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How Likely is a Second wave?

Paul Kirkham, Professor of cell Biology and Head of Respiratory Disease Research Group at Wolverhampton University

Dr Mike Yeadon, former CSO and VP, Allergy and Respiratory Research Head with Pfizer Global R&D and co-Founder of Ziarco Pharma Ltd

Barry Thomas, Epidemiologist

Contents

Executive Summary
Background
Mortality and critical care
A complete event of the pandemic
Epidemic outbreaks
Population susceptibility
Immunity threshold
The PCR Test
Expectations of a second wave
Spain and France
References

Executive Summary

Evidence presented in this paper indicates that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic as an event in the UK is essentially complete, with ongoing and anticipated challenges well within the capacity of a normalised NHS to cope. The virus infection has passed through the bulk of the population as a result of wholly natural processes and evidence indicates that in the UK and other heavily infected European countries the spread of the virus has been all but halted by a substantial reduction in the susceptible population. This has occurred because the level of infection required to introduce enough immunity into the population to reduce the reproduction number (R) permanently below 1 occurred at markedly lower infection rates and loss of life than had been initially anticipated. The evidence presented in this paper indicates that there should be no expectation of a large scale ‘second wave’ with smaller localised outbreaks when the virus contacts pockets of previously uninfected populations.

Current mass testing using the PCR test is inappropriate in its current form. If it is to continue, then results and reporting should be refined to meet the gold standard of testing methodology to give clinicians improved information so that they are able to make appropriate clinical decisions. Positive tests should be confirmed by testing a second sample and all positive tests should be reported along with the Cycle Threshold (Ct) obtained during the test to aid assessment of a patient’s viral load.

It is recommended that a greater focus be placed on evidence-based medicine rather than highly sensitive theoretical modelling based on assumptions and unknowns. Current evidence allows for a greatly improved understanding of positive infectious patients and using the evidence to improve measurements and understanding can lead to sensitive measurements of active cases to give a more accurate warning of escalating cases and potential issues and outbreaks.

Background

Based upon guidance from NHS England, our primary and secondary care service across the country are currently following protocols to limit access to care due to the dangers of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) pandemic. Whilst work has begun to restore NHS services (the “restoration”), there remains a strong focus on preparing for a second wave as implied by the Imperial College epidemiological model designed by Professor Neil Ferguson and his team. While this model may have had some limited value when we were faced with a novel virus outbreak, the evidence that has emerged over recent months along with detailed analysis of previous outbreaks implies that the model that is still being followed is unreliable and not consistent with both previously measured systems and current evidence. This paper outlines the evidence and data we have gathered to support a change in focus to further expedite the return of both primary and secondary care to full capacity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly allowed for some very positive and rapid changes within NHS pathways, protocols and services which should be maintained. However, the current reduction in delivered primary care activity, referrals and elective care gives concern as to the degree of ‘collateral damage’ being caused in patients not receiving the diagnostic and ensuing care they should be receiving at the earliest possible stage of intervention. While there has been a very specific focus on the cancer and cardiology services, similar negative impacts can be seen across most services with, for example, neurological, dermatological and renal patients all presenting with more severe disease due to delays in receiving both diagnosis and treatment.

Mortality and Critical Care

National weekly mortality data is useful for looking at the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past four years data were used for comparison purposes and to calculate upper and lower control limits (based on two standard deviations).

This shows that in the pandemic peak (April 17th to 30th) more than twice the number of seasonal average deaths occurred, with the number of deaths above the upper control limit from March 27th through to June 12th, totalling 44,895 excess deaths. Since June 26th the number of weekly deaths has now fallen so it is not only below the weekly average but has regularly dropped below the lower control limit, showing that we are now at the lowest number of weekly deaths recorded in many years.

Over the last three months since lockdown measures started easing on the May 10th there has been no increase in weekly deaths. On the contrary, these have continued to fall.

Another useful measure of disease impact is the Adult Critical Care Bed Occupancy which showed a peak in bed demand between April 7th and 23rd with the number of patients occupying critical care beds significantly higher than our national baseline capacity. However, by the end of May the occupancy had dropped back to pre-COVID-19 levels, well below the national baseline capacity and has shown no statistical change since.

Restrictions have been progressively eased across the country for over three months. A continuation of the virus would be expected to manifest itself as an increase in both Critical Care bed occupancy and national All-Causes Mortality statistics. This has not been the case in either critical indicator.

A Complete Event of the Pandemic

There are very good reasons to believe that the population of the UK and of many heavily infected countries have arrived at a position where the prevalence of the virus is low and probably falling further because the reproduction number (R) has been below 1 for several months. We understand the term ‘herd immunity’ can raise hackles in some quarters of the media. However, it might be more acceptably expressed by stating that the proportion remaining of the population who are susceptible to the virus has fallen sufficiently far that a sustained and growing outbreak of disease is no longer supported. This end state is not at all new or, in our view, controversial. It is how mammals – specifically jawed vertebrates – learned to live with the thousands of viruses that infect every living organism on the planet, not just us, but even plants, fungi and bacteria.

We are of the view that a continued focus primarily on the virus flows from responding to what we are concerned is a seriously flawed transmission model. We are told that only seven per cent of the population have antibodies to the virus and it is implied that this represents the proportion of the population who have so far been infected. The model assumes that we started with 100% susceptibility, because the virus is new, therefore the virus hasn’t gone away and must sooner or later return. This is the basis of all the second wave fears we hear about.

However, we do not believe the model is correct and our assertions and inferences are based upon recently published science, some in highly eminent journals and some by researchers in pre-review online servers which have this year become crucial in keeping pace with emerging science.

While published data on deaths ‘with’ COVID-19 is dependent on testing regimes and therefore liable to inaccuracy due to missing information – for example undetected asymptomatic patients – the data does allow a sound approximation of the flow of the outbreak. Inspecting the daily COVID-19 deaths vs. time curve for the UK we see a Gompertz-type curve (Rypdal and Rypdal, 2020) which are typical of natural, biological phenomena, well documented in biomedical scientific papers over the last 40 years. Note the lack of discontinuities in the curve, suggesting no effective interventions have interrupted its development.

Epidemic Outbreaks

The Gompertz-type plot seen above, which is formed by a single surge in activity, often followed by smaller minor upturns as the disease reaches new populations is typical of previous virus outbreaks that have been well documented, none of which have demonstrated a significant second wave even though control methods were used to prevent the spread of disease in each case.

For example, below we see in the MERS CoV outbreak of 2015 what appears to be a significant double wave. However, it is actually multiple single waves affecting geographically distinct populations at different times as the disease spreads. In this case the first major peak was seen in Saudi Arabia with a second peak some months later in the Republic of Korea. Analysed individually, each area followed a typical single event Gompertz curve.

Similarly, when we look at the SARS outbreak of 2003 the initial identification of an apparent double wave when looking at world wide data is actually multiple single events or waves in disparate locations each following the typical Gompertz-type curve.

Population Susceptibility

It is now established that at least 30% of our population already had immunological recognition of this new virus, before it even arrived (Le Bert et al, 2020; Braun et al, 2020; Grifoni et al, 2020). COVID-19 is new, but coronaviruses are not. There are at least four well characterised family members (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1) which are endemic and cause some of the common colds we experience, especially in winter. They all have striking sequence similarity to the new coronavirus. A major component our immune systems is the group of white blood cells called T-cells whose job it is to memorise a short piece of whatever virus we were infected with so the right cell types can multiply rapidly and protect us if we get a related infection. Responses to COVID-19 have been shown in dozens of blood samples taken from donors before the new virus arrived. The most recent paper by Mateus et al (2020) was published in the journal Science in August and supports the previous findings of Le Bert et al (2020). Importantly, only Mateus performed detailed epitope mapping and found that epitopes present in each of the known endemic coronaviruses share sequence homology or close similarity to those in the new virus. Prior to this, three other groups including immunologists in Germany, Sweden and the USA each independently published similar findings (refs as above and discussed in Sewell, 2020). These papers showed this pre-immunity is geographically widespread and prevalent within each population studied, but it was only the Mateus paper that gave us the understanding as to why and how. It had previously been suggested that pre-pandemic immune responses in circulating T-cells might have occurred following exposure to one or more of the endemic coronaviruses. Mateus, by using parts of these endemic coronaviruses which also exist within COVID-19 confirmed this.

We understand that objections might be raised about the clinical correlates of this T-cell recognition. While that is a fair challenge, it would be unreasonable to dismiss it and assume is has no relevance. This is because this is how T-cell memory works (for example, Ling et al, 2020 show that convalescent COVID-19 patients analogously display exactly these T-cell responses) and more importantly because we have solid evidence in the case of SARS that those expressing T-cell recognition of that coronavirus were resistant to it. In a study of 23 people who survived SARS in 2003, every single one had memory T-cells that recognised the SARS virus 17 years later. (Le Bert et al, 2020). The T-cell response was consistent with measurements taken after vaccination with approved vaccines for other viruses. As important, these T-cell responses also develop even in recovering patients infected with the new virus but who were asymptomatic (Sekine et al, 2020).

In conclusion, we believe it is reasonable to take from this body of work that those displaying vigorous T-cell responses to this family of coronaviruses are resistant to or immune from infection. They are distinct from the others in the population who do not have these T-cell responses and are therefore susceptible to a new virus.

Immunity Threshold

Transmission models, such as the one used by the Imperial team, are highly sensitive to the input parameters they are based on and we argue that a modification of the current model should be applied with, at most, 70% initial population susceptibility. This is a conservative value since current literature finds that between 20% and 50% of the population display this pre-pandemic T-cell responsiveness, meaning we could adopt an initially susceptible population value from 80% to 50%. The lower the real initial susceptibility, the more secure we are in our contention that a herd immunity threshold (HIT) has been reached.

However, our concerns with the Imperial model are not limited solely to T-cell memory mediated reduction in initial susceptibility. This is because there are factors other than T-cell mechanisms which alter a person’s susceptibility to the virus. We now know that children, especially young children, appear harder to infect and/or they are less affected by the virus. To do us harm, viruses need to get inside our cells. To do that, they exploit as ‘grappling hooks’ receptors on the outside of those cells – in the case of the new virus, and at high speed, scientists determined it is an enzyme called ACE2. It turns out that the levels of ACE2 are highest in adults and much lower in children, becoming progressively lower the younger they are (Lingappan et al, 2020). That is a fortunate finding indeed, and goes some way in explaining why children have been relatively spared. In addition, other groups have shown that infectivity is significantly reduced in individuals with the O-blood group (Wu et al, 2020; Ellinghaus et al, 2020). There are approximately eight million children aged 0-10 in the UK and 12.7 million aged 0-15. These cohorts represent approximately 11.9% and 19% of the UK population, respectively

Taking this into account it is, in total, at least 35%, and likely to be significantly more of the population who are resistant or immune to the virus, meaning that they will neither get ill nor participate significantly in viral transmission (Lee, 2020). This is crucial to understanding where we are with respect to the epidemic in the UK and the potential for a second wave of infections.

The proportion of the population that need to be resistant to an infection, in order to stop it spreading, depends on the proportion who were originally susceptible and the initial reproduction number, or R0. If 100% truly were susceptible, then epidemiology suggests that 65% would have to be infected for the herd immunity threshold to be reached, given the initial estimates of R0. That would have resulted in very many more deaths than have been measured. But if, as we are now reasonably sure, a much lower initial percentage was susceptible, it takes far fewer people to catch the virus before there are too few susceptible people remaining within the population for the virus to be able to find the next person to infect.

Recent seroprevalence studies, which measure the proportion of the population displaying antibodies to the novel virus, are widely assumed to show the proportion of the population which has been infected. However, the observation that, for example, only 17% of Londoners have antibodies is not the same as saying only 17% have been infected (though the media often wrongly assumes it does). It is important to appreciate that much of the early serological studies were conducted on hospitalised patients who, by definition, are the most ill cohort. In such patients the majority do seroconvert (eg Theel et al, 2020). In mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, a lower proportion seroconvert (Long et al, 2020). This is because the antibody system is but one of several tools our immunology has to defend us. There have been a number of papers illustrating this important principle. Long et al (2020) find that almost half of previously infected individuals are no longer seropositive a few months later. Gallais (2020) shows that none of the familial contacts of those testing positive to SARS-CoV-2 went onto to develop antibodies.

A reasonable hypothesis is that the lower intensity of immunological challenges tends to rely less on the generation of antibodies and more on innate and cellular responses. This means that a factor of two-fold and possibly higher would need to be applied to population serology data in order to better approximate the infected population. If 7% is the mean for UK, then perhaps 14-21% of the population has actually been infected (which would imply, very approximately, 9-14 million people infected). The authors recognise that the exact number in this example is speculative, but conversations with immunologists indicate that this principle is widely accepted as reasonable for community infection where viral load varies widely and contrasts markedly with seroconversion after vaccination, where the goal is close to 100%.

Interestingly, this question of what percentage of the population have been infected can be approached using a different methodology. Numerous estimates have been made of the infection fatality ratio (IFR) for this new virus. Naturally, it varies depending on the population under study as well as the methodology used and, accordingly, researchers have arrived at a wide range of estimates for IFR. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has done much work in this area and their current estimate is 0.1-0.4% (Oke and Heneghan, 2020). Let us take a midpoint value, especially as for months the US CDC displayed a value for IFR of 0.26% on their website. This implies that for every death from COVID-19, there were a preceding 100/0.26 or ~400 infections. The UK has suffered approximately 42,000 such deaths which, to a first approximation using IFR, implies 16.8million infections, or 25% of the population having been infected.

Consequently, two different and independent analytical approaches provide estimates that are at least in the same range for total population having been infected (overlapping at approximately 20%), and this is crucial in the argument put forward here. Other, theoretical epidemiological studies show that, with the extent of prior immunity that we can now reasonably assume to be the case, only 15-25% of the population being infected is sufficient to bring the spread of the virus to a halt (Lourenco, 2020; Gomez et al, 2020). Importantly, we emphasise there are additional schools of epidemiological work which show that variation in likelihood of becoming infected itself can greatly reduce the so-called herd immunity threshold and that this can be reached at even lower proportions of the population having been infected (e.g. Aguas, 2020).

We saw early on in the pandemic that the number of daily deaths rapidly soar and at that time did we not know where and when it would stop rising. It has been evidenced previously that the most easily infected people got infected earliest (see Gomez et al, 2020). Humans vary hugely, not only in our responses to viruses, but also in the ease or difficulty the virus experiences as it tries to invade us. The most susceptible were those already elderly and/or ill, some very ill, and so we saw very high death rates initially. Once that super-susceptible group were removed from the pool of susceptible individuals by the virus, it began a slower march through everyone else, slowing all the time, as the remaining population’s susceptibility fell continually towards the herd immunity threshold. That is where our evidence indicates we are now and why the virus is disappearing from the environment.

It is important to see this document in light of information available elsewhere in the world. It has widely been observed that in all heavily infected countries in Europe and several of the US states likewise, that the shape of the daily deaths vs. time curves is similar to ours in the UK. Many of these curves are not just similar, but almost super imposable. Italy, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK, for example (OWID, 2020). The shape of the deaths vs. time curve implies a natural process and not one resulting mainly from human interventions, given the widely varying non-pharmaceutical interventions in those countries. Taking this and applying it more widely, the very strong similarities of UK data with that of nearby countries which employed different responses yields another conclusion – that none of the interventions altered the broad course of the pandemic event. Further, it is reasonable to conclude that the pandemic event has ended in those countries, too. Famously, Sweden has adopted an almost laissez faire approach, with qualified advice given, but no generalised lockdowns. Yet its profile and that of the UK’s is very similar. The officials in Sweden appear to be of the view that their population has closely approached or in some places reached what they term herd immunity, with R persistently lower than 1.

