President Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has claimed the reason Michigan and other states which have maintained restrictions have a higher infection rate than Texas, which ended all Covid restrictions at the beginning of March, is because people in lockdown states are ignoring the rules. He did not attempt to explain why his prediction from March of a “very troublesome” surge in Texas had not materialised. When Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attempted to press him on the feeble answer he had given to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, the Committee Chair Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) cut him off and said he’d had his answer. Breitbart News has the story.
Jordan said to Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, “You said when Texas ended their lockdown, ended their mandate, that this was quote ‘inexplicable and would lead to surging cases’. Texas is near the bottom of the 50 states, but all the states, all the states at the top are lockdown states.”
“That guess didn’t seem to be too good,” Jordan added.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on March 2nd lifted his state’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions on all businesses and facilities. Fauci responded to the move on March 3rd in a CNN interview:
“I don’t know why they’re doing it but it certainly from a public health standpoint is ill-advised. … We’ve been to this scene before months and months ago, when we tried to open up the country and open up the economy. When certain states did not abide by the guidelines, we had rebounds, which were very troublesome. What we don’t need right now is another surge so just pulling back on all the public health guidelines that we know work, and if you take a look at the curve, we know it works. It just is inexplicable why you would want to pull back now.”
Michigan topped Jordan’s list with a seven-day average case rate of 551 per 100,000 people. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has issued mask requirements and set a 50% capacity limit on many businesses, including retail and food establishments, as well as entertainment venues.
Jordan demanded an explanation from Fauci on why Texas, which, per his list, had a seven-day average case rate of 77 per 100,000 people, was “so darn low compared to the rest of the states”.
Fauci replied, “There’s a difference between lockdown and the people obeying the lockdown.”
“You know you could have a situation where they say, ‘We’re going to lock down’, and yet you have people doing exactly what they want –”
Jordan interjected to ask Fauci to clarify if he was suggesting people in states with the highest case rates were not obeying those states’ coronavirus-related orders.
Subcommittee Chair Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) then informed Jordan his speaking time had expired, but Jordan objected, arguing Fauci had not yet answered his question.
“I think the gentleman answered you quite clearly,” Clyburn said. “There’s a big difference in being a lockdown state by order and being a state that obeys orders. That answered the question in my opinion.”
Even if Michiganders are ignoring the lockdown (and good for them if so), that doesn’t explain why restrictions must be maintained if removing them makes things no worse. There’s certainly no evidence Texans are voluntarily staying home very much at all.
The architects of lockdown aren’t even trying to give answers to why lifting restrictions does not trigger a devastating surge as their models unfailingly predict. Neither have they explained why Florida or South Dakota, which stayed open all winter, did not experience a worse outcome than states which imposed severe restrictions. Is this a sign that their ideology is crumbling? How much longer can lockdownism survive if its leading proponents cannot give answers to basic questions?
While go-slow BoJo talks about keeping masks and social distancing in place for another year (at least) and bringing in vaccine passports for large events (just for starters), this was the scene in Texas today, tweeted by Sam Gannon, a sports reporter for KDFW Fox 4. A packed stadium for a baseball game, no vaccine passport required, not a mask in sight.
Texas ended all restrictions and mask requirements at the beginning of March and since then has seen positive cases drop to their lowest level since last summer.
Doubtless Covid is still around and they will see it return at some point to a greater or lesser extent. But Texans no longer live in fear of it or allow their lives to be governed by often fruitless efforts to avoid it. Texas, like a number of other states, has decided that the risk as a society is manageable, and as individuals they have decided it is a risk worth taking to be free and live their lives. The land of the free and the home of the brave indeed.
How long will countries like the UK be able to keep up the draconian emergency measures when their people see Americans back to living normal lives and no medical catastrophe unfolding? When will we have a report from SAGE on the experience of states in America like Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi that have lifted restrictions? When will the Government’s modellers show us how accurately their models predicted the outcomes in those states?
How long until our Government ministers and MPs start questioning the self-serving advice they’re getting from scientific advisers up to their necks in lockdownism and start standing up for freedom?
All government entities and private businesses in Texas are now banned from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition for service or entry, with Governor Greg Abbott declaring that the state is “open 100%”. The Epoch Timeshas the story.
“Texas is open 100%, and we want to make sure you have the freedom to go where you want without limits,” the Republican Governor announced in a video post on Twitter.
The Lone Star state in March ended its statewide mask mandate and allowed all businesses to open at full capacity after having implemented mandates and restrictions due to the pandemic.
Abbott announced on Monday with the signing of the legislation that “no business or government entity can require a person to provide a vaccine passport or any other vaccine information as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place”.
The new law SB 968 covers many aspects of the public health disaster and public health emergency preparedness and response. It was approved unanimously in April and was passed by a vote of 146-2 by the state House in May.
