlfriends) in their rooms. But they can pop over to a cheap hotel if one visits! They have employed students to snitch on each other if any rules are broken. I would rather be in prison.

As of an hour ago, the University Principal informed all students that they were being asked to go into “voluntary lockdown” due to two or three cases (positive tests?) on campus.  

The relative is considering leaving and giving up their massively hard worked for place. They are strong willed and mentally tough but I fear many young, less mentally tough students are going to be in serious trouble this winter if we are not careful. I know I would have been! I despair.

This is from the email the Principal sent to all students:

It is now very clear that rates of Covid infection are surging again in various parts of this country, and it is very likely that we are very close to a form of further national lockdown. The First Minister of Scotland has today spoken of the urgent need to interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus. In these circumstances, I am writing to all of our students to ask you to please observe a voluntary lockdown this weekend, effective from 7pm this evening. This means that I am asking you all to remain in your rooms as much as possible, not to party, not to go to bars or restaurants, and to avoid mixing with any groups outside your own households. Catering will continue as normal in halls of residence. I appreciate that this request may appear to some of you to be premature, but a hallmark of this pandemic has been that, as a society, we have acted too slowly in the past, and thousands of people have died unnecessarily as a result. Early action saves lives, and we have an opportunity as one community to take action to protect ourselves, and those with whom we share this town. We acted swiftly in March when the pandemic first hit Fife, and the situation we face now is just as serious… There is no evidence that the virus is surging in our community. Rather it is because as a country we are now in a very fast-moving phase where early intervention is key, and hours make a difference.

Hospitals: Not All Full of Mask Nazis

A Lockdown Sceptics reader had an encouraging encounter with a sensible doctor at the hospital recently and wrote to tell us about it.

I have been visiting a London Bridge private hospital for a sports injury. My charming doctor revealed his true colours as he said that we’re stuck in the wrong narrative about mass deaths. This has lead to healthcare organisations minimising risk at the cost of patients. One example of which is the suspension of pain relieving injections. Those with chronic joint or muscle pain have had to forego cortisol injections until very recently when they’ve been reintroduced. The panic was that cortisol might lower one’s immune system and hence increase one’s chances of dying of COVID-19. I told my doctor I’d be more likely to die from being hit by a bus on the way to the injection appointment than die of the virus because of a weaker immune system. My doctor agreed.

I did ask him on my first visit if he would like to remove his mask as I had no issue with him being maskless but as it was our first meeting I understand he wished to follow protocol. But in the consultation room we couldn’t quite hear each other so we dropped the masks.

Interesting that a senior clinician was so pragmatic, sensible and challenged the public narrative whereas the receptionist reprimanded me for leaving my snout exposed which I did in order to save them the ordeal of shovelling out my asphyxiated corpse from their lobby. He followed up his initial polite request to amend my mask use with a sinister reference to his colleagues who check this throughout the hospital. Big brother is watching.

Another reader found his hospital surprisingly easy-going when it came to his exposed face.

I’ve not worn a face mask since the Covid farce began six months ago. Not once. Never. I see it as a sort of badge of honour in resisting Government lies and general nincompoopery.

Anyway, yesterday I had to go to the hospital to see a consultant. The appointment letter that came through the post said I should wear a mask and would be given one at the hospital if I didn’t have one. My wife said I should be respectful. Reluctantly, I decided I’d probably go with the mask flow if pushed or confronted, seeing as the NHS was helping me on the health front.

When I arrived – not face muzzled – the usually bustling hospital was deserted. A notice on the main entrance sliding doors said I should wear a mask before entering. The entrance hall shops and coffee bar were all shuttered. Two or three masked people were sitting in the big main empty waiting area.

The woman on the desk – like me, unmasked and not wearing rubber gloves – took my letter off me and told me where Urology was. She did not challenge me about not wearing a mask. She did not eye me disapprovingly. 

All staff I passed were masked. Nobody gave me the evil eye. When I arrived in Urology, several guys were waiting to see consultants. All were masked. Staff members came and went. All were masked and sounded muffled when they spoke, like they were talking from under a duvet.

My consultant called me through on time. He was masked. He did not ask me why I was unmasked. He wasn’t in the remotest bit put out because my face wasn’t covered. He also examined me.

By this time, it seemed a bit odd, if only because I’d wondered if I might come up against bedwetters as James Delingpole would say. I might as well have been wearing one of those silly Groucho Marx masks with the specs and rubber nose, and folk pretend not to notice like they pretend not to notice nutters in bus stations.

Fifteen minutes later I left. I didn’t notice the one-way-system stickers on the floor and nearly collided with a masked hospital staff member. She did not freak out bumping into me unmasked.

Besides the woman on the main desk, the only other unmasked person I saw on site was a woman working at a computer as I passed and an open office. Not a single negative word or dodgy eye glance came my way throughout the time I was there.

Mask Mouth

What masks might do to you

Are masks bad for your teeth? A reader writes with a concerning observation:

My beautician is a dentist with a side hustle. Chatting yesterday, she said ‘meth mouth’ is notorious among dentists, the wreckage of meth addicts’ mouths. She said they are now seeing cases of ‘mask mouth’ – people overly mouth breathing, and rebreathing bacteria sodden air from cloth masks. As she’s NHS she’s only allowed to see one patient an hour (it’s usually eight) and she said she and her colleagues are predicting an A&E influx of dental emergencies any time soon.

Can any dentist readers confirm if they’ve clocked this as well?

Where Is The Opposition?

Lockdown Sceptics reader and Labour Party member Dave Ferguson has written to his party asking them where on earth they are on all this.

I wanted to make you aware how disappointed I am with the response of the Labour Party to the current Coronavirus crisis. It is now very apparent that COVID-19 is much less virulent and less deadly than was originally thought. The official stance of the Labour Party in relation to the Government seems to be to accept the goals as valid and to criticise them for their inefficiency. There is certainly inefficiency but some of the goals and approaches also need to be questioned. In the early days of lockdown when Keir Starmer was asking about exit strategy this made sense but that is now no longer the case. The so called rule of six is a ridiculous response to the current so-called spikes, where many of the so-called cases are asymptomatic or false positives, clearly an artefact of the testing. Last night on Question Time Jon Ashworth, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and should be expected to have an understanding of these matters, was clearly out of his depth in talking to Sunetra Gupta and gave no response to the very sensible question of why this over the top response was appropriate to COVID-19 and not to flu. The best he could manage was to say there might be epidemiologists who disagreed with her, but why not look at the arguments she makes rather than rely on a narrow band of experts who have repeatedly misjudged matters.

The Party needs to be an alternative voice, and that means listening to the alternative voices among the experts, like Sunetra Gupta. Like Carl Heneghan from the Centre for Evidence-based medicine who has shown that much of the current so called spike is most likely caused by false positive responses to PCR tests. Like Michael Levitt who has shown that the virus does not propagate exponentially but follows a Gompertz curve. Like Karol Sikora whose concerns about other health issues have shown how inadequate a response it is to say in defence of draconian measures, as Jon did, I am just trying to save lives.

There is talk of some kind of anti-lockdown party standing at local elections and there is every chance they could take votes from major parties as UKIP once did. The Labour Party needs to carefully consider its current response to this crisis. I am an active member of the Labour Party, but at present feel we need some better and more joined up thinking. 

The Democratic Case Against Lockdown

Lockdown Sceptics contributor David Seedhouse, Professor of Deliberative Practice at Aston University, has written a book making the democratic case against the lockdowns. It’s being published by Sage (no, not that one) on September 26th and you can order a copy here for £6.99. We asked David to write a blog post for us explaining what his book’s about.

This book, written between March and May, during ‘lockdown’ in the UK, is a spontaneous analysis of a disturbing global drama that continues to disrupt normal standards of science, public health, human rights and medical ethics in ways few people thought possible at the start of 2020.

Civil liberties have been cast aside by a handful of people obsessed with a single risk, unable to think beyond the narrowest conception of health. For weeks, in the initial stages of the pandemic, the only focus of most governments was to ‘defeat’ a virus. They took advice almost exclusively from like-minded epidemiologists and public health doctors, who claimed to be ‘guided by the science’ yet whose predictions turned out to be wildly wrong. This small collection of establishment people simply disregarded entirely predictable negative impacts on so many other aspects of social life, myopically sacrificing countless lives, livelihoods and national economies to ‘battle’ a virus no worse than seasonal ‘flu. There was no attempt at democratic consultation, and governments had few if any qualms about using propaganda to terrify people into compliance.

The assumption that we live in accountable democracies, with unalienable rights, was erased with Orwellian disdain. It quickly became clear that it is impossible for citizens to challenge governments, even in the face of unprecedented restrictions on personal freedoms: if the government says you cannot leave your house they can force you to stay in, as millions from Melbourne in Australia to Lima in Peru now know. The cherished notion of informed consent to health measures has been replaced by a slew of hastily drafted legislation which has made previously normal, innocent actions criminal offences.

The Case for Democracy includes many examples of the failure of decision-makers to understand the meaning of evidence, to balance risks of disease with multiple other risks, and to follow the advice of their own professional bodies about what to do if there is a pandemic: for example, using repressive measures without public involvement flatly contradicts advice from the Centers for Disease Control in the USA, which consistently points to the importance of balancing individual liberty with combating disease.

However, cataloguing unfounded decision-making is not the main purpose of the book. After all, any competent person with internet access and a little determination can discover the deluge of errors, unethical laws and false reasoning for him or herself. Rather the book tries first to understand how apparently sane people could possibly think it made sense to implement such massively damaging policies, and secondly asks how we, the public, might ensure that such a disastrous episode can never happen again.

The explanation is simple: the ‘experts’ are subject to biases and errors of thought well-known to every first-year psychology student, yet none of them seem to realise it. The text-book examples of mistaken thinking include: ‘social amplification’ where new risks are falsely perceived as worse than existing dangers; ‘attentional bias’ where only very specific things are noticed while other relevant matters are ignored; and ‘confirmation bias’ in which only information that strengthens one’s prior view is valued – making it extremely difficult to assess alternatives fairly, and even harder to admit when you are wrong.

‘Group think’ amongst politicians has been ubiquitous. Apart from Sweden and South Korea, politicians right, left and centre have rushed either to copy or outdo each other, without seeming to question the sense of this. The ‘Dunning-Kruger Effect’, in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their competence while feeling superior to others has been equally widespread; as has the tendency to predict more extreme outcomes than actually happen, and the simple, atavistic enjoyment of power and control.

The notion of ‘rational field blindness’ illuminates these elementary mistakes. This lack of vision occurs when it’s assumed that the evidence speaks for itself (it never does) and that scientific analysis is value free (it never is). Rational fields do involve evidence, logic, and sometimes science, but these factors are always selected and interpreted according to values, human instincts, linguistic classifications, and the physical and social environment. When policymakers are blind to this, their reasoning, choices, and actions inevitably become dangerously skewed and short-sighted.

Because the backgrounds of their advisers are so limited, no-one seems to have explained these elementary psychological errors to the politicians, who believe they are making rational, objective decisions, when really their behaviours are classic case studies in delusion.

These factors underpin the book’s argument for inclusive, participatory democracy: if the chief problem has been an unduly limited number of options for action, an obvious alternative is to broaden decision-making processes to include diverse voices, knowledge, values, experiences and cultures – as a practical, effective way to arrive at well-informed consensus.

Since our values-blind leaders are unable to see beyond their biases, they need to be better educated. And the best way to do this is via properly organised and funded Citizens’ Assemblies, with decision-making powers, where policies like lockdown can be properly debated. Our current leaders would, of course, be invited to present their viewpoints, which would then be subject to scrutiny from Assembly members with wide and varied expertise, from many walks of life. In these Assemblies our leaders would have to defend and justify their points of view and would, in the process, learn about and be able to reflect on intelligent and compassionate alternatives.