The PCR Test

The PCR test for the virus is good enough to confirm infection in someone with symptoms. “Is it flu or is it COVID-19?” is a question easily answered. What it is very poor at, however, is what is being asked of it now, namely estimating the percentage of people who are currently infectious in the community. We do not know exactly what the false positive rate is, but it is widely believed to be greater than the actual, remaining prevalence of the virus (Heneghan, 2020), which is around 1:2000, or 0.05%. (ONS prevalence survey Aug 14th 2020). The result of continuing to use this test alone on a massive widescale screening program is inevitably to generate a high proportion of false positives. The problem of using any assay to conduct surveillance on a low prevalence virus with a PCR test has been widely discussed (Heneghan, 2020). Under present parameters, even accepting an unlikely 0.1% False Positive rate and a prevalence of 0.1%, more than half of the positives are likely to be false, potentially all of them. It is the opinion of the authors that the false positive rate is higher and the prevalence lower than this. Consequently, it is impossible for the positives to be much other than false. A recent letter to the British Medical Journal (Healy, 2020) exemplifies the extent of harm that actually arose in a setting in which all but one of the positives ended up being false positives. This resulted not only in considerable time and money wasted by surgeries, but also other medical issues being delayed. It is not rational and may even be dangerous to use these results to drive policy. Note that recent so-called ’spikes’ were never accompanied or followed by people getting ill, going to hospital and dying in elevated numbers. Consequently, it is possible that most of the positives from mass testing are either false positives or ‘cold positives’ (fragments of real virus which are not intact and incapable of replication or of causing disease or infecting others) and therefore begs the question of whether mass testing of patients without symptoms is in fact helpful or misleading? It may be of relevance to note that, on August 24th the US CDC changed its guidance on when PCR testing is appropriate. They now recommend not testing people with no symptoms who are not contacts in a contact-tracing activity.

There are practical alternatives to mass testing. For example, calls to the NHS111 service captures all reports of what is termed ‘influenza-like illness’. Change in this parameter is likely to be a much more sensitive measure of the presence of increasing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection than flawed PCR testing without modifications. Obviously, and perhaps it has already happened, there is the potential for emerging influenza to complicate the picture. A modification to the strategy involving PCR testing which would easily resolve any uncertainty is this: every positive test result is followed up as quickly as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the positive result, and every one is retested. If this is done, almost all the false positives will be removed. We predict there would be few genuine positive results remaining. But even here, it is important to recall what it is that the PCR test measures, and it is simply the presence of partial RNA sequences present in the intact virus. This means that even a true positive does not necessarily indicate the presence of viable virus. In limited studies to date, many researchers have shown that some subjects remain PCR-positive long after the ability to culture virus from swabs has disappeared. We term this a ‘cold positive’ (to distinguish it from a ‘hot positive’, someone actually infected with intact virus). The key point about ‘cold positives’ is that they are not ill, not symptomatic, not going to become symptomatic and, furthermore, are unable to infect others. As each PCR test that is carried out returns the Cycle Threshold (Ct) used to obtain a positive result, it is important that this Ct is reported with every positive result. The Ct gives strong evidence of the viral load and aids clinicians in determining if a patient has a “hot” infectious positive result or a “cold” non-infectious positive result. Gniazdowski et al (2020) studied 161 positive PCR test samples with a Ct value below 23 that yielded 91.5% of virus isolates and the study showed a strong correlation between recovery of SARS-CoV-2 infectious virus on cell culture and Ct values. Ct values above 30 returned negative cultures in all except one case.

Expectations of a Second Wave

Daily deaths from and with COVID-19 have almost ceased, having fallen over 99% from peak. All the numbers monitored carefully fall like this, too: the numbers being hospitalised, numbers in hospital, number in intensive care – all are falling in synchrony from the April peak. Viral evidence historically tells us that you don’t generally get infected by the exact same virus twice, certainly not within a short period of time. It’d be a poor immune system which lets that happen and we’d probably not have made it as a species into the 21st century if that’s how it worked. So there’s an expectation of some duration of immunity. It needs studying, but our experience and evidence for coronaviruses (Le Bert et al, 2020) suggests that if you have memory T-cells, durability can be very long lasting. This study showed that people still had robust T-cell responses in 2020, 17 years after the first SARS outbreak back in 2003. The concerns people have expressed about falling antibody levels underscores a lack of knowledge about acquired immunity. It is not efficient nor required for immunity to maintain high levels of antibodies to everything to which you are immune. Instead, cellular memory enables very rapid re-generation of antibodies upon re-encounter with the antigen, if that is required to defend the host. Alternatively, innate and cellular memory responses can be sufficient.

The NHS currently remains ‘COVID-19 ready’ in preparation for an expected second wave, a highly unlikely scenario based upon an initial model with highly sensitive input variables that we already know to be inaccurate. The evidence we’ve presented leads us to believe there is unlikely to be a second wave and that while there have been apparent multi-‘wave’ respiratory viruses in the past, notably 1918-20, in many cases it became clear that this was either different populations being infected at different times or in some cases multiple different organisms involved. There is no biological principle that leads us to expect a second wave based on the accumulation of data over the past six months. Instead, it is likely there will be local, small and self-limiting mini-outbreaks as areas previously unexposed come into contact with the virus.

Spain and France

So what is happening in terms of second wave concerns in France and Spain? As the rate of hospitalisations, ICU utilisation and the daily death rate from COVID-19 all decayed steadily, it appears that several but not all countries have greatly expanded their testing capacity in the broader population of people who are not showing any symptoms of infection. We contend that the many claims in the media for outbreaks, spikes and second waves are all artefacts of amplified rates of testing. It should be noted that illness, hospitalisations and deaths have not reversed in any clear and sustained manner. Specifically, careful examination of the weekly all-causes mortality data in France is completely clear. Six weeks into an apparent surge of cases, the number of deaths remain completely flat and normal, in all age bands (as of mid-August when this document was written).

References

Aguas, et al (2020). Herd immunity thresholds for SARS-CoV-2 estimated from unfolding epidemics. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.23.20160762.

Braun, et al. (2020). Presence of SARS-CoV-2 reactive T cells in COVID-19 patients and healthy donors. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.17.20061440

Ellinghaus et al. (2020) Genomewide Association Study of Severe Covid-19 with Respiratory Failure. New Eng. J Med. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2020283

Gallais, (2020). Intrafamilial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 induces cellular responses without seroconversion. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.21.20132449.

Gomez et al. (2020). Individual variation in susceptibility or exposure to SARS-CoV-2 lowers the herd immunity threshold. MedRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.27.20081893

Grifoni et al. (2020. Targets of T Cell Responses to SARS-CoV-2Coronavirus in Humans with COVID-19Disease and Unexposed Individuals. Cell 181, 1489–1501. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.05.015ll

Healy, B (2020). Covid-19 testing, low prevalence and the impact of false positives. Brit Med J. 2020;369:m1808.

Long, et al. (2020). Clinical and immunological assessments of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. Nature Med 26, 1200-04.

Heneghan (2020). How many Covid diagnoses are false positives? The Spectator, July 20 2020.

Le Bert et al (2020) SARS-Cov-2 specific T cell immunity in cases of Covid19 and SARS and uninfected controls. Nature. Doi 10.1038/s41586-020-2550-z

Lee & Raszka (2020). COVID-19 transmission and children: the child is not to blame. Pediatrics, e2020004879 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-004879.

Ling, et al (2020). Detection of SARS-CoV-2-Specific Humoral and Cellular Immunity in COVID-19 Convalescent Individuals. Immunity 52(6), 971-77.

Lingappan et al (2020). Understanding the age divide in COVID-19: why are children overwhelmingly spared? Am. J. Physiol (Lung Cell Molec. Physiol) https://doi.org/10.1152/ajplung.00183.2020

Lourenco et al (2020). The impact of host resistance on cumulative mortality and the threshold of herd immunity for SARS-CoV-2. MedRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.15.20154294

Mateus et al (2020) Selective and cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes in unexposed humans. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.abd3871

Oke& Heneghan (2020). Global Covid-19 Case Fatality Rates. https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-rates/

June 9 2020 update.

ONS coronavirus survey (Aug 14 2020). https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/latest

OWID (our world in data: display UK, Sweden & France, confirmed daily deaths, log plot per million) https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?yScale=log&zoomToSelection=true&time=2020-03-02..latest&deathsMetric=true&interval=smoothed&aligned=true&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&country=TWN~GBR~SWE~FRA&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc

Rypdal & Rypdal (2020) A parsimonious description and cross-country analysis of COVID-19 epidemic curves. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2008.02475.pdf

Sekine et al. (2020). bioRxiv preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.29.174888.

Sewell, H. (2020). BMJ 2020;370:m3018.

Theel et al (2020). The Role of Antibody Testing for SARS-CoV-2: Is There One? J. Clin Microbiol, 28(8), 1-7.

Wu et al (2020) Association between ABO blood groups and COVID-19 infection, severity and demise: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Infection , Genetics and Evolution. Doi 10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104485

Wood (2020). Did COVID-19 infections decline before UK lockdown? https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.02090.pdf

Gniazdowski V, Morris P, Wohl S et al. Repeat COVID-19 molecular testing: correlation with recovery of infectious virus, molecular assay cycle thresholds, and analytical sensitivity. medRxiv 2020.08.05.20168963; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.05.20168963

Other Data sources and Reference

https://github.com/owid/covid-19-data/find/master

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/epidemiological-update-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-mers-cov-4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Middle_East_respiratory_syndrome_coronavirus_outbreak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002%E2%80%932004_SARS_outbreak

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-epidemic-curve-in-Hong-Kong-2003-by-infection-cluster_fig1_8200905

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Epidemic-curve-of-cases-of-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-by-date-of-onset-November_fig1_8501177

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/303/5664/1666

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/spain/

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/france/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public#number-of-tests

https://www.cebm.net/study/covid-19-testing-and-correlation-with-infectious-virus-cycle-thresholds-and-analytical-sensitivity/

Did Care Homes Achieve Focused Protection in the Second Wave?

Contrary to popular understanding, Britain’s second wave of COVID-19 was less deadly than the first: although there were more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, age-adjusted excess mortality was lower. 

One possible explanation is that fewer people were infected in the second wave (even though the infection fatality rate remained constant). However, data from the Coronavirus Infection Survey suggests that roughly the same number of people were infected in the two waves. About 7% of people had antibodies at the end of the first wave, and about 14% had antibodies toward the end of the second wave (before the vaccination program had gotten fully underway). 

Incidentally, some people may have been infected without developing antibodies. I’m using the number who developed antibodies as a proxy for the total number who were infected in each wave.

Another possible explanation is that we became better at treating the illness. Evidence suggests that thousands of lives were saved by corticosteroids like dexamethasone, but these may not have been widely used in the first wave. Yet another explanation is simply that there were fewer frail elderly people alive at the beginning of the second wave, meaning that the average elderly person who became infected was less likely to die from the disease. 

However, there’s possibly a fourth reason why the second wave was less deadly than the first, namely that care homes achieved a degree of focused protection.

In the first wave, a disproportionate number of those who died were care home residents. This is partly because elderly patients who’d caught the virus in hospital were discharged to care homes when they were still infectious, resulting in deadly outbreaks. Hence more effort was made to shield care home residents in the second wave. 

According to the ONS, there were 27,079 excess deaths in care homes during the first wave, but only 1,335 during the second wave:

This finding is supported by two recent academic studies. One study, published in Environmental Research, found that the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among care home residents was lower in the second wave in eight out of 11 countries with available data, including the UK. 

Another, unpublished study observed a major spike in excess mortality among care home residents last spring, but no increase during the final weeks of 2020.

While it’s too early to say exactly which factors explain the reduction in mortality between the two waves, the evidence presented here suggests that effective shielding of care home residents may have been a major contributor. Though it should be noted that care home occupancy was lower in the autumn and winter, which probably accounts for some of the disparity in excess deaths.

Perhaps if more attention had been paid to shielding in the first wave, Britain would have come through the pandemic with a lower death toll. 

This post has been updated.

New York Times Article Wrongly Claims Britain’s Second Wave Was More Deadly Than the First

In a recent article published in the New York Times, the science writer Zeynep Tufekci argues that the B.1.617.2 “Indian” variant appears to be more transmissible than even the B.1.1.7 “Kent” variant, and could therefore be “catastrophic” for parts of the world with low rates of vaccination. 

As a consequence, she argues, vaccine supplies should be “diverted now to where the crisis is the worst, if necessary away from the wealthy countries that have purchased most of the supply.”

While asking rich countries to share their vaccine supplies with poorer countries surely makes sense, one of the points Tufekci makes in support of her argument is based in error. Linking to Our World in Data’s chart of UK daily deaths, she writes:

Britain had more daily Covid-related deaths during the surge involving B.1.1.7 than in the first wave, when there was less understanding of how to treat the disease and far fewer therapeutics that later helped cut mortality rates. Even after the vaccination campaign began, B.1.1.7 kept spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated.

In other words, she’s saying that the higher mortality rate observed in Britain’s second wave, following the emergence of the “Kent” variant last November, constitutes evidence that new variants can pose serious and unforeseen challenges to national healthcare systems. 

However, it simply isn’t true that there were more COVID-related deaths “during the surge involving B.1.1.7”. As I’ve noted before, the chart showing deaths within 28 days of a positive test (to which Tufekci links) gives a very misleading impression of the relative severity of the first and second waves. 

The correct chart to use is the one the ONS published on 19 March, which plots age-adjusted excess mortality up to 12 February:

The peak weekly mortality in the first wave was 101% higher than the five-year average. Yet in the second wave, it was only 42% higher.

What’s more, cumulative excess mortality was 483% in the first wave, but only 328% in the second wave. Of course, the latter figure is an underestimate because the series stops in mid-February. However, extending the series forward wouldn’t make that much difference. Indeed, there were nine consecutive weeks of negative excess mortality in March, April and May.

Countries with low rates of vaccination should certainly remain vigilant with respect to new variants, but decisions need to be based on the best available data – and that means age-adjusted excess mortality wherever possible.

Fact Check: “Rishi Sunak Was the Main Person Responsible for Covid’s Second Wave”

The Times has published the latest instalment in Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott’s new book Failures of State, an exercise, it seems, in recording the Official Narrative.

In the excerpt the authors lay the blame for the second wave at the feet of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, quoting a SAGE source that he was “the main person who was responsible for the second wave”. The editors picked this incendiary quote as the title of the piece.

Calvert and Arbuthnott write:

The Government had been warned about the consequences of a second wave but, by the end of July, the scientists on SAGE were reporting that they had no confidence that R was not now above the one threshold. The Government’s limited room for manoeuvre was acknowledged by Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, at a hastily arranged press conference. “We have probably reached near the limits, or the limits, of what we can do in terms of opening up society,” he said.

The following Monday, August 3rd, was going to be the start of Eat Out to Help Out, come what may. According to a Conservative MP source, both Matt Hancock and Michael Gove were concerned about pressing ahead, but “the voices that were prevailing in government, for whatever reason, were those that were pushing a case that was based purely on economic recovery at all costs as fast as possible”.

By mid-August, positive tests had risen to more than a thousand a day. The Commons all-party coronavirus group wrote directly to the Prime Minister. “It is already clear that to minimise the risk of a second wave occurring . . . an urgent change in government approach is required,” said the letter.

What Second Wave? Total Deaths in UK and Sweden Now Average for 2021

New figures from the ONS released yesterday show that deaths in England and Wales are running 7.3% below the five-year average for the week ending April 30th. This is the eighth consecutive week that registered deaths have been below the five-year average.

While the UK’s winter epidemic has been over for some months now, Sweden, like much of the continent, has seen a spring wave.

ICUs have been busier in spring than they were in winter.

Striking Reduction in Lethality in ‘Second Waves’

The second waves have killed far fewer people than the first waves

Back in March we were facing a potentially apocalyptic scenario. An unknown and lethal disease, against which we had no immunity, was starting to run wild across the world with Europe apparently worst affected.

At minimum, health systems would be at risk of collapse and some forecasts of the potential death toll put it at half a million in the UK alone. Shortages of basic foods and other essentials stoked real fears of supply chain breakdown, hunger, social unrest and worse.

In response, our society and economy were effectively suspended. As a grateful public, we clapped and whooped in the street as we submitted ourselves to an unprecedented curtailment of our personal liberties. We accepted the inevitable temporary damage to our lives and livelihoods, and to our children’s education, as necessary in the face of such a grave threat.

This was partly because we were afraid, and partly because the goals and logic of public policy were clear. The message ran like this: “We can’t prevent the disease from running through the population until a vaccine is available. This will take until 2021, so in the mean-time we must slow its progress, flatten the curve and make sure that our health systems don’t become overwhelmed.”

Implicitly, once the main wave was successfully suppressed, we could progressively release restrictions and allow the disease to take its course at a manageable level until a vaccine arrived.

By early summer across the continent these objectives had been achieved. Thousands of hospital beds and ventilators lay empty as infections and deaths dropped away. Mounting global evidence showed the disease to be far less lethal than first feared. Treatments had improved dramatically with experience. Hospital PPE shortages had been solved. Social distancing measures were being applied. Mass testing was available and vaccine trials were underway.