Effective immediately, Texas businesses “may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer’s Covid vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business”, the legislation states. State agencies in charge of different business sectors can require that businesses comply with the new law as a condition to be authorised to conduct business in Texas.
Furthermore, businesses that don’t comply with the law will not be able to enter any state contracts and will be ineligible to receive a grant.
Businesses can still implement their own Covid infection control protocols “in accordance with state and federal law to protect public health”.
Abbott had signed an executive order in April that banned government entities from requiring vaccine passports as a condition to receive services or gain entry to premises. The order included any private businesses that receive public funding. But the executive order did not apply to entirely private businesses, which the new law covers with regard to vaccine passports.
There is some great news from Texas today: Covid cases and hospitalisations continue to fall more than two weeks after the state lifted its mask mandate and allowed businesses to reopen to full capacity. President Joe Biden dismissed this return to normality as “Neanderthal thinking”, but it appears as though it has not been the “big mistake” he claimed it would be. Let’s hope that it stays this way. The Mailhas the story.
On Saturday, Texas’ seven-day Covid positivity rate reached an all-time low of 5.27%, while hospitalisations fell to their lowest level since October, according to the latest state data.
The state recorded 2,292 new coronavirus cases, about 500 fewer on average from last week, and 107 new deaths.
The number of people hospitalised with coronavirus, meanwhile, dipped to 3,308.
The latest figure marks a significant decline in hospitalisations in the state which had seen levels soar past 14,000 for a couple of days in January.
The drop comes 17 days after Republican Governor Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate and other Covid safety measures.
Abbott took to Twitter on Saturday to celebrate the state’s progress, saying: “Today Texas hit an all-time recorded low for the seven-day Covid positivity rate: 5.27%. It’s been below 6% for 5 days & below 10% for an entire month.
“Covid hospitalisations declined again – now at the lowest level since October 3rd. Vaccinations continue to increase rapidly.”
Our leaders could certainly learn some lessons from what is happening on the other side of the pond.
Lockdown Sceptics received a fantastic response to our call for news from the reopened states in America with which to shame our own timid Government as it delayed reopening for yet another month. We published the first as a taster on Wednesday. Now we bring you the rest.
A Road Trip to Florida and Texas
Mark – a Brit who lives in Connecticut and recently visited Florida and Texas – writes:
I spent the start of the pandemic in Manhattan, NY, where the initial response mirrored the U.K.’s. It was frightening, and to me seemed possibly OTT, but given the explosion of terrifying news and the predicted Armageddon I definitely didn’t consider myself a lockdown sceptic. There was no particular turning point, more just the steady stacking up of evidence that whether or not lockdowns ‘worked’ in terms of a non-zero reduction in R, they very clearly didn’t justify their extreme costs. By the time we got to May and police would harass me for not wearing a mask walking alone down a near-empty street while politicians across the world were getting exposed on a daily basis flouting their own rules, I was a resolute sceptic and found your site one of the few places that would keep me sane while L.A. was filling skateparks with sand the Spanish were disinfecting beaches.
My first trip to Orlando, Florida early in 2021 felt like I’d entered a parallel universe – it was hard to believe I was in the same country as the Northeast, coming from a micromanagement regime that treated me like a leper even once restaurants had their ‘opening’ with the full Monty of plexiglass, 25% capacity, digital menus/ordering and drink-only bans. To be clear, some Covid theatrics remained in Florida, particularly with corporations, but they were largely unenforced – think masks in hotels, six-foot queue marks in banks etc. Although there were no legal restrictions on mass gatherings, there weren’t a huge number of gigs or comedy shows, and the basketball was at pretty limited capacity. Although I didn’t agree with it, I still appreciated what it showed – if individuals or a business took a different view of the risks to me, they were free to limit their own behaviours or capacity without arbitrary rules forcing them to, and I could spend my money in busy venues with a better atmosphere.
Possibly the biggest difference was the attitude of people. In Connecticut and New York many people feel Covid entitles them to a level of rudeness about non-conformists that would’ve been unimaginable pre-pandemic, and even more, like the U.K., seemed to almost enjoy the constant discussion of Covid news. In Florida it certainly wasn’t ignored, but people treated one another like regular humans, and Covid was an aspect of life rather than the aspect. I felt welcomed and had a great trip.
If the above is a good example of how much better life can be when Covid is still very prevalent and other countries imprison people in their homes, my experiences on my recent trip, with Texas and Florida’s approaches now fully justified and cases far lower, highlight the absurdity of the current state of the U.K.’s lockdown-lite when Covid levels are extremely low.
In Texas we enjoyed packed nightclubs, unrestricted baseball games, and had an amazing night in Dallas on May 8th watching the sold-out boxing in front of 70,000 fans (see snap above).