The Case for Democracy not only explains why this is so desperately needed, but gives examples of many existing inclusive, democratic initiatives around the world; including an extensive exercise in the USA where citizens considered what to do in preparation for a ‘flu epidemic and came to the sensible conclusion that vulnerable people should be protected, though not at the expense of normal social functioning.

Wide-reaching participatory democracy is already happening. While it will be a challenge to extend these examples to involve many thousands of us, it is by no means impossible. It can and must be done.

I like David’s explanation for why governments and their advisors around the world have mishandled the response to the Covid crisis so badly. Not a conspiracy, but a cock up stemming from a cluster of cognitive biases.

Vaccine Consultation Now Closed. What Comes Next?

The UK Government’s consultation on the roll out of Covid vaccines closed at midnight last night. So what comes next? According to the i‘s Jane Merrick, it’s not good.

Ministers are planning to invoke emergency powers to vaccinate the public against COVID-19 even if it is unlicensed, i can reveal.

If a vaccine becomes available before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st and it has not been approved by the European medicines watchdog, the UK will use its own emergency regulations to sidestep EU law to allow the jab to be deployed due to the serious threat the virus poses to human life.

The Government admits it would be an “very unusual” step to use the extraordinary powers for an unlicensed medicine but that it would be necessary, in those circumstances, to save lives from coronavirus.

Worth reading in full (although so many ads pop up when you look at anything on the i or the Independent, their articles are virtually unreadable).

Speaker Gets No-Platformed; Free Speech Union Gets Her Re-Platformed

The FSU managed to get Caroline Farrow, a Catholic journalist who’d been no-platformed by the University of Exeter Debating Society, re-invited on Thursday evening. She was due to speak on Friday in a debate on whether prostitution should be legalised, but she was notified at 11am on Thursday that she’d been disinvited because of her religious beliefs on a range of LGBT issues. This was a clear case of no-platforming and a breach of the University of Exeter’s professed commitment to free speech.

I wrote to the newly-installed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lisa Roberts, letting her know that if she didn’t intervene to make sure Caroline’s invitation was reinstated, the University would be in breach of its legal duty to protect free speech, as set out in the Education (Nº 2) Act 1986, which was passed, in part, to prevent the no-platforming of visiting speakers at British universities. In particular, it would be a breach of s.43(a) of the 1986 Act, which requires universities to “take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers”. This Act and these words are referred to in Exeter’s “Freedom of Speech” policy.

Thankfully, after receiving my letter, Professor Roberts did intervene. I received a response from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at 9.22pm on Thursday night informing me that Caroline had now been re-invited and, when I checked with her, she had. The following day, there was another attempt to no-platform her that the Vice-Chancellor again resisted and when the censorious members of the Debating Society’s committee were repulsed they took to Facebook to express their displeasure, saying they’d only agreed to re-platform Caroline because of the University’s intervention.

You can read an account of the affair on the FSU’s website here, as well as a shorter version on Guido Fawkes here. The FSU interviewed Caroline about the episode for its YouTube channel and you can see that here.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Sir Van Morrison

Van Morrison has joined the swelling ranks of wrinkly rockers against lockdown, alongside Noel Gallagher, Ian Brown and the bloke from the Corrs. He announced yesterday three lockdown protest songs for release soon. The BBC has the story.

Sir Van Morrison has accused the Government of “taking our freedom” in three new songs that protest against the coronavirus lockdown. In the lyrics, he claims scientists are “making up crooked facts” to justify measures that “enslave” the population. “The new normal, is not normal,” he sings. “We were born to be free…

“No More Lockdown” is the most strident of the three tracks. “No more lockdown/No more government overreach,” the musician sings in the chorus. “No more fascist bullies/Disturbing our peace. No more taking of our freedom/And our God given rights/Pretending it’s for our safety/When it’s really to enslave.

Another song references a widely-shared Facebook post, of a screenshot from a UK Government website saying, “COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.”

While it is true that COVID-19 does not meet the criteria for an HCID – which typically has a high fatality rate (as much as 50% in the case of Ebola) – the disease is still considered highly infectious, with no specific vaccines or treatment currently available.

Hang on a minute – no treatment currently available? If that’s supposed to be the BBC fact checking Van Morrison’s “dangerous misinformation” then I’m afraid it backfires badly. There are now a number of treatments for COVID-19 which studies and clinical practice have shown to have some effect in reducing mortality. Such as HCQ with zinc, reported by American doctors to give an 84% decrease in hospitalisation rates and a 50% decrease in mortality rates among already hospitalised patients.

Anyway, the songs. They are “Born To Be Free”, released September 25th, “As I Walked Out”, to be released on October 9th and “No More Lockdown”, released October 23rd. We’ll send out a reminder when they come out and we’ll see if Lockdown Sceptics readers can help boost them to number one on iTunes.

Sir Van Morrison says:

I’m not telling people what to do or think, the Government is doing a great job of that already. It’s about freedom of choice. I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.

Preach, brother.

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’ve also introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today it’s the turn of Columbia University Marching Band, which has decided its very existence is so repugnant it will “unanimously and enthusiastically” disband after 116 years. Here’s the letter they wrote announcing their self-annihilation, an epistle worthy of Titania McGrath.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, 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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: An American man, Reed Bender, was physically removed by police from a school board meeting about masks in Mitchell, South Dakota, on Monday night because he refused to wear a mask. Here’s the story from the local press:

Bender resisted the cops as other people urged him to stop, video of the altercation showed. A cop pulled out his taser but was hesitant to use it. “You’re going to have to tase me in front of all these people,” Bender said. “I want these people to video it while their cops of minority descent have to do this to everybody,” he said. One woman off-screen said that Bender just “wants to have a say.” After more struggling, the cops removed Bender from the room.

Watch the incident unfold here.

The Care Home Scandal – A Call For Evidence

Lockdown Sceptics has asked an award-winning investigative journalist, David Rose, to investigate the high death toll in Britain’s care homes. Did 20,000+ elderly people really die of COVID-19 between March and July or were many of them just collateral lockdown damage? With lots of care homes short-staffed because employees were self-isolating at home, and with relatives and partners unable to visit to check up on their loved ones because of restrictions, how many elderly residents died of neglect, not Covid? How many succumbed to other conditions, untreated because they weren’t able to access hospitals or their local GP? After doctors were told by care home managers that the cause of death of a deceased resident was “novel coronavirus”, how many bothered to check before signing the death certificate? The risk of doctors misdiagnosing the cause of death is particularly high, given that various safeguards to minimise the risk of that happening were suspended in March.

David Rose would like Lockdown Sceptics readers to share any information they have that could help in this investigation. Here is his request:

We are receiving reports that some residents of care homes who died from causes other than Covid may have had their deaths ascribed to it – even though they never had the disease at all, and never tested positive. Readers will already be familiar with the pioneering work by Carl Henghan and his colleagues at the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, which forced the Government to change its death toll counting method. Previously, it will be recalled, people who died of, say, a road accident, were being counted as Covid deaths if they had tested positive at any time, perhaps months earlier. But here we are talking of something different – Covid “deaths” among people who never had the virus at all.

In one case, where a family is deciding whether to grant permission for Lockdown Sceptics to publicise it, an elderly lady in reasonable health was locked in her room for many hours each day in a care home on the south coast, refused all visitors, deprived of contact with other residents, and eventually went on hunger strike, refusing even to drink water. She died in the most wretched circumstances which were only indirectly a product of the virus – and yet, her death certificate reportedly claims she had Covid.

I’m looking for further examples of 1) elderly people who died as a result of the lockdown and associated measures, but whose deaths were wrongly attributed to “novel coronavirus”, and 2) those elderly people who clearly died from other causes but whose deaths were still formally ascribed to Covid because they once tested positive for it, even after the counting method change.

If you have relevant information, please email Lockdown Sceptics or David directly on david@davidroseuk.com.

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.

And Finally…

This picture is taken from Andy Shaw’s latest piece in Spectator Life, “A handy guide to ‘the rule of six“. Andy’s ‘handy guides’ are always worth reading.

Latest News

ONS: Flu and Pneumonia Have Killed More People Than Covid Since June

Blower’s latest cartoon in the Telegraph. He must be a lockdown sceptic.

That’s the headline finding in the ONS’s latest release, as far as the Telegraph is concerned. But there’s another pretty striking finding in the second paragraph too.

Influenza and pneumonia has contributed to more weekly deaths than COVID-19 since the middle of June, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Just 78 people died of coronavirus in the week ending September 4th – the latest for which death registrations are available – the first time the figure has fallen below 100 since lockdown began in March.

Just one per cent of deaths now mention coronavirus on the death certificate compared to 12.8% which mention influenza and pneumonia, making those conditions nearly 13 times more deadly.

The numbers of overall deaths has also plummeted well below the five-year average for England and Wales, with 1,443 fewer deaths in the most recent weekly figures.

This is a bit awkward for the Government. The day after its new draconian “Rule of Six” regulations are introduced, the ONS reveals there were fewer deaths in the week ending September 4th.

Worth reading in full.

Noel Gallagher: Sceptic of the Week

Noel Gallagher performs on stage during day 1 of Madcool Festival on July 11th, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

The NME has written a furious piece about Noel Gallagher, the rock star, who has said he refuses to wear a mask in shops.

Noel Gallagher has said he refuses to wear a face mask while shopping, in defiance of laws which were introduced earlier this year.

Appearing on The Matt Morgan podcast, the former Oasis singer described the use of face coverings as “bollocks”, after they were introduced in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“The whole thing’s bollocks. You’re supposed to wear them in Selfridges, yet you can f***ing go down the pub and be surrounded by every f***ing c**t. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Oh actually, we don’t have the virus in pubs but we have it in Selfridges?’,” Gallagher said.

Wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth is mandatory by law in all shops and supermarkets in the UK, although exemptions are in place for children under 11 and people with health issues.

They are also compulsory on public transport, with Gallagher recalling how he refused to wear a covering on a recent train journey to Manchester.

The podcast is well worth a listen. The bit when Gallagher explains why he refused to wear a mask on the train is gold. He makes exactly the same point James Delingpole did on Sunday in his piece about why the mask-wearing rules on planes are such nonsense.

Like I was going up to Manchester the other week and some guy’s going, “Can you put your mask on?” On the train. And he said, “Because the Transport Police will get on and fine you £1,000, but you don’t have to put it on if you’re eating.” So I was saying, “Oh right. So this killer virus that’s sweeping through the train is going to come and attack me but is going to see me having a sandwich and go, “Leave him. He’s having his lunch.”

The podcaster he’s talking to tries to justify the policy, but Gallagher just says “bollocks”. “The science says they’re pointless,” he says. When the presenter disagrees and says he “read something earlier” saying masks are effective, Gallagher cuts him off: “F*** off. You only read things that reinforce your own opinions.”

A worthy winner of Sceptic of the Week.

Stop Press: The podcast is no longer available on YouTube – but of course.

A Nation of Bedwetters

Unfortunately, Noel Gallagher is an outlier. YouGov has just published some depressing polling: a whopping 69% of Brits – and a majority of all age groups – say they would support a 9pm curfew on pubs and bars to help reduce COVID-19 cases.

As Julia Hartley Brewer asked on Twitter, what the hell has happened to this country? We used to be in favour of… you know… fun.

You can see the polling here.

An MP Writes…

Sir Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon

A reader wrote a letter to his MP, Sir Gary Streeter, questioning the scientific basis for the Rule of Six and saying he wasn’t minded to follow it, or to wear a mask. This was the reply he got. Bedwetting MP of the week?

Dear Mr Martin,

Thank you for your email which I am afraid wins the prize for being the most irresponsible communication I have had this year.

We have suffered over 42,000 excessive deaths in this country due to this virus and no doubt it is partly being spread by irresponsible people such as yourself. I urge you to reconsider as the second spike threatens another wave of serious illness and death as we approach winter. You will be aware that the police have increased powers to ensure that social distancing is enforced.