Bit-by-bit, just a few elements of normal life were allowed to return.

At this stage it was foreseeable that these relaxations carried the risk of some increase in infection and also that vastly increased daily testing volumes would amplify this effect.

But given the progress achieved and the mounting evidence of massive harm to other forms of health, to the economy and to many other aspects of our society it was surely time to accept a degree of increased infection, as a necessary cost of a partial return to normal.

But somewhere along the line this sober and realistic approach to managing the disease post-first-wave and pre-vaccine seems to have been forgotten.

The second wave of reported Covid infections we have seen across Europe should be neither a surprise nor any great cause for alarm. But instead of a measured response, balancing all considerations and planning for the long term, we’ve been subjected to hasty and high-handed panic-measures. These range from the UK’s ruthless quarantine ambush of those who dared to take a holiday abroad to the Spanish government’s national edict to wear masks when anywhere outdoors, even when totally alone. Every day we were admonished with the threat of stricter measures unless infections return to somewhere near zero.

What justifies this new approach? Are we seeing a greater proportion of Covid deaths associated with these increases in reported infections?

No, we are not. Quite the reverse in fact. There is something fundamentally less dangerous about the recent waves of reported infections than the first.

The data from Spain illustrates the point. A clear second wave of reported infections is not matched by any increase in daily deaths, which remain close to zero.

It’s not just Spain. The data on the mortality percentage of the first wave vs the second and the pattern across Europe is striking.

As a side note, it’s interesting that the USA, that supposed beacon of public health dysfunctionality, has a lower overall mortality rate than most European countries and has had a similar sharp drop in recent weeks.

Governments in Europe urgently need to restore calm and balance to their decision making and get back in front of the situation. That means setting realistic public health objectives now as part of a coherent plan to minimise the emerging catastrophic harm to our overall health and wellbeing caused by the lockdown.

Latest News

Second Lockdown Underway. Fines Increased to £10,000

Will the madness never end? From September 22nd, areas across the North of England and the Midlands will see additional restrictions imposed. People won’t be allowed to socialise with anyone outside their households, cafes, pubs and restaurants will be restricted to table service only and, in some areas, restaurants, pubs and cinemas will be forced to close at 10pm. The Telegraph has more.

Local lockdowns are being put into place across England in a bid to stop a second wave of coronavirus, on top of the ‘rule of six’ that applies nationwide.

The Government imposed new restrictions on the areas of Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire on Friday, September 18.

Similar restrictions were also announced for Wolverhampton and Oadby & Wigston in the Midlands, along with the areas of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale in West Yorkshire.

From Tuesday, September 22 onwards, residents in these areas will no longer be allowed to socialise with other people outside of their own households or their support bubble in private homes and gardens.

Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only and restaurants, pubs, and cinemas are required to close between 10pm and 5am.

Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Bolton and parts of the North East are also among the areas under local lockdown.

The Government claims these additional restrictions are necessary because of the rising number of cases in these areas – Sunderland now has an incidence rate of 103 per 100,000, while South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle have a rate of 70. But, of course, 91% of these “cases” are likely to be false positives and of the remaining 9%, more than half won’t be infectious. (See yesterday’s post on Matt Hancock’s poor failure to understand the false positive rate for chapter and verse). The Telegraph has a comprehensive breakdown of what restrictions apply in your area.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports that people who fail to self-isolate will face fines of £10,000.

The Government is set to introduce fines of up to £10,000 for people who breach self-isolation rules as Britain steps up preparations for a second wave of COVID-19.

People on low incomes will be paid £500 to self-isolate at home in a “carrot and stick” approach to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The fines for breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 – in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel – but could increase to £10,000 for repeat offences.

Daily infections rose to a four-month high of 4,422 yesterday, and Boris Johnson is expected to make a television address to the nation on Tuesday to announce a further tightening of restrictions on ordinary life.

According to the Sunday Times, Boris is due to announce further nationwide restrictions in a televised address on Tuesday, with the only undecided thing being the extent to which they’ll apply to businesses. Hospitality industry leaders have warned the Government that the sector is on the verge of crisis, with almost a million jobs at risk.

Pub chains are calling on the chancellor to maintain his furlough scheme, which is due to run out at the end of October; extend the cut in VAT well into next year; and slash beer duty.

Some 900,000 workers in the hospitality sector are still on furlough, with many expected to lose their jobs next month.

Tim Martin, the boss of JD Wetherspoon, which employs 43,000 people in its pubs and hotels, said many smaller venues had perished after the first lockdown. He said further restrictions would be “even more devastating”.

And, of course, Rasputin is in the wings, urging the Prime Minister on to even greater heights of destruction. Disgraced ex-SAGE member Neil Ferguson popped up on the radio yesterday to warn Boris that if he doesn’t order a severe second lockdown immediately people will die.

“If we leave it another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-March. That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

As George Santayana said, those who cannot learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

Lies, Damned Lies and Health Statistics

Matt Hancock, Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance and Jonathan Van-Tam

I’m publishing an original piece today by Dr Mike Yeadon, one of the co-authors of the paper I published on September 9th about why a second wave was unlikely. As he says in this article, when he wrote that earlier paper he hadn’t quite grasped the full implications of the PCR test’s false positive rate (FPR), nor how unwilling Matt Hancock is to get to grips with the problem. When Mike appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s show on September 11th he urged her to ask the Heath Secretary what the FPR of the PCR is – and he reiterated this when he appeared again on September 16th. But it was only when he heard Matt Hancock’s reply to that question – asked by Julia on September 17th – that he was moved to write this piece. He is angry, to put it mildly – and anger isn’t an emotion he’s used to feeling as a dispassionate research scientist.

Here’s an extract.

Allow me to explain the impact of a false positive rate of 0.8% on Pillar 2. We return to our 10,000 people who’ve volunteered to get tested, and the expected ten with virus (0.1% prevalence or 1:1000) have been identified by the PCR test. But now we’ve to calculate how many false positives are to accompanying them. The shocking answer is 80. 80 is 0.8% of 10,000. That’s how many false positives you’d get every time you were to use a Pillar 2 test on a group of that size.

The effect of this is, in this example, where 10,000 people have been tested in Pillar 2, could be summarised in a headline like this: “90 new cases were identified today” (10 real positive cases and 80 false positives). But we know this is wildly incorrect. Unknown to the poor technician, there were in this example, only 10 real cases. 80 did not even have a piece of viral RNA in their sample. They are really false positives.

I’m going to explain how bad this is another way, back to diagnostics. If you’d submitted to a test and it was positive, you’d expect the doctor to tell you that you had a disease, whatever it was testing for. Usually, though, they’ll answer a slightly different question: “If the patient is positive in this test, what is the probability they have the disease?” Typically, for a good diagnostic test, the doctor will be able to say something like 95% and you and they can live with that. You might take a different, confirmatory test, if the result was very serious, like cancer. But in our Pillar 2 example, what is the probability a person testing positive in Pillar 2 actually has COVID-19? The awful answer is 11% (10 divided by 80 + 10). The test exaggerates the number of covid-19 cases by almost ten-fold (90 divided by 10). Scared yet? That daily picture they show you, with the ‘cases’ climbing up on the right-hand side? Its horribly exaggerated. Its not a mistake, as I shall show.

Earlier in the summer, the ONS showed the virus prevalence was a little lower, 1 in 2000 or 0.05%. That doesn’t sound much of a difference, but it is. Now the Pillar 2 test will find half as many real cases from our notional 10,000 volunteers, so 5 real cases. But the flaw in the test means it will still find 80 false positives (0.8% of 10,000). So its even worse. The headline would be “85 new cases identified today”. But now the probability a person testing positive has the virus is an absurdly low 6% (5 divided by 80 + 5). Earlier in the summer, this same test exaggerated the number of COVID-19 cases by 17-fold (85 divided by 5). Its so easy to generate an apparently large epidemic this way. Just ignore the problem of false positives. Pretend its zero. But it is never zero.

This test is fatally flawed and MUST immediately be withdrawn and never used again in this setting unless shown to be fixed. The examples I gave are very close to what is actually happening every day as you read this.

This piece is a blockbuster. Very much worth reading in full.

Hancock Claims Hospital Admissions for Covid Doubling Every Eight Days. Really?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEqm0ldWf-8&feature=emb_logo

As an addendum to Mike’s piece, I want to draw attention to something else Matt Hancock said when he was interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Thursday. He told her we were facing a moment of national crisis because of the exponential rise in hospital admissions for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, the number of people in hospital has doubled every eight days in the last few weeks,” he said.

Really, Secretary of State?

If you go to the Government’s COVID-19 dashboard and look at the data for daily Covid admissions to English hospitals (see below), it increased from 143 to 199 in the eight-day period to September 17th, the day Hancock was speaking. That’s not “doubling”. What about daily admissions for the whole of the UK? It increased from 196 on Sept 10th to 241 on Sept 17th. Again, not “doubling”.

What about the last few weeks? Let’s go back 32 days from September 17th (4 x 8), which takes us to August 17th. There were 46 Covid admissions to English hospitals that day, according to the dashboard. If that figure doubled every eight days in the period leading up to September 17th, it would have reached 96 at the end of the first eight days, 184 at the end of the second, 368 at the end of the third and 736 at the end of the fourth. In fact, the number on the 17th was 199.

Ditto for the whole of the UK. On August 17th, that number was 96. If that doubled every eight days, the total on September 17th would have been 1,536. In fact, it was 241.

Either Matt Hancock is looking at different data to that on the Government’s COVID-19 dashboard, or…

Stop Press: This tweet from The Real Normal Podcast neatly explains the point I made yesterday in my blog post the other misleading thing Matt Hancock said on Julie Hartley-Brewer’s programme.

https://twitter.com/RealNormalPod/status/1307257907017383937?s=20

Belgian Doctors Against Lockdown

A group of Belgian doctors have written an open letter to their Government arguing there is no medical justification for any further Covid restrictions – the medical evidence just doesn’t support them. This is the latest anti-lockdown broadside by a group of doctors, with similar groups in America, Germany and Australia. Dr Malcolm Kendrick and I are working on a UK version. More news on that soon.

We, Belgian doctors and health professionals, wish to express our serious concern about the evolution of the situation in the recent months surrounding the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We call on politicians to be independently and critically informed in the decision-making process and in the compulsory implementation of corona-measures. We ask for an open debate, where all experts are represented without any form of censorship. After the initial panic surrounding COVID-19, the objective facts now show a completely different picture – there is no medical justification for any emergency policy anymore.

The current crisis management has become totally disproportionate and causes more damage than it does any good.

We call for an end to all measures and ask for an immediate restoration of our normal democratic governance and legal structures and of all our civil liberties.

The list of signatories is impressive. Worth reading in full.

Police Baton Charge Anti-Lockdown Protestors

Is that James Delingpole under that scrum?

Riot Police launched a completely unnecessary baton charge against a group of anti-lockdown protestors in Trafalgar Square yesterday. Breitbart has more.

Scuffles broke out Saturday as police moved in to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in London’s central Trafalgar Square. Some protesters formed blockades to stop officers from making arrests, and traffic was brought to a halt in the busy area.

The ‘Resist and Act for Freedom’ rally saw dozens of people holding banners and placards such as one reading “This is now Tyranny” and chanting “Freedom!” Police said there were “pockets of hostility and outbreaks of violence towards officers”.

“Outbreaks of violence”? Interesting contrast there with the way the BBC described the infamous BLM riot on June 7th: “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.”

So let me get this straight. When large groups of protestors gather in Central London to proclaim their allegiance with a Neo-Marxist group that wants to defund the police, end the nuclear family and dismantle capitalism, the police fall to one knee to show their respect. But when a small group of protestors gather in Central London to protest about the suspension of our civil liberties, the police baton charge them.

We’re going to have to start calling the Prime Minister Boris Jons-Un.

Are Schools Allowed to Punish Children for Making Covid Jokes?

Readers will recall a story in the Independent on August 31st saying that a school had threatened to send its pupils home for “inappropriate Covid humour”.

The Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings, east Sussex, set out a list of coronavirus “red lines” that will result in fixed-term exclusions for pupils breaching them.

The academy says “humorous, inappropriate comments or statements” related to Covid-19 and “purposeful physical contact with any other person” are off-limits and will risk the child being sent home.

But is that allowed? Or could a parent whose child finds themselves on the naughty step for, say, sharing the above meme, complain to Ofsted?

At the Free Speech Union, we asked one of the members of our Legal Advisory Council who’s an expert on education law to look into it for us. You can read his full note here, but this was his conclusion:

It is reasonable to argue that joking has wellbeing benefits, as a normal part of social interaction – joking is a healthy coping mechanism. If preventing everyday humour is likely to create rather than prevent stress, then the policy is self-defeating. And placing a child in isolation for making a benign joke seems particularly harsh, given that many children will have spent the last six months in a form of isolation and may have a need for social contact.

Worth reading in full.

Sir Graham Brady Leads Rebellion Against Renewal of Coronavirus Act

Sceptical Conservative MP and Chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady is leading a rebellion against the Government. The Sunday Telegraph has more.

Senior Tories are planning to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposing limits on people’s freedoms without scrutiny by forcing Parliament to have the final say on new lockdown measures, the Telegraph can reveal.

MPs vote next week on “the renewal of temporary provisions” of lockdown measures under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to reauthorise the Government’s use of the powers.

Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, is planning to use this opportunity to amend this legislation to require ministers to put all new measures to a vote of MPs first.

The move will effectively impose a “Parliamentary lock” on any future restrictions, amid widespread fury among senior MPs and peers that restrictions have been imposed on Britons without a vote.

Sir Graham said: “In March, Parliament gave the Government sweeping emergency powers at a time when Parliament was about to go into recess and there was realistic concern that NHS care capacity might be overwhelmed by COVID-19.

“We now know that the NHS coped well with the challenge of the virus and Parliament has been sitting largely since April. There is now no justification for ministers ruling by emergency powers without reference to normal democratic processes.

“It is essential that going forward all of these massively important decisions for family life, and affecting people’s jobs and businesses should be exercised with proper supervision and control.”

This move follows widespread anger among backbench MPs on all sides of the House – as well as the Speaker – that Matt Hancock introduced the “Rule of Six” via a last-minute Statutory Instrument, leaving no time for a debate about the new restrictions in Parliament.

If the Prime Minister suffers a series of defeats in the House of Commons over the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis, it’s the beginning of the end for him, surely?

A Philosopher’s Reflections on the Second Wave

Would Bertrand Russell have been a lockdown sceptic?

A Professor of Philosophy at a Russell Group university has sent us some interesting thoughts about the second wave – from a philosophical point of view. They were prompted by listening to Neil Ferguson on the Today programme yesterday morning.

Throughout the UK, it is now fashionable to proclaim – with an air of authority and alarm – that “the second wave is here!” or, alternatively, “the second wave is coming!” But how should those of us who are not yet convinced by such claims respond to them? Proponents of the orthodox COVID-19 narrative sometimes display a curious reluctance to contemplate alternative possibilities or engage in critical debate. Three intellectual shortcomings, which I will describe in what follows, play key roles in facilitating this imperviousness to critique. When trying to understand, evaluate, and critically engage with talk of the “second wave”, it is helpful to keep these shortcomings in mind.

Make your claims unfalsifiable

Consider, for example, the claim that lockdowns and other measures “push down the curve” of infections. If the infection rate falls after some measure is introduced, causation is prematurely inferred from correlation: two things happened at around the same time and so one of them caused the other. However, if infections instead continue to rise, it is maintained that they would have risen even further had this measure not been introduced. And, if comparisons with other countries prove problematic, it is asserted that the relevant populations behave in different ways and what has worked elsewhere would not have worked here. The same pattern of reasoning is used to justify the introduction and continuing use of non-medical facemasks by the general public. Comparisons with other countries are endorsed only when it suits. Furthermore, little indication is provided of what could even count as evidence against their ongoing use. When it comes to second peaks, a popular approach is to be non-specific about the nature and timing of what is predicted to happen. If you don’t make clear what will happen or when, you can keep announcing that “the second peak is coming” for as long as you like, without risk of falsification.