Masks aside (more on that later), in most places Covid effectively didn’t exist. People with symptoms isolate and get tests, and if positive they warn their recent contacts – everyone else gets on with their lives and from my perspective is far happier because of it. Florida – theme parks excepted – was much the same. I challenge anybody who supports anything close to the U.K.’s current approach to visit Texas or Florida and still defend it.
The latest model of doom from Government advisory group SAGE appeared yesterday, predicting a ludicrous 10,000 hospital admissions a day in mid-July in a vaccinated population (nearly three times the January peak) because of the Indian variant – and that’s the central scenario. Furthermore, the researchers don’t even think the Indian variant is more deadly or particularly good at evading vaccines. So how do they conclude it will precipitate such a calamity?
The issue is that many people have a mental image that we’ve [already] had the biggest possible epidemic waves, whereas we’ve actually had ones that are relatively small compared to what could have happened without control measures in place. Because of these controls, only a fraction of the people who could have got infected in the past year or so have been infected, so they’re still out there. Of course, for many of these people vaccines have now decreased their risk substantially. But a very large number of infections that come with a very small individual level of risk can produce a similar outcome to a smaller epidemic that carries a larger individual level of risk.
Maths whizz Glen Bishop, writing for Lockdown Sceptics, has shown why SAGE’s assumptions are so unrealistic as to produce these highly implausible scenarios. In their central scenario, for example, their assumptions imply that up to half of the UK will be simultaneously infected in one week in mid-July. This is despite the January peak only having around 2% of the population infected at one time, according to the ONS.
Another of the models’ big assumptions, prominent in what Prof Kucharski says above, is that lockdowns and social distancing have successfully suppressed the virus and that it is only because they continue in some form that the flood of infections, hospitalisations and deaths is held back. The latest modelling starkly shows how, even with a high vaccination coverage as in the UK, such an assumption can produce predictions so dire they send twitchy Governments reaching for the lockdown order.
As the SAGE briefing says:
At this point in the vaccine rollout, there are still too few adults vaccinated to prevent a significant resurgence that ultimately could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, without non-pharmaceutical interventions. … It is a realistic possibility that this new variant of concern could be 50% more transmissible. If [the Indian variant] does have such a large transmission advantage, it is a realistic possibility that progressing with all roadmap steps would lead to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations.
In fact, there is no evidence (outside models, which are not evidence) that lockdown measures or social distancing have any significant impact on reducing Covid infections or deaths. This is why the states in America which removed their restrictions in March (Texas) or last autumn (Florida) or never imposed them (South Dakota) are doing no worse, and often better, than many states which maintained strict restrictions throughout the winter (see the graph above). Sweden demonstrates a similar point in Europe.
The depressing truth, though, is that sceptics have largely failed to get this basic point across to those in charge and their scientific advisers. It’s not as though the evidence is not there. There are numerous peer-reviewed articles in leading journals that set out the evidence on this, and more keep appearing. Leading scientists have raised their heads to make the evidence-based case.
Graphs like the above, which should by themselves undermine the entire lockdown edifice, are easy to produce. Leading journalists such as Fraser Nelson, writing in one of the leading Tory newspapers, the Telegraph, has pointed repeatedly to the evidence on this. The data is plain for all to see and the voices highlighting it are not marginal or lacking in credibility.
Yet here we are again, with another model built on dubious assumptions and a presumption of lockdown efficacy once more imperilling our liberty. Freedom has never felt so fragile as in these past 14 months, when access to basic liberties has rested on the evidence-free assumptions made by a small group of mathematical modellers whose word seems to be taken as holy writ by those in charge.
Adam Kucharski is on Twitter. So why not ask him (politely!) why, if so many people remain so susceptible to this virus and its variants as to produce such dire predictions, Florida, Texas and South Dakota have fared no worse than places which have imposed or maintained restrictions? I’ve put the graph as the featured image to make it easy to share – just put a link to this article in the tweet and the graph should appear. If you get any answers from him, why not email them to us here.
Government advisers in the U.K. have been out in force in the past week stressing that the unlocking of society will be a “gradual process” (even more gradual than taking four months?) and that face masks and working-from-home may stay after June 21st.
You can certainly see the need for this extreme level of caution. If you look at the states in America that have lifted restrictions then they have suffered extraordinary levels of infection and deaths and are really regretting their “Neanderthal thinking” and quickly getting back to normal. Oh, er, hang on, that’s right – there’s been no new surge at all.