Kind regards,

Gary Streeter

Stop Press: Another contender for Bedwetter of the Week has hoved into view: David Nabarro, one of the WHO’s special envoys on Covid, who testified before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons yesterday. The summary on AOL is quite something:

The world is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will take some time to work out how to deal with it, an expert has told MPs.

David Nabarro, who is one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) special envoys on COVID-19, told the Foreign Affairs Committee the present situation is horrible and grotesque.

He said the outbreak is worse than any science fiction movie, and appears to be getting nastier as cases reemerge in Europe.

Worse than any science fiction movie? So worse than Contagion, in which a rogue virus wipes out the human race? Sorry for the spoiler, but come on!

SAGE Knows All About the False Positive Rate

Handy Cock: Does he know the false positive rate?

We got an excellent email yesterday from one of the regular commentators – DocRC. He was an NHS GP for 25 years and now works in sports medicine. He’s done some sleuthing and discovered that SAGE knows all about false positives, although it isn’t clear whether the information has been shared with Matt Hancock.

I read the letter in today’s update written by the Trafford GP to her MP Graham Brady. In it she said she had been trying in vain to get information about PCR false positive rates and cycle thresholds out of the local health bureaucrats. I too have corresponded in vain with a local (Cambridge) Pathologist who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the same questions. Then this morning a friend who used to be the Medical Director of a biotech company reported drawing a blank from a contact in Oxford’s Immunology Department. The twin questions of false positive rates (especially at low prevalence levels) and cycle thresholds (the number of cycles they run the PCR tests before deciding whether it is positive or negative) are absolutely key to understanding the published figures of “cases”. Actually, I could add a third one which is the percentage of those tested who are symptomatic.

My friend, the ex-Medical Director has just come up trumps. He has found a paper by two people who work for NHS England which says:

“The UK operational false positive rate is unknown. There are no published studies on the operational false positive rate of any national COVID-19 testing programme. An attempt has been made to estimate the likely false-positive rate of national COVID-19 testing programmes by examining data from published external quality assessments (EQAs) for RT-PCR assays for other RNA viruses carried out between 2004-2019 [7]. Results of 43 EQAs were examined, giving a median false positive rate of 2.3% (interquartile range 0.8-4.0%).”

The paper is here.

So we know that The Government, or at least its scientific advisors, know that the false positive rate for the Covid test is in the range of 0.8-4% with a median of 2.3%.

This of course confirms what James Ferguson was saying in his analysis a couple of days ago, that the vast majority of so-called “cases” are the result of false positive tests, i.e. on people who don’t have the virus.

Let us look at the Government statistics, the latest of which I could find is to August 26th:

So to take the week ending August 26th, the total tests were 452,679 out of which 6,732 were positive. The positives were 1.487% which is well within the estimated false positive range of 0.8-4% so they could all be false positives!

Then I found another paper by said Carl Mayers of NHS England which was apparently submitted to SAGE meeting 41 (June 11th)

There is a table on page 6 of the document (see below) which shows that at low prevalence of Covid the majority of positive tests are expected to be false positives. So at a prevalence of 0.1% they expect 209 positives of which 200 will be false positives and 1% prevalence 288 positives of which 198 are false positives.

This blows the whole test and trace program out of the water and of course makes operation moonshot even more ridiculous than it ever was – if you test the whole UK population of 67 million you will get 1.5 million false positives! Go figure, Hancock!

I wonder if we could get Carl Heneghan to comment on this?

Unmasked

My friend Roger Bowles, with whom I made a 15-minute film about Brexit in 2016, is making a documentary about Covid called Unmasked: The Virus and the Disease. He’s looking to include stories from ordinary people – like you and me, dear reader – about how they’ve been affected by the pandemic. Message from Roger below.

Unmasked: The Virus and the Disease will be a feature-length documentary that will follow the progress of Corona from its sensational debut in January as the only player on the world stage, through those salad days of early Lockdown and clapping the NHS, and into the autumn as we try to navigate our way through contradictory rules and ranks of “Covid Marshals” towards our doubtful economic future. The narrative will be told through contributions from experts, footage from the mainstream and alternative media, and – crucially – through the stories and experiences of ordinary people.

We are seeking contributors who are willing to speak on camera about their experiences, particularly the impact that Lockdown and other measures have had on them or their loved ones. All submissions will be dealt with in strict confidence and if it is necessary to protect identities we will do so.

We are also looking for material – video, photos, letters, emails, recordings – that evoke the strangely heightened experiences of this socially distanced year.

The film’s tone will be reflective and, where possible, lighthearted, seeking to balance the seriousness of the main theme, so we are looking for uplifting stories too.

As we move around the country filming over the next few weeks we will be putting out calls for certain kinds of stories or material, or announcing that we are visiting particular places. It would be hugely helpful if you could follow us, like our posts and tweets, comment, and share them if you can.

Website: https://unmasked-doco.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnmaskedDoco/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UnmaskedDoco

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9zh2-e15WDRC9mTXXeJiSQ

Finally, like many others, our industry is decimated and we are time rich but cash poor. If you are able to make a donation to support the project we would be very grateful.

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/unmasked-the-virus-and-the-disease

Government Responds to Vaccine Petition

Will this be the price of being allowed to leave our homes?

The Government has responded to a petition asking it not to impose any restrictions on people who refuse to have a Covid vaccine. It has over 125,000 signatures. You can read the full response here, but one reader has drawn my attention to the following paragraph which she thinks is very sinister:

We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to do the right thing for their own health, and for the benefit of the wider community. There are currently no plans to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine in a way that penalises those who do not take up the vaccine. However, the Government will carefully consider all options to improve vaccination rates, should that be necessary.

Should we be worried about this? I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I certainly don’t think people should be penalised by the Government for refusing to be vaccinated, particularly if said vaccines are being rushed out during an episode of mass hysteria and the manufacturers have been absolved of legal liability. From the wording of that paragraph, it sounds like the Government hasn’t ruled that out.

Covid Death and Taxes

I was forwarded another penetrating analysis of the Covid crisis by a financial researcher today – this one by Louis-Vincent Gave, who runs a firm called Gavekal Research with Anatole Kaletsky, the much-revered financial journalist. I thought it was so good I immediately emailed Louis-Vincent (his address was at the foot of the document) and asked if him I could publish it on Lockdown Sceptics. Turns out, he’s a fan of the Spectator so he said yes. Not only is he a brilliant analyst, but he’s also the Chairman of the Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque Rugby Club and is engaged in an ongoing negotiation with his local prefet (unelected regional official) to allow the fans back into the stadium. So an all-round good egg.

Here’s the section in which he speculates about why Governments across the West are continuing to vacillate over lifting restrictions when political leaders must know that the virus only poses a mortal threat to people in their 80s and 90s with co-morbidities.

So, given that death rates are now at long-term lows, and that the disease only seems disproportionately to kill folks coming to the natural end of their lives, why are policymakers still bickering about the reopening of schools (the UK), whether restaurants should be allowed to welcome patrons (New York), whether kids should be forbidden to go trick-or-treating this Halloween (Los Angeles), whether organised sports should even take place (France), and over the resumption of a dozen other everyday activities?

The first possible explanation is that policymakers are consciously making the choice to protect the old, even at the economic expense of the young. And they are doing this out of political calculation, because old people are more likely to vote than the young. However, this explanation runs counter to Hanlon’s razor, which states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

The second possible explanation is that policymakers, having stumbled into this crisis, have now seized on the Rahm Emmanuel dictum “never let a good crisis go to waste”. For the last decade, lacklustre growth across the Western world has led to events as unfortunate (for policymakers) as the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s election, the rise of the French yellow jacket movement, and the rise of the AfD in Germany and of Matteo Salvini in Italy. In other words, the sort of “pre-revolutionary” grumblings Gavekal warned of almost a decade ago are becoming ever-louder.

Disconcerted by this increasing roar, a number of policymakers have concluded that western economies are suffering from a lack of government intervention, combined with a shortage of fiscal spending, and insufficient money-printing. But cometh the crisis, cometh the moment to embark on the sort of Keynesian orgy my business partner Anatole Kaletsky has lately been applauding (see Why I Was Wrong To Turn Bearish). If to a hammer every problem looks like a nail, then to a large section of western policymakers, the answer to every problem increasingly seems to be more money-printing and more money-spending.

Of course, the real problem may not be Covid, but something else entirely. But then policymakers will use the pandemic as the pretext to embark on policies to fix the “something else”. This means they need to keep Covid humming in the background. How else could they justify the gradual introduction of some form of universal basic income funded by Modern Monetary Theory or MMT (the magic money tree)? Combine this with a healthy dose of Parkinson’s Law at work, and governments have little incentive to walk back on any of their panic-mongering. After all, now that government commissions have been formed and funded to deal with the pandemic, are these commissions going to be in any rush to declare the pandemic over? Or are they more likely to insist that Covid remains a major threat, and that they need more funding to counter it?

Finally, the third and most likely explanation is that western governments were panicked into taking dramatic decisions. This panic was likely driven partly by the increased weight of social media in decision-making. Not that the absence of social media in the early years of the 21st century helped the US government take the right decisions in the aftermath of 9/11; the invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest policy failures in a generation. Now it is likely the Covid lockdowns will rank alongside Iraq in the policy failure “hall of shame”. And from there, the important question is at what point do repeated policy failures start to take their toll? We know from Adam Smith’s remark that “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” But still…

I wasn’t familiar with Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” This, I realise, is virtually the motto of Lockdown Sceptics and one of the reasons I’m sceptical about conspiracy theories.

Louis-Vincent’s analysis is great – worldly, cynical and wise. Worth reading in full.

Gary Lineker Takes a Pay Cut and Agrees to Tweet More Carefully – Then Fires Off Rude Tweet

I decided to have a poke at Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter, when the newspapers reported he’d volunteered to take a 25% pay cut and agreed to be more careful in his use of Twitter. I sent the following tweet.

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1305834509917728768

To which Gary replied:

To which I replied:

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1305859452147568641

Couldn’t help noticing Gary’s reply to me got over 20,000 likes, while my reply to him got 120. But bitter? Moi? No. Of course not.

Stop Press: According to the Times, 250,000 fewer people bought TV licenses last year compared to the year before.

New NHS Tracing App – Now Even Worse

Our dedicated NHS tracing app correspondent – a well-informed techie – has sent us his latest update. One day, this app will be studied in the Kennedy School of Government as one of the biggest administrative cock-ups of all time

Christmas might be cancelled but as compensation Matt Hancock has the latest incarnation of the gift that keeps on giving – the NHS COVID-19 app. Like all the other failed contact-tracing apps around the world, this one tries to work out how close you are to other app users by the strength of a bluetooth signal. If the app reckons you have been within two metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more, regardless of circumstances, then it makes a note of an identifier broadcast by the other phone. This is the Apple/Google system which is entirely anonymous, so as the user you have the responsibility for telling the app if you are positive, in which case it uploads its anonymous identifier to Apple or Google’s cloud where other apps can see it and check against their own list of phones they were near and alert their users. Apple and Google handle all this and the NHS is not involved. But they would very much like to be so if you do receive an alert the app butts in and asks if you wouldn’t mind awfully contacting Public Health England to “complete a form about who you know you’ve been in contact with recently”. A form, not in the app.

As an aside for those involved in the mask debate, the app instructions say that tracking can be paused if the user is “wearing medical grade PPE, i.e. a surgical mask, in a health and care setting”. So not just a face covering at the shops then.