Identify your preferred intervention with moral virtue

The challenging tasks of evaluating evidence and reaching conclusions via rational debate can both be avoided by instead identifying the endorsement of a particular measure with the possession of moral virtue. This is most visible in the case of facemasks: the masked face becomes the embodiment of caring for others. To wear the mask is to care, while to question the practice is to be selfish and uncaring. By immersing oneself in a performance where “mask = morally good” and “no mask = morally bad”, one can circumvent the issue of what one ought to believe on the basis of available evidence. The “epistemic ought” is replaced with a table-thumping “moral ought” that silences dissent. A similar move is also used in second-peak talk. The second peak is coming because some people, especially young people, behaved in morally irresponsible ways (by going out and having some fun over the summer). They failed to follow the Covidian doctrine of abstinence and now we are all being punished for their sins. When social restrictions are presented as an integral part of a situation brought about by others’ immoral conduct, attention is diverted from the question of whether or not those restrictions are actually appropriate.

Say things that are vague or meaningless

There is a difference between a claim that is meaningful, but impervious to counter-evidence, and a claim that is unfalsifiable because it is either far too vague or outright meaningless. For instance, it means something to say that “lockdowns push down the curve of infections”. However, suppose one asserts simply that “lockdowns work”. If success-conditions (specifying what it is for something to work or not work in this context) have not been made clear, then we cannot determine whether the claim is true or false, as we don’t even know which states of affairs would make it true or false.

Second-wave talk is especially prone to vagueness, to the point where it is frequently unclear what – if anything – is being said. Hence, although a sceptic might be inclined to start by questioning the truth of certain claims, that would be premature. First of all, we need to figure out what, if anything, is meant by those claims. By way of analogy, suppose I say that a Wibbly-wobbly is coming to get me. When you ask what it will do, I say that I don’t have a clue. When you ask what a Wibbly-wobbly is, what it looks like, and how it behaves, I say that I have no idea. By then, it would be reasonable to suspect that my utterance is not just questionable, but meaningless. To avoid mistaking a similarly empty claim about second waves for a debatable position, we can start by asking questions like these:

Is a second wave defined in terms of recorded cases, hospitalizations, fatalities, or some combination of the three? Where tests are concerned, is the presence or absence of a second wave determined by the number or positive test results, the percentage of positive results, or by a more sophisticated, multi-faceted analysis? What distinguishes a full-blown second wave from a smaller increase in cases that does not quite meet the criteria for wave-hood? How rapid must an increase be and how long must it last for in order to count as a second wave? If a wave happens in one part of the country and then a wave happens in another part of the country, is the latter a second wave? If the crest of an initial wave is lowered by social restrictions, which are then lifted, is what happens afterwards a second wave or a continuation of the first wave?

Vague and sometimes conflicting references to “the second wave” are to be found wherever we look. How many times have we been told that the second wave is here and then, shortly afterwards, that the second wave is coming (or vice versa)? Unless the term is being used in two different ways, we cannot have both. And consider the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that “the UK is now seeing a second wave”, that we knew this was coming, and that we are about six weeks behind Spain and France. If the comparison with Spain and France is to be endorsed, then this cannot be the “autumn wave” that others are talking about, where the latter is conceived of in terms of a seasonal pattern that is well-established in other respiratory viruses. The daily counts of positive PCR test results in France and Spain started rising during July, not with the onset of autumn. The difference is a potentially important one, which has a bearing on determining the appropriate response. If the alleged “second wave” is better thought of as a continuation of the first wave, then serious consideration should be given to the possibility that we are in fact very close to the place at which Sweden has already arrived. What is needed is careful attention to the evidence and the encouragement of critical discussion that welcomes disagreement as a path to truth, not vague, sloppy talk that invokes a sense of impending doom.

Anyone who says that the second wave is either here or about to hit, but cannot offer adequate responses to questions concerning what a second wave actually consists in, is being insufficiently clear. And anyone who dismisses such questions altogether or displays indifference to them probably isn’t saying anything meaningful. To assert “it’s the second wave!”, while providing no criteria for distinguishing between “a second wave” and “not a second wave” is to assert nothing. I am reminded of a quote from Macbeth: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Nevertheless, like certain emotional performances, it can still serve to evoke, sustain, and heighten fear in others.

Critic Subscription Offer

Michael Mosbacher, the Publisher and Co-Editor of the Critic, a magazine that’s been very critical of the Government’s handling of the crisis since the beginning, has come up with a special subscription offer for readers of Lockdown Sceptics.

The Critic is delighted to offer Lockdown Sceptics‘ readers a year’s subscription to Britain’s new magazine of ideas for open-minded readers – for £20, less than half price. Just click here to take advantage of this offer.

The Critic was at the forefront of questioning the rationale for the lockdown and will continue to do so – with contributions robustly challenging the Government’s approach by Toby Young, Alistair Haimes, Patrick Fagan, Laura Dodsworth and Christopher Snowdon. The Critic is willing to ask the questions that others find too difficult – or too dangerous – to ask. We take politics, culture and the arts seriously – but do not neglect antiques, food, fashion, gardening, and shooting.

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Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Another False Positive” by IamFleX.

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. But today, instead of giving you another example, I thought I’d flag up one of the risks of pumping out this virtue-signalling balls, particularly if your institution is the recipient of taxpayers’ money.

The US Education Department has opened an investigation into Princeton University after the President published an “open letter” in which he said racism was “embedded” in the institution. The New York Times has more.

The Trump administration said this week that it was investigating whether Princeton has violated federal civil rights law, suggesting that a public expression of contrition for a history of “systemic racism” at the university was an acknowledgment of illegal behavior.

“You admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist,” federal officials wrote in a letter to the school on Wednesday.

The investigation is the latest escalation in the administration’s campaign against the Ivy League for its policies on matters of race. Last month, the Justice Department accused Yale of violating federal civil rights law through its admissions policies, and it has supported legal efforts to end affirmative action at Harvard.

In their letter to Princeton this week, officials cited a public statement made this month by the school’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, in which he charged university leaders with developing plans “to combat systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.”

Invoking the protests and national reckoning that followed the killings of Black people by police officers this year, Mr. Eisgruber announced a series of policy initiatives to diversify Princeton’s faculty and make the campus more welcoming to underrepresented groups.

He said racism persists at Princeton and in 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.”

In its letter informing Princeton of the investigation, which was earlier reported on Thursday by the Washington Examiner, the Education Department said that “based on its admitted racism,” Princeton may have received more than $75 million in taxpayer funding under false pretenses since Mr. Eisgruber became president in 2013.

This is a spectacular piece of trolling from the Troll King himself. I wonder if our Department for Education could be persuaded to carry out similar investigations of British universities who’ve issued pro forma BLM solidarity statements, lacerating themselves for being “systemically racist”?

“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).

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.

Shameless Begging Bit

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And Finally…

Critical Care Figures Cast Doubt on ‘Second Wave’

by Neville Hodgkinson

Charts and graphs can sometimes convey more of what is going on than millions of words. Here is one such, from the latest report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre. It shows how many patients, as a daily average, were in critical care for each month over the past five years. The figures cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The vertical columns show the monthly totals for 2020, and the four horizontal lines show the totals for the previous four years.

[The report can be found at this site, the file is here, and the chart is on page 15]

We can see clearly that after the huge spike that occurred in April, caused by COVID-19’s arrival, the monthly totals are either about the same, or less, than in all the previous years.

That includes October, when the UK was already being told we were in a second wave of the epidemic and must face drastic new restrictions in our lives to save the NHS from being overrun.

The October figure shows an increase in patients in critical care whose illness was attributed to Covid, but nowhere near that of the April peak. And it hasn’t continued to rise: latest figures show a decline in both admissions and deaths where Covid was involved.

Total deaths are running at about a fifth higher than the five-year average, though how much of that is attributable to the massive disruption of people’s lives caused by the lockdown, or to the virus, is questionable.

About 1,800 people die each day in England and Wales currently, and out of those about 430 are said to involve Covid. This is a far cry from the prediction of up to 4,000 deaths a day by this month, made in one of the slides shown by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief medical Officer Chris Whitty when they explained the necessity for a second national lockdown.

The figures have immense implications for Government policy. They call into question the value of the restrictions that are still in place, which are continuing to damage the wellbeing of millions.

They also provide powerful support for the case, now being pressed with an increasing sense of urgency by doctors and scientists in many parts of the world, that there is no justification for rushing out Covid vaccines, at enormous expense and all carrying some element of risk because of their experimental nature and the short-term testing involved.

These scientists say we are now in a “pseudo-epidemic”, caused by misinterpretation of results from widespread use of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) genetic test for the virus.

One of the problems is that the test can identify genetic material from other coronaviruses. Since these also circulate more frequently in winter, they may account for some of the rise in positive COVID-19 test results. Yet the symptoms may be no worse than the common cold.

These pre-existing viruses may also be a contributory cause of death in some of the most vulnerable people, but since nobody was testing for them, their contribution previously went unnoticed.

What’s more, if the test is not handled properly – as has been shown to be the case with inexperienced staff in some hastily commissioned testing centres – it can throw up false-positive results for a variety of other reasons, including laboratory contamination, and detection of COVID-19 genetic sequences that are genuine, but which no longer signal active infection.

All this helps to explain why thousands of new ‘cases’ are being reported daily, while the numbers of critical care patients remain stable, and deaths show simple seasonal increases.

It is actually quite wrong to call them cases, as many of those being given this damaging label have no symptoms of illness, and may not represent a risk of infecting anyone else.

How has this sorry state of affairs come about?

I found it inexplicable for a while that governments globally, with very few exceptions, were following such similar, hugely damaging strategies in response to the arrival of the new virus. As far back as last March, world-class experts such as John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, were warning that “with lockdowns of months, if not years, life largely stops, short-term and long-term consequences are entirely unknown, and billions, not just millions, of lives may eventually be at stake.”

I suspect now that a key reason for the panic was high-level knowledge that the virus was a chimera – a product of so-called “gain-of-function” genetic engineering at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, part-financed by America’s National Institutes of Health, making it both more infectious and more damaging than existing coronaviruses. Despite very quick denials from the Chinese Government and others claiming a natural origin, considerable evidence points in this direction

Should that be the case, governments would regard it as against the public interest to be open about the fact, because of the panic that could cause. But could the panic have been any worse than what we have seen?

Now we know for sure that the virus, while capable of being deadly, is not the threat that might have been feared, an immediate review of the entire COVID-19 strategy is needed, with much greater openness about every aspect of this tragic episode.

Neville Hodgkinson is former medical and science correspondent of the Daily Mail and Sunday Times.

The PCR False Positive Pseudo-Epidemic

by Dr Mike Yeadon

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance give a Coronavirus Data Briefing in 10 Downing Street on September 21st. Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.


How a novel virus met a partly-immune population

In Spring 2020 a novel coronavirus swept across the world: novel, but related to other viruses. In the UK, unknown at the time, around 50% of the population were already immune. The evidence for this is unequivocal and arose due to prior infection by common cold-causing coronaviruses (of which four are endemic). This prior immunity has been confirmed around the world by top cellular immunologists. There is even a very recent paper from Public Health England on the topic of prior immunity and a wealth of other evidence from studies on memory T-cells, studies on household transmission and on antibodies.

Because of the extent of the prior immunity, and as a result of heterogeneity of contacts, once only a low percentage of the population, perhaps as low as 10-20% had been infected, “herd immunity” was established. This is why daily deaths, which were rising exponentially, turned abruptly and began to fall, uninterrupted by street protests, the return to work, the reopening of pubs and crowded beaches during the summer. (See this explainer by the data scientist Joel Smalley.)

Immunity to ordinary respiratory viruses occurs mainly through T-cells which ‘take a picture of the invader’ at a molecular level, ‘reproduce’ it on certain immune cells and essentially ‘never forget a face’. This T-cell immunity is robust and durable. Those exposed to the highly related SARS virus in 2003 still have this immunity 17 years later. In relation to SARS-CoV-2, the pattern of immunity to date is identical and after around 800 million infections across the world, there is no convincing evidence for significant levels of re-infection. Not only are those who’ve been infected and have now recovered immune (they cannot get ill again with the same virus), but importantly they do not participate in transmission. (See my article on what SAGE got wrong for Lockdown Sceptics.) Furthermore, because the immune response is diverse, a proportion of them will also be immune to novel but similar viruses in the future.

In Spring, however, this virus did kill or hasten the end for approximately 40,000 vulnerable people, who were mostly old (median age 83, which is longer than that cohort’s life expectancy when born) and many of whom had multiple other medical conditions. There were some rare and very unfortunate younger people who also died, but age is clearly the strongest risk factor.

But due to extraordinary errors in modelling created by unaccountable academics at Imperial College, the country was told to expect over a half a million deaths. Three Nobel prize-winning scientists wrote to that modelling team in February correcting their errors. This was done confidentially. This expert, third-party estimate was remarkably accurate – it predicted that there would be a total of 40k deaths from COVID-19. I believe this is in fact correct and is what has happened. While I have no proficiency in modelling, I can distinguish predictions that are biological plausible from those which are literally incredible. When inputs to a model are wrong or missing, their outputs cannot be trusted. The Imperial model made the extreme assumption that there was zero prior immunity in the population or social contact heterogeneity.

It is now appreciated that this virus is less of a threat to those under 70 than seasonal flu, even with a flu vaccine, which routinely provides <50% effectiveness and usually much less.

The ease with which humans develop immunity to this virus is striking. Incidentally, it is this immune adeptness which has probably played an important role in why, against prior pessimism, many vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 have apparently ‘worked’ (though there is much to criticise about how efficacy has been defined, because a reduction in the propensity to become PCR positive has not previously been regarded as a leading indicator of the degree to which a vaccine will protect a population against severe illness).

Available evidence suggests that herd immunity at a national level (in England) was attained as early as May. (Joel Smalley again.) There have been no alternative explanations promulgated for the force which bore down on infections and deaths during the largely unmitigated spreading of the virus early in Spring. As an example of evidence that we are at herd immunity, London is relatively peaceful in relation to the virus now, having been the national epicentre in Spring, with hundreds of deaths daily in the capital.

Government actions have been nothing but peculiar from the very beginning

In any other year, that would be the end of the tale. Neither the existence of prior immunity nor that herd immunity can be readily reached without us noticing are new.

What was new was the belief that forcing citizens to run and hide from a respiratory virus with greater contagiousness than ‘flu was other than a fool’s errand. Acts of Parliament giving the executive a degree of power more suited to a war, and with it, a budget 10 times larger than any previous such emergency, were also deemed necessary, none of these being justified by the situation or by science. (See Jonathan Sumption make this point.)

We were invited to “Save the NHS” by not attending hospitals or seeing our doctors: soon both were heavily restricted and have remained so ever since. Most corrosively, broadcasters were and still are heavily constrained from free expression by innocent-sounding Ofcom guidelines.

I am of the view that the effect of these guidelines approximates censorship. When scientific debate is stifled, people die. Science requires the airing of opinions and debate to allow the evolution of ideas. Censorship has meant that nothing has been learnt, no model adjusted and errors compounded.
The Government was told to expect a ‘second wave’, and a huge one at that. This was mystifying. Virus don’t do waves and no reason to expect an exception on a truly unprecedented scale has ever been forthcoming. I hasten to distinguish what I have termed a secondary ripple from what SAGE means by a ‘second wave’.

The secondary ripple term recognises that not everyone will have been infected by mid-summer. As an important aside, I’ve invited many to consider how long it takes for an influenza epidemic, which we experience most years, to criss-cross the country before apparently burning out, only to occur the next year, because it’s one of the few respiratory viruses which mutates so quickly that, by the time a year has gone by, it’s sufficiently different from what our immune systems have seen before that it can wreak brief havoc upon us once again. The answer to that time question is variously given as three to four months.

I ask readers to consider how long might it be expected to take for a more contagious respiratory virus like SARS-CoV-2 to thoroughly criss-cross the country. It seems hard to credit that with taking longer than four months. We know the virus was in the UK at least by February 2020 (potentially earlier) and so by June it’s not at all unlikely that it had travelled almost everywhere. It has been argued that perhaps lockdown was very effective and so many people will still be susceptible, as SAGE claims. We know that is not correct. Lockdown was started far too late to repress the spread of the virus, as even Professor Whitty agreed in giving testimony to a parliamentary select committee in the summer. As he said, the lockdown began after the peak of infection – the outbreak was already in retreat by Mar 23rd.