I put this point to a lockdown fanatic friend (yes, we are still on speaking terms) and his response was a feeble “you can’t assume the virus will behave the same in different countries”. Right, well that’s handy, isn’t it? We can’t learn lessons from what happens elsewhere because every country is different. American states might have been able to re-open without suffering hospital overload or mass death (Texas reopened in full at the start of March), but that doesn’t mean we won’t. Better safe than sorry, eh? Happily, lockdown has no downsides so there’s no problem with just carrying on with it indefinitely, just in case…
Another friend, whose father lives in Texas, said his father told him this week: “No one is talking about Covid here. It’s over, life is normal.”
There could of course be another surge of Covid in re-opened states and countries, especially in the autumn or winter. But since Florida and South Dakota (among other states) were open throughout last autumn and winter, we also know there’s nothing to fear about that either, even less so now so many in the population are vaccinated.
But since when did our political leaders and their “scientific” advisers let evidence get in the way of a good lockdown, especially if it preserves for a little longer their reputation, status and power?
Would that journalists and broadcasters paid as much attention to places with no restrictions doing fine as they do to the latest places experiencing a Covid surge.
All eyes are currently on India and especially Delhi where, after a year of little impact, the virus is making its nasty presence felt. But as Ivor Cummins points out, India for whatever reason has a long way to go to catch up with countries in Europe and the Americas when it comes to Covid deaths. The country is not a good comparison for the UK where the virus is endemic and substantial population immunity is now present.
If only our media would spend as much time telling the population about how Florida lifted its restrictions back in September, how South Dakota never had any, and how Texas and Mississippi reopened in full at the start of March, as they do telling us about how many people are in hospital in Delhi. The latest positive-test data for these open states is in the graph above, along with two other light-restriction states, South Carolina and Georgia. Note the conspicuous lack of surge despite being basically back to normal. What more evidence do our politicians and scientists need that the threat from the virus is overblown and does not warrant social restrictions or emergency measures? Is the Government interested in data which contradict their preferred narrative?
The Telegraph today is reporting that as of June 21st – another seven weeks away – Brits will be permitted once again to attend large events without anti-social and uneconomic distancing requirements and hug one another. Our ultra-cautious scientists are advising that these things might just be okay by then. Though in case you might have thought they would then end the seemingly endless state of emergency, they have said measures such as staggering entries to venues accommodating large groups and good ventilation will still be required. What part of normal don’t they understand?
Nor is there any indication of a move to return international travel to normal, as the country faces more limitations on travel this summer – when most of the country is vaccinated – than last summer – when nobody was. What this has to do with following the science is, as ever, unclear.
What’s strange is that even in America where parts of their own country are living free and showing that the measures aren’t needed, state governments, with popular support and backed by federal agencies, just carry on with their restrictions, lifting them only very slowly and with no obvious commitment to bringing them finally to an end. It’s as though people don’t want to know. Too much has been invested in the lockdown narrative, it seems, for people to be able to cope psychologically with the trauma of facing the truth that it is fundamentally false. Too many reputations are at risk. Too many interests coincide.
Are we doomed to live forever in this Covid state of emergency? I confess it is hard to see what will prompt governments to bring it to an end, now that we live in permanent fear of the appearance of variants and believe we must continually top up the whole world’s antibodies through rolling annual programmes of vaccinations. One of the most depressing thoughts is I find it almost impossible to imagine Boris Johnson facing the camera and announcing: “My friends, our ordeal is over. The data is clear. The virus is now one among many hazards with which we daily must live. Vaccines are available to the vulnerable, as are effective treatments, and we will continually strive to find the safest ways to protect those at risk from this and other illnesses. It is time to resume our old lives. I declare the state of emergency to be over.”
Will we ever reach a point where we no longer even think about whether some activity is “Covid secure”? Where we no longer see our fellow human beings as sources of infection? It would be good to hear much more often from the Government that this is where it believes we are headed, sooner rather than later.
There follows a guest post by second year maths student and Lockdown Sceptics contributor Glen Bishop.
Having listened to an interview on talkRadio with Professor Jeremy Brown of the National Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises SAGE, I thought I would offer a critique of some of the points he made.
Firstly, Professor Brown stated: “If you were to release at this point in time, that is a mistake, and it would lead to a lot of death and illness.” This has not been the experience elsewhere and so as far as I am concerned is an unscientific claim. Florida released all restrictions in September and still has a significantly lower death toll than the UK. Texas released all restrictions over three weeks ago and cases have continued to fall sharply. In Mississippi, all restrictions were lifted four weeks ago. In the subsequent four weeks, the seven-day average case numbers have more than halved. This is despite these states being behind the UK on vaccines and the Kent variant making up a significant proportion of cases. If it has not happened elsewhere in the world, in places with lower population immunity from prior infection and worse vaccine progress, what makes Professor Brown so sure it will happen here?
What is happening in Europe now is not relevant to the UK as, judging from our death rate, we have built up more population immunity from prior infection than most of Europe and are miles ahead with inoculations.