Exposure alerting is not all this app fails to do. Indeed, its big selling point is the QR code business check-in function. Alerting might be useless but this function is worse as it can lead to you breaking the law. It appears to be in support of the Government’s announcement on Sept 10th that businesses and venues are required by law to record contact details of all staff and visitors and store them for 21 days to be shared with NHS Test and Trace if requested. There are fixed penalties for organisations that don’t comply. The Government has provided a handy service which can create posters for your business or venue displaying a big QR code that can only be read by their app. The problem is as a venue owner if you only use the government’s app and posters you will be breaking the law because the app only knows which business you checked-in to and when, which is not enough to comply with the law. Even that data is not shared from the app to the venue owners who are required to collect your name, phone number and make a note of which staff were working there at the same time. So if you just put up the posters and ask everyone to use them, when NHS Test and Trace come calling you won’t have anything to give them and that is illegal from September 18th. Another winner from Matt Hancock and team.

Carl Heneghan Strikes Again

In a development that was reported almost nowhere, the Scottish Government announced yesterday that it was changing the way it counts Covid hospitalisations. Previously, it counted all patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 in its hospitalisations data, even if they’d made a complete recovery from Covid, left the hospital, resumed their normal life and were then readmitted for a completely different reason. Now, only patients who first test positive in their current hospital admission (or in the two weeks before admission) will be included in the figures.

There’s an explainer here from the Office of the Chief Statistician. He says the reason for the change is because the Office of the Chief Statistician carried out an audit of the 384 hospital patients who were designated as having Covid in the official data on August 26th and found that 87% of them were in hospital “for a condition unrelated to COVID-19”.

But is that the real reason? I suspect it had more to do with this September 2nd blog post by Carl Heneghan, Daniel Howdon and Jason Oke entitled, “Is Scotland overcounting the number of patients in hospital beds?” They pointed out that In England 7.7 per million of the population are supposedly in hospital with Covid, but in Scotland 46.8 per million are in a hospital bed with Covid – a rate that is nearly six times higher. They more or less nail the reason, as you’d expect.

This is similar to the problem with the PHE issue with deaths in England, which meant previously that everyone who has ever had COVID at any time must die with COVID too…

The problem matches the pattern of poor quality data whereby COVID analyses have overestimated the true extent of the problems. It is, therefore, essential that we have data that we can trust, data that is verifiable and reported in the same way across the devolved nations to permit comparisons.

Poor quality data! That must have stung the Chief Statistician (Roger Halliday). I expect someone in Wee Krankie’s office called him up and gave him a rocket. Can’t have the Scottish Government producing poor quality data, particularly when the hated English tidied up their own Covid data a few weeks ago – again, thanks to a Carl Heneghan blog post.

Keep it up Carl.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Ain’t No Turning Back” by Prime Minister.

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’ve also introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. This latest one – from the University of Chicago, no less – is a doozy.

Statement from the Univerity of Chicago’s English Faculty (July 2020)

The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.

For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.

English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness. Our discipline is responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why. And while inroads have been made in terms of acknowledging the centrality of both individual literary works and collective histories of racialized and colonized people, there is still much to do as a discipline and as a department to build a more inclusive and equitable field for describing, studying, and teaching the relationship between aesthetics, representation, inequality, and power.

So does this mean every faculty member in the Chicago English department who is a white male will immediately resign his position to make room for a person of colour who can then teach Black Studies?

Didn’t think so.

One of the curious things about statements like this, in which middle-aged white men genuflect before the woke mob and engage in a sort of ritualised self-flagellation, is how similar they all are. At the height of the BLM madness, when university vice-chancellors were pumping out this gobbledegook by the bucket-load, I hawked an idea around to various media outlets which I thought was quite funny. I would create a website called “Plagiarism Watch” that purported to be maintained by a group of Wokesters that pointed out the similarity between the BLM solidarity statements issued by heads of universities and accuse them of plagiarism. I would run the statements through the plagiarism-detection software that’s used by universities to ferret out cheaters and, presumably, each would be flagged as blatant plagiarism. My hope was that after, say, the President of Princeton’s statement was identified as plagiarised by “Plagiarism Watch” – “Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies… etc., etc.” – he would immediately issue a grovelling apology and then publish another 1,000 words of gobbledegook (no doubt written by the same beleaguered drudge in Princeton’s Office of Communications). The point, of course, isn’t that these statements are literally plagiarised – although some may be, I suppose. No, the reason they’re all the same is because they’re the product of group think. And because anyone saying anything remotely thoughtful or original about racism will immediately be targeted by a woke mob for being insufficiently pious. (“Just one knee? Why not two? Why not hurl yourself to the ground and rend your garments? How dare you, you racist bastard.”)

Needless to say, no one was prepared to commission this piece of mischief.

Please send Lockdown Sceptics any examples of woke gobbledegook you come across.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

A Louis Vuitton Covid face shield. Yours for the very reasonable price of $960.

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 17th to Oct 27th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 32,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: We got a nice email from a non-masker yesterday.

I don’t wear masks and the natural contrarian within me makes me less likely to do so when it’s been mandated. So, throughout this whole debacle I’ve been quite staunch in upholding my right not to wear a mask. I’ve not made a big song and dance about it – I just simply go about my normal business, breathing the lovely fresh air Suffolk has to offer.

I’ve always been a bit worried about how I might react if challenged by a shopkeeper or fellow citizen. But wouldn’t you know it – I’ve never been challenged. I’ve been going about my normal life, doing the things I would normally do, being greeted the whole time with warmth and a sense of normality.

But actually, normality isn’t quite an accurate description. I’ve actually received more warm-heartedness from shop keepers, folks on the checkout, the chap at the builders merchants and the lady that runs the post office, than I had before this whole nonsense started. And I’m not wearing a mask the whole time.

The result is that I reciprocate this warmth, spark up conversation, and all at once it feels like a throwback to merry old England when the shopkeeper would greet you on first-name terms. Perhaps these folks on the coalface feel a rare sense of ease when seeing an un-muzzled face? Maybe it’s just my own experience, but going out maskless has been great for morale, and seemingly for the people I’ve come into contact with. I urge others to give it a go – spread a little joy.

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.

And Finally…

In this week’s London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I indulge in the usual rants about the lockdown, the Wokesters and our flailing political leaders. At one point, James and I discuss what it’s like to have been effectively killed by an online outrage mob (as I was) and then to have resurfaced with renewed vigour (as I have) – like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. I said to James, “We should come up with a name for these people” and he immeidately suggested “Obi-Wankers”. Hence the title of this week’s episode. Please do have a listen and don’t forget to subscribe.

Latest News

Second Wave of Hysteria Arrives

Here we go – brace positions. The UK’s “Rule of Six” ban on social gatherings over six people comes into force today, and the Government confirmed yesterday that it includes children in England (unlike in Wales and Scotland).

Denmark – the country once lauded for its coronavirus response – has been placed on England’s quarantine watch list due to rising cases (even though on most days since June it’s had no Covid deaths at all). Countries around Europe tighten restrictions. Israel locks down again.

SAGE scientist Professor Sir Mark Walport warns that the UK is “on the edge of losing control” while Professor Peter Openshaw (of, you’ve guessed it, Imperial College) intones that the public must “act fast” and fall into line or face a second lockdown. Panic is back.

“You’ve only got to look across the Channel to see what is happening in France and what’s happening in Spain,” says Professor Walport. “The only way to stop the spread of this infection is to reduce the number of people we all come into contact with.”

And what is happening in France and Spain? Let’s see.

A huge rise in cases positive tests, and little else. Hospitals in some areas such as Madrid have seen a gentle rise in COVID-19 admissions, but nothing they can’t handle or to indicate runaway growth like in March. Sweden, meanwhile, is seeing an ongoing decline in deaths and cases and a strong economic recovery – the most likely explanation for which is the emergence of population immunity at lower than anticipated antibody levels, as Professor Sunetra Gupta has long argued.

Time to get a grip before we find ourselves plunged into a dismal and economically devastating winter. The facts are these. No country has yet seen more than 0.1% of its population die with COVID-19 – Peru is currently the worst hit with 925 deaths per million (even though it has the world’s most severe lockdown), while most others are well below that. Sweden’s death toll stands at 578 deaths per million, around 0.06% of its population, 75% of whom were residents of nursing homes or receiving at-home care. The average age of death in most countries is over 80 and in general countries are worse affected when their recent flu seasons have been mild, suggesting this epidemic is little different in form or scale to the annual seasonal round of flu.

Crucially, no country has yet seen anything that could be called a “second wave”. Florida and the southern United States experienced a delayed first wave in the summer along with South America but that now seems to be on its way out. Spain, France, Denmark and others are seeing an Autumn ripple, presumably as a result of having full herd immunity deferred by lockdown, and which we can assume will be larger or smaller depending on how far the country still has to go.

The fear is that these ripples will become new waves as winter sets in. But that is pure conjecture, and Sweden’s experience suggests it is baseless. We can’t keep wrecking economies, undermining livelihoods and stunting lives out of an abundance of caution when all the evidence suggests the fear is unwarranted.

Time for our political leaders to learn from Sweden and lead us out of this mess, not deeper in.

Casedemic Grows

A rise in “cases” (positive tests) is not always down to a rise in infections. It could be a result of doing more tests or it could come through testing more people from higher risk groups. A nurse has got in touch to flag up a potential new source of such second wave “cases”.

I work as an acute medical nurse delivering care to patients in the community. Thought you might like to know that the trust I work for is now asking that we swab all care and nursing home patients on admission to our service. If this is being replicated across the country then I expect we’ll soon see a ‘second wave’ caused by false positive results. The moronic inferno continues.

Since the Government still appears to be basing policy on raw case numbers regardless of the number of tests and other key indicators, expect the idiocy to continue.

Delingpole Battles Mask Hysteria

James Delingpole has written a great piece for Lockdown Sceptics about his recent trip to Greece and the absurdity of having to wear masks on planes – but only when you’re not eating or drinking.

I do feel half-sorry for the airlines, caught between a rock and hard place. They have to give the appearance of strictness in order stop Covid bedwetters like the woman in the above story bleating to the press. At the same time, though, they cannot be too strict because flying would simply become unbearable: how could you eat or drink if you had to wear your mask for the entire journey? So what you end up with is a ridiculous fudge. Or, if you prefer, a canny compromise. The bedwetters get to satisfy their Stasi urges by seeing the head steward tell people like me off for wearing their mask incorrectly as they board the plane. And people like me get their revenge by making one packet of crisps and one bottle of water last an entire three and a half hour flight, aware that if you’re visibly drinking or eating– or on the verge of doing so – no steward or stewardess is going to tell you to pull your mask up.

Tell me, any epidemiologists or virologists reading this: is it true that coronavirus never infects people who are removing their masks for the purposes of eating or drinking, only those who have removed their masks just to be obstreperous, disobedient sods? I’m no scientist, but my gut feeling is that viruses make no such distinction and that therefore the whole exercise in enforcing masks on aeroplanes is utterly fraudulent. Even more absurd was the announcement after the plane landed ordering us to make sure that as we disembarked we should be sure to maintain two metres social distancing in the aisles. R-i-g-h-t. So the cunning virus lies dormant when you’re sitting for three and a half hours six inches away from the passengers either side of you – biding its time ready to strike as you leave, the moment you are foolish enough to close the two metre gap between you and the person leaving ahead of you? Truly we are living in Clownworld. But the really scary thing is, most people don’t seem to know we’re living in Clownworld. They’ve accepted the insanity as normal and think that people like you and me are the weird ones.

We’ve given it pride of place on the right-hand side under “Masks: How Effective Are They?”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Listen to James Delingpole interviewing Douglas Murray for the Delingpod.

Kim-Jong Dan Sends In The Storm Troopers

High drama in the nut aisle. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Ve have vays of making you vear a mask

Lockdown protests in Melbourne, capital city of the People’s Democratic Republic of Victoria, ended in 74 arrests and nearly 200 fines yesterday. News.com.au has the story and footage.

Riot police were seen holding shields, attempting to separate the “hostile crowd” chanting “freedom”. Several people were arrested and issued with fines, with police escorting more protesters away as they contained the demonstration. Peel St where the protesters marched was completely blocked off. In its statement, police said they were disappointed that many protesters were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers. However, there were no injuries to police identified so far.