Remember also that just because we were in ‘lockdown’ doesn’t mean much changed when it came to the transmission of the virus. Many people continued to go to work, other people still shopped almost every day, supply chains for all essential goods continued with few interruptions. Hospitals were open and, for the most part, extremely busy, as were care homes. The virus travelled along these routes and did not need to travel far, having reached every major urban centre before anyone even thought of locking us down or any other measures. When lockdown was lifted, there wasn’t the slightest alteration in the long, slow decline in the number of daily deaths. Personally, I don’t think there’s any evidence that the spring lockdown achieved anything in terms of saving lives from SARS-CoV-2, but there is evidence it contributed to some deaths, including deaths from non-COVID-19 causes. Reflecting back, months after, its main effect was to condition us to accept SAGE’s guidance as this was followed by the Government and echoed by media. This doesn’t mean locking people down is a sensible policy. The onus remains on its advocates to persuade us that it is, and I’m afraid they’ve not persuaded me.

So, no: there’s no good reason to think that large proportions of the nation were spared exposure to the virus as a result of the first lockdown. But it is true that some regions did experience less deaths in spring than others and while some are almost certainly due to more extensive prior immunity, others probably were incompletely exposed. That’s what I mean by secondary ripple: as transmission was increased by cooler weather, a limited amount of disease did reappear. But this was always going to be local, self-limiting and under no circumstances a public health emergency for a city, let alone a nation. This secondary ripple started at the beginning of September and was over by the end of October. Symptom-tracking data, NHS triage data and notified disease data all support that hypothesis. After this ripple, immunity levels in the underexposed pockets of the country have been topped up to herd immunity levels. From now on, COVID-19 outbreaks will be a feature of winter but will not be able to spread beyond small outbreaks.

No, what SAGE meant by a ‘second wave’ was a really big one, with twice as many deaths as in spring 2020. This is completely without precedent.

Planning for a ‘second wave’ might have led to its very creation

Viruses don’t do waves (beyond the secondary ripple concept as outlined above). I have repeatedly asked to see the trove of scientific papers used to predict a ‘second wave’ and to build a model to compute its likely size and timing. They have never been forthcoming. It’s almost as if there is no such foundational literature. I’m sure SAGE can put us right on this.

The post-WW1 “Spanish flu” appears to be all there is where it comes to evidence of waves. Most scholars accept that what most likely happened was that more than one infectious agent was involved. It was 102 years ago and no molecular biological techniques indicate multiple waves of a single agent then or anywhere else. In any case, that was influenza. There have been no examples of multiple waves since and the most recent novel coronavirus with any real spread (SARS) performed one wave each in each geographical region affected. Why a model with a ‘second wave’ in it was even built, I cannot guess. It seems completely illogical to me. Worse, as far as the public can discern, the model fails to account for the unequivocally demonstrated population prior immunity, to which must be added the recently-acquired immunity arising from the spring wave. This is why I’m reasserting what I’ve been argued for months – a ‘second wave’ cannot happen and must, perforce, not be happening as described

Despite the absence of any evidence for a ‘second wave’ – and the evidence of absence of waves for this class of respiratory virus – there was an across-the-board, multi-media platform campaign designed to plant the idea of a ‘second wave’ in the minds of everyone. This ran continually for many weeks. It was successful: a poll of GPs showed almost 86% of them stated that they expected a ‘second wave’ this winter.

As research for this piece, I sought the earliest mention of a ‘second wave’. Profs Heneghan and Jefferson, on Apr 30th, noted that we were being warned to expect a ‘second wave’ and that the PM had, on Apr 27th, warned of a ‘second wave’. The Professors cautioned anyone making confident predictions of a ‘second’ and ‘third wave’ that the historical record doesn’t provide support so to do.

I looked for mentions by the BBC of a ‘second wave’. The following report was on June 24th and at least two of the three scientists interviewed were SAGE members. The strange thing though is that SAGE minutes (brought into the public domain by Simon Dolan’s judicial review) early in the year made no mention of a sizeable ‘second wave’. Not one. On February 10th, there was a mention of multiple waves for post-WW1 flu. On Mar 3rd and 6th, there is mention of a single SARS-CoV-2 wave with most (95%) of the impact early on. What looks to be the final document, Mar 29th, still just refers to one wave. This is what history and immunology teaches. So, what happened later in the year to alter the clearly held view of SAGE that the virus would manifest itself in a single wave? We need SAGE to tell us.

PCR is a powerful tool, but has weaknesses when used on an industrial scale

Despite this bothersome oddity about a ‘second wave’ and almost as if there was a plan for one, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing infrastructure in the UK began to be reshaped.

PCR is a quite remarkable technique, which has unparalleled ability to find truly tiny quantities of a fragment of a genetic sequence, right down to the level of finding a single, broken fragment of a virus in a messy biological sample. There are notable limitations, well known to those who’ve personally used PCR in a research context. The most important one is its propensity to suffer from contamination, and the integrity of a PCR is very easily destroyed by invisible levels of contamination even in the hands of an expert, working alone and on a small handful of samples.

This is a good moment to mention that the PCR test protocol for SARS-CoV-2, which everyone in the world is now using, was invented in the lab of Prof Drosten in Berlin. The scientific paper in which the method was described was published in January 2020, two days after the manuscript was submitted. One of the authors of the paper is on the editorial board of the journal that published it. There is concern that this extremely important article, which contains a PCR test protocol that has been used to run hundreds of millions of PCR tests across the world, including the UK, was not peer-reviewed. No peer review report has been released, despite many requests to do so. Furthermore, as a method, it contains numerous technical weaknesses, some of which are serious and highly complex. Suffice to say that a very detailed dissection of the paper and of the Drosten protocol has been made by Drs Borger and Malhotra, experienced and concerned molecular biologists. A group of other medics and scientists (of which I am one) have put their names to a letter, which accompanies the dissection, to the whole editorial board of the journal, Eurosurveillance, demanding that the paper be retracted. This was submitted on Nov 26th.

In addition, the Portuguese high court determined two weeks ago that this PCR test is not a reliable way to determine the health status or infectiousness of citizens, nor to restrain their movements. Other countries are also receiving legal challenges, one being submitted earlier this week in Germany by Reiner Fuellmich, a lawyer who successfully sued VW in relation to diesel emissions (The YouTube video in which Fuellmich sets out the principal points of concern about the misuse of PCR has been removed). I am aware of other legal challenges being assembled in further countries, including Italy, Switzerland and South Africa. With the scientific validity of this test under severe challenges, I believe it must immediately be withdrawn from use.

There are deep concerns internationally about the reliability and selectivity of this PCR test protocol and this should be borne in mind through the rest of this article.

NHS labs ran PCR competently in spring

In spring, the relatively constrained amount of PCR testing was at least conducted independently by very many, experienced labs and I am of the view that it was trustworthy, reaching more than adequate numbers of tests by the end of May (50k per day). Now it’s being run in newly-established large, private labs and most of their current staff are far less experienced than those in the NHS labs. We have no idea why this has happened. Regardless of any concerns about testing capacity, the need was and should have been expected only to be of limited duration. Remember, viruses don’t do waves and we’d already been fully exposed to the virus. Of course, it was argued that “a second wave was coming”, so we’d need more capacity. But as I’ve already shown, the certainty of expectation of a ‘second wave’ was bizarre and unaccountable.

So why was PCR testing removed from NHS labs? One answer is because they didn’t have the capacity to cope with testing requirements for a ‘second wave’. But this is circular: it was simply impossible to claim with certainty that there’d be such a wave. Also, it’s not true that the NHS labs couldn’t cope. As a staff member there pointed out: “I want to know why the new super-labs have been set up, because if they gave the NHS labs the (consumables) resources they could easily do the tests. Our lab has been ready for ages to do large numbers of tests. We have the equipment and we have staff. We lack only the test kits and these are not available to any new labs, either.”

It wasn’t just NHS lab staff who were perturbed by the move. I’m quoting extensively from this article because it contains crucial information. The President of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), the leading professional body in the field of biomedical science, said:

It concerns me when I see significant investments being made in mass testing centres that are planning to conduct 75,000 of the 100,000 tests a day. These facilities would be a welcome resource and take pressure off the NHS if the issue around testing was one of capacity. However, we are clear that it is a global supply shortage holding biomedical scientists back, not a lack of capacity. The profession is now rightly concerned that introducing these mass testing centres may only serve to increase competition for what are already scarce supplies and that NHS testing numbers will fall if their laboratories are competing with the testing centres for COVID-19 testing kits and reagents in a ‘Wild West testing’ scenario. The UK must avoid this for the sake of patient safety. It is clear that two testing streams now exist: one delivered by highly qualified and experienced Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered biomedical scientists working in heavily regulated United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) accredited laboratories, the other delivered mainly by volunteer unregistered staff in unaccredited laboratories that have been established within a few weeks. This has presented another key concern – in that we have not been involved in assuring the quality of the testing centres and are now being kept at arm’s length from their processes, even when they exist close to large NHS laboratories.

On proof reading this article, I was struck at how powerful the case was for keeping things under the quality control of the NHS. What could the motives against this sensible plan have possibly been?

These testing facilities were presumably expected to be temporary. If so, why would it make sense to spend large sums of money and to displace equipment and consumables, which were the sole key missing item when the Lighthouse super-labs were announced, instead of using existing, keen, accredited staff who knew what they were doing? Those new labs would be as limited by consumables as the NHS labs.

We never really needed mass testing of those without symptoms

Arguably, we would never have been short on capacity if we had limited the testing to those with symptoms. The only reason one might even consider mass testing of those without symptoms is if you were convinced that those without symptoms were significant sources of transmission. This has always seemed to me to be a very tenuous assumption. Specifically, respiratory viruses are spread by droplets of secretions and generally the expulsion of these is linked to the symptoms of infection – coughing in particular. Humans have evolved over millions of years to recognise threats to health by close observation of the health status of others. It works well. We’re familiar with avoiding those with flu-like symptoms in winter and behaving responsibly by staying away from work and vulnerable people when we are symptomatic. The burden of proof rests with those claiming something very different in the case of SARS-CoV-2 to show conclusively that asymptomatic people are indeed major sources of transmission. I don’t think that case has at all been made. The medical literature on this is contradictory but almost all the papers claiming such transmission originated in China.

Consequently, there is simply no need to get into the business of mass testing the population. Indeed, as we will see, such mass testing brings with it, when using PCR as the method, a severe risk of what we call a “PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic”. This could never happen if we were not using PCR mass testing of the mostly well. So, for whatever reason and against all historical precedent and immunological reasoning, a major initiative was launched with the goal of reaching 500,000 tests a day by year’s end. Again, unaccountably, the Government didn’t just get on and build these new labs, working in parallel with the available NHS capabilities. Instead, responsibility for testing was swept out from 44 NHS labs, with skilled and accredited staff who’d already been running SARS-CoV-2 PCR. In their place, new labs were created, outside the help and control network of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences. These Lighthouse Labs are still not all fully accredited under UKAS to ISO 15189, a quality management system accreditation relating to medical laboratories.

There is a reliable test, fully-characterised and already validated with real-world use

At the end of October, the British Army was called in to help Liverpool City Council find the cases which the ONS PCR testing survey predicted should be there but which were no longer being found in the numbers expected. It was possible that people were no longer coming forward to be tested, though there is no way to be sure of this. Despite not having sought consent from the parents of school children and the absence before the survey began of proper protocols and ethics review, scores of thousands of people were tested using a lateral-flow test (LFT). (See here and here for more details on the LFT.) These look rather like the familiar pregnancy test kits you can purchase over the counter. They look similar, because they use related tried and trusted technology to detect virus proteins in the swab, not RNA. All tests have limits and weaknesses. However, the LFTs are not subject to the same flaws as PCR – specifically the risk of over-amplification and of cross-contamination before the test is actually run. LFT has similar sensitivity and specificity in the lab to PCR. It is certainly capable of identifying the same proportion of those truly infected as PCR.

In brief, the army found very few people with positive LFT results, only slightly higher than the background operational false positive rate: just over 0.3%, values expected when the tests are used in the real world. Since testing began, the positive rate has tended to a mean of 0.7% which might mean a few people were positive. My own experience of reading around this area is that this (around 0.7%) is almost certainly the true false positive rate when, in the real-world, careful but inexpert people administer the LFT. It meant that, in the city in the centre of the national hotspot for COVID-19, almost no one had the virus. This experiment has been repeated for 8,000 people in Merthyr Tydfil resulting in 0.77% testing positive. That these two test series have returned such similar values suggests that this is indeed the true, operational false positive rate for the LFT, though another test series will be helpful in refining that possible interpretation. Some leapt to criticise the LFT, as if it was its fault that it couldn’t find the expected cases. Of course, to many of us, the results were exactly what we’d expected, because we were by then sure that PCR was wildly over-reading. PCR has gone wrong before and Occam’s razor indicated that this was by far the most likely explanation for the otherwise inexplicable failure of PCR “cases” to correlate with symptomatic disease. These are the kind of results expected in populations protected by herd immunity. They’re completely inconsistent with a city and town in the grip of a highly-infectious respiratory virus.

To the Lighthouse

By September, the great bulk of PCR testing was being run by large, private labs, some of which are called Lighthouse Labs, and I’ll use this term as a coverall for all such labs. It was as September began that literally incredible things started to happen. Students returning to University towns were all required to submit to swabbing and PCR testing. We were then told there was an epidemic running through young people and it was just a matter of time before it reached the elderly and that would be that. The percentage of tests which were returning positive started skyrocketing, reaching in some towns values that were close to those in A&E at the peak of the pandemic in April. Strong linkage was observed between numbers of tests run and their positivity. This is most odd and can happen if the error rate increases with the pressure on the testing system.

Now, in late November, we are told there are sometimes 25,000 new “cases” daily and that several hundred daily “COVID-19 deaths” are occurring. How can this be happening if I’m right and the population has achieved herd immunity (as supported by large numbers of scientific papers detailing extensive T-cell immunity, as well as careful examination of the profile of deaths in spring vs recently, and the examination of patterns of deaths around the country recently as compared with spring)? It’s a conundrum.

As the numbers of daily PCR tests conducted began to climb very steeply, reaching 370,000 per day in mid-November, many of us have had the uncomfortable feeling that the chances of PCR testing on this scale returning accurate results are vanishingly small. To avoid cross-contamination and to have such high throughput flies in the face of decades of relevant experience for some of us. The classic triad of speed, throughput and quality always has one of them as the lead, limiting factor. In this case, my entire career experience tells me that the limiting factor is quality.

How we can square these claims of tens of thousands of daily “cases” and an unprecedented ‘second wave’ of deaths with the unfeasible quantity of testing using a technique considered by bench experts difficult to perform reliably even on a small scale?

A PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic looks just like a real epidemic, but isn’t

It’s important to appreciate while digesting this counter-narrative which, unlike the official line, is at least internally consistent, that the only data suggesting a ‘second wave’ is upon us are PCR results. Everything is dependent on this. A “case” is a positive PCR test. No symptoms are involved. A “COVID-19 admission” to a hospital is a person testing positive by PCR before, on entry or at any time during a hospital stay, no matter the reason for the admission or the symptoms the patient is presenting. A “COVID-19 death” is any death within 28 days of a positive PCR test. If there is any doubt about the reliability of the PCR test, all of this falls away at a single stroke.

I have to tell you that there is more than common-or-garden doubt about the PCR mass testing that purports to identify the virus. We have very strong evidence that the PCR mass testing as currently conducted is completely worthless.

At this point, it’s appropriate to give the game away and invite you to read the explanation that the team of which I’m part have assembled.

In brief: the pandemic was over by June and herd immunity was the main force which turned the pandemic and pressed it into retreat. In the autumn, the claimed “cases” are an artefact of a deranged testing system, which I explain in detail below. While there is some COVID-19 along the lines of the “secondary ripple” concept explained above, it has occurred primarily in regions, cities and districts that were less hard hit in the spring. Real COVID-19 is self-limiting and may already have peaked in some Northern towns. It will not return in force, and the example again is London. Even here, certain boroughs, e.g. Camden and Sutton, have had minimal positive test results. I’ve explained a number of times how this happened – the prominent role of prior immunity is often ignored or misunderstood. The extent of this was so large that, coupled with the uneven spread of infection, it needed only a low percentage of the population to be infected before herd immunity was reached.

That’s it. All the rest is a PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic. The cure, of course, as it has been in the past when PCR has replaced the pandemic itself as the menace in the land, is to stop PCR mass testing.