Secondly, Professor Brown enlightened listeners with his thinking on the pandemic’s path, albeit conceding it is “a little simplistic”. He describes how the pandemic has hit in three waves, each causing 50,000 deaths and suggests another wave – a fourth wave – could lead to a similar death toll and scenes akin to the January wave. This is a poor representation of the epidemic to put it mildly, but I will run with this logic. Assume a fourth wave hits that, without vaccinations, would kill another 50,000 people. Around 95% of vulnerable people – the people who would be killed in Brown’s scenario – have actually had a vaccine, which trials show reduces deaths by 95%. That means a fourth wave would in theory claim, not 50,000, but 4,875 deaths. How do I get that figure? First, it would infect 5% of the vulnerable who haven’t been vaccinated and 5% of 50,000 is 2,500. Second, it would still kill 5% of the remaining 95% of the vulnerable population who would have died but have been vaccinated, since the vaccines only reduce death by 95% – so 0.05 x 0.95 x 50,000 = 2,375. 2,500 + 2,375 = 4,875.
So 2,375 will die in the fourth wave in spite of not being vaccinated – roughly 10% of the number of the 22,000 influenza deaths during the 2017 to 2018 winter. Certainly not a number worthy of any response beyond sensible advice. Anyone advocating anything other than sensible public health advice for this scale of viral death is just being hysterical and illogical. If they haven’t been advocating the same things for influenza every previous winter, what makes them do it now? Is it because they are caught up in the hysteria and groupthink gripping SAGE and the country? Why treat this differently just because the media enjoy talking about it?
Of the other group in this hypothetical scenario of Professor Brown’s – the 2,500 unvaccinated deaths – it is their choice not to take a vaccine and they should accept the consequences.
Professor Brown should feel free to lock himself away for the rest of time if he wants to make sure he isn’t putting the ‘vaccine hesitant’ community at risk, but he shouldn’t advocate forcing the rest of sane society to do so. What next? A ban on car travel because some people refuse to wear seat belts and it puts them at risk of dying? A ban on ‘do not resuscitate’ wishes from patients? Do SAGE want to ban sex outside of committed relationships because some people do not use condoms and could spread STDs? What about “a circuit breaker on sex” whilst we do mass testing for STDs and make everyone get a “coitus passport”, so the plebs can only fornicate if they have tested negative for chlamydia, herpes, and HIV? If Professor Brown insists on advocating one set of restrictions, it is illogical not to advocate the others.
If it is acceptable to restrict other people’s civil liberties because some people aren’t sensible with their own health, then I suppose Professor Brown will be getting to work advocating the banning of cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, and junk food. Eradicating them from society may lead to a far greater increase in QALYs than eradicating Covid will, now that we have very effective vaccines. 78,000 die from smoking each year alone. Perhaps I ought not be giving Professor Brown these ideas. If you read this Professor, please don’t suggest them in your next JCVI meeting. You’ve done enough damage to civil liberties as it is.
Go-Slow BoJo Says Dates Will Not Change, However Good the Data Gets
Despite saying last month that the Government’s lockdown easing strategy will be driven by data not dates, it seems for Boris this only goes one way, and there is no question of better-than-expected data bringing easing forward.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was out yesterday reiterating the Government’s line and underlining that there would be no faster easing even for areas with almost no Covid at all. The Times has more.
Matt Hancock has rejected calls to ease restrictions early for low-infection areas, citing the failure of last year’s tier system to prevent lockdowns.
Local variations in infection rates are becoming an increasing concern in Government, with cases rising in a fifth of areas while elsewhere they have fallen to extremely low numbers.
Millions of people in England are living in neighbourhoods where there are close to no cases of COVID-19, official figures show.
While areas such as Peterborough, Leicester and Sandwell in the West Midlands have rates of more than 200 per 100,000 people, rates have fallen below 50 per 100,000 in places ranging from Islington in north London to the Isle of Wight.
In very local areas Public Health England does not publish data with fewer than three cases “to protect individuals’ identities”. The latest figures show that 971 of 6,791 “Middle-layer Super Output Areas” (MSOAs) fall into that category.
Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter in Devon where rates are 49 per 100,000, asked the Health Secretary: “What will be the justification for keeping my constituents locked down and local businesses closed through Easter and beyond because rates somewhere else happened to be higher?”
Hancock replied: “We obviously had a tiered system over the autumn — one of the challenges we found was people travelling from a part of the country where rates are higher to those where they are lower.”
While the Government may take “a localised approach to outbreaks”, he insisted: “We are going to move down the road map, as a nation, across England.”