Police say they expect to issue further fines once they confirm the identity of other individuals. “Anyone thinking of attending a protest can expect the same swift and firm response from police as has consistently occurred in relation to such behaviour,” the police statement said. “We again urge people not to leave home to protest.”

Hundreds of protesters showed up but they struggled to gather and were overwhelmed by the police. The organisers say they hope to have larger numbers in the coming days and put the police on the “back foot”.

Shocking to see such hard-line and disproportionate treatment of people merely for exercising their democratic rights in the face of the most extreme curbs on liberty the Western world has ever seen (including during wartime). Depressing how quickly democratic Governments can turn monstrous.

A Professor of Economics Writes…

Edinburgh University has renamed this building. It was the David Hume Tower, named after the great Scottish empiricist. It’s now 40 George Square, named after King George III, who opposed the abolition of slavery and during whose reign 1.6 million Africans were transported as slaves to British colonies

Gordon Hughes, a former Professor of Economics at Edinburgh, has emailed to say how good he thought yesterday’s analysis by James Ferguson of the false positive rate of the PCR test was.

I am glad that you have published the piece by James Ferguson as it covers almost exactly what I had thought of writing up when the Boris plan of testing everyone daily was first mooted – not so much moonshot as moonshine!

Since anyone with some undergraduate training in probability or statistics should be able to spot the consequences of mass testing when prevalence rates are lower than test error rates, it is astonishing – and sad – that the whole of the UK’s official establishment gets stuck on an approach that is simple statistical nonsense. In part this reflects the absence of serious consequences for failure. The NBA in the US realised that false positives might jeopardise their TV revenues from the current play-offs and rapidly introduced a two-test procedure (using different labs) before excluding participants who tested positive.

There are two points that might interest you – the first ironic, the second important.

A. Matt Hancock has an M.Sc in Economics from Cambridge which includes compulsory course in statistics, etc. He was at Christ’s College, where I taught maths and statistics for economics for 15 years, though I moved on before his time. It is often argued that more mathematical or scientific education would ensure that policymakers have a better grasp of scientific and technical issues. What this example shows is that both politicians and senior civil servants are the archetypal victims of group-think, displaying a complete incapacity to apply independent judgement even when they are in a deep hole.

B. It seems possible – even likely – that local or regional clusters of new covid “cases” are no more than artefacts of differences in testing procedures across different labs leading to differences in false positive rates. Any competent and responsible body managing a decentralised program of mass testing should carry out and publish cross-validation tests – this is elementary quality control. Differences in Ct values is one example but there are other potential sources of spurious differences. In current circumstances any public health body should publish aggregate statistics for each lab on a daily basis – differentiated by date of swab and date of test.

In any area where a positive test – e.g. drug testing – may imply large personal or social costs it is a fundamental principle that a single positive test may be suspicious but consequences only follow if it is confirmed by a separate test carried out at a different lab. The concern to minimise transmission means that it may be reasonable to ask people to self-isolate on getting an initial positive result but it should be the obligation of testers to organise a second test within 48 hours (easily manageable for a few thousand daily positives). No-one should be asked to put up with a 14-day quarantine period unless an initial positive test has been confirmed by a second positive test at a different lab.

It will please Professor Hughes to learn that James Ferguson has a degree in Economics from Edinburgh.

LinkedIn Again – But Gagged

Following our story on Saturday about the LinkedIn user whose account was summarily shut down merely for posting a link to a mainstream lockdown sceptic, the reader has been in touch to say his account is back – but with a heavy price.

Holy s***. LinkedIn just responded and said they would restore my account only if I agree not to post content which may “interfere in or improperly influence an election” or “directly contradicts guidance from leading global health organisations and public health authorities”.

In these hysterical and censorious times social media censorship is one of the big challenges Western civilisation faces. When free speech dies, so does truth. Tolerance of dissent is at a low ebb right now and the public health “emergency” has only supercharged the efforts of the thought police.

Freshers’ Week Without the Fun

Image
Virtual Freshers Welcome Week at the University of Sunderland. Because human contact is overrated

Sunderland University have invited its new intake to get their avatar ready for “Virtual Freshers Welcome Week“. I’m sure they can’t wait.

Write To Your MP

It is always encouraging when readers send us copies of the letters they’ve sent to their MPs explaining why the Government’s Covid suppression strategy in all its lamentable manifestations is so misguided. Writing to MPs is great way of doing something to make sure our political representatives are aware of the facts and counter-arguments and that not all their constituents have been brainwashed by Project Fear on Steroids.

We can’t publish them all, though they are all a delight to read. Here’s one we received today, which is worth quoting at length.

My feelings towards the policy the Government has taken over COVID-19 are the same as they were in March. I am totally against Lockdown and the effect it has on the population, and especially the younger generations.

I am a fit retiree of 65 years, and Lockdown has not affected my life particularly, as indeed it hasn’t with many other retirees I know.  However, I would like to illustrate some close personal cases:

– My cousin of 68 years, who lives on her own, was due a double hip replacement in May.  It was delayed because the hospitals in her area (Midlands) were closed to all elective surgery in preparation for Covid.  She is in pain, and can barely walk despite using crutches. She still has no date for her much needed surgery.

– My daughter, aged 34, a lawyer with a charity in London, has recently been made redundant because of redundancies within the organisation. She and her husband, who also has job insecurities as he is a Theatre Manager in London, have been working from their small home in London since March. Their plans to move, with mortgage now impossible, have put their lives on hold.

– My father in law’s funeral is taking place tomorrow in north Norfolk. Many of us, in the 20 strong group, are travelling 100s of miles for the ceremony, and yet because of the ridiculous and arbitrary rule of six are not able to have a reception afterwards.

– An elderly friend of mine, in her 80s, living on her own, is suffering with isolation. She does not have family living nearby and relies on the game of bridge for her connection with others. This is not possible now because so many of her friends are terrified of socialising over cards etc. The successful online bridge is not easy for many elderly folk, and they are suffering.

– Yesterday I met with a young single friend in her 40s who is in despair as she says it feels like her life is imploding. She works in the finance sector in London, and her job is insecure and now she is unable to proceed with the mortgage for the purchase of her first home, which she had set her heart on.

– Last week, my husband and I were up in London. We caught a rush hour train from Surrey, which was all but empty,  and it was utterly dispiriting, in walking from Leicester Square to Piccadilly, to see the empty restaurants and tourist shops open, but with the staff pleading with us to come in.  London life is totally unsustainable in its current state.

And yet the Government persists in this collision course. What don’t you get? Why don’t you listen to the increasing evidence that says that Lockdowns don’t work?

As far as I can see, this Government’s only success has been in scaring much of the British population witless. I am appalled at the way the Government and the BBC revel in figures of pending doom.

I quote Professor Carl Heneghan from the Spectator, in today’s online version: “Admissions for Covid, critical care bed occupancies and deaths are now at an all-time low. There are currently 600 patients in hospital with Covid compared to over 17,000 at the height of the epidemic. An average of ten patients a day die with Covid registered on their death certificate, compared to over 1,000 at the peak.”

At the start of Lockdown in March, I registered as an NHS volunteer responder. Like many in our area, I logged on every day for 2 months, and was never called.  I also joined a local Scrubs sewing group to “help”, and it was farcical (pattern drafting, fabric selection etc… and was akin to “Dad’s army”) and this has since closed, as the demand for scrubs and gowns is not required.

 I quickly became a very disillusioned but caring and concerned citizen of Elmbridge.

When I received a recent email from NHS volunteer  “ we urgently need your help Louise “ I despair. Who is funding this campaign and how much is it costing the taxpayer?

Given the personal cases I have noted and the misery this Government’s policy is causing you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I joined the Conservative Party under Theresa May, and whilst not a Brexiteer wanted to help and supported you.  I met you briefly at a local function a few years ago and liked what you said. Like many,  I wanted things to work for you and for the country.

However, I can never support this Government who appear intent on complete destruction of the fabric of our society. I suspect I am not alone.

Indeed you are not.

Government Consultation on Vaccine Roll Out

If you haven’t responded to this Government consultation on the roll out of a Covid vaccine, you probably should, particularly if you’re a scientist. It begins: “COVID-19 is the biggest threat this country has faced in peacetime history…” and it’s all downhill from there.

To give you a taste of what it is the Government is “consulting” about doing, read the section on liability.

The current legal framework already recognises that if manufacturers or healthcare professionals are asked to supply an unlicensed medicine in response to a public health threat, it is unfair also to ask them to take responsibility for the consequences of the use of that medicine in the way that they normally would.

The deadline for responding is September 18th.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

One today: “You Failed” by We Are Scientists.

When sending in a theme tune don’t forget to include a link to the video so we don’t have to go searching for it. Thanks!

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Stop Press: Nice piece in the Telegraph by Anna Moore about the difficulties of dating in the current climate. Love in a Covid Climate gets a mention.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 and some will have had to close again thanks to the Rule of Six. 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 14th to Oct 23rd). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 32,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

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 a lot of 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.

And Finally…

Applying Math To Guesses - Dilbert by Scott Adams
Dilbert starts work at Imperial College London

Latest News

A Ferguson Worth Listening To

Matt Hancock and his closest advisors receive the latest modelling update from Prof Neil Ferguson

James Ferguson, who runs a financial research company called the Macrostrategy Partnership, has produced a research paper on the FPR (False Positive Rate) of the PCR test in which he explains why the PCR test is a poor diagnostic tool when the prevalence of COVID-19 in the general population is so low. (The lower the prevalence, the more likely it is that a positive result is a false positive).

Here’s the opening section:

The UK has big problem with the false positive rate (FPR) of its COVID-19 tests. The authorities acknowledge no FPR, so positive test results are not corrected for false positives and that is a big problem.

The standard COVID-19 RT-PCR test results have a consistent positive rate of ≤ 2% which also appears to be the likely false positive rate (FPR), rendering the number of official ‘cases’ virtually meaningless. The likely low virus prevalence (~0.02%) is consistent with as few as 1% of the 6,100+ Brits now testing positive each week in the wider community (pillar 2) tests actually have the disease.

We are now asked to believe that a random, probably asymptomatic member of the public is 5x more likely to test ‘positive’ than someone tested in hospital, which seems preposterous given that ~40% of diagnosed infections originated in hospitals.

The high amplification of PCR tests requires them to be subject to black box software algorithms, which the numbers suggest are preset at a 2% positive rate. If so, we will never get ‘cases’ down until and unless we reduce, or better yet cease altogether, randomized testing. Instead the government plans to ramp them up to 10m a day at a cost of £100bn, equivalent to the entire NHS budget.

James has kindly given me permission to republish this research, usually only available to his paying clients. This is a masterly skewering of the current nonsense about cases rising “exponentially”, exposing the poor maths and misunderstood science underpinning the second wave hysteria. (For an example of this hysteria, read this article in today’s Sunday Times.) It makes a great companion piece to the paper by the three eminent scientists that Lockdown Sceptics published last Tuesday.

Very much worth reading in full.

It’s quite long, but it’s written in lucid prose and the maths is easy to follow if you have half a brain cell – which, apparently, Matt Hancock does not. You won’t read a better piece on this whole fiasco today.

Stop Press: My financial journalist friend has an interesting observation about the Prime Minister: “Boris reminds me of a hereditary king – Edward II or Henry VI – who is so staggeringly incompetent that he must be removed before doing too much damage. I felt the same way about May but Boris is worse. Your idea of a ‘pop-up’ party to fight the next local election might concentrate the minds, just as the Brexit Party put paid to May.”

Will Boris Cancel Christmas?

“Don’t worry Santa. You won’t be furloughed this Christmas,”

We’re worried that Christmas will be cancelled this year. But the Telegraph‘s Parliamentary sketch writer Michael Deacon thinks there’s no cause for concern. Won’t happen, according to him.