In case you’re still not convinced and think several hundred people are dying of COVID-19 each day, please watch this 10 min explainer video, created by data scientist Joel Smalley. By the end you will appreciate how the difference between reporting date and date of occurrence in relation to deaths and the large difference in this regard between COVID-19 deaths, most of which occur in hospital, and non-COVID-19 deaths, many of which happen at home, gives at any moment an impression of excess deaths which, when corrected for this differential delay, collapses into nothing or into such a small signal that surely it’s not faintly a public health concern. It’s also important to be aware that, for the best of intentions, physicians are too quick to assign COVID-19 as the cause of death, partly because the death sometimes has the right kind of elements, but mostly because the rules require them to: any death within 28 days of a positive test has to be recorded as a COVID-19 death, no matter what the circumstances. The degree of misattribution is so large that the number of deaths from the top 10 leading causes have been pushed far below normal levels, which is highly suggestive of these deaths having been mislabelled. Do note, you should at this point expect some excess deaths, if from nothing else, a number of people dying – mostly at home – from non-COVID-19 causes, a result of restricted access to healthcare for eight months.

I think the evidence is unequivocal that we are in a PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic

It’s happened before, with whooping cough (caused by a bacterium, but the technique for diagnosing the disease was the same, PCR). Hundreds of apparent “cases” were diagnosed at a hospital in New Hampshire using PCR and physicians fitted the symptoms of various coughs and colds to what the “gold standard test” was telling them. In fact, not a single person had the disease. The positivity in the PCR test was around 15%, but no actual infection was found. 100% of the PCR positives were false. Unrealistically high positivity and no recent, independent confirmation of infection is now the situation in UK.

To the Lighthouse (again)

How can this PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic be occurring? A false positive is simply a positive outcome of a test when the item sought was absent from the original sample (there are a variety of sources of false positives and they are often ignored or confused). Most false positives in PCR occur due to cross-contamination. This can occur if a sample containing the virus is even briefly in contact with a sample not containing the virus. Contamination can and does happen at any of the stages from sample acquisition all the way into the reaction vessel in which the cyclical amplification of PCR takes place. This contamination can include the reference material used to confirm the test run is working, the so-called positive control, itself a piece of synthetic viral RNA. Such positive controls are potent sources of error as they are an intensely concentrated supply of the very material sought in miniscule amounts by the test, right down to a single, broken fragment of virus. Other common sources of contamination are a small number of samples which actually do contain the virus, which almost certainly continues to circulate at low levels and may already have become endemic (like the four, common cold-inducing coronaviruses, OC43, HKU1, 229E and NL63).

It is my opinion, and I am not alone, that industrialized molecular biology PCR mass testing is and always was unfeasible on the scale it’s currently being conducted. With high speed and throughput, something has to give and in this case it’s quality. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should no longer have any faith or confidence in the PCR testing in use in UK. As the drive to industrialize the process proceeded, responsibility for PCR testing was mostly moved into one centralised set of facilities called Lighthouse Labs. I shall describe testimony (for Milton Keynes) and video evidence (Randox in Northern Ireland) which are concordant.

We have horrifyingly clear evidence that the work processes, staffing, lack of quality control and external validation means that this facility cannot work reliably and produce trustworthy testing results. I have spoken at length to the brave scientist who’s blown the whistle on the Milton Keynes super-lab, Dr Julian Harris, who is one of the most experienced lab PCR scientists in the UK. He was been involved in high biosecurity level labs since 1987 and has operated PCR for decades. What’s been missed in the expose is that his concerns are not only with health and safety (though these are important). Almost any building can be adapted to carry out a highly sensitive assay such as PCR, while keeping contamination issues down to a minimum. The problem with the Milton Keynes site is the lack of thought that went into minimising thr risk of contamination of the COVID-19 PCR Assay. To this should be added the fact they have no appropriate biosafety level 2 and contagion expertise on site (as clearly stated in the HSE reports that can be viewed at the foot of Julian Harris’s article for Lockdown Sceptics here). It is this that is a recipe for disaster in terms of the inflation of positive test results by the generation of false positives.

No-one competent is inspecting these facilities, staff processes and results. The only person capable of looking from stem to stern who’s actually done so is Dr Julian Harris and he unequivocally condemns the operation. He highlighted overcrowded, bioinsecure workspaces, the absence of health and safety training, poor safety protocols and a lack of suitable PPE, such as the enforcement of wearing paper-visitor lab coats when handling swab samples in Class II BSCs – was this to cut down on laundry expenses? Handwashing facilities were available, but as the HSE discovered, they were often out of soap, sanitizer and towels, a consequence of personnel not knowing where to go to replenish these supplies.. The Health and Safety Executive was called in (by Dr Harris). Management of the facility failed to answer requests to set up a visit, so eventually, they made unannounced visits in late-September (see letters from the HSE at the base of Dr Harris’s piece). Their visits, which most unusually (and tells us of the degree of concern they felt) were accompanied by HM Inspector of Health and Safety, uncovered safety breaches at the Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes.

“I found they’ve got no experience with this sort of facility or handling bio-hazardous materials, and then they’re just launched into this activity,” Dr Harris says of the Milton Keynes team. Dr Harris was so troubled by what he saw that he contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He saw two people using biosecurity cabinets – enclosed, ventilated workspaces where scientists open the tubes containing the contaminated swabs – which were only calibrated to have protective airflow for one person. “Once you disrupt that [airflow] by overloading plus too much disruption of the veil nearest the operator, you might as well be working on an open bench. It just disrupts the whole reason for a cabinet to protect the operator. And it is really disturbing,” Dr Harris says. He alleges that the lab recruited local young people to work long shifts.

Dr Harris says he saw mobile phones being used in the labs and then taken to the canteen. The HSE visited the Milton Keynes lab and found five material breaches of health and safety legislation. A UK Biocentre manager admitted to the HSE that the training in place did not look “robust enough” for these new recruits. Dr Harris tells me that there was little or no Health and Safety training at all, despite the facility being rated BSL2.

It’s not only procedural issues in the labs that are concerning. With individual PCR tests, the scientist views the change in signal vs cycle and determines whether a test is positive, negative or indeterminate. In high throughput mode, this can only be done by software. Thus, the choice of provider is absolutely crucial to the accuracy and trustworthiness of the output, not only for an individual sample but also at a population level. For reasons not explained, the facility chose a software product which was apparently inferior to another. Why did the Lighthouse Lab choose an inferior product? In the example given, it ‘under-called’ positives but that doesn’t tell you that’s what it does now. What it does tell us is that it’s less reliable at ‘calling’ results. Surely the firm whose product performed better and had already passed regulatory standards would have been the better choice?

Underscoring their problems with staffing, the Lighthouse Lab did have a quality management system (QMS) specialist while Dr Harris worked there. However, that person resigned and, as far as I know, has not yet been replaced with someone of equivalent experience. This will undoubtedly have contributed to continuing failure to be UKAS accredited to ISO 15189, quality and competence in medical laboratories. While this can be seen as voluntary, the customer (Her Majesty’s Government) determines whether or not such accreditation is essential. Given there has never been a medical diagnostic test of such importance in the entire history of the nation, HMG must surely have specified ISO 15189 accreditation. If they have not, that is in my view a severe dereliction of duty. In any case, its absence does not in any way reduce the need to run these critical PCR tests to the highest standards and for the output to be trustworthy.

Separately, though the HSE accreditation doesn’t prove quality and accuracy of the end product, the test results, and that the facility is still not so accredited, indicates a continuing failure to get to grips with the overlapping issues in the lab which directly pertain to end-to-end sample integrity.

This detailed recounting of evidence is not designed to be a teach-in on health and safety, important though that is. It is instead to demonstrate that neither management nor staff have the scrupulous attention to every detail required to ensure sample integrity from end-to-end, which is merely the starting point to have any chance at all to successfully run this delicate and powerful technique, which is notoriously susceptible to cross-contamination of the smallest kind. Although the integrity of the laminar airflow is preserved in the cabinets – simultaneously protecting operator and sample – it does not cater for the overloading of the working area and clogging up the back grates that is dangerous for sample integrity and contagion exposure of personnel.

Micro-pipetting (dispensing volumes ranging from 1ml down to 0.0005ml) relies on highly accurate pipetting devices and their proper use is crucial in any application of molecular biology technologies and it is therefore the case with PCR. These micropipettors are used by personnel throughout the COVID-19 testing process. If misused, that can result not only in the incorrect volume of sample being withdrawn and dispensed into another receptacle, but can be the cause of contaminating test samples. As most staff had little to no PCR experience and in many cases, no experience of professional laboratory work at all, this would contribute to the inaccuracy of the end product – the COVID19 test results. As a hallmark of how low the hiring bar has been set, the Milton Keynes facility has a staff member who carries out ‘pipette training’. Dr Harris commented that even this individual had difficulties in understanding the standing operating procedure used for the pipette training, having come from their previous role of stacking shelves in Tesco’s. Micropipetting is a fundamental skill usually learnt at the beginning of a scientific career. I’ve never heard of such a role anywhere before in 39 years of conducting and supervising laboratory work in UK.

It is imperative that those performing liquid handling in a biofacility comprehensively understand how liquid biosamples can spread by droplets and aerosols. Most importantly, how they can inadvertently contaminate the sample(s) as well as expose the personnel to contagion. These skills must become second-nature – acquired over many months to years – before anyone is allowed to step foot in such a biohazardous environment.

Finally, I asked Dr Harris when, in the sequence of steps, the ‘negative control’ samples were placed. The most vulnerable part of the task to cross-contamination is the bag opening to sample placement in the final, racked tubes, which are then placed into the automated workflow, finally dispensing sample for testing into the PCR plate. Therefore, I expected to be told that there were at least two negative control swab samples (unused with their own bar codes) that were included at this initial stage of the process. One should insert some unused tubes early on, so that, if there was cross-contamination, it would be detected in the final, PCR step.

But no. The sole, negative control that is used at Milton Keynes is virus-free medium, carefully placed into a designated well as part of the first stage of the automated liquid handling process, where simultaneously 0.2ml of each sample is transferred to a well of a 96-well plate, each well containing the virus inactivation buffer. But this bypasses the first steps where cross-contamination may occur – that is, during the initial processing of samples. That’s not only bad scientific technique but, in my view, bad scientific acumen. If I was teaching an undergraduate student, and they came up with this as an experimental design, I would fail them. It’s no wonder that the positivity rate – the percentage of tests which come up positive – is so high as to be literally unbelievable. I’m sure the Lighthouse Lab tells its client that there’s no evidence of cross-contamination, as the negative controls are consistently free of virus. Yet we drive our entire national policy on the strength of this?

Randox

There are a small group of large labs which were set up at speed to become “Lighthouse Labs” or “Superlabs”. A second one, the Randox facility in Antrim, Northern Ireland, has been the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches program. This detailed documentary film centres on this very large, private contract lab testing over 100K COVID-19 samples per day using PCR. Watching this program with an eye of someone experienced in lab procedures related to mass testing (though not this technique) I observed: workers cutting open plastic bags containing swab samples in tubes, some of which had leaked. The scissors were then used to open the next bag and so on. Tubes were wiped externally using a wipe, but the same wipe was used to mop the outsides of several tubes in a row. The tubes were then placed on their sides in a tray, where they were free to roll around and touch other tubes. Workers kept on the same pair of disposable gloves while opening a large number of such bags, one after another. A worker commented that just under 10% of tubes with red caps leaked. Randox stated that it didn’t make the tubes and that a fix was in progress.

Firstly, using scissors or any sharp instruments shouldn’t be used with biohazardous samples in BSL2/3/4 facilities. The exposure of the biosample contents to the air-conditioned room environment, plus the sample fluid contaminating cardboard boxes, is a recipe for disaster and could lead to:

  1. Cross-contamination between samples
  2. Cross-contamination between samples and personnel
  3. Cross-contamination between sample and the room environment
  4. Exposure of personnel to contagion of unknown origin(s)

A consultant microbiologist, who’d run an NHS pathology lab for 1- years, commented for the film: “If you have a tube which has leaked and is in your unpacking environment, it’s then quite easy for that to get onto other tubes. If the leaked sample was positive, it would cause the other tubes to become positive. These are very sensitive tests we’re using and it’s very easy to get (contamination-related) false positives. We would be shut down if we performed that way”.

Taking Milton Keynes and Randox together, I contend that there was a policy decision to create an expectation in the minds of most people that a ‘second wave’ was expected, and that this would require increased testing capability. The conditions which resulted from these industrialisation attempts (Lighthouse Labs and similar) by virtue of the poor sample handling evidenced in two examples (Milton Keynes, in the same building which houses the U.K. Biobank, and Randox, on a former military base) actively created that ‘second wave’ (of misdiagnosed cases, admissions and deaths). I believe the unavoidable conclusion is that the mechanism whereby large numbers of “cases” were and still are being created is insidious, uncontrolled and undetected cross-contamination during the swab sample processing stages.

I have no doubt that those conducting the manual steps of pipetting are doing their best. But they do not have the skills and experience of this technique, which must be performed repetitively and for hours, while never creating a burst of micro-aerosol as they drive the thumb plunger on the pipette slightly too fast, or creating a micro-splash as they change the disposable tip. They must never contaminate a fingertip of a glove as they open a potentially leaking tube and then touch another. They must never disturb the laminar airflow in the hoods so as to facilitate invisible levels of contamination from one tube to another. There are so many ways in which miniature levels of contamination compromise sample integrity and increase the number of positives, and no one has taught them to avoid them all.

In these two PCR mass testing factories, among the largest, there is now strong evidence of completely inadequate effort to ensure that end-to-end sample integrity is maintained. These are, in my view, simulacra of proper testing facilities. Meanwhile, daily testing capacity has grown considerably, approaching the goal of conducting 500,000 tests by PCR daily.

Criticisms of PCR (again)

Even if the Lighthouse Labs did work from a technical perspective, the Government has admitted that PCR’s characteristics as a test are literally out of control. Lord Bethel confirmed in a written answer that the UK Government does not know the operational false positive rate (OFPR). While the Government claimed it could adopt as an estimate a range from prior related tests (0.8-2.3%) this is tendentious. These earlier tests were done by highly experienced lab scientists working at relatively small scale. Each PCR test will have a unique false positive rate dependant on the design of the test and it cannot be deduced from other tests. The Lighthouse Labs are mostly staffed by young and inexperienced people, many of whom have never previously worked professionally in a lab. It is absurd to suggest the combination of inexperienced staff, coupled with an industrialized process of a technique so sensitive to cross-contamination that such cross-contamination is a routine problem in research labs performed by careful, knowledgeable scientists, could yield reliable, trustworthy results.

I maintain that lack of knowledge of the OFPR alone renders this PCR test in this configuration completely incapable of providing trustworthy results. If this was a diagnostic test in use in the NHS today, no physician would submit a patient sample to it, because it would be impossible to interpret a positive result. Of course, it is a diagnostic test in use today.

In summary, I argue that it is criminally dangerous to drive policy based in any way on this test (set up the way it is) and its results. No amount of argument or prevarication can alter these damning facts.

Conclusions

Source: Public Health England weekly national Influenza and COVID- 19 surveillance report, Week 48 (w/e Nov 26th)

The entire ‘second wave’ is supported solely on the back of a flawed mass PCR test, which at industrialized scale was never, in my view and the views of others skilled in PCR, capable of delivering trustworthy results. I have detailed the evidence supporting the claim that the autumn PCR test results are not reliably detecting COVID-19 infection. It may seem a leap to damn the PCR test and claim that there isn’t an epidemic but a pseudo-epidemic. But even in the hands of skilled and careful people, the strange phenomenon of the PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic has occurred several times before. In large, industrialised labs, it is very likely that significant and unmeasured cross-contamination related false positive rates are occurring.

The key sign of a PCR false positive pseudo-epidemic is the relative paucity of excess deaths equal to the deaths claimed to be occurring as a result of the lethal infective agent. This key sign is present.

The unprecedented “’second wave’ conundrum is solved. It’s of course not happening, but why a ‘second wave’ was talked up, months before unreliable PCR testing data was brought into service, demands deeper investigation. It’s not a science matter: not unless the team predicting the wave can produce the scientific literature upon which the prediction and modelling was based.

As a reference, I spent over an hour consulting with the owner-manager of a well-run facility in another country, which mainly serves private clients. This person only hires staff to do this kind of work who have at least four years’ experience of PCR, not just of highly competent laboratory experience. These will in almost all cases be post-doctoral students, having already obtained a research-based PhD involving use of PCR techniques.