Boris Johnson has also insisted that restrictions will not be eased earlier than planned in last week’s road map despite increasingly positive news on vaccination, infections and deaths. But Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, added to pressure on the prime minister when she said that in Scotland “we will be considering if it might be possible to accelerate the exit from lockdown” because of the encouraging data. “I have always said if we can go further and faster, then we will not hesitate to do so,” she said.
It comes to something when Nic Sturge-On is outflanking you on the pace of re-opening.
But is it just political opportunism? That seems likely when you read the extreme measures the First Minister has in store for Scotland. The BBC reports.
The Scottish government hopes to return to the levels system from late April. But if an area is to see restrictions lifted, the number of positive cases will need to be far lower than when the system operated last year. The Government said the more stringent approach was needed because of the new faster-spreading variant of the virus…
Under the new system, local authorities which have a case rate of more than 150 cases per 100,000 are likely to end up in level four – when only essential shops can open and hospitality must close. The previous threshold for level four was 300 cases per 100,000. Cases will also need to drop to below 50 per 100,000 in a local authority before it will be considered for level two, much lower than the previous rate of 150 per 100,000. That is the level where non-essential journeys outside the authority boundary are allowed and pubs can serve alcohol.
This sounds worryingly like a Zero Covid approach.
Indeed it is. A hitherto under-appreciated document, this interim guidance (which, notably, predates the authorisation of vaccines) is a Zero Covid charter which envisages restrictions continuing until such time as there is “No known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the preceding 28 days”. Even then it says “robust surveillance” (i.e., test and trace) should continue (forever, apparently) and suggests individuals continue “voluntary physical distancing”. Here are its lowest three “Situational Levels”.
The Scottish Government summarises the WHO’s criteria for easing restrictions as follows:
Evidence shows that COVID-19 transmission is controlled.
Sufficient public health and health system capacities are in place to identify, isolate, test and treat all cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts.
Outbreak risks are minimised in high vulnerability settings, such as long-term care facilities (i.e., nursing homes, rehabilitative and mental health centres) and congregate settings.
Preventive measures are established in workplaces, with physical distancing, handwashing facilities and respiratory etiquette in place, and potentially thermal monitoring.
Manage the risk of exporting and importing cases from communities with high-risks of transmission.
Communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition.
That’s right – the criteria for easing restrictions include physical distancing in workplaces, the minimisation of outbreak risk in gathering settings, and ongoing invasive surveillance. But hang on a minute – those are the restrictions. When the criteria for easing restrictions are themselves part of the restrictions, you know you’re well and truly ensnared in the circles of hell. Nowhere does the strategic framework specify the criteria for ending all restrictions and surveillance.
The final phase of the framework is: “COVID no longer a significant threat to public health. Maximum vaccine roll out” and “COVID-19 ceases to be a serious threat to public health”. But even then it says: “Some ongoing public health measures likely to remain in place.”
No endpoint is envisaged by thestrategic framework or the WHO’s interim guidance when all restrictions will cease and the normality of 2019 will resume.
Stop Press: The Telegraph reports that the fall in Covid deaths in England is running around three weeks ahead of modelling estimates and that some Government advisers are calling for lockdown to be eased more quickly.
Texas Ends All COVID-19 Restrictions
In a move that will boost the hopes of the millions around the world who want and need a return to normality sooner rather than later, the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott yesterday issued an Executive Order lifting the mask mandate in the state and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities to 100%. The Governor said:
With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus. We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalisations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.
This is a return to normal as far as state mandates and guidance are concerned. A provision for local restrictions by county judges (should Covid hospital occupancy hit a certain level locally) remains in force. But other than that this is Texas returning to normality.
Will it become an international movement as the evidence that such an unwinding does not precipitate mass deaths becomes clear? Let’s hope so, and let’s hope Boris and his advisers are watching.
Test and Trace Finds Almost No Covid in Schools
Biostatistics Professor Jon Deeks, a Senior Researcher in the Institute of Applied Health Research at Birmingham University, has a good Twitter thread on how mass testing in schools appears to be finding no Covid and is a harmful waste of time. We reproduce it here in full.
Testing in schools has been finding close to zilch! Just located the Test and Trace figures for testing in schools. They are on this webpage.
To interpret these results remember all tests give false positives (FP). For Innova, DHSC says about three per 1,000 (0.3%) were FP; in Liverpool it was about one per 1,000 (0.1%). So only event rates above these figures indicate that a test is usefully detecting real cases.
First, primary schools (presume teachers and staff): 2,031,296 tests; 4,232 positives – that is 0.21% – stable for the past month. This is below the 0.3% false positive rate stated for Innova – so many will be false positives.
Now secondary schools: 1,918,823 tests; 2,986 positives – that is 0.16% over two months and has been below 0.1% for the past fortnight. Well below the 0.3% false positive rate stated for Innova – so many will be false positives.