Not even Agatha Christie could have dreamt up a twist like this. Before he entered Downing Street, Boris Johnson was, above all else, a vigorous defender of personal liberty. A tireless opponent of the nanny state. An implacable foe of bureaucratic bossiness. If he believed in anything at all, it was freedom.

And what does he do when he gets into power? He makes Christmas dinner a criminal offence.

No one could have seen that one coming. The man himself certainly didn’t. Only a couple of months ago, he told the country he was looking forward to a “more significant return to normality” by the end of the year, and declared that “the good solid common sense” of the British people would see us through.

Yet now, it seems, his faith has wavered. His resolve has shrivelled. Because here he is, just a couple of months later, banning all social gatherings of more than six people. So unless this new law is lifted soon (unlikely), the traditional family Christmas is cancelled.

Or is it? Actually, I don’t think it can be – whatever the Government says. In practice, cancelling the traditional family Christmas would be impossible. It doesn’t matter what laws the Government lays down, nor how many Boris Busybodies – aka “Covid marshals” – it recruits. The fact is this. Every Christmas, around 12 million people travel across this country to visit their families. And if, this December, 12 million people – or half that, or just a quarter, or even a sixth – decide that, to hell with the new limit, they’re going to spend Christmas with their families anyway, there are no practical means by which the Government can stop them.

What are the Boris Busybodies going to do? Erect a police road block at the end of every street? Ban the sale of petrol? Spend the whole of December going from house to house, slashing the tyres of every Volvo in Britain? It can’t be done. If people want to visit their sister Muriel or their uncle Clive, they will visit their sister Muriel or their uncle Clive. Not because they’re selfish and reckless. They aren’t planning an all-night rave for 400 people. They’re planning a turkey lunch and a game of charades. Because they’re responsible, intelligent adults who have spent the best part of a year dutifully following all the necessary precautions, and are now well capable of assessing the risks for themselves, and acting sensibly.

Top stuff from one of Fleet Street’s funniest writers. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Daily Mail‘s Bel Mooney says nothing is going to stop her having a Christmas dinner for 14. Meanwhile, plans are afoot to cancel Halloween.

Covid More Divisive Than Brexit

“I told you to wear a frigging mask, you punk.”

According to some polling in the Guardian, Covid is causing even more acrimony and division than Brexit!

Mask-wearing and lockdown rules are now causing deeper social fractures than Brexit, according to a UK-wide study which suggests that the solidarity of the early weeks of the pandemic has given way to distrust.

Polling of 10,000 people found that half of mask-wearers in Britain (58%) have severely negative attitudes towards those who do not wear a mask, and the majority (68%) of people who did not break lockdown rules have strong negative views about lockdown rule-breakers.

Significant minorities of people who stuck to rules said they “hate” or “resent” people who do not. Twelve per cent of mask-wearers said they hated those who did not wear face coverings, and 14% of lockdown adherents hate rule breakers, the survey found.

Here’s the table that accompanies the story (see below) – although, annoyingly, the pollsters haven’t asked the “rule-breakers” how they feel about the “Lockdown Adherents”. And come on, guys. Talk about a leading question! If you describe those who are sceptical about the need for absurd, illogical laws and regulations as “rule-breakers”, I think you know what people’s attitude towards them is going to be.

You can read more here.

Why do maskers still have such animosity towards non-maskers six months into the pandemic? Shouldn’t the non-maskers all be dead by now?

Corona Daze

Lucie Capel playing the central character in Corona Daze

A reader called Alice Bragg has been in touch. She’s an apostate – a lockdown enthusiast turned sceptic – and she describes her personal journey in this excellent blog post, called “Lost in a Corona Daze”.

Here an extract in which she learns for the first time that children are susceptible to COVID-19. I’m sure her reaction mirrors how many readers of this blog reacted.

Waking up one morning and glancing at my phone, I saw a notification flash up on the screen, ‘No reported case of a child passing coronavirus onto an adult exists’. Hallelujah! I cry. At this point, we were five weeks into lockdown and, for my partner’s twelve year-old, the days were becoming repetitive and dull. School work done remotely is just homework, and we were running out of new places to take our daily exercise. That said, we were grateful she wasn’t still at primary school. Reading a survey of 10,000 parents put together by Oxford University, I discovered that the vast majority of parents with children under 12 reported increased emotional difficulties, behavioural difficulties and attention difficulties because of lockdown. When you spend your early parenting years sticking rigidly to routines or paying dearly for the consequences, it seems obvious young children would struggle to cope with a change of such magnitude.

So the fact that children do not spread the virus is a cause for huge celebration! Fantastic. Children can go back to school for their final term, catch up on the work they have missed, swap lockdown stories, relax back into their routines, and learn from professionals rather than overwrought parents with vacant looks trying desperately to wing it. They can also hug their grandparents now, like the Swiss! I click around Google to find a bit more information. Oh… That’s odd. It seems this game-changing report is not all that newsworthy. Instead the BBC has chosen to focus that day on the UK death toll passing 26,000 cases. Coronavirus, we are told by our national broadcaster, is ‘as deadly as Ebola in hospital’. Our Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, warns us the UK is at a ‘dangerous moment’. Although, it seems, not for the nation’s children, which would provide some relief for its citizens, should it be reported beyond a single newspaper.

In the weeks following the report, the prospect of children returning to school, rather than brighten, seemed to diminish. Despite learning that primary schools were reopening in quite a number of countries: Israel, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Germany etc, our education unions blocked it. I am in favour of unions, so I was interested to see what new evidence had come to light. When UNISON published a statement, in partnership with a host of other unions representing the adults in the education sector, I read it with care. ‘We all want schools to re-open’ began the statement. Well, that’s a good start, I thought.
Reading on, I was quite surprised to discover the 10 tests set by the unions, which the government would need to pass in order to gain support for reopening schools. These included a call for ‘clear scientific published evidence that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted’. Had they not read the report? Hacking through the remaining nine tests felt like entering a thick undergrowth in which no path could ever be cleared. Not only would the entire national track and trace system need to be in place before children could return to learning, but every school must prove to the government, unions and employers that it meets the required standards through robust risk assessments. But before this can happen, the standards must be agreed. This would be done by a ‘National Covid-19 Education Taskforce’ comprising the government, unions and ‘other stakeholders’. It is not specified how the decision to appoint a stakeholder would be made, or by whom. Perhaps it may require a further taskforce to decide.

However, once these standards are in place, schools can open, right? Nope. Schools must then show they have considered how they will achieve ‘equitable outcomes’ for the disadvantaged. As the pool of disadvantaged children may have widened quite considerably since children were deprived of the stability of going to school, those who meet this criteria may need to be assessed. However, the additional time could be advantageous, giving plenty of opportunity for the tenth test to be carried out: assessing the impact of reopening schools on all other public services. With all that to do, it seemed unlikely unions would support children returning to education this side of Christmas 2021.

Not only is Alice’s post worth reading in full, but she’s also created a web-based TV series called Covid Daze about a woman much like herself who starts out as a bedwetter but gradually realises that everyone has massively over-reacted. You can watch that here.

Africa Copied the West’s Lockdowns – With Disastrous Consequences

Ian Birrell has written an excellent piece for UnHerd about the disastrous impact of the lockdown policy in Africa. Given how young Africans are – median age 18 – the population was never at risk and, indeed, the continent of 1.3 billion people has seen fewer confirmed virus deaths than the UK. Yet millions may die as a result of the draconian measures that numerous African countries have imposed. Birrell spells it out.

Take Uganda, where borders remain closed, the curfew is still in place, and half the citizens are under 16 years old. On the plus side, there is thought to have been a fall in traffic fatalities as people stayed at home. But a new study by Bell and five other researchers indicates restrictive measures led to plummeting detection of new HiV and malaria cases, along with treatment of highly-infectious tuberculosis, while maternal mortality instantly surged from 92 deaths in January to 167 fatalities in March. “The fear is more people will die from other conditions,” said Agnes Kiragga, head of statistics at the Infectious Diseases Institute, Kampala, and co-author of the paper. “This has been a learning curve. Governments in Africa must consider not just Covid but other diseases that are more dangerous in a young population.”

One medic said the nation’s health budget had been depleted in three months, storing up problems. Another told me of children missing critical immunisations and a surge in suicides amid economic downturn so fierce the BBC recently showed a school teacher who lost her job selling maize on the street. “I had to look for a way of surviving,” said Harriet Agasiu. “I was eating my savings, which I finished.” There is little safety net in such places. Many people also live in crowded conditions lacking basic services that make social distancing impossible. And in countries such as Angola, Kenya and Uganda, people have been killed by security officials enforcing lockdown and others beaten and shot, exposing how thugs in uniform may be more dangerous than the disease.

Malawi was among the handful of African countries that did not impose such rigid measures after its pandemic response became ensnared in electoral politics. Human rights activists, fearing the government was using the virus to wriggle out of a re-run presidential contest, won a court battle to stop lockdown on the basis there was not sufficient provision to stop poor people going hungry. Even big campaign rallies went ahead, although schools and later bars were shut down. Predictive modelling warned that inaction would lead to 16 million infections, 483,000 hospitalisations and 50,000 fatalities in this southern African nation of 19m people — yet there have been just 176 confirmed deaths to date.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Only one today: “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 and some will have to close again tomorrow! 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 14th to Oct 23rd). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 31,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: Face masks will be mandatory in indoor spaces in Wales from tomorrow. Guidance here.

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 a lot of 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.

And Finally…

Latest News

The UK’s “Second Wave” is a Costly Myth

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Will Jones has an excellent piece in the Conservative Woman about Matt Hancock’s mysterious obsession with a “second wave” and the ruinously expensive steps the Government is taking to prepare for this non-existent threat. Here’s his conclusion:

A lockdown that was brought in without precedent or planning for three weeks to ‘squash the sombrero’ and relieve peak pressure on the NHS is still going on five months later. We face a future of continued social distancing and unpredictable new restrictions that are socially debilitating and economically disastrous. Even the much-vaunted vaccine is very unlikely to do more than mitigate the impact of the illness, making it a likely false dawn for those waiting around for it.

Yet the World Health Organisation continues to call on governments to ‘do it all’ to ‘suppress, suppress, suppress’ the virus, holding up New Zealand as an ‘exemplar’. Britain, like Sweden, must reject this preposterous and nihilistic narrative. It is not possible to suppress this virus, as New Zealand is now discovering, but only to mitigate its impact while developing collective immunity and, ideally, returning to normal as quickly as possible. The measures introduced for this mitigation must be balanced against other risks and the high importance of normal, healthy living. Right now, the government does not even seem to be attempting a sensible cost-benefit analysis of its approach, working instead on the basis of a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ derived from discredited models. This is no way to run a country, nor a world.

Worth reading in full.

Up to 90% of People Who Test Positive Not Infectious

And this may explain why a rise in cases in countries like France, Spain and Italy hasn’t produced any corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths. According to a new study, up to 90% of people testing positive aren’t infectious. The Mail has more.

Up to 90 percent of people tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada in July carried barely any traces of the virus and it could be because today’s tests are ‘too sensitive’, experts say.

Health experts say PCR testing – the most widely used diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the US – are too sensitive and need to be adjusted to rule out people who have insignificant amounts of the virus in their systems because they’re likely not contagious.

Today the PCR test, which provides a yes or no answer if a patient is infected, doesn’t say how much of the virus a patient has in their body.

The Mail‘s report is based on this story in the New York Times that we linked to a couple of days ago.

Four Charts Showing Casedemic Hasn’t Led to More Deaths

In case anyone thinks the rise in the number of people testing positive in Europe is cause for alarm, here are four charts showing cases and deaths in Italy, Spain, the UK and France.

Why Has Piers Corbyn Been Fined £10,000 But Not the Organisers of Sunday’s BLM Protest?