Those who observe that PCR testing at scale elsewhere seems to run well tell us only that it can be done acceptably if it’s set up carefully. That’s assuming you can trust their results, something to which my research cannot extend. In any case, in no way does that observation undermine any of what I’ve written.

Until we end the use of PCR mass testing, there is no chance that “cases” will reduce to very low levels. Lateral flow tests must become the gold standard test for COVID with PCR only used for confirmatory diagnosis. This will minimise the number of PCR tests that need to be performed allowing testing to return to competent NHS laboratories. Without such an intervention, even if the virus stopped circulating, I believe we’ll still hear of tens of thousands of “cases” every day, and several hundred deaths.

As the above graph clearly shows, there was a notable peak of excess deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 in the spring, but it has not returned. As noted earlier, some excess deaths are now to be expected at very least as a consequence of prolonged and widespread restricted access to the NHS.

So, just one wave, as expected. The ‘secondwave’ of “cases” and even “COVID-19 deaths” are an artefact of flawed testing.

Latest News

Where Did SAGE Get 4,000 Deaths a Day?

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson wrote a terrific blog post on Saturday evening, querying where SAGE got its 4,000 deaths-a-day figure from. Remember, it was this modelling that frightened Boris into abandoning his ‘middle path’ strategy in favour of a second lockdown.

Just 10 days ago, Boris Johnson was attacking lockdowns for the “psychological, the emotional damage” they inflict: the effect on mental health as well as the economy. Then, he saw COVID-19 as a menace that could be managed with a “commonsensical approach” of local and regional measures. Now, he sees Covid as a monster capable of overwhelming the NHS and warns of a “medical and a moral disaster” if we do not do a stay-at-home lockdown. His view of the virus seems to have changed, utterly. Why?

As soon as he started his statement, he turned to the graphs on which his case hangs. It was not so much new data, but new models showing new forecasts. Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Officer, ran through them: the same ones leaked to the BBC a few hours earlier. As we know, the first wave peaked at just over 1,000 daily deaths. The new graphs show deaths hitting 4,000 deaths a day – perhaps even as high as 6,000. To put this in perspective, daily deaths in the USA peaked at about 2,500. If 4,000 daily deaths is now plausible from a second wave in Britain, as the models seem to suggest, drastic action is understandable. Here is the graph, shown at the press conference, that makes the case for lockdown:

The above graph is quite a departure from previous understanding of Covid’s potency. We now see second-wave deaths dwarfing not only those from the first wave but those envisaged by the Government’s official ‘realistic worst-case scenario’ (RWC) for the coming winter. The RWC was a secret until the Spectator published it a few days ago, showing deaths peaking at about 800 a day. Here it is.

When we printed the above chart, it looked bad enough. Now it looks tame by comparison of the new studies. And there’s no mention of ‘worst-case’ scenarios: these are billed only as ‘winter scenarios’. But who drew them up? What are the assumptions? And how robust are they? The leak this morning told us who did the modelling: Cambridge, Imperial, etc. Just as an Imperial study made the case for the first lockdown, these four studies make the case for the second. So they ought to be published, together with the assumptions behind them. It would help explain how we get from the data we’ve seen in recent weeks to the scenarios shown to us now, which suggest a tsunami.

Fraser is quite right. If the Government is going to rely on these models to justify placing the whole of England under virtual house arrest for at least a month and almost certainly longer, it is surely under an obligation to publish them? Not just so they can be scrutinised by the electorate, but also by other scientists and – critically – Conservative MPs who will be expected to vote for the second lockdown on Wednesday.

Ross Clark, writing in yesterday’s Telegraph, cast doubt on the reliability of the models used in Saturday’s briefing.

Who noticed the small print at the bottom of the graph, illegible on the version flashed before us during the press briefing but visible in the slides published online: “these are scenarios – not predictions or forecasts”? Oddly, there was no source listed for these graphs – we were told only that they come “from a number of academic modelling groups”. We have subsequently learned that the most frightening curve – the 4,000 a day one – was the work of Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University. But it does not seem to have been published – and my efforts to extract the study from PHE have so far drawn a blank. Without being able to see its workings, we have no idea what assumptions have gone into the 4,000 deaths a day claim.

It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. On Saturday, Public Health England reported 278 new Covid deaths in England. The average number of deaths for the past seven days is 214, up 50 per cent on the week before. If deaths kept on rising at that rate then, yes, you would get to 4,000 deaths a day in December.

However, a better guide to future deaths is the figures for new infections, which, of course, tend to lead the death figures. Over the past seven days PHE has recorded an average of 22,521 new cases a day – which was a six per cent increase on the week before. If deaths follow the trajectory of new infections – as surely they must, unless COVID-19 suddenly mutates into a vastly more deadly form – they will be nowhere near 1,000 a day by Christmas, let alone 4,000.

The figures for new infections clearly show a slowdown in the increase in new infections. But you wouldn’t have gained this impression listening to Professor Chris Whitty or Sir Patrick Vallance on Saturday. Whitty tried to tell us that infections are rising in every part of England – in spite of a graph on the screen clearly suggesting they have begun to fall in the North East. The graphs also indicated a levelling off of new infections in London, the South East and the West Midlands, and low trajectories in the East and South West. Only in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber are infections following a really worrying curve. Parts of these regions have recently been subjected to Tier 3 restrictions, which are not now going to be allowed time to work.

Instead, exactly as Boris Johnson told us a week ago would be misguided, we are going to close down restaurants in Cornwall to try to fight an epidemic in Manchester. As in the spring, the Government has allowed itself to be panicked by alarmist modelling, a worst-case scenario dressed up as if it were scientific fact – and this time we don’t even get to see the workings.

This is truly alarming. What assumptions have PHE and Cambridge University made in these apocalyptic models? And just how credible are they?

If anyone would like to leak these models to Lockdown Sceptics, we will get a crack team of top scientists to subject them to a quick-and-dirty peer review in time for Wednesday’s vote. Contact us here. Discretion assured.

Stop Press: Turns out, the projections produced by the Cambridge statistical unit that were invoked by Patrick Vallance at Saturday’s press briefings were out of date. According to the Telegraph, Vallance relied on a scenario that was drawn up three weeks ago rather than using a more-up-to-date scenario from the same unit that was far less apocalyptic.

The modelling presented on Saturday night, which suggests deaths could reach 4,000 a day by December, is so out-of-date that it suggests daily deaths are now around 1,000 a day.

In fact, the daily average for the last week is 260, with a figure of 162 yesterday.

And the statistics unit at Cambridge University has produced far more up-to-date projections, with far lower figures, the Telegraph can reveal.

These forecasts, dated October 28 – three days before the Downing Street announcement – far more closely track the current situation, forecasting 240 daily deaths by next week, and around 500 later this month.

While these predictions do not look as far ahead as December, they suggest a picture which is far more optimistic than the scenario which caused shock waves this weekend.

Prof Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, at Oxford University, said he was “deeply concerned” by the selection of data which were not based on the current reality.

He said: “Our job as scientists is to reflect the evidence and the uncertainties and to provide the latest estimates.”

“I cannot understand why they have used this data, when there are far more up-to-date forecasts from Cambridge that they could have accessed, which show something very different.”

Prof Heneghan said his analysis suggests the forecasts could be four to five times too high.

He said: “I’m deeply concerned about how the data is being presented so that politicians can make decisions. It is a fast-changing situation, which is very different in different regions, and it concerns me that MPs who are about to go to a vote are not getting the full picture.”

The Mail has done some digging of its own and also found out some worrying shortcomings in the data that featured so prominently at the Downing Street presser on Saturday night. For instance, the Cambridge forecast classified a death as being from Covid if it occurred within 60 days of a positive test result. It was precisely because the Covid death toll was being inflated in this way (as pointed out by Prof Carl Heneghan) that PHE reluctantly introduced the 28-day cut-off.

Was Boris aware that the Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer were presenting him with out-of-date information when they leant on him to impose a full lockdown on Friday? The data presented by them in the Downing Street presser is looking more and more like the dodgy dossier that Alastair Campbell cooked up to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader with a scientific background has summarised the REACT survey for us. You’ll recall, this was among the studies that scared the bejesus out Boris.

They take 85,971 self-administered swabs and analyse using our worst friend, the PCR.

They get 863 positives, which is 1%.

They then add a bit of ‘weight’ to it to make it 1.28%

THEN – get this! – they promptly ignore everyone who’s had it (probably 23 million based on an IFR of 0.2% and the deaths we’ve had) plus those who won’t get it because of T-cells, and multiply 1.28% by the entire population!

They then add a bit more ‘weight’ to the resulting 870,400 to make it 960,000 and then go ‘mmm… symptoms last about 10 days, so that must mean 96,000 cases a day!’

Shitty and Malice read it, report back to Prime Minister Lighthead (who at this stage I’m assuming can’t read himself unless it’s in Latin or Greek), everyone dumps in their pants and we’re off again.

Unbelievable. Utterly Un-make-up-able.

Pressure Builds to Close Schools

The figures on the Lockdown track are children

Having succeeded in persuading Boris to do a U-turn, the lockdown hawks in SAGE are becoming emboldened and now have school closures in their sights. Sir Mark Walport and Sir Jeremy Farrar, both members of SAGE, have warned that lockdown restrictions may need amending as schools staying open could be problematic. The Mail has more.

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport said the new restrictions were not as “severe” as the first time round, and that there was a “possibility” the restrictions may need to stay in place for more than four weeks.

In an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he warned: “It’s unlikely this time to come down quite as fast as it did during the first lockdown because we have got schools open.”

His comments were echoed by Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), who said transmission in secondary schools is “high”.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The big difference to the first lockdown is that schools remain open.

“Because we have delayed the onset of this lockdown it does make keeping schools open harder.

“We know that transmission, particularly in secondary schools is high.

“Personally I think this is definitely the lockdown to put in place now but if that transmission, particularly in secondary schools, continues to rise then that may have to be revisited in the next four weeks in order to get R below one and the epidemic shrinking.”

Worth reminding these zealots that there has been no recorded case of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world, as reported in the Times in July. Back then, Mark Woolhouse, a leading epidemiologist and also a member of SAGE, told the Times that it had been a mistake to close schools in March given the limited role children play in spreading the virus.

“One thing we have learnt is that children are certainly, in the 5 to 15 brackets from school to early years, minimally involved in the epidemiology of this virus,” Professor Woolhouse, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Edinburgh University, said. “They are probably less susceptible and vanishingly unlikely to end up in hospital or to die from it.”

“There is increasing evidence that they rarely transmit. For example, it is extremely difficult to find any instance anywhere in the world as a single example of a child transmitting to a teacher in school. There may have been one in Australia but it is incredibly rare.”

Stop Press: Kevin Courtney, the joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, who’s been leading the calls for school closures, is the highest-paid trade union leader in the country. His annual salary is £217,501, which includes an employers’ national insurance contribution of £21,968 and a pension contribution of £25,264. I wonder how he’d feel about closing schools if he was a single dad working two jobs to support his family?

Three Days to Save the NHS Economy

An image beamed on to the House of Commons by the new Recovery group last night

My friend the famous financial journalist, who cannot be named because it would jeopardise his career, thinks the only thing we can do to try and avert the looming disaster that is the second lockdown is to write to our MPs. I suggested he create a template that Lockdown Sceptics readers could use and he duly obliged.

Dear Member of Parliament,

This week you will be called upon to authorise a second lockdown across England. As your constituent, I urge you reject this proposal on the grounds that lockdowns are ruinous to lives, livelihoods and liberty.

Lives are lost when other medical services are suspended. Lives are ruined by depression and domestic violence which accompany lockdowns. Livelihoods are destroyed and countless families impoverished with future generations left to bear the costs of this ruinous policy. Liberty is suspended as the government rules by decree. Parliament is sidelined and its constitutional role seriously diminished.

Lockdown is not only a cruel and blunt instrument for dealing with COVID-19, it is singularly ineffective. That’s why we are facing a second lockdown so soon after the first. We’re told that hospitals are about to be overwhelmed. But how much confidence should we have in epidemiological models when their forecasting record to date has been so poor?

Evidence from around the world reveals no correlation between lockdowns and coronavirus fatalities. In fact, Peru, the country with the highest fatality rate also had one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns. By contrast, Sweden, which had no lockdown has suffered no excess deaths this year. A policy of “focused protection” for the vulnerable offers a viable alternative approach to a second lockdown.

We have reached a critical moment in our country’s history. If you truly care for the health and welfare of the nation, or are concerned about the future of Parliament, our constitution and liberties, you must reject this second lockdown.

And if you don’t fancy that one, here’s an actual letter a reader has just sent to his MP, Gareth Davies, the member for Grantham and Stamford (Con).

Sir,

I am writing to you as my representative in Parliament, as a resident of Bourne, to urge you not to vote in favour of the planned second Lockdown from Thursday.

The effects of Lockdowns are well known. They’re so negative that even the WHO now advises against them with Prof David Nabarro, special envoy to the WHO saying precisely this in an interview with Andrew Neil on Spectator TV. Our PM even described Lockdowns recently as the ‘nuclear option’ when responding to the Leader of the Opposition’s call for a ‘circuit-break’ recently.

Being furloughed and having to make ends meet on 80% salary as a single-parent of two children was bad enough in March, April and May but will be impossible over the coming month with Christmas approaching. And of course it won’t just be the coming month, will it?

I appreciate the low case rate in South Kesteven compared with elsewhere in the UK May afford me and others here a perceived misunderstanding of the situation nationally, but it doesn’t take long using the government’s own Covid Dashboard to see that what SAGE members are saying doesn’t square with reality. Tier 3 measures being introduced in Greater Nottingham from last Thursday, for example, despite the persistent and sustained fall in cases there from the start of the month is a good case in point. The same for Liverpool & Merseyside and the majority of boroughs in Manchester.

I have never had time for conspiracy theories but I am now fully on board with the likelihood of sinister work at play. All these discredited models by SAGE scientists still seem to curry favour with the PM, who has undoubtedly been ‘got’ early on, following his fight with COVID-19.

Why is SAGE’s reasoning behind their models kept secret? Why is SAGE conflating cases with infections when the two are far from the same?

To be clear, if you vote for this atrocious, unnecessary and legally dubious further grab of our liberties, I – like many others I know – will never vote Conservative again.

You may consider time is on your Party’s side with just under four years before the next General Election, but the lockdown-caused deaths will be ‘slow burners’ for all to see, taking place over the forthcoming years with highly publicised cancer, heart-related and mental illness deaths played out before your, and all your constituents’, eyes, from which there will be no going back.

If the good people of South Kesteven see thousands of unnecessary excess deaths reported with as much gusto as the press has with reminding us of the daily case/death rates for years and years, there is every chance that this Tory stronghold will turn red in the same way the Beast of Bolsolver would never have thought he’d see his constituency turn blue.

Yours sincerely,

XXXXX XXXXXXX

Stop Press: There’s a rebellion brewing on the Conservative back benches, according to the Telegraph – not helped by Michael Gove’s hint on Marr yesterday morning that the second lockdown could be extended well beyond December 2nd.

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a “huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action”.

Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the announcement of another lockdown was a “body blow” to the British people.

A Government source said there was “enormous frustration” from backbenchers and ministers about the Government’s handling of the crisis, with the leak of lockdown restrictions suggesting “incompetence” within Number 10.

The Mail has more.

Boris Johnson was facing a Tory rebellion last night over his new national lockdown.

Many of his own MPs were outraged by the revelation that the restrictions could last much longer than the planned four weeks – and potentially even run into spring.

Some indicated they would oppose the measures that business chiefs fear will devastate an already fragile economy.

“I will be voting against the new national lockdown on Wednesday when it comes before the House of Commons,” said former Cabinet minister Esther McVey. “The ‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid.”

Another Conservative MP said the fresh clampdown was “like a nightmare that we’ll never wake up from”.

The Mail also has a hard-hitting comment piece by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, questioning whether the data presented by Witless and Unbalanced on Saturday night was fair and accurate.

Please God let more Tory MPs rebel. If Boris has to rely on Labour votes to get the second lockdown through Parliament that will be a political disaster for him.

The Grim Reaper is Owed a Few Souls

I’m publishing a guest post here by an independent researcher who has come up with a novel argument as to why SAGE’s prediction of 4,000 deaths a day if we don’t impose a second lockdown is implausible. I’ve also given it a permanent slot on the right-hand side under the heading of “How Reliable is the Modelling”?