These data make clear (1) all LFT positives MUST be verified by PCR – the Government is risking wrongly putting staff and students unnecessarily in isolation for 10 days. (2) The case that doing this at all will make a difference to cases and spread is less than wafer thin.
– think about the cost (~£10K-£30K per case detected) – think about the time and effort – think about children who get stressed by tests and swabs think about what else we could provide to schools – many harms, unlikely there are going to be benefits
Why are we doing this?
Stop Press: The Telegraph reports that schools have been telling parents that their children will be banned from class if they do not consent to the tests. Val Mason, headteacher at Hornchurch High School in Havering, wrote to parents saying: “If you do not provide consent your child will not be permitted to return to face-to-face lessons. They will instead be required to complete their work remotely whilst being accommodated on the school site in a separate space.”
Does Vaccination Make You More Susceptible to Covid in the Week After the Jab?
A data analyst sent us the following comments on recent data that suggests Covid vaccines may increase susceptibility to the disease in the days immediately following the jab.
Matt Hancock referenced a Public Health England study on Monday that suggested an 80% reduction in hospitalisations after a single dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines.
Unlike the recent Scotland study (which found around 90% efficacy but excluded the first seven days post-vaccination), the PHE study included data for the week immediately after vaccination.
Significantly, the authors noted a 48% increase in risk of infection 4-9 days after vaccination in the over-80s group treated with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine before January 4th. This is similar to the outcome reported in the FDA Emergency Use Authorisation for the Pfizer vaccine, which found 40% higher “suspected COVID” in the first week after vaccination compared to the control group. The authors of the PHE study explain the increase is likely to reflect the higher risk of exposure in these patients, either in hospital or in care homes. An alternative explanation – that the vaccine itself increased susceptibility – has not been adequately considered. Notable in this regard is that in trials the Pfizer vaccine was found to suppress lymphocyte count in the first few days after treatment (see chart above), potentially increasing susceptibility.
The PHE study employed a “test-negative (TN) case control” design that has become popular in assessing the efficacy of influenza vaccines in recent years. This design has been criticised as being not so much a “trial” as an observational retrospective study with a biased design. In this study, Pillar 2 data from unvaccinated patients is taken from December 8th. In contrast, vaccinated subjects appear to get nine days’ grace in the run up to January 4th. According to symptom trackers and Pillar 2 testing, the majority of vaccinated patients will have started reporting after infections in the community collapsed. The extent to which vaccine efficacy in the over-70s (from January 4th) is assisted by the natural waning of the epidemic after the turn of the year is uncertain.
Given the numerous anecdotal reports of care home outbreaks (see the report from the UK Medical Freedom Alliance) shortly after vaccination across the world, I suggest this data needs further independent scrutiny.
I Think I’m In An Abusive Relationship – With the Government!
We’re publishing an original piece today by Ashton Warhurst, pointing out the disturbing fact that, by the Government’s own definition, “the people of Britain have been trapped in an abusive relationship with its own Government for almost a year, and the only end in sight is the vague suggestion of a maybe”. Ashton begins:
I think I am in an abusive relationship, and I don’t know how to escape. My abuser is too powerful and is intent on turning everyone I know against me, relentlessly trying to convince me that it’s all my fault, that somehow I’m to blame. It seems they’re the ‘good guy’ and I’m just a naïve nobody who doesn’t understand what’s best for me.
The realisation that I might be in an abusive relationship dawned on me when I read the Government’s statutory guidance framework for Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship. This framework, introduced in 2015, presents a list of control behaviours that help lawmakers recognise when a person, such as myself, is in an abusive relationship.
As I read through the list, it’s obvious that my own abuser ticks a disquietingly large majority of these boxes. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it is my own abuser who wrote the framework.
Lockdown Scepticism Was Never a ‘Fringe’ Viewpoint
Noah Carl has written an excellent piece in Quillette defending scepticism from the charge of being the preserve of extremists and fruitcakes. Here’s the opening:
Whether or not lockdowns are justifiable on public-health grounds, they certainly represent the greatest infringement on civil liberties in modern history. In the UK, lockdowns have contributed to the largest economic contraction in more than 300 years, as well as countless bankruptcies, and a dramatic rise in public borrowing.
This does not mean that lockdowns were the wrong policy, since they might have been necessary to prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 critical-care patients. (And such measures are justified, proponents argue, on the grounds that they prevent infected individuals from harming others by inadvertently transmitting a deadly disease.) But as I will argue below, there’s plenty of evidence that supports those on the other side of this issue, notwithstanding the efforts of politicians, experts, and social-media companies to paint such dissent as marginal or even dangerous.