I got a lot of emails making this point yesterday:

I see Piers Corbyn gets arrested and fined £10,000 for “organising ” the anti-lockdown demo while Sunday’s BLM organisers “Ken Hinds, an adviser to Scotland Yard, Sasha Johnson, a youth worker and activist, rapper 2 Badda, and author Anthony Spencer” get away with “a word of advice”!

The Guardian has more on Sunday’s BLM protest here.

I disagree with almost everything Piers Corbyn has to say, but I would defend to the death his right to say it. You can contribute to his CrowdJustice fundraiser here.

Meanwhile, reader has put together a short film of Saturday’s protest.

Dispatch From Berlin

I’m publishing a “Postcard from Berlin” today that’s an account of attending the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday. My correspondent estimates a crowd of 150,000, nearly all of them sensible folk. Here’s an extract, giving you a sense of the sheer scale of the protest:

At 3.30pm the speeches started. By this point thousands of people were filling the entire length of the Straße des 17. Juni between the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate (2km), as well as Der Große Stern, the giant central square in the Tiergarten where the stage was set up. There were also huge numbers of protesters behind the Victory column on the Straße des 17. Juni heading west away from the Victory Column. Protesters spilled into the Tiergarten at the request of the organisers who announced several times that we needed to spread out into the garden or police would shut down the protest. Aerial footage shows the overwhelming crowds, but even this cannot show how many people were in the Tiergarten under the trees and in side streets. It took us over 25 minutes to walk from the Victory Column to the Brandenburg gate, and the whole street was full of protesters.

Worth reading in full.

Kim-Jong Dan Sued For Billions

Not laughing now, are you Mr Would-Be Dictator?

Daniel Andrews, the tyrannical leader of the state of Victoria in Australia, is facing a multi-billion-dollar class action suit from enraged local businessmen. Yahoo Finance AU has more.

The Victorian Government is facing a potential class action expected to be to the tune of several billion dollars brought by the businesses that have been shut down during the state’s stage four restrictions.

The class action is open to all Victorian-based businesses that were shut down after July 1st, according to an AFR report, and thousands are expected to take part.

The lawsuit is being launched by Sydney-based law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who are known for successfully winning a class action against the Queensland Government after the November 2011 floods.

The class action also names Victorian Ministers Jenny Mikakos, Martin Pakula as well as their department secretaries.

The lead plaintiff for the case is the owner of a New York-themed restaurant, Anthony Ferrara, who normally earns tens of thousand dollars a week but is now only open for takeaway and making below $10,000 a week.

“Victorian businesses don’t need charity or kind thoughts from politicians,” Ferrara said.

“We need certainty and we need it soon. Our situation is not our doing. We are calling to account those who put us in this dire position.”

The owner of Melbourne CBD’s The Carlton Club, Windsor Castle and Gertrude Hotel, Tracey Lester, is also expected to join the class action.

More power to their elbow.

The Tyranny of Coronaphobia

Professor Ramesh Thakur, former Assistant-General Secretary of the UN and arch-sceptic

Professor Ramesh Thakur had a full page interview in La Nacion, one of Argentina’s two main newspapers, on August 23rd. The interview has now been published in English in the weekly Open Magazine, under the title “The Tyranny of Coronaphobia”.

Prof Thakur has sent me a summary of the points he made:

  • “Coronaphobia” has taken over as the basis of government policy in so many countries, with a complete loss of perspective that life is a balance of risks pretty much on a daily basis.
  • The extent to which dominant majorities of peoples in countries with universal literacy can be successfully terrified into surrendering their civil liberties and individual freedoms has come as a frightening shock. On the one hand, the evidence base for the scale and gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic is surprisingly thin in comparison to the myriad other threats to our health that we face every year. We don’t ban cars on the reasoning that every life counts and even one traffic death is one too many lives lost. Instead, we trade a level of convenience for a level of risk to life and limb.
  • On the other hand, the restrictions imposed on everyday life as we know it have been far more draconian than anything previously done. Yet, the evidence for the effectiveness of draconian lockdowns is less than convincing. As one Lancet study concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.” The virus infection has not risen exponentially in any country; rather, it seems to climb steeply, stop, turn around and retreat almost everywhere in tune with some internal timeframe independently of government intervention strategies; and, differences in numbers of dead notwithstanding, the shape of the curve seems remarkably similar for many countries.
  • The coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the health and economies of many developing countries where a billion people subsist in a Hobbesian state of nature and life is “nasty, brutish and short”. The rich carry the virus, the poor bear the burden since staying at home means foregoing daily income.
  • I remain very puzzled at how so many people I considered to be liberals have been so utterly indifferent to the plight of the poor and the casual labourers who do not have the luxury of working from home, nor savings to fall back on to tide their family over until they can earn an income again.
  • This is not to say that high-income Western countries are immune from the deadly effects of lockdown.
  • I wonder, too, if we have set ourselves up to repeat the folly every year with annual outbreaks of flu, especially if it is a bad flu season. If not, why not? Perhaps someone will come up with the slogan “Flu Lives Matter”. Or governments could just pass laws making it illegal for anyone to fall sick and die.
  • I hope that after the crisis is over, the balance between individual liberties and state power will be re-set instead of an even more powerful surveillance state being consolidated.

Worth reading in full.

The COVID-19 Assembly

The man behind Lockdown Truth, a companion website, is starting something called the COVID-19 Assembly. We asked him to do a few paragraphs explaining what it is.

The purpose of the COVID-19 Assembly is to allow the people themselves to take control of the COVID-19 narrative rather than the government and the mainstream media. By bypassing the MSM we will undertake the job of getting the real facts out to the public. One of the biggest problems with the current situation is that there is very limited information that the average person will come across without specifically looking for it. Most people simply aren’t aware that they don’t know many of the key facts about COVID-19 and “lockdown”.

We will create eye-catching and easy to understand content. Our “Top Ten Facts” can then be downloaded as leaflets, posters, roller displays, public presentations and slideshows for tablets and phones. All information will be based on official data and will avoid “conspiracy theories” which may put people off listening or helping. Volunteers will operate autonomously and present the facts to friends, families, colleagues, neighbours, clubs and amenity groups via pop-up displays in town squares and village halls or small meetings and workshops.

We will aim to create a diverse collection of people from ordinary members of the public to Nobel laureates working together to take control of this matter once and for all. Everyone has a part to play whether you just share our facts on social media or set up and run a local group. We need to work at local level changing public perception one person at a time. If we all do a little then the effect could be enormous.

If you’d like to join the Assembly, click here.

A Good Samaritan Writes…

Touching comment beneath yesterday’s update.

I thought I’d describe something that’s just happened in our local high street. My wife and I had just finished our walk and were heading home. We saw this little old lady (must have been in her 80s) obviously struggling with her shopping and could barely breath with her mask on so I stopped and asked if she needed help. I double and triple checked with her that she was OK with me handling her shopping so I carried it to the bus stop for her. My wife offered to walk with her at the same time and bless her, she linked arms with my wife.

All she did the entire time was thank us for helping her and kept asking if it was OK if she took her mask off. My wife said, “You can do whatever you feel comfortable with my dear. You don’t have to wear it but you can if you want.”

When we sat her down at the bus stop she held both our hands and said thank you ever so much. Her bus wasn’t for ages so my wife has gone back down in the car to give her a lift home

As we were walking away I actually started welling up because throughout the entire interaction, all I kept thinking was: “Can I handle her shopping, am I getting too close, is she going to feel uncomfortable?” When she grabbed our hands to say thank you, that’s what finally set me off.

All I kept thinking was, what the hell have we done to our country? Is this social damage irreversible? I hope not

Father Banned From Watching Baby’s Scan

A reader has been in touch with yet another NHS horror story.

My elder son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby in January 2021 and are understandably very excited about it (as are we as prospective grandparents). The first 12 week scan was in early August and my son was not allowed to attend with his wife. He offered to wear a face mask and not touch anything (or anyone apart from his wife) but was told in emphatic terms that no-one could accompany the pregnant mother and he would have to wait in the car (he was not even allowed into the hospital). The 20 week scan is in 2 weeks time, and this is an important scan as the medics check that there are no discernible abnormalities in the foetus, and if the parents wish, they can find out the sex of the baby. Again, he has been told he cannot attend and must wait in the car. This is cruel and heartless treatment. Seeing your baby on screen for the first time is a very special experience for both parents and for one of them to be denied that is unbelievable. I also wonder what happens if they do find a problem with the baby. Do they tell the mother and then leave her on her own to deal with the bad news? Or, do they decide that it is suddenly ‘safe’ for the husband to come in to the hospital so he can support his wife? They live in Solihull and this is not currently an ‘at risk’ area.

How long is this madness going to continue? Here we are nearly six months into this non-pandemic and still the government and NHS are insisting on ridiculous measures to keep the nearly non-existent virus ‘under control’. The hospitals are practically deserted anyway with very few patients attending any clinics. Next my son will be told that he’s not allowed to be at the birth itself!

Newsletter From the Society For the Elimination of Risk

James Hankins, a Harvard History Professor and lockdown sceptic, has written a brilliant spoof in Spectator USA purporting to be a newsletter from Eustace Stockstill, President of the Society for the Elimination of Risk. Here’s an extract:

Furthermore, our survey shows that, thanks to responsible selection of data by the press, the number of people who can distinguish absolute from relative risk has actually declined! Our efforts to raise awareness have led the British to believe that seven percent of Britons have died from coronavirus. Americans are even more aware, estimating that the virus has killed nine percent of their compatriots. Even if these judgments are faulty in a merely arithmetical sense, they surely serve the higher truth to which our Society is dedicated, that no risk is really tolerable. Our Society can congratulate itself for its part in creating this new and better form of rational ignorance. From now on, we and our cooperating scientists will get to decide what it is rational not to know. Who says that innumeracy can’t benefit society?

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans. Credit: Jeffrey Neira/FX

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 2nd to Oct 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 31,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to tell us that her son’s school – Bedgrove Junior School in Aylesbury, Bucks – is insisting that children as young as six will have to wear face masks. Shocking.

We have, today been sent an email which no doubt was on “delayed send” on Bank Holiday Monday in order to prevent immediate readings of furious replies or the inevitable march of angry parents to the school gates, stating children from 6yrs –11yrs are required to wear face masks on the school grounds to “practise” for when the Government makes it mandatory.

The school have stated that masks are to be worn on the way into and out of school, into and out of classrooms and corridors.

Meanwhile, some headteachers think it’s too dangerous to let all children back into schools.

Molly Kingsley speaks for all parents when she says we’ve had enough.

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 a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code).

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I discuss Piers Corbyn’s £10,000 fine (he should have worn a Black Lives Matter t-shirt), why we’re both such embarrassing dads and the appalling mobbing of the singer Adele for “cultural appropriation”.

Why does the woke Left direct its most vicious abuse towards people who are basically on the same side, but deviate from the orthodoxy in some minor, entirely innocent way? It’s as if they don’t want to change society for the better, just find excuses for cancelling people.

You can listen here. And if you like it, you can subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Government Admits it’s been Double Counting Tests

Embarrassing story in the Guardian today. The Government has quietly wiped 1.3 million COVID-19 swabs off the official testing count. This was disclosed on the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) website on Wednesday. Under a section entitled “Adjustments to the historical ‘tests made available’ data” it said:

An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the ‘tests made available’ metric.

The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2 and a subsequent recalibration of the data we reported between 29 March 2020 and 11 August 2020.

These new data processed identified tests that had previously not been readily identifiable at the labs processing stage, and tests that had been sent out by a testing channel on behalf of another channel.

This resulted in a double-counting of test kits that had been dispatched and which had not been removed from the labs processed data.

In identifying this data pillar 2 established that fewer in-person tests had been conducted than originally reported, and more tests had been sent to NHS trusts and care homes than originally reported.