I’m not usually a big fan of making predictions. I love the quote, reputedly from Nils Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. But I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say I don’t think the graph shown by Boris Johnson’s “scientists” yesterday, of over 6000 deaths a day in the UK is going to happen. The fact that it was even shown I just find embarrassing. As a Brit. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so scientifically illiterate, or whether it’s evidence that the authoritarian elite have so little respect for the people of this country that they can just put up such transparent garbage, to get what they want. Which appears to be the destruction of our wealth and way of life.

But there clearly are increasing Covid hospitalisations and deaths currently happening in the UK and in other places. My hypothesis below is that this is because the epidemic was artificially suppressed in April, and now reality is catching up again. The Grim Reaper wants his souls. And I think we can make a reasonable prediction of how many he is coming for, based on how many we tried to prevent him getting the first time around. Apparently, deaths during respiratory epidemics normally follow the Gompertz curve, a feature of which is the straight line decline once the epidemic has peaked. A comparison between Sweden and the UK shows this.

The artificial suppression of the virus progress back in March and April took the UK off the natural Gompertz trajectory. The change in the slope is clearly visible around the last week in April. What I am proposing here is that those lives which were saved from the end of April through to the end of July were only really delayed deaths, as this virus is not eradicable. And now they are due. And they are also predictable. If we look at the UK in more detail (showing actual seven day average death counts):

The break in slope at around April 23rd is clear, and makes sense when you consider that it would have taken about a month for any effect of the lockdown to become visible on the death count. And as can be seen with the change in slope, we have had less deaths than should have occurred.

And then all I have done is the graph up these daily ‘missing deaths’ that were the ‘gap’ between April and July, and overlay them against what is being observed as ‘the second wave’. As can be seen in this graph, the fit to the actual rise in cases in October is actually quite good. Up until now.

This ‘model’ would suggest that deaths will peak within a week or two, and after a month’s plateau at numbers between 250 and 300 per day, rapidly decline through December.

Now of course this could all be complete nonsense. Time will shortly tell. But I thought it would be good to put out an alternative hypothesis to the rubbish that Boris Johnson has based his reasoning on. Unfortunately, even if what I have shown above comes to pass, our liberal elite leadership will claim this is based on their lockdown response and assure us we need to remain with restrictions as there will still be cases in the community, and according to SAGE only a few percent of the nation will have been infected. Hundreds of thousands could still die. And don’t forget the recent ‘study’ from Imperial college, showing that immunity is only transient, so lots of scope for us all to be reinfected. We may be down this rabbit hole for a very long time.

Brexit Party Reinvents Itself as Anti-Lockdown Party

According to the Telegraph, the Brexit Party is about to reinvent itself as an Anti-Lockdown Party called Reform UK and contest hundreds of seats at the elections in May. Founders Nigel Farage and Richard Tice have declared lockdowns don’t work and instead back a policy of “focused protection”, as set out in the Great Barrington Declaration (see below).

Chief Political Correspondent Christopher Hope has more.

The news will worry Conservative MPs, scarred by the way that Mr Farage’s previous Eurosceptic parties – the UK Independence Party and the Brexit Party – sapped support for the Tory party at previous elections.

The Brexit Party – which won 29 seats in last year’s European Parliament elections 10 weeks after it was set up – claimed to have 150,000 ‘registered supporters’ at its peak, although numbers are understood to have fallen to tens of thousands since then. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been said to have been pledged for the re-badged party.

Mr Farage said he expected to find support among people whose businesses have been adversely affected by the lockdown, such as the self-employed, restaurateurs and others in the hospitality industry.

He said: “We feel there is a massive political hole at the moment. The crisis has shown how badly governed we are – everything from our quangos to the £12 billion we have wasted on track and trace, to firms being given the most ludicrous contracts, to illegal immigration where we tough talk and nothing ever happens.

“The whole system of government in the UK is not working, and is therefore in need of very radical reform. Brexit is about making us free, but beyond Brexit we have to be governed better. Brexit is the beginning of what we need. Brexit gives us self-governance – we now need to have good self-governance.”

Farage and Tice have announced the formation of the new party in a comment piece for the Telegraph.

They say: “Lockdowns don’t work: in fact, they cause more harm than good. But there is a credible alternative, recommended by some of the finest epidemiologists and medics in the world. It is the Great Barrington Declaration. It is effectively being practised to a large degree in Sweden, with considerable success.

“Focused protection is the key, targeting resources at those most at risk: the elderly, vulnerable or those with other medical conditions. Many of them of course would prefer to hug their grandchildren and enjoy a family Christmas with loved ones. They should not be criminalised for the simple acts that make life worth living, particularly in their final years.

“The rest of the population should, with good hygiene measures and a dose of common sense, get on with life. This way we build immunity in the population. The young act as warriors, creating a shield of protection. Multi generational households will of course need to implement stricter measures.”

They add: “Every death is a huge loss for family, friends and loved ones. But we must put Covid-related deaths into perspective. Around 1,600 people die every day in the UK, for some reason or other.

“The average age of a coronavirus fatality is 82: older than average life expectancy. The truth is this horrible illness is only very dangerous for a tiny minority of people.

“The average person has more than a 99.5 per cent chance of surviving the disease if they catch it. We must have the courage to live with the virus, not hide in fear of it.”

The party will back the Great Barrington Declaration, a policy backed by thousands of scientists and doctors, which advocates only requiring the elderly and most vulnerable to lock down.

The pair add: “Reform is the only significant political party that supports the Great Barrington Declaration. We are showing the courage needed to take on consensus thinking and vested interests on Covid.

“But there are so many areas of public life that can be improved to benefit ordinary people. That is why we will campaign for Reform.”

This is a very positive development. Until now, political opposition to the lockdown has come from a few brave Conservative MPs like Sir Graham Brady, Sir Desmond Swayne, Esther McVey, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Walker. If Reform UK can attract the same sort of support as the Brexit Party it will pose a credible threat to sitting Conservative Mayors, Counsellors and Police and Crime Commissioners in the local elections next May – and that will undoubtedly create more internal opposition to the lockdown policy within the Conservative Party. More power to their elbow.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Thinks the Lockdown is a Ravenous Devouring Monster

Scylla as a maiden with a kētos tail and dog heads sprouting from her body. Detail from a red-figure bell-crater in the Louvre, 450–425 B.C. This form of Scylla was prevalent in ancient depictions, though very different from the description in Homer, where she is land-based and more dragon-like.

A reader has pointed out that Boris recently compared a second lockdown to the mythical Greek monster Scylla – which is spot on, obviously. Classically-educated readers will recall that Odysseus had to navigate a narrow waterway, with Scylla on one bank and Charybdis on the other, plotting exactly the right line or risk being devoured by one of them.

It’s worth reminding ourselves now of the metaphors that Boris has used to describe lockdown. The “nuclear option” – assured destruction, massive and indiscriminate, only to be deployed by an insane Dr Strangelove. And Scylla (a characteristically show-off classical reference – Boris said he would steer a course between the Scylla of national lockdown and the Charybdis of “letting it rip”). Which makes the lockdown… a ravenous devouring monster. Sounds about right. Someone should lash him to the mast and stop him listening to the alluring sirens of SAGE. (In Robert Fagles’ translation of the Odyssey, the opening lines are: “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course”.)

I’ve Started a Petition to Cut MPs Salaries by 20% – in Line With Furloughed Workers

I started a petition last night on Change.org asking MPs to take a 20% pay cut for the duration of the lockdown, just as furloughed employees are having to do. My hope is it will attract so many signatures, MPs will feel under moral pressure to do it and that, in turn, will make them reluctant to wave through the second lockdown in the House of Commons on Wednesday – or, if they do, make them more inclined to hold Boris to the December 2nd deadline.

You can sign it here.

Stop Press: Someone has started a petition to stop the second lockdown. You can sign that one here.

The Covid Physician

I’m publishing a long piece today by a dissident NHS doctor who styles himself the Covid Physician and can be found on twitter here. It’s essentially a diary of what it’s been like to be a practising GP during the pandemic. Here’s an extract:

My attitude to the Government pandemic advice hardened significantly when I received the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) advice on pyrexial over-70 year olds in the community: do not admit them. If they get very ill, call the Macmillan nurse and palliative care team. This was my first sniff of the new-normal clinical lunacy. It was redolent of the swine ‘flu panic where in 2009 we were negligently told to prescribe novel anti-viral medication to anyone on the basis of the slightest raised temperature, regardless of better alternative diagnoses. A reasonable body of doctors would never do this under sane conditions.

I did research. Given my older patients were to be left at home to sink or swim, I concluded that the very safe hydroxychloroquine, zinc and azithromycin combination was worth trying in the best interests of those marooned patients. I was blessed to have my own NHS dispensary and quickly ordered the medications. That was when the second whiff of madness was caught: the gaslighting (‘nudging’) mainstream media was repeatedly telling me it was very dangerous, they were lambasting my brave and learned international medical colleagues for daring to say anything but a vaccine was effective in mitigating COVID-19. Our CCG pharmacist emailed all GPs to ask us to not prescribe hydroxychloroquine in suspected COVID-19 cases as this would diminish stock for the usual rheumatoid and lupus users.

As it happens, such was the lack of community cases of clinically-unwell COVID-19, I never had to use the triple therapy. The closest I got was when a very feverish lady in her 80s was being left to probably die of a severe sepsis. She was refused hospital admission. At that time, I was not allowed to see her, as we had a dedicated Covid ‘red hub’ to remotely triage queried Covid cases to. Its guidelines had concluded temperature equated to Covid, which in turn equated to no hospital access allowed for over-70s. This was my third experience of what was now a reeking stench. Fortunately, her home-help called me to notify me of the ensuing danger. I assessed the situation remotely and concluded that the clinical logic of the red hub was wrong. The most likely cause was line sepsis (she had an in-dwelling feeding line in a major blood vessel). I spoke to the red hub and the hospital to explain that the guidelines were fatally negligent. They took her in, and line sepsis it was. This simply required a new line and intravenous antibiotics. She survived to rejoin her husband, but how many are still dying of perfectly treatable, potentially fatal illness?

Worth reading in full.

Latest Polling

I received an email from Savanta ComRes yesterday detailing the results of a poll it conducted after Boris’s presser on Saturday. It makes for grim reading I’m afraid.

Latest polling conducted by Savanta ComRes last night, after Boris Johnson’s announcement, shows strong support for new four-week lockdown. Almost three quarters say they support the measures (72%), with just 15% saying that they oppose them. One in ten (11%) say they neither support nor oppose the measures.

Support is highest for closing pubs, bars and restaurants, with three quarters of English adults supporting it (76%), and just one in ten opposing it (12%). Around half (47%) say they support schools, colleges, and universities staying open, with two in five opposing keeping these open (37%).

When asked how long they think the measures will last, almost half (47%) of English adults think we’ll emerge later than the planned date of 2nd December, while a third believe the measures will end on that date (32%). Just over one in five believe the restrictions will end earlier than the planned date of December 2nd (7%).

I’d like to meet someone in the 20% who think restrictions will end earlier than December 2nd. I have a bridge I’d like to sell them…

There was one glimmer of light.

When asked about how the Government has handled the pandemic over the last month, around half of English adults think they have handled it badly (53%), while around a quarter think they have handled it well (23%).

We still have much work to do comrades.

NHS Test-and-Invent

I get about a dozen emails like this every day. Something has gone very wrong at NHS Test and Trace.

Just heard an amusing anecdote from my taxi driver today. He explained that he and three members of his family went for a test (as he’d been in contact with someone infected). When they got to the centre they were told there was a four-hour wait, he said “f**k that!” and they all left without being swabbed… Thirty-six hours later all four of them received a text that they had all tested positive and had to isolate by law for 14 days! And that system cost us 12 billion pounds???

Message From North Korea the Devolved Nations

A reader in Scotland emailed me yesterday, having created the above image.

Living under the Sturgeon Terror I could not resist creating this in Photoshop when I heard England would be screening Lockdown 2: This Time It’s Personal for a month.

Ironically, despite Sturgeon’s “anything Boris can do I can do worse” policy, come Thursday Scotland will have the least severe Lockdown in the UK by default. I give that about five minutes before Sturgeon goes one up by making gloves and goggles compulsory or something equally mental.

Don’t expect the restrictions to end on December 2nd. In Scotland we were told that the restrictions would be for two weeks. That was then extended to three weeks then with the Tier System it was extended to forever.

On the plus side, now that the nations of the UK are all in the same sinking boat the tossers at the top can no longer play regional divide and rule. This means that there will be a united opposition to the UK wide restrictions. Since it is clear that protest, resistance and push back are the only thing that are going to put an end to this madness, that can only be a good thing.

Stop Press: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph says Nicola Sturgeon has been a contrast-gainer from Boris’s latest flip-flop. The dithering chump is going to cost us the Union, isn’t he?

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “If You Wanna” by the Vaccines and “Here We Go Again Pt 1 and Pt 2” by the Isley Brothers.

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.

Sharing stories: 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 link now comes up beside the headline 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’m highlighting a fantastic article by John Tamny in Forbes.

“I was shocked by how little dissent was tolerated at Harvard. Anyone who disagreed with the new orthodoxy was automatically branded a racist or a sexist or a homophobe.” “The prevailing orthodoxy was that concepts like ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ had no place in contemporary education.” Intimacy with female Harvard students meant “you had to seek the woman’s formal permission at every stage in the seduction process.” One professor “had to abandon teaching his class on the ‘Peopling of America’ after he was dubbed ‘racially insensitive.’” His error was to talk about America’s native “population as ‘Indians’ rather than ‘Native Americans.’”

Harvard University has really gone over the edge. It’s hard to imagine that this is what’s happening at what is realistically the U.S.’s most prestigious university, if not the world’s. Higher education is surely in trouble, which means the U.S. is.

Of course the punch line to this weak attempt at a good set-up is that the above recollections weren’t those of a 2019 grad; rather they’re a few tidbits picked up from Toby Young’s classic 2001 memoir, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. It seems Harvard was ahead of the political correctness pack as the 20th century closed until it’s understood that Young was writing about the Harvard he encountered in 1987. After graduating from Oxford, the essential Young (please bookmark his website Lockdown Sceptics) was given a Fulbright Award, which enabled him to spend a year at Harvard.

Up front, Young would likely admit that part of what makes him so interesting and entertaining is his use of playful exaggeration. We’re talking about someone talented enough to have worked at Vanity Fair in its heyday, but who wrote a memoir about all of all his blunders while there.

Looked at through the prism of his time at Harvard, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that Young cherry-picked the most egregious examples of political correctness. He might admit that the vast majority of students have grand ambitions for their lives after Harvard, many of them are financially motivated, which means most aren’t too politically active one way of the other. Young’s examples of PC-stupidity have a wow factor precisely because they’re kind of rare.

Still, for the purposes of this piece they’re a reminder that PC ridiculousness is hardly an early 21st century concept. It’s as old as higher education is.

Terrific piece and well worth reading in full.

Incidentally, if any readers are tempted to read How to Lose Friends and Alienate People on the back of these glowing references, you can purchase a copy on Amazon here.

Highly recommended.

“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 masks in shops here.

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

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Mask Censorship: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now well over 600,000 signatures.

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.

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

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

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.

Christian Concern is JR-ing the Welsh Government over its insistence on closing churches during the “circuit breaker”. See its letter-before-action here and an article about it here.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6HQm3ZzyhM

If you’ve been watching the American Presidential election, you’re probably feeling pretty uninspired by the two candidates. However, the candidates in 2024 should be more impressive. Some of the Republican governors who refused to shut down their states – or made sure the shutdowns were as short as possible – are formidable politicians and none more so than Kristi Noem, the Governor of South Dakota. She says the most important lesson she’s learned about how best to cope with a pandemic is, “More freedom rather than more government is the answer.” You can watch a recent speech she made about how she responded to the crisis here. Among the highlights: “I didn’t even define what an essential business was because I didn’t think I had the authority to tell you your business isn’t essential.” And this, on modelling: “While modelling certainly has a place, models have two shortcomings today. No model can predict the future, especially when those models are based on incomplete information… [and] no model can replace human freedom as the best path for responding to our life’s risks, including in response to this virus. That is why central planning of the economy has failed us every single time the government has tried it.”

If Kristi is the Republican nominee in 2024, I’ll be tempted to campaign for her.