Government Admits it Has No Evidence For Restrictions
Sir Graham Brady MP asked the Health Secretary to publish the Government’s evidence on transmission risks in the different settings that are affected by lockdown restrictions. The Government’s answer has now been published – and basically admits it currently has no evidence and won’t have any until the summer. By which point all restrictions are envisaged to be gone!
Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of September 2nd 2020 to Question 75983, on Coronavirus: Shops, if he will publish (a) the studies and (b) other research reports that his Department holds on the presence of viable COVID-19 virus in the air in (i) supermarkets, (ii) other large retail settings and (iii) other non-clinical settings. (154773)
Tabled on: February 19th 2021
Answer: Edward Argar:
The National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation jointly awarded over £5.3million for a programme of research of eight projects to understand the routes of transmission of COVID-19 in different environments and groups of people. These projects are 12-15 months in duration and are expected to report findings in the summer of 2021.
The answer was submitted on March 2nd 2021.
So much for being led by “the science”.
Rising From the Ashes
A Lockdown Sceptics reader who lost his job during lockdown has set up a London-based gardening business: Pruners & Shapers. We thought we’d give it a mention. And in case you’re wondering, yes, gardeners are allowed to continue working under the current restrictions in England.
If any other entrepreneurial readers have found themselves in a similar position and would like us to give a boost to their new enterprise, email us here.
Some more great Party slogans from readers:
IF YOU DON’T HAVE COVID YOU DON’T MATTER WE’RE DESTROYING YOUR LIFE TO SAVE IT KISSING KILLS COMPANY WILL KILL FRIENDS ARE THE ENEMY FRONT DOOR IS FAR ENOUGH SCEPTICISM IS SEDITION MODELLING IS REALITY SHAMING IS LOVING TESTS ARE TRUTH
One from the Theresa May playbook:
LOCKDOWN MEANS LOCKDOWN
And one from ANIMALFARM-19:
ALL CITIZENS ARE EQUAL. BUT IMMUNISED CITIZENS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.
“New variant scare tactics are an own goal” – Allison Pearson in the Telegraph asks: “Our vaccine programme is world-beating and COVID-19 cases are plummeting, so why does the Deputy Chief Medical Officer keep sparking fear?”
We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email Lockdown Scepticshere.
Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.
Social Media Accounts
You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.
We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that Dr Seuss has been cancelled by Joe Biden for alleged racism. The Spectator USAlooks at how the woke fanatics reached that peculiar conclusion.
The children’s author Theodore Seuss Geisel lived his entire life not just as a staunch progressive, but even as the rather grating variety. To Geisel, the Cold War clash with totalitarian communism was a dispute as flimsy as a debate over how to butter bread. Horton Hears A Who! may declare that “a person’s a person, no matter how small”, but Seuss threatened to sue a pro-life group that took that statement to its logical conclusion. If Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats were around today, at least one of the hats would be a Pussy Hat.
But Seuss’s books were still phenomenally popular. Thousands of schools celebrate March 2nd as Read Across America Day. The date was chosen to mark Geisel’s birth date. But now President Biden has reportedly omitted Seuss from the official list after educational authorities in Loudoun County, Virginia decided the author is, er, problematic.
Seuss drew anti-Japanese caricatures during World War Two. His characters are mostly the colour of the paper they are printed on. His later anti-racism works promote equality and colour-blindness rather than equity and ‘reckoning’. So of course, he probably should be cancelled or at least denounced.
Loudoun County was once the great redoubt of conservatism in Northern Virginia, populated by the refugees of Fairfax, Arlington and DC itself. But the Big Blue Blob fully consumed Loudoun in 2016, and now parents get to enjoy the consequences, like denunciations of beloved children’s authors.
And so, out went a statement from Loudoun’s educators: “As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing racial undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr Seuss.”
Research like this on Horton Hears a Who! by two critical race theorists:
Regardless of the intention of the book, the impact is that it reinforces themes of White supremacy, Orientalism, and White saviourism. It positions the Whos in a deficit-based framework as the dominant, paternalistic Horton enacts the White Saviour Industrial Complex… Not only does a White saviour narrative play out within Horton Hears a Who!, Seuss himself is positioned as a White saviour for writing it.
We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.
A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.
If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.
And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.
The Great Barrington Declaration
The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerdwarned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)
You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.
Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.
Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.
Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.
Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.
Judicial Reviews Against the Government
There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.
The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.
The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.
Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.
There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.
Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.” Further information available here.
There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.
And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.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.)
In a sign of how small the relative impact of Covid is on annual mortality, Lockdown Sceptics reader Mark Ellse has drawn up this chart showing that a woman’s probability of dying in 2020 was still way below that of a man in a normal year. Which can only mean one thing: men need to start living in permanent lockdown to keep them safe from the nasty world out there.