The Guardian has rung up a few of the Government’s criticisms, including a shadow health spokesman, and assembled a choice collection of quotes. Here’s what Allyson Pollock, a Clinical Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said: “The government needs to make clear what they mean by an adjustment and why the change has taken place.”

The MailOnLine has done a follow-up story and asked Carl Heneghan what he thinks caused the error.

He said the issue appears to have come from when the Department of Heath split testing into pillars one and two.

Pillar one refers to tests done in hospitals and medical facilities while pillar two is members of the public who are tested in drive-through, walk-in or home tests.

Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is seemingly a problem when you start to introduce pillar one and pillar two tests – they seemed to be double-counting tests.

‘Somebody would have a pillar two test and then gone into hospital and had a pillar one test, and they thought it was two people.’

He said it was unsurprising that data errors were creeping and that some allowances should be made because of a difficult situation, but that it is ‘vital’ that numbers are correct.

Professor Heneghan said: ‘If the number of cases is wrong, the case fatality rate and everything gets skewed.

‘It is vital they’re correct but, to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me there have been areas where you’ve had discrepancies that need to be corrected.’

He added: ‘It does concern me and I think it’s important that data and epidemiology is transparent and it’s clear that [decisions] actually are based on up to date info.

‘What we’re interested in is understanding trends, and information has to be correct for that.’

If Professor Heneghan is right and the double counting has involved counting a person who tests positive in a pillar two test and then tests positive in a pillar one test after they’re admitted to hospital as two people, that means the DHSC has been over-counting the number of positives.

Fewer Dead Souls

The author of “Dead Souls“, an essay I published a couple of weeks ago comparing the compilers of the Government’s Covid mortality statistics to Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, the anti-hero of Gogol’s Dead Souls, has written an update called “Fewer Dead Souls” that I’ve published today. It’s a response to PHE removing over 5,000 souls from the total number of Covid deaths in England earlier in the week.

In a previous essay, I speculated that somewhere in the bowels of Public Health England (PHE) there was someone who had worked out, like Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, a method of making use of dead souls. At the time, I wondered if these dead, reported daily on the Government’s Covid dashboard, were being created literally out of nothing, as there was no trace of them in the detailed death tabulations produced by the ONS. As it turns out, that part of my speculation was incorrect.

The Chichikov in question was a Professor Newton (John, not Isaac) who had decided at an early stage of the epidemic to define death-by-Covid in such a way that he could borrow genuine deaths that were properly registered as being from other causes and claim them, for the indefinite future, provided the deceased had tested positive at some point for COVID-19. He feared, it seems, that without this resource, PHE might have been “underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages”. This is a very strange explanation, as one thing that was absolutely not achieved was to avoid underestimation in the early stages. You may recall a chart (originated by Carl Heneghan and reproduced in my earlier essay) that showed clearly that PHE had underestimated Covid-related deaths during the peak of the epidemic, but had been making up ground to an ever increasing degree, more or less ever since. Under the special definition adopted, PHE was able to continue combing through registered deaths and matching them up retrospectively with the NHS England numbers of people who had, at some some time in the past, tested positive.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From New Zealand

Saint Jacinda, the Toothy Tyrant

A reader has sent me a depressing “Postcard From New Zealand” that I’ve published today. Saint Jacinda becomes ever more powerful and – bafflingly – ever more popular. Her most recent act has been to decree that anyone testing positive for the virus, as well as all members of the same household, will be interned in “self isolation facilities” – prisons in all but name.

Legally, there is little we can do to challenge this. New Zealand does not have a constitution. Our rights as citizens are described in our Bill of Rights Act, but this is not supreme law and does not override other laws. There is nothing preventing a law that breaches the Bill of Rights Act being passed, even by a simple majority in parliament. The courts are no help, as they usually choose to interpret breaches of the Bill of Rights in other laws according to their perception of Parliament’s intention. That is, an unintentional breach of the Bill of Rights Act may be successfully challenged in the courts, but an intentional one, as shown by the proceedings of parliament, cannot be successfully challenged because Parliament is sovereign and has the power to enact almost any law. In addition, there is only a single chamber of Parliament, so new laws have a relatively low hurdle to get over.

An example of government overreach can be seen in the recently passed COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020. This law provides a ridiculous amount of power to the Government. Under this Act, the Government can order any group of people to do almost anything including compelling people to stay at any location (apart from an actual prison) and undergo “medical testing” of “any kind”. (Isn’t that a breach of medical ethics?) The police have far-reaching powers of enforcement, including the power to enter people’s homes without warrants if they suspect an illegal gathering is taking place.

Worth reading in full.

French Quarantine is Using a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut

I have written an op ed for today’s Telegraph criticising the Government’s decision to add France to the quarantine list.

On July 25, the French Government changed the rules on testing. Hitherto, the only way to avoid paying for a standard PCR test, in which your nose and throat are swabbed, was to get a prescription from your doctor.

But after the rule change, anyone could get a test free of charge. Not surprisingly, the number of people getting tested jumped – more than 600,000 people in the past week – and case numbers duly increased.

We’ve seen exactly the same pattern in parts of the UK: community testing increases and there’s a corresponding rise in recorded infections.

A half-way competent government would look at the testing data and contextualise it. You don’t need a degree in maths to compare the rise in the number of cases with the rise in the number of tests. Is the percentage in both cases the same? If so, you probably don’t have much to worry about.

Unfortunately, the geniuses at the head of our Government seem unable to do this. Instead, they apparently look at the raw case data and fly into a blind panic.

According to ministerial statements, at least, that appears to be what’s behind the last-minute decision to remove France from the “Green List” of countries you’re allowed to visit without having to quarantine on return.

There’s precious little evidence that France is currently in the midst of a “second wave”. On the contrary, if you look at Covid-19 hospitalisations, the number has remained largely stable for the past month.

In the comments beneath the piece, which are generally favourable, some have questioned whether the Government really is failing to contextualise the data. Isn’t it looking at the number of infected people per 100,000 in different countries and basing its decision on that? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s contextualising the data.

Take the data for France from Our World in Data. It has a population: 66.9 million. In the week ending August 7th, there were 539,102 tests of which 9.060 were positive. This gives a positivity rate of 1.7% (539,102 divided by 9,060) and a cases per 100,000 of 13.5 (calculated by dividing 66.9 million by 9,060).

For the week ending August 14th, the number of tests is so far unknown but 13,732 were positive. So the positivity rate is unknown and the cases per 100,000 is 20.5. That’s the number the Government is basing the decision to remove France from the “Green List” on, not the positivity rate. Indeed, if the number of tests last week increased by a greater percentage than the number of positives, the positivity rate will be the same; if the percentage increase in testing was higher, the positivity rate will have declined, indicating a decline in the prevalence of the virus rather than a rise. To assume the number of cases per 100,000 has increased based on positive test results and nothing else is to fail to contextualise the data.

Worth reading in full, obviously, if you can get past the paywall.

Why is Basel Airport on the Quarantine List?

A reader has flagged up the latest bit of lunacy from the Government.

Last night at 23:16, the UK Government advised that effective from today, i.e. 44 minutes warning, anyone arriving from Switzerland’s Basel EuroAirport will have to self-isolate, because “you will transit France and therefore will be required to self-isolate on your return to the UK”.

Clearly, some idiot has just looked at Google Maps and concluded that the airport is physically located in France, which is correct. However, access to the airport terminal from Basel, which in exclusively in Switzerland, is via a fenced-off road corridor, providing Swiss access to the airport without having to enter France.

So when my partner lands here and comes to stay with me, she and I will have to lock ourselves away for two weeks, regardless that I was exposed to the virus in March and still had borderline but significant antibodies in early and late June.

This is good example of what I call the “collapsing skyscraper” syndrome. You’re falling through a collapsing skyscraper and every time you think you’ve finally reached solid ground, the floor gives way again and you start falling again. The Government’s incompetence is bottomless.

Sutton Noo

At Sutton Hoo, you won’t be able to see this mask even if you’re wearing one exactly like it

A reader tells me about an unsatisfactory day trip to Sutton Hoo. Sounds like one to avoid.

I had wanted to go for ages, and did so last weekend with the family while on a pilgrimage to the Adnams brewery. Turned up at the Hoo three minutes after it opened at 10am. Not a soul in sight except for a pair at the gate to the car park in high vizzers. It turned out that it was necessary to prebook to go in, but high-viz-man was helpful and suggested we return at three-ish, ‘because most people book to go in early because they want a full day at it’. I was peeved, but my son is interested in archaeology. So we had a walk and went to the excellent White Lion at Lower Ufford to kill some time before returning.

High Viz man was there again and said we could go in. But I had to switch the car engine off so that he could deliver five minutes on the Covid protocols. Eventually we parked up and got in. NONE OF THE INDOOR EXHIBITIONS ARE OPEN! So you are expected to prebook your entirely outdoor walk around some hummocks, with no glimpse of the artefacts. There were high vizzers every few hundred yards. Each gate had hand sanitiser attached to it. My son asked: “Why are we looking at dirt?” We lasted about 20 minutes.

I cancelled the National Trust membership – I should have done so ages ago.

RIB-Tickling Fun in St David’s? Not Really

Another reader had a disappointing travel experience, this time in St David’s in Pembrokeshire.

On the way there we popped into a petrol station, just over the Welsh border, and it was a relief to see no-one wearing face masks, none required.

In St David’s itself the one supermarket was mask-free and the deli had moved its produce onto tables outdoor so no need to go inside. It was starting to feel like a holiday!

The weather was looking good so I went to book us a boat trip on one of the RIBs that takes visitors around the rocks and offshore islands. Had to wait an age as only one person allowed into the booking office at once, but I finally got in and decided on an evening trip out to Bishop Rock where you get to see shearwaters and puffins skimming the water as they fly home. We’ve done the trip before and I remembered the pod of porpoises we’d seen that time and was feeling pretty excited at going again. I gave my card details and was told to check in the morning of the trip to make sure the weather was ok and it was still going ahead. Bring warm things and waterproofs, they said, it’s always windy on a RIB and there will probably be sea spray. I thanked them and was heading for the door when they called out, Oh, and bring face masks! What? Yes, you have to wear one on the boat. What, on an open inflatable travelling at speed out at sea? Yes. What, for the whole duration of the trip? Yes, you see the boat is classed as public transport. Ah, yes, of course it is. In that case please cancel my booking. It was disappointing. No, actually it was infuriating! Popping up in this most magical of places was the illogical, irrational covid madness I thought we’d escaped from. Still, we went sea-kayaking instead and had a brilliant time paddling under the cliffs and around the rocky coves. Paddle your own boat. It’s the only way through this!

New Resuscitation Guidance – Call Ambulance Then Suffocate With Towel

If you’re feeling faint, try not to keel over in front of a member of St John Ambulance, particularly if they’re carrying a towel.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Mask of Lies” by MindMaze and and “Nappy Heads” by the Fugees.

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of publicity. 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, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Sept 3rd to Sept 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 28,750). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: Vancouver has made masks mandatory on public transport, although getting hold of a “mask exempt” lanyard turns out to be quite easy. A Canadian reader has the story.

Vancouver is finally making masks mandatory on transit starting on August 24th, though no reason was stated why it’s now happening other than making people feel safer on transit. My guess would be that September typically sees a surge in transit with schools and universities returning and people coming back from vacation so they are worrying about that

The transit authority also said they will be issuing exemption cards, though only at two offices in the entire lower mainland (Metro Vancouver area).

As I happen to work near one of those offices and my commute is 45mins on a bus I decided to go and see what was involved in getting an exemption…

Walked into the office and asked the receptionist: “Is this the place for exemption cards?” to which she answered “yes” and then just handed me one from a pile on the desk and that was it. I now have my exemption card – no forms, no proof, not even a record of issuing me one.

Might also note she wasn’t wearing a mask (but did have a screen on the desk) and wasn’t wearing gloves when she handed me the card, maybe I should complain about their covid standards…

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 a lot of work. 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…